The Horus Heresy is an event that has long been a pillar in the lore of Warhammer 40,000. The opening pages of Codex Chaos for 2nd edition(the oldest reference I own and the book that first started my journey into Warhammer) describe how the traitor legions fell to chaos and turned on the Emperor of Mankind. The overview is a bit brief, but even here the key events are mentioned; the virus bombing of Isstvan III, the betrayal at Isstvan V known as the Dropsite Massacre, the confrontation between Horus Lupercal and the Emperor on Horus’ battle barge at the Siege of Terra.
Horus Rising was published in 2006, and marked the start of a long journey for thousands of fans of Warhammer 40,000. Dan Abnett’s initial novel in the series would detail the Horus Heresy across dozens of books and breathe life into characters that often, until now, had only been briefly described in the lore. The primarchs grew from names on a page to fully realized characters, tragic demigods in their own right. The final novel in the series, The Buried Dagger, was published in 2019. The next series, The Siege of Terra, is being published now and marks the final conclusion of the Horus Heresy in epic detail.
Horus Heresy Book One: Betrayal was released by Forge World in 2012(forgive me if I have this date wrong) and allowed fans of the Horus Heresy to recreate the battles and skirmishes of the Heresy on the tabletop. Betrayal gave players rules for fielding several space marine legions as full armies using what was then the 6th edition rules for Warhammer 40,000. This marked the beginning of a rule set that would become known as the Age of Darkness, and would several years later see its own separate rulebook. Successive “black books” followed, with Crusade being released in 2020 and containing rules for the last of the legions to be detailed – the Dark Angels.
These black books are works of art. Each is an oversized hardcover, leather bound, fully illustrated with full color pages. The lore in each is presented as a pseudo historical account of the events that took place during the Horus Heresy, and each book is accompanied by the game rules for multiple space marine legions, and often contains a campaign to play through as well.
Forge World also has an accompanying line of miniatures for their Horus Heresy line. Finally players were able to field primarchs on the tabletop; Horus in all his glory, Fulgrim facing off against Ferrus Manus, Alpharius stabbing a wounded and crawling legionary in the back.
The Betrayal at Calth boxed game was released in full plastic in 2016, and contained 30 MkIV space marines, 5 Cataphractii terminators, a Contemptor dreadnought, and two characters, all for about $150. It was an incredible bargain and many players immediately bought multiple boxes to jump start their Horus Heresy armies. It is safe to say that I wouldn’t be blogging about this today if I hadn’t also started my Alpha Legion at the time; starting a Heresy army was simply too expensive otherwise.
All of this is a long introduction to a point that I’ll get to shortly. Suffice it to say that I love the Horus Heresy as a setting, and want nothing more than to see the community grow and the game prosper and flourish.
A few years ago, one of the lead designers of the game, Alan Bligh, unfortunately passed away rather suddenly. Since then, it almost feels like the design team for the game has slowly gotten less and less communicative with the players.
While the game saw a number of releases last year, including Crusade, new vehicle designs, and more infantry, the articles covering the Horus Heresy on the Warhammer Community website have slowly dried up. Looking back through the archive of posts shows brief articles in January, December 2020, October 2020, and September 2020(the release of Crusade and Lion el’Johnson’s model). Even then, these are short and to the point, often nothing more than a preorder notice with a small lore blurb as accompaniment.
What’s really lacking are articles that expand on the lore, discuss specific legions(a “faction focus”), showcase armies from either the designers or the players, or even designer’s commentary articles. A few years ago, and as late as January 2020, Warhammer Community did a couple of army showcases to show off Horus Heresy armies. To date, I believe these articles have covered the Alpha Legion, White Scars, and Ultramarines. In short, more content to promote the game and grow interest from potential new players.
Along with the Horus Heresy, Forge World publishes a number of other games under their “specialist games” heading, including Necromunda, Adeptus Titanicus, Aeronautica Imperialis, Blood Bowl, and the Middle Earth strategy game. Several of these games have now received “roadmaps”, effectively letting players know what kind of releases are coming up in the next half year or even further. A roadmap like this shows that there is still ongoing support for the game system, and lets players plan for potential purchases.
To date there has not yet been a roadmap for any Horus Heresy content, and there are still miniatures previewed last year that haven’t been released yet(Word Bearers praetors). In fact, we as a community don’t have any idea what releases we will be seeing this year, if any. There hasn’t been any word yet of whether or not there will even be a black book.
Even more worrying, one of the few remaining designers for the game, Anuj, recently announced that he would be moving on to a different company altogether. While I do wish him the best of luck, this loss leaves the Heresy with just a single designer for the entire game setting(according to Anuj’s own announcement).
I try hard not to be a “gloom and doom” type of person, but it’s baffling that there seems to be this resistance to telling us things, especially since it seems limited particularly to the portion of Forge World that’s responsible for the Horus Heresy. The other specialist games all get regular releases, content, and support. The community certainly doesn’t need top level company secrets or anything, but a short post on a social media channel letting the players know that their game system isn’t going to be dropped altogether would be helpful. It almost feels right now as if any excitement and support for the Heresy is resting largely on the shoulders of the community, and not on the company that actually produces the game.
If I had the chance to peek behind the Forge World curtain for a week and take charge, at the very least I’d make sure there was a roadmap of coming releases, along with some planned content to get more interest in the game itself. I know that this post may come off as whining, but it’s more than I’m frustrated by what I see as a problem with a simple solution. The Horus Heresy is a great setting, and the players who have invested in the game since Betrayal deserve at the very least to know what’s happening with the game and where future releases are going. It’s the very act of “not knowing” that’s causing issues. Maybe Forge World is in the process of restructuring the studio that works on the game and just doesn’t have any news to give. Whatever the case may be, I’ll keep painting my Alpha Legion and looking forward to being able to play games again. And above all, I’ll keep up hope.