The new Chaos Space marines dex gives you exactly what you’d expect from them: RAW POWER.
The Codex train has left the station and the next stop is downtown Chaos! The Chaos Space Marines are a long suffering but iconic faction in the 40k universe. From the days of the legendary (but also legendarily unbalanced) 3.5 Chaos Dex, it has been a steady decline for the Traitor Legions. Their 5th ed dex was one of the best performing armies the game has ever seen in terms of tournament performance, but sucked a lot of the flavor out of what made Chaos Space Marines so cool. And when the 6th ed CSM dex came…well, better to leave the past in the past.
But now, well, the times have changed. What we saw in Traitor legions at the end of 7th was a good indicator of what to expect in 8th. Legion traits, characterful and powerful stratagems, warlord traits, artifacts, points and stat adjustments and more are here. For the first time in a long time I feel that Chaos Space Marines have what the fluff always indicated they did: POWER. Power at the expense of their humanity, power at the expense of the coordination of loyalist Marines but hey, that’s why you sell your soul to the Dark Gods, right?! And that is what you get.
The Chaos Space Marine codex has a lot going for it. First of all, you get your Legion traits which go in the Faction Keyword in <brackets> (which, are we starting to see a pattern, here?). These kick in–exactly as with Space Marines–when every model in a detachment shares that Faction Keyword. There are a few exceptions for units that float around like Fabius and the Fallen which you can take while retaining your Legion Traits. These apply to all Bikers, Infantry and Dreadnoughts. Also, your troops in these detachments gain the Despoilers of the Galaxy rule, giving them “ObSec” as we found in the Space Marines Codex overview. This is huge and when combined with the Stratagems (and the Chaos stratagems are truly AWESOME!) incentivizes you to take troops. Whether that be in the form of hordes of Cultists, Chaos Space Marines or cult Marines in a legion list with access to them, I find myself gravitating to at least one battalion in every chaos list I bring. I really can’t stress enough how amazing those Chaos stratagems are, and we will dig into them further down.
On top of this, Chaos Space Marines got marks of chaos, a slew of new Psychic Powers including the meta changing Death Hex! Suffice it to say, if you are a CSM player, you are going to be stoked.
- Black Legion: +1 Leadership and can advance and treat Rapid Fire weapons as assault weapons.
- Iron Warriors: Ignores cover and reroll wounds vs. buildings.
- These Legion traits, much like their arch-enemies the Imperial Fists, are leaving some players feeling flat but cover is quite good and it essentially gives you an additional -1 AP vs. anything benefiting from it.
- Renegade Chapters: Advance and charge.
- BOOM! This is an awesome ability and gives you huge range.
- World Eaters: +1 attack on the charge.
- Good lawd! If you thought Berzerkers were already blenders…..
- Night Lords: -1 to enemy leadership for each Night Lords unit with the trait within 6″ up to a -3.
- Sooo good. So, so good! I have been using these to just brutal effect against my opponents.
- Emperor’s Children: Always trike first in melee.
- Alpha Legion: -1 to hit for units with the trait more than 12″ away.
- If you’ve played against Raven Guard, you know how damn good this trait is!
- Word Bearers: re-roll failed morale checks.
- While certainly not exciting, it is quite useful.
GW has taken a very serious approach to balancing the game and we’ve already seen these rolling out quickly. Some in this book help a ton!
- Exalted Champion: Chaos’ answer to the Space Marine lieutenant…and a resounding answer at that! This new model in the CSM lineup is incredible. He hits hard himself and has access to a plethora of options but his main purpose is a 6″ reroll failed wound roll aura in melee. Holy smokes, this is terribly powerful! This model will be seen in many a Chaos list.
- Brimstone Horrors: these little buggers cause a lot of angst and for good reason. They were too cheap and too tough. Well, they went up in points to 3 per base. They also cannot do D3 damage Smites unless there are 10 Pink Horrors in the unit, which if below this, they only do 1 Mortal Wound. They’re still awfully powerful but this helps to mitigate them quite a bit. And yes, these do override the index. As in Age of Sigmar, you use the newest version of any datasheet.
- Possessed: 2 wounds, you say? Ohhh my! This makes these bad boys much more appealing and with all of the various combinations you can apply to them via Marks, legion traits, etc. they are quite good now.
- Daemons: all went down in points (apart from Brims and Blues) making them VERY appealing. Bloodletters particularly….wow. I summon in a unit of 30 (now only needing a summoning roll of a 12) and they are extra choppy. They may be too cheap, actually as not much can withstand their assault.
- Obliterators: are vastly improved. They may not be what they were in ye old days, but they now are a potent unit to bring in from reserves and unleash hell on your opponent and resilient enough to hang around after the initial strike.
- Khorne Lord of Skulls: saw a massive points reduction! This big guy is even more potent now than he was.
- Wargear: As with Space Marines, many wargear items went down in cost such as the Power Fist which now weighs in at a very reasonable 12pts.
This is seriously where the magic happens in this book. Space Marines also got some killer stratagems but for my money, Chaos really cleans up, here. There are a lot to get excited about but here are a few of my favorites!
- Veterans of the Long War: +1 to wound for the shooting or fight phase for an Infantry or Biker unit.
- This is a bombshell of a stratagem. When used on the right unit and in conjunction with other abilities such as Prescience and/or Death Hex, you will simply erase your target.
- Fury of Khorne: Have your Khorne unit attack again in the fight phase.
- This is characterful and just brutally powerful. Berzerkers attacking for a 3rd time? Khorne Terminators attacking again? Wow. The World Eaters Legion trait of +1 attack lasts the entire phase as does Veterans of the Long War above, meaning you can have a supercharged melee unit for a phase!
- Endless Caophony: Slaneesh units may shoot for a second time in the shooting phase.
- As above, this is just punishing! Slaanesh Terminators dropping down and unloading with 10 combi-weapons twice is just crushingly powerful. And, remember, Veterans of the Long War above, lasts the entire phase, so you’d get +1 to wound twice!
- Tide of Traitors: Remove a unit of Cultists from the table at the end of your movement phase and return them to the game within 6″ of a table edge and 9″ away from enemy units at full strength.
- By Khorne’s nuts this is amazing! So long as even a single Cultist survives, you can bring the entire unit back on to the table to snag an objective and win the game! And remember, replenishing a unit means you don’t have to pay points for the models and with ObSec, you can easily seal victory with this ability.
- Scorn of Sorcery: World Eaters can stop a psychic powers on a 4+.
- This can turn the tide of battle as many list strategies hinge on getting that one, critical psychic power off to win the game. And of course, you can reroll this die with another command point if the first attempt fails.
- Forward Operatives: Alpha Legion units may be set up anywhere on the table 9″ away from enemy units before the first battle round begins.
- Dark Pact: Word Bearers can reroll any of the dice when attempting to summon and ignore mortal wounds in the attempt.
- This makes summoning almost a guarantee and with no risk of taking any damage. Very, very good for lists that hinge around bringing a unit of daemons into play when they want them to.
New Psychic Powers
Chaos in my opinion have the best school of psychic powers to choose from. Movement powers, buffs, debuffs and damage output. They do it all. As if Prescience and Warp Time weren’t enough, they got the new all-star power:
Death Hex. Death Hex is a 12″ range power that removes the target unit’s invulnerable save until the start of your next psychic phase.
WOW. This makes Null Zone pale in comparison. The amount of uses are crazy but what it does is remove variability from cracking truly tough targets. Things like Roboute, Imperial Knights, Brimstones, Harlequins, Magnus (if you can get the power off), etc. just melt when you hit them with Death Hex. It is a truly meta changing power and makes Chaos Sorcerers and Daemon Princes even more appealing. Now, Death Hex is warp charge 8, so it is certainly is not a certainty to go off but when it does: my goodness.
Diabolic Strength is fun to make powerful Chaos melee characters even better and Gift of Chaos can one shot characters if you can get in range (and remember, psychic powers can target any unit in range even if they are Characters unless they specify otherwise). The God specific powers are also incredible. Weaver of Fates for Tzeentch gives you +1 to your invul save (Magnus, anyone?!), and a 5+ FnP style save for Slaanesh units with Delightful Agonies. Generally, Chaos players are spoiled for choice in the psychic department.
I probably sound like a broken record at this point but again, Chaos gets a ton of awesome options here. Below are some of my favorite.
- Lord of Terror: Opponent rolls an extra dice when taking morale checks and keeps the highest result.
- BRUTAL! I use this trait in my Night Lords army and it is devastatingly powerful. My hands down favorite Warlord Trait.
- Flames of Spite: Wound rolls for your Warlord of a 6+ in melee do a Mortal Wound in addition to any other damage.
- Cold and Bitter: Iron Warriors units within 6″ of your Warlord automatically pass morale tests.
- This is incredibly good. Morale becomes more a part of the game as we go, and this power totally blocks the negative effects of it. Especially good with Cultists!
- I am Alpharius: If your Warlord is slain, pick a new Warlord until every character in your army is dead. All of them get a random Warlord trait from the main Chaos table. Your opponent only gets points for slaying the Warlord if they kill all of your characters!
- Beyond being characterful, this is seriously good as denying Slay the Warlord to your opponent can win you the game.
Chaos also boasts a selection of very cool and useful Artefacts. As with Space Marines, these are “free”, replacing an existing item or being added to an eligible model’s wargear. You can take one unless you spend CP for 1-2 more items. Special characters cannot take them. Here are a few of my favorites!
- Talisman of Burning Blood: Khorne model can advance and charge, and reroll failed charges.
- The Cursed Crozius: Replaces the Power Maul of a Word Bearers model. +2 strength, Ap-2, 3 Damage. Rerolls failed wound rolls vs. Imperium faction units.
- Fleshmetal Exoskeleton: Iron Warriors character gets a 2+ save and regenerates 1 wound a turn.
- Slap this bad boy on a Daemon Prince or Chaos Lord and you’ve get a big boost in durability.
- Brass Collar of Bhorgaster: Khorne model gains the ability to Deny the Witch and if he does so, the enemy psyker suffers Perils.
- Claws of the Black Hunt: Night Lords character, replaces the model’s Lightening Claws. Strength +1, AP -3, D3 damage, +1 attack, reroll failed wound rolls.
- These are savage melee weapons, and turns a Chaos Lord into a blender!
A Sample Army
There are so many combos in this Codex it is hard to know where to begin. You have the ability to create powerful, themed armies using the models you want to use, not only those you feel like you have to use. So, instead of trying to explain it all, here’s my latest iteration of Night Lords list. I have kept the core of Lord, Sorcerer, Daemon Prince, 3 Raptors, Terminators and Chaos Space Marines the entire time, but I am experimenting with how to spend the last 160ish points.So the core of the army is the hard hitting units coming in from reserves. The Terminator bomb is the hammer of the army. You drop them down supported by the Lord, Sorcerer and the Daemon prince who is hopefully in position to fly forward and support them. You cast Warptime and prescience on them. If possible, the Daemon prince casts Prescience as it has an 18″ range, and the Sorcerer casts Warptime as he should be directly behind them when you come in. If needed, the Sorcerer also casts Death Hex on a critical unit. Baring this, you can give the Sorcerer Delightful Agonies and further boost the Terminator’s defense.
The Terminators should now be just over 4″ away from the enemy. With Prescience on them they cannot overheat shooting at targets that don’t have a -1 to hit or what have you, so overcharge away! You use the Veterans of the Long War stratagem on them for +1 to wound (if needed) and double tap your overcharged Combi-Plasma. With the Jump Pack Lord also behind them giving them rerolls 1’s to hit (and they’re now hitting on a 2+), and +1 to wound, they tend to melt their target. Combined with Death Hex, I have one-shotted a Knight with this combo before (as overcharged, with VotLW they wound them on a 3+!). At the end of the shooting phase, for laughs, pop the Endless Cacophony stratagem and shoot them again; still benefiting from all of their buffs, lol. Even things like Conscript screens evaporate to this as you pump out 40 Plasma Gun shots from a single unit in a single shooting phase.
Then, you clean up targets with your Raptors who should also be benefiting from the Lord’s reroll aura. Berzerkers and DP are coming up in wave two and CSMs in their Rhino (both units ride in the same Rhino) hunt objectives.
In the charge phase, your Terminator Bomb then assaults a unit as well (which they typically make the charge due to being so close) and with your Lightening Claws plus another application of the Veterans of the Long War Stratagem (you can use it in both phases) and rerolls to wound, possibly still rerolling 1’s to hit if you are in range of the Lord and still hitting on 2’s thanks to Prescience, they shred their target more often than not. It is savagery at its finest!
Then the magic really starts to happen as your opponent starts taking morale checks with stacked negatives due to the Night Lords legion traits. If your Lord is in range with the Lord of Terror trait, units will just melt away when they have a static -4+ to their morale check. It’s brutal. This is all in one turn as well, mind you!
In their turn, if they disengage the Terminators to shoot at them, pop the In Midnight Clad stratagem for a -1 to hit on them to increase their durability and save 1-2 CP to control their morale as they will get hit with everything your opponent has to throw at them. Luckily, they’re Terminators and not easy to destroy!
The Terminators will continue to cause disruption but typically will get worn down. Lucky for you, wave two consists of 3 characters, Berzerkers, and Raptors! Once all of those units get stuck in, the Night Lords morale debuff really starts to punish your opponent. Raptors also have a -1 Ld debuff and you can give one of them the Mark of Nurgle and the Icon of Despair for another -1. Consider also a Decimator Engine with Butcher Cannons for additional leadership debuffs. If you need to, you can also kit your Sorcerer up to be a character assassin with psychic powers to snipe them out (as again, psychic powers target any unit in range and LoS unless they state otherwise).
The havocs hold your home objective and provide decent fire-support. You could swap the two Autocannons for 4 Heavy Bolters for more Dakka, I just use them because I have them painted up and the look cool =)
In play-testing, I have had tremendous success with this list. By no means is it unbeatable, but the potential for devastating damage output is high. It has a lot of failure points, too. If you fail to get some of your psychic powers off, the strategy can fall flat. If you play against an army with loads of deep strikers also and they go second, it can be bad. If your opponent has infiltrators to push back your deep strike strategies, it can muck you up, too. But, the list is fun, effective and uses some of my all time favorite models! I’m considering dropping the Havocs for more Cultists but it’s a tough choice with no morale control on them. But, it is nice to have buffer units to keep the enemy off of my backfield units.
This is just one way to play Chaos, too. The book is loaded to the gills with lists and combos like this for CSM players of all varieties. It is truly a great time to be a Chaos player!
~What CSM combos are you all seeing?
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