Review: Traitor Legions – Night Lords, Alpha Legion and Iron Warriors

It has been a long time coming, but finally, Warhammer 40,000 players can get in on the Traitor Legion action that was until recently a Heresy only experience.

Codex Supplement (you will still need the base Chaos Space Marine Codex) Traitor Legions has just dropped and with it rules for fielding forces from the 9 Traitor Legions – no offshoots or successors – these are the original bad boys and here’s what they can do.


This is hands down my favourite codex release this year from GW, even over the Genestealers Cult dex which still tempts me, and is also by far the best value of any I have bought in the last few years.

But today I wanted to cover just three of the nine Traitor Legions, three of my favourite in fact, and three that all share a common theme – they don’t really care about the Chaos Gods.

Night Lords, Iron Warriors and Alpha Legion – they all have very particular specialties and they just go about doing what they do because they want to, not because they are trying to maintain the favour of some fickle Chaos Gods.

Night Lords especially – even before the dust had settled from the Horus Heresy they just upped sticks and went on a spree of carnage across the galaxy solely because they could and they felt like it – a feeling I am sure we have all had at some point or another.

But for those of you on the fence and concerned as to whether the supplement is worth a pickup, here is some info on these three Traitor Legions, starting with the one I already have a Horus Heresy army for, so I’ll be pivoting them to 40K very soon.

A quick bit beforehand – these three Legions share some commons rules, which I’ll quickly cover now to avoid repetition.

  1. You cannot take any Unique units, units with a Mark of Chaos, or any Mark of Chaos upgrades for that matter. These guys are godless and none the worse for it. If you love your Marks, then you’re in the wrong part of town. If you have must distaste for the Gods of Chaos as the Emperor, then welcome friend.
  2. Also, any unit that can take Veterans of the Long War must do but do so at no extra cost – it’s free. And the additional rules tend to be linked to VotLW – if a unit has that, then it also gains X, Y, and Z, which is a nice easy way to work it.

Now on to the juicy bits…


The VIIIth Legion – Night Lords

Fear is a powerful ally… Well, at least it should be. 40K has seen a decline in the effectiveness of Fear due to high Leaderships and lots of ways to mitigate. But the Night Lords, masters of fear, come armed with ways to tip the scales back in their favour, primarily a -2 to enemy Leadership if engaged in combat with a Night Lords unit. The wording makes me think this won’t apply to Fear tests on the charge, which I think is an oversight, but hopefully an FAQ may confirm that.

But thanks to them being born of the darkness (no Bane meme today folks) all Night Lords come with Fear, Night Vision, and Stealth, very akin to their 30k rules. And in that vain, using their Sons of Curze detachment, you can automatically pass the Night Fighting roll for some baller first turn cover saves for your army whilst denying them for the enemy.

Sons of Curze also allows all units from the detachment to re-roll failed charge rolls to help ensure you get into combat as quickly as you can.

And no one in a Night Lord army gets there faster than Raptors, who are now moved to Troops – that’s even without playing the detachment, though if you do, the Raptor Talon formation becomes Core which is very tasty indeed. Raptors assaulting from Deepstrike or working forward with a 4+ cover even in the open on the first turn, then re-rolling charge rolls if need be and causing Fear at -2 to enemy Leadership – that’s the way to do it!

Traits wise, we are not short of a few nasty tricks for your Warlord, ranging from Hatred (against all, not just Imperials) and re-rolling Cover Saves to Rampage and Hit and Run. There is also one for him and his unit to re-roll 1s the Assault Phase.

But for me, the one I like the most gets him and his unit Hammer of Wrath. And if you already have HoW, you can re-roll the To Wound rolls on HoW attacks. Crushing people underfoot to get to the choice targets behind the front line.

The artifacts are no less tasty, though I can see one ruling the roost

There is a 2+ Armour that improves Cover Saves by 1 – would stack nicely with the re-rolling Cover Trait (I miss the days of just buying/picking a specific trait for your Warlord) and a S+1 AP3 Rending Shred pair of claws, one of 3 items with Shred in the package.

But the one I like the most is the Vox Daemonicus. Described as an evil spirit living in an ornate winged helm (you had me at that!) which spreads lies and falsehoods across Vox Networks. Game wise it hits any unit with 6″ of the bearer with a further -1 to Leadership, then cranks it up to 11 for a -1 to enemy Reserve rolls whilst the bearer is on the battlefield. So even enemy units yet to come on the board are not safe from the Night Lords Terror Tactics. Love it!

Quick last word – Tactical Objectives. As you might expect, they revolve around charging, killing in combat and the enemy failing Morale, Fear and Pinning tests. Nothing stands out as a real swine to accomplish but it will depend on how much Fearless and such you tend to face with the LD test linked one.

Now I can’t spend all day spouting my love of the Night Lords, as there are others equally worthy of attention, though the next Legion would prefer to avoid it if possible…


The XXth Legion – Alpha Legion

The Alpha Legion – masters of subterfuge, misdirection, and ambushing. You never know where they will strike from, or whether it’s their main strike or a trap to lead you astray. There is no level they won’t sink to, including turning the populace against themselves by stirring up cults.

In this guise, it’s all about ambushing – getting forward positions to strike early, with Chosen, Marines, and Cultists all getting Infiltrate. Chosen are also moved from Elite to Troops meaning you can get your best troops en masse in position to make use of their skills as soon as possible.

Taking the Sons of Alpharius detachment aids their survival in precarious positions by giving all non-vehicle units Shrouding for the first game turn making for some possible 3+ cover saves with the right positioning.

The detachment also gives you Cult Uprising which means completely destroyed Chaos Cultist units can be placed into Ongoing Reserves on a 4+. The new unit is exactly like the until destroyed – same size, upgrades etc, and can themselves be put back into Ongoing Reserves on a 4+ if destroyed. They do give extra VPs, which is fair enough, but it should be outweighed by what you could do with a hopefully steady stream of Outflanking Cultist Blobs. And to help feed that stream, The Lost and The Damned formation becomes Core under The Sons of Alpharius.

Every Insurgency needs a figurehead, but even that isn’t a simple matter with the Alpha Legion. Thanks to their new Many Heads of the Hydra rule, if your Warlord dies, you can designate another Alpha Legion Character in your army to become the Warlord and they then generate a new Warlord Trait.

Oh, but it gets better…

If using Alpha Legions Detachment/Formation, your opponent won’t get Slay the Warlord points or other Warlord death related VPs until they have slain their way through all your Alpha Legion Characters!

That’s possibly my favourite rule in the whole Codex.

The traits and relics further the Alpha Legion’s cause. Traits wise you can get Stealth for your Warlord (for +3 cover first turn) or a buff giving Cultists within 12″ Furios Charge and Feel no Pain (6+). If you like holding back reserves there is a free auto success for one reserve unit at the start of each turn. As a former Space Wolves from the codex before last and a Saga of the Hunter fan, I do like the Acute Senses and Outflank trait.

But there is one that stands for the most flavour.

Faceless Commander – once per game, at the start of a turn, you can basically swap your Warlord’s position with that of another friendly Alpha Legion character that shares a unit type with your Warlord. Want your Warlord involved in a clutch melee, or get him out of trouble – *bamf!* he’s gone and someone else stands in his place. Together with the Many Heads of the Hydra rule, this could be hilarious.

The artifact section has some interesting weapon options including one that stands out to me as a lover of crazy gun – Hydras Teeth – essentially an ammo upgrade for a bolt gun/bolt pistol that gives Poisoned (2+), Blast and Ignores Cover. Also a 2+ armour with a 2++ against all Flamer weapons – good versus Wraithguard heavy Eldar for sure.

But for me, the stand out two are an icon that gives Cultists within 12″ Zealot to make those cheap peasants really earn their keep and The Mindveil that allows the bearer and his unit to move 3D6 at the start of the movement phase instead of normal movement. And it specifically notes this can be done whilst locked in combat to just leave combat, plus the enemy does not get to consolidate. Could be used for some Hit and Run still action.

The objectives are a mixed bag to say the least – hell, one of them gets you 1 VP next time one of your Cultist units is completely destroyed! Killing enemy characters in droves, taking out enemy units who have specific special rules and capturing buildings. All this will leave your opponent scratching their heads trying to figure out what you’re trying to accomplish.

All this goes to make an insurgency force to be reckoned with, striking from closer to home than the enemy expects, and with potentially Super Cultists.


The IVth Legion – Iron Warriors

And finally, though by no means least – the implacable Iron Warriors.

If you love nothing more than tearing down buildings and blasting through armoured vehicles, then this is where you will find a home, as no one does it with the same glee and skill as the Iron Warriors, and their rules reflect that with units allowed to re-roll Armour Penetration rolls against buildings that fail to even glance, as well as getting +1 on the damage chart when they do break through. Havocs, Obliterators, and Mutilators get a further boost with Tank Hunter.

To represent their trademark survivability, all units with VotLW get Feel no Pain (6+), and their hatred for the Imperial Fists is also portrayed giving them Hatred for each other.

The units that moved to Troops was not what I had expected but I can see the sense in it – Obliterators and Mutilators. Deep Striking, part Daemon, Tank Hunting Troops with access to whatever weapon you need at the time is no joke, but it’s even less funny for your opponent should you go with a Cult of Destruction aux formation for firing twice in a turn under the guidance of a Warsmith, though thankfully that formation is not a Core one.

In fact, besides the generic Chaos Warband formation that all the Traitor Legions have access to as Core, they have no other Core. But they do get a unique Auxiliary that allows them to take 1-3 Fortifications, and that’s because they want you to brick up, and oh my how you can.

Taking the Sons of Perturbo detachment means all non-vehicle units are Stubborn, whilst any on/in a fortification are instead Fearless. So that’s Fortification level Cover Saves, Fearless, and a 6+ Feel no Pain too. Iron Warrior Havocs on these will be blasting out for turns to come.

But there is little hiding from the Iron Warriors as the detachment also allows models in the detachment to re-roll the scatter for Barrage and Ordinance weapons.

There’s a lot of bang for your buck on offer here, and with access to the Cult of Destruction as noted, as well as Helforged Warpack AND Fist of the Gods you have access to all the big toys for whatever flavour of destruction you wish to rain down on your enemy.

The Warlord traits are golden with only one that strikes me as a bit underwhelming, though that may be solely because the others look so good – Warlord has Fearless – he could just be sat on a fortification and get that, so a definite pass.

But fear not as the rest will ensure you can hold the line with ease. From Feel no Pain (4+) and bolstering a fortifications cover save by +1 to giving all Chaos Space Marine vehicles within 6″ of you It Will Not Die. What about giving your unit Counterattack and Split Fire whilst in cover?

But if you are going to take Obliterators as troops, then why not this one if you can get it – Obliterators from the same detachment and within 12″ of you can fire the same weapon in consecutive Shooting phases. If you get this, place him near at the heart of a Cult of Destruction for the greatest effect.

Warsmiths are well served in the artifact section with two just for them. An upgraded Mechatendrils item that grants a friendly Chaos Space Marine vehicle in spitting distance the Demonic Possession upgrade for the turn if it doesn’t already have it.

The other is also a Mechatendrils upgrade, with murder on their mind. In combat, you need to roll two attacks separately before all others, and if both hit, you have Instant Death until the end of the turn – that would be a nasty surprise in a challenge!

There is a 2+ armour that gives you It Will Not Die to keep you in the fight, and a S+2 AP4 master crafted mace that basically gives you the Monstrous Creature rule Smash. There’s an axe with Armourbane if you want something more burny than  bashy.

But for really making your opponent flip, especially if he likes his vehicle squadrons, is the Cranium Malevolus (I do like the names for these flavour artifacts). At the start of the shooting phase, all enemy vehicles within 2D6″ suffer an automatic Haywire hit, and you can forget about cover saves against it. It is not going to be the easiest thing to pull off, but on a secondary deep striking HQ, this could be a neat little bomb to drop against batteries of Whirlwinds, Griffons, Hydras and the like.

Objective wise, it’s about wiping out anything building or tank-like and the more you wreck, the better the rewards get. There is also one for holding a designated objective marker until the end of your next turn – Hold and Fortify – indeed. And again pushing the Obliterator angle, there is a card for obliterating something with Obliterators (or mutilating with Mutilators). I can see these being easy ones to get without much-concentrated effort until end game.

I hope people will embrace the Fortification aspect and the synergy that can come from it so that we see some more siege style play when Iron Warriors hit the field atop their might Bastions and Fortresses. I can see Void Shield Generators being a choice pick too.


Hopefully that will have won over a few people to one of the above three Traitor Legions, but if not, there are still six more for you to check out, all with just as much flavour and fun to be found, and I know there are reviews of them coming soon so keep your Eyes of Terror open for them, and I’ll catch you guys in The Warp.


3 thoughts on “Review: Traitor Legions – Night Lords, Alpha Legion and Iron Warriors

  1. With the Iron Warriors penchant for fortifications, it would be nice if we finally got some alternative models to the boring standard Imperial ones, though I doubt it will happen.

    We could also hope that we’ll be seeing a new plastic sculpt for the Warpsmith in the new year, something not quite as fragile as the finecast one preferably.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think we probably will, but I have a strong suspicion it’ll be through Forge World. That said, GW seem to be playing the right tune a lot lately, so you never know!

      Liked by 2 people

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