The Chaos Cult is a kill team for the Games Workshop miniature skirmish game Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team. It is available as part of the Ashes of Faith narrative expansion for the game (read our guide to the Ashes of Faith expansion).
Being a citizen of the Imperium is no holiday. Even though the Emperor and his armies might keep you somewhat safe from the horrors of the void, the life he keeps you safe for can be pretty horrible. Hard labour, extreme surveillance, zero tolerance for free thought and crushing punishment to anyone who steps out of line are simple facts of life for most Imperial citizens.
It is no wonder, then, that many citizens become desperate and start to look for shortcuts to a better life. They dream of wealth and power, and of being free of the stranglehold of the Imperial Creed and its enforcers. When this happens, the Ruinous Powers of Chaos often step in to offer exactly that in exchange for the souls of those they grant power to.
A citizen looking for a way to feed his family or rebel against the overlords at his workplace might start having visions that lead him to dark alleyways and abandoned buildings, where the Chaos Cults perform their secret rituals. Joining a Chaos Cult can uplift a lowly factory worker from being a starving rioter with a spiked club to a writhing half-daemon mutant with the power of an Ogryn, and many Imperial Hives have been entirely overrun by these Chaos uprisings if they aren’t stopped in time.
In the game, a Chaos Cult kill team starts the game as a horde kill team with a few strong Psychic characters surrounded by a swarm of weak Chaos Devotees, but as the game progresses, these Devotees mutate into stronger Mutants, and eventually into huge, terrifying Chaos Torments with great melee strength.
So if you want a kill team that becomes more dangerous every Turning Point, with good melee capabilities, scary psykers and a truly horrifying look on the tabletop, the Chaos Cult might be just the team for you.
[Note: This guide has been updated to reflect the Errata 1.0 for the kill team, as well as the Q2 and Q3 2023 Balance Dataslate.]
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Abilities of the Chaos Cult Kill Team
Mutation lets your operatives mutate under specific conditions. Each time it happens, it follows a pattern, so that Devotee operatives turn into Mutants, and Mutants turn into Torments. Alternatively, you can use the mutation to just regain D3+1 lost wounds. The operative doesn’t change into a different operative in regards to its Battle Honours, name and other stuff from campaign play, but simply starts using a different miniature and datasheet (with the full Wounds characteristic of the new datasheet), and becomes its original Devotee version again when the game ends.
Once in each Turning Point in the Strategy Phase, you can mutate friendly operatives equal to the Turning Point number (so 1 in Turning Point 1, 2 in Turning Point 2, and so on). You can also mutate one Devotee when it ends a combat where it inflicted damage but wasn’t itself incapacitated, and finally, you can mutate via the Cult Demagogue’s Accursed Benediction Unique Action (see below).
You can have 5 Mutants and 3 Torment operatives in total in a game, which is fine since that’s what you get in their model pack. This means at least some of your mutations are expendable, since 14 is the number of times you get to mutate anything if your Cult Demagogue is alive for the entire game and can use her Accursed Benediction Unique Action in each Turning Point (see below), 4 from the Demagogue+1 in Turning Point 1, 2 in Turning Point 2, 3 in Turning Point 3 and 4 in Turning Point 4.
In short: Your amazing Mutants and Torments don’t start the game on the battlefield, but mutate from your otherwise pretty boring Devotees. It’s a unique mechanic that really makes the Chaos Cult kill team stand out.
Accursed Gifts are bonuses that affect all your mutated operatives. The first time a Devotee mutates into a Mutant, you select your first Accursed Gift, and the first time a Mutant becomes a Torment, you select your Second Gift. All you mutated operatives receive the benefit of both gifts.
You can select Accursed Gifts from the following list:
- Winged lets you ignore all modifiers to Movement Characteristics and lets you ignore the first Circle/2 Inches of distance when climbing, dropping or traversing.
- Fleet adds Triangle/1 Inch to your Movement Characteristic.
- Chitinous Improves your Save by 1 (so from 5+ to 4+, for example).
- Horned lets you do a mortal wound to one enemy operative next to you after you finish a Charge action (or D3 mortal wounds if your operative is a Torment).
- Sinewed lets you ignore all modifiers to the Weapon Skill of your operative’s melee weapons and gives those melee weapons the Brutal Special Rule so they can only be parried by critical hits.
- Barbed gives the melee weapons of your operative the Reap 1 Critical hit rule (or Reap 2 if your operative is a Torment) so they apply mortal wounds to nearby enemy operative when striking with critical hits in combat.
Note that apart from the two Accursed Gifts you get through this ability, you can also give individual operatives (even Devotees) other Accursed Gifts via the Abhorrent Mutation Tactical Ploy (see below).
Operatives of the Chaos Cult Kill Team
The Chaos Cult kill team has no choices to make about its lineup for a game: It always consists of 1 Cult Demagogue, 2 Blessed Blades, 1 Iconarch, 1 Mindwitch and 10 Chaos Devotee operatives. Over the course of the game, Devotees mutate into Mutants and Mutants mutate into Torments (see the abilities section above), but the team always starts out in the same way. You can read about all the different operative types here:
Cult Demagogue (Leader, 1 per kill team)
The Cult Demagogue is the Leader of the Chaos Cult kill team, and she has the same characteristics as the rest of the Dark Commune (Demagogue, Blessed Blades, Iconarch and Mindwitch): 8 Wounds and a 5+ Save, so pretty vulnerable for a key operative.
She is equipped with a Pistol, which is a 4 attacks, 3 critical damage ranged weapon that many other operatives in this kill team has, and her Diabolical Stave, which is both a short-ranged weapon and a melee weapon, both with 6 critical damage and the Stun critical hit rule.
The Cult Demagogue is very much a support Leader with three Unique Actions that really increases the power of your other operatives: First, and most importantly, she has Accursed Benediction, which lets you mutate one nearby friendly operative for 1 Action Point.
Making the most of this Unique Action is essential to getting all of your Mutants and Torments on the table before the game ends. Secondly, she has Induce Slaughter which lets you spend 1 Action Point to let a nearby friendly operative perform a free Fight action, and thirdly, Incite Urgency lets you spend 1 Action Point to let a nearby friendly operative perform a free Dash action or a free short-range Charge action. None of these actions can be performed while the Cult Demagogue is within Engagement Range of enemy operatives, so always keep just behind the frontlines.
Since you always want to mutate as much as you can, be sure to keep your Cult Demagogue close to Devotees and Mutants, and if you want to make sure she stays alive for the whole game, you can also use the Faithful Follower Tactical Ploy to make Devotees sacrifice themselves to protect her from incoming fire.
Blessed Blade (2 per kill team)
Your Blessed Blades are twin operatives armed with the awesome Commune Blade melee weapon, which does 6 critical damage and scores critical hits on a roll of 5 or higher. Due to the Attuned in Purpose ability, you can always activate you 2 Blessed Blade operatives immediately after one another if they’re within Pentagon/6 Inch range of each other, so make sure to keep them together. They also have the Cut Them Down ability, which lets them do D3+1 mortal wounds to any enemy operative who makes a Fall Back action while within Engagement range of them.
Iconarch (1 per kill team)
The Iconarch is equipped with a Pistol and Crude Melee Weapon like the Devotees (see below), but also has the Burning Censer ranged weapon, which is a Torrent Square/3 Inches weapon with 6 attacks that hits on a roll of 2 or more, so basically a Flamer for area damage.
Like the Cult Demagogue, the Iconarch also takes on a support role in your kill team, and it has three ways to lend support: Icon Bearer, like most other Icon Bearer abilities in other kill teams, improves the Action Point Limit of this character by 1 for the purposes of controlling objectives.
Ruinous Deterioration is a Unique Action (as per the Q3 2023 Balance Dataslate) which adds 1 to the damage inflicted from any attack dice on enemy operatives within 2 Circle/4 Inches of this operative (which can be a lot in a crowded area such as around a key objective!) until the Iconarch’s next activation, and Ruinous Invigoration is another Unique Action which also works within 2 Circle/4 Inches of the Iconarch, but instead subtracts 1 (to a minimum of 3, up from 2 now since the Q2 2023 Balance Dataslate) from any damage inflicted by attack dice done to your own operatives within that area until the Iconarch’s next activation (these two Unique Actions used to be abilities, but were nerfed in the Q3 2023 Balance Dataslate).
Basically, getting the Iconarch on an objective can really turn a fight in your favor, since none of the stuff menitioned above are actions, but simply conditions that occur whenever something is close to the Iconarch. So, if you are sending a squad to take a key objective, bring the Iconarch and keep him alive.
Mindwitch (1 per kill team)
In addition to being an absolutely insane model (a hooded figure carrying a spring-loaded contraption with the severed, but living, head of a rogue psyker as well as a bunch of lit candles), the Mindwitch is also the Psyker of the Chaos Cult kill team.
It hits like a wet noodle in close combat with its critical damage 2 Fists weapon, but otherwise, its pretty great! It has three Unique Actions: Heinous Deluge Subtracts 1 from the Action Point Limit of a Visible enemy operative. Malefic Vortex places a Malefic Vortex token in a Visible location, or even on a Vantage point of a terrain feature Visible to the Mindwitch, and then each enemy operative next to that token takes 1 mortal wound.
At the end of each Turning Point, the effect happens again, so nearby enemies take 1 mortal wound. Infernal Gaze does mortal wounds to a nearby operative based on how close you are to it: If it is within Circle/2 Inches, it takes D3+5 mortal wounds. If it is within 2 Circle/4 Inches, it takes D3+3 mortal wounds, and if it is within Pentagon/6 Inches, it takes 3 mortal wounds. Infernal Gaze can’t be used while your Mindwitch has a Conceal Order.
This all means that the Mindwitch is a very reliable dealer of mortal wounds at range, which is a great asset to have in your kill team. Just make sure the enemy doesn’t get close to it, since it will go down very quickly in close combat.
Chaos Devotee (10 per kill team)
The Chaos Devotee is the most basic operative of the Chaos Cult kill team, and it is also in the running for being the most basic operative in the entire game! It has a Pistol (described above) and a 4 attack, critical damage 3 Crude Melee Weapon, as well as a 5+ Save and 7 Wounds.
The Chaos Devotee does have two things going for it, though: First of all, it has Group Activation 2, so you can activate 2 of them before your opponent can activate one of their operatives.
Second of all, they’re the little guys you mutate into Mutants, who then mutate into Torments over the course of the game, so they’re a lot more valuable than they look. This means you really don’t want them all to get taken out by a big Blast attack at the beginning of the game (shoutout to the Kill Team Casuals podcast for that advice – they’re a great podcast for Kill Team beginners and narrative players).
You don’t need all your Devotees for mutations, though: as long as 5 of them get to mutate, you can use the rest of them for screening off the oponent to keep Dark Commune operatives safe, or even sacrifice them with the Faithful Follower Tactical Ploy. Finally, you also need them for Pick Up actions in missions where that’s relevant, since Mutants and Chaos Torments (who don’t generally have opposable thumbs) have trouble performing those actions.
Chaos Mutant (see the Abilities section)
Chaos Mutants only come into the game when you mutate Chaos Devotees, and they have almost the same characteristics as Devotees, apart from only having a Group Activation of 1.
They are equipped the Blasphemous Appendages melee weapon, which has 4 attacks with 4 critical damage, as well as the Ceaseless Special Rule that lets them reroll attack rolls of 1 (changed in the Q3 2023 Balance Dataslate, it used to be full attack roll rerolls), and the Rending Critical Hit rule, which lets you turn one normal hit into a critical hit if you already scored another critical hit in your attack roll.
Pick Up actions cost an additional Action Point to perform with a Mutant, but that’s not what it’s for, anyway: the Mutant is a melee fighter, and has the Unnatural Regeneration ability, which lets it ignore a wound it is about to suffer on a roll of 6+ (it used to be 5+ but it was changed in the Q3 2023 Balance Dataslate).
Mutants are good, if not great, melee fighters, but their real utility lies in a) them being able to turn into Torments and b) the way they can receive Accursed Gifts and generally just benefit from all the Ploys that interact with the Mutant keyword. Your team really can’t live without them, so make sure to mutate as often as you can.
Chaos Torment (see the Abilities section)
Chaos Torments come into the game by mutating Mutants. They have a whopping 13 Wounds, and also the Unnatural Regeneration they share with the Mutants, so they’re by far the hardest operatives to kill in your kill team. They can’t perform mission or Pick Up actions at all, and Light Terrain doesn’t give them Cover, both of which makes sense when you see their models.
They have the Hideous Mutations melee weapon, which is just like the Blasphemous Appendages of the Mutant (see above), but with an extra attack and 5 critical damage. Just like the Mutants, Torments benefit from Accursed Gifts and many Ploys, but mostly, their bonuses gained from these are even better.
Torments are such fun operatives to play, since they’re really big, interact with a ton of different systems in your kill team’s rules, and when you field them, you really feel like you’ve earned them, since you’ve evolved them, Pokemon-style, Turning Point after Turning Point, from a lowly Chaos Devotee.
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Ploys of the Chaos Cult Kill Team
Exaltation in Pain
This lasts for one Turning Point, and does two things: While it is in effect, your operatives are simply not Injured, even if they would be, and you can reroll one of your defence dice against any shooting attacks with all your operatives.
This lasts one Turning Point and lets you retain one of your attack dice as a succesful normal hit before rolling it when any of your operatives fight in combat during that Turning Point.
Creatures of Nightmare
This lasts for one Turning Point, and it lets you treat the total Action Point Limit of all enemy operatives contesting an objective as being 1 or less (meaning they’re definitely not controlling it, no matter how many operatives they have close to it) if there’s a Mutant or Torment close to that objective.
This also lasts for a Turning Point. worsens the Ballistic and Weapon Skill of enemy operatives close to Mutants and Torments (since the Q3 2023 Balance Dataslate, it no longer works near Dark Commune operatives), so that a weapon might go from a 3+ to a 4+ in Ballistic Skill and so on.
This can be used when your Cult Demagogue, Mindwitch or Iconarch is targeted by a shooting attack. That attack is then redirected to another friendly operative next to them if there is one.
This gives an Accursed Gift to the activated operative (see the Abilities section above).
This can be used when a Mutant or Torment is incapacitated, and does D3 (for a Mutant) or D6 (for a Torment) mortal wounds to an enemy operative close to them.
Unleash the Daemon
This gives a Mutant or Torment a free Fight action and allows them to Fight twice in an activation.
Equipment of the Chaos Cult Kill Team
This is the classic Blast Frag Grenade used by most human kill teams. You can only fire it once.
This is the classic Krak Grenade with high damage and Armour Penetration 1 used by most human kill teams. It’s a one-time use equipment. Remember to use this or the Frag Grenade before mutating, since that will remove the grenade from the bearers equipment list.
This adds 1 to both normal and critical damage of a Crude Melee Weapon or Pistol on a Devotee operative.
This lets the bearer make a free Dash action at the end of the Scouting step before a game begins.
This gives the bearer a 5+ Invulnerable Save.
Once per battle, this lets you ignore the damage from one enemy attack dice.
Tac Ops of the Chaos Cult Kill Team
The Chaos Cult kill team has the Infiltration and Seek and Destroy archetypes, giving it access to the corresponding Tac Ops in the Core Rulebook. In addition to those, it also has access to the following faction-specific Tac Ops:
This Tac Op is revealed at the end of the game, and if by then you have a friendly Torment operative close to your opponent’s drop zone, you get 1 Victory Point, and another if you have one more Torment close to the opponent’s drop zone.
This can be revealed in any Turning Point. Then, if your Demagogue, Mindwitch or Iconarch starts and ends that Turning Point close to the centre of the battlefield, you get 1 Victory Point, and if that condition is met in another Victory Point later in the game, you score another.
This lets you set up a Blood Offering token on an objective marker the first time an enemy operative is incapacitated close to it. You operatives can then perform a Blood Prayer action close to objectives with Blood Offering tokens on them, and when that happens, you score 1 Victory Point. If it is performed on another objective with a Blood Offering token, you score another Victory Point.
Playing the Chaos Cult Kill Team
The Chaos Cult kill team is best understood as two kill teams in one: First, you have your Dark Commune, which consists of the Demagogue, the Blessed Blades, the Iconarch and the Mindwitch.
All of these are specialists with a very specific purpose, either around support for your weaker troops (Demagogue and Iconarch), or high damage-dealing (Blessed Blades and Mindwitch). Second, you have your Chaos Devotees, which do double duty as cannon fodder and the basis for mutating up Mutants and Torments.
Mutants and Torments aren’t just melee brutes, but important chess pieces in your strategy who can spread debuffing auras around them and on objectives, and you can specialize them with Accursed Gifts.
In short, while visually the Chaos Cult kill team looks like a horde of horrors charging mindlessly at the enemy commanded by chaos witches, it’s actually a pretty advanced, high micro management team that rewards very careful planning and positioning, especially around objectives, where the right placement of your Iconarch and your Mutants/Torments can really change the tide of battle.
The main weaknesses of the Chaos Cult is that they are devoid of any infinite-range ranged weapons, and that they lose a lot of their power if you take out their demagogue or keep them from mutating up their maximum allowance of Mutants and Torments, so you need to play them a lot more carefully than you might think. Keep some Devotees close to your Demagogue, both for mutating and for sacrificing to keep your Demagogue alive, and don’t leave your Devotees open to ranged attacks too early in the game so you don’t have enough of them in the later Turning Points.
Building and assembling your Chaos Cult kill team
Properly constructing a full Chaos Cult Kill Team requires you to either purchase the Ashes of Faith narrative expansion for Kill Team, or 3 kits consisting of Chaos kit: The Dark Commune, The Chaos Cultists kit and the Accursed Cultists kit.
Those three packs amount to around £95 currently, so if you don’t have Ashes of Faith, or you don’t already have a cultist-heavy Chaos Space Marines army, the Chaos Cult Kill Team is pretty expensive to get started with, compared to most of the other bespoke Kill Team packs, which go for around £40.
That being said, the Chaos Cults are a visually very distinct kill team with loads of cool sculpts, from the really disturbing “head of a psyker on a stick” Mindwitch to the truly disgusting Torments, which look like daemons bursting through their human hosts like a chicken from an egg.
Most of the sculpts are also pretty easy to assemble. The biggest issue are probably the weird metal chassis for the Mindwitch, which requires you to glue a lot of thin little sticks with little overlap or connection points together, and some of the Torments, where we really recommend dry-fitting the parts before you apply glue.
One thing to keep in mind is that the Chaos Cultists pack comes with options you can’t field in the Chaos Cult kill team, such as a bolt pistol and a chainsword, which are meant for the sergeants of the unit when used in Warhammer 40,000.
Those options look pretty great, so if you’re playing in a casual setting and your opponents are okay with it, feel free to use them as counts-as Pistols and Crude Melee Weapons, but it’s probably not going to work in a tournament setting or with an opponent who insists on WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get, as in: your models have to accurately reflect their rules).