Chaos Knights: Engine War review, part 1

Hey all, Danny from TFG Radio here, and today, I am going to give part 1 of my deep dive into all the new rules available for Chaos Knights in Psychic Awakening: Engine War. Do you want even more free rules for no cost at all? Yes? Then you should most certainly pick up Engine War! Just about everyone has gotten some new toys thanks to Psychic Awakening, so be sure to check out Frontline’s Tactics Corner to keep up!

For our first part of the review, we are going to look at the new Houses that your Chaos Knights can represent, and each of the five comes with new bonuses rules for being part of a House (called a Bond), a custom Warlord Trait/Stratagem/Relic. Not too shabby for costing nothing at all. Let’s dive in:

House Herpetrax (Iconoclast)

This is a nice bond in the sense that 2 wounds for free is not exactly bad (+1 for War Dogs). Seeing as how you can maximize cost efficiency by taking a lot of melee oriented Knights (or the dirt cheap Desecrator after PA 2019), getting them just a bit more durability is awesome, and well, Iconoclast loves fighty models for the extra attack and AP.  Especially for a Castigator, which is relatively inexpensive, getting it to have 29 wounds makes it very durable for the price point.

The Warlord trait, Bound to None, is also legit. Getting a free revive, without having to be Infernal and spend CP, is just money, and again, never underestimate how powerful it is to have a Knight not die when your opponent needed it to be gone. Even with only D3 wounds, this lets you get into the fight to do some damage before exploding later and in a more optimal position. 

The bespoke relic, Crown of Jedathra is alright.  If you throw it on a Lancer, then you have a premier anti-melee knight, but if the whole capping hit roll modifiers is a thing in 9th, well, this probably has less play. 

Warping Aura is not a bad stratagem to have in the back pocket. It is not a central stratagem, but if going against hordes, this can be an easy way to snipe out some models and cause some chip damage to bigger units, and for only 1 CP, that’s not too bad.  Again, it is more a corner case stratagem, but it is still not bad at all.

House Lucaris (Iconoclast)

+1 to hit in the first round of combat (well, when you charge/are charged/Heroically intervene) is not too shabby at all, and it makes the Thunderstrike Gauntlet a much more reliable weapon.  Again, this pairs well with the Iconoclast feature of an extra attack, so now you are getting even more value and efficiency on the charge, making even shooty knights far more effective as a Dub-Melta has 15 S8 AP-3 Dd3 attacks at WS 2+ on the charge.  That’s really good for any kind of melee power, let alone on a shooting platform.  If you like War Dogs, this also gets a lot of mileage as I love melee Moirax and Chain-Cleavers, but War Dogs can whiff badly, so the +1 adds a lot.

The Warlord trait isn’t bad as getting a Knight to always fight first has a lot of utility, especially since you can give another Knight the Quicksilver Throne, so you have two Knights that always fight first. This brings me back to the days of old WHFB. While your opponent still gets to select the first, unless you are going up against a crazy melee unit or another Knight, you are not likely to die in one round of combat, so your Knight gets to swing in and likely snipe out the other threat.  Not being able to tag-team 2 Knights in melee definitely poses problems for melee oriented armies, particularly those that rely on powerhouse combos of heroes/units.   This also gets much better in 9th after it was revealed that the player not charging gets to choose the first fight.

The custom relic, Serpentstrike, is cool, but it requires that you take a Tyrant, and well, those are expensive and generally not optimal.  Being able to always get the melta rule and S9 means that if you run up danger close, you are going to nuke a target for sure, but again, Tyrants aren’t generally the most cost effective Knight to run, and there are better relics to grab first. 

Trample Them, the custom stratagem, is good again for 1 CP to do some chip damage. A common tactic to slow knights is to gum them up with infantry, so being able to do some mortal wounds as you walk by is great, but this is easily counter-played. Savvy opponents will simply position their unit so that you can’t actually walk over them because you don’t have enough movement to clear the squad, but this again a back pocket stratagem.  If you can pull it off to walk over an isolated support character, that can be a fun way to get a cheeky kill. 

House Khymere (Iconoclast)

A nice re-roll 1s to wound in melee (except on our Dancing Shoes) is never to be underestimated, especially when you consider that Thunderstrike Gauntlets wound just about everything on 2s and even Reapers are going to wound other Knights on 3s, so rerolling that 1 is actually a lot of mileage math wise. If you want to run a melee focused force, this is not a bad choice, but Iconoclast is generally really good at making our shooty knights stomp like fighty knights, so this House really wants you to run knights with less shooty and more big hitty.

The Warlord trait isn’t too awesome as while messing with enemy morale is cool, too many armies have morale mitigation, so unless that changes in 9th, you probably don’t want this.

The custom relic, Annihilatum is the chaos version of the Super Soaker, and 3d6 autohitting 3dmg shots is pretty sweet, but again, this puts you into a Tyrant, and well, Tyrants aren’t optimal. If you love Tyrants, and I do, this can be a fun choice, but if you want to squeeze as much efficiency out of a list, then this is something to skip.  That said, a big difference here is that Annihilatum is Assault, not Heavy, so this gives you just a bit more reach and mobility with it.

The stratagem Fury of Surtr’s Wake is cool, giving you essentially a chance to do some AoE damage in the shooting phase to units near you, but this is 2 CP that is better spent elsewhere.  If for some reason you are near a lot of support characters and plan on dying and detonating in the Fight phase, this can be a cool trick, but this really isn’t that strong.

House Vextrix (Infernal)

A free reroll to hit and wound is never bad, and this covers both fighting and shooting, so you can actually get a lot of mileage out of this no matter how you build your list, there is some consideration here. Especially since Infernal is good at maximizing output in big bursts, having a little bit of extra probability on your side helps as nothing is worse than taking 3 wounds to supercharge a shooting weapon or your movement only to flub a critical roll.  This is also really good on War Dogs that need some extra efficiency to really be effective. 

The Warlord trait here is quite good. Getting 1 wound back on the Warlord each movement phase helps take the sting out of powering up. If you are rolling randomly, this essentially lets you boost for free as you can have Daemonic Surge trigger first, roll for a random power, and then trigger the WL trait for that wound back.  This is really good on a Warlord like a Castigator or hybrid Despoiler that can utilize any of the possibilities.

Heretek Power Core is a great artifact that makes for a delicious Knight bomb.  +1 to movement is good, and getting damage 7 Reapers or Gauntlet’s is just sort of a nice bonus, generally meaning you only need 2 hits to go through to kill most vehicles rather than 3.  The real money here is +1 to explode, meaning that if you pop Spiteful Demise, you are exploding on a 3+ rather than a 4+.  This is a great relic to throw on a melee Despoiler that is going to Surge for extra speed, 15+2d6+1 in a turn, and if you really spend the CP for Full Tilt, you are going 15+d6+1+2d6+1 in a single turn.  That will get you deep into enemy lines. 

Interception Array is also decent stratagem that while pricey, definitely helps ensure that you are going to land some shots.  This stratagem lets you ignore the Helm of Warpsight as you can just spend CP to get the effect on you want on any Knight, or you can double up on the shooty elements and have both Knights be able to butcher something at range that relies on modifiers to survive. This is also a bit better than the Helm since it also ignores Ballistic Skill modifiers, which are different than Hit Roll modifiers.

House Khomentis (Infernal)

You get a lot of different buffs for this house, which work well seeing as how Infernal Knights tend to damage themselves a lot.  Getting +1 attack and +1 to hit in melee when at half or more wounds helps make your melee knights much more effective as it essentially takes the bite out of being at middle-tier.  That’s already not too bad if you are going melee focused, but throw in that you also get a 5+ save against psychic Mortal wounds, and suddenly you have some protection against psyker spam armies like Grey Knights.  This is definitely more of a meta choice, but even having a War Dog based detachment as Khomentis can help provide a Knight force with some models to soak mortal wounds that will last a bit longer.

Dread Hunter is like a stratagem for a warlord trait.  Being able to once per game super charge your shooting for free is bonkers good.  This is custom made for a Knight like the Castigator who can Surge to make the Bolt Cannon S7 D3 and then pop Dread Hunter to make it D4 with full reroll to hits and wounds.  That is just a quick burst of absolute murder, and with 16 shots, hot damn.  You hate Centurions (or those new Primaris bikes that were just previewed)? Well, on average dice, a fully charged Dread Hunter Castigator kills 6 Centurions in a single volley.  Alternatively, you can throw this on a Dub-Gatling Cannon and Surge one while Dread Huntering the other.  This may be only once per game, but it can be absolutely devastating.

Daemonic Strike is also a good relic for a shooting model, giving your guns an extra -1 AP to a selected target within 18”.  This really pairs well with a Dub-Melta as getting to AP-5 is just gnarly and within melta range just means that the Dub-Melta is going to annihilate whatever it picks unless it has an amazing invulnerable save.  Alternatively, even Battle-cannons and Gatlings get some extra love out of here to boost them up to AP-3, which helps. Is this the first choice relic? Probably not, depending on your build, but if you are going for a shooty Infernal list that relies on super-charging guns, then this can be in contention.

Encircling Hounds finally lets Chaos do what Imperials can, and that’s outflank War Dogs.  This helps give Knights a big more dynamic set up and deployment, and having Moirax War Dogs pop up to electrocute the hell out of targets is always good fun.  If you like melee War Dogs, the bond pairs well here. 

So, when all is said and done, what do we have here?  I think if you like Infernal, Khomentis is the way to go, particularly with the Warlord Trait.  If you like Iconoclast, Herpatrax is my choice as additional wounds just adds to the knight’s core mechanic: immense survivability.  Herpatrax also has the best warlord trait, and really, if you stack the bond, warlord trait, AND take the Vow of Dominance with the Veil of Medrengard, you have a really, really resilient Warlord that is not going to die quickly.   Of course, there are a lot of plays and options here depending on how you want to run your army.  Lucaris is another solid choice for a shooty Iconoclast list that is also quite scary in melee.  This could also be more on meta since having 2 or 3 big threat models that are terrifying in shooting and melee can be enough to swing the game to you.

Thanks for reading, and next time, I’ll look over the other big part of Engine War, the custom Household traits for Chaos Knights. There is a ton there, so it definitely deserves its own deep dive.  Go out there and stomp some lapdogs of the Corpse God, people.

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

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About Danny Ruiz

Long-long time 40K player, one of the original triumvirate of head 40K judges at LVO, writer, educator, tyranid-enthusiast, disciple of Angron, man about town, afflicted with faction ADD.

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