Welcome to our review of the 10th Edition Drukhari index. Arguably one of the most depraved and sinister factions in an already depraved and sinister universe, the dark citizens of Comorragh have received a suitably twisted and sneaky set of rules with which to navigate the change in game system, and there is plenty here to be excited about. This index packs rules for soaring Kabalite raids, gladiatorial Wych combat, and hulking Coven pain engines, and new resources with which to help them sow terror on the tabletop.
Before we begin we’d like to thank Games Workshop for providing us with a review copy of the Index.
The Drukhari quite like power, and they really, really like pain. As such it may not shock you to learn that their army rule is Power from Pain. This is no longer a scaling table of benefits but a resource that you generate and spend in-game to amp up your delivery, shooting and melee. You start the game with three pain tokens in a Strike Force game, and gain additional ones whenever an enemy unit is destroyed, or fails a battle-shock test. This is extremely generous resource generation in a game of 40k, where units are dying and panicking constantly, though it obviously doesn’t go as far into elite, low-model count armies (as well it shouldn’t!). At the start of any phase you can spend pain tokens to empower your units. A unit empowered during the movement or charge phase can re-roll advance or charge rolls, whilst a unit empowered during the shooting or fight phase can re-roll hit rolls when it attacks.
The potential aplication here is STRONG. Drukhari are an army of low-volume, high quality shooting and this really does go through the roof when you can smooth out the shooting variance and push through damage, and full rerolls to hit in combat helps your fragile melee blenders get the job done before anybody tags them back. Being able to sink some tokens into making sure a melee unit reaches combat (especially nice on Wych Cults that can advance and charge via a stratagem) can also help prevent those heart in mouth moments where your T3 elves get stranded in the open without doing any of that stabbing they love so much. Drukhari are all about applying heavy damage at the right moment in the right places, and this mechanic massively rewards a general who leverages their resources at the correct times by essentially allowing pain tokens to continue paying for themselves across the game as long as you confirm your kills and provoke battle-shock tests. There are tools in the index to generate further tokens, and I would say this is by far the strongest thing about the new ruleset for the Dark Kin.
Detachment Ability: Realspace Raiders
Drukhari are an army that contains three mini-armies, and as such it makes sense that the first detachment we get caters to all three at once. The Realspace Raiders detachment benefit is simple but effective- at the start of the battle, you get one additional pain token as long as you have one or more of each of our main character types, the Archon, the Succubus and the Haemonculus. Pain tokens are now the lifeblood of the army, so being able to start on a potential six of these is massive. It’s not an especially complex or subtle faction rule, but it’s a great place to start.
(It’s worth saying that at the moment Urien Rakarth and Lelith Hesperax do not have the Haemonculus and Succubus keywords, but it is something that they have traditionally had. Whether they are intended to provide this detachment benefit is unclear so clarity will be needed on that further down the line). On the plus side we told GW about this and they fixed it, on the downside they didn’t tell us they did that. The good news is that Lelith and Urien count as the things they are meant to count as and you can get extra tokens from them, hurrah.
After an edition spent super-charging murder characters with relics and warlord traits, the 10th edition Drukhari enhancements feel like a bit of a climbdown, as these are mostly aimed at offering supporting utility and tailored specifically to different members of the alliance of agony. The Haemonculus can force a one-off battle-shock test for enemy units within 12 in the shooting phase via Crucible of Malediction, with benefits if they are empowered and a mortal wound penalty for enemy psykers that fail the test. Blood Dancer boosts the AP and Attacks on a Succubus by one (or by two once empowered). These are situational but not without merit, though the Succubus is no longer the world ending force she once was and has competition for her spot leading the Wyches these days, as we will get to later!
The two most consistently useful are probably The Art of Pain, whereby any Drukhari character can generate an extra pain token in the command phase as long as they are on the battlefield (extremely handy seeing as Drukhari live and die by these tokens now, and it isn’t locked to a particular character type), and Labyrinthine Cunning, an Archon specific buff that allows his unit to refund CP on a 4+, automatically succeeding if that stratagem is Alliance of Agony. I think you’ll still want an Archon, so having their unit paying for itself feels very logical
You get a fairly reliable toolkit of cheap Drukhari stratagems to start off your reign of terror in the indices era. I’ll highlight three of the ones that weren’t already previewed as there is plenty to like here. Strike and Fade is the evil answer to Aldaeri Fire and Fade, allowing a Drukhari unit that has shot to immediately make a normal move. This is the only 2 CP stratagem in the set and it carries the same ‘no embarking’ rider (don’t worry, we’ve got other ways to pull embarkation nonsense anyway). Strong but costly, and great on a whole host of units in here.
Prey on the Weak returns but is radically different now, allowing a Kabal unit to gain full rerolls to wound in shooting if it targets a unit that is below half-strength. This is going to work extremely well in conjunction with pain token empowered shooting to help you finish off crippled units and vehicles that survive the initial salvo, but the half-strength condition slightly limits its applicability. Finally, my favourite of the bunch, Insensible to Pain. This is a flat out -1 to wound for a Haemonculus Covens unit that is targeted at range or in melee. Durability looks to be a real issue for the Dark Kin in this book, so helping your Coven monsters or Infantry survive enemy fire or choke up a melee push is going to be clutch a lot of the time.
Overall, a good suite of options, but the Kabalite / Coven / Wych Cult criteria for half of the six stratagems means you will very quickly exhaust the combinations you can exploit. It is substantially less ambitious and flexible than some of the options on display in most of the other indices, and whilst it suits the theme of the Realspace Raid detachment having a little bit of utility for each subdivision of the army, it’s going to be a long wait for more dedicated tools for each of them down the line…
Five Coolest Units
- Lelith Hesperax – the Queen of Blades finally has a statline to match her reputation, easily capable of dealing a withering amount of damage to enemy infantry and helping you get the best out of an attached Wych squad.
- Ravager – In a shift towards high toughness and reduced ap the Ravager continues to bring heavy precision shooting that the Dark Kin are going to need.
- Archon – The Archon is all set to empower his troops and frustrate the enemy with a suitably tricksy set of rules.
- Cronos – The little-support-engine-that-could helps the wider army sing, whilst dishing out flamer hurt up close.
- Talos – The iconic murder crab returns with some genuinely powerful shooting options and its traditional melee prowess. A big beneficiary of Pain Tokens.
Five Biggest changes from 9th
- Ranged Output: Drukhari were very much melee specialists in 9th, but Power from Pain and some improved weapon profiles take their shooting to a new level. They can pack a lot of Dark Lances and Blasters into lists, supplemented by improved poison weaponry, and ensure that they find their targets with rerolls.
- Limited Durability: Fragility is going to be a real issue for the Dark Kin, as befitting their glass cannon playstyle. As toughness scales up to new heights elsewhere most of our units have stayed in a similar ballpark, and invulns better than 6+ are relatively rare here now. Careful play will reap better rewards.
- Deepstriking Vehicles: As if to combat the aforementioned durability concerns, Drukhari vehicles now come with Deepstrike built into their data sheets. This is a MASSIVE change, allowing for carefully timed beta-strikes out of the sky to ensure you get to fight on your terms.
- Combat Specialists: With multiple sources of fight first, and some powerful combat characters, the Drukhari will still pack a combat sucker-punch to those who stray too close, though this isn’t going to win them games on its own anymore and will need to work in tandem with their ranged output.
- Movement Shenanigans: There are multiple ways to keep your fragile units out of harm’s way as they shoot and fight their way across the board. Re-embarking into Venoms, access to the improved Fire and Fade, and the shoot-and-move available to Scourges all helps to ensure you can put out damage without facing as much returning fire.
General Unit Thoughts
Kabal Characters and Units
The Kabals make out like bandits in appropriate style here, as arguably the most improved section of the Drukhari roster.
- The Archon now has an ‘Agents of Vect’ style rule built in (as long as he’s your Warlord), offers full rerolls to wound to the unit he leads if they are empowered by Pain Tokens, boasts 5 ANTI INFANTRY 3+ attacks at ap and damage 2, and has retained his Shadowfield 2+ invuln which will cause all sorts of mayhem from within an attached unit. He can lead a Court of the Archon or Kabalite Warriors, but not letting him chill with some Incubi does feel like a bit of a miss, albeit a thematic one (never trust the mercs).
- The Court of the Archon has been stripped down to a fixed unit of four (one of each of the Slyth, Lhamaean, Ur-Ghul and Medusae), and went down to two wounds each, so no more super court tarpits for us, boohoo. At full strength its a techy unit befitting an Archon, offering Fights First, LETHAL HITS, the ability to provoke Battle-shock, and an innate -1 to wound. As you start losing bodies you will start losing these abilities, so you’ll have to figure out what you need to prioritize! You can combine this squad with an Archon-led Kabalite unit for some ablative wounds.
- Kabalite Warriors were already previewed, but they have gained sticky objective control (even from inside a transport) via Sadistic Raiders, now have movement 8, and benefit massively from improved ANTI-INFANTRY 3+ poison. You have to take squads of ten now, and can only take one of each special weapon, but can split these up using Venoms to get the tools you want where you need them.
- The Ravager looks like the excellent all round gun boat the Drukhari are going to need. T9 now, with OC 3, it gains reroll hit rolls of 1 when attacking an enemy at full strength. This, coupled with bracketing to 4+ accuracy at worst, makes the Ravager appealing as a hard target removal option now that Drukhari can’t rely on doing this in melee.
Wych Cult Characters and Units
A mixed bag for the Wych Cults, with one notable glow up amidst some side-grades and losses to mobility.
- It is Lelith Hesperax’s time! 8 attacks with SUSTAINED HITS 2 and ANTI-INFANTRY 2+ is no joke once Power from Pain rerolls are factored in. Once per game she can take this up to 12 attacks via Thrilling Spectacle, and pop a 3+ Invuln to help her survive a crucial combat. She also offers Brides of Death, giving an attached Wych unit Fights First, +1 Strength and +1 AP. This is a great buff to channel some of that Bloodbrides energy, but sadly it also looks to be the only way to build a meaningfully dangerous Wych squad at this moment in time…
- The Succubus pays for her sins in 9th with a relative downgrade. Six attacks at ap 2 damage 1 with ANTI-INFANTRY 3+ is a bit anemic, especially with Lelith right there. She grants her attached Wych unit SUSTAINED HITS and can amp up to Fights First via Pain Tokens, so may well still see use.
- Wyches themselves are now strength three ap 1 with three attacks each and no ways to boost this except via Lelith. They retain the 4+ invuln in combat and have to be purchased in units of 10. With No Escape they can force desperate escape tests on the enemy at -1, so they seem best placed to bully weaker units rather than meet the foes heavy hitters head on. Thematic, at least!
- Hellions are also on the naughty step, retaining the ability to fall back shoot and charge via Hit and Run, but staying extremely fragile and losing the infantry keyword for mounted, which may sting long term. SUSTAINED HITS on their Hellglaives is certainly nice, it’s getting them there that will be the challenge.
- Reavers lose their auto-advance, but with 16 inch move and OC 2 remain well placed to snaffle objectives from the unwary. Eviscerating Fly-by is built in now, doing 4+ mortals to a unit they pass over with a normal move. The improved Heat Lance (Assault, Melta 3, strength 14 -4 D6 18 inch range) looks nice on these for early troubleshooting. One model per three can gain LANCE via the Grav-talon to really roll over lightly armored enemies, so combined with the sergeant getting an Agoniser you can get some decent output from a unit of three.
Coven Characters and Units
Coven units retain a 5+ FNP (4+ for Urien), and have some suitably scary ranged and combat potential.
- Urien Rakarth greedily hordes all the coolest Haemonculus mechanics for himself, giving you the ability to heal a Coven unit or restore three wracks via Flesh Craft, and popping up again from death on a 2+ via Horrific Regeneration. His Casket of Flensing is quite a tasty ONE SHOT flamer with DEVASTATING WOUNDS, and his combat profile is solid into infantry with PRECISION for character slaying.
- The Haemoculus can buff an attached Wrack unit to a 4+ FNP via Master of Pain, and has a 6 inch -1 Leadership or Battle-shock aura via Fear Incarnate. He too is deceptively good in combat with ANTI-INFANTRY 2+ on his tools and scissorhands.
- Wracks retain the flexibility to come in 5s or 10s without Venom splitting, gain ANTI-INFANTRY 4+ on their melee weapons (but no ap), and their shooting options remain good for sniping and punching enemy infantry (the Hexrifle going to Damage 3 with PRECISION is a nice touch). They have The Torturer’s Craft built-in to generate pain tokens when they kill a unit, or when they are destroyed.
- Grotesques can carry both their Monstrous Weapons and Liquifier Guns at the same time, making them a little more versatile. Mindless Killing Machines gives them the ability to fight on death on a 4+, but going down to ap 1 on their combat weapons and losing the ability to deal mortals (the Flesh Gauntlet just doesn’t feature here) limits them a little bit.
- The Cronos gains ignore cover on its shooting weapons which remain otherwise the same. The big buff here is Pain Parasite, a 9 inch aura that gives you the chance to gain pain tokens whenever you spend them on a 4+, which feels extremely useful to have in the list somewhere. Both they and Talos have gone to movement 7 – they already felt slow at times and this doesn’t help.
- Speaking of Talos, they SLAP now. The Pain Engine rule gives them permanent empowered status if they destroy a unit, which will really amp up their output. The Drukhari Haywire Blaster (already previewed) looks to be a solid anti-tank option dealing mortal wounds very reliably into vehicles, and Heat Lances gaining ASSAULT as well as Melta 3 makes these worth consideration too. The Combat profile has largely remained the same though the Ichor-Injector is now an extra damage 2 attack rather than a nifty mortal wound dealing sucker punch. It is the interaction with full rerolls that will make these sing, but it remains to be seen if the durability is enough (they’ve gone to T7 but stay at 7 wounds).
Mercenary Characters and Units
- Drazhar, Master of Blades, returns here as a leader option for an Incubi unit. He gives these +1 to wound, and has the ability to target a character with PRECISION attacks, earning pain tokens if he kills them. He’s not quite the melee monster he was but still puts out a lot of hurt, with DEVASTATING WOUNDS on his single blade attacks and TWIN-LINKED rerolls for his dual blades (no more fight twice though!). Much like Wyches with Lelith, if you want Incubi that can take on a range of targets you really need Draz, so I expect he will remain a staple.
- Incubi pay for their many, many sins in 9th, going down to strength 4 and ap 2 on their blades, and hitting on 3s now. They can force Battle-shock at the start of the fight phase via Tormentors, and get a 5+ all the time, which certainly isn’t nothing. Even with Drazhar leading them in a world of higher toughness these have gone from all-stars to a specifically anti-infantry bully unit.
- Mandrakes retain similar weapons profiles as last time out, can still forward deploy with -1 to be hit via Stealth, and can go into reserves at the end of your opponents movement phase and reappear next movement phase via Fade Away. Just as good for utility as ever.
- Scourges benefit from the improved shooting toolkit of the Drukhari heavy guns, especially Dark Lances and Heat Lances. They can move 6 after shooting via Winged Strike which should help them pick their engagements a little more easily, and Shredders obviously offer some serious overwatch potential now that they are flamers with an 18 inch range.
Wings: Sticking my head in here to say, as the world’s number one haywire Scourge fan, that the haywire option rules again – feed a squad a pain token out of deep strike and you’re averaging nine Mortals into a Vehicle from Devastating Wounds, no questions asked.
- The Beastmaster and his pack are still here, condensed into a small one of each type unit as the Court of the Archon were. There is a mess of abilities and keywords on display across the monsters but on a small, fragile unit i’m not entirely sure what function they serve besides taking up space. I’ll leave that to wiser heads than me to figure out!
- The Venom packs improved poison, loses 2 movement speed, but gains Athletic Aerialists, to allow you to hop back into a venom at the end of the Fight Phase with an infantry unit if said Venom is unoccupied. There is some promising play to be had here, and at the moment it doesn’t specify that your unit need have fought that turn either, so Kabalites can exercise a mini Fire and Fade until this is presumably fixed.
- The Raider goes to T8, and can auto-advance 6 with its Aethersails. Both the Raider and Venom have gained Deep Strike which gives them a lot more flexibility in how you use them.
What Makes the Faction Look Cool?
This set of rules take Drukhari in a shooting heavy, Beta-strike direction, utilizing cover and raids from Deep Strike to close with the enemy and take them apart in a hail of high quality shooting before their arrogant overlords emerge from their vehicles to clean up the survivors on their terms on the ground. The combat feels toned down and more carefully handled than last time, and this will take some getting used to, but building a genuine take all comers Drukhari army that can punch above its weight at range as well as in melee is more possible than it has been in a long time. A genuine Realspace Raid, with transports, and some combination of all of the Drukhari sub-factions, feels like the best way to run this army going into the new edition, and that is a very appropriate and thematic place to start.
There you have it, the Drukhari rule set for the Index era of 10th edition. A bunch of cool tools to get to work with and to adapt to the evolving state of the game over the next few months. We will need to see how powerful the raw efficiency of power from pain proves to be in the wild, but outside of that this index doesn’t appear to have any serious balance concerns or rules issues at release – how times change eh ;).
Pray they don’t take you alive!