Sunday, 14 February 2016

Curse of the Wulfen- initial thoughts

So, I picked up the new "Curse of the Wulfen" campaign books the other day, and I thought I'd write up a few words on it. The TL/DR version is that if you're a Daemon or Space Wolves player, this is something you very much want to get your hands on, though if you're not interested in the other half of the book or the story, you'll be paying a pretty steep price for it.

The Story
The bigger of the two books is the 120 page background book, which is everything you've probably come to expect of this sort of thing by now- full colour, lots of very nice painted artwork in a consistent style, with maps, star-charts and miniature photography, topped off by the still-controversial colour scheme guides with much more basic art. Those of us, like me, who suck at banners will like the fact that there are several here just waiting to be colour photocopied and cut out for use on models.

I'm not going to go into spoiler territory here, but suffice it to say that we follow the Space Wolves as they respond to the emergence of the Wulfen, who appear pursued by daemons. The events lead up to interventions by the Grey Knights and Dark Angels, the latter of whom are rather being led about by the nose in a way that may well spell disaster for one or both Chapters. All the usual suspects get a bit of time in the spotlight- Logan, Stern, Azrael etc with the notable exception of Belial. (Oh, and given the nature of the story I thought it a little odd that Lukas the Trickster doesn't really do anything) There's even a tiny mention of the Sisters of Battle, who get to die heroically as usual.

I'm sure by now you've probably read the way this all shakes out, and it's certainly going to have repercussions though I suspect the Wolves will get through it.

The Rules- Missions
In the other book, we start with six Echoes of War missions, which cover some of the more notable parts of the story. Unsurprisingly, they all feature the Space Wolves heavily, as well as the Grey Knights and Dark Angels, whereas the opposition is mostly Daemons with the odd Chaos Marine. There are some interesting missions, with multiple small battlefields or two battles going on at once, as well as some head-scratchers that will need some work to get a proper game out of, like the mission where you race to see who can get a model off the board first which doesn't use points and doesn't really explain why you wouldn't just use a bunch of fliers.

The Rules- Space Wolves
Space Wolves are one of the few armies I don't play, so I can't go into much depth here. Firstly, the Wolves get most of the benefits they missed out on from the most recent Marine book, such as squadrons of tanks with the associated special bonuses for taking three (eg. Predators with Killshot). They also get a whole welter of new formations for different sorts of Pack, none of which quite reach the level of freebies that a Battle Company or Lion's Blade get, but which do have plenty of handy bonuses- the Spear of Russ that lets Land Raiders dish out POTMS to other Space Marine tanks stood out to me, as do the Iron Wolves who get free upgrades for their transports, can jump out even if the transports move 12", and can flat-out an extra 6". Again, there's the odd baffling omission or apparent mistake, like the revised Iron Priest who gets +1 to his repair rolls for every Servitor he has with him and, er, can't have Servitors. He does get Cyberwolves, but it seems cybernetically-enhanced canines aren't much good at passing a no. 6 wrench. Space Wolf Dreadnoughts still miss out on the extra attacks given to their more vanilla brethren in the most recent Marine Codex, which is odd.

As for the Wulfen themselves, you've read about all this by now I'm sure. They give assault based Space Wolves a nice boost in both speed and killing power with their Curse and hit pretty hard themselves, though I'm not sure that T4, a 4+ save, two Wounds and Feel No Pain are all that good in terms of survivability- top-table staples like scatter-laser Jetbikes and flying Hive Tyrants with twin-linked Devourers don't seem to have too much reason to fear. Expect plenty of arguments as to whether models who join the unit can borrow its ability to run and charge in the same turn- the wording is 'This unit can run and charge in the same turn..' which is a can of worms I'm not opening here.

Overall, though, this book is all give and no take for the Wolves, so if you play them, you probably want it. The same goes for our last entry for the most part...

The Rules- Chaos Daemons
This one is going to run and run. Daemon players seem pretty divided over this book and whether it's the best thing to happen to Daemons since Be'lakor or the worst thing to happen to them since Grey Knights. To start with the uncontroversial, each Daemonic psychic discipline gets three new powers, with Change doing particularly well, getting a strength D Witchfire and a flexible summoning spell. Compounding that are the new Hellforged artifacts, including a book giving the bearer all the powers from the Change discipline, so psychically inclined players can take Be'lakor and a LoC with this book and have two entire disciplines to choose from. There's plenty of other new toys too, mostly weapons for Khorne as well as armour that reduces the Strength of attacks by 1, gives a 3+ save and Adamantium will, and costs barely any more points than Warpforged Armour. Really, the power here will be in the combos. Another Khorne artifact gives out +1 Attack over an 8" radius, which stacks with the +1 from the core Khorne formation, for example.

For Datasheets, the various Bloodthirtsters appear, and with access to Rewards and Hellforged Artifacts are potentially more powerful than ever. Be'lakor and the Exalted Flamer also get proper Datasheets, though the Flamer is still only Infantry and is a single model with only Heavy weapons, so its usefulness is limited to put it kindly. Skarbrand also appears, and will combo monstrously with the rest of the book in the event he can be kept alive. Certainly an Invisible Skarbrand in the middle of a Murderhorde will be quite nasty even as Khorne purists weep tears of blood at the idea.

The Formations are where people will tend to part company with the book, but some have a lot of potential. The four 'core' formations, the Murderhorde, Tallyband, Warpflame Host and Flayertroupe all require what is at first blush a pretty huge number of models, but the benefits are quite strong. Notably, giving out +1 Attack to Bloodletters deals with one of their major weaknesses, and by the use of a Blood Throne it's possible for the entire formation to be affected by two Loci at once, particularly nice if you want to use Skulltaker without wasting his Locus. (For example, you could take this formation with Skulltaker, giving the whole thing Adamantium Will, and add a Blood Throne to dish out Hatred or Rage)

A common problem is that whilst these formations need a number of units equal to the sacred number of their god (a manageable 6 for Slaanesh, up to a painful 9 for Tzeentch) they only come with one Herald, making for a more bottom-heavy force than many Daemon players would like.

The other formations run the gamut. The Rotswarm seems fairly dumb, since it contains Beasts and Plague Drones but needs a foot-slogging Herald within 12" to use one of its rules. The Gorethunder Battery lets three Skull Cannons fire a single Apocalyptic Blast that becomes AP3, immediately moving them way up the threat list for MEQ, and also comes with a Blood Throne that doesn't do much for it and can safely be loaned out to buff up a Murderhorde with a second Locus.  Meanwhile the Grand Cavalcade makes Seekers, Seeker Chariots and Hellflayers run or flat-out an extra 6" which on top of the usual Daemon of Slaanesh and Fast Vehicle bonuses means the things practically teleport, though they're still quite easy to kill and have damage output that makes doing so a very good idea. Soul Grinders can be taken in a formation of three, the Forgehost, and get a handy buff, gaining re-rolls to hit and to wound in any phase in which another member of the Formation inflicts a casualty. This obviously helps them deal with their low WS and BS to an extent, and may come in handy for shooting down fliers if the first one drops a pie-plate or template on something for an easy kill. We should probably also touch on the fact that the Flayertroupe, the core Slaanesh formation, reduces the WS and I of opponents locked with it by 1, potentially helping the Grinders still further.

Leaving the best/worst till last, we come to the Infernal Tetrad. Oh my stars and garters. This bad boy is a formation of four Daemon Princes, each with a different Dedication. They gain buffs for how many of them are still alive, most notably getting +1T for all four. On top of that, they all gain the Warlord trait of any Prince in the formation who is the Warlord.. even if that trait is from one of the four Power-specific new tables in the book. What jumps out immediately is the one giving a Daemon of Tzeentch +1 mastery level, or level 1 if they aren't a Psyker, meaning your Khorne daemon prince could.. could... no, I can't type that, my keyboard is bleeding and brass horns are sounding in the distance.

Anyway, quite apart from all that, this means that, especially with the extra flexibility that the new Hellforged Artifacts give, it's quite possible with this Formation to make an army of nothing but flying Daemon Princes, most of which can also be psykers. The best/worst thing about this, of course, is the potential for making lots of fun unique models for each Prince, making it another army for which you want to strangle the player whilst at the same time loving the models. I certainly can't rule out giving it a go.

Anyway, apologies for the length of this. I really haven't scratched the surface of the options this book adds for Daemon players, so despite the odd derp I have to recommend it. Split the difference with a Space Wolf player for maximum mileage.

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