Review: Shadowspear

Today is the exciting release of Games Workshops new Warhammer 40,000 box set, Shadowspear, in which you can create the fighting that took place on the War-Torn Planet of Nemendghast, in the Vigilus system. Following the current Games Workshop Warhammer 40,000 storyline.

Celebrating this, I’m going to provide you with the basic, end-user review of the box set touching on its contents, the story, the two miniature codexes that are included within it and the Crucible of War scenarios it includes.
For the first portion of this review, we will be looking at the small bit of fluff that comes with the box set, and the forces of the Vanguard Space Marines!

Let’s start with the Narrative Elements that move the Vigilus story forwards. First, the story explains precisely who, and what is happening on Nemendghast, it provides a solid base and connects you with the Ultramarine Vanguard Marines as they attempt to disrupt the forces of Chaos on Nemendghast. (Spoilers, it doesn’t go well for them!)

After completing the central narrative of the battle for Nemendghast, the book moves forwards and offers a mini-campaign based around the story of the Shadowspear Boxed set, which five Crucible of War Missions and unique stratagems for each mission.

These missions capture the Shadowspear theme very well, and I’m honestly excited to get a chance to play through the mini-campaign.
These missions bring us to the end of the Narrative portion of the Shadowspear Boxed Set, up next! Matched play rules for the new units included in the box.

First, I’ll look over the Vanguard Space Marine Rules, then move on to the Chaos Demonkin rules.

The Vanguard Space Marine Codex begins with a small narrative section, explaining the role of the Vanguard Space Marine Companies in greater detail, as well as their training, armor, and roles within a Space Marine Chapter.

Following that the Codex offers us illustrated pictures of Vanguard Space Marines in the heraldry of other chapters, before giving us the mandatory centerfold of ‘Eavy Metal painted models which are lovely, as always.

After the centerfold, we really get into the meat and the potatoes of this miniature codex, starting with a page that details all the Space Marine Keywords that the Vanguard Space Marines receive, and explains how to replace the standard Keywords with the keywords of two noncodex complaint chapters (The Dark Angels, and the Space Wolves specifically). It then proceeds to explain that due to their organizational differences Grey Knights, Deathwatch and Legion of the Damned armies will be unable to field Vanguard Space Marines. (Though the Warhammer 40,000 Facebook page has hinted Deathwatch Vanguard Marines might be floating somewhere off in the grim darkness of the far future…)

That section finishes with explaining that the preexisting Space Marine Reiver squads also receive many of the Vanguard Space Marine rules and are equipped with Phobos Armor.

Following that page, we come into the individual data sheets of each new character and unit that Shadowspear brings to Warhammer 40,000. I’m not going to go over each entry in exact detail, but I will list each and give my brief opinion of each below.

Captain in Phobos Armor: Looking at the basics of this character he brings everything that a standard Space Marine Captain brings to the table, the Rites of Battle abilities, an Iron Halo and They Shall Know No Fear. These are all time proven traits that make Space Marine Captains the core of many Imperial battle lines – however, that is where the similarities end.
The Captain in Phobos armor also comes equipped with a myriad of other abilities and equipment that allow it to set up on the battlefield in a manner identical to space marine scouts, a camo cloak that increases his cover save and an Omni-scrambler that prevents reinforcements from being set up within 12” of his position.

As if all these extra tools and abilities weren’t enough, the Captain in Phobos armor also comes with a Master Crafted Instigator Bolt Carbine, who’s 30” range, at AP -2 and Damage 2 allows him to shoot at characters even if they aren’t the closest target.

This Captain isn’t the end all, be all Captain (I still believe that honor belongs to some of the Dark Angels named Captains, or the Blood Angels Captain Smash) but the utility he brings to the battle at only 110 points can add synergy to some already powerful Space Marine lists.

Librarian in Phobos Armor: Again, the base profile of this Librarian matches that of your standard power armored Librarian, and like the Captain, he comes with a camo cloak, and the concealed positions ability as well as two powers from the Obscuration Discipline, as well as access to Smite. He costs 1 less point than a standard Space Marine Librarian; he also opens a bevy of tactical options that were previously unavailable to Space Marine Players.

Lieutenant in Phobos Armor: The final character option in this miniature codex once again brings all the Special Rules and Abilities that a standard Primaris Lieutenant brings to the table, and a few new tricks due to his status as a Vanguard Marine.

Unlike the Captain or the Librarian, this character does not come equipped with a camo cloak or have the concealed positions special rule. He is equipped with a grav chute that gives him the ability to deep strike onto the battlefield. He also comes with the knife fighter which on a hit roll of six scores two hits instead of one. As well as a bolt carbine that denies the enemy the use of their cover saves.

I feel like this Lieutenant might be the most lackluster of the characters offered in the codex. His ability to deep strike, his carbine and knife fighting rules seem wanting. There is no denying that individual players, in certain armies might find him exceptionally useful, while other armies might prefer the standard 65-point bare bones Lieutenant.

Infiltrator Squad: This Battleline squad forms the core of the Vanguard Space Marines and will provide Space Marines with a bevy of tactical synergies, that they can either use as a stand-alone unit or part of comprehensive force. In particular, the ability to pop smoke once per game, and the Raven Guard Chapter Tactic stand out, allowing them to enjoy a nice -2 to hit. Their marksman bolt carbines can also threaten most squads with the current beta bolter rule, and their innate ability to automatically wound on a hit roll of a six.

Suppressor Squad: This Fire Support Squad, might be one of the more hotly anticipated units in the Vanguard Strike Force and pound for pound, they may be the best Space Marine Unit in the box set. These three-man units are equipped with grav chutes, granting them the fly keyword. They can also pop smoke once per game, giving them -1 to hit for a turn. On top of all of that, they are armed with Accelerator Autocannons. Heavy weapons that boast the following profile

Range Type S AP D
48 Heavy 2 7 -2 2

That’s the best autocannon in the game currently, which coupled with a Captains Rites of Battle, and a Lieutenants Tactical Precision ability, this squad will have the firepower to threaten anything on the table.

Between the Fly Keyword and their autocannons Suppressors bring a lot of interesting tactical abilities to the fore – however, they’ve still got one more trick! They come with a new ability called Suppressing Fire which comes into play when they destroy any enemy models in your shooting phase, that respective unit can no longer fire overwatch during that turn! I can very clearly see this unit becoming the bane of gun line armies.

Eliminator Squad: I’ve heard this third and final squad described as super scouts, or baby Vindicares, and I can’t say if either of them is wrong. This three-man squad can begin the game like Space Marine Scouts and comes equipped with camo cloaks. They also carry a unique sniper rifle that allows them to select which ammunition they’re going to use each time they fire — all in all, a solid unit.

Overall I do not think any of these Space Marine Units will break the “Meta” of Warhammer 40,000, but I do believe that they will provide players with a brand new, powerful toolset that with some practice will allow them to do things on the Tabletop they’ve never had access too before.

I briefly touched on the Obscuration Discipline when I talked about the Librarian before and am going to go in into greater detail now. Firstly, all the powers in the discipline have a warp charge value of six! Meaning most of the time, they’ll go off. These powers, while all tied to the Phobos Armor keyword focus far less on damaging the enemy and more on dynamic movement or protecting your Vanguard Space Marines.

Shrouding: This power keeps enemy models from shooting at one of your Phobos Armored space marine units unless they are the closest visible models to the enemy. With an 18” range this power could prove extremely useful in keeping Infiltrators or Eliminators from being shot off objectives.

Scryer’s Gaze: Scryer’s Gaze grants a Phobos armored unit within 18” to reroll failed hit rolls made with that units ranged weapons and does not allow enemy units to gain the bonus of cover against the buffed units ranged attacks.

Temporal Corridor: This power acts as a pseudo warp time, if successfully cast on a unit, that unit can immediately move as if it were its movement phase; it can not fall back, and it must advance. When advancing you roll 3D6 and discard the lowest two results. This power can’t be cast more than once per psychic phase. I don’t see this power becoming the next Warp Time or the Next Gate of Infinity. I do however see it being used as a tactical screen, or a method to rapidly redeploy a unit that might be venerable to charges in its next turn.

Hallucination: Hallucination effects one unit within 18” of the caster by lowering their leadership value by 1, in addition, you roll 2D6 and if the result is more than that unit’s leadership value the enemy unit subtract 1 from all of its hit rolls till the end of start of the Librarians next psychic phase.

Tenebrous Curse: Tenebrous curse can affect enemy units without the fly keyword. If cast the target unit suffers a mortal wound and in addition, it must half its movement characteristic and all advance and charge rolls made until the beginning of your next psychic phase.

Mind Raid: This power, if cast will deal one mortal wound to an enemy unit, then if your army is battle forged you can roll 3d6 dice, and if that roll is higher then the wounded model’s leadership value you gain one command point.

All in all, I feel like these powers shine mostly because of their low warp charge value, some of their benefits may be of questionable value, while others will directly affect the outcome of a game.

The final portion of the codex brings us to the six new Warlord Traits that will be available for Vanguard Space Marines. Unlike the Obscuration Discipline, these Warlord Traits do not only affect Phobos Armored Space Marines, and I believe, if used correctly will have a massive effect on certain Space Marine armies.

Shoot and Fade: Immediately after making a shooting attack, apart from firing overwatch, your warlord can move as if it were the movement phase. If it does it must advance as part of this move. Would you like to move from cover to take a shot with your character targeting captain and then retreat out of harm’s way? Don’t look any further, because this is the perfect warlord trait for you! It might not be a game winner, but it will make your warlord that much more irritating to your opponent.

Princeps of Deceit: This ability will allow you to deploy three friendly Infantry models before the beginning of the battle round and redeploy them inside of your deployment zone. This will be a very situational Warlord trait. It might be essential, or it might not matter at all.

Master of the Vanguard: Add 1” to the movement characteristic of friendly units while they are within 6” of your warlord, also, add 1 to advance and charge rolls made for friendly units while they are within 6” of your warlord. Again, for certain armies, this trait might be a fantastic choice, or for others, it may be a little lackluster.

Stealth Adept: Subtract one to hit from your warlord. If this warlord trait is paired with certain chapter tactics, or specific chapter units then you could be stacking a -2 to hit on a warlord that will already be an extremely irritating unit.

Target Priority: Instead of shooting with your Warlord during your shooting phase you can instead select one friendly unit within 3” of your warlord and one enemy unit that is visible to your warlord. Until the end of that phase add 1 to hit rolls to target the enemy unit. I foresee this becoming the most popular Warlord Trait in the Vanguard Space Marine Codex, as it will allow for overcharging plasma troops like hell blasters the ability to keep themselves from overheating and mortally wounding themselves to death.

Marksman’s Honors: This ability will allow you to increase the damage characteristic of his ranged weapons by 1. Also, you can re-roll failed hit and wound rolls for shooting attacks made by your warlord. This warlord trait doesn’t apply to grenade weapons but does apply to chapter relics. I’m very curious about this trait, as at this time Vanguard Space Marines are seemingly unable to use relics, however, will they be able too in the future? Only time will tell!

As I stated before, most of these Warlord Traits are situational, but there are a few hidden gems as well. The best suggestion I can make is to take them with you and try them out!

If you’ve made it this far through my ramblings, I thank you and promise that we’ve about come to an end.

Overall, it seems like the Vanguard Space Marines are exactly what Imperial Players are looking for, with good solid list items, that still retain a sprinkling of the fluff that we all love to quote.

If you enjoyed this, stay tuned for part two, where I discuss my opinions on the Daemonkin Codex!