Chaos Daemons Codex 8th edition Review: The Missed Opportunity

by | Jan 19, 2018

The new Chaos Daemons Codex is a fantastic example of the 8th edition rule writing paradigm. The Daemons codex illustrates the artificial constraints Games Workshop has developed and reacted to over the last year. It is a codex mostly constructed by feedback by the community and playtesters. Thus making the Daemons codex a bland mess build on a land of inoffensive; while the community is distracted by whether you can or can not Deep Strike a Daemon Primarch.

Even though we like to think rules are the only thing that make up a codex Games Workshop has another idea, so in that spirit let us break down the codex before diving into rules . The Chaos Daemons Codex is broken into four parts with the first being…

The Chaos Gods & Their Infernal Legions

This section is more commonly known as the fluff part is usually the last you thing you look at in a codex. Veterans usually skip the section, as it is filled with nothing new to tell, but with 8th edition plot changes it is worth taking a look at. To start the Daemon codex surprisingly has a ton of new art! Most new illustrations feature Nurgle creatures in all their glory. The codex is nicely color coded informing the reader of on which Choas God is being discussed. Some of the old art feels fresh, as much of it was created for Age of Sigmar books now being exposed to Warhammer 40k eyes.

Beyond the art new details are introduced for each Chaos God, by giving an example of how each God organizes their legions into fighting forces. Games Workshop more so in previous books builds up the tension between the Gods making it clear that they spend half the time fighting themselves instead of invading the material universe. Each God section has a short mythical story detailing how different each Chaos God’s realms are.

Beyond the little delights is the boring tedium of unit fluff descriptions that mostly retread older codexes. Even for the new units found in the book the fluff mirrors what you can find in the Age of Sigmar equivalent book making things seem especially lazy.

The Colors of Chaos 

Also known as the pretty model section, this portion of the Chaos Daemons Codex is filled with republished model images and a few new ones for the recently released models.  Overall it is only worthwhile for color pallet ideas and new players. It is though striking to see new and old models next to each other, showcasing just how detailed the newer models have become.

Armies of the Immaterium

The section everyone runs to first: the Rules

The first two pages give us the Abilities for Daemons and specific Chaos God Allegiance. All Chaos Daemons get 5+ Invulnerable save, but here is a ranking of each specific ability.

  1. Disgustingly Resilient: 5+ Feel No Pain even without any tricks or gimmicks this is easily the best. Any chance you get a a save from mortal wounds makes this the best ability of the Chaos Gods.
  2. Unstoppable Ferocity: +1 Attack and +1 Strength on the surface doesn’t seem that powerful, but when you look at the Khorne units this is usually on top of a ton of attacks and other Strength bonuses. Even the basic Bloodletter can be Strength 6 on the charge.
  3. Ephemeral Form: Not very imaginative, but is a mainstay for Tzeentch armies for the last few editions. You really cannot go wrong with durability for this generally combat adverse army.
  4. Quicksilver Swiftness: Fluff fitting but one of the most useless abilities in the game. Slaanesh units are generally fragile and this ability assumes Slaanesh units will be stuck in combat for multiple turns, sadly in the 8th most combats never get that far.

Finally all Daemon Characters can perform Daemonic Rituals to summon new units, this just like the Chaos Space Marine codex has a tactical use, and with the help of stratagems and other tricks is fairly reliable.

The next section divides along typical codex lines, but with each different Chaos God unit being color coded.

Khorne: Khorne fairs well with some renaming of HQ units and making the Herald units really good (especially Blood Thrones) choices and pretty inexpensive. The Bloodthirster is still a bit overpriced, but can delivery a ton of damage. Skulltaker though really stands out as being cheap must have for most good Khorne lists. Bloodletters are now tops with all the buffs directed toward them, plus with a healthy point reduction. Bloodcrushers are still big losers as it is obvious Games Workshop has sold enough of this model making them too expensive to field. Flesh Hounds also went down in points, putting them as one of the cheapest and effective two wound models in the game. Finally, the biggest point drop goes to the Skull Cannon making it close to useful, but doesn’t deal enough shooting damage to really be amazing.

Tzeentch: Tzeentch got the biggest rework having created the most problems for game designers. The Changeling got nerfed like “everyone” wanted. The Blue Scribes are still an underused choice and all the other HQs stayed about the same. The biggest change though comes with all the Horror units, which I think Games Workshop has finally figured out a decent solution for. Pink Horrors should be the most common Horror and Games Workshop has really incentivise their use. Expect Horror bombs to be general tactic for many Tzeentch players. The rest of the Tzeeentch units only got minor changes by make almost all Tzeentch weapons User Strength based. The User Strength rework is an interesting take on the army and makes them really feel more than just a psychic threat.

Nurgle: Nurgle definitely gets much of the spot like in this codex. They have the most unit choices and variety, they also got some tricks to mitigated their typical slow pace across the tabletop. The big miss though is not making Rotigus different enough from the Great Unclean Ones. All the different HQ units really allow Nurgle players to tailor to specific units they like. Plaguebearers and Nurglings went down points making them highly effective. Beasts of Nurgle got fantastic new models, but still are just not good enough choice, especially when compared to the very amazing Plague Drones which can really do it all. Finally, the Feculent Gnarlmaws terrain should be found in every Nurgle army, it is that good providing a lot of buffs that cannot be removed.

Slaanesh: Games Workshop still hasn’t totally figured out what to do with Slaanesh, waiting most likely for model update or an actual Squating of the army. Slaanesh is really hurt by limited HQ choices, luckily they are all cheap choices. Daemonettes are really nasty especially in big groups and really fast! Fiends of Slaanesh are still too expensive and need a new model, but going only Slaanesh they provide an important role in actually getting to use Quicksilver Swiftness. Seekers secretly a got nice buff being able to re-roll charges when combined with the Slaanesh Loci. Games Workshop didn’t make any meaningfully changes to the Slaanesh Chariots, but I feel they are still a underused unit in 8th edition.

Non-Aligned Units: Be’Lakor doesn’t really have a place in this codex anymore and should just have a made permanent home in the Chaos Space Marine Codex. Daemon Princes are still a great choice and a must have for any Chaos Daemons army. Furies went down in price and are a fun objective grabbing unit, but your points are better spent on more basic troops. The Soul Grinder didn’t see any changes, and even with Stratagems to throw at it, it isn’t enough to discount the high point cost.

The Eternal Hordes

The final section of the codex is more rules and really defines the Chaos Deamons codex. All Troop units get objective secured like every other army and each God gets more Daemonic Loci to use on top of the other ones from specific characters.

  1. Khorne Locus of Rage: As expected, keeps with fluff as Khorne units can re-roll Charge distances making for a boring but effective buff.
  2. Tzeentch Locus of Trickery: Is the good Loci by stopping re-rolls in their tracks and is just a fun and flavorful ability.
  3. Nurgle Locus of Virulence: Situational as at best because asking to 6+ on wounds for something that won’t effect most enemy units isn’t that good.
  4. Slaanesh Locus of Swiftness: Is the best in game terms, by making all Slaanesh units quick as hell able to get off a few 1st turn charges.

The Chaos Daemons stratagems are pretty limited in scope and excitement, but many are powerful tools for an effective Daemon army.

  1. Unaligned Stratagems: The Deep Strike stratagem is getting the most attention here, but Daemonic Possession is nasty because it doesn’t have any range. Then you have Warp Surge a critical tool for the best generals when deciding to keep units alive.
  2. Khorne Stratagems: All the Khorne stratagems are boring, but very powerful and in tandem will delete Command Point pools as you knock out your opponent.
  3. Tzeentch Stratagems: Are all pretty pathetic and focus too much on the psychic phase and not keeping with the tricky nature of Tzeentch.
  4. Nurgle Stratagems: These stratagems fit well with the Nurgle ways of resilience, but Plague Banner has the most promise especially when combo-ed with the Nurgle Loci.
  5. Slaanesh Stratagems: Middle of the road stratagems that can make an assault an interesting back and forth depending on the units involved.

The Chaos Daemons Warlord Traits are an example of trying to spice up the codex, but often a dead end of bad ideas.

  1. Khorne: Rage Incarnate and Devastating Blow are the only traits worth anything giving a buff to nearby units or making a humble Khorne Herald a dangerous threat.
  2. Tzeenth: Tzeentch does a bit better than Khorne with three traits standing out; Lorekeeper, Tyrant of the Warp, and Daemonspark. Daemonspark is the clearest winner because it buffs other units, but Lorekeeper shouldn’t be dismissed as a surprise element for your opponent.
  3. Nurgle: Doesn’t get very good options, but to could cause a few mortal wounds here and there. Virulent Touch may be the best of a bad bunch.
  4. Slaanesh: Has the best choices with Bewitching Aura standing out as it stacks with Aura of Acquiescence neutering most assault units in the game. Celerity of Slaanesh and Fatal Caress also in the hands of Keeper of Secrets can be pretty deadly.

Next is the Hellforged Artefacts, few have real flavor or interesting elements, but many have some use.

  1. Khorne: More yawn inducing thoughts go into the Khorne options, the Armour of Scorn being a good pick for a Bloodthirster. The rest are mostly situational damage dealing flops, but the Skullreaver has potential to deal some serious Mortal Wounds.
  2. Tzeentch: Tzeentch gets the real short end with only the Impossible Robe being any good.
  3. Nurgle: Nurgle has perhaps the worse choices, at least the Horn of Nurgle Rot’s is fun for spawning a Plaguebearer.
  4. Slaanesh: Gets the best Artifact with the Forbidden Gem showing some signs that Games Workshop can make a fitting, fun, and useful piece of wargear. The chance to totally stop say Roboute in his tracks is very appealing, but in reality Mortarian will face the most butt clenching fear of this artifact working. The Mark of Excess isn’t too bad either for a rampaging Keeper of Secrets.

The Psychic powers round out this section of the codex, with much of what can be expected for each god.

  1. Tzeentch: Gets a shit ton of damage dealing which doesn’t look that powerful on paper, but when combined with Smite you will get the picture. Boon of Change is worth taking for just trying to get +1 strength on a unit. Flickering Flames is also great for Horror bombs and along with Treason of Tzeentch is a creative way to screw with your opponent’s mind.
  2. Nurgle: While Tzeentch powers are great, Nurgle really steals the show with combos and ways to cripple your opponent. Shriveling Pox and Miasma of Pestilence is a great one two punch. The same can be said for mortal wound dealing from Stream of Corruption and Nurgle’s Rot.
  3. Slaanesh: Has only two powers worth taking, but are really fantastic is Symphony of Pain and especially Hysterical Frenzy. Hysterical Frenzy gets you an extra round of combat completely out of phase order without any retaliation.

The Chaos Daemons codex ends with the point section and the forgettable Tactical Objectives.

Final Verdict

There is no doubt the Chaos Daemon Codex will still produce very powerful armies, but much of the joy has been removed from previous editions. Of course, for many players this is a relief as older edition combos were exploited, time consuming, and eye rolling inducing. Streamlining though has it is limits, and beyond Tzeentch it does’t feel like the different Gods have much flexibility. There is no synergy between Gods, nor negatives for playing adversaries between them. Games Workshop had a good opportunity to fix the abuses of past editions, but instead they kept things so simple with combos limited to making X unit slightly better for X phase.

More thought could have been put into the Stratagems; creating a real unique play experience for both sides of a game, but instead we get Khorne being more killy, Tzeentch more shooty, Nurgle more resilient, and Slaanesh more speedy. It all makes fluff sense, but doesn’t expand the faction in any meaningful way. It is also a problem that one God is really left behind, we can only hope Games Workshop makes a decision on what to do with Slaanesh one way or another because the model range and thus the rule feel really shallow at the moment.

Overall, Daemons are not going anywhere, but they will play very predicable, something the new imaginative adverse Games Workshop might only be happy with.

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