Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Chaos Daemons: Possible alternative for Chaos fanatics? Or not..?

Some time in 2009, I realized I had quite many Daemon Princes, so I thought "buying a couple of Greater Daemons and some lesser Daemons should get me a Daemon army". And so, I bought a Balrog (Bloodthirster), a Keeper of Secrets and some Plague Bearers. I was aiming for a "Daemonzilla" list, comprising of 2 Greater Daemons, 3 squads of 7 plague bearers and 3 Nurgle Daemon Princes. The plan was that the T6 monstrosities would withstand a lot of shooting and survive, making a counter-attack right on enemy armour, thus disabling the enemy's big guns.

In the beginning, I was hearing that Daemons are a very strong army. After seeing every "zilla" list played by others getting crushed to a pulp, I reconsidered. After my 5 first battles (with a newer list, more on that later), I reconsidered even more..!

To begin with, Daemons rely largely on pure luck. And that luck is needed TWICE before you even start fighting or applying tactics; First, the Battlegroups roll; You have to divide your army in 2 "waves". The first wave comes on Turn 1, the rest of the army comes in Reserve. That's fine by me, but, for some completely unknown reason, you have to roll a die, and that happens on a 3+..! On a roll of 1 or 2, the second battlegroup comes first, and the first stays in Reserve!

You can imagine how devastating this can be for the player! Yeah, OK, you can Deep Strike your close combat monsters right in the face of the enemy on Turn 1.

And then you can do nothing for a whole turn. So, as the only option to guarantee survival for most of your units (although they will inevitably be damaged/wounded and some might/will die from concentrated fire) is to put your toughest units on Wave 1. Oops, you rolled 1-2! Your most sensitive units are now on the board, unable to do anything (other than a Run move), and your opponent gets a free turn of shooting on them, and can assault them with his close combat monsters. Bugger..!

The other thing you can do, is to split your army as even as possible. This has the advantage that, no matter what, you will have half of your tough units on the board and so you'll be able to deal some damage no matter what you roll on the Battlegroups die. However, since only half of your army are the "die-hards", the enemy can focus on your big things, since the rest of your army is not a threatening as they are. The rest of your army might take a while to come from Reserves, which, combined with 1 turn of doing nothing, it really sucks having your second Bloodthirster arrive in turn 4, only able to act on Turn 5, or worse, arriving on turn 5 and then "game over"..!

And then, you have the scatter dice. So you don't really land where you want, only 3 out of 9 (or 4 out of 12) units will arrive where you want them. If you got 12 units, one will statistically scatter 12", which means it might land out of the board, on top of an enemy unit, or too far from the enemy.

In my test list, I had 2 Bloodthirsters, 3 squads of 7 Plague Bearers, 2 squads of 4 Blood Crushers and 3 Soul Grinders. I played against Chaos Marines, Blood Angels, Imperial Guard and Space Marines. I won against the first 2 armies, I got crushed by the other two.

My preferred battlegroups were: WAVE 1: Bloodthirsters, Bloodcrushers, 1 Soul Grinder. WAVE 2: Plague Bearers, 2 Soul Grinders.

Against the Imperial Guard, one of my Bloodcrusher squads scattered off the table and was destroyed. As a perfect damage mitigation/head-on assault unit, it was a huge loss for turn 1, I highly use them as damage absorbers (2 wounds each, with different wargear which allows wound allocation) and shock attack troops. The enemy then focused on heavily damaging the other Crusher squad and my Bloodthirsters. By the end of Turn 2, both my Bloodthirsters were dead, as well as the Bloodcrushers and a Soul Grinder, leaving me with 2 Soul Grinders and my Plague Bearers. I turned on the defensive, and managed to lose by only 1-0 on a 4 Objective game (he contested both objectives I was holding, I contested 1 of his with my Soul Grinder and he kept 1 more).

Against the Space Marines, I rolled a "1" on the Battlegroups, so I only had my Plague Bearers and 2 Soul Grinders arriving on Turn 1. One of the Soul Grinders scattered on area terrain and rolled a "1", and was thus Immobilized. My first Bloodthirsters arrived on Turn 2 and one was eradicated by shooting (after blowing up a Vindicator), the other got shot and then assaulted by Thunder Hammer Terminators. My Bloodcrushers arrived on turn 4, and on turn 5 assaulted the enemy, destroying a Scout squad and a 10-man Tactical Squad. Good job for a single turn, but too late to save the game, it stopped on Turn 5 and I lost 5-3 on Kill Points.

Against the Chaos Marines, well, the CSM are a very underpowered codex. I played against a solid Nurgle list (3x7 Chosen, 2x7 Plague Marines, 1 Daemon Prince, 1 Defiler, 1 Vindicator, 3 Obliterators), which I nearly wiped out.

Against the Blood Angels, I scored a solid victory, much due to the fact that Mephiston is easy to kill by someone with Blessing of the Blood God. My opponent played a Deep-Strikish jumper list, so I decided to split my army into even halves, as there was not much firepower on the table to take them down, and I would need to have my second wave coming near my lines to help with his invading jumpers. It all worked fine :)

In conclusion, these are the main problems of Daemons:

1. Battlegroups: It should just be like Drop Pod assault; half the army comes on Turn 1, the rest on Reserves, no "3+ and if you score 1-2 the other half comes first". Not being able to assault and scattering is punishment enough.

2. Deep Strike: Having you whole army scattering 2D6" is too much in my opinion. You have to choose between either arriving too far away from enemies, or risking mishaps. If scattering 2D6", the models should at least be able to move, if not assault outright without moving. There could be a rule like "Scatter 3D6" and may act freely, or scatter 2D6" and may not move but may Run/Fleet and assault, or scatter 1D6" and may do nothing but Run". It's a fair Risk/Benefits ratio in my opinion, it sounds more similar to "disembarking" from a Warp Rift than randomly teleporting.

The codex entries are fine, I can't complain about the units. It's the mechanics which make them suck so badly. Alessio Cavatore said he is proud for making an army that is simple and hard to play. "Hard to play" are also the Dark Eldar, but they are not forced to rely on pure luck. "Hard" means "requiring skill", and random dice rolls are not a skill.

So, as a final conclusion, Daemons are a great alternative to Chaos Marines if you want fluff supporting unit effectiveness, but their randomness makes them just as underpowered compared to the other armies in standard games. The only place where I believe they shine is Planetstrike, and for sure can make Chaos Space Marines much more of a threat as allies in Apocalypse games.


  1. Daemons are definitely an essential part of the game, and have been since way back when, a real contrast with the marines and conventional forces. If I liked the concept more, I wouldn't mind the unpredictability so much. In fact for me there could be more unpredictability in the game in general.

    I do feel the scope of the army could be wider though. I'd like to see more daemon types in the longer term. There's been little variation over the years.

  2. Deep strike alone is a great FAIL in Warhammer 40K let alone depending your whole army's performance on it... the only thing that deep strike is somehow adequate is shooty units and the Daemons don't have enough to balance things off... dunno but this codex is a major letdown and I don't know how there are people out there that think this is a competitive list to play...

  3. I agree about the variety, although the unit types at the moment cover what is needed for good army lists.

    I don't mind unpredictability as long as it doesn't affect one's strategic skills. Daemonic Instability could be something confering unpredictability (Ld Test or the unit goes back in Reserves, for example), or just like it is now with the Battlegroups, but having a permanent +1 on the Reserves rolls...

    In a few words, there are many ways to express unpredictability without stripping the tactical part of an army ;)

  4. Michael, at least if that "battle waves" roll wasn't there, you'd be able to field some beef-tough units on turn 1 to absorb the heavy shooting. Combined with my proposed scatter rules, I believe it would be fine, and still keeping the unpredictable/risky element, while the player has a choice of strateg that won't get ruined by a failed roll in the start of the battle..!

  5. Yeah, totally agree with you! The battle waves are there imho because they thought that they should nerf the performance of the units somehow because they thought that they were really powerful. Well they were back then but after all the newer codices were out, this is not the case anymore...

    Maybe its time for a new FAQ dropping this rule out completely...!

  6. Why do you need to drop the split waves out? It makes the Daemons a unique army and the random element makes them a bit of a challenge which is more rewarding than say a 6 hyrda IG army..

    As for the comment that all deepstriking armies are fail, and they don't have enough firepower to compete.... seriously!?!?!?!?

    I've been playing Daemons in the UK since the book come out, and I am known around the tournament circuit for being a very good player. This past year alone I have not failed to finish in the top 5 at any big event I took Daemons to, won 1, came 2nd at the Masters and just last weekend finished 4th at Uprising.

    That is just me and I am far from the only Daemon player in the UK brining home the bacon. Over here Daemons are viewed as a top tier army if used properly. And that is the key. Sure they are harder to use than some other armies out there, but get them to work, and it only takes a little practice, they are one of the hardest hitting armies around.

    As for lack of firepower, who needs firepower when you are packing an army full of units that will rip tanks and troops apart in CC and have the ability to get there in turn after deepstriking close to the enemy.

    Sorry I don't mean this to sound like a rant. Lefertis will tell you that is not my style. But honestly I am quite bemused and perplexed by this post about how much Daemons suck and how badly they need fundamental things changing.

  7. sorry Neil but its my opinion and not just a rant on how much daemons suck. I really would love to play with my daemons, I have 3000 pts or so standing in their boxes eating dust but the truth is that you cannot play them in a tourney and expect good results, at least without praying to the dark gods first...

    my comment on deepstriking was on the rule itself. Yes I believe that deep strike is a major fail as a rule in 40K and it can be used effectively only in specific occasions and in specific armies, and yes daemons is not one of these... what exactly is win in an army that scatters all its hard hitting close combat monstrosities around the table where they can be picked easily by the opponents firepower and torn to shreads without even having the chance on lifting their bloodied clawed tentacled whips of doom and oblivion?

    For me the only reason to deepstrike is if you have the firepower to support it or you want to stick to an objective (and even this is questionable) and the only firepower that the daemons have is the soulgrinder and tzeench ... and yes, this is far from being competitive...

    So congratulations on being such a high ranked player in your area, but for me, I'll have to stick with Tzif on this one, Chaos needs some love and fast!

  8. Ghah I just typed a long reply and Blogger screwed up.

    Off to bed. Will continue discussion tomorrow.

    That is is Lefertis isn't sick of me after our mini argument, sorry heated debate ;-), over Daemons on MSN

  9. I have to agree with Skcuzzlebumm - and why did Pink Tyranid disappear? Anyway, Daemons aren't an easy army to learn but they reward the player that invests the effort.

    I won't spend much time commenting, because that's a road I've been down before, but Daemons have been my preferred tournament list for almost two years now. I'm having a hard time giving them up.

    I wrote a bunch of stuff and decided to delete it - if you're interested in my take on Daemons (which is pretty different from the army you used) check out the Daemons tag on Strictly Average.

    Anyway, I enjoy your blog - keep up the good work!

  10. "That is is Lefertis isn't sick of me after our mini argument, sorry heated debate ;-), over Daemons on MSN"

    Ha,ha, don't flatter yourself dude, I just wanted to paint my Death Company. And don't worry, Greek people are too chilled out to get pissy over some comments on a blog ;)

    I respect the players on both sides of the argument but I haven't played enough games against Daemons yet to form an opinion. I know that Neil and Brent have a lot of games with the army under their belt and know what they are talking about but still my gut feeling is that Daemons sucks. I have to see a good Daemon player in action with my owns eyes before I believe they are good :P I don't really like the extreme randomness of the army. Random does not equal fun and hard to play in my opinion.

  11. Hello guys, and thank you for your replies!

    I checked out your words on Daemons, Brent, but still, BS3 Bolts can do little to a Land Raider (or to a Monolith camping your Objective) or any really serious Mech lists. Same goes for Fiends. I don't know the meta game over there, but here in Greece, it's either "fluff" or "balance thrown right out of the window/beardy cheesy".

    Making something harder for no aparrent reason is simply... pointless (in my opinion, of course)! You just have to start the battle with handicap for no reason :/ And not only 1 handicap, since then you have the scatter dice. But ok, I won't complain about Deep Striking or the scatter dice, bad stuff happens, and you still have control over where to initially place the models, so they'll land safe even with a 12" scatter.

    But the "Waves" roll simply has n point of being there. The aforementioned "Hydra Spam" IG list, with meatshield units bubble-wrapping the Hydras will simply decimate a Daemons army. The big ones go dead first. Fiends can die by mass small-arms fire with minimal cost, as the lives of 10 guardsmen are cheaper in points than the 2 fiends they will kill before being assaulted (personally I prefer Bloodcrushers to Fiends due to survivability and raw killing power -compensating for the lack of speed-, but it's a matter of taste).

    Similarly, close combat specialist armies/units (eg. Thunder Hammer Terminators) can kill a Bloodthirster even early on in the game.

    Against really competitive lists, owned by players who have a good sense of target priority, a Daemons army having split its tough/weak units 50%-50% will find his tough units dead, and his weak units awaiting for those Reserves rolls.

    If you put all your tough units (so you have a chance to survive 1st turn shooting/assaults) on 1 wave and roll the other wave, your fate lies on Reserves rolls, and your oponnent knows you can't do pretty much anything until Turn 3 -if your monsters come on Turn 2-.

    Like I said, randomness and unpredictability are fine as long as they don't hamper the owner. It simply doesn't matter if you are the best tactician, if your tactics exclusively depend on 3 sorts of rolls: Waves, Reserves, Scatter. That removes a large portion of the game' "strategy" element and turns it into a roulette :/

    A Daemons players from my gaming club won this year's GT here with Daemons, but luckily enough he didn't play against any of the new codices. All the other players I knew that played Daemons, switched to other armies. I am a stubborn Chaos fanatic however, so I prefer ranting than giving up on my CSM or my Daemons ;P

  12. This is a great thread. I am still fairly green to playing and tactics, I chose my army because of looks and I must admit it has been a struggle. As a new player and hobbyist Choosing a Slaanesh themed Daemons list was maybe not such a good idea. I love the models and my army looks great, but it is very difficult to play. A lot of the rules really frustrate me. I am about to enter a tournament and the list I am taking is posted here: http://420samalander.blogspot.com/2011/01/new-updated-gottacon-list.html
    the list splits fairly evenly, and I have found that seems to be the best way to go since most of the time the Chaos Gods don't agree with me and the half I want to come out first ends up coming in second, As for deep striking and scattering, its best to split up your icons evenly as much as possible because then if they get placed well enough you don't have to worry about scattering from the second turn on. I also find that it works best if i have my units supporting each other as much as possible, one unit tends to attract fire more than an other so use one for distraction and one for clean up. the main thing to remember is get cover, if you can deep strike so their line of sight is blocked then you are better off, I definitely agree that daemons have the potential to cause a lot of mayhem but it is not an easy army to play. I would not recommend it for a beginner as I am more frustrated with games I play than not.But I will keep practising and coming up with new conversions because yes I am an aesthetics player and I love the look of the daemons.

  13. It's great to have some feedback from a fairly new player. I think by using a mainly mono-god build (plus all the aformentioned reasons) it's no surprise that you struggle with your games. Would you be willing to water down your wine and use more units other than Slaaneshi ones? That would definitely help.

  14. I believe you are right about most of my problems steming from the fact that i themed my army by dedicating it to Slaanesh, Which is why i now have flamers and pink horors, i do intend to extend that to the rest of the chaos gods but just like with my tzeentch units they will be slaaneshized. It's too bad GW does not make girl zombies I could use as my plauge bearers, its going to be slow going adding to my army as this will need tons of converting. I have been slowly collecting girl zombies from other miniature ranges but using them is not tournament legal. But like I said thats what I get for wanting a themed army. I guess its a good thing I dont care how I place in the tournament as far as winning goes, I just want to show off my awesome conversions and pait job and maybe place well in the painting compititon portion of the tournament.

  15. Guys, I hear you, and I understand that from your point of view it makes sense. But let me drop a few last opinions on you, in the spirit of Blogosphere give and take.

    I don't have problems with multiple Land Raiders, I have problems with one! Many means they've invested, so I can spend the resources without worrying about the rest of the army... one means I'm usually forced to ignore it. Vulcan armies are the hardest game for my Daemons.

    Monoliths? If they're running Necrons, they've got bigger problems - I'll shoot for phase out and ignore the 'Lith!

    BS3 Bolts? While I'll use Horrors as active Troops, my primary Bolts are 4 BS4 Heralds on Chariots and 3 BS5 Daemons of Tzeentch. All 7 have Bolt, Breath, and Gaze and can choose which 2 to use.

    Grinders are inferior. Bloodcrushers are inferior. Daemons and Fiends!

    Where I'm sitting, Deep Strike is an advantage. I avoid Alpha Strike armies and can force people into games they're unfamiliar with.

    Since I play in a competitive environment, I play against Mech Guard and Razorback-Spam Wolves and such all the time.

    I do okay! If you're at all interested in specifics, this post from SA sums up some varying viewpoints.


    I appreciate the conversation and I enjoy the blog! I realize my opinions are just that, so don't think I'm trying to be a butt. :)

  16. Daemons are a hard army to play but Brent has the best build out there. In fact I based my builds off of his.

    What Daemons excel at is beating up on Marines and IG. You can set up your board to crush one side and anything that lives through the fire it can hurt you with the massed amount of assault mixed with some crazy movement.

    Fiends are amazing. They are under costed and really make the army sing. Mono god is just not the way to go as a mix of Tzeentch and Slaanesh just works so much better.

    Try out 3 Squads of fiends with any build. You will notice that things are much better with those guys running around and causing mischief. Hit and Run is amazing and just the amount of STR 5 attacks is great. Mix in rending and you got some annoying bits of the army.

    I still think Daemons are a good Dark horse for a Space Wolves/IG heavy metagame. Hell if you see lots of Long Fangs get ready for a fun game as you just come in and start hitting them. And bubble wrap is fine as you can hit and run with Fiends to make those wraps fall apart pretty easily.

    But hell - that is just my two cents as I play daemons from time to time.