20 Mar 2013

Khorne Daemons - Rejoice in Slaughter

Hey all, Learn2Eel here, and today I want to discuss the brutal, horrific incarnations of rage and bloodshed that are the Khorne Daemons. A fearsome army in close quarters combat, Khorne Daemons are perhaps the most iconic of all their daemonic kin; their physical form commonly matches the visual representations of 'demons' found in many literary works of the occult. Make no mistake - there shall be blood!

Khorne Daemons

A lot has been written and argued about assault-based armies in 6th Edition, notably the fundamentals of assault and the dominance of shooting. The most competitive army lists out there tend to be based around medium to long-ranged firepower, with Necrons and Grey Knights in particular leading the line in those areas in terms of weight and effectiveness of firepower. Making an assault is harder than ever for many units, notably those that used Rhinos or Outflank to get to their target whilst suffering minimal damage - the prevention of launching an assault on the turn one disembarks or otherwise arrives on the table means your units have to endure a full round of shooting before they can start to dig in. As well, Overwatch and the higher prevalence of defensive-minded units in an edition that prioritises objectives means that your assault units need to be able to hit hard and fast, regardless of casualties, as you can expect to suffer many on the way to their target. For a Khorne army - one that has always been about bloodshed in melee - some may believe 6th Edition is anathema. Well, I say different; assault is very much still alive, although it is definitely more difficult to pull off than before for your standard units. What really changes the pace up is the new rules for flying monstrous creatures and the updated movement profiles for a range of units in the army - notably Bloodcrushers - that means the army can get to their targets far quicker than ever before. This is where I feel a large force that simply runs up the board with a mass of infantry will fail against any kind of competitive army featuring both quantifiable and quality ranged weapons. However, one that focuses on speed, harassing the enemy early on and flooding the board with unavoidable targets serves to mitigate this issue; an enemy can shoot at Skarbrand if he is by himself, or at least ignore him for a few turns as he plods up the field, but not if he deep-strikes near a friendly unit of Bloodcrushers with Flesh Hounds racing up the opposite flank. The key element of any assault army in 6th Edition is speed, and having the models to survive to get into combat otherwise. So, let us look at some specific ideas on how to run a successful Khorne Daemons army with the new codex.

Speed and Reserve Manipulation

The key aspect of a good melee army in an edition favouring mobile ranged forces, speed is a broad term that essentially dictates how quickly your forces can make it into an effective charge range and proceed to hammer home their advantage in close quarters combat. For most infantry units, turn three or four is about when they can expect to reach combat; given the fragility of our core units, merely running them up the field is an inadvisable tactic as any smart opponent will simply pepper them with firepower and severely reduce their numbers - and combat effectiveness - whilst focusing on the faster elements of your army. Unless you play smaller games or use small gaming boards, I would never recommend running a 'horde' army up the field - not with Chaos Daemons anyway - given that your Bloodletters are considerably more expensive (albeit more dangerous) than those units, casualties are that much more costly. A low Toughness and weak save - albeit an invulnerable one - won't save you against massed bolter fire, and you will need to fear even lasguns in numbers, oddly. So how does a Khorne army expand upon this issue? Firstly, you need a way to get the core of your army into the midst of the opposition early on without risking too many casualties; deep-striking is the best way to do this by far, given that Daemons have a lot of reliable means to get reliable scatter and reserve rolls. To work off of this, you need a whole range of fast moving units that can act as 'beacons' for those core units, or at least feed off of their presence; Bloodcrushers are perfect in this role, given that they can carry icons to home in your Bloodletters. Have the Bloodcrushers rush up the field into a good position, preferably one that hides them well, and have your Bloodletters appear with perfect placement and ready to charge right into the enemy in the subsequent turn! Taking Instruments on the Bloodletters also helps to boost the effectiveness of this strategy for a small investment in points; if but one reserved unit deep-strikes successfully, yet another can come down immediately afterwards, meaning that even bad rolls for your reserves can still lead to all of your forces arriving in the same turn! This tactic is often referred to as 'chaining', and works best if you have three or more units placed in reserves. Doing all of this is merely to save your Bloodletters two or three turns of shooting, and give them a far more reliable path to the enemy that means they should start the butchering far earlier than if you had run them up the field. Given their combination with other fast-moving units in this way, it also floods the board with a number of highly dangerous threats that your opponent needs to deal with immediately, forcing them either to split-fire and accomplish little real damage or focus on specific units and ignore the others that are all deadly in combat!

Of course, the lynchpins to that particular strategy are Bloodcrushers; they are your only fast-moving icon bearers, and they are an expensive and fragile unit. This is where I think many players will need to make use of certain characters and other complimentary units to really strengthen the chances of this strategy working - or at least not losing the Bloodcrushers on the first turn. Ideally, now that they are Cavalry and have three wounds a piece at Toughness four, you should run them into cover early on and hope that your enemy doesn't have spare missile launchers and the like that can spot them. Whilst you have to be cautious with them early on, after your Bloodletters and the like have arrived, you can throw caution to the wind - within reasons of course - and go head-hunting as you please, given your twelve inch movement and Fleet meaning you should be successfully charging enemy units on turn two. As much as they are prone to instant death now, Bloodcrushers still hit very hard and a bare minimum unit of three (which I recommend for this strategy; take two units of three) will reliably mow through an entire Space Marine squad without difficulty. In fact, to put this into perspective, a unit of three will average about eight hits and seven armour-ignoring wounds against a typical Space Marine unit, whilst suffering one or two wounds in return; in effect, you should get the preferred result of wiping them out in their assault phase, meaning you are free to charge another unit in the next turn! So, aside from the need to be very careful with them, Bloodcrushers will still butcher most enemies when they charge; but if you really want to augment them, and make this strategy less risky, there are a mix of characters you can attach to these units to ensure they get the job done. The first is a Herald of Khorne riding a Juggernaught; at Toughness five with three wounds and Look Out Sir!, he can soak up those pesky missile launcher shots and Look Out Sir small-arms fire on to its fellow three-wound beasties as it sees fit. That, and taking a cheap ten point weapon - the Etherblade - makes him a murder machine against most enemy characters that don't cost in excess of two hundred points. The second is Skulltaker, again riding a Juggernaught, because he comes rocking with a +3 armour save and Eternal Warrior, meaning railcannons and the like won't scare him off; otherwise, adopt the same strategy as with the Herald of Khorne, but beware Terminator-armoured characters. The last, and most hilariously effective, is Karanak for two main reasons; the first is that Karanak again compliments the unit well, granting them Rage, a Toughness five multi-wound model to soak up otherwise bothersome instant death wounds, and 'Cerberus' grants them Scout. This means they can get into position immediately, and also allows them to charge in the first game turn provided you go second. Can I say 'cheese!'?

Did someone say "blood"?
There are two other units that really provide buffers for those other units at a good price; the Bloodthirster, and Flesh Hounds. The Greater Daemon of Khorne is a brutal flying monstrous creature that will reliably monster almost any enemy character, monstrous creature, vehicle or even entire squads in the game all by its lone-some. All opponents should know of its deserved reputation, and thus taking one guarantees you will have a massive fire-magnet. Remember how Bloodcrushers and Bloodletters are the real meat of your force that you don't want to get shot up? The Bloodthirster is your best friend, you know, the big red and angry one; opponents would be stupid not to shoot at it, but they are condemning themselves to assaults from those other units if they do. In this kind of army, you are effectively providing a lose-lose situation for your opponent that means they will be hard-pressed to make decisions, making them more prone to mistakes; at a competitive level, this can be game-changing. The Bloodthirster doesn't need upgrades in this army, though two greater gifts is always a fantastic option if you have the points spare; if you roll up the +3 armour trait, given that the Bloodthirster is uniquely the only Greater Daemon to come stock with it, just swap it out for either the Greater Etherblade (Strength seven Bloodthirster!) or the Blade of Blood (bonus attacks galore!). Whatever suits your fancy, the big reason it works in this army - aside from its obvious threat potential - is the fact that it is now a flying monstrous creature, meaning that it is both very hard to kill by conventional means, but also a nightmare to get away from. Launching yourself twenty-four inches forward potentially on the first turn, in addition to a 2D6" run move, is insane; you can be in your opponent's deployment zone on turn one if you so wish! That's one way to cause enemies headaches; have a great, scary daemon come flying at you that is near impossible to kill and one that you simply do not want to get into combat with. The best part is that even if your opponent does have the means to bring them down in combat - unusual as they may be - your mobility means you can simply pick your engagements, meaning charging through cover should be less of an issue as well. So, yeah, Bloodthirsters are pretty amazing here, and combo very well with other speedy units.

The Flesh Hounds are not to be ignored though, as their new rules are excellent; with two wounds at Toughness four per model, and sporting three Strength five, Weapon Skill five attacks on the charge each, all at a very low price, Flesh Hounds are a bargain buy that should supplement your Bloodcrushers and Bloodthirster(s). Against anything but dedicated melee units - and even then, it depends on what they are facing - Flesh Hounds should reliably win combats, even despite the lack of armour-ignoring attacks, and this holds true even against Space Marines due to their sheer number of quality strikes. Their speed is incredible and falls only short of the Bloodthirster(s), given that they are Beasts and thus move twelve inches, effectively ignore terrain and sport Fleet; reliable charges! The space-puppies want in on the action, and with Furious Charge and the ability to be joined by the incredible Karanak, they perform very well too. A unit of ten strong provides your force with an effective, fast and durable unit that - much like the others - forces enemies to focus fire, or spread it thin and watch the carnage either way. Given how cheap that unit of ten is, and that it will monster far more expensive units in combat, you can afford the 'distraction'. What is interesting to note is that they too have the Scout ability, much like their three-headed pack leader, and thus they can get right into the thick of it very early on and force enemies to fire at them and not your Bloodcrushers. Given that the Scout rules do not prevent the Flesh Hounds from charging on game turn one provided their owning player went second, you can feasibly (and reliably) launch an assault on turn one, allowing you to significantly hamper the ranged output of your enemies' army! Multiple units of these can swiftly tie-up and consequently shut down significant portions of your opponent's battle-line, making way for the inevitable and devastating assault of the Bloodthirster(s), Bloodcrushers and Bloodletters that can mop up with greater ease. And, much like Karanak confers Scout on to any unit it joins, the Flesh Hounds grant the useful special rule to any Independent Character that joins their ranks; the notable inclusions, of course, being Skulltaker or a Herald of Khorne mounted on a Juggernaught. Skulltaker is the hardier and more costly choice, and makes an already welcome psychic defence from the Flesh Hounds that much more potent; that, and any non +2 armoured character or monstrous creature worth their salt is likely to be butchered by him. The Herald of Khorne is the more versatile choice, able to take an Etherblade or Greater Etherblade to allow it to monster any enemy character foolish enough to challenge them, whilst the Juggernaught grants it welcome boosts to durability. As well, a Locus providing Rage to Flesh Hounds is deadly dangerous here; use the Herald to monster enemy characters, and allow the Flesh Hounds to literally rip apart the rest of a unit.

Using all of these elements together, you can make up a strong, fast and decently tough army list that relies on target saturation and tying up enemy units early on to make way for the more dangerous and fragile units to mop up. Though this kind of army won't always be successful, I feel it should prove to be the most competitive kind of force you can field; it minimises the damage you receive, it forces your opponent into tough decisions, and it hits harder than most armies have a right to. That, and it works off of a combined assault theme, where turn two is dominated by your speedier elements, and turn three is where the core come to finish the job. This army is not as reliant on support units - such as Skull Cannons - as other armies might be, given that each unit hits hard and fast is reliant on those early charges, meaning unless you have the points spare, a Skull Cannon or Soul Grinder is unnecessary. However, such units are noteworthy; the former provides an important assault-bonus which can be imperative in many games, meaning its inclusion may be necessary, whilst the latter provides a decent anti-air threat whilst also being very tough and powerful. All in all, provided you stick to those four main units and have some spare room for other interesting elements, all should be well. A notable inclusion is Skarbrand, who not only works well deep-striking alongside the Bloodletters, but also provides godly improvements to your assault-focused army; granting Rage and Hatred to all units within twelve inches works better for your dedicated melee units than it generally would your opponent, especially given that your units should be the ones charging. Provided you have good placement and get Skarbrand stuck in early - preferably into units the rest of your forces would struggle with, especially as the Exiled One is the new challenge kind of Warhammer 40000 - you can feasibly turn a game on its head through the sheer devastation caused in that one turn. Always something to consider, especially if you feel the Bloodthirster is a bit exposed by itself when flying; of course, flying Khorne Daemon Princes are also a good option, but rather costly, and as such a flyer-heavy army should be restricted to larger games.

A Sample Army List

Given what I discussed prior, I endeavored to make a themed Khorne Daemons-only army list at a common points limit; though I was initially thinking of 1500, given that is the usual level in my local gaming area, I do find most play at 1850 or above. Aside from being at 1850 points, the only restriction placed on this army list was that every unit had to be dedicated to Khorne; no exceptions! Take a look and see what you think!

Chaos Daemons - 1850 Khorne

Bloodthirster (warlord) w/ two greater gifts - 290
Bloodthirster w/ two greater gifts - 290 

Bloodcrushers (3) w/ bloodhunter, icon - 150
Bloodcrushers (3) w/ bloodhunter, icon - 150

Bloodletters (15) w/ bloodreaper, instrument - 165 
Bloodletters (15) w/ bloodreaper, instrument - 165 
Bloodletters (15) w/ instrument - 160

Fast Attack
Flesh Hounds (10) - 160
Flesh Hounds (10) - 160 
Flesh Hounds (10) - 160 


"What is that?" "I dunno, let's kill it." "Sounds good!"
So before I discuss the army in detail, I will preface my thoughts with a few notes; this isn't intended to be a tournament-level army list, I like my target saturation, and I think unit redundancy is a key factor to good army lists. With that in mind, the way I look at this army list is firstly the size - clocking in at a whopping eighty-three models - and its speed - you can virtually guarantee that every unit barring the Bloodletters will be in combat by turn two at the latest, with the Bloodletters to join the fray in turn three. This is an army designed to present as many nasty targets to an opponent as possible and simply flood the board with units, overwhelming their target priority. This is a key tactic, given that these units aren't incredibly durable; a mass of skyfire weapons can reliably deal with the Bloodthirsters, and a multitude of Strength eight weapons can really devastate the Flesh Hounds and Bloodcrushers. Against small arms fire or even Strength seven weaponry though, the army is very hardy; each Flesh Hound unit sports a rocking twenty Toughness four wounds with a +5 invulnerable save, one that they can 'exchange' for a better cove with no penalties due to being Beasts. The Bloodcrushers simply need to be hidden on the first turn or two to ensure the Bloodletters arrive where they need to be safely. The Bloodthirsters soar across the battlefield, keeping pace with the Flesh Hounds and Bloodcrushers. In essence, it is a moving wall of carnage that is very much akin to the famous Chaos Space Marines army lists composed heavily of Maulerfiends, Chaos Bikers and Chaos Spawn.

This is an incredibly fast army that hits like a tonne of bricks, with almost every unit more than capable of wiping out units that are their equivalent in points once they make it to combat. And combat they should find, as all but the most dedicated ranged armies packing serious firepower should be left with lots of enemies face when it comes time for the inevitable melee. The best way to really compound your opponent is to go second, set-up your Bloodthirsters and Bloodcrushers behind cover but as close to the edge of your deployment zone as possible, and Scout the Flesh Hounds as close to the enemy as you can whilst using cover to their advantage. Provided you positioned them correctly and they didn't draw too much firepower, leap forward and go straight for vulnerable enemy units that would give the rest of your army pause - Devastators, Tactical Marines and each units' equivalents are prime targets - tying them up indefinitely and likely ripping through them in a few turns unless the enemy diverts other resources for support. All the while, your Bloodthirsters and Bloodcrushers move up menacingly, providing additional targets for your opponent to worry about. Provided all goes well, the Bloodletters sporting instruments arrive, with their battle-horns allowing them to 'chain' other units through if your reserve rolls weren't satisfactory. Send the Bloodcrushers into units they should beat - again, Space Marine squads and the like are good targets - and have the Bloodthirsters go straight for the deadliest enemies they can feasibly defeat, including Terminators  and pesky tanks. In the subsequent turn, provided you don't lose too many forces, your Bloodcrushers and Flesh Hounds should win their respective combats and be free to charge on your turn three, meaning they can move to tie up or devastate even more forces in combat. Your Bloodletters will also be free to wreak their own carnage and cleave puny enemies attempting to defend their objectives, whilst the Bloodthirsters keep on trucking against whatever the rest of your forces would otherwise struggle with. At least, that is in practice - there are some notable weaknesses to this army list, obviously.

What is notable here is the lack of both ranged anti-flyer and ranged anti-tank; this army is designed around a fast, hard assault that should reliably only have to endure one round of effective ranged punishment before it makes it to assault (depending on your opponents' army list of course and how much long-range firepower they possess). Flyers aren't too much of a threat if every unit in your army - barring the Bloodletters - is in an assault on turn two, provided you play your cards right, and if the Bloodletters are positioned well near your opponent's deployment zone, the flyers may find they are left with no option but to fly on past your Troops and be rendered useless for most of the game as a consequence. Vehicles are a different matter obviously, as a mech-heavy army will definitely give you problems, given you can't tie them up and unless they have weak rear armour, only your pair of Bloodthirsters will be able to reliably destroy them. Of course, mech-heavy armies are falling by the wayside nowadays in favour of massed infantry, which is there this army is at its best - again depending on the army of course. So, whilst it obviously isn't the best army list you can find, it has a lot of good stuff going for it; it is amazingly quick, very destructive against common enemy forces, as well as mitigating the issues of both making an assault without suffering too many casualties, and the possible side-effects of the Warp Storm Table. What works in your favour is a surprise element; most opponents will not be expecting thirty Flesh Hounds to be assaulting them in the first game turn, let alone six Bloodcrushers and two Bloodthirsters the turn afterwards, especially when many players believe that 'assault is dead'. Whilst my example army list may not be the best proof, I definitely say such people are wrong and that whilst assault definitely is far more difficult to do effectively than ever before, it is a work of art and highly rewarding when done right. As the avatars of bloodshed and violence, Khorne Daemons do it better than most.

Blood for the Blood God! Skulls for the Skull Throne! 
Let the galaxy, burn!

Did you enjoy this write-up and think my summations were accurate? Or do you think I am very much mistaken and Khorne Daemons should be employed in a different way? Please take the time to comment - we appreciate any and all feedback and critiques! Also, I am very much interested to see your thoughts on how to play with Khorne Daemons in a themed army list. Thanks for reading this!


  1. Although unfluffy, it would be fun to run this list dual-god with Seeker squads instead of Bloodcrushers (single wound models means insta-death isn't as bad, plus rending and better mobility with Slaanesh). Likewise, replace bloodletters with daemonettes. Keep the icons on the seekers for daisy chaining daemonettes if desired. Bloodletters and daemonettes are both just as survivable, but rending allows you to engage tougher opponents instead of being specialized against 3+ marines. The extra run distance and fleet re-rolls also ensure they get into combat. Same overall strategy, but more flexibility.

    Bloodcrushers are ok, but as you described in your article - to get the most out of them you would have to combine them with karanak or heralds on juggernauts. This would cause you to lose a Bloodthirster slot. However, you could get a second flying MC back by either taking a CSM DP with black mace (and 50 pts of backfield cultists), or not take allies and stick with a heavy slot Khorne DP.

    1. Trust me, I know how good Daemonettes and Seekers are - they are amazing! However, keeping the theme in line, Slaanesh is nothing but heresy! (Lol) I think if you take bare minimum squads of three Bloodcrushers, they don't need the attached characters; as soon as you take four or more though, you are definitely asking for that added character. I guess it depends on how one wishes to employ them - in this army list, they are beacon units and light flankers only. Again, not the best army list, but one that I wrote with multiples of everything just to keep it balanced. For the same cost as one Bloodthirster, one could feasibly add in Karanak and a Herald of Khorne on a Juggernaught though!