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Winners and losers from the Warhammer 40k balance dataslate

The fall 2023 Warhammer 40k balance dataslate and points updates nerf Eldar and Genestealer Cults, while buffing Death Guard, Votann, and others.

Warhammer 40k faction balance fall 2023 - a Leagues of Votann Kahl, a short post-human in red power armor, raises a plasma axe

Games Workshop has redressed Warhammer 40k faction balance with the Fall 2023 balance dataslate and Munitorum Field Manual points updates. High-performing Warhammer 40k factions including Eldar and Genestealer Cults have been hit with the nerf bat, while uncompetitive armies including Leagues of Votann and Death Guard get buffs and point drops.

The changes come from three sources: changes to army rules, points updates, and changes to the core rules of Warhammer 40k, which affect some factions more than others. We have another article exploring the biggest core rules changes in the Fall balance dataslate which goes into more detail.

Here are the Warhammer 40k factions most affected by the Fall 2023 balance dataslate and points update:

Warhammer 40k faction balance - an Eldar autarch descends on white wings above an Eldar warhost

Eldar – nerfed

The Aeldari get a points hike to many units, and a tweak to the potent Phantasm Stratagem. That’s now only able to target infantry – no more shifting Fire Prisms back into cover before your opponent gets to shoot at it.

More noticeable, however, are core rules changes to Devastating Wounds weapon ability, Towering, and Overwatch, which put paid to some of the Aeldari’s most lethal tactics. The ability to Overwatch against units hidden behind ruins using a Wraithknight or Nightspinner is gone, and the change to Devastating Wounds means that the Heavy Wraithcannon – while still lethal – can’t reliably wipe out infantry units in a flood of mortal wounds.

Warhammer 40k faction balance update fall 2023 - a horde of alien hybrid Genestealer Cultists swarm a yellow-armored Imperial Fists Space Marine

Genestealer Cults – nerfed

The Genestealer Cults get the biggest explicit nerf, with their Cult Ambush army rule reduced in effectiveness. Rules as written, destroyed battleline units could almost always return to the battlefield, giving the Cults an absurd attritional advantage.

Following the update, destroyed battleline units enter Cult Ambush on a 3+, and other units on a 4+, for the first two turns. From turn three onwards, that increases to 4+ and 5+ respectively.

Warhammer 40k faction balance update fall 2023 - an Imperial Knight, a huge war machine in red and brass armor with a lightning gun and siege claw

Imperial Knights – nerfed

Imperial Knights Bondsman abilities, which allow a Questor class Knight to tutor a lowly Armiger for some benefit, have been altered so that they no longer provide both Knights with a buff: now, only the Armiger receives the bonus.

As with the Aeldari Wraithknight, changes to the core rules for Towering units and the Overwatch Core Stratagem will reduce the effectiveness of Knights’ firepower – only Armigers will be able to fire Overwatch, and Knights no longer ignore ruins.

Adeptus Custodes – nerfed

Custodes see some points hikes, and a cap of just five models on unit size. Additionally, the Unwavering Sentinels stratagem – which grants a unit the ability to Fight First – can no longer be used for free via a Shield Captain’s strategic mastery ability.

Warhammer 40k faction balance fall 2023 - plague ridden Death Guard face off against blue armored Ultramarines Space Marines

Death Guard – buffed

The Death Guard benefit from points drops and a new army rule, which adds another rancid debuff to their Aura of Contagion. At the start of the battle, Death Guard players can choose for their Aura to worsen either the Armor Save, the Leadership and Objective Control, or Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill of enemy units.

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Leagues of Votann- buffed

The poor Leagues of Votann had one of the weakest 40k Detachments in the edition – that’s had a healthy upgrade. Depending on the size of game, the Ruthless Efficiency ability means that between two and six enemy units will start the game carrying two Judgment tokens, granting your army +1 to hit and +1 to wound them. You’ll receive bonus CPs as soon as you’ve killed any of those units.

All that, and a massive points drop. Could this be the dawn of the age of short kings?

Warhammer 40k faction balance update fall 2023 - a cyborg tech-priest of the Adeptus Mechanicus

Adeptus Mechanicus – buffed

The Adeptus Mechanicus has bolted some extra armor plates onto its foot soldiers: both Skitarii Rangers and Skitarii Vanguard now enjoy 4+ armor saves and 5+ invulnerable saves.

That’s not to count many sundry changes: Space Marine desolation squads are capped at five members, the T’au Empire gets healthy points drops, Deathwatch special ammunition is limited to bolt weapons…

Will this update balance Warhammer 40k 10th edition to the satisfaction of competitive players? Time will tell.