Many players have asked, ‘why Daughters of Khaine, and why now?’ – and who knows! Especially given not much has changed.
Daughters of Khaine (DoK) are an army of slithering and/or bikini clad glass hammers – ruled over by everyone’s favourite double-act, Morathi and The Shadow Queen. DoK enjoyed a period of dominance, largely thanks to their patented ‘Morathi and the Bow Snakes’ list, predicated on double-shooting 15 bows, with mortals on 6s – earning approving nods from Longstrikes.
For at least the latter half of 3e however, they’ve been hanging on in there but rarely wrapping their tails around that trophy. The question is, how can they be made more reliably competitive, while radically improving their internal balance, with a relatively small unit roster and while following the 3e tradition of clamping down on re-rolls, something they relied heavily upon?
A quick proviso, I’m not going to bother comparing what has and hasn’t changed the entire way through – but most of the Traits, and Artifacts have, even if they kept the same name. So if you’re a returning player familiar with the old book, I encourage you to read on – I’ll call out when a unit is largely the same!
Read on to get the WOOT! (Woehammer opinion of Tome!)
Let’s start with a high level hypothesis, so that the rest of this review is contextualised. Overall, I think the new book is a slight diagonal-grade. I think DoK have the tools to podium again, without being broken, with better (but still not perfect) internal balance. There are however, some missed opportunities and some ever so slightly concerning trends.
Old DoK players who were happy with where things stood will have a good time with this. It should be pretty accessible for new players too. But I also think it’s launching into a fairly hostile meta. All that said, let’s dive in.
Overall, the new and improved battle traits fit the bill – they allow you to slither or dance quickly into a good krump, even if they don’t set the world on fire creatively.
Blood Rites is the same idea, but without re-rolls as per the 3rd edition crack down. The following battle traits are all clearly aimed at combining with it, and there are plenty of options throughout the book to accelerate it. And I mean, it works. It’s functional. I feel like +1s to stuff is a nice way to not rely so much on CP, but it’s also just basic – and there are plenty of armies whose main battle traits are highly effective from battle round 1 or 2, so I don’t love the philosophy of playing around the timing of it, or leaning into various combos just so that it IS effective from turn 1 – but on the other hand, it does give you some flexibility with how the trigger-timings of your list.
Battle Fury is a heroic action that a non-monster can carry out, adding 2 attacks to all melee weapons used by that hero until the end of the turn. More attacks the better, and there are some heroes that benefit a lot from this – you’ll just have to time it right with Finest Hour, but it’s a good option to have in a pinch.
All-Out Slaughter triggers when you pick a unit to fight in the combat phase, and gives them exploding 6s. Does what it says on the tin, and obviously once you’re onto Rite 3 (+1 to hit) you don’t need All Out Attack anyway. Pop this on Morathi, a reinforced blob of Blood Sisters of Aelves and watch the sparks fly.
Fanatical Faith is a ward of 6. Better than nothing (just).
The command traits in this book are collectively one of the highlights, with a few things that allow you to really juice a favourite hero and affect the battle in meaningful ways. Most of them, however, we’ve seen before – and I do wish armies would get some more unique traits overall.
I’ve ordered these in order of my favourites first.
Zealous Orator rallies on a 4+. That’s big. Ardboyz have it conditionally, Fyreslayers got it, and now DoK have it – a 15 blob of bow sneks? A 30 blob of Aelves? Prime, prime targets.
Fuelled by Revenge allows Melusai Ironscale a once per battle, +1 attack to Melusai melee weapons within 12″ – not hard to guess the application of.
Sacrificial Overseer lets a general fight again, after killing a model, and after the unit it’s engaged with has fought back. Useful on smaller heroes you’ve chucked into chaff for finishing off a unit, or on a (well, the only) bigger one to go much harder into tougher targets.
Arcane Mastery teaches the general all the Lore. It’s a great lore – even though DoK lack great casters. It gives you flexibility though, which is powerful.
Bathed in Blood gives a general a wound back after killing a model – too niche for my tastes but it makes that ‘one big hero’ (have you guessed it yet?) potentially a lot tankier.
Master of Poisons procs on a wound allocated to a model – and does d6 additional mortals to it. Fits the name, but swingy, and therefore sub-par.
True Believer is +1 to Rites. Fairly useless on most heroes really. I guess if you really want to get a hero repeatedly stuck in, it could be useful, just seems to me all the above alternatives either have more utility or raw strength. Prove me wrong though!
Artefacts can potentially change a hero’s role, help spike their output, or otherwise combo interestingly with a Trait, or otherwise. In theory. Unfortunately for DoK, theirs are boring, if relatively useful.
This time in no particular order, because I wasn’t enthused enough to pick a favourite.
DoK generic heroes
When Bloodbane Venom causes a wound that doesn’t kill a model, a roll of =/+ the model’s Wounds Characteristic kills it. Vaguely useful against heavily armoured but low-ish wound stuff like Annihilators, or getting luck against a Blightking I guess.
The Crone Blade gives one weapon the ability to heal 1 wound on a hit roll of 6. At this point, I’m just going to say it – most DoK heroes aren’t going to stick around long if they don’t immediately kill whatever they’re fighting, so gaining a few wounds here and there back feels niche. Apart from… the the one big hero – the Cauldron!
Slightly more interesting is the Crown of Woe, which prevents Rally or Inspiring Presence within 9″, or 15″ for rest of the battle once the hero kills a model. Potentially devastating AND, finally, something that can work without chucking the bearer into combat.
Rune of Khaine is a ‘fight on death’ effect. Great…so long as you die in melee.
The Crystal Heart doubles the range an endless spell can be cast at. If the DoK endless spells were better, this would be great. But they aren’t, so it’s not. Because James Workchap largely refuses to make one of the coolest things about AoS reliably usable. But hey if you really want to pop that Viper up in someone’s face, here’s how you do it.
Aside from sounding like a long-fringed metalcore band, Sevenfold Shadows allows a once per battle teleport. Useful if you’re not playing Khailebron, while Shadow Stone is +1 to cast Lore of Shadows spells. Useful, but uninspired.
Priests are hugely important to DoK. So it stands to reason they only get a choice of two unique artefacts. The Blood Sigil learns ya an extra prayer. The prayers are good! Whereas the Khainite Pendant is a once per game auto-answer. DoK have a lot of pendants, sigils, stones and assorted gew-gaws knocking around, huh?
So about those prayers I mentioned. These are mostly unchanged, which makes sense because by and large, they’re bangers – less ‘prayers’ and more ‘blood-curdling celebrations of gore’, but hey. I think with the new internal balance, there’s a little less a reliance on certain prayer combos, but they’re still at the heart of the army.
Catechism of Murder is the exploding 6s prayer you know and love.
EDIT/CORRECTION: Blessing of Khaine is currently in need of a bit of an FAQ – well, hopefully, otherwise it’s not great. The problem is, it currently reads ‘re-roll Fanatical Faith rolls’, i.e. your Ward of 6. But does Rite 5 IMPROVE your Fanatical Faith ward? Not currently as written. So does Blessing aim to re-roll your Ward save, just your Fanatical Faith roll, and/or does Rite 5 IMPROVE the ward or simply GIVE you a ward of 5. Grrrr.
Martyr’s Sacrifice gives each model in a unit the ability to do a MW on a 5+ upon dying in melee. Useful in a big blob of double-reinforced Aelves, if you really plan on them dying rather than killing… Crimson Rejuvenation heals d3 – big woop. Covenant of the Iron Heart auto-passes battleshock for when you really don’t want to save a CP for it – very handy in actuality if you’re leaning into the bikini-horde which this book definitely makes viable. And finally Sacrament of Blood gives +1 to the Rites table to a unit with an Answer of 3 – strong, for obvious reasons.
The spells are unchanged, rightfully so – this is a highlight of the faction – everything has a distinct use, and affects the game in a meaningful way. See, they know how to do it!
Steed of Shadows goes off on a 6 and makes the caster fly and move 16″. Pit of Shades pops on a 6, range 18″, picks an enemy unit and rolls 2d6 – difference between the roll and their move characteristic does mortals. Mirror Dance dings on a 6, 18″, picks 2 DoK heroes outside of engagement range and swaps them. The Withering procs on a 7, 18″, puts +1 to wound rolls on an enemy unit. Any attacks! This is stronk as it can improve Bow sneks, or allow multiple units to pile in and take down something juicy while you wait for the Blood Rites to catch up. Mindrazor – everyone’s favourite – dings on an 8 (so, risky with not many casting bonuses), 18″, gives a friendly unit +1 rend and additionally, +1 damage to melee weapons if you charged. Finally, Shroud of Despair gets jiggy on a 4 at 18″ and subtracts 1 from a unit’s bravery or d3 on a cast of 8+. This could combo very nicely with Crown of Woe for battleshock shenanigans!
A lovely set of spells and I wish that kind of balance was present in some of the other sections.
Some fairly chunky changes here. Overall, a decent balance of competitive options with a few of your typical ‘what were they thinking’ moments thrown in just to temper your enthusiasm. As a general trend, sub-factions are pretty interesting in 3rd edition – and while none of these are bad per se, there are a few here that feel very uninspired.
Khailebron gives you access to a command at the end of movement phase and allows a unit to teleport. Teleportation is frankly super useful in a game of objectives – both defensively, offensively and for objective play. Want to deploy your bow sneks way back and teleport them up into range? Get something within charge range (preferably once the +1 charge Rite has kicked in)? Quickly screen something or help score Savage Spearhead, etc, all potential scoring applications. It also makes Shadowstalkers battleline, although why you’d want to take more than 1 unit of them is beyond me (you’ll see why)
The Kraith allows a Sisters of Slaughter (who are good now) unit to fight again on a 4+, with the strike-last effect applied, so they can’t fight twice in a row. Swingy, sure, but if you’re leaning into bikinki-aelves and running multiple squads of them AND charging multiple times, you could get a lot of value from this. But make no mistake – this hugely relies on bigger blobs of them, otherwise you’re not going to have a unit left after the enemy unit slaps back.
Zainthar Kai lets a Melusai unit fight on death. What, you want me to analyse that? Obviously it makes Melusai battleline too.
Hagg Nar adds 1 to the Rites chart. Simples! It also lets you include 1 Cauldron of Blood in addition to your behemoth limit, for some reason.
Draichi Ganeth improves the rend of both flavours of bikini aelf by 1 if they charged. Stack that with a Gladiatrix and Mind Razor and they can hit rend 3 – which is frankly brutal. This sub-fac also ups the reinforcement cap of Aelves by 2 (so you can include an additional reinforced or double reinforced unit) and your (power?) fantasies about flooding the table with murderous, lethal Morathi’s Secret models can finally come true.
Khelt Nar (don’t exactly roll off the tongue some of these do they?) allows any unit to retreat and charge. Not my favourite but frankly, this is occasionally going to be clutch, especially against tar-pit armies or unfavourable engagements. It definitely has play even if it doesn’t jump off the page at you.
There’s obviously the potential here to get really into the weeds. So instead of describing every part of every warscroll, i’m going to pull out the most interesting bits.
THE SHADOW QUEEN is more or less unchanged. She slaps, and her damage table got upgraded to 6 being the first threshold. If you didn’t know, her gimmick is you can only do 3 wounds to her MAX per turn – but she can’t heal. Interestingly, you could probably compete without her now, but I’m not sure i would trust anyone who left her at home.
Most of the on-foot heroes remain very similar. But they all have a little more utility because of the other changes. I think Melusai Ironscale risks getting edged out since you don’t need her to make Sisters battleline. Her melee damage cap is 12 – not great with only Rend 1. The reason you take her is her command ability – to let a Melusai unit run and charge/shoot – and at 115 points, she’s takeable.
Morgwaeth finally got the true Underworlds treatment and got made redundant.
Shall we talk about the One Big Hero? The Shrine – and its various combinations. It got a LOT better. Try and bear in mind those past hints I made – you’ll see the synergies on offer here.
Firstly, the configurations are as before – the Cauldron ridden by the Bloodwrack Medusa on her own, or with one of either the Hag Queen or Slaughter Queen and the Avatar riding shotgun with either Queen. It’s a fun modular approach you don’t really see elsewhere – each hero retains the same abilities on foot, but on the Cauldron become way more durable and and therefore much better platforms for many of the above enhancements – overall I’d say the book pushes hard for you to take some version of what I’m now calling the Bloodwagon. The wagon’s base abilities are +1 to chanting (huge), an impact hit (standard 2+ for d3) and Bloodshield, a +1 save aura tied to the damage table, and starting at 18″.
Personally, I think the Slaughter Queen variant is the spiciest. This combo gains the Pact of Blood ability not found elsewhere, which is an unbind attempt. The Slaughter Queen herself brings two abilities to the table…well, cauldron – Orgy of Slaughter, a her phase CA with a 3″ range that allows a unit to fight.
Yep, this thing can fight in the hero phase. Is it any good at fighting? The mounted Avatar (who retains these same stats on foot as above) swings 4 times for 3/3/-2/3 – a good start. The Slaughter Queen brings 4 attacks at 3/3/-1/d3, and it’s topped off by the attendant aelves with 8 (bracketing) 3/4/-/1. Individually, none of that sets the world on fire, but it adds up – and at 13 wounds, albeit on a 5+ save, you actually have the ability to tank a round of attacks from plenty of stuff, meaning the fight-in-hero-phase ability will actually see play, and if it helps you finish something off, being able to then reposition defensively or set up for another charge is potentially huge.
So pop Bathed In Blood on it and so long as you’re fighting units rather than single/very small elite units, you could easily get a bunch of wounds back, in up to two phases per (your) turn. Sacrificial Overseer suddenly seems great – imagine finishing off a unit in your hero phase, charging two units at the same time, then getting to fight twice in the following combat. Crone Blade and Rune of Khaine could be brutal on this platform. Exactly how you pimp your ride is up to you but there are definitely some fun options here.
But I saved the best for last. The Slaughter Queen’s second ability, Dance of Doom, answers on a 3 (2 while on the blood wagon) and applies strike-first. Now we rollin’!!
The Hag Queen instead has Witchbrew, another source of +1 to Rites, and Touch of Death, a 3 answer prayer for d3 wounds to a unit within engagement range. Unless you’re really playing to Blood Rites acceleration combos, you can see why I prefer the Slaughter Queen – even though she’s 315 compared to Hag Wagon’s 270.
The Bloodwrack Medusa is your budget wagon pick at 200, or 130 on her own – a 1 cast, 2 unbind hero whose real value is a source of +1 Rites for Melusai and a nice spell (5 – 18″) for minus 1 to melee wounds for an enemy unit. She buff, she debuff, she whiffs in melee. However, her Bloodwrack stare – mortals on a 5+ for each model in a unit within 12″ has much more play on a durable platform as incidental chip damage given you want the Wagon up close and personal.
When he’s not riding the Blood Wagon screaming ‘I’m King of the wooorld!’, the Avatar of Khaine got way better. 10″ range, 6 attacks 3/3/-1/1 ain’t nothing (obvs applies to Wagon variants) and his aforementioned sword are perfectly fine, and with 9 wounds on a 4+ he’s one of your tankier options. What he gains for going solo is a built in Ward of 5 and Wrath of Khaine, allowing him to use the Stomp or Smash to Rubble Monstrous actions, while being immune to monstrous actions himself. At 155, that makes him a cheap Totem, with good utility who can still put a dent in things.
The rest of the book is more straight forward. Gladiatrix is a straight up Aelf buff piece – she adds rend, and changes their wound characteristic to 3+. Very strong. Witch Aelves rip and tear when buffed by her, and various aforementioned other buffs – and get +1 to wound while within 12″ of a totem. Sisters of Slaughter are less killy but are eligible to fight within 6″ and can pile in 6″ – this is not to be underestimated, as with careful positioning this can avoid unleash hell or just cause headaches for your opponent wanting to stay out of melee.
Khainite Shadowstalkers lost their -1 to hit, so become a lot less interesting. 9 bodies on a 4+ that can teleport – so 1 unit is probably fine for screening/scoring, and I guess it’s cute that in Khailebron you can run a shadow themed list.
Doomfires do a bit of everything, but nothing very well. Interestingly, while at 5+ models, they’re one of the army’s only source of +1 to casting/unbinding, making them potentially interesting for getting off early Mindrazor etc before zooming off to die. CORRECTION: A kind reader pointed out – correctly – that only heroes can take spells from the Lore! So this lowers Doomfires stock a little given their warscroll spell (scaling mortals based on size of enemy unit) is short range and will be tricky to get off while keeping them safe – but it does mean they still get a bonus to getting an endless spell off turn 1.
Blood Stalkers are unchanged, which means they’re still amazing given Shadow Queen kept her double shoot. Even though this is good for those of us who have 15 of ’em, It’s a worrying precedent – double shooting is not a popular mechanic, and for good reason. I’d have preferred to see that dropped in favour of a more interesting and tactical rule – standing still and raining hell from 24″ twice is uninteractive and bad for the game.
Blood Sisters however just became one of the best infantry units in the game, because Turned to Crystal now happens after their attacks have resolved. So, reinforce them, throw out 3 attacks each at 3/3/-1/1, add in Rites and buffs to taste, and whatever is left standing immediately takes 10 mws on a 2+. So that’s 8-9 MWs on average before everything else, before the unit gets to slap back. Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.
Both flavours of Khinerai got better. Heartrenders can drop from the sky, shoot (1 attack 3/3/-1/1) then move 6″. This gives them all sorts of positional utility and scoring potential. LIfetakers are less tactical but get a bonus attack and are 3/3/-1/1 in melee – plus, after they fight, on a 4+ they can retreat 6″. Swingy, but if it goes off this could be a massively frustrating hit’n’run tactic – worth trying for the look on your opponents face.
Now, I’m always gonna bang the ‘Endless spells should be great – or as good as they are now, but dirt-cheap’ drum. Given they’re usually easy to dispel – sure, your opponent has to use up a cast slot to do it – and cost valuable points when you might even fail to cast them – people gravitate only towards the absolute best ones, which are generic – like life-swarm and spell-portal. Faction specific ones usually look great and COULD offer a tonne of personality.
Bloodwrack Viper comes up on a 7 within 9″, then picks a unit within 1″ after it flies 9″ and rolls 3 dice – each =/+ wounds characteristic kills a model and it can also ‘do an Avatar’, i.e. make a Stomp or Smash to Rubble monstrous action.
Hang on – is the Viper actually good?! Casting on a 7 isn’t too bad, a 19″ threat range – but 80 points is dear. If it was 60, I’d say hell yeah!
The others actually aren’t that bad but you probably still won’t take them at a high level. Bladewind passes across units and does 1 MW on a 2+ and removes their cover modifiers within 12″. So niche, and hard to see when you’d cast this for 50 points over anything else in the great Lore. Heart of Fury (an invocation not a spell) makes you roll – on a 1-5, -1 damage within 12″ – potentially useful for the odd occasion you really want to charge something and think you might not kill it. On a 6, you also get +1 attack in the same range. If you have a spare 45 points, that’s not a bad shout potentially!
GRAND STRATEGIES & BATTLE TACTICS
I’ve left these for the end because it actually makes more sense to think about them once you know what the stuff can actually do. Overall, these are probably more viable than average, which is great.
For Grand Strats, you got Bloodthirsty Zealots which scores if all your units have fought at least once. This shouldn’t be hard – as long as you time it right with your weaker stuff. Say you have 15 Bow sneks – make sure you push them up throughout the game so you can charge them into something if necessary near the end-game before you table them – or the game ends. What’s nice about this is it’s VERY hard for your opponent to deny, and you can score it even more reliably when the game isn’t going your way!
Blood Bath however is a weak variation on that theme, requiring every enemy unit to have at least a scratch on it – i.e. not be at full health.
EDIT: On re-reading this, the wording is actually ‘all enemy HEROES and MONSTERS either have at least 1 wound allocated to them or have been slain and if all other enemy units on the battlefield have had at least 1 model slain.’
Overall, I don’t think it changes my analysis below, but it’s a tiiiny bit harder.
It’s not too bad, and means you don’t have to plan for your archers to be in melee somehow – but say a unit or hero is able to reliably hide in a corner or heal up in the last turn – could suddenly deny you. Overall, Grand Strats that are in your hands, so to speak, are quite good – and given DoK battleline units aren’t tanky and most everything else wants to be aggressive, I think these actually do compete with the Core options.
Naught but Destruction is your token ‘what the fuck were they smoking’ GS – you pick a defensible terrain piece in enemy territory, and if there isn’t one, the opponent picks one anywhere on the battlefield. Now you gotta demolish it. I mean – sure, the Viper or Avatar can smash to rubble, but what happens if there IS no defensible terrain? Every game should have it but…that’s just a ‘should’. Unless this is a hint the new GHB will mandate every game has to include some, this is a very strange one.
The Battle Tacs are actually fun, and continue the trend of really only 1-2 being doable by any one list – which isn’t a bad thing. Clash of Arms wants you to charge with 3 units and if two of ’em are bikini Aelves you get an additional victory point. Fine in a pinch, potentially great in Aelf spam lists given they will probably churn through Broken Ranks fairly quickly.
Tide of Blades is Savage Spearhead, but bonus point for doing it with two Witch Aelves units. Again, with Shadowstalkers, Khinerai and aggressive play in general, this become highly achievable.
Cruel Delight relies on 2 or more Khinerai units using their Fire and Flight or Fight and Flight ability – very doable and you’d certainly be within your rights to have 2 Khinerai units now. While Unexpected Attack wants Khainite Shadowstalkers to charge after deep-striking. Even with +1, the odds of a re-rollable 8 incher are far too low to ever pick this unless it’s an absolute last resort or you’ve gone full Khailebron and are popping 3 ‘Stalkers down in the same turn. Incredibly niche and risky.
On the more situation end of the spectrum we have Executioner’s Cult – which can be picked if you have a Gladiatrix – which well you might! She has to kill a hero with her Killing Stroke ability – this would be a flex to pull off – and certainly doable – but it would be so easy to either accidentally kill the hero beforehand or just…not. Why risk it? Baffling and risky specificity on this one.
Hatred of Chaos is available if you’re running Hagg Nar or Khelt Nar and asks for 2 or more CHAOS units to be destroyed this turn. Highly situational, but not necessarily difficult, so it’s a perfectly nice option to have in your pocket, especially given they’re both perfectly viable sub-factions. And Chaos suck. And everyone plays Nurgle now – so this might come up more often than you think…
3e books have been circumspect with Battalions as they have the potential to tip the balance massively. Take Nurgle’s rotbringers cyst for an example that is almost certainly too good. On the whole, I’m happy with Battalions being fluffy or just matching the core battalion effects when you have a more unusual army make up – and that’s more or less what’s on offer here.
Vyperic Guard comprises Morathi+Shadow Queen, 1-3 Khainite Leaders – 1 mandatory (Bloodwrack or Ironscale), and ~6 Melusai warriors – 2 mandatory, and offers an extra enhancement – so it’s basically a bonus/tweaked Command Entourage. Not bad!
Shadow Patrol however is the fluffy, competitively rubbish one that isn’t worth the ink used to print it. 2 Mandatory Doomfires and FOUR mandatory Khinerai gives you either a one-drop or Swift. I mean…why?
Hopefully that gives you a good idea of the fun, competitive and creativity level of the new book. My takeaways are that the internal balance got much better with only a few sore losers (especially Shadowstalkers), the creativity level ticked up a little with some annoying missed opportunities (straight forward albeit useful Command Traits/Artefacts), and the competitive factor ticked up a fair notch. Will the increased options and killing power be enough to deal with the oppressive tankiness of Nurgle, or the strike-first brutality of new IDK (who seem a particularly brutal counter to DoK at first glance) or the forthcoming mobility, the ‘I laugh in the face of your rend’ and oppressive charging/tar-pitting potential of new Nighthaunt? We’ll soon see – my knee jerk reaction is ‘sometimes’ – which is, honestly, as it should be! Now, go forth and bathe (but don’t drink – leave that to SBGL) in the blood of your foes.