Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Angron, the Red Angel and Codex Daemons: Initial impressions

Blood for the Blood God, Skulls for the Throne of Khorne!

The new Daemon codex has been out for a few weeks now, and the initial rage over the perceived nerfing of the entire army that scourged the internet surrounding its release has finally died down.  A lot has been discussed over many blogs and forums about how the daemons actually fared, and the general consensus seems to put them along the lines of the other 6th edition books (Chaos Space Marines and Dark Angels).  Having a fledgling daemon force throughout 5th edition, I would like to talk a little about my thoughts on the new book, and more importantly, how can I construct any army with my current models, and how it will develop in the coming months.

Throughout the book the writing is quite good, with interesting things to say about all the gods. Khorne is understandably the most dry, being that it is all slaughter and skulls.  They did a good job explaining how each god is the embodiment of the dark desires and ambitions of all the living creatures in the galaxy.  And while I knew this was the case before, I could not have told you convincingly how Tzeentch or Nurgle fit in with this concept (not quite as straightforward as Khorne feeding off rage and murder and Slaanesh off perversion and desire) before reading about them in the new book.  The most enjoyable element I found, however, were the descriptions of each of the gods’ realms, from Khorne’s mighty Brass Citadel, to the ever shifting corridors of the Crystal Labyrinth, or the verdant but disease strewn garden of Nurgle surrounding a corpulent Manse of rotten timber.  These short passages do a good job of giving just enough detail to get our imagination flowing, but not so much that it strips it of all its mystery and allure.

Although initially, there was a lot of rage over the Warp Storm table, it does not look like it will have a huge effect on the army or the opponent as a whole (it does introduce a lot of extra dice rolling and checking the table, which may become tiresome, though).  When it comes down to it, however, I would much rather have this  than the random daemonic invasion rules of the last codex.  It seemed nigh every time I fielded the army, the wrong portion of my force would arrive on turn one and then proceed to scatter far out of position, and to their doom.  Now you can simply deploy your units normally, and through icons and instruments, bring your reserved forces (since all the units have Deep Strike) in when and where you need them.  This adds an element of consistency to the army that it lacked previously, and will certainly make the game more tactical and enjoyable for me.

The rules to most of the older units have changed quite a bit, becoming a lot less survivable than before. Eternal warrior is gone, very few units have any armour (even the blood crushers only have a 6+ save), and the Toughness of many units has decreased (bloodletter are T3 now...).  Thankfully, however, almost all the units have gone down in points, making some of these changes less of an issue.  Many of the special rules you might have expected the daemons would have (like rage for Khorne units or Feel No Pain for Nurgle) are now accessible only by including a Herald of the proper god with a special Locus upgrade.  And while this might seem a bit of downside at first, it actually gives the heralds a true purpose in the army.  To account for this, they allow you to get up to 4 heralds as a single Headquarters choice.  You will likely be seeing a lot of heralds when facing a Daemon army, as they can be upgraded in a multitude of ways to serve many different purposes, from bolstering Troops with Loci, to wielding all manner of psykic powers (Tzeentch gets Divination!), or just being deadly in close combat (AP 2 weapons can be purchased for only 10 pts!).  I am really excited to convert some new Heralds, and use some of the random models I have collected over the years as Heralds.  Finally, there is a reason for me to have all those stellar Brian Nelson Warhammer character models!  As heralds, they can sow destruction on my foes like they truly should.

Brian Nelson crafted some of Games Workshop's most characterful models, ones that are used in innumerable conversions, both for 40k and Fantasy.
Greater Daemons have also been much improved, with better stats, lower point values, and the same access to the excellent daemonic gifts (who would not want Feel No Pain on a 4+, It Will Not Die +1 Wound, etc?).  They also unlock Daemon Princes of their respective Mark, and allow them to be taken as Heavy Support choices, rather than just Headquarters choices. Unfortunately, however, there is an utter lack of good models for the Greater Daemons.  Time has not been too kind to the old Greater Daemon models (the update they got years ago with the new heads was even a step down, in my opinion).  The release of the Codex with no new plastic Greater Daemons was probably the biggest disappointment of the entire Daemon release.  This got me to thinking about how I might be able to include one in my army, and how I would resolve the model issue.  When reading about Skarbrand the Exiled One, his destroyed wings and pair of axes, Slaughter and Carnage, called up images of Angron the Red Angel to my mind: the bloody World Eaters Primarch stalking though battlefields, his brazen gladiatorial armour glinting from the muzzle flash of small arms, as he cleaved foes apart with his gruesome pair of axes, Gorefather and Gorechild.  This made me realize, why not just use Angron as a greater daemon (Skarbrand in particular)?  The sculpt is far more imposing and vicious than any of the other Greater Daemon models (or any daemon model for that matter...).  I had been looking for a gaming use for the excellent Simon Egan sculpt released by Forge World (as much as I would like to, I do not think I am going to be making a Pre Heresy World Eaters army anytime soon), and I think this is the perfect way to get him into games of 40k.  His stat line is surprisingly similar to the rules for the Primarch in Forge World’s Betrayal book too!

The motion and rage captured in this model never cease to amaze me, a true triumph.
In 5th edition I played an army composed primarily of Horrors (all the older metal versions, and not the disappointing plastic ones).  I was initially skeptical over their place in 6th edition lists due to their loss of a true shooting attack in favor of a psykic power.  Having used them in a game, however, I think I have been won over.  While it is true they can no longer overwatch and that their shooting has the potential of being completely negated by a lucky Deny the Witch roll, the amount of strength 6 shots you can get off, which can be rerolled with the proper herald involved is pretty crazy.  Never have my horrors accomplished more. I was also pleased to see that they brought Blue Horrors back, and although their rules will rarely affect a game substantially, I am glad they are represented in the rules again!  Overall, I am pleased that the Tzeentch units actually seem like the masters of Magick like they should be, and plan to maintain a major Tzeentchian element to my army.
 The gibbering madness of the old Horrors (left) is completely gone in the new plastics (right). 
Of all the gods, I think Nurgle may have been treated the best in this edition. Their Mark stands out in that it grants them Shroud and Defensive grenades. Additionally, a Herald with the proper locus can also give units Feel No Pain, making plaguebears excellent units for taking and holding objectives (much like they were in the last edition).  I have always liked Nurgle, although until recently (release of plastic plaguebearers) they had very few good models, making their inclusion in my armies a hard sell.  With these new rules and the plastic plaguebears, it seems like a good opportunity to start experimenting with Nurgle.  What’s more, I recently acquired the Lord of Pestilence from Ultraforge, which will make a nice Nurgle Daemon Prince. Inspired, I got out the box of plastic Plaguebearers I got when they were released, and a few dedicated nights later I assembled my first unit of Nurgle's finest (worst?!).

These lumbering husks of pestilence are preparing to Go To Ground on the nearest objective they can find! 

There is still a lot to do, models to assemble and lists to write, but I have never been more excited about the Daemons.  They are a bit of fresh air from the Space Marines I am used to.  How are all of you finding the Daemon book?  Any good thoughts on nice Greater Daemon alternatives?  As always, I would love to hear any of your thoughts!

-Godwyn Fischig

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