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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Brief Battle Report: Daemons versus Grey Knights

Hey there everybody! Apparently, Spring has sprung, but the weather is still too darn cold and nasty. I would love to be able to open my window to the spring air and get some painting done. Well, I have been painting, but I'd like it to be nicer out.

Ahem. Anyway, I had a battle last week with the new Chaos Daemons. As nature intended, my Daemons went up against the Grey Knights. Now, my Daemon force is missing many things, as it was never my primary focus (no Steeds of Slaanesh, no Flesh hounds, etc). I also haven't picked up anything from the new release except for 3 Plague Drones (I prefer the term Rot Flies) and the Nurgle Herald (wicked model, by the way). Thus, my choices are more limited than what I'm used to.

I took a Great Unclean One (We call him "Jimmy"), and 1 Nurgle Herald, 1 Khorne Herald, Skulltaker, and Epidemus. I took 2 squads of 10 Plaguebearers, 2 squads of 10 Bloodletters, a squad of 5 Bloodcrushers (the metal ones), a squad of 10 Blue Horrors, and a squad of 5 Screamers. I gave all the troops banners and instruments. The GUO had 2 Nurgle powers (one was the Primaris). I took the various Loci (FNP is a MUST for a Nurgle Herald). I had some good greater gift rolls, too.

The mission was The Relic (which was placed at the center, right near the "Tower of Nurgle", which was built and painted by my friend Pete). The deployment called for us to go on opposite short edges. I decided to keep my GUO in reserve, and have him deep strike later. My plan was simple. Everyone knows that PB hold objectives and Bloodletters get into close combat. I decided to reverse that- I advanced both up at the same time, planning on the PBs to be the tar pit from hell, while the BL grabbed the relic and ran. Thus, my brother worried that the Bloodletters would get into his men, and, seeing them as the true threat, focused more on their movements.

I won't get into this move for move, as I have in the past. This game was a bit of a "trial run" for me, in terms of the new Daemon Codex and new rules. So, for now, I just want to give you the highlights of the battle in terms of how the new rules impacted me. As an aside, I found it very useful to have the Codex on iPad- if you have a question about a rule, just hit it and it appears. This really saved a lot of time flipping through the book, so again I was pleased with the purchase.

As for the new rules, I really dig the new Codex. It has just the right amount of strength and weakness, and the randomness is just enough- you are playing the army, it is clearly not playing you, which was a concern. For example, I thought the I would hate the Warpstorm Chart- but I didn't. I mostly rolled 7 (nothing happens), and the few times I rolled something else, I used the instrument re-roll to avoid it (except once, when Rot killed 2 Blue Horrors). The Grey Knights didn't lose anybody to it (this time). The only thing is you have to remember to do it in your shooting phase (its an odd addition and I forgot it for one turn).

The troops each have their roles, and I learned a bit about the utility of each unit. Let's look:

Khorne- Bloodletters are good in close combat, no doubt. But, they have their limits. First, never have them charge Terminators. Their Hellbalde is only AP 3- thus, Terminators get their 2+ save. I made that mistake when I sent 1 squad against Termies- he just kept rolling those 2+ saves. My Bloodletters would have been more effective against his Marines instead. The Bloodcrushers are a bit pricey, but they have speed, toughness, and a bunch of attacks (next time, I'll take a herald for them). They are great on the charge. Also, if they have a banner, you can use them to race in, and then drop Khorne daemons from their banner with no scatter. Ironically, Skulltaker never got into combat (he was in the unit sneakily going for the objective), so I can't attest to his utility. Yet.

Plaguebearers are really good. Yes, they are  T4 (they had been T5, but consider that the other Daemon troops are all T3), but their poisoned weapons are great (I didn't get to use Touch of Rust- but that will help at some point against vehicles). They will be fine at holding, but they are effective tar pits as well, tying up the Marines, a squad of Termies and, best of all the Dreadknight himself. My only recommendation is to take a Herald with FNP- it really makes them a total pain in the ass to get rid of. I wasn't thrilled with Epidemus- he was strong, but I didn't like his locus power- FNP would be better, I think. The GUO is a force to be reckoned with- his high T and wounds make him a powerhouse. My problem with him is that I rolled poorly with him in combat- some of my worst rolls to date- repeatedly, so next time I hope that the dice favor him a bit more.

Tzeentch is a mixed bag. The Screamers are not as strong as they were in that WD pamphlet (was GW trying to sell more of them, or were they testing rules that turned out to be too powerful? I'm not sure). However, they still managed to take out the Dreadnought, and then I moved them deep into the enemy deployment zone, thus ensuring that I would get Line breaker. The Horrors- I'm still trying to figure them out. Do they each get to roll for their psychic power? Do they each get 2D6 shots, or is it 2D6 for the entire unit? I was a bit confused by this- it is a bit unclear in the book, I hope to find the answer.

So, what happened in the course of battle? I followed my plan pretty closely, though I was perturbed when my Bloodletters couldn't cut through those damn Terminators (the Bloodcrushers had to do it). I scored first blood by destroying the Dreadnought (good rolls for the screamers). The Grey Knights moved in response to my Bloodletters w/ Skulltaker- they fell into the trap of getting hit by my Plaguebearers instead. By turn 5, Skulltaker had the Relic, and the Grey Knights were too bogged down in disease and monotone Plaguebearers to do anything about it. Thus, the game was mine. I got the Relic, plus Linebreaker, plus First Blood. Neither got Slay the Warlord (Neither Stern nor "Jimmy" would fall).

So, I really enjoyed the game, and I think that the new Codex is really good. I am looking forward to trying new units and combinations (I have 3 Rot Flies to work on. I also need to try out my Slaanesh daemons). I also want to give Daemon Princes a go. I'd like to try the chariots, but I want clarification on the Tzeentch one before I buy- can the big flamer fire while moving or not? I am also dying to try out a Plague Marine / Plague Daemon alliance- that will be killer. (Of course, so would a Bezerker / Bloodletter army).

Its a good time to be a Chaos player folks. I hope those of you who have Chaos armies are getting out there and raising some hell.  Until next time!!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Review of the Chaos Daemons Codex

Here there, my rabid horde of heretics. It is indeed like the old proverb: may you live in interesting times, as far as Warhammer 40K players go, especially Chaos players. We have gotten a ton these past few months- new Chaos Space Marine codex and new models, and now we have a new Daemon Codex and some new models (to be fair, we've had new Daemon models at several junctures these past few years). The Chaos Marine codex was interesting- I feel that it (overall) a well balanced book, with some nifty play mechanics and a good mix of old-school and current edition ideas. With the allies rule, separate detachments, and Chaos cultists/zombies- it seemed that the glory days of Chaos Marines was back.

However, not everyone viewed the Codex that way. Some believe that it still lacks the power and charm of the 3.5/4th edition. Perhaps, but it is vastly better than the crappy 5th. Yes, it lacks some of the imagination of the Eye of Terror list, but again, with cultists and allies, you can finagle something along those lines if you wish. Last, some say that the Codex is bad because some units are way over priced. Well, maybe Plague Marines are a bit too much- but still, not much above what has come before. Thus, Codex: Chaos Space Marines has faced a bit of controversy, as well as a bit of love from players of the game.

However, a whole new level of controversy is coming, thanks to the Chaos Daemons Codex. This book, in many ways, is indeed a compliment to the Chaos Marines. Combine the two books together and you have an insane Chaos force (insane is not good or bad- just chaotic). The book has already generated a fair share of controversy, and is likely to get nastier as time goes on and people have games under their belts. Random charts, nerfs, overpowerings, points changes, strange rule mechanics... the interweb is already on fire with some swearing that this is the best codex ev-ah, while others are reporting that the army is now useless and they are melting their deamons down to slag. Ah. Such hyperbole.

I have been a daemon player since the first book came out, and I had daemons before that with the older Chaos codex. In those days, Daemons were meant to support Chaos Marines- summoned by the traitorous legions astartes. Then, natch, GW came up with the idea of doing Chaos Daemon armies (in both fantasy and 40K systems)- full on daemonic incursions, baby! My friends scoffed at the idea of an all-daemon army. I of course, being a full on Chaos fanatic, embraced this and began to build a not insubstantial daemon army. Though it never got to be as big as my Death Guard, I did put a lot of time into it- I am particularly proud of my Bloodletters (I already had a ton of Plague Bearers), and my Greater Daemon of Slaanesh is only slightly perverse. The Chaos Daemons was an odd force, with a strange (but fun) method of deployment, and lots of quirky rules.

Well, here we are with a new Codex. To make this review even more interesting, this was the first Codex I got for my iPad. So, let me start with that. I hestitated- should I buy the hardback or should I go digital? My friend Pete said that there is something to be said for holding open your tome and using it in the course of the game, which I agree with 100%. I also wanted it to go along with my Chaos Space Marine book, on the same shelf, as it were. However, having looked at the sample Dark Angels book, I saw that there were certain advantages to the iPad version (which I'll discuss in a moment). Thus, I decided to go with the new: I decided to download it. And yes, the Codex is amazing on the iPad. It has all the fluff, rules, and pictures from the book. What makes this so damn nifty (and efficient) though is the fact that you can tap a rule and bam! it appears right there. You no longer have to flip back and forth, trying to find out the AP of the weapon. It just pops up on your screen, right next to the army entry. You can also save key book marks, so you can go right to a chart without flipping and wasting time. With Chaos Daemons in particular, with it's many quirky rules and randomness, these features are absolutely essential. I am really glad that this iPad version is so good. The ONLY thing I object to is the price. Why oh why is it the same price as the hardcover? I'm not saying that I want it half off- just give me a $5 break or something.

So- what about the book? There are others on the internet who will give you a much more comprehensive view of the book, including stats for dice outcomes, which units will be abused by WAAC players, which units have been nerfed, and the like. Rather, I'd like to just go over a few points that stood out to me as I read the book:

1- Warpstorm Chart- now, the thing that is certainly starting the most controversy is the Warpstorm Chart. In every shooting phase of the Daemons, the Daemon player rolls on this chart. The effects vary widely. Yes, this is supposed to make up for the daemons almost utter lack of shooting, but it has problems. It could, with a bad roll, kill a Psyker (a Daemon one or an enemy one, depending on how you roll). On other rolls, Daemons of certain gods can be hurt (as well as non-engaged enemies, on a roll of a 6 for each unit). If you roll badly, you might even have to do Daemonic Instability for the entire army! What the...? I have no problem with random events and charts, but this is too much! Every shooting phase? Holy cow! That is a lot to do each shooting phase- and if you roll poorly, both players might suffer serious injury. Now, I get fluff wise what this means, but as a game mechanic it is way too much. If I were doing it, I'd suggest that it only be done at the very beginning (like orbital bombardment). I just can't fathom it every turn. As far as odds go, I'm not sure that it will really impact each and every game, but if you're having some bad rolls, this chart could ruin your day. It is a good concept, but I would have limited it.

2- Allies Potential- as I said above, this book looks to work well in conjunction with Chaos Space Marines. In fact, I think the two are really one larger work. Now, I know- not all Daemon players play Chaos Marines (or vice versa). However, many (like myself) have at least dabbled in both. I am a Chaos man, through and through. I have Plague Marines, Khorne Bezerkers, the use of my brother's Black Legion, Traitor Guardsmen (some from Forgeworld, some of my own making), Plague Zombies out the ying yang, and of course, Daemons. In the current 6th edition environment, the ally mechanic is a nifty way to combine armies (yes, GW wants your money, but that is besides the point). These two books, combined via the allies rule, allows you to create all kinds of characterful, fluff inspired lists. I cannot wait to create a Death Guard force supported by Daemons. I want my Bloodletters to charge in alongside my Khorne Bezerkers, damn it! Now they can, and it is very cool indeed. I have already thought of a few possibilities:

 a) If you have Chaos Marines as your primary, and with allied Daemons, you get the daemons but you DON't roll on the Warpstorm chart (Daemons must be primary). Problem solved.

b) The Daemons are cheaper but still strong. Plague Bearers make great take and hold units, but now they are cheap enough that, if you aren't using Typhus (for the zombies), these Daemons are better than the cultists, in terms of bang for the buck. They cost a bit more, but have more- but they're still cheap.

c) I can see using Bloodletters to go in first, with their AP3 Helblades wrecking most of an opponents lines. Then send in the Bezerkers to mop up, or to take the objectives.

d) New options: if you think Daemons could use more firepower, take Chaos Marines as allies to bolster. If you play Death Guard and would like some characterful fast attack, go for the Drones (and a Soulgrinder for more anti-air).

The point is these two books go together so well- that is the highlight of the book for me.

3- Lesser and Greater Gifts- this is causing some consternation, but it really shouldn't. Yes, it is a random chart that you spend points on to get bonuses (like the Gift of Mutation in the Chaos Marines book). True, some of the bonuses are great while others aren't so much. However, you don't HAVE to do it, you don't need to spend the points, if you are that opposed to random rolls. The saving grace here is that you only roll at the start of the game- minimum of fuss (unlike the Warpstorm chart). Yes, it requires a bit of record keeping and such, but I think it fits into the Chaos theme- and none of the Gifts are overwhelming or overpowered. You would just buy them from the wargear options in a regular list- so its pretty much the same, only a bit more uncertain.

4- Fear, Fearless, and Daemonic Instability- the Daemons have changed a bit in this regard. They do cause Fear, which might help against some armies, but several armies have Fearless, so it may be a wash. The real issue is that Daemons no longer have fearless, they have Daemonic Instability. In truth, DI is what fearless was in the 4th edition. In the Daemons case, if you lose combat, take a ld test, and subtract modifiers (lost combat by...). That difference is the number of wounds the unit gets, no saves allowed. Now, depending on your roll, you might lose a few. It sucks as a Daemon player, but, that's what it was in the old days... my only gripe is that most Daemons seem to be leadership 7- if you lose combat by even 1, that means you need a 6 or less... not the best odds.

However, it gets confusing in shooting- Daemons auto-pass such morale tests. Thus, the question is- can they go to ground? It doesn't say they are fearless, but they ignore pin/morale due to shooting. I'm guessing they CAN go to ground, but I hope that GW clarifies it right away. I'd like my Plague Bearers to take cover on an objective...

5- Tweaking Units- The book is a real shake up from the old book. Many of the units have been reduced points wise. Now, I wouldn't call this book a "horde army", but if you didn't go overboard on Gifts and HQs (more on that below), you could have a fairly large army. Certainly, these Daemons are cheaper than in the past. However, are they useful? The Bloodletters and Plague Bearers are still pretty much the same- however, the PBs have lost FNP- but they are cheaper and have Shrouded. Tzeentch stuff in general has been nerfed to a degree- their Warpflame hurts, but could grant the attacked unit FNP (6) if they roll poorly... However, I don't know how much of a difference it would make (plus, some unit synergy between Horrors and Bloodletters would take care of it- shoot em' with Horrors, charge in Bloodletters

6- New(Old) Deployment- This may be one of the biggest changes. Daemon players from the last edition know all about this one- In the old rules, you divided your force in half. On a good roll, you got the side you wanted- and all those units would materialize turn 1 via deep strike. Then, each unit would have to roll to see if they could be brought in. Sometimes this lent excitement to the game, other times you totally wasted units and had a frustrating time. They have changed this a lot. Daemons can now absolutely start on the battlefield at turn 1. They can deploy just like any army. However, all Daemons CAN deep strike, so you can hold the ones you want in reserve. Aiding you in this is the Icons, which prevent such wide scatter, and Daemonic instruments, which allow you to bring in another deep strike unit without rolling for it. Pretty helpful I'd say. Thus, you can kinda play it old school if you want (deeps striking a ton of units), or you can deploy everything, or you can mix and match.Again, this book gives you a lot of choices, but you run risks with those choices- that's what makes this book (and Chaos) fun.

7- Heralds and HQs- This area has gotten a bit of a shake up as well. Lets start with Greater Daemons- I love these guys, but I still think they are a bit too expensive. They are quite costly points wise, and they are real fire magnets. Yes, the Greater Daemon of Nurgle is tough and all, but it takes him time to trudge up the field. The Slaanesh is faster with fleet and he is fast in combat, no doubt. Tzeentch has lost of magic and all, but again, he's got a target on him. Khorne's has like a bajillion attacks, and he can fly, which is helpful. Again, love GDs, but I always fear that they are point sinks, and will get shot before long. Plus, they really need some "Gifts" to be more effective, which costs more points. The named Greater Daemons are REALLY good, but again, they are big costly targets...

The other HQ option is the Heralds. If Daemon is your primary, you can have 4 Heralds as 1 HQ choice. This is even better than it was in the last Dex. Most Heralds are regular Daemons, but they can have more upgrades, including gifts and Loci. Loci powers are additional bonuses that are conferred on the whole unit that the Herald joins. A Herald of Nurgle with a Loci power can make the unit FNP (for little points cost, BTW). Thye can take psychic powers too (sorry Khorne, not you). Again, these Heralds may require more record keeping, but they are much more useful now, and fairly cheap. Naturally, the named Heralds (like Epidemus- whose powers only apply to units within 6" of him now... so sad) are included as possible Herald choices. Strangely, the Masque and the Blue Scribes don't seem to count here, which is weird (FAQ perhaps?). Overall, the Herald choices are nice, but one could get carried away buying gifts, Loci, and psychic powers, and steeds. I think they'll best be used without giving them too many of these.

Since only 1 HQ can be heralds, that means that you can either take a single regular or named Herald to be the 2nd HQ, or you HAVE to go with a GD or Deamon Prince. Ah, the Daemon Prince. He is a bit better here than in the Chaos Marine Codex, with the gift options. One could use him as an HQ, IF you don't take any GDs. If you do, then a DP with the same mark as the GD can be taken as a Heavy Support instead. However, you could take a GUO and then a DP of Khorne, but then both would be HQs. All slightly confusing, but I'll get the hang of it. I suppose you could take a DP as a cheaper "big" HQ, but again he's more effective with some gifts- I'm not sure what GW was thinking here, in this respect.

At any rate, it is far too soon to rate this book in terms of effectiveness, as I will need to play several games with them first. As of this moment, I think it is a strong book, and a nice sequel to the Chaos Marine book. If you are a Chaos fan, give the book a shot. Yes, I think the Warpstorm chart is a nice idea but poorly handled. There's a lot of randomness in the area of gifts and the like, but still not overwhelming, as you only do it at the start of the game. There are even more units and choices than before, and a lower points cost means you get to include more. True, some units were nerfed, but I think the real issue is that Grey Knights and Necrons need to be brought in line with these newer books- yes, Codex creep is inevitable, but both forces of Chaos don't hold a candle to the out and out abilities of these two armies. The overall book is nicely balanced and fair, with nothing jumping out at me as overpowered or unfairly in favor of the Daemons (the Warpstorm chart can hurt either player at random).

All told, I am digging the book. It is hard to give a numerical rating, as I haven't gamed with them yet. I hope that this review has given you just a little insight into the codex.

Until next time...

(When will the new Greater Daemon models hit stores? I KNOW they're coming. August perhaps?)