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KoW Tactics: Choosing the right artefacts

Kings of War has a wonderful array of artefacts. Some of them are fantastic, others are decidedly “meh”. They are all usable in the right situations though but choosing the right ones for your army can make a considerable difference in its effectiveness.

Artefacts are expensive

The first thing to know about artefacts is that they are expensive. Generally speaking, giving a unit an ability via an artefact will cost around 150%-200% of what it would cost if the unit had that ability normally. Bane-Chant(2)? Generally around 10-15 points for most casters. Via an artefact? 25 points.

Always keep in mind when writing your army lists that artefacts are expensive.

Boyz before toyz

Back in 4th ed 40k, there was a popular saying in the Ork community – “Boyz before toyz”. When you were writing an Ork army list, you always prioritised more basic Ork boyz before taking any “fun” stuff. The “fun” stuff was there to support boyz but most of the time you were better off taking another unit of boyz than a toy.

The same principle applies to Kings of War with artefacts. Take more units rather than artefacts. If you add up how much you spend on artefacts, you’d be surprised how much it comes to and how many units you can take for those points. I quite often see lists from newer players with 200+ points spent on artefacts. Cut those points spent in half and take an extra unit (or two). They will serve you much better. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t use any artefacts – there are specific combos that I will always take for example – but they should be use sparingly and you should always question just how useful they are and whether a new unit would serve you better (it almost always will).

Force multiplier

Artefacts are a force multiplier. They rarely change a unit entirely. You’re not going to be able to slap an artefact on a regiment of gobbos and turn them into an uber killing machine, however you can increase the effectiveness of a hard hitting melee unit, making them more reliable and a scarier opposition for your opponent.

Someone recently said to me that if you stick a Brew of Strength onto a Werewolf unit that suddenly that unit can start carrying out frontal charges and brute forcing its way through. I disagree. Taking Werewolves to CS2 does increase their melee effectiveness, but with just 18 attacks, anything with a decent nerve value will easily bury a front charge and leave them open to being flanked next turn. It will however mean that those Werewolves are more effective and reliable in melee, just not so much that they can suddenly start making frontal charges everywhere.

In fact generally speaking, I wouldn’t put artefacts on Werewolves unless I really couldn’t fit another unit in. They already have good melee damage, already will overwhelm any enemy unit if they hit the flank (and have the speed and manoeuvrability to do so) and no artefact will suddenly change that. If they’re being forced to hit the front of something and not 100% sure they’ll wipe it out and be safe from counter attack then they’re doing something wrong.

Werewolves will already overwhelm the enemy if they hit the flank of something and have the speed to ensure they pick favourable fights. They don’t need any force multiplication.

The Naked Chaff

Never put artefacts on chaff. Ever. The point of a chaff unit is to die. You want that unit to be as cheap as possible. Any extra points spent on them are wasted. If you’ve run out of units to put artefacts on, still have points left and are considering putting some artefacts on a chaff unit then you have spent too many points on artefacts. You should drop some and take a new chaff unit first.

Bigger units first

The biggest units in your army should be the ones to get artefacts first. If you have a horde and a regiment of a similar unit type then the horde should get an artefact before the regiment. Consider that artefacts are a force multiplier, then the multiplier is better put on something with greater output first.

If you’re adding a +1 to hit or +1 Crushing Strength artefact to a unit, then it will do more damage on a unit with 25 attacks hitting on 4+ than a unit with 12 attacks hitting on a 4+.

Eggs in one basket

It can be tempting to put an expensive artefact on an expensive unit and build your army around this uber killy unit. Don’t. The unit will still be vulnerable, from being chaffed up to being shot before it can effectively engage the enemy.

You should also keep in mind how easy the unit is to kill in general, even if you’re not basing our army around a single unit. I could put a Brew of Sharpness onto a horde of Tortured Souls, taking them from Me4+ to Me3+. This would benefit them greatly, overcoming one of their main weaknesses of a (relatively) low Melee stat. However, I have to bear in mind that this is all going on a De4+ Nerve -/18 unit. That is fairly fragile, and while their melee output will be significantly improved, they start to become a very expensive, very fragile unit that’s vulnerable to being shot off that table. In this case, usually I would either go for a cheaper artefact (if I want to buff the unit) or save the points and put it towards a new unit altogether.

+1 to hit is expensive

Speaking of the Brew of Sharpness… the two +1 to hit artefacts are very expensive for what they deliver. Generally speaking, the Crushing Strength or Piercing artefacts will deliver a similar buff in damage output for just 30 points instead of 45. The usefulness of the Crushing/Piercing artefacts do start to go down if th unit you’re putting them on already has good stats. If you’re mostly facing De4 armies, then buffing CS2 to CS3 will be a waste most of the time since you won’t get the additional benefits.

Even if you don’t really want to buff your Crushing Strength or Piercing, there are still other options to take first. Elite and Vicious are both 25 points, cheaper than Crushing/Piercing and much cheaper than +1 to hit. They’ll offer a good middle ground and I would usually take one of them before the +1 to hit. I particularly like putting them on Ogre Shooter hordes, since the Elite/Vicious affects both ranged and melee attacks and the shooters have formidable melee output to go with their range.

All of this isn’t to say that the +1 to hit artefacts should never be taken, but I would certainly consider several other options first.

Some artefacts should be taken first

The above not only applies to the +1 to hit artefacts but to others too. On a unit without any kind of healing ability, the Healing Brew (Heal D2 damage) for 5 points is much better value than the Helm of Confidence (+1 Nerve) for 15 points. You effectively get +D2 nerve (as long as you survive the initial hit) with the Healing Brew, as opposed to just +1 for the Helm of Confidence.

Of course, if you’ve already taken the Healing Brew and still want to improve the nerve of a unit then the Helm of Confidence is a good choice.

I’ll explore this more in a later article which looks at each artefact in detail, and lists if I think you should consider other artefacts first.

ASBs should carry something

Most armies in Kings of War have access to an army standard bearer equivalent – a cheapish 50 point hero that does nothing but make an Inspiring bubble. They’re not wasted without an artefact, but their usefulness is greatly improved if you give them an artefact with a ranged attack. They will often be avoiding combat so should be able to use a ranged attack most turns.

The most common artefacts are:

  • Da Boomstick
  • Diadem of Dragonkind
  • War-bow of Kaba
  • Lute of Insatiable Darkness
  • Griffin Banner*

*Not a ranged attack, obviously, but if you’re going to use the flag waving dude to Inspire your units within 12” then another +1 Nerve buff is a great improvement!

Generally speaking I will always aim to give an ASB something, even if it’s just the War-bow of Kaba. It’s very rare and only when I’m extremely pressed for points that I will take one without an artefact.


Honestly the biggest takeaway is always “Boyz before toyz”. A lot of players that struggle due to their artefact selection are simply taking too many artefacts. Cutting them down and taking another unit (or upgrade a unit size) will give you the biggest win. You’d be surprised how many points you can spend on “toys” (fun artefacts that improve a unit but aren’t essential) and how many units or unit size upgrades you can get for that cost.

Up next, I’m going to go through all of the (CoK 18) legal artefacts and give my opinion on when you should and shouldn’t take them.