So, you might have noticed in the prior two parts we've said little about the Chaos forces themselves. There's a good reason for that: They're basically a non-entity here. Oh, they're present and they shoot/slash/attempt-to-devour-the-souls of various Imperial characters, but their impact upon the plot is minimal beyond serving as an obstacle to the heroes. You effectively get the Thousand Sons playing the role of Sir Not Appearing In This Book, a gibbering nonsensical cameo from the Changeling which is questionable at best (we'll get into that in the next book, assuming there is a follow-up) and that's really about it. Chaos itself might as well be ignoring most of Fenris, with a few sorcerers yelling "What, oh, um, just as planned!" as the Space Wolves shoot themselves in the foot. All of the core characters, conflicts and interactions are focused purely upon the Dark Angels, Grey Knights and Space Wolves.
The only character from the Traitor Legions who actually bothers to show up on the battlefield is Skayle of the Alpha Legion. A Chaos warband leader who manages to be the least interesting member of that legion seen since Lord "SSSSSSSSIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNDDDDDRRIIIIIII!!!" Bale waltzed about Dawn of War. He pretty much just shows up, summons some daemons, fights the Deathwolves and dies having his arse handed to him on a runic platter. While the book describes him as "an arch-manipulator and master of intrigue" and a master of hit and fade tactics, we see little to none of that here. In fact, he gets taken down remarkably easily, with no backup plans of any kind. The moment a group of Scouts disable the flak guns helping him defend his stronghold, he's screwed. There's no Plan B, no thoughts to spread out and regroup, he's just defeated and we learn he's killed by an axe to the head within moments of being introduced to the reader. Even the daemons aren't all that impressive, and short of a few one-note descriptions they're basically fodder to die in battle.
Basically, overall the story wasn't very kind to Chaos on the whole. As for the rules though, well, that's a different matter.
The entire rules section of the book is akin to how Mont'ka treated the Farsight Enclaves, focusing upon setting them up as an individual army within their own right. What we have here pushes to structure them like most other recent forces, setting the ground-work for an organisational structure akin to the Force Organisation Chart via formations. Named the Daemonic Incursion (yes, really) it mostly follows what you would expect at the end of the day in terms of unit hierarchies. You have a single core choice or more, up to three powerful additions and as many auxiliaries as you can afford atop of that. Each of the four set core choices reflects the forces of one of the major gods (The Flayertroupe consists of Slaanesh's forces etc) and you build things up from there.
Personally, i'm torn on this structure for two reasons. On the one hand, the actual core formations are, relatively speaking, more toned down than anything found with the Space Wolves. The only limits you have are that you require one Herald or special character (Changeling, Skulltaker, etc) and can then choose up to the gods' number of basic daemonic squads past that. Really, that's it, so you can quite happily enter the battle with nothing but Flesh Hounds if you desire. Between this and the focus upon dividing things up between the gods, it allows more of an opportunity to create varied and thematic armies rather than rigidly following a set structure. On the other hand though, the developers seemed to be relying a little too heavily upon this more free-form structure and didn't add much to support this past a few basics. Burning Skyhost just says take nine units of Screamers or Burning Chariots, and the same goes with Rotswarm, only with Plague Drones or Beasts of Nurgle. The few individual formations dedicated to specific units are few in number, and so limited that some really just are adding one model into the army.
Other problems arise from the fact that, despite the variation on hand, there's no obvious benefit for actually devoting the army to a single god. You can have a purely Slaaneshi tide of annihilation with Karnak attached, and there's no negative modifiers or issues which arise from this. While daemons have a hard enough of a time as it is without further debuffs, at the same time it seems unworthy not to reward players who stay thematically consistent over the cheesiest units of this edition. It doesn't even quite work as an undivided incursion either, as the normally unifying daemon princes are limited to a Command addition you simply add on afterwards, rather than as a core part of this force.
Still, despite the debatable issues it can't be denied that the Command Benefits are useful to any daemonic player. Two of them are basic, but they do help to add an additional layer of control to the game, allowing players the choice to re-roll daemonic instability tests for any unit in the detachment. Another fun one is the fact that they can also add or subtract one point from results of rolling on the Warp Storm table, meaning they can always prod things in the right direction. That said, the most interesting one is the Daemonic Corruption rule, which wrecks havoc with any and all objectives. Effectively, any marker taken by the army counts as controlled, even if they move on and out of the usual 3" range. This can only be disrupted once an enemy force moves in and cleanses them by taking the objective. It's a minor thing to be sure, but it frees up a lot of the army and allows the more melee orientated daemons to keep advancing right into the enemy. It's one of those minor additions which is simple, genuinely rewards the army, but doesn't push things into broken territory.
Much like with the Space Wolves, the book takes the time to list off a few key major choices. While the Wolves had Ulrik, Iron Priests, Wulfen, and Krom, Curse of the Wulfen lists the Unfettered Fury, Insensate Rage, and Wrath Bloodthirsters, Skarbrand, Exalted Flamers and Be'Lakor. Though, it's definitely a little hard to say exactly why this was done. It's hardly padding, but without the more extensive lists found in some of the other War Zone books, their addition just feels a little superfluous.
What's most definitely a far better use of space is towards the back of the book, where the designers opted to give the daemons no small amount of new toys to play with. Disciplines, blessings, warlord traits and wargear all make an appearance, with some fun new ideas added into the mix. For all the story's focus upon the Wolves, it honestly seems that the tabletop half of the writing team were focusing heavily upon Chaos here. As such, we can probably expect the forces of Fenris, Titan and the Rock to have their own moment in the mechanical spotlight as the series continues, but let's hold off for the moment.
Starting with the Warlord (Daemonic Overlord) Traits, we have the following for each of the gods: Already I like this as it once again covers a much broader style of unique elements, but let's go into them one by one:
Khorne Warlord Traits Table:
"Aspect of Death: Enemy units which fail a Fear test caused by your Warlord suffer 1 Wound for each point the test was failed by, with no saves of any kind allowed."
Everything dies. This is definitely the fodder slaying option right here, and a good way to whittle down astartes squads in rapid succession. While a little simple, it serves the requisite role of skull-taking-killy-option quite nicely, and it fits in well with the other options.
"Glory of Battle: Your Warlord has the Rampage special rule."
Give this to a Bloodthirster and watch him turn into an axe wielding blender of annihilation. 'Nuff said.
"Oblivious to Pain: Your Warlord has the Feel no Pain Special rule. In addition, all friendly units with the Daemon of Khorne special rule within 8" of your Warlord have the Feel No Pain (6+) special rule."
This is sadly more of a mixed one, as it is fairly useless on surrounding units. While the concession of having a Warlord directly support his troops in a frontline assault is both lore-friendly and very useful, most things are going to override Feel No Pain on common or garden daemons. Useful for the Warlord, but not anyone else really.
"Immense Power: Add 1 to your Warlord's Strength Characteristic."
Again this is a very nice choice for Bloodthirsters. While adding this onto a daemon prince or just about anything would be beneficial, this stacks up very nicely with Furious Charge, allowing Strength 8 attacks to hack anyone into chunks. It's a nice bonus to be sure, but a lot of the other ones on here are admittedly more useful.
"Devastating Blow: When making close combat attacks, your Warlord can instead choose to make a single Devastating Blow attack. To do so, roll To Hit as normal, but resolve the attack at Strength D AP2."
Ouch. There's no limit on how many times you can pull this off per game, and the sudden strike means that your Warlord can merrily solo Land Raiders without too much trouble. This one is definitely most beneficial to a a Herald over anything else, as it makes them vastly more useful, assuming your single attack hits of course.
"Rage Incarnate: Your Warlord, and all friendly units with the Daemon of Khorne special rule gain the Rage special rule while they are within 8" of him."
Okay, this is definitely the best of the bunch by far. While certainly not as obviously murderous as the others, or so useful on the Warlord himself, Rage is an absolute godsend to Hounds and Bloodletters alike, allowing them to scythe their way through armies.
Now, in comparison to many of the prior books, especially supplements, these are most definitely Warlord Traits done right. They're intended to be a nice bonus, very focused rather than covering a broad range of (potentially useless) options, or risking contradicting the intended use of your leader. Plus, given that this is Khorne, it's understandable that most of them would be directed only towards murdering anything within sight of them.
Tzeentch Warlord Traits Table:
"Born of Sorcery: Your Warlord harnesses Warp Charge points on the result of a 3+."
This is very basic, but insanely useful for anyone who has even the slightest inclination of hurling masses of spells at foes. Much like Aspect of Death, it's obviously augmented towards the favoured approach of the army and its patron god, and will work well with almost any role you have planned. The only difference is that this need not focused purely upon merely taking skulls.
"Incorporeal Form: Enemy models must reduce their Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill characteristics by 1 when targeting your Warlord and his unit."
Nice to have, but hardly necessary. The slight modification will certainly add a level of survivability to your Warlord, but it's easily overcome. Plus, the Ballistic Skill angle is largely negated if you allow your Warlord to fly over the battlefield, at which point anyone is going to be hitting him on 6+ anyway. Okay, but not too useful.
"Warp Tether: Ass 1 to the invulnerable save of your Warlord and all friendly units with the Daemon of Tzeentch special rule within 9" of him."
Oh sweet merciful lord is this very useful. While it makes your Warlord much more of a target, the bonus this offers by having him fly between two groups of Flamers, Horrors or bullet magnets makes them damn near unstoppable.
"Lorekeeper of Tzeentch: Add 1 to your Warlord's Mastery level. If your Warlord is not a psyker, he instead has the Psyker (Mastery level 1) special rule and generates his powers from the Discipline of Change."
Ultimately this is extremely hit and miss. While an additional level of Mastery is most definitely nothing to be sneezed at, the other is fairly useless. Admittedly, people are left wondering just why you'd be having a non-spell flinging leader in a Tzeentchian army, but each to their own.
"Tyrant of the Warp: Your Warlord ignores the first Perils of the Warp he suffers during each Psychic phase."
Besides the awesome name, this is a true blessing to anyone who tends to flub rolls on psychic powers. We've all had that infuriating game where we keep botching dice rolls, so this really does come as a very nice bonus to keep your sorcerer in the fight.
"Daemonspark: Close combat attacks of your Warlord, and all friendly units with the Daemon of Tzeentch special rule whilst they are within 9" of him, gain the Soul Blaze special rule."
This is sadly the truly useless one here. While the rest ranges from good to truly awesome, Soul Blaze's inability to offer anything of real worth means you'll rarely find a use for this one.
Overall, this was very much like Khorne's one: It's broad, offers some nice bonuses rather than anything so essential a list might hinge upon getting it, and is versatile enough to cover most bases. While some certainly lean towards the cheap and cheesy side of things and Daemonspark is just downright useless, overall it's another good, solid option for daemon users.
Nurgle Warlord Traits Table:
"Blessed with Corpulence: Add 1 to the Wounds characteristic of your Warlord."
Eh, nice to have but that's about it. In Nurgle's case, more of a focus upon increased Toughness or perhaps even a method of regenerating damage. Still, an extra wound is never anything to be sneezed at.
"Acidic Ichor: Each time your Warlord suffers a Wound in the Assault phase, the unit that dealt the blow suffers a single Strength 1 AP2 hit with the Poisoned (4+) special rule."
Another okay one, if nothing especially great. It's a good way for blunting assaults and limiting some dangerous foes, but there's nothing which seems really exciting here overall.
"Plaguefly Hive: Enemy units within 7" of your Warlord can only fire Snap Shots when targeting your Warlord and his unit."
This is very useful for an assault orientated Warlord and certainly is pretty good for breaking through gunlines. Add a Herald onto a fast moving drone or with a few Toughness boosting attributes and it's bound to be downright broken in the right hands.
"Virulent Touch: If a model suffers any unsaved Wounds from your Warlord in the Assault phase, it must pass a Toughness test at the end of the phase or suffer 1 additional Wound. Armour or cover saves cannot be taken against this Wound."
Right, now this is the sort of thing which fits Nurgle far better than the other stuff. Really, this is the kind of thing weaker armies dread, as it's a nightmare for eldar, tau, Imperial Guard or other low Toughness armies to properly combat. While it is again pushing your Warlord into becoming an assault specialist and character slayer, it's still nice to have.
"Impenetrable Hide: Your Warlord has the Feel No Pain special rule. If your Warlord already has the Feel No Pain rule, he instead adds 1 to his Feel No Pain rolls."
Despite a rather odd choice of name, this is most definitely a very welcome addition to the table. As durability and extreme resistance to damage is a staple of Nurgle's blessings, this is probably the best reflection of his actual abilities on the table. Plus, come on, anything which stacks Feel No Pain without going nuts is certainly well worth a look.
"Miasma of Pestilence: Enemy units within 7" of your Warlord that uffer any unsaved Wounds during the Shooting or Assault phase suffer D6 additional Strength 1 hits with the Poisoned (5+) special rule at the end of that phase. Armour or cover saves cannot be taken against wounds suffered in this manner."
So, this is another one which is very good at breaking up tough, multi-wound squads or causing problems for weaker heroes. It's certainly nice to be sure and will cause issues for some of the more traditional speed-bump units or linebreakers, and the poison bonus is a very welcome plus.
Overall, Nurgle is actually a little disappointing compared with the other two. In par this seems to be down to a lack of direction, as there's more hesitance here to fully focus upon making Nurgle units innately tougher. Most of their efforts to focus upon it and decaying others really kept boiling down to making them close combat monsters, so your options are somewhat limited with this one. Not bad, but probably the weakest of the bunch here.
Slaanesh Warlord Traits Table:
"Celerity of Slaanesh: Your Warlord and his unit can Run and charge in the same turn."
Smack-bang from the very start we get a rule which focuses upon Slaanesh's speed and precision over all else, and it's general enough to work as a bonus element rather than making someone melee focused. Plus, given this crosses over to the unit they're with, there's a few fun combinations you can make to push up their effectiveness to the next level. Slaanesh Seekers with a Herald for starters. This said, it is concerning how far this could be taken when combined with certain formations and rules.
"Quicksilver Duelist: When fighting in a challenge, your Warlord re-rolls all failed To Hit rolls."
This is another solid choice, and while again melee focused it fits in well with this god's lore. Nothing too broken, a nice bonus, and certainly a good way to emphasise the nature of Slaaneshi Champions when it comes to hunting down enemy foes of note.
"The Murderdance: Your Warlord and all friendly units with the Daemons of Slaanesh special rule re-roll failed To Hit rolls of 1 in the Assault phase."
It's the same line of thought as the last two really, and there's a big emphasis upon direct assaults over all else. This said, the fact it can potentially cover an entire army is questionable. Come on, they're already hitting like extremely pink and attractive freight trains, daemonettes don't need this atop of all the rest of their stuff!
"Fatal Caress: Any To Wound rolls of a 6 made by your Warlord is the Assault phase have the Instant Death special rule."
Ah, classic rending returns with a vengeance!
"Savage Hedonist: Add 1 to the Attacks characteristic of your Warlord." Speaks for itself really, nothing bad but nothing great.
"Bewitching Aura: At the start of each Fight sub-phase, each enemy unit that is locked in combat with your Warlord must pass a Leadership test or reduce its Weapon Skill characteristic by 5 (to a minimum of 1) until the end of the phase."
Sweet merciful lord is this one insane, allowing a Herald to leader in general to skewer any foe in sight. Really, this crosses the line from interesting to "you will all die by my hand!" The very idea of this really does speak for itself, as three or so would have been good enough, but five? Just to put this in perspective, this so badly handicaps certain elite troops that they're effectively on par with Imperial Guard conscripts in melee against anyone with this.
While it remains stronger than Nurgle thanks to its better focus, the Slaanesh choice here nevertheless has more than a few cracks where limited ideas or one bad one have pushed their way into the list. Unlike some of the others, there's no truly useless or terrible choice to be had here and nothing which isn't useful in some way, but this seemed like it needed a lot more play-testing before anyone settled on this.
Still, while it might have been a mixed bag, these are reasonable Warlord Traits at worst and very good and well structured ones at best. Thanks to an obviously better direction behind their creation as much as a push to make things truly fit with the setting, the Khorne and Tzeentch examples at the very least are what future Warlord Traits should be measured against. After all, it's pretty rare we get something so surprisingly competitive and lore-friendly.
There's no one for Khorne, which already gives this book a major point in its favour. Really, after the whole wulfen thing I was dreading reading about Khornate sorcerors hurling fireballs all over again. Instead, we get the book faithfully sticking to the lore with spells, so kudos for doing so. Beyond that, the bulk of what we have here remains unchanged from prior releases. Tzeentch's Discipline is lopsided, consisting of some extremely powerful spells and some very weak ones which most people would never take in their right mind. Plague is the unstoppable juggernaut people know it as, and Excess remains the weird one caught between being offensive and just plane insane.
The only real changes to be found here are minor modifications and confirmations. For example, the book imposes the rule that players must choose how many warp charges they use before casting Flickering Fire to avoid rampant abuse, but beyond minor tweaks there's nothing to really comment upon. So, onto the next bit.
Now we get onto some of the really fun stuff, the various legendary items each warband can bring into battle. Well, okay, it's not spectacular but there is still some surprisingly engaging stuff to be found in here, especially when it comes to the special rules on each of the weapons offered from the gods. While some of these might either appear to be repeats of elements from the Warlord Traits table or simple copies, most have either been designed to stack atop one another or serve as an alternative. After all, the tables are generated at random, so some people are willing to spend a few points to grantee they get a slight bonus.
Artefacts of Khorne
First up on the list we have Blades R Us, with no end of melee weapons on offer to help Chaos slaughter loyalists en mass. While they all do inevitably boil down to just up and murdering people, there's a few entertaining bonus rules to be had. For example, A'Rgath the King of Blades is pretty much your standard Strength +1 AP 3 specialist weapon until you get into duels, where it becomes Strength +3.
Similarly, Deathdealer and Skullreaver both add a few bonuses should you manage to roll a 6 on sounds, they gain a massive bonus to hurting their foe; each offering Instant Death and Strength D hits respectively. This said, the Deathdealer offers a few more fun options to help slay swarms, as each wound inflicts D3 AP 4 hits upon any unit it is being used against.
In comparison to the more useful weapons we then have Khartoth the Bloodhunger, which sadly has one of the far dumber special rules. While Strength +1 and AP 3 is certainly nice to have, the special rule behind it is ridiculous. No, I don't mean your traditional kind of ridiculous, I mean the kind of pants on head thinking which produced the initial wave of Age of Sigmar special rules. Known as the Sunderer of Time, we have the option for models to return to play. Any model killed by this blade needs to be kept track of and individually rolled off each turn. On the roll of a 4+ they Deep Strike back into the game, and are only counted as truly dead if they remain missing until the final turn. While the idea to add some fun random element to things is quite obvious, the sheer amount of busywork and unnecessary details you need to keep track of is insane. The rules are already clunky enough as it is without adding something like this into the mix, especially for every single model which fails a wound against this weapon.
The last two on this list are some of the less directly murderous options here, and they instead offer a few nice bonuses for the army on the whole. First up we have the Armour of Scorn, which offers a 3+ standard save but also the Adamantium Will special rule. This would be nice enough for its surprisingly low points cost, but there's also the added bonus of lowering the Strength of any attacking units by 1. Certainly quite a nice bonus for monsterous creatures to be sure.
Then finally we have the Crimson Crown, which does the exact opposite and buffs allied forces. Any Daemons of Khorne within 8" of him gains an additional attack in combat. Again, it makes for a nice bonus for any spearhead.
Artefacts of Tzeentch
While it makes sense for Khorne's special items to all directly relate to killing an enemy unit somehow, Tzeentch was one of those which would have suited a more flexible design. This is the god best known for its subtlety and more indirect approach to war after all, and fully half his items are basically bludgeoning weapons.
Soul Bane is the first up here, with no Strength enhancements but a very odd use of AP rules. Along with having Fleshbane, it has the unique special rule Incorporeal, which allows it to have an AP value equal to that of the target it's engaging. Against vehicles it counts as AP 1, so it's basically another mob culling choice here or something reserved for slow moving, bulkier heavy infantry. A similar, albeit much more useless, ranged choice is the Everstave which has two modes. The first is a standard melee option at AP 4, while the second is a ranged Heavy 1 shot at Strength 5 AP 3. This might have been nice unto itself, but the big bonus was supposed to be the special rules of Soul Blade and Warpflame, neither of which are especially impressive or all that useful.
A vastly more effective option on here is the Paradox. Boring name aside, while it operates on a user's Strength and only confers AP 4 to its hits in melee, Warp Contradiction offers a few major bonuses to spell-casting leaders. as once per Psychic Phase they are permitted to switch all the dice they have rolled, and flip hem to their opposite side. So, let's say you botch horribly when it comes to generating Warp Charges or setting off a spell, any 1s you roll can be flipped over 6s. Again, a nice option for anyone who hates a horrific botch.
The other big spellcasting option is the Endless Grimoire, which offers a Warlord all the powers from the Dicipline of Change rules. Simple but welcome indeed.
Next up is the Orcular Dais which serves equally as a personal steed and a bonus to help modify reserves. While it counts as a Disc of Tzeentch, you can choose once per turn for anything left in reserve to automatically arrive on the battlefield. Normally this would just be a nice bonus, but given how daemons tend to operate this is something which can very quickly change the course of most games.
The last one is the Impossible Robe which is a double edged sword and can horribly backfire upon its wearer. On the one hand, it can offer a 3+ invulnerable save, giving the usually squishy sorcerers some much needed durability. On the other, you have to pass a Leadership test to prevent him fading out of existence each time he fails a wound. So, this can horribly backfire in an instant. At 25 points it's hardly all that bad but still, this just seems like a disaster waiting to happen.
Artefacts of Nurgle
Now this is much more like it! While the Warlord traits managed to be oddly subdued and suffered from a distinct lack of identity, what we have here fully embraces Nurgle's greatest strengths. That and, while it is unfortunately largely murderous, a lot of the attacks and weapons relate more to decay, corruption and conferring worshipers a true immunity to real harm.
The first among these is Corruption (and honestly, just what is it with Chaos the insanely generic names!?) which is a standard melee weapon with a few fun special rules. While it only operate's on the user's strength and has AP -, it comes with Hyper-Infection, which automatically inflicts wounds the moment they hit. While this is fairly useless against vehicles it's a strong way to take down big monsters, albeit a bit of a cheap one. Well, no, actually a lot of a cheap one, as the only real limit is that it's hard to cause Instant Death with this thing. This would have been nasty enough, but we also have Tough of Rust to consider. Basically you can always glance vehicles on the roll of a 6.
Next up we have Epidemia, which is another "take in inch, take a mile" approach when it comes to wounds. While it only confers Strength +1, it has the added bonus of forcing enemy units to take a Toughness test or suffer a wound they cannot save every time they lose a unit. not too bad for what it is, and another reasonable choice for anyone hoping to whittle down multi-wound squads.
In comparison to the others, the Doomsday Bell and Death's Head of Duke Olaks are sadly more than a little generic. The former merely forces a -1 to anyone on the opposing army, widespread if not overly useful against most opposing forces, while the latter is basically a Blight Grenade on steroids. Really, it offers a single use Assault 1 Large Blast at 12" and Poisoned (2+). Oh, and it's Strength 1 AP 4.
Grotti of the Nurglings, besides having a surprisingly extensive section devoted to its lore, is a close range debuff. Any non-Nurgle units (friend or foe) gain -1 Toughness while they're within "6 of whoever is holding this item.
The last option on this list are the Horn of Nurgle's Rot, which adds an additional model to a frienfly unit of Plaguebearers so long as they're within "12" of the bearer for each model that was slain." So you basically have a continuously re-spawning horde of Plaguebearers if you play your cards right, but in a manner which isn't quite so broken as the Gun Drone factory.
Artefacts of Slaanesh
Even more so than prior examples, Slaanesh is extremely melee focused, with over half off its arsenal devoted to stabbing people. While it's understandable the book would lean this way given that daemons are more of a melee orientated army, even more so than the Tyranid Hive Fleets, the problem is that this seems to have left the designers following a single pattern. Melee is apparently king here and just about anything else is secondary, and not all that useful beyond a few key exceptions.
In this case we have only the Mark of Excess and Forbidden Gem to contrast with the list's many blades. The former is another Highlander style modifier, offering an additional attack for every Monster or Character they annihilate. It's another stab to try and put a spin on the Soulshrive idea, adding a bonus stat for every murder. Unlike that particular weapon however, the Mark of Excess at least has some obvious limitations present and prevents a character jumping to twenty attacks after butchering a small squad. Unfortunately it's gone to the other end of the spectrum, to the point where I do question its real effectiveness in most games. As for the Forbidden Gem though, it's another duel focused bonus item, offering the ability to subtract 3D6 from an enemy's overall Leadership value. Once that's done, their Weapon Skill and Initiative are lowered to the Leadership value. Not too shabby for what it is, and while a little clunky in its overall design, there is an odd elegance to its structure.
Next up we have the Whips of Agony, which is a standard Strength (user) and AP 5 melee weapon, which can re-roll failed Wounds. Anything which does suffer unsaved wound is then immobilized, unable to make any further attacks or engage enemy forces in any way. So, it's fairly brutal against more fragile forces and a solid way of locking down a major threat. Combine this with a high Initiative stat and you can potentially lock a foe into a continual cycle of being pinned down and whaled upon by their foes. Well, at least until someone intervenes anyway.
While still certainly potent weapons, the others present are not quite so fun in their overall execution. The Slothful Claw is a standard weapon which just comes with a single bonus attack which hits at Strength +2 AP 2 and has the Rending ability. The Silvershard adds 2 attacks to its wielder's basic stats at AP 3 and little else, while the Soulgreed is just a standard weapon which allows a model to regenerate one wound for every model it kills. There's nothing all that remarkable about any of these, and compared with the prior lists it really seems phoned in. I'd really add more to any of these but there's little to really say about any of these, and they serve largely as one-note ideas rather than anything truly fun.
So, finally, we get onto the big formations and army groups which make up the bulk of this book. While there's definitely a good variety of units and ideas on offer, you might quickly start to see more than a few parallels which can be made with the Space Wolves' structure. Replace the Great
If you've not guessed it from the name, this is Khorne's mob. Consisting of Skulltaker or a Herald and eight units of Blooddletters, Flesh Hounds or Blood Crushers, it's one of those flexable mob lists we mentioned a while back. The only thing of real note here is the special rules, intended to reflect the innate abilities and traits of each god, helping to give them a little overall flavour.
The first real special rule is nicknamed Escalating Bloodlust, which basically boils down to giving bonuses so long as one unit is in close proximity with the other. So long as one unit is in 6" of another unit, they gain 1 additional attack in close combat. The problem is that this doesn't specify whether or not this stacks or not or if it is a set value. As such, this could go from a nice bonus element to ensuring that a single group of Bloodletters gain an additional eight attacks in combat. Plus, you just know that there's one guy who is going to try and pull this sooner or later.
The second meanwhile is Harbinger of Khorne. If the Herald of Khorne within this group is a Lesser Locus of Abjuration, Greater Locus of Fury or Exalted Locus of Wrath, all special rules associated are spread among any other Formation unit within 12" of him. Unlike the prior example however, this is noted to actually stack, to where a unit within 12" of another Locus can also gain their abilities as well.
All in all this is admittedly one of the less fun ideas, and while fitting of Khorne to be sure it's just taking a few of his more generic traits and giving them a slight edge. Honestly, while the refusal to turn them into invincible phalanxes is definitely welcome, if they're going to add formations into an army at all a little creativity wouldn't hurt.
Consisting of a lone Herald and three Skull Cannons, this is a giant artillery battery. Besides the restriction that the Herlad must take a Blood Throne as a dedicated transport, that's about it. It retains the Harbinger of Khorne special rule from the prior formation but otherwise it just offers a couple of nice bombardment options.
Named the Skullrain Salvo (which is either so bad its good or just a downright terrible name, you be the judge), if all cannons are fielded as a single squadron then they can fire a single salvo than their usual individual bombardments. Ranged at 36", this is an Apocalyptic Blast which ignores cover and hits at Strength 8 AP 3. Better yet, it ties right into the Dreadskulls special rule listed below it, where enemy units are left with a marker after being shot at by this formation. This effectively highlights them for allied daemon units of just about any kind, and they can charge into them without any Initiative penalty if there's terrain in the way.
While normally I would be the first to cry foul against this sort formation, here it honestly doesn't seem all that bad. It serves to augment the very limited ranged capabilities of daemons and stymies the effectiveness of a few easy tactics to cause daemons problems, and even without using the giant blast template, the Dreadskulls rule is a solid addition. Admittedly though, Apocalyptic Blast does seem to be overkill even for a formation such as this one.
As the core Tzeentch choice, this is very similar to the Murderhorde, with only a handful of minor changes here and there. For example, in place of the Khorne units we have Pink Horrors, Flamers and Exalted flamers, plus the prior Harbinger rule just shifted to Transmognification, Change and Conjuration. The same even goes for their secondary special rule, Storm of Daemonic fire, which just adds a slight bonus to the Strength of certain daemons (Flamers) when they're in this formation. Rather than having a 12" proximity limitation though, they just gain a bit more punch.
There's little to really say with this one, only that it adds a couple of minor bonuses just as the last one did. It works as a core choice, but it's certainly no better or worse than anything the Force Organisation Chart would ever offer.
Welcome to the army's fast attack mob, intended to cause problems at high speed. Consisting of a lone Herald on a Burning Chariot, and a few more Chariots or Screamers, it's a very loose formation which just allows players to take nine of whatever they want from the above choices. The chief problem is that it can only be nine, and it means you're dishing out a lot of points just for this single force. There's no small measures here or even just the option to keep it as a harassment unit, and overall that really just limit's a player's options.
As before, the formation carries over the Harbinger rules and also retains the Warpflame special rule from the Dicipline of Change. The only truly unique one present to them is the Trail of Transmuting Flame, which certainly adds some interesting gameplay elements to be sure. The primary advantage most people will pick out is the ability to add one additional Slashing Attack made by each Screamer, then adds in Soul Blaze and Warpflame special rules. Yeah, they're really fond of those two when it comes to Tzeentch. That aside however, the thing it tries to tout the most as an attractive bonus is the fact units in this formation can maul anything they Turbo-boost over. Should anything come into contact with this, it can cause D6 Strength 5 AP 4 wounds per model. Oh, and attacks on vehicles are decided against their side armour.
Overall, the choice is one which may have its uses and has a few good ideas, but it's let down by its own sheer size. Were this limited to groups of 3-9 I could seriously see this being used as quite a versatile choice when it comes to keeping armies on the backfoot. The whole thing is set up to be a solid vanguard force, moving ahead of the main assault line, weakening units and then charging others, but it really needed to offer a much broader structure.
As the core choice for Nurgle's daemons, you might expect more of the same when it comes to structure, special rules and the units on offer. For the most part you're in the right, as it requires a single Herald and then seven units of either Plaguebearers or Nurlgings. Oh, and there's also the whole Harbinger thing yet again. However, what helps to offer a little more variety this time is the additional special rules, with Distracting Swarm of Flies preventing Overwatch being used on any unit within this Formation. While they'll still get mauled during their ponderous advance towards the front-lines, there's at least one less weapon for gunnary focused armies to bring to bear against them.
Once they actually get into combat, they then have Enfeebling Nausea to help swing things in their favour. At the start of each Combat phase, any enemy squad engaged with units from this formation are required to tale a Leadership test or lose a point in Strength and Toughness. Like the others it's only a small modification, but combined with limiting the effectiveness of Overwatch, it's enough to make this one fluff-friendly. Really, designers need to understand they don't need to rework the entire game, just get enough basic elements down to reflect their general nature on the battlefield.
This is the other semi-fast choice here, consisting of a lone Herald, then seven units of Beasts or Plague Drones. While Tzeentch's own Skyhost was built with speed and mobility in mind, this one is treated much more like a sledgehammer. It's intended to be hard hitting rather than purely fast, and comes with the added durability you would expect from Nurgle as a whole.
Along with retaining the Harbinger rule as you might expect, there is also the Corrosive Slime effect in play. This ensures that any and all units within this formation gain Hammer of Wrath attack with a rather deadly edge in the form of Poison (4+) strikes to each one. This makes them serve as an excellent unit to either cripple heavy infantry or quickly counter attack durable assault squads, and this sort of crisis unit is something any Nurgle army could use. Let's face it, tough as they are, there's not many of them who are going to be moving anywhere fast.
The second special rule is then a bit of an odd one as you might note from the name: Dubious Command. This allows the Herald to direct a single unit within 12" of him and order it to act separately. This requires a Leadership test to pull off. If it's successful then the unit can re-roll failed charges and gain an extra three attacks until the end of that turn, but if it fails then you must immediately have them charge forwards. It's a nice trade-off on the whole and does help to avoid the expected negative aspects people would have counteract the positive result.
Right after Nurgle at least tried to add a little more character to things, the book goes right back to the same baseline elements here. This really is just another recycling of the same thing we've seen several times now as a core choice, just with a negative 1 modifier to Weapon Skill and Initiative characteristics of anyone they attack. Yeah, while having a similar start point might make sense from a mechanical perspective, it's truly dull to see this repeated over and over again, bereft of almost all personality.
This one is comparable to the Tallyband, but with more of a Slaaneshi angle. Compared with Nurgle especially it's terrifyingly fast, and there's a big emphasis upon speed over durability. While this is to be expected of just about anything which uses Seekers as its mainline unit, the special rules really try to emphasise this above all else. For starters, all units within this gain an additional 6" when Running or moving Flat Out, ensuring they hit most enemy units within a couple of turns at the most and can react quickly to new threats. This is further enhanced by D6 Strength 4 Hammer of Wrath attacks, preventing them from becoming bogged down with most baseline infantry units.
From their structure and special rules, this is a good option for quickly whittling through most armies. While it lacks the firepower you'd want to cripple vehicles, any footslogging force or defensive line is going to quickly be cut down in the face of formations like this one. If there is a criticism to be made it's that giving an additional 6" to stack atop of Slaanesh's usual bonuses seems rather cruel at the end of the day; then again though, this is a formation which can be easily blocked with a bit of know-how and thw right vehicles.
Now, we finally move onto the two undivided choices on this list. First up is this rather unusual formation which mashes together what would have previously been four separate HQ choices and assembles them into one formation. Requiring four daemon princes, this is one which really doesn't fit into anywhere specific unlike the others. With most of the dedicated forces you had a main swarm of general units backed up by either a long range or fast moving choice, and offered little beyond the basic special rules within its formation. As you can imagine, cavalry rushes are probably going to be a big draw in the coming years for daemon players. However, the Infernal Tetrad really seemed to be intended to be a heavy hitter. Something to help punch through units of Terminators or Immortals is rapid succession while serving as a mobile bullet magnet to draw fire away from more vulnerable troops.
The restriction present this time is that each daemon prince must be upgraded to follow a different god, representing the four powers. This does make them an excellent centerpiece for a massive Undivided army or generally massed daemonic horde, but in any dedicated or mono-god dedicated force, it stick out like a sore thumb. Plus, it doesn't help that many rules intended to help enhance the army will be limited to buffing only a quarter of the formation. As you might have noted, many are dedicated to Khorne/Tzeentch/Nurgle/Slaanesh only after all.
Still, what are the benefits of this one? Well, first up we have the Shared Power special rule, which is a bit of a confusing one. In effect, if you choose one daemon here to be your Warlord then his trait gets carried over to all others. This is a little confusing given that each of the various gods has a different table, but the book says it works even despite their different alignments. Methinks the lore was taking a backseat when it came to this one, but it's still a nice thing to have. As for the second choice, we have the Combined Might rule which offers more benefits the more daemon princes are still alive at one time, each stacking atop one another:
4 Alive - +1 Toughness
3 Alive - +1 Strength
2 Alive - Re-roll failed To Hit rolls of 1
1 Alive - No Benefit
Useful for any self-respecting bullet magnet. Despite a few odd choices it's definitely a reasonable option here if quite an expensive one. You might want to experiment and see just how well it really would work with each list in turn before pressing ahead with including this formation.
This is the second of the two more undivided options, which combines together a trio of Soul Grinders and let them loose. Unlike the prior example there's no limitations to be found here, and the actual special rule in question is pretty basic. Listed as Desperate Competition, it emphasises the idea that each of them is fighting to overshadow the others in its formation. So, if one inflicts enemy casualties during the Shooting or Assault phases then all others can re-roll both Hits and Wounds for the rest of the turn. A little overpowered really, as it basically means that unless you horribly, and I mean horribly, botch your rolls then these guys are going to annihilate most things in their path. While we've seen more egregious offenses and you are paying quite a bit for these guys as it is, it honestly just seems like re-rolls to Hit or Wound would have been better. Perhaps with the player choosing just which one they go with for that turn.
Overall, the Chaos options in this book are okay. There's a few fun ideas at work, and a lot of elements which are genuinely great when it comes to the wargear and Warlord traits. Some of the formations are relatively good as well, but for every good one it seems there's at least one mediocre or downright bad idea. It's worth a look if you truly want to expand your horizons with daemonic army choices and a few new options for your army, but don't rush out to get it.
So, we're almost done here. There's just one final part to cover.