Age of Sigmar Dawnbringers VI – The Rules

We appreciate Games Workshop providing us a copy of Dawnbringers VI: Hounds of Chaos earlier this week for us to review.

Dawnbringers VI: Hounds of Chaos can be viewed a few different ways. One of those ways is as the last gasp of a dying edition. Another way, and how I view it, is as the first part of the new edition releases, almost like an alpha. Games Workshop announced as part of the Abraxia release at Adepticon that the Armies of Renown in the Dawnbringers books would be coming as part of new edition. Like many at Goonhammer I haven’t liked the impact of the Armies of Renown, but I’m excited to see how they are integrated into a new edition.

Darkoath Wilderfiend – credit Bair

The release of Abraxia, the Nexus Chaotica, and the Darkoath feels like a stealth release for the next edition of Age of Sigmar and are enough models on their own to justify an entire battletome rewrite. One of the Armies of Renown, The Swords of Chaos, feel like a throwback to running Varanguard and would likely be seen all over events if these rules were released a year ago. The Tribes of the Snow Peaks feels like a look inside to the new edition with abilities that focus on doing specific tasks. The Darkoath faction feels like it would perform better on maps with smaller objectives and benefit from not having bravery and battleshock as a concept. Conversely, core rules in the new edition like countercharge, power through would make the The Swords of Chaos a completely different army. As we look at the final Dawnbringers book and take a moment to consider them in totality, it feels like we’re cutting things a little close. The Mad King was explicitly a Death book, while Reign of the Brute was a Destruction-focused tome that first introduced the concept of Armies of Renown. This book is similar to the prior book, Shadow of the Crone, in that there is a lot of narrative and lore and the rules take a back seat.

Our review of the rules in Dawnbringers VI will include a discussion of the rules and warscrolls for:

  • Nexus Chaotica – Faction Terrain for Any Slaves to Darkness Army.
  • Abraxia – Spear of the Everchosen.
  • Gunnar Brand and the Oathsword Kin.
  • The Swords of Chaos, a Varanguard elite force
  • Tribes of the Snow Peaks, A Darkoath focused force.
  • Brand’s Oathbound, A Regiment of Renown for non Slaves to Darkness Chaos armies.

An essential part of this experience is the Darkoath Supplement that was recently released.

Nexus Chaotica

It’s free real estate. In the context of the current edition it’s the most likely piece to be painted, set-up, and seen on the table. When placed wholly within your territory, it does nothing and provides no benefit but the joy of rolling a D6 at the start of your hero phase and adding that value to your power points. It starts with zero power points. As the game goes on, the Chaotica gains power points that can be used for two abilities:

  • When a friendly Wizard within 3″ attempts to cast a spell, you can use 3 power points to add 1 to the casting roll for attempt.
  • You can pick an objective or terrain feature and spend 9 power points. On a 2+ all enemy units contesting that objective feature suffer D3 mortal wounds (roll for each unit). On a 1, all friendly units within 3″ of the Nexus Chaotica suffer D3 mortal wounds (roll for each).

It’s dope, can help you cast spells, and can do some mortal wounds. Slaves to Darkness have always had some tricks to increase casting and this just adds to that portfolio.

Unless there is a FAQ the real strength of the Chaotica is the ability to trigger the mortal wounds at ANY time. The only restriction is having 9 power points. Need to kill something to free up a charge or movement? Trigger that bad boy at the end of your hero phase. Does your opponent have a model with one or two wounds in combat to score “Led Into the Maelstrom?” Set that bad boy off at the end of the combat phase and try to deny a battle tactic. This type of jank is going away in the next edition, so use it while you can.

The second ability costs a lot of power, and with the 12 point cap can practically only happen twice per game at most, but the ability to do the last wound or two to an opponent is at anytime. If this was released at a normal time I would expect to see a day-1 FAQ that would restrict the second ability to a certain part of your turn. This would make it an average piece of faction terrain.

Gunnar Brand and the Oathsword Kin/Brand’s Oathbound

This is a group of people (they have not been fully given over to Chaos and become former people) that function like a little warband and have some abilities. While they take up three warscrolls (to allow Singri Brand to move 12″) they must be taken together. At 260 points they seem overcosted and I don’t expect that they will see much play prior to the rewrite they get in the new edition outside of a dedicated Darkoath army to gain an additional caster from Broken Nadja.

Gunnar’s profile of 1″ reach with 5 attacks 3/3/-1/2 is fine but getting him into combat with a hero isn’t going to be easy unless he’s fighting something that is hard to take down.

They all have a 5+ save and the Kin and Singri have 3 wounds while Gunnar has 6 for a total of 18 wounds. If an enemy hero is slain by Gunnar Brand the entire wardband gets a 4+ ward while wholly within Gunnar Brand.

The regiment of renown allows this unit to get an additional attack and fully all wounds at the end of the combat phase.

Abraxia – Spear of the Everchosen

She is fine. This warscroll was released and her first ability is issuing the same command three times to Varanguard keyworded units. She can’t receive commands from herself when using this ability. Her base stat-line – 10″ move, 4+ save, 9 bravery, with 14 wounds  – isn’t that inspiring but she does count as a 14 wound monster that doesn’t bracket and that is extremely positive.

Additionally, she has a 4+ ward against mortal wounds, slashes back wounds to other units when attacked, and has a freaky-ass spear that activates at the start of the combat phase by rolling a D6 and may:

  • wound her (on a 1)
  • do nothing (2-3)
  • Add 1 to the Gorbolga Damage (5-6)
  • Add 1 to the Gorbolga Damage and do D3 mortal wounds to an enemy unit within 6″ to suffer D3 Mortal Wounds

She is fine, and might find a spot in a Varanguard heavy list in a typical Slaves to Darkness Army. Her best use is being a distraction and using her mobility to clear screens in advance of a unit of Chosen or Slaves to Darkness. With a full rewrite of the warscroll coming before many of you will have her built, painted, and on the table, her rules don’t really matter and she won’t disrupt your current list construction. Realistically, in Age of Sigmar third edition, you’re going to want to run her in the Army of Renown.

The Sword of Chaos

I can totally see this Army of Renown being run at a few events before the end of the edition. People have been running Knights of the Empty Throne, own Archaon, and getting to 2,000 points won’t be that hard. The Swords of Chaos requires every unit in your army to have the Varanguard, Archaon, or Abraxia keyword. Varanguard become battleline in this army. You may also take the Nexus Chaotica terrain.

All of the Slaves to Darkness battalions, battle traits, grand strategies, and battle tactics are replaced with a powerful and focused set of abilities.

Battle Traits

All units in the army gain the SWORDS OF CHAOS keyword.

Descent From Ruinous Skies: Select any number of SWORDS OF CHAOS units and set them in deepstrike. At the end of your movement phase you can set up one or more units on the battlefield more than 9″ from all enemy units.

  • This is a great ability; your entire army has deepstrike allowing you to null-deploy and appear 9″ away. While this prevents certain battle tactics (like surround and destroy) it makes other tactics, like intimidate, extremely easy. It also pairs EXTREMELY well into many of the battleplans where you need to control points, like Nexus Collapse or Limited Resources and those with “weird” deployments like “Every Step is Forward”.
  • Putting 3 units of Varanguard, all having the ability to reroll from Abraxia, 9 inches away is wild.

First Circle Titles

First Circle Titles are a unique enhancement that go on VARANGUARD units. You can always take three First Circle Titles and cannot take the same title or put more than one title on a unit. Broadly speaking they are all great because they are going on a unit of Varanguard they have a great warscroll already. I think there are three easy picks, with the remaining picks all having a role. As an aside, the naming conventions are really really great.

  • Betrayers of the Anvilking: Add 1 to save rolls for attacks that target this unit. This is not changing the save characteristic, but with a base save of 3+ you can have saves on a 2+. To me, this is an autotake for at least one of your units. Giving an extra save on a 3+ save is extremely strong.
  • The Blackstorm Apostates: Add 3″ to the move characteristic of this unit. This is an autotake as 13″ move makes them one of the fastest units in the game.
  • The Hounds of the Apocalyptus: Add 1 to Attacks characteristic of this unit’s melee weapons while it is wholly within enemy territory or contesting an objective that you do not control. Here’s the third autotake. This is extremely strong – full stop – and the ability to Descent From Ruinous Skies makes it extremely easy to ensure the unit with this enhancement is always benefiting from the additional attack.
  • The Grimroot Order: Add 1 to the Wounds Characteristic of this unit. This is really good on a 5 wound unit of three Varanguard. This is really really good on a 5 wound unit of six Varanguard. I think this is a situational pick but every wound counts with elite units.
  • Castellans of the Uttenvaults: At the end of the combat phase, if this unit is within 3″ of any enemy units, you can pick 1 enemy unit within 3″ and roll a dice. on a 2+ that enemy unit suffers D3 mortals. I consider this situational as everyone remembers times that we just need an extra wound to finish of a unit or a model, and the overall faction doesn’t have many ways of causing mortal wounds.
  • Tamers of Haradh’s Torment: Add 1 to the Damage Characteristic of this unit’s mount’s Tearing Fangs. This is the ability that I’m most conflicted over. On one hand, anything that improves the killing power of Varanguard is a good thing because you’re going to be in combat. Is it better than getting an additional attack, save, or move? Not really. However, I can see an overall weakness to this army in capturing primary objectives due to a low model count and being able to do additional to screens and cheap objective holders is useful.

Demands of the Dark Gods

At the start of each battle round, after the priority roll has been made, you can pick one of the four (not five yet) Chaos gods to beseech. You cannot pick the same god twice in consecutive battle rounds but you can pick them more than once. All of these abilities have two components and all of them are good.

  • Khorne: Improve Rend characteristics of melee weapons by 1 (not including mount weapons). Pick a single Varanguard unit who gets Strikefirst.
  • Tzeentch: Pick 1 enemy unit within 9″ of any SWORDS OF CHAOS unit. On a 2+ that enemy suffers a mortal wounds equal to the roll. In addition, pick 1 friendly Varanguard unit that gets 4+ until the end of the battle round.
  • Nurgle: Heal D3 wounds to each Swords of Chaos unit. In addition, pick one enemy unit within 3″ of any SWORDS OF CHAOS unit and subtract 1 from saves until the end of the battle round.
  • Slaanesh: Add 1 to the attacks characteristic of melee weapons (excluding mount weapons). Pick one friendly Varanguard unit. That unit can run or retreat and still charge later in the turn.

These are all great with a primary ability that is amazing (-1 rend) or a secondary ability that impacts a single unit that is incredible (4+ ward). It should be noted that you cannot benefit from using these in your opponents turn so being subjected to a double turn could be rough.

Grand Strategy

Dominion of Chaos: When the battle ends, you complete this grand strategy if there is a friendly Archaon and/or Abraxia on the battlefield and there are no enemy heroes on the battlefield.

  • This is not bad, but it’s not great. Having two points of failure on a grand strategy is not something you want. If you elect to build a list without Archaon you should pick Slaughter of Sorcery because you won’t have any wizards and you’re going to need to kill the enemy wizards (typically heroes). Otherwise, you might want to consider Overshadow despite what the numbers say as you have big tanky units of Varanguard and will be attempting to kill everything your opponent has.

Battle Tactics

The Everchosen’s Rebuke: You complete this battle tactic if the enemy general was slain this turn by an attack that was made by a friendly VARANGUARD unit.

  • It’s fine? I don’t like that it unlocks reprisal for your opponent but having it as a potential turn 5 tactic makes it a viable if situational option.

Total Destruction: Pick one objective controlled by your opponent. You complete this ability if you control this objective at the end of the this turn and there are any friendly Varanguard units that used the Relentless Killers ability this turn contesting it.

  • This is one that you should accomplish nearly every single battle and could, with the Descent From Ruinous Skies, be a great first turn tactic. Relentless Killers is a once per game ability that allows you to fight a second time with Varanguard units if they are within 3″ of any enemies. It’s an ability you’re going to use A LOT and helps in clearing off enemy models from an objective.

Silence All Challengers: Pick one friendly unit within 3″ of any enemy units. You complete this battle tactic if that unit fights in the combat phase of this turn and at the end of the phase there are no enemy units within 3″ of it.

  • This is another really good tactic. You’re likely going to be in combat at the start of your turn and you don’t have many ways to destroy units without fighting. This has great synergy with the Nurgle Demand of the Dark Gods ability.

Overall you’re going to be okay on tactics, with two really good ones out of this book. Getting Intimidate the Invaders and Lead into the Maelstorm should take you through turn 4 with easy tactics leaving Savage Spearhead, The Everchosen’s Rebuke if the enemy general is alive for the final turn. If you take Archaon you can attempt to cast a spell after all the opponents wizards are dead.

On the other side you should have the ability to deny tactics by tying up your opponent with tanky units or just taking an army off the board. Basically, there are three potential lists you can take and you can mix and match the First Circle Titles and reinforcements as you see fit:

  1. Abraxia and 6 units of Varanguard – This is for somebody that already has four or five units of Varanguard painted and ready to go. I think this is the most fun as it allows for a double reinforced unit of Varanguard and can fit into a 1 drop battalion.  If I had the models I would start with two reinforced units and two singles and start playing around with the mix from there.
  2. Archaon, Abraxia, and 3 units of Varanguard – This is the most likely for that you’re going to take the army in and one of the least flexible. You have the benefit of Archaon being able to be on the field alone for the first turn, the triple command from Abraxia, and being able to cast a spell for a battle tactic.
  3. Archaon and 4 units of Varanguard – You lose some utility from Abraxia but get the ability to use a reinforce Varanguard and benefit from from the First Circle Titles.

Overall I think that this Army of Renown is extremely powerful and would be a blast to play. If you’re going to an event you’re definitely going to have time to talk about your game one way or another because it’s going to have the ability for a strong alpha coming in from off board. Additionally, anyone who ran Knights of the Empty Throne over the past few years is likely going to have enough models around to get it up and running quickly. The two lists build themselves – use Archaon and deploy everything else into deepstrike. give your opponent first turn, and then figure out if you’re getting a double or not and proceed from there.  I also think it has some particular weakness especially to armies with a lot of bodies that come back again and again. Speaking of, this brings us to:

Tribes of the Snow Peaks

Unlike with the Sword of Chaos rules above, reviewing these line-by-line in great depth is not a useful exercise. If you have acquired, painted, and based enough Darkoath units to field a 2,000 point army, you are going to be running that army regardless of what I, or anyone else who draws mortal breath, can tell you. I salute you and really really want to see what your painted army looks like. If you’re playing in events the likelihood that this army will show up before a new edition is slim to none and I really really want you to appreciate the joy that you have been given and experience the game without knowing what to expect.

Based on vibes, and in combination with the Darkoath supplement that we received and reviewed, I think that the rules are good and flavorful. Basically, for remembering and counting if each individual Darkoath unit has completed a quest, you gain an oath point. You also gain an oath point for completing a battle tactic. You can spend oath points to give five effects to units; a unit cannot receive the same effect in the same phase as another unit, and a unit cannot receive more than one effect in the same phase. The effects are:

  • Speed of the Blood Crow: You autorun 6″ and can still charge. This is good.
  • Daemonfire Weapons: Improve rend by 1 (excluding mount weapons).
  • Hunger of Shesh’shan: Add 1 to attacks characteristic of the units melee weapons (excluding mount weapons).
  • Messengers of the Gods: At the end of the movement phase replace a unit of Fellriders or Marauders with half the number of units. That unit can only be replaced once. Note – since replacement units are new units you can complete the oath with that unit to get another oath point back.
  • Shroud of the Pale Elk: When attacked, the unit has a 4+ ward until the end of the phase. This is really good; too bad it can only be used when a unit is attacked.
  • Rage of Arkhar: You can fight a second time and the strike-last effect applies to that unit when it fights.

There are various command traits and artifacts. Two of the command traits are good and one is useless. All of the artifacts are good.

Command Traits

Oath of Desecration: The general counts as 5 models and gains an oath point if contesting an objective no wholly within your territory.

  • The extra contest doesn’t really matter but being able to gain an oath point is extremely strong.

Oath of Kinship: You gain +1 to hit while within 3″ of any other friendly Darkoath units. if you fought and are within 3″ of any units you gain 1 oath point.

  • Maybe this ability is a signal that +1 to hit is going to be more powerful in the next edition.

Oath of Slaughter: Improve the rend characteristic of this general’s melee weapons by 1. In addition, at the end of each turn if any enemy models were slain by attacks you gain 1 oath point.

  • This is the other good one as additional rend (when combined with Daemonfire Weapons) allows you get up to rend 3.


Bloodthirsty Blade: Pick one weapon and improve the rend by 1. The first time you slay a model, add 1 to the attacks characteristic for the rest of the battle.

Grand Offering: Pick one Darkoath Wilderfiend to receive D6 sacrifice points.

Godshadow Talisman: Ethereal 4+ save.

Battle Tactics

Oath of the First Blood: You complete this tactic if the first unit to be destroyed was an enemy unit.

  • Very good, and it combos well with the strikefirst ability from the wilderfiend.

Oath of the Honour: You complete this tactic if an enemy hero was killed by a mortal Darkoath Hero.

  • This is highly dependent on your opponent hero options.

Oath of the Pillaging: You complete this tactic if there is a friendly mortal darkoath unit within 1″ of the long battlefield edge in enemy territory.

  • This is basically free and good.

Overall, this army is going to have a lot of tokens, counting, and things to remember. As we discussed in our supplement review, each wilderfiend is going to be counting a number and you have to keep track of oaths with every single darkoath unit. I love that there are so many different playstyles in Age of Sigmar and if the idea of tracking multiple things among multiple units is appealing and tickles that euro-board game style this is a good rules set for that. I think some of the abilities and ideas will be used in the next edition and the army will do much much better with smaller objectives, 3″ reach, and some of the universal weapon options to fight heros. Unlike The Swords of Chaos I don’t think the construction meta is going to allow this army or this rules set to see the table in a serious manner so I hope a lot of these rules are brought over into the new edition.

This army of renown has a lot of models and might struggle on some of the current deployments (Nexus collapse, Limited Resources) that require careful measurement of the control points. Additionally, I think it is going to take a lot of effort, work, and attention to play and there just isn’t that many practice games to get in.

Final Thoughts

I absolutely think that any Slaves to Darkness players should get the terrain piece because 1) terrain isn’t always in stock and 2) the rules are broken in this edition. While I’ll let our model review speak for Abraxia, we all have eyes and much like the Darkoath box itself sometimes a pretty model is nice to have and paint.

If you do have a bunch of Varanguard or Archaon I think that taking The Swords of Chaos for the next few weeks would be A BLAST. They feel elite, powerful, and don’t require too much fiddling and management beyond making sure they’re within 3″ to fight a second time.

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