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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Newbiehammer #3: Picking the right army; the forces of Chaos

In the last Newbiehammer I went over Space Marines, which, as I made fairly clear in that post, I think are some of the baddest asses in the entire galaxy. Now, if that sounded cool, but a little too heroic for you, then the Chaos Space Marines may be right up your alley. All the awesomeness of a Space Marine, but none of the heroicism and completely devoid of anything approaching conscience or mercy. Quick fluff lesson: Ten thousand years into the history of 40k, The Emperor of Mankind, a supreme being who had united the entire planet under his rule, led humanity out into the galaxy at the head of the legions of Space Marines he created in a movement called the Great Crusade to establish human dominance of the galaxy, and bring all mankind's lost interplanetary colonies together. Leading his legions were twenty beings called the Primarchs, superhumans second only in strength and skill to the Emperor himself and the closest thing he had to sons, each at the head of a legion of tens of thousands of Marines. As strong compared to a Space Marine as a Marine was to a normal human being. Some civilizations entered the fold of the new Imperium willingly, others had to be forced into it, others still were so far divergent from the Emperor's vision that they had to be destroyed outright, as were any alien civilizations, and their planets repopulated with Imperial settlers. For about two hundred years things were peachy, insofar as a movement to conquer a galaxy could be. The Primarchs and their Legions bestrode worlds, with the Emperor leading from the front, until finally, he judged that the Crusade would soon be coming to an end, and left the leadership of the Crusade in the hands of his favorite son, the Primarch Horus of the Luna Wolves legion, who were soon renamed the Sons of Horus in his honor. After that, the Emperor returned to Terra, to lead a new great work to lead humanity to the next stage in it's destiny. A work he kept secret from everyone, even the Primarchs. Not long after that, Horus, through a series of circumstances and plots too intricate to go into here, turned against the Emperor and led fully half of the Legions and their Primarch in rebellion against him. World after world declared support for Horus, seeing him as a great warlord and charismatic leader of men. It was a civil war that split the Emperor's realm almost literally right down the middle. Finally, the battle raged all the way to Terra itself, right to the walls of the Emperor's palace. Half the legions of Space Marines trying to break the citadel open, the other half fighting and dying to protect it's walls. In the end, the Emperor, seeing no other way to win, took a handful of his Primarchs and Marines and teleported onto Horus' flagship and took the fight to him. The Emperor was the most supreme being in the galaxy, but Horus, who was already almost as strong himself, was further empowered by the blessings of the Chaos gods who dwell within the alternate dimension of the warp, and the match began to swing in Horus' favor. Injured and losing, the Empror put all of his psychic might into one final attack that annihilated Horus entirely, but mortally wounded the Emperor in the process. Their leader gone, the rest of the traitor Primarchs and Legions fled Terra and retreated to a region of space called the Eye of Terror, where the warp bleeds through into real space and the loyalist Legions could not follow. Without Horus' charisma and leadership, the Legions went their separate ways, and splintered further overtime into roving warbands. Ten thousand years later, the Emperor is kept alive and only barely, by the life support systems of the Golden Throne. Devoid of faculties to interact with the outside world, he is alive only to scream endlessly into the warp, his psychic light powering a beacon called the Astronomicon so that his fleets of interstellar warships can find their way the same way sea ships would use the north star to navigate. The traitor Legions still return from the Eye of Terror, twisted and corrupted by the worship of the Chaos Gods, to wreak havoc in the Imperium while the loyalist Legions were broken up into the thousand-strong Chapters that exist now. The only times since that the different forces of Chaos, including the Legions, have stood united are during the Black Crusades of Horus' first captain and successor, Ezekyle Abaddon, known and feared as Abaddon the Despoiler as he and the Sons of Horus, renamed again as the Black Legion, lead the forces of Chaos and the traitor Legions, twisted by ten thousand years of hatred and worship of dark powers, against the Imperium that they believe wronged them. Okay, that was a little less quick than I wanted to, but believe it or not that was the crib notes of the event that became known as the Horus Heresy. If you want to read more of the intricate details look it up in the 40k wiki or, better yet, look into the Horus Heresy book series, which goes in-depth on not just Horus, but every event leading up to and contributing to the wars of the Heresy.

Chaos Space Marines on the gaming table
Chaos Space Marines are in fluff terms the evil twins of the Space Marines. All the durability, all of the skill, and, in some cases more, since these are the same warriors that have been making war in the stars for ten thousand years. Since their equipment hasn't been upgraded since the events of the Heresy, they lack some of the more recent equipment and vehicles of the Space Marines, but what they lack in current technology, they make up for with black arts of Chaos, infusing their weapons and war machines with the spirits of daemons. In-game, Chaos Space Marine armies are compact and elite, using powerful and durable infantry as well as Chaos sorcery to break their enemies. The possession of their wargear by daemons of the warp, as well as the broken mental state of some of their warriors lends a bit of unpredictability to their play style. With certain weapons and units just as likely to turn on their own army as it is do damage to their enemies. Chaos Space Marines are an army that can play a few different ways, from mobile armies to slow, durable and unrelenting, and everything in between. However despite what the playstyle is, CSM armies are invariably hard hitting, making it very easy to capitalize on an opponent's mistakes. There are many different specialized units, that can be augmented further through the blessings of one of the four gods of Chaos, or even marked by Chaos Undivided, and receive blessings from all four! Units to watch for Certain groups of Marines worship one particular Chaos god in exclusion to all others. These Marines are formed into their own units with their own weapons and skill sets and are all deadly in their own way. These units are:

Khorne Berzerkers These guys take anger problems to the next level. Uncontrollable, unyielding, and motivated only by an insatiable desire to spill blood and take skulls for Khorne, the Blood God. A squad of these guys is a meat grinder for any but the hardiest close combat units. If you see these dudes on the table, expect them to make a beeline for your nearest unit and mulch it. These are one of the units I mentioned that will turn on their allies if a roll goes the wrong way. If you want to survive an encounter with them your best bet is to thin them out from range as best as you can, and if they finally manage to get to grips with you, make sure you've got something that can attack before them and flood them with power weapon attacks as best you can.

Plague Marines Worshippers of Nurgle; the god of decay, these Marines are walking bags of rot and disease, their flesh and armor rotting from them but through the blessings of their god are inured to not just the pain of their rotting bodies but all pain. The blessings of Nurgle make them some of the most resilient marines in standard power armor (although there are Nurgle terminators as well, who are still more resilient), granting them an extra save from any wounds that normally would have killed them already. They're able to wade through fire that would normally cripple a squad of Marines, or conversely, once their dug into cover on an objective, are almost impossible to shift from it. Your best bet is to engage them in close combat with a unit that can either give them so many armor saves to make that the odds finally even out and they can't save everything or a decent number of power weapon attacks, that would afford them no saves of any kind.

Noise Marines
These are Marines given over to Slaanesh, the god of excess and sensation. These Marines will do anything for the next rush of sensation. Their brains are re-wired so that any sensation, feelings, sights, sounds, smells, tastes, are all turned into pleasure, so the more sensory input they get, the more garish the color or discordant the sound, comes through as pleasure. They are addicts to sensation, and like all addicts overtime the rush dulls, and they've had ten thousand years to chase the next high. Noise Marines are fans of combat narcotics, making them faster than typical marines in combat, and to boot, they can use special and heavy weapons exclusive only to Noise Marines, which use sonic blasts to destroy their enemies. In game, they are fast in close combat, but if you get through their attacks, they die like typical marines. Far more destructive are their special weapons. The Doom Siren, a weapon which amplifies it's user's screams to deadly levels, fires in the same manner as a flamer weapon, but is powerful enough to kill Space Marines without saves, , as well the Blastmaster, their heavy weapon, is capable of tearing chunks out of squads. They are not as deadly in close combat as Berzerkers, or as durable as Plague Marines, but left to their own devices they will cause a lot of damage and so you shouldn't ignore them.

Thousand Sons Thousand Sons are the only specialist squads who's specialization remains strictly confined to their Legion. With the exception of the sorcerers who lead them, Thousand Sons are more or less possessed suits of armor with little more than dust inside their sealed confines. They are the most expensive unit to field of the four mentioned, but they are also hard to kill. Since they're more or less incorporeal, they gain an invulnerable save, which means they'll have a chance to survive hits from even the most powerful weapons. At the same time, their bolters are more powerful than the bolters of any other unit of marines in the game, at AP3, they can and will chew through any unit of marines that they catch without giving them an armor save. The best way to take them on is from a dug-in position in cover, that way you'll still get a save of some kind against their weapons. Flood them with standard shots from a fortified position. Alternatively, close combat doesn't give them the chance to use their weapons at all, but on account of their invulnerable save, power weapons and the like will do no good. The more armor saves you force them to take at once, the easier they'll die. However if you plan on getting into combat, make sure you only step into their range when you're ready to get into combat. Deepstriking in front of them is a good way to lose your unit before you get a chance to use it.

For some Marines, simply worshiping daemons wasn't enough. These guys have given themselves over body and soul to the daemons of the warp. They have no ranged capabilities to speak of, but they have an invulnerable save and a random ability that can drastically change how they play which can be augmented further by the blessings of a specific chaos god. You see a unit of possessed and your first step should be figure out if they have a mark of a Chaos god, and then do your best to whittle them down with small arms fire. Since their randomized special rule affects their close combat ability in more cases getting into hand to hand with them isn't advised.

Six legs, two to three guns and a whole lot of bad attitude. Defilers exist to make life tough for everyone. The battle cannon in it's chest can annihilate entire squads of marines in one shot, and it's range is such that if it wants to it can hit you from clear across the board. When the Defiler's running around, staying in cover is a must. Kill it as soon as you can by focusing heavy anti-tank guns on it.

Daemon Princes This is what all Chaos Marines aspire to be. They know when they die, their souls will be the playthings of the daemons that dwell within the warp. So, the only way to avoid that fate is the immortality offered by daemonhood. When a Marine performs evil enough deeds to appease the Gods, he is rewarded by taking his place among in the warp as a Daemon Prince. More powerful than any daemon-possessed marine would ever be, and retaining their mind in a way possession robs them of. On the table they're an HQ unit, a leader of the army. They have a variety of upgrades to their abilities. From different weapons to wings on their back. Their stats are powerful and like all daemons they have an invulnerable save. You'll want to avoid close combat as much as possible, unless you have something that has an invulnerable save of it's own. Otherwise you're liable to lose any unit you'll throw at it. Which leads me into...

Special Characters/leaders The heavy hitters of any Chaso Space Marine force. Just like Space Marine characters are heroes among heroes. These guys are the baddest of the bad. The darkest villains the galaxy can come up with. They come strapped to the gills with special armor and weapons, as well as a handful of special abilities. If you want to survive your best bet is is to hit them with the strongest weapons you can muster. So that's Chaos Space Marines in a rather long-winded nutshell. Hope this proved informative and tune in again for more Newbiehammer overviews on the armies you want to hear about. Cheers!


One of my veteran readers pointed out that I missed a fairly common unit in many CSM armies. Chalk it up to late-night blogging and distraction. However, I shall rectify that now:


HOW could I have forgotten these? As I said, Obliterators are a fairly common element in many Chaos Space Marine armies. Infected with a Chaotic techno-virus that fuses and warps their flesh and armor into one gross amalgam (kinda like the Demoniacs from my Blassreiter posts, hur hurr), these units can effectively turn their units into a different heavy weapon each turn, giving them the ability to threaten any unit on the table, given a good vantage point. Whether it's infantry, vehicles, special characters, swarms, or monstrous creatures. These guys can quite literally do it all. They can be taken in units of up to three but most chaos players will split them into multiple units of one or two unless they have other heavy support choices that they really want to use. They're also durable. They may be fused to their Terminator armor, but it's Terminator armor nontheless, which means they can shrug off ridiculous amounts of damage. Not only that, but they have two wounds, meaning that even after all the work to get through all that armor, you have to do it twice, for each of them. Their only drawback is that they're painfully slow. In some cases they can't even get their full allotted movement. Of course that's not so much of a drawback since given the amount of heavy ordinance they have access to, they generally won't leave the chaos player's back deployment zone unless they have to.
These guys can play merry hell with your carefully crafted strategy, but the sheer amount of fire it takes to bring them down makes a good case to just take it on the chin and focus on the rest of your opponent's army, who will likely be moving forward and making a more immediate threat. Best way to take these guys is to figure out a way to bring them into hand to hand combat with a unit that can put out a lot of power weapon attacks, in hand to hand they can't shoot and the only weapon they have to call on in assaults is a powerfist, which, though strong, will always strike last in combat or, if they're in cover (another endlessly frustrating and common tactic for Obliterators), at the same time as you. Meaning if you can do enough wounds fast enough, since they have no invulnerable save, you could theoretically kill them before they can strike back. If they're sitting on a hill out of cover your heavy weapons (that is to say, with a strength value of 8 or above) might instant-kill one, but if it's in cover, chances are your easiest way to kill them is to go and dig them out by hand. Even this isn't the best of tactics, since the moment your opponent realizes what you mean to do the unit you're sending to do it s going to get shot to pieces. For Space Marines, Vanguard Veterans can really shine against these guys, since you can, for a cost, kit them out with a power weapon each, and thanks to the Heroic Intervention special rule, you could deep strike them right in your opponent's face and not have to wait until next turn after your opponent's had a chance to mulch them with guns before going into combat with them. If you have no Vanguard or don't play Space Marines, putting your combat unit in a fast or durable transport may be a better option, unless you can Deep Strike into a place where they have no line of sight to shoot you up before you can move in and attack. If you choose a transport then I would probably opt for something fast, since no matter how durable it is there's a very good chance an Obliterator or three can crack it open. You'll want to be as far down-field as you can get when that happens. Other than that, keep to cover, even your vehicles if you can manage it. When Obliterators are on the hunt nothing is safe.


  1. Wow great post! This guide is very useful!

  2. Awesome dude, This is pretty great.

  3. Great army!
    Check me out =)