The world of Warhammer 40K is rich in lore and backstories, full of devotees to the Imperium of Man, savage and warlike Orks, and the ever-festering and encroaching entities of Chaos. And one of the biggest events in this universe is the Horus Heresy, a civil war that led to the dystopic and rigid world of Warhammer as we know it today.
The Horus Heresy: Legions TCG lets you relive those memories of courage, despair, hope, and glory through a trading card game. Make no mistake, though – this card game is both brutal and highly addictive, and with a ton of Legions to play as and multiple cards to collect, as well as an engaging single-player campaign and excitiing PVP battles.
All of this combine together to make The Horus Heresy: Legions TCG a great game for both newcomers and veterans of the Warhammer series. This title’s also readily available on the App Store, Google Play Store and Steam.
But before you can start the fight against the treacherous Horus Lupercal and your fallen brothers in The Horus Heresy: Legions TCG, you’ll need to know how to play the game!
The Horus Heresy: Legions TCG uses a more open game state than other card games. If you’ve played games like Hearthstone or Shadowverse, you’ll be familiar with this format already.
Before the match begins, both players draw their opening hand of cards, with the first player drawing 3 and the second player drawing 4. During this time, both players can take a mulligan, which means they can shuffle any number of cards from their starting hand into their deck, then draw new ones.
You can only mulligan once, so be judicious in choosing which cards you want in your opening plays. You’ll also likely want to shuffle high-cost cards back into your deck, since you won’t have enough Energy to play them anyway.
At the start of their turn, players draw a card and gain 1 maximum Energy, to a cap of 10. Players can essentially take any action during their turn – whether that’s playing a card from their hand, activating a Tactic or an ability, or attacking an enemy.
Combat in The Horus Heresy: Legions TCG is quite simple – simply tap and hold a card, then drag to select a target. This initiates combat, where both cards deal damage to each other. While we’re on that topic, cards can only either attack or use their ability on your turn, not both.
Once a player is done playing cards, activating abilities, or attacking, they can end their turn at any time. Their opponent will then start their turn.
All cards require Energy to play. This is represented as a lightning bolt, and you can see your current and maximum Energy on the right side of the screen. Meanwhile, the Energy cost of cards can be seen on their upper right, and any activatable abilities also denote their Energy costs when tapped.
One of the things you’ll need to master in The Horus Heresy: Legions TCG is making economical plays. As a rule of thumb, cards should have Attack and HP equivalent to or greater than their Energy cost, unless they have a powerful effect. Always assess the battlefield before playing a card, and remember that inexpensive Tactics can wreck even the heftiest Troops.
While it may be great fun to smash your enemy’s troops and reduce their defenses to dust, always keep the endgoal in mind – you win if your opponent’s Warlord falls in combat. Don’t forget to chip away at their health as the match progresses, or if you have another win condition, to work towards that with each card you play from your hand.
Unlike most other card games, running out of cards in your deck isn’t instant defeat. Instead, your Warlord takes a cumulative 1 damage every time you have to draw a card, but can’t due to having no more cards. That means you take 1 damage on the 1st attempt, 2 on the 2nd, and so on.
Know Your Cards
There are generally three different card types in The Horus Heresy: Legions TCG. These are Warlords, Troops, and Tactics.
Warlords represent your deck commander. Each deck must have a Warlord to command it – what’s an army without a leader, after all?
At the beginning of a match, your Warlord card is put into play immediately. These powerful cards have a ton of HP and can attack, but beware – losing your Warlord means you lose the match.
In addition to their own attack and defense values, Warlords have unique abilities. Activating these abilities costs Energy, just like other cards. Additionally, a Warlord can either attack or activate ts effect – not both. Warlords also tend to receive unique protection from other cards; lower cost tactics tend to explicitly mention that they cannot target Warlords. Warlords can also have passive abilities. For example, Loken has a passive ability that gives the player 1 more card in their starting hand. Not bad!
On top of all these, Warlords have a unique stat called Initiative. Initiative is measured as either High, Medium, or Low, and is used solely to determine who takes the first turn in a match. If both Warlords have the same initiative, the first player is determined randomly.
Note also, that your Warlord is not a Troop. They can’t benefit from effects that specifically list troops as a target.
You can’t fight without units! Troops are the lifeblood of your deck, serving as your minions, your weapons, and your defenders. All troops have an Attack and HP value, with both of these generally increasing as a Troop’s cost does. Cheap troops are often overshadowed by their Warlord, but later in the game, your Troops will be doing a lot more damage than your Warlord can ever hope to do.
While it sounds like a good idea to just plop units whenever you can, remember this – units cannot attack on the turn they’re put into play. Note that this doesn’t count if they were summoned during your opponent’s turn. For example, if my opponent destroyed my Righteous Zealot via attack, causing me to gain a Wounded Zealot, that Wounded Zealot can attack on my turn, since it was summoned during my enemy’s turn.
Tactics are cards that represent abilities used by your Warlord. These have powerful effects, but are discarded once played.
The Horus Heresy: Legions has a lot of card abilities and card states that you’ll need to not only understand, but pretty much memorize. While you can tap hold on a card to get some neat reminder text, here’s a condensed version that you can quickly scan through.
Backlash: When this unit dies, activate its Backlash effect.
Bastion (X): Cards with Bastion can absorb damage taken when being attacked, up to X damage.
Battle Honour: If this unit kills an enemy, it can take another action.
Berzerk: This unit must act every turn, either by attacking or casting an ability.
Blood Thirst: Units with Blood Thirst can act twice per turn, whether that’s for activating their abilities or attacking.
Can’t Attack: This unit cannot attack, but will still deal damage during counterattacks.
Cleave (X): When a unit with cleave attacks an enemy unit, adjacent enemy units also receive X damage.
Courage: If this card enters play while your opponent has more units, this card’s Courage effect is triggered. Note that this number is computed before this card hits the field, so if your opponent has 2 cards, and you have 1, then play a Courage card, that effect will trigger.
Daemonhost: This unit gains a random buff, and is also classified as a Daemon in addition to its base categories.
Drop Pod: Units with Drop Pod enter the field with a 2 HP shield. This shield breaks when it receives enough damage or on the controller’s next turn. Note that exceeding the Drop Pod’s HP does not cause the damage to spill over to the unit.
Duplicitous: This unit cannot be targeted until it attacks. Note that if a Duplicitous unit has Front Line, they become a valid target regardless of if they attacked or not.
Fast: This unit can immediately act on the turn it enters play.
First Strike: In combat, this unit deals damage to its target before the target counterattacks. This means that units with First Strike can destroy enemies without fear of reprisal.
Flank: Similar to Fast, except this card cannot target the enemy Warlord.
Front Line: Units with Front Line act as tanks – only they can be targeted for attacks until they’re removed. This works similarly to Taunt in Hearthstone, or Ward in Shadowverse. Front Line does not protect from Tactics or abilities.
Jam: Jammed units are effectively silenced. Their passive effects are cancelled, and they can’t activate their abilities either.
Landing: If this unit’s Drop Pod isn’t destroyed, activate its Landing Effect when it exits its Drop Pod.
Maintenance (X): Unit’s controller loses X Energy at the start of their turn.
Mark of Chaos: Targeted non-Daemon troop gains a random Chaos blessing. At 4 Marks of Chaos, transform that card into a Greater Daemon.
Mission: Only applies to Tactics. This card is guaranteed to be in your opening hand. When played, it gives you an objective that rewards you if completed.
Mutation: Choose a Daemonic buff for this unit; also reduces Maintenance by 1.
Pack: A unit’s Pack effect activates if another friendly troop attacks.
Perfection: If you spend all your energy to play this card, activate its Perfection effect.
Pilot: Exclusive to Knight Houses Warlords. This allows you to set the ability, heraldry, and chat options of your Warlord.
Poisonous: Applies the Poison status to enemies damaged by this card. Poisoned units die at the end of their turn.
Precognition: This unit cannot be attacked.
Psyker (X): Gain X Psychic Energy at the start of your turn.
Quest: When this card enters play, select a quest. Gain a bonus if you complete the quest.
Rage: Activates whenever this unit takes non-lethal damage. Poison does not trigger Rage.
Rally: When this unit enters play from a player’s hand, activate its Rally effect.
Reactor (X): Gain X Plasma Energy at the start of your turn.
Reflection: Can be played multiple times in the same turn.
Relentless: If this unit is on the field at the start of its controller’s turn, activate its Relentless effect.
Requiem: Activates whenever an adjacent troop dies.
Resolution: Activates at the end of the controller’s turn.
Sacrifice: Activates when this unit is killed via counterattack. This still activates even if the attacking unit had Survivor.
Secret Order: Gives a secret ability to a targeted Infantry, Astartes, or Custodes.
Sentenced (X): After taking damage, a unit with Sentenced takes X damage.
Sentinel: The controller of a card with Sentinel doesn’t draw a card at the start of their turn.
Shield: Shielded units negate all damage from the next instance of damage they take. The shield breaks afterwards.
Siege: Unit’s ability only activates from the second time onwards it’s activated. Think of it as spending the first turn setting up.
Stealth: Unit cannot be attacked nor targeted until it has battled. Abilities can be used from Stealth without breaking it. A Stealthed Front Line unit loses Front Line until Stealth is broken.
Streak: If this isn’t the first card played this turn, this card’s Streak effect becomes active.
Stun: Stunned units can’t act on their next turn.
Survivor (X): On death via damage, instead restore this unit’s HP to X, then remove Survivor. Does not trigger when killed via “destroy” effects or Poison.
Terror: Units with lower Attack than this card don’t counterattack in battle.
Unstoppable: Unstoppable units ignore Front Line defenders when attacking.
Ward: Can’t be manually targeted by abilities. Can still be the target of random targeting.
Wing: Exclusive to the Dark Angels Legion. Does nothing by itself, but can trigger other cards.
I’ve said it in the GWENT: The Witcher Card Game and the Yu-Gi-Oh Master Duel guides, and I’ll say it again – deckbuilding is an art that doesn’t come easily.
Each deck in The Horus Heresy: Legions TCG must have 30 cards: no more and no less. In addition, you can only play cards that belong to your Warlord’s Legion, or cards from Neutral Legions. This means that in order to play a Legion, you must first acquire a Warlord to lead them.
The 30 card limit also means that you have to be very careful in what you put into your deck. While you shouldn’t entirely rely on expendable, low-cost Troops, you should also be wary of putting too many expensive cards in your deck that will leave you defenseless at the start of a match. Experimentation is important, and only time and experience will teach you how to build a deck.
To help you sort your cards more effectively, you can apply Energy filters on the right side of the deck building screen to only show cards with that Energy cost. You can also search for cards via a text filter on the upper right, and you can look at all available cards by going to Collection, then switching to All Cards. And that brings us to…
Getting More Cards
Perhaps my favorite part of any card game is acquiring new cards, and in The Horus Heresy: Legions TCG, there’s a lot of ways to add to your arsenal. But first, we’ll need to talk about Legions.
Legions and Crates
Legions represent the game’s classes. Each Legion has its own specialization and there are currently 18 Legions in The Horus Heresy: Legions TCG.
As I mentioned earlier, you can only create a deck from your Warlord’s Legion. This also means that in order to play other legions, you’ll first need to acquire a Warlord to lead them. There are exceptions to this rule though. Any Warlord can include cards from the three neutral Legions – Imperial Army, Mechanicum, and Chaos.
Legions are also important to consider since card crates are divided by Legion. This way, you’ll be able to assemble cards from your chosen Legion much faster, saving you a lot of coins in the process. Alternately, you can also purchase the Galaxy in Flames card crate, which is pure chaos as it randomly pulls cards from all available Legions.
Each crate costs 100 Gold to buy. You also get free card crates every couple of hours, so check in from time to time!
Buying Individual Cards
If you’re just unlucky with crates or want one specific card, why not buy it directly from the store?
You can tap on the left tabs in the shop to switch between buying crates and buying cards. Buying individual cards costs Gems. Any time you buy a crate, you get a small amount of Gems along with it, meaning that eventually, you’ll be able to buy the cards you need – if they’re in rotation.
There’s a second tab of Gem shop cards, but those are exclusive to Veterans – which require a paid membership.
Seeing as you need Gold to buy crates, which in turn gets you cards and Gems, you’ll want to earn as much gold as possible.
The Horus Heresy: Legions TCG has a daily quest system, where you’re tasked with several challenges. Completing these can earn you a nice sum of Gold, among other resources, so be sure to do them.
While dailies are a nice staple, you’ll also want to join ongoing events for even bigger prices. Each event introduces different mechanics and they’re a nice way to shake things up. On the downside, you’ll need tickets to participate in events.
Every single card game – no exception – has a meta, and another vital component of winning matches is understanding the current meta. Before you blindly dive into ranked matches, it’s important to have a general idea of what the decks you’re likely going to face are made of. There’s a lot of resources on the internet, as well as discussion forums and even a Discord server.
Join A Lodge
Lodges are the game’s equivalent of guilds. By joining a Lodge, you’ll not only gain access to new friends and allies, but you’ll also be able to play practice matches against your lodgemates without affecting your rank!
Lodges are also important for in-game events, as these events often give out card crates to Lodge members who participate in it. Finally, you’ll be able to gain the guidance and experience of veteran players, if you so wish it.
Do The Campaign
The Horus Heresy: Legions TCG runs several single-player campaigns, each presenting unique challenges as well as giving players a chance to try out cards that they might not yet have access to. As a new player, these campaigns are also a great way to see what play styles you like or dislike.
Campaign stages can have several, unlisted effects. For example, the second stage on Isstvan (the tutorial campaign), has you trying to guide Loken to safety in the wake of Horus’ betrayal. In gameplay terms, a bomb explodes at the end of each of your opponent’s turns, dealing 1 damage to everything on the board. If you can’t defeat your opponent, try utilizing these unique mechanics to your advantage.
Make no mistake though – these campaigns can be very tough, and you’ll need to be persistent to win them.
Do Not Go Gentle
While the Horus Heresy is a foregone conclusion, that doesn’t mean that we have to lie down and take it. Construct your decks carefully, face greater challenges, and show the universe the true courage of humanity. There will be much to learn – what counters what, how to build your deck, and so much more – but these are lessons learned only through defeat, humility, and patience.
With that, this guide comes to an end, and hopefully you’ve picked up a few things to help you in your quest to hunt down Horus Lupercal and spar with other players. If there’s anything we missed or if you have something you want to share, let us know in the comments section below!
Wednesday 15th of June 2022
Nice guide, thanks!