Spooky ghosts and spectres represent the core of what Nighthaunt are about. Coming at the enemy in waves of spectral figures at great speed, and striking fear into the hearts of man. First launched with the beginning of second edition in the Soul Wars starter set, they have began to settle into the world with a large amount of variety to entice creative listbuilders. Today we’ll be taking a look at how the Nighthaunt have fared with the transition to 3rd edition, and how you might best hit the ground… floating?
The Nighthaunt are all about stacking synergies onto lacklustre troops to supercharge them into inhuman terrors on the battlefield. Heroes are the name of the game here, providing a variety of buffs to the forces at their command and rewarding players who can keep their troops within range of their masters. This is harder than it might seem, considering how tricky it is to keep large units of chaff within 12″ of a hero when you want to make a charge. In addition, as is common for Death armies there are a number of recursion mechanics at play here, allowing you to replenish damage units to wear down your opponent as the game progresses – keep in mind however that Nighthaunt does not have any mechanics to bring destroyed units back, so planning ahead is necessary.
As a former starter army, their allegiance abilities are fairly basic but robust – half of a Nighthaunt army can begin the game in reserve to deep strike onto the battlefield in any of your first 3 turns anywhere on the battlefield more than 9″ away from enemy models. This is obviously a fantastic ability that can really stress your opponent out, as if they’re unable to screen effectively it can mean you can create favourable combat situations and really put the pressure on your opponent. On top of this, their allegiance ability Wave of Terror let’s your units fight IMMEDIATELY in the charge phase if they make an unmodified charge roll of 10 or more – effectively 1 in 6 of charges you make will let you fight immediately and out of sequence, without preventing said unit from subsequently fighting again in the combat phase. It’s not consistent enough to game plan around, but it can really swing a game in your favour in pivotal moments and is a ton of fun.
In addition to the above, Nighthaunt armies sport two universal special rules – Flight and Ethereal. Flight is self explanatory, but Ethereal is a bit of a two edged sword. Ethereal means that Save rolls for your units cannot be modified, both negatively and positively. On the one hand it means your entire army is immune to rend, which can be a huge boon as it means that even your crappiest units can make a save roll and potentially live, regardless of how devastating your opponent’s weaponry is. On the other hand it also means you can’t *improve* your armour saves, and with the entire army sporting no save better than a 4+, this means a lot of coin flip dice rolls and the potential for a poor run of luck devastating your forces.
Rounding out your Allegiance abilities are a 6+ ward save if wholly within 12″ of a friendly Nighthaunt hero, a -1 bravery debuff for your opponent’s units that get too close to your spooky ghosts which is of marginal value, and a hero healing mechanic that comes up so rarely it’s not worth discussing today. Finally, your General can use the Command Ability Spectral Summons to teleport a unit on the board near to him (again outside of 9″ of any enemy models), which can be of huge utility if you have a severely damaged unit you want to pull to safety and replenish for later in the game.
When they first launched Nighthaunt lacked subfactions entirely, however with the release of Broken Realms this has changed, with BR: Be’lakor providing two subfactions for the Nighthaunt – The Emerald Host and Reikenor’s Condemned. EH represents a cavalry based spectral force, providing offensive bonuses to your units of Hexwraiths while also granting them a supremely useful bodyguard ability for your General. RC on the other hand focus on providing buffs for your bread and butter Chainrasps as well as the much maligned Glaivewraith Stalkers, providing a balanced set of buffs and the secondary bonus of letting Reikenor count as your general even when not chosen to be.
Nighthaunt lack the powerful warscrolls to dominate in a scrap, and they lack any real ranged punch to harass from afar. What they excel at however is trickery, providing some incredible board control and movement options while messing with your opponent in a variety of subtle but powerful ways. You’ll rarely table your opponent, but you’ll frequently frustrate them.
The new edition has brought a lot of changes to many factions, and we covered all of the specific changes from the FAQ that dropped day 1 in a separate article. I want to be clear that the changes and rules that will be talked about throughout are those that pertain to Matched Play games, as those are often considered the standard form of play, especially for pick-up games.
The loss of Warscroll Battalions might seem like a huge blow to Nighthaunt, that had a number of interesting and powerful choices to provide buffs to some of their best units, however the army rarely depended on them like some other forces, and when you consider that this is a game wide change there’s an argument to be made that Nighthaunt came out better for their loss than most, as they were never terribly dependent on them to begin with.
What is however keenly felt is the change to All Out Defence and Mystic Shield, which were very useful for Nighthaunt back when they provided reroll 1’s to save… which are now functionally useless to Nighthaunt now that they provide a simple +1 to save rolls. As I mentioned above, the Ethereal rule means that it doesn’t do anything for us. In slightly more cheery news, All Out Attack is great for Nighthaunt, who have ready access to reroll 1’s to hit anyway from the Spirit Torment; and can really benefit from the newer version which grants +1 to hit.
Speaking of Command Abilities, Nighthaunt have loads of ways to spend them with a variety of powerful choices they previously had to be very selective about using, so the changes to Command Point generations are a nice buff to the faction, who can really take advantage to set up favourable situations through canny use of Rally and Redeploy, or other choices like Spectral Summons and the powerful movement CA Death Comes Swiftly, available in Reikenor’s Condemned.
Their Endless Spells got rewritten with 3rd edition, with one notable piece that got a nice buff being the Shyish Reaper, giving the faction access to a valuable tool for dealing with high armour save units. Player’s excited about the new Monstrous Rampage mechanic however may feel somewhat disappointed with Nighthaunt, who currently lack monsters outside of the Mourngul, a Forge World model that sees some fringe play but is somewhat overpriced for what it brings to the table.
Overall, the faction didn’t receive a huge boost with the launch of 3rd edition, but their points changes were largely kind to them and the increased pool of command points to use means they feel much more potent on the tables and able to really take advantage of the faction’s strengths.
With a large unit roster to choose from, it would make little sense to cover every unit here – that will come with an updated Start Competing article due out hopefully later this year. Today I’ll be focusing in on the key units you should know about in 3rd edition, either because they’re a mainstay you should consider including in every list, or that the changes in 3rd mean they warrant a serious look going forward.
For the purposes of simplicity, I’m going to break down what I consider the core pieces of Nighthaunt to be by their role in your army:
The Support Pieces – The army still lives and dies by it’s leaders and other support untis, which help turn them from mediocre chaff into reasonably killy fighters. Most lists still want a Guardian of Souls and Spirit Torment which buff their basic combat prowess and help keep them in the fight longer, with the Knight of Shrouds (both on foot and on steed) provide less necessary but still reasonable offensive buffs through their Command Abilities. The Black Coach is a much maligned behemoth which doesn’t quite last as long as you would like, doesn’t quite kill as much as you would like and doesn’t quite *do* as much as you would like, however it’s ability to put d3 models back into a Summonable unit is very useful if you have a more expensive elite tarpit like the Spirit Hosts forming a large part of your army. One last noteworthy inclusion to discuss before we move on is the Krulghast Cruciator, which provides a reasonable decent ranged attack at a cheapish price that boosts your ward save to a 5+ (but only against regular wounds!) for units wholly within 12″ of it provided it managed to successfully damage something with it’s ranged attacks.
The Named Characters – Olynder is a potent glass cannon, providing mortal wounds galore on a body that’s fragile enough that means she typically dies to any real sustained ranged pressure, though she projects enough strength she’s often worth the risk. Reikenor provides a vital utility role for Nighthaunt, as he can wound himself with his Corpse Candle ability to cast a spell with a +3 modifier, which can be extremely helpful for pushing key spells through some of the more potent casters that other armies typically bring to the table.
The Chaff – Chainrasps saw a price bump in 3rd, but remain one of our most cost efficient ways of putting bodies on the table. A block of 30 are still a nightmare for your opponent to remove, and can put out a surprising amount of damage with sufficient support, even without rend. Spirit Hosts are in a weird spot in that they’re elite chaff – they are small in number, but synergise really well with the Command Trait Ruler of the Spirit Hosts and the aforementioned Black Coach, putting back 3 wound 4+ ethereal bodies to frustrate your opponent if they take control of a key objective.
The Damage Dealers – Dreadscythe Harridans are one of the standouts here, moving to 160 points for 10 that can really put out a surprising amount of damage for their cost, and scale very well with buffs. Coherency changes means you’re unlikely to ever reinforce them to units of 20, but they’re fantastic reserve options to put the pressure on weaker parts of your opponent’s forces. Another reasonable winner from 3rd are Grimghast Reapers, which went down to 155 points for 10 and don’t particularly mind the coherency changes with their 2″ reach weapons – reinforce them to a unit of 20 and fling them forward with buffs and watch them slice and dice. Finishing out the trifecta are Bladegheist Revenants who are the most expensive variant and lack neither the cost effectiveness of Harridans or the battleline utility of Grimghasts… That said, their ability to retreat and charge gives them unparalleled offensive mobility that makes them at least warrant a look if you have the points to spare.
The Leftovers – Hexwraiths become reasonable inclusions in Emerald Host due to the boosted offense as well as the bodyguard ability, otherwise they are expensive lacklustre battleline best left at home. Glaivewraith Stalkers are our cheapest unit at 60 points, and can server a purpose if all you want is a cheap unit to fling into the opponent’s territory for battle tactic purposes or screening. Myrmourn Banshees are at least *reasonable* at 75 points for 4, but unless you expect to face a lot of magic they’re likely an easy cut.
How to Play
Sit back and let them come to you ideally – you lack the offensive punch to make an alpha strike warranted, and if you construct your list to be as low drop as possible to control priority it can mean you can insulate yourself against a double while giving yourself an opportunity for a double yourself. Establish board control with Chainrasp Hordes and Spirit Hosts and then react accordingly, your buffs are too vital to overextend through long charges into enemy lines. The aim of the game here is to outlast your opponent, so you want to make sure they’re incapable of getting at your caramel centre of support heroes if you can. Not bringing a Monster means your opponent only has 7 battle tactics to choose from, and if you can narrow their choices further through effective board control you can seek to eke out a narrow victory if the game goes long.
That said, if your opponent is effective at ranged you are going to be forced on the offensive. At that point it’s about trading units to maintain board control and try to win through establishing an early lead and clinging to it, as you can’t really expect to keep up with other armies once they’ve sniped your support pieces off the board. Don’t be tempted into combat unless you are confident of success, as these units simply aren’t capable of killing your opponent outright unless you get some lucky Wave of Terror charges.
I’m a firm believer in the Reikenor’s Condemned subfaction, as it doesn’t lock you into a command trait and it’s artefact is a useful utility piece for helping guarantee a spell in a tricky spot. Chainrasps are still our bread and butter, and you’ll likely want to include at least one unit of 30 to push up the board with Death Comes Swiftly to help establish early board control of the centre. We need the centre to function effectively, as this army doesn’t do well when forced to string out it’s units to fight on flanks. Board control and concede ground slowly, and let opportunities present themselves as your opponent overextends.
Now looking at those subfactions lets look at what a sample army list might look like. This is a 2,000 point matched play list, generated using the Warscroll Builder web app.
Allegiance: Nighthaunt - Procession: Reikenor's Condemned - Grand Strategy: Predator's Domain - Triumphs: Bloodthirsty Leaders Spirit Torment (115) in Battle Regiment - Artefact: Midnight Tome - Shademist Guardian of Souls with Nightmare Lantern (135) in Warlord - Artefact: Corpse Candle - Lore of the Underworlds: Soul Cage Reikenor the Grimhailer (165) in Warlord - Lore of the Underworlds: Shademist Krulghast Cruciator (120) in Warlord - General - Command Trait: Ruler of the Spirit Hosts Battleline 30 x Chainrasp Horde (285) in Warlord - Reinforced x 2 6 x Spirit Hosts (250) in Battle Regiment - Reinforced x 1 20 x Grimghast Reapers (310) in Battle Regiment - Reinforced x 1 Units 10 x Dreadscythe Harridans (160) in Battle Regiment 10 x Dreadscythe Harridans (160) in Battle Regiment Behemoths Black Coach (220) in Battle Regiment Endless Spells & Invocations Shyish Reaper (70) Core Battalions Warlord Battle Regiment Additional Enhancements Artefact Total: 1990 / 2000 Reinforced Units: 4 / 4 Allies: 0 / 400 Wounds: 123
In my own builds I tend to run Mannfred for access to a powerful monster hero, but for the purposes of this exercise I’ve kept myself strictly Nighthaunt. This list has the bodies to hold objectives and a lot of staying power to stretch the game out and grind out wins. I would typically put the Harridans, the Curciator and situationally the Grimghast Reapers in reserve, with the rest going down on the board. Aim of the game early is to give the opponent first turn and then establish board control from there, not taking a double turn if the opportunity presents itself unless a very good opportunity presents itself. The GoS and Spirit Torment stay with the rasps and the Spirit Hosts take up position with the Black Coach on the centre/flank. I tend to overload the centre and one side and concede the other flank unless necessary, as Nighthaunt doesn’t do well spread out. My Cruciator comes down turn 1 in an advantageous spot to project out a bubble of 5+ wound ward, while the Harridans and/or Grimghasts wait for positions to open up on the flanks to maintain control of the board and punish armies that go wide.
Reikenor generally hangs back and casts Shyish Reaper turn two after a boosted Shademist turn one. If your opponent let’s Shyish Reaper hang around (bad idea), he casts his amazing warscroll spell to punish elite targets with mortal wounds. Committing him to battle is generally a bad idea, though in a pinch he can do some hero hunting with his exceptional movement capabilities. This list is all about waiting for your opponent to make an unforced error and then seizing the opportunity, as I’ve stressed multiple times the aim here isn’t to overpower… just outlast.
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