Wednesday, April 5, 2023

REVIEW: Arks of Omen - Vashtorr

Welcome back to Arks Week here at Mengel Miniatures! With the final book in the series, The Lion, announced, it's time to cover the three books that followed Abaddon. Monday saw the angry red giant burst into the scene, and today we take a look at the IT support of the ruinous powers, Vashtorr! What nefarious schemes does this half machine, half demon have in store for the Imperium? What are his plans for the artifacts he's collecting? Let's find out!

First off, I would like to thank Games Workshop for sending me free PDF copies of these books to review. I've been really enjoying this series so far. I'm going to cover each book seperately, and will mostly focus on the lore, while just briefly touching on the rules in each one. What's been nice is that the rules included in here are only needed for the Boarding Actions style of play, so if you're not interested in that game mode then you don't NEED the rules in them, unlike in past narrative books. Having said that, Boarding Actions look like a ton of fun and at 500 points pretty achievable! The biggest hurdle is all of the terrain needed for it that is unique to Space Hulk battles, meaning you're unlikely to already have it painted unless you were doing the newest season of Kill Team as well. I really want to play some games of it though and I'm glad to hear GW say that the rules will be compatible with 10th edition 40k. Now, let's take a look at Vashtorr!

The man of the hour, the demon who kicked it all off, Vashtorr finally gets his time to shine in his self-titled book. This book starts off with a bit of story from Vashtorr's perspective, which is nice as he's been more of an enigma till now. I do enjoy the way he talks, which is in a really antiquated style, almost Yoda like. The story kicks off with him leading an assault on an Inquisitorial watch-station. This is for several reasons, as we see his plan start to unfold. First off, he's aware of an AI, which is illegal in the Imperium, that has been hiding within the systems of this watch station, pretending to not be an AI. Vashtorr unleashes this AI with the promise of freedom and vengeance and implants it within one of his Arks of Omen to lead his assault. The other reason, is that this watch station belongs to the Ordos Astartes, a section of the Inquisition tasked with investigating and keeping an eye on the Space Marines. His main focus is the Dark Angels and their mobile fortress monastery, the Rock. This is the target of his next attack, and helpfully, this AI has all the information of its comings and goings, making it much easier to track.

I just love the idea that there is an Ordos Astartes as it really highlights the levels of mistrust within the Imperium. Of course the Inquisition doesn't like the idea of the Space Marines being an independent force when every other branch of the Imperium has to bend to their will. I mean, I guess there was also that giant galactic civil war called the Horus Heresy that might make them a little wary of the Astartes. This Inquisitor was tracking the Dark Angels because he feared they were in the process of "legion building" with all their various chapters actually acting as one entity. Which, you know, he was right about, so I guess score 1 for the Inqusition?

With this information and the AI, Vashtorr sets his trap for the Dark Angels. Seeding reports of several Fallen being active within an Imperial Warzone, the Dark Angels with the Rock swiftly respond. Once in system though they're ambushed by Vashtorr before they can reach the planet. What ensues is an all-out assault upon the Rock. Within, Azrael had just recently completed his transition to Primaris, and was still weak and recovering, which left initial command and response to the other masters of the chapter, such as Belial. With the help of Word Bearer and Iron Warriors forces, Vashtorr manages to overwhelm the defenses of the Rock and land upon it, even invading deep within it. Eventually Azrael is able to lead a counter-assault which halts the chaos forces before the can penetrate to deep within the fortress and uncover their secrets buried within.

At the same time as Vashtorr is leading this assault, another, unplanned Chaos assault is launched. This one is attacking both the Dark Angels AND Vashtorr's forces! Which Chaotic entity could it be that would want to disrupt the well laid plans of Abaddon and Vashtorr?? I guess you'll just have to read it to find out who was striking from the shadows... The Ultramarines also get involved under the command of Tigurius, as they were the Imperial forces already engaged on the nearby planet. This doesn't sit well with the Dark Angels though who don't appreciate other Imperial forces snooping around in their business. I don't want to spoil the ending of it, but this does have a rather unique ending for these Chaos focused books. Overall I found this book to be the weakest of the series. It felt a bit too straight forward with the assault on the Rock and several action sections of this felt underwhelming. Played a bit to straight with this happened, then that, then this. It wasn't horrible, but after the high of the Angron book, this didn't hit the same. The insight to Vashtorr is the standout here. I'm sure if you're more of a Dark Angels fan too you'll probably get more mileage out of this story than me. It's funny, I tend to always enjoy their novels, such as in the Heresy and Gav Thorpe's 40k books, but as an overall faction in 40k I've always just been a bit lukewarm on them.

On the rules front we get yet more faction rules for Boarding actions with rules for Demons, Necrons, Tyranids, Genestealer Cults, Death Guard, and Adeptus Mechanicus. This includes special rules for forming your party, as well as a few more Stratagems specific to each faction. Nothing overwhelming though, with only a handful of new Enhancements and 6 or so Stratagems per faction. On the mission side we get a more unique take on it with the missions actually being structured around a campaign for the battle of the Rock. This comes with a bit more new terrain rules, and 8 missions this time. I like that it leans into the narrative side of this series with a structured campaign for the story we were given. This is all followed with 2 new Datasheets, one for Vashtorr and one for the new Azrael.

Be sure to check back on Friday for Arks of Omen: Farsight and check out the Angron review from Monday!

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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