3's a Lonely Crowd

Someone on the Chaos forum asked what the game was like without a 4th player.  I figured that subject has enough depth that I can just go all over it in here.
A game without Khorne is definitely the most unusual of the bunch.  Khorne's presence is all about balancing everybody else.  Without him, corruption just runs rampant.  Nurgle becomes the beatstick, responsible for keeping the other players in check while making sure he gets his way.  Slaanesh is most likely to win by dial, but this game is primarily about the points.  Slaanesh has to be tough enough that the other players can't kill him, but also needs his warriors to slow down other players winning by points.  Tzeentch is the one least burdened, capable of getting points about as well as Nurgle can and having more cultists than anybody else. Of course, we all know Nurgle's game is mostly unchanged.  He still needs his warriors and greater daemon to keep his opponents down.  He also gets the most ruination points for his favorite regions.  The game primarily becomes about whoever can get 1st place in ruination, but all characters really need their warriors.  It can't all be about cultists; you need to be able to eliminate enemy cultists so you can get the most corruption.
A game without Nurgle is actually very balanced.  Tzeentch starts out very powerful, obviously becoming the king of VP.  Khorne will have less figures to attack, Tzeentch is good at getting him out, and Slaanesh retains his turtle status (even more so without Nurgle interfering).  Without the secondary beatstick, Khorne's going to run himself ragged trying to keep the other players in check.  Tzeentch still can't rest on his laurels, though.  He can't keep Khorne out indefinitely.  Once he does arrive, the game shifts in Khorne's favor.  At least, it does assuming that Slaanesh has been properly suppressed.  Everyone's going to have to work hard to keep everyone else down, even though that's going to be a slow start.
If you don't have Tzeentch, you can be pretty confident that whatever you play will stick.  There will be no changing of ways and all figures are going to stay where you put them.  Khorne is probably happiest with this arrangement.  He doesn't have to just stick his Bloodthirster in the Empire/Brettonia fearing a Teleport (though it's still probably best to have that sit anyway).  Khorne has more freedom to explore the realm and get his attack dice scattered around.  However, this means that Khorne can't hope for Tzeentch to cancel Slaanesh's "Field of Ecstasy."  Tzeentch could realistically do that, since he doesn't want Slaanesh to get dial any more than he wants Khorne to get it (if anything, he likes Khorne getting it more).  Nurgle probably loses out the most, since he can't get in on Tzeentch's ruination game.  It's going to be a little slower getting those regions ruined, but with Slaanesh more likely to live against Khorne, he can definitely take over that pacifist's stuff when the time is right.
The one thing Khorne really doesn't want to see is the Old World restricting his capability to fight.  At that point, because Slaanesh already has his Field of Ecstasy cards and Nurgle potentially has Rain of Pus (increase defense), Khorne's pretty much resorting to getting points.  He's going to help corrupt the pacified regions to ruination so he can get back to his main game.  There's no free Tzeentch food for him.
So what happens when Slaanesh is out of the game?  Well, we obviously know that Khorne has lots of free food out there.  Tzeentch can't make himself tougher than he's printed, and this is probably Khorne's favorite combination.  Tzeentch does have a lot of power to contest the dial victory against him, though.  By the time Khorne does manage to get in Tzeentch's camp, Tzeentch probably has all the means to make a new one somewhere else.  With 8 cultists, he has the capability of getting 4 advancement tokens per round.  Because everyone's afraid of Khorne killing them, it's realistic to expect Tzeentch to tie or beat Khorne in that respect.  Nurgle definitely can't be an afterthought though, because we all know how quickly Nurgle can run away with points if left unchecked.
Of course, this is all using the base game's cards.  It's going to fly out the window with the Horned Rat expansion, at which point we'll have to consider combinations involving him.


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