Um, guys, remember there were TWO books released last week! Damnos. Great name. But does the book hold up to the potential of the project.
Greetings fellow wargamers! Caleb with White Metal Games here and I have a product review for Damnos, Apocalypse War Zone.
Since Damnos dropped at the same time as the Space Marine codex, it came as no surprise to me that NOBODY was reviewing this book. Obviously the poster boys for 40k are going to hog all the glory and get all the attention. But let’s not forget marines are a huge part of the Damnos supplement as well.
I think part of the issue with this book is the confusion over what it is, exactly. I was confused when I bought it and it took giving it a good once over to really grasp the concept of what this line of books is or potentially could be.
So What is Damnos?
In effect, the name says it all. It’s an Apocalypse supplement.
Last year brought us two great Campaign books. For 40k we got Crusade of Fire. Crusade of Fire was hit or miss with the masses. I found a good review for CoF here at the Independent Characters Blogsite. Carl’s sentiments pretty much mirror my own: at $41 CoF was a bit steep for what you got. For fantasy we got Blood in the Badlands. I found a review for it here. Once more, the author mirrors many of my own sentiments. Basically they published a copy of their campaign notebook from a studio campaign. The real win in that book was the artwork, the siege engine rules, and a few new battles.
It’s important to note a few things: Firstly neither CoF nor BitB are available on the GW website. These were limited releases. What the corporate mentality is for offering a book for a short time only is beyond me. So if you are interested in getting a copy of Damnos, you may want to buy while you still can.
Secondly, unlike CoF or BinB, Damons does NOT use the Planetary Empires (or Mighty Emipres) rules. This is NOT a campaign book as such, nor is it a look at a studio campaign. This is an honest to goodness supplement for the Apocalypse rule set. It mostly contains new formations, but there are a smattering of other things in there worth pointing out:
The first 25 pages or so are what most of us would deem Fluff. It’s the backstory of Damnos, how the battle began, the backstory re: the Necrons on this latent tomb world, etc. Of note this story involves a few pretty great Necron named characters, including an overlord called the Undying, Ankh, and Sahtek the Flayer King. None of them were ever given special rules. More of that later . . .
On page 25 we get our first look at actual rules in the book in the form of a mission called the Battle of the Necropolis. And so the confusion begins . . . .
Damnos is a story told in two parts. The first part of the story involves the Fall of Damnos and the efforts the Ultramarines 2nd Co. to hold off the recently arisen Necrons while the Imperial citizens abandoned the world.
The second part of the story involves the return of the Ultramarine to Damnos, lead by Calgar himself to take back the planet.
Under this auspice I would have assumed the first mission of the book, the Battle of the Necropolis, would have been a mission about the original Battle of Damnos itself, perhaps heavily geared in the favor of the Necrons, or at least with some special rules about the marines being unprepared or something like that. But the description of the mission says “The Ultramarines have returned . . . “.
So it’s not really about the original battle of Damnos I guess. There are a few neat rules that favor the Necrons in this particular battle, but there is a bit of confusion over a rule regarding a Pylon that the Necron’s get for free. Apparently if the Pylon is destroyed then a model with a Str 6 or higher can use the Pylon as a gun emplacement with the interceptor rule. Pretty cool! I can just imagine someone like Calgar swinging the pylon around and taking aim at a Necron ship flying past. But no where in the fluff was this mentioned. So is this just a cool idea from the author’s that has no ‘historical’ bearing in terms of the Fall of Damnos?
I guess what I mean to say is if this is a book about recreating classic battles on the world of Damnos, shouldn’t something as epic as someone using a pylon as a gun battery be mentioned? At least in a sidebar?
The next few pages feature an AMAZING fold out showing the Battle of the Necropolis itself. It’s a compelling looking scene with some great terrain and models.
On page 26 and 27 a list of units used for this first battle is included. This is a neat idea, because it gives you a way to recreate a battle that is very specific. You get one Thunderhawk, 1 Land Raider, etc. However, what isn’t clear is the size of certain squads. For example, under the marine side it lists ‘suppression force,’ a new marine Apocalyptic Formation for this warzone. However the formation includes 2+ Whirlwinds. How many whirlwinds should I use? Two, four, eight? I guess I could look at the fold out and count them, but that seems a bit of a stretch . . .
Then we have a few pages of painted models. A few of these pages highlighted the new, recently released models, but all of the pictures were the same ones we’ve already seen. There wasn’t much of an effort on the design teams part in this regard to do anything but put models we’ve already seen on a new battleboard and take pretty pictures.
I will say that on page 29 in the bottom left hand corner is a picture of a new Necron Flayer Lord called Sahtak the Enfleshed, and Sahtak is an honest to god Necron conversion combining an Overlord and Flayed One, which was a cool concept. But one cool model does not a great book make.
On page 34 we start to to see some hard core rules . . . kinda. Page 34 makes a note that you should feel free to use these rules in other Apocalypse Battles, in the spirit of Forging the Narrative.
Page 35 has a few simple yet evocative rules for terrain on a Damnos table. These reules are simple, easy to follow, but definitely seem to favor the Necrons. I guess that’s fair since it is their turf. But I feel like there might be a few cries of Cheese and Wine before all is said and done.
Page 36 has some Unnatural Disaster rules for these games that really nail the flavor of Damnos damn well.
Then there are three Apocalypse missions of varying flavor, each with unique victory conditions and some fun special rules. However, the first of these missions is called The Kellenport Evacuation and part of the victory conditions revolve around evacuating Imperial Guard units from the table by falling back. But again this mission seems out of order. Shouldn’t this have been the first mission in the book, since it involves the original evac of Damnos?
On page 40 we get nine new Apocalupse Strategic Asset cards and on page 41 we get three new Finest Hours. In both cases the marines get a few more of either. Of note, while the major Space Marine lord (Sicarius and Calgar) both get a Finest Hour, none of the Necron overlords do, only a Cryptek named Ankh. Not sure why the major necron characters in this campaign wouldn’t have had a finest hour . . . but their little buddy Ankh.
The final 20 or so pages of the book feature new Apocalypse Formations for either side. One note – the Necron Pylon gets a redux. It now costs 515 points, and has skyfire Strength D (for duh) primary weapon 3 when it’s Gauss Annihilator is focused. When used as a flux arc (dispersed) it can target D3+3 separate units and it gets six Strength 6 shots. Not bad.
Also of note the rules for Deathstorm Drop pods are redone (90 points each, either weapon option for the same points). The Terminus Ultra also gets new rules . . . kinda. If you take the Spear of Maccrage formation, you can upgrade your Land Raider to a Terminus Ultra (the one with all the lascannons) to free. However, if you ever roll for more 1’s in the shooting phase with the lascannons it suffers a S9 AP2 hit on it’s side armor. Flavorful and fun!
There’s also a really cool formation on page 63 called Translocator Flight that allows the Necron player to move large groups of Necrons around the table so long as their Night Scythes pass close to them during their movement phase. Pretty amazing.
So What’s Missing?
Well, despite there being several new named Necron Characters, there were no rules for them. This was a miss for me. They take time to say what Ankh is armed with, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. In addition the Undying Overlord is given no special rules at all, neither is Sahtak the Flayed Lord. I don’t know why they couldn’t have just given us a few pages of special rules for this Necron army. Sort of like the supplements Iyanden or Black Legion. Two pages wouldn’t have hurt the designers much.
Also, since the Flayed Ones are such a big part of this campaign in terms of flavor, maybe a few special Flayed One rules. Like counting them as troops when you take Sahtak. What about the how the two dynasties featured in this book interact? Or maybe a few new pieces of Wargear for either side? Relics lost on Damnos but still featured for the sake of the campaign?
So… In Summary
At $33 bucks, this is the cheapest GW book in some time. It’s hardback, a nice looking supplement with some fun rules for expanding your games of Apoc.
Not a lot of new concept art, nothing like what I saw in Blood in the Badlands. A lack of special rules make investing in this product a flight of fancy at best, and completely unnecessary at worst.
At $33 bucks the book is a win. The new formations are interesting, the new rules are helpful, and it has a few nice pieces of art. However, could it have been better? Absolutely. It feels like a loose attempt to sell Marine models, as several of the formations in the book featured Centurions, Stalker/Hunters, and the like.
So what did you guys think? Yah or Nah? Did the book PUT IT’S MINIS WHERE IT’S MOUTH WAS?
Happy Wargaming, Caleb