This article will detail the Slaves to Darkness 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 Slaves to Darkness Army
When Sigmar abandoned the mortal races at the dawn of the Age of Chaos, unable to curtail the chaos forces, all mortals had a simple choice in front of them: either join their previous enemies or almost certain death. The vast majority decided to listen to the real gods: Khorne, Tzeentch, Nurgle and Slaanesh.
The Slaves to Darkness are an heterogeneous group composed of the multiple people and tribes that venerate Chaos in all its various forms, the more elite Chaos Warriors and Chaos Knights recognizable by their horned helmets, Archaon and his most trusted champions, the Varanguard, and finally all those that follow in the shadow Be’lakor the First Prince, foremost rival of Archaon.
The Slaves to Darkness range is vast, and received an incredible boost through the release of Warcry, a skirmish wargame set in the same world but using less models than a traditional wargame. Most Chaos warbands for that game became the cultists for Slaves: the lowest tier of chaos worshippers that have not yet started their Path to Glory. On top of that, Slaves received an upgrade also of their most elite models in winter 2022/23. Now there’s only few models that remain dated, in particular the Marauders.
In game, they are the dream of list builders, as most units can be further configured with Marks of Chaos that gives them an extra buff, almost multiplying the range. Many different playstyles are available, and they are the perfect intro to Chaos if you are not convinced yet by a single god.
Lore of Slaves to Darkness Army
Every Chaos worshipper is, willingly or not, on his personal Path to Glory that will bring him/her closer to the Chaos Gods or to a rapid and inglorious death. To be fair only a tiny fraction succeeds, the vast majority becoming a rotten corpse.
To ascend, a chaos follower has to excel in any type of atrocity to attract the attention of their favourite God. If they are recognised, they can receive a reward often in the shape of a bodily mutation. Should they really impress the Ruinous Powers, they can achieve immortality and become a Daemon Prince. Although it is most likely they may receive a boon too many and their body become a contorted Chaos Spawn instead.
The best warriors loyal to Archaon can ascend the ranks and become Varanguard. Even in this scenario, failure is the most common result and leads to a quick death as only the best of the best of the best can aspire to become part of the Everchosen personal army.
Archaon was once a mere mortal, a follower of Sigmar, before embracing the Chaos Gods and lead their legions to the destruction of the World-That-Was. He has since destroyed many other worlds and realities but is now in the Mortal Realms biding his time to achieve his real goal: to usurp the Ruinous Powers and become the most powerful being in the cosmo.
While technically still a mortal, his work for Chaos is greatly appreciated and each God recognises his value in the Grand Schema providing him enough strength and an extended life despite his continuous refusal of daemonhood or to pledge to a single God.
On the other side, we have Be’lakor, the first to become a Daemon Prince, that since lost the favour of his patrons and has been damned to forever crown the Everchosen: a mortal selected by the Chaos Gods to represent them. He has since schemed to enact his revenge and Archaon is just another obstacle to overcome in his quest.
In the 500 years known as the Age of Chaos, all mortals that hoped to survive, pledged to chaos in a form or another. Some accepted the call of a single god, others preferred to venerate Chaos undivided. Whichever their choice, chaos forces control steadily all mortal realms except Azyr, the Realm of Heavens.
Since Sigmar returned with his glorious warriors, the Stormcast Eternals, small portion of land have been reclaimed from the forces of Chaos, but they are just tiny drops within an ocean of Chaos worshippers that plague every land.
In the Eighpoints, Archaon’s stronghold and centre of all realms from which one can access every other one, they muster their forces bringing to end entire civilizations. It was only Nagash through his loyal Mortarch Katakros who was able to regain a foothold and create a vast and unassailable fortress to protect the Realmgate to Shyish, the Realm of Death, and in doing so, greatly offending Archaon.
At the same time, Be’lakor’s dark plans caused a Silver Tower to fall, provoking the destruction of several realm-gates and cursing the skies by severing their link with Azyr, preventing the Stormcast Eternals’ souls from returning back to be re-forged upon defeat. His campaign to steal the best warriors to Archaon will surely not go unnoticed, in the meanwhile, his scheming continues.
Army rules for the Slaves to Darkness
But how does a Slaves to Darkness army play on a tabletop? First let’s go through the main rules for this army.
The first thing to discuss is Marks of Chaos as they are central to the army. If a unit already has a keyword between Undivided, Khorne, Tzeentch, Nurgle and Slaanesh, that is defined as a Mark of Chaos. If instead has the Mark of Chaos keyword, he has to obtain one from the list above.
Which Mark of Chaos a unit has will determine not only the initial buff, but also which others it can receive during the battle as certain heroes can only affect units with their same mark. As it can become overwhelming this interaction, we have prepared a quick table that resumes the main buffs.
The first column represents the mark, then its direct bonus to any unit with that mark and a special command ability (CA) or spell a hero with that mark can use.
The Ensorcelled Banners are a unique enhancement available to Standard Bearers of Chaos Chosen, Chaos Warriors and Chaos Knights and work exactly as all other enhancements, meaning you get the first one free with your army, and you can have more by adding enhancements through battalions and other means.
Finally, the Chaos Warshrine is a priest that can chant a specific prayer depending on its mark that can affect only a unit with the same mark.
|Mark of Chaos||Mark bonus||Hero bonus||Ensorcelled Banner||Daemon Prince Heroic Action||Chaos Warshrine Prayer|
|Chaos Undivided||Obtain Eye of the Gods. Heroes can reroll 1 die for Eye of the God||CA: +1 to wound on melee attacks against Hero or Monster||Roll 2 dice for Eye of the God and pick one||Apply Strike-first||Halve fleeing models after failed battleshock|
|Khorne||+1 melee attack after charge||CA: D3 mortal wounds after charge||+1 to wound for melee attacks||Heal 1 wound for each enemy killed||+1 charge|
|Tzeentch||On a 6 ignore effect of spell/endless spell||Spell Warp Reality: teleport a friendly unit within 9" of the caster||4+ ward against missile attacks||On a 2+ ignore spells in enemy phase OR become a wizard in your phase||-1 to wound for attacks received|
|Nurgle||-1 to wound for melee attacks received||CA: On a 3+ D3 mortal wounds for every unit within 3" in the combat phase||Worsen rend of melee attacks received by 1||Negate enemy ward rolls within 3"||+1 to wound for melee attacks|
|Slaanesh||+1 to run and to charge||CA: a unit can run and charge||+1 melee attacks after charge||+1 melee attacks after charge||Charge 3D6" instead of 2D6"|
The Eye of the Gods table is a way to upgrade your units during the battle. You can roll on that table every time a unit kills an enemy Hero or Monster and every time you wrest control of an objective from your opponent. Heroes roll 2 dice and the other units 1 adding 2 to the result (for a range of 3-8). The effects are cumulative and some last for the entire battle.
Heroes can achieve daemonhood with a result of 11 or 12, replacing their miniature with a Daemon Prince with the same artefacts and traits, or become Chaos Spawn with a result of 1. But in general there’s plenty of good buffs in between including a 5+ ward or a +1 to rend.
In addition, heroes with the Eye of the Gods keyword can carry out two specific heroic actions:
- Pledge to Dark Gods: Until the end of the turn when rolling for the Eye of the Gods table for that hero use 3 dice and pick 2 results.
- Draw on Power: A wizard can roll 3 dice instead of 2 for casting. However if 2 or more 1s are rolled, self-inflict D6 mortal wounds and the spell miscasts.
Slaves sub-factions are called Damned Legions and they have 6 to choose from:
- Host of the Everchosen, Archaon personal army: Chaos Warrior, Chosen and Knights Rally on a 5+ (universal command ability) and get an extra Ensorcelled Banner. Unlocks Chaos Chosen and Varanguard as battleline.
- Legion of the First Prince, Be’lakor followers: an Undivided unit can get an extra mark until your next hero phase. In addition, Bloodletters, Horrors of Tzeentch, Plaguebearers and Daemonettes of Slaanesh allies benefit from the Mark of Chaos. Unlocks Furies as battleline.
- Cabalists, comprising the most adept sorcerers: every hero becomes Wizard and if they were already, they can cast an extra spell. If one hero carries out Draw on Power heroic action, every other hero within 3″ can too.
- Despoilers, hordes led by Daemon Princes: 2 extra wounds on Monsters and every Daemon Prince can get a different command trait as if they were generals.
- Ravagers, the masses of tribal chaos worshippers: an alternative heroic action that allows to return back half of a destroyed Marauder, Cultist or Darkoath unit.
- Knights of the Empty Throne, armies led directly by Archaon’s Varanguard: mounted units can run and charge in the same turn. In addition a Varanguard unit can choose a model to be the general of the army if Archaon is not included and all Varanguard Rally on a 5+. Unlocks Varanguard as battleline.
Slaves to Darkness have two lists of Command Traits: one only for Daemon Princes, not that exciting with Not to be denied the highlight (the general can do an extra heroic action if he hasn’t done it already), and one for any other hero with options like Death Dealer (allows the general to fight a second time with strike-last effect) and Arch-sorcerer (a wizard knows all spells from the Lore of the Damned).
The artefacts of power are instead divided in 3 categories, one for Wizards (like Infernal Puppet which allows once per battle to select an enemy wizard and automatically inflict D3 mortal wounds each spell he casts), one for Daemon Princes (like Helm of Many Eyes which gives strike-first effect permanently) and one for any hero (like Helm of the Oppressor which prevents the reception of Inspiring Presence or Rally to enemy units within 6″).
We have already listed all Ensorcelled Banners in the table above, with the exception of one generic that subtracts 1 from the chanting roll of any non-Chaos Priest on the entire battlefield.
Slaves to Darkness have a single spell lore called Lore of the Damned, that we will discuss in the Magic section below.
Units and their roles in the Slaves to Darkness Army
Heroes in Slaves to Darkness
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.
The most iconic hero for this army is also a behemoth and a monster, and we have a dedicated article for him: Archaon, the Everchosen.
On the other side, vying for power with Archaon, we have Be’lakor the Dark Master. He costs a fraction of the Everchosen but he is not to be underestimated with few decent attacks although degrading with his damage table, and a 4+ unmodifiable save. Despite this, he is on the fragile side, so you may want to use him mostly for his double casting skills and his ability that, once per battle, immobilises a unit completely: each phase you roll a die and on a 3+ the unit can’t do anything (there’s actually a list of things it can’t do, so something may slip through like using an artefact or battle abilities that affects other units).
His signature spell provides a -1 to wound to an enemy unit and between his heroic actions and monstrous rampages (he is both Behemoth and Monster) there’s plenty of things he can do to support his army, but don’t expect him to lift heavy units.
The Slaves to Darkness Daemon Prince is one of the latest kits released for this army and has plenty of customization available, including multiple heads and weapon options (although the axe is by far the best option you can use). It can also choose between wings (for 12″ flying movement) or a trophy rack (for a battleshock immunity for your army), unless you are planning to build a heavy-horde army and put him in the middle, the wings are the best (and coolest) option.
Daemon Princes are the real focus of this battletome. They get an entire list of artefacts with options like the Helm of Many Eyes (applies strike-first effect), an entire list of command traits like Not to be Denied (allows an extra heroic action if the general hasn’t had one yet) and a sub-faction, Despoilers, that allows them to get command traits even if they are not a general (they could get the one where they become Monster so that in Despoilers they would add 4 wounds to their total and enable Monstrous Rampages).
They are also the final reward in the Eye of the Gods table, the ultimate achievement of any other hero. Despite all of this, and including their 6+ ward, they just don’t carry enough weight to justify all these buffs. They aren’t wizards either, so they can’t buff other units, and they have a special heroic action (you can see the table in the previous section) that depends from their mark. But using it, would deprive you of the more classic Their Finest Hour or similar on other heroes, unless your Daemon Prince is a general with Not to be Denied trait.
Maybe there’s a list out there where they can be useful, but until then, Be’lakor is better, and if you roll 12 on the Eye of the Gods table, choose a different reward instead.
Eternus, Blade of the First Prince is an ex Varanguard that defected to join Be’lakor and lead his armies. He has a great attack profile, strike-first effect when charges and can even return back to life (on a 8+ or 7+ if Be’lakor is alive).
He receives an extra command point if a unit of Chaos Legionnaires or Furies are next to him at the start of the hero phase, and overall is a powerful hero that can see some play.
The Chaos Lord on Daemonic Mount is the generic version of the same kit as Eternus, and shares the same strike-first ability as him but, in addition, he can also be followed immediately after by a unit of Chaos Knights or one of the two chariots, meaning that in your turn, you can get to pick 3 units to fight before the opponent has any chance to react. And he has a 5+ ward against mortal wounds that greatly enhances his longevity. In the spot for mounted hero there’s many options, but he definitely excels.
The Chaos Lord on Manticore and its magic counterpart, the Chaos Sorcerer Lord on Manticore, come from the same kit. Where the Chaos Lord is more melee focussed, helped by his mount, the Sorcerer is a single caster with an excellent signature spell able to thin hordes.
The Manticore provides 12″ flying movement and a Monster keyword (but no degrading damage table) meaning that they can enjoy the best of both worlds.
The Sorcerer can each turn provide a 6+ ward to a mortal unit while the Chaos Lord can allow a re-roll when using the command Redeploy. He has also many weapon profiles, we would probably recommend the Daemon Blade for the rend and mortal wounds and either the shield to make him extremely survivable (3+ save and 5+ against mortal wounds) or the lance for extra oomph during the charge.
The Chaos Lord on Karkadrak combines all that is good from the Chaos Lord on Manticore (good save, 5+ ward against mortal, mortal wounds on 6s to hit with the blade) with the strike-first of the Chaos Lord on Daemonic Mount that allows a unit of Chaos Knights or either Chariot to attack right after, bypassing the normal sequence, while adding also a bit more weight in his attacks.
Overall if you can afford his cost, he is the best Chaos Lord profile.
The normal Chaos Lord has two weapon profiles, is cheap and can select a unit of Chaos Warriors or Chaos Chosen as his retinue, meaning on a 3+ the wounds destined to him go to the bodyguarding unit and they can attack immediately after him (but he doesn’t have the strike-first effect).
The Slaves to Darkness Gaunt Summoner and its version on Disc of Tzeentch share the same abilities with the main difference being the extra attack and flying movement provided by the disc.
Their major advantage is to put in reserve up to 2 non-monster Tzeentch units (in their Silver Tower) to deploy them within 9″ from them and away from enemies. It is a risky gamble because if they are sniped away you lose also the reserve units, but you could have another wizard teleport them in your hero phase near the front-line (with Warp Reality) or use the 16″ flying movement of the disc to then release their Silver Tower in a strategic position even behind enemy lines.
They are double casters with +1 bonus to cast, dispel or unbind, knowledge of the entire lore and an ability that will almost never be triggered unless you properly trick your opponent (either by not communicating your abilities or by forcing a 1:1 fight with a hero and surviving the encounter): at the end of any phase an enemy hero provoked a wound or mortal wound to the Gaunt Summoner, if they can beat with 2D6 their wound characteristic, the enemy hero is removed from the game (not slain).
The Chaos Sorcerer Lord is a single caster, and as the Manticore version, can provide a 6+ ward to a Mortal unit. His signature spell can provide a +1 to hit and to wound to a Mortal unit. He is the cheapest wizard, there’s that on his side.
The Exalted Hero of Chaos is so eager to prove his loyalty that gets immediately a free roll on the Eye of the Gods table after deployment. He has two weapon profiles, but as other options in this list, the better save and the added ward guarantee a survivability he wouldn’t otherwise have. On top of that, he is one of the cheapest heroes in the roster.
The Ogroid Myrmidon is the leader of the Ogroid subgroup and unlocks a unit of Theridons as battleline. Unfortunately its profile does not match the beautiful sculpt, with a single missile attack and just below average melee attacks that are not saved by the exploding 6s to hit (each 6 to hit becomes 2 different to wound rolls) and +1 to wound if he has been injured earlier in the same phase.
The Darkoath Warqueen introduces to us the Darkoath subgroup and their particularity that if they perform a specific action, they fulfil their oath and obtain a permanent bonus for the rest of the battle. In her case, she just needs to end her movement in enemy territory to enable to issue the Inspiring Presence command to two Darkoath or Cultist units at the same time.
The other peculiarity, shared with the Darkoath Chieftain, is to be able to fight followed immediately after by another Darkoath unit nearby.
Where the Warqueen works defensively with a 5+ ward that does mortal wounds on a 6, the Chieftain is more offensive, with mortal wounds allocated on an unmodified 6 to hit. His oath is achieved once he fells a Hero or Monster and allows him to obtain strike-first for the rest of the battle.
They are both niche foot heroes that may find a small spot in an army with Darkoath Ravagers.
The Centaurion Marshal is another figure first released as an Ally for the game Warcry. His main role is to issue Rally (return back slain models) on a 5+ to Mortal Undivided units (most Warcry base warbands). It’s a niche role, but nonetheless he can defend himself in melee with few attacks and a slight chance to apply strike-last to an engaged enemy.
Monsters in Slaves to Darkness
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.
The Mutalith Vortex Beast is a Tzeentchian monster of considerable size. Its best trick is a chance to transform a slain model in a Chaos Spawn with the mark of Tzeentch already engaged with the rest of the surviving unit. You have to roll at least a 6 on a single die (or 2 if you have a Tzeentch wizard in range) but it could be an interesting party trick, in particular because you lock in combat the damaged unit.
The Soul Grinder it’s a giant abomination that can be further marked by any Chaos God. Its biggest drawback is the huge base (160mm), past this we have a unit with good shooting attacks and some melee potential.
The Slaughterbrute is the other assembly option of the Mutalith, this time branded by Khorne. It has a cool mechanic for which one hero can be selected as its master and that unlocks specific command abilities for this beast, but its attacks, or rather their lack of rend and oomph, makes it forgettable.
In the monster list we also have Archaon, Be’lakpr, the Chaos Lord on Manticore and the Chaos Sorcerer Lord on Manticore. A Daemon Prince can become a monster through the command trait Bolstered by Chaos.
Battlelines in Slaves to Darkness
Slaves to Darkness have two chariots, both coming from the same kit and both that can be fielded as a single unit of one model or as a single unit of 3 models where one becomes the champion. The Chaos Chariot is a standard battleline, with a once-per-game run-and-charge ability and damage on charge.
The Gorebeast Chariot has a similar weapon profile and an ability that allows it to do a move at the end of the combat phase (if it charged in the same turn) that can allocate mortal wounds on units it passes over (like it was flying).
Neither is super interesting, but they have since gone down in points.
So really, the Chaos Warriors are the first one of a long list of battlelines. In particular they represent the anvil solution with 3+ save and 5+ ward against mortal wounds but more than decent attacks that even increase when invading the enemy territory or objectives.
For the Anvil role, the mark of Nurgle is probably the most efficient with -1 to wound for everyone attacking them in melee, plus, if they take an Ensorcelled Banner, they even worsen the rend of the attacker. Their standard profile is good for any Chaos army, but in Slaves they can really excel with all sort of buffs that they can receive.
Where the Warriors represent a tough anvil, the Chaos Knights can cover the role of hammer while charging thanks to their sharpened lances and 10″ movement. While their main ability allows every model to attack so that units greater than 5 are viable, the best use for this unit is in minimum size so that they can get in and out of combat. If a unit gets stuck more than a round, another can free them by slamming their opponent. Rinse and repeat. 3+ save and 5+ ward against mortal wounds should allow longevity.
Where the Chaos Warriors represent the brutal souls that form the rank-and-file of Slaves to Darkness armies, the marauders represent the bulk of these warriors. The Chaos Marauder are the infantry side with the choice between a slightly better save or more attacks (the latter is the solution).
The Chaos Marauders Horsemen represent the light cavalry and to the options above they add some shooting potential. They incentivise retreat as they can still shoot and/or charge in the same turn they retreated while also getting a bonus to hit.
They are slightly better than the ones on foot, but the concept is that they are an old sculpt and there’s so many more Cultists now that cover the same role, that is probably time to retire them, at least those on foot.
The Chaos Legionnaires start our long list of battleline units that all originated as individual warbands from the skirmish game Warcry. These have sworn to Be’lakor, so much that in his proximity they get a bonus to wound. But their man utility comes from a chance to suppress for a phase (on a 4+) one enemy unit’s ability to issue or receive commands.
The Horns of Hashut represent the followers of Hashut, another Chaos God so far left aside. As such they cannot be marked, so their profile is limited by their shooting attack that depends from the models in the target unit (up to a maximum of 8) and a slim chance to do mortal wounds after charge.
The Tarantulos Brood instead worship the Eightfold Watcher and venerate spiders. They can fly over terrain (but not units) and return D3 slain spiders every one of your hero phases.
The Splintered Fang hail from Ghyran, Realm of Life, and venerate snakes and their venom that allows them to do mortal wounds on an unmodified 6 to hit. In addition, they can return a slain spider each of your hero phase, representing one of the best Cultist battlelines. One interesting combo could be to have a general marked Khorne with command trait Idolater Lord so that you can get them +1 attack from Khorne’s trait.
The Corvus Cabal hail from Ulgu, realm of Shadow, and their main utility is to appear from reserve and to not be visible while in cover.
The Unmade are from the Realm of Death, Shyish, forcing enemy units within 12″ to not be able to receive the Rally or Redeploy command. This is a niche utility piece that can be explored.
The Cypher Lords are from Hysh, the Realm of Light, and their ability is to have a chance to do mortal wounds when flying over enemy units. But with a 6″ movement, that is not exactly easy to achieve.
The Scions of the Flame are from Aqshy, Realm of Fire. They have shooting attacks that tend to be a bit more damaging against horde units, but not much else to offer.
The Spire Tyrants trained in the gladiator pits of the Eightpoints, but don’t really demonstrate it in their warscroll.
The Iron Golem are from Chamon, Realm of Metal, and represent the defensive option by increasing their save to 3+ if they don’t make any type of movement in that turn (except pile-in).
The Untamed Beasts hail from the Realm of Beast, Ghur, and represent this with the ability to run and charge in the same turn and with a pre-game move that can be extremely beneficial to reach an objective before an opponent.
The Darkoath Savagers represent the marauders of the Darkoath tribes with mortal wounds on unmodified 6s to hit, and the oath to wrestle an objective from an enemy in exchange for a permanent 5+ ward. Second-best unit in this list, although they are not Cultists (but they can go in tandem with the Chieftain or Warqueen).
Conditional Battlelines in Slaves to Darkness
In a world with 16 options as battleline, it may seem weird to add the Varanguard as battleline, even if only on Host of Everchosen or Knights of the Empty Throne lists. Therefore let’s focus on the fact that a single model in the unit can also become general in a Knights of the Empty Throne army (but not being a hero, can’t take command traits).
Add a 4+ ward against mortal wounds, 3 deadly weapon profiles that can all be picked as each model can choose his own weapon, and the fact that they can fight twice in the same combat phase (if they are within 3″ of an enemy unit, without applying strike-last effect) and you have one of the best units in this army. They are definitely a fan-favourite for many reasons, and their profile attests it.
One unit of Ogroid Theridons can become battleline for each Ogroid Myrmidon in the army. They can choose between two weapon profiles, but with them you want to hit hard, so disregard the shield and use the great axe. Once per battle they can go berserk and increase by 1 their attacks but become unable to receive Inspiring Presence the same turn they use this ability. They have the full command centre with +1 to charge from the musician and +1 to Bravery from the standard bearer.
The Chaos Chosen are battleline in Host of the Everchosen. This excellent new sculpt represents your most elite infantry covering very well the role of hammer. They get a free upgrade (Eye of the Gods table) soon after deployment, they can be marked (increasing attacks with Khorne for example), do mortal wounds on unmodified 6s to hit (in addition) and even fight twice once per battle.
They can even add an Ensorcelled Banner based on their mark for an extra bonus. Apart from becoming battleline, Hosts of the Everchosen provides an extra free banner per list and allows to Rally on a 5+.
All of this on a profile whose only limit is the 5″ movement, but apart from this, you can rely on them to clean up your opponent resistance.
The Furies, originally random monsters for the skirmish game Warcry, are battleline in the Legion of the First Prince armies. They have 12″ flying movement and when picking them to fight, they can retreat instead. They are cheap, and can represent last-minute objective grabbers.
Wizards and Priests in Slaves to Darkness
The Chaos Warshrine is the only Priest in the army and despite being a Behemoth, they are not a monster but they have the damage table. Their main role is to chant a prayer and you can see their list (that depends from the mark you assign during list building) in the summary table in the roles section, and a 6+ ward given to all mortals within a degrading range starting at 18″.
Slaves to Darkness heroes have access to the Lore of the Damned with several good options like Daemonic Speed that allows a mounted unit to charge 3D6″ instead of 2D6″ or Binding Damnation that gives the strike-last effect to an enemy unit.
The list of casters with access to this lore is quite not huge and includes double casters such as Archaon, Be’lakor and both Gaunt Summoners (with +1 bonus to cast/dispel/unbind and knowledge of the entire lore), or single casters like both Chaos Sorcerer Lords, Thredda Skull-Scryer and Zarshia Bittersoul.
Other units in Slaves to Darkness
The Gorebeast Chariot has been already discussed with the Chaos Chariot above.
The Slaves to Darkness Chaos Spawn is the result of displeasing a god (rolling double 1 on the Eye of the God table). Apart from this, it has random movement and random attacks, so it’s there mostly for narrative effects. Unless you are a betting man and aim to obtain maximum result from the Mutalith’s ability.
The Mindstealer Sphiranx has an ok-profile and an ability that was really cool, and now is reduced to apply the strike-last effect if it can beat the targeted unit bravery with 2D6. As most units in game have bravery 10, it is quite hard to achieve but the model is amazing.
The Raptoryx are mixed with the Furies sprue, so you will get them together in the same box. But they don’t seem really enough to justify their presence on the battlefield. They have ok attacks when charging.
The Fomoroid Crusher has decent shooting attacks but is main ability is to destroy defensible and faction terrain better than a monster (6″ range and rolling for each other unit within 6″ for a chance to do also mortal wounds). If you know you are going to tables heavy with scenery, it can represent versatility.
Warhammer Underworlds gives us two different named warbands. Theddra Skull-scryer is a single caster with an oath to cast a spell with an unmodified 10 transforming her in a double caster and her bodyguards, the Godsworn, are able to take damage on her behalf, and need to wrestle an objective from enemy’s control to be rewarded with a 5+ ward.
Zarshia Bittersoul is a wizard that can provide a 6+ ward to a mortal unit and teleport a Khagra’s Ravagers unit around the battlefield. Cool spell, but extremely limited in its use as the only thing going on the Ravagers is to count double when contesting objectives.
Coalition units for Slaves to Darkness
Slaves to Darkness don’t have coalition units, but they are the coalition unit for Chaos by definition. They are available in any Chaos God army (Khorne, Tzeentch, Nurgle and Slaanesh) so in the past some units were extremely popular in those armies. Even today Chaos Warriors and Chaos Knights can represent a valid alternative in some armies.
On the other side, with such a vast range, it is unlikely you are going to ally anyone to a Slaves army, with the exception maybe of a thematic Legion of the First Prince with the weakest daemons. Consider they would come without their own allegiance ability so considerably weaker than in their original army, but in the Legion, they can still get the buffs from the marks and certain abilities or spells require a unit only to have a specific god mark, therefore affecting even them.
Bloodletters represent the basic infantry of Khorne, good attacks and mortal wounds on a 6 to hit.
Horrors of Tzeentch provide some missile ability and bodies with their ability to split in other models.
Plaguebearers of Nurgle are a hard pass as their resilience is not on their warscroll.
Daemonettes of Slaanesh can run and charge and receive the Slaanesh mark bonus to both run and charge.
Endless Spells, Terrain and Start Collecting in a Slaves to Darkness Army
Slaves to Darkness have no faction terrain but they do have Endless Spells.
The Eightfold Doom-Sigil is an ingenious way to provide a +1 attack to surrounding units (stackable with Khorne mark and all other similar bonuses). It requires models to be killed within 12″ and then the player whose turn is taking place decides which units gets the bonus, so it really works only the first enemy turn after it has been summoned, provided there were enough casualties.
The Realmscourge Rupture is the classic predatory endless spells that does mortal wounds but in addition can halve the target movement characteristic. As it lasts only until the end of the battle round, is a spell that works only if you take first turn.
The Darkfire Daemonrift is another predatory endless spells that can be fuelled by other endless spells in proximity, but chances there’s more than one are usually slim.
The new Vanguard box contains a cohesive force with some completely new models and some a little bit more aged. The Chaos Lord is the only leader option and not the first one that would come to your mind when list building, yet if fits this format leading a unit of 10 Chaos Warriors representing the elite infantry of the Slaves to Darkness.
For some speed and daring tactics, there’s a unit of 5 Chaos Knights and a single Chaos Chariot that can be assembled alternatively as a Gorebeast Chariot. Ignoring the latter, this is 3 battlelines, of which 2 really good ones you will definitely need in your army representing a safe first-time purchase.
Tactics and Final Verdict on the Slaves to Darkness Army
Marks of Chaos are definitely, at the beginning, a complicated mechanic that allows so much customization that can be overwhelming. The way they are structured means that you don’t need to pledge to a single god, but you can create pockets of your army that synergize between each others, each specialised in a particular role.
What this creates is almost 5 times as many warscrolls to choose from than the actual roster. On top of that, you have a complex network of matching buffs, like the Ensorcelled Banners or the Chaos Warshrine prayers that synergise with their mark.
Do you want more resilient Chaos Warriors? Give them the mark of Nurgle and an Ensorcelled Banner for -1 to wound and rend to anyone attacking them in melee. Your Chaos Knights need to be faster? Give them the mark of Slaanesh for a guaranteed 6 to charge all the time and with a Banner, they get 4 attacks at rend -2 and 2 damage on charge.
And the list goes on: Chaos Chosen with the mark of Khorne for an aggressive unit, or keep them undivided and send them to snatch objective and murder heroes or monsters to see them upgrade in game. The combination are not endless (Tzeentch mark is probably the least interesting in its current form) but the potential is there and this can be daunting for someone at his first experience with Age of Sigmar.
While on one side is the dream of all list builders out there, for someone just starting can be threatening the amount of options available. For this reason this is probably not a good first battletome, although the quality of miniatures and the iconic theme are without discussion what Warhammer is famous for. There’s nothing more Warhammer than a Chaos Warrior and its horned helm. And the new models are amazing, accompanied by a plethora of new releases that started as a side game and is now expanding in a huge skirmish game with more than 50 warbands of which now half of them are original for the game.
Even the different subthemes, like Ogroid and Darkoath, are subtly merged in the army without exaggerating or being too invasive.
And then there is the table of the Eye of the Gods: on one side an excellent narrative medium, on the other a simple way to reward over-achieving units. It’s simple to use but adds another layer in what you need to remember: between the marks, the bonus from the table, buffs received from spells, prayers, command abilities, the mental overload at any one time is huge and no 2 warscrolls will act the same way in the same phase.
Of the six sub-factions, Knights of the Empty Throne is the one that attracts the most attention, thanks to the focus on Varanguard, and mounted units in general. Varanguard are another iconic unit and one of the deadliest warscroll in the book. Being able to bring them back with a 5+ Rally is a gamble but also really scary for your opponent.
Host of the Everchosen is another classic one, with an extra Ensorcelled Banner that provides extra customization on your best units (Warriors, Chosen and Knights) but also the ability to Rally them on a 5+, so in a certain way a mirror of the previous sub-faction, but working with the second best units in the book.
Cabalists are there as an outsider, will they work on a season entirely dedicated to magic? Are Slaves strong enough in magic to oppose the biggest contenders? Only time will tell.
And we haven’t spoke about the heroes. There’s many, most with a determined role so you can choose the ones that better fit your gameplay. Archaon is expensive but is always a threat, Be’lakor lost utility but has still something to offer (although more in a Legion of the First Prince than elsewhere), a Chaos Lord on Karkadrak is the best option to lead your armies if you need a generic hero, and if you need something cheaper with a similar role there’s the Chaos Lord on Daemonic Mount.
The list of wizards is a bit restricted compared to other armies, but they do have options, in particular the two Chaos Sorcerer Lords.
A final note goes to the Daemon Princes. They are a new model, a sculpt with plenty of customization, rules written with them at the forefront of the army, and a warscroll that does not live to that standard. A smart player may find good use of them, as there are so many ways to buff them, or even to transform another hero in them (surely not a mounted chaos lord), but for the most part, it is dusty shelf material.
This army is also a great foundation for any other Chaos God-based army, as most of these kits can be used in any of those armies, giving complete freedom of customization, both in painting and kit-bashing.
To resume, Slaves to Darkness third edition battletome is a great book but not a top table constant presence. It requires high skills in list building to find the right play but after that you can obtain great results. The complexity and amount of things to remember would probably discourage the beginners from this book, but if you can get past those initial difficulties, you’ll find a rare gem here.
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.