40K: Don’t Ruin My Ruinous Powers

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traitor's hate - cover - GW-horz

One gamer takes a look at the insidious seeds of corruption Traitor’s Hate is sowing…

As a true devotee of the Ruinous Powers, I must admit that I find myself of two minds regarding Traitor’s Hate.  On the one hand, I love the lavish background and the Black Crusade Detachment just strikes my fancy – I enjoy that it makes all my Chaos lunatics Hate everything Imperium and, unlike so many it seems, I love the Chaos Boons table, so heaps more of this I welcome with open arms (Huzzah, tentacles for everyone).


On the other hand, like Goatboy (wait, who said that?), I’m disappointed that new Relics, a new Warlord table (s) and/or new psychic powers for the three Chaos Gods to push the disciplines to seven powers each like everyone else, were not included.  I did not expect to be brought to the level of loyalist marines, but these few things would have completed my satisfaction – and I don’t think they were too much to ask for.

disappointedLook of a Typical Chaos player after Traitor’s Hate

Ultimately, Traitor’s Hate is what it is and so I must embrace it to my corrupt bosom to further fuel my bitterness for the Long War.  So it is that I’ve been wasting far too much time furthering my Zen-like emotional state by pondering the intricate ways of the Eye of Terror, and in so doing, I think I’ve stumbled upon a philosophical conundrum.  If the Chaos Space Marine (CSM) codex is not balanced with its Imperium counterparts (and surely we can all agree that it is not) then why must we force it to be balanced with those codices?  Confused?  Ah, such is the way of Chaos, but I’ll attempt to explain.


Though I openly acknowledge that I’m more of a fluffy player rather than a competitive one, I do attend tournaments and often play games against some of my buddies who are unabashedly competitive.  Hey, what can I say?  I enjoy the camaraderie and love getting to play a bunch of games in one day.  At any rate, most of the tournaments in my local region use the ITC format, or some variation thereof.

(For those unfamiliar, ITC tournaments use a specific set of scenarios that modify those found in the main rulebook so that you are essentially playing two at once, and they have an extensive FAQ/errata that addresses nearly everything in the 40K rules/codices that needs clarification.  At least until the new official Games Workshop (GW) 40K FAQs go live.  These FAQs are one of my favorite aspects of ITC, and the key to understanding my philosophical conundrum.)

Don’t get me wrong, I love 40K, and I’m personally happy that it is this sprawling ruleset, filled with randomness and varied options that allow for immersion into the rich setting, and not this dry, “everyone’s the same” and every option is dumbed down to the bare bones for smooth, fair and dull play.  Having said that, I do want it to be as fair as possible, and let’s face it, until very recently, GW has been very lackadaisical about keeping the various books up-to-date, correcting obvious errors and/or just fixing weird stuff that creeps in with new material.

ITC’s FAQs do this, and while there are a few that I feel are questionable, the majority are solid, needed corrections/clarifications that I believe makes the game better.  Again, until the new GW FAQs go live.  It’ll be interesting to see how ITC handles that situation, as much of the new GW FAQs address the same material, and often in the same way, but not all.  But, that is a subject for another time.


I know, I know.  I’m coming to it.  So, speaking of ITC’s FAQs, this is where my conundrum comes in.  For those who don’t know, Traitor’s Hate bestowed upon CSMs four new psychic disciplines that are exactly the same as those that appeared in the recent Space Marine (SM) sourcebook Angels of Death, except that the names have been changed.  These new powers are rightly respected as generally more potent that those that appear in the BRB (Big Rule Book), and wildly more impressive than the three disciplines of the Chaos Gods that appear in the CSM codex.

Chaos Power 1

Indeed, the new names and the general atmosphere of the powers seem more fitting for Chaos sorcerers as well, so I’m not complaining.  But, and here’s the crux of the matter, three of these new powers were deemed by the player base that governs ITC to be too powerful and have been recently FAQed to not function as they are written (two were toned down, the third obliterated altogether).

So, philosophically speaking, since we all know and agree that the CSM codex is terribly underpowered compared to those of the loyalist SMs, should these newly named, but exactly the same, powers also be FAQed to be toned down by tournament organizers/formats such as ITC?  Or, in an attempt at parody, should the Chaos versions remain unchanged?  I know where I fall in such an ethical dilemma, but I’ll leave it to you decide.

ricardo-montalban-khan-star-trek-2Totally not a Chaos Space Marine.  Chaos Lord.  Whatever.

The Culprits

It may be that some of you may be thinking that I’m overblowing or overthinking this situation.  Well, perhaps; I’ve certainly been accused of worse.  It just seems an odd situation to me.  I mean, we often hear online or in person, the lament that the CSM codex is both terrible and underpowered, especially compared to the SM codex (which is just teeming with equipment, rules, etc. that its evil counterpart should have as well, but doesn’t).  And yet, I’ve witnessed several competitive players talking on the matter of Traitor’s Hate and these new psychic disciplines, and it quickly becomes obvious that the idea that these ‘nerfs’  shouldn’t apply to the Chaos versions has never crossed their minds.  Why is that?  If we all know and agree Chaos is inferior, why not provide them this little leg up?

Let’s take a closer look at these three specific powers and the measures taken to rein them in:

Librarian-tiggy-walpaper-satPhenomenal cosmic power!  Well, it was…


In brief — this power allows the psyker to swap places with a friendly opponent within 24″ and then they may both charge the same turn, if they were otherwise allowed to do so anyway.  In addition, if either unit was already in assault, the newly swapped unit will then be in assault with whatever enemy unit was already engaged with the original friendly unit.

And this is how the ITC has FAQed it:

Fulmination (Ectomancy) Disicpline:

Electrodisplacement (Soulswitch):  the target (s) of this power may not charge after using the Electrodisplacement psychic power.  Further, if the target unit (s) were locked in close combat, after being transported by Electrodisplacement it must be placed at least 1” away from enemy models and are no longer locked in combat.

So given that this is a SM psychic power, I can see why the first part of it would make the ITC tournament players cringe.  The ability to Deepstrike, Scout or otherwise have a fast moving and insignificant unit knife deep into the opponent’s lines and then transpose with a big, scary SM deathstar of bikes, thunderwolves or whatever, and then immediately charge, is devastating.  It is also near impossible to counter effectively.

Raptor Talon

Once you layer other SM shenanigans on top of it (Hit and Run, assorted other Chapter Tactics, Librarian Conclave, etc.), it really gets disgusting.  Having said that, CSMs do not have near the ability to create such powerful deathstars, and the ones they do have, depend largely upon allying with the Khorne Daemonkin codex.  And even setting this fact aside, it’s not like SMs lack other means to drop units on top of their opponents and still immediately charge – see formations such as Shadowstrike Kill Team, Angel’s Fury Spearhead Force, the dreaded Skyhammer and several more in the upcoming Angel’s Blade sourcebook.  CSMs can counter only with the freshly minted Raptor Talon formation found in Traitor’s Hate.

Regarding the second half of the psychic power that ITC negates, namely not allowing the newly swapped units to remain in assault after the swap, I find I’m at a loss.  This is clearly the power’s intent, and compared to the ability to immediately charge, seems pretty insignificant.  I honestly find this particular part of the power just not worth being FAQed.


Phase Form

In brief — this psychic power allows a friendly unit within 24″ the Move Thru Cover ability as well as allows its ranged weapons both the ability to ignore Line of Sight and the Ignores Cover special power.

ITC FAQs this power thusly:

Geokinesis (Geomortis) Discipline:

In ITC format events, modify the Phase Form (Earthly Anathema) psychic power as follows:   the target of Phase Form gains the benefit of either Ignores Cover or ignores Line of Sight.

Given the firepower that SMs can bring to bear, particularly across all their separate codices (not to mention their other Imperium allies), it is no wonder that this power gives ITC tournament players the heebie-jeebies.  But let’s just be blunt, this is all about grav weapons.  The ability to give grav weaponry both ignore Line of Sight and Ignores Cover, all for the low low price of 1 WC, is just ridiculous.  Grav weapons are already stupidly broken without such a boost.

But is this same power really so bad in the hands of CSMs?  The traitors have no grav weaponry.  And while CSMs can get access to some serious artillery via Imperial Armour 13 and Renegade Knights, their loyal kin get all this, plus the weaponry of the Skitarii/Mechanicus, Grey Knights and the Inquisition/Assassins.  And in the end, they still have grav.


Shifting Worldscape

In brief — this power allows the psyker to pick up one piece of terrain within 24″ and move it to another part of the battlefield within 24″.  Models within said terrain move with it, as long as they wholly occupy the terrain before it is moved.

Finally, ITC FAQs the last power like this:

Shifting Worldscape (Worldwrithe):   this power is not used in ITC format events.

Honestly, I don’t have much to say about this one.  I’m not a big fan of moving terrain pieces around in-game, particularly in a tournament setting where it’s just faster and smoother to have the terrain preset and fixed.  Besides, moving terrain about during a game just strikes me as loaded with the possibility of exploitation and/or argument.


So what say you?  Should the corrupted scions of the Eye of Terror be treated exactly the same as their loyalist brethren?  Or should we allow them this one bone?

Read more from Kazzigum on Slaved to Ruin

  • Squirreli

    Cabal stars are not far behind imperial stars. True, they don’t usually hit as hard, but they’re at least as resilient. They have daemon buffs (houndstar) and Cypher (Hit and run, shrouded) and their ML3 makes it easier to hit those critical powers.

    Besides, even if they were much weaker than the imperial stars, the spells are still poorly thought out and create binary “hit the spells and get to go first -> win game” mechanics.

    So yes, same nerfs should apply.

    • Andrew Thomas

      That why I like the Stars I designed for my homebrew. 1000 Son Tankstars job all comers.

  • Wayne Molina

    As I’ve stated part of the issue with Traitor’s Hate is that it doesn’t help the things that weren’t really used, while just encouraging more min/maxing and “deathstar” list building over a more fluffy and balanced list building approach.

    The supplement isn’t BAD, it just doesn’t fix anything and makes the “good” things even better, while not doing enough to help the “bad” things. You already saw things like taking the Cabal from the BL supplement only for their power, with these new powers they skyrocket in value to a “must take”. There isn’t anything to raise the stock of taking a balanced Chaos Warband (although the benefits were a nice boost), but there’s still a lot making the typical Typhus/Zombie spam and then maxing out on the “good” stuff even better, which IMHO is still a problem.

  • SilentPony

    So does Kharn die? The manager at my local GW says the narrative of Traitors Hate ends with Kharn finally dying. For realz.

    • nurglitch

      You’ve been trolled.

    • Squirreli

      Nah, the sorceror-in-residence teleports Kharn back to orbit and they high-tail it. Kharn takes his murder-disappointment out on the crew and they all live hatredly ever-after.

      • Andrew Thomas

        You mean the big, black, bloody, mailed fist what reaches down from the sky, picks him up, and in a gravelly, deafening snarl booms, “NEEDZ…MOAR…SKULLZ.”

  • Drpx

    Let’s give CSM a new type of gun, we’ll call it the Daemon Puker or DP for short. DP weapons will be AP 2. They will be strength 2 BUT in the spirit of Chaos will have an inverse wounding rule, meaning that something a point higher than their strength will be wounded on a 3 and a point lower is wounded in on a 5 and so on. Any roll of a 6 causes instant death.

    Against armor DP weapons will automatically penetrate on a 6 but will never be able to cause an explodes result. DP weapons will come in 12″ pistol and salvo 24″ 3/5 variations and can be taken by marines and cultists, but not Obliterators because this is still CSM we’re talking about. Instead, GW will introduce an entirely new model with Heavy Daemon Pukers which are Range 48″, Heavy 6, relentless, and can deep strike.

    That should bring CSM up to par with Imperium. If not, give them a Corruption rule that lets them take any Imperium detatchment (even Grey Knights and Sisters) as battle brothers.

    • Emprah

      In that case can loyalists have autocannon Devastators?

      • Harrison

        I mean, by fluff we should really have assault cannon devastators :/ as they supplanted autocannons towards the end of the great crusade, mainly in the thousand sons and blood angels

        • CMAngelos

          Imperial Fists and Blood Angels developed the first assault Cannons and fielded them exclusively. Very few if any fell into traitor hands.

          • Nubu

            Some of them did though. Spamming them would not be more ridiculous than suddenly every special weapon in the arsenal of SM being swapped to gravs.

          • CMAngelos

            Even as a Marine player, Grav spam is dumb and would be worlds better if it acted like 30k grav. The game needs less grav and grav style spam.

          • Nubu

            True, all you wrote is true. Still, it is not less ridiculous than massed assault cannons for CSM.

          • CMAngelos

            No its not less ridiculous, but why is everyone pushing for more and more ridiculous crap. The whole of the game needs to be turned back from 15 on the dial back to just an 11.

            Super heavies, flyers, and other “big toy syndrome” models are all fine with me, it’s the little crap that’s getting way too out of hand. I’d much rather face a knight army or a titan than 20 grav Centurions or an ‘all the scatter bikes with a side of wraith knight’ list all the time because it’s just -boring-.

            It would also help if players would actually play more missions rather than “ready, set, munder everything” games.

          • Nubu

            All this shows that GW has no idea of what it’s fan base is like.

          • CMAngelos

            To a degree yes I will totally agree with that, but in some cases it could be as much the fan bases issue as well, as their are a lot of people who rather loudly yell for their stuff to be more powerful than XYZ due to “reasons”.

            There is definitely error on both sides, though I am not sure if one side holds more blame than the other.

          • Nubu

            Well, it is commonly known fact that gamers, many if not all, aim to get the most power out of the tools at their disposal. GW does nothing to mitigate this but rather feeds these people’s desire and through that makes the game worse for the rest of us. Because of this I think it’s about what GW has done.

      • Jim Collins

        30k tech and limitations would make perfect sense.

        Make Kai Guns have various types and stand in the grav role, or like a deathwatch frag cannon or bolter with multiple profiles with choice and range. Bring them back of course.

        The deathwatch style of super customized and varied models in units would be great on csm, and make sense.

    • grim_dork

      Don’t forget about Puke Amps!

      • Moik


    • CMAngelos

      Or you could just paints chaos Marines and use the Imperial marine codex.. less hassel.

    • The original Apocalypse rules did have a “Chaos Marines can also use any Space Marine formation” note. (Might even have been any Imperial formation, with “renegade Guard” too.)
      Corruption would have to have some negatives, like loss of ATSKNF, both for fluff and because it’s for balance, not to swing the advantage the other way. Allowing Grey Knights and Sisters might be excessive too.

  • Randy Randalman

    It isn’t going to happen until 8th. That’s when the sects of Chaos will get their full update, so stop whining about the fact they haven’t gotten it yet. If you get it now, they’ll inevitably fall behind the other 8th armies. You’ll be thankful when they’re updated in the same edition.

    Furthermore, why would you want them balanced with loyalist Marines? If you want loyalist Marines, play your Chaos models with the loyalist codex; or play 30k. I hope they are made radically different. 10,000 years will do a lot to change things.

    40k is all but on hold until 8th.

    • Just to be clear, balanced doesn’t mean the same, it means equal points have equal odds of winning everything else being equal. That’s something GW sucks at, and it’s unrealistic to expect them to improve suddenly, but it’s not like balance requires identical rules

    • Wayne Molina

      On that note, I feel they should really explore the warp/daemon infused weaponry. Chaos isn’t stagnant like the Imperium in regards to technology, so why not give Chaos more access to Hades autocannons, Ectoplasma, Baleflamers, etc. *instead* of the regular crap? Give them a different take on equipment, so they are similar still to the Loyalists, but have evolved (albeit in a dark twisted evil way) in 10,000 years.

    • Karru

      And here we once again see someone who doesn’t know what “balanced” mean. When people say “balanced”, they most often mean that they want to be on an equal footing with someone. In the case of SM vs CSM this is clear that there is no such thing as balance between the two. CSM has close to zero counters against SM while SM has loads. They have Grav, Sternguard, Drop Pods, solid AA and insane formations just to name a few.

      When I say I want the CSM book to be on the level with SM book I usually mean that we have the option to take units that include the unit entry of “Chaos Space Marine” and not gimp my list. There is literally no reason to take CSM over Cultists if you don’t have the option to take Cult Troops. CSM is in every way worse Space Marine. Do I want them to be just SM but with a Chaotic twist? No, since they already are. The Chaotic twist for them is that they are worse SM.

      Once again I go with the dreaded “muh 3.5 codex” comment, but I will use it until something similar is released for Chaos. I have gone trough it several times with the release of Traitor’s Hate and analysed it to see what made CSM good in a non-gaming way. My conclusion was all the options it had. You could do anything Chaos with it. Want to do Legions? Here you go, pick the one you like and here is a check list you can follow if you want to play pure legion. Interested more on the God Worship? Here are all the Gods, their troops and wargear for your men and vehicles, go nuts. Want to play your own warband of recent renegades? Just go and mix everything!

      It was the fluff player’s paradise. You could buy mutations for your Champions and make cool stories on how they obtained them. You could make your own Possessed squads with just the mutations you wanted. You could make cool vehicles that were dedicated to one of the Chaos Gods and model it to better represent it. Chaos players had so much to choose from and because of it they flourished. Thanks to those choices the book was one of the most broken things during that edition, but it was still the best book for fluff players.

      Now we lack options, character and flavour. CSM squads are rubbish with nothing to offer. The Marks are expensive and give next to useless buffs to the CSM Squad and you are better off with Cult Marines. Then there is the biggest failure of all in the CSM book, The Boon Table. It makes no sense, at all. Why would my Chaos Lord, who has waged war for possibly hundreds of years have just mutated as the battle begins? He clearly hasn’t had any of the mutations he gains from the Gift of Chaos “upgrade” since when he gains that +1 BS without any Ranged Weapons there would be no reason to wield 2 Melee Weapons.

      Overall our options are Cult Marines that are at least somewhat interesting and fluffy, but extremely expensive. Then we have our Daemon Engines that are a step towards right direction when it comes to fun things, but even they lack in the flavour department, since they lack any dedication to the Gods. I couldn’t care less how the book is doing in the tournament scene since I never play in tournaments, but I want to have a book that would be able to represent Chaos like they are in the lore.

      The reason why so many people play 30k or SM with their CSM armies is purely thanks to the fact that they do the representation of Chaos better. Recent Renegade Marines that have gone mad? All the gear is still there, so you can use that. Want to field Iron Warriors? Here you go, Imperial Fist Chapter Tactics and Imperial Guard allies for the Heavy Artillery. Alpha Legion? Guard Allies and Raven Guard tactics.

      Finally regarding your comment about the we haven’t gotten our update. You do realise that if there was even a sliver of hope that they would do something like that for the future CSM armies, they would’ve done at least something similar for the CSM right now, right? Why would they hold back? It doesn’t make sense in any possible way. If they were planning on giving us what players want, they would’ve done it by now and make huge amounts of money with returning CSM players.

      • Moik

        I love the reasoning behind the chaos possessed through the editions:

        3rd: Random is fun, right?
        3.5th: Oh, so no one liked the random, I guess we should adjust it to something more enjoyable

        • Karru

          I never understood why they would do that to possessed. It literally makes no sense, since they would be one of the most unique units in the game. They would have the option to be Infantry or Beasts. They could focus more on anti-horde or anti-heavy infantry. It also makes no sense why their mutations would be constantly shifting, since the Daemons are in control and the bodies are already mutated with certain mutations.

  • Davor Mackovic

    While I hear good things about ITC it just mind boggles my mind why would they try and fix 40K. After all if they are so knowladgable why not make a new game and make money from it instead of just fixing something up for free?

    • Nubu

      They would have to manage to out do 30 years of 40k history in terms of cool value.

    • Troy G

      Everyone always fixes 40K. 7th edition 40K is unplayable out of the rulebook without some degree of houseruling.

      Generally you do this in a negotiation with one specific opponent at a time. The ITC simply creates a format where that conversation doesn’t need to take place because it was a group conversation that already happened.

  • Nubu

    Balancing things is really easy. Identify the problem and get rid of it. The easiest way to do this is to either straight up delete the particular thing (formation etc.) or to just adjust the points. Right after that comes limiting the abused content.

    It’s not hard, people just get upset when their easy mode army gets an actual challenge.

    • Karru

      Which is why we don’t see GW doing anything to SM, instead they give them new toys to play with. Don’t want to make the big payers go away.

      Most “problems” in the game can be solved with removing allies and rule stacking. Then adding things like save caps and reduce the value of re-rolls. Finally, remove everything that is given away free. Now you have a good base from which you can start to balance all the armies and bring them back to playing field.

      Then they could start looking at different armies and their mechanics. Does the rule make sense lore-wise? Will it see actual use in the game? Do you need to buy it as an upgrade and does it include any negative effects?

      We can examine the SM Chapter Tactics here first. They do make sense lore-wise, they do see use in the game as the list is pretty much always build around it and it is not purchased and it doesn’t offer negative effects outside the Named Characters. This is a perfect example of a good mechanic.

      Next, let’s examine Battle Focus of the Eldar. It makes sense lore-wise once again, Eldar are fast and their troops well trained in this particular fighting style. It sees a lot of use during the entire game. It does not include any negative effects and comes as a standard. Another good mechanic.

      Then CSM. The Boon Table and partially the Champion of Chaos rule. The Boon Table makes very little sense in the game, since I cannot see a situation where a Lord gifted with Gun Morph would bring two Melee Weapons instead or ignore the fact that he now has an eye helping him aim better with a Ranged Weapon. It barely sees use in game, since it requires one specific model killing another specific model. It includes rather lot negative effects depending on your equipment, since you can get range buffs for your Melee character or see your mega lord turned into a Spawn. Only way to guarantee it happening is to pay points, otherwise it is not included in the point cost. This is the greatest example of a bad mechanic.

      It is things like the Boon Table that makes me like some of the things AoS does very well and would like to see them cross over to 40k. Instead of having to depend on an RNG roll, you can pick your benefit.

      • Nubu

        Battle focus has one glaring flaw. You can ahoot and then run (afaik). If the running would come first it would be a sound mechanic.

        • Karru

          They can choose to run and then shoot or shoot and then run.

          • Nubu

            Which is a problem. Run&Shoor is fine. Other options are not.

  • Ryan

    So much traitor salt around here!

  • Shawn

    Here-in lies the problem with ITC. What’s good for the Goose (SM) is good for the Gander (CSM). While ITC makes an effort to curtail some of the outrageous combos of 40k, they also encourage it, and aren’t entirely equal in what they deem “good for the game,” or rather tournament which is what they’re all about. But let’s face it, ITC even influences casual play becuase tourney goers interact with casual players and won’t play anything other than ITC, even though ITC has no more authority making rules changes than the kid next door.

  • Alan Doyle

    Accept it, 40k is stupidly broken. My advise is forget it and play another game.

    • Nubu

      Works if let’s say 80% of the gamers quit and each send a message to GW telling them that they quit for the lack of balance.