Sunday, October 10, 2010

Full Review: Imperial Armour 9: The Badab War – Part 1

Disclaimer – I’ll be discussing the plot in a fair bit of detail, so there will be spoilers. Also, I’ll be discussing rules and the new units / missions, but I won’t be scanning or giving points or the like. Feel free to ask about other stuff though.

The book itself

The book is the standard Imperial Armour fare: hard cover, full colour, typos and weird grammar galore. I also got a squashed bug in the pages of mine as an added bonus.
Compared to the previous IA books, vol9 seems much more lavish. I’m not sure why exactly. Perhaps it is the more extensive star maps and more ‘high tech’ feel of the data-boxes and such (and we know I love the more high tech stuff), but it feels shinier for some reason. Another great part is that it is filled with the aforementioned callouts. There are notations on planets, stellar phenomena, and events not directly effecting the main story. On top of all this there are a few page long stories detailing part of a combat action in the style of a Black Library novel. I only skimmed these in all honesty, as I wanted to get on with the main plot, but they provide a welcome break and different (more visceral) take on the conflict.

New Astral Claws scheme and the mysterious Tiger's Claws

The Plot

The storyline is styled as an Ordo Hereticus account of the true history of the Badab War and the events leading up to the conflict.

It starts a thousand years before the conflict, describing the Maelstrom area, its economic importance (due to great mineral wealth), its dangerous nature (warp storms, pirates) , and then the establishment of Imperial worlds (including Badab, amongst others) as footholds on this wealth. The story continues to describe how one of these worlds is lost to a cultist uprising, and the entire region is nearly destroyed because of the loss. This leads to the establishment of the Maelstrom Wardens, a group of marine Chapters (under the leadership of the Astral Claws) permanently based in the area to cull such activities.

This is a great section, detailing how the Imperial Tithe works and how the distribution of materials and communication is held together. There is a great deal of background information available here about warp jumps, navigation waypoints and the distribution and assignment of Marine Chapters.

Events eventually leads to the Astral Claws getting Huron as their Chapter Master, and taking control of Badab proper, then the whole Badab sector to ‘protect these worlds and those souls that dwell upon them’. Cleverly Huron (and Alan Bligh) reference the realm of Ultramar as precedence. Huron grows more and more successful, and petitions Terra for more Chapters to totally destroy the threats. He is refused without even being heard.
In response he withholds the Badab sectors tithe and blocks trade through it, claiming he needs the resources to continue his fight as he isn’t being supplied by the Administratum.

The story here is very clever, as it makes Huron seem reasonable and within his rights – in fact it is a trick part for the Imperium as, by the laws, he is as an Astartes. But it still puts a number of nearby systems (the Karthans), now without trade routes to the greater Imperium, against him.
These economic rivals petitioned the Adminstratum, who ruled in their favour, and a fleet is sent to Badab to claim the tithe, by force if needs be. Naturally it all goes to hell and the tithe fleet is destroyed. Each side claims the other fired first, however there a few tidbits that there may have been a third party involved...

New Termie armour from Forge World coming up?

The situation worsens, and this eventually leads to Huron and his allies – the Lamenters and Mantis Warriors – to secede. The secession is only in regards to their tithes, as it is their right as Astartes to not have to pay. This coincides with a mysterious rise in pirate attacks on shipping, particularly on the Karthans. The Karthans call in the Fire Hawks to ‘protect shipping’, but it is known they bear a grudge against the Astral Claws and are volatile. Eventually the Fire Hawks come to battle with the Mantis Warriors, and wage a one chapter war against the others (it goes badly). The Marines Errant show up to help, and they do something useful by protecting shipping until the psychopathic Executioners appear to honour a blood debt to Huron.

This part gives a great insight into the different marine psyches and fighting styles, as well as various degrees of honour they give each other. For example the Marines Errant and Lamenters were giving quarter and merely chasing each other off, rather than engaging in full conflict, due to old ties of kinship. The Executioners only come along because they have an oath to do so and, while they enjoy the fighting, they only fight as is strictly necessary – withdrawing once a defence station is out of action rather than staying to finish the defenders off totally.

It is not totally ‘good guy, bad guy’ here either – the Fire Hawks effectively exterminatus a (medieval level) Mantis Warrior planet just to be jerks and as last act of spite as they withdraw. Similarly the Minotaurs kill 20% of the civillain population in a sector through collateral damage in a few months. It’s good (kinda) to see even the ‘good’ marines portrayed as merciless and indiscriminate in their tactics.

The events lead to a large number of ‘loyalist’ Chapters drawn in to arrest Huron for trial, though things again go wrong when an attempt at parley between the Red Scorpions master Ortys and Huron and the Mantis Warrior’s master Sartaq is interrupted by a number of Chaos vessels (two Iconoclast and one unknown), who proceed to blow up the asteroid. Ortys and Sartaq are both killed, though Huron obviously escapes. Red Scorpions Librarian Loth retrieves the body of his fallen boss through massive amounts of badassery.
Huron has been steadily going more and more mad as we go along, and is full on paranoid rant mode at this time. However all is not necessarily as it seems, as Sartaq had been growing uncomfortable with the standoff and considering laying down his guns. But with his apparent murder by the loyalists his Chapter was out for blood...

The war proper starts, with more marine chapters arriving and those considered too honourable to fight to the death with their brothers re-deployed elsewhere. The Salamanders resisted the orders though, and stayed in the fight. I found this a very well written part as it shows the Imperium is well aware of the different natures and temperaments of the chapters, and uses them to their advantage.

For how the war goes, you’ll have to buy the book for that. Suffice to say the Marines use camouflage, clever tactics and lots of brutality. There are also some surprises about why exactly Huron was withholding his Geneseed tithe, and what his long term plans really were.

Chapters of the Badab War

This section details half the Chapters involved in the fighting. Namely:

The Astral Claws,
The Fire Haws,
The Marines Errant,
Red Scorpions,
The Fire Angels,
The Raptors,
The Lamenters,
The Novamarines,
and the
Howling Griffons

(Book 2 will cover: Mantis Warriors, Executioners, Salamanders, Minotaurs, Sons of Medusa, Exorcists, Carcharodons [Space Sharks] and Star Phantoms).

Each chapter gets an eight page write up, which details their nature and personality, organisation and any variences/strengths/weaknesses, notable battle honours and the disposition of their forces in the war. It is good to see these relatively undeveloped chapters getting some love, though due to most of the loyalists at this point being ‘by the book’ types (who would be first to stand up against Huron’s bucking of Imperial Law) they do get a bit samey.

Also it is worth mentioning the mostly black Howling Griffins scheme (see Terminator below) is a camouflage pattern, not a wholesale change in livery. In keeping with the original Badab article the book features several alternate schemes for the marines.

Not emo, just cammo.

Campaign and Special Missions

The Badab Campaign system is designed to mimic the ‘historical’ events of the war, with five themed phases. There is no rigid battle system, but certain stages award more Campaign Points to certain styles of game.
For example Phase 1, mimicking the early skirmishes in space lanes, awards 3CPs for victories in Boarding Action missions, 2Cps for Battlefleet Gothic victories, and 1CP for any other type of game.
There are no hard rules for how long each phase lasts – the book suggests either each phase is the same number of games or a real world time limit passes. This prevents people dragging out phases to pull back a win, as winning a phase grants a bonus for the campaign – winning Phase 1 gives the Loyalists +1 to reserve rolls, and the Secessionists the option to re-roll Deep Strikes.

There are five special missions, each themed to one of the Campaign Phases, and one is The Angstrom Incident. So after twenty years the exact details are revealed of this, erm, incident and you can play it out even. It has a cool plot hook to boot.

Boarding Action Rules

This section is a mini-expansion in the vein of Cities of Death or Planetstrike – not a simple add-on to normal games like Battle Missions.
There is a modified FOC, with only one HQ and one other unit mandatory. There are unit restrictions as well, with the only vehicles being artillery or walkers on 60mm or smaller bases. The designers do note that they may still not fit everywhere, so caveat emptor!

There are a few special rules:
Hazardous Ground – vehicles and bikes treat difficult terrain as dangerous, as do jump infantry in certain circumstances.
The Cold Void – Weapons of more than Str4 get rending, rending gets better, and blasts are improved.
Catastrophic Damage – there is a table to represent the ship being boarded slowly falling apart. Doors may open or close on their own, the ground may become unstable, explosions may break out or parts of the ship (board) may vent into space!

There is a lengthy discussion about the different types of environments that can be fought over, including decks, holds and the outer hull which has a special rule, The Hungry Stars, to represent guys getting blasted out into space.

To play these rules there are three mission types, and even an optional stratagems section that blows my mind because it brings back the Graviton Gun! Other fun looking options include super Tarantulas (twin-linked Plasma Cannon!), drones, crew gangs, las-cutters and more.

I think this section is superbly done, and very flavourful – combining it with the Kill Team cohesion rules from Battle Missions or some modified system (such as Killzone) would make moving around easier in the confines of the ship though.

You also get a poster!

Lords of Destruction – Special Characters

There are a total of TWELVE special characters in this book:

Chaplain Dreadnought Titus (Howling Griffons)
Lugft Huron (Astral Claws)
Capt Corien Sumatris (Astral Claws)
Armenneus Valthex (Astral Claws)
Lt Commander Anton Narvaez (Marines Errant)
Magister Sevrin Loth (Red Scorpions)
Lord High Commander Carab Culln (Red Scorpions)
Captain Tarnus Vale (Fire Angels)
Chapter Master Lias Issodon (Raptors)
Master Malakim Phoros (Lamenters)
Captain Mordaci Blaylock (Novamarines)
Knight-Captain Elam Courbray (Fire Hawks)

So every chapter in the book gets one. It is worth noting that aside from Huron the other Astral Claws characters do not appear, so may just be a bonus or may make an appearance later. Additionally the book specifically mentions it is extremely unlikely they’ll make minis for most of these guys.

Most of them get a single page – half background, half rules – though Culln and Huron get two ‘cause they’re awesome like that. They all have special rules, such as making Terminators scoring, better saves, and other unique powers.
All save the Lamenters character are for use with Codex: Space Marines (even Huron), with the Lamenters for C:Blood Angels. This does make the somewhat unique situation that you can’t take Culln with the Red Scorpions list from Vraks BUT he duplicates the list with his Chapter Tactics, so it’s a moot point (and possibly better as you can get Apothecaries in any marine unit with this Culln).

The Tyrant’s Legion – Army List

The book’s army list represents the Tyrant’s PDF forces augmented by his Marines. As such it is a blend of the Imperial Guard and Marine Codexes, being able to take a Guard Command squad or a Marine officer. However there are more restrictions, as the Marine HQ is weaker than a captain and the Guard can’t take advisors. The amount of Marine equipment is restricted as well, so you can’t just take a Marine army with some Leman Russ’ and Hellhounds.
The list isn’t just a mish-mash of existing units, however. There is a creepy anti-apothecary called the Corpse Taker (he steals other chapter’s Geneseed), mercenary fighters, and several other unique pieces. There is also a special rule that the Marines can gain bonuses to their cover saves due to fire passing through friendly guard units, but the guard take casualties as a result.

All in all the list characterful and has a surprising variety for a hybrid, but it still feels like a hybrid. It could even be used by Alpha Legion players to represent a more organised group, though it lacks any psychic powers or Daemon stand-ins. Just a thought for you guys with LatD armies!


Two formations for Marines and one for Guard. The Marines have one made up of three to five Land Raiders that makes them even harder to kill. The other includes ‘one to three Thunderhawk Gunships’ filled to capacity with at least 20 models each and a different HQ choice each (ie Chaplain, Librarian etc). This entire setup (up to sixty guys and three T-Hawks) is an assassination force and all their bonus rules are geared to killing a single target.
The guard’s is four to eight Russ’ command by a Baneblade who gain some situational bonuses to damaging their targets and BS boosts.


Well, you can see that this volume of Imperial Armour is absolutely jammed packed with stuff. And there is a second helping on the way.

Story gets an 9.5/10 due to some typos and misuse of decimate. There was one particularly incomprehensible sentence, though I can’t find it again. Nit-picking aside, this is the primary reason to buy the book.

The Chapter section is 7/10, lower due to the previously mentioned repetition and similarity. The content however is very good, just ‘samey’.

Campaign scores 8/10: thematic, easy to use and flexible – everything you want in a system really.

Boarding Action rules are 9/10, the point lost due to the lack of new movement rules (though I do understand that introducing those would have made things much more complex) and the need for lots more terrain to use them effectively.

Lords of Destruction, 9/10 – each is sufficiently different to the others and lends themselves to different playstyles.

The Tyrants Legion earn a 7/10. The lower score is that while it has some uniqueness, it is essentially a modified mash-up of Imperial units.

Apocalypse – 7/ 10. Feels somewhat tacked on at the end, but the Land Raider and Russ one are pretty good for their cost. The T-Hawk one is very silly, and if I owned three Thunderhawks I’d use it, but these are really just bonuses to the rest of the book.

OVERALL – 9/10
If you’re not a Marinehead it’s probably not worth it (6/10 maybe? Less if you don’t like Imperials), try to borrow a copy first if you really like the sound of the Boarding Action rules or the Campaign.

Part Two has a lot to live up to.

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