The Fate of Storm of Chaos

It is now a couple of years since the Warhammer Storm of Chaos campaign was launched by Games Workshop, along with its numerous army variations. While the army lists published in the book were intended as themed forces to be used as part of the campaign, many players embraced them in more general terms, and the lists were permitted to be used in tournaments. They were, in effect, entirely legitimate alternatives to the basic army books, although they were not stand-alone (in the sense that you needed the relevant army book in order to make use of the rules in the campaign book).


I can’t imagine that many people would object to the concept of there being more army lists to choose from. This gives greater variety, or at the very least, provides scope for some more heavily themed versions of the standard lists. Despite this however, Storm of Chaos lists have started to be banned from tournaments. At the current rate, it will not be long before they are not permitted in any tournaments at all, and that will likely filter through to the rest of the hobby, with the lists falling out of use entirely.


Too Subjective?

There are a couple of likely reasons why Storm of Chaos will not stand the test of time. The first problem is that, being based on existing army books, the lists are dependent upon any developments made to those books. Since publication, two of the army books upon which the lists are based (namely Dwarfs and Orcs and Goblins) have been re-released. A third new book (the Empire) is on its way, as the trend continues. The rules have changed, and the lists no longer match up the way they were intended. It is possible that you could still use the Storm of Chaos rules based on the new books, but points values, stat lines, unit choices and magic items no longer stack up. Ultimately it would throw the balance of the lists out, and things would happen that were never intended.


Assuming then that it is not really prudent to use the Storm of Chaos lists with the new army books, there are really only two options left. The first is to use the list along with the old army book, for which it was intended. Theoretically there should be nothing wrong with this, and the balance should remain. It could be argued that such a refusal to embrace the new rules stands in the way of progress, and that the new rules are superior, but these things are subject to opinion. So, it should be perfectly feasible to continue to field your Storm of Chaos army using the old rules, and I don’t imagine many people would complain.


The other option is to stop using the Storm of Chaos list entirely. This appears to be what GW intended, as the new lists provide scope to field armies that resemble those in the campaign. In the case of the Dwarf Slayer army for example, it was only possible to field a single unit of Slayers in the previous Dwarf book. In the new book it is now possible to field up to 4 Slayer units in a 2000 point game, provided that you also include 3 Slayer characters. The Army General and Core restrictions are still in place however, and so there will remain some non-Slayer elements. In addition to this, the player loses the option of Doomseekers (the demise of which will please many people), Brotherhood of Grimnir, Slayer character skills, and the additional surge of the army onto the table at the start of the game (although Strollaz Rune could be used to compensate for this a little, if a Battle Standard Bearer was included).


This all means that a list of a similar flavour can be fielded, although some of the very specific rules and choices have disappeared. The same can be said of the Orc Ardboyz list, which was intended to allow the player to field more hard units, and to allow all-Orc armies to fight more competitively than they previously could. Few would argue with the fact that the new Orc and Goblin book also does this, although it does lose such things as the Idol of Gork. Basically you can see where the Storm of Chaos lists influenced the new army books, even if they did not manage to squeeze into the books in their entirety.


Of course, these new books only exist for a couple of armies at present, and it may be a very long time indeed before all of the relevant army books are re-released. I see little reason why armies that fall into this category could not continue to use the Storm of Chaos lists in the interim. Unless, of course, you subscribe to the point I am about to explain below.


Too Unbalanced?

The second (and probably more pressing) reason why Storm of Chaos seems doomed to extinction is the balance of the lists themselves. Some of the lists in the book are relatively harmless, and potentially weaker than the lists in the original army books. However, some of them are powerful, changing the balance of the armies involved quite considerably. For the benefit of those who are not familiar with Storm of Chaos, below is a brief run-down of the lists found in the book.


Archaon’s Horde (Mortal Chaos)

This rarely-used list introduces a couple of new units to the Mortal Chaos army – Flayerkin (skirmishing, scouting siege assault troops) and the Hellcannon (massive daemonic cannon that hits the target twice). It also allows you to field multiple Chosen units, but they become Special choices instead of Core (as do chariots). However, the army cannot choose units from the Daemonic and Beast lists to compensate for this – it is a pure Mortal army.


In addition, the Archaon’s Horde list comes with a special (and rather imperfect) scenario, where the Chaos player gets twice the points of his opponent, whose job it is to kill as much as possible before being wiped out. The scenario is flawed because there is no incentive for the Chaos player to actually press the attack, as somehow his whole objective is to keep his army alive.


Daemonic Legion

This army is the most often-used of all the lists presented in Storm of Chaos. It gives you the chance to field a bolstered Daemon army, again at the expense of units from the other two Chaos lists (Mortals and Beasts). In return, the list adds Daemonic Heralds (Hero-level Daemons) Flamer units, spell-casting Horror champions, Mounted Daemonettes, Daemonic Cavalry and Chariots. In the case of these last two choices, these are monsters that are ridden or pulling chariots, with their stats rolled into the model like normal cavalry or chariots. The result is some of the toughest and most dangerous units in the game, and a large part of players’ dislike of Storm of Chaos. Add to this that the Daemons no longer lose their saves against magical attacks and gain an extra point of leadership to protect them from instability, and the army becomes extremely tough.


It is easy to say that the Daemonic Legion is simply too tough, however the Daemonic Horde included in the standard Hordes of Chaos book is extremely weak (and one-dimensional). A middle ground is required, which is hopefully something GW are working on with the next release of Chaos.


The Army of Middenland (Empire)

This is a far more combat-oriented army than the standard Empire list. It focuses mainly around the Knights of the White Wolf, and adds characters and infantry along that vein. Warrior Priests of Sigmar are replaced by the same for Ulric, and new warrior units and Hunting Hounds are added. I find myself liking the flavour of this list, even though it seems to be less effective than the regular list (probably due to issues of balance). This comparison will all change when the new Empire book is released, although whether an equivalent of this list will be made possible remains to be seen.

The Slayer Army of Karak Kadrin (Dwarfs)

An army composed entirely of Slayers, this list tries to bolster what would otherwise be an army fairly bereft of killing potential with skills for its characters, an elite regiment of slayers known as the Brotherhood of Grimnir, and the dreaded Doomseekers (whirling dervishes with axes on chains who are difficult to kill and dangerous in combat). As well as all this, the Dwarf player actually gains Victory Points for models that manage to find their doom at the hands of a powerful opponent (base Strength or Toughness 5+)1. These additions make the list slightly less monotonous, however the fact remains that it is an army with practically no shooting, magic, or variety in movement, and which will never, ever run away. The lack of variation makes this army fairly undesirable to use and to play against.


Grimgor’s Ardboyz (Orcs)

This army disposes of Goblins as being too feeble, and gets on with the business of fielding lots of units of Orcs. It allows the player to field more Big’Uns than usual, as well as Black Orcs and Boar Boyz as Core choices. The loss of Savage Orcs helps to keep this slightly under control, and under the old Orcs and Goblins book an all-Orc army was not nearly as threatening as it is now.


Cult of Slaanesh (Dark Elves)

In my opinion, this list has been a long time in coming. It allows the player to field Dark Elves alongside Slaaneshi Chaos units (including Daemons). This is entirely in keeping with the background of Dark Elves, and as such I find it a welcome addition. The list is mixed around a fair bit and several of the normal Dark Elf units are omitted to make room for Daemonettes, Marauders, Chaos Warriors and Chaos Knights. There are also new units added – the Anointed (a cross between an Elf and a Chaos Lord choice); and the Devoted (a variation on Witch Elves, which are the theoretical heart of the army). This list can be powerful, and I have been surprised to see it used as sparingly as it has.


Army of Sylvania  (Vampire Counts)

This list is quite a deviation from the standard Vampire Count army, where multiple Necromancers are commonplace. This list can’t get any Necromancers at all – instead it places Grave Markers on the battlefield, which cast Invocation of Nehek as a bound spell. This reduces the flexibility of the army, but encourages the player to field a more combat-oriented array of characters (this list remains the best opportunity to make use of a Zombie Dragon without crippling the army in the magic department). In addition to this, the army can field 2 Black Coaches as discounted Special choices, as well as Sylvanian Militia and Levy, which are heavily-equipped Skeletons and Zombies respectively.


Errantry Army (Bretonnians)

A fairly pointless list, this one seems to have suffered from the fact that Bretonnians were the new kids on the block at the time of the release of Storm of Chaos. The army is focused around Knights Errant – a unit that was already a Core choice anyway – and a few special rules to make them slightly more effective and even more impetuous than before.


Skaven Clan Eshin

Forsaking the standard Skaven mentality of strength through ranked up regiments, this list focuses around Night Runners and Gutter Runners. A new scenario is also added to represent the army sneaking up and attacking at night. New units include the Master Assassin, Eshin Sorcerer, and the unusual Eshin Triad (a Rare choice of a group of 3 ill-equipped assassin heroes, who move and fight together).


High Elf Sea Patrol

In my opinion, this list was the single biggest mistake made in the development of Storm of Chaos. It eliminates almost every unit in the High Elf army, and leaves the player with Sea Guard, basic High Elf warriors, re-badged Shadow Warriors, Repeater Bolt Throwers, Eagles and Merwyrms (flightless, aquatic, regenerating, slightly weakened Dragons as Rare choices). In addition, if the army is led by a Prince, every shooting unit in the army gets a free shot at anything in the opposing army (regardless of range, cover, etc) before the game begins. 


The list really takes the one element of the High Elf army that is most despised by opponents (the Repeater Bolt Thrower), and the worst regiment in the army (Sea Guard) and then bases an army around them. Regardless of how effective you believe the Bolt Throwers to be, the list does not work particularly well, and it is not much fun to play with or against. Players who dare use this list tend to be frowned upon by others, which in turn makes them less inclined to do so. Basically it is a list that will see little or no use in the future, regardless of how long Storm of Chaos manages to linger in the gaming community. The High Elf army is a list in need of revision in order to make it competitive, but this opportunity was thoroughly wasted. 



While it may be reasonable to say that the lists that have subsequently had their parent armies re-released are no longer appropriate (or required), the same sort of individual judgment can’t really be passed on the lists according to their balance. I would be the first to agree that the lists are not equally powerful or balanced, but things become very subjective when you start banning some armies but permitting others. Ultimately you have to make the decision as to whether all of the armies are acceptable, or none of them are.  


This decision might be easy to make when it only affects a small group of friends who play each other on a regular basis – you probably won’t have the full spread of armies to think about, and everyone’s opinion can be taken into account. Matters become rather more difficult for tournament organizers, who do need to consider every army, and are unlikely to be in a position to take into account the preferences of every player. 


It would be easy to say that the decision of whether to ban Storm of Chaos should be left up to each tournament organizer, and as such will be permitted in some events and blocked in others. This seems likely to be the way matters will end up, however it makes things very difficult for players who want to use these armies, as they will have to chop and change from one event to the next. Given that some of lists are vastly different from the standard armies they were based on, it is even possible that a player who has collected a Storm of Chaos army will not be able to field a “normal” force with the same race. It also seems inevitable that pressure will mount on those tournaments that continue to allow the lists, if all the others have taken to disallowing them. 


It seems almost certain that those armies that are actually desirable because of the different flavour they offer to an existing race will end up becoming victims of those lists considered to be undesirable by the gaming community or event organizers. It is only a matter of time before Storm of Chaos is banned from all tournaments and when that happens, the effects will filter back into the general community and the lists will fall out of use entirely.


This all ties in with what I have already said in an earlier article about the influence that tournaments have on the game in general. If it wasn’t for the control that tournament rules and approaches have on the wider community, the potential demise of Storm of Chaos in tournaments would not be such a big deal – it would most likely live on in less competitive circles. However, this is not the case, and as soon as something is banned from the majority of tournaments, players will start to believe that the rules are not properly legitimate, or that there is something fundamentally wrong with the armies it contains. We may personally dislike specific lists or feel that some are too powerful2, however there is nothing more fundamentally wrong with Storm of Chaos than that – and that should not be enough to banish the book and all it contains to the back shelf, never to be seen again.



1This rule (which only really comes into effect against some opponents), while appropriate for Dwarf Slayers, means that a player is encouraged to keep powerful models away from the slayers, and to kill them with normal troops (which can be done). It turns the game on its head a little, which is not a good thing for an army you might hope to use on a regular basis.

2If I hadn’t already made it clear, I strongly dislike the High Elf Sea Patrol, and I agree that the Daemonic Legion is a particularly tough proposition; however I have played against both, and would do so again, even in tournaments.