Daemons have a good variety in troop choices, five to be precise. Each troop unit has strengths and weaknesses and fill different roles in a Daemon army.
Bloodletters of Khorne
At first glance, the Bloodletter looks like a beefy shock troop; WS5 BS0 S4 T4 I4 A2 LD10 and 5+ inv save. Looking good so far..
Standard wargear is a hellblade, which is a power weapon.
One Bloodletter can take fury of khorne (rending), which probably isn't worth it, as Bloodletters have power weapons, which is great for chopping up enemy models who don't have a 2+ armour save. The only benefit is against vehicles, or getting passed that 2+ armour save, though mass attacks would be needed in each situation.
Another model in the Bloodletter unit can also take a chaos icon (units do not scatter when deep striking if within 12") and a instrument (lets Daemons win combat by 1 if combat is a draw). The chaos icon is very expensive and probably isn't worth it, you're already playing a random army, so just stick with the randomness. The instrument is only 5 points, though probably isn't worth the points, as Bloodletters should smash the right enemy units.
Special rule wise, the Bloodletter has furious charge and daemon rules. On the charge, the Bloodletter now has a S5 power weapon and don't forget that the daemon rule also causes fear ;) .
Ok, so it looks all gravy so far doesn't it? Well unfortunately there's some negatives for the Bloodletter. Khorne's boy weighs in at 17 points per model; that's more than a superior Space Marine. Yes I know the Bloodletter has a power weapon, furious charge and can deep strike, but it is too costly for what it does. Add that the Bloodletter only has a 5+ save and you're talking about them getting blown to bits before they reach enemy lines.
A quick mathshammer. Lets say a unit of 10 Bloodletters deep strike and are in a position to assault a 10 man Tactical Squad next turn. The Tactical Squad moves up to deliver some rapid fire justice.
The Tactical Squad will fire 20 shots and hit with 13 which will result in 7 wounds out of which the Bloodletters will fail 4. That's 6 Bloodletters left.
Next turn the Bloodletters move and assault, though the Tactical Squad does overwatch. The Marines fire 20 shots, which hit with 3 and wound twice which the Bloodletters will fail a single save. That's five Bloodletters left.
The Bloodletters charge and get 15 attacks, they hit with 10 and kill 7 Marines. Not too shabby.
But, wait, the Marines are I4 so strike at the same time. Squad gets 11 attacks (inc Sgt) and hit with 6, wound with 3 and the Bloodletters fail 2 saves - that's only three Bloodletters left. At least the Bloodletters are fearless, if they did lose combat.
Ok, so the Bloodletters have won combat by 5, but now they have hardly any numbers left and have failed to kill a unit almost the same points cost.
There's two scenarios which can happen; Marines chose to fail morale and fall back or remain in combat. The best tactical choice the Marine player can make is fall back, as the Bloodletters can be shot at in the Marine player's following turn which would no doubt see the remaining three Bloodletters die. If the Marines stayed in combat, then they would die and probably two Bloodletters would be left, who would probably die in the Daemon player's turn as they have lost their weight of numbers for combat purposes.
Best to take a decent size number of Bloodletters (about 15) and deep strike them in the back field by camping units, hope for a good run roll and leg it into some kind of ruin to get a 4+ cover. Following turn charge and hack stuff up. This way, when deep striking in the back field, there's minimum enemy fire and only camping units i.e Devastators who can deal with the Bloodletters - just remember to run to space out your Daemons, or else blast and flamer templates will cook their booties!
Their ideal targets are small elite squads such as Space Marines, as the Bloodletters amount of attacks will cause massive amount of damage even with low numbers.
Although Bloodletters can claim objectives, try not to do that with them. Yes, I know it sounds bizarre, but you don't want close combat units standing around looking after a objective. Use them for last turn contesting instead.
Bloodletters are probably the best close combat troops in the Daemon codex, but they do pay for it. If you're after a hard hitting unit, which will smash anything not with a 2+ armour save, then you want these guys.
Daemonettes of Slaanesh
Daemonettes are the cheapest none swarm troop choice the Daemons get. Like the Bloodletters, they are also close combat based. Their profile is WS4 BS0 S3 T3 W1 I6 A3 LD10 SV 5+ inv. Not as beefy as the Bloodletter, but still pretty cool.
Special rules they get fleet (and of course daemon); so these daemon ladies can re-roll assault distances.
The gifts (wargear) they get is rending claws and aura of acquiescence; which gives assault and defensive grenades - very cool.
Additonal gifts are the chaos icon and instrument, which are covered above. The unique slaanesh gift is the transfixing gaze, which reduces a attack from one model in base contact. For the cost of 5 points, this is a useful bit of wargear.
Unfortunately, like Bloodletters, I can see these daemon chicks been blasted from the table before they get to do a fat lot. If they did get to do something, then it would be a one time deal.
Using the same scenario as above:
10 x Tactical Marines rapid fire into the Daemonettes, they hit 13 times and wound 9 times, which the Daemonettes fail 6 saves - gulp!
Daemonettes declare charge and the Tacticals overwatch; they hit 3 times and wound twice, which another Daemonette snuffs it - 3 left now.
Daemonettes attack with 12 attacks, they hit with 6, and wound 3, I believe there's .48 chance to be a rend, so chances are slim. Marines fail a single save.
Marines attack back with 10 attacks and hit with 5, wound with 3, which 2 Daemonettes die. Space Marines win combat and next turn will kill the single Daemonette.
Like the Bloodletters, deep strike these daemon babes in the backfield where they can take low amounts of enemy fire. Make sure you run them to make best of cover and spread them out in case of template weapons.
Daemonettes are a finesse unit, they are sort of like Dark Eldar Beastmasters, and need to finish off depleted enemy units, which their weight of attacks and high initiative will let them beat enough of the enemy unit so they can win combat next turn, which will be the opponent's turn.
When first writing this article, I thought Daemonettes would be better than Bloodletters. But, the Bloodletters extra toughness, strength and power weapon makes them more killy and slightly more durable than the Daemonettes. Everything the Daemonettes can do, the Bloodletters can do better (except grenades) for a slightly higher points cost. They are maybe the least effective troop unit the Daemon codex has to offer.
Plaguebearer of Nurgle
Plaguebearers are the objective holding troops, and only slightly higher in points cost than Daemonettes. They have a profile of WS3 BS0 S4 T5 W1 I2 A1 LD10 5+ sv.
Standard daemonic gift is a plague sword; this weapon is a poison weapon and wounds on a 4+. The unique nurgle gift is noxious touch, which wounds on a 2+. For 5 points it's not a bad thing to have.
Plaguebearers have the slow and purposeful special rule and also feel no pain.
While Plaguebearers aren't close combat orientated, it's the only other thing they are able to do, besides claim objectives.
Using the same scenario as above:
Tactical Marines fire 20 shots into Plaguebearers, they hit 13 and wound with 4, which Plaguebearers fail 3 saves and then fail 2 feel no pain rolls - total is 2 Plaguebearers dead.
Lets say in this situation the Plaguebearers will be charging because the Marines need to be dealt with.
Space Marines overwatch and fire 20 shots, hit with 3 and wound once, which a Plaguebearer will probably save thanks to feel no pain.
11 attacks from the Space Marines, they hit with 7 , wound with 2 and only a single Plaguebearer fails save, though with the odds stacked together, will probably make feel no pain save.
Plaguebearers attack back with 16 attacks, they hit with 8 and wound with 4, though thanks to re-rolls to poison they score another 2 wounds, making it 6 in total, which the Space Marines fail two saves.
Like the Bloodletter situation, the Space Marines would be best failing morale test (presuming got combat tactics) and falling back, which they can dakka the Plaguebearers next turn. If not, the Plaguebearers will tarpit the Space Marines and probably grind them down.
The Plaguebearers have many roles within the daemon army; hold/contest objectives or tarpit enemy units. Deep strike them where needed, which depends on what turn they come in i.e turn 5 deep strike near a objective or early turns deep strike close to enemy units.
As mentioned, Plaguebearers make excellent tarpit units. Use the threat of Plaguebearers to absorb enemy fire power from your other daemonic units and also bait the opponent into assaulting them. With the enemy locked in combat, you can either pile in more Plaguebearers to make sure the enemy unit will be stuck for several turns (this great doing this tactic against a c.c elite unit) or just keep the enemy unit locked in combat for a few turns, which stops the enemy from shooting you to bits.
Plaguebearers almost make excellent monstrous creature hunters as they wound on a 4+.
Just remember that Plaguebearers cannot run when they deep strike (slow and purposeful), so you have to deep strike in a nice position where the enemy cannot place blast templates etc or get LOS on majority of the unit.
While not the best close combat troops, they certainly are the most durable and have multi roles in a Daemon army. They are probably the best all round troop choice in the Daemon codex. Every Daemon army should have a couple of units of Plaguebearers.
Pink Horrors of Tzeentch
Pink Horrors are the most expensive troop choice costing 17 points per model. Also, unlike every other troop unit so far, they are not very effective at combat and instead are more focused at shooting. Their profile is WS2 BS3 S3 T3 W1 I3 A1 LD10 4+ inv.
Standard daemonic gift is warpfire, which is a 18" S4 AP4 assault 3 profile. The unique tzeentch gift is bolt (S8 AP1), while this only costs 10 points, you have to consider that the Pink Horror only has 50/50 chance to hit, so I would bother wasting the points.
Now, I am not going to use the scenario in combat vs Tactical Marines, like I have for the other troop choices, because Horrors would just get battered. Instead will look at how good they are at shooting when firing at a unit of Tactical Marines and when they take return fire. I will be using the same numbers as I have in the other scenarios to keep it fair.
Pink Horrors deep strike and are in range of a Tactical Squad. They fire a total of 30 shots, 15 hit, 8 wound and 3 Space Marines snuff it.
Tactical Squad returns fire next turn; they fire 14 shots, hit 9, wound 6, and three Pink Horrors die. So it's even steven's.
Pink Horrors are the only unit of lesser Daemons to get a upgrade character. The Changeling has the same profile as a normal Pink Horror and also has warpfire, though has a special power called the glamour. The glamour works in your opponent's shooting phase. The Changeling picks a enemy unit within 24", that unit can elect not to fire or take a leadership in order to fire; but if they fail, they then fire at one of their own friendly units within 24" of the Changeling, and of the Changeling's choice.
The Changeling only costs 5 points, and while the glamour power may not work, it is excellent for distruption purposes.
Pink Horrors need to deep strike in front of your assault units in order to give them cover, with a 4+ inv save the Pink Horrors can absorb enemy fire power. This may also sucker the opponent to move enemy units forward to assault or get into range of the Horrors, which you own units can then counter assault.
They make a decent objective holding unit, at least a objective with some distance between enemy units; they can keep laying down dakka while being survivable.
While Pink Horrors are the most expensive unit, you will probably need at least one unit for shooting purposes - they are excellent at softening a unit up prior to assault for weaker Daemon units i.e Daemonettes.
Changeling for 5 points is a handy disruption unit. If you have 5 points spare, then worth a purchase.
Nurglings are the cheapest troop unit costing 13 points. Their profile is WS2 BS0 S3 T3 W3 I2 A3 LD10 5+ sv.
The only special rule worth mentioning is they are a swarm.
Unfortunately for swarms, they lost the stealth rule in 6th ed, though do ignore terrain, unless it is dangerous. Another negative for swarms is that they cannot claim objectives; so you're just burning a troop slot in order not to do anything.
While I haven't used Nurglings, from paper, they look pretty pointless. They cannot claim objectives, and in combat they would be lucky to kill two Space Marines while taking three wounds themselves. I would honestly pay two points more per model and get Plaguebearers.
Bloodletters are the best shock troops Daemons have. They are great at smashing elite infantry and destroying anything not in a 2+ armour save. They can do with this even in small numbers. Only negative points is they are a little slow to get into assault compared to other units and cost a fair chunk of points.
Daemonettes are probably the worst troop choice other than Nurglings. They are not massively combat efficient, and only good for polishing off enemy units. They are also pretty fragile, which means they can be gunned down or punched in combat with ease. They do have quite a few positives such as assault and defensive grenades; fleet and rending. It really is swings and roundabouts with these, but personally I think the negatives out weigh the posititives.
Plaguebearers are probably the best all round troop choice and most flexible. They can hold objectives well, fight in combat reasonablely well and tie up enemy units without a hiccup. They are also fairly costed. These should be included in every well built Daemon army.
Pink Horrors are the only shooty troops Daemons have to offer. While they are not great at shooting, they do bring a fair amount of shots, which evens it out. They make a excellent fire support unit and great for softening enemy units up prior to assault. They are handy for absorbing enemy fire, though do not do this as good as Plaguebearers.
Nurglings are probably the worst troop choice the Daemon codex has. They offer no benefits and offer nothing any other troop unit can't do, or in fact do better.
Daemon troop choices, which ones do you like and which ones do you hate? What tactics do you use with the warp spawned creatures?