I suppose my soft spot for the Emperor's Children comes from 4th edition, back when bolters could seriously harm most things in high enough quantity and Space Marines felt a little weak. I bought the Chaos Space Marines codex and was stunned at the variety and options Chaos had over their vanilla brethren - You mean I can upgrade my marines to have +1 A, I, W, or T? It seemed pretty cool at the time, but what caught my eye was the book of Slaanesh in particular.
That section was an explosion of Sonic Weapons (bolters you could move and double or triple shoot with *gasp*), Combat Drugs, and neat upgrades. Nowadays however the tables have sort of turned in 40k, with Space Marines having all the variety in free Chapter Tactics and Chaos having been stripped of nearly all unique legion special rules and selections. It is kind of discouraging, but then of course there is 30K!
The purpose of this post is to talk about the Emperor's Children as they were in the Horus Heresy and more specifically the different tactics they can employ which make them effective versus the other legions.
Admittedly it's not as easy to see what makes the EC so good when you have other 'heavy-hitter' legions like Iron Hands (-1 S to ranged weapons and FNP is a highly effective combination on MEQs and TEQs), Imperial Fists (+1 BS Bolt weapons and Tank Hunter devestators), Salamanders (Artificer Armour troops with Flamers/Meltaguns, Storm Shields, Eternal Warrior and Mastercrafted!) and Alpha Legion (Infitrate EVERYONE!) but after a lot of thought I think I've sorted it out.
There seems to be a consistant theme throughout the Emperor's Children of Combat Resolution Bonuses, Initaitive bonuses, speed increases, and sporadic (but still present) non-Unwieldy AP2 in close combat. Naturally almost all of these gear the Legion towards Close Combat, which would be BAD in 40K where many armies can outfight you (since you're still just marines with some perks in most cases) but in 30K since it's for the most part MEQ on MEQ its sort of okay.
With some of the upgrades and improvements that have been applied to 30K with the release of new books, there's actually a new angle that can be played quite effectively - Outflanking + reliable reserves. This particular combination comes to fruitition when using the legion's unique Rite of War the Maru Skara.
The ability to have reserves arrive exactly when you plan them to is invaluable, and having Outflank means you can set up some pretty devestating ambushes to catch more stationary gun-based opponents off-guard. I could write a whole article on the Maru Skara and the application of it, but instead I'm going to move to the next most important point:
Amongst his brothers, Fulgrim is arguably one of the best Primarchs in the game. With the upgrade he can take a Mastercrafted Paragon Blade (which also has higher chance to ID) which is pretty much a no-brainer, and so armed is statistically likely to kill any other Primarch in the game in a one on one battle (except Horus, who can wear him down and kill him over many turns). This is just a perk however, not his main draw - the big benefits to taking Fulgrim in your EC army are:
1) You can choose his Warlord Trait from the BRB or Crusade Army List. This opens up a whole pandoras box of army building options... you can have Master of the Ambush Fulgrim to press in your Bikes/Marines, Fighty Fulgrim with Coordinated Assault, Shooty Fulgrim with Target Priority, or even Victory Fulgrim with Legendary Fighter (you can count on your opponents refusing pretty much every challenge though...)
2) Reroll Reserves - as if the Maru Skara isn't enough reserves shenanigans, you can ensure everything else arrives right on time too!
3) Combat Resolution Bonus - stacks nicely with Rylanor's Aura for a +3 bonus. If you can't get enough of this, Paladin of Glory Fulgrim increases it to +4. So basically unless you completely whif versus World Eats you are unlikely to lose too many combats...
Later I'll talk about the unique units and potential army lists in more detail, but for now I'd like some more experienced EC players to chime in. Are you out there?