Monday, September 16, 2013

Warzone: Damnos - Ultramarines Review

So are the Ultramarines getting all the cool toys?   Eyjio, one of the Apocalypse40K regulars thinks so.  He certainly thinks the new Warzone: Damnos is skewed towards Ultramarines.  And what of the Necrons?  Do they get good new rules and formations?

Eyjio has some very strong opinions about the Ultramarines getting buffed and the Necrons getting nerfed.  You need not agree, but it is certainly worth a read! 

From Eyjio:

We are going to take a look at how a fluffy Ultramarines army fares in the Warzone: Damnos book.  Let's take Ultramarines 2nd Company. Immediately, you have Sicarius' vortex grenade finest hour and a free orbital bombardment. Now, we also want Tigurius so we can also throw together a Libarius formation too. By just taking 2 formations, we can use 4 Str D weapons for ~2700 points. You then have any vehicle formations you want like the Predator Assassin, any 1st company units you want like a High Command with Calgar, drop podding Sternguard or the Stormraven one. Space Wolves Great Companies are less versatile from this perspective and the same holds true for Brethren of the Great Wolf. 

However, if you were to drop pod the entire great company, it becomes way too good again as Ways and Means could allow you to have a ton of marines immediately in combat with furious charge, plus models further from the wolf lord to have rerolled charges, essentially meaning you can and will be able to tie up if not outright kill a lot of enemies without real threat of retaliation. Even if you totally flop every single charge, that's still an awful lot of marines close to enemies so you lose nothing by going for it. Armies without access to interceptor (so most of them excepting fortifications) have no way to stop these charges at all, yet it could be a good chunk of an entire army if they roll well. Ways and Means is just far too good IMO. 

Now consider things like Jaws with double range. Space Wolves can definitely have some amazing uses of these new assets, even if they have less immediate access to them. That'd be fine if it was meant for SW, but with Ultramarines they're super powerful. Considering how 2nd Company arrive on Damnos in the book (entirely drop pod assault) you can't even call people out if they recreate that, though it would be ridiculously overwhelming for many armies to face. I just think it's a poorly designed and unfun asset and it is more abusable than the old Flank March. Perhaps it's just me but the idea that this is on par as an asset with any of the faction specific ones from the main book or any Necron Damnos ones is utterly laughable. The fact it lasts all game and costs nothing is so dumb I don't even think I can express it in words, especially when it's so much more game changing than any Strategic Resource you can name.

Sorry, rant over. Here's my thoughts on the formations:

Centurion Decimator Cohort - Fantastic. Free Ignores Cover/Tank HUnter/Monster Hunter for up to 6 Centurion squads? Just amazing. Looks like a fun formation to play.

Conclave of the Ancients - Bleh. D6 HOW hits isn't great, nor is Rampage. PE for any model in the formation would be great if most weapons you take on Dreadnaughts weren't already TL. They really want you to charge with these guys but I'm yet to see footslogging AV12 make it anywhere close. Potentially broken if drop podding with Ways and Means, but then so is everything.

Deathstorm Area Denial Force - The rules for Deathstorm Drop Pods are just ripped straight from IA12. This formation gives them +1 S to shooting when they land. Powerful stuff, S7 assault cannons are nasty. Another great formation.

Deathwatch Strike Team - Hey, you know how every marine takes Sternguard to kill stuff? Now they all get PE VS 1 Xenos army of choice, S4 AP4 bolter ammo that forces Necrons to reroll passed reanimation and if they kill a Xeno Warlord, you get 1 VP. Yeah, Sternguard with 2+ to wound and preferred enemy is a thing. I guess the AP4 from all the other shooting (especially Deathstorms which just shred Warriors) wasn't killing Necrons hard enough either so now they have super Necron killing ammo. There is no reason not to take this formation at all. Not one. A bit too good IMO, the first of the extremely powerful.

Land Raider Spearhead - 3-5 LRs of any type get all spearhead benefits when in Arrowhead, so they get PE, tank hunters and 12" extra flat out. Considering how weak they are to Str D, this is a welcome formation. It's also very powerful if it survives. Yet another good formation.

Line Breaker Squadron - 3-5 Vindicators in a spearhead is a thing. Vindicators in a spearhead that have an option where 3+ of them can combine to fire a S10 AP2 10" blast is fun, especially when it automatically penetrates any building the hole is over with +1 to the damage result for each contributing Vindicator. Mostly though the important thing to take away is they can use Spearhead rules with this.

Skyhammer Orbital Strike Force - Know how I keep saying drop podding SM with Ways and Means is way too good? Welcome to the formation the lets you take any amount of drop podding SM units and gives them all PE. Oh, they also get crusader and fear for the first 2 turns and have to arrive first turn. Yeah... what else is there to say really. Take your favourite unit, give it a drop pod and it gets PE. This is very, very powerful, perhaps worse than the Sternguard one. The only "downside" is you have to take 3 drop podding tactical squads. How devastating, it's really crippling to get PE plasma guns right next to enemies. Oh wait, no, it's something you'd do anyway. Again, if you have the models, there is no excuse not to field this. Again, possibly too good.

Skyreign Hunter Squadron - 3-5 Hunters in a Spearhead. Mmm, rerollable armourbane due to tank hunters, tastes like cheese. Nothing spectacular about the formation, you add stuff to savant lock rolls depending on how many their are on the target and you can switch a few savant locks. Mostly, you'll use it for tank hunter armourbane that can target flyers and skimmers. Powerful, only let down by the actual Hunter unit itself. It's likely that in Apoc, they may survive a few turns and the damage those missiles will do is going to be ugly as they can still target skimmers with full BS using skyfire.

The Spear of Macragge - Yet another Spearhead, this time with Vindicator, Whirlwind or Vindicator flavours of choice. Any unit within 12" of Chronus' Land Raider/Terminus Ultra (which is a free LR upgrade apparenly) can use his BS5. Terminus Ultra rules unchanged other than being no more than a normal LR. This is pretty meh in my opinion and it sucks you need to field 5+ of other tanks to take the Terminus Ultra. The LR will make it hard to get into formations too. The second flop of the book for SM.

Stormsurge Strike Wing - In my experience, flying Str D is very frustrating to face and I never enjoy it as too little can stop it killing a unit a turn. Naturally, that means SM get another way to have flying Str D then. Yes, upon entry 3-5 SRs move between 36"-72" and get 4+ cover (but cannot evade, as if that'd be useful with 4+ cover). One unit they've passed over can be shot at (ignoring line of sight) with one of 2 modes, though you'll always take Missile Storm. Strafing Storm grants Strafing Run and Shred to all non-missiles but you cannot fire any missiles at all. Missile Storm fires all missiles on every SR from the formation and you resolve the shots normally unless you get 8+ hits. At 8 hits, you instead resolve 1 Str D AP2 shot with concussive. At 9 hits, it becomes a blast which doesn't scatter. This progresses until by 12+ hits, you're resolving a no scatter Str D AP2 conscussive 10" blast. Oh, also you can still fire the other weapons in this mode too. Now, bear in mind this is a flyer wing, so can get strafing run normally. Yeah, even with 3 SRs that's always going to be giving a Str D hit as you're firing 12 BS5 missiles. This is far too good to pass up if you have 3 SRs and frankly even if you don't, it's worth bearing in mind for future Apocalypse purchases. This is also my most despised formation, clearly being tailored to kill Pylons having taken away their interceptor in the same book. I hate you too Mr Kelly.

Suppression Force - Twin Link Whirlwinds, gives them the option to resolve shooting with the Apoc Barrage template, firing shot numbers equal to 2x the amount of contributing Whirlwinds. Honestly, this just looks like an attempt to save time, so I won't malign it. It's not a Spearhead, so no abuses there. It's meh, just a time saving formation, so the 3rd one that hasn't been at least great.

Ultramarines Chapter Honour Guard - Not getting enough Strategic Assets? Take 2 more! Calgar's LR gets tank hunters, monster hunter and PE. Every non-vehicle within 6" of Calgar in the formation gets FNP. All vehicles within 6" of Calgar in the formation ignore crew shaken/stunned. This formation is good because at minimum size, you take Calgar, his Honour Guard and a LR, then get free assets. You would probably field him anyway using Ultramarines, so yeah, it may as well just be free assets on a platter. Good because assets are good.

Wall of Martyrs Defence Strongpoint - Repairs AV due to Building Damage Results (and nothing else). All emplaced guns using automated fire are BS3 and have interceptor/skyfire. It's... certainly a fortification. Yeah, it makes Firestorm Redoubts great and Vengeance Weapon Batteries get BS3 interceptor so that's cool. Otherwise, not really worth it unless you are already taking the components.

That's all the stuff SM get. They're generally very good with a few exceptions and vastly better than the Necron part. You can pretty much field whatever SM units you want in spearhead/flyerwing and have access to a ton of Str D without taking Superheavies (which is amazing, you limit the VP you yield if you take less SHs than your opponent). Just seeing how much better they are than the Necron ones makes me annoyed when the old Apoc Necron formations were all on a par with these SM. It's not the first time Necrons have been shafted and I doubt it'll be the last. At least Infinite Phalanx, Transcendent C'tan and Solar Pulses are around, so Necrons still get some hope but this book is not worth the money for pure Necron players IMO, not at all. Other than flyerwings and the broken free unit asset, there's nothing exciting in here for you. Even the fluff will make you angry that GW decided that Ultramarines can never truly ever lose and that Necrons are in fact beatable with ~400 men even on a giant fully awoken tomb world (as in the whole planet is metal) with a Transcendent C'tan shard loose on it and fully operational defences. 



Pissed-Off-Plebe said...

What does PE mean and do?

Unknown said...

Preferred Enemy which lets the unit re-roll to hit and to wound results of 1.

Pissed-Off-Plebe said...

what does Ways and Means let you do? is there a list i can go to for these rules?

Anonymous said...

so paying 800+ points for 1 Str D blast is awesome?

what about 4 5" blasts every turn with void shields and cover saves from a 720pt warhound? or a chaos one that regenerates? or a flying vampire hunter with holo fields, D blasts, and flyer rules?

also, the drop thing isn't that super. you use something like a green tide or infinite phalanx to deny most of the board and bog down silly things like tacticals or dreads that want to waste your time.

apoc is about D weapons. it's warhounds and vampires. they nerfed GCs (G daemons) since they have no D weapon protection, and the pylon (3 different profiles in 2 months? really?) no longer has interceptor to protect from superheavy flyers, so there you go.

John O said...

I enjoyed the book and look forward to more expanded books with additional armies. D weapons are a bit out of control right now. Local area (about 30 players) are caught between allowing invulnerable saves or reducing the roll of 6 on damage chart to 1+1d6...testing period is on going for us over the next few months before Apoc tourney.

seb12 said...

And if we all spam D-weapons it becomes a turn 1 game. Very said it was not playtested before release. :/

Eyjio said...

Hey guys, Eyjio here. I'll warn you before I begin that as I'm on long term antibiotics, I am incredibly drowsy so if anything I say doesn't make sense, please ask me about it.

Ways and Means gives you a charge from reserves on a roll of 5+. Essentially, it's very good on its own. Here's the real issues with it - it's in the only army where anything can deep strike, it's in the army with the highest asset generation and it's in the army with a balanced assault/shooting/durability combination. If any one of those weren't true, it's be good, but not great. As it stands, Space Marines can generate at least 5 assets via their high command and the new Calgar formation, so will always be able to take Ways and Means+Precise Coordinates (no scatter asset). Ways and Means lasts all game and affects even allied armies, so the potential is disgusting. Even just in SM armies, all assault marines could be the old Vanguard Veterans. Terminators can charge Titans instantly, thus totally neutering them. The ONLY counter is to totally cover every possible hole in your army where anything can deep strike with units, then stick all your good assault stuff out front AND hope none of the enemies have outflank. If any one of those fails, you get hit by an unstoppable assault that kills a unit. To me, that's too powerful, especially on larger boards. Even on smaller boards, Titans will clear your landing area so there's nothing at all that can stop the assault other than poor enemy rolling. Considering it doesn't even cost a victory point and would make allied Wraithknights sometimes able to drop down and instantly charge... yeah, it's too good IMO. Even if it's not hugely effective, I can't see it being fun to play and that's the cardinal sin of gaming - games should ALWAYS be fun.

Eyjio said...

As for Str D, I think the way my area will change the rules is to just delete the roll of 6 result and make it equal to a roll of 2-5. That way, the average result barely alters but the potential for any unit that costs less than 1400 points to just instantly die is gone. Str D is fine IMO on Super Heavies, but when infantry get access to it in the amounts SM currently do, they are getting not only VP for killing your guys with that Str D but also denying you VP by not taking as many SH vehicles/gargantuan creatures.

Let me compare the Stormsurge to a Warhound Titan for a moment. Now, Titans tend to last 1 turn - a lot can target and hurt them, its huge and it's a big threat. The Stormsurge Str D attack is all but unstoppable - unless you can kill the flyers with interceptor (bear in mind their 4+ cover, AV12 and 36-72" range on entry) they will always get off their attack. For 800 points you get 4 Stormravens. These are decent enough on their own - they can carry infantry around, they have flying multimeltas and they are practically immune to Str D weapons thanks to the flyer rules. As they are a flyerwing, you can stick them in a straight line to get strafing run, bumping you up to BS5. They fire 4 missiles each, so 4x4 missiles shoot, where 86.67% hit. That averages 80/6 hits, or 13.33. At 12+ hits, you get a 10" Str D blast that doesn't scatter at all. 10" blasts have the same surface area as 4 5" blasts, so for 80 points more than a Titan you get something arguably better. Sure, you can't fire the Str D again but that means you are less of a target when people CAN shoot you in their turn, plus as I said above, Titans propensity to draw all the Str D blasts in the world until they die. It's really powerful and I just can't see it being fun to face an opponent who turns up, unavoidably nukes a huge chunk of your stuff with a bunch of flyers, especially if they also use the first turn assault thing from Ways and Means. It's like the Apocalypse equivalent of Necron flyer spam.

Anonymous said...

if you phalanx or whatever, you deny the area to deep strike and the landing point for the stormsurge to pass over ANY of your models. they can't clear those units away until AFTER the reserves come in. then you can move/run them back to fill the void, it just needs to keep a (unit size +2") gap from forming. orks, necrons, and IG are all good at doing that.

also, vampires and eldar titans have holofields, which make any one shot blast dicey (for the non flyers, obviously).

why not take unstoppable vampires for the same price that have better protection (holofield, more hp, ignore non-explode results) and aren't one shot D blasts? they can carry troops too as needed.

i'm not saying it's terrible, just that in the world of D weapons, i think warhounds and vampires are better if there's a chance they get to fire twice. (also 4x 5" blasts do a LOT more damage to a superheavy than a single blast)

you can also do the lamer thing and surround your titan with flyers (for at least a turn or two) to prevent them from getting charged. a hound can still fire over/around valkyries etc.

the new nerf to the pylon is pretty lame, as that's something that could prevent a stormsurge fairly reliably.

and yes, apoc is horribly unbalanced, but that's always been the case. you used to be able to get 50pt hades drills to double melta every turn and move titans (RAW) out of their way, then have a melta vet squad pop up the next turn... and lifta wagons used to have one shot 10" D blasts for ~245 pts a piece (with deff rolla), so i'm not sure this is any more broken than that, but the fact that gargantuans are completely useless and the entire daemon side has no protection is a pretty harsh nerf to CD and tyranids (and the new endless swarm is lame compared to the old one too).

just par for the course i guess. i do agree D weapons are too strong and there are too many explosions in the current rules. space marines/IG have always had 2-3x the amount of silly formations as xenos, which obviously gives them a huge advantage and isn't totally fair either.

as always, all the above is imho and ymmv.

seb12 said...

Flyer bases dont block movement.

Anonymous said...

you can't sit on enemy flyer bases or within 1" of them, so effectively, they can.

Eyjio said...

Borknogger, you make good points. The thing is, you can clear the area then send in the Thundersurge whenever. They don't have to arrive first turn, they get to pick any turn, so just do it when the board has room. You can still deny it doing immense amounts of damage but it will kill a prime target simply because nothing can stop it doing so. Obviously it's worse at killing Super Heavies and Gargantuans than multiple Str D but it's still essentially a 10" circular area wipe.

As for Vampires, there's several things you've not said that make them a dicey proposition in comparison. For one, they're not available to SM, which already have Thunderhawks. For another, they're less durable than 4 Stormravens except against Str D skyfire - that was only on one platform and it was just nerfed. Why? Both have 4+ saves of some form, neither can evade. Both have 12 HP in total. The difference in durability only realistically comes from the AV where Stormravens beat Vampires at AV12 rather than AV11. Stormravens also have higher transport capacity, more other weaponry, cover more area with their blast (which is more accurate as well, not that it matters) and don't yield VP upon death. If the Vampire lives 2 turns (unlikely but possible depending on other targets) then at best it can cover the same amount of area, only winning against SHs/GCs. That's not to say it isn't powerful - it's still flying Str D and is hitting what it wants earlier than the Stormsurge due to not having to clear area but it's definitely not just a case of being better than the formation because that's not true.

As for the debate of what is best, SHs are only worth the value proposition if they're able to either fire more than once or can do a lot of damage in one turn. In many ways IMO, they are hugely overrated, especially Titans but I may ask to write something up on that at a later date. The jist of it is this though - they are worth as much to kill as an objective is worth at a break. If you bring it back and it dies again (a pretty common occurrence in the 2 games of new Apoc I've had) then you are down by a net 3 VP. If you can get Str D anywhere else, it's often a better idea as even if it costs 1 VP to use, that's not any worse than your SH/GC dying and by not yielding VP, you neither allow them to bring back their own stuff nor use their own strategic resources. This is why Titans aren't vastly undercosted to me - they kill a lot, then give up 1 VP. You're basically spending your ability to win for the chance of killing useful things which isn't necessarily always a good idea but one you're forced into.

As for flyers blocking Titan assaults, meh. At worst they're blocking one Titan and frankly if it's at the point level where you have enough flyers to even do that then you're going to have alternate means to kill it regardless.

I don't see previous lack of balance as an excuse. When the new book came out, in my first game I was very impressed with how close it was and that has been echoed in most of the comments I've read about peoples' experience with the new rules. It was nowhere near as bad as the old version where point values seemed to come out of nowhere, Str D blasts were ridiculously huge and everything was very unintuitive. This book is a step away from that back into the territory of "well where the heck did that costing come from, that's stupidly good".

It's funny you should mention that the Imperium has always been too strong. On the forums, someone is telling me SM has always been really weak. I agree with you personally - the access the Imperium have to Str D/Titan killing stuff as well as long range heavy weapons outclasses every other army in the game bar Tau. That is significant for the VP reasons I said above; if you only take 3 SHs and your opponent takes 15, even if they almost wipe you out you'll generally win just due to how much they lost in net VP.

Eyjio said...

GCs are in a weird place. If Str D was much weaker, GCs would just totally dominate. I think the numbers end up as something absurd like 360 autocannons to kill a Hierophant or 48 lascannons which is still really infeasible. So, without Str D being there, nothing could stop them tearing up everything all game in a way that Super Heavies just don't get to. On the other hand, if the board is a long shooting gallery, they're unlikely to do anything at all. Do I think they're too weak? Absolutely not. The thing to appreciate is how armies interact in Apocalypse - if you're facing a lot of Titans, you can drop a blind barrage and block their LOS, making them terrible. If you want to advance aggressively, you can drop a shield generator 14" ahead of you and then rush 12+d6" into it (as long as you can't make charges). If you can deny Str D at all, they will not die. It's at the stage where I'm not even sure if the Transcendent C'tan isn't TOO good due to the incredible damage it does with both shooting and assault. Yet, they still yield VP. That's a good balance on the most part - VS most armies, you force their Str D to target your big stuff, so your other things advance mostly unscathed, the small stuff kills/cripples SHs and SHs are the source of most Str D. It falls down in 2 cases - marines and now Necrons. Necrons have no Str D other than the C'tan which needs to be really close due to the Pylon nerf. That means if they can neutralise incredibly few Necron targets, they are almost unopposed. Combined with Necrons weakness to high save things anyway and the match up just revolves around the happenstance of about 5 units - that's not good. Marines however, due to both their non-SH Str D and now grav weapons have plenty of ways to threaten and kill GCs without them doing anything, which makes the whole "unignorable threat" a big joke. Again, why I dislike this book giving away yet more such Str D to marines.

The amount of explosions I think is rather clever. If less exploded, you'd need it there as a wreck, so to bring it back would require duplicate models. With all the explosions, there's no issue - you just pop on a crater then have your model ready to play again. By allowing stuff to be played again, you can stop the stupid alpha strike cripples which plagued apoc before by just bringing back on your most powerful stuff. It's a bit silly but it makes the game play better, so I'm all for that.

Frankly, I dislike the new Damon codex. It's like playing roulette by throwing teeth at the squares - even if you win, you've still gone through a painful experience. That's my own personal issues though. I don't think they're far nerfed in Apocalypse to be honest. Other than Str D, they remain incredibly strong generally and have the most resistance of any army to being shot to death by long ranged heavy weapons. GCs being weaker stinks but really, it's not too bad and they remain great in game. Maybe my opinion will change about them once I play on a wider board but still, they seem solid enough due to the hoardy nature.

Eyjio said...

Str D was just done poorly all round IMO. It needed to change (Tyranids are remarkably better off than ever before as their MCs are unlikely to die to 1 Str D shot) but the way they chose to do so seems counter intuitive. Without inv saves, many units lose a big part of their cost which means that all those special character Warmasters are just free VP waiting to happen. Even the toughest HQs rarely go above 4 wounds, so one bad roll kills them. The only solution to that is hiding them (not fun) or playing with the Napoleon-esque idea of not shooting cannons at generals because it's dishonourable. On top of that, the rolls of 1 and 6 are utterly ridiculous - a single Pylon can blast a Manta out of the sky; a vortex missile can merely chip the paintwork of a Rhino . It's not fluffy and it plays poorly. Why it's not always just 1+D3 HP/W is beyond me. It works better, doesn't need a special table, doesn't change the average roll significantly and less stupid results occur which is a win all around. Is Str D currently too good? Well no, it's just the variation is ridiculous. 5 of the results aren't massively deadly, especially with less 7"/10" Str D blasts around but the one that is might as well just say "this unit dies, who cares what it is", which isn't even fun to do - you just feel like you've cheesed your opponent. It's like many of Kelly's tables - mostly worthless but when they aren't, the game becomes really unfair even with no tactical error. It's a style of rules I think is inexcusably terrible but I know some people love, so ymmv I guess.

Oh, and new endless swarm is awesome in small games. In 5k-a-side things where you can easily get to T6/7, not being able to shoot them with blasts or templates from T4+ is really brutal. If they take a risk and don't deploy it until T3/4, you're never going to kill a big one. It's less immediately useful than before but when it's good, it's REALLY good.

seb12 said...

Yeah...but you need a lot of flyers to prevent me squishing inbetween 2 Flyer bases useing my 2" spread to get a few models past. And if youre not zooming you can be assaultet, otherwise i just lose a turn. Its not that great.

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The Chaos devices, the Chaos logo, Citadel, Citadel Device, the Double-Headed/Imperial Eagle device, 'Eavy Metal, Forge World, Games Workshop, Games Workshop logo, Golden Demon, Great Unclean One, the Hammer of Sigmar logo, Horned Rat logo, Keeper of Secrets, Khemri, Khorne, Lord of Change, Nurgle, Skaven, the Skaven symbol devices, Slaanesh, Tomb Kings, Trio of Warriors, Twin Tailed Comet Logo, Tzeentch, Warhammer, Warhammer Online, Warhammer World logo, White Dwarf, the White Dwarf logo, and all associated marks, names, races, race insignia, characters, vehicles, locations, units, illustrations and images from the Warhammer world are either ®, TM and/or © Copyright Games Workshop Ltd 2000-2008, variably registered in the UK and other countries around the world. Used without permission. No challenge to their status intended. All Rights Reserved to their respective owners.

General This web site is completely unofficial and in no way endorsed by Games Workshop Limited.

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