EDIT: I've noticed this post is getting a lot of hits recently with the new codex. Please bear in mind most of the stuff here doesn't apply any more.
With Blog Wars just less than 6 weeks away there are a lot of things left to sort out. Not least of which are my Dark Eldar which are still not fully painted up (or even 3 colours). I'm in the process of moving house at the moment so hopefully once we're settled in the new place I can get down to some serious painting to get them done. Anyway, that isn't what I want to talk about today.
In our last game at the 40k doubles we played against a very good Daemons/CSM list that fairly comfortably beat us (we did have some shocking luck with some things mind you). Fast forward a couple of months and Matt has been filling me in on his performance at Open War. Unfortunately, I was on a stag do so I wasn't able to attend but from Matt's reports the top players were a group of friends who'd all brought Chaos Daemons in one combination or another. Now in 5th edition no one would've expected these guys to be anywhere near the top but that has certainly changed.
You may remember that shortly before the CSM codex we were treated to a White Dwarf update for Daemons. Aside from introducing the Slaanesh chariots there were also new rules for some resculpted units. The most notable of these were the flamers and screamers.
Having played against these two units I'm of the impression that they're extremely overpowered, if not broken. Now, regular readers of this blog will know that I try to look at things with a balanced perspective (well that's the plan anyway) and I'm not normally one to be using words as strong as "broken". However, in this case I think it's warranted. I'll come on to why I believe they're broken in a moment but ultimately the problem is that in 40K if something is overpowered then we can expect to see them in droves at tournaments. No-one could be blamed for bringing the best units from their codex but I'm a firm believer that, especially in 40K, variety is the spice of life. How dull was it when everyone had a wall of GK razorbacks with psyfleman dreads? It was the same with leafblower guard with piles of hydras and vendettas all over the place.
It seems that we're heading that way with Daemons which isn't something I thought I'd ever say. I think Daemons are actually better in general with the advent of 6th edition (which is actually true of most armies that struggled in 5th). With the Deep Strike Mishap table being a little bit more forgiving and reserves arriving more reliably Daemons players aren't suffering as much. Couple that with the removal of the Fearless wounds in combat and they are already looking better. The White Dwarf update to Screamers and Flamers went a bit too far though. If this was any other army we'd have seen tons of them by now but, because they were never particularly popular, people haven't taken advantage of the rules changes like they would have with another army. However, as more and more people cotton onto these units capabilities we're sure to get sick of them. Let's take a look at what has, in my opinion, gone wrong.
Both screamers and flamers are now two-wound models. Which fine until you try to apply the "Daemon" special rule that they both have. Now, in the codex it says that they'd have Eternal Warrior, Fearless, Daemonic Assault etc. However, in the new rulebook they simply get a 5++ save and Fear. Most Daemons players at the moment are of the opinion that these models now have a combination of both sets of rules. This means they have a 5++ save, EW, Fear, Fearless and Daemonic Assault.
The sticking point is Eternal Warrior. I have no problem with some of the other units in the Codex having it. Someone may as well be getting EW daemon princes after all! The trouble is that for a relatively inexpensive unit to have 2 wounds at T4 and EW is wrong. Let's put this into context for a minute. Screamers have been compared to Dark Eldar Reavers in the sense that they can do something similar to Bladevanes. Just like the DE unit the Screamers do D3 S4 hits per model as they pass over an enemy unit. They can then benefit from a 5++ jink save which increases to 4++ thanks to turbo-boosting. This isn't too bad because they used to have 4++ saves anyway.
Dark Eldar reavers get a 3++ save in the same situation but although they can move further they'll be a lot more vulnerable to fire than the screamers because they have a single wound each at T3. The screamers T4 and 4++ save is perhaps comparable but you aren't losing as many actual models because of them having 2 wounds. When assaulted the screamers will get 3 S5 AP2 attacks at I4 compared to the reavers 3 S3 AP- attacks at I6. Let's think about that for a second, AP2 attacks. That seems pretty good when they are only 25pts for a 2 wound (potentially EW) model compared to 22pts for the S3 single wound DE equivalent. Not to mention that the screamers have a permanent 5++ save even if they haven't moved whereas the reavers only have a 5+ armour save if they're not zipping around.
Now I'm aware that direct comparisons between units are always a bit dodgy but I think this really highlights how good screamers have become. Think about a full strength unit of 9 screamers. How would your army deal with them? That's 18 S4 wounds you've got to shift. Charging them will be painful for any unit with those S5 AP2 attacks. Shooting them with high strength won't help you. Think about paladin blobs and how hard they are to shift sometimes but now think what they'd be like if you couldn't Instant Death them!
Flamers are pretty horrific too. They've got the same thing going off with the 5++ save, 2 T4 wounds and Eternal Warrior. They also have a ridiculously good defence against assaults in the form of Breath of Chaos as a Wall of Death. That means each flamer is going to kill a model with Overwatch fire (based on average of 2 hits at 4+ to wound). A full squad of 9 of them would probably destroy the entire charging unit before any blows were struck in combat. Now I think most people will still be taking them in 3s but even in small numbers they're devastating.
This is all without even mentioning that they both occupy different FOC slots so you can have 3 units of each and still have points for a few plaguebearers to sit on objectives whilst these ridiculous units sweep across the board with the help of a couple of winged princes.
Now, the hope was that the FAQs would address this issue pretty soon. However, the latest FAQ states that basically Daemons now add Fear to the list of rules they get from their version of the "Daemon" special rule. That seems to imply that they don't get the 5++ save but do still have Eternal Warrior. If that's the case then technically neither unit has any kind of save at all!!
In my opinion the intention was for these units to have 6th edition rulebook version of Daemon which would mean a 5++ save and Fear but also still retaining Daemonic Assault. That would mean that we could all merrily hit them with S8+ stuff to shift them relatively easily without them being so gimped that people stop taking them again.
Until GW does something concrete with this it's going to have to be one of those things that is up to players discretion. I don't think it's reasonable to say they get all aspects of both versions of the rule but at the same time if they don't get some bits of both then they don't function as a unit.
As the TO for Blog Wars I will have to make some sort of decision prior to the tournament but I wanted to see what the general opinion was on this issue. Fingers crossed GW FAQ it before December but they aren't known for doing helpful things like that!