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Horus Heresy: Unaligned Rites of War

Greetings one and all,

Today we continue our look into the Horus Heresy by looking at Rites of War and asking: what are they? How do they work? and should you take them? (The answer is yes by the way). So, without further ado, let’s jump right in.

What are Rite of War/ How do they work?

So let's start with the simplest question, what is a Rite of War? Well, a Rite of War is effectively a way to build your army using a modified force organisation chart and grant bonuses to certain units, while denying others. For example, the Armoured Spearhead Rite of War for example allows you to bring Legion Predators as troop choices, but at the same time prevents you from taking Fortification choices. In short, the Rites of War allow you to field armies that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to using the standard Force Organization chart.

Gaining access to a Rite of War isn’t too difficult. You need to have a model with Master of the Legion (though some Rites of War allow you to give this rule to a model in your army, the Fury of the Ancients Rite of War allows you to give this to a Contemptor Dreadnought) and the detachment needs to have the Legiones Astartes special rule. Then you need to build the detachment according to the Effects and Limitations of the Rite of War you’re using.

So that’s that covered, now let's look at the unaligned Rites of War. The following can be taken by any Legiones Astartes army (the Legion specified Rites of War will be covered in their own Legion article in the future).

The Unaligned Rites of War

In this section we’re going to look at each of the unaligned Rites of War and go over their good points and bad points, and what Legion they best work with

Rite of War: Legion Recon Company

Model and Paintwork property of Devildog Gaming

Warriors dedicated to the art of Reconnaissance, serving as the Pathfinders and Scouts of their army. You pick this if you want to go around being all sneaky like.


  • Reconnaissance and Scout Squads do not have the Support Squad special rule.

  • Seeker Squads may be taken as non-compulsory troop choices.

  • Players may re-roll any dice used to attempt to seize the Initiative.


  • Models that carry the Heavy sub-type can’t be played during set-up and can only be deployed via Reserves.

  • No Fortification choices can be selected.

  • All compulsory troop choices must be from Reconnaissance or Scout Squads.

As you can see, this Rite of War really puts the Reconnaissance and Scout Squads front and centre as it removes the Support Special rule and allows you to take Seeker Equads as non-compulsory troops. That could mean a lot of Nemesis Bolters if you wanted to go that route, but the drawback of not having access to units with the Heavy trait at the start of the battle might bite a little. Though it’s not a particularly big drawback, as there are loads of units you’d think should be heavy that aren’t… Contemptor Dreadnoughts anyone?

Good Legiones to use this with are the White Scars. With their extra Movement, it means you can get into positions even faster and hit hard. Or the left field option, the Death Guard, as their Remorseless special rule allows them to count as stationary if they only performed a normal Move in the Movement phase, so you can blast away with those Nemesis Bolters all you want.

Rite of War: Angels Wrath

Highly mobile Astartes who command the skies above any battlefield. Or to put it simply, Air Cavalry… Though, Air Cavalry in poorly constructed but expensive bricks.


  • Any dedicated transport Rhino can be exchanged for a Storm Eagle Gunship as a dedicated transport instead.

  • Any vehicle that has both the Flyer and Transport sub-types, even if in Reserve, can automatically enter play at the start of the first turn of play without the need to roll for Reserves. If they do not enter play, then Reserve rolls are made as normal from turn 2 onwards.


  • Infantry units that don’t have Jump Packs must begin play Embarked on a vehicle that has the Flyer or Transport sub-type.

  • Infantry units that have Jump Packs must deploy as Reserves, unless assigned to a Deep Strike Assault team.

  • All vehicles must have the Flyer sub-type.

  • No Fortification choices can be selected.

This is kind of a strange one and at first glance, I can see why people might not like this Rite of War much as it specifically uses the spotlight model, and so relies on you owning and using the Storm Eagle Gunship. And that model can be, charitably called, not very good (also they cost £145 each at the time of writing, and you will need a few). There is also an odd sense of getting around, which makes NO sense, but shrug. For example, Dreadnoughts don’t have the Infantry or Vehicle type so, what? They just kinda walk onto the board as normal? You could go for the minimum troop choice and then bring a load of Dreads, I guess, but this doesn’t really seem in keeping with the theme this Rite of War is going for.

Maybe there’s a way to integrate other flying vehicles like the Dreadclaw or Kharybdis, as if they could also come in on the first turn, they would be able to Deep Strike into the rear of the enemy, while the Storm Eagles fly in with Flight of the Valkyries blasting to deploy the rest of the troops. But as I’m sure you can tell, I’m really struggling here to come up with a way to make this viable.

If you must run the Dreadnought heavy version of this, then your best picks are Iron Hands or Iron Warriors. Both buff Dreadnoughts, which will be doing the heavy lifting in a list like this. But if I was going to try the Air Cavalry route, I would go with White Scars for the extra Movement (hey, you got to get as far up the board as you can with these slightly armoured death boxes), or even World Eaters as Strom Eagles are assault vehicles, so could be fun to bring 6 and charge 20 Despoilers out of each one... It’s dumb. But it kinda sounds fun.

Rite of War: Sky-Hunter Phalanx

Model and Paintwork property of Devildog Gaming

Speedy speedy anti-grav units to out-flank any enemy way before they are able to respond.


  • Sky-Hunter Squadrons and Proteus Land Speeder Squadrons can be taken as troop choices.

  • Sky-Hunter Squadrons selected as troop choices gain the Line sub-type.


  • All units that have the Vehicle typing must also have the Flyer, Fast, or Skimmer sub-types.

  • All Infantry units must begin play embarked on a vehicle that has both the Flyer and Transport sub-types.

  • No Dreadnoughts can be taken.

  • Allied Detachments cannot take this Rite of War.

  • No Fortification choices can be selected.

This is a very cool Rite, and made so much better by the release of plastic Sky-Hunters. You do not need to sell your soul to get the cash to field even a bare bones version of this Rite. That said, the Proteus is still £64 at time of writing, but that’s not really a problem as Sky-Hunters have more than enough firepower to handle a majority of opponents.

However, note that there are a few units that this Rite might struggle with; Dreadnoughts and heavily armoured vehicles like Land Raiders and such.

The White Scars is an obvious pick for this Rite, though they get the much better Chogorian Brotherhood, so maybe not such a great choice. The Iron Hands are another good pick as the Medusa’s Scales increase the army's survivability.

Rite of War: Drop Pod Assault

Orbital deathstrike… Death from above, anyone?


  • Any dedicated transport Rhino or Land Raider Proteus Carrier can be exchanged for a Drop Pod or a Dreadclaw Drop Pod as their dedicated transport instead.

  • All Dreadnought units must be given a Drop Pod or a Dreadclaw Drop Pod as a dedicated transport, with only 1 Dreadnought per Drop Pod.


  • All units can only be deployed via Drop Pod Assault.

  • No Fortification choices can be selected.

  • Any units that don’t have a Drop Pod, Dreadnought Drop Pod, Dreadclaw Drop Pod or Kharybdis Assault Claw as a dedicated transport must be put in reserve and cannot take part in alternative deployments, such as Deep Striking or Flanking.

If you have A LOT of Drop Pods and really like the idea of dropping your army on top of your enemy's head, then this might not be a bad Rite. Everything has to be in a Drop Pod of some kind which means they drop in at the start of the controlling players turn, which sounds really good, however, it is very important to take note that Drop Pods are not assault vehicles and so if you land too close to the enemy, you’re opening yourself up to a turn 1 charge. You also can’t bring anything that can’t fit in a Drop Pod, so no tanks, which is a huge blow to your firepower. Luckily, Dreadnoughts have their own Drop Pod so at least you’ll get some powerful units that way.

Any Legion that specialises in Close Range firefights are gonna do well using this, such as Salamanders and Dark Angels. Though any Legion that's all about getting up close and personal isn’t going to have a good time, as their main Strength isn’t immediately useful. Yes Blood Angels, I’m looking at you. Though there are exceptions to this: the Son of Horus for example could be good at repelling any turn one charges before making their own in the following turn… Which might be worth doing if you try this Rite of War versus the World Eaters for instance.

Rite of War: Pride of the Legion

An Elite Squad of Marines armed with the finest Weapons and Armour their Legions have to offer.


  • Veteran Squads, Terminator Cataphractii Squads and Terminator Tartaros Squads may be selected as Compulsory troop choices.

  • Squads taken as Compulsory troop choices gain the Line sub-type.

  • Any unit made up entirely of any type of Pattern Terminator Armour that would usually be taken as an Elite choice, may be taken as a Troop choice instead.


  • No Allied Detachments may be selected.

  • Only 1 Heavy Support choice and 1 Fast Attack choice can be made.

  • Allied Detachments cannot take this Rite of War.

  • No Fortification choices can be selected.

  • There must be more Infantry units than non-Infantry units.

I think out of all of the Rites we’ll cover today, this is the easiest to pull off/afford. The basic Age of Darkness boxset comes with 10 Cataphractii Terminators and 40 Marines, which can be built as Veterans very easily. It gives you a small but very powerful force, but you might struggle a bit dealing with tougher vehicles at Range, as you’ll only have access to one Heavy Support slot.

The Legion that are best for this would be those that have very powerful options for their Terminators, be that Weapons or rules. The World Eaters aren’t a bad choice here (for once), nor are armies in the same vein as Blood Angels and Emperors Children. I wouldn’t pick a force like the Night Lords who rely on numbers to help them win fights, and I don’t think Ultramarines would be a great pick, as their Strength of Wisdom special rule really works better when you have more units in Close Range to each other and you’re not gonna have a lot of unit if you're running this Rite.

Rite of War: Underworld Assault

They come from the Land Down Under?


  • Any dedicated transport Rhino can be exchanged for a Termite Assault Drill as a dedicated transport instead.

  • Termite Assault Drills can be selected as Fast Attack and Heavy Support choices.

  • All units on the battlefield that did not begin play in Reserves gain the Stubborn special rule until all units that have been assigned to a Subterranean Assault are deployed.


  • Infantry units that do not have the Bulky (X) special rule must begin play embarked on a Termite Assault Drill.

  • No Fortification choices can be selected.

  • Any vehicles that are not Termite Assault Drills and all units not embarked on a Termite Assault Drill as a dedicated transport cannot be put in reserve and cannot take part in alternative deployments, such as Deep Striking or Flanking.

Another Rite where you need to sell at least one kidney to get this Rite off the ground (or I suppose under it). You're going to want at least 3 Termite Assault Drills minimum and at £100 each at time of writing, that's a lot of money before you’ve even bough models to go in them. On top of this, they aren't even Assault Vehicles, so that’s a whole load of Legion that aren’t going to use this effectively (again, the Legions I’m thinking of are wearing red… At least the World Eaters are red once their done…?).

The Iron Hand are a good choice for this Rite, as our the Salamanders. The first because they’re tanky as hell, while the second because they excel in Close Range firefights (being literally armed with Flamers and the like). Ultramarines aren’t a bad choice either as they have special kinds of Elite Brecher units in the Invictarus Suzerain or Praetorian Breacher Squads.

Rite of War: Armoured Spearhead

Did somebody say Tanks?


  • Any dedicated transport Rhino can be exchanged for a Land Raider Proteus Carrier as a dedicated transport instead, as long as the unit has 10 models or less.

  • Predator Squadrons may be selected as troop choices.

  • Sicaran Squadrons may be selected as Elite choices.

  • A single Sicaran Squadron or Predator Squadron that is made up of only 1 model must be selected as an HQ choice. The model gains the Master of the Legion special rule, must become the Warlord, and must use the Master of Armour Warlord Trait, even if the model is a vehicle. No Primarchs or other Character models can be taken.


  • Infantry units must begin play Embarked. Any Infantry that is not embarked, whether on the battlefield or in Reserve at the beginning of the controlling player's first turn must be removed from play as casualties.

  • No Fortification choices can be selected.

  • No models can have a Movement stat of “0” or “-”.

  • Only an army’s Primary Detachment may take this Rite of War.

Thanks to all the plastic kits that have come out recently this Rite of War has become a lot more accessible, which is great for a tank fan like me. This does have two big issues for me though; you can only have one HQ choice and as someone that likes running Centurions for the Consularis, I find it limiting, but also you're a little vulnerable to Close Combat unless you're running a screening force with them.

Iron Hands are a great choice for this Rite of War as the amount of extra rules and equipment they have access to make the vehicle oh so much harder to kill. The Death Guard also does well here, being able to Move and Shoot with no penalties is a massive boon. And lastly, the blue boys. Yes this is another example of where Strength of Wisdom will make hitting enemies easier, just shoot your targets with the smaller guns first okay? Thousand Sons are not a Legion to use this Rite with, because when your main focus is Psychic powers and you don’t have anywhere to put them, this might be what we call shooting yourself in the foot.

Rite of War: Brethren of Iron

Relentless maniples drafted to bolster the thinning ranks of the Horus Heresy’s front lines. Enhanced with Cybernetica, they’re close to becoming more machine than man.


  • Castellax Battle-Automata Maniples can be taken as non-compulsory troop choices, Vorax Battle-Automata Maniples can be taken as non-compulsory Fast Attack choices, Domitar Battle-Automata Maniples can be taken as non-compulsory Elite choices and a single Thanatar Siege-Automata Maniple can be taken as a non-compulsory Heavy Support choice.

  • Any Techmarine can be upgraded with a Cortex Controller for +20 points.


  • You cannot have a total number of Automata units that is higher than the total number of regular units.

  • You must have 1 model with a Cortex Controller for every 3 models with the Automata unit type.

  • No models or units can have the Paragon of Metal special rule.

  • A model with the Forge Lord Legiones Consularis upgrade must be the army HQ choice, but does not need to become the Warlord.

This Rite of War was really confusing when it first came out, though this was mostly because the rules for the models that were the main focus didn’t exist at the time. Now they do and it’s kinda cool and thematic of some Legions, Iron Hand and Iron Warriors I’m looking at you. But, the huge downside is that the Mechanicum units you do bring don’t get the Legion bonus, so really, in most cases what you can bring normally is just better, or at least more effective. The only exception is Thallax, brought by having a Forgelord; those will get Legion special rule and can be rather nasty.

As I’ve said, in terms of thematic lists the Iron Warriors and Iron Hands would be the best to go with this Rite. If you want to make it an effective list, the Iron Warriors with a Forgelord for the Thallax with the Legion special rule and maybe 2-3 Domitar and a Thanatar for some serious firepower could work.

Rite of War: Fury of the Ancients

Close to death but still of use, the crippled bodies of former Marines were placed into the heavily armed and armoured walking coffins that are the Dreadnoughts. After all, only in death does duty end… In other words, old men come to fight the young man's war.


  • Contemptor Dreadnought Talons may be taken as troop choices.

  • Contemptor Dreadnought Talons taken as compulsory troop choices gain the Line sub-type.

  • 1 Contemptor Dreadnought Talon that comprises only 1 model must be the army HQ choice, and must take the Venerable Ancient upgrade for +30 points.


  • All compulsory troop choices must be Contemptor Dreadnought Talons.

  • Models with the Legioes Consularis special rule can only select a Legion Forge Lord, Legion Primus Medicae or Legion Mortificator as a Consul choice.

  • Only 1 Heavy Support choice and 1 Fast Attack choice can be made, and only for units that don’t have the Dreadnought unit type.

  • No Fortification choices can be selected.

  • A Lords of War detachment cannot be selected.

  • Only an army’s Primary Detachment may take this Rite of War.

  • You cannot roll to seize Initiative.

Warning! If you play this one you will lose friends.

Okay, that might be a little over the top. But considering how good Dreadnoughts are in the Horus Heresy, this is a very powerful Rite and is very accessible with all the plastic kits that have been released. As I’ve said, this is a very powerful Rite and hard to counter unless the opponent has built a list to do so. However, I like the idea of both players picking this Rite and it just becomes a game of rock-em-sock-em robots… I might have to do this.

What Legions do well with this list? Well, Iron Hands, Salamanders, Blood Angels, World Eaters, and World Bearers all have great potential with this Rite as each brings its own awful extra rule to make the Dreadnought just so much better than the basic version.

But again, I will state, please do not surprise people with this Rite. Be polite and let them know ahead of time. No one wants to play a person that just curb-stomps them into the ground.

And with that, we’re done. Those are all the Unaligned Rites of War. As I mentioned at the start, I’ll be going over Legion specific Rites when I cover those Legions, but until next time, goodbye for now and have a great week.

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