So. Primarchs.

Today I’m going to pull back the curtain a little to show what went into us pulling the Primarch card at the Isstvan V tournament weekend we hosted on the weekend of February 26-27, 2011.

(If you just want to see the Primarchs as we used them in this campaign tournament, skip past all the how-come? and why-for? explanations to the bottom –just below the second line-up shot of all the Primarchs are all the rules and models we used for our campaign tournament.)

Before the tournament weekend, we barely hinted to people that the Primarchs themselves would be making an appearance at the Isstvan V tournament weekend.

With this tournament, as with the 14th Black Crusade tournament we ran last June (2010), we made a point to allow NO special characters in peoples’ army lists for this event (this “tournament”). Part of the reason is because, as all players can attest to, the frequency with which players will face the same special character time and time again really has them feeling not very, well, special. That’s reason number two for not allowing special characters in this tournament.

Reason number one lies in our deep-seated belief that armies and their generals do well because of the army and its player not because of one star model (as a general, your battlefield strategy should NOT be, “well, I’ll add Vulkan He’Stan and some thunder hammers to my list”).  So our tournaments force players to make armies that don’t rely on a single lynch pin as their general strategy, allow provisions for characters that change the army’s Force Organisation Chart and THEN we  include special characters to be present in the weekend event itself …because when special characters are kept feeling somewhat exclusive (dare I say, “special?”) and they show up, that’s when the battles start feeling downright epic.

So.

Primarchs.

I’ve always been against the idea of the Primarchs having a stat line and rules. Partly because the straight-up mythology of the Primarchs excites me more than does the idea of having an unstoppable-superhero miniature on the table who wins at everything he does.

However.

It just feels right to have the Primarchs make their presence felt in a narrative event whose aim is to recreate the outbreak of the Horus Heresy. So after some deliberation (never having Primarchs show up, but use special rules to show, in an abstract way, to show the Primarchs were about was one idea) we decided that the Primarchs should be physically present at some point in the tournament. I mean, where but at this battle–where it’s even documented that the Primarchs fought–would it be more appropriate for players to be able to use the Primarchs?

With that in mind, Scott–my co-worker and one of our co-conspirators for the Isstvan tournament–took it upon himself to come up with balanced rules for the Primarchs. First we had to decide which Primarchs would show up for our event (not a hard feat with all the literature out there doing that part for us). then we Scott had to figure out how to make the Primarchs be the gods in human form that they were while still making them not over run entirely any game they showed up for.  While Scott hammered out the exact details for each Primarch, he and I discussed how they would work in a tournament environment without upsetting games too much–games people paid to play, mind you.

After batting ideas back and forth we agreed that to make Primarchs not too game changing, they need a stat line that wasn’t all tens. But to make them feel to players that Primarchs were gods walking the earth, they would essentially play both halves of a game turn: the Primarch would move, shoot and assault during your half of (say) Turn 2; and they would move,  shoot and assault during your opponent’s half of (say) Turn 2.

Being that a mechanic like that would definitely be a game changer in any game, we balanced that by limiting a Primarch’s exposure to any one game to a single turn. We already knew that the tournament was going to be divided into three different zones: the Vanguard (the main battle, where players would use their full 1750-point lists) and the two Flanks (less straight-forward missions where players would use their 1500-point core forces); so we decided that players would bid on which turn of their game —beforehand— they wanted their Primarch to show up (and the Primarch could only play a total of seven turns; so one player would get, say, Mortarion on his turn 1, another player would get Mortarion on his turn 2, another on his turn 3 …and so on).

There was also a currency system in place for the tournament that meant players had to put off having other in-game advantages and “save up” for a Primarch to appear in single zone. We tried to make it so that losing games would make it easier to get a Primarch’s help (going to where he’s needed most), in hopes that tournament play would balance out so that winning the campaign would be a turn-by-turn affair and not having each turn’s victories happen only because of the momentum gained from previous turns (that was a lesson we learned from the 14th Black Crusade).

Without any further ado, here are the Primarch rules that Scott came up with for the tournament weekend:

PRIMARCH  RULES

First off, all Primarchs have some traits (rules) in common, regardless of which Primarch they are. The traits are as follows:

All Primarchs Move, Shoot and Assault in both halves of the turn they are present in your game.
All primarchs are armed with a Primarch Bolt Pistol in addition to their other wargear. The Pistol may be fired with the following profile:
S6, AP2, Assault 4, Range 18”
All Primarchs have the Eternal Warrior special rule
All Primarchs are  Fearless
All Primarchs are Fleet
All Primarchs count as equipped with frag and krak grenades
All Primarchs have the Move Through Cover special rule

 

 

Corax of the Raven Guard

WS

BS

S

T

I

A

W

LD

SV

9

8

6

6

7

5

4

10

2+/4++

Special Rules / Wargear

No bolt pistol

Raven’s Talons – Master crafted lightning claws that roll 2d6 for Armor penetration.

Cry of the Blackbirds – In any phase in which Corax charges, all models within 24” gain the furious charge special rule.

On Silent Wings – Corax moves 24” instead of the normal 12” for jump pack infantry. In addition, Corax has the hit and run special rule, and automatically passes dangerous terrain checks.

Ferrus Manus of the Iron Hands

WS

BS

S

T

I

A

W

LD

SV

8

8

7

6

5

4

5

10

2+/3++

Special Rules / Wargear

No fleet special rule

Hands of the Forge Lord – All attacks made by Ferrus Manus in close combat ignore armour and invulnerable saves and roll 2d6 for penetration vs vehicles.

Brother of the Mechanicus – While Ferrus Manus is on the field, all friendly vehicles gain “The Power of the Machine Spirit” special rule and ignore shaken and stunned results

Vulkan of the Salamanders

WS

BS

S

T

I

A

W

LD

SV

8

8

7

7

5

4

4

10

2+/3++

Special Rules / Wargear

Magma-forged Artificer Armor – Vulkansarmor and invulnerable saves may be re-rolled.

Dragon’s Maw – The Dragon’s Maw is a man-portable melta cannon. It may be fired in the shooting phase with either of the following profiles:

Range: Template, S7, AP2, Twin Linked, Melta, Assault 1

Range: 24”, S8, AP1, Small Blast, Melta, Assault 3

Inferno lance – The Inferno Lance is a master crafted relic blade that allows Vulkan to roll 2d6 for armor penetration. In addition, when rolling for armor penetration, the target vehicle may only count its armor value as being as high as 12, unless it is normally less than that.

Mortarion of the Death Guard

WS

BS

S

T

I A W LD SV
8 8 6 8 5 4 6 10 2+/4++


Special Rules / Wargear

Barbarous Manreaper – Mortarion’sManreaper is a master crafted power weapon. It grants Mortarion poisoned attacks that wound on a 3+. In addition, in lieu of his normal attacks, Mortarion may opt to score an automatic hit against all models in base contact.

Unholy Constitution – Mortarion is immune to poisoned attacks; no mortal poison can harm the lord of plagues. Mortarion has the “Feel No Pain” special rule, but it works on a 3+ rather than the normal 4+

Billowing Filth – Mortarion may use a special shooting attack rather than fire his bolt pistol. It has the following profile: S – X AP – 2 Poisoned 3+ Range: Template

Fulgrim of the Emperors Children

WS BS S T I A W LD SV
10 8 6 6 8 6 4 10 2+/4++


Special Rules / Wargear

Fireblade – Fireblade is a master crafted power sword that causes instant death to any model it wounds in close combat.

Daemonic Beauty – Any model in base to base contact with Fulgrim at the start of combat must pass a leadership test at -2 or lose an attack (to a minimum of one).

Glory Seeker – Fulgrim may re-roll all hits against monstrous creatures and independent characters.

Lorgar of the Word Bearers

WS BS S T I A W LD SV
8 8 6 6 6 4 4 10 2+/4++

 

Special Rules / Wargear

Illuminarium – Lorgar’scrozius is a master crafted thunder hammer that does not lower his initiative. Lorgar’s strength caps at 10.

Fiery Oratory – While Lorgar is on the board, all friendly models are LD: 10 and gain the Stubborn special rule.

Father of the Chaplaincy – All models within 18” of Lorgar may re-roll failed to hit and to wound rolls in close combat.

So how did they fare?

In a few battles, they cleaned house; in a few battles they did absolutely nothing; but in most battles, they helped out significantly enough for their presence to be noticeable  but not so much that the opponent felt his game was a write off.

They weren’t utter game changers every time they came to another player’s table, but they did make that battle feel special. In short, I think they brought exactly what special characters should bring to a game: a bit of power mixed with a LOT of flavour–deadly in the hands of a seasoned player, yes, but still only in prevailing circumstances.

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2 Responses to Isstvan V Wrap Up (cont’d): THE PRIMARCHS!

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