Daemon princes are a force to be reckoned with on the table, with some very tasty stats, solid points cost and a multitude of builds and layouts they are an amazing HQ choice for a Chaos army. This article will explore the options available, my personal experience running them and some tasty math hammer to back up some findings on which prince build comes out on top.
Special credit to HeadChime on Reddit for doing all the calculations and providing the awesome charts below!
Note on the charts:
IE = Intoxicating Elixir
DS = Diabolic Strength
BOP = Blades of Putrefaction
The optimal loadout (scissors, paper, talons)
As you can see from the charts above we have some very interesting numbers for each of the Daemon prince builds. The options given to you are a sword (-2ap, 3 damage), an axe (+1str, -3ap, 3 damage, -1 to hit) or malefic talons (-2ap, 2 damage, 1 extra attack for 1, 3 extra attacks for 2), all of these options come out to 10 points and the prince always has 1 malefic talon.
So what do the charts above tell us about which weapons option is better for the prince? Well interestingly we can almost always rule out the sword, it doesn’t outperform either the axe or the talons and in a lot of aspects it comes out worse. Next we have the axe, much better against tougher targets as that +1 strength, the extra AP and the extra point of damage all add up to ripping apart bigger and tougher models easier. Finally we have the extra set of talons that can bring the prince up to 7 attacks, a solid and consistent performer and my personal choice for the first prince I take in any list.
So why do I pick talons over the axe for my first prince? The answer lies in the overall state of 8th edition and how the game has changed. Right now the game is set up to reward tossing out lots of dice, lots of attacks and lots of shots are king. By swinging 7-8 times with the talons at strength 7 (or 8 or 9 with buffs) you are giving yourself a lot of opportunities to get that damage through. I have seen multiple occasions where my prince has been able to smash out a solid 8 or 10 damage onto a model in one round of combat, this is amazing against characters and vehicles. The talons are also much better against smaller and weaker targets as you will probably end up killing 6 or 7 of those models instead of 3-4 with the axe.
Buffing your prince (potions, axes and powers oh my!)
For some extra defensive utility you have two options in the form of a relic or a psychic power. You can take the iron hands legion and taking the relic Fleshmetal Exoskeleton for a 2+ save and healing 1 wound per turn. The other option is to take a Tzeentch prince and take the power Weaver of Fates to give a +1 to your 5++ invul save. Both are great options and if you really wanted could be taken together to produce a 2+ 4++ prince so long as you keep the psychic power buff up, a very tough unit to crack.
Offensive relics can add some extra muscle to your prince as well. Taking a Slaanesh prince allows you to take the Intoxicating Elixir for +1str and +1 attack, a great little buff that can’t be stopped and costs you nothing to take! (aside from the relic slot).
Finally you have Diabolic Strength psychic power which is quite a hefty buff to a combat beast like a prince. The buff gives you +2str and +1 attack, bringing the prince to a hefty str 9 base and 5 attacks, combine this with the elixir for a crazy str 10 and 6 attacks and you have one very hard hitting prince.
My personal experience tends to lean towards a simple double talon Tzeentch prince and I don’t feel like I need the extra strength just yet. If the meta shifts towards more toughness 8 vehicles and monsters I might consider swapping to the axe or taking a Slaanesh prince for the extra strength.
Why you always want a flying prince (gotta go fast)
Movement 12″ is amazing on such a big and beefy combat character, being able to threaten almost any objective on the board within a few turns is a great tool to have in your army. I almost always run my prince with warptime as his power so he can move a crazy 24″ base in 1 turn and set himself up for some tasty charges later that turn. Flying also gives you the flexibility to move over units which can be a massive boon in the long run. Often I find my prince being able to hide behind screening units and leaping forward and over my enemies front line to unleash hell in his backfield, all you need is a big enough gap for the prince to exploit.
Screening your prince (balancing speed with safety)
The character keyword in conjunction with the wings opens up some very interesting strategies for princes. Screening the prince behind a blob of cultists or between a pack of rhinos as you charge forward can cause all sorts of headaches for your opponent.
If I am feeling particularly adventurous I sometimes deploy behind my frontlines and then charge forward to a zone between the bulk of the army and my forward deep strike units. This allows the prince to stay safe due to the character keyword while also racing forward to help support these deep strike forces.
Multiple games have had instances where my prince has been able to jump from one side of the board to the other to help clear an objective or score a critical mission card to win me the game. Movement is absolutely critical which is why I would never run them without wings.
Expect to die quickly once exposed (curse you obvious and inevitable death!)
While a prince is a beast in combat and you are able to play a very defensive build (as outlined above) the prince is ultimately not that hard to kill once it is exposed. 8 wounds on a toughness 6 body isn’t all that difficult to wound and often your opponent will direct multi wound attacks at the prince to take him down. Most of the times when my prince has died has been after clearing out a unit on a charge and sitting in the open ready to be blown away. If possible try and position your melee units to shield him even if your opponent falls back. Keeping the prince alive for as long as possible helps him score his points back and keeps a very active and important piece of your army on the table.
A Prince is a valuable addition to any Chaos Marine army and should be a fairly common sight on the table. Being able to optimise your loadout for whatever role it needs to fit is important and hopefully this article has given you plenty to think about going forward. Plenty of options exist for all of the different codex princes and you should strongly consider what is a best fit for your army. Personally I am going to keep using double talons and Tzeentch but there is some leeway if the meta shifts around a bit.