Slaves to Darkness Darkoath Battletome Supplement: Rules Review

We would like to thank Games Workshop for providing us an early copy of the Darkoath army box and rules for review purposes.

Credit- Games Workshop

The Darkoath Battletome Supplement is here and adds a few units to the Slaves to Darkness arsenal. AoS Coach has a video with some additional thoughts. Most of the supplement’s contents are narrative in nature and will be covered once the next Dawnbringers fleshes out the Darkoath story. This supplement features four new warscrolls. Here’s our first impressions before getting into the specifics:

SRM: As someone who was Barbarian-pilled at an early age by Gauntlet, Conan, and Heroquest, I was thrilled to see the Darkoath range expanded. The Chaos Marauders and Marauder Horsemen kits are both old as hell, and a mounted option for Darkoath Chieftains just makes sense. I was also happy to see the culture of the faction expand with the Wilderfiend, which is a far more interesting take on the classic Chaos Spawn idea. The rules I’m less enthusiastic about, and not just because they’ll be invalid in a few months.

AoS Coach: What is best in life? To roll more 6s, see your enemies roll a 1 on a redeploy, and the addition of Darkoath to the ranks of the Ruinous Power. I’m pumped with this release! The Darkoath give us a sneak peak into the mortals Sigmar abandoned while providing Slaves to Darkness players a range of models that won’t drive you crazy painting trim. I was so excited that I built this box over two nights and now I’m eyeballing adding Archaon the Everchosen to lead my tribe.

Marchettus: The package that the Darkoath come in is great and the printed supplement is mostly lore with the rules we outline below. From a rules perspective, this might be the slightest release that Games Workshop has ever done for a mainline game. The rules aren’t gamechangers and most of the warscrolls have a similar function in the current Slaves to Darkness book.

Darkoath Chieftain
Darkoath Chieftain. Credit: That Gobbo

The Rules

This supplement doesn’t include any additional allegiance abilities, subfactions, artifacts, or mount traits. Since Darkoath lack the proper keywords they also can’t take Ensorcelled Banners, typically the marquee rule for Slaves to Darkness armies. The lightly armored Darkoath units all have a 5+ save and the Undivided mark. Unlike Slaves to Darkness units with the Mark of Chaos, this locks them into an underwhelming mark that opens up a command ability in the combat phase that adds +1 to wound rolls for attacks made with melee weapons that target a Hero or Monster.

The four units included in the supplement are:

Darkoath Marauders: These are your basic sword or spear battleline unit with a 5+ save, a single wound, and a 6″ move with a champion/standard bearer/musician combination. At only 80 points you can do much worse in most armies when looking at cheap objective grabbers, and they would fulfill that role. In Slaves to Darkness they are currently outclassed by some of the soon to be invalidated Warcry warbands, like the deepstriking Corvus Cabal. They do have an oath that is fulfilled on an unmodified charge of 7+ that improves rend on melee weapons for the rest of the battle. They also have a rule that reads like a 2.0 gitz book rule where “If wholly within 12” and “slain by melee” you “pick one enemy unit” and “roll a dice looking for a 5+”. If you follow that chain correctly you do a single mortal wound.

Ignoring the sundry Warcry Warbands, they do outperform the more expensive Chaos Marauders units with higher bravery, a better save, or more attacks, all while saving 10 points. Until these units are removed there are plenty of 80 point battleline units in the Slaves to Darkness book.

Darkoath Fellriders: This is your basic skirmish cavalry with a 5+ save, 12” move, and a short-ranged javelin or broadsword. The Darkoath Fellriders also have a decent oath, allowing them to gain an additional rend on Javelins or broadswords (bringing them from -1 to -2) if they finish a charge move against an enemy unit that is more than 3″ from any unit in your army. This oath doesn’t prevent you from getting one of your units into combat after finishing the charge either. They also absorb Unleash Hell and shooting with the “swift raiders” ability that reduces hit rolls by 1 from shooting attacks or, if the target of Unleash Hell, only allows them to be hit on an unmodified roll of a 6.

Fast movers that grab objectives and tie up shooting units are always useful. For an army that can be rather slow, Slaves to Darkness will get a lot of use out of these. At 125 points they are slightly more expensive and survivable Chaos Marauder Horsemen. However, your local meta is going to determine if the 15 points could be better used elsewhere as the mortal realms are dark and full of terrors.

Darkoath Chieftain On Warsteed: At 110 points this unit is… fine? As a hero the Chieftain is able to make rolls on the Eye of the Gods table for some additional benefits. He moves well enough to keep up with the Fellriders and has four attacks  at 3+/3+/-1/2 and can spike a few mortal wounds with his Cursed Weapon. His mount has a Blade-Mask and 3 Iron-shod Hooves attacks (one must have fallen off in the charge) that will rarely amount to much. His special trick is that he can pick two different heroic actions instead of one and can select Heroic Leadership twice. Finally, his oath is accomplished when he fights first in your combat phase. If you complete it, friendly Mortal Darkoath units wholly within 12” get +1 to wound on melee attacks.

On the plus side this is a buffing unit that can potentially give a great buff to Darkoth units, and one that is much needed considering how much 4+ to wound there is among them. On the downside, this unit works best where there are A LOT of Darkoath units and getting them on the table in time to play a game is going to cost a lot of time and money. The juice is very much not going to be worth the squeeze.

Darkoath Wilderfiend: This guy is a little weird, and we normally love weird little guys at Goonhammer. Unfortunately, his ruleset is currently a pu pu platter of abilities that don’t really connect. First, he is not visible to enemy models that are more than 12” away. This is a nifty little ability for any model, especially for him and his need to stay close to the fight. His main ability is Feed on Flesh, a support ability similar to the Auric Flamekeeper’s if you’re familiar. Each time a model is slain within 12” of any friendly units with this ability, pick one to receive one sacrifice point, or two points if those models were Darkoath. Since you have to pick one, that means that you can’t have two Wilderfiends benefiting from the same sacrifice. Each Wilderfiend can have a maximum of six points. At the end of your hero phase you can pick the following effects and roll dice equal to the number of sacrifice points the unit has.

These abilities are:

  • Eye of the Dark Patron: For each 5+ pick 1 friendly Mortal Darkoath unit wholly within 18” of this unit. Until the end of the turn the strike-first effect applies to that unit.
  • Mind Shroud: For each 4+, pick 1 enemy unit within 12” of this unit. Until the end of the turn that unit cannot issue or receive commands. This is probably the best ability as turning off commands is incredibly powerful. However, the 12” range means that you need to start your hero phase in danger to make use of it.
  • Warping Balefire: For each 3+ pick 1 enemy unit within 18”. That unit suffers 1 mortal wound, and the same unit can be selected multiple times. Crucially, models slain by this effect do not themselves generate sacrifice points. 
  • Dark Might: For each 2+ heal 1 wound allocated to this unit. In addition, for each 6+ you can add 1 to this units wounds characteristic for the rest of the battle. 

So why is this so unfortunate? Since the abilities occur at the end of your hero phase, that means that you’ve already picked a battle tactic, cast spells, and used a host of other buffs. You’re also not able to generate sacrifice points during the turn that would allow you to buff your units on your opponent’s turn. Being able to turn off commands or give strike first to your thinly armored units during your opponent’s turn would be extremely useful. Letting our weird little guy heal up in any phase might not be the most interesting ability out there, but would increase the survivability and usefulness of the Dark Might rule.

Finally, each time a friendly Darkoath Hero is slain, if any friendly Darkoath Wilderfiends have also been slain, you can roll a dice. On a 2+ pick 1 friendly Darkoath Wilderfiend that has been slain and set it up again within 6” of a terrain feature or battlefield edge, more than 9” from all enemy units with no wounds allocated and its sacrifice points reset to 0. The same one can keep coming back as well, so you’ll potentially get a lot of mileage out of the model from this box.

Overall this is a “meh” ability that requires you to sequence when your own units die, with the Wilderfiend going down first, then a Darkoath hero. There is a bit of anti-synergy (I believe the scientific term is “nonbo”SRM) with the Chieftain on Warsteed as his oath is fulfilled once he fights first – meaning a smart opponent engaged with both units can focus on killing the hero first and negating this ability. This ability has a bit of play in the Ravagers subfaction as the hero that was slain can then be returned if you were able to time the deaths correctly. However

Other Darkoath Units: There are a few other Darkoath Units that have already been introduced to the Mortal Realms. The Darkoath Chieftain and Darkoath Warqueen are cheap foot heroes adept at buffing their Darkoath compatriots. Theddra Soul-Scryer and the Godsworn Hunt are a finnicky little Warhammer Underworlds warband with an okay debuff spell and noth much else. Lastly are the only comparable unit to the ones in this box, the Darkoath Savagers Warcry warband. The Savagers serve as more defensive (relatively speaking) unit that gains a 5+ ward when they take over an objective that the enemy had controlled. They’re a smidge more expensive than the Marauders with higher damage but lower rend weapons, and the ability to occasionally generate a command point. None of these units are part of this supplement, but if you wanted to go hard into Darkoath, these units should be part of your plans.

Darkoath Savagers. Credit: SRM

How would you grade these rules?

SRM: I think the oaths are cute, but largely superfluous. These are absolutely the kind of rules I will forget every game. On units this cheap and squishy, I don’t think they’ll matter very much even if they do come into play. There’s design space in oaths for the future, but these rules aren’t there yet. Looking at the Wilderfiend’s warscroll, I can only summon the word “interesting” in the same bemused tone as my sophomore year creative writing teacher when she read my first homework assignment. It’s a reasonably punchy (if extremely squishy) little monster with a bushel of bookkeeping attached that feels far, far too complicated for this scale of game. Tracking resources works in a limited capacity on an army scale, but for a single model with a number of very swingy abilities, it feels like too much. In a lot of ways these feel like rules that were trying very, very hard to make what are nominally a bunch of chumps and chaff more interesting. 

AoS Coach: This depends on what I’m looking for. If I’m an existing Slaves to Darkness player who is looking to add some cheap bodies or fast cav, the Darkoath Marauders and Darkoath Fellriders are self-contained warscrolls. Marauders are dirt cheap battleline at 80pts for 10 models while the Fellriders can keep up with your Chaos Knights and Varangauard while soaking up an Unleash Hell and chipping away with both shooting and combat (build them with javelins). The Wilderfiend really comes into its own if I’m leaning into a heavy Darkoath focused force that’s taking multiple Darkoath heroes but I wouldn’t add it solo in the average Slaves list, you’re paying too many points for the Cursed Origin ability you can’t take advantage of. The Eyes of the Gods and various Oath abilities will add another flavour to your army… or add layer of book keeping depending on how you like to play. Ultimately with Darkoath you are getting what you pay for as these kits are low points costs and can slot into an existing Slaves force. They won’t immediately replace your Chosen as the latest hotness but adds a nice variety to your collection.

Marchettus: If I can’t give them an incomplete I’m forced to give the rules a D+. There isn’t anything in these rules that would compel a tournament player to buy multiple boxes and that isn’t a bad thing given where we are in the lifecycle of the game. At best you’re replacing a unit that doesn’t see play all that often. The value of this box isn’t going to live and die by the short-time rules and I think you’ll know instantly if the models are appealing to you to collect and paint.

How would you use these warscrolls in a list?

SRM: I probably won’t before fourth edition to be completely honest, given how long it will take to paint these lovely models. With the Warcry cultists largely going the way of the dodo, the Marauders will absolutely be taking their place as chaff, charge blockers, and objective grabbers in my army. As cool as the Darkoath are, it’s the Chosen, characters, and other platemailed jerks who do the heavy lifting in a Slaves to Darkness army. If the Fellriders stay cheap, they’ll absolutely secure their place as fast objective grabbers and harassment units. The Wilderfiend seems like more trouble than it’s worth at the moment, and I can only see myself taking the Chieftain on Warsteed if I leaned harder into a Fellrider-heavy army. 

AoS Coach: We discuss this in greater detail on my preview video with Martin Orlando but in summary I’m either taking a Ravagers or Knights of the Empty Throne list. Ravagers will be that heavy focused Darkoath where I’m taking lots of Darkoath heroes + the Wilderfiend + plenty of Cultists (while I can) and Darkoath troops. This list likely lacks punch if it’s heavy Darkoath so I’d add an Archaon as well as the Darkoath WarQueen for that 5+ ward. I would add 1-2 units of Fellriders to a Varanguard heavy KotET along with the Chief on Horse for that juicy +1 to wound bubble for the Fellriders (sorry, won’t work for our armoured Slaves friends). With fourth edition on the horizon I’d be taking my time to paint these models while giving my Warcry cultists a final hoorah and less worried about Darkoath rules in third. 

Marchettus: Some of the rules, especially the Wilderfiend, really want you to have A LOT of Darkoath units on the board in a way that just isn’t practical and likely isn’t going to be good for competitive play. The Darkoath Marauders and Darkoath Fellriders can easily slip into a Slaves to Darkness list as cheap objective grabbers and screening units. When the Ironjawz Battletome Supplement dropped, the Reign of the Brute happened at the same time with an Army or Renown that, while not good, at least encouraged you to try the big pigs and test out unique artifacts and command traits. I think that the best way to get these models on the table is to use the Fellriders to screen and absorb Unleash Hell, and use Marauders as cheap objective grabbers. Both of these units get some additional rend from completing the oath but it really isn’t enough to make you rush out and get this box strictly based on rules. However, if you have a large number of Darkoath units or have a TO willing to let you proxy some models, I think there is a pretty average army out there that can flood the board, advance into combat, and then come back using the Ravagers subfaction.

Final Thoughts

SRM: I think we’ll be seeing Fellriders and Marauders in a lot of armies down the line, if only because they’re cheap bodies who can zone out parts of the table, nab objectives, and protect your more valuable units. It wouldn’t shock me if there were builds that leaned hard into Darkoath in the future like the existing Ravagers subfaction, but they probably won’t be the stars of the show. If anything, this just felt like an opportunity to replace some old as hell models, add a bit of background, and rush out some rough draft rules before 4th edition.

Marchettus: If you’re reckless enough to swear an oath to paint these models I’m sure you will be rewarded with two sets of rules in the coming months. First this supplement is going to have additional rules from the final Dawnbringers book. If that isn’t enough your getting completely new rules when fourth edition drops. After our crack painting team has some time to paint up these models we will release our model review but I would be remiss if I didn’t say how great and thematic these units are.

If you have questions, feedback, or you just want to share what your plans for the Darkoath will be, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at