Engine War Preview: Chaos Daemons First Impressions

Every Ork Warboss knows that apart from the greenskins, no one duffs it up quite like the slobbering hordes of the Chaos Gods. In today’s Warhammer Community Preview, we got a sneak peek at some of the new tools dedicated mono-codex or soupy daemon players can enjoy with the forthcoming release of the Psychic Awakening: Engine War book. I’m very pleased to note that what we saw today was almost wholly centered around keeping the action up close and personal, just as Gork intended!

The most noteworthy reveal is the ability to upgrade your Greater Daemons to EXALTED Greater Daemons. This falls in line with what is becoming a game-wide perk – upgrading an important character model into an even better one for a single command point. For those not quite satisfied with what we’ve seen today, do take the consolation that there will probably be six options per Chaos God allegiance as we know that players have the opportunity to choose two at random from a table, or select a single. We don’t have the exact wording yet on the exalted upgrade stratagem, but I would be very intrigued to see if it’s limited to one use per game, one use per Chaos God allegiance, or unlimited. Another big question is whether named Greater Daemons will have access to the stratagems, but given similar recent upgrades on the Ork side of Saga of the Beast, I presume they will be left out.


From what we’ve seen today, I think that the Slaanesh options are going to be the ones that grab the most eyes at the competitive level. Keepers of Secrets are absolutely gorgeous models that have been creeping into competitive Chaos Soups and are already the most commonly seen Greater Daemon. Greater Daemons, in general, do not see a lot of play because they often cannot move fast enough up the board to survive 2-3 turns of shooting before wrecking everything in melee. The new Fear-Seeker trait attempts to cover one of Greater Daemons’ most glaring weakness by allowing it to zoom up an additional 14+d6 when triggered. Two important notes need to be made – first, this movement can be triggered in either you OR your opponents’ morale phase, giving a very hefty amount of flexibility. Second, we have seen out-of-phase movement abilities in the past, but most have in the combat phase. Since this ability is triggered in the morale phase, the Keeper of Secrets will have likely cleared out whatever opposing force that it was in combat with and will be able to choose a path that is more responsive to the layout of the subsequent turn.

For this all to work, however, a Fear-Seeker needs to combo their Keeper with other units that can be used as a fear-bomb. Fiends are an obvious pick now with the newly revealed stratagem, but I actually see more mileage here for those merely souping in the Keeper with other pieces of a soupier Chaos force. The trigger needs not necessarily come from a Slaaneshi unit, your Night Lord fear-bomb is just as relevant  here. The key is investing enough to ensure that the enemy will be taking at minimum two difficult morale checks to counter the 2CP Insane Bravery stratagem.


Coming up next we have Khorne. The Bloodthirster is one of the most archetypal models in the game but is perhaps the fourth-best Greater Daemon out of the four. For those looking to field their Bloodthirsters, I think the traits we’ve seen here held to get them to the sort of baseline expectation they should have from the get-go. The +1 Strength shouldn’t be discounted though. Such a big model shouldn’t be wounding tanks on 4s and 5s, so clearly the Strength 8 threshold is very important to the unit. Overall, I don’t think what we’ve seen so far is enough to get Khorne daemons were they want to be, but the strength in a Khorne list hasn’t come from Greater Daemons in 8th Edition. Hopefully in Engine War we’ll find more than benefits to their potent Bloodletter blobs or wide-variety of characters. Slaanesh enjoyed a nice model expansion by incorporating kits from Age of Sigmar, personally I think there is room to do the same with Khorne.


Nurgle, I think was the second runner up in today’s reveals. Unlike Bloodthirsters and Keepers of Secrets that have a clear battlefield role, the Great Unclean One performs very differently and is not especially attuned for melee action. The mortal wounds on-impact trait is rather nice, but the stand out is certainly Tome of a Thousand Poxes. Nurgle already has access to some powerful spells, and to get even greater consistency on and boost a Great Unclean One to knowing 3 total spells with two casts is a fabulous boost.


In speaking with my friends that love the Thousand Sons or straight up Tzeentch daemons, I think they got to see the most exciting of abilities, but I’m unsure still of how we’ll see them come into practice. In looking at Slaanesh, the Keeper got abilities that helped it overcome one of its weaknesses, while Tzeentch got abilities that bolster things that its already the best at. In getting matched versus a Lord of Change, I will rightly assume that I won’t be enjoying much of a psychic phase. The Greater Daemon’s ability to deny my casts is already a hard counter to many lists, and from my point of view Spell Thief is shutting down spells that you were already likely to shutdown. The strength in the upgrade is more in the complex interplay between players in making judgment calls of whether to cast or not. In most cases, the Lord of Change is likely to die after a few turns of shooting, removing its very likely chance of denying your casts. Do you as the opposing player attempt important spells like Gate of Infinity or Da Jump when you know there’s a chance you won’t be able to use them even after the Lord of Change is finished off?

I think the Crystal Tome has more play, but it comes with a huge trade-off putting your Lord of Change in harm’s way. Out of the four Greater Daemons, the Lord of Change is the last one that wants to be within 12″ of an aura giving enemy character. 12″ is very, very close to an enemy counter charge, and for as brittle a monster that performs as weakly in close combat, I would be very worried about attempting to get mileage out of the ability. Combined with other important pieces like the Incorporeal Form Warlord Trait and there may be something here though. Fortunately though, as a relic, you’re likely to have a little more flexibility in who you’re giving it to.

Image Credit: Warhammer Community
Overall Impressions

Overall, I think Chaos players have received some very interesting buffs to spice up their soups, and we know that there are many, many more abilities to see once the book comes out. As mentioned before, I believe that the two pieces holding Greater Daemons back is their movement and their survivability. I would be especially intrigued to see more Exalted traits that keep your big baddies on the board for longer, pumping out their awesome psychic spells and slashing through enemy waves. Until then, it’s best not to rush judgment, and in the meantime, start building those overlooked boxes of Greater Daemons while making a mental note to pay very close attention to the changes arriving in the Morale Phase once 9th Edition drops.

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