Chaos Knights Army Set – Could Cruel Tyranny Reign Again?

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. OH BOY. You would struggle to imagine the noise I had made when the Chaos Knights Army Set dropped onto my doorstep. It all happened so quickly, from the announcement to my hands in a mere few days. Between the new models and all the new rules, there’s still a surprising amount to cover here. Do you hear that? The quaking ground as the terror engines step forth? Let’s get into it…

Games Workshop kindly provided me with a Chaos Knights Army Set for the purposes of this review. Whilst it might sound a little gimmicky to get an “army set” with only three models, I genuinely don’t think that it can be questioned as to the power and personality of these models. The Knight Abominant is a titanic psyker wielding a huge ancient volkite weapon, along with a giant set of monstrous mechadentrites. It even has a monstrous, club-ended tail to batter its enemies! Alongside it come two War Dogs that can be built as either Karnivores, Brigands or Stalkers. These offer a versatile balance of ranged to close combat to a little of both.

The models themselves were as complex to build as previous Knights. Simply put, if you’ve built Knights before then there’s nothing new here and you should be fine. If this is a new venture for you then I would advise caution! These are big kits with many parts and it’s all too easy to make a mistake.

However, once built, you’re met with a mighty force that, whilst small in number, has unquestionable damage potential. The amount of detail on the kits helps to further broaden the distinction between Imperial Knights and Chaos Knights. There are plenty of spikes and transfers to go around for your new walking wonders of war.

Rules, Rites and Rituals

Moving on from the models, let’s get stuck into the new Chaos Knights: Codex included in army set. This is a fully-fledged 9th edition codex for Warhammer 40,000 and includes all that you’d expect to see. Whilst Chaos Knights are in a lacklustre place within the meta currently, we may now see that change!.

Let’s cover the army-wide bits specifically. Traitoris Lances has seen an update in how command points are given. You first choose a Warlord who becomes a character. From there, your Warlord’s detachment grants 3 or 6 command points depending on the composition of the detachment. The Fallen Hero rule will grant what a lot of Chaos players have been waiting for. If you field a Super-heavy Auxiliary Detachment with a Chaos Knight as a Dreadblade, it can be fielded with other Chaos armies without impacting their special rules. For instance, you can field it with Death Guard and not lose your Contagions of Nurgle. This alone makes Chaos Knights an actual option for Chaos players. I’m already buzzed to see how players will build and paint theirs to find into their existing armies.

We’ve also got the Towering Foe rule. This means Chaos Knights count as five models when holding objectives, whereas Titanic units count as 10. The low body count will still present an issue in objective-based games when your model-count is so low, though.

Traitoris Ambitions

Another of the Detachment Abilities is Traitoris Ambitions. These have also seen changes. Iconoclast Households grant +1 Attack and melee weapons improve their AP by 1, providing you charged, were charged or heroically intervened. Alternatively, Infernal Households still get Daemonic Surge, but the options have changed. You can take 1 mortal wound each Command Phase to roll for the result, or suffer D3 mortal wounds and pick the one you want. Whether it’s +3″ movement, negate enemy wound rolls of 1 – 3 or add 1 to wound rolls for a weapon of your choice. If you are a melee-focused army you’ll want to go for Iconoclast, but the dice-loving freak in me is very tempted by Infernal!

Finally, we have Household Bonds. Some of the pre-crafted households have designated bonds. However, you can also pick from a list of Fell Bonds for any of you fielding home-brewed households. This is cool for the most part, but anyone fielding a lot of Dreadblades may have a headache as each Dreadblade must have a different bond and none can share the same one. These bonds can vary from ignoring -1AP from enemy weapons or even increasing the range of your ranged weapons by 4″ along with buffing heavy stubbers to boot via “Dark Forging”. Again, there’s a lot of room to play here, with numerous options and how you can apply them giving players a myriad of choices.

For the Dark Gods!

In my experience of running Chaos Knights, there was one issue that always left me a little sour. Due to the notable points cost of each unit, I’d often find myself with plenty of points going spare. Marks of Chaos have come along to solve this little matter. That’s right, you can fully pledge your Chaos Knights to the Dark God/s of your choosing!

You can choose to give a Chaos Knight a Favour of the Dark Gods and each Chaos deity has a number of options. The Throne Mechanicum of Skulls is a Khorne favour that gives you the Khorne keyword and allows you to re-roll charges for the chosen model. Whereas Blessing of the Dark Master is an Undivided favour and means that your opponent cannot reroll hit rolls, wound rolls or damage rolls against his Chaos Knight.

Better yet, each class of Chaos Knight can make a worthy offering by killing a certain number of models. In doing so, you unlock the “Favoured Ability” for that favour. For instance, the aforementioned Blessing of the Dark Master favour can unlock the ability to never be hit on anything less than a four – which is huge!

These favours all comes at a cost and becomes more expensive if you apply them to bigger Chaos Knights. As an example, the Blood Shield of Khorne favour costs 30pts for a War Dog, but 45pts for an Abhorrent. If you’re fielding a handful of Chaos Knights then you should have no trouble at all spending leftover points on some thematic bonuses that help to give your Chaos Knights the edge against their foes.

The Eightfold Path

If there’s one thing I’ve felt unsure of, it’s taking part in Crusade games with Chaos Knights. I’ve always wanted to avoid being “that guy”, even with Chaos Knights in the lacklustre competitive spot as they are. However, the new Crusade rules seem too good to miss out on. Chaos Knights get everything you’d expect – battle traits, battle scars, crusade relics, etc. However, their unique rules come in the form of Damnation Points.

You pick one of your Chaos Knights in your force to become Damned. As you kill enemy units in each game, that Damned unit will accrue Damnation Points. For every three Damnation Points, you enter/progress a single step through the Circles of Damnation. These grant you god-specific keywords, pacts (Lesser, Great and/or Exalted) and Crusade Points, but also Damnations. Whilst pacts grant you bonuses such as improved strength and movement or +1 to hit in melee, Damnations hamper your Damned Chaos Knight. This is to represent its ever-worsening fall to Chaos and all the wonderful “gifts” that accompany it.

Damnations could mean that your Damned Chaos Knight will always fight last in the fight phase, or even increasing the cost of command points when using the Command Re-roll Stratagem. These balance your Chaos Knight out as you’ll end up with five pacts by the 8th Circle of Damnation, but also 2 Damnations. Is the price of Damnation a worthy price? For Crusade games focusing on narrative and story-telling, I’d give a resounding ‘yes’ – wholeheartedly!

Harbingers of Dread

Dread Tests are brand new to Chaos Knights and provide a commendable impact on the battlefield. The sheer horror that these colossal constructs emanate can now have a direct effect on your enemies. These Harbinger abilities are divided into 3 kinds – Despair, Doom and Darkness and these progress over each battle round. You can move between the trees between battles and each grants a different kind of bonus.

Paralyzing Insanity causes enemy units to lose Objective Secured if within Dread Range (12″ by default). Mortal Terror causes an additional model to flee in a failed leadership test. Veil of Shadows buffs friendly Chaos Knights, incurring -1 to hit against them in melee.

There’s a knack between moving between each of the 3 types. You can go from Doom to Despair or Darkness, but you cannot go from Despair to Darkness or Darkness to Despair. It’s a little complicated to explain, the easiest way to look at it as shown is that you can only ever move to an adjacent type (see image below), you cannot skip over Doom to go from Despair to Darkness, for instance.

Organised Chaos

When considering Harbingers abilities, combined with Fell Bonds, Chaos Marks, and the other detachment abilities – there’s quite a lot of book-keeping here. It’s definitely no longer a case of placing five models on the table and saying “go!”, there’s quite a lot that needs considering with these new rules. It takes one of the simplest (and technically smallest) armies and adds a layer of complexity that I believe will help to imbue that sense of identification whilst also making them less one-dimensional.

These new rules are definitely the highlight for me in this book. The updated weapon profiles as seen on the WarCom website means that we’ll likely have a better chance against some of the newer, somewhat frightening opponents. Whilst the pts costs for the Chaos Knights themselves are only slightly changed, getting slightly cheaper generally. Still, this just gives you more headroom for Chaos Marks!

This book helps Chaos Knights to find their taloned feet and stride forward with a great sense of distinction, as opposed to feeling like the previous light spiky copy-and-paste of the Imperial Knights book. This never put me off fielding them, of course, the main issue I had was that I’m not immensely competitive and would often feel bad bringing them to casual games. However, I may now set those feelings aside, park myself in the throne of my chosen steed and stomp forward in the name of the Ruinous Powers!

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Note – Games Workshop supplied us with a copy of the the Chaos Knights Army Set for this review content.

This article was originally written by the author for The Unrelenting Brush blog.

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