6 Nov 2014

End Times Legions of Chaos and the Glottkin

The End Times started off with a bang a few months ago, featuring the cataclysmic return of Nagash, Valten, Neferata, Crom the Conqueror and numerous other heroes of legend, as well as the deaths of famous characters beyond count. Now, they continue with End Times: Glottkin, named for the hulking northmen trio supremely blessed by Grandfather Nurgle and featuring an updated and combined army list aptly named the Legions of Chaos, featuring the hordes of Beastmen, Daemons of Chaos and Warriors of Chaos unified under the will of Archaeon. While this book focuses more on a vanguard force of Archaeon's world-burning force, this is nonetheless a gift for all scions of the Dark Gods; the rules for Chaos Ascendant, Legions of Chaos and the return of Marks of Chaos for Beastmen gives Chaos players more tools to use in their games than ever before. In this review, I have chosen to cover not just the newly introduced characters and units favoured by Nurgle, but also all the many special rules and potential combinations that End Times: Glottkin offers for the servants of Chaos. I hope you enjoy it! Scratch that - Blood for the Blood God, Skulls for the Skull Throne! 

Due to excessive length I have chosen to cover the characters and units in a separate article.

End Times Legions of Chaos Special Rules

Chaos Ascendant
The rules for Chaos Ascendant are scenario-based and thus are not treated as an official update like the usual End Times rules or new units and army lists for use in regular games, though the book does state that you can basically ask permission to use them in standard matches. Still, I wouldn't treat these like the new 50% percentages for Lords and Heroes or the Undead Legions and Legions of Chaos where they are fully integrated into the game. They seem to be intended for scenarios from the Glottkin book only, as otherwise they do give quite a bit of a buff to Chaos - even more so than the Legion of Chaos list already provides! A brief summary of these rules is that not only do mortal Chaos characters with a Mark corresponding with the Ascendant God get to re-roll their results on the Eye of the Gods table, but Daemons of the Ascendant God also lose the Unstable rule and thus are treated as purely Unbreakable with no down-sides. That is quite ridiculous if you ask me, especially in combination with Nurgle Daemons! That you get to choose which of the Chaos Gods is Ascendant at the start of the game unless there is another Legions of Chaos player means you are free to build your list with intent to maximise these significant buffs as you wish - provided your gaming group wants to adopt the rules - but I do recommend using the rules for switching with god is Ascendant presented via the scenarios.

The general rules for Chaos Ascendant mention that the Ascendant God can change, but this is not actually covered anywhere in the rules, even in the various scenarios that actually use the Chaos Ascendant rules. I recommend discussing a solution to this issue with your opponent, with my initial idea to resolve changing which god is Ascendant revolving around the Reign of Chaos table; if you roll one of the four results that corresponds to a Chaos God (i.e. the Dark Prince Thirsts, Khorne's Wrath, Rot, Glorious Rot and Storm of Fire) then whichever result it is means that god becomes Ascendant until one of those other god-specific results is rolled. In any case, additionally providing the ability to swap any double rolled on the Reign of Chaos chart to be the Summoned from Beyond result depending on which god is Ascendant is amazing, and proves especially powerful when you consider whatever unit you summon will be Unbreakable but not Unstable. Providing each Chaos wizard with a free spell on top of their usual spells that is much like a more powerful but similarly more expensive Ryze, the Grave Call is a nice boost considering you can use it to summon units such as a Skull Cannon of Khorne or a trio of Plague Drones. I feel that the rules for Chaos Ascendant can be a bit crazy in particular regards to Daemons of Chaos if you don't house-rule a way for the Ascendant God to potentially change each Magic phase, though otherwise I feel they are a nice little buff to Chaos forces in general - much like removing the "crumble" for a fallen general and allowing Tomb Kings to march gave Undead some very handy boosts. I am happy to use them in my own games against the Legions of Chaos, but I also understand if players want to avoid using them in regular games because it makes certain Daemon armies even more ridiculous - it can be so easily exploited, unfortunately.

The Army List
Easily the biggest change to the make-up of Chaos lists will be the combination of units and characters from all three of the Chaos-aligned army books, including Beastmen, Daemons of Chaos and Warriors of Chaos. Per the list in End Times: Glottkin, that allows players to choose from a staggering one hundred and ten unique entities, providing an unparalleled selection of tools with which to combat your foes. Not even the Undead Legions match the versatility the Legions of Chaos army list offers; you have flaming cannons, magical stone throwers, flying combat monsters, monstrous wizards, elite combat blocks, ridiculously durable anvils, skirmishers and fast cavalry in abundance, spell-caster regiments, three different monstrous cavalry options, the devastating net-list Doombull, ridden monsters with combined profiles, immortal characters and so much more. If one complains about the lack of ranged presence in a Warriors of Chaos list barring the use of Hellcannons, Skull Cannons, Burning Chariots of Tzeentch, Soul Grinders, Flamers of Tzeentch and many other such units provide all that you could ever want in terms of firepower.

If a Daemon player finds they lack the punch required in melee to deal with Elves and Ogres, any number of units dedicated to Nurgle or Khorne such as Chaos Warriors, Core Chariots, Chimeras and many other terrifying melee units. While Beastmen players often bemoan their limited, weak Rare choices, surely they cannot begrudge other armies now that they have access to the mighty Soul Grinder, the unstoppable Skullcrushers of Khorne or any of the Daemonic or Northmen Rare units. You can mix and match all of these units freely provided you abide by Chaos Mark and Daemonic Alignment restrictions, meaning you can see combos such as a Doombull joining and providing Frenzy to a large block of Chaos Trolls, or Skulltaker on a Juggernaught of Khorne finally getting to hang out with worthwhile compatriots in the form of Skullcrushers. A Wargor with the Beast Banner in a large unit of Chaos Warriors armed with halberds is one of the most brutal combat combinations you could imagine for the points, and I can only shudder at the thought of an army list featuring numerous Pink Horror drops in conjunction with a Shard of the Herdstone. Truly, the possibilities are almost limitless and it is amazing to think that we can finally see mono-god lists featuring every manner of unit type imaginable.

Beastmen of Chaos
Perhaps the biggest change offered by the Legions of Chaos army list aside from the obvious combination of three different army books is the option to - finally - take Marks of Chaos on all Beastmen units. The prices for these are sensible and have been standardized, meaning there is no unit-by-unit pricing, meaning some marks are too cheap for certain units based on what they do. A good example is that a Gor with a single Toughness 4 wound pays the same amount of points for the defensively oriented Mark of Nurgle as a Minotaur with three Toughness 4 wounds, though generally I can't really complain as most of the Special and Rare choices for Beastmen are overpriced as it is. While I will state that this is nothing more than a quick fix for the book and there are still quite a few issues to resolve with the army book such as the laughably bad Rare slot, I nonetheless must commend the rules designers for injecting a whole new layer of flavour into the aging army book.

Gor Herds dedicated to Nurgle are likely to be among the more popular Core choices for Legions of Chaos armies now given how stupidly cheap they are despite their respectable profile, while giving the typical Ramhorn Helm Doombull build some extra points to take the Mark of Nurgle is hilariously powerful. Good luck trying to kill what is effectively a monster hiding in a unit that features five Toughness 5 wounds and a 1+ armour save, re-rolling failures! The combinations here are impressive certainly, and some are quite obvious already - Ungor Raiders with the Mark of Slaanesh to act as the perfect chaff unit, Bestigor gaining Frenzy from the Mark of Khorne and so on - but I feel these don't wildly change the fortunes for each unit, especially seeing as you still have to pay for the marks. It is also disappointing to see that the numerous monster options such as the Cygor and Ghorgon cannot take Marks of Chaos, though I guess this could be due to background reasons. On a side note, they provided Beastmen with a huge buff in the form of their unique Ambush rules, removing all of the restrictions and requirements to allow your entire force to Ambush if you so choose. I think it goes without saying that opponents facing a null deployment force with considerable melee prowess and mobility are going to find themselves in quite the pickle, especially if they are unfamiliar with that tactic! I would say though that providing the Eye of the Gods (and thus the Champions of Chaos) special rule to Beastmen characters is a bit of a bad trade-off - especially for a Doombull - though I guess it is worth the price of gaining Marks once more.

Daemonic Instability
For those that are confused by the change to this particular special rule presented in the Legions of Chaos army list, let me clarify what it means. The Unbreakable and Unstable special rules in tandem signify a unit never running away, but instead suffering a number of wounds (no saving throws allowed) equal to how much they lost by once combat resolution has been worked out. Daemonic Instability took a spin on this formula popularized by Undead armies, instead keeping the Leadership test mechanic but the result was that the unit would lose models (or wounds) equal to how much they failed that Leadership test by. This meant a Daemon unit that lost combat but was Stubborn through the Steadfast special rule (or other means) and benefited from a nearby Battle Standard Bearer was incredibly unlikely to lose any more models, though they ran the risk that a bad test could see them lose even more models than an average roll would indicate - heck, there was even a risk the entire unit could be instantly destroyed! In my personal opinion, however, I felt the risks never really outweighed the benefits Daemons receive over Undead as actually having a point to Leadership values, a Battle Standard Bearer and Inspiring Presence meant you could cut down severely on excess wounds caused by losing combats.

The difference between Unstable and Daemonic Instability can be more easily expressed with a few examples; if a Daemon unit has lost combat by fourteen points, it will suffer an additional fourteen wounds with no saves allowed in the case of Unstable. On the other hand, that same unit would at worst lose another 9 Daemons (Leadership 2 is always a pass, and rolling a double six resulted in the entire unit being destroyed) assuming no double six was rolled if it was instead making a Daemonic Instability test. Generally, Daemonic Instability is more random but will usually lead to far less additional wounds suffered in a lost combat, particularly seeing as you can actually influence it with Inspiring Presence and Hold Your Ground from the Army General and Battle Standard Bearer, respectively. However, the benefit of Unstable is that you know exactly how many wounds you will lose as a result of failing in the close combat phase; if you lose by two, you lose two wounds. Daemonic Instability could see you losing more than two models on a bad roll and perhaps the entire unit no matter how large it was, but generally it was a far more consistent and less damaging special rule. To sum it all up, this is definitely a reduction in effectiveness for all Daemons as it means that the higher Leadership values of Greater Daemons and other characters are nowhere near as important, leaving those expensive units highly vulnerable to being destroyed via static combat resolution alone. I feel it was an unnecessary change but one that the rules designers made to cut down on the complexity and randomness normally associated with Daemonic Instability, and in that respect I completely understand their decision to axe it in favour of Unbreakable and Unstable. Besides, if you use the Chaos Ascendant special rules in your games then this will be of little consequence to you as a Daemon player, provided you run a mostly mono-god list.

Reign of Chaos Table
While many players I know of loudly groaned at the prospect of having to deal with the time-consuming and utterly random Reign of Chaos table in an exponentially increased number of matches, I feel the changes to the chart and the fact that all Chaos armies make use of it is a nice and interesting trait the Legions of Chaos share. The reality is that rolling a D6 for each potentially affected unit on the board and resolving whatever damage is caused adds at most ten minutes to the game in your standard 2000 point or 2500 point match, though obviously this can be quite the chore in 4000-plus point games. The chart itself has also been reworked slightly so that the God-specific damage results never affect friendly units, meaning only three of the eleven possible results are actively harmful or provide a negative impact to friendly forces. The effects of the two worst results aren't quite as bad as they were specifically for Daemons of Chaos before seeing as the "character assassination" roll is based off of a normal Leadership test that can be affected by Inspiring Presence or re-rolls, significantly reducing its' impact. Instead of forcing your Daemon units to take army-wide Daemonic Instability tests, now you need only worry about having to contend with the doubling of all wounds caused by the Unstable special rule. If you don't use Daemons, this won't affect you at all, and if you do use Daemons, you actually need to lose a combat for it to have any impact on your army. The Reign of Chaos chart is generally just a nice little buff for Daemons and the other armies alike now that four of the results no longer target friendly models, while it provides the equivalent of a minor shooting phase for a combined list that generally is combat-oriented above all else.

The Glottkin

Of the three "demigod" characters we have seen so far - the others being Nagash and Karl Franz Ascendant - I think the Glottkin is the only one with any real significant weakness that sadly means it can be too easily countered despite its crazily high points cost. This is because the Glottkin has Initiative 1 despite sharing a combined profile with three separate brothers, not only leaving it vulnerable to attack from other opponents in combat but also to test-or-die spells such as Crack's Call, Pit of Shades and the Purple Sun of Xereus. Seeing as most armies have access to at least one of these spells and the Glottkin costs over eight hundred points as a Lord choice, any sane opponent will six-dice such a spell until they get it off to ensure the Glottkin never reaches their lines. After all, losing an approximately two-hundred to three-hundred point level four wizard to a miscast is well worth taking out a single model that is priced at either more or just under three times his or her points cost. This also means it strikes simultaneously or after most of the few models in the game that possess the Heroic Killing Blow special rule such as a Necrosphinx, Nagash (if he empowers his staff), a Tomb King with the Destroyer of Eternities and so on.

Still, I wouldn't say this kills the competitive usage of the Glottkin as otherwise it is a very impressive and massively powerful Lord choice for either Warriors of Chaos or the Legions of Chaos. Toughness 6, a 4+ armour save, a 4+ Regeneration save and a staggering 12 Wounds ensure that - aside from test-or-die spells or Heroic Killing Blow - the Glottkin is easily the most survivable model in the game, being all but immune to anything other than numerous cannons or stone throwers. If your opponent lacks the ranged capabilities to bring down the Glottkin in two turns, they will find it almost impossible to stop once it reaches a melee. If we assume an Empire list has three cannons firing at the Glottkin, one will usually miss, one will fail to get past its Regeneration save and the other will do three or four wounds typically, meaning it will take three shooting phases of concentrated fire from three cannons to - on average - kill the Glottkin, without mentioning any other shooting attacks. If it wasn't obvious, that is just insane and when you consider the Glottkin can restore wounds to itself via the Lore of Nurgle lore attribute, you had best hope you bring a full gun-line of runed-up Dwarf artillery as otherwise it will simply soak up whatever you throw at it!

Movement 6 is average for a monster, but no restriction on marching means it will be moving 12" a turn in the early stages of the game, while it also can re-roll failed charge rolls due to its Lords of Nurgle special rule. While nowhere near as mobile as a flying monster with Swiftstride, it should still reach combat by turn three at the latest where it will cause havoc like few other models in the game. It is Weapon Skill 6 and Strength 6, typical of a good monster, while it has a limited 5 Attacks but adds D6 extra attacks due to the presence of Otto Glott, while one of the 5+D6 attacks is treated as being Strength 10 with the Multiple Wounds (D6) special rules. A Strength 6 Thunderstomp in addition to all of its regular attacks allows it to scythe through units and monsters alike with ease, while it also possesses the Poisoned Attacks special rule to maximise its' damage output. Possessing the Nurgle's Rot mutation means that it also inflicts Strength 1 hits ignoring armour saves on all models in base contact with it at the start of each close combat phase which, given its' massive base size, will usually lead to an extra casualty or two every round. Throw in the Impact Hits (D3) special rule and the Glottkin certainly has some very impressive melee capabilities, though ultimately it is its' defensive stats that take the cake.

On top of the high Toughness and crazy number of Wounds mentioned previously, the Glottkin has the Mark of Nurgle, meaning that even Bloodthirsters will be hitting the unholy trio on 4s rather than 3s, while most enemies will need 5s to hit instead of 4s; this makes it almost impossible to defeat in close combat without the use of a super character like Karl Franz Ascendant. Meanwhile, the Glottkin also has a Strength 3 Breath Weapon that ignores armour saves, but can only be used in close combat; perfect for clearing out heavily armoured cavalry or monstrous cavalry units. The Glottkin also benefits from the Eye of the Gods special rule which forces it to issue and accept challenges - a noticeable downside - but the interesting aspect of this is that it always benefits from a +1 bonus to its ward save when it rolls on the chart, and seeing as it will win almost any challenge it fights in, that leads to the Glottkin quickly racking up a 4+ or better ward save. This might seem pointless given it already has a 4+ Regeneration save but when you consider that only a ward save can be taken against Heroic Killing Blow and Flaming Attacks, it is pretty handy - especially as you can potentially get a 3+ ward save on the Glottkin by killing four characters in a challenge which is just insane on a twelve wound model.

However, unlike Karl Franz Ascendant, the Glottkin is also a potent support tool by providing that aforementioned re-roll on failed charges to all friendly units dedicated to Nurgle (whether by a Mark of Chaos or Daemonic Alignment) within 12", making it the perfect leader for the traditionally combat-centric Chaos hosts - when you consider that Nurgle is traditionally the most powerful in-game god for both Daemons of Chaos and Warriors of Chaos, this is a hefty buff indeed. The Glottkin is also a Level 4 Wizard using spells from the Lore of Nurgle, a spell lore that isn't quite as generally useful as the Lore of Slaanesh (Cacophonic Choir is still broken) but suits the Glottkin perfectly. Increasing it to a potential Toughness 6 gives it handy insurance against war machines, while providing it with a boosted Regeneration save of a 3+ for a low casting cost is suitably crazy. The various damage-based spells in the lore are insanely good against Elf armies which generally have the best counters to Nurgle units through their re-rolls to hit, while the lore attribute is at its' best on the Glottkin.

Seeing as the Glottkin already exceeds the usual wound limit, any successful lore attribute roll will actually increase its' wounds above twelve with no limit whatsoever - if you get four spells off per turn in a six turn game and roll a 6 on each spell, for example, the Glottkin can end up with a jaw-dropping thirty-six wounds! Don't even mind that four successful uses of the lore attribute will increase the Glottkin to Toughness 10; if your opponent lacks one of those test-or-die spells working off of Initiative, make sure to tell them "good luck" as they will most certainly need it! It helps that the Glottkin are one of the few Leadership 10 General options available to Chaos forces which, given that they combine the nasty combat character and mandatory Level 4 Wizard into one model, makes them the perfect General for any Nurgle-themed army. While they do have a noticeable hard-counter that most armies do have access to, if your opponent fails to kill the Glottkin before it reaches combat with those spells then they will find themselves tearing their hair out as a colossal, bubbling mess of a monster rips their army in half. The Glottkin are unlike Nagash and Karl Franz Ascendant where I feel they are not over-powered in any sense of the word but are instead perfectly balanced against their cost with an exploitable weakness to ensure they don't just roll over entire armies by themselves, even if being nearly impossible to kill through conventional means does ensure they won't go down without a fight.
Competitive? Yes.

Thank you all so much for reading my latest article concerning the End Times series! Much like the first End Times book, we have been given a host of awesome special characters and units that are sure to be popping up in competitive and themed army lists alike with incredible frequency. From the perspective of a gamer first, I really like the direction the End Times is going in with significantly increased options, the potential to combine multiple army books for a superlative army list and the introduction of some truly game-changing characters. Even then, the model releases themselves have all been fantastic and the exponential sales boost Games Workshop is apparently enjoyed with Warhammer Fantasy at the moment is definitely justified. Based on the example set by the first two books, I have high hopes for subsequent End Times books - especially if the rumours surrounding the supposed End Times: Khaine are true! Thanks again for viewing this article and I hope that you put these thoughts to good use in your own games. Have a nice day! Eel out.