It is always tough to know how to review a new book. On the one hand, it is almost impossible to do it without comparing it to the old book. "Oh, their points went up? Now they are terrible (even though they do the same thing). "Oh, that magic item went away? I needed it"!" without seeing the new one that is...maybe not better but perhaps equal yet different.
On the other hand, it is in many ways a new book. It is balanced against itself and other current books (in theory anyway; many people think Games Workshop puts little to no effort into balancing.) as opposed to against the previous incarnation or previous enemy books.
Of course, since I have a relatively extensive collection of Warriors of Chaos models, I look at it hoping that the models I have will still be useful, allowing me to field a competitive but not overwhelming army.
With that in mind, I did what I typically do; I casually glanced at the cover and then sped to the magic item section to see if the underappreciated, possibly overpowered Banner of the gods had made the cut.
See, in the last book I used that banner to essentially turn my entire army unbreakable. That meant you had to kill every model in a unit to get points for it. Against Chaos Warriors and Chaos Knights, their armor made that a difficult task. Marauders were so cheap they could be taken in ridiculous numbers. It was tough getting points off that version of the army. In comparison to that, the Crown of Command was ridiculously overpriced because it only worked for one unit.
Naturally, since I am literally the only person I ever heard of taking it, that banner was not popular enough to make the cut and is gone. So back to the front of the book to look at this one on its own merits.
The cover art is what it is; skulls hanging everywhere, a decent drawing of a fierce warrior whose like shall not appear anywhere within the pages and some nice flaming axes. The next 23 pages are a mix of bad story-telling and slurred artwork. It is not until page 24 that there is any value in the book. That is where we encounter the army-wide special rules.
So long, farewell, and don't forget to write. The Will of Chaos rule is gone. Since it duplicated the mark of slaanesh and was invalidated by the mark of khorne it is no big loss, but the loss of flavor is a little unfortunate. I like the differentiation of things such as High Elf ASF v. Dark Elf Hatred, or the Beastmen Primal Fury rule for example.
Of course, the irony here is that I think I only ever rolled for the Will of Chaos once in the entire run, so it is not as if the loss is a huge deal.
The New and Changed
The Eye of the gods table is back and expanded, so now it is easier to get and some of the things are pretty cool. There is a remote chance (saw a guy math-hammer it out at like 2% per game) of gaining a D-prince. This is good if it replaces a unit champion...but a pretty bitter blow if you lose an exalted hero or chaos lord. See..you lose the points for whatever model gets the boon.
The marks are back and little changed; the mark of tzeentch is better as it helps with ward save re-rolls and channeling. Nurgle is better in close combat (a true -1 to hit instead of a hit to the WS which sometimes mattered not at all) and non-existent against shooting.
Special Characters: Lord Level
In the old book I used a handful of the special characters, and the only one that regularly made the cut was Wulfrik. He was good for bringing a large unit on the opponents back line and completely awful in combat. He has an awesome stat line and somehow managed to fluff his attacks every time out. I think he once killed his target and otherwise lost every time...including to a unit champion.
I cannot think offhand of any special characters that are no longer with up. Archaon is still overcosted and pretty much not worth taking. Galrauch came down in points and seems a good value. Kholex could wreck some things, though it is questionable if he is worth the hefty price tag.
Valkia got better but more expensive. Vilitch the Curseling seems unchanged off the top.
I could see myself taking Galrauch to fill two goals; use of a dragon and magic. Why play fantasy if you do not enjoy the elements of fantasy? People who whine about magic crack me up. Go play historical. Fantasy is all about swords, sorcery and monsters. At least, well-written fantasy is.
Unfortunately, they shafted the other Lord-level character I would take. Sigvald the Magnificent lost two valuable attributes; first off, he cannot re-roll his stupidity test. Having had him fail it at least once every game I took him, that hurts. Worse, they took away his special rule that let any unit with him have the strider rule.
In the end, the special characters in this section are pretty disappointing; they do not let you alter army structure, cover up holes in your list, or do anything particularly unique. Pass on all.
Generic Characters; Lord Level
The generic Chaos Lord remains what he was; a death merchant par excellence. He will almost always hit on 3s even against Lord-level characters, with high S and T, great I and lots of attacks. Pop him on something like the oft-maligned manticore and you have someone who can single-handedly wreck units of the enemies' deadliest fighters.
Chaos Sorcerer Lords got better as they now have access to better lores.
It is the D-Prince that really changed. I already took him fairly regularly. In the old book I would bump him up to a level 4, creating a highly mobile wizard that could wreck small units on his own in close combat or destroy big ones with magic. He was pricey.
Now he is cheaper, though somewhat weakened by Tendrils of tzeentch no longer being an option. On the bright side, he can now take armor and some magic items. Oh, and...now he is unbreakable. A 4 W, T5, WS 9 4+ 4++ close combat monster that is unbreakable? Oh, if I must...and of course there are rumored to be ways to make that 4++ a 3++ that re-rolls "1"s...which I will neither confirm nor deny. I will just say he is a much better general than the Chaos Lord ever could hope to be.
Special Characters: Hero Level
Wulfrik is far less useful than he used to be. Instead of his own Ambush type rule, now he uses the rule book version. The shift from "Come on the board at the side I want you" to "Come on a board side that may or may not be helpful" moves him from "a real positive every game" to "meh". Mobility is king when you have a slowish guy roaming away.
Throgg is popular in the Warhammer community at large. I am not a huge fan of Chaos Trolls and am unlikely to use him. Festus the Leechlord has some uses but the model is so repulsive I have a hard time seeing my way clear to using him.
Scyla Anfingrim is better; no random movement, the highest LD of any model in the book (yes, the highest you can get other than him is LD9, he has LD10) and pretty affordable. It is tempting to take him for the army general. But he is not very survivable and not a particularly scary close combat guy.
Overall I am a little disappointed. Wulfrik used to really be beneficial but now he is pretty meh. I like special characters, but these all feel...well...generic. Except Throgg, who I do not use.
Generic Characters: Hero Level
Not much change here except getting better. The Exalted heroes are still equal to or better than Lord-level characters for most other armies. The Sorcerers get access to better lores from the rule book. Bucket full of win.
The natural inclination is to look at the Marauders first and think "this is a disaster".
Their points cost increased 50%. Their upgrades for Great Weapons tripled. The much less useful Flails (perhaps the single most over-rated item in the game) doubled. The extra hand weapon option is gone entirely...sure am glad I have dozens of models that are no longer game legal. The cost for marks of khorne and tzeentch went up significantly for every model past 15.
And certainly, in a vacuum, comparing them to what they were last book will lead to this conclusion. However, in the new book, there are other benefits elsewhere in the book that may make these changes worthwhile.
First, the good; they are still flexible. You can still build a unit capable of putting out 31 S5 attacks with ablative wounds. Or you can build a tarpit with a 5+/5++ save. You can make them hard to hit or survivable. You can horde them up.You can make them one-hit wonders that count on breaking the opponent in the first round (flails, I am looking at you).
Next, the bad; if you could take a Marauder with 2 attacks at S5 that always strikes last and no save, how many points would it be worth to add a point of WS, S, T, I, LD and an extra attack that still always strike last while having a 4+ save? Would it be worth it at 8 points per model?
Or if you prefer defense and gave them light armor, shield and mark of tzeentch, so now they have S3, 1 attack, I4 and 5+/5++, how many points for the same adds of 1 WS, S, T, I, LD, extra attack, but a 3+/5++ save? Would it be worth an extra 7 points/model?
Let me put it in perspective for you; I routinely include a 20 strong of defensive minded troops with full command in every list. This prepares me for both Watchtower and Blood and Glory games.
Marauders: 230 points.
Warriors of Chaos: 340 points.
The Warriors are better in every stat except wounds and M. You have to be really, really tight on points to take the Marauders over the Warriors.
But wait; what if we go offensive, with great weapons, mark of tzeentch for maximum damage?
50 Marauders w/great weapon; no armor save, 2 attacks each. 580 points
50 Chaos Warriors with the benefits above (including the 4+ save) and 3 attacks each:980 points. Now there is a difference; but you will get more out of 30 horded up chaos warriors than 50 marauders for just 20 more points.
I can think of no sutuation where 50 Marauders >30 Chaos Warriors.
In fact, the Marauders seem to have one efficient use now; 10 of them can be a nice Mage Bunker.
On the bright side the Forsaken have moved into the Core section. They also gained Chaos Armor, so they now have a save. They are fast moving, have the potential to hit somewhat hard hitting. Then they crippled them by making them more expensive than a tooled up Chaos Warrior but not unbreakable.
Lets compare 10 Forsaken to 10 Chaos Warriors, both tooled up as much as possible:
Forsaken will end up with Mark of...lets say khorne to give them Hatred. 210 points for 15-25 attacks (assuming ranks of 5) at WS4, S4, 1 Static Combat Resolution.
Chaos Warriors with same mark, additional hand weapon to use their initiative; 210 points with full command. 25 attacks with higher WS and Initiative, 2 SCR.
But the Forsaken do have 2 extra points of movement...
I guess they would be good to go after war machines or chaff. They are fast enough to cause some problems and between their T4 and Chaos Armor, they have some survivability. But the opportunity cost of losing more Chaos Warriors hardly seems worth it.
Chaos Warhounds are now true core. Cheap, they have the same uses as forsaken.
Chaos Chariots are now core. Not a good idea to use entirely as your core, they can be a tremendous line breaker if used in conjunction with a unit that needs just the little extra oomph to win a combat. I love their inclusion here.
Marauder Horsemen are essentially the same.
Overall the core is outstanding. 6 choices and honestly, all 6 have value and could see use. Total win. If I sounded harsh above, it is only because math-hammer says most always it is better to take Chaos Warriors.
If the hallmark of a good book is choices then the Warriors of Chaos have it in spades. The 6 Core choices are dwarfed by the whopping 9 Special choices. Lets see if they suffer the same problems.
First up are the H-striders of slaanesh. Faster than any other ground-based thing in the book, they have excellent I, above average Ws, and typical human S and T. They are fast cav, cause fear, are immune to psychology and have spears, or can replace that with the ASF weapon. Great for seeing off pesky war machines (if they were not cavalry), or chasing off other chaff.
And the opportunity cost is murder; they are competing for space with Chosen, Chaos Knights, Chaos Ogres, Dragon Ogres, Chaos Trolls, the Chimera, the Gorebeast Chariot and the Chaos Warshrine. Are they good enough at their role to make up for taking away points from some or all of those other things?
The Chosen lost the hated 3++ using the EotG table. However, they now get a roll pre-game instead of needing the War Shrine to take a shot at it...which makes sense since the War Shrine got shafted massively and can no longer affect units. More on that later.
Chosen are what they are; Chaos Warriors with 1 extra WS and the chance to roll on the Rewards table. Possibly a good choice, definitely in the discussion for best infantry unit in the game. With WS higher than many Lord-level characters, a reasonable strength and T, they are a threat to kill characters and wreck other elite units. Their only downsides are they are slow and again, the opportunity cost.
Chaos Knights got slightly more expensive and lost the ability to take the mark of nurgle and then still gain frenzy with the banner of rage. But they are still awesome and well worth the points.
Chaos Ogres are pretty cool. I obviously like stacking up large numbers of good S attacks on a narrow frontage. Add impct hits (and potentially D3 impact hits) and stomp and you have a solid unit. They are a bit of an anomaly in the book with just a WS3. They also have a low I so taking the Great Weapons to give them S6 and letting them go beast hunting (which admittedly makes a mockery of their stomp) is a reasonable option.
My beloved Dragon Ogres are still awesome. With a 4+ save, 4 wounds, incredible M and good LD, they are awesome. With the option of Halberds they can keep their initiative and deal out 10 S6 attacks on 120mm frontage. Too bad they are nearly a third more expensive than GW wielding Chaos Ogres without having the impact hits.
Here is a really nice example of balance; I can see uses for both the Chaos Ogres and the Dragon Ogres. The cost difference seems more in line with the effectiveness differences. Great job.
Chaos trolls are another high attack, low WS, fast moving, hard hitting unit. I think Regeneration is better than the protection ffered the othter monsters, and I can see cases I would take a unit.
The Chimera is interesting. Large numbers of high S attacks are great. The ability to fly and deliver them is outstanding. Having a S4 breath weapon is so much better than a S3 breath weapon that I do think they are very comparable. Having armor save instantly classes him better than any monster in the Beastmen book (which is kind of like saying smelling a fart is better than smelling a skunk; better is true but not really relevant) LD 5? Suddenly he is almost unusable.
I can see a flying circus type thing where a D-Prince general teams up with the Chimera to fly around making combo attacks and wreaking havoc on unsuspecting units. Otherwise? His low LD means he is almost free points for the opponent.
The Gorebeast chariot hits like a ton of bricks. If you need a stormtrooper type unit, this is the one. Oddly, it is slower than the base chariot and with no marching, that can hurt but when it gets there it is going to do damage.
The Warshrine has two problems; first it is an ugly, repulsive model. Second, it no longer buffs units. The Giver of Glory rule is great for unit champs, a little risky for heroes and lords.
It is hurt by the section it is in. It is arguably the worst choice in the section and, with its now limited usefulness, probably not worth taking.
once more with feeling; choice is good. 7 choices are here in the Rare section.
First off we have the H-cannon. It is almost the same...still the S5, now has to cause a casualty to force the panic check...but now it has a ward save. Well worth the points.
Second is the Dragon Ogre Shaggoth ho got a little bit cheaper. I already used him to good effect and see nothing to change my mind.
The Chaos Giant is like most giants, except his points are cheaper and he can be marked. If you like giants he is an excellent choice and he has his uses.
Chaos Spawn remain too low WS to really be much use. They are good for holding up key enemy blocks with being unbreakable and have some use there, but with points at a premium in the rare section they will be tough to justify.
The Skullcrushers of khorne are interesting. They got weaker and more expensive than their release. Yet when you look at them as constituted, they are still an excellent value. Strong, fast, rugged, they can deal out a whooping after taking a ton of abuse.
Any unit that can deal out 6 WS5, S5 attacks PER MODEL plus a stomp, so really 7 attacks while being T4 with a 1+ armor save is pretty solid...yeah, it would be nice to have the T5, but being a 3 wound moel is pretty stout. They are almost a must take and will chack in between 250 and 300 points for just 3 of them...and are STILL worth it.
The Slaughterbrute model is ugly and expensive. The model itself is interesting. On its own it is madly overcosted. 4 WS3 attacks...meh. Even the 2 bonus attacks are not that impressive. I mean, sure, 6 attacks with S7/S5 is nice, but what are you going to hit? And his pathetic ld if his controller is killed ensures even a unit of skaven slaves has an outside chance at making him flee.
But couple him with a high LD, high WS controller and suddenly he is a beast, hitting on 3s, good LD.
I really, really wanted to like the Slaughterbrute. Then I compared him to the Shaggoth. He is 1" slower, worse ws, one extra point of S, 1 fewer wound, 1 less I, 1 less attack pre-enhancement, lower LD and equal armor...but depending on someone else. Add an extra hand weapon to the shaggoth and the extra claws to the Slaughterbrute and they cost the same, both have 6 attacks...but the Shaggoth is slightly better unless you really, really need S7, and if so, take the Shaggoth with a GW for S8.
If one was rare and the other special I could see taking them both...as is, I think the Slaughterbrute combination of expensive, confusing, ugly model and slight disadvantages mean it is a no-go. But certainly a valid choice anyway.
The Mutalith Vortex Beast seems like an epic fail If it does not get off its bound spell and get a lucky 6 it is a fairly weak choice. 3-8 S5 attacks are nothing to sneeze at...but at WS3 you are likely to need at least a 4 to hit. If you do 3 wounds a turn pre-Thunderstomp you are making hay. It is rugged enough to survive for a while, but there are better combat monsters. It really, really relies on getting its magic off.
Speaking of magic...
Lore of tzeentch
The lore attribute is kind of cool except it only works for th wizard that cast the spell so will only be useful on a high level wizard with multiple useful spells...which he will probably not have if marked tzeentch.
Warpfire has the possibility of doing an extra d3 wounds with no armor save. It has a better chance of giving the enemy regeneration. For the rest of the GAME, not turn. High risk, low reward. Very flavorful and fitting. But it really sucks.
Blue Fire is easy to get off. D6 S6 hits...so an average of 3.5 S3.5 hits. Typical magic missile. In my eyes not very useful.
Treason of tzeentch has possibilities. It stops Inspiring Presence and Hold Your Ground. Used in conjunction with the H-cannon it can run some units off the table pretty easily. Good synergy. If it were the Signature Spell the lore would be 100% better and probably useful.
Pink Fire can do some damage with its Sd6...but it is pretty iffy. First you have to get the spell off...then you have to roll well on the artillery die...then you have to roll a decent Strength. Pretty bleh.
Bolt of change is a magic missile bolt thrower that if you get lucky will be S10...and if not is S5. Unlikely to penetrate ranks very often. Worth taking though and easy to cast.
Glean Magic is situational; when it works it is devastating, when the opponent has no useful spells or is out of range it is awful.
Firestorm is another d6 strength hit. Those are so iffy to use that I have an extremely low opinion of them. It is already so hard to get a spell off that you would like for it to be useful when you get it off. Random S spells are not the answer.
Infernal Gateway is weaker than it used to be. It still has the potential of doing 18 S10 hits...and if I ever hear of it happening I will be surprised because everything has to go right. But it should average 7 S7 hits and that is worth trying, even with the Warpflame idiocy.
Overall, tzeentch would be a half decent lore if you could choose your spells or be sure of getting treason, Infernal and glean. As is, a tzeentch marked sorcerer choosing between tzeentch and metal might lean towards metal.
Lore of nurgle
The lore attribute is one of those cool little extra sauce bits that are great when you get it...an extra point of T or an extra wound is always welcome, even if it only happens one in 6 times. That is strong.
The signature spell, Stream of Corruption, is a breath weapon that you have to cast. It is great...if you want your wizard within 6" of the enemy.
Miasma of Pestilence is great; lower your enemies' WS and I. Of course...do the Warriors, with their WS5, I4 really NEED to lower those two stats? they are likely hitting on 3 and being hit on 4 already. I guess against WS3 guys they now are hit on 5s so it has some value...and if you boost it, even more likely to be awesome. I have succeeded in the past in lowering an enemies WS to 0 with a high S unit and the result was utter carnage. Again, if this were the signature spell it would improve the lore tremendously.
Blades of Putrefaction giving poison is pretty useful. Guys who have lots of attacks and poison like the additional chances to wound...
Curse of the Leper is awesome. Bouncing T up or down by D3 is strong.
Rancid Visitations is stronger than any magic missile tzeentch offered. Great magic missile.
Fleshy Abundance giving Regeneration 5+ is pretty cool as well.
Plague Wind can wreak havoc on low T 1 wound units...which, by the way, are not something the Warriors typically struggle against. Hordes do not bother the Warriors.
Overall, a very strong lore. If the rules for these spells were in tzeentch it would make a ton more sense for fluff-bunnies who think tzeenth the master of magic should, you know, have strong magic. But from a game balance standpoint, having a wizard designed for close combat and giving him spells that make sense for it...well done.
Lore of slaanesh
The Lore attribute is another one designed to enhance the wizard's close combat effectiveness. If you are flying around a slaanesh D-prince, upping his WS, I and A makes sense. If you are a more typical sorcerer, sure, they are better than most wizards, but still easily slain even by Empire spearmen, for example, so getting them in close combat is not conducive to effective magic phases. Fail.
The signature spell is S3 armor piercing hits. Lame.
Acquiescence is pretty cool, giving them ASF and random movement. Easy to get off, good effect. Perhaps redundant in WoC, but cool nonetheless. If you plan lots of GW wielding Warriors, it would synergize beautifully with them.
Pavane is palame. Yay, less than 50% chance to do a wound. Not worth the casting.
Hysterical friendly gives either friend or foe frenzy and d6 s3 hits. Uhm...yeah. Is this the Orc and Goblin book with zany "help and hurt us both" nonsense?
Slicing Shards has the punchers chance of doing lots of damage if you can roll high on d6 and work with treason of tzeentch to make them keep failing LD tests. Realistically it will not do much damage.
Phantasmagoria could by that synergy, making them roll 3d6 for LD and discard the lowest. Lets look at the prerequisites; roll up both spells (or all three if you add tzeentch), get both or all three off in the same phase, profit. Good luck with that, let me know how it turns out for you that one game in a hundred when that combo goes off and wins you the game.
Cacophonic Choir has potential; 2d6 hits that wound on 4+ with no armor saves and, if one wound caused, give ASL and random movement. Pretty funny to hit a steam tank or war machine with it. Especially a war machine...no firing for you next turn.
Overall, Nurgle is strong, slaanesh has possibilities but the book lores are pretty meh.
Mutations and Powers
D-blade gives random attacks of 4-10 attacks. Could be useful.
Flaming breath is awesome.
Chaos Familir is great too. Scaled skin adds survivability. Give it to a D-prince and Chaos armor, mark of tzeentch for a 2+/4++ monstrosity....Burning body is great for hitting regenerating units. Soul Feeder can regenerate wounds in a hurry for a death merchant. 3rd Eye lets Ward Save rolls of 1 be re-rolled...pretty awesome. The other ones are pretty so so. But these are some great powers.
H-fire sowrd; flaming, multiple wounds, and 1 in 6 chance to do extra d6 S4 hits...but a 1 in 6 chance of wounding yourself. Very tempting.
Sword of Change; at first this was an auto-take and vastly undercosted. I was already thinking of how many chaos spawns it would create...then I re-read it. You have to kill a character or monster to have a 50% chance of creating a spawn. Still good...but situational. You have to be pretty sure your guy will kill characters and/or monsters.
Filth Mace gets better as the game goes on but requires mark of nurgle. Boo for requiring the mark.
Helm of Many Eyes is good for armor and ASF, bad for stupidity. Skull of Katam is almost an auto-take. Ooh...might lose a LD point. If your wizard's 8 is being counted on for LD in a unit of Chaos Warriors...LD 8...you already have issues. Take it, channel like mad.
Chalice of Chaos is another...uh....I mean, sure, maybe you get lucky that 1 in 6 times and your Exalted hero becomes a D-prince...oh, wait, less than 1 in 6, you have to pass a LD test....and you give up points for it. The other effects are often good, sometimes unnecessary. It is a high risk, modest reward item. Cheap though.
Pendant of slaanesh requires that mark. Expensive. Marginally useful
Blasted standard is weaker than it used to be.
Banner of rag requires specific mark and only keeps you from losing frenzy.
Nothing superpowered here, lots of situationally useful stuff.
Overall, I really like the book. You have a ton of choices, very few if any "bad" choices...even Forsaken, which were horrifically badly done before, have their uses. You can play a variety of styles, have access to tools to deal with any opponent...but you are not overpowered. It appears to be a well written book.
Go with elite warriors and you will be small in number, tough to kill, but vulnerable to a bad round of combat. Go with Marauders and you will have better numbers but fall like flies. Pick monsters and you can do lots of high S attacks in narrow frontage. Go magic heavy and you can really manipulate stat lines.
Great work, excited to try them out.