Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Surviving the Reign of Chaos, Part 2 – Daemons of Chaos

OK… so time for yet more ramblings where I pull words from the ether and pretend to be wise… damn, giving all my secrets away today.

The widespread presence of the Chaos powers continues unabated with routinely 1/3 of the field being worshippers of the eight pointed star (…unless they are just dyed-in-the-wool bandwagoners of course. Unfortunately some people take WFB far too seriously (in case I have not mentioned it recently), so I would not be surprised to discover that these players ritually disembowel kittens (ok, maybe that’s a bit extreme – maybe just Barbie dolls) prior to attending events).

So, onto the topic at hand.

Daemons of Chaos have a brilliant Army Book. They arrived onto the scene amidst giggles and whispering-behind-hands-mockery-pretending-to-be-sympathy you will have seen displayed any High School RomCom ever (and admit it, they are a guilty pleasure of yours between bouts of the Hard Rock/Metal music WFB players seem to inexplicably love so much. Admit it to yourself that is – don’t go sharing that stuff publically. Seriously).

The outcries were loud and proud:

No Scroll! How on earth could an army function with no access to a scroll*?!
No choice over magic items?! Well, apart from banners and weapons… so most of the stuff you want…
No cheap access to high level wizards?!
No more cheap loremaster?! Boo. Hoo. Surely everyone expected that?
Terrible magic lore access! Except its actually good, though missing buffs. But you now have Nurgle
Blood Thirsters can no longer buy 2+ armour! But you now have Nurgle
Bloodletters are now S4?! But you now have Nurgle
Flamers suck! But you now have Nurgle
Storm of Chaos table is going to wipe out your own army! Very rarely. More often will swing games in your favour. And you have Nurgle

*(Well, I ran my VC for an entire year with no scroll… and many people don’t run scrolls. As much as I hate to give ‘props’ to our Antipodean friends, they are very much correct in calling a scroll a crutch – useful and good, but not vital – but I digress)

All these mighty proclamations by the omniscient Interweb led to one conclusion – Daemons of Chaos were No Longer Good.

This was seen by most people to be a Good Thing.

What a difference time makes.

The war gaming community needed to time to process the ever so subtle mechanisms that make Daemons a top tier book….

*New and improved - Now with added free magical artillery AND the Daemon of Nurgle rule!
Buy now whilst stocks last!

Yeah, so it turns out that armies that are unbreakable, have a 5++, the best combat characters in the game, get free magical bombardment, have units in that utterly neutralise the best combat units in the game, have a unit in special with M6, Swiftstride, T5, 4W, 5++ and a 4+ regen (yours for 1 point more than an Orc Big Boss on foot with a great weapon!), cheap flying chaff, wizard units in core with no real downside to miscasting, and, lest we forget, a chariot cannon with none of the weaknesses of a chariot cannon (someone obviously figured out that the mount not getting attacks if you charged an Ironblaster in the flank/rear made them rubbish, and did a splendid job of fixing that particular issue in this book) are quite good really.

And seriously, don’t get me started on the whole “I can have 2 magic weapons and benefit from both due to a FAQ interpretation on an unrelated mechanic” nonsense that is the Eternal Blade + ASF Sword nonsense. Seriously. Dock those people sports. For the good of the game.

The power of the Daemons is far less obvious than their earthbound worshipers – not for them the obvious power of Chariot spam, Throgg Troll Hordes, Unbreakable Daemon Princes, SkullCrushers or a 3++ save rerolling 1s. People that have not played against the Daemon book a lot often completely underestimate how good their stuff is – there is a real parallel to their age old adversaries the Lizardmen here – though if the current scene is anything to go by, you will soon get experience fighting daemons, whilst your Lizardmen fun may have to wait a while.

Scions of the Gods of Darkness:

Now, as with its mortal counterpart, the DoC book is insanely flexible. There are all sorts of options you could see and should not be surprised if you do. Thankfully, from a trying to learn how to play against them viewpoint, there are some things you should expect to see.

Some of these elements are usually in evidence:

Greater Daemon: Lord of Change or Great Unclean One (lvl4 Death) – both most often seen with Eternal Blade & Sword of Swiftness (though Wand of Whimsy on the LoC is also great)
Heroes: BSB – either Tzeentch Herald (normally with Metal Magic) or Nurgle Herald (with the regen 4+ locus)
Core: Plague Bearers and (though sometimes or) Pink HorrorsSpecial: Beasts of Nurgle (normally one big unit and 2 single ones)
Rare: Plague Drones and Skullcannon.

Add in Blue Scribes and sometimes Fateweaver if you want special characters

Thankfully for us all these things add up to a lot of points, and means the “netlist” writes itself. Now you will see off the wall stuff – and some of the top players deliberately go off-piste, but overall, this gives you a good indication of what you will have to deal with.

So. What does this army do? The beauty is its utter simplicity and ease of use:
The Tzeentch and Khorne elements apply pressure from range, protected by the Nurgle elements whilst the army as a whole advances (deceptively quickly). Their chaff is hard enough to kill that to attempt it you have to invest considerable resources, distracting you from the overall threat. Cue some classic fix and delete tactics and almost anything in the game is in serious trouble (until you have faced it it is very hard to fully appreciate the power of the -1 to hit that Nurgle grants his children). Meanwhile the CrazyTableOfDoom is causing havoc on your opponent and the good times are rolling.

So... how do we (continue to) survive the Reign of Chaos?

As with the Warriors book, a lot of the issues arise when people try to take the Daemons on at things they do best (unless your own army is designed to do the same thing, but better). For example, against a heavy Tzeentchian presence with lots of magic missiles playing the mid/long range shooting game is seriously asking for trouble, and the reason why in my game at Tribute (as covered recently) I rushed the DoC army. Trying to take on Nurgle troops with your anti infantry troop stuff is also likely to end, as they say, Badly.

Thankfully, in my opinion, a lot of the things that are good against WoC are also good against DoC – most assuredly in two of the central tenets of my anti WoC list building strategy – Tanks and Death.

Very (feel like I should emphasis this a bit more… maybe Very? or VERY… all out perhaps with a VERY? hmmm seems a bit obnoxious really…) few things in the game have the ability to swiftly take on and destroy a Nurgle combat unit without some considerable luck – seriously, do the maths (note to self – look up why our lovely American cousins insist on calling it “Math”, which is, after all, just plain wrong). The issue is you don’t want to get caught in the quagmire of that combat – if your deathstar/combat elite unit/Daemon Prince/whatever thinks it’s going to evaporate some Plaguebearers in double quick time and doesn’t, you are unlikely to survive an ASF Eternal Blade-wielding Greater Daemon counterattack. The best way, in my opinion, to neutralise the grandchildren of Nurgle is to tank their units out of the game. Something that will not take much/any damage and can hold off vs the static combat res with decent leadership is ideal (if sometimes hard to find). Pinning these in place will then hopefully give you the room and time to go after the softer underbelly of the DoC army (if they have one…).

Death Magic is great. I mean, it sucks that so many people are running it, but it is really one of the few (and occasionally only) counters to the Wall of Nurgle (think that phrase needs musical accompaniment). Though the GW writers were nice enough to double the initiative of Plaguebearers (something they *forgot* to do for Saurus… but that is another thing entirely) Purple Sun remains the most dreaded of weapons against them (and Beasts and Drones and will even scare a Great Unclean One). With their lack of scroll, this is a threat that often means they have to save their dice and let other stuff through. Picking on Heralds is a) good sense and b) good fun, so do it. Also, pick on the Greater Daemons. Their leaderships is not great – spirit leech is one dice away from sending them into hiding. Sure. Death is unreliable, but it is continuously scary (not to get all philosophical or anything).

As well as these rather obvious points there is one major thing to consider. The enmity between the Gods is your friend. In the classic dual-god-plus-skullcannon list the inherent weakness, such as it is, of the daemon army is the fragility of their command and control structure. Be aware that if the BSB is Tzeentchian the Drones/Beasts/Plaguebearers are only one leadership test away from disaster. If you have to fight stuff, try and fight stuff unaligned to the BSB/General. For the rest, killing the BSB makes every leadership test you make them take potentially massive, so kill the BSB. Killing the General also helps in this – but as this is normally a 500+ model that has epic destructive capabilities, the fact that killing it is probably a Good Idea is hopefully self-evident… It should also be said that killing Greater Daemons (if they don’t roll 2+ armour save) is actually not all that hard to do at range. It also tends to massively hamper their magical defence capabilities.
Do it. Do it NOW.

In summary:
  • Tie up the aggressive elements (normally the Core, Special and Rare from the Nurgle section of the book)
  • Purple Sun FTW
  • Assassination – make them be cowards with the Greater Daemons, target heralds etc.

As with the Warriors, none of these is an auto-win answer to the Daemonic menace, just stuff to bear in mind. The book is too good to have obvious answers to.

So, as with the look at the WoC, we should consider the many weird and wondrous weapons that each of their armies have at their disposal to take on the Daemonic hordes. Sure, perhaps you don’t take them often – but perhaps it is worth considering – after all, these days the servants of the Dark Gods seem to make up a third of the scene!

Empire: Light Councils [duh], Knights, Demigriffs, Cannons, Steam Tanks, Other Magic, Peg Characters [make good tanks], Hellblasters
Orcs and Goblins: Artillery, Manglers, Fanatics, mass poison, Foot, chariots, Pump Wagons
High Elves: Banner of the World Dragon*, Light Council, Repeater Bolt Throwers, combat Characters, Sisters
Ogres: Death Magic, Ironblasters, Tyrants, Mournfang w banner
Tomb Kings: Artillery, Casket, Light Councils, Death Magic, Sphinxes
Vampire Counts: Screams, Zombies, Death Magic
Lizardmen: Death and Heavens Magic, Wandering Deliberations, Old Bloods, Scar Vets, Stegadons, Skinks, Chameleons, Salamanders
Dwarfs: Artillery, Anvil
Bretonnians: Heroic Killing Blow, Trebuchets, Magic
Dark Elves: Flaming Witch Elves, Dreadlords, Magic, Monsters.
Wood Elves: 1 million glade guard. That should do it…
Beastmen: Doombulls, Death/Shadow magic
Chaos Dwarfs: Not a real book :)
Skaven: The usual stuff – Grey Seers, Abominations, WLCs, DoomWheels, Slaves, Poison Wind Globadiers blah blah

The length of the things that could be good against DoC really highlight the challenge here. There is such a degree of randomness in facing them (and is using them to a point) that it is hard to rely on your answer to Y being the use of X. It also shows that they are an all-round more solidly powerful book than the rather gimmicky Warriors.

*The Banner of the World Dragon – contrary to the aforementioned omniscient Interweb, does not mean an auto win against Daemons. Depending on what unit is carrying it, it does not even guarantee the winning of combats. Heck, there are plenty of units in the DoC army that will happily hold up a Banner of the World Dragon-toting unit for most of the game and still be alive at the end of it all. Its obviously good, but by not means and auto win.

So, in short… prayer may help.
As ever, this is rather spur of the moment and will be missing things. So, if in doubt - keep it tight, and play better. That should do the trick J

Until next time



  1. Death, death and more death. Zzzz. Surprisingly one of the things people seem to have missed is the reliance upon the nurgle stuff actually weakens them to fire magic, probably because it doesn't really bother WoC so it's not multi functional. Flame cage on plaguebearers porentially hurts them badly, fireball gives another thing to ping a couple of wounds off a greater daemon or the plague drones, burning sword helps carve up beasts/drones. Firestorm and burning bolts are still junk and burning head is meh but might be moderately useful against WoC for putting panic tests on chariots.

    Which army do you think is least bothered by death magic and as a result presumably getting strong due to everyone's increasing requirement to play that lore?

    1. Whilst I agree with fire magic is powerful - not only for Plaguebearers, but also for the ability to reach out and hurt Greater Daemons at extreme range I think it suffers a bit against Beasts - which really are the main thing to worry about. It is also less effective in the wider pool of potential opponents - most specifically against WoC. To cause enough hits against Chariots and the like you end up having to go big, and fireballs become very dice hungry. Against the 1+ save stuff you're in trouble, and it is no answer to a Daemon Prince + Exalted BSB.

      That being said, I like fire, and is something I will try out when figure out an army to do that isnt Lizardmen or VC - practicalities make Fire not ideal for them. I am currently thinking about foot Warriors, but we shall see.

      As for armies not bothered by Death - the main one has to be High Elves. In the current list set ups you see the only viable targets for Death magic are the RBTs and Phoenix. With the current ruling on Spirit Leech + Inspiring Presence a lot of VC builds can be pseudo immune to heavy Death damage - though Purple Sun remains a complete pain and a real threat.

      HEs - especially lists such as Tom's/Sweden's at Tribute are exceptionally good in the current meta - both in its ability to deal with WoC/DoC and its safety from counter magic.

      There is a difference with a lot of other armies between "Good Against" Death and the ability to survive Purple Sun - O&G for example can handle 6/7 spells from the lore of Death without a worry.

      Perversely, one of the two armies that make me take Death are the best placed against it - WoC (the traditional builds at the moment) do not have all that much to worry about from Death most of the time - it however remains the only magic answer I have come up with thus far to them...

      I hate Death though. Sort of makes me pine for the armies I started playing when 8th first came out. The prevalence of spells that autokilled characters meant all my initial lists were designed with limited characters, and more units.

    2. This is why you take a Dragon Mage, good sir. 6 dice fireball ftw and worst that happens is you knock a wound off the dragon and he has to breathing/stomping on people...

      Agree with it all though I despise that I basically have to take Death magic days...

  2. Hmm, food for thought, I'm possibly going to have a play about with armies to see if I can find a death & fire combo I like, extra dice likely to be the issue, which pushes me towards DE with the dagger. Need troops who aren't particularly reliant on buffs to work in combat, soulblight and flaming sword offer ability to wound but no armour punch, so need to deal with armour somehow, possibly puts me towards the build with bolt throwers, executioners and kharybyssssesesesesseesss.

    How about this for a list?
    Supreme Sorceress: Sacrificial Dagger; Level 4 Wizard; Lore of Death.
    Sorceress: Dispel Scroll; Level 2 Wizard; Lore of Fire.
    Sorceress: Level 2 Wizard; Lore of Fire.
    Master: Cloak Of Twilight; Dark Pegasus; lance; heavy armour; shield; Sea Dragon Cloak; Battle Standard.

    25 Bleakswords: FCG, Std of Discipline
    5 Dark Riders: shield; repeater crossbow
    5 Dark Riders: shield; repeater crossbow
    5 Dark Riders: shield
    5 Dark Riders: shield
    Reaper Bolt Thrower
    Reaper Bolt Thrower
    Reaper Bolt Thrower
    14 Har Ganeth Executioners: Musician
    14 Har Ganeth Executioners: Musician
    5 Shades
    5 Shades

    Could probably drop death for metal if wanted to totally avoid playing death magic.

  3. I really liked this post, but there is one thing I have to say as someone who used to play Daemons that reads your play by play of what was wrong with the new book:

    "Now you have Nurgle" doesn't make up for those of us who didn't play Nurgle before and aren't exactly happy about not being able to run stuff from before. Basically everything that wasn't Nurgle or relied on pure Tzeench magic before is now terrible. It doesn't help those of us who used to run mixed god lists that don't get access to the general or BSB.

    I'm not saying the new book is bad, it just kind of sucks for those of us who don't want to retool the whole army to be Nurgle or Nothin.