Friday, September 9, 2022

REVIEW: Codex Chaos Daemons

Are you like me and have a full Chaos Daemons army already for Age of Sigmar? Are you also 40-Kurious? Well, then you're in luck, since the new 40K Codex for Chaos Daemons just came out! With this handy tome you can easily transfer your Mortal Realms ravaging daemons into the grim darkness of the far future. So, what does this book contain? Let's find out!

My last 40k Nurgle Daemon Army

First off, a big thank you to Games Workshop for sending me an early review copy of this Codex. I actually have a lot of personal history with the daemons army in 40k. Back in the mists of 3rd edition 40k I really liked the idea of an all daemon army, but unfortunately there was no way to field one. You had to do a mix with Chaos Marines. 6th ed Fantasy had a list for them though, and I actually started collecting a Nurgle daemon army for that, but it fell by the wayside. Then, when I was in college and 5th edition 40k was in full swing, the very first Chaos Daemons codex came out. I had actually been on a bit of a Warhammer hiatus at the time, as one does when away at college. I still read every White Dwarf and read the books, but didn't do much hobbying or gaming. Part of this was due to living in the dorms and not having room. When the Chaos Daemons codex came out I was in my first apartment and it's what spurred me on to brushing off those paint brushes and jump back into Warhammer with both feet.

Since I already had a bunch of Plaguebearers from past armies, and since I'm a big fan of Nurgle, I decided to do a mono-god army. This was my main army for pretty much all of 5th and 6th edition and I was super excited to field them. Fast forward to Age of Sigmar and the first Maggotkin of Nurgle Battletome, and I found myself collecting a brand new Nurgle daemon army using all of the new plastics. What can I say, I have a soft spot for them. I had intended to pick up the 8th edition 40k Codex for them, but never actually got around to it, but with the new 9th edition one it seemed like the perfect time. Armed with a whole ton of already painted Nurgle daemons I cracked open the new tome, and took the plunge.

I have to say, this book has an absolutely amazing cover. One of the things that's different about daemons in 40k when compared to AoS, is that all of the daemons, regardless of god, are in one book. In AoS everything is divided up by god, so the only way you can take a multi-god army is either through allies or by taking The Legion of the First Prince. To reflect that diversity in 40k, the cover features daemons from all four gods, which is a wonderful kaleidoscope of colors. I think this is the best codex cover that daemons have had in 40k ever.

The lore section of this codex was actually a bit of a surprise to me. Usually, if you've read one daemon lore section, you've read them all. Obviously there are differences between 40k and AoS with how they interact with the setting, but like I've said, I've owned previous versions of this codex for 40k. Somehow though, it all felt really fresh to me! One thing that the 40k codexes have that's different from the battletomes, is that the lore is all told from an Imperial perspective. Sometimes they skirt this a bit to convey info that wouldn't make sense for an Imperial to know, but either way, it's all told in a scholarly manner. Like someone has done research on the subject and compiled a report, whereas AoS lore is told more from the perspective of each individual faction. This gives the daemons in the 40k setting a different spin as it's all shrouded in superstition and half-truths. It's also just different since it's much harder and more rare for daemons to manifest in the material world in 40k as compared to the mortal realms.

The lore section is broken up into a few distinct areas; a general overview, an exploration of each god, the Great Rift, the Eye of Terror, and Be'lakor. Even the parts about each individual god felt fresh. Since the chaos gods are the same in both settings, as are their domains within the warp/realm of chaos, this runs the highest risk of feeling repetitive. To avoid this it's once again, all told from the perspective of someone living in the 41st millennium. All of it uncertain. There are no hard truths about them. The most interesting part to me is when it talks about how other xenos races relate to the chaos gods, and not just the big, well known xenos races. Plenty of smaller, unknown (at least to me) xenos races are mentioned and how they either worship the god of their choice, or how their civilization fell apart because of them. Not only does this bring more dimension to the big four, but it also makes the 40k galaxy feel much larger and unknown. It always felt weird that it was just the same five or so xenos races showing up all the time in a galaxy as big as ours. Now they're scattering in a ton more, most likely throwaway names, that make it feel stranger and unexplored. It's terrific! More of this please.

Each of the Chaos gods also gets a Warzone section, detailing how a particular planet fell to that god's daemons. The Nurgle one feels appropriately timely with a burgeoning sickness beginning to spread amongst a more rural planet. The planetary rulers, with more access to better technology, know that there is an easy, proven, and effective vaccine for the sickness and attempt to distribute it to the people. This is met by resistance and an unwillingness to take the vaccine. Then populist leaders sprout up amongst the planet who claim to know alternate cures for the disease... Sound familiar? Anyway, it goes about as well as you'd expect, and a bunch of people are literally liquified by the disease and become a lake of corpse juice, from which an army of Nurgle daemons emerge, as one does.

The Be'lakor section was intriguing, since I know how he fits into AoS, but was always curious about his role in 40k. Daemon characters always span both games, since the warp works in mysterious ways, but Be'lakor is a daemon prince, meaning he was once just a human, and he was in fact the very FIRST daemon prince from the World-that-Was during Warhammer Fantasy. This gives him a much stronger tie to that setting then to 40k. Appropriately, the lore section here just states that he's so ancient and powerful that his origins are shrouded in mystery, but that he's been around and worshipped by various cultures for millennia. He's more or less up to the same things though. Eternally jealous of playing second fiddle to the chaos gods favored champions and looking to steal the spotlight for himself. 

The Great Rift has made it immeasurably easier for daemons to manifest in real space now, as there's essentially a giant warp storm running down the center of the galaxy. The Eye of Terror is still the largest concentration of daemons though, as it's the OG warp storm, and has now slipped it boundaries a bit. It does mention that there are worlds on the edges of the storm that are less affected by it though and are able to have more normal realities. Good news for the Iron Hands and Medusa. The lore section also has a wonderfully spooky and tense little narrative story that spans four pages. It reads like a horror story with a group of guardsmen attempting to stop a cult. This is another aspect of Chaos that's great in 40k. Since there are no undead and such in this setting, the daemons are more able to fill the role of boogeyman, where as in AoS they're a bit more straight forward.

Before we delve into the rules, I just want to preface it by saying I'm definitely not as versed in 40k rules. I'm trying to get back into the system now, but I've been kind of out of it for awhile. So, if you're looking for cutting edge commentary on what works best for matched play, you're in the wrong spot. Sorry.

To start with, we have a couple of army wide special rules that really give them that daemonic flavor. The first is a new weapon type known as Malefic. Malefic weapons are usually things like the Juggernauts that Bloodletters ride, or Nurglings on a Great Unclean One. They allow you to attack with these weapons in addition to the regular ones that the model or unit has. One key difference between AoS and 40k is the way attacks are done in combat. In AoS each weapon profile has an attacks characteristic, meaning you get to swing with everything. In 40k though, you'll have one attacks profile for the entire model, lets say 4, so they get to make 4 attacks. Then they may have 2 weapons profiles, and you have to either choose which profile you want to use, or split the attacks, but you'll only every have those 4 attacks. Malefic weapons gets around this by allowing you to use that weapons profile in addition to everything else. The profile will say something like Malefic 7, which means you get to make an additional 7 attacks with that weapon on top of the other ones.

The next special rule is the way their save works with Daemonic Invulnerability. Each model in the army will have two saves in their profile such as 5+/4+. The first number is used against ranged attacks, and the second is used against melee attacks. This makes some units more resilient in one phase or another of the game. This save also cannot be modified in any way, so it's like Ethereal in AoS. This reminds me a lot of how daemons works back in older editions of 40k too, where they always had an invulnerable save. The Daemonic ability also gives them Manifestation, which lets you put the unit into reserve at the start of the game and come in during your movement phase 9" away from the enemy, and within 6" of a friendly Warp Locus, which is a keyword that several units have. It also has to be a Warp Locus that shares the same mark of chaos as them. If the entire army is daemons then they don't even need a Warp Locus and can instead come on in your own deployment zone 3" away from enemy models, or in "no man's land" a number of inches away equal to the leadership value of the enemy unit they're near. On top of this they also have Daemonic Terror, which subtracts 1 from enemy leadership and Combat Attrition tests while within 6" of any of your models.

One of the most fun rules though is the Warp Storm. At the start of every battle round you roll 8 dice, and on a 4+ you gain a Warp Storm point. Some other units and abilities also have additional ways for you to generate these points throughout the game. There are then a list of abilities you can spend these points on during that battle round, and at the end of the round, any unspent points are lost and you generate new ones again in the next round. There are 8 generic abilities that any unit can use, ranging from costing 2 - 5 Warp Storm points. Each individual god then has their own unique 3 abilities that can only be used on units with that same mark. These are all pretty good to be honest, with the ability to bring back dead models, buff your movement, disrupt the enemy, extend the range of terror, or debuff your opponent's rolls. Nurgle has some good ones like Swarming Insects, which is a +1 to hit army wide for melee attacks. Every god has good ones in fact, but I'm focusing on Nurgle here.

Once we get past the army wide rules, the book is broken down by god, so you have all of the god specific rules, relics, warlord traits, psychic powers, stratagems, and datasheets in one section before moving onto the next. I really like this approach, and it makes it even easier to build a mono-god army. In my opinion, it also makes the stratagems a bit easier to use, since you have a much smaller pool to draw from if you're mono-god. I know sometimes the number of stratagems can be a bit overwhelming, especially for non-40k players. It's worth noting that you can take a mixed god army, but obviously the buffs from characters and such are tied to specific gods, so your Bloodthirster won't be buffing Horrors or anything. Each god's section is themed around them, with appropriate colors and artwork, and each has a really cool looking opening section, with Khorne being my favorite.

Looking at the Nurgle section in particular, you start with the ability to upgrade one of your Great Unclean Ones to an Exalted Great Unclean One with one of three abilities. They're honestly all pretty good, with the ability to retain some unspent Warp Storm points, or reduce incoming damage. They all cost extra points to upgrade. On the Stratagem side of things, there are 8 to pick from. If you play Nurgle in AoS, some of these abilities will be familiar to you, like Slime Trails for Beasts (though with a different ability), Swarming Flies causing -1 to hit, or certain units getting the equivalent of impact hits when charging. Basically some of the things that are on the warscrolls of the AoS units have been moved into Stratagems instead. All of their Stratagems are pretty low cost too, with only 2 of them having a cost of 2 CPs.

There are six psychic powers as well, with Fleshy Abundance making an appearance. This grants +1 toughness instead of +1 wound, but still pretty good and along the same lines. Warlord Traits are like Command Traits in AoS, and you also have six to choose from. I really like Overflowing Fecundity, which makes all attacks against the model fail on a hit roll of 1-3 regardless of BS or WS. You could also go the more straight forward route of putting an additional 2 wounds on your model, which will already be super tanky with a GUO. Lastly, before moving onto the datasheets, we have six relics to pick from. Again, there will be some familiar names here that do somewhat similar things.

On the unit side of things you have all of the same choices that you have in AoS, including the tree. If you're new to 40k, the first thing you'll notice is that there aren't as many special rules per unit when compared to AoS. In general, a lot of the special rules in 40k are applied to the whole army, or locked away in stratagems, with the datasheets being a bit more bare bones. For example, the Great Unclean One has all of the same weapon options, with the Bileblade performing a similar task by causing 1 wound to yourself to get +1 to your psychic test. The Doomsday Bell is also quite good, allowing you to replenish Plaguebearer units. Beyond those two things, the only other special rules he has is the Daemon Lord of Nurgle rule which allows all friendly Core Nurgle Daemon units within 6" of him to re-roll hits of 1. He can also pick 2 psychic powers, but as you can tell, thats a bit less than the AoS version. Like I said though, the impact hits have been moved to a stratagem. It does still have its vomit attack though as well as the Nurglings, which are Malefic, meaning they always get to attack. Similar but different.

This is the main takeaway with the rest of the units too. If you played them in AoS it will all feel very similar, but with a slight difference. Scriveners buff Plaguebearer units, the Poxwalker is a psyker, Horticulous buffs Beasts, Nurglings have set up shenanigans, etc. Epidemius' ability in 40k helps generate additional Warp Storm points, and Horty also has a way to make area terrain infected by Nurgle and cause damage to enemy units instead of planting a tree. Continuing the trend from AoS, Beasts of Nurgle seem to be really good. They have the ability to do Heroic Interventions as if they were characters, but from up to 6" away, which is an amazing disruptor. In 40k units can't just pile into a combat if they're within 3" like in AoS, but this kind of gets around it, as units that can do Heroic Interventions basically can do that, and these slimy guys can do it from even further away. I imagine you could hang the Beasts back a little bit behind bait units, and then slingshot them in 6" or use them as a deterrent from charging a unit you want kept safe. They also recover all wounds at the end of each phase if they're not killed, meaning you have to one shot all 7 wounds off of them in a phase to kill them, and then if they do die they explode on a 6! I think Plague Drones have some use here too, being fast, having an okay shooting attack, and the ability to do impact hits with that one stratagem. Lastly we have the tree, which costs points in 40k and it taken as a fortification slot. It does damage to nearby enemy units, gives friendly units within 6" a buff of making enemy shooting attack against them -1 to hit, and has a way to bring back lost Plaguebearer models as well. I'm glad they're worthwhile since I have 4 of them. The big difference that Nurgle players will notice is there is no Disgustingly Resilient type rule. Instead this is represented with more wounds and higher toughnesses. The last thing I want to mention here is that Plaguebearer units can only max out at 10 models, so no large blobs of them. You have to take a bunch of smaller units instead. This is true for all of the "core" daemon units as well such as Bloodletters and Horrors.

I'm not as familiar with the daemon units of other gods, so I can't really do a good comparison, but I imagine they're also similar but different to there AoS counterparts. One thing that struck me as odd in the Slaanesh part is that 40k doesn't have access to the two new daemon characters that came out of Broken Realms. I know they're AoS units, but typically every daemon unit is shared across the two games. After you finish the four gods, there is one last section, which contains Be'lakor, Daemon Princes, and Soul Grinders. If you take either of the latter two then you have to give them a mark of chaos. It's nice to see Daemon Princes in the army since they don't really fit into the god specific AoS armies at the moment. Be'lakor also has his own psychic discipline, stratagems, and an Army of Renown, which is basically a "historical" army which allows you to take a mix of daemons, chaos marines, and so on.

The last section of the book are the Crusade Rules, which seem really cool, but are honestly a bit too much for me at the moment as I'm just trying to get the fundamentals of 40k first. It's pretty much like how Path to Glory works though. There is a cool part of it called The Great Game, which sees you ranking the various Chaos gods depending on how your games go. There's even a nifty sheet at the back of the book for you to photo copy here. Crusade is something I hope to return to once I feel more comfortable with the game, as I'm a big fan of narrative play. Apparently this is also the first 40k Codex to have the Crusade Rules after all of the normal rules, which makes it a bit easier to navigate instead of having them between the special rules and the datasheets.

The book looks great, the lore feels fresh despite having a decade plus of 40k and chaos knowledge, and the units seems similar enough that I think I would have an okay grasp of how to play the army. If you already play a daemon army in AoS, I definitely think this book/army would be a nice way to try out 40k. It won't feel as overwhelming trying to learn a bunch of new stuff. I know what kind of role each character is supposed to fill, I know what's tanky, what's hitty, etc. I have an event coming up here at the end of the month that I was thinking of switching from AoS to 40k for. Originally I was going to take my Necrons, but I might actually take Nurgle daemons. Like I said, I think I'll understand what I'm doing a bit more, plus I already have everything painted where as I have 2 more units to finish for my 'Crons, so you can't beat that. Conversely, if you're a 40k daemon player, it seems like they might be a good army to try out AoS with, since again, they're pretty similar.

Do you have a daemon army and play both systems with it? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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