3 Mar 2013

Chaos Daemons Tactica - Army Special Rules

Chaos Daemons

Howdy all, Learn2Eel here with my latest Tactica series - this time, I will be highlighting the new and improved Chaos Daemons! Having already been one of the more unique armies in the game, Chaos Daemons have seen a complete overhaul - perhaps the most significant in many years. This means that many old crux units and strategies simply will not work as in their previous incarnation, but there are a lot of stronger and cheaper units to compensate for this, as well as a focus on more balanced army lists. Though I think they are great changes for the most part, the real weight is on you - I am very interested to see the community's reactions to this codex! In any case, without wasting any more of your time, read on - I hope you enjoy this long and arduous work!

Army Wide Special Rules and the Warlord Traits

Chaos Daemons have a host of unique traits and special rules that need to be covered separately - they are absolutely integral to how the army works, rather than being more of a supplementary set of rules to benefit their units. More so than any other army, these rules unique to Daemons can have a staggering effect on the game. It also emphasises the value of looking at a unit in context, rather than judging it on its own merits.

Daemon - Though this is a special rule that is found in the main rulebook, it is important to note that every individual unit in the codex - from the lowly Pink Horrors to the mighty Soul Grinders - is a Daemon. In this sense, every unit in our codex has a 5+ invulnerable save, in addition to any regular armour save they may have - though these are usually restricted only to Khorne Daemons. This obviously means that against armies whom rely more on small quantities of low AP shooting, such as Thousand Sons or plasma-spam forces, we have the distinct benefit of receiving a meaty save without requiring cover. However, that is the meat of the issue - cover is readily available in 6th Edition Warhammer 40000, and this means that the distinct advantage of having an invulnerable save often relegated only to commanders is minimised significantly. However, unlike other armies, this save applies in combat - our preferred field of battle. Obviously though, against typical armies that have massed quantities of anti-infantry firepower, Chaos Daemons will be left only with weak saves. Another note is that the 'Daemon' special rule means the user causes Fear - meaning that our already strong combat units can become even more devastating against armies such as Imperial Guard or Tau. It is important to note that this rule does not affect any Loyalist Space Marine unit, and as such its effectiveness is limited - as well, many units that it would work against typically would crumble in combat anyway. As such, its best purpose is as a minor defence that can potentially force opponents to hit your units on fives in combat rather than fours or threes - it is unreliable though, and shouldn't be counted on.

Daemonic Alignment - Every unit in the codex - with the exception of Chaos Furies - is dedicated to one of the four gods of Chaos, meaning that they have their own unique special rules as a result. Daemons that share a different god cannot join each others' unit - a Herald of Tzeentch cannot choose to join a unit of Bloodletters of Khorne. This means that you cannot choose to maximise the effects of two gods, coalescing in the same unit - meaning you need to think about the different benefits of each god when considering what units to field. Despite this, any Daemon unit that can cast psychic powers can use these to benefit units belonging to other Chaos gods - effects and benefits are shared, unless stated otherwise, meaning Endurance cast by a Great Unclean One of Nurgle can affect a unit of Seekers of Slaanesh. In addition, depending on the alignment of any particular Daemon unit, it will have the Hatred special rule against their opposing alignment - Daemons of Slaanesh 'hate' Daemons of Khorne, and vice versa. Though this has no bearing on your own army list, it is important to remember against enemy Chaos Daemons armies, and Chaos Space Marines armies featuring marked Daemons - those re-rolls to hit both ways can make a significant difference to a combat result. It is also important to note that a Daemons' alignment can affect what damage they can potentially receive from the 'Warp Storm' - but that will be covered later. Remember these restrictions and possibilities when formulating an army list, and you will be well on your way to making a more effective fighting force.

Daemon of Khorne - Daemons of Khorne have the Furious Charge special rule, meaning that, when combined with Rage from Skarbrand or a Herald of Khorne, their units are far more devastating on the charge than they are when receiving one. Typically, Khorne Daemons are at their best in the first round of combat, when benefits such as Hatred also come into play - though they are commonly no less or more durable than Daemons of other gods, the impetus lies on them wiping out as much of the enemy in combat as quickly as possible due to their generally high cost models. Essentially, making sure to plan your movements and charges well, and minimise the risks of a failed charge or being shot to death, are key to successfully playing Daemons of Khorne. In addition, Chariots with this alignment treat their Hammer of Wrath attacks as Strength seven rather than Strength six - meaning that they hit just that little bit harder on the charge, which can make a decent difference depending on what unit you charge into. Daemons of Khorne also 'hate' Daemons of Slaanesh - though Daemons of Khorne are stronger and have a higher Weapon Skill, the Daemons of Slaanesh are quicker and thus potentially benefit more from the re-rolls to hit.

Daemon of Tzeentch - Daemons of Tzeentch re-roll failed saving throws of 1, and it is important to note that despite having no armour saves and generally low invulnerable saves, this can be very tasty when combined with cover, Night Fighting or certain wargear choices for Heralds and Greater Daemons. This does give them an extra bit of survivability, and it is important to remember as its effects become more pronounced in larger units where re-rolling such failed saves in bulk becomes more likely. Daemons of Tzeentch also have the distinct advantage of adding +3 to their Leadership when performing psychic tests; due to the now lowered Leadership of Daemons across the board, this gives Tzeentch Daemons a much more higher chance of successfully casting psychic powers. Though the actual Lore of Tzeentch is weak, they do have access to Divination - which is undoubtedly the best psychic discipline in the game - and thus this benefit is quite important. As well, Daemons of Tzeentch 'hate' Daemons of Nurgle - considering that both forces tend to share similar Weapon Skill values, though Tzeentch Daemons tend to have less Strength and a higher Initiative, I think this balances out pretty well.

Daemons of Nurgle - Daemons of Nurgle gain the Shrouded special rule, which essentially makes them far more durable when positioned in cover or when Night Fighting rules are in effect. Though the general loss of Feel No Pain and reduced Toughness values does make Daemons of Nurgle less durable in close combat, they are now more survivable than ever against most kinds of shooting when placed in area terrain or ruins - benefiting from a +3 or +2 cover save without even having to go to ground, respectively. This means that typical Daemons of Nurgle, such as Plaguebearers, are premier scoring units for holding back-field objectives - +2 cover saves that can be boosted with Feel No Pain from a cheap Nurgle Herald make for one tough bunker unit that, due to the low cost, can be multiplied more than once without compromising on more offensive units. Certain nasty combinations have come out as a result of Daemons of Nurgle possessing the Shrouded rule - notable amongst them being a Soul Grinder dedicated to Nurgle, plonked in a ruin and firing away. Daemons of Nurgle also, unsurprisingly for Daemon veterans, have the Slow and Purposeful special rule - this means that no Daemon of Nurgle can fire Overwatch, Run or perform a Sweeping Advance. Though this is crippling, most Nurgle Daemons do not possess ranged weapons anyway, and their generally high Toughness compared to other Daemons more than makes up for their plodding pace. Daemons of Nurgle also 'hate' Daemons of Tzeentch - as stated earlier, this doesn't usually swing combat either way, though Nurgle Daemons tend to be better suited to close combat anyway.

Daemons of Slaanesh - Daemons of Slaanesh have a host of special rules, the first and foremost of which is Fleet - this allows Daemons of Slaanesh not only to re-roll the distance for their Run moves, but also allows them to re-roll charge distances. Both are invaluable in terms of getting into combat as fast as possible, but the latter is perhaps the most important aspect to discuss - re-rolling charge distances can effectively guarantee a charge does not fail, or at least significantly reduce the chances of a bad roll leading to the demise of a unit through shooting. When one considers that almost every individual Daemon of Slaanesh unit needs to be in combat to work effectively - and not be torn apart through massed fire - this is absolutely invaluable in an edition that typically punishes assaulting units. In addition to Fleet, when one thinks about the 'speed' of Slaanesh Daemons, one is vindicated to find that standard Slaanesh Daemons - including chariots - add an additional three inches to any Run moves they make, whereas Cavalry units add a whopping additional six inches to their Run moves. Even the Slaaneshi Chariots add three inches to any Flat Out moves they make! Given that every Slaanesh Daemon can re-roll their basic Run distance due to Fleet, this makes all Slaanesh Daemons incredibly swift, despite commonly foot-slogging up the board, allowing them to make combat much quicker than other typical units of their kind. When one considers that Seekers of Slaanesh can potentially move twenty-four inches in a turn, and have access to deep-strike scatter-reduction icons, this creates a lot of interesting possibilities for Slaanesh Daemon armies to exploit - running up the field in hordes, or coming from Reserves with pin-point accuracy right near the enemy?
This guy knows about one type of Speed.

On top of their speed-based rules, all Daemons of Slaanesh additionally have the Rending special rule - meaning their close combat attacks can auto-wound any enemy, regardless of their Toughness, in addition to ignoring their armour save. When one considers the high Weapon Skill and Initiative of all Slaanesh Daemons compared to their peers, this is a massive boon that effectively makes even their basic Troops effective against Terminators and even monstrous creatures, often despite being much cheaper even in significant numbers. It also allows all Slaanesh Daemons to have a decent chance of harming enemy vehicles, allowing them to wreck any vehicle that is AV 12 or lower with some measure of reliability - though AV 11 vehicles are probably the highest tier you should charge into. Their speed, number of attacks and Rending despite their low cost and similar fragility to other Daemons make Daemons of Slaanesh very powerful and cost effective units overall. As a note, Daemons of Slaanesh also 'hate' Daemons of Khorne - though both alignments have their own unique approach to combat, this will usually benefit Daemons of Slaanesh more as their higher Initiative should allow them to kill more Khorne Daemons before they can strike back.

Daemonic Instability -This is arguably the most unique rule regarding Chaos Daemons, and one that governs how one should approach army-list building regarding the codex. Generally speaking, any unit with Daemonic Instability automatically passes Morale, Pinning and Fear tests, and they can never choose to fail those tests. This means that Daemons won't flee under any circumstances - which is quite advantageous as it means they also can never be destroyed by a Sweeping Advance, and allows them to remain on objectives regardless of casualties. Automatically passing Pinning tests is also very useful, as it means that Daemons can't be rendered near-useless for a turn - for an assault based army, this is invaluable, as it means your units won't be slowed or deterred from combat. That they also automatically pass Fear tests is useful, owing to the low Leadership of the army and the lack of Fearless or And They Shall Know No Fear - though Fear is generally situational, it would make a big difference if it did affect Daemons, due to them being an assault-focused army. Essentially, Daemons are much like Fearless units, save for one important exception - they can legally go to ground, meaning they can receive boosted cover saves that, on a generally low-save horde-based army, can be critical. This particularly benefits Daemons of Nurgle who can thus receive 4+ cover saves even when out in the open - increasing to 2+ in any kind of terrain. This makes Chaos Daemon units particularly good at holding objectives, even if most of their units lack ranged weapons and thus can only contribute to damaging an opponent through combat. Still, it means you cannot lose an expensive unit of Bloodcrushers to a Sweeping Advance, as would be the case for a unit of Chaos Terminators, for example. However, there are some downsides to this rule - the first of which is that any unit without this special rule cannot join a unit with this special rule. Despite being Battle Brothers with Chaos Space Marines, such allied combinations seem unusually restrictive when compared to others, ranging form Dark Angels and Imperial Guard to Tau and Eldar. It is irritating, though it shouldn't hamper any army list you think of too much.

The real disadvantage to automatically passing those Leadership-based tests is that if a unit with the Daemonic Instability loses an assault, they have to pass a Leadership test - adding in any modifiers for losing the assault - and for how many points they fail by, they lose that many more wounds with no saves of any kind allowed! As such, losing a combat with Chaos Daemons - especially owing to their naturally low Leadership - can be quite crippling, as it can even more seriously weaken a units combat effectiveness and make the chances of a resurgence less likely. Thankfully, as Chaos Daemon units are cheap and generally very effective in combat, this shouldn't have too much of an impact in most assaults that your units participate in - generally speaking, Chaos Daemons will win assaults against units of near or equal points cost, provided the Daemons haven't suffered too many casualties from shooting. Of course, it is a consideration and a very real possibility - bad rolls, some strong shooting, and so on can all contribute to losing a unit in a hail of glory. It is much alike to the old 5th Edition Warhammer 40000 No Retreat! rules, and in that sense, it isn't too different from Daemons' previous incarnation. Unfortunately, there is a twist; if you roll a double six, the entire unit is destroyed - just like that - and if you roll a double one, all wounds and models lost in that round of combat are restored. This random element, however rare it might be, can make a significant difference to the combat result - and both you and your opponent will no doubt be quite nervous about any potential Daemonic Instability test as a result of this. It can be very harsh, though I think Daemonic Instability still gives Chaos Daemons their identity - it gives our army benefits that other players would long to have on even a few units, though there are some very important negatives to remember. This rule, along with the cheaper nature of Daemons, seems to enforce the notion that you should take larger squads - both to minimise the risks of having to take Daemonic Instability tests, and of actually making it into combat with enough models to win the combat reliably.

The Warp Storm Table - Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the new codex, the Warp Storm Table is a chart comprised of eleven potential results corresponding to a 2D6 roll - and each of them can have a jaw-dropping effect on any given game. Rolled for at the start of each Chaos Daemons' shooting phase, the Warp Storm Table has several random effects which can severely cripple, or strengthen, friendly Daemon units - conversely, it can cause significant and almost unfair damage to an enemy player, or the Daemon player. The best way to describe the Warp Storm Table is to show a few very real, very likely examples. Imagine that it is the first turn of the game - the Daemons player deployed and started first, and their opponent, using Eldar, is confident of their army list featuring Eldrad attaining victory. Come the shooting phase, the Daemons player rolls an eleven on the Warp Storm Table - meaning a random enemy psyker has to take a Leadership test on 3D6 or be removed from play. Fate strikes, and Eldrad is the randomly determined psyker - the Eldar player sweats, picks up three dice, and rolls - the result? A thirteen, a slightly above average roll. Promptly, Eldrad is removed from play, despite being a 200+ point character that is the crux of the Eldar players' army. A Herald of Khorne is also subsequently spawned within 6" of Eldrad's location - placing it near the Pathfinders, forcing them to have to fire at the Herald of Khorne in their oncoming shooting phase or risk being killed outright. Before anything else has even happened, before the Eldar player has had a chance to move or shoot, they have conceded both First Blood and Slay the Warlord, have lost a unit that is pivotal to their strategy, and have given the Daemons player a free, decently powerful model. The Eldar player's frustration is evident - there was absolutely nothing that could be done, and it has already ruined the game for them on turn one, all down to rolling on a very random and punishing chart.

Another example. Think of how a Khorne Daemon army, headed by Skarbrand, is butchering the enemy Space Marines player - with the Exiled One at their head, the Khorne Daemons have wrought untold bloodshed. It is the last turn. Though the hordes of Bloodletters are butchering Space Marines at will, the game is drawn by a noose - the Relic is contested by Skarbrand, the Daemon Warlord, fighting off a Tactical Squad. Having had few other alternatives, the Daemon player was forced to charge into the Tactical Squad with Skarbrand - thankfully, this is not too risky a move, as Skarbrand is relatively undamaged and should butcher the remnants of the Tactical Squad, and their supporting Terminators, in this assault phase. To win, all the Daemons player needs to do is keep Skarbrand alive - an easy feat, given the Greater Daemon should murder the remaining models locked in combat. Come the shooting phase, after making the final moves of the turn, the worst should happen - a three is rolled on the Warp Storm Table, meaning that the only Daemon character left on the board, Skarbrand, must take a Daemonic Instability test on 3D6. As one would expect, Skarbrand fails and suffers enough wounds to be killed outright. Not only does this grant Slay the Warlord to the Space Marine player, but the Daemons player now cannot contest the Relic without some very lucky assault moves. In the end, the Space Marine player wins - Bloodcrushers did indeed contest the objective, but forfeiting a victory point for Slay the Warlord gave the Space Marine player a tight win.
Sometimes you simply can't win.

These examples seem rather harsh, do they not? Effects that can, at a whim, turn a game on its head - before it has even started, or long after it has been decided. The sheer horror of this random chart, with those extremes - despite how rare they should be - is that this is rolled for in each Chaos Daemons shooting phase. An effect like this will happen at least once in every standard game, providing average rolls. There is no pattern to it either, meaning that neither the Chaos Daemons player not their opponent can ever effectively plan for it - like a whispered doom, it can strike without warning and completely savage either one, or both players. Of course, there is a balance to be struck - the extreme effects are as likely to affect either player, and thus there is no true favouritism. The more common results will typically be at the whim of a particular Chaos God - Khorne's rage can literally reave the battlefield, potentially striking both enemy units and Slaanesh Daemons. In contrast, Nurgle's pestilence can affect both Daemons of Tzeentch and any enemy unit. Following the alignment rules in terms of which gods hate each other, these random attacks will hit any opposing gods' Daemon units on a 6+, as well as any enemy unit on a 6+ - and these attacks can be absolutely devastating. The six result leads to any affected unit suffering D6 Strength four AP three Poisoned (+4) hits with Ignores Cover. Against a heavily foot-slogging enemy Space Marine army with lots of infantry units, you can potentially wipe out well over one hundred points, and it would not be counted as 'lucky' rolling. Similarly, the eight result leads to every affected unit effectively being hit by a blastmaster - you place a small blast marker, scatter it 2D6 inches, and any friendly or enemy model touched suffers a hit at Strength eight AP three using the Barrage rules. Ergo, it can potentially snipe out both the special weapon and heavy weapon-wielders in a squad, and the Sergeant, and reliably kill off a few others. Double this across an army, and it can both neuter and severely damage multiple units.

Though I feel these effects are 'balanced', in the sense that they will severely affect the enemy as much as the Chaos Daemons player - though the pure damage results should hit enemy units more often - they are so random and indefensible that they can almost unfairly swing a game in any direction without warning. Mitigation is possible for the Chaos Daemons player, both by either taking a mono-god build or by taking Instruments wherever possible - but this same advantage is not carried over to enemy players, unless they too use Chaos Daemons. Most players will justifiably claim that they prefer to have a game within their control - that they might win or lose based more on skill and deployment, rather than pure luck. Though this is certainly true, one must always remember that, being a dice-based table-top game, much of what determines any given result is due heavily to luck at any given moment - the only truth is that one can 'sway' the dice in their favour by being tactically adept and writing stronger army lists that exploit the averages. Perhaps the true flaw with the Warp Storm Table in the eyes of many players will be that it is latent and cannot be predicted, and leaves very little room to be defended against. In fact, it would not surprise me to see prevention-measures commonly employed - whether using Chaos Daemons as an allied force (where the Warp Storm Table no longer applies), taking Instruments throughout the army, or employing Fateweaver to swing such dice rolls in your favour. Though it can be an unforgiving and nasty table that should be given a lot of consideration, I think it is still a fun and fluffy addition to the army - it will definitely serve to add a lot of tension to any game where a Chaos Daemons player is present. Will it add frustration more often than excitement, though? My best guess is yes - though I think you should formulate your own opinion after going through some extensive play-testing. I think it will prove to be an intriguing addition, though I am sure many others - perhaps most - will disagree.

Daemonic Gifts - Unlike any other army, Chaos Daemons do not actually pick specific wargear options - instead, they purchase a certain tier of 'daemonic gift', and roll on a corresponding chart to see what item or effect they receive. This random nature of determining wargear can take away from the fun of customising your commanders and squad leaders, and can even make modelling such units incredibly irritating. However, it must be noted that for what you pay for, the benefits tend to be exceedingly worthwhile - potentially, twenty points can can give an already unreasonably tough Bloodthirster Feel No Pain (+4), and the same chart also gives a lot of similarly-powerful buffs! Added to this, if you roll a result that you do not like, you can swap it out for a '0' result - this allows you to pick from a certain selection of wargear, based on which tier of chart you rolled on. These are typically weapons; in fact, an almost ludicrous possibility is that any unit champion and character in your codex can take an AP2 melee weapon that is master-crafted and strikes at Initiative order for only ten poppies. Such weapons tend to cost upwards of twenty five or thirty points in other codices - in fact, many don't have access to such weapons at all, and certainly not so easily handed out across the army. Given that taking champions in any given unit only costs a handful of trikes, you can make your army a nightmare for challengers; ironically, this becomes almost comical against Chaos Space Marines. Remembering also that your squad leaders typically have profiles that, in combat, laugh at even Space Marine Sergeants, and those cheap Heralds you have leave Chaos Lords red-faced. Of course, if you do want to go down that road, remember how cheap our Daemons are now, and how taking more of them is probably a better idea, given the circumstances. Of course, though randomly determining your wargear is kind of annoying, I think that all of the benefits are great and thus worth the low price and unforeseen outcome - notably, the Greater Gifts (mid-tier) chart is the most worthwhile, unless you want more of those cheap AP2 weapons that other codices would die for.

Warlord Traits - Like all of the new 6th Edition codices, Chaos Daemons come with their own unique Warlord Traits table - and one that, in my mind, is the strongest of those unique to an army so far. I make this comment when considering the special rules, deficiencies and strengths of the army - in the context of a Chaos Daemons army, these benefits should prove to be far more consistently useful than those found elsewhere. Literally every result is highly advantageous - barring one that still works well against certain armies - in almost any situation, though each one does favour certain chosen Warlords over others. Three of the results directly - and significantly - affect much of the army, granting either re-rolls on the Warp Storm Table, re-rolls for all friendly units within 12" when taking their Daemonic Instability tests, and having your Warlord act as an Icon of Chaos that prevents scatter for all friendly Daemons, regardless of their alignment. Obviously, due to how integral reserves, Instability and the random effects can be be on a Daemons armies, these traits are always invaluable. One directly benefits a Herald, and provides an immense buff to whatever unit they join - granting both themselves and the attached unit Hatred (Everything!), meaning their combat effectiveness is highly increased. Another is best served on a Greater Daemon or Daemon Prince, granting all of their melee weapons the Instant Death special rule - essentially turning your already amazingly powerful monstrous creatures into even deadlier foes. The last forces all enemy units across the board to take any Fear tests at -1 to their Leadership, though this is highly situational as it only works against half of the armies in the game - still, it is useful against opponents who can suffer its effects. I definitely think Chaos Daemons have a strong set of Warlord Traits, and unless you roll for the Fear trait, you will usually be very happy with the result.


Daemons are very much a unique army, as their extensive roster of unique special rules will no doubt attest. To truly command and enjoy a functional and competitive Chaos Daemons army, a deep understanding of these rules will be required - their presence oozes throughout the codex, and should be extensively studied before determining the effectiveness or usefulness of any particular unit in a given army list. As it stands, Daemonic Instability and the relative fragility of Daemons' rewards larger units - given how cheap all of our units are, this isn't a crippling issue either. The Warp Storm Table will always hang over every battle a Chaos Daemons player participates in, though as much as you may try to prevent some of the effects, there will often be little you will be able to do to mitigate any given result. Between a strong set of Warlord Traits and some powerful Daemonic Gifts though, our units - particularly our characters - can be quite powerful and cheap in comparison to those of other codices.


  1. I appreciate your more journalistic approach to these articles. I'm starting to get really tired of reading other Blogger's write ups and seeing "this unit doesn't have grenades so it sucks" "too fragile, sucks" "has warpflame, sucks" all just going down the list, choosing a weakness, and claiming its the end of the world.

    You on the other hand, go through, lay out the full, in context picture, provide us with the pros and cons, and let us make up our own damn minds if the risk is worth the reward.

    You, sir, are doing it right. And I for one appreciate it!

    1. Thank you very much :) I try to be as fair and balanced as possible when doing my Tacticas - I feel that encouraging players to experiment with the different choices is the best way to go. Mostly, all I can do is provide a basic guide - the rest is up to the individual player, and what models/units they would like to use.

      Again, thank you! It means a lot :)

  2. Looking forward to getting a game in vs the new daemons. Although as an eldar player I want to.know if warlocks count as psykers for that result on the warpstorm table and if farseers can use their ghosthelms against it. That is the point of them after all.

    1. As Nemesor Sombrero says, unless the Warlock counts as a psyker, they can't be affected by that Warp Storm Table result. However, per the Eldar FAQ, I do believe they count as psykers - they are treated as a Mastery Level 0 psyker from memory. And yes, unfortunately you can't use your ghosthelms against that result.

  3. Nope, unless they have the psyker special rule (which I don't think they do) warlocks are safe from it (unfortunately for you)

    Also, unfortunately ghost helms are a no go against it, they only help with perils of the warp... This is unfortunately not perils of the warp (although I thoroughly wish it was, and that's coming from a daemon player)