Wednesday, October 4, 2017

REVIEW: Codex Death Guard

The sons of Mortarion have returned to the galaxy to spread Nurgle's gifts with an all new Codex. In their first ever solo Codex, and the first Chaos Legion to get it's own full Codex, period, the Death Guard are back, with some crazy good new models and the same quality lore, artwork, and rules to go along with it!

Full disclosure, the only fully painted, full 40k army I have left is an older Death Guard/Demon army, so I may be a little biased. I have always had an affinity for Nurgle's favored sons, and I actually started collecting them after my Space Marines continually lost to a friend's Death Guard army. If you can't beat them, join them, and Nurgle is welcoming to all who choose to embrace his gifts.

I was super excited when I saw the new Death Guard stuff previewed way back at Adepticon, and doubly so once I saw they were the other main force in the new starter set with some amazing new plastics. Of course a Codex for them was inevitable with this amount of attention, but yet again, I was still excited to get ahold of this blighted tome. The cover on this hard back Codex features a solitary Death Guard trudging forward stoically in the face of Imperial adversity. Nurgle's gifts must be shared with all after all. It's a great piece of artwork, though I do kind of wish they had gone with a more classic style of Death Guard armor, like the cheery fellow in the background. Move aside mister tentacle arm and let your pith helmeted friend take center stage.

Once you crack it open you're blessed with some truly awesome artwork. The image of Typhus palming a Tau's head as the foul xenos slowly disintegrates, unable to contain the blessings of the Grandfather within his weak frame, is truly a great piece of artwork that will become iconic as time passes. The background section on the Legion here is a bit slimmer than other Codexes of the past, but that is to be expected when you narrow down your focus to just one legion. The lore covers everything from Mortarion's reunion with his wayward father, to the current wars in the Ultramar sector.

It's cool to see a bit of the pre-heresy artwork from the Forge World books used here, so you can really see how far the Death Guard have fallen (risen). If you're familiar with the Death Guard then most of this will be fairly well known to you, although there are some new bits thrown in, and of course, all of the stuff since the end of the Gathering Storm.

The galactic map is the same layout as all of the other Codexes, but shows the seven major incursions by the Death Guard. They're all over the place really, with Mortarion focusing on Ultramar and Typhus running rampant near the former Cadian Gate. The timeline here is pretty extensive, with a ton of new story hooks little tidbits of information. I really wasn't expecting it to be so robust, so it was a nice surprise. They also lay out how the legion is structured, showing you have everything is broken down with examples of each type of contingent. The Death Guard have actually survived into the 41st millennium with much of their legion structure intact, albeit with some creative renaming. They are a truly massive legion, way larger than I would have guessed. The Codex explains how, due to their unnatural resilience, they haven't suffered the same rate of attrition as their weaker brother legions. Not only that, but they have been harvesting geneseed from defeated Space Marines to make new legionaries for the Death Guard. This nugget of information alone gives them a new lease on life, and also helps explain how they are so prevalent throughout the galaxy right now. We also get a few example color schemes for the Death Guard with a bit of background on each warband. They come in more shades than just green!

Next we get a look at each unit in the book as it delves a little deeper into their lore. Everything here is fascinating, especially all of the new units. Mortarion's artwork is probably the coolest visual thing in this book. It's the one you've probably seen everywhere already, where the glowing gasses are coming out of his hand, but it's still cool every time I look at it. I particularly liked the Plague Surgeon and the box out on Mortarion's personal physician, Nauseous Rotbane. Rotbane is the only mortal that the Demon Primarch lets talk back to him, and it sounds like he uses him as a personal sounding board for ideas, actually valuing his opinions. It's a nice, twisted take on the typical doctor patient relationship. As an interesting aside, the Plague Surgeon models that was just released is actually named Nauseous Rotbane on the packaging. It appears that even though the Plague Surgeon is a generic character, the sculpted model is supposed to represent Rotbane? I'm not really sure what to make of it, but it's cool nonetheless. There's a ton more in here, like how Mortarion designed the Plagueburst Crawler, and how seriously cool the Deathshroud are.

The miniature gallery is amazing looking, with almost every single thing being a brand new sculpt. This really is a beautiful miniature range, in a Nurgley sort of way. We get to see a few different example color schemes as well. They have also included a few example forces, showing you how you can build up several smaller forces into one larger one. I always enjoy things like this since it shows off an army meant to be played, not just set up for thematic pictures.

The rules themselves cover every unit in the army, which is mostly for the new models, but there are a few older favorites returning as well. Alongside all of the fancy new plastics, you can also field Helbrutes, Possessed, Cultists, Rhinos, Predators, Land Raiders, Defilers, Plaguebearers, Nurglings, Plague Drones, and Beasts of Nurgle. The inclusion of the demons is a nice touch, since I'm sure they will be getting their own Codex soon. They fit the theme of the Death Guard though and it'll be cool to field some of Nurgle's children alongside the traitor Space Marines. It is a bit interesting that the Great Unclean One was left out along with any other demon HQ units. Perhaps they wanted to keep those exclusive to a demon army. There are plenty of new weapon options amongst the returning units of Plague Marines and their Terminator equivalents, all properly plague themed such as the Blight Launchers and Plague Spitters. Everything has Blight Grenades now as well, taking the forms of either stick grenades or deaths heads. The thing that the Death Guard got the most of though are new single model units and characters. These all give interesting buffs to the army and I'll be curious to see how many of these are fielded at one time in games. The Lord of Contagion also now has the option for a Manreaper and the Bloat Drone has a few more weapon options as well. Let's not forget about the Primarch Mortarion himself, who can be taken as a Lord of War. This guy is a beast and will definitely rip through most things in his path.

Just like every army so far in the new edition of 40k, the Death Guard get a selection of unique Stratagems to use. These range from more generic ones, like replicating the Helbrute's old Fire Frenzy rule, to more Nurgle centric ones like Nurgle's Rot. That one allows you to pick one character model and inflict mortal wounds on all enemy units within 7" of it. These seem pretty useful, and fun as well.

The Death Guard also get a few army wide rules, like being able to move and fire heavy weapons with no penalty, and having an advantage of securing objectives over other armies. Their psychic powers also get fleshed out with three new additions over what they had in the Index and an armory of artifacts for them to choose from.

Overall I think this is a fantastic debut for the Death Guard as their own faction. The quality of the background lore and artwork is outstanding and GW clearly spared no expense in creating new units and models for them. I would say they even feel a little more like a complete model line than the Thousand Sons do. Their rules seem pretty good to me, though I have yet to field my army with the Codex, just the Index, so I'll have to give them a spin soon. As someone who has been collecting the Death Guard for many years now, this is a true gift from Papa Nurgle. If you collect Mortarion's sons I definitely recommend you pick this up. It's great if you're just interested in them as well. It's cheaper than the larger Codexes at only $40 and they are shaping up to be one of the major enemies of the Imperium in the new storyline after all. Come, join the warm embrace of the Grandfather and help spread his gifts to the poor suffering Imperium. All are welcome amongst the ranks of Nurgle's favored.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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