Our Heavy Support choices are quite decent, though some of them are not as useful as they should be due to unusual rules; one unit in particular is in dire need of an FAQ update, as an example. Mostly, they provide the only real long-range firepower in the army, though it is typically unreliable or used for purposes other than straight slaughter. There are some very nasty combinations, and two of the units stand head and shoulders above the rest in terms of overall effectiveness and synergy with the rest of a Daemons force.
Soul Grinder - Previously the only vehicle available to Chaos Daemons, the Soul Grinder has some very unique distinctions; first among them that it is the only non-flying unit that can natively skyfire, thus adding additional anti-air firepower to an army list. For that alone a Soul Grinder is quite useful, even if the actual weapon used isn't fantastic; three Strength seven shots is nothing to sneeze at, and with a Ballistic Skill of three, you should be getting one or two hits every turn. Thankfully, the weapon has an alternate firing mode that allows it to shoot at ground targets without penalty, meaning it can also be used for light anti-infantry suppression or a decent armour destroyer. What is tasty is how damned difficult it is to kill it as far as typical walkers go; an AV 13/13/11 walker that sports a standard +5 invulnerable save, causes Fear and comes stock with four Strength ten AP two attacks is pretty hardcore, even if they are at Weapon Skill three and Initiative three. Much like a Defiler, it also has four hull points, meaning the already difficult job of glancing it becomes that much harder - the invulnerable save really does make a difference, as it is a 33% chance to effectively ignore a potential damage result on something that can take four of them before bowing out. Where it really starts to differ from its 'cousin' is that it does not come stock with a lot of those weapon options, and it lacks a host of special rules the Defiler possesses; Soul Grinders don't benefit from Fleet, the Daemonforge, or It Will Not Die, nor does it come with a battle cannon and a heavy flamer. However, the Soul Grinder holds the cards compared to the Defiler, as it is both significantly cheaper and can pay a decent amount for upgrades that make it far more efficient and dangerous. As a stock standard choice, the Soul Grinder isn't bad at all, given how cheap it is; AV13 front and side also makes a huge difference against enemies toting krak grenades, autocannons, plasma guns and the like - the latter two of which are very much staking their claim in the meta currently. Most enemies will be forced to automatically fail a morale check per 'Our Weapons are Useless' if they engage a Soul Grinder in close quarters combat, though actually charging into enemies that are either Fearless or have the Grim Resolve special rule - basically, any Dark Angels unit - will be forced to stay and be steadily butchered lest they have meltabombs, power fists and all that jazz. To boil it down, Soul Grinders are quite cheap for what they do, and very durable as far as walkers go; of course, actually hiding the thing is no small task, though the invulnerable save helps immensely.
Where the Soul Grinder's value really starts to emerge as an all-purpose and cost-effective walker is through its potential upgrades; much like Chaos Furies and Daemon Princes, Soul Grinders can be dedicated to a god of Chaos! This gives them the same benefits as with other Daemons, and the costs vary for each dedication. Khorne is free, considering that the usual benefit it grants - Furious Charge - doesn't mean much on a model that always has the equivalent of a power fist and strikes at Strength ten; though it does give Hatred of Slaanesh Daemons, and given their expected resurgence in popularity, this isn't bad at all. Tzeentch is the least costly (in terms of marks that actually cost something) and provides arguably the weakest benefit, allowing the Soul Grinder to re-roll saving throws of one; though it is unreliable, it does have its uses given how tough the beast is. Nurgle is the equal most expensive, and gives by far the best benefit if you exploit it; though Slow and Purposeful prevents the Soul Grinder from using Overwatch, Running or performing a Sweeping Advance, being a Daemon of Nurgle grants it Shrouded, or a +2 bonus to any cover save it would have. Out in the open, this advantage means little, given the Soul Grinder already has the +5 invulnerable save; however, obscure the Soul Grinder by 25% percent - which is pretty easy given how 'wide' the model is - by, for example, sticking half of its body in a ruin, and enjoy a jaw-dropping +2 cover save on an AV 13/13/11 four hull-point walker. I kid you not. Given this costs less than twenty tacos, that benefit is absolutely ludicrous; it turns an already pretty hardy vehicle into an almost indestructible mass of flesh and steel that hits hard both at range and up close. Denying its cover saves isn't easy either, given how big it is and how easily you can hide the legs and what-not; charging it isn't the best idea either unless you have a monstrous creature or at-Initiative high strength weapon handy, as they do dish out in the pain in combat better than most other walkers. Provided you have cover to move into or deploy in near or inside your deployment zone, plonk the nasty abomination there and laugh as enemies simply can't destroy something that lobs a half-range battle cannon each turn. The last and easily second most beneficial dedication is of Slaanesh, granting Rending to the Soul Grinder's attacks (I am unclear if this applies to its ranged attacks; by rules-as-written it doesn't, as far as I can tell) as well as Fleet and an additional three inches to any re-rollable Run move it makes. It works to make the Soul Grinder much quicker, and far less likely to fail a charge and reduce the chances of being a fish out of water on the enemy turn.
|The Defiler wishes it could be the Soul Grinder. And, so do I.|
The last option to discuss is one that still makes me scratch my head in utter confusion. For a similar cost to one of the very strong ranged upgrades, you can, in addition to your iron claw, take a 'Warpsword'; a master-crafted AP three melee specialist weapon with Strength as user. Wait up. A melee weapon that is very costly and is far worse than the weapon I come stock standard with? What? What am I paying those points for exactly? One re-roll to hit, and only if I use the weapon? A bonus attack? Yes, as the Iron Claw is also a specialist weapon, the Soul Grinder would then get a single extra attack in combat. For something that is only marginally less than the Phlegm Bombardment. I've got four words for this; what were they thinking!? Don't bother with it, unless you assembled your Soul Grinder(s) with the awesome-looking sword option and either you or your opponent feels it should be forced to use it. If Walkers didn't ignore Unwieldy, it wouldn't be such an issue, as there would actually be some kind of validation for taking the Warpsword then. Still....just no. In any case, the Soul Grinder is a nicely utilitarian model that is surprisingly unique - and welcome - in an army that tends to lack multi-purpose units, sporting a stock anti-air and anti-vehicle weapon with strong melee capabilities, all on a very tough armoured platform. The meat is in the upgrades, and even kitted out with an extra gun and the favour of one the four Chaos Gods, the Soul Grinder will be cheaper than a Chaos Space Marine Defiler; given that the former is both more durable, more versatile in the sense that it also attacks aircraft, and as good in combat, you really can't go past it. There are some very brutal combinations to be found, the most obvious of which is to take the Phlegm Bombardment and dedicate the Soul Grinder to Nurgle; it dishes out the hurt very quickly, and is unreasonably difficult to remove by conventional means. Still, I think as long as you don't take the superfluous upgrades and otherwise think of the combination of weapon and dedication, Soul Grinders should be well worth the points in every game; they are arguably now one of the best land vehicles in the game and should be coveted accordingly. Just be very aware not to go all-out on them, as luck can still sway their fate and they aren't exactly cheap, even if they are probably under-costed for their potential performance.
Skull Cannon of Khorne - As the old adage goes, Khorne cares not how the blood is spilled; only that he may suckle and drink for an eternity. The Skull Cannon is thus an interesting addition to what has universally been perceived as a close-combat oriented army - Khorne Daemons specifically - that adds both some decent firepower, and a very hefty bonus for assaulting units. First off, it is an open-topped chariot, meaning that penetrating hits resolved against it gain a +1 modifier on top of any others, such as those provided by AP two and AP one weapons; to put this into perspective, a penetrating hit from a multi-melta would cause a Skull Cannon to explode on a whopping +3. As you can tell, you need to be careful with the model; getting up close and personal may not be your thing, but it also may not be your choice. As a chariot without a rider, it is a bit odd; its main attribute being that it can launch an assault into an enemy unit and, as a Daemon of Khorne, it inflicts D6 Strength seven automatic hits. Not bad at all, though again, perhaps getting close is not the best option with the Skull Cannon due to how easily it can be destroyed with a lucky shot; still, if an enemy transport or ill-equipped unit draws near, charge them and potentially do quite a bit of damage. Per the Gorefeast special rule, if it inflicts any unsaved wounds with its Hammer of Wrath attacks, it can regain a lost hull point on a +4, meaning it keeps on trucking while dishing out the pain; it isn't to be relied upon though. Actually getting through its armour is moderately tough, given that it is an AV 12/12/10 vehicle that, due to being a Daemon, has a tasty +5 invulnerable save; with three hull points that it can potentially regrow, it is pretty survivable for its points. What really sets the Skull Cannon apart though - as well as being the real reason you would consider taking one - is the actual weapon that is the chariot's namesake; firing a Strength eight AP five large blast with Ignores Cover, it is death incarnate to light infantry of any kind and, with a good shot, can reliably kill a handful of Space Marine-equivalents as well. Tyranid Warriors and the like will learn to fear it, even if they get their +4 armour save; it is also pretty devastating against units that rely on cover, such as Eldar Pathfinders or even Plaguebearers of Nurgle. So, the cannon itself is pretty damaging, though one must ask whether it is appropriately priced next to a vehicle such as a Vindicator that fires a stronger weapon.
|Blood! Skulls! Maim! Blood!|
The Skull Cannon has its own set of advantages to compensate, given its superior range of thirty-six inches, meaning it can fire and pretty reliably stay out of range of the more common anti-tank weapons found in today's meta. The invulnerable save also helps out a lot for the most part, even if cover is pretty readily available, it can make a big difference against deep-striking or outflanking enemies that would usually gobble up the side armour of such vehicles. What really defines the Skull Cannon though is the unique special rule for its gun - aptly named 'Dreadskulls' - as any unit that is hit by the Skull Cannon (the weapon) allows assaulting Daemon units to ignore the Initiative penalties for charging through cover against that unit(s). Given that the entire army lacks assault grenades, and seeing as how charging through cover is often the only life-line opponents depend on against a daemonic assault, this benefit really cannot be under-stated; an opponent that thinks their Tactical Marines will be safe and able to inflict some serious casualties on those charging Bloodletters before they strike should think again, instead being butchered in one round by the ravening horde. Afraid the casualties suffered from being Overwatched by a unit of Immortals in cover will be too much for your Daemonettes to win the combat? Soften the Immortals up with the Skull Cannon, and watch as your high Initiative lovelies rip and tear through the entire unit, forcing a failed Leadership test and subsequently a sweeping advance. Worried your Bloodthirster will have to strike last against a Grey Knight Grand Master in a challenge (or his unit) or risk being charged and go last anyway? Watch the grin rapidly fade from your opponents' face as your mutilated cross-breed of Juggernaught and daemon engine causes their leader to bite the dust in a truly inglorious fashion.
This is the real reason that you would want to take a Skull Cannon, even if its firepower is pretty useful in an assault-based army, but mostly because of the mitigation of a serious disadvantage any assaulting Daemon unit suffers from. The best part about all of this is that, even though it relies on an always unpredictable large blast weapon, Khorne's 'martial prowess' carries over here as well, as the Skull Cannon has an excellent Ballistic Skill of five; accurate large blasts for everyone! In short, the Skull Cannon is a decently durable support unit that should be used to soften up enemies and provide the benefit of assault grenades to your charging Daemons, whatever their daemonic alignment. Though they have little other uses and are out-performed by the excellent Soul Grinder in terms of raw damage potential and versatility, the benefits of the Skull Cannon are pretty far-reaching, meaning you should consider at least one in any army list that features lots of assault units. It is nice and cheap too!
Burning Chariot of Tzeentch - My initial impressions of this unit is that it was the far superior Chaos Daemon equivalent of the Dark Angels Land Speeder Vengeance - a glass cannon that hits hard but is pretty easily destroyed. Compared to the Vengeance, it not only has better firepower and is just as mobile, but it is also a darn sight more durable too. Though all of that may still be true, there is a gross limitation that really sets the unit back and means that, for competitive play, it requires an FAQ update to be viable. But enough of that just for now, I will discuss firstly the reasons why this would be such a good unit if it weren't for that major issue. It is a fast skimmer chariot mounted with a three wound - extraordinarily tough for a Daemon chariot rider - 'Exalted Flamer' that can hold its own in combat, as well as shooting pretty well too. It moves exceptionally quickly, and would typically be allowed to fire two weapons at full Ballistic Skill even if it moved twelve inches; it can also move flat out up to eighteen inches, and benefits from a meaty +4 cover save whilst doing so. Given that its weapons are mostly of medium range, this gives the Burning Chariot significant mobility that allows it either to shoot early on, or at the very least get into a good position to do so later whilst making it more difficult to destroy. Compared to other fast skimmers of its kind, it is quite a bit more durable; a permanent +5 invulnerable save is very useful, given that it also re-rolls failed saving throws of one, for the odd chance it gets stuck into combat or becomes immobilised. With three hull points at AV 10/10/10 though on an open-topped platform, it is quite easily destroyed if shot at by any decently strong anti-tank weapon, meaning you are likely to get only one or two rounds of shooting at it before it is promptly targeted by significant weaponry and subsequently destroyed. Given how cheap the thing is though, that isn't really a bad thing; it is there as a distraction unit that does a lot of damage very quickly if an opponent allows it to.
What should really catch your eye - and subsequently turn it away - is the firepower the Burning Chariot offers; the Exalted Flamer mounted upon it can fire either a D3 Strength nine AP two weapon at eighteen inches, offering a nasty medium-ranged anti-tank weapon that hits pretty reliably with a Ballistic Skill of four. In an army that traditionally lacks the means to destroy enemy vehicles early on, the Burning Chariot can be a life-saver as it stands a decent chance of wrecking medium to light armoured vehicles even on the second turn of the game. It also sports a very powerful anti-infantry weapon, with a Strength five AP three Torrent template weapon; though not as strong as the Baleflamer carried by the Heldrake, nor as mobile, it is still an exceptionally strong weapon that can burn through the majority of Space Marine units, and convincingly wipe out entire squads such as Pathfinders and Fire Warriors. Given the Torrent special rule and the twelve inch movement of the Burning Chariot, it would stand a very good chance of attacking and doing severe damage to enemy formations in the first game turn. Unfortunately, this is where the real issue of the Burning Chariot is exposed - as both of the weapons carried by the Exalted Flamer are of the 'Heavy' type, and the Exalted Flamer lacks the Relentless special rule, it is forced to snap-fire its weapons (precluding it from firing the template weapon altogether) if it even moves an inch! This means that the mobility of the unit simply does not work at all well with the firepower it possesses; given the short range of its weapons and fragility, this means the Burning Chariot is a very easy target for enemies to deal with in the first or second turn of the game, and suffer no damage from it as a result. This is a crippling over-sight that is strangely contradicted in every way by the recent White Dwarf battle report and the other rules it possesses; what is it meant for if not for early harassment that, whilst cheap, is suitably balanced by being easily removed? Given that you need to spend a turn setting up in a good position, and a smart opponent will merely move out of its range or just shoot at it and destroy it with ease, there is little competitive use for the Burning Chariot at this point; it is such a shame, given that the model is superb.
|Pre-FAQ: Yep. Post-FAQ: Wha....?|
It does have some options you can make use of; the most notable being the humorous 'Blue Horrors' upgrade, where a team of the miniature rascals (my apologies) shouts curses and slander at enemies, reducing their Leadership by one within six inches of the Burning Chariot. Not bad, especially when combined with all Daemons causing Fear and the like, but you always need to be careful when maneuvering the Burning Chariot that close to enemies. It also has access to twenty points worth of gifts, much like unit champions, and given its combat profile is actually decent an etherblade is not a bad idea at all. Still, until it is FAQed to actually be allowed to fire normally on the move - it is what is expected, though if it turns out the current rulings were intentional, this unit will sadly sit and gather dust - I wouldn't recommend it. However, if it is FAQed after the time of writing this article, I would heartily recommend its inclusion; its mobile firepower is strong, versatile and effective for the cost, though it is very much a glass cannon that should be handled somewhat carefully. I should also make a note of the fact that the Exalted Flamer can never disembark from the Burning Chariot, and if the Burning Chariot is destroyed, so too is the Exalted Flamer. Though perhaps a bit disappointing, it is hardly unsurprising and should inform you not to take too many upgrades on the Exalted Flamer for fear of losing the fragile Chariot in a single salvo.
Seeker Cavalcade - Given that this entry consists of two separate units, I will first discuss the strengths and weaknesses of both the Seeker and Exalted Seeker Chariots, and then I will specifically talk about the overall Cavalcade and their uses in a Chaos Daemons army.
Seeker Chariot - How absurdly cheap Seeker Chariots are is almost mind-boggling. What kind of an introduction to a unit is that, you might say? Well, for only five popsickles more than a stock-standard Rhino, a Seeker Chariot has one less hull point, identical armour values, is a fast open-topped chariot, and does some nasty damage when it charges into units. Don't worry though, I am not actually comparing it to the Rhino; I am merely illustrating how inexpensive this unit is. First up, Seeker Chariots are pretty fragile; AV 11/11/10 is pretty standard for a light vehicle, though with only two hull points and due to adding an additional +1 modifier to any rolls on the damage chart against it, is pretty easily destroyed. Thankfully, it is mostly immune to small arms fire, meaning you needn't worry yourself against stock standard enemies lacking special or heavy weapons as you would the Burning Chariot. It is pretty quick for a vehicle that trundles along the ground, though. As a Daemon of Slaanesh, it adds three inches to its flat out moves and, owing to having the 'Fast' vehicle-type, it can move up to fifteen inches with its flat out moves! Given that it also has Fleet, it can move up twelve inches and launch an assault that re-rolls the charge distance. This is where the Seeker Chariot's value really starts to expose itself, as for each remaining hull point on the chariot, it deals D6 Strength four AP nothing Hammer of Wrath attacks on the charge that have the Rending special rule! A standard Seeker Chariot thus averages about seven automatic hits at Initiative ten on any given unit, provided it hasn't suffered any damage as yet, and should average at least one Rending wound amongst those and probably another two or three armour saves against typical Toughness four enemies; against Space Marines, it averages about two kills on the charge, almost automatically paying for the model. Given that it is also ridden by an Exalted Alluress that deals five Weapon Skill five Strength three Rending attacks at Initiative five on the charge, it is a good bet it will make its points back if it charges into a standard enemy unit.
What is apparent is that they have a high threat range, with an effective charge distance of between fourteen and twenty four inches, and thus can force enemies to target them or face a pretty nasty charge. Given that you can and should take Seeker Chariots in squadrons, their numbers can be quite hard to deal with for opponents, particularly given the new squadron rules are far more lenient than before. They are pretty cost-effective models that typically pay for themselves if they can get into combat, though the sheer distraction value they provide is also significant; three of them without upgrades is exceedingly cheap, but can mow through entire squads on their own if left to their own devices. As such, enemies really need to get their priorities in line if they want to deal with the sheer number of threats an army sporting these chariots can throw down; taking three squadrons of three may leave many opponents scratching their heads, particularly given you can combine them with multiple units of Seekers, Fiends, Daemonettes and even Keepers of Secrets in a 1500 point game! I think that, though they are fragile, they make for great re-directors and bait units that prove to either be cheap and effective distraction units, or deal out quite a bit more damage than their cost would indicate should be probable. I think they are pretty worthwhile, especially if you want to spend points elsewhere but still want a Cavalcade. It should be noted that you can give the Exalted Alluress' mounted on the chariots up to twenty points of daemonic gifts, though I think they are largely unnecessary here; some use could be made of a greater etherblade, but it is probably a bit too expensive to be throwing around on one or more models in a vehicle squadron. Much like the Burning Chariot as well, the Exalted Alluress' cannot disembark under any circumstances, and die automatically if the Seeker Chariot is destroyed. Unlike the Exalted Flamer though, the Exalted Alluress' only have a single wound at Toughness three each, meaning they are quite easily killed if you don't pick your combats well. Seeker Chariots are pretty good, though their durability and combat effectiveness are definitely outshone by their Cavalcade counter-part; however, they work well as supporting members to protect the more costly Exalted Chariot, or to save points.
|This is totally what Seeker Chariots look like.|
Three Seeker Chariots is a very cheap and effective distraction unit that ties up enemy units within the first two turns and does some significant damage, forcing them to shoot them afterwards when the combat is disengaged or move out of position. Three Exalted Seeker Chariots is effectively a vehicle 'death-star', though comparatively cheaper and more fragile when put up against such styled units, as three will - amazingly - inflict an average of forty-two hits (assuming full hull points) on a unit they charge. Against regular Terminators, the averages are about twenty one wounds, seven of which are Rending, leading to four or five failed invulnerable saves and two failed armour saves. Ergo, assuming average rolls, they can wipe out six or seven Terminators on the charge, and be decently less costly too! That doesn't even include the fifteen Weapon Skill five, Initiative five, Strength three Rending attacks from the Exalted Alluresses either, leading to another casualty or so. Not bad at all! Even a five-strong of thunder-hammer/storm-shield Terminators, one of the deadliest melee units in the game, will statistically be wiped out by a full-on Exalted Seeker Chariot charge consisting of three meat-grinders. Still, given their cost and (in reality) minimal improvements to durability, it is important to note that you could feasibly take six regular Seeker Chariots for only slightly more than three Exalted Seeker Chariots, and have two units that do half the damage each, but are less of an obvious target for your opponent and do the necessary damage to most opponents anyway. That, and they are far more likely to survive to get where they need to be - spreading the firepower amongst your units. In that sense, I think an Exalted Seeker Chariot should be used mostly as the 'head' of a three-model strong Seeker Cavalcade; two regular Seeker Chariots and one Exalted Seeker Chariot, with the lesser two covering the major one from the front and soaking up any fire (or the other way around) is a good and viable tactic. Taking entire units of them probably only works in bigger games, but if they get the charge, they are absolutely devastating.
Seeker Cavalcade - Seeker Cavalcades are very cheap, pretty damaging units that sacrifice durability for raw speed and hitting power; they should be getting into combat by turn two at the latest - if at all - and if taken in numbers, can wipe out all or most of Space Marine squads, which is no mean feat. They shouldn't be taken in configurations that run their cost over one hundred and sixty points in my opinion, as going any higher in a regular sized game means you are probably investing too many points into a single unit that can quite easily be wiped out with some decent ranged anti-tank weaponry that is readily available in today's meta. With Seeker Cavalcades, they work much better if there is more than one Cavalcade; given their low cost and fragility, multiplying their numbers increases both their chances of survival as well as the overall target saturation for your army, meaning your opponent will have to make some tough decisions; especially if you have greater daemons and their like in the army. Seeker Cavalcades probably work best composed mainly of the more cost-effective variant, the standard Seeker Chariot, though one or maybe two Exalted Seeker Chariots isn't a bad idea. Taking the maximum squadron size of three should be encouraged only if two or more of the chariots are of the regular variety, as two or more Exalted Seeker Chariots with a third one simply becomes too points-intensive in any environment below 2000 points. Even then, the regular Seeker Chariots filling up the core and keeping the costs minimal allows the Seeker Cavalcade to be most effectively used for what it was designed for; flanking, charging units in isolation or in combination with other fast-moving units, and using their superior assault range to force enemies to either engage them or be tied up and suffer some significant casualties. If used in this way, Seeker Cavalcades are very good additions to an assault-based Chaos Daemons army; they probably won't work too well in a mostly ranged army, and it must be noted that Soul Grinders and Skull Cannons may provide more overall utility for your army. Still, I think they are a pretty neat option that will surprise your opponent as much as they surprise you; they hit quite a bit harder than a first glance would intimate, and provided you support them well and have multiple adequate targets for opponents to focus on, they should get into combat pretty reliably. You can upgrade the Exalted Alluresses, but I would avoid it in a fully-fledged Seeker Cavalcade; they don't need them.
Example Builds - There are a range of viable combinations available to our Heavy Support choices, and here are a few examples of them;
Soul Grinder of Nurgle w/ phlegm bombardment - 180
Soul Grinder of Slaanesh w/ baleful torrent - 170
Seeker Cavalcade (three Seeker Chariots) - 120
Seeker Cavalcade (two Seeker Chariots, one Exalted Seeker Chariot) - 155
Seeker Cavalcade (two Exalted Seeker Chariots) - 150
Do you think my summations were fair and accurate? Or do you think I am more than a bit off with my thoughts on these units? Sound off in the comments below, or join the discussion on +Bell of Lost Souls - we appreciate any and all feedback and critiques! Thank you again!