This article will detail the Nighthaunt army starting from its lore, describing the main units and their roles, how the army plays and finally our personal opinion of the army.
For a complete run-down of the different armies available in Age of Sigmar, consult our Age of Sigmar army overview article.
In this article we will refer often to Matched Play and other technical terms like allegiance abilities, command points, army roles in building a list, core battalions, Endless Spells/Invocations, etc. We assume the reader will be knowledgeable with those terms, otherwise please refer to the relevant guides for more details.
Overview of Nighthaunt Army
The Nighthaunt are the spooky ghosts of the Mortal Realms, the souls of all those that Nagash, the Supreme Lord of Undeath, determined worthy of punishment. Since the Necroquake, the powerful ritual that Nagash tried to complete to control all Mortal Realms, undead forces arose all over in their bloodlust for the living.
In game, their ghostly appearance translates in powerful boons like the ability to fly, to terrorise your enemies or to have unmodifiable save rolls. They play as a constant wave, able to hit wherever they want and inflict punishment to their enemies in multiple forms.
They have many rules, and are extremely easy to paint. As they were part of the launch boxes for the second edition of Age of Sigmar, you can find plenty of models at a cheap price, both in the second hand market and in the remaining stocks from the previous edition. As they have lots of push-to-fit models (mono-pose models, but cheaper plastic) they are generally more affordable than other armies.
Most of the range was released in 2018, taking inspiration to few still surviving models like the Cairn Wraith and the Tomb Banshee, and since then, they saw the addition of few more heroes and the first real ranged troop for undead.
The latest battletome (May 2022) brings the army in the third edition updating the previous book with much deserved bonuses and standardization.
Lore of Nighthaunt Army
When a mortal dies, his or her soul will go to Shyish, the Realm of Death, in the afterlife that their people believe in. There it will stay until all memories of its existence, or even of its culture, fade away to finally obtain complete oblivion. However, since Nagash, the Great Necromancer, became the undiscussed God of all undead, master of Shyish and claimant of all souls that depart from the Mortal Realms, things have changed a bit. The Necroquake, the consequence of a failed ritual that would have allowed Nagash to control the death energies across the entire Mortal Realms, stirred all undead beings from their graves.
The Nighthaunt are the ethereal essence of those that have been punished by Nagash, either because of their sins in life, or because they opposed the Great Necromancer himself, directly or indirectly, like healing people or preventing their souls from reaching Shyish.
The God of Death has a twisted sense of justice, so all spirits that end up in his control are stripped of any good feeling like kindness or mercy, leaving them bitter, upset and vengeful. In a cruel joke, they experience their demise through their bodily essence, so that criminals who died in chains will carry those same chains in death, and so on. All of this creates a powerful army lusting for the flesh of the living so that they can join their ranks and share their own punishment.
It is not easy to kill a ghost, you need full conviction to be able to banish them, neither can they be easily contained as they are relentless and eventually find a gap in the magical protections and swarm towards their destined prey.
To control these hordes of ethereal gheists, Nagash identified Lady Olynder, a powerful queen that with cunning and treachery rose to power in the kingdom of Dolorum. When she eventually fell to Nurgle and the plague that engulfed his kingdom, Nagash saw in her the potential to lead his processions of ghosts, but of course she was punished to live forever the pain and anguish she pretended to wear when her betrothed and his father (prince and king) died mysteriously on her wedding night.
The Nighthaunts attack in processions, hordes of bitter spirits of all shapes and forms led either by the Mortarch of Grief, Lady Olynder herself, or one of her attendants, including Kurdoss Valentian, who Nagash cruelly punished to marry Lady Olynder but to be always second in command, unable to issue commands unless the queen so asks and forever tormented by his heralds reminding him of his shortcomings.
Army rules for the Nighthaunt
But how does a Nighthaunt army play on a tabletop? First let’s go through the main rules for this army.
The first important aspect of the army is that any enemy unit, not Nighthaunt, are considered terrified if engaged to a Nighthaunt unit. This will have many implications later on, but for now consider that a terrified unit cannot issue or receive the Inspiring Presence command ability (the one that prevents battleshock test).
As ethereal units, Nighthaunt have a 6+ ward, can retreat and charge and their save roll cannot be modified in positive or negative (no mystic shield but they also ignore rend). All units in addition can fly.
They have access to the command ability Discorporate that can be used when targeted by an attack in the combat or shooting phase. In that case their ward increases to 5+.
When they attack, their unmodified hit roll of 6 automatically wounds (Frightful touch, note is not a mortal wound anymore).
Finally, when they charge, the unmodified charge roll has different effects on the charged unit depending on the value, from reducing their hit rolls, their save rolls or even applying the strike-last effect. Multiple maluses can be applied to the same unit as long as there’s multiple charging units.
And the last trick is the ability to remove up to 3 units after deployment and put them in reserve to be deployed again at the end of the subsequent movement phases anywhere 9″ further from enemy units.
Nighthaunt sub-factions are called Processions and they have 4 of them:
- The Grieving Legion, the royal court of Dolorum and attendants of Lady Olynder, prevents enemy units from retreating from big units.
- The Emerald Host, Lady Olynder personal executioners, provides mortal wounds to few enemy units.
- The Scarlet Doom, formed from those whose corpses were maimed or decapitated, focus on Bladegheist Revenants that become battleline.
- The Quicksilver Dread, hailing from Chamon and able to deliquesce, focus on Dreadscythe Harridans that become battleline.
Nighthaunt also have access to their own list of command traits (like Spiteful Spirit that allows to spread mortal wounds when your general is wounded), artefacts (like Pendant of the Fell Wind for a wound malus to enemy units, Midnight Tome for a once per battle automatic cast of an endless spell, or Lightshard of the Harvest Moon for a once per battle wide attack bonus) and spells from the Lore of the Underworlds.
Some notable spells are Shademist, for a defensive bonus (-1 to wound against your unit), and Seal of Shyish, that provides a 5+ ward to a unit.
The latest battletome puts Nighthaunt in the third edition, but, as always, keep an eye on the Warhammer Community website for the relevant FAQs, the most recent for Nighthaunt is from October 2022.
Units and their roles in the Nighthaunt Army
Heroes in Nighthaunt
Heroes can perform Heroic Actions, in addition to the other abilities they can perform. You do it in the hero phase and you can only do one heroic action. Here is the list:
- Heroic Leadership: on a 4+ (or 2+ if your general has been slain) get a command point only that hero can use.
- Heroic Willpower: one non-Wizard hero can attempt to dispel or unbind a spell for that phase like he was a wizard.
- Their Finest Hour: can be used only once by each hero to improve save and wound rolls by 1 for that turn.
- Heroic Recovery: a disengaged hero can heal D3 wounds if he rolls less or equal to his bravery with 2D6.
Nagash, the Great Necromancer and Supreme Lord of the Undead, can be used in any Death army and his scroll is updated when a new tome is released, we suggest to always check the Warhammer app or latest FAQ for his current warscroll. We also have a separate guide for him.
The real leader of this army is Lady Olynder, the Mortarch of Grief, ex queen of Dolorum. She is automatically a general in this army even if she is not picked as one.
With 7 wounds, a 4+ save and 4+ ward she can survive quite few hits, but with moderation. She is a good support hero however, with the ability once per battle to replenish all your summonable units (most of the army except heroes, black coach, etc.) and to prevent command abilities from being received by enemy units (on a 5+).
She can even heal herself back in the shooting phase should she manage to kill any enemy while her signature spell is another powerful debuffer that reduces enemy hit rolls by 1 and increases by 1 the hit rolls against them. On top of that, she is a double caster, allowing her to cast or dispel/unbind up to 2 spells per phase.
Overall, at the right price, she is a good hero to bring along, especially if using minimum size units (MSUs) to maximise her resurrection ability.
Kurdoss Valentian, the Craven King, is forever cursed to sit on a throne but never rule as he will be always second to Lady Olynder. He is one of the strongest melee heroes in this army, with a 3-damage -3 rend attack that can easily become 2+/2+ (with the various bubble buffs from heroes we are going to see below) and he can be further protected by the Spirit Hosts acting as bodyguards (more below).
In addition, he has the chance to steal a command point (on a 5+) from the enemy each battle round. He is a unique character, so cannot be assigned command points or artefacts, but can still benefit from spells.
Awlrach the Drowner is the latest named hero to join the Nighthaunt ranks. While he is a decent melee fighter, his best characteristic is his command ability that allows him, and another unit, to relocate anywhere on the battlefield 9″ further from all enemy units.
It’s these extreme mobility and board control that makes Nighthaunt so dangerous and unpredictable, and Awlrach plays exactly in this space. As a totem he can also issue the universal command abilities at an 18″ range.
Reikenor the Grimhailer is a powerful wizard, able to buff his own casting roll by either shooting an enemy unit or himself. This becomes important when you rely on Reikenor to succeed in launching a critical spell, like Wraithstorm, his signature spell, quite efficient against low-wounds horde units, or Soul-cage that forces an enemy to strike-last.
The latter is important to consider redundancy in the army (the effect is still available with a high charge roll) since it adds an extra layer of certainty to your toolbox.
Apart from this, he is also a 14″ flying movement wizard with the ability to retreat and charge (as all Nighthaunt), so there’s no place he wants to be that he can’t reach.
The Scriptor Mortis is another recent addition to the roster, and the first of this list to not be a named character. Apart from this, he is an anonymous hero that can’t compete with the others in the range.
His main ability is a convoluted way to have a chance to allocate mortal wounds to an enemy hero. Interesting enough, it can kill an enemy hero even after the battle technically ended.
The Knight of Shrouds is another melee focussed hero with some interesting supporting abilities and two profiles, one on foot, and one on Ethereal Steed, that adds 1 extra wounds, more movement, extra attacks and better special ability.
First of all, if he kills any enemy unit, at the end of the combat phase he heals 1 wound back and increases his maximum wound characteristic, meaning that he could become almost un-killable by the end of the game. Assuming he kills every combat phase, it means 2 extra wounds per round and with a 5+ ward his effective wounds by the 4th round would go from 15 to 32… You can read here if you want more details about the maths behind it.
On top of this, the two models can issue a command ability for free per battle round: Redeploy or Unleash Hell for the on-foot Knight, and All-out Attack for the mounted Knight. They can also fight at the same time as another summonable unit (basically any other non-hero unit).
Thanks to their healing ability, they are a good candidate for Spiteful Spirits, a command trait that allows them to inflict mortal wounds to all enemy units nearby if they are wounded that combat phase.
Despite all of this, they suffer from extreme competitiveness in the hero side of this army: there’s that many you can enlist, and some hard choices need to be made.
The Krulghast Cruciator is another good melee fighter, but the reason why you take him is because he can decrease the damage taken by all Nighthaunt units around him by 1 (to a minimum of 1) as long as he is within 12″ of a terrified unit, hence better keep him close to the melee.
The Dreadblade Harrow was the main general for much of the second edition, and even today he maintains his ability to just relocate anywhere he wants, threatening abandoned objectives. In addition, once per battle, he can copy a command ability issued by the general and issue it for free to another unit.
The Lord-Executioner had another alternative sculpt available in the Soul Wars starter set for the second edition. He is another good melee hero (5 attacks easily going at 2+/2+ for 2 damage at -2 rend), with a 5+ ward and the ability to debuff the wound roll of one enemy unit each combat phase.
The Guardian of Souls is a must-have in your army, not only because he is a wizard able to replenish your units, but also because he is the main way to provide a +1 to wound 12″ bubble that your heroes benefit from (for the famous 2+/2+ mentioned above).
The Spirit Torment is one of the few heroes that still has an alternative sculpt available, although in a different box (the other being the Dreadblade Harrow, while the Guardian of Souls and Lord-Executioner lost theirs).
Independently from which model you pick, the Spirit Torment is useful to heal or resurrect fallen models at the end of each combat phase and to trigger the +1 to hit bubble from the Chainghasts (more on this below). Compared to the Guardian of Souls, his healing is every combat phase so twice as often as the Guardian of Souls spell, and cannot be prevented (as it’s an ability) but heals 3 wounds instead of D6.
The Tomb Banshee, together with the Cairn Wraith is the oldest model in the army and one of the “inspirators” for the entire range.
She has a shooting attack and a weak melee profile but an interesting ability that can force an enemy to spend more command points to issue commands to a single unit. While it is unreliable (on a 3+ if engaged) and needs to be used against the right unit, it is something unique that gives the Banshee a niche place if pointed correctly.
The Cairn Wraith follows from the Tomb Banshee. He is much more melee focussed with an attack characteristic that depends on the number of enemy models within range (2″), one of the few survivors that still uses this type of attack calculation.
Against the correctly placed horde unit, he could be devastating.
Monsters in Nighthaunt
Monsters can perform special abilities called Monstrous Rampages at the end of the Charge phase. Each action can be performed only once per phase therefore only up to 4 monsters can perform one at a time. Here is the current list:
- Roar: on a 3+ an engaged enemy unit cannot issue or receive orders in the following combat phase.
- Stomp: on a 2+ do D3 mortal wounds to an engaged unit that is not a monster.
- Titanic Duel: + 1 to hit rolls against another engaged Monster.
- Smash to Rubble: on a 3+ demolish a close-by terrain feature, disabling its scenery rules.
With the Mourngul retirement (May 2023), Nighthaunt does not have any monster available outside of Nagash.
Battlelines in Nighthaunt
The Chainrasp Horde is the first of our long list of battleline units for Nighthaunt. In particular they are a horde unit that well fits the renewed consideration in the latest season of Age of Sigmar (Thondia).
They are not there to do extreme damage, at the same time in big groups they can be more than a nuisance to your opponent, in particular if you can manage to increase their ward to 5+ and they are in the +1 to hit bubble bringing their attacks to 3+/3+.
Even in minimum size, they can be a nuisance as there’s plenty of ways to replenish their ranks or just use them as screens for your more important units.
The Grimghast Reapers were the most used Nighthaunt unit early on, although in Legions of Nagash armies. Today they offer a great anvil unit thanks to their 2″ range, 4+ save, potential 5+ ward, high bravery and attacks that increase if there are at least 5 model in this unit (minimum size is 10).
The Hexwraiths are the ethereal cavalry of this army. They share the same kit with the Black Knights from the Soulblight Gravelords, so if you have both armies and you prefer Blood Knights, you can use that kit for Hexwraiths instead.
While they are good damage dealers, their best trait is their mobility. They have 12″ range, but they have an ability that allows them to double it for a movement phase at the cost of not being able to charge that turn. If you want to snatch an abandoned objective, or simply reposition yourself behind the enemy lines, you can now move up to 30″ (you can add the run roll or use the command ability At the Double for an automatic +6″) and there’s nothing the enemy can do to block you as you can just retreat that amount and position yourself 3″ away from any enemy.
The Spirit Hosts in the previous edition were a good source of mortal wounds but in this edition, they are rediscovered as bodyguards: if close to a friendly hero, after a failed save roll, that hero can decide to redirect its damage to the Spirit Hosts instead of doing a ward roll.
Even without this clause, the Spirit Hosts are still dangerous units with a high number of attacks, and don’t forget that unmodified 6s to hit become auto-wounds.
Conditional Battlelines in Nighthaunt
The Bladegheist Revenants become Battleline in a Scarlet Doom army. The same subfaction buffs them giving a chance to do mortal wounds after charging. To better use this ability, you may want to have plenty of these units, all in minimum size for maximum efficiency.
Note that is not an overpowered ability as you would do statistically 2/3 mortal wounds per 10-men unit charging, but Bladegheist are a good unit and having them as battleline and buffed is always a plus. And you want them to charge as often as you can as they add 1 attack every time they charge, with a potential 3 attacks at 2+/2+ -1 rend per model in the unit… Not bad for a battleline unit.
The Craventhrone Guard is the first archer/crossbowmen unit in the entire Death range (all other shooting units usually have a short-range scream). Their missile attacks are however just ok, and they cannot be buffed further since all Nighthaunt buffs involve combat phase attacks.
The only plus they add, is that they can shoot anywhere and that cover does not apply to enemy units.
They become battleline if Kurdoss is part of the army (does not need to be your general) and that is something you may want anyway.
The Dreadscythe Harridans have the potential to be great units, if only they had rend! If an enemy within 6″ has been wounded or lost some models that turn, they become automatically 3+/3+ meaning they don’t need to be in your hero bubble.
In addition, they subtract -1 to wound to enemies around them when they charge, supplementing to the other -1 to wound abilities this army owns.
They become battleline in a Quicksilver Dead army, that further buffs them by preventing ward rolls from their attacks. But is this enough to build an army around them or are they better than Chainrasps? Recent statistics want this subfaction greatly under-used, so the answer may be no.
Wizards and Priests in Nighthaunt
There are no priests in a Nighthaunt army and their wizard are not the best in game, despite so they are extremely useful.
Of the wizards, Lady Olynder is a double caster, however Reikenor can add up to +3 to his casting roll (by damaging himself) so either is extremely efficient in using their signature spells or one of the various spells available in the Lore of the Underworlds like Shademist, for a defensive bonus (-1 to wound against your unit), Seal of Shyish, that provides a 5+ ward to a unit or Soul-Cage that forces an enemy unit to strike-last.
The Guardian of Souls is another wizard, single caster, but you take him anyway mostly for his signature spell that resurrects fallen models and for his 12″ +1 to wound bubble.
The Briar Queen, from the Warhammer Underworld Season 2 warband, is also a wizard with a spell that can potentially halve quite a few enemy units’ Movement.
Other units in Nighthaunt
The Black Coach is one of the most iconic unit in this army. While being a Behemoth, it does not count as a Monster. In the previous edition, he was a decent support unit that was really missing little to be an auto-include; in the new edition its rules have been massively simplified making it also much less viable in a competitive list.
It has a 5+ ward that becomes a 4+ ward if its “necromantic energies” are full, but no more ability to heal back. To fill the necromantic energies, you just need to be within 12″ of enemies that die or flee and for each one you increase a single D6 by 1 (so you need 5 a turn to fill up). In the shooting phase, those energies can be used for a 3D3 shooting attack and then you have to recharge.
Aside from the ability to tele-transport around the battlefield and to do damage on charge, there’s not much else going on in this model but correctly priced may be interesting to try out.
The Chainghasts are a small unit of 2 but one that is really important. When on the same battlefield with a Spirit Torment, they provide a +1 to hit buff, that combines extremely well with the +1 to wound buff of the Guardian of Souls to put all your heroes on a 2+/2+ combination.
In addition they have a shooting attack that allows them to be useful while staying relatively close to the front line but in a safe position. A must-have in any army.
The Glaivewraith Stalkers are once again the biggest losers of this army. A real pity for this unit with a such fascinating sculpt. On their side they have only charge buffs, but a weak melee profile.
The Myrmourn Banshees, on the other side, build upon the Glaivewraith profile with much better attacks and the ability to basically cancel any spell or endless spell that gravitates near them. They just need to beat the casting value, not the actual casting roll, so that means they have a chance to unbind even auto-cast spells from people like Teclis.
They are an extremely powerful anti-magic unit, with decent attacks and a decent cost.
The Thorns of the Briar Queen is a warband from Warhammer Underworlds season 2 that features the Briar Queen, a single caste wizard with a spell that has the chance to halve enemy’s movement, while the rest of the warband acts as bodyguards (ability to absorb the damage otherwise directed to the hero) with an attack characteristic slightly better than Chainrasp Horde.
Endless Spells, Terrain and Start Collecting in a Nighthaunt Army
The Nighthaunt don’t have faction terrain, however they were the first (with the Stormcast) to be given Endless Spells. They saw different iterations and they now represent a good choice on how to spend your points.
The Shyish Reaper is a mortal wound dealer particularly useful with high-save enemies (2+, 3+) and the Vault of Souls is a ticking bomb that continuously dishes out mortal wounds until is full and then damages even more wounds. Attention, that it does not discriminate from friend or foe.
The Mortalis Terminexus instead is the big winner, as it’s easier to control than the Vault of Souls, but it can heal or dish mortal wounds and it’s more consistent. A good endless spell for Reikenor when you jump behind the enemy lines and place this in the heart of your enemy formation.
The Nighthaunt had plenty of starter sets in the previous edition of Age of Sigmar, but for the first time they have their own Vanguard box (the replacement of the Start Collecting box). And it cannot be a better way to start an army with a Knight of Shrouds that is a good damage dealer hero, 20 Chainrasps that are your main battleline, 10 Grimghast Reapers that are another super useful battleline unit and 3 Spirit Hosts that can play your bodyguard role for your heroes.
It is an excellent starting point for your army, and then you can decide your Procession and decide which direction to continue.
Tactics and Final Verdict on the Nighthaunt Army
The Nighthaunt are definitely a beginner-friendly army to paint. They have a few textures but mostly similar patterns and contrast paints really work well with them.
If the aesthetics of the army appeal to you, and most people seems to agree, as they are today the third most represented army in official tournaments, then it’s all about the rules.
Since the previous edition, the 12″ bubbles that characterised this army are gone, or reduced considerably. The army is much more competitive, few units have different roles providing you more options and many of their abilities previously on warscrolls are now battle traits.
The two downsides of this army, especially for beginners, are the fact that your buffs now depend on your charge roll and with the ability to retreat and charge, you will need to move all your army every turn, making even later turns much longer in particular if you use minimum size units; and the fact that they dish out every possible debuff available in Age of Sigmar.
Normally debuffs are associated with negative play experience, in this case this army is not that bad to prevent your opponent from playing but is still provides many debuffs to enemies, from the -1 to hit, -1 to save or strike-last following a charge, to the -1 to wound of few fighters and artefacts and the command points stolen or otherwise prevented/doubled, etc.
These two traits are the most important things to consider when playing Nighthaunt, meaning that it is not straightforward and not an ideal army for beginners, but one that is easy to pick up and learn.
For what concerns the way to play, Nighthaunt have the chance to buff their heroes and transform them in veritable killing machines with high rend and hitting all on 2+/2+. Of course that means keeping them within the buff bubble (Chainghasts/Guardian of Souls), use All-out Attack when appropriate, and in particular protect them.
When you can, ensure they have the 5+ ward with Discorporate or Seal of Shyish or Spirit Hosts as body guard to deviate some damage. A Krulghast Cruciator can also help in reducing the damage received but takes a hero spot. And then you have plenty of ways to heal back your heroes and other units.
Another way to protect them is through screening (interposing another unit between the most dangerous enemy units and the one you want to protect). For this, Chainrasps are perfect, but you can also use other units like the Bladegheist Revenants if you are in the appropriate sub-faction.
Some good melee heroes include Kurdoss Valentian and the Knights of Shroud, without forgetting the ever useful Reikenor able to fly over your enemies and dump endless spells like the Mortalis Terminexus in their rear.
Remember to retreat every movement phase and re-charge to get the bonuses. Use your high mobility to hit the enemy on the flanks or where he is weaker, and to steal the abandoned objectives or to secure them. Hexwraiths with their potential 30″ movement are great units for this scope.
Myrmourn Banshees are useful to pose a threat to magic oriented armies, and Chainghasts should be used in combination with a Spirit Torment for the +1 to wound bubble. Spirit Torment and Guardian of Souls are also good source of healing to most of your army, on top of providing the to hit/wound bubbles.
Overall there is not one single list that dominates the others, you can mix and match however you prefer, try MSUs (minimum sized units) or go horde to maximise a single buff (however be careful with bonuses from bubbles that have to stay wholly within and with healing abilities that heal all units). There is really few units that you should completely avoid, like the Scriptor Mortis and the Glaivewraith Stalkers, but the others can find a niche use in some contexts (like the Black Coach and the Craventhrone Guard).
The choice of Procession is also a personal one, consider that even if all named heroes belong to the Grieving Legion, there’s no actual downside to include them in a different procession. The most popular one is by far the Scarlet Doom that provides a charge bonus to Bladegheist Revenants, followed by the Emerald Host that guarantees a few mortal wounds per round.
Overall Nighthaunt is a great army, easy to use but hard to master, with a decent range of models with several competitive options.
If you are interested in the competitive standpoint, when we talk about statistics, a tremendous effort is done by Rob from the Honest Wargamer, Ziggy and Tsports Network! in the AoS Stat Centre with precious information, constantly kept up to date.
Really good informative material is also collected by Dan from AoS Shorts.