30 Jul 2014

Warriors of Chaos Unit Overview - Core

Hey there everyone, my name is Learn2Eel and today I wanted to discuss perhaps the most dangerous and proficient warriors in the world of Warhammer Fantasy; the Warriors of Chaos. These savage northmen model their culture entirely around the worship and veneration of the Chaos Gods, earning their status and rank through blood and sacrifice. This warrior-driven society translates incredibly well to the table-top, providing the most elite fighting force in Warhammer Fantasy and some of the most destructive unit options available to any army with some incredibly versatile army building potential due to the Marks system. To dedicate ones-self to a Chaos God is to damn their soul for eternity, but the gifts and punishments all vary on the Path of Ascension!

I've been "enjoying" a sick break, I'm finally feeling optimal after over a week of being terrible. I'm trying to get back on track with the blog but it will probably be another week before I can start posting regularly again. Sorry guys!


Chaos Warriors - The mainstay Core choice of almost all Warriors of Chaos army lists, Chaos Warriors are essentially the titular nordic barbarians that hound the more civilized nations for plunder and the joy of battle. What makes Warriors of Chaos the undisputed recipient of the most elite army crown in Warhammer Fantasy is that their basic and most common infantry choice is easily the match and often the superior of the Special and Rare choices of other armies. A Chaos Warrior combines good saves with an exceptional stat-line to brutalize almost any foe, and their wide range of options allow them to be customized to whatever role you need filled. Even without any wargear, a Chaos Warrior is a terrifying opponent; Weapon Skill and Initiative 5, Strength and Toughness 4, two Attacks and a standard 4+ armour save. The elites of the Empire could only dream of a profile so distinguished, and even the vast majority of Elves shudder at how any mortal could be as talented in the ways of war as they. With Leadership 8 and good stats across the board, Chaos Warriors are as solid and dependable a Core choice as you could possibly hope for and can even be made into death-dealing monsters the likes of which other army books' Core choices could never hope to mimic.

As a melee unit, two Strength 4 attacks per model with those high stats is already the match of something like a High Elf Phoenix Guard, while the 4+ armour save and Toughness 4 make them far more survivable than the Dark Elf Black Guard - both units billed as anvils with a punch! Your basic Chaos Warrior is expensive though at double the points cost of an Empire Halberdier, and as good as they are stock there is just so much potential to be exploited through the available upgrades. Firstly come the actual equipment choices, with the cheapest being shields - these are essential if you want an "anvil" unit to hold an enemy in place and grind them out over time - that provide each Chaos Warrior with a 3+ armour save and 6+ parry save. Next are the three different weapons with additional hand weapons, halberds and great weapons all having their uses. Additional hand weapons work very well for a unit designed to mulch through chaff and light infantry with three attacks per model, while halberds are perfect for crushing heavier units with Strength 5 providing a -2 armour penalty. Great weapons are sadly a far more situational choice despite providing always handy Strength 6 attacks simply because the extra pip of Strength over halberds is never worth sacrificing that amazing base Initiative 5 on a Core choice with two attacks per model. The best overall choice here tends to be the halberd in a meta where monstrous cavalry are so prolific, but additional hand weapons do stack very well against your typical Elven armies that are becoming very popular with all three receiving awesome new army books.

Outside of the various gear options come possibly the four most diverse upgrades a Core choice could have, manifesting as the Marks of Chaos - each an example of a warriors' dedication to a single Chaos God. These enhance Chaos Warriors even further and allow for an incredible variety of builds, though each Mark tends to be best suited to a particular role. The first of these is Khorne and bestows Frenzy upon the unit, stacking best with halberds for an incredible amount of Strength 5, Weapon Skill 5, Initiative 5 attacks on a Core choice - this is the mark most oriented to pure offence. Secondly comes Tzeentch that provides other-worldly protection with either a 6+ ward save or a +1 improvement to the units' existing ward save if it has any. This stacks best with shields to provide the unit with a 6+ ward save against shooting and magical attacks, and a 5+ parry save against close combat attacks - the best overall durability. Next is the blessing of Nurgle that enforces a -1 modifier on all to-hit rolls in close combat made against the unit, giving them the best form of defence in close combat. While these can be combined with shields to form an anvil, Tzeentch performs this far better - what makes the most sense is to take halberds and possibly shields so that the unit hits hard and is hard to hit in a melee. Lastly comes Slaanesh's favour, manifesting as an improved variant of Immune to Psychology without the drawback of being unable to flee. This is a more generalist mark and less useful overall as it only makes the unit immune to Fear, Terror and Panic; issues which can be solved with a Battle Standard Bearer and high Leadership General. Regardless of how you outfit them, Chaos Warriors are more than a match for any other armies' fighting elite and are doubly efficient because they fill up those mandatory Core points in the process.
Competitive? Yes.

Chaos Marauders - How the weak have fal...err, look who was put in their rightful place! Forgive me the humour but there really is no better way to describe the new-look Chaos Marauders, a unit that used to give all enemies nightmares with their incredulously low cost when upgraded with a variety of crucial wargear options. Now they are merely a decent if uninspiring unit that compares poorly to the "expendable infantry" choices of other armies, though they do have a nice array of options to choose from. Your basic Chaos Marauder shares a mostly equivalent profile to an Empire Halberdier but with some key changes, notably that they have a boosted Weapon Skill and Initiative 4, but lack armour or an upgraded weapon of any kind. Strength 4 with Weapon Skill and Initiative 3 is superior to Strength 3 with Weapon Skill and Initiative 4 in most cases due to the presence of armour modifiers and mass access to to-hit buffs both through magic and Empire characters. A 6+ save is also better than none at all, even if it does disappear immediately against Strength 4 or higher attacks. That a Chaos Marauder doesn't compare all that well to an Empire Halberdier is greatly disappointing seeing as without Warrior Priests and magical buffs the vast majority of Empire infantry choices tend to be over-priced and inefficient.

While your basic Marauder might not be worth much even as fodder in an army that is designed as the elite fighting force, some of the options can serve to make them slightly more inviting if only for some diversity. Light Armour and Shields make them ineffective Dark Elf Bleaksword equivalents - a unit that is itself sub-par - while great weapons and flails can be used in conjunction with the various Marks of Chaos to make for a reasonably hard-hitting horde. Unfortunately, all of these options are priced according to the far more valuable Chaos Warriors, an incredibly confusing design decision. A model with two Strength 4 attacks base will gain far more value from the Mark of Khorne than a model with a single Strength 3 attack, yet Khorne's dedication is equally priced between units. Similarly, why would you bother with the Mark of Nurgle on a unit with no saves before upgrades and a low Weapon Skill 4 as opposed to the unit that comes with an impressive 4+ armour save and Weapon Skill 5? The pricing of the options just doesn't match the unit and as soon as you try to throw a Mark plus one or two equipment choices on, Chaos Marauders quickly reach Chaos Warrior points costs - a match-up that will always result in victory for the latter. If you take a unit with the Mark of Tzeentch, light armour and shields, this will provide you with 5+ armour and 5+ parry saves on a reasonably cheap band of warriors. Unfortunately, once you do this that unit will also be only four points per model short of Chaos Warriors with no upgrades that have a 4+ armour save and Toughness 4 in addition to their incredible stock standard offensive capabilities and higher Leadership. Sadly, there is little real reason to use Marauders even for grinding enemies down in a tug of war seeing as Chaos Warriors can fulfill the same role and need far less models and upgrades to do so.
Competitive? No.

Chaos Warhounds - The "Dogs of War" are a godsend in a Core selection that is otherwise lacking in incredibly cheap chaff units, an essential component to almost any successful competitive army list. While Warriors of Chaos are certainly an army that can ignore chaff usage of their own better than most other armies because of how tough and deadly they are, having chaff units is still important to ensure that your more important units are able to fight on their own terms. While Marauder Horsemen aren't a bad unit in this role and will certainly stick around a bit longer than Chaos Warhounds, the sizable points differential between the two is large enough that you could take units of the latter for every one of the former. Ultimately, Chaos Warhounds provide everything a Warriors of Chaos list usually has trouble accessing - a cheap chaff unit for baiting, frenzy blocking and angling chargers to the flanks. They are quick enough with Movement 7 and Swiftstride - being War Beasts - and I would consider at least two units of five probably with Vanguard to be mandatory in any Warriors of Chaos list. As to the debate for whether the Chaos or Vampire warhounds are best, Dire Wolves are unable to flee and thus lose a lot of the various uses for chaff, but on the other hand they come packed with Vanguard and a higher Movement 9. Dire Wolves are also the better war machine hunters with the very useful Strength 4 on the charge, an ability Chaos Warhounds lack altogether; still, both are good in their respective army list and really I think that is all that matters.
Competitive? Yes.

Marauder Horsemen - When reviewing these I keep getting drawn to three units from recent army books; Ellyrian Reavers, Dark Riders and Doomfire Warlocks. Those three are among the best Fast Cavalry units in the game and it is clear that Marauder Horsemen simply do not fit into that mold, though thankfully they are quite a bit cheaper per model to compensate. Compared to a unit such as Outriders, Marauder Horsemen do have a slightly higher Weapon Skill and Initiative but are essentially identical otherwise in terms of profile - they even have standard warhorses and not Chaos Steeds! What differentiates Marauder Horsemen from Outriders - aside from the lack of gunpowder weapons - are the optional Marks of Chaos and humorous inclusion of Eye of the Gods on the Champion model. While spending points on three of these is mostly pointless, dedicating the Horsemen to Slaanesh is actually a very worthwhile purchase as making a chaff unit immune to panic ensures they won't be fleeing at an inopportune moment. There are some light weapon choices such as throwing axes and javelins, or melee upgrades like spears or flails. The spears are your best bet for the +1 Strength bonus on the charge for a Movement 8 Swiftstride unit that will allow them to make full use of Initiative 4 to deal with other chaff units and war machine crews effectively. If you do want to give them a ranged weapon I prefer the javelins just for the extra 6" range so that you can stay out of Movement 4 units' effective charge range when forced to fire from the front. Ultimately, Marauder Horsemen aren't anything special as a Fast Cavalry unit but seeing as they are Core and are inexpensive besides, I am a fan of these.
Competitive? Yes.

Forsaken - I see Forsaken as a valiant attempt at an "artsy" unit with some cool new models but ultimately a failed attempt at breaking the vice grip of Chaos Warriors as the armies' premier Core choice. Their stat-line is a decent start at the very least where Forsaken trade a pip in both Weapon Skill and Initiative for a much higher Movement value and D3 Attacks as opposed to two. While always having two Attacks is generally better than having to roll a D3, that Forsaken come stock with Frenzy means that they will at bare minimum have two Attacks each and up to four per model. They also have a 4+ armour save and Leadership 8 to keep them in line with your standard Chaos Warrior, while all Forsaken pack in Immune to Psychology - in case they lose their Frenzy - and a random extra ability rolled for at the start of each close combat phase. These can range anywhere from Always Strike Last to Killing Blow, but generally speaking five of the six results are beneficial and provide handy little extras for Forsaken. These warped children of the Chaos Gods can also take Marks of Chaose though these function differently from the norm, such as providing Nurgle followers with Fear or giving Slaaneshi Forsaken the Swiftstride special rule. Ultimately, Forsaken are just far too expensive for what they provide and even with a good random ability rolled up they just do not compare to the far more sensibly priced Chaos Warriors. Forsaken function decently enough as mobile skirmishers (not including the special rule) that can use Movement 6 Swiftstride with the Slaanesh dedication to keep up with your monstrous units but are otherwise a random and inefficient melee unit.
Competitive? No.

Chaos Chariots - As a High Elf player I am always disappointed to read the Warriors of Chaos army book for one reason; their Core chariots are better than my Special chariots, and by a not insignificant margin either! Warriors of Chaos have arguably the best pair of Chariots you could ask for with one being more mobile and Core, and the latter being slower but far tougher in Special. The former of these is the stock standard Chaos Chariot and it populates many competitive army lists with good reason, especially with the availability of Chaos Marks. For just over a century worth of points, you get a Movement 8 Chariot with four Toughness 5 wounds, D6+1 Strength 5 Impact Hits, a 3+ armour save, two Strength 4 Weapon Skill 3 attacks and four Strength 5 Weapon Skill 5 attacks. Yikes! This thing is not only very tough and can easily hold up a block of Strength 3 infantry by itself but it can also scythe through Toughness 4 or lower opponents lacking 1+ armour saves with ease, something very few Core units could ever attest to. Throw on the Mark of Khorne to Frenzy the riders or the Mark of Nurgle to confer a -1 to-hit modifier in close combats to make this Core chariot one of the more unfair units in the game for the points. Seriously, these things are just too good not to take.
Competitive? Yes.

Chaos Warriors, Chariots and the "Dogs of War" are all incredibly useful choices that buck the usual trend of Core units being rather lacking in terms of damage output, while the others - in particular Forsaken - tend to be somewhat mediocre for their cost.

Thank you for reading this article! I have a wealth of experience against and with Warriors of Chaos both in pick-up-games and at a competitive level so I feel I have suitable experience to conduct a serious mini-review of their units. They are such a powerful army book that will beat out any army in a straight fight, but their inability to really offer much in the shooting phase does limit them somewhat. I am eager to hear your thoughts on the Warriors of Chaos and how they have performed both for and against you. Cheers, and have a nice day! 

1 comment:

  1. Nice write-up. I haven't gotten my army ready to play, but I can visualize what you are talking about. Good thing I have 3 chariots, 25 Chaos Warriors, and 10 horsemen...might want to slack a bit on the foot marauders I guess.