Epic: Armageddon Factions 101 – Part 7 Chaos Cult Lists
This time we’re looking at the Chaos Cult lists. Those dedicated to one specific Chaos God and benefitting and losing out from doing so. Each of these lists is fairly different in approach and each of them has an iconic stand out unit that the armies are built around using. They all have access to Daemons (and the options for using them as laid out in the Chaos Undivided article) and should make use of them.
Many thanks to Nitpick, Apocolacyntosis and Jimmyzimms for the images this time round too.
There is one, big standout rule for these lists though that had a large, visible impact on how they play.
The core troops of all of these lists (Thousand Sons, Plague Marines, Berserkers, Noise Marines) as well as many others are all fearless and thus get all sorts of exemptions from the normal morale rules. They can still have their formations broken (and thus lose the activation) but they cannot be removed due to blast markers nor from combat resolution, meaning that you have to kill every single one of them to destroy the formation. This makes them able to take dangerous risks with engagements (because even if they lose the don’t suffer extra casualties), makes them great as the BTS (you have to kill every one of them) and means they can take and hold ground exceptionally well (because they don’t have to leave the 15cm or even 5cm of an enemy after losing an engagement, so they can stand somewhere – like an objective – and still block movement towards it even after losing and force the opponent back out of their ZoC).
Fearless gets better the tougher your models with it are and at worst the marines have got good saves and in the case of Nurgle and Tzeentch fantastic saves.
There are downsides to fearlessness though. In formations where you have a mix of fearless and regular troops if you do take casualties from combat resolution or blast markers then you have to assign those casualties to the non-fearless units which can strip away things like your Rhinos or upgrades that you relied upon for mobility or tactical options or combat punch.
Another good thing to note about basically all of these lists is that, with very little extra painting or modelling and maybe a few extra purchases they can stand in as fantastic, colourful Black Legion armies too!
On to the lists!
The death guard are slow, grinding and tough and bring a variety of barrage weapons making them feel like an implacable wall. Your units tend to being tougher than the equivalents in other lists and favour shorter ranged, high power weaponry and your army special rules give you a bonus on Marshalling and lose the ability to March so stopping your army from moving is nigh on impossible…it just wont be moving quickly.
First up the army lacks ways of entering the table. It has several teleporters (Terminators and Plague Zombie Infestations being of note here) but has no air assaults nor the ability to orbital drop so you will be walking and driving most of the way to your enemy. Note that Rhinos and Predators are the fastest ground units available to you!
Let’s spin around and look at what you do gain from this slow speed. Your core unit is Plague Marines, 3+ armour, 3+CC, 4+FF fearless infantry, you get 7 and a champion for 300pts and can mount in Rhinos (recommended!) to make the formation 340pts and a tough, reliable core to your army. Able to engage and fight well, hold ground and survive due to their armour and fearless. You want these and will need to learn what you want to do with them as they are a core requirement to unlocking other options. As firefight support they work well and are capable of making risky engagement on their own due to being fearless (note that they will lose their rhinos to blast markers/lost combat resolution though). Get them forward and jam up your opponent’s lines with them. They have nothing to use in the shooting phase so they should be doubling every round to get where they need to be and taking part in as many engagements as possible.
For other upgrades you can swap up to 3 stands with death guard havocs, giving a 2x45cm guns and a fantastic FF3+ for 25pts. If your points will stretch this far I do recommend taking these (but rhinos come first!), adding Vindicators can also be an appealing options. A bit pricier and will slow down your Rhinos to the speed of the Vindicators 25cm though. In return you’d gain up to 3 30cm ignore cover shots and play into that feel of an advancing siege wall.
The Death Guard Defilers come with a different weapon load out to standard, including a 2xAA5+ gun. Making a 275pt powerful ground combat unit and bring in large volumes of AA. These are very attractive and I would definitely take 2 formations of them when points allow. They should be able to push forwards and create 45cm range AA deadzones, no one wants to fly into 8xAA5+ shots before making their attack runs from the air! For these I recommend moving them forward and hiding behind terrain, trying to prevent enemy line of sight, then if an oponent comes within 40cm of them you can engage (because of Infiltrate) into B2B through the cover you’re hiding behind (because of walker) and make maximum use of those powerful CC macro weapons. The formation only has 4 models and I would recommend against adding more Defilers to it because of the cost and instead focus on keeping it out of sight of the enemy so it doesn’t get suppressed or broken with blast markers. AA is important and for your Death Guard’s limited speed it is even more important to be able to prevent your enemy being able to fly in and attack with impunity as often your core forces will not be able to divert themselves to deal with fast moving air assaulters.
Your Terminators can teleport and this gives you a rapid strike capacity that your army lacks otherwise. Get them where they are needed deep in the enemy half. The big advantage here is fearless, this makes your Terminators vastly more survivable than regular Chaos Terminators and means losing an engagement or getting broken with blast markers is considerably less of a problem as you won’t be wiped out by putting more blast markers on you. They are expensive however and if you feel confident with the rest of your advance can probably do without them. If you do take them their best targets are enemy artillery or ideally their BTS – unless the BTS is skimmers or something CC resistant. BTS can be hard for you to score and terminators are your best way of getting it.
Looking at your more unique units, Plague Towers, Plague reapers, Corruption Engines, Blight Drones and the Infestation they offer useful things, especially the Plague reapers, being a baneblade equivalent with a short ranged 3BP ignore cover disrupt gun and plenty of other short ranged shots for both AT and AP as well as fearless having a few of these running around to bulk up your activation count for 200pts is a good option, especially for short ranged grinding around the middle of the board. Blight Drones are…kind of like worse land speeders. Slower and without scout they don;t hold ground so well and their guns while good are not standout. They do however work well as a counter to enemy scouts as they are pretty hard to take down, are decently fast and have better guns than most scouting units. I think you can leave home without them but they do add in additional options for hunting the enemy down or keeping them away from the core of your army. The Plague Tower provides long ranged firepower! A huge boon! But it’s expensive and only available as an upgrade making whichever formation with it really costly. It is a transport however so maybe some use in putting it with a core plague marine formation as then you can save on the cost of rhinos. I would not add it to a group of contagion engines though as that formation as a whole would be very slow, vulnerable to suppression (as the smaller engines are easier to destroy) and have issues getting all of its guns into a shared range to take advantage of their combined barrage. The real standout here is the Infestations. A semi-random number of fearless, cheap and utterly disposable bodies. Teleport them onto the table in a position not to fight (they’re pretty hopeless) but instead to gum up the works of your opponent. Slow them down by forcing them to kill their way through multiple stands of blocking infantry.
The key to using the zombies is spreading out widely and trying to use terrain to block lines of sight. Try to prevent the enemy being able to see more than one or two at a time with any given formation so they can’t just blow away a whole lot in one go. If the enemy clipping engages them then their fearless means they can’t chase them off. They can simply stay where they are and are not destroyed for being within 15cm and they still have their zone of control.
The zombies are a key element because of the way I suggest playing the Death Guard. Your army itself is specialised in close range grinding. Your opponent will likely NOT be good at this and will want to avoid it where possible. Your job becomes forcing them to do it. Slow them down with zombie walls. use your Plaguehound and Blight Drones to kill enemy fast movers and scouts. Your shooting is probably best spread around too – aim to destroy one or two transports from each enemy formation rather than devastating one formation a lot. This both slows them down (or they risk losing models by leaving them behind) and places blast markers on them to help you win engagements later. Place your objectives near the middle of the board so you can reach them and try and get them lined up near to the enemy Blitz too, make a small area of the board your focal point and flood it with really tough short range killers. Then use anything you have that is fast to bully and frustrate enemy fast movers.
The Daemons are still useful to you to summon for many of the same reasons as outlined in the first chaos article. In your case however the Daemonic Beasts are what I recommend, not the plague bearers. which can be a bit of a shame but the plague bearers suffer from redundancy with your already really tough and good CC troopers while the beasts give you the ability to engage out to 40cm with still good CC troops. That’s not to say the plague bearers are bad in any way, they are still useful even in the core death guard formations as they bulk numbers and give more attacks, they are just less unique as their unique selling point is a little bit redundant with everything else around them!
Don’t forget aircraft, having the ability to reach out and strike with your own is a valuable tool, especially for an army as slow as your can be, they are probably more important than they would be for someone faster. Use them preferably inside the air cover of your Defilers (so they don’t get easily lost to enemy interceptors) and use them to damage and break enemy flankers that might be coming round to score objectives against you. Your opponent is likely to know you’re fairly slow and spread objectives widely to make it hard for you to stop them capturing them. use your aircraft to try and protect those far flung objectives in corners etc.
These servants of Slaanesh are fast and hard hitting whilst retaining the standard toughness of any space marine. Their specialty is in an abundance of Disrupt and First Strike as well as fast, ground based unique units. These qualities make them good at alpha strikes and supporting fire. Look for ways of getting your specialist fast movers into support fire range of multiple targets and engaging those targets with your core Noise Marines!
Note that you have smaller formation sizes than most of the other chaos lists and fewer options to add more models. 6 is Slaanesh’s number.
Unlike the Death Guard previously the Emperor’s Children retain the different ways of entering the table that the standard Black Legion have. Teleporters and the ability to drop in with Dreadclaws from orbit. However they are not so able to bulk up their formations like the Black Legion drop troops. Some interesting options become available with this orbital feature however, for example 3 formations of Noise Marines in dreadclaws costs 305*3 = 915pts…not cheap but dropped on turn 2 right on the opponent’s blitz/triangle of objectives and within 15cm of each other means you can bombard, drop, summon daemons and engage then get potentially all three formations to shoot into the same engagement (one engages, 2 support fire) and can potentially keep on getting them to support each other in that one turn. Tricky to pull off but potent, especially as they are fearless! Bear in mind that with Dreadclaws you have a lot of flexibility – they pinpoint drop with no scatter and you can deploy the formations anywhere within 15cm of the landing point.
First up let’s look at the core of the army. Noise Marines. These are as tough as regular marines with a 4+ save, reliable (Init1+) and come armed with a short ranged (30cm) AP/AT gun with Disrupt. The gun is nice to have and I’d rather have Disrupt than not have anything but it’s not a particularly potent weapon when considering their normal role. It is however fantastic at shooting enemy formations that are already broken and has some edge cases where it’s really handy to have that Disrupt ability. The real core strength of these guys though is FF3+. Noise Marines are fantastic at firefighting which also makes them fantastic at support firing and their CC4+ means they aren’t vulnerable there either. Even better the lesser Daemons available to you help to make opponent’s trying to lock your FF specialists into CC have a bad time too. This stat line (short range disrupt weaponry, good CC and fantastic FF values combined with fearless and good armour) makes these guys very potent at engagements, so, get them there. Mount in Rhinos and drive forward, orbital drop if you have to. Even better if you can get multiple of these formation all just outside of 5cm of each other (don’t intermingle!) but within 15cm of each other so they can provide support fire and use those values as many times per turn as possible.
You also have Terminators, these guys are not that unique compared to normal cult terminators. Their fearlessness is great and first strike firefight is helpful but doesn’t change much how you’d use them. The comparative speed of the rest of the army means the teleport ability is less useful than it would be to the Death Guard. Use these guys how you would other Terminators really. The real stand out unit in the section is the Bikes. Fearless, 35cm speed, first strike FF4+! These are pretty good as a statline but how they synergise with the rest of the list is why they really shine. They have a 50cm engage range (35cm move +15cm firefight range), are fearless and get to shoot first…in concert with supporting fire from a Noise Marine formation with it’s FF3+ this is a strong and pretty safe engagement. Even if they lose they only lose models killed by attacks not by resolution, their speed means that if they get chased off turn 2 they can come right back again turn 3 and can even attack the half way line of the board turn 1 (to bully scouts for example) if they deploy on the edge of your deployment zone 15cm on plus a 35cm move plus 15cm firefight range and that’s 15+15+35=65cm and they can add daemons to their number to get the outnumber bonus in resolution. They do only come in 6 strong though so lose effectiveness fairly quickly as they take casualties and their first strike rule only applies when they are involved in the engagement order not when support firing.
One thing that will probably stand out to you is that your options aren’t cheap. The cheapest you can get is 4 predators for 200pts…which is not a very attractive formation. 50pts more gets you 6 regular chaos marines and three rhinos which is definitely not bad. Will likely have a hard time appearing impressive but as a solid, reliable activation that can fill almost any role you need it to not something to dismiss. Really though if you want to avoid falling behind in the activation count the place to look is the Titans/Aircraft third. You can only spend 1/3rd of your total point in here but it has some very attractive options. 200pts for 3 fliers is good for buffing the activation count and giving you some air cover or offence, the cheaper spacecraft gives the option to use Dreadclaws, gives a Macro barrage and a pinpoint attack for melting war engines and the standouts are the two smaller titans the Questor and the Subjugator. The Subjugator especially so at 225pts. Both are fast with 35cm moves, have shields and DC so are tough and carry long ranged weapons with their battle cannons – advance+shoot gives them a 35+75cm = 110cm threat range with two shots on 4+ against infantry or tanks. They can dash forward and blow away an enemy transport reliably or place blast markers from across the table. Then comes their unique options. The Questor has twin Castigator cannons for a huge volume of fire (and an FF3+) at 45cm (plus an advance for 80cm threat). The Questor is great at deleting the fast elements of an enemy like their scouts, their cheap disposable activations like sentinels or dethkoptas and it provides good support fire as well as a 5cm engage range much like the bikes. The Subjugator is cheaper and has less firepower…instead it has CC3+ and 5 attacks…two of which are TKD3 so it can utterly shred through formations and warengines and the twin battlecannons means it still provides utility in the shooting phase! A thing to remember with this one is that the effective engage range is only 35cm (as it want to get to CC) but it has the Walker ability so it can fairly safely dash through cover to get there so it can hide behind cover and out of sight and then dash through to CC. Do bear in mind that it can’t CC skimmers though and its firefight is a disappointing 5+. It is cheap though and if it can survive to the end of the game the speed and toughness means both these small titans can steal or contest objectives effectively.
Think the list is already packed full of winners? It gets better (and pricier…) with the Daemon Engines. 4+ armour, invulnerable save, 30cm move, scout, fearless and a castigator cannon…the Daemon Knight are exceptional. Pouring out the shots on a mobile and (fairly) tough platform that can combine the fearless and scout rules in some very frustrating ways. Contrary to common use of scouts I recommend not throwing these far forward as blocking forces or similar but instead treating them in the early game as hunter killers. Find the enemy fast movers (much like the questor titan) and blow them away. Hell they can even do so against armour as they pump out 12 AT5+ shots at 75cm (30 move +45cm gun). These are expensive and valuable so don’t expose them to needless harm. For early deployment it is worth garrisoning forward but don’t push to the 60cm line, use the objectives in your half to be outside your deployment zone but not too far forward as to be vulnerable. Use that slightly forward position to more effectively attack. In the later game the combination of fearless and scout means these can deny objectives fantastically well. If they form a loose ring around an objective and they are over 5cm from the objective itself their 10cm zone of control (that remains even if they are broken) makes it impossible for the enemy to enter and contest the objective (as they can’t get within the 15cm range needed!) and because you’re fearless they can only get rid of you by killing you outright. Even a single one of these left, broken can stand and face down the enemy, restricting movement over a 20cm diameter circle (imperial guard sentinels with a commissar are well acquainted with this tactic too!)
Your Daemon options are mostly utility. They give you some ways of counteracting a common enemy tactic. As your guys tend to be so good at FF the enemy will want to get into CC to take this away from you…a thin line of Daemons with good CC and first strike is quite good at dissuading and outright blocking this! This blocking option only need a small number, 2-3 stands of Daemonettes summoned to the formation should be what you need for this. On the attack their range is good enough for your guys on foot (steeds with 30cm move can engage the same things your infantry firefighters can…careful of the 5cm coherency rule though!) similarly with the Daemonic beasts. Considerably less useful for the bikers though, the Daemonic beasts work better for them as their infiltrate means they can go 40cm to keep up. Remember there are benefits to summoning Daemons beyond just kills in combat! Outnumber bonuses and being harder to break due to number of stands in the formation makes them worthwhile! Especially considering the tendency to smaller formations in Slaanesh.
Overall the Emperor’s Children are fast, powerful on the offence and decently tough. They have hard hitting fast units on chassis that take some punishment, abundance of fearless on pretty much exactly the troops you’d want it on and are excellent at firefighting. Your core should be multiple Noise Marine formations and you should practice being able to position them to support fire multiple times per turn if you can. These guys get forward (double in rhinos, dismount within 15cm of enemy, fire) and place a blast marker on an enemy then the fast shock elements like Bikes or Small Titans engage from 30+cm away and destroy the enemy formation with support fire. Remember too that broken enemies are especially vulnerable to your Disrupt armed Noise Marines…Wen not engaging and firefighting you should use your fast elements to strip enemy activations. Identify stuff that is vulnerable to your titans or daemon knights guns and hunt them down. Main thing to look out for is cost, your guys are expensive to go along with their high quality so getting the activations you need can be tricky so stripping them away from the enemy may be your best option.
It’s not a particularly unusual play style, you just have some excellent tools for accomplishing it.
The Thousand Sons implacable, silent advance, breached only by the cackling of madness and staccato gunfire. You’re playing more like a slower, tougher Emperor’s Children (Some even tougher than the Death Guard! Though on the whole the Death Guard are tougher) with a hell of a lot more Daemons running about the place.
So still not a particularly unusual playstyle here. Move up putting out fire to weaken targets, get into support fire positions and engage to drive the enemy away. Pick off smaller formations to build an activation advantage and take and hold objectives.
It’s that last bit in particular you are great at. Take and Hold.
Your core troops, the Sons themselves, are the toughest basic infantry in the game. Rerollable 4+ saves on fearless troopers is exceedingly difficult to dislodge. Combined with 4+ firefight (and a fairly average CC5+) and the ability to summon in Flamers for more attacks and your core formation is going to be the very crux to build your army around. Getting them where you want them and then letting them do their work and you won’t go far wrong. They’re not cheap but they’re also not that expensive. 305pts gets you 5 stands of sons, a cabal of sorcerors (who comes with a Daemonic pact and thus a free daemon in the daemon pool!) and 3 rhinos to transport them. You can also add in 3 more stands of sons and buy 2 more rhinos taking it to 500pts. You would only want to do this once but it does make a very tough BTS that is almost impossible for the opponent to ever actually wipe out for that victory point. Being as tough as they are and with good combat stats they make great formations for moving onto objectives and holding them. Even broken they don’t have to go anywhere (and if well positioned prevent the enemy getting within 15cm of the objective) and can hope to rally. They will need support fire (or plenty of summoned daemons) to break through bigger and tougher enemy formations and really do want to avoid getting stuck in CC if they can. it’s not the end of the world if they end up there but it des cut their offensive potential.
The main trick to attacking successfully with the sons is the summoning of Flamers into the formation (remember, in firefight each flamer stand is worth 2 4+ attacks). You will want to make sure there is enough space BEHIND your front line of Sons to place your Flamers and the Sorceror. Having the Sons as the front line means that the first few hits will have to be assigned to them and their fantastic armour before it can be assigned to your more vulnerable and offensively powerful units. Yes, you form a thin blue line of your heavy armoured fighters to protect your flame throwing wizards 😉
It’s not all positives though (admittedly some of the disadvantages are only disadvantages relative to the positives though…). The Sons lack any ranged weapons for the shooting phase and so cannot place blast markers on the enemy to prep them for an engagement (and thus need support from other units…which you were providing already right!). Further the fearless nature of the Sons combined with non-fearless elements such as the sorcerers and Rhinos means that of you do get broken the extra kills from resolution or blast markers being placed will be forced to kill your sorcerors and transports. This is exacerbated again by how important that Sorceror unit is. The Sorceror specifically has the Daemonic Pact not the formation (unlike other Chaos lists) and so losing the Sorceror means losing access to Daemons on that formation entirely. While the core combat potential is the Sons, the Sorceror is what elevates them to such a potent force. Pay close attention to where the sorceror is positioned (i.e.: never closest to the enemy!) and remember that the enemy does not have to go in a straight line towards you, they can move to flank with a single order so watch those flanks and rears too! You can mitigate the severity of losing the Sorcerors a bit by taking an Icon and adding it to one of the Sons units (don’t add it to the sorceror stand!). The Icon allows you to keep summoned Daemons in the formation at the end of the turn rather than losing them so if you’ve managed to summon in a few Daemons before the sorceror has died you can keep them. This does however put the Daemons at more risk and takes away from the ability to suddenly swing the direction of attack.
Like the other cult lists your primary AA is the Defilers, yours are good. Good in CC and not bad in FF and carrying plenty of guns including the 75cm ranged Battlecannon, ideal for plinking away at the enemy to bow up transports or place blast markers from positions of relative safety. Your Terminators are probably the best of everyone’s. Fearless and with extra attacks in both CC and FF (even if with reduced FF4+ rather than 3+) you are able to attack and defend fantastically and teleport means you get where you are needed. Just remember to not let them get stranded out in a corner somewhere, they don’t even have a shooting attack to contribute so be in the thick of the action. Of the generally shared units the last is the Armoured Company which usually doesn’t get a lot of attention paid to it. For the Thousand Sons however it does have a lot more value than in the other lists. Your formations are all pretty expensive (exception: Doomwings) and getting activations into the double digits can be tricky if you take the toys so the option to buy cheap (min 200pt) Armoured Companies can be very helpful. They’re not very tough and don’t have all that much firepower if they’re that small but they are fairly fast and can be good as chaff activations early or to drive and contest the objectives in your half of the board so the enemy can’t capture them. Do try to avoid exposing them to enemy fire though! The main reason you’ve taken them is to put blast markers on the enemy and to bulk up your activation count.
Looking at the unique options for the Sons and we see Disk Riders (basically bikes with jumpacks, not fearless and with no shooting, great as firefight support or to engage at range), Silver Towers and Warphounds (yes there are aircraft and bigger titans too but the aircraft don’t do much that’s unique and the big titans only show up rarely and when you take one it’s because you WANT one and rarely will anything else matter in that case!). The Silver Towers bring a lot of firepower on a medium speed skimmer. Four of them put out 12 AP/AT4 shots and 4 MW5 shots, range is good and they can drift forward, fire everything and then pop down behind cover to remain out of sight. 300pts is quite expensive but it does help plug the gap of firepower in the army, due to skimmer and fearless (and 4+/6+ saves) they aren’t that vulnerable in engagements either as they can always force a firefight and even if they lose they don’t get wiped out unless you actually kill all of them. They are brutal on overwatch if your opponent is the kind of person who uses air assaults by the way. Then there’s the Warphound, much like the fantastic Subjugator and Questor of the Slaaneshi forces this is a workhorse – costly at 300pts but fast, tough, good shooting and great in engagements. use it to either engage enemies surrounded by your other troops (so they can provide supporting fire) or have it move up and shot the target then engage the damaged target with something else and reap the rewards of 5 FF4+ attacks in support from the Titan. The speed also helps with grabbing and contesting objectives.
You will probably find that there is a lot of competition for the 1/3rd air/space/titan. The units in there are either workhorses like the Warphound or provide cheap, effective activations (Doomwings) or provide a missing capability (Spaceship pinpoints with TK for enemy war engines).
Finally there’s your Daemons. You get a load of these free with the Sorcerors so no matter what you’re going to have some! Learn to love them and learn to use them. Tzeentch has access to probably the best of the Daemons anyway. Flamers are utterly brilliant, make sure to hide them behind more disposable troops to let them to their work. Screamers are less exciting but provide a CC threat and good speed making them great to pair with Disk Riders or to wrap around your other troops to prevent the enemy getting into CC with your firefighters. Finally is the Lord of Change. fast with good shooting attacks and great in engagements. An expensive but useful option is to put a Champion in a Thousand Sons unit (I recommend not a big 500pt one if you go for that so you can spread the threat around) and then try to summon the Daemon every turn. On average you’ll roll the 8 needed to summon the Lord and then it can remain on the table due to the Focus it has and it adds a big boost in combat power to the formation as well as adding in shooting attacks to a formation that normally would not have any. Good 45cm MW3+ attacks at that!
All in all a very strong, very competitive list. Learning when and where to position formations for supporting fire will be key as will knowing when to focus on putting blast markers on the enemy rather than shooting to kill because your firepower will likely be contained in a few (luckily fairly mobile) formations. Chances are you will find that you will have some trouble hitting the higher activation counts (>11) whilst taking the cool toys so remember to pick up some of the cheaper options in the list to keep on top of that.
This is a list that will reward both placing the formations well whilst also knowing where to place the individual stands within the formation due to the juxtaposition of super tough Thousand Sons and important but softer Sorcerors and Daemons.
The warriors of Khorne are very much a skew list with extremely potent CC abilities and middling FF and shooting. This heavy skew means that against some opponents you will have a great time (dark eldar will hate you) while against others it can be very frustrating (tau and craftworld eldar particularly). Furthermore it’s a list with an exploitable weakness that gets more easily exploitable the more experienced your opponent becomes.
But none of that is what’s going to stand out to you when you first look at the list. The real standout is the CC2+ that is scattered everywhere! Your troops are about as fast as the average, have average firefight values, fearless abounds, well armoured and have utterly fantastic CC stats. Very little is going to stand up to the charge of berserkers, bikes, terminators juggernauts, etc. The real power in the list is how well you are able to get your troops into base to base with the opposition. You also have access to various Daemon Engines, providing some unusual units that don’t often become part of the general 40k conversation and so a chance to use some effective and unusual units.
In the broadest sense you will still want to prep a target with blast markers, get some support fire into position and then engage. However the threat range of your troops is very short, 15cm shorter than much of the opposition so you may find yourself better served by countercharging an enemy who has moved in to attack you already. Luckily the abundance of fearless means you should not be punished too heavily for losing engagements (beyond the casualties caused by the fighting itself) so adopting an aggressive forward push followed by having your first line pushed back while your second line charges into CC can be effective. Doing this however does require you to know the key enemy combat formations and focusing your attacks onto those. Luckily the majority of your formations are capable of looking after themselves if fighting the smaller chaff elements of an enemy army due to average FF and good armour as well as a surprising amount of shooting attacks.
As it will come up a lot when looking at the unique World Eaters units I’ll quickly remind you of why CC is trickier to use effectively than FF. Mostly the issues come up when a unit is only good at CC and rubbish (or even nonexistent!) at FF. Luckily many of your units are not actually bad at FF, just not standouts and you’re paying for that standout capability in CC. First up is simply reach, you have less engagement range than FF units because FF is out to 15cm while CC is base to base only, this requires you to get closer in the first place or means remaining mounted in transports (and thus risking getting killed when a transport is destroyed) to get into range. Note that the Infiltrate ability helps to mitigate this somewhat. Second is tied to the first. Because your threat range is shorter your opponent is more easily able to stay out of your threat range and so the more skilled and mobile your opponent the more readily they can pick battles and prevent you getting yours. Thirdly is the defensive/offensive split. No one will engage your troops in base to base unless they think they’re going to win by doing so which means the only times you will get to use your CC is when you activate and engage to get there while conversely a good FF unit will almost always be able to use at least some of the units better stat in both your activations and the opponent’s. Fourth is supporting attacks. This isn’t such an issue for your army as you’re not terrible at it but support fire only uses FF not CC and so CC specialists with bad FF (such as dark eldar Incubi) are providing very little benefit in the support stages and so your army can find itself with lots of areas of local disadvantage as your opponent can exploit the lack of FF. Finally is skimmers. You can’t CC a skimmer unless the controlling player wants you to (guess what, they won’t want your guys to!) but they can be used to block your movement. Armies like Eldar or tau with an abundance of skimmers will be able to hide their infantry behind skimmer transports making it very difficult for you to get past them to the CC vulnerable units behind. Infiltrate helps to mitigate this.
The key element to a well played World Eaters list is what your answers to these weaknesses is.
Let’s look at the tools you have to do this!
Your core units are Bersekers. Utterly fantastic in CC, coming 8 strong and with average FF they benefit from being mounted in rhinos (for 315pts) to get right into the enemy. Fearless and well armoured too. They suffer from the CC focused issues but 8FF5+ is not to be ignored either. You want to keep them mounted in rhinos for as long as possible to extend their threat range (30cm rhino move+5cm dismount = 35cm CC threat) so it can be worth taking an extra moment before completing your movement to check what enemy AT guns will be able to get at them in whatever position you move them to. If they’re only going to get maybe a small handful of 6+ AT shots maybe it’s worth risking remaining mounted to keep that extra option. They can also be mounted in Dreadclaws and I urge you do this if you can spare points for the spaceship. Dreadclaws are extremely accurate drops (no scatter!) and you can deploy anywhere within 15cm of the drop site and then engage 15cm to CC from there so you can get a potentially 30cm CC threat bubble around any Dreadclaw drop site. Choose those sites well and you can get around many of the CC focus issues mentioned above. Also remember you don’t have to engage in a straight line. If the front of an enemy formation has skimmers blocking your path perhaps run around the side to get past them or dismount from your dreadclaws at an angle that bypasses them. Finally you can garrison which…probably not what I’d recommend but it does have some interesting options if you go all in for it. Three or more of these core formations garrisoned right on top of the half way line puts instant pressure on the middle of the board and creates a dangerous zone for the enemy to enter which can restrict their movement…likely the troops doing this job will be shot to hell and likely wont every fight effectively all game, but in the strategic thinking it also means you can potentially keep the enemy sitting deeper in their own half for turn 1 and into turn 2, giving you a huge amount of board position later in the game, potentially preventing them from ever getting close enough to take your objectives. Risky option though, much safer to buy the rhinos. I would forgo the Daemonic Pacts as they don’t add much new capability and I’d rather have points to spend on the other Khornate units and keep these guys lean.
Next up are the bikers and juggernauts. The bikers are exceptional (and costly at 350pts) and get around many of the CC focused issues by…not being CC only! They’re fast, fearless, tough, good at FF and excellent at CC. Able to both attack and be your support fire, able to reach further with less risk. Excellent unit, I recommend taking at least one and more if you can! The main strength here is the ability to more reliably attack the enemy than the berserkers. The juggernauts fill a different role to the bikers being awful at FF and better at CC (2 attacks at 3+ per stand) and the Infiltrate ability gives them a 40cm threat range. Big hammer unit that also is able to deal with some of the CC only problems. I recommend keeping a more FF capable unit (say…bikes perhaps?) nearby to help them out if the enemy tries to engage them so you have some good FF support to make up for that FF6+. Both make decent places for Daemonic Pacts too.
Your more generic units (terminators, regular chaos marines, defilers, armoured companies) all basically fill the same role they do in any other list. The terminators are probably not particularly standout here as the extra CC killiness is a bit redundant and they lose firepower to gain it limiting their utility outside of the one turn they teleport in even further. The Chaos Marines though are much more useful, fast enough to keep up with your attack and bringing along that support fire and reliable ranged shooting to prep the enemy the rest of your army craves. Defilers here lack AA and are thus less useful than in the other cult lists and while good at CC are kind of redundant when compared to the rest of the already fantastic CC units at your disposal. They do have shooting attacks though. It’s the high cost and small formation size that hurts the Defilers the most – usually they’re worth it despite this but in the World Eaters list there is enough competition from similar formations.
How about the Daemon Engines, Cannons of Khorne and Brass Scorpions? Oh and the Lord of Battle? Juicy and unusual Khornate units probably worth taking just because of their uniqueness. It helps that they’re flavourful and effective too. The Cannons first provide a way of plugging a big hole in the list so far. Potent long ranged firepower. You get 4 for 200pts, they’re fearless and fairly tough (4+/6+) and they can crawl forward 15cm per turn pumping out shots 75cm away with 4+ macro so able to basically snipe off transports and weaken enemy formation from safety. 200pts is also pretty cheap so a great way of getting to activation count from a unit that should be contributing pretty much the entire game and safe most of it. The Assault Engine Pack and Brass Scorpions both perform very similar roles – namely engage for CC around the objectives to clear them of the enemy, they’re great as countercharge units. They aren’t the fastest things on the board (though Infiltrate helps with threat range) but they’re quick enough to get involved at the critical moment. Between the two the Assault Engines are slightly better (though the FF3+ on the Scorpions is very good too) but both fulfil the same niche (tough pressure unit that gets in the opponent’s face and forces them to deal with it) in similar ways so really choose your preference or what points allow. The upgrade to add more Engines to the Assault pack is…expensive but provides a very strong pressure threat to the enemy, shove it down their throats, march or double turn 1 and turn 2, force your opponent to deal with it’s 6 4+ rerollable fearless models.
The mighty Lord of Battle is basically used in the same way as in the Lost and the Damned list so I will copy paste myself from there. 400pts of warengine monstrosity, even coming as a terrifying pair for 800pts! It should fairly handily murder whatever it gets its hands on…hands being the operative word here. It’s biggest selling point is being brutally good in CC but it is only speed 25cm so it not that hard to keep away from. If it can’t CC it still has respectable FF and with high DC6 it gets plenty of attacks and outside of engagements has meaningful firepower. It’s just not going to be such a satisfying large amount! It you take it a pair is much more likely to have a major impact but it is a lot of points so it’s a real commitment to take it that way. The alternative is to use it defensively as a countercharge threat, they work better as singles in this way. Get one sat on an objective (such as your blitz!) and anything that is contesting that objective (within 15cm) should also be within your CC engage range of 25cm. If you are determined to use them as an attacking piece then commit to it and force your opponent to deal with them. Double or March into your opponents half and keep pushing on to their blitz. Marching turn 1 and doubling turn 2 means you can cover 75+50=125cm…the table is only 120cm across so you should be well able to reach your enemy blitz, have put blast markers on whatever is protecting it and engage it in CC turn 3, shredding whatever dares stand before you. The real goal is to make the opponent have to deal with you which means you may be able to get that CC ability in action more than once.
Overall the Khorne list has some very aggressive tactics, you need to close the space and you need to take the space away from the enemy. Get right into their faces and try to form broadly contiguous lines of zones of control, corral the enemy into less and less space as they try to keep outside of your short CC engage ranges until they can’t run anymore, then cut them apart. Ultimately this means that early on you may find your forces getting shot to pieces or engaged by concentrated enemy forces until the latter half of the game when you can launch your assaults and punish them for their hubris.
Of note is that while many of these units are scary and potent…they all share a very similar role, leaving a lot of redundancy in the units available so often you’ll find the few units that work best for your style and just use those, leaving out the characterful other options. Which is a shame.
Keep that chain axe singing!
Hopefully you’ll have found something useful in there, happy gaming!