Reviews | Written by Ed Fortune 26/09/2022

Warhammer: The Horus Heresy – Age of Darkness

Well realised and highly successful franchises tend to not only have their own lore, but also their own in-world history. Star Wars has the Old Republic, Star Trek it’s various generations, and Lord of The Rings is pretty much defined by it’s back-story. In the world of Warhammer 40,000, the big historical event is called The Horus Heresy, the moment where humanity went from being a brutal, galaxy spanning conqueror to a collapsing, decaying mess, racked with constant infighting.

It is a massive hit with fans of Warhammer 40,000, spawning books, audio-dramas and of course, games. Warhammer: The Horus Heresy – Age of Darkness is the latest table-top interpretation of this wargame variant.  Previous editions weren’t as accessible, available only from Games Workshop’s high-end ForgeWorld range and featuring a much complex set of rules to the core Warhammer 40,000 rules-set.

Warhammer: The Horus Heresy – Age of Darkness successfully updates the game, both in terms of accessibility and rules-set. The starter box is pretty big; we get 54 models in total, including two ‘Praetor’ commander models, 40 old-school style space marines, 10 space marines in the heavier, Cataphracti Terminator armour, a Spartan Assasult Tanks and a Contemptor Dreadnought.

These pieces could be used in the regular version of Warhammer 40K,  but they’re more suited to this variant. Each model is a tinkerer’s dream; they are plenty of options for pretty much every kit and though the marines are all snap together, they look amazing. Brutal, futuristic space knights with chainsaw bayonets and over-sized guns. Both the tank and dreadnought are fun (if lengthy) builds. The Praetor pieces are the stand-out stars of the set; easy to convert but pretty if assembled normally, these models are designed to be eye-catching. Which given that they’re meant to be the commanders, makes a lot of sense.

We also get all the counters etc you’d expect, and a very,very thick rule-book. One nice addition is a set of ‘measuring sticks’. These are old-school rules for range-checking etc and are likely to make many a nostalgic game smile. It’s even got a sheet of transfers, for those of us who can’t free-hand legion symbols.

Rules wise, the game is deep, but not as deep as the 336-page rulebook implies. The bulk of the book is setting material and modelling inspiration, as well as guidance on putting together an army. (They are enough models here to have a two-player game out the box but let’s be honest, most of us are going to make one big army.)

We get the usual modes of play; Narrative Play, Campaign Play, Open Play, Team Play, and Matched Play. Or to put it another way; Fun, Fun but with more time involved, Silly Fun, Fun with friends and Serious but still Fun.

Game play wise, this feels like a deep, but intuitive version of Warhammer Seventh edition. Whereas 40K stream-lined and innovated to create eighth and (the current) ninth edition rules-set, the Horus Heresy rules take the old Seventh edition rules and has tinkered with them extensively so the game flows quickly. It’s still Warhmmer; lots of dice, special rules and brutal violence, but the tempo of the game is fast for something that’s intended to take up 4 or so hours of your time. Part of this is the addition of reactions; when your opponent hits your forces, your unit’s get to do something even though it’s not your turn yet.

It's as tactically deep as Warhammer gets and there’s still plenty of pre-planning built into the game so gamers can convince themselves that this army list of the other is unbeatable. (The game is pretty balanced, so good luck with that.)

The army lists don’t come with the box; they are enough rules in the game to cover the models you get and start playing, but if you’re plan is to re-enact The Battle of Calth , you’ll need an army book. We looked through two; one for the traitors and the other for the loyalist and these are weighty hardbacked tomes. There’s lots of inspiration and ideas for building a Horus Heresy era army and loads of unit ideas and build concepts. If you’re planning on playing this game, you’re going to be spending a lot of time with these books and Games Workshop knows it, so they’ve made them pretty and fun to read.

Overall, if you’re a Warhammer 40,000 fan, this should be on your Christmas List. And if the phrases “I was there when Horus slew the Emperor” sends a shiver down your spine, you should probably get two sets. Thanks to Games Workshop and their @WarComTeam for supplying the game for our review.