For those of you unaware, the epilogue of A Thousand Sons sees the legion, a shell reflective of its name, falling prey to the flesh change that plagued the legion at their founding. Horrified at the sight of his brothers turning into monsters, Ahriman turns to the grimoire given him by Magnus and sets about knitting what would come to be known as the Rubric. The Rubric was something of a psychic scourging which set its self upon the legion, those which survived the ordeal were more potent psykers than ever before, but those which succumbed were reduced to dust, sealed within their armor, doomed to an eternity as an automaton, awaiting the psychic command of a brother. As a punishment for defiling the legion in Magnus's eyes, the chief librarian is banished, and so leaves the Planet of Sorcerers to wander for his eternity.
The opening to Exile sees our protagonist a slave to another lesser master, hiding his true identity, and burying his true talents deep under layers of remorse. His newfound brotherhood is a motley crew of sorcerers mortal and marine alike, and the imagery within the pages is grotesque and certainly befitting the grim darkness of the far future: offering a nightmarish look into the existence of the tortured slaves of chaos. Just as reading the Blood Ravens omnibus altered my perception and understanding of the Orks (silly cockney comic relief becoming mindless violent brutes), Exile highlighted that I wanted to be playing a fallen legion, rather than warped renegades. It guided me to keep the skulls, spikes, eight pointed stars, and gristly trophies to a minimum, and play to the aesthetic aspects I most love with the Sons: the regal Egyptian feel. Hilariously, this means that I own all three Egyptian offerings from GW, Tomb Kings, Necrons, and Sons.
As the novel unfolds, Ahriman is found out, and told he is being hunted by his brethren, compelling him to reveal his true nature. In a fit of psychic fury, he slays the crew which had harbored him, and with a few recently fallen marines in tow as captives, sets to get to the bottom of who is after him, and for what purpose. The adventure sees him hail to the far corners of both the warp and existence alike, and at times Ahriman's feats could easily be seen, to quote Trooper, as 'extreme fan wank'. I won't refute the premise of Trooper's claim at a base level, but would simply offer that Ahriman was Chief Librarian, First Captain, and favored son to a Primarch and his legion. Given the time frame presented, and at times the proportionally meager opposition that the psyker faces, his capabilities felt reasonable, especially in the context of a setting as over the top as 40k.
On the whole though, I took the book as a character study on Ahriman, psychic energy, and chaos, and it did not disappoint. We get interesting glimpses into the mind of a fallen demigod, as well as his ritualistic approach to magic. So often on the tabletop it feels that the psychic phase is just another shooting phase, but here we get to see Ahriman undertake some serious rituals, the like of which gave me a much greater appreciation for what my psykers ought be up to when roleplaying. Furthermore, when playing my army on tabletop, it helps me appreciate that space marines, for all intents and purposes, live until killed, as Ahriman is easily ten thousand years old (or older, thanks to time passing differently in the warp). How cool is that? To have to opportunity to play a guy powerful enough to tear the fabric of reality with his mind, whose sole purpose is to learn all there is to know, even when he already knows so much more than even his brothers can dare to comprehend.
Feeding off of this, I set about knitting the unholiest Tzeentch list that 1850 had room for. Ahriman, commanding two squads of 9 Thousand Sons in Rhinos (whoo maxing out that warlord trait!), as well as a baledrake, vindicator, and a maulerfiend (filled in for by one of my TK Necrosphinx). To their aid and credit, the brotherhood has manifested some daemonic aid (as allies, to help juke the winds of chaos table: I have enough random rolls to worry about without one more at the start of each sooting phase): a ML3 Lord of Change, 18 pink horrors, and 9 screamers. The list generates an astonishing 12 psychic dice before rolling, allowing me to very easily come up with 2 shooting phases a turn due to the potency of Doombolt and Flickering Fire of Tzeentch, as well as significant shooting attacks from Pyromancy and Telepathy. Likewise, the list has a surprising capacity to play all in, and dive after double tapping the boltguns. The horror mob is large enough to secure an important point and offer 3 psychic dice, while the rest of the army kills stuff. It's good enough to be worth playing, but it has big issues with Knight class models, and any armor it can't get into CC with. When I finally drafted up the list, I found myself a giggle inducing 9 points under, which meant it had to be done!
All of this leads up to the big moment with it: taking it to a tournament. Actual money on the line, both gas from the car, as well as entry fee and lunch. Was I scared? No. I knew my list was likely to get rolled. It hadn't won but a single game in the escalation league, and perils has been kicking my butt this edition. But I was going to do it. I had spent the money on the models and conversion bits, and taken the time to up scale all my power armor dudes (just in time for power armor to be moved to 32mm bases I might add...). I had finished the book and was itching to stretch my fluffiness, especially after protesting the 'win oriented' atmosphere that a previously casual yet competetive venue had once sported. Add to that pressure from Godfrey and others that I could find a deeper enjoyment of the game I had been wrestling with so much lately by divorcing myself from a want to win, and I wasn't about to back down.
First round say me against Dark Eldar, playing kill points. His 21 KPs looked at my 11 and wept. It was a close game, and I almost got tabled, but ended taking a major victory score into round two, as he had failed to finish most of my units. Second round saw me stare in horror at my worst possible matchup. Speek Freak Orks. On Maelstrom of War. He and I slogged through a single momentous turn in which I got almost completely tabled, but my marines stood heroic, requiring him to throw almost every single die available to him to dislodge me. I knew I was screwed when the pairing was announced, but he and I had an absolute blast as we fluffed away the round. Third round had me against two wraithknights and an imperial knight. I shuffeled my plastic around for two turns before conceding getting tabled. My opponent seemed taken aback, but I was a bit uncivil with him when announcing that my army was never going to be capable of doing anything meaningful to his. I took moral victory from my murder robot punching his wave serpent into oblivion.
On the whole, the event was amazing, even though I got rolled two rounds running. It solidified the fact that I can have scaling viability in armies and still get enjoyment out of just shuffling around an army that might be terrible but that I sunk my heart into - a reinforcement after having dusted off drop Ravens. My Necrons are fine to be super competitive and focused on that, and my marines will always be a notch below that, but still capable. Somewhere trailing after that can be my Sons, Grey Knights, and growing