If you haven't been keeping up with Games Workshop lately they've been selling a new digital-only product line for Warhammer 40,000 called Dataslates (the Warhammer Fantasy Battles equivalent being Datascrolls). These products add new army options to different factions through individual models (such as Cypher or Be'Lakor) or formations. Yes, formations. Only these don't require you to be playing Apocalypse to field them. And they don't take up a Force Organizational Slot for the armies that can take them, and they count as being from the same army as their parent codex so the usual ally rules apply.
Dataslate: Helbrutes brings us three such formations in a small package ($5.99 USD for the iPad version and $4.99 USD for the .ePub version off the Black Library site). So in our usual methodology, lets tack this in the same order as the Dataslate does.
Art and LoreThe cover features an actual model instead of a piece of art, which is a bit disappointing as I always look forward to seeing their new cover art for their releases. As for the actual art itself, nothing stood out as being new here.
What was new were some of the images of the models, to include images of the Helbrutes standing on tables with some terrain around them. They really fit into the scene pretty well and if you like looking at 'Eavy Metal paint jobs you won't be dissapointed there.
As for the lore itself it really takes and twists the idea of the Space Marine Dreadnought, starting with the sarcophagus that the unfortunate Chaos Marine has been sealed inside. It seems the sarcophagus of these machines is a kind of living organism of sorts that forms a psuedo-parasitic bond with the host bound within, inflicting constant agony and torture upon them, driving them insane.
If you don't like the look of the Helbrute models, don't worry there is still room in the lore for the classic Chaos Dread look as well with mentions of Helbrute sarcophagi being "closed off boxes of rusted iron, blank and featureless but for the bloodstained nest of wires that pack them tight", so no, not every Helbrute is a machine given some kind of fleshy life.
And yes, they are still quite insane, just the way we know and love/hate them. All in all the lore reads pretty well and gives a nice wide variety to the Helbrutes we see, embracing the older with the new.
Formation RulesAs mentioned before, there are 3 Formations in this book. We'll look at each of them and I'll share my initial impressions of them in turn.
Mayhem PackDo you want to Deep Strike Helbrutes into your enemy's lines and watch the chaos unfurl? Well then this is the Formation for you. Consisting of 3 Helbrutes this formation has the 3 following Special Rules:
- It Will Not Die
- Mayhem from the Maelstrom: All of the units in this Formation must begin the game in Reserve. When making Reserve Rolls, make a single roll for the entire Formation. On a successful Reserve Roll, all of the units in this Formation arrive from Reserve by Deep Strike.
- Tormented Terrors: At the start of each of your Movement phases, make a single roll on the Crazed Table. All of the Helbrutes in this formation are affected by the result, even if they have not suffered a glancing or penetrating hit.
HelcultDo you like Cultists? Do you ever feel that those same Cultists could do more to protect other models in your army? Have you ever wanted to see them fling themselves in harm's way to protect other models? Then the Helcult has just the answer (and potential amusement) just for you! Consisting of a single Helbrute and 2 units of Cultist (of any size, but you may want to take large units for this one, you'll need the bodies) it comes with the following rules:
- Apocalyptic Fury: This Formation's Helbrute has the Rage special rule. Futhermore, when rolling To Hit with the Helbrute's Melee attacks, any unmodified rolls of 1 are not discard. Instead, they automatically hit a friendly model (but not the Helbrute) nearby. Randomly determine (for each roll of a 1) which model is hit, from those in 6" of the Helbrute, even if they are not involved in the same combat. If there are no viable targets in range, these Attacks are discarded.
- Living Idol of Chaos: As long as the Helbrute is alive, both of the Formation's units of Chaos Cultists have the fearless special rule. If the Helbrute is completely destroyed, the Formation's units of Chaos Cultists lose the Fearless special rule, but gain the Zealot special rule.
- Human Shields: If the Helbrute is partially obscured from the firer's line of sight by models from one, or more of the Formation's units of Chaos Cultists, it receives a 3+ cover save. However, for each successful cover save the controlling player makes as a result of this special rule the nearest intervening Cultist model is removed as a casualty with no saves allowed.
Helfist MurderpackDo you like large vehicle squadrons? Or do you wish that Helbrutes could be a little more predictable and controllable? Perhaps you have a lot of extra Helbrute models floating around because you bought a lot of Dark Vengeance sets. Well if any of this applies to you, this might be right up your alley! A formation consisting of five Helbrutes (yes, FIVE) the Helbrutes in this formation has a special restriction: one Helbrute must be nominated as the Helbrute Champion. In exchange the formation has the following special rules:
- Murder Pack: All Helbrutes in this formation count as a single vehicle squadron.
- Pack Leader: The Helbrute Champion has the Vehicle (character) unit type, and the Aura of Dark Glory Chaos reward. Other Helbrutes in the same vehicle unit can make Look Out, Sir attempts to protect the Helbrute Champion as long as they are within 6". Furthermore, if any of the Formation's Helbrutes have crazed markers, do not roll on the Crazed Table if the Helbrute Champion is still alive; instead the controlling player can choose which result affects them each turn, though the nominated result applies to all the Helbrutes in the formation with crazed markers.
- Death of a Leader: If the Helbrute Champion is completely destroyed, all other Helbrutes in the Formation gain the Rage special rule.
Final ThoughtsWhile the Helbrute may not be a very good choice on it's own, I honestly feel these new formations really add some new options that may get people looking at fielding them again. I know I'm seriously considering that Helcult for my Crimson Slaughter just to throw a massive hoard of Cultists and a close combat Helbrute down the field and watching what happens. A close second would definitely be the Mayhem Pack if I was being more practical with my choices, while the Helfist Murderpack gets ranked last due to the model investment cost (outside of hording the Dark Vengeance Helbrute, or having a large number of them kicking around) as well as the price tag starting at 500 points and quickly climbing from there. Definitely not a formation for smaller games unless you're sure they can't kill 5 Helbrutes easily.
Overall I like this addition the Chaos Marine's choices and will be seriously considering adding them to my slowly growing Crimson Slaughter warband.