The many paths of pain and pleasure.
Chaos cards: Abyssal Pact x2, Dark Influence x4, Degenerate Royalty x3, Field of Ecstasy x3, Insidious Lies x4, Perverse Infiltration x4, Soporific Musk x4; total deck cost: 31
Expansion Chaos cards: Ascension to Power x3, Corrupt from Within x3, Daemonic Subtlety x3, Debauchery x2, Festival of Sinew x4, Joyous Surrender x2, Pleasure Shield x3, Rapturous Excess x2, Shroud of Secrets x2; total deck cost: 29.
Upgrades: Daemonettes, Keeper of Secrets, Power of Pain, Power of Pleasure, Seductresses
Expansion Upgrades: Daemonettes, Fall from Grace, Keeper of Secrets, Rise to Glory, Seductresses
Figures: 1 Keeper of Secrets, 3 Daemonette Warriors, 6 Seductress Cultists
Dial: Score 3 VP, Upgrade Card, Place 2 Nobles, Upgrade Card, Upgrade Card, Remove 2 Old World Tokens, Slaanesh Victory!
Insidious. Degenerate. Perverse. Yesssss. The power of Slaanesh. None of that grotesque slaughter or disgusting disease. The Prince of Pleasure's approach is much more subtle and potentially far more horrifying. It's not a matter of shocking the Old World into submission. It's about making them want it. Despite my undying love for my Skaven (still have 8000+ fully-painted points in the basement), Slaanesh has always been my go-to god in Chaos in the Old World. Well, admittedly, it was when I was playing Chaos Warriors, too, so I suppose I laid some groundwork. Slaanesh is unusual in the same sense as Tzeentch, in that a win by dial ticks is almost expected, given the shortest dial in the game (7 ticks to win), but the Lord of Excess is just as capable of achieving a victory point win, often based on Domination scores because of the Noble tokens that always seem to be present wherever the minions of the Dark Prince happen to be. Funny, that. It's helpful, since Slaanesh also has the lowest point gain via dial in the game (Only 3 compared to Nurgle's 9 and everyone else's 8.) Similarly, Slaanesh has the most expensive Chaos deck in the game at a total cost of 31 (the expansion deck gets a little better at 29), which explains why two of its upgrades are based around increasing Power gain, instead of just one. Slaanesh also benefits from the presence of two kinds of Old World tokens; the ever-valuable Nobles and the problematic Heroes. It's all well and good that Old World cards can inadvertently add more targets for the Seductresses, but since Slaanesh begins the game with the highest Threat (4) and arcs up more sharply than the other gods, it will rarely be deciding the effect of those cards and will almost always be the target of those Heroes in the End phase. As with all the gods, there's a good deal of risk assessment necessary to properly play the Prince. But if you can master it, you may be on your way to regular success in CitOW. I've been essentially banned from playing Slaanesh by one of my regular play groups. They're no fun...
Figures and Upgrades
Slaanesh has the lowest figure count in the game at 10; continuing the aura of uniqueness, so you have to make one path or the other work with just the typical three Warriors and only six Cultists, as well. They have the advantage of being one of three factions with a defense of two for their Warriors and the Keeper is at least more durable than any other Greater Daemons, with a defense of four. But it's also the weakest in attack (2) and is, like most of the GDs, open to question as to its cost efficiency. However, given the fine margins on which Slaanesh often operates, the Keeper upgrade can be quite useful, since taking control of a Bloodletter and keeping it from killing your Cultists while killing others' is a pretty significant thing. Similarly, swiping a Cultist for a key Corruption moment can be equally telling. Both the Seductress and the Daemonette upgrades are about durability in the Battle phase, which is always key against Khorne but can also often put you beyond the reach of your other, less martially-equipped rivals. Reducing the chance for your Warriors to be hit by 66% is pretty significant and forcing the Blood God to use two hits on each of your Cultists is equally so. However, it's still difficult to deny that the upgrades that should usually be taken first are Power of Pain and Power of Pleasure, since they'll bring you to a total of 9(!) Power points each round, which you'll usually need to play your more expensive cards (highest deck cost in the base game and expansion) and keep resummoning those Seductresses that your opponents will be eager to remove which is, in itself, another argument for their upgrade. Flexibility, as always, will be important.
The Seductress upgrade in the expansion mirrors one of Tzeentch's, which means your Noble tokens become mobile when you move your Cultists around. That's never a bad thing, but might be somewhat overshadowed by the others. The Daemonette upgrade is a junior version of the Keeper one from the base set, which restricts you to controlling enemy Cultists, but which you can now do with three different figures, if you've managed to summon all of them. The Keeper upgrade makes it even more enticing than the base game's, as it not only enables dial ticks, but also raises the Conquest value of every region it's in by three, which is huge. But, again, the best upgrades for Slaanesh may be the non-unit ones, in that Rise to Glory means that Nobles not only give you more VP for Domination but also help you with that Domination, while Fall from Grace can often guarantee you two dial ticks just by fortifying one region and staying mildly active in at least one other. As is appropriate for the god which can (ahem) go both ways in the game, the upgrades help with creating options so that you're able to react to changing circumstances at least as well, but usually better, than all of your rivals.
Interestingly, most of Slaanesh's cards in the base game lend themselves toward a VP strategy, probably because of its extremely short dial, which means you basically have to walk both paths. The combo of Perverse Infiltration and Degenerate Royalty, for example is an easy way to almost ensure Domination in something like Estalia or Brettonia in the early game, before people can get too many figures on the board. Abyssal Pact is also geared toward Domination, since it can enable you to gain the Conquest value of something like the Empire when everyone else has been gearing up to contest it with dudes, rather than cards. Taking up a slot with a zero-cost card that nullifies all of their dudes' Domination value is pretty huge. Likewise, Insidious Lies turns the tokens that you're targeting anyway (Nobles and Heroes) into even more significant contributors to that point gain, which Dark Influence also enables by moving said tokens where you need them to be. Field of Ecstasy, of course, is the ultimate "just say no" card for Khorne, as the two great rivals race to see whom can finish their dial victory first. But the card that stands out to me above all of them is Soporific Musk. It's not cheap at 2 Power, but it's an amazing tool that's specifically targeted to take advantage of circumstances, as taking away but also taking control of an enemy Cultist can have enormous impact on a highly-contested region, giving you the Corruption and Domination value they expected and, if you swipe an upgraded Bloodsworn, even some combat value. In my experience, moreso than even the other gods' decks that work well in concert and targeted application, the Dark Prince's cards are meant to exploit the circumstances of the board to the purple side's advantage, but they have to be targeted appropriately to get maximum results. Keep in mind that Abyssal Pact, Dark Influence, and Soporific Musk all have magic symbols, which makes them attractive to Tzeentch.
Expansion Chaos cards:
Like Tzeentch and unlike Khorne and Nurgle, there really isn't a departure from the trend of the base game Chaos deck for Slaanesh in the expansion. The deck is still geared toward Domination in many ways, such as Ascension to Power, which gives you free dudes when you achieve that Domination. But there's also a greater emphasis on combat, which makes the Daemonettes upgrade even more valuable. You have Khorne-thwarting cards like Pleasure Shield, which makes them spend two hits on your Seductresses, just like the base game upgrade. But there's also Shroud of Secrets, which makes everyone assign hits to Peasants or opponents before they come to you which is, again, a good way to achieve Domination if you're left with the most dudes standing. Corrupt from Within seems to be a lesser version of Dark Influence, since you can only move a token to an adjacent region, but it's any token, which means you can disrupt the plans of your Tzeentch and Horned Rat opponents if they've piled on to the nearest Warpstone or Skaven tokens. Without the two Power gain upgrades, there had to be some other way of spending on your expensive cards and the two-fisted solution was Debauchery, which can occasionally be played for free but most often will have a cost of 1 for a 3-value card (Domination!) and the most annoying card in the deck for Slaanesh opponents, Festival of Sinew. Gaining Power because your rivals moved into that region is everything that pleasurable pain is supposed to be. Rapturous Excess is a straight VP gain that's often better in the late game when you've had a chance to build up the right tokens in a single spot and Daemonic Subtlety again encourages the presence of your Warriors and Greater Daemon, especially if you find Ruination happening faster than normal and you're trying to stay in the race before the Old World collapses. Joyous Surrender brings us back to that Domination theme, as it can produce some insane Conquest value if you happen to be stacked up in one spot. Also, remember that Ascension of Power, Daemonic Subtlety, and Shroud of Secrets all have magic symbols for Big Bird.
All of the factions in CitOW are flexible and, when played well, must respond to the conditions on the board. No one will be just building an engine in their own little corner. But Slaanesh, befitting the, uh, social god, takes that theme one step further. Unlike Khorne and Tzeentch, who are more about direct confrontation or harassment, or Nurgle, who is more about an inexorable tide, the Prince of Pleasure is about taking advantage of openings. You hover around the edges of hotspots on the board, clearly targeting your precious Nobles and annoying Heroes, but subtly closing your traps as opposed to announcing them. Certainly, your sudden bursts of VPs and/or nearing the end of your dial more quickly than others will be a shout from the rooftops, but there's rarely a time when you'll see Slaanesh crushing a game before they simply, suddenly win. But it's a more difficult scenario to describe in general terms, since your play will be so responsive to what's happening in front of you. More than any of the others, I think Slaanesh is the god you'd play if you want every game to be quite different from the previous one. That's probably another reason it's my favorite. We will end next time with the newcomer to the Gang of Four: the Under-Father, the Lord of the World Below... The Horned Rat.