Magic Markers

I've been rereading the new Marine codex over the last couple nights while watching hockey, and noticed that there are a lot of "once per game" effects in the Chapter Tactics and Warlord Traits tables. I'm terrible at remembering to use once per game effects. I'll run a Chapter Master and completely forget he has his orbital bombardment if I don't use it on the first turn.

To fix this, I've decided to brainstorm some ideas for markers for each effect.

Here's the list so far:

Warlord Traits
Angel of Death - one of the large DA angel icons, attached to a 25mm base. This one isn't a once-per-game, but it's easy to forget. If your HQ has a 25mm token following him around, you're less likely to forget to force those Fear checks.

Sword of the Imperium - One or two of the scabbarded Templar power swords attached to a 25mm base. Same deal as the Angel, but you can remove the marker once you've burned the single-use Furious Charge rule.

Storm of Fire - Two, three, or four spare bolters on a 25mm base. These easily represent a "storm of fire".

Rites of War - A back banner on a 25mm base, to represent what is essentially a built-in banner effect. A full on company banner would be too large and too distracting.

Iron Resolve - This one won't use bits. Just a "+1" cut from plasticard, with a few rivets added on to make it look like "iron". Simple.

Champion of Humanity - Not sure on this one, but my gut is to go with some heads on a pike, though that is a little Chaos-y. Maybe a single Epic Space Marine on a tiny plinth to represent a trophy?

Ultramarines Chapter Tactics
These are crazy simple, being just plasticard unit symbols for each type on 25mm or 40mm bases. I also thought about making some sort of flip-up/flip-down thing to represent used/unused doctrines. Maybe even three 25mm bases with each symbol in white, glued back-to-back with another base with the same symbol in red or black. Put them on a 60mm scenic base, with white side up for "available" and red or black for "used."

For the orbital bombardment, I'll probably just attach one of the large missiles from the Whirlwind kit to a 25mm base.

I don't think I'll go to any great lengths on painting these. Primer and some gold paint for the markers, black/white for the symbols.


New Forgeworld Space Marine rule sheets

Just got this bit of news over the wire. Forgeworld has just released their updated rules for 6th Edition Marines. You've got a comprehensive Chapter tactics sheet for all of the chapters FW has focused on in their books, and a retooling of just about every Marine character they've had.
Links here:


I've only skimmed them so far, but my initial gut response is "Wow."

The characters are neat, but Bray'arth Ashmantle stands out as really good. You better bring some lascannons to down that bad boy. Of course, he's a Salamander, which means his weapons are short ranged and he's slow as molasses. He'll be slogging across the table. You're probably thinking "drop pod!" but to play spoiler: he can't take one.

The best part are the Chapter Tactics though. There are some really interesting ones, like the Fire Hawks who get +1S on flame weapons when they arrive from Deepstrike, and +1S to HoW hits. Raptors, who get the option to change their bolters and bolt pistols to Heavy 1, Rending if they don't move. All of the Tactics have a reason, and fit the chapter's background.

Of course, every one of the new Characters and Tactics can be run using the standard Marine codex, which enters into that "is it Ok to run X as Y?" conundrum. Knight-Captain Elam Courbray is a jump pack Captain of the Fire Hawks, and provides some seriously cool rules (and the Fire Hawks' Chapter tactics). But should you run him under those rules while the model is painted as an Ultramarine? It's the same problem I ran into regarding White Scars, but adds the extra element of Forgeworld rules. Is it different to run counts-as using Forgeworld rules than to run counts-as within your core codex?

It's something to think about, and also an opportunity to paint something other than blue...


Event Summary

A group of gaming buddies from my FLGS and I all drove down to Watertown, MA this weekend for a tournament hosted by the boys of the Dorkamorka gaming club. Shell Shocktober 2.

They're a group that values the "spirit" of 40K very highly. Painting, conversions, awesome terrain, and non-WAAC army lists that have a story to them. It's like my dream environment, where people know how to play the game well, but also how to play for fun and look good doing so.

I loaded up my case with the army list I posted last time, and printed off three copies of my stupidly long intro story. I didn't sleep much on Friday night, between staying up too late working on army stuff and playing State of Decay and my son waking up a couple times during the night. By the time I reached our rendezvous point at the commuter lot, I was wiped out. I slept the whole 2 hour drive down.

On arrival, we got settled, chatted a bit, and then got into the games. My first game was against a very cool-looking Sons of Medusa army, heavy on Tactical Marines. Vindicator, Rifledread, Master of the Forge with a lone servitor, Hammernators, TDA Librarian, and a small Scout squad.
We had Night Fight the first turn, meaning the whole first turn was spent doing a whole lot of nothing. Marine-on-Marine is already a slapfight, but when you add Night Fight it becomes a pillow fight complete with footy pajamas.
We basically traded bolter wounds and armor saves for the whole game, and the end result was a draw on primary objectives and a slight advantage on secondary objectives to my opponent. This was actually the first game I'd ever played in 6th using actual 6th Edition secondary objectives. We don't use them at the FLGS.
It was also the first game I'd played using the Ultramarine Chapter Tactics. I knew I had them available, but kept forgetting that they had to be declared at the very beginning of my turn. I'd find a spot in which I wanted or planned to use them, but had forgotten to declare them! ARGH! My opponent also kept forgetting that his Marines get a 6+ Feel No Pain roll, but I started reminding him once he realized it from about turn four onward.

My second game was against a jaw-dropping Valhalan army. You can see the player's army construction progress in this thread. He ran it in a Valhalan theme as well, with a couple huge blob squads, a PCS, commissars, heavy weapon teams, a couple of Russ tanks, and a couple of squadroned Basilisks, all firing from behind a defense line with quad gun. We played on a snow board, which was a perfect backdrop for the fight.
I ended up winning big points this one, but only because my opponent's scatter dice began to betray him and my Terminators were triple-blessed by the Emperor or something. The board was studded with little stands of trees that were area terrain, so I was marching from stand to stand with my Marines in order to get some sort of protection from the Basilisks and Russes. If the big guns hadn't started deviating like mad, I'd have been splattered early. In the end, I held up and managed to march enough small groups of marines to the center to win it. As mentioned, my Terminators le the advance, and made a half-billion successful armor saves. Only one Terminator died the whole game.
One lowlight of the game was in my final turn. I needed to kill both the leading edge of a blob squad to remove them from the objective, and then the last surviving Russ for a bonus secondary point for killing all of your opponent's tanks. I cleared the infantry using shots from my tacticals and LRC, freeing up my Terminators to turn and fire into the last Russ. I was in side arc, so the Assault Cannon had a chance. I hit twice, and needed a 6 to rend. I have a big bag of custom Ultramarines dice from Chessex that I'd bought secondhand ages ago. One of those dice was part of the two hits. It managed a 6 on the Rend, and then again on the bonus dice for a penetrating hit. The roll for effect? Another 6. All with the same die. Normally that would be a reason to cheer, but because I was rolling the same die over and over, and it came up 6 every time, I felt like a cheater. I grabbed the other Ultramarine dice I'd brought, and began rolling them as well. They kept coming up 5s and 6s pretty consistently. I know that those dice are hit-or-miss from past usage at the FLGS, but when your trio of special-icon dice roll 5-6 about 75% of rolls in front of an opponent you just beat, you feel like an ass.

My third and final game was against a classic CronAir list, complete with three flyers. I believe this list got the lowest composition score of the entire field. The game was...difficult. I was 100% exhausted by the turn two, and was slogging through this game, knowing there was no way I was going to approach a win. I did my best with what I had, but when you're facing a Destroyer Lord with Scarabs and Scythe, a full unit of Wraiths, two 5-man Warrior squads behind an ADL, two-10man Immortals squads in Night Scythes, two Annihilation barges, and a Doom Scythe, you sort of throw your hands up. I'm not one to talk badly about other players online, especially when I don't know them, so I'll refrain from my list of interaction-based complaints. I'll just say that the final move of the game was by a Doom Scythe returning from Ongoing reserves. It made a full move onto the board of "24 inches," right next to the center objective which was marked by a 40mm base marker. When the game was done, the base of the Doom Scythe was 2-3 inches beyond the edge of said marker. You do the math, and that's how the whole game went. I got 0 points, and was dead tired.

At the end of the day, I took home the "Dorkas' Choice" award, which is basically the award for bringing an army that most matches the values of the club. I received a very cool print of the old Second Edition Starter Box cover art:

I was very happy. I don't go to these events looking to kick ass, I go with a list that has a story to it. I tend to aim for that specific award every time. Mission accomplished!

The next event I'll make it to will be Standish Standoff 3, our FLGS' annual big tournament. I'm not sure what I'll bring for an army list, but I have been toying with bringing a refined version of the list I just ran. Maybe add some Devastators and a couple upgrades to fill the gap. I'm not sure. The other option is to just run bikes. I'll decide in the next couple weeks. I'm mostly going in order to enter my Hive Tyrant in the painting competition and throw the dice around.


Picture Time!

It's time for some photos!

I'd mentioned that I'd bought a couple of Secret Weapon kits. One of the problems I ha when deciding if I should buy them was determining how big everything was. SW isn't legally allowed to show GW models in their product photos, so I'm going to do so for them! First up is the Tree Stumps kit:

They're good sized, but should probably be reserved for 40mm and up sized bases. Most simply won't fit on a 25mm alongside a model.

Then you've got the Broken Doric Column kit:.

Again, too large for a 25mm base, so stick with 40mm and up or terrain.

Both kits are of very high quality, with almost no visible mold lines. Some flash, sure, but it peels away without leaving much behind on the tree stumps. No flash whatsoever on the column pieces.

Now, here's the next Tactical Marine I've been working on:

Basic stuff. I'm trying to make an effort to use more grenades and wargear on my Marines' belts. Basic Marines get one item, Sternguard are getting two. I'm swimming in these little bits, so I should probably use them. They also break up the monotony of blue paint.

Speaking of Sternguard:

These guys were the last two members of the 5-man squad I'd planned out and tried airbrushed helmets for. I departed from the all-Mk8 armor theme, as I was simply having too many problems with fitting heads into necks/collars. The guy on the left is underwhelming because I used that plain skull-adorned torso. It works ok for a basic Marine who'll be all blue and gold, but it doesn't provide the gold areas needed to make a white/blue Marine stand out. Lesson learned.

Now I need to learn how to use these guys, having never run Sternguard before.


The List, The Paint Desk

I figured it would probably be a good idea to share the army list that inspired my last entry. It's 1500 points, and designed for a composition-friendly event I'm attending down in MA this coming Saturday. It's hosted by the DorkaMorka gaming club. I've attended two or three of their past events, but had not been down there for more recent tournaments, wither due to family stuff or the bitter taste of being worked over by comp-bender lists the last time out.

Anyhow, here's the list:

Chaplain Cassius
6 Sternguard, Sergeant w/combimelta
5 Terminators, 2 chainfists, 1 assault cannon
10-man Tactical Squad in Rhino (non-veteran sergeant with chainsword, pistol, and meltabombs, missile/flamer)
10-man Tactical Squad in Rhino (non-veteran sergeant with chainsword, pistol, and meltabombs, plasmagun/multimelta)
7 Scouts, 6 snipers, camo cloaks, missile launcher
10 Assault Marines, veteran sergeant with pistol and powerfist, 2 flamers
Land Raider Crusader with extra stormbolter

Pretty tame list. It's got lots and lots and lots of bolter shots (seriously, I added a stormbolter to an LRC). It should be a challenge to play against Tau, Eldar, TauDar, etc. I'd originally wanted to use a full 10-man Dev squad in place of the Terminators, but won't have the required bolter Marines painted in time.

Speaking of which, that is what is currently on my painting desk. I just finished my sixth Sternguard member (fifth if you don't count the one with combimelta I painted ages ago). I'm planning to take some shots using the proper lighting tonight. I am now working on bolter Marines to get to the point where I can run a true half-company of 3 Tacticals, 1 Assault, and 1 Devastator squad. I'd always been three bolters short of that goal.
I'm also still working on the base for my Hive Tyrant. I bought a bunch of Secret Weapon kits to spruce up the base (tree stumps, broken Doric columns, grass, turf, etc). I'm waiting for some small mushrooms I made out of Green Stuff to cure, and then it's on to applying sand. I filled an empty GW static grass tub with some of the wash down material from my driveway. Sand, pebbles, and rocks. I think I need to sift it a little though, as the larger rocks are a little large for my tastes. I'm still struggling with exactly how I'm going to glue the Tyrant to the base, as he's got that stupid little sculpted rock section under his tail. I can't glue him down and then sand, as I won't be able to prime the base with him on there. I think I'm going to have to trace around the connection point, apply sand/gravel, then fix up the edges of the hole before spray priming. Any major gaps can be lightly covered with grass or turf. It's the best option I can think of. With Marines, I just put a little section of plasticard where their feet go and sand around those. But doing so with the Tyrant would mean the little rock he's attached to would "hover" over the sand. I should have removed it when I started. Lesson learned.

I also primed and put a first coat of base color on five Genestealers. I'm pretty excited about getting on with these guys. They've been sitting on top of my paint rack for a couple months now.


A little bit of literature

I'm headed to a tournament in MA in a couple weeks. Every time I go to an event run by this particular club, I like to attach a short intro story to my army list to explain the "why" of the army. This time, I'm running a pretty basic Ultramarines list led by Chaplain Cassius. I set out to write a quick one-page blurb, but caught the writing bug (I've got a degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing, after all) and it spiraled into a four-page beast. I figured I'd share it wit those of you who aren't from my FLGS (I already posted it over there).

Standard disclaimer applies. All the stuff owned by GW is copyrighted and whatnot by GW. Posted without permission, for no financial gain, yadda yadda.

With that said, enjoy (and don't steal my shit!):

Sergeant Illius of the Ultramarines charged across the muddy ground, splashes of slimy earth exploding from his footfalls. The air around him buzzed as hails of insectile shot whickered by. He grimaced as dozens of the living ammunition creatures splattered and popped against the ceramite of his armor. Alongside him ran the remnants of his squad of Marines. They unleashed return volleys of bolter fire into the oncoming tide of xenos beasts. Each round found purchase in the wave of creatures, sending gouts of greenish ichor into the air and painting the nearby monsters' carapaces.

Illius leapt the last several meters into the trench line as the hail of alien fire increased. He splashed down into a quagmire of ankle-deep slime and fluids, his Marines landing alongside him. The partially dissolved corpses of an Imperial Guard platoon bobbed in the bottom of the trench.

"Firing positions!" ordered Illius. His squad members advanced to the trench's firing step and began to lay down tight salvos of bolter fire. A pale warning rune flashed on Illius's retinal display, warning him that the acid levels in the trench had begun to score the paint from his armor and weaken the gaskets of his armor joints. He joined the line on the firing step and picked off individual Tyranid creatures with shots from his bolt pistol. The living wave continued to advance, leaving piles of shattered bodies in their wake. Suddenly, Brother Raius let out a curse. Wrapped about his greaves were several slithering Tyranid creatures. Rippers. Raius punched and stomped the serpentine xenos, and a score more leapt from the murky fluid to attack the legs and knees of the entire squad.

Sergeant Illius hacked several of the creatures with his chainsword, but more poured from the bottom of the trench, or burrowed through its walls. The bolter fire keeping the oncoming Gaunt-genome bests began to slacken as the Marines were swarmed by the Rippers.

"Marius, purge the line!" ordered Sergeant Illius.

"Acknowledged, Brother Sergeant," replied Marius. There was a crack of heated air as Marius turned his flamer down the length of the trench, bathing both Marine and Tyranid in a roaring sheet of promethium flame. Warning runes glowed an angry red on Illius's display as the temperature around him climbed. The Ripper beasts squealed, their carapaces popping as cooked xenos flesh boiled out. The Marines emerged from the conflagration unscathed and resumed their suppressing fire. The damage had been done, however. The oncoming Gaunts threw themselves forward, over the lip of sandbags at the top of the trench. Without a word, the squad of Marines drew pistols and blades and engaged the Tyranids. Illius's chainsword growled and spit as he took the Gaunts apart, one after another. One beast crashed into his side, talons slashing and scrabbling at his armor. He backhanded it with the butt of his bolt pistol and cleaved it in half as it rebounded off the trench wall.

Then Brother Marius fell. A Gaunt's talons raked across the Marine's throat, spilling a jet of bright red blood. He stumbled, and a half dozen more beasts piled on top of him. Marius gave an incoherent choke over the vox, and then fired a single bolt pistol shot into the fuel canister of his flamer. A ball of flame engulfed the Marine and the Gaunts that hacked and bit at him, leaving a charred mess of smoking chitin and ceramite. Marius's life sign indicator faded to black on Illius's retinal display.

The squad of Marines continued to slash, slice, stomp, and stab the Gaunts. Only a few of the creatures remained when a shrieking roar erupted from beyond the trench. A mass of charging Warrior-genome beasts thundered toward the line. Brother Aurelius shook off the last of the Gaunts around him, stepped up to the firing line, and loosed a missile from his tube launcher. The projectile hissed out, trailing a thin line of propellant smoke. The servo arm on his backpack whipped down to select and load another missile into the tube as the first impacted the leading Warrior. It punched into the creature's chest armor and then detonated with a hollow boom. The Warrior and several of its broodmates exploded into torn shreds. Aurelius took aim again as the loading arm clicked the tube shut. The second missile escaped the mouth of the tube just as a foot-long spike of bone took Aurelius in the right eye. The boom of the missile exploding at the feet of the incoming Warriors mirrored Aurelius' body thudding into the bottom of the trench. Another life sign blackened in Illius's display. He intoned a brief prayer for the souls of the two fallen Marines, and braced himself as the first of the Warriors splashed down into the muck of the trench. A massive beast leveled a weapon at him that writhed with scarab-like beetles and dripped with venomous acid. Illius vaulted forward and brought his chainsword down across what he could only describe as the Warrior's wrists. The monster reeled as the weapon was shorn from its arms. The Marine sergeant pressed his attack, spearing the Tyranid under the jaw with his chainsword. The weapon juddered and kicked as it burrowed up into the Warriors' head, killing it. He spared a glance up and down the trench, observing his squad engaged in a crushing melee with the newly arrived Tyranids. Then more Warriors were upon him, and his squad was lost to his sight as the press of chitin and claws engulfed him.

The melee continued for what seemed like an age. Illius's chainsword reaped a tally amongst the xenos creatures, but their claws too often found purchase in his flesh, breaking ceramite and plasteel. The sergeant could feel the blood slicking his body under the plates of his armor. Then came a low, keening whistle.

Fat, tendriled balls of Tyranid flesh began to thump down into the trench. Illius's eyes widened as the sacs began to inflate. "Cover!" he shouted. He rammed his shoulder into the chest of a Warrior, spinning it between himself and the closest spore mine just before it exploded in a cloud of razor sharp shards of bone and shell. The Warrior shrieked as its back was punctured by the flying debris. All down the trench, Illius's squad ducked, braced and weathered the storm of shrapnel. The barrage took a heavy toll on the Warriors, felling many as the spores landed amongst them. Brother Nestir stood and loosed a burst from his bolter when another spore mine rebounded off the trench wall with a wet smack, and rolled before his feet. It burst in a geyser of steaming acid, soaking Nestir from head to toe. He let out a roar of pain, the acid rapidly dissolving his armor plates. The Marine tore away his helmet, revealing eyes burned away by the acid through the shattered lenses of his helm. The skin of Nestir's face began to slough away, exposing muscle and bone. Illius watched as Nestir ripped a pair of krak grenades from clips on his belt, thumbed the priming studs, and charged blind and screaming into a knot of Warriors. The grenades detonated simultaneously, blasting Nestir and the Warriors limb from limb. Another blackened rune appeared before the sergeant's eyes.

Illius had no time to lament Nestir's passing, as he was bowled over from behind. He managed to roll onto his back before the massive Tyranid Warrior crushed him under its weight. The Marine sank into the muddy slime at the bottom of the trench, his helmet filters clamping shut and his reserve air supply kicking in. The xenos monster's massive talons scythed downward in a decapitating stroke, but Illius managed to parry one with the hilt of his stuttering chainsword and caught the other in the palm of his armored hand. Pain flared from Illius's hand as tendons were shorn and bone was cracked. The sergeant grunted as he matched his strength against that of the Warrior, its talons a hand span from his neck. Then a cold lance of pain seared through his chest as the monster's secondary talons punctured his abdominal armor and up into his chest cavity. Blood filled his mouth as the talons punctured one of his lungs. The Warrior's head snapped down, clamping onto Illius's helmet. The needle teeth spiked through the red paint and ceramite and onward into the skin of his scalp. Thin lines of blood wept from the punctures and flowed back into Illius's ears. He barely registered the fact that two more life signals winked out in his display.

The Tyranid's jaws flexed, and Illius watched cracks appear across his eye lenses. They held for a moment, and then the left lens shattered. Shards of armored glass spiked through his eye, following by a deluge of the viscous slime that filled the trench bottom. Illius's skin began to burn as the acid in the fluid began its work.

The Marine sergeant intoned the Prayer of Ascension as his world went dark and quiet. The pressure around his head mounted as the ceramite of his helm began to buckle.

There was a brief flare of pressure against his skull, and then a hollow crack. Illius guessed it was the bone of his cranium snapping, but then the pressure was lifted and Illius was free of the drowning slime. Through his one working eye, he saw a grim, black-armored figure looming over him. The figure's mouth was locked in an eternal scowl by long lines of scar tissue, and the dull gleam of a bionic eye peered out from a half-metallic skull. Chaplain Ortan Cassius.

Cassius reached down, grasped Illius by the front of his breastplate, and hauled him bodily to his feet.
"Rise, Brother Sergeant," said Cassius, his voice deep and gritty. "The Emperor does not yet call you to his side."

Illius swayed briefly as he regained his senses, noticing the shattered skull of the Tyranid Warrior that had sat astride him. White-helmed Ultramarines appeared at the lip of the trench. Cassius's Sternguard. As one, they raised their bolters and fired down into the Warriors. The mutagenic acid of their hellfire shells made quick work of the remaining xenos beasts.

The sergeant's vision snapped back into focus as Chaplain Cassius thumped a fist against his pauldron. "Gather your men, Illius. There is still work to be done." With that, he leapt to the top of the forward edge of the trench. The Sternguard vaulted across the gap to join him. Fully half of Illius's squad lay dead in the mire, buried under scores of Tyranid corpses. He ordered the remaining four up and out of the trench and joined them at Cassius's side. Another wave of Tyranids was bounding over the battlefield toward the gathered Marines.

Cassius stepped forward and raised his crozius arcanum high. It fizzed and crackled with energy as Tyranid ichor and flesh burned away from it. "Purge the xenos!" boomed Cassius. "Spare none your wrath! For Ultramar!"

A feeling of vigor filled Sergeant Illius. Despite the many wounds that covered his body and the severed fingers of his left hand, he raised his chainsword to the sky and roared alongside his fellow Ultramarines, "FOR THE EMPEROR!"

Sergeant Illius of the Ultramarines charged again into the oncoming Tyranid horde alongside his battle brothers.


Book Review: Wrath of Iron, by Chris Wraight

I finished this one up last night, so here's my review. WARNING: I cannot write a useful review without SPOILERS. Do not read any further unless you want plot details.

The story takes place on Shardenus, a pretty standard Imperial hive world. Shardenus has apparently turned from the light of the Emperor and the Iron Hands, a Titan detachment (2 Warlords, 2 Warhounds), and several Guard regiments show up to burn the place down. As a twist, it's revealed that the lower echelons of the world's population and military don't even realize they've turned traitor. There are Loyalist elements of Shardenus' Guard regiment who are killed by the invading Loyalists simply out of confusion and death-by-association.

The book largely focuses on a Mechanicum Magos, the Guard Supreme Commander of the Loyalist forces (Nethata), two loyalist Shardenus irregulars, a Death Cult Assassin, and an Iron Hands Sergeant, Librarian, Iron Father and Clan Captain.

When the plot begins, the Iron Hands are shown to be callous about the deaths of their "mortal assets," aka Imperial Guardsmen. Rauth, the commander of Clan Raukaan, orders thousands upon thousands of Guardsmen into futile efforts as a diversionary tactic. When the Guard's general complains or hesitates over the losses, he's threatened with execution. The recurring theme of the book is: "The Iron Hands are dicks." Seriously. The squad sergeant, Morvox, you get to learn about starts out with misgivings about such tactics, but he is berated by the Iron Father (the Iron Hands' equivalent to a chaplain) and threatened. See the theme here?

The book is superbly written, with great action scenes, vivid depictions of the scenery and setting, and interesting characters. Chris Wraight is a very talented writer, and I think I'll pick up some more of his work. What gets me is that the Iron Hands aren't really heroes in the story. With Ultramarines, Space Wolves, and even Dark Angels, you get a character you can rally behind and cheer. Uriel Ventris might be a Codex-breaking fool, but he does heroic things and you cheer his victories. Ragnar Blackmane isn't a humanitarian by any means, but he's so badass you can't help but love him. The Iron Hands as depicted in Wrath of Iron are downright despicable. You can't cheer for Rauth as he sends a million Guardsmen into the teeth of the enemy guns simply to draw a percentage of the traitor forces away from points in the wall. There's a scene about 2/3rds of the way through the book where Rauth lines up regiments upon regiments of Guard in an underground access tunnel to the hive. He commandeers both Warhound Titans into this fight as well. When the battle begins, the Iron hands push forward, leaving the Guard regiments in the dust to be butchered by mutants and daemons. You just can't cheer for that.

Much is made in the beginning of the book about how the Iron Hands slowly lose their humanity (or super-humanity, rather) as they replace their body with bionics. They lose all emotion eventually, operating purely on logic, numbers, and a sense of duty. There's a bit of a clash there, as how can you have faith in the Emperor and a commitment to duty when your emotions and sense of sympathy/compassion has been stripped away? It's a fun point to ponder.

Eventually, Nethata has had enough of the wasting of his men and materiels, and he colludes with the Princeps of the Titan group to stand up to Rauth and demand a change in tactics. Unfortunately, the stand falls through. Nethata dies. In fact, anyone in the entire book who shows one shred of humanity...dies.
The irregulars from Shardenus? One dies in a pointless charge against the enemy lines. The other is executed months after the siege is over as part of the Iron Hands' programme of eradication of all residents of Shardenus.
The Librarian who retained his mortal mind in order to be a Librarian? Throws himself into a warp rift to close it and is tortured for eternity by daemons as a result.
Nethata commits suicide after his plan falls through, because the Princeps he colluded with was executed by the Mechanicum for refusing orders (and colluding with Nethata).
The Death Cult Assassin blows himself up with an atomic bomb carried in his chest cavity in an attempt to destroy the daemon prince behind the whole invasion (he fails, by the way).

The moral of the story is that all mortal flesh is temporary, fleeting, and weak. The only thing that survives is iron, and that is all that matters. It's a fitting moral for an Iron Hands story, and the book as a whole is a neat insight into how the Iron Hands work. But you can't read it expecting any sort of final satisfaction. The characters you root for all die, and the characters that are complete dicks win the day. The book is well written, if a bit thin on character development and containing a couple plot holes, but it will leave you depressed and angry at the end.

I was actually dabbling with the idea of starting an Iron Hands allied detachment for my Ultramarines. But after reading this book, that's right out the window. Iron Hands? Those guys are dicks.