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Dark Age Games - Blood Cult Rises! Tactics Part 1

  • Blood Cult Rises! Tactics Part 1



    Another month, another batch of releases and the beginning of this year belongs to the Blood Cult.

    Greetings, dear readers, Mr. Black here once more to go over some of the new releases here at Dark Age, and do we have some fun to discuss this month: The Blood Cult is here and they're bringing with them some of the hardest hitting units available to any army in Dark Age!

    You know the drill so let's dig right in with Red, Assassin of the Blood:



    Red boasts the stats he needs to get his job done, forging some areas, namely the ones that don't involve "killing them harder". We see he has lots of Action Points and a low Defense, showing the agility and skill befitting a legendary assassin. Complimentary to this we have a high Psyche because, hey, you don't become an assassin without being able to handle yourself. Sure, he doesn't have Never Fear, Never Panic, but don't let that fool you into believing he knows either emotion- It's a simple matter that via the use of the Blood Cult special rule he can quickly gain the benefits of both abilities, simply by doing what he does best: murdering anything that gets in his way.

    "Even other Sharrd regard Red with fear. Most believe he is just a story, told among the Buzzblades whilst they wait out the heat of the day, of a blood-soaked apparition rising from the sands of the nightmare desert."

    So we have a figure that strikes fear into the hearts of even the savage Buzzblades, figures whom I will remind, voluntarily go under the Grafter's knife then whatever "augmentation" a Sister of Charity sees fit. If the concept of a figure that scares that doesn't worry you then... Well you'll probably be dead soon anyway. So, how is this incorporated onto the tabletop? Well first and foremost we have the Assassination special rule, which is what gives Red most of his flavor as well as battlefield usefulness.

    Assassination: After the first turn, during any Lingering Effects stage, you may place a Unit with the Assassination ability anywhere on the battlefield....Deploying a unit in Base-to-Base with an enemy Unit does not result in a charge.

    There is a lot to be said about the psychological effects one can deploy on the tabletop, such as the fact that having a unit that can appear anywhere, any turn, will create a lingering sense of paranoia in your opponent, or at the very least cause them to second guess any "risky" movements they may make. Of course, there is more to it than simply relying on your opponent to make a mistake: that is a tactic that only the most novice of leaders will do. No, this is a game of taking the initiative and bringing the fight where you want it. So, how do we best utilize Assassination?

    "Orders had come in; the Firestorms were to take the ridge, setting up a protected vantage point to rain down their burning vengeance upon their unsuspecting foes. The three had just crested the ridge when the leader's ears picked up a faint yet terrible sound, one all too familiar to her and her kind: the hissing of a struck fuel tank. Quickly she dove to the side, narrowly avoiding the engulfing fire that claimed her two subordinates. "What caused it? Where was the enemy?!” she thought, scanning the ridge for any signs of a threat. Sadly, the answers she sought would go unheard as Red rose up behind her, mutated claws shifting deftly before coming down for a killing blow, leaving even his victims unaware of his existence."

    Firestorms, I will admit, are my favorite target for Assassinate, but I understand that you won't always be playing against Forsaken, much less one who has such a squishy target. But really, it does illustrate a point: the Blood Cult have precious few ways of dealing with a ranged threat, so sending Red to remove said threat is a good use of him, not only due to the fact most dedicated ranged units have bad Close Assault scores, but also in the fact they are usually sent off on their own, meaning often you will be free of any counterattack. Should they choose to go after you another ranged unit (for fear of having Red once more claim more victims) then we can make use of his Elusive special rule, meaning that he will be that much harder to hit for any ranged unit targeting him.

    Now, on the subject of melee, one thing to note is, like all units with the Blood Cult special rule, the more kills around Red the more powerful he will be. With even the paltry offering of one kill Red will be charging in at Assault 9 and Power 8 with two attacks, rivaling even the hitting power of units many times his size. Not only this but we have the added benefit of Blood Pathogens, an ability usually only obtainable via use of the Blood Cult Psychogenics.

    Blood Pathogens: If an enemy Unit is hit, regardless if it is wounded or not, receives a Blood Pathogens counter. During the Lingering Effects Phase any unit with a counter must take a Power 4x2 hit. On a failed Armor Save no wound is suffered but the Unit is automatically Knocked Prone and loses 1 AP during their next activation. If the Armor Save is made the power of the attack is reduced by 1 for the following Lingering Effects Phase."

    One thing about Red is that no one can really be sure exactly what he is. We know that amongst the Skarrd many, many different mutations can occur, but so far it would seem that Red is unique... If he is even a Skarrd mutation at all, who knows, perhaps those horns sprouting from his head betray some other, more nefarious origin altogether... Whatever the truth, his very blood is anathema to his victims, and to show such each of his attacks has the capacity to pass some of that poison on. That being said, Red will be useful even if he somehow doesn't manage to kill his target- even hitting them will cause them to lose efficiency, potentially never removing it or, at the very best, taking four turns to be completely free of the pathogens. I can't think of any other effect that has that much staying power, much less one with such devastating results.

    So in closing we have here an individual that is capable of taking out any kind of threat that presents itself to your army, whether it be a lightly armored unit that Red can simply appear next to and cut to pieces, all the while feeding your forces more Blood Counters, or a larger, more heavily armored target who will now suffer the effects of Blood Pathogens, potentially losing two AP a turn (one for the actual ability and the other spent standing up)- keeping in mind most of those big nasties only have 3 Action Points on average. You get all this for 60 points, and for the menagerie of uses Red provides throughout the course of the game you can ask for little more for the price. Just remember though, while he is an assassin and more than capable of handling most threats and surviving, he is still a member of the Blood Cult, and should one individual need to be sacrificed for the greater plan, well, so be it.





    Ah the Blood Mistresses, one of the most deadly close-combat units in the game. "But Mr. Black, they don't look that impressive." you may say, and to that I merely have to remind you that we're speaking about an Elite Unit of the Blood Cult. Do you honestly believe that they aren't great at killing things? But let's not take my word at it, let's look at just what these lovely ladies bring to the table.

    I will admit, the Mistresses do bring unimpressive defensive stats to the table, having both high Defense and a low Armor stat- not exactly a great combination for staying alive, but to counter I'll give you this:

    "Masterful strikes from a lifetime of practice grant fine control to either subdue by entangling throats and flailing limbs, or to sink the gruesome barbs deep and snap back- tearing fist-wide strips of flesh from their victims."

    Does that sound like the actions of someone concerned about any notion of "defense"? No, in fact it speaks true to the very Skarrd way of life (as well as how they are represented on the tabletop): no fancy armor, no deflective shields or such icons of protection, just a horde of blood-frenzied lunatics raging towards a target, only wishing to be the first to bath in the lifeblood of their prey.

    Basically, the Blood Mistresses make up for defense with a nearly over-the-top level of offense (if such a thing can exist in Dark Age). How do they go about doing this? Well first we have the Blood Cult special rule, as we spoke about above with Red. Basically, the more kills on the table (friend or foe) the stronger your units will be. Get just one nearby kill and the Blood Mistresses will be sporting an Assault 7 Power 4x2 attack with Reach (2), and that's not even counting any charge bonuses.

    But hell, we can find a hard hitting unit elsewhere, right? Why are the Blood Mistresses better? That would be the inclusion of Bleed and Whiplash. Did you think that above blurb regarding a lifetime of whip-training was for fun? Not at all! The Blood Mistresses are the embodiment of the Blood Cult, and they prove it by the sheer violence of their tactics:

    Bleed: The effects of Bleed take place upon a successful hit, regardless of whether or not the attack resulted in actual damage...During subsequent Lingering Effects phases, any model with a bleeding counter is subject to the loss of an additional health point. The controlling player rolls a D20 in an attempt to stop the blood loss. On a 10 or less remove the bleeding counter, on an 11 or more the miniature loses 1 HP that turn from blood loss.

    The savagery of the Blood Mistresses is that even the toughest of armor has one fatal chink, one flaw or opening, and the Mistresses have spent a lifetime honing their skills to target such areas- after all, what use is a victim that has died a quick and painless death? The Cult demands that the blood spray and rain, and the Mistresses abide. What this means on the tabletop is pretty simple: Even if you don't wound your target with the initial blow, then you're going to get a second shot at it come the next Lingering Effects phase, more so, if it was their Armor stat that protected them before, they won't be getting that benefit now, the damage coming from a 50/50 shot, which, against some high Armor foes, is an even better chance that the first hit!

    I would also like to briefly mention one specific scenario that Bleed really shines: against Regeneration. Let's say you're going against the humble Ratchet, the standard troop of the Brood: 1 Hit Point, Regeneration 1. Bleed is an absolute nightmare to such a unit, and here is why:

    Scenario I: Unit passes AR check, gets Bleeding Counter. Next Lingering Effects Phase you and your opponent will roll off to see which happens first, their Regeneration check or your Bleeding Counter. Should you win then their Regeneration is useless as they are at max Hit Point, now Bleed kicks in. If they fail the unit is now dead, as they will be forced to activate while Dying, which results in the model being removed from the tabletop- Regeneration does not help.

    Scenario II: Unit fails AR check and is now Dying. Next Lingering Effects Phase you and your opponent roll off to see which has priority. Should you win then Bleed will check, potentially killing the model outright as it would be at -1 Hit Point, or negative it's Hit Point. Should you lose then Regeneration will check, potentially returning the model to 1 Hit Point...Then guess what? Bleed check, bringing us right back into the end of scenario 1! ...I do so love Lose-Lose scenarios for your opponent.

    Whiplash: A weapon with this ability causes a loss of 1 Action Point if the target unit makes a successful Armor Check.

    Oh, you didn't think we were done with the offensive power of the Mistresses did you? Oh no, we just barely touched "overkill" with Bleed. So we have the fact that the Mistresses will cause you to bleed out as they strike you, but did you honestly expect that being whipped back and forth by thorns and barbs wouldn't be a little disorientating all on its own? Well to represent this the Mistress' weapons also carry the Whiplash ability, which can really lock down a key target since the ability stacks. Remember when I mentioned Lose-Lose scenarios? I would like to think that having a choice of either losing a wound or an Action Point would rank pretty high amongst those!

    Bringing this all together though, we see that the Blood Mistresses really do earn their Elite Troop title, even if they lack the luxuries of armor and defense. What we have is a unit that has the speed and reach capable of seeking out any target you deem worthy and the means of dispatching it, regardless of any defenses it may possess. Now tell me, how many other units can you think of that aren't troubled by going up against a high Armor opponent, while at the same time having the means to quickly dispatch any lesser equipped threats? Very few indeed. In the end the Blood Mistresses always feel like they have some means of getting the job done without wasting any resources to do so, and a bargain of that level is valuable to any army, but for now we'll just make everyone else jealous that the Skarrd have sole access to these lovely blood-soaked vixens.



    Rounding up our blood trio we have Blood Reign, the Squad Attachment for our humble Buzzblades. This is a nice piece as it gives the Buzzblades a proper place in the Blood Cult which, up until this release, really felt more shoe-horned into things rather than being a "proper" Blood Cult unit.

    One can’t really talk about the Blood Reign without first looking at the Buzzblades themselves, and anyone who plays Skarrd of any variety knows them. But for those who do not here is a quick rundown of them:




    Basically the Buzzblades are some of the cheapest units available to any army at a mere 25 points each. Not only that, but we have the opportunity to upgrade them (with the assistance of a Grafter and Sister of Charity) to either Might or Zeal, which really make them a great bargain for their price. Ok, so we see the basic stats of the Buzzblades, so what gaps does the Blood Reign fill in? Well, most importantly perhaps, is the fact that he passes along his Blood Cult rule to them, meaning that like all other members of the Cult even the slightest kill makes them more effective. Factor in the fact that you can field Buzzblades in squads of up to 6 models (all for 150 points!) and you can see how things can get nasty very quickly!

    "When at last he saw his prey, only sheer will prevented Carnus from crying out in blood lust and the ever present rage of the Skarrd" -In speaking of Carnus, Blood Reign of the Skarrd.

    In addition to the benefits of Blood Cult, Blood Reign, unlike the Buzzblades he spends so much time with, is a highly trained and ruthless killer, more akin to using a Forsaken Strike's tactics and discipline than the crude methods of the Buzzblades. This grants him a vastly superior Psyche score, one capable of rearing the Buzzblades in line should the situation force them to take a Panic Check. That alone is protection for the investment you've made into the squad.

    Now, I know looking at the fact he is Medium sizes, unlike his larger Skarrd brethren, one might assume the Blood Reign to take a leader's role, staying behind, using his allies for cover while granting his bonuses from a safe distance. That might be true of such tactics found within the Toxin Cult, but we're the Blood Cult, if any member would be found "sitting back and commanding" then they would very quickly find themselves an offering for the next bout of sacrificial rites! No, combat is where the Cult wishes to be and combat is where it shall be found! In honoring this the Blood Reign brings it's Bleeding Blade to the fight, which is a powerful 4x2 hit (up to 6x2 with his abilities and the charge!) that also carries the Bleed special rule, which I spoke of above. Yes, it's just as good on him as it is the Blood Mistresses so a lot of the same strategies apply- the Blood Reign is a killer, treat him like one.

    Now, moving back to the actual squad he is with, the Buzzblades. Well, inducting them into the Blood Cult may seem like just a good method of keeping your army flavor, but I will mention something else as well: You are taking a group of survivors who is already notorious for their savage tactics an habits of cannibalism and forcing them into a zealous frenzy with the addition of blood rituals and gore-letting. Doesn't sound good for your opponent, does it?

    As I said before, I'm a fan of big squads of Buzzblades. Why? Because they will kill and die. "Well duh!", you might say, "You just described everything in Dark Age!". True, I did. But how many other units get stronger regardless of who dies? Going back to the Blood Cult special rule, let's say you run your two six man squads, let's say they kill a mere four models and, oh just to be sporting, take six casualties in the process. Congratulations! You now Cause Fear, are Immune to Panic, and have a +1 to all Close Assault Target Numbers, meaning now any opponent who gets near you will be taking -2 to their Target Numbers because of Fear! "But they only have a Psyche of 12!" And I will once more remind you of our humble Blood Reign, once more adding his benefits to the unit. Also let us not forget that once you hit that magic number of 13 blood splatters you enter Blood Frenzy, giving your 25 point models Berserk.

    Really, in the end, I believe that is the entire lure of the Blood Cult: You are presenting your opponent with a scenario where-in if they kill your models you will only get stronger, and should they allow you to kill theirs...Well, you get stronger. This will continue until towards the end of the game each model you have alive will be a rampaging blood-drunk monster, capable of tearing apart anything that gets in his way.

    And in the end, what kind of opponent can go into battle against that and not have some measure of concern? We don't need fancy tricks or the best weapons to kill a threat with the Blood Cult, oh no. All we need is the thrill of the kill, for as long as there are enemies left to slaughter then the Blood Cult will continue to march forth, leaving only the tainted, blood-soaked sand of the wastes in their wake. -Mr. Black
    Comments 6 Comments
    1. WEiRD sKeTCH's Avatar
      WEiRD sKeTCH -
      Great write up! What's next in the series?
    1. bj's Avatar
      bj -
      Part 2 will cover Mayhem, Keepsake, Blood Psychogenics, and [REDACTED INFO]! It will be released inconjunction with February's releases, hint hint!
    1. gobber's Avatar
      gobber -
      i'll probably start the blood cult as a second faction thanks to these articles. please keep them coming!
    1. bj's Avatar
      bj -
      Quote Originally Posted by gobber View Post
      i'll probably start the blood cult as a second faction thanks to these articles. please keep them coming!
      oh no you di'nt! You just contributed to the size of Mr Black's head, but thanks! We like them too!
    1. lycane's Avatar
      lycane -
      I must say the tactics are cool and give a great synopsis of what to look for in models or where the hidden goodies can be found. Please keep these up. Maybe even put some out for already released stuff...but I dont mind tactica of newer things. Now when will the Shadow Caste appear?
    1. Scotty Kahn's Avatar
      Scotty Kahn -
      Great read Mr. Black! Was planning on some blood cult goodness for myself, now I certainly will, as your article has made them seem even cooler than initially thought.