Hey everyone, Reecius from Frontline Gaming here to continue our conversation from last week about Chaos builds and the troops section.
Last week we talked about how to best utilize troops in aChaos list and the conundrum I was in as to what units to take. And also, I agree that you cannot take a Blastmaster until you have a full 10 Noise Marines in a unit. Thanks for pointing that out, I misread the rule initially.
Judging by the comments (and sorry I wasn’t able to respond to any comments last week, it was too busy in the shop) I think that I either didn’t communicate the point well enough or some folks were missing it.
The issue I was and am having—and that quite a few folks I have talked to are also experiencing—is that Chaos troops are either too expensive for what you get, or too unreliable for a competitive build. What do I mean by that?
Am I complaining about the book? Not at all, I really like it! I think Phil Kelly did a great job establishing internal balance within the book, captured a lot of flavor of Chaos and in general gave us a really good product. From a competitive standpoint though, the troops give me trouble. I am not at all saying they’re bad, just not optimal. I would like to hear your feedback as well, though as it always makes me happy to hear folks finding a way to win with a unit I had thought was not good.
So, here’s what I am driving at. In order to stay competitive in 6th ed, you need to be able to do the following things in a true take all comers list:
- Reliably score objectives. 5 of 6 missions are about taking objectives.
- Take on light mech spam. MSU shooty mech lists are alive and well.
- Take on hordes. You need to be able to fight Horde Orks, Gant Farms and horde infantry lists. We’re seeing a lot of no-vehicle lists doing quite well and they’ve always been great spoiler armies.
- Take on heavy infantry. You also need a plan for dealing with Terminators, etc.
- Counter Flyers. Air Force armies are everywhere right now, plan for them or be run over by them.
- Counter Deathstars (yes, they still exist). Harliestar is still brutal, and Paladins, while diminished, are still a very real threat amongst some of the other crazy units out there.
- Take on heavy vehicles. Leman Russes and similar beastly tanks are back in a big way, and if all you’ve got are Auto Cannons and Plasma Guns, kiss your butt goodbye.
That is a lot to accomplish in a list. That requires a lot of points to do. Chaos troops are pricey and suck away your points from accomplishing the above tasks.
So troops. Let’s talk about them and why I have issues with chaos troops. I have 2 strategies with troops in general in 6th ed. I either want them cheap and numerous or very durable and/or reliable if they are pricey.
If you have cheap troops that you can take lots of, then you can reserve them, hide them, or just flood the field with them and survive through safety in numbers. If they have some decent offensive punch, great! That is just icing on the cake, really.
A great example of this is a unit of 10 Dark Eldar Warriors with a Shredder and Splinter Cannon. 105 points, mobile, shooty, and with enough bodies to soak some casualties, but not a big enough threat to rank high on your opponent’s target priority list. In a vacuum the unit doesn’t look like much, but when you have 2-4 of those units you have a TON of points left over to pour into pure offensive punch. Another good example is 10 IG Vets with 3 Plasma Guns. Mobile, great firepower and only 115pts. You can take a lot of them for a low points investment. Lastly, for my Orks, a unit of 20 Shoota Boys with no upgrades weighs in at 120pts. Excellent objective holding unit that also serves quite well for attacking other infantry if you need them to. Plus, until they take a lot of damage, they’re fearless. Often, my opponent’s won’t even bother shooting them as they sit on an objective quietly and have too many bodies to really warrant anything other than serious attention. We’ve been having great success with these style units in 6th ed book missions, or missions that are very similar to them.
If a unit costs more than say 150pts, I want it to be very durable and/or very reliable. A perfect example is a squad of Tactical Marines with a Multi Melta and a Plasma Gun. 180pts, and such a flexible unit. They can shoot quite well on the move, have an answer for light and heavy infantry and mech, are scoring, can split into two squads with Combat Squads, are very slippery and reliable with ATSKNF and Combat Tactics and in general, are a great scoring unit.
Now, compare that to a unit of Chaos Space Marines. 10 CSMs with 2 Plasma Guns runs you 170pts. Roughly equivalent in price and firepower to the Tactical Marines. However, they are not even close to comparable in application. For that extra 10 points, Tactical Marines get ATSKNF, Combat Tactics and Combat Squads. They are infinitely more survivable and reliable than the CSMs. Why? They will always recover from broken morale where CSMs will not. One bad combat and your CSMs are run down where your Tac marines fall back on purpose, auto-rally and then blast their attackers, even counter charging if needs be. That means the points invested in the Tac Marines are safe, that unit is reliable to the last man. CSMs on the other hand, can be gone and dead with one flubbed morale check, and in a close game, that is game.
That is such a big advantage to the Tac marines. When your troops need to go upfield and take an objective, you need to rely on them to not lose you the game on a single morale check. With Vets of the Long War, CSMs get better for sure, and it mitigates the problem, but it sure doesn’t fix it. The problem is exacerbated when you start pouring points into the unit. They become more and more of a risk the more you give them. And, if you gear them for assault, you will often find yourself in combat with a superior assault army that just guts you. MEQ stat lines really aren’t geared for being good in assault unless they’re getting stat boosts somehow, or rocking a Storm Shield and Thunder Hammer or something similar. Too many dedicated assault units in the game will shred MEQs to justify building an army around them.
So what about Cult troops, you might be asking?
They are Fearless, which helps a ton to create very reliable scoring units. However, they are so expensive! Again, remember all of the things your list needs to do to be a true take all comers list in 6th. You need a lot of points free to take units to counter the popular builds out there, or go into a tournament trusting to just get lucky match-ups and not draw a hard counter.
If you take 4 geared up units of Cult Troops, you’re going to blow 1,000pts, easy…..for 30- 40 MEQ bodies? They die just like Marines despite weighing in at such a heftier price point. Compare that to 4 units of Tactical Marines at 720pts. You get as many or more bodies, plus all the extra points to put into firepower. There really isn’t much of a comparison. Plague Marines are the obvious exception to this though, and can be quite good in small units which we’ll get to.
Now, again, I am not saying these units are bad at all, just that the cost vs. damage output ratio is usually not worth it, IMO. Berzerkers for example, cost a boatload, and do have some good abilities, but they will get obliterated by Harlequins, Daemons, Incubi, etc. Anything that ignores armor and swings first will make them a total waste of points. Noise Marines are the best value of the lot, IMO, but again, they cost a ton and die like Marines. Thousand Sons, the poor guys, have a nifty 4++, but who is ever going to shoot anything but volume of fire weapons into these guys unless they have no choice? Bolters kill them just as well as normal Marines with the added benefit of taking more points away with every kill.
Plague Marines are the exception to this, as I believe that taking a unit of 5 with 2 Plasma Guns is a really solid troops choice. 150pts, Fearless, good firepower and not at all bad assault with their poison weapons. These to me, are the best choice as you can take 2-4 of them and have a nice, solid base of scoring units. A larger unit with a support character(s) would also make a great aggressive troop to go upfield and take objectives. Still pricey, but the increased durability helps mitigate that a lot.
Chosen are solid, but they suffer from the same lack of leadership control that CSMs do. Again, Vets of the Long War Helps, but doesn’t solve it. As with CSMs, character support mitigates this, but it is really reducing your ability to build a well rounded list as these units, if you put any points into them, need character support to babysit them and ensure they don’t fail you at a critical moment and see all the points invested gone.
So now we’re down the most humble of the lot: Cultists.
I think these may be the best Troop choice in the book. Why? Cheap as chips. 50pts gets you 10. Take 4 units of them and for only 200pts, you have 4 scoring options that will be totally sufficient in most games to satisfy mission criteria. You can reserve them, hide them, or toss them in the way of oncoming Deathstars if needs be. Taking a large blob of them with a choppy character is not at all bad either, and as their leader has the Champion of Chaos rule, he can jump on the grenade and make or accept a challenge to allow your support characters to do their thing.
Now, 40 Cultists hits like a wet paper bag. They are easily killed, right? They can’t stay off the board all game, and they’re easy targets once they are so what do you do? In order to mitigate this weakness you need to focus on presenting your opponent with so many, and such deadly threats that they MUST focus on them or be destroyed. You are dictating his target priority choices. That is the value of Cultists, they free up the rest of your points for pure offense.
Heldrakes (take 2, Double Dragon!), Helbrutes, Havocs, Nurgle Oblits, Nurgle Spawn, Daemon Princes, Raptors, Bikers, Lords and Maulerfiends are all good at chopping or shooting things into bits. If you are coming down on your opponent with the fury of the Warp, your Cultists should be free to do their thing relatively unmolested.
And, further I would like to look at one more option: Daemon allies. Daemons and CSMs go together like PB&J, and really complement each other well. Plague Bearers are absolutely great scoring units. For 75pts, you get 5, Fearless, 5++, FnP scoring beasties that can be dropped anywhere on the table. That is a great tool. 1-2 units of these, and 2-4 units of Cultists and you have an excellent base of scoring units to build an army around for a very low points investment. Plus, the addition of Daemon units who are still premiere assaulters, combined with the firepower of CSMs and their Choppy Characters equates to a very good all around army. Plop Blood Thirster or a Great Unclean One in the enemy backfield along with a unit of Flamers or Fiends, etc. and you create a really potent combination of units and axis of attack that will often overwhelm many opponents.
So, I hope that clarifies both my argument, and helps some of you to make good choices when building your next Chaos tournament list! I think this book will be tons of fun to play.
As for me? I decided to make my Night Lords a fluffy army, and am building it to resemble Talos and Co. from the Night Lords books, which are excellent if you ever want to read them. My World Eaters I am stubbornly trying to make work, but it’s slow going!