Chaos Knights were a very unique army in 9th. Besides just being a vehicle skew army, they had some very flavorful and powerful mechanics that played off morale in ways nothing else in the game did. With 10th increasing the power of vehicles by tuning down bracketing and pumping up toughness and battle-shock taking a more central role to gameplay, Chaos Knights stand to be a potentially very interesting faction in 10th.
Before we begin we’d like to thank Games Workshop for providing us with a review copy of the Index
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Harbingers of Dread
Chaos Knights keep their leadership focus with their faction rule Harbingers of Dread. Starting on turn one you get the Despair aura, meaning that if any enemy units are within 12” of any of your knights they take -1 to their Battle-shock or Leadership tests. On turn three onwards, you get the Doom and Darkness rules, giving you +1 to wound if attacking a Battle-shocked unit and -1 to be hit from battle-shocked units. While the Doom and Darkness rules won’t be in play all the time, handing out a simple -1 to the tests is incredibly powerful. Almost no one is immune to the impacts of morale in 10th Edition, and even Space Marine characters usually hover around 6+ so there are very few models that won’t care about this rule, especially when paired with the detachment rule.
Super Heavy Walker
All the big knights also have Super Heavy Walker, which allows you to move over non-titanic models and move over things 4” or less in height as if they weren’t there. The downside is the absence of being able to fall back, shoot and charge. This isn’t a huge nerf considering you can now shoot out of combat, but it does mean you can’t just fall back and charge the same target in order to gain Fights First.
Forged In Terror
The detachment ability Forged in Terror grants Chaos Knights a 12” aura that imposes Battle-shock tests whenever a unit is below starting strength instead of half. This means that if squads have lost a single model, or if a vehicle took some chip damage, they’ll be forced to take a test at -1 thanks to the Faction ability. This means you’ll often get some procs for Doom and Darkness and can stop your opponent’s objective control by reducing their OC to 0.
This means a few things for how you’ll want to play your knights. First, you’re going to want to go wide, affecting as many units with your dread aura as you can. This means war dogs is going to be a key part of your strategy to maximize board coverage. Second, Chaos Knights are going to want to be up close and personal with most things to get them in the range of their auras. This means melee will be something you’re going to have to lean on, which is not a hard ask given the datasheets you have access to.
Overall this is an incredibly strong suite of rules. Being able to plink off wounds here and there and disrupt your opponent’s gameplan is a big deal, if a bit random. It’s important to note that havoc launchers on war dogs will have a lot of use since you can use them to hit a unit babysitting an objective behind cover, get them below starting strength, force a Battle-shock test and hopefully cause them to go to OC 0 giving them no control on the objective.
The stratagems here have a mix of themes, some focusing on defending you, others focusing on buffing your War Dogs. All of these have some amount of play depending on the situation, and even can let you plan your turn around them. Notably Knights of Shade (the only strat that doesn’t fall into the above themes) lets a knight move through terrain and models as if they weren’t there. This means you can be way more flexible with the positioning of a big knight, especially if there’s a ruin on the table big enough to hide them. Disdain for the Weak is another one I can see myself using often, giving you a 6+++ or a 5+++ against Battle-shocked targets in the fight phase. This can push a knight from durable to obnoxious under the right circumstances. For those wondering Diabolic Bulwark (aka Rotate Ion Shields) is still there and functions the same. That said you’ll likely be doing this less often with how little CP you have access to.
I’ll touch on this in the Datasheets section, but only big knights and stalkers get to be characters in this book so when evaluating these enhancements keep in mind that they have to go on a big or a stalker. Most of the enhancements key off the Harbingers of Dread rule, with Lord of Dread forcing Battle-shock with something you’re engaged with (meh), Aura of Terror giving your knight sticky objectives and giving said objectives the Dread aura from Harbingers of Dread (neat), and The Traitors Mark giving you the Doom and Darkness ability from Harbingers of Dread in every battle round for that knight instead of battle round 3 onward (pretty good). The standout enhancement that doesn’t follow the theme is Panoply of Cursed Knights which no longer gives you a 2+, but now subtracts one from incoming AP. Panopoly is the one I’ll be going to often, especially since knights can now get cover, allowing you to shrug ap -3 shots on a 4+ or a 3 on the Tyrant (who’s very usable now). Traitors Mark is interesting as well, since in theory it helps your durability, but realistically things aren’t going to be getting battle shocked until turn 2 at minimum so you’re really only enjoying the benefits a turn early, and turn 1 is when your big knight is gonna get rocked from every weapon on the board.
The datasheets split pretty easily into 2 categories: Bigs and Littles. Bigs are characters, generally have an aura that will buff up nearby Littles, and are all OC 10. Littles on the other hand are all Battleline, have their own standalone bit, and are OC 8. This means a few things, first the old tactic of pinching objectives from idiots without Objective Secured is gone, but with these crazy high OC characteristics you can still steal objectives from elite units after killing a couple with a single model. An important note on list building is that you need to take a Big or a Stalker since those are your character options. That all said Bigs get a significant upgrade from their 9th iteration because they now are able to ignore the Line of Sight limitations of ruins. In 10th they can see whatever you can draw true line of sight to, allowing them to snipe out key units and forcing your opponent to cower behind walls and give up good positioning.
Five Coolest Units
- Brigands: The War Dog Brigand got a major glow up from 9th, now hitting on 2s with all its guns. With the Daemonsbreath Spear sitting at s12 and going to an extra 4 damage in half range, it may actually do something on this frame. It’s bit is that when shooting at the closest eligible target, it gets extra AP. This means that while AP went down on the chain cannons (S6 AP-1 D1) it can hit the old heights of what made this weapon a powerhouse in 9th pretty easily.
- Stalkers: War Dog Stalkers were your main unit choice for dogs back in 9th, and that hasn’t changed. Able to select from both available melee weapons available to war dogs and either a Daemonsbreath Spear or Chaincannon its flexible and can handle anything you need it to do. Its new bit is what makes it special though, giving it +1 to wound if it targets a unit more than 6” away from allies. This is huge for countering missile threats, letting its chaincannon punch up, enabling spears to confirm the wound roll, and getting your slaughterclaw to wounding all but the toughest vehicles on 2s.
- Desecrators: The Desecrator has gotten the brigand treatment and now hits on 2s as your mainstay shooting knight. Its Laser Destructor also received an extra shot, meaning now it may actually hit and even wound something with its default loadout. Its kept its reroll hit rolls of 1 for War Dogs in shooting aura from 9th, and gained Devastating Wounds on its weapons when firing at Vehicles and Monsters, which hopefully will help you deal with those pesky invuln targets if you roll hot. On top of that its 72” range, meaning getting angles for shots in combination with towering letting you use true line of sight is a breeze.
- Tyrant: The age of the Tyrant class knight being bad is over, and bafflingly the harpoon flamer loadout is the good one. The harpoon offers the ability to casually do 12 mortal wounds to monsters and vehicles on 4s to wound, allowing you to snipe out the biggest threats to your army, the flamer gives access to what can be a devastating overwatch threat if infantry deign to move within your range, and top missiles are no longer once per game but are S12 ap -6 D D6+1 so they can deliver some real hurt. On top of all that this bad boy has a 2+ and is T13, allowing it, with cover and the panoply of cursed knights, to shrug off most anti tank shots without even looking at its invuln. Its a power house and I’m gonna be bringing one and will be trying to make it work.
- Karnivores: Karnivores actually didn’t change much from last edition, and that’s fine because they’re still the coolest unit in the book. They gained an extra attack on their weapon profiles over last edition, and now reroll charges. Couple that with the durability gained in 10th for all vehicles and the fact that its WS 2 doesn’t change until it hits 3 wounds now, this little guy is a persistent major threat on the battlefield. Now with being tied to melee are they the best unit in the book? No, but these little dudes rock pretty hard
Five Biggest changes from 9th
- You cannot easily hide from the bigs: It cannot be overstated how powerful this ability is. Most big base models or vehicles with large hulls will never be safe from the ranged fury of your knights. It also allows you to put your knights where you need to in order to maximize your buffs and debuffs without worrying as much about line of sight. Expect to see a lot of bigs on the table.
- Toughness: This is a huge deal especially for war dogs. War Dogs used to be wounded on 5s to most small arms fire and most anti tank was able to wound them on 3s or even 2s under the right circumstances (looking at you salamander eradicators). Now the needle has moved significantly, making your robots way tougher.
- Cover: Knights can now gain cover! With huge frames, its relatively trivial to obscure part of the model to gain it too. This, in combination with AP decreasing across the game, means that you won’t be forcing your invuln nearly as often.
- Less emphasis on smalls: While you can still do war dog spam by bringing a stalker, the bigs have gotten quite the glow up from their previous iteration. There are some matchups where they’ll be a pure liability (RIP if you lose the turn one roll off into space marines) but at T12 and 13 most fire will bounce off them and they’ll be able to tank some serious damage.
- War Dogs are more specialized: The different War Dogs are no longer just different loadouts but now want to do different things. Stalkers now want to pick off targets when they get isolated, Brigand chain cannons become lethal when shooting the closest target, and executioners almost always want to close out the shooting phase. Having the right mix of dogs to match your game plan is going to be a key to success.
What Makes the Faction Look Cool?
Well there’s giant scary robots powered by hatred and malice. Beyond that there’s a lot of fun tools to play with here. Being the premier Battle-shock faction you’ll be seeing a lot of that rule in effect while playing these guys. You also get a shockingly large pool of loadouts to play and lots of really promising rules on datasheets throughout the army.
Chaos Knights stand poised to be a very interesting army in 10th. Between their list building flexibility, their army ability, and their universal high toughness, some armies will just not be able to deal with them. Most exciting of all is there are a lot of models that have probably been gathering dust on your shelf (looking at you Knight Tyrant) who will see very real play in this edition. Things are looking good for the spikiest robots in the 41st millennium.