Sunday, 14 January 2018

Daemons- Secrets, oddities, and the guy no-one wants at parties

So, I finally got my grubby paws on the new Daemons book this weekend, and got a game in with my Slaaneshi Daemons. Over the course of looking at the book, though, a few things came up which seem to have slipped under the radar a bit.

No-one likes Be'lakor any more
Way back in the mist-shrouded past (i.e. 7th edition) Be'lakor was Mr Popular, appearing in many Daemon lists. With his potent defences and ability to get Invisibility whenever he wanted to, any Daemon player having trouble would inevitably be told that the problem with their list was that Be'lakor wasn't in it.

Come 8th Edition, though, and Index Belly was a very different and much less appealing beast. He has access to the Dark Hereticus discipline which seems great (yay, Prescience and Warptime) until you realise that neither he, nor anything else in the Daemon army list has the HERETIC ASTARTES keyword, meaning those powers are completely useless without allies to cast them on.

Now the good news is that the Codex 'fixes' this problem. The bad news is that it does it in pretty much the worst possible way. Belly (I know, but it's easier to type) still has access to Dark Hereticus, but now according to the Daemons Codex that discipline only contains Infernal Gaze, Death Hex, and Gift of Chaos, a list of powers Traitor Legion players will recognise as 'none of the good ones'. In what's going to be a recurring theme here, the Codex calls this the Dark Hereticus discipline without acknowledging that a Discipline with the same name exists in the Chaos Marines book, leaving it more than a little unclear whether Belly can take the other powers if, for example, you're allying him with Traitors. You might think (and I would be inclined to agree) that it's clear he doesn't ever get access to the other powers since the page reference is pretty explicit, but this begs the question of whether he can cast, say Death Hex in a turn that an allied Chaos Sorcerer also casts 'his version' of Death Hex, since these two versions of the Dark Hereticus discipline are apparently different and therefore they aren't the same power. (Or are they?)

Now fortunately(?) this is unlikely to come up since there's another reason Belly is suddenly about as popular as a High School Quarterback who forgot which end-zone he was meant to run to in the vital seconds of the Big Game*, and that's his Allegiance, or lack of same. As the only (apparently) Undivided Daemon Prince in existence according to this book, putting Belly in a Detachment immediately kills off the DAEMONIC LOCI rule, so unless you're running a particularly odd Daemon Soup Belly's likely to find he's not only not on the team, there's no longer even a seat for him on the bus.**

The case of the disappearing Heralds, and the people who didn't notice
Shortly before the Codex was officially released (i.e. a few days after All Those Guys already had it) a leaked image revealed the points values for the Codex. This was very handy for me, my grousing aside, because it meant when I turned up at my FLGS on Saturday with my groaning Kaiser-4 bag stuffed with Daemonettes*** I already had a list written up, albeit one the exact capabilities of which I was rather guessing at. However, I noticed while doing this that the points for a  mounted Herald of Slaanesh, either on Steed or a Chariot, didn't appear to be there. When I voiced this concern I was reassured "oh yeah, don't worry, All Those Guys have been through the Codex and all the mounted Heralds are still there, just under different names."

Picture unrelated
Yeah, only not. None of the mount options for Heralds of Slaanesh made it across, not Steeds, not Seeker Chariots and not Exalted Seeker Chariots. Now on the one level this isn't a huge problem, because the Index entries are still valid and DAEMONIC LOCI works on 'all CHARACTERS' meaning that the Index heralds still get it, though the Herald on Steed does lose out on the charge re-roll for Unholy Speed since her version of the rule is simply being able to advance and charge (which the Locus does anyway).

On the other hand, this is a huge deal for several reasons:

Apparently no-one noticed: None of the previews or commentators I read noticed this omission, in fact some even directly claimed it hadn't happened. This seems to suggest a pretty high level of DILLIGAF on the part of those people.

Moving quickly is key to Slaanesh Daemons: Since Heralds give out a buff bubble that lets them Advance and Charge, they need to be very close to the other Daemons in the Charge phase. In most circumstances, the units charging will be big units of Daemonettes or Seekers, which can make it tricky to then keep a charge clear for the Herald, so the Herald needs to get very far forward to give out the benefit of their +1 Strength aura, which can be critical.

It fragments the rules: To play Slaanesh Daemons you still really need the Index. This is bad news for new players and makes any later errata or FAQ entries more complicated, as well as potentially causing problems in tournaments.

The Slaanesh Issue
This brings us to the other big worry with this book. Once again, GW seem to have got a bit of an issue with Slaanesh. The most obvious sign of this is the now-hilarious size and model quality disparity between the Keeper of Secrets and the other Greater Daemons. Of course, since  the Keeper is also the easiest to kill that's not such a bad thing from the player's point of view since it can at least try to hide, but it's still pretty glaring.

It's not just that, though. The Seeker Chariots, which are basically lawnmowers, are still less effective at running people over than a Blood Throne or even a Skull Cannon. (the Khorne chariots do Mortal Wounds on a 5+, the Seeker Chariots need 6+)  Delightful Agonies, a power lifted straight from the Chaos Marine book, causes the target unit to ignore wounds on a 6+, whereas the CSM version works on 5+ , whereas Miasma of Pestilence, the Nurgle power, is just as effective as its CSM counterpart. (At least the Daemon version of Delightful Agonies is slightly easier to cast, at WC5 instead of 6)

Rules Lawyer Interlude: I have no idea whether Delightful Agonies and Miasma of Pestilence, which have the exact same name as their CSM counterparts, count as the same power for the purposes of the Rule of One.

GW, Y U No Like Slaanesh?
It's (hopefully) an overreaction to assume that GW is trying to in some way phase out, or write out, Slaanesh. For one thing, since 40k allows you to play games set pretty much anywhere in a 10,000 year period, even if Ynnead kills the Dark Prince tomorrow the army would still have a reason to exist. (See also: Captain Tycho). But the company really does seem to be treating Slaanesh with marked (sorry) indifference of late. There are two competing theories for why this might be.

Theory 1:Mums Don't Like it
This one is pretty compelling as far as it goes. The old Juan Diaz Daemonettes, which I snapped up plenty of when they recently came up on Made To Order, were for me the only models so far to truly capture the 'disturbing beauty' aspect of Slaanesh.

They also disappeared from shelves pretty fast, and more than one fan suspects that a GW exec came in one day, saw that they were now selling practically-naked six-breasted women to 12 year-olds, and panicked. (Insert tired-but true 'death of billions is fine but a nipple-slip is an international outrage' comment here.) They were soon replaced by the 'after' picture of every beer-goggles joke ever that has persisted to this day. The only real counterpoint to this theory is that modern GW did, indeed, re-release those models for a limited time. I have no idea how well they sold, but every Slaanesh player I know of either bought them, or wanted to, which leads us into Theory 2:

Theory 2:Players Don't Buy It
This one is much more complicated to unpick. Apparently, Slaanesh, and Slaanesh Daemons in particular, is one of the least popular 40k factions. Now in part we have to play the Sororitas Gambit here and point out that if you keep giving a faction only minor model and rule support, you can't expect players to flock to it. But I think there might be another reason as well that ties somewhat into our other point. Here's one of my Keepers:

'Spider Daemon' by Creature Caster
And here's the other:
'Euralyia, Queen of Ker-Ys', by Mierce Miniatures
I could go through my Heralds (mostly Mierce), my Daemonettes (Mostly Raging Heroes) and so on, but the point is made. Since GW have been so unwilling in recent times to embrace the aesthetic that many Slaanesh players imagine, other companies have stepped in to fill the gap. This has two effects- firstly, it means Slaanesh doesn't appear on the GW sales sheet, and secondly it means it doesn't appear in most GW stores or events that require 'official' models. So not only do GW not see Slaanesh being sold, they don't see it being played.

The dawn light may be pink
It's rumoured that we might at some time in the future see Fulgrim, along with a Slaanesh 'wave' to rival those previously seen for Tzeentch, Khorne and Nurgle. It wouldn't take more than a new Daemonette kit, a new Keeper and some polished-up rules to get the Dark Prince back on its.. feet again, but we'll have to see if it pans out. Certainly I would hope GW wouldn't just bin the entire faction, and in all fairness their artists, at least, seem perfectly happy to embrace the Slaanesh aesthetic, as the artwork in the new Codex shows.

The make-up bit
Just as a final little point, I do think the new Daemon book is pretty decent, even for Slaanesh, despite my grousing. As BoLS put it, your army really is so fast that people think you're cheating, and it's fun to play if a bit tedious to move units of 30 Daemonettes. My reservations shouldn't discourage anyone from giving Slaanesh a try (in game, let me emphasise!) and in fact in light of that last bit I rather hope they don't!

*Attempted American sporting reference from a Brit who knows sod-all about the art of Gridiron.
** Misguided attempt to extend the previous metaphor.
*** I originally mis-typed that as 'Damonette' which is presumably a Daemon that makes inflammatory comments about sexual harassment at a deeply-ill-advised moment.

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