Getting Started: Slaves to Darkness

At Goonhammer we’ve devoted a lot of words to talking about how to compete and take your game to the next level. In “Getting Started,” we look at how to get started with an army – the basics you need to know, how to start collecting models that will leave you with a serviceable army, and what the best deals are..

Are you a bad enough dude to kick Sigmar in the junk? Do horns, spikes, chains, and skulls appeal to you? Do you like walls of plate mail, and oiled abs only slightly less durable than said platemail? Does the idea of a startlingly diverse combined arms army stir your army-mustering loins? Is the term “muscle wizard” aspirational for you? Do you want to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their forum posts? (Editor: This is too many questions to ask) If you answered “yes” to any of the above, then this is the army for you! In this article, I’ll be talking about the Slaves to Darkness and how to get started collecting and playing them.


Who Are the Daves Slaves to Darkness?

Chaos Warriors. Credit: SRM

Slaves to Darkness are the quintessential “bad guy” faction in Age of Sigmar. They’re the mortal worshippers of the Chaos gods, and they represent the majority of the human population in the Mortal Realms. Theirs is a slightly weird army that benefits from both being a legacy Warhammer Fantasy Battles army as well as one that ties into the releases for Age of Sigmar’s skirmish variant, Warcry. As a result you can build an army ranging from hordes of lightly armored barbarians led by tribal chieftains, to a disciplined wall of steel backed up by elite cavalry, all the way up to a herd of Chaotic kaiju. No matter what kind of army you want to build (so long as you don’t mind being “capital E” Evil), you can find it here.


Army Strengths

Slaves to Darkness have several strengths that will impact how you build your army.

  • Diversity. You can build towards just about any sort of army here, and mix and match once you have a decent collection going.
  • Strong Battleline Units. Chaos Warriors are every bit as tough as your typical Stormcast Eternal, Chaos Marauders are shockingly efficient, and Chaos Knights can pull off some devastating charges. Your Battleline units aren’t just a tax to pay, but credible threats on their own.
  • Melee CombatThe whole army is geared towards cracking/collecting skulls, and those abilities are only bolstered by their command abilities and spells. Speaking of…
  • Great Characters. Chaos Lords are living bulldozers. Sorceror Lords are cheap, tough, and have access to some great support and offensive spells. Darkoath Chieftains and Warqueens are cheap ways to bolster your hordes. Archaon is one of the meanest units in the entire game. No matter what point level, there’s a good hero choice to be found.
  • Great Magic. In addition to having a wealth of effective unit and faction-wide spells available to them, wizards are cheap and easy to fit into an army. Just about any army should start with a pair of Sorceror Lords of one flavor or another, as they’re extremely useful force multipliers.
  • Ally Options. You can take allies in any Age of Sigmar army, and Chaos has a hell of a lot to draw from.

Army Weaknesses

  • No Shooting. Outside of Marauder Horsemen’s javelins and the Soulgrinder, there’s next to no shooting to be found in this army at all. You’re going to have to get up close and personal.
  • Redundancies. While the addition of the Warcry Cultists are extremely cool, at the end of the day most of them are pretty samey, and are often just worse Marauders. Furiesand Raptoryxsimilarly serve the same fast chaff role as Marauder Horsemen.Basically, if it comes from Warcry, it’s probably not extra great on the tabletop in Age of Sigmar.
  • Can Be Extremely Points-Hungry. It’s very easy to lose the plot and drop 750 points on characters before you’ve added any troops to the army, and even then a block of Warriors big enough to really take advantage of their Legions of Chaos rule will be at least 300 points.
  • Lack of Rend and Mortal Wound Output. Outside of your heroes and hardest hitting elite units, you won’t see a whole ton of these high quality attacks come out of a Slaves to Darkness army.
  • The Army Hinges on Heroes. While your beatstick Lords and Warqueens buff everyone around them, once they go down the army can start to fall apart. Playing this army can be a delicate balancing act of using your prime killers in the right fights and keeping them alive.

Recommended Steps

  • Get the Battletome
  • Pick a direction to go with the force, which will probably start with the Start Collecting! box
  • Collect models to taste
  • Toss in a few bicep curls for good measure


The Rulebooks

You don’t technically need any rulebooks to build your armies in AoS, but to unlock the more flavorful and powerful options out there it’s best to grab the Battletome. If you just want to throw down a real quick game before buying in, you can build an army using the Age of Sigmar app on your phone and the official Warscroll Builder on Warhammer Community. It’s recommended you grab the Battletome though, as it’s pretty instrumental to play the army. Check out our Battletome Overview if you really want to do your homework.

The Battletome

While there’s free ways to build any army, they only scratch the surface. The layered rules of Damned Legions, Aura of Chaos, Eye of the Gods, Warscroll Battalions, and the Lore of the Damned make it a pretty essential piece of reference material if you want to play the army effectively. The painting guides are basic but helpful, and there’s even extra stuff for Path to Glory campaigns and an exclusive battleplan. Lastly, there’s four short stories by Aaron Dembski-Bowden in here, and if that doesn’t make you want to buy it I don’t know what will.

Wrath of the Everchosen

This is hardly essential to the average Slaves to Darkness player, but unlocks even more options for army composition. Alice went over it pretty extensively in her review, but if you want even more lore, even more battleplans, and even more ways to build an army, it’s a good next step.


Starting Your Army

Silks Chaos Lord
Credit: Silks

There are a number of viable ways to build a Slaves to Darkness force, but it’s hard to go wrong with any of them. No matter what style of army you are building towards, you will almost invariably want some of the same building blocks – Sorceror Lords, Daemon Princes, Chaos Knights, Chaos Warriors, and Cultists of one flavor or another. Unfortunately, most of the box sets one could start the army with are no longer in production, but in case your FLGS still has one warming the shelf I’ll go over them all.

Start Collecting: Slaves to Darkness

The first and most aptly named starting point is the Start Collecting! Slaves to Darknessset. This has 10 Warriors, 5 Knights, and a Lord on Karkadrak, all exclusive to this set at the time of writing. It’s alone among Start Collecting! boxes in that every model in it is unique to the set, and their construction has more in common with monobuild starter sets than multipart plastic kits. The models inside are a nice modernization of the existing Warrior and Knight kits which have been kicking around since long before Age of Sigmar was a glimmer in GW’s eye, and the Lord on Karkadrak is an extremely solid choice for your general.


Untamed Beasts. Credit: Brin

The starter set for Warcry (if you can find it) is a great way to get some terrain to play on, but the pair of Cultist units, Furies, and Raptoryx inside aren’t necessarily the best way to start a Slaves to Darkness army. They’re fun units to use in-game (if not exactly the most effective, compared to Marauders) but this set is not going to give you enough bodies, points, or characters to really get an army off the ground. However, if you already have it and play Warcry, you should try giving Age of Sigmar a shot.

Slaves to Darkness: Harbingers of Ruin

If you want a cavalry-heavy army, this set is a pretty decent buy. 2 Chaos Chariots and a unit of 5 Chaos Knights is a good start to a heavily armored and mobile force. Combine it with the Start Collecting! set for the Lord on Karkadrak or a Chaos Lord on Daemonic Steed or Manticore and you can get a fast and deadly Ravagers army (and a Ruinbringer Warband Warscroll Battalion, at that) started in no time.

Slaves to Darkness: Godsworn Warband

This is one of those seasonal Battleforce boxes and boy howdy does it got a lot of plastic in it. 16 Chaos Warriors, 10 Chaos Knights, a Chaos Chariot, Chaos Warshrine, and Chaos Lord/Sorceror Lord on Manticore kit make this an army in a box, easily clocking in at over 1200 points. If you can find this, it’s a solid core to any Ravagers or Cabalist army.


Expanding Your Army

Slaves to Darkness armies must choose a Damned Legions ability, each of which benefits a different kind of build. This means even a casual player should put a little thought into what their army contains, and how these rules will benefit them. They cover a number of the archetypes you would hope a Slaves to Darkness army would have, from the teeming hordes of barbarians of a classic Warriors of Chaos army, to the hyper elite Varanguard cavalry that accompany the big lad Archaon himself. There are four to be found in the Slaves to Darkness battletome, with a few more options in the Wrath of the Everchosen expansion.

If You…

…Like Buff Dudes and Platemail

Ravagers are the classic Warriors of Chaos army as old Warhammer Fantasy Battles heads will know. Hordes of cheap Marauders, heavily armored Warriors, elite Knights and a smattering of supporting monsters and characters make up this classic Chaos army. The Ravagers’ Glory for the Taking battle trait allows up to 6 total Mortal Slaves to Darkness characters to pick a command trait, meaning this benefits armies with lots of heroes. You can really spread around your hero abilities with this one, and given how good Slaves to Darkness heroes tend to be and how much the army hinges around them, this is hugely beneficial to almost any Slaves to Darkness collection. First timers will probably gravitate towards this Damned Legion, as it provides immediate and obvious bonuses to a pretty standard Slaves to Darkness army. One or two Start Collecting! sets, a Sorceror Lord, a box or two of Cultists, some Darkoath characters and you’re in business.

Darkoath Chieftain and Chaos Lord with Lava bases. Credit: Richyp

…Want Wwondrous Wwwizards

Cabalists focus on Sorceror Lords and spellcasting, so if you’re a big fan of Endless Spells this is the build for you. There are a number of ways to boost spellcasting reliability, most thematically through their Binding Rituals. These let them sacrifice friendly models to get a bonus to their casting rolls, so you’ll want a lot of chaff infantry to dispose of here. Start with a Chaos Sorceror Lord on or off a Manticore, some Endless Spells to toss out, a bunch of Cultists to sacrifice, some Warriors to buff, and get casting.

Chaos Sorceror Lord. Credit: SRM

…Are a Monster Mash Enthusiast

Despoilers are where Daemon Princes, Mutalith Vortex Beasts, and all the sundry giant monsters generally hang out, and a Daemon Prince must be your General. Sacrilegious Might grants expanded aura ranges, meaning your units have a little more room to spread out, and Blessed by the Unholy regenerates lost wounds on your big lugs. Lastly, Twisted Dominion lets your Daemon Princes turn a piece of terrain Pitch Black to block line of sight and protect your valuable melee monsters, or make a Nightmare Chasm which can cause some damage to enemy units around them. You can play Gotta Catch ‘Em All with Chaos Monsters in this force and do fairly well, but you’ll definitely want to start with a couple Daemon Princes. It might be worth it to grab some Marauder Horsemen for some cheap scoring units that can keep up with the big bois, or a Sorceror Lord on Manticore to fly around and zap/buff dudes while benefitting from your Legion special rules.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

…Are an Archaon Stan

Host of the Everchosen focuses on King Shit of Chaos Mountain himself, Archaon. He rides to war with his Varanguard and the Gaunt Summoners, making for a rather restrictive list of available models. However, these are the elite of the elite (of the elite) and each model is going to hit like a freight train. Archaon boosts the effectiveness of Varanguard so much that it almost becomes a crime not to take him if you’re leaning heavily into Chaos’ premiere shock cavalry. There’s then the Eight Circles of the Varanguard, giving a player 8 different ways to use their heaviest of heavy cavalry. Wrath of the Everchosen grants an alternative version of this build, Knights of the Empty Throne, if for some reason you want to take Varanguard without Archaon. This helps them score better and act as heroes, and might serve as a good stepping stone if you’ve built up some Varanguard without getting to the big man himself yet. Grab yourself a couple boxes of Varanguard, a Gaunt Summoner, some Horrors for him to summon, and Archaon as the cherry on top.

Gaunt Sorcerer. Credit: Sulecrist


A Sample List Using the Start Collecting Box

I’m going to build a very typical Ravagers force here, because that is the most representative of the army as a whole and the easiest to get started with. I’ll start with a solid 1000 points:

General: Chaos Lord on Karkadrak – 250

Leader: Chaos Sorceror Lord – 110

Leader: Chaos Sorceror Lord – 110

Battleline: Chaos Knights x5, Cursed lances – 180

Battleline: Chaos Warriors x10, Hand weapons and shields – 200

Battleline: Chaos Marauders x20, Axes and shields – 150

In a smaller game, I can keep the Lord with the Knights and drive a wedge right into whatever the meanest thing on the table is. Ideally, the Chaos Warriors would be following up just behind, ready to engage whatever the Lord and Knights don’t run down. The Sorceror Lords get a special role here, as one can sling the brick of 20 Marauders wherever they need to with Mask of Darkness, and the other can buff whoever needs it with Daemonic Power, their default spell. The trick here is once your army’s stuck in, your General can use their Rally the Tribes ability and bring in a free unit of 10 Cultists or 5 Marauder Horsemen. This can be recycling 10 of your dead Marauders, or bringing in one of the Warcry warbands for whatever you’d like. Iron Golems are popular for this, as they can be brought in to hold an objective, and with their rerollable 4+ save on turns where they stand still, they’re gonna hold that objective.

Now lets see how we can expand this to 2000 points!

General: Chaos Lord on Karkadrak – 250

Leader: Slaves to Darkness Daemon Prince – 210

Leader: Chaos Sorceror Lord – 110

Leader: Chaos Sorceror Lord – 110

Battleline: Chaos Knights x5, Cursed lances – 180

Battleline: Chaos Knights x5, Cursed lances – 180

Battleline: Chaos Warriors x20, Hand weapons and shields – 400

Battleline: Chaos Marauder Horsemen x5, Javelins and shields – 90

Battleline: Chaos Marauder Horsemen x5, Javelins and shields – 90

Battleline: Chaos Marauders x20 – 150

Battleline: Chaos Marauders x20 – 150

Behemoth: Chaos Warshrine – 170

This list builds on the innate strengths of the Battleline units here by doubling most of the Start Collecting box, but buffed by the Chaos Warshrine. Whatever mark you take, it gives a massive boost to your units within 18″, either making them more durable or more deadly. The infantry can advance surrounded by its aura while the Knights ride up with your Karkadrak Lord. By doubling up on Marauder units, you can control huge swathes of the board and keep slinging them all over the place with Mask of Darkness. The Warshrine will invariably be a fire magnet, so once it goes down you have permission to spread your army out and charge into whatever needs killing most. Again, Rally the Tribes to bring in some extra jamokes will be helpful for that backfield objective holding or just supporting the charge of your Marauder Horsemen with more bodies. Lastly, I added a Daemon Prince to this list, as they’re extremely killy. Their command abilities are kind of iffy and they don’t benefit from the Ravagers‘ multiple command traits rule, but as far as beatsticks go, a Daemon Prince is hard to beat.

What’s Next

Knights of Chaos. Credit: SRM

You might even want to get a second Warshrine here, given how good they are. You can also pivot from here to something like the Ruinbringer Warband Warscroll Battalion, which lets Slaves to Darkness cavalry spit out mortal wounds like there’s no tomorrow. Once you have a core down, you can also expand into some of the more specialized characters, like the Darkoath Warqueen and Chieftain, who will enhance your (somewhat squishy, extremely cheap) Cultist units. If you’re feeling spicy, you could take big mobs of each of the Cultist units, just for the variety of them all. You might even decide that your existing command options aren’t expensive or nasty enough, and upgrade to a Chaos Sorceror Lord on Manticore. Picking up the Endless Spells probably wouldn’t be a bad option either, as even Ravagers can find some use for them.

The great thing about Slaves to Darkness is you can gradually include the various units in your existing army until you feel like switching over for a game. It would be extremely easy to pivot to Cabalists from the initial Start Collecting! list, and building a Host of the Everchosen army is pretty self explanatory. The odd one out here is Despoilers, as some of the monsters are kinda crummy, but there’s nothing wholly unusable on the tabletop or that won’t find a place in another list.

Seek Glory Through Battle

You should now have everything you need to start building a Slaves to Darkness army and playing with the faction but if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at or head over to r/goonhammer to discuss. We’re always happy to answer questions and help new players out.