Return of the Legion of the Damned. Almost.

I have a confession. I love the Legion of the Damned.

Their half-page entry in the original 2nd edition Codex: Ultramarines was the coolest thing in a very cool book, and hooked me right from the outset of my foray into the hobby. The Damned's inexplicable, supernatural origins and qualities of mystery and quasi-horror heavily influenced the conceits central to my own DIY space marine chapter, the Void Phantoms (or as they are better known--not coincidentally--The Undying). As soon as I had finished the initial basics of my own marines, I picked out the ten coolest-looking old, out-of-production models in GW's catalog to form my squad of Damned, and placed my first order from the now-gone, greatly-missed Citadel UK Archives. The holy grail of my early, pre-eBay/Internet collecting was the Legion's Sgt Centurius named character (and I can still recount where and how I finally got him). When GW released dedicated Damned miniatures some years later, I was at my stockist for a box first day. I have always had Legion of the Damned in my armies--one need only look as far as the stats and background for the 'Outrider' special character mascot for my blog to understand the depth of my attachment to the Legion--and I am on record as being very pleased both to see the Legion of the Damned returned to the 40Kverse through their Elites entry in the V5 Codex: Space Marines, and with the rules and stats therein, which suit them well. Now GW has upped their appeal even further, with gorgeous new pewter sculpts and a White Dwarf entry slighty rewriting the codex line to make them even more fun to field. The Legion of the Damned are back. Well...almost.

The White Dwarf US 360 article is very good, not only updating the Codex entry to fit the way the new sculpts are kitted out (the sergeant particularly) but also showing several sample army builds incorporating Legion, and nicely re-covering the mysterious unit's over-two-decade history. Almost.

There is a great black hole of Damned background missing in both the V5 rules and the article's history...and the Damned are diminished for that.

It is no secret that there are design philosophy differences between the current GW Studio and those who preceded them, with the former out to redo much of what the latter created, in their own image; fine--that is the nature of work-for-hire, and the right of those left standing (so long as they don't screw up something good in the doing, the consumer/hobbyist loudly qualifies). But any continuity-driven creative work is stronger when it incorporates what has gone before, rather than invalidating it. By ignoring a significant era of Legion history--and even taking veiled shots at it, in the article--GW has undermined something of what it has otherwise accomplished so admirably, in executing their return.

The article recounts well the Legion's debut, in White Dwarf 99, and subsequent V2 Codex entry. It even pictures the limited edition Sgt Centurius model released in 1996 (still possibly my favorite Citadel miniature ever). But it ignores everything done with the Damned in the subsequent V3-V3.5 years...and those were some of the most active developments for the Legion, from a gameplay perspective, in their long history.

It bears expressing that *I* did not much care for this iteration of the Damned, covered mostly in White Dwarf Chapter Approved articles. I was happy, as a fan, to see the Damned return (they went unaddressed in the first third edition Codex: Space Marines), the new entries expanded a bit further on their background and lore, and as noted the gorgeous pewter Legion of the Damned Sergeants, Marines and special- and heavy-weaponsmen, released as both a squad box set and as blisters, were welcome additions. But these rules took the Damned far past the mysterious squad they had been, adding Damned characters, vehicles, even Terminators in successive short, making the Legion a viable alternative full Space Marine army, one which was even GT Tournament legal. That wasn't consistent with what the Legion had always been--a mysterious, small band of interventionist heroes, not an entire army-gone-to-war--and sat badly with at least as many hobbyists as embraced the idea.

But it *happened.* For a period of time--and a time recent enough to be familiar to a significant percentage of the hobby community--that *was* the official conceit GW offered for the Damned. For an article as otherwise comprehensive about the Legion to willfully ignore that entire continuity--to in fact attempt a kind of textual sleight-of-hand suggesting it never occurred (through improper crediting of the previous models' provenance and through a boxed text specifically saying such larger-than-squad size appearances by the Legion were unknown) does the game's background a disservice. Would it have been so monumental a writing task instead to respectfully nod to that era by saying appearances by the Legion of the Damned in strength greater than individual squads 'are the stuff of legend, reported in past millennia of Imperial history by scribes of questionable authority, unverified; consigned to records of dubious' or 'what if' histories--but neither ever unproven.

And I could have done without the shot by one of the new-model sculptors at the first set of Damned pewters from editions ago: yes, those were largely existing Space Marine models with 'bones and flames sculpted on,' but that is exactly what the task required, and what the Damned *were,* and there are a lot of hobbyists still 'in the game' who love those models.

Finally...I would dearly love to have Sgt Centurius back. Not the specific model--as beautifully-sculpted as it is, it was a limited edition release and I think it poor form to advertise something as limited then ever make it widely available. But it would be a very cool thing to have his special character rules updated for V5...

Make no mistake: It is good to have the Legion of the Damned back--and better than ever, in many ways: as good as the previous sculpts were, these *are* even better, and the V5 rules capture the traditional atmosphere of the Damned perfectly. It would be even better if GW had not shortchanged them their full history, in the doing.


If one's view of the Damned permits them to exist in a more-than-a-single-fleeting-squad kind of way, the current Codex: Space Marines provides options for simulating that.

The core of such an army would be the three ELITES Legion of the Damned squads, of course: at maximum size each exceeds 300 points even before any special, heavy or sergeant gear is added. That is two-thirds of a standard 1500-point army accounted for.

There are six options for adding the mandatory HQ choice. None of them are perfect--but a couple get very close. To 'feel' like the Legion, such HQ choices must have the required Invulnerable Save and be able to Deep Strike. The former is conferred to any Independent Character with an Iron Halo (Chapter Masters and Captains), a Rosarius (Chaplains) or who can equip a Storm Shield or can wear Tactical Dreadnought (Terminator) Armour; Terminator Armour also confers the latter (so do Jump Packs, which expands the options slightly but--with one exception explored following--do not get addressed further in this article because to me the Damned *must* materialize as if from nowhere, rather than ride in on a plume of smoke and fire, however admittedly cool that latter imagery may be). A Damned HQ IC can therefore be built either from the generic Space Marine Chapter Master, Captain or Chaplain entries in the Codex and equipping with Terminator Armour--choosing a Storm Shield for the Chapter Master or Captain even makes the Invulnerable Save 3+, to perfectly mirror the V5 Damned (though a skull-faced Chaplain leading the Damned just *feels* more right :). Players who prefer to template an HQ from one of the Codex's special characters cannot get as perfect a match: Marneus Calgar upgraded to the Armour of Antilochus has Deep Strike but only a 4+ Invulnerable Save (though his Eternal Warrior Universal Special Rule more than makes up for it and *feels* very consistent with the lore of the Damned); the omnipresent-on-V5-battlefields Vulkan He'stan has the 3+ Invulnerable Save through Kesare's Mantle but his Artificier Armour confers no Deep Strike; and the best statistical match, Lysander (Terminator Armour, a 3+ Invulnerable through his Storm Shield, Eternal Warrior *and* one awesome melée weapon in his warhammer, the Fist of Dorn--all reasons why he is my favorite V5 template) sees the other two special bonuses he confers--Stubbornness to his army and Bolter Drill to his squad--vastly diminished in impact in a Fearless, Assault Terminator-heavy army (see following). Depending on which option the player chooses, his Damned HQ raises the army's cost by as little as 130 points (a Terminator Chaplain) to as much as 265 points (Calgar).

The only additional units in the Codex which provide for all models an Invulnerable Save and the ability to Deep Strike are Terminator Squads and Vanguard Veterans. Assault Terminator Squads kitted with Thunder Hammers and Storm Shields are perfect Damned--but like all Terminators, are ELITES choices, and all three of your Army of the Damned ELITE slots are likely to be filled with squads of authentic Legion. They remain options to consider for Planetstrike! and Apocalypse games--but you could take as many squads of the Legion as you wanted in Apocalypse anyway. We will come back to them before we are done...but let us consider the Vanguard, first.

The Vanguard Veterans are a V5 codex entry which has, in my experience, been underseen on 40K battlefields...but which make interesting additions to a Damned army. One reason they are taken less frequently than their (admittedly excellent) Sternguard Veteran brethren is that there are such other excellent, effective and economical choices for Space Marine commanders amongst the Fast Attack Org chart; for a Damned force, most of those aren't thematic. And while they do enter via Jump Pack Deep Strike rather than 'materializing from thin air,' as noted above, the Vanguard differ from standard Assault Marines in two critical, Legion-worthy ways: they can all equip with Storm Shields, conferring to them a simulacrum of the Damned's supernatural invulnerability, and they possess a unique ability, the 'Heroic Intervention,' which can allow them to appear at the critical time and place and launch a battle-turning assault from deep striking, in the very best tradition of the interventionist-themed Legion of the Damned. Of course, a full squad so equipped is going to cost in the 500 point vicinity--but nothing in a Damned army comes cheaply...

And there are still no TROOPS choices which fit. This is irremediable with the current codex; there are only the two options, Tactical and Scout Squads--which, great though they are, emphatically are not suited to represent the Damned. The only table-legal solution is to create a non-Damned 'mini army' within the larger Damned framework, a two-TROOP minimum codex marine force which represents, from a background perspective, the imperiled Loyalists whom the Legion materializes to rescue. If any of the previously-suggested supplements to a Damned roster ring inauthentic, a purist could expand this component to whatever degree (though the army obviously becomes less truly a Legion of the Damned force the more this is done), and it is an easy segue toward a Damned army for any player who already has some Space Marine force, however modest (which, face it, is almost all of us).

But it isn't a complete Legion of the Damned. There is no way to get there from here, under the published codex rules.

For fun, however, there are always 'house rules'--localized alterations to standard play created to achieve just such a desired, legally-impossible effect--and here is one for anyone interested in fielding an Army of the Damned:

No Aid But Their Own: A Codex: Space Marine player desiring to field an exclusively Legion of the Damned army--defined as one in which all characters and non-vehicle units Deep Strike and possess an Invulnerable Save, are all converted and painted to visually represent the Legion of the Damned, and of which at least one ELITE choice is an actual Legion of the Damned squad--may take •two• Terminator or Terminator Assault Squads as TROOPS choices.

As mentioned above, Terminator Assault Squads equipped with Storm Shields are particularly good Damned proxies--but contest for the same Force Org slots; this house rule allows an Army of the Damned builder to maximize his three authentic Legion choices, and add two of their nearest proxies, solving the otherwise insolvable issue of the mandatory TROOPS choices, as well.

And add an appropriately evocative character to lead them, and the points tally is hovering right around 1500.

The question of vehicles alone remains. At its 'army of its own' apex, the Damned had access to all manner of typical Space Marine tanks and transports; under current edition rules, none of those could materialize alongside the Legionnaires as they walk out of inexistence. A player interested in adding any will have to justify them as arriving 'just out of sight,' then rolling to the clarion call of rescue. Land Speeder variants (excepting the Storm, which would be carrying Scouts, something the Legion conceit cannot convincingly justify) can Deep Strike in, and although they lack the invincibility of a permanent Invulnerable Save do present some interesting possibilities for conversions. The thorniest question is presented by the Dreadnought in all it's variants--which of all the additions heaped upon the Damned concept as it expanded was always the coolest: while it cannot Deep Strike, a Dreadnought can arrive via Drop Pod...and nothing says that arriving Pod itself did not shimmer into existence out of nowhere, ghostlike, in the wartorn skies above a battlefield, moments before impact...heralding yet another unlooked-for rescue by the Army of the Damned...

Chemical Warfare in 256 AD

Around 256 AD the Persian Sassanid (lately called Sasanian) Empire beseiged the Roman Fortress of Dura, in Syria. Though the Persians never breached the walls, the undersized and unreinforced Imperial contingent eventually fell; everyone within was executed or deported east to live the remainder of their lives as slaves. A recent reexamination of the original 1930s excavation has revealed how: Sassanid sappers digging tunnels under the fort were ready for Roman counterminers tunneling to thwart them from above--when the Romans broke into the Persian tunnels, readied braziers of pitch and sulfur were lit. The resultant rising cloud of sulfur dioxide gas overcame the Roman legionnaires trapped in the dark and congested space in seconds.

This earliest evidentiary use of chemical warfare was not without the consequence that has made it anathema to civilized soldiery throughout subsequent history, however: collateral damage. Along with the bodies of some twenty Roman soldiers excavated in the tunnels were remains of a single Persian soldier...probably the sapper who had set the braziers afire, but miscalculated his escape time and been overcome in the tunnel darkness by his own deadly chemical trap...

•Source: Samir S. Patel, 'Archeology' Jan/Feb 2010, page 26, Archeological Institute of America