Chaos Knights Review: The Big Picture

Hey everyone, Reecius here with an overview of the new Chaos Knights faction for Warhammer 40k! Be sure to check the Tactics Corner for more great articles.

And remember, you can order the Chaos Knight Codex and Chaos Knight models from Frontline Gaming through our web-cart at a discount with FREE shipping options! 

A comprehensive review will be forthcoming but for this first article I wanted to take a more holistic approach instead of a close look at the component parts as I normally do. So, let’s dive in and take a look!

Is this a Chaos version of the Imperial Knights faction?

Yes and no. There’s a lot of overlap in the two factions but the Imperial Version has significantly more options. However, don’t let that deter you. There’s a lot to like with the Chaos version and remember: more options isn’t always more better (and yes, I said more better). For example, how often do you see anything but House Krast, Raven or Hawkshroud for Imperials? The Chaos version comes in two flavors which are more like overarching themes, similar to the Imperial flavors of Mechanicum or Imperialis but without the further sub-factions of specific houses such as those listed above. Therein lays the reason why Imperials have more options as Chaos lacks all of the various Warlord Traits, Stratagems, Relics, etc. specific to the various houses. Chaos gets the Iconoclast and Infernal household ambitions. They each offer appealing options which is great, and can both be built to go shooty or choppy.

How “Chaosy” are they?

Chaos Knights do not have marks, they are not Daemons, or Daemon Engines, etc. They’re pretty much identical to Imperial Knights with some spikes and different special rules and options. While that may be disappointing to some, they are very strong and when you add up all of the little details, you get quite a different beast than the Imperial versions. That said, there are 4 unique Relics that are themed for each god to give you that Chaos feel and to reward those of us that have made god themed Knights. Some of those are solid, too, and I expect will see play regularly. Let’s look at them:

  • Khornate Target: Once per battle, you may ignore invul saves in melee but also cannot take any yourself. This is very Khrone feeling as it allows you to utterly wreck a high value target in melee. As we’ll see as we go through this review, you can make a brutally strong melee Chaos Knight. And don’t worry much about losing your own invul saves as you typically won’t have one in the first place but if you did by some means, and you don’t kill whatever you attack, you rolled ice cubes, lol. Vs. something like G-man, Morty, Magnus, another Knight, a unit of models that count on having an invul save to stay alive like Daemons, Bullgryn, Harlies, etc., this is a devastating ability.
  • Tzeentchian Pyrothrone: This Relic gives the Chaos Knight the psyker Keyword, allows it to Deny the Witch and the ability to cast Smite. If you also give it one of the Warlord Traits, Warp-haunted Hull, you’d have 2 DtW attempts which is pretty cool if you need some psychic defense on the fly. That said, this Relic is OK, has some good utility in the right match-up and gives you a little more damage output.
  • The Putrid Carapace of Nurgle: In melee, for each successful save the Chaos Knight makes, on a 4+ the attacking unit takes a Mortal Wound. WOW. That’s brutal. If you wade into a unit of models that have no or low AP on their melee attacks, you can deal a lot of damage to them as they attack you. This is a very powerful Relic and one I see getting a lot of play.
  • The Quicksilver Throne of Slaanesh: This Relic gives the bearer +1″ to Advance and Charge rolls and always strikes first in melee. That’s solid. There are numerous other ways to speed your Chaos Knight up, too such as the Infernal Household Daemonic Surge table, in addition to Eager for the Kill Warlord Trait which also gives you a +1″ Advance and Charge bonus. In prolonged combats, that always strikes first buff is incredible, and really catches people off guard. Again, a great boost and one I see being taken frequently.

Which Household is better: Iconoclast or Infernal?

I can honestly say I like both a lot. Some players will be drawn more to one than the other but the spread of cool and powerful abilities is fairly evenly split between the two. I don’t feel there is a clear winner but we’ll see what happens when the community at large gets their hands on it. But, here’s an overview of each:

  • Infernal

Infernal gives you the very cool Daemonic Surge table above which can be super beneficial. A T9 Chaos Knight hardly needs any hype, and the speed bonus is great, particularly on a Slaanesh themed knight with the buffs described above, giving you a 14″ base move with +3″ to Advance and Charge rolls! Combine that with the Full Tilt strat, allowing you to Advance and Charge, and you have a very speedy Chaos Knight. If that weren’t enough, you can also try and go for a further speed buff with the Daemonic Vigour Dreadblade Pact which is random but with all solid options. On a 1-3, you get +2″ movement, on a 4-5 you get +1 WS and on a 6 you get +1 BS. That means a potential of a 16″ move, 9″ Advance and 15″ Charge, lol.

Also, they have one of my favorite strats, Bind the Souls of the Defeated. For a melee knight this is so good. With the raw amount of attacks they get, it’s easy to generate the extra wounds vs. any multi-model units. This keeps your melee monster alive and kicking (pun intended!). You also get the zombie Knight strat with Infernal to bring your Knight back to life on a 4+! Not bad at all. 

Generally I think Infernal Knights are better at melee, but, they are not bad at all with shooting either as you can use Daemonic Surge to really jack up one gun. An Avenger cannon or War Dog Autocannon love that surge, as does the Rapid Fire Battle Cannon. As I have been finding often times a great way to run Chaos Knights is with one melee weapon and one gun. We’ll get to more of why that is in a bit. But the short version: it saves a lot of points and the versatility it brings really plays to both house’s strengths.

The Infernal only Relic, The Blasphemous Engine, basically makes you Hawkshroud, allowing you to double the number of wounds on your profile to determine which bracket you are in for stats. That is very good, many people underestimate how strong it is, particularly for a melee Knight that needs to stay speedy to catch its prey.

  • Iconoclast

Iconoclast is the better general purpose household ambition, IMO. The reason why is that you get the awesome base bonus listed above of +1 attack on the charge and an additional AP-1. That’s huge and it makes even shooty Chaos Knight scary in combat, and melee Knights even better!

Vow of dominance gives you a very solid defense, particularly vs. things like Shadowswords, Castellans and especially in melee where there tends to be more high strength attacks. These Vows also last the entire game giving you a choose your own adventure style flexibility to customize your unit on the fly.

This is my second favorite strat, building attacks up as you do damage! Something like a double Avenger Chaos Knight with this Vow vs. something like Orks could get dirty in a hurry. You can build up a staggering number of attacks vs. a horde army. A melee knight likewise would also make great use of this or, as stated, a hybrid with an Avenger and a Gauntlet or Reaper Chainsword as well.

The other Vow that comes in handy quite often is the Vow of the Beastslayer. It gives you re-roll wound rolls of 1 vs any target with a Wounds characteristic of 8 or more. This comes in to play all the dang time and the higher strength your attacks, the better this is. The Rapid Fire Battle Cannon loves it as do your melee attacks to really crank up your efficiency.

And a 4++ vs. shooting which hardly needs any explanation. Iconclast gives you quite a few solid offensive and defensive choices.


The real secret sauce though are the Dreablades. Any Knight can be a Dreadblade (but only one per detachment gains the pacts and Ambitions) and they gain these benefits in addition to their Household Ambition. The Dreadblade chart has some real gems in it, too. One of the best is Path to Glory, which gives you re-roll hits (all hits you want to re-roll, not just misses) vs. Titanic and Character units. That’s huge. When playing against other Knights or any model that is scary, or when firing the dreaded Shieldbreaker Missile, you become dramatically more accurate. As it works in melee as well, this is one of my favorites.

  • Pacts

Daemonic Vigour is a great general purpose upgrade, giving you +2″ movement on a D6 roll of 1-3, +1 WS on a 4-5, and +1 BS on a 6. If you designated your Knight as a Dreadblade but find yourself facing an opponent that doesn’t have any great targets for the other buffs, this is a good one to take. All of the options are good, particularly for a shooty/melee hybrid Knight. It’s also quite good for the Knight Tyrant who any of the buffs is very useful for as they’re slow, have WS 4+, and the +1 BS is obviously super good, too.

Another great general purpose Pact is Knowledge of Profane secrets which gives you +1 Ld and a free Command Point. The +1 Ld also helps negate the Damnation side of things.

Arch-Fiend is an amazing Pact for a melee Knight. It gives you a 6″ Heroic Intervention which is so good for board control. If you’re like me and you still forget about Heroic Intervention sometimes and get caught with your pants down with a Knight walking into combat with you when you thought you were safe, well, this makes that likelihood even higher!

Galvanized Hull is solid as well, allowing you to increase your defense. AP-1 is extremely common so this is a lot better than it seems, particularly if you get into cover.

They’re all quite good and I often roll 2D6 on the chart as if you have a hybrid or melee Knight, there are no 2 combinations that are truly bad and you can roll up to extremely good ones! For my pure shooty Knight it’s often better to choose what you get.

  • Damnations

The Damnations are pretty mild in many instances with a few that are brutal! So, you typically want to pick two instead of rolling unless you have a pure melee Knight in which case I could see you risking it. However, the Damnations only kick in on a failed Ld test taken on 2d6, and as the big Knights are Ld9 and War Dogs are Ld8, it’s not a massive concern. There are also several ways to boost Ld allowing you to get to a 10 or even 11 fairly easily. One I often use is the Tyrant’s Banner which gives +1Ld to all Chaos units within 6.” As I run my Chaos Knights with Daemons it actually comes in handy quite a bit beyond just the buff to the Knight itself. It also gives you a bonus CP at the beginning of each of your turns on a 5+.

Forsaken is a good one to take for general purposes. It also gives you a -1 on the Ld test which helps you to pass it. Iconoclast though, can lose the benefit of their all game Strats while this kicks in which stinks but may not be the end of the world.

Another I always take for shooty Knights is Warp Fugue, which if it kicks in means you always fight last in melee. For a shooty knight this isn’t often a big deal. Even a melee Knight in many cases doesn’t care if he’s engaged with units that aren’t a big threat to him (which is most things, lol).

Volatile Reactor is another I often take as it’s not too bad. While in effect, at the end of a Phase you took any damage, on a 4+ you lose an additional wound. For shooty Knights particularly, this tends to not be much of a worry. Mid ranged Knights may not like it as they can take 3 extra wounds a turn but still not a massive concern as that’s unlikely to occur and it only triggers on a 4+. Infernal melee Knights which can regenerate wounds rapidly can probably get away with this one without much to worry about.

Some of them are brutal though, like Warp-rage which disallows you from Falling Back and you go to BS 6+, lol. For a melee Knight? Probably not a big deal but for for a Shooty Knight it can be crippling. Likewise, Defiant Machine Spirit gives you a -1 to Advance and Charge rolls as well as -1 to hit which is bad for all Knight types, particularly melee.

A final note on Dreadblades; their unique Relic the Rune of Nak’T’Graa, gives you a 5++ in melee and an additional Pact and Damnation of your choice. If you go this route (and it’s quite good) you can roll up 2 beneficial options and pick a third, ensuring you get good buffs, and then pick 3 negatives and there are enough mild ones that you will probably be fine depending on your load-out. And remember, you can make War Dogs Dreadblades as well, and many of the buffs are quite beneficial to them.

Warlord Traits

The Warlord Traits are a bit meh, unfortunately. Not bad, just not aces like the Imperial versions. Often I find myself not taking one at all to save CP and to save the trait and valuable free relic for a detachment I really want it in. Generally if you do want to make use of it, Knight Diabolus granting +1 Attack is always good for a melee or hybrid Knight and Eager for the Kill, giving +1 Advance and Charge trait is also good. Warp-Haunted Hull is good when facing Psykers, giving you a DtW and a 5+++ vs. damage done from psychic powers.

Example Builds

So, here’s some fun ways to build out Chaos Knights in my experience. Let me know if you’ve found some other good combos!

  • The All-rounder: A Knight that can do whatever needs doing.
    • Iconoclast
    • Knight Despoiler
    • Rapid Fire Battle Cannon or Avenger Cannon (the Avenger is more expensive than the Battle Cannon now for Chaos Knights)
    • Reaper Chainsword or Thunderstrike Gauntlet (we’ll go in to the pros and cons below)
    • Vow of Choice based on opponent
    • Dreadblade: Pact Choices will vary based on opponent but Daemonic Vigour will literally always be useful, Damnations tend to vary but the most common will be Forsaken (a bit risky if you have a Vow in effect), Volatile Reactor and Warp Fugue.
    • Relic: again will vary based on opponent.

What this gives you is a great multi-function tool. The Knight moves up the table shooting, looking to engage in melee where it is a threat to any target. It can take on hordes with its stomps, or bash a Vehicle or Monster into submission. The Reaper and the Gauntlet are both solid options, particularly with the Path to Glory Dreadblade Pact giving you full re-rolls vs. Characters and Titanic opponents. The relic version of either is awesome, too. The relic Reaper–The Teeth that Hunger–is strength +8 (meaning 16), AP-4 and +1 attack with that weapon. Awesome for smoking other big things. The fist–The Gauntlet of Ascension–is even better, IMO. It’s got the same profile as a normal Thunderstrike but without the -1 to hit, and it gives you re-rolls to hit and wound! Further, for every Character you destroy, you gain +1 Str and Attacks for the rest of the game. This combined with the Vow of Carnage can get crazy in a hurry. This also makes Death Grip even more reliable. In all, this is a Knight that does everything well and can adapt to any opponent you find yourself facing.

  • The Melee Monster: A Knight that wants to kick your opponent’s teeth in in melee.
    • Infernal
    • Knight Rampager or Despoiler in melee configuration to save 15pts
    • Gauntlet & Reaper Chainsword
    • Knight Diabolus or Eager for the Kill Warlord Traits
    • Dreadblade: Daemonic Vigour, Arch-Fiend, Path to Glory made great Pacts, Warp-rage, Forsaken, Volatile Reactor make not so bad Damnations.
    • Relic: melee weapon of choice, Putrid Carapace of Nurgle, Rune of Nak’T’Graa, Quicksilver Throne of Slaanesh, Khornate Target, etc., are all great choices.

This Knight gives you a melee monster that can also be incredibly fast. With Daemonic Surge from Infernal+possibly getting +2″ movement from Daemonic Vigour, you could have a base move of 16″, lol. With all of the various other buffs you could also get +3″ to Advance and Charge rolls, for a massive potential range of 16″+D6+3″+2d6+3″ for a 40″ threat range. That is brutal. When you get into melee, you’re going to have 5-6 base attacks (potentially 15 to 18 kicks), hitting on 2’s and the ability to regenerate health in the Fight phase via. the Infernal strat. And remember, there are 2 Fight Phases per game turn! You can opt to be a horde clearer with the Putrid Carapace, forcing the enemy to kill itself as it fights you, or a Titanic duelist with the specialized weapons or Khorne relic to just smash any other big beast or high invul save unit to bits. If you go Rampager, you’re especially good in this roll as each 6 to hit with the arm weapons nets you two hits, meaning it will be a rare game you don’t cleave right through a big target in one go. Likewise, you could take the relic Gauntlet and start to get up to crazy numbers of attacks if you can start squishing Characters!

  • Dakkabot: A Knight that lays down fire from afar but can also mix it up if needs be.
    • Iconoclast
    • Knight Despoiler
    • Dual Avengers or Battle Cannons+Hull Weapon of choice
    • No WL trait needed in most cases
    • Vow of choice based on opponent, although Beastslayer and Carnage typically make the most sense.
    • Dreadblade: Path to Glory, Daemonic Vigour are solid, Galvanised Hull can also be quite good. Volatile Reactor and Warp Fugue are the least damaging.
    • Relic: Helm of Warp-Sight is amazing when it’s applicable, Tyrant’s Banner is also a good choice. Also, the Veil of Medrengard is great!

This Knight lays down the thunder from long range and again, is quite flexible in the ability to adapt to your target. When facing other Knights, big units or Characters Path to Glory is amazing as is Vow of the Beastslayer. When facing hordes, Vow of Carnage means your “shooty” knight will also kick butt in melee, too! If facing an army that relies on negatives to hit, the Helm of Warp-Sight is a game changer, allowing you to ignore to hit modifiers with ranged weapons. And, obviously, the Veil is great for a 4++ vs. shooting. I have really been enjoying the dual Battle Cannon with Ironstorm load-out as again, it’s cheaper than the dual Avenger (and it should be) and the longer range and higher strength with the buffs from re-rolls of to 1 wound from Vow of the Beastslayer and re-rolls to hit from Path to Glory have been aces for ramping up his damage output. Once he gets in a position to commit to melee, the bonus attack and AP have made his kicks just lethal.

Well, there’s a lot more to talk about but that’s what I’ve got so far. Hopefully this gives you all an idea of what to expect from Chaos Knights. The rule of thumb is adaptability, hitting power and the fact that they’re just a lot of fun to play! More Chaos Knight coverage to come.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

5 Responses to “Chaos Knights Review: The Big Picture”

  1. Avatar
    Beau July 6, 2019 10:59 am #

    I think this all looms pretty cool, and I consider the pantheon based relics fun enough. I have been playing with a Tzeentch themed hybrid knight (gat +reaper) supporting some thousand sons since chaos knight options originally came out. His background was that he was a psyker that defied the black ships… good to see theres now some rules to back up my fluff.

    • Reecius
      Reecius July 6, 2019 3:00 pm #

      Yeah, Chaos Knights are very good and a lot of fun to play. The fact that they’re so customizable is what makes them so fun to play.

  2. Avatar
    Mush July 7, 2019 7:59 am #

    Great article! Chaos Knights are looking like a more distilled and dynamic version of Imperial Knights.

    I would like to point out two small mistakes in the article which I have seen come up with Freeblades (and as a result Dreadblades as they have the same mechanic). It’s more relevant to Dreadblades as they are likely to see more use than Freeblades.

    Firstly, its not a leadership test exactly, as you have to roll under your leadership not equal or under (making it effectively a leadership test at -1). Secondly the Forsaken Damnation (Exiled in Shame Burden in the Imperial Knights codex), makes the test easier not harder.

    “roll a 2d6 for each of them at the start of each of your turns, subtracting 1 from the result if they have the Forsaken Damnation, If the result is less than that Dreadblades Leadership Characteristic, their Damnations do not apply that turn…”

    Similar to the imperial knights codex:

    “roll a 2d6 for them at the start of each of your turns, subtracting 1 from the result if the freeblade has the Exile in Shame Burden. If the result is less than that Freeblades Leadership Characteristic, their Burdens do not apply that turn…”

    So it’s almost always worth taking Forsaken, as although it can be crippling (not being able to be affected by stratagems which also prevents you from being able to us a command re-roll to re-roll the Damnation test), it does make the test slightly easier (less likely to fail).

    Thanks again for the awesome write up. 🙂

    • Reecius
      Reecius July 7, 2019 9:05 am #

      Good catch on Forsaken, I totally wrote that backwards.

  3. Avatar
    R3v0lv3r July 8, 2019 12:09 am #

    Great, one more year of IK metta.

Leave a Reply