40k board game adaptation The Horus Heresy: Betrayal At Calth stomps into early access FOR THE EMPEROR

Betrayal At Calth

It’s been yonks since Rab Florence shared his thoughts on the original board game version of The Horus Heresy: Betrayal At Calth, although judging by his enthusiastic after-action report it can be a quite thrilling experience. As Games Workshop is wont to do these days, they’ve licensed out the rights to the PC adaptation to a lesser-known studio. Enter small VR outfit Steel Wool Studios.

Rather than attempt to replicate the tabletop experience directly, Betrayal At Calth hopes to make the experience a little more memorable by putting the player’s viewpoint on the ground with the troops in traditional FPS format, or in VR, if the tech-priests have blessed you with vision beyond the Ocular Rift, and the silly future-goggles to go with it.

Delayed a little from its initial planned release date, The Horus Heresy: Betrayal At Calth has finally rolled out onto Steam. Supporting regular play and VR mode equally, it puts players in the neo-gothic boots of a tech-priest trying to mobilize defenses against the big Space Marine rebellion that kicked off the 40k setting. Rather than try to run around on the front lines, you remotely view the burning city as you boss various Space Marine groups around to help face down the traitor forces working their way through the streets.

It’s still a turn-based board game, driven by dice, but the radical shift in perspective does give the game a distinct look. The current early access build includes multiplayer and the first of five story-mode acts, with the rest of the story content and a full skirmish vs AI mode planned to roll out in later updates. The developers estimate that they’ll need about six months in early access to get everything in line for the v1.0 launch.

While I’ve received an early access key, I sadly haven’t been able to play it, due to some incompatibility with my machine leading the game to crash without fail every time I attempt to begin the second scene of Act 1, although I’ll be sure to check back in on it once a few patches have rolled out. My main concern with the game is that the low-to-the-ground perspective will become a bit of a hassle to wrangle through larger combat encounters, although I would like to give this a spin once I have a proper VR headset.

The Horus Heresy is out now on Steam for a discounted £17.84/$22.49 for its first week, and has full native support for both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets.


  1. wraithgr says:

    I don’t get GW’s obsession with never having a direct-to-screen experience of any of its board games. At the very least the specialist games are niche enough where they might think that a PC experience might be the perfect advertisment for selling more of the physical game, but alas…

    • GernauMorat says:

      I would do terrible things for a proper Necromunda game on PC.

    • blankname says:

      Probably fear that it would cannibalize expensive miniature sales

    • Imperialist says:

      I would wager the reason being that direct adaptations are generally quite dull in the landscape of video gaming. Tabletop games require at least a couple hours, and a bit of imagination. Playing Talisman on the PC is a hollow experience compared to the board game…because its just not THAT interesting as a video game, and the real-life interactions are hard to do without.
      There are pretty close adaptations, like Space Hulk. But games like Mordheim and Battlefleet Gothic differ from the source material in ways that makes them more fun to play.

      • unacom says:

        For me, one of the key factors in tabletop-gaming is the interaction between the actual players. From a good-natured banter to an in-depth discussion on different painting-techniques, heraldry or the history of uniforms and buildings. All these give a density that would sorely be lacking in a mere transplantation of tabletop into video-game.

    • Deano2099 says:

      Well we have Talisman and Blood Bowl. Honestly the issue is likely that the others just aren’t that compelling as games when you take out the cool minis and hobby elements. Betrayal at Calth is decent enough but isn’t going to win any board gaming awards.

  2. stonetoes says:

    A PC Necromunda game is coming, from the Mordheim developers. All the latest info seems to be on their Facebook page: link to facebook.com

    • NetharSpinos says:

      Given my experiences with Mordheim, this doesn’t give me hope for Necromunda.

      • stonetoes says:

        Well I’ve just had a look at some of the links on their Facebook page and discovered this:

        “The core game still resembles a Xcom-like turn-based tactical RPG with squad and character building, however turn actions are done far more conventionally with direct control of the characters with the limited action points per turn, with the action resembling that of a third-person shooter.”

        Mordheim had it’s flaws but overall I enjoyed it. This sounds like Necromunda will be moving even further from the tabletop game. Sigh…

        • Cian says:

          “More conventional” – I have no idea what this means.
          I have been playing a lot of Mordheim and really loving it. But there is simply no reason for that control system to exist.

          It does make you appreciate the lovely character models and how good the city looks. Much better than the cardboard boxes and unpainted proxies we used for playing the original.

      • Chaotic Entropy says:

        It was kind of painful.

  3. NetharSpinos says:

    40k trivia: Calth orbits a blue sun, making its surface uninhabitable; all of its infrastructure lies within vast caverns far from the reach of the sun’s deadly light.

    Ignoring that slightly incongruous detail, I can’t say I’m too fussed about BaC. There’s a decent game waiting to be set in 30k yet, but it could be a while before we see it.

    • Imperialist says:

      Read the Horus Heresy novel “Know No Fear”. Betrayal at Calth takes place during the events surrounding that novel.
      The sun wasnt always lethal to the surface of Calth, it was actually a model Imperial world with a thriving agriculture and verdant fields, as well as some majestic cities. The events of KNF lead up to Calth being a barren-surfaced planet, with the population living in the underground arcologies.

      • Bull0 says:

        One of the best books of the series, imo. Very creatively structured and full of exciting stuff. Even managed to make the usually bland Ultramarines interesting!

  4. Raiyne says:

    “I’d really like to play this strategy game with my head inches from board” – said no one ever.

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      phuzz says:

      Or to put it another way “I’d really like it if my miniatures could come to life” – said pretty much every kid ever.

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