Kazzigum examines the newest conundrum of Tzeentch and attempts to augur whether or not it portends doom for Warhammer 40,000.
In case you’ve not heard, or are otherwise unaware, Games Workshop’s (GW) latest campaign book, the Wrath of Magnus, has drastically changed the way Pink Horrors function in Chaos Daemons 40k armies. In fact, in addition to updating the Pink Horrors’ datasheet to better reflect the classic special ability of this daemonic monstrosity, Wrath of Magnus also introduces two new datasheets, those of the Blue Horrors and the Brimstone Horrors.
These are an integral part of making this weird daemon’s defining attribute finally work on the tabletop (again). What is this ability, you might ask? Well the Pink Horror’s tendency to split into two Blue Horrors once slain, of course. And now, the horrific ability for a Blue Horror to split into a pair of Brimstone Horrors once it, in turn, is slain.
In order to really come to grips with how these will now mechanically work on the tabletop, let’s first have a look at the actual rules in question. Pink Horrors now have the Split special rule, which replaces their former Blue Horrors special rule. This rule reads as follows:
Split: If a friendly unit of Pink Horrors suffers any casualties, the slain Horrors will split and create Blue Horrors at the end of that phase (after all other units have performed their actions and made their attacks). Two Blue Horrors are created for each slain Pink Horror – if there is already a friendly Blue Horror unit within 6” of the Pink Horrors, add the newly created Blue Horrors to that unit, otherwise set them up as a new unit within 6” of the unit of Pink Horrors. If a rule causes a whole unit of Pink Horrors to be removed at once (excluding Daemonic Instability), you can immediately create a unit of Blue Horrors, just before removing the last model from the Pink Horrors unit. The unit of Blue Horrors has two models for each model in the unit of Pink Horrors at the point at which it is removed, and must be set up with all models within 6” of the last model from the Pink Horrors unit.
Blue Horrors, for their part, have the Split Again special rule. This rule reads as follows:
Split Again: If a friendly unit of Blue Horrors suffers any casualties, the slain Horrors will split and create Brimstone Horrors at the end of that phase (after all other units have performed their actions and made their attacks). One model is created for each slain Blue Horror – if there is already a friendly Brimstone Horror unit within 6” of the Blue Horrors, add the newly created Brimstone Horrors to that unit, otherwise set them up as a new unit within 6” of the unit of Blue Horrors. If a rule causes a whole unit of Blue Horrors to be removed at once (excluding Daemonic Instability), you can immediately create a unit of Brimstone Horrors, just before removing the last model from the Blue Horrors unit. The unit of Brimstone Horrors has one model for each model in the unit of Blue Horrors at the point at which it is removed, and must be set up with all models within 6” of the last model from the Blue Horrors unit.
And to round the whole issue out, let’s not forget the immediate FAQ that GW released regarding the whole Splitting issue (literally released the day Wrath of Magnus was). Personally, given its content, I found the whole FAQ a waste of time, but I suppose one does need to guard against “That Guy.” For those interested, said FAQ can be found HERE.
These rules, together with the new datasheets, follow the trend set in Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower of returning Pink Horrors to their classic roots. Pink Horrors, since their introduction into the various settings/games of GW have always had the insidious ability to multiply into even more lesser monstrosities upon their demise. Sadly, this fluffy trait has been relegated to nothing more than a passing blurb on the tabletop for many editions of both Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 (40k).
The Blue Horrors special rule of 6th and 7th edition 40k that these new rules replace, was woefully inadequate to the task of representing this unique feature of Pink Horrors. In point of fact, it rarely did anything, as the rule simply allowed for extra, very weak, hits upon enemies that had slain the Pink Horrors in assault. In all my years of playing Chaos Daemons in these editions of 40k, I’ve never seen an opponent utilize this rule, and even I, found it a chore to remember (and when I did, it never mattered).
As a fluffy player/hobbyist first and foremost, I welcome this unexpected change to the game with open, flailing arms, even as I reveled in the deliciousness of it its return in Silver Tower. I also wildly enjoy the expansion of that daemonic lore with the inclusion of the Brimstone Horrors to the splitting chain of these Tzeentchian beasties. Setting this fluffy satisfaction aside, I initially found myself agreeing with the all-too appropriate horror that these rules immediately evoked from the player base, particularly the tournament crowd.
While these additional Horror units that spawn upon their more powerful brethren’s demise are individually quite weak, they will be numerous and are psyker units themselves. The newly created units lose absolutely no sorcerous potency upon being spawned, despite their meager physical attributes. In fact, with access to the same Change psychic discipline and with the same BS 3, these lesser Horror units pose the same psychic threat, while potentially exponentially adding to the army’s warp charge pool.
These Splitting mechanics were quickly dubbed as ‘broken’ online, and my brother agrees with that sentiment. We’ve discussed the new situation at length, and while I initially agreed, I’m not so sure any more. Pink Horrors are certainly very powerful now, though I have contended that they were all along these past two editions, and I’ve taken pride in demonstrating this to opponents over the years.
Despite my misgivings on the matter, I find I must agree with my brother on one thing though – Pink Horrors are likely the most powerful Troop choice in the game now. I just don’t see any simple way of dealing with them effectively.
Busted or Not?
This is a question I’ve been pondering at length the last couple weeks. Of course, upon first seeing the rule, many online instantly jumped to the maximum numbers. For example, the maximum unit size of Pink Horrors is 20 models. So, upon their destruction, they turn into 40 Blue Horrors, which in turn becomes 40 Brimstone Horror models. Multiply this by 2-4 units of Pink Horrors, and the numbers become astronomical for a skirmish wargame (from both a model point of view as well as a dollar amount to own said models). Cries of “Pay to Win” immediately ensued. But such theoretical depictions rarely bare out on the tabletop in my experience. I found myself thinking about just how likely such a situation would really be. I mean, who really wants to deal with that?
Now, full disclosure, I’ve had very little actual play of these mechanics myself on the table as of the publication of this article, but I do have plenty of experience with Pink Horrors themselves on the table (and other than the Split special rules, they remain relatively unchanged). Putting this experience to work, I’ve begun to game out how they will now perform on the table, particularly in my hands.
As a rule, I’ve typically run 2-3 units of Pink Horrors (usually with 11 or 12 members to add 2 warp charge to my army pool) in my Tzeentch Daemon armies, and often included the Portalglyph to summon additional small units of them. I’ve found more and/or larger units of Pink Horrors than this to be unwieldy, slowing my game play down (particularly irksome in tournaments) and not adding enough oomph to be worth the effort. When summoning more daemons for the army, I also usually prefer to summon units of Flamers rather than Pink Horrors, for the same reasons.
I think there are two important insights that I can glean from these former experiences with Pink Horrors to apply to the way they are going to work on the tabletop now. Firstly, if 4+ units of Pink Horrors in my army to begin with, or Pink Horror units with more than 12 models, felt unwieldy, how much worse will it be now? Setting aside the issue of actually owning that many Horror models (we’ll get back to this latter), how can one even really contend with this situation on the tabletop (particularly in a tournament setting)? And who would even want to? I love all things Tzeentch, but I can see that grating on my own nerves even more than my opponent’s.
Secondly, using the Portalglyph all this time to summon small units of Pink Horrors (even just 1 Horror), has shown me that they are perhaps even better than the units that I bring as part of my army to begin with. Being units of smaller size, they are easier to hide, move, claim objectives and/or irritate an opponent by getting in the way, and yet, they are every bit as dangerous as the full, standard unit. It only takes one Pink Horror to toss out a Flickering Fire (or other suitably lethal Change power) to blast my enemies, and that power is just as lethal as it is when used by a full unit of Horrors. This gives me some idea of just how dangerous all those smaller units of Blue and Brimstone Horrors will be when they come into play due to light casualties.
Of course, there are downsides to the Horrors ability to split into multiple, lesser units of themselves, though I’m unsure they are severe enough to stave off the cries of “Broken!” From a gaming perspective, these smaller units of lesser Horrors are going to mean that your opponent will be able to rack up numerous Victory Points in any mission that features old school Kill Points, such as Purge the Alien. Unless your opponent is a large horde army as well, this means you’re going to pretty much auto lose in such scenarios, as Horrors just lend themselves to generating potential Victory Points for your opponent. Since pretty much every major tournament features at least one scenario that focuses on Kill Points, if you are a competitive-minded player, this is going to be a significant draw-back.
Speaking of which, Horrors are going to be challenging to utilize in a tournament setting, as though you can flood the board with Horror units, it will quickly prove impractical to move so many models around the table effectively in a timed environment. And lastly, GW made one last subtle change to Pink Horrors (and now their lesser brethren) that diminishes their overall power somewhat, especially from a purely competitive point of view.
Horrors now only have access to the Change psychic discipline, meaning they no longer have access to the Malefic discipline. Gone are the days when Horrors can summon more daemons, cast Cursed Earth or sacrifice themselves to become a greater daemon.
Setting these concerns aside, there is also the very real world reality that in order to play Horrors to the maximum potential envisioned by those most horrified by the Horrors’ new rules, you’re going to need to acquire, assemble and paint scores, if not hundreds, or Horror models. This is going to require a major investment in both time and monetary funds, and I believe there are few hobbyists indeed (not even me!) willing to devote so many personal resources. Of course, there is also the fact that there are very few sources to acquire either Blue or Brimstone Horrors, as neither currently has a dedicated boxed set (though, to be fair, I imagine GW will remedy this situation very soon).
So all in all, I personally judge the new Pink/Blue Horror rules to be very strong, perhaps even technically broken, but not practically so. Sure, if you really wanted to be That Guy, you could build an army of hundreds of Horrors and all but actually flood the tabletop. But I firmly believe that the army would just be nothing but a tedious chore to play, and probably not be as strong as it looks on paper regardless.
It has also been my experience that most competitive players, especially those that go to the big tournaments, don’t like horde armies. And with the way they work now, nothing is more horde that Horrors of Tzeentch. No, competitive players generally favor small, tough armies, that can put out a tremendous amount of firepower, but are easy to physically manage. The theoretical Horror spam armies some on the Endless Net are fear-mongering are the polar opposite of this, so I just don’t really see such bogeyman lists ever materializing.
How I’m Gonna Do It
Upon further reflection, I really like the new Horror rules. They are unique and powerful, and if embraced with moderation, I think they will prove both fun and daunting on the tabletop. Since the heady days of the Realms of Chaos books, I’ve always envisioned a Tzeentchian army, be they Chasos Space Marines such as the Thousand Sons, or a full-on Tzeentch Daemon incursion, in a very visually specific way.
As the army advanced, the skies would be zipping with flights of Screamers and leaping clusters of Flamers spewing warp flames over the landscape as they hopped from place to place. Meanwhile, the battlefield around the army would be roiling with knots of spell-hurling Pink and Blue Horrors, the latter emerging to constantly add to the horde as the former fell to the enemy’s weapons. This last aspect regarding the Pink Horrors has been missing from 40k for so long, I’d all but forgotten it. Now that it’s back, I find I relish the aspect of playing it once again.
So, having said all that, how am I gonna do it personally? Well, I’m glad you asked. I personally play a lot of Tzeentch-themed armies, and my pure Tzeentch Daemons are a personal favorite. In fact, I plan to bring them to the Vegas Open this year. So, once the new Horrors rules set in, and I slowly came to grips with all I’ve discussed above, I knew I needed to reevaluate the way I personally play Pink Horrors in my armies. I began with taking stock of just how many Horrors I actually have – after a quick inventory, it turns out that this totals 30 Pink Horrors (including Iridescents, Instruments and Icons), 26 Blue Horrors (many I needed to now actually assemble and paint) and a lowly 4 pairs of Brimstone Horrors.
The cool part is that I’ve been playing my Horrors as a motley assortment of Pinks and Blues (from all editions of the game except the melty 3rd edition Horrors, which I loathed) painted appropriately, but mixed together (since the splitting rules had been pretty much abolished anyway from a practical sense). This made it a simple matter for me of just sort them out. Still, GW needs to stop pussyfooting around and release Blue and Brimstone Horrors in their own kits ASAP, as I need at least 4 more Blues (for the Lorestealer Host formation) and 10-20 more Brimstones just to meet the demand.
So I have 60-odd Horrors, and intend to add another 20 or so (mostly Brimstones), and that seems reasonable and manageable. Oh don’t get me wrong, I know what I said earlier and I certainly don’t mean to start them all on the table all at once. Indeed, I’ve determined that I don’t intend to likely ever begin with more than 2-3 units of Horrors in my armies anymore. In addition, I’ll likely stop bringing the Portalglyph (once a staple) in my Tzeentch Daemon armies altogether, and as I said earlier, I’ll probably rarely, intentionally, summon more Pink Horrors.
Having said that, I love the idea of my Horrors milling about the battlefield, taking casualties and constantly breaking off small units of lesser Horrors, each spewing magic all over the place. Each new unit only magnifies the overall psychic power of the army and helps to fill that visual roll I’ve been missing. Most importantly, if I start with a small base of 2-3 units, of say 10-15 Pink Horrors, in the army, I should be able to manage them so that they prove powerful, evocative and not burdensome.
In fact, once I settled upon the idea of happily creating small units of lesser Horrors from casualties to my Pink Horror units, a devious light bulb (with tentacles) materialized over my cranium. With a little practice and skill, I could even create such units on purpose. And this idea planted even more devious thoughts in my head. Once I got going, I couldn’t stop. So when I play Horrors, I’ll be doing the following to try and squeeze every last additional small unit of Blue or Brimstone Horrors out of those original 2-3 Pink Horror units:
- When employing blast weapons or psychic powers, try to make sure some Horrors are ‘inconveniently’ standing close by, and try to position the template as close to them as possible to maximize the chance that they ‘accidentally’ get caught in the affect.
- Deepstrike into difficult and/or dangerous terrain for no good reason. Speaking of deepstriking – what happens to Horrors that mishap and subsequently roll a 1 on the Deep Strike Mishap Table? Do the Blue or Brimstone Horrors that the unit’s destruction cause then subsequently deepstrike in? If so, where? Do they use the original model as their point of origin to deepstrike themselves in? I suspect the answer is “Yes” to all of that, but I legitimately don’t know for sure.
- Move into or across dangerous terrain on purpose, and possibly for no other good reason.
- Commit a Horror to perform a Death or Glory attempt, knowing full well it cannot succeed.
- Huddle close to friendly vehicles, hoping that if they are destroyed, that they explode.
- Huddle close to enemy vehicles that I intend to destroy, hoping that they will explode if I do so. Assaulting vehicles with the Horrors puts them in perfect position.
- When utilizing a beam psychic power, ‘accidentally’ catch a Horror or two in the attack’s path.
- Use a Herald of Tzeentch or other suitable sorcerous companion to cast Sacrifice, choosing one of the Horrors as the victim.
- Use an unnecessary amount of Warp Charge dice when trying to invoke a psychic power to try and suffer a Perils of the Warp result (hoping to take some casualties), assuming I have the dice to spare in a given turn. In particular, during those rare occasions when I have dice left over, but no suitable targets or things to do with my psychic powers that matter, invoking them anyway hoping for that Perils of the Warp. This tactic becomes all the more insidious once you realize that a result of 8 on the new Tzeentchian Warp Storm table (also found in Wrath of Magnus) reduces all Warp Charge costs to invoke psychic powers by 1, but automatically results in a Perils of the Warp if you fail. Mu Hoo Ha Ha Ha…
- Speaking of Warp Storm tables, there are plenty of results on both tables that might hurt my own guys. If I’m running a Daemonic Incursion detachment, I can even choose to alter the roll results to cause such dangerous results – perhaps choosing Rot, Glorious Rot, knowing that Horrors are particularly susceptible to it. There are a number of other ways to try to sway the results into a dangerous result as well (Instrument of Chaos, Fateweaver, etc.) – Chaos is fickle indeed!
What Should Be Changed, If Anything?
Despite my opinion and the thoughts I’ve expressed here, I’ve no doubt that there will still be some who view the Horrors’ new Split special rule as just too powerful. In this case, what should tournament organizers do to ‘fix’ Tzeentch Horrors? Personally, I say nothing. But, if Organizers feel they must, I think they should adhere to the maxim that Less is More. In particular, after some thinking of my own, I’d recommend one of the following (but not more than one):
- Make an exception for newly created units of Blue or Brimstone Horrors that allows enemy units that shot at the original Pink or Blue Horror unit to be able to assault them (similar to the way a unit that destroys a transport with shooting may then assault the newly debarked unit). This prevents the Daemon player from using newly created Blue/Brimstone Horrors units to effectively always screen his army with these units, and seems completely fluffy as well.
- Allow attacks that cause Instant Death to negate a Pink Horror’s ability to split into two Blue Horrors. Note, I’d say this could not be also applied to Blue Horrors, as with only 2 Toughness, pretty much everything causes Instant Death to them and you’d rarely see any Brimstone Horrors created. Ultimately, I’m not a fan of this one, as in order to work, it leans heavily on only game mechanics and, thus, doesn’t seem very fluffy. Also, given the heavy weaponry thrown around on the typical 40k table, we might rarely see Horrors split at all.
- Any attack or rule that causes a Horror to be ‘removed from play’ prevents it from splitting. This would mean stomps, deepstrike mishaps and a handful of other things would be the only way to potentially prevent Horrors from splitting. This seems to be the best solution, as while rare and/or hard to do, there would still be some things that could prevent Horrors from splitting.
So what do you think? Are you happy to see this fluffy mechanic returned to the tabletop? And are Tzeentch’s new Horrors truly worthy of the name now?