Chaos Space Marines: Alpha Legion In the Balance

SaltyJohn here to bring you a review of the new 8th edition Chaos Space Marines rules for Alpha Legion. I am Alpharius!

Hello fans of Frontline Gaming and TFGRadio; SaltyJohn  here to bring you a review of the new 8th edition Chaos Space Marines rules for Alpha Legion.

The Alpha Legion, once known as the 20th Legion Astartes in the times of the Great Crusade, is known throughout the Imperium of man as a traitorous Legion of Chaos Space Marines. Numbered among the greatest enemies of the Imperium the Alpha Legion fights a shadow war in the 41st millenium; through out the Imperium of man the schemes and machinations of the Alpha Legion crumble worlds and cities to their goals. Experts in infiltration, and insurgency tactics the Alpha Legion stand out among the Space Marine Legions. When the twin Primarchs Alpharius and Omegon set their super powered Adeptus Astartes to task as terrifying as insurgency and manipulation the already feared Astartes become a completely different type or terror inducing foe. While their true purposes and goals are often shrouded in secrecy and can appear even self contradictory there is no denying the potency of the Alpha Legion when turning the denizens of the Galaxy to their will.


The Alpha Legion are portrayed in the fluff as experts in infiltration, insurgency, and covert tactics utilizing stealth and the local population to cripple a society before the main force of Astartes come in to clean up, if necessary. The nice thing about the Alpha Legion at the end of 7th edition and again in the new 8th edition Chaos Space Marine codex is that they’ve been designed to reflect this fluff and still be very effective on the table top. From their Legion traits to their stratagems and the way these all interact with the new and unique unit rules we end up with an army in 40k that is both effective and fluff driven. This particularly rings true for fans of the Dawn of War series, where the Alpha Legion in that PC Real Time Strategy game acted as the Chaos Space Marine force you could play. In 40k terms, if you like being in your opponents face early in the game, recycling units of cultists, and having your Warlord never die, this army may be for you.

Unique Units:

While the Alpha Legion doesn’t have any special units that benefits directly from them being in the Alpha Legion several units stand out as benefiting greatly from their trait and Stratagem. Khorne Berzerkers, Possessed, Cultists, and anything that has long range fire power that will stay 12 inches from the enemy all game.

Special Rules:

Legion Trait: Hidden in Plain Sight. Your opponent must subtract 1 from to hit rolls that target units with this trait if they are more than 12″ away.

Alpha Legion Artifact: The Blade of Hydra. *model with a chainsword only.

Warlord Trait Bonus: In addition to their Warlord Trait, your Warlord has one randomly selected Chaos Space Marine Warlord Trait (see left). If your Warlord is slain, you can immediately select another ALPHA LEGION CHARACTER in your army to take their place and generate a Warlord Trait for them (including this one). If the mission you are playing grants victory points for slaying the enemy Warlord, your opponent will only achieve that objective if all of the ALPHA LEGION CHARACTERS in your army have been slain.



Alpha Legion Stratagem: You can use this stratagem when you set an Alpha Legion Infantry unit during deployment. You can set up the unit in concealment instead of placing it on the battlefield. At the beginning of the first battle wound but before the first turn begins, the unit emerges from its hiding place- set it up anywhere on the battlefield that is more than 9″ away from any enemy models.

Chaos Space Marines Stratagem: Use this Stratagem at the end of your Movement phase. If you do, pick a unit of Chaos Cultists and remove it from the battlefield. You can then set it up again wholly within 6″ of the edge of the battlefield and more than 9″ from any enemy models, at its full starting strength. (Not an AL stratagem but one I think fits well with their style.)



The first thing that jumps out about the Alpha Legion is their trait. Similar to the Raven Guard Chapter Trait for the loyalist scum of the Imperium we have a really great way to add some resiliency to Alpha Legion units. In 8th edition shooting is king, and the first turn is exceptionally important to many armies. The best way to build lists for 8th are to build lists that excel at going second. One way to do this is extensive use of reserves, another is to take units that are extra hard to kill. With the way the new AP system works, and the massive nerf to cover in 8th the best way to do this is to make sure it’s harder for your opponent to even hit your models in the first place so -1 to hit may sound mediocre at first glance if you try it out you’ll see how great it really is.

The next great aspect to Alpha Legion is the ability to pay 1 CP during deployment and set up a unit in concealment. This can be done for multiple units so be sure to take detachments that give you enough CPs that you can spend 1-4 before the game and still have some for other stratagems in game. A few units that would really benefit from getting in this close to the enemy are primarily assault based units for some wonderful first turn charges. Khorne Berzerkers, Possessed, even Cultists. Units with shorter range firepower, like Chosen or Havocs with special weapons would benefit from being deployed closer to the enemy as well. A great tactic is infiltrating a big unit of Khorne Berzerkers with a banner, an Exalted Champion and Dark Apostle. For 3 CPs you’ve just bought yourself a first turn charge, re-rolling the charge distance if need be, that also re-rolls to hits and wounds, thanks to the nearby characters, and that benefits from an extra round of combat. It’s brutal.

Possessed are a good unit to take in an AL list if you can also fit in a small Battalion of Daemons with Changeling, Herald and 3 units of Brimstone Horrors. Which everyone can fit usually, it’s one of the most popular plug and play detachments so far in 8th. A unit of Possessed, 15-20 in size, with Mark of Tzeentch can advance deploy with the stratagem and daisy chain back to be in the Changelings aura for a unit that is now -2 to hit as the Changeling and AL trait stack. If you combine this unit with the Berzerkers from above you have a great one two punch of assaults turn one and then two. It is unlikely the Possessed can get wiped on the first turn so you’re almost guaranteed a great second assault wave, if the Apostle and Exalted Champ are still alive their aura effects will be great to use in conjunction with the Possessed as well. If you’re going with this build you could even include 1-2 Helbrutes with Mark of Tzeentch and advance them slowly with the Changeling for a -2 to hit them and then charge them in to have a nice third wave of assaults.

I listed Cultists as being good for an Alpha Legion list. The stratagem that recycles Cultist units and returns them at full strength is insanely powerful on a unit that can be 40 strong and is Objective Secured. If you take a nice sized blob of Cultists and spend a CP to advance deploy them in concealment you’ve got a cheap unit that is ObSec and hard to remove in a single round of shooting. If the enemy gets close to wiping them you just recycle them. By having a big blob of cultists deployed far beyond your own army you put pressure on your opponent and the objectives before the first rolls of the actual game occur. Putting your opponent on the back foot and giving you a distinct advantage.

The Alpha Legion trait is also good if you plan to run a Havoc gunline, or Obliterator gunline. The -1 to hit on a unit that is almost always going to be more than 12″ from the enemy is a great way to keep that fire base, hopefully over an objective, alive long enough to carry it’s weight and put the long range hurt on some important targets. As far as Havocs go the meta on them definitely changed from 7th to 8th. I personally like a mix of 2 Missile Launchers 2 Lascannons per squad and 2-3 squads of them. I like the mix in 8th because you can split fire for every unit these days and by mixing the units I don’t have to worry about my opponent focus firing all my Las Cannons out first turn, if he’s playing Knights, or focus firing out all the ML if their playing a horde army. The autocannon is, unfortunately, too many point this edition for what it does and Heavy Bolters don’t do enough wounds per hit.

Overall the Alpha Legion is a phenominal addition to the game and the Chaos Space Marine codex has clearly shown that the codices this edition will be balanced, powerful, and true to the fluff. Which is a welcome change from past editions where codices might be one of those but never all three.

~How do you rate the Alpha Legion power level in the CSM codex?


And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!


  • Jose Luis Camarasa

    If an Alpha Legion army makes use of berzerkers, it shouldn’t be called fluffy by any means, period

    • Drpx

      Have a fire suit.

      • I_am_Alpharius

        Indeed, non shall question the motives of the Hydra.

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    • Rufus

      How do you, mortal, know the infinite schemes of Alpharius Omegon, Serpent Lord and hidden king of The Hydra? If the Alpha Legion wishes to manipulate simple Berzerkers into aiding their nefarious plots, then, by all the gods of chaos it shall be so.

      • I_am_Alpharius

        Couldn’t agree more.

    • plasticvicar

      For all we know the Bezerkers could simply be Alpha Legionnaires programmed through hypno induction to adopt the personality of a Bezerker for the purposes of tactical flexibility.

      Thats the beauty of Alpha Legion, their fluff is soooo malleable you could use them to explain anything. Two Space Marine armies on the table? One of them is actually Alpha Legion, two Guillimans? One of them is Alpharius (or an ordinary Alpha Legionairre) in disguise. Dont have enough CSM models on the table? Kitbash an army together regardless of paint scheme or loyalty and call it Alpha Legion.

      • I_am_Alpharius

        Certainly, who can see where Hydras operatives are or aren’t.

    • Lion El’ Jonson

      Why should it not be fluffy? Are Alpha legion marines immune to the touch of Chaos? I’m sure the legion is far far more “sane” compared to the other traitors, but wheeling and dealing in the warp will invite corruption.

      To use an example, in the Night lords trilogy you see Talos and his boys show a disdain for Chaos, and yet you see Chaos worming its way into some of them regardless.

      • I_am_Alpharius

        I agree Brother. Heed his words, we fight for the right side.

    • I_am_Alpharius

      I agree.

      • Rafał Pytlak

        Yeah…wait, which side was the right one again?

        • I_am_Alpharius

          Well if you don’t know….I won’t be telling you…shhhh its secret.

    • Nightwalker

      Why not? Their legion rules in HH literally state that they can take one unit of any other legion in their army. One unit of Berzerkers fits this perfectly…

      • I_am_Alpharius

        All smoke and mirrors. Misdirection and misinformation….or is it…..

  • Marco Marantz

    Its disappointing that there are some legions/chapters/etc that are bordering on unviable and others, like Alpha Legion, which youre silly not to take, and in any kind of competitive environment is basically mandatory.

    • Drpx

      Should have stopped at indexes and detachments, but that’s a lot of rules they’d not get to sell.

      • I_am_Alpharius


    • I_am_Alpharius

      Thats what the snake likes you believe.

  • LordKrungharr

    It rubs my blood god blood the wrong way to use Alpha Legion with my Berzerkers, but damn, that’s a potent tactic!

    I think an easy fix would be an FAQ saying that certain Legions can’t take the cult ‘troops’. Though I’m not a fluff expert, so maybe the XX would keep some Berzerkers around in case they need some?

    • Dennis J. Pechavar

      Yeah it’s weird but it doesn’t need fixing as of yet. We’ll see if it’s nasty soon enough. Alpha Legion needs some love too.

      • I_am_Alpharius

        Thanks for the love, we should talk….

        • Dennis J. Pechavar

          Well I am Alpharius and so is my wife. We should talk.

          • I_am_Alpharius

            Maybe I am your wife…..dundunduuuuuuuuun!

    • Apocryphus

      All undivided legions absolutely should be able to take cult troops. In Storm of Iron, the Iron Warriors use berzerkers as shock troops to rush the breach and slaughter defenders. It’s all just a tool to the undivided forces, and if the tool is available, why not use it?

      • I_am_Alpharius

        In the Hydra use any and all tools available to him – or non at all.

        • Malisteen

          Well, Alpha Legion don’t always use any tools available to them – they had a history of deliberately holding forces back to show off when they won anyway. Regardless, the question isn’t whether the Alpha Legion should use any tools available to them, the question is what tools should be available to them in the first place from a narrative perspective.

          I can certainly see the objection. The Alpha Legion has been portrayed as purely unaligned (rather than undivided) for a while – though depictions have of course conflicted. Long term, I think making the base cult units available to all unaligned legions is a necessary step. Black Legion kind of need access to them to be fluffy, and with the cult legions spun out into their own books it would be silly to leave four whole units in the CSM book exclusively for use by only one of that book’s subfactions.

          But I can see the transition being awkward, and it’s frustrating to have berzerkers – the World Eater’s signature unit – be infinitely better in an Alpha Legion army than a World Eaters one. But that’s a function of the infiltrate stratagem being maybe too good, while delivery options in our book are still too limited otherwise. Both things that can be changed in the future.

          • I_am_Alpharius

            Yes. Holding back forces is a plan – but where there forces that at all….or was it all a ruse…The Hydra plays fealty to all Gods and no Gods. Only the grand plan matters only the machinations of the end game need be obeyed.

    • Deacon Ix

      Eh – IMO they can take cult troops due to being undivided – I play Word Bearers so my reasoning is that while they worship all aspects of Chaos some may dedicate themselves more to one aspect than the others (see religions with multiple deities IRL) so some will have dedicated themselves to Khorn and become beserkers, some to Nurgle and are Plague Marines, Slaanesh sort of works, the issue comes with Rubrics but a friend did suggest that a small force may have joined with the WB warband and repainted their armour.

      Alpha Legion can work on a similar way – some of their troops would have got obsessed with fighting and almost unknowingly dedicated themselves to Khorn.

      • I_am_Alpharius

        The Hydra do whatever needs to be done in the grand game – or nothing at all.

    • I_am_Alpharius

      Or a faint. Plans with in plans with in plans….

    • Malisteen

      They’re pushing all of the non-cult legions as black legion style undivided mixes, as opposed to the old strictly unaligned model. But while it works and makes sense for marks, I’m not sure it makes as much sense for cult troops, which have a more clear legion origin. That works for Black Legion, who are specifically made up of units recruited from every other legion, but not as much for iron warrior or alpha legion armies, where it doesn’t make as much sense to run into units that used to fight for other legions.

      But it’s probably a necessary shift in the long run, with the cult legions spinning out into their own books. IMO, it makes more sense to adjust the various non-cult legions to have access to basic cult units than it does to either remove those units from the black legion or to leave them in the book exclusively for the black legion’s use.

      • I_am_Alpharius

        I hartley agree, let that fool Abaddon deal with those misguided minds.

  • hazal

    Reading this hurt my head… no offence but the pacing could be worked on.

    • I_am_Alpharius

      Either that or its meant to subvert your mind…

  • JD Robertson

    What allows you to use the infiltrate stratagem more than once during deployment in matched play?

  • Stefanos Latrovalis

    Wait ..what?
    You can use “forward operatives” more than one time???
    I thought a strategem can only be used once per phase.

    • Charon

      You don’t use it in a phase.

      • I_am_Alpharius

        The Hydra cares not for phases just the end game.

    • I_am_Alpharius

      Any and all trick shall be used.

  • tfkimmortal

    I’m curious as to where they got the conversion bits for the last pic, they look ba. 🙂

    • I_am_Alpharius

      Secrets within secrets…

  • I_am_Alpharius

    I can neither confirm nor deny the validity or the level of truthfulness or untruth in the above article. It’s true, from a certain point of view, or not, depending on your view in the first place…

    • I_am_Alpharius

      I wouldn’t listen to this idiot. He is not Alpharius but a pretender. I am ALPHARIUS. Heed the Hydra, Hail the Emperor.

      • I_am_Alpharius

        More lies within lies. Do not trust this fool. I am ALPHARIUS. Heed the Hydra, Hail the Emperor.

        • Koen Diepen Van


          • I_am_Alpharius

            Hydra Dominatus! Only a true Legionnaire would say those words…..or would they…..

  • Malisteen

    Alpha Legion have easily the best legion rules in the codex, whether from a fluff perspective or on a mechanical level. The shrouding trait is the best boost any legion has to offer for long range fire support units, while the infiltrate stratagem is amazing for short range shooting & melee units, especially when the faction overall is still stuffed with slow, short ranged / melee only infantry units with no good delivery method otherwise. Add to that the warlord trait, which while not amazingly powerful is probably the funnest / fluffiest one out there, and a strong if not especially remarkable artifact, and you’ve got a solid package.

    My only complaint about the Alphas is that I wish they had better morale support for cultists, as it can be kind of hard to make good use of them as anything other than sacrificial screens as is. The leadership bump from Apostles really doesn’t go far enough, imo, and apostles aren’t really the fluffiest unit for Alphas, anyway.

    But that’s a pretty minor complaint, all in all. It’s just a shame the other legions in the book don’t have subfaction rules that are up to the same standard. Honestly, some of the Alpha stuff might be too good. I wouldn’t be shocked to see that infiltrate stratagem nerfed in the future, with either an increased CP cost, a limitation on how many units can use it in a game, or some sort of restriction against moving in the first turn if they go first – maybe just pushing their deployment back to the end of their first movement phase instead of before the first turn.

    • I_am_Alpharius

      Correct. All is as the Hydra dictates. Good or bad. Weak or powerful. When change happens it because the Hydra desires it…