FW: The Horus Heresy Essentials

So you want to play in the Horus Heresy but don’t know where to start? Let’s chat.

The Horus Heresy is a pretty epic setting for fans for Warhammer 40,000. Mechanics wise, it’s basically 7th edition 40k – but with some tweaks and changes. But if you’re completely new to the setting, getting started can be a bit overwhelming. So here is a quick guide on how to get into The Horus Heresy side of 40k (aka 30k).

Step 1 – Get the Rulebook

The Horus Heresy: Age of Darkness Rulebook £40

If you’re not just wanting to collect an army, you’re going to need to bite the bullet and get the rulebook. We don’t recommend getting one of those fancy Hard Back books…yet. Start here. You’re going to need the rules anyways.

Step 2 – Pick Your Side: Traitor or Loyalist

This might be a spoiler but you’re going to want to know this going in: The Horus Heresy is about the battle between the Loyalist forces vs the Traitor Legions and their allies. You’re going to want to pick a side at first. If you’re not sure where to even begin with that, hop over to the Lexicanum and read-up on the Horus Heresy. For the purposes of this “guide” we’re going to choose Traitor so that we can continue – but if you choose Loyalist, you can still follow along.

Step 3 – Pick your Legion

Now, you could pick Mechanicus or the Solar Auxillia – that’s fine. But if you’re completely new, we suggest sticking to a Legion. The Horus Heresy revolved around Marine vs Marine action and so it’s your basic bread-and-butter type situation. You could pick something besides a Legion, but that’s like adding in Jelly or Peanut Butter. It works…it’s just not quite the same.

As far as Traitor Legions go, you’ve got 9 to choose from. And if you don’t know which legions those are, again, check out the Lexicanum for a detailed run down for each one. For the purposes of this example, we’re going with the World Eaters because, well, that’s my Legion and I’m writing this guide.

Step 4 – Get The Red Books

Now that you’ve picked a Legion there are two more books you’re going to want to get:

The Legiones Astartes Army List Collection £55

Why do you need these two books? Well, one is the “basic” army list – it has all of the unit stats, wargear options, etc. for a Space Marine Legion. The other book has all of your Legion specific rules with special units and things that give your army some character/flavor/spice and make it different than a “basic” army. Theoretically, you could just buy the basics and start from there…but you’ve already picked a Legion at this point so just dive in!

Step 5 – Build An Army

Lots of folks will have different opinions on how to start this process. That’s all well and good – but our recommendation it pretty simple: Get a boxed set and buy shoulder pads.

The Horus Heresy: Betrayal at Calth $150

The Horus Heresy: Burning of Prospero $150

Both of these boxed sets are really great deals. You’ll get a TON of miniatures that you can use to create your Legion. Now, these aren’t everything you’re going to want (eventually) but again, this is just getting you started. Oh and get Legion Shoulder Pads. Do yourself a favor and just get them. Trust me. They didn’t exist when I first started with my World Eaters and if they had…well, I’ve regretted not having them ever since.

Forge World even sells bundles where you can get a boxed set WITH a ton of Legion Specific accessories:

World Eaters Task Force £225

These are nice kits. But I’m also a bit of a purest and would have preferred to use the chest plates already included but had the right Legion Should Pads. When you’re shopping for those, be sure you get the right Power Armor Mark. So folks like to mix and match, some don’t. It’s all personal preference.

So now you’ve got your books and your first batch of models. From here, it’s up to you. Forge World has a TON of options in terms of vehicles, upgrades, and fancy kits to choose from. I suggest you build out your army list further and plan out your purchases before you go any further. Each Legion has their own “thing” so you might want to load-up on Jetbikes or Rhinos or special weapons…It all depends.

At the end of the day, if you do this right, you’re going to end up with an amazing looking army. And they are still Marines so I don’t see any reason you can use them in 8th edition 40k, too! Congratulations, you’ve just gotten two armies for the price of one! Okay, sure – not everything transfers over …but a lot of it does! So get out there and have some fun with your 30k army.


If you were starting fresh with a 30k army, what suggestions would you have? Have you collected a 30k army already? What tips on buying do you have?


  • vlad78

    So for 750+ pounds, you have a basic heresy era army. Good luck.

    • SilentPony

      HH is a slow building game. It takes years and years to build a Legion force. But once you do, you got that army and are all set!

      • stinkoman


        • SilentPony

          It took me 5 years to build my DG force, and even though HH has dropped off since 8th, I still value it.

          • vlad78

            Indeed, but it’s still too expensive.

          • dinodoc

            It’s Forgeworld. If you’re quibbling about expense, you are missing the point

          • vlad78

            Nope. Absolutely not. I disagree. FW almost doubled their prices over the last 8 years and I’m taking into acccount the inflation rate. It used to be really expensive (which I could understand) but affordable if you took your time just like SilentPony said. Now it’s simply not. You can’t justify paying those prices.
            80 pounds a primarch? 45 pounds a lone character? Without the plastic boxes it would be impossible to justify making an army.
            And I’m a huge fan of the heresy.

          • Jonathon Runge

            That’s why I use eBay rather than buy direct from FW. Takes time and planning but I save 40 to 50%.

      • YetAnotherFacelessMan

        So… Horus Heresy isn’t a game so much as it is a job where, upon retirement, instead getting a golden pocketwatch, you get a game?

        • benn grimm

          It’s almost like an enjoyable hobby for those who want to put in the time and effort…

          • Stephen Henry IV


          • YetAnotherFacelessMan

            Agreed! Exactly like Age of Sigmar.

          • benn grimm

            Kind of the exact opposite actually, but whatever floats your boat I guess.

          • YetAnotherFacelessMan

            Is that because Age of Sigmar has amazing variety in terms of miniatures, where Horus Heresy just has variations on “space marine”, or is it because Age of Sigmar has skirmish support, to allow new players to play with freshly assembled starter boxes, where HH requires more units and rulebook purchases to even play the smallest of games? Either way, I can see your point. 😀

          • benn grimm

            Lol, I guess I was thinking more in terms of depth and complexity rules and lore wise, but dang it if you haven’t won me over with cheerful cheekiness. You’re not entirely wrong either, so yeah let’s just go with that.

          • YetAnotherFacelessMan

            And they say there are no happy endings on the internet! Thanks benn, you’ve made my evening. ^_^

          • AEZ

            lol… nice euphemism… I’m sure you meant ..”… put in the time and money…”

          • benn grimm

            This is a gw line we’re talking about, expense goes without saying.

      • AmorousBadger

        So basically, if I start collecting now by starting with the rulebooks, by the time I’ve assembled an army I’ll have to completely re-do it because they’ll have brought out a new edition of the rules?

        • Patriarch

          That’s me and most 40k armies.

          I’m so slow at painting that my 7th ed Genestealer Cult army still isn’t finished yet, and I started it on the day of release.

          • AmorousBadger

            I haven’t played 40k since Rogue Trader/2nd ed. I never completed an army and I only had one mate who ever did. The rest of us made do with spares from big box games like ‘Sapce Hulk’ and an awful lot of ‘counts as’.

  • Drpx

    Is there a clearance sale or something?

    • SilentPony

      Check ebay. HH bits are super cheap since 8th came along and torpedoed the poor game.

      • euansmith

        Now there is a quantifiable metric, thank you. Has the price of HH bits dropped noticeably?

        • SilentPony

          There are recasters that sell Legion unique units for cheap, if you don’t mind a drop in resin quality and a risk a part or two will be broken.
          For named HQs and special units I’d recommend using straight FW.
          As far as the plastics, I’d say so. With plastic Marines and contemptors floating about, you can get them for cheap, especially at local hobby store auctions

        • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

          no, he’s talking out of his @rse.

  • euansmith

    “Get a boxed set and buy shoulder pads.”

    Words to live by.

    HH does seem to be the deep end of hobby. Is there any hint of FW bringing out some sort of “Starter Set”? Something with the BRB and info on a couple of opposing forces? Say something like Betrayal At Calth, but without the tiles and with a cut down version of the Age of Darkness rules?

    • Cergorach

      Get a boxed set and use decals! I’m Dutch and I’m cheap! 😉

      You want to start out in HH, I say play an army that hasn’t changed it Loyalist color scheme all that much (so no Dark Angels) and use the plastics from the two HH boxes. You can quite easily use the force for both 30k and 40k.

      • euansmith

        I’m looking at mine to be mainly 40k, from a Pocket Empire that has access to a Horus Era STC capable of making things from the Betrayal At Calth box. A mate has been making rumblings about playing HH, so I’ll be able to use them in that too.

  • Graham Roden

    £190 plus postage just to get a foot in the door in 30k. Whilst I’m sure lots of people will make use of less reputable sources for their rules only a village idiot could justify this as a legal way in.

    Yes I’ve spent more in this game than £200, however I did when it was part of my local clubs supported games (7th ed 40k) now we have to run the risk of not getting a game on a weekend and then having to explain to possible new gamers exactly how much it costs just to get into it.

    I’ve said on a previous feed that really you want the book included in a boxed game with some basic legionary rules so a new player can get going straight away and us veterans can get some more troops to bolster our forces.

    • Jonathon Runge

      The raw rules and errata should be free online while the books are collector items. It makes entry easier and allows more more people to play and eventually buy models. The barrier to entry gas less to do with the rules and more to do with cost to access rules.

      • Graham Roden

        They could include the unit rules in the Horus Heresy plastic boxes. As for free rules 7th is far too complicated for that, I’m sure lots of us could run with just the reference sheets but an absolute beginner might struggle. If you want a solid 2000 point force with a bit of everything Calth a plastic Land Raider and a predator would fit the bill miniatures wise. You might save a few quid just getting the core legion book and asking a mate to show you specific rules.

        The sad fact is that this book might be great but it’s been released in the wrong way.

  • dinodoc

    I’m slightly amused that the Space Wolf Task Force is the cheapest one

  • Mitchell

    Step 6: If yo suggest heresy being in 7th edition nut punch yourself.

  • Pete Croucher

    So… To confirm, 30k ISN’T dying now? It was, like, 12 hours ago… :

    • orionburn III

      So much win here…lol

  • Jack Boland

    step 6: stop reading BoLs

    • orionburn III


  • marxlives

    Kind of the barrier to play for 40k as well. Its not mutually exclusive. You want to play? Download the free rulebook but wait those are not the advanced rules. So buy the rulebook, then buy index, then buy the codex, then buy the chapter approved, THEN you can start spending money on models and start playing the game.

    And then if they are going the route of using expansion books then you are not really playing your army until you get those too. It is something FW and GW needs to focus on going into 2018 because you want to bring in new players and prevent book fatigue amongst your core base of consumers.

  • KonstantinG

    Now there is a quantifiable metric, thank you. Has the price of HH bits dropped noticeably?

  • 415Native

    You can file this with the “Forge World Warlord Titan Discount Bundle” as a another huge waste of money for models you will rarely use…

    • Rainthezangoose

      Completely disagree. If anything a Horus Heresy army (of space marines) is better then a 40k one because you can use a HH army in 40k (with little additional stuff) but you cant use a 40k army in HH. All you have to say when using it in 40k is either your playing a elite company who have access to the ceremonial older armor (loyalist) OR spent a really long time in the eye, so to your guys the heresy happened a few centuries ago (traitor) Plus honestly I think mk 3/4 looks better then mk 7, but thats purely my opinion.

      • Ryan Miller

        Mk 10 all the way

  • Drew

    The only way I’m able to play Heresy is that the Salamander color scheme is largely unchanged, so I can use them for both with just a few supplemental units…

  • benn grimm

    I’d recommend buying Betrayal first and go from there, the big books are the best thing about HH imo, great read, great pictures and that awesome quality hardback smell. If you already have a few marines knocking about (and who doesn’t?) just proxy them while you slowly amass a decent size 30k force. Shouldn’t take more than a couple of years…;)

    • dinodoc

      It took me longer than it should have to realize you didn’t mean the board game

      • memitchell

        They NEVER mean the boardgames. Both of which are fun to play.

      • benn grimm

        That time of year I guess…;)

  • Rainthezangoose

    I wouldn’t even recommend getting the shoulder pads, for the cost of the shoulder pads you could nearly get a whole squad of marines of ebay in mk 3/4 and just for the ‘upgrade’ set you CAN get a full squad of 10 mk 3/4 AND a squad of terminators (either flavor) off ebay for the same price. The plastic’s were the best thing to happen to HH. I just wish we would see a plastic Rhino (as to allow people to build other tanks apone at home). If we saw a plastic box game, to make HH surge again. A game of raven guard vs iron warriors which introduced plastic HH assault marines, breaches and Deimos Rhinos, would easily do the trick.

  • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

    poor article, misleading enough to be harmful. Its not all about Marines! There are Mechanicus, Solar Auxilia, Chaos Cults, Imperial Army and Imperial Knight armies. They require different red books, but some, such as Cults, Knights and Imperial Army can be played with minis you may already have, which makes them really good for a ‘new’ 30K player.