40K Retro: Birth of the Chaos Legions

Today we look back 20 years the look back at 1996’s Codex Chaos.  Witness the original unified Chaos forces with traitor legions, heretics & daemons!

Welcome to the BoLS Retro Corner, where each week, we take you on a time machine to the era of early tabletop awesomeness.  This week, we take you back to the heady days of Warhammer 40,000 2nd Edition, and the origin of many of the original Chaos villains – some still with us today and other lost to the mists of time.In particular we get a look at the early formative Chaos Traitor Legions bach when there were still new and unformed.



The 2nd Edition Chaos Codex is also a good example of the “everything AND the kitchen sink” appraoch to codex design that GW commonly used in those early days.

Take a look at this early artwork of some of the original Traitor Legion designs.



This was a grand unified book that incorporated the traitor marines, daemons and mortal heretics of the Ruinous powers – long before GW split them into separate books. Now kick back grab a cup o joe and enjoy your guided tour.


~ Who’s still got their copy lying around and what is your favorite bit of early 40K craziness?

  • frank

    I love that book. had rules for some really strange daemon princes like the tzeentch greater daemon that became a daemon prince and nurgles frog boy, it had the rules for daemon world armies and, that awesome concept work section above picked that book up and codex angels of death at a used book store way back still some of my favorite 40k books to go through.

    • Moik

      Frog boy? I resent that!

  • Laurence J Sinclair

    Ah, I remember the designer’s notes that the put into White Dwarf around that time. The reason they made Chaos Marines the main focus of the book was because armies that they saw at tournaments all featured them…

    • miteyheroes

      And the main reason for that was because the army list *had* to include Chaos Marines.

  • Thomas Gardiner

    Those John Blanche drawings are so timeless.

  • Painjunky

    I remember taking this book home in my early teens. Sitting in my bedroom and being utterly overwhelmed by the quality and volume of the content.
    It was even more than I could have hoped for!

    This is what I miss.
    When GW actually gave a crap and went the extra mile and then some!

    • Aezeal

      It was because you where an early teen. Books now are not really worse.

      • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

        They are. This book was really dense, the equivalent of the Daemons, CSM dex and IA13 in one volume. Artwork was really evocative and the books then had far more short stories and flavour pieces. There were loads of options for personalising characters etc. Very different to todays books.

        • Thomas Gardiner

          I was lamenting the reduction in Codex fluff just the other day. Even the 6th ed. Dark Angels book was *packed* with fluff and short stories, telling the whole story of the Lion’s life pre-Crusade at length, then following up with dozens of pages of backstory.

          This was all skimped on in the new book, replaced by pictures of models (not even ones painted by the ‘Eavy Metal team), sub-par and cartoony art, an absurd amount of pages dedicated to those crappy line-art pictures and a weird obsession with how the chapter is organised (seriously, so many pages of uninteresting fluff and organisational charts that could be summed up with short explanations of the Deathwing and Ravenwing).

          • CMAngelos

            Yet I remember for a lot of 5th and most of 6th ‘players’ were complaining non stop about “just take all this useless fluff out its pointless and should be in another book i dont have to buy, I just want rules blah blah blah”

            Now that’s happened and people are complaining about that.

            40k players are the true definition of “un-pleaseable”

          • Thomas Gardiner

            Tbf, I never complained about “useless” fluff so that doesn’t really apply to me. The more fluff and artwork, the better.

            My favourite Codex of all time is 5th Ed Dark Eldar, not because of the rules, but because it was crammed with fluff and those gorgeous black and white pencil drawings.

          • CMAngelos

            You yourself may not have, but you can’t deny there were/are lots who did. I remember seeing many articles and forum threads across many of the major 40k forums doing just that too.

            I’m a huge fan of fluff always have been. I love the Black Horus Heresy books from FW and would love to see Codexes go back to that style. (Though maybe not as big lol.)

          • Thomas Gardiner

            I wasn’t really active online before 6th so I wouldn’t know. Still though, I hope the fluff makes a comeback. I don’t want AoS style unit sheets with just stats and no lore. I actually like the Codex/Army Book system.

        • Aezeal

          I think current art work is much better.. the schematic drawing of the chapters is nice and has it uses.. but is hardly great art . A boo full of it would cause seizures.

          • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

            I’m not talking about schematic drawings, the old art was full of Geigeresque pen and ink drawings , hyper detailed and baroque full page spreads and weird Blanche paintings. Now we have airbrush computer art of the same five new models in different poses and with different enemies repeated over and over.

      • Liam Wolf

        I agree with this in principle, but it’s hard to deny evocative art like the Blanche piece above hands down beats the ‘same model of a character in different colour schemes for 8 pages’ that we get nowadays…

        I dug out my old 2nd ed codex a few months back. So many memories washed back over me. What I miss from it is the emphasis it puts on converting your own guys, and that really inspired me to make my armies more unique.

  • Talos2

    I was kind of disappointed when it came out and they were just space marines. Fantasy chaos warriors at the time were ws6 bs6 so I was expecting something on those lines (I knew nothing of the heresy then). But the abbadon, Kharn and Fabius models were fantastic for the time so I came round. The book was a great read, the size of it was well in line with the 4th ed fantasy realm of chaos army book, though I did miss the gift cards that were a big part of fantasy chaos

  • EmperorOfMankind

    Ah back when GW first learned to write a really over powered codex.

  • PinkTerror

    This book was crap! Ok, so in hindsight, it’s a great book. But at the time – sorry, showing my age – but at the time it was awful. Because back then, you had to buy your way into Chaos. And you did that by buying the expensive “Slaves to Darkness” and “The Lost and the Damned” hardbacks; (in the US, early 90s, they were still imports) – and this 2nd Edition book replaced those two books and made it easier for other people to get into Chaos. My first 2nd Edition game I lost a Bloodthirster flying across an alley to Eldar Dark Reapers on overwatch. No one killed a Bloodthirster before! Shame on you G’Dub – shame!