A Tale of Two Armies is well under way now – I’ve even painted something (review to follow) – and the next step is to review the army books. First up is Warriors of Chaos. I use to collect these bad boys back when you could take daemons and Beastmen. You could also only use a Hellcannon with your opponents permission. And it was made of metal. And weighed a tonne. When it wasn’t falling apart.
Since then there’s been a couple of rule books and a couple of army books and it’s been all change in many ways. Daemons have their own book, Beastmen have their own book and Warriors of Chaos is written by someone who overpowers the armies he likes and screws over the armies he doesn’t. I refer, of course, to Robin Cruddace. I can point fingers because (A) I use to work with him and (B) It’s his fault the faith point system exists for Sisters of Battle. An army he collects it’ll surprise you to hear.
Fortunately for me Robin likes Chaos in Fantasy. So much so that I almost feel embarrassed to be fielding the army at all. But more on that later.
This is the first hardback Warhammer Armies book I’ve properly looked at I have to say I think the format suits Fantasy much better than 40k. Don’t get me wrong, the 40k books are still wonderfully presented but the old-fashioned styling just suits Warhammer.
Credit where credit’s due for the first time ever I find that I understand the Warriors of Chaos as a people. In the old days the background largely pointed towards disgruntled and disillusioned knights of Bretonnia and nobles of the Empire buggering off in search of glory or just someone’s face to kick. Building on the work done with the Libre Chaotica, the Warriors of Chaos now feel like a nation all of their own rather than a vague wasteland full of stuff and things.
It also has the added effect of stripping any shred of nobility of redemption from the army. Gone are the days of players fielding an army with a back story where the lord is just misunderstood or he’s fighting for Chaos but really he’s a good guy and he’s doing it to save the soul of his sister’s neighbour’s best friend’s dog. The tribesmen of the North are all a mad bunch of blood thirsty bastards. The downside of this is that, as an army, they’re now harder to relate to. Obviously that’s not uncommon in a fantasy wargame but as it’s a human faction, of sorts, that can be a bit of an issue for some gamers. I certainly wrestled with the fact that there was nothing even slightly redeemable about the army now. It’s by no means a complaint but if you’re a gamer that needs to have a cause to fight for, Warriors of Chaos may not be for you.
As I say, things have moved on and everything feels, perversely, much more sensible. Although it does get laid on a bit thick that there are hundreds of thousands of big beasties that’ll gobble you up and use your bones as toothpicks. Which is fine but it does beg the question: how have any of the marauder tribes survived? I mean if there are that many monster and they’re all massive, gribbly and nigh on unkillable how they hell is anyone left? But that aside, I feel like one could not only choose a marauder tribe to base their army on but have the freedom to invent their own fairly confident that they can create something compelling and without flying in the face of the background.
The Realm of Chaos also feels more coherent now. Mr Cruddace has gone to lengths to divide the three ‘kingdoms’ of Chaos between Troll Country, the Northern Wastes and the Realm of Chaos. These aren’t new but they all just felt like an extension of each other – one and the same thing. It has the added benefit that it clarifies the pecking order somewhat. Lords and other mentalists have, at some point, been in the Realm of Chaos. The bulk of your army occupies the Northern Wastes and all the bonkers shit lives in Troll Country. Simples.
Which brings me on to the army list and the aforementioned near embarrassment. Now, even back in my earlier years of Warhammer, Chaos have been nails. Those nails, for this iteration, seem to be tipped with industrial diamonds. Everything has gotten much cheaper. And everything vaguely Chaos Warrior shaped get to be initiative 5. Considering combat is now fought in initiative order now that makes most of the army utterly ridiculous and the rest still pretty awesome. Throw in high weapon skill largely across the board, more attacks than everyone else, good leadership free Chaos armour and it all starts to feel like your opponents have quite the mountain to climb. And just to really brighten the day of everyone not collecting Chaos armies, Marauders are now only 1 point more expensive than an Empire swordsman but have a point better weapon skill and a point better initiative. Which makes them horrid. Chuck in some flails and it gets worse. Granted they’ll probably die in droves as they lack armour but at 6 points basic they’re amazing value.
Chuck in the fact that the characters have been juiced and their magic items have got cheaper. Not just a bit cheaper though. The sword of change – which may as well come with Lords and Heroes as standard because it’s that good – is 40 points cheaper. 4. 0. Fucking really?! Even as someone collecting a Chaos I feel guilty about fielding that combination. That’s not to say that they get everything their own way but the point of difference is barely worth mentioning.
The marks are still unpleasant although one of the nastiest now being Nurgle as units attacking them suffer a -1 to hit. Which although isn’t quite the same as +1 Toughness it’s, I think, worse as most models in Warhammer are already struggling to wound Chaos Warriors anyway. Throw in making it hard to hit, on top of the usual modifiers for range etc and they become a very difficult army to kill with shooting which is where most armies have some shred of an edge over Warriors of Chaos.
There’s also piles and piles of characters and big beasties now. Too many I hate to say. Reading through the bestiary I found myself getting rather bored. This is partly to do with Mr Cruddace’s poor writing. The phrases ‘torn to pieces’ & ‘ripped to shreds’ had been used at least once a page for the first 15 pages. The standard of the writing swings wildly between clumsy and an attempt to imitate Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s knack for extreme graphic violence. The result is much of the descriptions all seem a bit unnecessary and blunts the impact that some of the more brutal units should make. Coupled with the commercially leaning unit/monster options and it is, as mentioned, an embarrassment of riches.
By the time I got to the Warshrine, Mutalith and Slaughterbrute I’d already established that the army was extremely powerful for the points value. Not over powered, I hasten to add, because they are supposed to be bonkers and a genuine challenge to break the back of. But the big kits just seemed to be in there because they were big kits not because they actually filled a requirement in the army list. And they’re proper bonkers so you’d be mad not to take them – which again, seems a tad commercial and one of two reasons why I won’t take them. The first being the models look rubbish. I wouldn’t go so far as to say something with a daemonic flavour shouldn’t be in the book as I certainly miss that side of things compared to the book I last owned. But such big beasties coupled with the giant, trolls and ogres makes a veritable menagerie of mentalness which is a bit over the top. That said they do allow for some pretty cool themed armies with those models as centerpieces.
I do love the Skullcrushers though. The models look brilliant but even if they weren’t the rules would make me buy them. Who wouldn’t want a mentalist Chaos Warrior on top of mentalist daemonic monstrous cavalry that is as capable as its rider at kicking face. And it causes fear. Which is awesome.
Warriors of Chaos, then is a fairly brutal army book. The units are all tough to fight and tough to kill. They’re also not very expensive compared to what you get for the points in other armies. Equally the magic items have gotten cheaper but there are fewer of them. And the truly bonkers stuff doesn’t appear to have made the cut. Which is no bad thing. Although a few of the fairly bonkers items have unnecessarily been juiced to become bonkers in their stead.
And the final thing to wind up everyone who doesn’t play Chaos is that characters, aside from being forced to challenge all enemy champions, heroes, lords etc get to roll on a table once they inevitably kick face and boost their stats, permanently. Of course there is a chance your (extremely expensive) Lord could get turned into a Chaos Spawn but it’s not that likely.
Warriors of Chaos is a powerful army. If put together in the right way: too powerful and utterly broken. The variety of powerful units coupled with reduced points costs, powerful mutations and cheaper magic items doesn’t give many opponents anywhere to go other than lots of magic and lots and lots of shooting. That said, they are still an elite force and that means they are vulnerable to Hordes and if you can bog them down you don’t need to kill em to win depending on your scenario. They also lack any ranged fire power beyond the Hellcannon which is just as likely to run off as shoot anything, and there’s no flyers in the army beyond the Chimera at 230 points, Galrauch at 510 points or a Manticore (150 points) or Chaos Dragon (330 points) upgrade for your lord. This does leave them vulnerable to…just about every other army in those respects. Out manoeuvring a Warriors of Chaos army is, it seems, easier than ever.
I maintain that they are still a challenging army to use. For all their advantages they will rely on deployment just as much as any army, more likely more as they’ll always be out numbered. And as I’m going to be collecting Khorne that applies double as Khorne are easy to lure into traps. I can’t wait to find out if they’re tough enough to fight their way out the other side.
Warriors of Chaos is available from Firestorm Games priced £27.00.