Finally the article everyone’s been waiting for: Daemon Crusade Review! Whether you’re looking for ways to spice up your warp charged book club or add some new twists to your skull collecting hobby, these new crusade rules have got you covered. There’s ways for you to participate in the great game the chaos gods play, new battle traits for each god, new crusade relics, and the standard fare of agendas and requisitions.
Thanks, as always, to GW for providing us with a copy of the book for review purposes. And if you missed our Matched Play review of the rules, you can find that here.
The Great Game
Beanith: I won’t lie, my mind immediately leapt to Soccer/Football and I was planning on peppering this article with said references but quickly realised this would only set off a furious debate on sportsballs in our discord and I CBF dealing with that noise nor the resulting terrible schism. (Editor’s Note: Coward) So instead I’m going with my back-up option and will be referring to The Great Game which was a political and diplomatic confrontation that existed for most of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century between the British Empire and the Russian Empire over Afghanistan and neighbouring territories in Central and South Asia, and having direct consequences in Persia, British India, and Tibet throughout this article. (Thanks, Wikipedia)
Editor: Or we could just talk about the Great Game where the Dark Gods vie for Ascendancy?
Beanith: That’s not a bad idea.
The concept behind the Crusade rules for Chaos Daemon is based around the Great Game – the ongoing battle between the four Dark Gods vying against one another as they fight to conquer the Mortal Realms, using mortals and lesser daemons as their pawns.
When you first start out with your Chaos Daemons Order of Battle, each of the Dark Gods start with a certain number of Ascendancy points. Khorne 4, Tzeentch 3, Nurgle 2, and Slaanesh 1.
Gaining Ascendancy points is pretty simple. After each battle each god gains D3 Ascendancy points and the god that shares a keyword with your Warlord gains another 1 Ascendancy point or D3 if you won that battle. Beanith: As much as I hate special characters in Crusade, Be’Lakor gets a very reluctant pass as he doesn’t play favourites and is a decent excuse to run all 4 sub factions. Also he will gain another 1 Ascendancy point or D3 if you won that battle in this case too.
Fun fact: It turns out the Dark Gods do not like to share so there are no ties in the Great Game. This is resolved by always rolling for Ascendancy points in the following order: Khorne, Tzeentch, Nurgle, and lastly Slaanesh. When rolling for the god in question, if they end up with the same total as another god, the god that you just rolled for will gain 1 additional Ascendancy point, meaning that a god could quite easily go from dead last to the forefront of the Great Game in a single battle.
The Positions of each of the Dark Gods in the Great Game also can confer extra abilities for units sharing the Alliance keyword in each battle.
The First Position is Dominant. You add 1 to the Leadership characteristic to the units that share the Allegiance keyword with that Dark God. You may, once per battle, also use an Epic Deed Stratagem for 0CP so long as it targets a unit that shares the Allegiance keyword with that Dark God.
Second Position, Close Rival is mostly the same as Dominant. You get to add 1 to the Leadership characteristic to the units that share the Allegiance keyword with that Dark God. Where it differs is you may also, once per battle, use the Command Re-roll CORE Stratagem for 0CP so long as your Warlord shares the Allegiance keyword with that Dark God.
Falling Behind is the Third Position and you quite simply get jack diddly squat. Try harder unloved middle child.
Lastly for the Fourth Position we have Bitter Jealousy. Simply subtract 1 from the Leadership characteristic to the units that share the Allegiance keyword with this Dark God. But on the off chance a unit in this category is making an attack against another enemy unit that shares an Allegiance keyword with the Dark Gods in Positions one, two or three, you can re-roll the hit roll.
End of a Round
After 8 battles comes the payoff, with plenty of bonus experience and Favoured Rewards for your Greater Daemons.
The Dominant rewards 3 experience to the units that share the Allegiance keyword with that Dark God. You can also choose to grant 1 Exalted Reward, 1 Greater Reward, or 1 Lesser Reward from the Favoured Rewards tables to a Greater Daemon that shares the Allegiance keyword with that Dark God.
Close Rivals gain 2 experience to the units that share the Allegiance keyword with that Dark God. You can also choose to grant 1 Greater Reward or 1 Lesser Reward from the Favoured Rewards tables to a Greater Daemon that shares the Allegiance keyword with that Dark God.
Falling Behind grants 1 experience to the units that share the Allegiance keyword with that Dark God. You can also choose to grant 1 Lesser Reward from the Favoured Rewards tables to a Greater Daemon that shares the Allegiance keyword with that Dark God.
Bitter Jealousy? There are no rewards for failure.
Once all the rewards are handed out, keeping the gods currently ranked as-is, you reset their Ascendancy points back to 4, 3, 2, and 1, respectively, and then start the next round.
Beanith: At first glance the Great Game doesn’t seem ideal for mono-faction armies but once you notice that your Warlord gains you an extra point for just being there (more for winning too) means you should be at the top of the Ranks fairly quickly and ideally in first place by the time the round finishes gaining you some sweet powerful upgrades for your Greater Daemons. Of course your dice could betray you leaving you dead last but at least you get to comfort yourself by saying “Just as planned”
Norman: We’ll be going into this more further in the review, but I agree it’s odd how much this crusade force wants you to have multiple factions represented when the datasheets are doing the opposite. I kinda wish the faction in last place had some sort of catch up mechanic for last place that let them drag down first place or something to keep the placings more volatile but like Beanith said, you’ll get your gods in the placing you want after a few wins. Just don’t lose.
So you’re winning the great game. Now’s the time for your greater daemons to cash in. The Favoured Rewards are divided into Lesser, Greater, and Exalted, with each increasing your crusade point total by 1, 2, and 3, respectively.
For Lesser Rewards we have:
- Avatar of Unreality: Gives you an extra die when gathering Warp Storm Points. Not splashy but very solid since getting the points is the weakest part of the mechanic.
- Empyric Beacon: Grants the model the WARP LOCUS keyword. Hell yeah, teleporting dudes next to your big dudes is cool as hell. This is probably the strongest effect.
- Favoured Followers: Here things get a bit more interesting. When you add a CORE daemon unit, you can remove up to 3 Ascendancy Points from a Dark God that shares a keyword with that unit to give them twice that many experience points. Now what’s interesting here is it doesn’t need to be the same god as the daemon with this reward. Khorne giving your Slaanesh daemonhost trouble in the great game? Add some bloodletters and feed them 3 Ascendancy Points and then immediately kick them from the army, to represent you tricking a god into squandering their resources. Is this intended? I dunno, but it is funny.
On to Greater Rewards!
- Infernal Mark: This gives non-Khorne daemons an extra psychic power known and has them heal d3 wounds when they manifest one, and Khorne daemons +1 strength and lets them heal d3 wounds when they kill a character. Cool and good for non Khorne, kinda lame for Khorne.
- Portal Keeper: If you’re the attacker you get 2 extra CP and you can put stuff in strategic reserves for half price. Now you may be thinking “wait can’t I just put them in the warp for a better deep strike?” and the answer is: Yes, you can! This is a big ol’ pass
- Crown of Conquests: Another cool, interesting one. This Favour lets you use a Battle Tactic or Strategic Ploy strat twice per phase. I don’t think anything else in the game lets you do this so that’s kinda neat, and invaluable for the Nurgle and Slaanesh defensive strats.
Last up we have Exalted Rewards. It’s important to note these aren’t the same thing as making a daemon an exalted greater daemon.
- Slayer of Kings: Gives you +1 to hit against the enemy Warlord or a thing with higher crusade points than you, and if you kill either of those you get +1 XP at the end of the battle. This one is aggressively fine. The clause about being to proc against stuff with more crusade points is nice and all but when you remember your greater daemons are getting double points for a lot of their upgrades because of their point value, and that just snagging this gives the daemon in question +3 crusade points I think it’s gonna be a rarity. Hell, Favoured Followers is something I’d rather get.
- Lord of the Storm: Ok now we’re getting to stuff worth exalting about. This gets you an extra dice like Avatar of Unreality but also reduces the cost of a Warp Storm effect by one (effectively giving you a free point). This is VERY strong and very cool. Getting this and Avatar of Unreality is gonna be very valuable I think.
- Exalted Servant: Gives you a free use of the Exalted Daemon requisition, which lets you get an Exalted Daemon Trait. The kicker is that you can get this one in addition to one it already has. This lets you make the ultra powered greater daemon of your dreams. Use it in good (or rancid if you’re Nurgle) health.
Overall there’s some pretty strong effects in here. When you consider that you can get as many of these as you earn them and that they aren’t on tables so you can just pick the most appropriate ones, you can really get a strong daemon going quickly. It’s especially good that, even though there’s some stinkers in here, each category has stuff worth getting so you’ll never be hungry for choice.
There are five Agendas in total, one for each flavour of the Dark Gods with the last being one the entire family can enjoy.
The Khorne seek Worthy Trophies by targeting 3 models in the opposing army with the highest Wounds characteristic and murking them in melee, scoring that unit a sweet 2 experience.
Tzeentch could have gained experience every time they said “Just as planned” but luckily the writers put in a tiny bit more effort with Fires of Tzeentch. Keep a tally for each of your Tzeentch Psyker everytime they manifest Smite, a Witchfire, or destroy an enemy unit in your Psychic phase. At the end of the game, the Tzeentch units with the three highest tallied scores get 3/2/1 experience.
Nurgle is a keen gardener so you’ll be busy in your games with Seed the Garden. Nice and simple, the first time an enemy unit is destroyed in a battlefield quarter will net that particular Nurgle unit 2 experience.
Slaanesh’s Savage Excess is suspiciously Khorne flavoured where you keep a tally of enemy units destroyed by melee attacks in a turn that you had charged or heroically intervened… I guess Slaanesh’s showboating style and panache makes this different from the way the angry Red lads do their business. At the end of the game, the Slaanesh units with the three highest tallied scores get 3/2/1 experience.
Lastly the catch all Agenda is Corrupt Icons. Another tally agenda with two ways to gain a point. The first is for any of your Daemon units destroying an enemy unit that started the turn within 3” of an objective marker, and the other way is to have your Icon bearing units spend an entire Battle Round performing the Corrupt Icons action. At the end of the battle, each unit will gain experience equal to their tally.
Beanith: You’re going to have a hard time trying to convince Big Bird and friends not taking Fires of Tzeentch, it’s a winner no matter how bad your luck is in the Psychic phase, you could be surrounded by Sisters of Silence for the entire game and still walk away with all that lovely experience. Khorne and Slaanesh get a passing grade because you were planning on killing everything in melee anyway. Nurgle sadly fails, I would have loved to see something similar to Death Guards Poison the Well Agenda befouling objectives and area terrain.
Daemons have five extra ways to burn through their precious Requisition and most of them are pretty decent. Exalted Daemon will be the first stop for your Greater Daemons once they have levelled up a rank or two to take their Exalted upgrades.
Dark Gambit and Monstrous Duel both give you the opportunity to mess around with your Great Game rankings in two separate ways. With Dark Gambit, you’re spending 1RP before the battle gambling on winning the battle so your Warlord can get a bonus D6 Ascendancy points instead of the D3. Whereas Monstrous Duel, you’re spending 1-3RP to manipulate the Ascendancy ranking via your two Greater Daemons having an imaginary slap fight where you choose the winner which gains 1-3 Ascendancy points and the loser losing 1-3 Ascendancy points.
Beanith: Monstrous Duel will probably see a lot of play after the 7th or 8th battle just to make sure your preferred Greater Daemon gets the relevant level of Favoured Reward… assuming of course that you’re not running a mono-faction list making these two Reqs fairly redundant.
Now for the fun Requisition! Ignoble Defeat lets you turn disposable Daemon characters into cool soul bound weapons for your Greater Daemon models. Simply have the chaff fail an Out of Action test and then spend 1RP and depending that character’s allegiance, you’ll buff the Greater Daemon’s weapon via:
- Khorne is +1 Strength
- Tzeentch improves the Armour Pen by 1
- Nurgle increases the Damage by 1
- Slaanesh causes a Mortal Wound on unmodified wound rolls of 6
And while your character is bound in such a way, they obviously can’t be included in your army roster but you will still need to keep track of how many battles they take part in whilst bound because of Glorious Return, which for 2RP will unbind your character and they will gain 1 experience point for every battle they were in as a bound weapon.
Beanith: I foresee a lot of cheap HQ models getting flung into precarious situations in a bid for cool weapon upgrades. I heartily endorse this message.
Norman: This is actually the coolest thing in the book so make sure to go out of your way, and sorta ruin your OOB to do it.
Loci of the Gods
Loci are special battle honours you can give to your Greater Daemons or Heralds (put it on the Greater Daemons). They’re all aura abilities with a range of 6”, or 3” if it’s on a Herald (see?). Each god gets two to choose from and you can’t put more than one on the same model.
Kicking us off we have Locus of Unstoppable Fury which gives Khorne CORE units auto wounding 6’s. This can be nice but isn’t exactly game busting. We also have Locus of Diabolical Purpose letting nearby Khorne CORE units consolidate an extra 3”. Take the 6’s auto wound one.
First we have Locus of Conjuration gives nearby Tzeentch psykers the ability to reroll 1’s and 2’s for their psychic tests. This one rocks and is very good. Meanwhile Locus of Transmogrification gives your daemon a bubble of 6+++ for nearby CORE units. Take note Khorne, these are actually good traits. I think the psyker one wins out but they’re both pretty solid when you consider how sticky Horrors already are.
Locus of Poxes Uncounted gives reroll charges for nearby CORE Plaguebearers. This is pretty alright if not a bit underwhelming. Now if you want whelming, look no further than Locus of Foetid Regeneration which gives nearby Nurgle CORE units -1 damage. Yeah if you take the reroll charges get your head checked for terminal brain rot.
Bringing up the rear we have Locus of Evisceration which gives extra AP on melee attacks for CORE Slaanesh units. Very good considering that brings daemonettes to ap 3, the new gold standard in this AoC world we live in. Lastly we have Locus of Unnatural Swiftness which gives nearby Slaanesh CORE units advance and charge. Actually kind of a toss up between two really solid effects. I’d probably take advance and charge because that can get you into turn one charge range but both are pretty good!
There’s Psychic Fortitudes for each of the non Khornate chaos gods. Slaanesh and Nurgle get 3 while Tzeentch gets 6. Let’s take a look.
- Feast of Rapturous Agonies: Each time this model casts a power from the Soulstain discipline it regains 1 lost wound. This is an effect that can stack up quickly on a model so its pretty valuable.
- Phatasmagoric Fugue: Each time this psyker does a power that affects an enemy unit, that unit can’t set to defend or overwatch. Situational but neat
- Compulsive Conjuration: +1 to cast Soulstain powers. Simple and effective. This is probably the winner out of the traits.
- Festering Vitality: each time this model successfully casts a psychic power it gets +1 toughness. Do you want a T11 Great Unclean One? Because this is how you get a T11 Great Unclean One
- Epidemicurean: Each time you manifest a psychic you do a bonus mortal to the closest thing within 6” if the test result was over 7. The range on this kinda makes it something you will almost always forget though it is useful (just ask any death guard player)
- Seeds of Ruin: +1 to cast Warprot psychic powers. Still very good, probably the best but the T11 Great Unclean One is very funny
- Gottem. Khorne obviously does not have any of these, because Khorne isn’t a nerd, he’s a Gamer.
- Ninefold Mantra: Each time you do a Deny the Witch Test, a 9+ is always successful. Pretty neat although 9 is pretty high.
- Tainted Texts: Gives you the standard +1 to cast for their discipline. Especially good in Tzeentch since there’s other ways to get bonuses to cast and getting 12’s on Infernal Gateway is cool.
- Storm’s Eye: Once per battle you can change smite to target anyone you want in range. This is actually very neat especially considering all your access to +1 to cast which can make smite a real threat.
- Implements of Ruin: Gives you +1 damage to melee weapons the psycher has if you manifest a psychic power that turns. This is pretty neat for getting a damage 4 Staff of Tzeentch, but it’s important to note this wont work on Malefic weapons.
- Spiteful Backlash: Each time a psyker tries to deny a smite or witchfire power you’re casting, if they fail, they take d3 mortals. This is hilarious and very cool, please send stories of Aeldari Warlocks killing themselves trying to deny a smite.
- Master Manipulator: You can reroll a single die when doing a Psychic Test. This is arguably better than the +1 to cast for fishing for super versions of powers.
Each god’s signature daemon core units gets a table of battle traits. I wish there was a generic big khorne one here to make up for the lack of Psychic Fortitudes but such is life.
Bloodletter CORE Units
- Aspiring Skulltakers: -2 for out of action tests for characters killed by this unit. Is this niche? Yes. Is this cool as fuck? Also yes. Become the bane of your play group and put this on every model possible.
- Brazen Sinews: +1 strength. Basically makes the Hellblade s6 which is a nice breakpoint.
- Unquenchable Bloodthirst: Lets you use the Frenetic Bloodlust strat for 1 less CP. Since this is a strat you’ll likely use often, this is a really nice trait to have available to you.
Horror CORE Units
- Expert Flamecasters: +1 ballistic skill. Very nifty especially considering the high volume you can output from horrors
- Shatterselves: Auto pass Out of Action tests. Meh .
- Fires of Tzeentch: Makes the Minions of Magic stratagem cost 0. Less useful than its Khorne counterpart given the lack of volume Horrors can put out but nice for free.
Daemonettes CORE Units
- Perfect Killers: Gives you an extra D6 for your Warp Storm rolls if you killed something with this unit in the previous turn. Getting more Warp Storm points is good so this is good if you can confirm the kill.
- Whimsic Wisps: Ignores the benefits of cover for their melee attacks. This does absolutely nothing on most tables. Most people forget heavy cover exists and I cannot think of another benefit you can get from a melee attack. F–
- Claws of Living Diamond: Makes Razor Sharp Caress cost 0 CP. Pretty useful considering daemonettes casually throw out 40 attacks.
Plaguebearer CORE Units
- Noisome Odour: Gives an additional -1 to Combat Attrition tests within 3”. This is pretty nice considering the innate debuff daemons already give to leadership, so a guardsmen squad below half strength is running away on a 1-4.
- Encrusted Scabs: Gives the unit a Daemon Save of 4/4. Very strong and welcome for an already durable unit
- Disgusting Resilience: Lets you use the Revolting Constitution stratagem for 1 less CP. Very useful considering how strong transhuman effects are.
Each god gets an Antiquity Relic and Legendary Relic. While not useful early game, there’s some really powerful effects in here.
Khorne’s Antiquity Relic is the Cuirass of Rage which lets you ignore a failed save once per turn. This is a fantastic effect on a Bloodthirster considering the big guns that will be aimed at them. The Legendary Relic is G’rmakht the Destroyer which may sound like the name of a dude and not a relic and that’s because when the bearer dies, you get a free Bloodthirster. At the end of each fight phase thereafter, on a 5+ the free bloodthirster gets sucked back into the axe that imprisoned it but this is so god damn cool.
Kicking us off we have the Antiquity Relic the Crystal Tome which lets you turn off an enemy unit’s ability to be affected by auras. Solid but not particularly splashy. What is splashy is the Legendary Relic the Tome of Endless Dimensions, which not only makes your witchfire/smite powers undeniable on a 9+ but also lets you use their effects twice. This is so cool. Super smite? Do 2d6 damage. Got a 12 on an Infernal Gateway? Guess everything in 3” is gonna take 6 mortals. Very good.
Following the cool stuff in Tzeentch and Khorne is hard to follow, but the Nurgle stuff isn’t nearly as exciting. The Shroud of Corruption gives you an aura that has you do a single mortal wound to every enemy in 6” on a 4+ each movement phase. This is nice to have but not particularly interesting and there’s more interesting relics out there. The Contagion Blade replaces a bileblade on a Great Unclean One, giving the bearer an extra point of strength and damage, d3 mortals on a 6 to wound, and another d3 mortals if those mortals killed anything. Not gonna lie, this ain’t great. It might be more interesting if it kept its ability to reroll wounds, but the Great Unclean One doesn’t output enough attacks to make this interesting.
Kicking us off we have the Jewel of Excess which grants you +1 to cast from the Soulstain discipline, and +1 to deny. Good but kinda boring considering there’s a battle trait that does most of this. We also have the Tears of Asuryan which you can shatter in your command phase for 6 Warp Storm points and gives the bearer access to every power in the Soulstain discipline. This ones pretty great but to be honest I’m still thinking about the free Bloodthirster.
Beanith: For creatures that are both made of and live in the warp, they sure don’t seem to want to weaponize it and make some sort of awesome warp-based grenade. Instead they use warp-based chicanery to make some cool melee weapons and some sort of self help book for nerds. I am impressed though GW has managed to weaponize the Space Elf tears from the last round of Balance Dataslates though.
Norman: I wish I could be more positive on this one since there’s a lot of cool concepts in here but there’s just a lot of cruft that feels like it could have been a lot better. The great game mechanics are cool in theory but in practice just it feels like it wants you to either turbo charge a single god after a couple of wins (or straight away if you’re Khorne) or have some sorta mixed Order of Battle with things competing with each other, which feels a bit awkward to be honest. The requisitions for binding a daemon are another example of this, there’s tools for cool storytelling in here but it’s all insular and doesn’t work with the armies you’ll be playing against. As for all the battle traits and stuff it’s all pretty par with a couple neat stand outs. Where the book does shine though are the crusade relics (except Nurgle), there’s some really fantastic stuff there. Overall it’s a C+ to B- from me.
Beanith: I think it’s pretty neat. The Great Game is cool for the most part but you may want to check with your Campaign Master about tweaking the number of games needed for each round. As it is, it’s fine if you can get one or two games in a week but for those at the other end of the stick with maybe one game a month will have a long wait for some of the cool Favoured Rewards. But that’s also true for other similar Crusade rules like the T’au and Genestealer Cult.
As stated it looks great for Mono-factions but those juggling more than one will struggle for Req to make full use of all the fun stuff found here.
And with that we’ve finally wrapped our review of Chaos Daemons. As always, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at email@example.com.