Codex Drukhari: The Crusade Rules Review

We spent most of the weekend reviewing the new Matched Play rules in Codex: Drukhari and talking about how the faction has been transformed in some very cool ways – check out that review here. Today we’re back to talk about the book’s new Crusade rules and whether they’re as good as the new Matched play rules.

Spoiler: The Drukhari Codex doesn’t disappoint, offering what is honestly one of the broadest sets of crusade options in any book yet – in addition to the Agendas and Crusade Relics we’ve come to expect in every book, there’s a full set of Battle Honours and Battle Scars and a sort of real-estate-minigame for your chosen Lord to play. There’s a lot of great stuff to cover here so let’s dive in.

 

Agendas

There are four new Agendas on offer for Drukhari, and each one is cool. A Gruesome Bounty sees you keeping track of the number of turns in which each unit destroys a unit in melee, then gaining experience for each mark on each unit’s tally. What’s cool here is that it keeps track of units destroyed per turn rather than per round. This can get particularly nasty with Wych Cults, where your Succubus can consolidate 6” after wiping a unit out on the charge and credibly threaten to take down another one immediately. It’s also a cool way to model the reward for taking prisoners to use for nefarious purposes later.

Drukhari raiding parties are often tenuous alliances, and if your list has a Realspace Raid detachment, you can take advantage of this by giving the various subfactions the ability to Demonstrate Superiority. You’ll keep track of how many units are destroyed by Kabals, Wych Cults, and Haemonculus Covens in your army as they compete to show dominance, then give 3 XP each to the HQ and a unit of your choice from the winning subfaction. 

Of course, no matter who took the most captives, we all know who’s really in charge, and you can nominate a character in your army to Take Credit for the raid, gaining 1 XP for every 2 the rest of the force gains. As a bonus, if your Ascendant Lord (more on them in a few) takes credit, you’ll gain 1 Raid Spoil for every 5 XP other units in your army gained. Rob: This is one of my favorite Agendas. It’s just so incredibly flavorful.

Finally, if you’ve ever thought that your battlefields could us a little sprucing up, the Send a Message Agenda might be for you. It gives each of your Infantry and Bikers the ability to take a unique action within 3” of an objective called – and I swear I am not making this up – “Redecorate.” Once your Wracks have gotten their Joanna Gaines on and put some TLC into their local fixer-upper, the objective becomes “Terrifying,” imposing a -1 penalty to Ld of all non-Drukhari units within 6”. Then, each time a unit within 6” of your masterpiece fails a morale check, your Drukhari within 6” of the same objective will gain 1 XP. This one’s tough to plan around and you can’t really control scoring it much but it’s extremely rad. Beanith: Picture the Wrack showing the others how to properly fold a recently flayed off face and asking “Does it spark Terror?”

 

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Requisitions

The first two requisitions are how you get Lords of Commorragh and Favoured Retinues into your Crusade Roster. You can’t take them at list creation, and will instead have to spend RP. First, to get a Master Archon, Succubus, or Haemonculus, you’ll use the Lord of the Dark City requisition to upgrade one of your existing characters when they gain the Battle-hardened, Heroic, or Legendary rank. Then, once you’ve done so, you can spend another RP on Chosen of the Master to add the matching Favoured Retinue to your roster. You can only have one retinue per upgraded character on your roster.

Soul Trap is sort of a weird one. Rather than just giving you an upgrade, you chose an Archon in your roster and start tracking Characters they kill in melee. When they get to 5, you can cash in the requisition to add 1 to their Attacks, Strength, Toughness, and Leadership, at the cost of 2 Crusade points. You can only do this once, and it’s quite an investment. But the bonus is pretty big and if you’re swimming in RP and don’t know what to do with it, you might as well. Beanith: I can already see me adding a small red and white ball to my Archon’s belt. 

Patron of the Killing Arts is one of the coolest new Requisitions, if the most straightforward: if your army includes any Wych Cult units, you can pick an Archon or a Haemonculus to pre-game the raid with them. Doing so gives the chosen model access to the Combat Drugs ability for the battle as they get high on whatever the Wyches are into these days.

The last two are ways to get Raid Spoils points, the unique Drukhari Crusade mechanic. The first, A Constant Source of Disappointment (Rob: my vote for the Requisition with the best name. Beanith: Seconded), lets you pay 1 RP to remove a unit that has 2 or more Battle Scars from your Order of Battle and gain Raid Spoils equal to that unit’s Crusade points total as you feed them into the arenas, use them as meat shields to foil an assassination attempt, or otherwise ensure that they are properly rewarded for their inability to adequately do their jobs. The other, Clandestine Dealings, only works if you have an Archon as your Ascendant Lord. If you do, you can spend RP to gain Raid Spoils on a 1:1 basis. Useful if you want to make a play for some key territories, though ultimately probably the least interesting of the requisitions on offer here.

 

Credit: Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms

Battle Honours

Drukhari also come with a full set of Battle Honours (other than Psychic Fortitudes, for what should be obvious reason), including 4 Battle Trait tables and a set of Weapon Enhancements. 

Battle Traits

There are 4 sets of Battle Traits, one for each sub-faction and a fourth for characters. These are all broadly pretty good: Kabalite Warriors can add a re-roll 1s to wound when they’re within 6” of their Archon, or ignore modifiers to hit rolls while they’re embarked. Wych Cult units can gain a 6” consolidate, improve their WS by 1, or score additional hits on 6s to hit. Coven units can gain the ability to disrupt psykers within 6” by subtracting 2 from psychic tests, deal mortal wounds to enemies that charge them, or roll a d3 on the Combat Drugs table at the start of each battle. Finally, Characters can gain a single re-roll of their choice per turn, deal mortal wounds on 6s to wound, or increase each of their Agenda tallies by 1 at the end of the mission. 

Weapon Enhancements

If you want to give a unit a Weapon Enhancement, you can roll on the Poisoned Weapon Enhancements table rather than the one in the core rules. The different poisons your Drukhari can bring to the battlefield have a wide variety of effects, from Feralex, that causes units that lost any models to that weapon to suffer an addition d3 mortal wounds on a 4+, to Agonite, which prevents the enemy from using rules that ignore wounds, to my personal favorite, Icevein, which halves the unit’s Move and subtracts 2 from advance and charge rolls. This isn’t to say they’re all great – Shattergift in particular is a bit of a weird one. It subtracts 3 from Psychic tests made by units that had any models destroyed by a weapon with the poison. This could be great into certain lists like Grey Knights or Thousand Sons, but into a lot of lists it’s just inflating your unit’s crusade points to no real effect, if any.

Battle Scars

In addition to the Battle Honours, you also get a set of four Battle Scars, one for each subfaction and one for Characters. These don’t actually lower your Crusade Points value, making them perfect to slap onto someone if you’re going to brand them A Constant Source of Disappointment. Characters become Insensate, losing Power from Pain but halving all incoming damage. Kabalites get Excommunicated from their Kabals, losing the <KABAL> keyword, but becoming Blades for Hire that you can shove into any list. Wyches suffer from Biochemical Hypershock, losing 1 toughness and leadership, and being forced to roll 2 dice for their Combat Drugs ability. Finally, Coven units exhibit Cautionary Results, subtracting 1 from their hit rolls but adding 1 to strength and leadership.

None of these are really effects that you’d want to have on your models, but they are all cool and flavorful, and the fact that they don’t decrease your Crusade points means they play particularly well with your Requisitions. 

 

Credit: Corrode

Raid Spoils

Raid Spoils are the Drukhari unique mechanic, and you’ll be tracking them on your Crusade roster between games. Like most of these rules, it’s an army-wide resource that you can draw from. Your Raid Spoils are just that: the ill-gotten gains you’ve taken from the targets of your most recent raid, ready to be flaunted before all of Commorragh to increase your standing, or to be traded in for favors from your Dark Eldar colleagues.

Gaining spoils is straightforward. First, you’ll need to nominate an Ascendant Lord from your roster. This model is the head of your raiding party, and you’ll be spending your spoils and enacting your plots to improve their standing amongst the Lords of the Dark City. You can only have one Ascendant Lord on your roster at a time, and if you want to change which model is your Ascendant Lord, you’ll need to get rid of your current one first.

Once you’ve chosen your Ascendant Lord, start playing games. After every game, you’ll roll a d6 and gain 1 Raid Spoil on a 4+, and will also gain one if you won the game. You can also get them from the Take Credit Agenda or a handful of requisitions. Raid Spoils can be spent in two ways: Spoils of Battle and Territorial Dominance.

Spoils of Battle

Each Ascendant Lord has three abilities they can spend their Raid Spoils on, depending on what datasheet they’re drawn from. Haemonculi have some of the most straightforward, being able to bring in new units at the Blooded rank for 3 Raid Spoils with Perfect Specimens, or adding experience to existing units at a 1:1 trade with Specialist Supplies. And if your opponent manages to kill your Haemonculus and you fail the Out of Action test, they might just discover that the unit they killed was actually Just a Replica and curse your Haemonculus for deciding to stay in the lab rather than go get stuck in on the battlefield.

Archons are a bit more subtle, manipulating the Territorial Dominance minigame. Expert Manipulation lets them choose the territory they claim rather than rolling randomly, letting them move quickly to get the specific territorial abilities they want. And if you’re playing against another Drukhari force, you can wager their territory on the outcome of the battle with Assert Authority, allowing you to take one of their territories for 1 Raid Spoil. Finally, if you’re running low on resources, Complex Raidcrafting can get you back up to speed, letting you spend 1 Raid Spoils to select an additional Agenda for your army, letting you squeeze as much XP as possible out of your games.

Finally, Succubi have their own way to Increase Holdings, allowing them to spend 2 Raid Spoils to claim an Arena territory from the list. However, since you’re likely to have at least a unit of Bloodbrides accompanying your Succubus, giving them additional XP never hurts. They can also dip into their Personal Supply of Combat Drugs, allowing them to re-roll one or both of the dice when a unit randomly determines what abilities they take. Finally, for 3 Raid Spoils, they can use the Deadliest Catch to give a new Beast unit a melee weapon enhancement when it’s brought into the roster. This might seem expensive at first, but keep in mind that it only confers the weapon enhancement and not the XP you’d normally need to unlock it. That means that the unit will make it to its next advancement just as quickly as any other, and it’s the only way to get an enhancement on Razorwing Flocks, who can’t gain XP because of their SWARM keyword.

Territorial Dominance

Finally, the main event. Instead of spending your Raid Spoils on favors and trinkets, you can instead take your winnings and invest them in the Commorragh real estate market. To do so, spend an RP, then roll on the Territories Tables. There are 72 choices here, each with absolutely amazing names like “THE FEAR SMELTERY” or “RETHVHYR’S VEINYARD” or “SHRINE OF THE NAKED HATRED” or “THE GLAND.” Each territory falls into one of 12 categories, including weapon forges, docks, arenas, and gang territories.

Where things get cool is when you’re able to assert dominance over three territories from the same “set.” When you do, you gain access to those territories’ Territorial Ability, which gives you an ability you can choose to make use of if your Ascendant Lord leads your raid. These abilities are optional, and each one will increase your Lord’s Crusade Points by 1, but they’re all pretty useful. About half of them nominate a type of unit from the book and give all units that participated in the battle 1 additional XP, while the rest are a combination of stratagem/requisition discounts and other abilities. My personal favorite is Toxin Distilleries, which lets you choose a Kabal unit and give all their poisoned weapons the Poisoned Weapon (2+) ability for the turn, letting them all but force a ton of saves against whatever you point them at. Rob: This is basically like Comorragh Monopoly. Beanith: I was going to say it reminded me of the Necromunda Dominion campaign but Comorragh Monopoly sounds a lot cooler.

A lot of these abilities aren’t particularly amazing, but you also don’t have to use them in every game. If you’ve got three Scourge Spires but don’t feel like bringing Scourges this game, then save yourself the Crusade Point and don’t use the ability. 

Throwing your weight around isn’t without risk in Commorragh, though. Every time you gain control of a new territory, you roll a d6. On a 1, your enemies sense weakness and make an attempt on your Ascendant Lord’s life, giving them a Battle Scar.

On balance, this real estate minigame is a bit of a mixed bag. The abilities you can gain from it are flavorful and powerful, but a few too many of them are just “this keyword gains 1 XP after the game,” and the number of territories you’re working with means it might be a while before you finally get your hands on an ability you can really even make use of. That being said, once you’ve gotten your hands on an ability or two, you can call in the right favors for the right matchups, and the list of territory names is up there with the Necrons’ Epithets table for “Coolest Random Name Generator In 40k History.”

 

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Crusade Relics

Finally, we’ve got the Crusade Relics. There are 3 on offer here, but they’re doozies. The Soulshard Grenade is an Artificer Relic that lets you chuck a grenade at an enemy unit within 6” once per game, then roll dice equal to the number of models in the unit and deal it a mortal wound for every 6+. As a bonus, Characters count as 5 models, Vehicles and Monsters count as 10, and you add 1 to each of the dice if you’re targeting a Psyker. Neat, but situational. Beanith: I think this one is pretty awesome. As it’s a Relic and not an actual grenade, you could use this even whilst engaged like it was a little mini-smite. I mean you’re still looking for 6+ on 5 dice but where else can you pretend to have a psychic phase as a Drukhari player?

More generally useful is the Master Clone Field, which gives a unit a 4+ invulnerable save. If that weren’t enough, whenever an enemy attacks the bearer in melee, you’ll get to make 2 attacks back, targeting that attacker.

Finally, the Mask of the First Age is up there for the single most powerful crusade relic we’ve seen thus far. Not only does it add 1 to your Movement, Attacks, Wounds, and Leadership, it also gives you the Aura of Dominance. What does that Aura do, you ask? Well, whenever a unit – any unit – within 6” of the bearer makes a Morale check, you choose the outcome. As in, you point at the unit of Space Marines that you just barely took one model out of, and loudly declare “FAILED” and then they have to pick up another model and roll Combat Attrition. Or when your opponent drops your unit of Bloodbrides down to a single model in one phase, then tells you to make a Morale check, you can instead cross your arms, look down your nose at them, and smugly say “No, I don’t think I shall.”

Basically, this relic rules.

 

Final Thoughts

Condit: Another Codex, another awesome set of Crusade rules. The options you have to personalize your Drukhari army are solid, and they do a good job of letting the personalities of the various subfactions shine through. And while Territorial Dominance might seem a little odd at first, I honestly can’t wait to start my Archon’s career as a Space Mafia Real Estate Tycoon.

TheChirurgeon: There’s a lot of great stuff here and yeah, the real highlight is the Comorragh Monopoly minigame. It’d be really cool to run a campaign with multiple Drukhari players where you could have them wager territory directly in games or even have them play games of Gangs of Comorrogh for the territories as a better, more fun alternative to having them play Kill Team.

Beanith: That Combat Patrol box looks even more tempting as the day goes by. I feel there was a missed opportunity for your characters to fight over the Ascendant Lord title because you can’t spell Drukhari with using some of the letters from Backstabber. Territorial Dominance is the coolest part of the Drukhari Crusade rules for me as well. I look forward to showing SRM Eschers how a proper Toxin Distillery is run.

 

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