Last time we talked about the Elites. Lets move onto the Trooops. Basically, I'm going into detail about what I feel are the competitive
choices in each of our force organization slots, and my recommendations
on the best builds for each unit.
Chaos Space Marine Troops
Troops - The backbone of the Chaos army, and our source of scoring units. Also by far the smallest selection of units (before any force-organization changes) in any of our slots.
Chaos Space Marines - Our primary Troops choice and the most common scoring unit you will probably see in Chaos army lists. The wealth of options and possible ways to run these guys means that very few army lists will use similarly equipped units to each other. You already give certain Xenos armies great pain by having a marginal base entry cost per model for someone who is still a space marine. This, paired with a nice 20-man squad limit, has led to the tactic of 'horde marines'. Fill the board with bodies and overwhelm your opponent with so many marines/bolters/special or heavy weapons that they simply can't deal with you. You can alternatively run such horde marines into the thick of combat in the name of Khorne - switch their bolters for an extra close combat weapon and give them the mark of khorne. Is this competitive? I would say no. But fun, definitely fun.
Upgrades are where this unit certainly starts to get interesting. You can give them Veterans of the Long War for almost nothing - this is....situational. I find it unnecessary, personally. The boost in LD means you are much less likely to fail morale checks, and Hatred is good, certainly. I dunno, I find bare Chaos Marines do fine. Nothing wrong with taking it. The Marks range from good to situational at best - let's start from top to bottom as far as this unit is concerned (in my opinion). Running a basic Chaos Marine with just the Mark of Nurgle is the same cost as a Tactical Marine - T5 marines say hi, Loyalists! This is both funny and highly useful - T5 makes your standard units much less prone to small arms fire, and also hilariously hard to kill against S3 enemies in combat. Khorne gives you both Rage and Counter Attack - nice in of itself. You can turn your Chaos Marines into Grey Hunters for.....a higher cost. Sorry, you don't get a better deal than Space Wolves here. However, this mark is still good and gives your units some much needed defensive and offensive punch. Slaanesh is simple and helps when fighting other MEQs, but is less useful against most Xenos armies - you will strike first against Necrons/Tau anyway, and Eldar/Dark Eldar will still go first most of the time in any case. Tzeentch gives you a +6 invulnerable save - not that useful. Unlike Havocs, you probably wouldn't want these guys sitting on a certain fortification, so I wouldn't recommend this mark.
Now for icons. Vengeance is available to any marked or non-marked unit - Fearless is great and worth the price if you can't stick a Chaos Lord/Dark Apostle in the unit. Excess gives you Feel No Pain, but is only available to Slaanesh units - obviously, Feel No Pain is awesome for an entire unit, but the cost and ability for the bearer to be sniped out is a scary proposition (albeit this is a weakness of all icons). Wrath is nice, but only worth it on a dedicated combat unit - and such units are of debatable use. The Tzeentch and Nurgle Icons aren't really useful, although they are cheap to compensate. Fear is useless against Fearless/Space Marines, and Soul Blaze is unlikely to do any real damage. As far as both marks and icons are concerned, I would say they can be ignored. For competitive lists, the best mixes would be either Nurgle, Slaanesh and Feel No Pain, or just Fearless. The other 'upgrade' for the unit would be the choice between exchanging their bolter for a combat weapon (not recommended), or taking an extra close combat weapon for a small points increase (worthwhile). Neither are necessary, but the latter is very good. Just remember - do not take the Mark of Khorne without taking the second combat weapon. Trust me. Having the extra attack all the time means you will get 3 attacks on the charge anyway, and essentially always have the second attack per Counter Attack.
Now, for special weapons and whether or not to take a Rhino. Because I feel as if I am waffling too much about Chaos Marines, I will make this short - take special/heavy weapons based on what you want the unit to do. Do you want a bunker unit with the Mark of Nurgle or I5/Feel No Pain? Taking a special weapon such as a plasma-gun or a flamer as well as an autocannon or missile launcher is recommended and makes the unit threatening to a wide range of targets. Fearless also helps this unit out quite a bit. If you want a midfield-rushing unit ala Grey Hunters (which I recommend) give them two plasma guns or two meltaguns - or a mix. Any of the three options is fine, and will probably depend on what you expect them to come up against (heavy tanks or terminators/light tanks typically) - just remember the plasma gun/meltagun option is the only one that does not require kit-bashing. If you are using them as aggressive objective-grabbers, I would almost always give them a Rhino. As much as Rhino-rush armies are falling by the wayside, the Rhino is still a smart and cheap purchase that won't let you down.
Also, consider what characters (if any) you are attaching to a Chaos Marine unit. If you use a unit in a Rhino, you obviously can only take a 9-man squad and thus only one special weapon. This is fine, as usually the character will have tools that make up for the lack of the second special weapon (i.e. a 10-man unit with two meltaguns is the same as a 9-man unit with a meltagun and a Warpsmith in that sense). The way I usually run my Chaos Marines - and this is fine for competitive setups - is the basic bolter marine with a meltagun/plasma gun and a Rhino transport. Cheap, still Space Marines, and can deal with most targets that get thrown at them. Ultimately, I wouldn't run too many Chaos Marines - running several units of them, similar to Grey Hunters, doesn't work quite as well. Two-three units is good. There isn't much to compare against, but Chaos Marines are always a recommended choice.
Cultists - This is a great unit, I must say. Their dirt cheap nature and the abundance of cover means that almost any army list can find a use for these guys. Say you feel you have enough points tied up in two Chaos Marine squads, a blob of 20 Cultists will be under triple-digit cost and give you the perfect extra scoring unit. Just don't expect these guys to kill too much, however, always remember that their pitifully low cost means you can spam them to all hell. Giving them autoguns and two flamers turns them into a very decent defensive unit that is quite cheap - this also makes them quite threatening to other horde units. This unit makes Chaos one of the very few Space Marine codexes that can run horde armies - as much as T3 and 6+ armour sounds terrible, the aforementioned flux of cover boosts their survivability exponentially. They also don't require a Rhino. Combat cultists can be a useful foil for your other melee units that typically want to avoid Overwatch fire or being hit back, and they can actually be decently threatening in large numbers. Just remember they will die in droves and you are set.
As far as their options go, Cultists can be made to fit different roles. You can make them like Ork Boyz by giving them the Mark of Nurgle, but just remember, aside from your higher I you are paying the same cost for something that is worse off in other areas (no Fearless, less attacks, less WS, etc). Tzeentch is actually not that bad on these guys, but it is still only a 6+ save. Khorne makes blob squads of these guys put out absurd amounts of attacks (i.e. Ork numbers). Slaanesh makes them strike at the same I as Marines, but the lack of grenades and size of Cultist squads means this isn't too useful. Giving Cultists autoguns is really up to you - you lose the extra combat attack and can't shoot and then charge. You have a higher range but until your opponent gets close, you won't get to rapid fire anyway. You put out ridiculous amounts of overwatch fire though. Heavy Stubbers are ok, but whether they are worth it or not is up to you. Flamers are the better choice overall, but always remember that it depends on what you expect your Cultists to get close to.
Cultists change significantly when paired up with certain characters. As has been made abundantly clear, Cultists work very well with Dark Apostles. The entire unit becomes LD10, Fearless, and has Hatred (Everything). This actually makes them a pretty nasty prospect in close combat, and as long as you can protect the Dark Apostle, you can tie valuable enemy units up for quite a while. A Chaos Lord does the same job, but without conferring Hatred (unless you roll the appropriate Warlord Trait). Basically, Fearless turns Cultists into one of the most cost-effective tarpit units in the game. The best kind comes from one that cannot be sniped, and this leads into.....Typhus. For free, you lose your guns, can't take any marks or other weapons, but gain Fearless, Feel No Pain and Slow and Purposeful. Needless to say, this makes Cultists into highly effective scoring and tie-up units. 30 Zombies will cost you almost nothing, and sat in cover on an objective, will be punishingly hard to dislodge. Also a funny way of tying up nasty close combat units for a few turns so you can happily deal with other threats. And when said Zombie unit dies, charge another one in! That isn't even sarcasm - they are so inexpensive that this is actually a viable strategy. Draigo's shiny dozen won't be so threatening when they are tied up by multiple Zombie units for most of the game whilst the rest of their army is systematically destroyed by the Chaos forces which have much less points invested into said combat.
Ultimately, you cannot go wrong with Cultists. I recommend them heartily - one unit is a perfect extra scoring option, and an army of them allows you to invest far more points into other slots. Just be aware that, obviously, they will end up costing you a lot more in terms of money.
Summary! I find the best choices tend to be Nurgle Chaos Marines, Chaos Marines with dual special weapons in Rhinos, blob Cultists sitting in cover as objective holders or Plague Zombies. Next time - Fast Attack... Have at it folks. How are you running your CSM Trrops units and how do you equip them?