Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Psychic Innovation!

As everyone knows, the Space Marines are getting new psychic powers. As possibly fewer of you know, Forgeworld's Facebook group has okayed using those powers in Horus Heresy games (for whatever that is worth). Anyway, as I now hold the psychic power cards in my hot little hands, I thought it might be fun to have a look at them.

After all, it's not like Forgeworld can make us use the new powers, so let's have a look at them and decide if we want to.

Discipline the First: Librarius

  • The Emperor's Wrath - 18" 5/3 Assault 1 witchfire with a 3'' blast .
  1. Veil of Time - WC2 blessing that allows the psyker and his entire unit re-roll all failed saving throws.
  2. Fury of the Ancients - WC1 witchfire, a 20" 6/4 beam with Pinning.
  3. Psychic Fortress - WC1 blessing that gives the psyker Fearless and Adamantium Will, as well as creating a 12'' bubble of 4++ invulnerable save against witchfire powers only.
  4. Might of Heroes - WC1 blessing that gives the psyker +2 strength, toughness, initiative, and attacks.
  5. Psychic Scourge - WC1 malediction. Roll 2d6 + psyker level against enemy psyker's 1D6 + psyker level. On a draw or better, enemy loses one wound (no save), if you win by 3 than him he loses a power.
  6. Null Zone - WC2 malediction that targets an enemy unit and reduces its invulnerable save by two (to a minimum of 6++).

This one is a bit disappointing, honestly. I can see how it might be useful in a 40k environment, where enemy psykers are relatively common, but in a Horus Heresy game, a few of it's best powers are likely to be wasted. Psychic Fortress's resistance to witchfire powers (though Fearless is always nice) and Psychic Scourge's anti-psyker abilities aren't very likely to come into play.

Then again, Null Zone is pretty good. Feel No Pain and monstrous creatures are pretty rare (unless you're fighting Mechanicum or something), so most deathstars rely on good invulnerable saves. TK1 also has potential, especially given the number of 2+ save units Salamanders can field (pyroclasts, in addition to terminators and command squads). And if comes to an assault, anything that stops us taking wounds is all to the good.

I'd also grant that Veil of Time is great on pretty much everything, but especially firedrakes. That said, it's only one of six powers, and the rest of them are kind of underwhelming.

That said... I would say that the power is a definite fail, not a win.

However, it is worth keeping in mind in Heresy games... mostly because of how badly TK6 will screw up the deathstars of 3++ firedrake terminators that the Salamanders do rely on to patch up our close combat prowess.

Discipline the Second: Technomancy

Woah, boy... this is one that I already know I'm going to enjoy!

  • Subvert Machine - WC 1 maledicion, 18" range. Randomly select a weapon on an enemy vehicle. You and your opponent roll off; if your opponent wins nothing happens, if you draw the target can only fire snap shots, if you win you take control of said vehicle's weapon for a turn.
  1. Blessing of the Machine - WC1 blessing for one vehicle witihn 24". It now ignores Crew Shaken and Crew Stunned, and gains Power of the Machine Spirit or +1 BS (if the target vehicle that already has PotMS).
  2. Machine Curse - WC1 1/- Assault 3 focused witchfire with Haywire.
  3. Reforge - WC1 blessing for a vehicle only that grants It Will Not Die and either restores one hull point, or repairs either an immobilized or destroyed weapon result.
  4. Warpmetal Armour - WC1 blessing that has different effects depending on the target. For vehicles, it grants +1 armor value to all sides for a turn. For non-vehicle targets, it gives the unit +1 toughness.
  5. Fury of Mars - WC1 for a 18'' 1/- Assault 1 beam with Haywire..
  6. Machine Flense - WC2 focused witchfire, 18" range. Target loses d3 hull points; For each hull point lost, it d6 4/6 Rending hits to a nearby enemy unit.
The primaris is a lot like Cassian Dracos's special power, so if you're inclined towards running the Ebon Drake, you've got a bit of a theme going on. Of course, the fact that it targets a random weapon significantly limits its utility... but not enough to make it worthless, I think. Blessing of the Machine, Reforge, and Warpmetal Armor all help us to keep our vehicles on the table and contributing, which is great given how strongly the Salamanders tend to prefer mechanized lists. The offensive powers, on the other hand, aren't all that bad... against a list with some vehicles in it.

Given that the offensive powers are pretty much wasted if your opponent brings nothing but infantry, and that's a valid playstyle for some legions in Horus Heresy (not to mention the Mechanicum), this discipline loses a lot of value. However, all three of the "defensive" powers are pretty good, and you have the option of building your list around them. Overall, I think that this puts the power firmly in the mid-tier of disciplines

The biggest advantage this discipline has is that its blessings all include a special note that an embarked psyker can use these abilities on the vehicle he's riding in. This is huge, because it re-opens the possibility of a support psyker in mechanized list, an option that's been largely closed since the dawn of 7th edition.

But I do know that I am going to use it a ton. I mean... I've already built a Knight Errant with a jump pack and a servo-arm, intended to run alongside my Imperial Knights... add in a couple of psyker levels with this discipline, and I'm in really good shape.

Discipline the Third: Geokinesis

This one may be my personal winner - the best combination of stuff that tickles my fancy in particular and the strongest powers.

  • Chasm - WC2 malediction, forces a unit in range to take a dangerous terrain test, no armor .
  1. Earth Blood - WC1. Targets a model in 18" of the Psyker. That guy immediately regains d3 wounds, and the target plus his entire unit gain It Will Not Die.
  2. Scorched Earth - WC1 malediction, 24" range. Choose a point in range - it deals a single S5AP4 Ignores Cover hit to each unit within 6". 6'' from the point is now dangerous terrain.
  3. Land Quake - WC1 malediction that affects all enemy units within 18" of caster. They are considered to be in difficult terrain, and cannot run, turbo-boost or flat out.
  4. Phase Form - WC1 blessing, 24". Give the target unit move through cover, and Ignore cover to all weapons. Unit is also able to shoot without line of site; only range matters.
  5. Warp Quake - WC1 24" range, targeting a building or ruin. Buildings get a glancing (1 to 3 on a d6) or penetrating (4 to 6 on a d6) hit, presumably with an AP of -; ruins aren't effected directly, but units inside take d6 6/- hits.
  6. Shifting Worldscape - WC3 24". Move a piece of terrain by 24", including units sitting wholly inside. If a unit is partly inside, it's forcibly "disembarked" and has to take a dangerous terrain test.
To get it out of the way, however, the primaris is crap. Fortunately, you're going to get one or two other powers, and the other powers are golden.

For the Salamanders, you're going to want to try to get Earth Blood, Scorched Earth, Land Quake, and Shifting Worldscape. Earth Blood because it plays to the vaunted Salamanders durability, and is one of very few ways to restore lost Wounds. It's also great for a librarian hanging out with a bunch of two-wound terminator badasses, like... for example... firedrakes! Scorched Earth and Land Quake create phantom dangerous terrain, which will help slow our enemies down and make sure they fail charges - always good when you want to avoid combat. Shifting Worldscape just has so much damn potential, between moving an enemy melee unit further away so you can keep messing with it to moving your own units to safety to moving objectives closer so that your opponent has to come into flamer range to try to grab them.

Phase Form and Warp Quake are... underwhelming. Our best weapons don't have the range to take advantage of Phase Form with any reliability, and with all the melta we can bring, we don't really need World Quake's's help to take down buildings.

And as for myself, I have always really enjoyed being able to mess with the game table.

Disicpline the Last: Fulmination

Summary: another mid-tier discipline with a couple of stand-out powers for Salamanders. The primaris is, obviously, just a really good witchfire, but the discipline does get more interesting from there.

  • Electrosurge - WC1 5/4 Assault 6 witchfire.
  1. Electroshield - WC1, the psyker gains a 3++ invulnerable save.
  2. Electropulse - WC2 9'' nova witchfire 1/- with Haywire
  3. Lightning Arc - WC2 5/4 Assault d6 witchfire that jumps to nearby units on a 4+.
  4. Fists of Lightning - WC1 blessing. The psyker gains +1 strength and +1 attack. For every hit the psyker lands in close combat, enemy units suffer 2 additional 5/- hits.
  5. Magnetokinesis - WC2 blessing. Move target unit within 18'' by 18".
  6. Electrodisplacement - WC2 blessing, 24" range. Swap target friendly unit with the psyker's unit. This power can be used on and by units in combat.

Of these powers, the ones a Salamanders player needs to look out for are Lightning Arc, Fists of Lightning, Magnetokinesis, and Electrodisplacement.

Lightning Arc is the one we need to be afraid of. With our limited mobility on foot, most Salamanders armies seem to like to advance as a body, driving slowly but surely into the heart of the enemy formation and burning them out. Lightning Arc has the ability to punish us for that, with hits that can arc from unit to unit and potentially really fuck us up.

Fists of Lightning, Magnetokinesis, and Electrodisplacement, on the other hand, are great for a Salamanders librarian. Fists of Lightning's extra attack compensates for what you lose by bringing a shield, Magnetokinesis can give some last minute mobility to infantry units, keeping them out of charge range but in flame/melta range. Electrodisplacement can do the same. You thought you were going to get to charge a squishy tactical squad? TOO BAD! CHARGE MY FIREDRAKES INSTEAD, ASSHOLE!

Electroshield and Electropulse are just lackluster for Salamanders. It's already really easy to get a librarian with a 4++ (refractor field + dragonscale shield), so improving that to a 3++ at the risk of a perils... isn't really all that great. And like I wrote above, haywire is too dependent upon your enemy bringing vehicles, which he might not. Keep in mind, however, that we are likely to see Electroshield on a lot of enemy psykers, who can't necessarily get to 4++ as easily as we can.

A Word on Fluff

I want to make sure to talk about this as well. A lot of people seem to like to shove the Salamanders into a corner when it comes to fluff. A fiery corner. While I'm sure the stalwarts of the XVIIIth love it there, there really is a lot more to the Salamanders than fire.

Librarius is probably the hardest to justify... because it's the hardest for anyone to justify in Horus Heresy. A lot of the powers focus on manifesting the will of the Emperor, creating psychic apparitions of mythical shit from your chapter's homeworld, and other such non-Imperial-Truth-compliant nonsense.

On the other hand, all the other powers make perfect sense for Salamanders. Technomancy? Salamanders are excellent smiths, with more master-crafted crap than any other legion. Geokinesis? Nocturne is a volcanic mess; if anyone is good at psychically opening magma-filled rifts, it's Salamanders. Fulmination? Volcanic activity is often accompanied by intense lightning storms.

And So In Summary...

In summary, I'm going to be buying the bits to make a jetbike librarian (and an escort for him) so I can run around wrecking shit with all these awesome powers. I like how support-focused these powers are. Many of these disciplines - even the lightning-shooting one! - seem like they're more focused on having your librarian make interesting things happen rather than just turning your librarian (or his buddy, or his unit) into an unkillable combat beatstick. I like that. While I can still see myself bringing a divination librarian on foot to improve the accuracy of a melta team or a biomancy librarian in terminator armor to hang out with my praetor and keep him super badass, I actually think I'll use these powers much more often than the rulebook powers. They seem a lot more fun.

Especially geomancy and technomancy. And fulmination is... growing on me.

And to be honest, I think it's perfectly fluffy. Nocturne is a volcanic world (geomancy) and Salamanders are craftsmen as well as warrior-mystics (technomancy). As for fulmination, well... lightning storms frequently accompany volcanic eruptions - see above.

Most importantly, I don't think these powers are all that broken. Do they have the potential to shift the game? Yes. Are any of them Invisibility-tier stupid? No. Even the most powerful of these powers is circumstantial at best. If you want GEOTK6 to change the course of the game, you're going to have to set yourself up for it. That's fine - if you work for it, you should get it. As opposed to invisibility, where all the "work" you have to do is roll a 6 and then put your librarian in your terminator squad. Done.

What do you think? Will you be using these powers in Horus Heresy games?


I wanted to take a look at the new powers and compare them to the old powers to answer the question of whether or not the new powers really are more supporty.

Of the old powers (going to skip daemonology for now because Salamanders can't take malfic and who the hell wants to put up with the santic?)...
  • Biomancy is 3/7 blessings, 1/7 curse, and 3/7 fists.
  • Divination is 6/7 blessings and 1/7 curse.
  • Pyromancy is 2/7 blessings and 5/7 fists.
  • Telekinesis is 2/7 blessings, 1/7 curses, and 4/7 fists.
  • Telepathy is 2/7 blessings, 3/7 curses, 1/7 fist, and 1/7 broken-ass bullshit.

Of the new ones...
  • Fulmination is 4/7 blessings and 3/7 fists.
  • Librarius is 2/7 blessings, 1/7 curse, and 4/7 fists.
  • Geokinesis is 2/7 blessings, 2/7 curses, 2/7 fists, and 1/7 not sure what the hell that is.
  • Technomancy is 3/7 blessings, 1/7 curse, and 3/7 fists.
To my surprise, the proportions are almost identical. The rulebook powers are have, on average 4 blessings, 1 curse, and 3 fists (with rounding). The new powers average to 3 blessings, 1 curse, and 3 fists.

I think the difference may be in how interesting the new support powers are. Of the blessings in the rulebook powers, most of them are librarian-only combat buffs (Iron Arm, Warp Speed, Fiery Form), with the exception of Divination, which is full of unit buffs. The new powers seem to be a lot more unit buffs and interesting utility powers.

Or maybe I'm just a dork for powers that let me move units around the field in unusual ways.

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