Today, Loopy reviews the spirits of slaughter from beyond the veil, the Bloodletters, who are an iconic component of the Khorne Daemonkin codex.
In recent history, Bloodletters have gotten a bit of a bad rap with their questionable survivability. Of course, this isn’t surprising in a competitive scene which rewards only the most impressive efficiency and the most unwavering predictability. In reality, if you’re going to have to take a Troops choice of some kind, you could do a heck of a lot worse than some Bloodletters.
There are two main situations in which the Bloodletters will be a choice for you in the Khorne Daemonkin codex: as part of a Combined Arms Detachment or as part of a Slaughtercult. In the CAD, your choices are against all other Troops (including Cultists), and in the Slaughtercult, the Bloodletters only compete with Berzerkers and Chaos Space Marines. From a purely body-to-point ratio, the Bloodletters are only outmatched by the Cultists. Five Chaos Space Marines are fifty points more than a unit of Bloodletters while five Berzerkers are double the cost. These inefficiencies are further exacerbated by the fact that you get eight Bloodletters rather than five.
Note that if you’re fond of Khorne Daemons… like really love Khorne Daemons, you can also bring a ton of Bloodletter units in a Charnel Cohort. That Formation really packs on the Deepstrike pressure and may provide the distraction you need to get your assault units in play. Whether it makes a compelling choice compared to the Gorepack as your Auxiliary choice in a Blood Host Detachment is debatable.
Hot Plastic Knife Through Cold Butter
The Bloodletter is an assault glass cannon. This is an interesting and often reviled concept. With its Hellblade and Furious Charge, the Bloodletter strikes at Strength 5 AP 3 at Initiative 4 on the assault. Its Weapon Skill 5 makes certain those blows land with accuracy. Unfortunately, the Bloodletter suffers from a rather disappointing single attack on their profile, especially compared to the Berzerkers. However, careful application of the Blood Tithe table could increase this by two or even three attacks on the charge and result in a rather devastating assault phase. Double dipping into the Blood Tithe table is a pretty nice feature of the Slaughtercult, however it compels players to pull more units from that Formation when there are competing efficiencies elsewhere in their list, particularly Flesh Hounds.
One Bloodletter may be upgraded to a character for only 5 points; the promise of 1 extra attack and the possibility of additional Blood Tithe probably makes this a worthy purchase. The 10pt Instrument of Chaos might be worth the cost you’re doing a tide of summoned Daemons, but otherwise isn’t all that helpful. A Banner of Blood is a more useful upgrade at 20pts, granting the unit +1 to your assault results, more predictable assault distances, and accurate deepstriking. Again, this might be a decent upgrade for a tide of Daemons, but the cost is really hard to stomach when purchased. You should, however, have these models on hand for summoning purposes, as you are allowed to have an Instrument, Banner, and/or Character for free when you summon them.
There are some offensive abilities which favor the lowly Power Armored model. Assault Grenades can mean a huge difference in combat and Bloodletters lack this simple tool of the trade. Of course, a Skull Cannon can help with this issue, but you can’t count on this gambit as a Skull Cannon would have to either survive until you assault or be summoned in. Of course, the Bloodletters do have Fearless which gives them a clear advantage over the Chaos Space Marines in combat and from a scoring perspective.
The Shell Game
When we look at the stats for all these units, it’s easy to get wrapped up in a perplexing shell game of trading this for that. First of all, the Bloodletter gives up a point of Toughness. This is not all that important when it comes to actually factoring the target number to wound these days considering how prevalent Strength 6 and 7 shooting is. Having said that, this also makes the Unstoppable Ferocity option on the Blood Tithe Table less useful for Bloodletters since you may not take Feel No Pain saves versus weapons which cause instant death. The power armor units enjoy their 3+ armor save (compared to the Bloodletter’s 5+ invulnerable save) which is still something that matters versus some armies, but is easy to get rid of with targeted application of Grav weapons and other specialized shooting. With all the high strength shooting on battlefields these days, eight Bloodletters in terrain are about as survivable as five power armored models and at a far cheaper cost.
Additionally, Power Armored units may take Rhinos as dedicated transports. Rhinos are a great way to not only generate additional Blood Tithe, but also increase the maneuverability and durability of the unit. Of course, a Bloodletter’s Deepstrike ability curbs a lot of their maneuverability issues. With inexpensive Bloodletters, you can apply small blobs of resistance throughout your opponent’s backfield which they absolutely must deal with as the rest of your army charges up-field. This is especially true if the Bloodletters are Objective Secured and you’re playing with progressive scoring. Also, if you really want, you can actually put Bloodletters in Rhinos or Land Raiders. There’s nothing stopping you.
In a lot of ways, the capabilities of a unit of Chaos Space Marines rather pales in comparison to that of a unit of Bloodletters. As for the Berzerkers, they may have some impressive special rules at their disposal, but when you can take two units of 8 Bloodletters in their place, making an argument for Berzerkers is a tough row to hoe.
The Real Competition
Chaos Cultists are so relatively inexpensive in KDK that they present a very tough argument against the use of Bloodletters from a strictly scoring perspective. Of course, if you’re dead set on the Blood Host Detachment and agree with the points above, then you’re taking at least two units of Bloodletters anyways. For CAD purposes, it might be compelling to just go with all cultists. At 58 points for 8 models, they’re a steal, but very fragile in the open. Of course, in ruins their save versus shooting is pretty much identical to that of a Bloodletter. Their leadership isn’t, though, and their maneuverability is garbage. For Cultists to properly compete with Bloodletters from a scoring perspective, you almost have to buy the Cultists a Chaos Rhino, especially in a progressive scoring environment. Of course, offensively, even with their buckets of dice, the Cultists poor Strength and nonexistent AP are not as versatile in combat than the Bloodletters.
This Isn’t Math Class
In the end, no unit can be summed up in a simple mathematics problem. As gamers, of course sometimes we’d love for this to be untrue, but reality speaks louder than hopes and dreams. For my money, I like running a pair of Cultist units in Rhinos from one CAD and a pair of deep-striking Bloodletters from another CAD. I think this gives me a good balance of on-table ObSec presence and responsive deepstrike ObSec. Your mileage may vary.
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