What to Do Mk. II (Or, Tactica: 6e CSM in 7e)
Welcome, welcome. I am here to teach you...
What to Do with this Soggy Mess Mk. II (Or, Tactica: 6e CSM in 7e)
For my 3000th post... time to start posting the updated second edition of this tactica. I will aim for a whole large block of text the first 2 days, until I get through my old material, then will be posting as I write new sections. Hopefully going over all of this will get me inspired to finish off those more "tactics" and less "unit overview" segments I never quite got around to in the first version of this thread, so I'll aim for one segment a day. The old thread, with lots of good discussion, can be found here.
Do bear in mind that the tacticas by other forumites that I link to as "other resources" throughout the thread are almost universally from 6th edition (6e, vs 7e, as the thread will call them), so may be mildly out of date.
Table of Contents:
(note that the bottom posts linked here are incomplete. As I write more, those segments of the tactica will be added. And yes, the first link is supposed to lead back to this post)
- Codex or Supplement?
- HQ: Special Characters
- HQ: Normal Characters
- Elites: Cult Troops
- Elites: Everything Else
- Fast Attack
- Heavy Support
- From Hel's Heart
- Allied Daemons
- Other Allies
- CSM as Allies
(generously provided by @mayegelt )
- Lords of War
- Forge World Tanks & Monsters
- Forge World Characters
- Flyers and Anti-Air
- Fighting Against CSM
- Y/N: Dark Vengeance?
- Collecting Your Army
- Building Army Lists
Welcome to the Jungle
This is a comprehensive review of the 6th edition Codex: Chaos Space Marines in 7e, wherein I intend to discuss not only the strengths and weaknesses of various units in the Codex, but also how they work together. I will discuss aspects of list-building with the codex and the codex's possible allies, wringing this sorry scrap of cardboard for all the synergy it's got. I will be including posts on such additional material that can be used as the supplementary codexes, dataslates, and formations that CSM have available to themselves.
This guide will be primarily competitive, though it does intend to branch out into fun gaming options as well, though to a lesser degree.
I've started things off here with the following foreword to give the reader a sense of where Chaos is at, right now.
First, a hearing of the grievances we CSM players bear and a warning that things aren't all sunshine and daisies here in the Eye of Terror. In the grim darkness of the present, there are only war-games and the cruel laughter of thirsting gods. Those gods? GW's design team.
The fundamental flaws of CSM in 6e were not addressed by this codex, and that has carried over into 7e. We are still a close combat leaning codex that is stuck with shoddy, over-expensive Land Raiders and assault-crippling Rhinos; we rely on highly expensive specialist units that are often little harder to kill than normal MEQ; transports are capped at carrying 10 models so forget adding in an independent character to most units, when you need that 10th model for 2 special weapons; we must pay a ruinous number of points to mount even a semblance of reliable AA; etc...
Get used to removing many hundreds of points per enemy shooting phase, while killing relatively little by way of return until the later turns--if enough of your army hits home. I don't want to scare you off--but nor do I want to sucker you in with false promises.
What has Chaos got going for it? Artifacts like the Axe of Blind Fury, Balestar of Mammon, The Black Mace, and Daemonheart allow you to build some obscene melee monsters. The Heldrake is one of the hardest fliers to kill in the game right now and puts out a very respectable amount of Anti-MEQ firepower (even after their FAQ), and Bikers are a very solid unit. Cultists offer cheap units to act as a Battle-Forged tax, if you are so inclined. Cult troops are by no means terrible, either. Plague Marines are tough as nails and quite versatile, and the FAQs have treated Noise Marines with a great deal of kindness.
Huron Blackheart offers fun, reliable infiltration to help close the distance to the enemy. There are some truly nasty HQs you can build and buy, and though they come at a premium, they will wreck nearly any unit in the game--a Khorne Lord on a Bike with the AoBF, a Daemon Prince with the Black Mace, Abaddon, Khârn, Typhus...
You Will Not Be King
In the end, after a year or so of letting it all settle in, I'm left with the following conclusion: we were given a solidly mediocre codex with a few nuggets of gold that give us a fighting chance at winning reliably often. The advent of so many expansions to the Codex gives you quite a few new viable ways to play. The top tier competitive armies of Tau and Eldar will still give you a run for your money, mind you. Winning won't be easy, so don't trade in your list-building skills for a set of cookie cutters just yet—especially after the 7e nerfs to the Heldrake.
Ask Not For Whom the Dice Roll, They Roll For Thee
With that, let's start looking at actual wargear, codexes, units, and gameplay!
Let's look at special rules and certain wargear options first, so I can clarify some of my preferences and make arguments for certain load-outs.
Because chaos character always have to challenge, you really don't want to give them an unwieldy weapon (a power axe or fist) unless you are a tough-as-nails character who is going to be able to take the best that the enemy characters throw at you and laugh in their face. I find that the absolute preponderance of MEQ armies out there make it so that the AP4 Power Maul rarely wins its user a challenge. That leaves us with the humble and reliable power sword--or does it?
Units with, say, the MoK and/or Hammer of Wrath might be so reliant on crippling the enemy on the first turn that the power lance is actually worth it. Give the champion the lance, and they'll be a monster the first round of combat. By way of example, a Khornate biker champion can fire a twin-linked bolter, then charge for Hammer of Wrath, then get 5 AP3 S6 attacks (with an IoW in the unit). Nasty!
The other competitor against the power sword is the lightning claw. You get one less attack with a lone claw than a power sword, true, but rerolling wounds is invaluable when the dice are going against you in that pivotal combat. How does the mathammer break down? Well, against a MEQ opponent, you're going to average about as many wounds in a stagnant combat. If you get the charge (as you intend), the lightning claw pulls ahead. Against high toughness opponents and monstrous creatures, the claw pulls ahead again, nearly doubling your chances of wounding. Only against lower toughness opponents does the claw fall behind the power sword in terms of wounds caused per average combat--and really, against lower toughness opponents, more often than not your squad isn't going to have much trouble winning the combat.
Finally: do your champions really need to spend the points on an expensive power weapon? If your unit is focused on shooting, for instance, you don't want to spend those points you shouldn't need. Would a power weapon just be gratuitous overkill, inefficiently spent points in an already-deadly unit?
Some champions already come with useful weapons--do you want to squander the Plague Champion's plague knife he gets essentially free in order to buy him a fancy weapon…when you've given those plague marines, your objective campers, plasma guns? Do you want to spend a bunch of extra points on your terminator champion to give him a lightning claw when you can already give him a power axe (that he'll likely live long enough to swing) for free?
Much of this advice holds true to force weapons--but they can't get lances or claws, so there go my favorite choices. If the character is very tough (a sorc in terminator armor, for instance), sure, go with the force axe. Otherwise, stick to the force sword.
Consider what role the unit has, and whether a power weapon is really necessary. Then, usually, go with a lightning claw. Sometimes, go with a power lance if the situation calls for it. Really, though, go with the weapon the unit calls for, the list requires, and the points available allow for. Remember that three power weapons cost nearly as much as 10 cultists--a whole other objective claiming unit.
One particularly nasty combo available to the CSM codex is the ability to buy a power fist and a lightning claw. Both are specialist weapons, so the character gets their bonus attack back, and they can chose at their leisure between tearing apart MEQ or lighter with a blizzard of claw attacks and tearing TEQ or tanks apart with comfortable ease.
Unfortunately, fisticlaws often run second fiddle to giving a character one of the better chaos artifacts (ie the AoBF or the BBoS--nearly all your HQ should ever need), and is a decent pile of points. Still, it's a reliable combo, if the randomness of a daemon weapon doesn't appeal to you.
The downside of Icons is that they can be sniped out of the unit--a carefully positioned land speeder or flyer, a Vindicare assassin… these things are hard to defend against, while also keeping the icon bearer out of harm's way from the enemy gunline.
Icon of Vengeance - very expensive. Fearless is all well and good… but if you want a fearless unit, shouldn't you be sticking a Lord in the squad to make it Fearless or be taking a cult troop? Some minor utility in a themed Night Lords list, or something.
Icon of Fiery Flamey Stuff - Soul Blaze is terrible. Spend points for a 50% chance at 2-4 bolter shots next turn? Just don't bother. Buy two meltabombs for your champions instead.
Icon of Despairy Doomy Stuff - Fear is similarly useless. Except in a very specialized list as allies to Imperial Guard, I have yet to see a worthwhile usage. This icon is made especially laughable given that the Crimson Slaughter supplement (and the entire Daemons codex) gets Fear for free.
Icon of Angry Wrathful Stuff - This one is nice. Decently costly, but boosts the squad a good deal, and gives you a reroll on charge range that will save your rump more times than you can credit it.
Icon of Ecstatic Excessive Stuff - Another nice one, but the most expensive. Giving FNP to the squad is always nice, though, and will improve survivability markedly. If you have the points to spare and if the squad is large enough to justify the number of points per model you'll spend on this Icon (dividing it all up), go for it!
Veterans of the Long War
I... don't bother with this one. I can't guarantee that I'll be playing against a Space Marine player, so most often, it will end up as nothing more than wasted points. Well, the marginal Ld increase sometimes helps—if you have a few spare points, on some Havocs or Oblits, perhaps, so they don't flee from the field in terror after losing a few models—but most of the time I don't even bother. I'd rather have another meltabomb than to give my Havocs VotLW, to be honest.
As much as I gripe about it, it's a turn of protection against your enemies and additional mobility. Its saving grace is the dirge caster; never leave home without one, if you're bringing the Rhino in the first place. I don't buy dozer blades or havoc launchers too often, but different strokes for different folks and they have their specific applications. Havoc launchers can complement a sit-back-and-shoot gunline list pretty well.
The God-specific tables are underwhelming, though the Slaaneshi ability to boost sonic weapons can synergize with Noise Marines, and the Nurgle Weapon Virus/random debuff are decent. It might be fun to build a deathstar of some sort around a Dark Apostle's boon rerolls and Boon of Mutation, but that's a fluffy rules quirk, not a competitive choice. The primaris focuses, which your psykers will be getting for free thanks to 7e, are decent witchfires, but at the same time, you have to generate (not “take the focus,” sorry peeps) one of the god-specific powers as one of your ML rolls, so that means no non-Chaotic focus unless you have an unmarked Sorc. Sorry. Yeah, I know, Daemons can get 2 focus primarises, life ain't fair, boohoo. Deal with it.
Otherwise, Daemon Princes should basically go Biomancy (for the survivability buffs like Eternal Warrior from Endurance and +3T from Iron Arm), and Sorcs should basically go Telepathy (for the survivability buffs like Invisibility and Shouding), as I see it. Exceptions: Be'lakor the Daemon Prince who knows all Telepathy, a Crimson Slaughter Sorc with Balestar for Divination. You can take different disciplines with different types of psyker, sure, play around to your heart's content, but those are the ones that I've more or less settled upon in my playing. You can always build a Force Staff Sorc who tries to get Iron Arm and become a melee monster, or something, though, so you are of course free to do as you please.
One noteworthy alternative is the idea of a Daemon Prince (or two) with Malefic Daemonology and a spell familiar, so it can reroll those WC3 powers if it fails/perilses. As a Daemon, it'll only perils on 6s, but at the same time, it has access to the spell familiar, which Codex: Daemons DPs don't, for the reliability inherent in that reroll. This is slightly downgraded by the fact the Daemon has to generate a power from its god spell table, and so can't get the Daemonology focus/primaris, but... ah well.
CODEX OR SUPPLEMENT?
When it comes to each codex or supplement, their strengths and weaknesses largely lie in the Artefacts section: what special gear does this particular brand of Chaoticism offer? Warlord Traits and innate bonuses/requirements also come into play, but less so than the big “how you kit your nasty killmonsters” side of things.
At present, you have 3 options: Vanilla (that is to say, standard) Chaos Space Marines; The Black Legion; and The Crimson Slaughter.
Vanilla Chaos Space Marines
So you've bought the Codex, but who wants to pay a bunch extra for a single page of alternate rules? Now, I would never advocate that you go out and obtain the supplements through illegal means (...since I don't want to be held liable for your actions), so you are left wondering: can the CSM book stand on its own?
The short of it: yes.
Slightly longer: CSM have the access to some of the coolest Daemon Weapons, and while their Warlord Traits have as many duds as cool parts, you can take special characters with most of the cool traits. CSM do perfectly fine on their own, though they lack some of the flexibility and badass options of the other 'dexes.
Dimensional Key - Not worth it. You'll only unlock it after most of your deep striking units have come in, so don't bother buying it. The AOE difficult/dangerous terrain sounds like it could be a decent ally into the Necron Orikan/Writhing Worldscape combo, or as a counter-assault deterrent, but apart from that, I really don't think it justifies the cost…
Burning Brand of Skalathrax - because Doom Sirens and Baleflamers weren't enough AP3 flamers. Great. The moderate strength is occasionally a trifle annoying, but the excellent range and AP make complaining about the first point like complaining that your triple-decker chocolate birthday cake doesn't have strawberries on top.
Axe of Blind Fury - Killiness in a can; take it out when you need to fill a crater with blood and corpses. Not as worth it on a Daemon Prince, who already has AP2, but the stuff of wonders on a Khornate Lord on a juggernaut. The army list entry practically writes itself…
The Murder Sword - a very expensive power sword in nearly all cases, this one is under-impressive. If your character is highly mobile, you might be able to chase down the enemy character, and by all reports, seeing Mephiston or an Avatar of Khaine timidly tiptoeing around the edge of your character's threat radius is a heart-warming sight.
The Black Mace - very expensive, and only AP4. That nearly sinks it from the competitive scene by itself, but it can be great fun on a Daemon Prince, whose Smash ability gives him AP2 and whose larger base size gives you a larger Aura of Doom(!). I definitely find that seeing whole swathes of the center of the enemy battle line disappearing beneath the Aura of Doom(!) is eminently satisfying.
The Scrolls of Magnus – No. Never.
1 – A bubble of Preferred Enemy can be useful, but the fact that it's only against loyalist Sms (not even Armies of the Imperium) really limits the usefulness of this trait, from a min-maxing perspective.
2 – Soul Blaze? Really? Really? ...naaah.
3 – Ah, Master of Deception. Thankfully, Ahriman and Huron get this automatically. The “infantry” specification in which D3 units you can infiltrate is annoying, but, still, this is a trait that I have built lists and lists around. Especially since I can get it reliably.
4 – Hatred is nice. Very nice. Especially on some of the melee slaughterbeasts that you can build. And for his retinue.
5 – Fear? Yeuuch. Worse than Soul Blaze.
6 – Reroll Boons? Sure, I don't mind being able to avoid Spawnhood.
Half the traits are almost always useful (2/3 against a loyalist SM army), so you should probably be able to get one of the good ones with a Battle-forged reroll. Of course, you might get stuck with the junk half of the chart, so it's (almost) always worth considering rolling on the Strategic traits instead...
The Black Legion
The Black Legion faces, in my mind, a somewhat steep buy-in fee: the fact that every unit that can take VotLW must take VotLW. I've already made my opinion on the matter clear, but that's especially a waste on certain Fearless cult troops or Lords or Ld 10 Sorcerers, etc, for whom the Ld buff doesn't matter in the slightest—and who often pay a steeper price for the privilege. This can be worked around by buying units that can't buy VotLW (vehicles, cultists) or ones that already have it (Special Characters, Daemon Princes, Thousand Sons), but... as a whole, it can be a mild annoyance.
Still, it has some interesting quirks. I don't think Chosen as Troops are too noteworthy, given how expensive Chosen are (especially after VotLW) and that they die just as easily as normal CSM, but I suppose it could be a good way to spam bunches and bunches of plasma, or something.
Spineshiver Blade – AP3 isn't quite as low as I'd like, but otherwise the +Initiative and Daemon Weapon should let the bearer cleave through a whole bunch of fools. Kind useful on a Daemon Prince, whose incredible Initiative isn't benefited much but who does lower it to AP2—and still gets the bonus D6 attacks. On a simple Lord, somewhat less useful, given that he won't be able to kill Termis, artificer armor, Riptides/Dreadknights, Oblits, Centurions... whatever 2+ saves you can clog him up with. Nonetheless, he'll kill 90% of what the game can throw at him (ok, less, once you count the vehicles and flyers he can't scratch, but that's neither here nor there). All in all... strengths and weaknesses. I could justify the points, probably, but would rather have a vanilla Axe of Blind Fury.
Crucible of Lies – Um, ew. I don't want lasguns wounding my guy on a 4+. Ok, unit majority toughness will often save him, and on a MoT+SoC giving a 3+ invuln, this is nearly as good as a 2+ invuln. But... not quite. Not worth the points, I say.
Last Memory of Yuranthos – given the 7e way Psychic Tests are made, this becomes less tempting than it was—the chance to instagib yourself while trying for a WC 3 version of the power is too high. This can be counter-balanced with a Spell Familiar, but it's still dangerous. I could see this being fun to throw on a Daemon Prince with a Spell Familiar, then swooping into the heart of an enemy infantry army and letting rip, but... I still don't know if that justifies the danger. A gamble, no matter how you look at it.
Eye of Night – A one-use-only S5 AP4 large blast template for the cost of a naked Predator? Hmmm.... ok, yeah, it does D3 pens on any vehicle it hits, right. Given the fact that it's AP4 and 7e's damage table, a one-use-only shot at D3 penetrating hits is looking less tempting. I mean, you could still immobilize/stun the enemy Land Raider on T1, but it's a bit less brutal now that you can't explode enemies with it. It will struggle to make back its points more, now that it's in 7e.
Skull of Ker'ngar – that is a lot of points for Eternal Warrior and Adamantium Will. I mean, sure, those are situationally very useful abilities, but... I wish I could get a Storm Shield with that or something. Still, if it saves you from a Wraithknight Iding you at S10, it will have paid off its points. *continues to grumble about The Shield Eternal*
The (Left) Hand of Darkness – an excellent book. I highly recommend it. It really makes you come to grips with your innate sexal prejudices by imagining a society without biological sex, thus wiping out traditional gender roles entirely. It's really quite thought-provok—waaaaait, no, this is the artifact. I, um, mean You know how Smash works? Basically that super-charged. I mean, Armorbane, Fleshbane, 2x S, Instant Death... provided that your opponent doesn't have Eternal Warrior, they fail their invuln, and that you actually hit them, you're going to knock their block off. Or have a good chance at Exploding them. So: I hope you cast Prescience on this guy, or have Hatred, or something, since rolling that “2” to hit is going to be real painful, if you passed up on a squad of Cultists to sacrifice all your attacks for this. Still, makes the bearer great at pretty reliably sucker-punching Wraithknights and Great Unclean Ones.
1 – Hey, what was that about a Preferred Enemy bubble for Space Marines? See previous Warlord Trait table for my thoughts. I guess they had to rightfully include this Trait on the codex for Abaddon.
2 – Rerolling Boons, wahey! Good fun.
3 – A... one-use-only Soul Blaze flamer? Yuuuck.
4 – IWND is decent. Not as game-impacting as some of the larger traits on other tables, by any means, but it lets your Warlord tank a bit more.
5 – ID on 6s to Wound? ...well, let's just say I hope you didn't shell out the points for the Hand of Darkness on your Warlord if you roll this one.
6 – Warlord and units within 12” have Stubborn? I could see this being most useful allied to Daemons, so their Daemonic Instability is a lot less painful. But you can't reliably roll this, so you can't build a list around that. In an army that should be winning most combats, and that should be higher LD than usual anyways (thanks to VotLW), this one will be pretty situational. I could see it being used to hold Cultist tarpits in place against big enemy nasties, certainly.
Overall, a kinda mediocre table. I'd rather roll on a Rulebook table, probably.
The Crimson Slaughter
These guys get free Fear? Warp, if you don't have an army list built around getting the Burning Brand or the Black Mace, you might as well just take this as your primary detachment for free Fear all over the place.
Draznicht's Ravagers are an odd quirk that don't really fit anywhere else. I feel like they were added purely because of the way that Chosen Champion in Dark Vengeance was modeled—but I don't object, because Chosen with 5 plasma guns rerolling their Gets Hot misses against all opponents is freaking awesome. If I'm fielding Crimson Slaughter, I'll almost always include myself a block of Plasma Chosen, thanks to this guy.
Possessed as Troops are an... interesting choice. Especially given the replaced random table. I get that they're trying to make Possessed a playable, viable choice, but I dunno if they succeeded here. The random table is a bit bemusing—2/3 of the time, these guys aren't going to have a close combat bonus? That you can't rely on getting what you need when you need it (Shrouded when in cover, Beasts the turn before you would assault an opponent, the melee roll any time you are in combat) makes these guys even more of a random gamble. The worst part—as they roll a D3, not even Fateweaver can help them with his D6 rerolls.
I'd honestly probably rather take vanilla CSM Possessed, which is saying something, since though they are fragile and slow, I can plan for that and compensate, so they shine in combat reliably. These guys in the CS 'dex are flukes, whose random nature is very hard to plan around. I get what GW was trying to do, in counterbalancing the fragility, lack of mobility, and keeping them melee beasts... but that doesn't help when you only get a random one of those, no matter which one you might need in your present situation.
Crozius of the Dark Covenant – I don't think you'll see me buying this one. It takes the only thing interesting about the Dark Apostle and turns it into an actual useful bonus—albeit while inflating the price of the Dark Apostle even higher (and replacing his power maul... with a power maul). Possibly useful if you're running him in the middle of several large blocks of CSM or cultists, but otherwise junk.
Blade of the Relentless – I like it. I like it. Just make sure you get a few kills before you throw your Lord up against a 2+ save.
Slaughterer's Horns – Worth considering, as long as you're not running a Khorne Lord. All in all, though, it's just some turn-you-assault bonuses, so I'll forgive you if you pass on it in favor of spending those points somewhere else. A downside is it incentivizes you getting the charge greatly, but then if you have a bike or jump pack, you're probably already going to get Hammer of Wrath, so there are a few wasted points. Would be quite useful on a Terminator armored Lord/Sorc, I imagine, but then you'd have to take a Land Raider as a delivery mechanism to ensure you get the charge... ew.
Balestar of Mannon – the only real way for CSM to get access to Divination, apart from allied Daemons. And it almost doubles as a Spell Familiar (a Spell Familiar lets you reroll any psychic test; the Balestar lets you reroll any failed psychic test—but now in 7e, a Perils is never a failed test), and for only a few points more (and the loss of DTW bonuses), you get Divination. Less vital now that Prescience is WC2 to cast, but still damned awesome.
Daemonheart – Artificer armor plus IWND. A bit expensive, but damned worth it to throw on a Juggerlord or Palanquin-carried Lord, or something, since it stacks with other bonuses, unlike Termi armor.
Prophet of the Voices – Fleet, Fearless, and Daemon are fun, but the whole “Slaves to the Voices and can only join Crimson Slaughter Possessed” is less so, given my earlier-outlined complaint about CS possessed. Still, would be fun to throw on a Sorc who then starts casting Daemonology spells as a Daemon, so has far fewer chances to Perils. He doesn't have to be marked, too, so can get the Daemonology focus, unlike a Daemon Prince who has to break off for a god-specific power when going Daemonology.
1 – See, this is the kind of “situational yet still universally applicable” type of trait that I like. Hatred is always useful, but Super-Hatred (Dark Angels) is a nice fluffy bit that will probably almost never be applicable.
2 – An Ld penalty bubble is decent, but an additional -2Ld for Fear Tests (for a cumulative -3) is just nasty, against those armies that don't outright ignore Fear tests.
3 – Rage and Furious Charge, or as I call it, “I hope your Warlord doesn't have the Slaughterer's Horns or isn't a Mark of Khorne Juggerlord in a squad of Bikes with an Icon of Wrath.” The no-shooting-has-to-charge thing could situationally be painful (say, if you have meltas you want to crack a tank with). Kind of meh, but still can be useful.
4 – Crusader. Meh. Makes him a bit more mobile, so I don't object.
5 – A free D6 I10 S3 hits against every enemy in base contact with you? Ooh, that could be especially nice if your warlord is on a 60mm base (say, Juggerlord or Daemon Prince). An interesting quirk that I wouldn't mind having at all.
6 – Shrouded? Hells yes. Survivability is awesome.
All in all, mostly useful. Honestly, it's a pretty tempting spread.
Today, we talk about the first, essential building-block of any Chaos Space Marine (henceforth written CSM) army: it's leaders.
The HQ characters in any CSM army are the single most important part of the army. They will shape the rest of your army selection.
CSM characters offer 2 real categories: killiness and strategy. Killiness can be broken down into survivability, close combat capability, ranged capability, and mobility, while strategy is mostly how much you're going to build your list around the character to synergize with it best--though the character's cost comes into play, too.
The HQ choices you make are essential to what sort of army you're going to play. How many points are you going to devote to this category? It would be all too easy to dump up to 700 points into two kitted-out HQs, and that's not even touching on Allies and other detachments. And if you want to do that, more power to you, but just be aware that it cuts into the number of points you can focus the rest of your army on, which makes it... difficult to win.
We'll now go through the options you have available, the pluses and minuses of each of option, and (when customizable), what builds of that model are the most effective ways to run it. Each character will be rated on their cost, survivability, combat capability, ranged capability, strategic value, and mobility.
- HQ Section review by @warsmith7752
>>> Abaddon the Despoiler: A nasty piece of work, but comes at a hefty price to counter-balance that. Note that, having two Specialist Weapons, he gains back a bonus attack. When you want to kill MeQ, use the Talon to shred your opponents to ribbons. When facing hordes or TeQ, use Drach'nyen for its bonus attacks or AP2 at initiative value, respectively. What does this guy have to offer?
(-) Cost: Expensive.
(+) Survivability: Eternal Warrior, T5, W4, 2+/4++ save--this guy is not going down easily.
(++) Combat capability: Can slaughter units on his own. When in a retinue of, say, Terminators, nigh unstoppable.
(-) Ranged capability: Doesn't have much to offer besides a combi-bolter--but doesn't need to if he gets into hand-to-hand.
(/) Strategic value: He allows Chosen to be troops, which is an interesting, albeit non-competitive, way to make a points-expensive, elite force. On the downside, though, he must be your Warlord and has relatively little to offer in terms of his Trait (though nearby plasma benefits from the rerolls).
(-) Mobility: He's in terminator armor, so he's not all that fast. You can stick him in a Land Raider and nearly double his cost; you can Deep Strike him in and risk scatter, mishap or concentrated enemy fire taking its toll. He can probably survive the third, or at least distract the enemy army long enough for the rest of your army to arrive relatively unharmed.
>Verdict? A one-man death star unit who is vicious but not too competitive. He should probably be relegated to Apocalypse games and the like.
>>> Huron Blackheart: Fun and versatile, with a Warlord Trait that complements his abilities nicely. Random psychic powers from the Hamadrya can provide a boost, but are often exasperating.
(+) Cost: Cheap.
(-) Survivability: A 4++ save is decent, but often not going to save your hide.
(+) Combat capability: No monster, but nicely versatile with AP3 and AP2 options available, plus some combat familiar attacks every turn. Can be boosted by a good psychic power.
(/) Ranged capability: Moderate, in the form of a heavy flamer and/or a psychic power. Still, not the reason you're taking him.
(+) Strategic value: Master of Deception. The best of the CSM Warlord Traits, guaranteed, in a decent package.
(-) Mobility: Poor. Infantry. Slightly mitigated if you infiltrate him, but still no guarantee that you'll get the charge.
> Verdict? Possibly the most competitive Special Character available. He might not get the charge, but that's what Overwatch is for, and his heavy flamer is nasty there--especially if he's in a squad with more flamers. He can handle himself better in combat than most MeQ characters, Special or otherwise, and he adds the aspect of Infiltration around which you can build your army list. Since he can only infiltrate infantry, this lends the other special characters (Lucius, Khârn, and Typhus) a bit more of a luster.
>>> Khârn the Betrayer: Kill! Maim! Burn! Kill! Maim! Burn! KILL! MAIM! BURN!
(+) Cost: Cheap.
(-) Survivability: Very easy to kill. 3+/5++ T4 3W won't stop too much, without a retinue to eat wounds for him.
(++) Combat capability: Will tear holes in whatever he's near, especially if he gets the charge. Unless he goes against Mephiston, a kitted out Destroyer Lord, Fortuned Eldrad, or something in that vein, it's not going to live very long.
(/) Ranged capability: A Joker pistol. I guess it's better than a bolt pistol?
(-) Strategic value: Berzerkers as troops. Cool, I don't care. I guess Hatred as his Warlord Trait makes his Retinue more killy and makes him decapitate his own buddies less often.
(-) Mobility: Infantry. Poor.
> Verdict? A cheap slaughterer of foes, and occasionally friends. Less survivable than a Juggerlord w/ AoBF, and less mobile than a Bikelord w/ AoBF. Not too competitive, then, unless you're playing 2 FoC charts and have a spare HQ slot or something (having already taken a Khornate Bikelord and a Daemon Prince with the Black Mace, and still not being sated in terms of melee monsters). Okay, yeah, that's quite a long shot.
(-) Cost: Too damned expensive, for a glass "cannon" whose cannoning skills leave a rather lot to be desired. Still, does the same thing as Huron.
(-) Survivability: A 4++ save does not a survivable character make.
(-) Combat capability: A force weapon, sure, but it's a staff. AP4, and you have to cast Force for it to be effective.
(+) Ranged capability: Slightly broader range of choice than a standard Sorc, but bound within the lore of Tzeentch and with no psychic familiar to save his fumbles. Can shoot three different witchfire powers, which is… decent, though the lack of spell familiar means he'll be failing powers disappointingly often. Also, you probably aren't taking a Sorc for witchfire nearly as much as you are for the neat support powers.
(+) Strategic value: Thousand Sons as Troops! Hah, who cares in the slightest? The Master of Deception Warlord Trait is useful, as previously mentioned. Slightly less so with a ranged character than with a melee character, but… the option is still there.
(-) Mobility: Infantry, so poor.
> Verdict? I'd rather take an unmarked Sorc and save ~70 points, or Huron if I value the sneaky-sneaky. Still, he does similar stuff to Huron and is a ML4 caster to boot, so if you really want him, feel free to take him. I'm not the boss of you.
>>> Typhus, Herald of Nurgle: Slowly, methodically slicing and dicing the entire enemy army into rotting mincemeat.
(-) Cost: Expensive.
(+) Survivability: Termi armor, FNP, T5, W4. Most of the same stuff as Abaddon, actually. Hard to Instant Death, though a stray force weapon or S10 still might do it.
(++) Combat capability: Tough enough to live long enough to swing Manreaper, and deadly enough with it to wipe the floor with pretty much anything he faces. Naaaasty.
(/) Ranged capability: Nurgle powers/Destroyer Hive.
(+) Strategic value: Plague Marines as Troops, AND zombies? Oh joy! Depressingly meh Warlord Trait, but whatever. Take somebody else as Warlord, maybe.
(-) Mobility: Terminator-armored Infantry, so slow and cumbersome. Can Deep Strike, but loses out on Sweeping Advances.
> Verdict? Pretty nasty and fairly competitive. More useful than Abaddon thanks to his strategic value. If Huron's the Warlord, you can get him stuck in far faster, which is nice.
>>> Lucius the Eternal: I quite like this character. He's not min/maxed competitively at all, but most people sell him short of his potential, I find.
(+) Cost: Cheap.
(-) Survivability: As easy to kill as Kharn, though when he does make a save, he has his funny armor.
(+) Combat capability: No slouch, especially in a challenge with bonus attacks. No AP2, which is a shame, but his Armor of Shrieking Souls and Lash of Torment make for a slightly… different character to play than most others, you'll find. Mind you, he's awful against enemies with 2+ saves and vehicles.
(+) Ranged capability: Better than you'd expect, thanks to his Doom Siren. Stick him in a squad of Noise Marines and you can dual-Doom Siren just about anything MeQ to death. Overwatch, too, is just plain nasty.
(+) Strategic value: Noise Marines as Troops. Not quite as good as Plague Marines as Troops, but still something around which you can build a list.
(-) Mobility: Infantry. It can work with Huron (big surprise there), but otherwise pretty poor.
> Verdict? Not exactly semi-competitive, but still someone you can have fun with. The black sheep of the CSM family. In perfect honesty, not going to make the cut at the top levels of play.
>>> Fabius Bile: Not a Warpsmith so much as a Fleshsmith, and just plain shoddy.
(+) Cost: Cheap.
(-) Survivability: FNP isn't enough to rescue this guy from poor survival skills.
(/) Combat capability: Decent stats are boosted by the Chirurgeon, but the total lack of AP on his magic wand leave him relatively impotent. Still, the opponent only needs to fail one save...
(-) Ranged capability: A funny-looking pistol.
(/) Strategic value: Moderate to low. I mean, you're buying him for his buff to other troops, right? And he has, uh, Fearless, so you can throw him in a squad of Havocs to keep them from running away.
(-) Mobility: Poor, Infantry.
> Verdict? Not competitive; perhaps enjoyable in a fluffy list or vs Tyranids.
>>> Be'lakor: Prince of Shadows. A Dataslate rather than an in-book choice, but still a damned attractive notion.
(-) Cost: About as expensive as a Daemon Prince can get. Which is pretty damn expensive, for a T5 4W model.
(+) Survivability: Shrouded makes for a 2+ cover jink save, which is dead 'ard. If your opponent has ignores cover shooting, you can always cast his Invisibility on himself. Like I said, though, only T5 4W, and only a 4+ invuln in combat. Can always Swoop to make most things Snap Fire against him.
(++) Combat capability: Armorbane and Fleshbane on a Master-crafted +1S AP2 sword? Crunch goes the tank. Splat goes the character.
(-) Ranged capability: zip, now that Telepathy has lost Puppet Master. Ah well, it means you can jink freely for your 2+ cover.
(+) Strategic value: Excellent. Throw Invisibility on something, or Shrouding on another FMC/a unit of bikes to give that unit a 2+ cover save as well... delightful. We don't really care about his Warlord Trait, but it is technically a buff to Fear tests.
(+) Mobility: FMC. I mean, you could Swoop and not be able to charge for two turns if you want. I'll stick to Jump Monstrous Creature for the most part, though I think. Though, hell, if he doesn't have a target to assault in mind, you might be well served by the increased survivability of making most things snap fire against you.
>Verdict? In spite of all that his hefty price tag and fragile number of medium-Toughness wounds have to argue against his inclusion, this guy is almost an auto-include. He's fantastic. He is the only way to reliably get an Invisibility into your list.
>>> Cypher: Not technically an HQ choice, but still a Dataslate that fills a similar roll with a character who might as well be one.
(+) Cost: No more expensive than the area of Huron or Fabius.
(/) Survivability: Eternal Warrior is something. Shrouded helps out. Still a kind of mediocre statline.
(/) Combat capability: Some plasma and some bolt pistols. Meh, he'll get the job done.
(/) Ranged capability: Some (master-crafted, double-firing) plasma and some bolt pistols. Meh, he'll get the job done.
(+) Strategic value: He can give a block of CSM Shrouded, Hit-and-Run, ATSKNF, and Infiltrate. I think he offers a whole damned lot when it comes to strategic value. Minor Ld debuff to your Warlord; you should consider taking a Fearless Warlord, if possible.
(/) Mobility: Infantry are slow, but with Infiltrate, he should help you set up his unit where you want it.
>Verdict? If you only really want one unit infiltrated, and want more flexibility on that unit than Huron has to offer, go right ahead.
These are somewhat different. I will address each entry and discuss the options available, then present the option(s) I feel is/are the most competitive. I am going to be mentioning examples from different Codex/Supplements, as well.
- Chaos Lord Review by @moshpiler
When taking a Lord, ask yourself how this guy is more special than the Special Characters on offer. The Special Characters have infantry foot-sloggers pretty well covered, and even branch into termi-armored Lords with Typhus and Abbadon. Where custom-built Lords can really shine is in mobility: Bikes, Juggernauts, Steeds of Slaanesh. If you aren't going to take this as cheaply as possible (a Lord with MoN as a tax to enable Plague Marine troops/babysit a quad-gun, or a Lord with the MoS and BBoS in a melee Noise Marine squad), there are a few builds I find to be best:
> Khornate Biker/Juggernaut Lord
(+) Cost: Cheap. 5 points more than Kharn, when fully kitted out? Gimme! Now!
(/) Survivability: T5 and a 4++ save is nice, and the +1 Wound for a JuggerLord is pretty nifty as well (though it won't stop your character from being Smashed into Instant Death, unless you go the expensive Black Legion route of Skull of Ker'ngar)
(++) Combat capability: Blood for the Blood God! Mountains of Skulls for His Throne! AoBF is the obvious choice, though if you have one of those already, fisticlaws aren't bad. If you're playing Crimson Slaughter, then Daemonheart and Blade of the Relentless work can wonders—but push his price window up a bit in points.
(-) Ranged capability: Hah. Hah. Hah. You can throw on a combi-melta if it makes you feel better, all right? Though you'll lose an attack, unless you swap a bike's combi-bolter.
(-) Strategic value: Leave a field of decapitated corpses is his strategy.
(+) Mobility: Better on the Juggernaut. Can go on a slightly more mobile bike, though, of course.
> Verdict? Oh, you better believe this is competitive. Deadly, cheap, and fast--the trifecta of glory. Brutally efficient.
> Slaaneshi/Nurglish Biker Lord
(/) Cost: Moderately high. If you want to kit him out the whole way, you're going to need to spend a bit more than you might be comfortable with. Not quite in the range of Typhus or Abby, but getting there.
(+) Survivability: 4++ is a must, plus either T6 or T5 with FNP (if you're kitting out the Bike retinue right). That, I believe, is what the orkoid races call (in their technical parlance) "ded 'ard."
(+) Combat capability: With Fisticlaws and Hammer of Wrath, you're doing better than Huron. Nowhere near what you could accomplish with the AoBR, but that isn't needed. On a budget, even just a power fist or axe ain't that bad on this tough old wart.
(+) Ranged capability: With the Burning Brand, delicious. Throw in some flamers on your biker retinue, why don't you! Char-broil time….
(+) Strategic value: Either Plague Marines or Noise Marines as Troops. Glorious. If you take the Slaaneshi Lord on a Steed of Slaanesh rather than a bike, you can Outflank a units with Acute Senses, to boot, though that sacrifices your bonus Toughness.
(+) Mobility: High.
> Verdict? Just as competitive, if not moreso, than the Khornate version. It sacrifices the über-killiness for strategic value, a tougher character, and the ability to barbecue MeQ and hordes with glee.
One more hypothetical build just for funsies: the Rock, a MoN Palanquin-mounted Crimson Slaughter Lord with Daemonheart (and possibly the Slaughterer's Horns), for a T5, W5, IWND character. Give him Fisticlaws or a power axe or something.
> Unmarked Sorc
(+) Cost: Cheap.
(-) Survivability: Poor--2 wounds. Can be mitigated with Palanquin of Nurgle or cheap Terminator Armor (much cheaper than the Lord, since you already have a force weapon so don't need to pay for a Power Weapon)
(/) Combat capability: Meh. Unimpressive stats, but a force weapon. Can get some decent buff powers. I've had good luck using the force weapon to kill Wraithlords and Wraithknights, but that was, admittedly, pretty flukey (to have A. survived the enemy attacks and B. rolled the 6 to wound I needed).
(+) Ranged capability: Go Telepathy for cruelly effective buffs (Invisibility and Shrouding) or Biomancy for more buffs and debuffs (Endurance and Enfeeble), and to generally wreck faces (Iron Arm, Warp Speed). A very good support character.
(-) Strategic value: Apart from being a good support character, not much. You can't rely on getting That One Power you need.
(-) Mobility: Infantry. Much faster when put on a bike to support a Biker squad with his powers.
> Verdict? A good support character. Borderline competitive, though will almost certainly be edged out by more killy characters.
(+) Cost: Cheap.
(-) Survivability: Poor--2 wounds.
(/) Combat capability: Unimpressive stats, but a force weapon. Can get some decent buff powers.
(+) Ranged capability: Try to get Symphony of Pain (2/3rds chance on a Lvl 3 Sorc), then go for Biomancy or Telepathy and stick him in a Noise Marine unit: S5 sonic blasters, whee!
(/) Strategic value: Steed? Symphony of Slaanesh? You'll probably get some good synergy, here.
(/) Mobility: Steed of Slaanesh. With the latter, you can Infiltrate or Outflank with with unit of Noise Marines and show up in just the right place to rat-a-tat-tat your foes to pieces. If need be he can hop out and take on his own targets/run interception, but it's not wholly advised.
> Verdict? You need a Slaaneshi Lord or Lucius if you want to make Noise Marines Troops, so you've pretty much relegated yourself to a themed Slaaneshi list. Not to competitive, all told, but fun and very fluffy.
>>> Daemon Prince: Nasty at killing things, but expensive and can be one-shotted by S10--an Achilles Heel that removes them from much of the competitive scene. Never leave home without power armor and wings if you take this guy, for all that they cost a pretty penny. The added mobility and survivability will justify themselves far more often than not.
Picking a God as a patron is mandatory for some silly, contra-fluffy reason (I mean hey, you can make an unmarked Prince over the course of a battle, but can't buy one? Weak), so lets go over the choices:
- Daemon of Khorne. Furious Charge. On a Daemon Prince. …really? Atrocious, especially for 15 points.
- Daemon of Tzeentch. Makes him more survivable. Decent, but still a bit expensive. Also, 3/4s poor psychic powers.
- Daemon of Slaanesh. Cheaper than the others, and it gives a whole bevy of abilities slightly increasing mobility? Not bad, not bad.
- Daemon of Nurgle. Shrouded? Plus 7e's marvelous Jink on FMCs? 2+ cover save as you jump up the board? Yes please! Slow & Purposeful is annoying, but I think I'll survive.
I'll go with Nurgle every time, thanks.
If you want a force multiplier in the form of an offensive boost, you're in for another pretty chunk of points, but who cares about another few handfuls of cultists, anyways? The points look prettier on your Prince's sexy hide, you have to agree. This fellow will become not a Daemon Prince, but Daemon Prince Charming, here to sweep you off your feet and sweep the opponent from the board. As I see it, you have several choices:
- The Black Mace. Fleshbane, +D6 Attacks, Toughness tests in a 3" Doom-Aura, etc. The best part is that the Mace's major weakness--AP4--is negated by the Smash rule giving him a constant AP2 on all attacks. Joy!
- The Burning Brand of Skalathrax. AP3 flamers are no laughing matter… for your MeQ opponent. For you? Feel free to giggle away as you roast 2/3 of a squad then charge the survivors and rip them limb from bloody limb.
- Psychic Mastery Level(s). Expensive for the whole kit, sure, but with Biomancy you can make your Prince nearly unkillable (after getting over the one god-related power tax), and even more a melee/ranged monster. If he's firing off 2 or 3 powers per turn, you may well want to consider a spell familiar for him--it'll save your bacon time and time again, for what is (by this point) chump change. Biomancy also gives Iron Arm and Endurance, which negate much of the dreaded Instant Death out there that can instagib your Prince.
I would NOT buy the Axe of Blind Fury, personally: you already have AP2 at Initiative, which is much of what you're paying for. The Black Mace is so very much better for so very little more. In addition, Blinded will make it so enemies at WS4 no longer hit you on 5+.
I would say that buying (or at least maxing out) Psychic powers plus a Chaos Artefact would bump your points cost up to a rather unfeasibly high amount for a comparatively fragile model, so I wouldn't rely on that dual load-out either, unless you really want to push your luck.
> Daemon Prince w/ Daemon of Nurgle, the Black Mace, Wings, Power Armor
(-) Cost: Expensive.
(+) Survivability: 4 T5 wounds. Don't let him get stranded on his own and watch out for cruel Overwatch, but you should be able to survive most stuff. As a DoN, he can get 2+ cover save with ease. If you're way out of the lurch, you can Swoop, though that means you won't be able to assault next turn.
(++) Combat capability: I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds.
(-) Ranged capability: Ranged is for wimps.
(-) Strategic value: Leaving the center of the enemy battle line as a series of smoking craters is a strategy, right?
(+) Mobility: Wings. Slaanesh can improve mobility... but that means sacrificing your beautiful defenses.
> Verdict? Crunch. Only borderline competitive due to his high cost, but generally a badass and oh-so-fun to play with (except when he isn't because he dies early). Watching the center of an enemy horde army vanish beneath his aura of doom is satisfying in an intensely sexual manner. I may only be kind of joking with that statement.
> Daemon Prince w/ the Burning Brand, Daemon of Nurgle, Wings, Power Armor
(-) Cost: Expensive.
(+) Survivability: Solid, as long as you don't leave him in front of a firing squad.
(+) Combat capability: A mere destroyer of cities in combat, by comparison.
(+) Ranged capability: Don't you love the smell of roast MeQ in the morning?
(-) Strategic value: I laugh in the face of your "strategy."
(+) Mobility: Swoop and Glide and generally saunter around.
> Verdict? A lower strength Heldrake equivalent (Vector Strike, AP3 Torrent flamer) that can hide behind cover easily, and can flame a squad then charge it if it wants, or tear a tank apart with relative ease. Least competitive of the 3 Prince builds I present here by a hairsbreadth, but still fun on the playground. Will get to actually do kill things more often than a melee prince, since the 20.5" range of a Torrent flamer is pretty decent.
> Daemon Prince w/ Mastery Level 3 (1 mark-specific power, 2 Biomancy), Daemon of Nurgle, Wings, Power Armor
(-) Cost: Expensive.
(+) Survivability: Most survivable of the Princes. Biomancy will make him a rock that can regenerate wounds/have FNP/boost his toughness/lower the enemy S/whatever. It will make him more than a rock; it will make him an iron rock… yeah, that sounded more impressive in my head.
(+) Combat capability: No slouch. Stronger by far than a normal Prince, if not quite at the level as a bearer of the Black Mace.
(+) Ranged capability: Maledictions and blessings and witchfire aplenty.
(-) Strategic value: Baby Gods don't need strategy.
(+) Mobility: Faster than a Harlequin at a break-dancing competition, all right? What more need I tell you?
> Verdict? Most balanced of the 3 Prince options I've presented here. Versatile and flexible. I see a future for this guy.
>>> Warpsmith: An unsung hero of mid-ranged support when given the BBoS, I feel. Add an Aura of Dark Glory and you're set. I don't think he quite justifies the points to sit back and keep things repaired if you're running a gunline, though: no Conversion Beamer equivalent option hurts him, when compared to his loyalist opposite number.
(+) Cost: Cheap.
(/) Survivability: A 2+ save is nice, but counter-balanced by the loss of a Wound and a generally poor stat line.
(/) Combat capability: Again, poor stat line. The AP2 of a power axe, coupled with the bonus attacks from his mechatendrils, haul him back from desolate decrepitude to mere mediocrity.
(+) Ranged capability: Very flexible at mid to close range, especially if you throw on the Burning Brand of Skalathrax--then you can have 2 flamers or a meltagun, as need be.
(/) Strategic value: A bevy of odd abilities like Shatter Defenses, Machine Curse, and the ability to sit in a gunline and repair glanced vehicles, if need be. Nothing earth-shattering (well, literally yes, but tactically no), but still a character whose presence can shape the building of your army.
(-) Mobility: Infantry. Poor. We've been over this a few times by now.
> Verdict? Surprisingly useful, though much like the Sorc it often gets crowded out in favor of the flashier special characters, Lords or Daemon Princes.
>>> Dark Apostle:
(/) Cost: Cheap… but you're still paying too much for what you get.
(-) Survivability: Dead easy to splatter.
(-) Combat capability: Power maul? Hah, don't make me laugh. And any Daemon Weapon you could care to equip him with would be better given to a different character.
(-) Ranged capability: ...
(/) Strategic value: You can make a unit Fearless and give it Hatred. If you squeeze, you might make another unit Fearless too. Good grief, I'd so much rather a Fearless Lord whose Mark gives me beautiful cult troops and isn't a 2 Wound, AP4, Attack 2 louse. You can take the Crozius of the Dark Covenant if you want to try to give a few units Zealot, I guess... Fearless+Hatred is actually tempting, but by that point, you've sunk far too many points into this character.
(-) Mobility. Infantry.
> Verdict? Worst HQ choice in the book, bottoming out beneath even Fabulous Billy or Airyman.
(Troops, Elites: Cult Troops, Elites, and Fast Attack)
>>> Chaos Space Marines
Perhaps the single most versatile unit in the game. From spending 80 points on a tiny squad of 5 with one flamer and some CCWs to spending ~350 points on a squad of 20 with the MoN, 2 plasma guns, VotLW and a kitted-out champion, the sheer number of roles and loadouts for these humble scrubs borders on overwhelming.
Some people complain that they have lowish LD and no ATSKNF--aren't these supposed to be badasses from the dawn of the Imperium and millennia of combat experience; the chosen of the dark gods? Well, sure they are, if you give them Veteran of the Long War and a mark. The standard Chaos Marine, though, is the flawed metal; the failed tempering; the Space Marine who knows fear and so fell from glory. They are the arrogant, the self-absorbed, the venal, the cowardly, the renegade: these are the resentful dregs of the Space Marines that have turned to darkness and had their flaws magnified thereby. Ruleswise, it might mean they start out a fraction worse than a standard SM, but the sheer degree of customizability available more than fleshes out the spectrum of "scum to unholy harbingers of destruction"--a spectrum neatly capped off by the cult troops choices, the epitome of worship to each god.
I run CSM most often in squads of 10. Honestly, I find that squads smaller than 10 models just aren't worth it: sure, you can't fit the an attached character into the rhino with them anymore, but you get that second special weapon, and if you want a tiny, super cheap squad to hold a home objective, cultists should be your go-to choice there—or, warp, even Plague Marines.
Most of the time, I run my squads with a pair of the same special weapons. That way, rather than wasting much of their fire on targets they can't touch, so you get less utility out of the squad, they can excel at a set role: cracking tanks with melta, searing Termis, MEQ and light tanks with plasma, chasing guard blobs with flamers. The exception to this is if I'm making a stay-at-home squad in a gunline list or something, then I'll gladly grab a plasma gun and an autocannon/missile launcher.
Consider what the rest of your list is lacking when picking your CSM, and fit them to fill that role. The typical squad, once you give them the default Rhino with dirge casters, should run you in the neighborhood of 200-240 points. Less with no Rhino, but then you hamper their mobility markedly—but at the same time, you have fewer “easy First Blood” options for enemies to shoot at.
I'm a fan of quantity over quality, myself: give the enemy 4 bare-bones squads to shoot at rather than 3 expensive squads who will accomplish roughly the same amount. That in mind, I dislike what I see as superfluous upgrades: VotLW, power weapons on most champions, etc. It's purely a personal choice, and there are always exceptions to this rule, but it's done me relatively well, all told.
Let's look at a selection of viable builds for basic CSM:
> 220 - 10x CSM w/ Mark of Khorne, CCWs instead of bolters, 2 meltas, and a Rhino with a dirge caster.
This unit is best run in parallel with several others like it, as well as another threatening melee unit or two: say, Spawn or Khornate Bikers acting as a delivery mechanism for a Juggerlord w/ AoBF. Move up with the Rhinos, hugging cover and staggering flat out/smoke, keeping your Bikers in cover behind the rhinos for a T2 charge… wonderful. Bucketloads of attacks make crunching infantry a cinch, while two meltas should be useful for popping tanks. You can give them the IoW if you like, to help ensure they make that charge and to buff that bucketload of attacks.
> 217 - 10x CSM w/ plasma gun, missile launcher, and a Rhino with a havoc launcher.
A solid backfield objective holder, which won't piss itself and scramble off like a cultist unit does if anyone so much as glances at it. The choice of plasma+krak or frag+havoc make the unit capable of a surprising amount of flexibility.
You can sacrifice some durability and firepower by dropping the rhino and swapping the missile launcher for an autocannon to make the unit a dirt cheap 165 points. Alternately, you can boost the unit with the MoN, if you want, but the point here is to secure the backfield inexpensively so the rest of your expensive soldiers can surge forward with enough strength that they survive the enemy shooting.
> 265 - 10x CSM w/ Mark of Slaanesh, Icon of Excess, CCWs instead of bolters, 2 meltas, a champion with a lightning claw, and a Rhino with a dirge caster.
More expensive than the others, but with good measure! I5 FNP marines who will cut and tear, cut and tear, cut and tear your ass.
> 223 - 10x CSM w/ 9 additional CCWs, 2 meltas, champion with meltabombs, and a Rhino with a dirge caster.
A unit solidly capable of whooping normal SM in combat, but equally at home in a bolter duel while closing the distance. Great objective capturers, great at anti-tank, solid at mid-range, will beat most non-melee specialists (and some of those, if they get the charge) in combat--probably my all-around favorite build for CSM, to be honest. If you already have one unit like this, feel free to bring plasma instead.
> 370 - 20x CSM w/ MoN, 2 plasmas, and a champion with meltabombs and a lightning claw.
A hefty points cost, but that's a lot of bodies. Consider dropping a few bolters in favor of a few CCWs for a nice mix of melee and ranged. Synergizes excellently when being buffed by Fabius Bile (fearless and +1S), infiltrated by Huron or Cypher, and/or given Endurance/Invisibility by a friendly Sorc. Can also be built with MoS and an IoE for CC nastiness that is still more survivable than your standard marine.
Ah, the villainous scum. The fallen Guardsmen and corrupted PDF; the underhive scum who have revealed their true allegiance and the daemon world-grown madmen who worshipfully follow their dark masters…
Dead cheap scoring units with nothing else going for them. Mere expendable worms. Their lives are as nothing to us cruel overlords. They mean nothing... except when they fill out our detachments with their dirt cheap squads, or when they win us the game by claiming that backfield objective. They used to be much more essential in 6e, when only Troops could score, but they still serve their uses, even as a Battle-Forged tax.
There are a few different ways to run these guys. The obvious one is to take a bare bones basic tiny squad of these squishies and hold them in reserve, so they can come on late game and grab your home objective (hopefully behind an ADL, so they can suck dirt whenever they get sneezed at)--basically a “battle-foged” tax to fill the minimum Troops requirements you need. Another is in a large blob as an expendable, many-wound escort for a melee slaughterer character like Khârn, who in turn gives them Fearless.
I would say a massive blob with autoguns and heavy stabbers, while tempting, isn't worth it in most cases. At that point, you might as well ally in a platoon of Guardsmen who cost about the same, but get orders and special weapons to boot. Come the Apocalypse on the allies table doesn't make it easy for us, sure, but... they're just plain not an effective unit built that way, as I see it.
> 50 - 10x cultists
Stick em in reserve, then come up and hide behind an ADL on the home objective. Simple as.
> 150 - 35x cultists
Stick in Khârn, Typhus, a Lord with an AoBF, a Slaaneshi Lord with Fisticlaws and a Steed of Slaanesh (to Outflank them to the board edge of your choice), whatever, and go. If they're getting gunned down too rapidly, the character can always hop into a nearby squad of power-armored bodies (who have probably been forcibly dismounted from their Rhino by now).
- Blessed by the Dark Gods, by @MaidenManiac
Ah, cult troops. Recall that complaint that you couldn't spend points on shiny toys and on Objective Secured units? Well, with the right HQ choices, turns out you can, actually. Cult troops are Fearless scoring units that specialize in all manner of nasty.
Now, these guys are technically Elites, but you should definitely consider whether you want to take them as such. 7e made everything scoring, so unlike in 6e it's not wholly mandatory to take a marked HQ to fill the same slot, but still—I'd rather take them as super-scoring Troops and not have to spend any more points on Troops, if I am taking them. If you want to, say, field Noise Marines without having to take a Slaaneshi Lord, though, they're still scoring now, so go right ahead! That's how you might justify a 2 Slaaneshi Sorc list.
Not all cult units are made equally, however...
>>> Khorne Berzerkers: Blood for the Blood God!
Khorne Berzerkers are have suffered, this codex, with a slight downgrade in stats and the revised rules for Rhinos. Compare them to standard CSMs with the Mark of Khorne and an Icon of Wrath: they are Fearless and WS5, sure, but are still rather more expensive and, quite importantly, cannot buy special weapons--locking them into a purely close combat anti-infantry role, at which they aren't that spectacular. Compare them to Death Company, Assault Terminators, Seekers--other armies' designated assault troops--and they fall flat. They can buy an overpriced chainaxe to be able to inflict more unsaved wounds on units they will already beat by a large margin in combat, but they really aren't worth it. They're slogging infantry.
They're the tragic cousin of the cult troops that nobody likes to refer to. All the more unfortunate is the fact that the best CC monsters are Khorne-marked lords, so there's no real synergy benefit to the army if you don't want to buy their associated cult troop.
How to run them--stick them in a similarly over-priced, drunken-weaponed Chaos Land Raider? I guess?
All right, perhaps I'm selling Berzerkers short. Still, they're going to be much less effective in this edition, still, as long as shooting is king and chaos transports suck.
>>> Thousand Sons: All is dust!
AP3 bolters, a psyker in every squad, and a 4++ save? What's not to like!
Quite a bit, actually. Slow and Purposeful means that Thousands Sons have no Overwatch and low mobility overall. They are very expensive models, and die to enemy dakka juuuust as easily as a normal Marine would. They are absolutely terrible in close combat, except as a tarpit to high-strength, few attack monstrous creatures and walkers (where Fearless and the 4++ are very nice, and it's possible to get a hail mary force weapon or meltabomb attack in)--but they are a very expensive tarpit, at that. Soul blaze? Ooooh, a 50% chance of about 3 bolter shots next turn (that doesn't stack). My enemies must be quaking in their boots.
The Tzeentchi powers are generally under-impressive--Boon has a decent chance to kill any one-wound model in your unit, and witchfire powers… you have to successfully pass the test, pass deny the witch, and that's all before rolling to hit, wound/penetrate, and saves. Special weapons are so much less of a hassle, with so many fewer chances to fail…and are less expensive than the mandatory purchase of the source. Meanwhile, you're paying a large premium for the force weapon on the psyker character with a terrible statline who must issue/accept challenges.
I dislike Thousand Sons. They need to be baby sat to keep out of trouble, the range of bolters means that in order to get into rapid fire range, they have to get easily into the threat range of that enemy unit--you'd better be prepared to wipe that unit out entirely.
So we return to those AP3 bolters. Are they really worth it? Chaos has a lot of anti-MEQ available: Baleflamers, BBoS and Doom Sirens cover only the AP3 flamers available, let alone the special weapons and low AP templates. Thousand Sons work best, I think, in tandem with another CSM squad: a baby-sitter, if you will, to shield them from/counter-attack enemy assault units, to assist in focusing fire to help mop up wipe an enemy unit, etc.
Yes, if you're running an all-Tzeentch list and cast Invisibility to turn the Thousand Sons invisible, 1ksons function beautifully. Of course, any unit functions beautifully when the enemy is snapping shots and hitting in melee on 6s—even standard CSM with ccws would do remarkably better. If the Aspiring Sorc could roll on Telepathy or another more synergistic power table, I would like 1ksons quite a bit more…
How to run them? In tandem with another squad. The fluffy way is to have 8 Rubric Marines and the Sorc for a sacred 9, the number of Tzeentch, and that many of inferno bolts will make enemy MEQ feel the pain, all right. Giving them a Rhino helps them get away from Slow and Purposeful, even if it puts a severe choker on how many inferno bolts you'll be throwing into the air (until they disembark/are forcibly disembarked). Don't bother with a dirge caster, unless you want the Rhino to zoom off to support your assault troops after it's dropped the 1ksons on an objective. A combi-melta or havoc launcher wouldn't go amiss, though.
>>> Noise Marines: Pleasure is pain is pleasure is pain is pain is pleasure is pain is...
All right, all right. I start off by gushing how good cult troops are, then slag two of the units right off the bat. Let's get into the good units, shall we?
Noise Marines are a bit odd. To start out, you pay a significantly higher cost than a normal marine for a model whose only differences are that it's I5 and Fearless. That's barely enough to get an edge over standard MEQ in combat, but really not enough to justify the cost. What's the fuss, then?
Well, they can really be built two different ways: into ranged or melee units. Ranged units pay for sonic blasters and Blastmasters (1 at 5 models or 2 at 10, thanks to that glorious FAQ) to put out, when stationary, a tremendous amount of heavy and salvo dakka that all ignores cover. Guard, Nids, Eldar, squishies hiding behind an ADL--all of you are to be crushed like insects. Marines hiding in a ruin? I will blastmaster you to oblivion in no time. I will stand on this objective and you will be forced to kill every last member of my squad before I will no longer be claiming it (all the harder if I've bought the [admittedly rather expensive] Icon of Excess).
Keep in mind that the Noise Champ technically isn't a "Noise Marine" as per the book entry, so can't buy a sonic blaster for himself. As a purely ranged unit, upgrades on the champ really aren't worth it.
> 261 - 10x Noise Marines with 7x sonic blasters and 2x blastmasters. You can buy the unit an IoE if you have the points to spare in the list for an even more durable shooting block. Positioning is key with this unit: the more turns it can shoot while standing still, the better.
> 134 - 5x Noise Marines with a Blastmaster, 3x sonic blasters. Cut-price version of the former, if you feel like spamming small units. Small units who still fire AP3 blast templates.
Consider not taking sonic blasters at all. I mean, 9 points more than a standard marine for 3 bolter shots when standing still? Not too cost-effective, most of the time:
> 125 - 5x Noise Marines with a Blastmaster. Small and effective. Can hold an objective well, can spit out a S8 AP3 small blast every turn. A fun unit to spam en masse as a Troops choice if you want to go full MSU. Still, a lot of other armies will get a lot more firepower per 125 points. Warp, honestly, you could get a Havoc squad with 2 autocannons and 2 missile launchers for the same price.
> 287 - 10x Noise Marines with 2x blastmasters and a Rhino with a havoc launcher. A good number of templates, and a solid-sized Fearless unit. You can always drop the Rhino, if you feel so inclined.
Melee Noise Marines? Not as effective, admittedly. They don't have quite as many attacks as Khornate marines and are quite a bit more expensive, but still, they take advantage of the Noise Marine I5. Always get the Noise Champ his lovely Doom Siren (I mean, that's why you're running melee Noise Marines, isn't it?) for even more AP3 goodness. Give him a lightning claw as well, so he can pull his weight in a challenge, then add in an Icon of Excess for Feel No Pain, and you have a very nice (and somewhat anti-MEQ focused) assault squad.
Throwing Lucius or a Lord with the BBoS into this squad is even better--think of that AP3 dual flamer Overwatch! The squad's main real trouble is that, even in a Rhino (with a dirge caster, of course), it suffers when trying to get the charge/close the distance to the enemy for such an expensive unit. And it's pretty fragile. So, slow/expensive/fragile--not too competitive, but can be fluffy/fun.
> 251 - 8 Noise Marines with CCWs instead of bolters, Icon of Excess, Champion with doom siren, meltabombs and a lightning claw, and a Rhino with a dirge caster.
>>> Plague Marines: Rejoice, for these are the last days!
And now we have the real jewel of the cult troops; one of the absolute toughest scoring units in the game, who put out a solid package of ranged and close combat damage to boot. FNP, T5, plague knifes, 2 special weapons even in undersized squads--glorious. The only downsides are the (expected) high associated cost--more than worth it--and, uh. A crappy icon? Okay, their low I3 is sometimes a drag--but it also means you can throw a power axe or power fist on that champion without caring about the mandatory challenge.
Best way to run them? 5-8 marines with 2 special weapons, be they melta or plasma, in a Rhino. A power weapon isn't vital, thanks to the fact that the plague champion already has a plague knife, but can be useful. Editions may change, but Plague Marines keep solidly trucking along.
Annd that's about what needs to be said about Plague Marines: short and sweet.
> 228 - 7x Plague Marines with 2 meltas and a Rhino with a Dirge Caster
> 190 - 5x Plague Marines with 2 plasma and a Rhino with a Dirge Caster
I considered including these fine fellows in the "Cult Troops" post, on account of Abaddon's and the Black Legion's special ability to make them Troops, but Abbaddon is a rare enough purchase not to, in my eyes, justify their inclusion in the other post.
Please don't add a unit of melee Chosen to your army. Please. I know that the beautiful Dark Vengeance minis present that false path as somewhat alluring, but really. As an even somewhat semi-competitive player, I promise that every time a list includes a Marine with a power weapon who costs more than a Terminator with a power weapon, I will personally punch a kitten. Okay, I won't do that; I'll outsource the punching to India, where costs can be cut because kittens can be freely picked up off the street. More on what to do with Dark Vengeance models soon, in the "What to Do With This Soggy Vengeance" post.
Anyways, shooty Chosen. Shooty Chosen are pretty nice. You can give them the MoK(+IoW)/MoS(+IoE) if you want to have them be flexible enough to take on enemies in melee, or MoN to boost survivability, but these really push up the cost of the unit a significant amount. The real nice part is taking 5 special weapons (plus the opportunity for a combi-weapon).
Full plasma is fun... but dangerous. It's still “marines who cost more than Termis,” but 5 Plasma can throw out some serious pain—when they're not melting their own heads off. I find the best way to run this squad is in Crimson Slaughter with the cheap Draznicht's Ravagers upgrade to reroll their Gets Hot misses. Running them as Troops with Abaddon is also an option, since you'll get that Preferred Enemy bubble against a large number of opponents you'll face. Also on the table is throwing Prescience on them (whether you get your Divination from the Daemon bank or withdraw it from home-checking Crimson Slaughter).
Another way to run Chosen is with several meltas (3, perhaps, to give a highly probable chance of melting a tank) and a few other weapons; an anti-tank unit who is no slouch in combat. I'd recommend flamers, to boost the short-ranged nasty up to 11, or plasma, for some long range bite at a slightly discounted cost to going full plasma (and being better able to take out tanks).
> 249 - 8 Chosen with 3 meltas, 2 plasmas, a champion with a combi-plasma, and a Rhino
Want a somewhat silly deathstar unit? (fragile, as far as deathstars go, but capable of putting out a tremendous amount of anti-tank, anti-infantry, or melee damage).
> 260 - 9 Chosen with the MoK, an IoW, 2 meltas, 3 flamers, and a champion with a combi-flamer and a lightning claw.
> 165 - Warpsmith with MoK, AoDG, BBoS
> 235 - Land Raider with a dirge caster (can be replaced for a fragile Rhino easily, to save on points, but that limits the effectiveness of the squad massively, seeing as they all have assault weapons).
6 flamers, including one that is AP3 and torrent. Thanks to the Warpsmith, they still have 3 meltas (though the Land Raider could well bolster their anti-tank with its lascannons, cracking whatever transport they want to charge so that they can flamer the juicy interior many times over). The Warpsmith puts out 6 AP2 attacks on the charge, as well; sacrifice the champion to the challenge, and you could be chopping up a big chunk of a termi squad with this guy alone.
The largest problem I could see with this unit (apart from its exorbitant cost) is it being too effective in terms of shooting, getting themselves out of charge range of or perhaps even wiping out the unit they're torching, and being left out in the lurch to get shot up during the enemy shooting phase. Still, anyone that tries to charge them has to face that ridiculous Overwatch…
The downside? You could be buying a larger squad of CSMs for rather cheaper. In fact, you could buy 2 or 3 squads of CSM for the cost, who are just as tough to kill as the standard Chosen.
Chosen are fun, but not terribly competitive. If you want to go with Abaddon and have a full-on Chosen list, you'll find yourself outperformed in terms of "elite marines" by Grey Knights, who cost about as much and all have, oh yeah, bucketloads of psycannons and power weapons. A fitting case study, I feel, was the example of Filch's trials and tribulations with an all-Chosen list. It's just too fragile and can't counter enough types of different enemy to be considered a serious competitive choice, unfortunately.
Keep in mind that Havocs can fill the role of shooty Chosen nearly as well, for slightly less expensive. Sure, they get one less special weapon and have less attacks in combat, but still, they're nearly as effective.
Termis remain effective--in fact, they could be considered even more so with the modern nerf of power swords. Their downside? Again, expensive and not scoring infantry. Plague Marines might be slightly easier to kill, but are significantly cheaper and, yup, scoring.
Anyways, Termis as a whole. I don't have Termis models, so haven't been able to playlets them, but right away one option jumps out at me: taking the MoT for a 4++. as well as several Termis with paired LCs (though you sacrifice combi-weapon capability). Excellent anti-MEQ, anti-horde, and anti-MC. More attacks than standard Termis, albeit at the loss of ranged capability. You probably ought to take a few models with power axes and/or chainfists/power fists for anti-TEQ and anti-tank, though, if you want a big nasty deathblob unit. The MoS and IoE are also a viable way to run the unit, making you strike before and practically invulnerable to MEQ, though at the cost of leaving you still vulnerable to the low-AP, high-strength shots that are the Achilles heel of Termis, and that the MoT helps counter.
> 369 - 8x Termis with MoT, 5 with 2LCs, 2 with a chainfist and combi-melta, and a champion with a power axe and a combi-melta.
Are Land Raiders worth it? Well, discounting cover and assuming the enemy is BS4 and within melta range, every melta shot has a roughly 13% chance to kill your Land Raider outright (about 7% better than the 20%ish of the 6e damage table), so that's not too bad. Gauss or multiple Haywire weapons will glance you to death in a turn (or two, at most) of shooting, or touch of rust will do the same in close combat. Your weapons are that horrifying combo of lascannon and heavy bolter. It puts a cap of 5 Termis on the squad, or 4 if you want to include a character. More on this later (in the, you guessed it, Heavy Support post), but you might be better off spending all that massive points investment on… more Termis, all of which deep striking. All in all, I'm still not sold on the CSM Raider—if it had a Crusader/Redeemer variant, like loyalists, or even some alternate upgrades to buy, in an instant. Otherwise... not too likely for me to take.
MoT is obviously the go-to choice for Termis, boosting their survivability as it does so dramatically. What about other marks, though? I really think MoN isn't worth it; sure, you'll be taking less armor saves due to low strength small arms fire, but nearly all weapons that have AP2 have a high enough strength to laugh at the exorbitant cost of the MoN (especially since you don't need to fear ID, as one-wound models). If you want to run Typhus in a Termi bodyguard, just run the squad unmarked, I say (unless you're dead-set on using the Destroyer Hive and don't want to hurt your preciouses--meh). MoK is nice because it gives you so many more power weapon attacks, though is slightly marked up to reflect that. MoS is similarly attractive (to non Unwieldy folks), but I've been over this already. The only real AP2 weapons that the IoE would offer protection against are plasma, rending, and power axes, leaving a whoooole bunch of AP2 weapons that would double-tap such Termis out of the ring. And, hey, it's not like Termis have much difficulty with Marines already.
Apart from 2LC MoT? Massed combi-weapon plasma and/or melta fire is always nasty when deep striking right behind the enemy line. Termicide is no less viable an option than it used to be.
> 262 - 5x Termis with MoT, 2 with combi-plasma and chainfists, 1 with reaper autocannon and lightning claw, 1 with combi-plasma and lightning claw, and a champ with combi-plasma and power axe (and one could cut MoT and one chainfist quite easily to save on points, or swap lightning claws for free power axes for a bit more AP2).
> 127 - 3x Termis, 2 with combi-melta and power axe (including champion), and 1 with combi-melta and chainfist.
One thing to keep in mind when buying Termi equipment: much like the Noise Champion, the Terminator Champion has a lot of wargear he'd like to buy from the his unit entry, but unfortunately cannot. "Chaos Terminators" are a separate statline to his entry, and are offered much cheaper wargear than him, since he has to buy all of his equipment off of the wargear chart. It really isn't worth it, in my eyes, to pay full price for a lightning claw or two or a power fist when his brethren can get them so much cheaper; leave him with a power axe, I say, and only buy him a merely slightly up-costed combi-weapon.
A non-competitive distraction unit. Jeeze, what a way to sum up the entire Elites section, after subtracting Cult Troops, eh?
Seriously, though. Consider leaving it with the default multi-melta or upgrading to reaper autocannon for a handful of points (for a nastier Fire Frenzy) if you're going to run it. The unpredictability of Crazed results means that you can't rely on having a melee Brute with 2 fists get into combat (oh look, I was immobilized by a Fire Frenzy for this turn!) or a ranged Brute (hi there, Blood Rage). All right, the chance of rolling the wrong choice is only 1/3 after being glanced or whatnot, but still, would not buy.
I'm under-selling the 'Brute due to personal distaste, perhaps, and sure, he makes a cheap way to spam AV12 walkers (alongside, say, Maulerfiends and [almost-walker] Heldrakes), but he's really not for me. Low number of attacks in melee means he'll be glanced to death by krak grenades before he squishes his opponents. Poor choices available means he can't go with the optimal loyalist Rifleman Dread configuration; the nearest approximation is a RAC and ML.
Unfortunately, it doesn't say anywhere that the 'Brute can take items off the Vehicles Equipment chart. How fun would that be, though? A melee 'Brute with a dirge caster anchoring your line of melee assaulters…
The best that can be said of the 'Brute is that he makes an effective distraction to soak up enemy fire and protect your real threat units. Thanks, but I'd rather just take more real threat units. The Helbrute Formation Dataslates add some other nifty rules that, to my eyes, might make them worth considering, but I'll be going into those in a later post.
I'll let fellow Chaos player @LukeValantine field this one, why don't I?
Possessed are much better than they were last edition, with a much more viable random roll option.
They still aren't competitive.
Much the same boat as the Possessed. Essentially super-assault Termis for a distastefully high cost, stuck with Slow & Purposeful, no grenades, etc. Deep Striking is pretty much vital (you want me to what, buy a Land Raider and attach a Termi-armored IC to the squad? …maybe, if… but no), but is made a pain by Slow and Purposeful; they can't run to spread out the turn they come in (despite having no guns to shoot and make sticking together worthwhile), and a bad scatter will see them helpless for an additional turn as they slowly, slowly trudge across the field.
The variety of melee weapons they have available is respectable, and you should be able to alternate between a good pairing no matter your foe, but this respectability is canceled out by: a) the a low number of attacks and b) the tiny squad size.
Marks cost a laughably high amount. In this case, only MoK or MoN look really worth it to me; MoK for the counter-balancing of that whole "few attacks" thing, and MoN for the very attractive dual benefit of making it much harder for the Mutilator to be ID doubled out while simultaneously making them tougher against small arms fire. These guys are one of the few instances where VotLW might be worth it, except for the exorbitant cost.
Well, they have Fleshmetal and Daemon rather than just plain old Termi armor, so at least they get Sweeping Advances, right? Nope, Slow & Purposeful. Seriously, I wish they'd just folded S&P into Relentless and had done with it, since Relentless confers the only bonus of S&P but none of the (many) downsides.
Finally, terrible models. I could kitbash better, were the statline tempting. I may yet, and run them for the Spawn produced by my Spawnhood rolls on the Boon chart and my Tzeentchi Daemons.
Would not run.
- Fast Attack: Choices Choices, by @returnoftheclown .
Fast Attack is… where some of the pretty things live. Some of the prettiest things, in fact. It should weigh on your mind (along with Cult Troops possibilities) when selecting HQs and be your next stop, after picking your HQs, in building your list.
Raptors are pretty decent. Not all that expensive for squads that are rather more mobile than normal infantry, and who (if they walk in the movement phase) can get a jump-assault with Hammer of Wrath attacks. Small squads can still get 2 special weapons. They have assault grenades, so that bumps them up a ways along the CSM assault troop totem pole (along with their relative inexpensiveness and base CCW+BP).
MoK leaves them with a bunch of attacks (especially when they get the charge, which jump-assaults plus the IoW would get them pretty regularly), MoN leaves them tougher, MoS makes it so that they bash up MEQ before the enemy gets to fight back.
Not bad, not bad. Nothing to write home about in a hurry, but a solidly attractive unit. Mobile, lots of attacks.
I don't ever take them, just because Bikers outperform them in so many ways for only 3 points more per model.
What makes Bikers so much better than Raptors? Well, how about we take those Raptors, give them twin-linked bolters in addition to their CCW+BP, as well as Relentless so they can shoot it and still charge. Make it so that even if they move 12" during their movement phase, they still basically ignore difficult terrain when charging* and still get Hammer of Wrath. Give them the option of going another 12" turbo-boost during the shooting phase, rather than a paltry D6" run roll. Oh, and did I mention that the Bikers can jink for a 4+ cover save? Yeah, there is that. They still get 2 special weapons in a (smaller, cheaper) minimum squad size. They still have assault grenades. Not to mention, oh yeah, the fact that Bikers also automatically get +1 Toughness!
The downsides? They can no longer deep strike (though they still have a 43" average charge radius by turn 2 from where they start [with 24" T1 and 12"+7" average charge T2]). They have to take dangerous terrain tests when moving through difficult terrain, rather than ignoring it (though, this edition, power-armored soldiers can pretty much laugh at dangerous terrain tests). Jink saves make them snap fire, though they are rerolling to hit with those of them that still have combi-bolters—and usually, I find they live longer in melee than getting shot at, so it's worth jinking to keep them alive while they close the distance.
I daresay that incredible upgrade is worth shelling out a few miserly handfuls of points. I will run out of Fast Attack slots from taking additional Biker squads before I buy a single Raptor. Or, uh, before I buy five Raptors, since that's the minimum squad size.
How do I run these beautiful, inexpensive wonders of the Fast Attack choice? Well, Ravenwing are going to beat you up in terms of special rules (Hit & Run and Skilled Rider, all of them, plus the option to get squads with twin-linked plasma… grrr), as are White Scars (*grumblegrumble* plus to Jink Saves and that other stuff), so you're going to need to stack on marks and special abilities in order to shame their fancy robes. Which, admittedly, makes them not-so-inexpensive. Especially if you take a melee monster HQ to join them, since that will add a good 175-ish points to the unit cost, if you count it all as one.
First off, which special weapons do you want to give your Bikers before you sic them on an unsuspecting enemy? All three options are even more tempting than usual, this time around, thanks to the special strengths of Bikers.
- flamers: cheap, and Bikers have the mobility to get them right in the enemy's face for maximum hits.
- meltas: short-ranged anti-tank? Well, with twin-linked bolters and bucketloads of attacks, anti-horde really isn't a concern of Bikers, so these add a lot of flexibility to a Biker squad. Bikers are generally the forward assault force of an army, so they're going to be the first units to close on enemy--making them excellent candidates for cracking the transports the enemy are hunkering down in. I typically took meltas in 6e myself, though might in 7e find myself more often leaning towards...
- plasma: good anti-light-tank for piling on glances, great anti-TEQ and -MEQ, and what's more, thanks to the fact that Bikers have Relentless, they can be fired and the squad can still charge. Very tempting (especially on slaaneshi Bikers with an IoE, for the Gets Hot! protection).
So, what builds are viable for a squad of Bikers? Bikercide, the equivalent of Termicide, is always cheap when you have a few spare points:
> 95 - 3x Bikers with 2 meltas and a champion with meltabombs
2 melta shots, a meltabomb and 2 krak grenades into rear armor should be able to wreck any tank's day. The only real issue is these guys are a bit easy to splatter. Still, if you have enough high threat value targets on the board, these guys should be able to slip in to deliver their vicious knife blow. Still, this squad uses up a precious Fast Attack slot, so I'd say only use it when you're investing many, many points in, say, Daemon Princes and Havocs and such. Feel free to throw on the MoN or another biker (as an ablative wound), or something, if you have the points.
> 226 - 7x Bikers w/ MoN, 2x melta, and a champion with a power lance and meltabombs
Nurgle Bikers. Gotta love T6! This squad would be neatly buffed by an unmarked ML3 sorc on a bike, who could go for biomancy (Endurance for FNP) or Telepathy (mmm, Invisibility…). Also, a Lord w/ MoN on a bike in this squad (with Fisticlaws or the BBoS) buffs its combat capability a bunch… and adds the synergy of Plague Marines as Troops. See what I mean about your HQ choices really determining how you're going to build your army?
The problem with Nurgle Bikers is that there are certain nasty high strength, low AP weapons that splatter them outright. Large biker bases mean you should be able to space your boys so that templates can't hurt them too badly, but still: lascannons and battle cannons wound 'em on 2s and there's not a lot you can do to counter that. Except, well, taking Slaaneshi Bikers with an IoE for FNP as another roll on top of their jink save to try to save them.
> 264 - 8x Bikers w/ MoS, IoE, 2 plasma, and a champion with a power lance
Yeah, I'm a sucker for that power lance. With all the other charge bonuses Bikers get, and with them nearly always getting the charge, you might as well stack the odds in that first-turn-challenge in your favor, eh? Extra wounds spill over now, anyways. This build of the squad still splatters beneath S10 shots, but then what doesn't? They do, however, have a markedly better survival rate against S7-9 weapons than Nurgle Bikers, thanks to FNP. The Icon bearer can get sniped, which is a pain, but whatever. And let's not forget that these guys attack at I5 as well, after their I10 HoW attacks. Nasty. Very useful when joined by a Lord with the MoS (for Noise Marine Troops) on a bike and with the BBoS.
The more Bikers in the squad, the more cost-effective the fixed-price icon is, though beyond a certain point, the size of the squad is a bit excessive and is degrees of overkill. Strike the balance of squad size and points cost for optimum list-building.
> - 6x Bikers w/ MoK, IoW, and 2 meltas
What, exactly, does this squad do? Well, it provides an all-important retinue for the Khornate Lord with the AoBF on a bike. The power lance might just be overkill with the number of attacks being unleashed (and besides, the champion is just a shill to shuffle off into the challenge so the Lord can chop up the entirety of the rest of the enemy squad with a fistful of AP2 S6/7 attacks), but you can buy it anyways if you like. Furious Charge and rerolled charge ranges are very nice indeed, saving this squad's bacon quite often.
The real issue, here, is deciding who to stick to the front of the unit/remove in combat, since every model has such high utility. The 2 naked models can die first, then the meltagunners, then the champ, and the icon bearer last…as long as the Lord is still with them.
Another thing to bear in mind: if you have Telepathy and access to Shrouding, you can give it to bikers for a 2+ jink save! Totally radical, dude!
Anyways, TL;DR: I <3 Bikers.
>>> Warp Talons
Take Raptors, remove their assault grenades, make as expensive as Termis, and make them expert MEQ-killers. These guys are… delicate little flowers, to a degree. They die about as easily as marines--sure, like Possessed, they have a 5++ (which can be upgraded to a 4++ with MoT for an understandably high points cost), but the enemy just has to throw lasguns and autocannons at them to see them crumple.
The special deep striking ability is worse than useless; it's misleading. If you thread the needle, you might force one or (at a stretch) two enemy unit(s) to take a Blind check, endangering your Warp Talons to the slightest scatter deviation and/or enemy counter-assaults. No, far better to Deep Strike behind cover or a quick hop, skip and a jump away from the enemy line to allow for (a) scatter and (b) the unit's relative fragility (for how much it costs). However, if you have Malefic Daemonology to throw around, you might well be able to eliminate their scatter with Cursed Earth—buffing their invuln save, to boot! That is a very nice combo, if you can swing it, though it might rely on running, say, 2 Daemon Princes and allied Daemons to (almost) guarantee you get a Cursed Earth.
MoS is nice because it helps avoid casualties (by slaughtering everyone you're up against before they can strike back) while buffing combat capability. MoT is hideously expensive, but the improved inv save is also quite attractive. MoN is expensive as well but boosts survivability, and MoK just gives the prototypical, somewhat unnecessary, bucketloads of attacks (useful against, say, a massive squad of necrons or a guard blob, but not so much against the squads of 5-10 SMs you'll usually be charging and wiping out).
These guys suffer from much the same problem as Possessed, albeit being slightly more mobile and less random, but for a slightly higher cost. They still are rigidly inflexible in terms to the role they can fill (no anti-tank or weapons options, f'rinstance).
I'm just sick and tired of "expensive, but die easily" choices, really. All Chaos's AV12 walkers; all their super elite infantry that splatter like bugs on a windshield…
Let's move on before I get too maudlin. Sure, Warp Talons can be made to work in a fun list. No, they are not competitive.
All right, moving on to the borderline competitive.
Spawn are fast and ignore cover. They are tough (especially with the MoN), have several wounds each, and have a goodly number of attacks, plus their random ability. The big downside, in my eyes, is the total lack of a save (unless you roll properly in close combat). Enemy shooting is going to do a number on these guys, unfortunately.
Why include them, then? Why take these guys over Bikers? Well, cheaper and more wounds, really. They're a more durable distraction unit, for all that they lack a good reliable save (which will really let them down against, say, Wave Serpents with their massive amounts of high Strength, twin-linked fire). Still, my complaint with the Helbrute crops up again, here: why buy a distraction unit at all, rather than another real, versatile threat? Bikers, at least, can threaten tanks with melta or plasma, and have armor/jink saves. Still, here you go:
> 144 - 4 Spawn with MoN
> 150 - 5 Spawn
The best use for Spawn that I can think of as the retinue for a Lord with the MoK and the AoBF on a Juggernaut. Not quite as mobile as a biker squad, but nearly, and having rather more wounds. Forced as he is to challenge, the Lord will probably waste the first round of combat killing an enemy sergeant, but that's not necessarily a bad thing; wounds spill over, this edition. Though it might well mean the enemy unit flees, which would disappointingly leave you open to enemy shooting come your turn.
In that instance, probably run the Spawn unmarked, since A) you want the enemy to survive that first turn, and B) the MoK isn't fantastic on the Spawn anyways. You can't, of course, stick a MoK Lord into a Nurgle-marked Spawn squad.
You can also run Spawn with a Lord with MoS, a Steed of Slaanesh, and the BBoS. Similarly to the Khorne Lord, this guy can no longer be Focus Fired to death, and he can Outflank with Acute Senses to turn up right where the enemy wants him least. With an AP3 torrent flamer, to boot.
I know that some people have an aversion to fliers. If you don't want to field a Heldrake, more power to you. It frees you up to go hog wild on Bikers for your precious FA slots.
Still, the Heldrake is arguably the most durable flier in the game: AV12 front and sides, a 5++ save, and IWND make it one tough mother (though the Ceramite Plating and rear AV12 of a certain Space Marine flier makes a strong argument as well; good thing meltas don't have Skyfire).
Then there's its gun. The Baleflamer is the way to go: a torrent AP3 S6 torrent flamer? Hells yes! Coupled with a Vector Strike for another S7, AP3 hit, you'll be wiping out whole squads of MEQ with this little shagnasty.
7e gives and takes away from this guy. The vehicle damage chart is even more forgiving to him, now. On the other hand, Vector Strike can't deal multiple hits to ground targets anymore, and his Baleflamer is locked in as a turret-mounted weapon, now, making his positioning altogether more important and disallowing the “Vector Strike a transport+flame the guys who disembark” tactic.
> 170 - Heldrake with Baleflamer
The HAC is worthy of consideration, thanks to the fact that the Heldrake has Skyfire, so it provides another way besides Vector Striking to take out enemy fliers or MCs. The real downsides are that it cripples your anti-infantry capabilities badly, which is where the Drake would otherwise excel, and BS3 means you're only going to average 2 hits. Okay, 2 S8 hits are enough to make nearly any flier or tank flinch a bit, and that terrible BS can be mitigated by an (admittedly situational) allied Herald of Tzeentch with Divination giving the Drake rerolls to hit. Admittedly, the Daemonforge special ability is more suited to the HAC taking out tanks/fliers than on the already-S6 Baleflamer, which wounds infantry quite easily.
A HAC Drake might well be the best AA Chaos has to offer, for all that it's a bit expensive for how mediocre an amount of damage it puts out and that you're giving up the opportunity cost of having a Baleflamer template to wave around. If you're fielding multiple Heldrakes, one of these guys is probably a solid investment.
> 170 - Heldrake with HAC
A word of warning: fliers that can go into hover mode (or the Stormraven, who can keep flying and turn so that its lascannon turret has a clear shot) can hit the Heldrake in its flimsy rear armor with ease if you choose to Vector Strike that flier, so you'd better have enough backup AA to take out that flier if the Strike is ineffectual, or you'll be taking a pretty big gamble.
Competitively, 3 Drakes in a list was the big 6e CSM thing. I think with the 7e faqs and changes, that may well not be the case anymore. And let's be honest—its power needed to be brought back in line, really. Cookie-cutter triple-dragon lists are point-and-click to play, and not fun to play against.
(Heavy Support, From Hel's Heart, Daemon Allies, Other Allies, and CSM as Allies)
- 6th Edition CSM Heavy, by @ckcrawford
Ah, the clumsy old fumble-armed, over-expensive model whose price has been hiked dramatically to sell the shiny new Daemon Engines. Here, have a Leman Russ who is a walker and whose front armor is 2 points lower than a real Leman Russ, but costs 45 points more. Thanks… no.
All right, the Defiler gets IWND, Daemonforge, Daemon and a 4th hull point, but frankly, in a crowded Heavy Support section there's little to no reason to buy it… especially with the delicious possibilities embodied by the new Soul Grinder in the Daemon's codex. I mean, the Defiler can't even fire its battle cannon and heavy flamer/havoc launcher on the same turn, for the Warp's sake. Or, yeah, it can buy a power flail for an obscene amount of points—why not just swap for a power fist for free like last edition, GW? Please? C'mon.
There are enough over-expensive Daemon Engines available to you, these days, that you don't have to put up with this crap. If you want a large blast template, buy a Vindi. I've already converted my Defilers into Soul Grinders (with a little help from their friends Mr. Helbrute and Mr. Necrosphinx), and put the Defiler cannons onto Rhinos to make them into those aforementioned Vindis. The kitbashing wheel spins, and who can tell where Tzeentch's mutating influence will end?
These guys are slightly tougher this edition thanks to the new vehicle Pen chart, but by the same coin—that means Soul Grinders will also be all that much better, and will still be cheaper.
All right. Slightly less expensive, and also AV 12, but not as drunken-armed. Still only BS3, but this just makes the ectoplasma cannons look more tempting. S8 Plasma that can instant death MEQ or TEQ? 3 blast templates worth of it? Yes please! Of course, there is the danger of glancing oneself to death at that rate, but… hey. IWND and all that. Plus, on the off chance that you have a Warpsmith in your army, you can work on repairs, too (admittedly, a rare inclusion—unless you're specifically building a gunline army, so have included the Warpsmith with this in mind. Synergy, build units on each other, etc).
Are the HACs worth it? They're not stellar for anti-air, since they'll only be snapping fire, and there is that BS3 issue, but—yeah, 8 S8 shots that can, if you choose to Daemonforge, can reroll penetration results (not that you can Explode vehicles with AP4 anymore). Mmf. Ally in a Tzherald with Divination for Prescience rerolls to hit and you're going to be unleashing some serious pain with this bad boy, even able to get several hits on a flyer. You can consider throwing on a maw ectoplasma cannon, though I'd advise considering it carefully: if this guy's going to be focusing on fliers and tanks, that cannon is going to be less effective than tripling up EPC templates. Sure, it provides some very useful anti-infantry to the 8 S8 shots that can still wreck pretty much anybody's day, but just one template at a low BS is kinda likely to scatter off course. More killiness is always nice, of course.
> 175 - Forgefiend with 2 HAC
(in an army with an allied Tzherald, or in an allied contingent attached to Daemons)
Kind of a glass cannon thanks to AV12 (for all that IWND and Daemon are helpful), but if you get a few turns of shooting in with him, he should be able to make back his points, in either load-out. All in all: fun and borderline competitive.
Much cheaper than the Forgefiend and much faster. Great at ripping tanks to bits with magma clamps or tarpitting infantry with lashers, right? Well, not so much the tarpitting, since most MEQ enemies will just krak grenade you to death, and monstrous creatures will probably be Smashing for 1 attack, regardless of how many of their normal attacks you would prevent, and with so damn few attacks (at lowish WS), you're not going to be inflicting many wounds per turn.
It's a trifle better in the former role, as anti-tank, since it's a threat that will get in the enemy's face fast and force them to address it pronto, though do bear in mind that the extra magma hits only get allocated against the model that would take the hit from your first attacks, anyways, so are not too useful against one-wound enemies—almost all enemies, that is. Free extra hits against tanks and monstrous creatures are nice, though!
Still, it's the same case as the Helbrute. Why take it if it's a throw-away distraction unit? Hell, this unit practically is the Helbrute, just swapping a multi-melta for the ability to move faster (and a few other little rules/points tweaks).
On the other hand, I might be selling this guy a bit short. One of my complaints about the Helbrute was that you can't make a viable full-melee build of it. Well, why would you need to, when you have these guys, who are specialized in that role and faster, to boot? These guys could make a great complement to an “in-your-face all-out attack” list where you're rushing forward with as many threats as possible—they might die quick, but that means your other high profile threats will be getting through, and if they don't die, they'll crack a tank or two for you. All in all, I would generally recommend magma over lashers, though lashers would help against Daemonettes, Wraithknights, dreadnoughts, and some other tank-killers. Depending on your meta, it's up to you what you pick—both have their roles.
> 125 – Maulerfiend with magma cutters
Ah, the Vindi. Something of a gamble, since opponents tend to have such a great fear of that dreaded S10 AP2 large blast template that they'll throw everything into killing this as soon as they can. In that case… why not take 2 of them? They would cost about as much as one Troops choice, together, and you'd have the power to dictate a whole lot of enemy shooting/movement with how you deploy and move them. Downside: you only get one other HS slot. A small one, all things considered.
The front armor of 13 is a dark godsend, but it's important to keep in mind what direction the enemy will be firing their big guns from. That's part of the reason it's nice to deploy one Vindi on each of your flanks: easy to keep most of the enemy on the front armor facing, and the overlapping fields of fire mean that there's virtually nowhere on the board that can escape their threat range doom-bubble.
The advent of fliers hurts these guys a little—it's easier for your opponent to sweep around to a lesser armor facing, and any units up in the air are safe from your super-super-bang-bang gun. One more downside to the mere 24" range of the demolisher cannon worth noting: it makes it quite hard to stay outside of melta range, especially against mobile enemies. There's a 6" sweet spot against infantry (that you can move back to stay in, if they haven't run), but it's still a bit hard to stay in, when considering the entire enemy army. Or you can shoot at the meltagunners, of course.
Should you buy any upgrades for the Vindi? I pretty much always buy the twin-linked bolter, since the randomized "weapon destroyed" results this edition means you reduce the enemy's chance of destroying your demolisher cannon by half for a handful of points. With the advent of 7e, Daemonic Possession returns as a very attractive choice, too: ignore practically all the Pen chart, while 1” more scatter from the lowered BS is not so harmful as to knock it out as an option.
Fun. Not min-maxed for competitiveness, but fun, and designed to give your opponent a scare. Here's a fire-sink for your enemies and a distraction that I can get behind, since it has such deadly fangs—and for little more than a Maulerfiend apiece. Fie upon the Pen chart!
> 140 - Vindi with twin-linked bolter and Daemonic Possession
> 140 - Vindi with twin-linked bolter and Daemonic Possession
Ah, the good old Predator. Another AV13 front armor tank, but geared to long range dakka rather than short range large blasts—and so, honestly, a bit more effective. And a bit less likely to get it shot to death by a terrified enemy player.
First up, sponsons. Which type are you going to get? Sure, the naked Pred might be dirt cheap, but it has no staying power. You're going to want to buy some sponsons.
If your list doesn't have enough anti-tank in it, I'd advise just going for a pair of lascannon sponsons and leaving the turret alone.
> 125 - Predator with lascannon sponsons
Sure, you could spend a pretty penny upgrading the turret to a twin-linked lascannon, but then the Pred starts getting a bit too expensive for my taste, and against anything except AV13 or 14, the default autocannon is going to be about as effective.
If you have anti-tank covered (with, for instance, the meltas on every infantry unit plus a squad of Havocs I tend to take), you can consider the DakkaPred. Dirt cheap and traditional with heavy bolter sponsons is always an option, for a not disrespectable weight of fire…
> 95 - Predator with heavy bolter sponsons
But I say why not go all-out with the dakka? It's what this tank was built for, after all...
> 122 - Predator with heavy bolter sponsons, combi-plasma, twin-linked bolter, and a havoc launcher
>>> Land Raider
Overpriced and drunken-weaponed. The things the heavy bolters are going to be effective against are not what the lascannons are going to be most effective against, and vice-versa. Costs more than the Loyalist equivalent (IIRC), and loses PotMS to boot. Only the one set of weapons available, with no way to swap them out.
That said, it is the only way for Chaos to get AV 14 without resorting to outside-the-codex things, and is their only assault transport, so makes a reliable (albeit painfully expensive) delivery system for Termis, Zerkers-with-Kharn, or the like. I've also seen somebody kit out the Land Raider with a havoc launcher, combi-bolter, combi-plasma, and warpflame gargoyles to turn the LR into a mobile dakka-fortress. You might have a turn of sapping shots with most weapons as you get into position to let out your minis inside, but after that... you'll be hard to crack. Unless you're up against a Knight, a squad of Fire Dragons, Skarbrand/Belakor, a Dreadnought with a power fist, combi-melta Sternguard, Scarab swarms, massed Gauss/rust-glancing ...or some of the other great anti-vehicle stuff out there these days.
Ahem. Land Raider. You can make it work, but it is not a top-tier competitive choice by any stretch of the imagination. I'd much rather take a Forge World Spartan/Storm Eagle/whatever, but not everyone has the luxury of taking or the inclination to take Forge World.
Ah, Oblits. Very similar to last codex, but subtly changed. All in all, I think the tweaks made them more balanced and less of an auto-buy unit, though that won't keep me from bemoaning their loss of Fearless.
Oblits have gained an Assault Cannon, giving them a good new tool in their arsenal; have to use a different weapon than the previous turn; are cheaper; and have the ability to take marks. It balances out, I feel—the aforementioned loss of Fearless is a somewhat hard blow, but with such small squad sizes, you're not going to have to take many morale checks before the entire squad is gone.
Much like the Mutilators, MoN is clearly the superior mark here—preventing ID on multi-wound models is paramount, it prevents wounds from small arms fire, and it costs less than the (admittedly still very useful) MoT.
3 Oblits in a squad is rather expensive, but adds a level of redundancy (which in turn becomes reliability) that 2 Oblits just can't match. I'm not a fan of solo Oblits, very much—sure, you avoid the issue of LD tests (since if he dies, he's dead), but that tactic just plain gobbles up HS slots, surrenders kill points easily, and one Oblit really isn't going to be able to regularly eliminate an enemy threat. He's a kind of useful tool that might do something for you, rather than a steady leveling force.
My optimal unit of Oblits?
> 152 − 2 Oblits with MoN
You can always bump it up to 3, if you have the points to spare.
Aaaand we close in on the humble Havoc.
Havocs are one of the favorites this cpdex, thanks to a broad array of relatively cheap special weapons. In terms of squad size, I'm a fan of getting a few ablative wounds in there so you don't immediately start removing the heavyweight punchers of your unit (or the guy who's leadership is helping keep the unit there). How many ablative wounds I field, exactly, comes down to the last stages of my list, as I haggle for points among various units.
Some people prefer getting a full 10 Havocs, but I see that as points wasted, most of the time. On occasion, I run the bare minimum of 5 models, myself, though I try not to. Still, it fits with my generally MSU state of mind: why buy 2 large Havocs units when those points could be spent on 3 small ones with more heavy weapons? You'll be doing more damage and your opponent will have to shoot at more different targets to shut them down.
I would advise against getting any gear on the champion, as he's probably fated to die quickly, anyways, and you don't want the Havocs to be in combat (where most champion upgrades are relevant) anyways. The largest exception to this is if you're taking a squad of Havocs with special weapons in a Rhino as a trail-blazer (think a cheaper, slightly less effective version of special-weapon equipped Chosen and you'll be on the money).
> - 7x Havocs with 2 melta, 2 plasma, and a champ with a combi-plasma in a Rhino
This squad can unload a good amount of firepower. They can pop a pair of weapons out the hatch to take on MEQ or TEQ (plasma) or tanks (melta), and can dismount for a very punishing short range barrage. Not incredibly competitive—not due to lack of killing capability, but just because there are better ways to spend your points and HS slots.
So you intend to field your Havocs the good old-fashioned way: laughing like cruel and capricious gods as they rain down fire from destructive heavy weapons from afar. Goooood, good, I'm right there with you.
I'm a fan of mono-weapon Havocs, so that they can focus their weapons on one enemy and bring to bear enough of the same type of firepower against the type of unit their weapon is effective against in order to basically guarantee a smashing. That said, there's nothing to be ashamed of mixed-weapon squads; they're certainly easier to collect the models for, and can take similar weapons for a slightly more flexible output that can still target enemy units with impunity. Additionally, splitting up weapons in different squads can be a good way to sprinkle threat capability through multiple units: if your Havocs with lascannons are all in one squad, the enemy player can just focus his tanks on ruining that unit, whereas he's going to have quite a bit more difficulty taking out your lascannons if 2 of them are in 2 different squads of Havocs apiece, next to autocannons or some such.
> 148 - 6x Havocs with 2 lascannons and 2 autocannons
> 148 - 6x Havocs with 2 lascannons and 2 autocannons
If we are going to go mono-weapon, though? We have a few choices: autocannons are dead cheap for a squad of 4, and very nasty this edition for glancing enemy tanks to death:
> 115 − 5x Havocs with 4 autocannons
I'm not a fan of flakk missiles, honestly. S7 AP4 Skyfire just doesn't cut it against the 7e vehicle Pen table. Missile launchers are quite flexible, though, able to put wounds on Wraithknights, crack light vehicles, or splash damage against hordes:
> 148 – 6x Havocs with 4 missile launchers
Another option to run is that ultimate anti-tank and -MC squad: 4 lascannons. Again, they benefit from a Tzherald's Prescience greatly, as that mitigates how many purely unlucky misses you get—acting, in short, as a force multiplier. 3 or 4 hits with lascannons are going to to do rather more damage than an unlucky roll of 1 or 2 hits. These guys are going to attract a lot of enemy firepower, though, so prepare to buff them defensively however you can: stick them in a ruin and throw Shrouding on them, buy them extra ablative wounds, add a Sorc in termi armor to tank wounds for them... whatever you are able to do. They will probably be your opponent's #1 target.
> 194 - 8x Havocs with 4 lascannons
FROM HEL'S HEART
...I stab at thee.
- Helbrute Formations Review, by @Zion
>>> Mayhem Pack
Deep Striking madmen incarcerated in the pain-shells that drove them insane? Me gusta! IWND isn't half bad, either.
It's tempting to view the Mayhem Pack as a trio of cheap Termicide units: they're certainly a potent distraction with sharp teeth. If treating these as Termicide, I'd be tempted to just stick with multi-melta+power fist on all three: the multi-melta is more likely than a melta to be in melta range even after scatter, so you get a good shot at tank-popping when they come in, and the turns after you are at the whim of your Crazed rolls.
Having to roll on Crazed every turn is awkward, so you want to make sure you have a melee weapon and a good ranged weapon, so can take advantage of whatever you roll. The question is if they have to roll on Crazed the turn they come in from reserve: if they roll a Blood Rage result, they still can't assault on the turn they come in, so... you'd have a 1/3 chance of having useless Helbrutes. My rules-equivocation here is that you roll for Crazed at the start of the movement phase—the start of the turn, basically, the same time when you roll for Reserves. And if you're supposed to do those two things simultaneously, you get to decide what order you'd do them... so you would roll the Crazed result before the Reserves roll, except if they're not on the board, you can't roll on the table.
OR you can suck it up like the little wimp you are and roll on the random table the turn they come in, just accepting that you could be doing nothing with them the turn you come in (I tell myself).
Fearless cultists? Awesome, I can stick a Sorcerer or Warpsmith into them without fear of them breaking against an outmatched foe.
You have to take 2 squads of cultists, here, so I'd go for one of 20-30 to bubble-wrap the Helbrute, and one squad somewhere else on the table—whether that's just 10 hunkering down to grab an objective or another 20-30 escorting a melee character to the enemy is up to you. The downside is that these cultists don't count towards your Battle-Forged Troops requirements, and don't have Objective Secured--meaning their tarpitting potential/denial/point-claiming potential is limited.
This formation really does its best to negate the worst aspect of two mediocre unit-types and so lets them shine on a competitive level: a tougher Helbrute with great cover and more attacks, and cultists whose largest, glaring flaw—their low LD—is basically ignored. Gaining Zealot if the Helbrute dies is also pretty damn cool. However, the lack of Objective Secured makes this formation somewhat borderline—still, this is the formation that requires the least number of Helbrute models, so there is that minor silver lining...
>>> Helfist Murderpack
And here we have the unfortunately named Helfist Murderpack, a prime victim of GW's “slap together violent nouns and that's your name” policy. At least it's not Wolf Wolfsson of the Space Wolves with wolf claws riding a giant wolf, or Bloody McBloodsauce of the Blood Angels with his blood talons riding a bloodhawk, or something. Y'know, one of those is a real in-game special character. I wish I were joking here.
You must admit, though, this pack will murder the Hel out of you with its fist.
Ahem. Basically a “AV12 vehicle deathstar.” If you want to spend 500+ points on a single squad, and have 5 spare dreadnoughts, go ahead. I think this unit would be fun to give Invisibility and/or Prescience and just let loose. Or some other type of protection: like @mayegelt suggests, you can stick them behind an ADL or in a ruin with Shrouding for a 2+ cover save.
A danger, as ever, with vehicle squadrons, though: what is effective against one vehicle doesn't stop when it blows up one of your Helbrutes. A squad of Fire Dragons will just cackle and rub its fingers together, against this unit, probably able to kill several Brutes per volley even with the 7e damage chart. A Knight's D-strength melee attacks (if he gets to attack) or D-strength explosion (if you kill him in close combat)? Gonna pop hulls like nuffin. Etc. Something to keep in mind.
These Helbrutes get that all-hoped for Crazed control, what with the champion leashing them and being able to pick which result he wants. And the champion is the first non-special character vehicle character out there, which is kinda cool. He also gets his minor survivability buffs—5++ and LOS. Not bad.
If you're running a Helfist Murderpack, I'd say take advantage of the fact you can pick the Crazed table result: you normally want to give your Helbrutes a melee and a ranged weapon in case Crazed screws you over, but now you have a block of semi-relible Helbrutes: let's make them all melee or ranged! I'm inclined towards ranged, myself: 5 Helbrutes with reaper autocannons and missile launchers can put out some serious firepower per turn, absolutely ruining an enemy squad per turn for not too many points above the baseline. Maybe 3 RAC/ML, and 2 RAC/power fist, actually, just in case something does actually get close enough for close combat. Or 4/1. Oh, 4 shooters and the champion with a thunder hammer or power scourge, for challenges when enemies get in close! Maybe 1 or 2 Helbrutes could keep multimeltas rather than RACs to threaten AV14, or something—that way you could fit your MM/PF Dark Vengeance Brutes you would be using for a Mayhem Pack into the Murderpack without having to magnetize alternate weapons. Still, to do so is to dilute the effectiveness of the shootypack, albeit while giving it flexibility.
You can go for alternate weapon loadouts, if you like: some mix of multi-meltas/lascannons and missile launchers, perhaps, to absolutely wreck monstrous creatures and tanks while still staying not-too-pricey.
The only thing that bothers me about being able to pick Fire Frenzy on the chart is the whole target prioritization aspect of Fire Frenzy--if you pick that result, the entire unit has to shoot at the enemy unit that glanced the Helbrute, since none of your Brutes have Split Fire. And what if two enemy units glance two different Helbrutes (say, shooting from different sides of the unit)? If you shoot at one, you can't shoot at the other, and vice versa--so are you instead forced to shoot at the nearest enemy unit, since you can't shoot at one of those Brute's targets no matter what?
Awkward limitations to the best shooty Crazed roll, though you can, of course, just pick the "disregard Shaken and Stunned; gain Rage" roll, if you want to be able to pick your target.
...that said, 4 Helbrutes with dual power fists and one with a power fist and a power scourge also sounds dead fun. Especially if you can get them up the board faster, somehow. Hmm—you still have to get up the field, though I imagine that unit would soak up enough firepower that the rest of your army would be unscathed, or be itself intact enough to hit like a sack of bricks. Especially with Invisibility on.
Ahhh, at long last, I get to the daemons. These guys have become a regular feature allied into my CSM lists—it's almost like the only Battle Brothers that CSM have on the allies table were designed to fill a lot of the roles that CSM have trouble filling, or something!
A brief note on the philosophy behind an allied contingent: the main focus here, in my mind, shouldn't be what cool new models you can bring to the fray, but rather how well the new models work with what you already have in your list. Though really—who am I to tell somebody not to buy units because they love the model or think that a unit us a total badass? Oh yeah, I'm a dude writing a semi-competitive tactica, that's who. Right.
What I mean to say, before I derail myself again (oooh, look at the pretty flowers—d'oh!) is that you should focus on what synergy the allied contingent brings to the battlefield; what roles they fill or compensate for that your army is otherwise weak in; how they buff or complement what you are trying to accomplish with your list. For instance, running a list of purely Noise Marines with sonic blasters and blastmasters backed up by squads of deep striking Daemonettes sounds cool and fluffy, and run it if you want, but let's be honest—those Daemonettes are going to be out there without any support from your static battle line. That's not to say you can't make a fluffy allied D/CSM Slaaneshi list work, but you need to finesse it a bit so that the units you bring work together. I'll build a list around this idea in a later post—fast Slaaneshi units backing up CSM—later, but as you'll see, rather than Noise Marines, I bring Huron for his warlord trait, and also throw in biker squads to make the army a full-on in-your-face T2 assault wave—alongside a maxed out Slaaneshi Daemons allied contingent that's actually more points than the primary detachment!
What do Daemons have to offer? A good many AA choices, for one thing: Soul Grinders, Prescience, flying Daemon Princes with lashes of despair. Tzeentchi HQs have access to Divination, the most powerful and lauded of all psychic charts, which can benefit virtually any CSM list (Prescience being just as much a boon in close combat as at ranged). Nurgle Daemon Princes get 2+ jink saves. Grimoire of True Names can potentially buff the invuln save of a daemon, C:CSM or C:D. Daemon Princes from this codex don't have to roll on a god spell table for one of their powers, so have a significantly higher chance of rolling up a spell like Iron Arm or Invisibility.
They can bring Troops choices that are essentially Fearless against enemy shooting, and who have rules that boost their defenses against such shooting to boot, making them an excellent choice for replacing that unit of Cultists you have cowering on your backfield for only a moderate upgrade in points cost: Plaguebearers and Horrors. Daemonettes and Plaguebearers both are excellent at killing a broad array of enemy units, one of them highly mobile and the other quite durable for what you're paying (respectively). You can add nasty, cheap, fast units like Seekers or just plain cheap, fast ones like Flesh Hounds—one gives a bucketload of rending attacks and the other buffs the wound-count of your army like little else.
The Soul Grinder is a perennial favorite (and don't you go saying that perennial means returning every year and the Daemons book hasn't been out that long—allow me at least my meager poetic license!), given its sheer indestructibility, relative inexpensiveness, and solid damage output. They can bring more Daemon Princes to the fray, or even MCs (and FMCs) with that precious T6, unlike CSM. Suck it, S10! Exalted Rewards like the Grimoire of True Names or the Portalglyph synergize with CSM excellently. A minor point on Daemons allies: recent FAQs have only just allowed Heralds free access to allied detachments, so you can have all sorts of fun there.
An upside of Daemons allies is not having to deal with the unreliability of the Warp Storm table. On the offhand, this also means that taking Fateweaver is almost certainly not going to be worth it, since so many of his points are bound up in delivering that Lord of Unreality warlord trait for you. If you want to use his Staff of Tomorrow on a CSM-specific item or ability, such as rerolls for a Daemon Weapon's bonus attacks (if you roll a 1), consider having Daemons as your primary detachment and allying in the character with the Daemon Weapon. I just can't justify Fatey without taking advantage of his quirks, since he's practically all quirk and no substance. 1A at WS2... *shudders*. The downside of this is that any CSM ally list that includes Grimoire then can't take Fateweaver to make it that much more reliable in proccing successfully (“PROC”--Produced on Random Occurrence. There, you've learned your new thing of the day). Lamentable indeed.
On a slightly brighter note, it is worth noting that the HQ FOC shifting that occurs with Daemon Princes when you purchase a Greater Daemon is not relegated to primary detachments only, so one allied detachment can contain both a Greater Daemon and a Daemon Prince with aplomb.
Do, however, bear in mind that thanks to how the "Daemon of [Chaos God]" special rule works, you can't put a Daemon IC into a CSM squad or a CSM IC into a Daemon squad, so you can't cross-pollinate your units, throwing Tzheralds into Havoc squads or something--unfortunate, but you can make it work. And no, "Daemon of [God]" and "Mark of [God] on unit with the Daemon rule" aren't the same thing: you can't throw a Herald of Slaanesh into a squad of, say, Possessed with MoS. The only unit in the CSM codex with the "Daemon of [God]" rule is the Daemon Prince, so that the two are basically the same across their codexes, but you of course cannot join a MC as a unit.
Let's break the options available down into some general categories, then erect some sample allied contingents.
A minor note: if you see something along the lines of “(0: Grimoire)” it means swap out that randomly generated item or spell for the primaris power or equivalent on that roll (for the “0” on the D6, as it were).
The allied contingent that invariable has been finding its way into my shooting lists.
> 100 - Herald of Tzeentch with ML2 and an Exalted Reward (swap for 0: Grimoire or or 0: Portalglyph)
> 99 - 11 Horrors
> 180 – Soul Grinder of Nurgle with Phlegm
Hide the Horrors unit behind an ADL on a quad gun or the like, and cast Prescience and other divination spells to your hearts content. You can go to ground and still Grimoire, and behind the ADL you have a 2+ cover save—rerollable thanks to the Daemon of Tzeentch special rule. Meanwhile, the Soul Grinder is camped in a ruin for that beautiful 2+ cover himself, while still being AV 13. What's not to like? Whether I take Portalglyph or Grimoire depends on what units with the Daemon special rule I'm bringing in the rest of my list: Oblits? Forgefiend (whose HACs benefit so greatly from the Tzherald's Prescience)? Heldrakes? Yeah, you'll have plenty of scope for using Grimoire, so go ahead and bring it along. You want to be spawning new units? Take the Portalglyph for units of Horrors that can shoot just as well as 10 Horrors, or can roll on Daemonology for odd summoning stuff.
The point of this allied detachment isn't to be a huge points sink, though you could very well increase the number of Horrors to 16-20 and give the Herald ML3 and the Locus of Conjuration for some serious dakka, but I find that unit's not too reliable, all told, with witchfire powers having so many extra opportunities for failure.
Some people don't like 2+ rerollable saves, perhaps being too close to the cheesy taste of Screamerstar, so you can also take this alternate version of practically the same allied detachment, which costs some more points but is rather more brutal and costly due to one major change. See if you can spot it:
> 280 - Lord of Change with 2x Greater Rewards and a Lesser Reward (0: Staff of Change)
> 45 - 3x Nurgling bases
> 180 – Soul Grinder of Nurgle with Phlegm
What's this? An absolute monster of a FMC is what it is, coupled with dirt-cheap Nurglings and one tough son-of-a-Walker.
Minor downside: no Grimoire or Portalglyph, since +2S, explosions, and an extra Greater Reward of survivability all sound awfully nice on the Lord of Change. Do bear in mind that you'll probably have to hang back with him behind cover, since he can't swoop and then assault any time soon after that. He does fill a great deterrent role, though, swooping out to whack-a-mole down whatever comes near your line at S8 with a great combat statline.
If you don't want to bring the Lord of Change, feel free to bring Be'lakor instead. Yup, that's right, Be'lakor can be taken by a Daemon or a CSM detachment! Wherever you need to fill an HQ slot, Be'lakor is there for you...
Sometimes you just want to overwhelm your opponent with bodies. CSM provide a bit of steel, plus perhaps a special character in a blob of cultists, while Daemons provide the meat. Ten thousand fists in the air, etc. In this case, Plaguebearers and Daemonettes are your friend, though Plaguebearers only achieve maximum efficiency in blobs when supported by Fertility Nurgherald. Flesh Hounds are a way to flood the board with cheap, fast wounds. Grimoire is an excellent choice for toughening up a squishy unit of, say, Daemonettes into 3++ nastynasties. Let's whip something up:
> Keeper of Secrets with a Greater Reward and an Exalted Reward (0: Grimoire)
> 180 - 20 Daemonettes
> 180 - 20 Daemonettes
> 180 – 15 Seekers
> 280 - Daemon Prince of Slaanesh with wings, armor, ML1 (Telepathy), 2x Greater Rewards (0: Lash of Despair swapped for the worse of the two [armor or the lance weapon, especially])
With two big gribbly threats there, plus some very mobile infantry and cavalry (all the more so if the infantry are infiltrated by Huron), you're putting a lot of pressure on the enemy quite quick. This allied contingent devours quite a few points, but leaves you with both Grimoire (I'd throw it on the Seekers to make them a threat the enemy has to sink a lot of firepower into or suffer for), an excellent AA unit (the Prince lashing the rear armor of a flyer will do a whole lot of damage, plus vector striking against flyers with fragile side armor) that can also churn out a surprising amount of anti-infantry shooting before charging (Psychic Shriek plus the Lash of Despair)... you're having some fun.
I neglected to put upgrades on the Daemonettes and Seekers because, as excellent as master-crafted AP2 weapons at high initiative value are, especially ones that give bonus strength, I see that 75 points on three champions and think to myself... that's more than 8 more Daemonettes I could be adding to my list. And you'll need those daemonettes, given how enemy shooting is going to do a number on the rest.
125 - Herald of Slaanesh w/ Exalted Reward (0: Grimoire), ML2
130 – Herald of Khorne w/ Greater Reward (0: Greater Etherblade), Juggernaut, and Lesser Locus of Abjuration
180 - 20 Daemonettes
240 - 15 Flesh Hounds
Two big blocks of daemons with a tough character each adding psychic or anti-psychic capabilities. The Flesh Hounds will Scout for a bunch of in-your-face nastiness, while the Daemonettes will be hoping for a shot at Invisibility on their Telepathy table, or Cursed Earth on Malefic Daemonology.
Sometimes you just want to smash stuff.
280 - Great Unclean One w/ ML3, Greater Reward, Exalted Reward
100 - 10x Plaguebearers w/ Instrument
141 – 3 Plague Drones w/ Icon
335 - Daemon Prince w/ Daemon of Nurgle, wings, armor, ML3, 2x Greater Reward
The Daemon Prince can jump up the board with a 2+ jink save, and the GUO and PBs will be Dsing in. The instrument gives the GUO two chances to come in, while the Plague Drones provide a locus to drop the GUO and PBs in right on target. You could upgrade the Plague Drones more, if you like, but that would just be icing on the cake of an already expensive allied contingent.
These examples are by no means exhaustive, but I feel like I've rambled on long enough, and have to save some content for the Codex: Daemons Tactica I mean to get writing soon. I might well discuss the way Skarbrand synergizes well with a T2 Daemonette assault wave when he deep strikes in to provide his aura, along with how the Skull Cannon arguably benefits Daemonettes more than Bloodletters thanks to the I difference, and one can easily modify that horde slaaneshi wave list to represent these facts for a Khorne+Slaanesh jealous allies contingent. Or the potential for outflanking a Kherald on a Juggernaut in Flesh Hounds. Or so on, but for now I think I've covered some basic permutations that a Chaos Daemons allied contingent can look like alongside your CSM.
I admit, I have limited experience playing other armies. I've been collecting Astra Militarum for a bit now, but haven't played them much, and have only played against most of these other armies. Still, 7e allows you to ally yourself with everyone, albeit at different levels all the way down.
So, for this section, I'm going to do things a bit differently: I'm going to take submissions. I'll post some brief thoughts on each army available, and from there on out, I'll be editing in quotes or adding links from people who have experience with that army. What am I looking for? Allied detachment suggestions, and brief tips, suggestions... do remember that this is a Chaos Space Marine tactica, though, so try to limit yourself to “how this army can work alongside CSM.”
I will be +repping significant & useful contributions, of course. Provided I am able to +rep that person (would anybody like to stand in as a surrogate to +rep people I would be obliged to, but am incapable of?).
Most of the time, I imagine, there's no real reason to take any particular army as an ally other than “access to its best units”--your job, then, is to consider how those units mesh with the rest of your list (often having to mesh at a distance, given the “One Eye Open” rule). I'll honestly mostly just be offering fluffy excuses you might be able to use to field these armies together (especially for some of the odder, more peculiar pairings) or pointing out what units look especially shiny.
So, to the armies:
>>> Necrons (Allies of Convenience)
I wouldn't mind adding some Wraiths and a MSS Destroyer Lord w/ Warscythe to my Biker list, I'll be honest. Or if Flyers are your thing, Heldrakes could join forces with Night Scythes and a Doom Scythe. If you want to try to guarantee that you'll get the first turn, doesn't Imotekh seize the initiative on a 4+? Of course, his storm will be hitting your CSM in addition to the enemy army...
>>> Orks (Allies of Convenience)
Haven't seen much of the new book, but some Traktor Beams might be nice as anti-flyer, if you ask me. Not the person to talk to here, really. Boyz horde washing up the field to soak up enemy fire? Meganobs in trukks pressing in for immediate combat alongside your bikers?
>>> Dark Eldar (Desperate Allies)
More mobile and more fragile than Chaos—go full on glass cannon, if you like. Excellent way to add the poison you need to kill Wraithknights to your list, and get the mobility Chaos could never have for objective-hopping in Maelstrom of War missions.
Could also run a “Fabius Bile and the Haemonculi” list, of course. Jolly good fun but totally uncompetitive.
>>> Tau (Desperate Allies)
Tau. I love my Kroot and Tau minis. I mean, the ones I chopped up and mashed together with Plaguebearers and Horrors, and added a GS “robed Tau” mini my brother sculpted as the Changeling, that is. Poor naïve waifs. Oh yeah, Chaos will entertain notions of “seeing the Greater Good.” Let's just go revel in slaughter together for a while first...
How would Tau help a CSM army? Um, bolster a gunline with all their shooty crap? Maybe DS in plasma Crisis suits along with your melee assaulter units to melt something troublesome. Perhaps jump up the field with a Riptide with a 3++ to serve as a fire magnet that allows your melee folks to actually get into combat. Perhaps bring a lot of Kroot as “mercenaries” and a suitably kroot-converted HQ of some sort.
>>> Eldar (Come the Apocalypse)
What? I struggle to think of reasons Eldar would gang up with CSM. “I want to field a Wraithknight” does not a good fluff excuse make. Though... if you want to field a Wraithknight with your CSM, the rules don't prohibit it anymore. Or Warp Spiders, or a Farseer, or Wave Serpents, or Fire Dragons... knock yourself out. Go grab some of the most competitive units in the game. While you're at it, go ahead and tear the pages out of your CSM codex to wrap your new Eldar models in to keep them safe during transportation—that's the most use you'll be getting out of them once you transition over to Eldar as your main army, you sick bastard.
>>> Tyranids (Come the Apocalypse)
SCREEEEEEEEE! Fun to play alongside Fabius Bile, perhaps. Just what has he done to wrest control of them from the Hive Mind? What to field? Hmmm, Flyrant+Crone would make some nice aerial reinforcements. Fast units like Raveners or Gargoyles would complement a melee assault list well. I... really don't see much synergy here for playing alongside CSM.
>>> Armies of the Imperium (Come the Apocalypse)
O, proud son of Chaos, you dare dabble with the lackeys of the Corpse Emperor? With the minions of the Carrion Throne! Show not your face in my house!
...ok, yeah, the only way to play “traitor guard” without going to Forge World, or to represent the Knights that fell with half of the Mechanicum during the Heresy, are to take some “AotI” choices. I suppose you could even, say, play 13th Company “CSM” alongside Space Wolves, or newly fallen renegade Space Marines warily fighting beside their tempters. Or even CSM fighting alongside a warband of Fallen (aka Dark Angels), whom they don't trust. Ok, yeah, you can think up excuses to run these armies besides each other, all right. That don't make it right, though.
Knights aren't that hard to make excuses for allying in: just grab a Knight and slap on spikes. I've seen some awesome Chaos Knights around, and you just know that an awesomely converted Khornate Knight would be bloodthirsty enough that other units would want to keep 6” away...
> Astra Militarum have quite a bit of scope, whether you're going:
- “spam Primaris Psykers and Wyrdvane Psykers so I can cast Malefic Daemonology, tearing my poor fragile casters' bodies apart to summon in our unholy daemonic masters. Very fluffy alongside a Word Bearers list, which can also go for...
- “anti-Ministorum Priests doing everything a Dark Apostle tries to do for less than a quarter of the cost to big Guard blobs.” Then there's...
- “We are the elite Militarum Tempestus shock troops who operate in cells for our masters.” Rapid, mobile, adaptive Militarum Tempestus working with the lovely Alpha Legion? Yes please! Forward Sentries on Vets squads does much the same thing as the old 3.5 Alpha Legion cultists, too.
- “Bring in the big guns!” Artillery, Russes, engiseers—just the things to complement an Iron Warriors force. And of course the Culls and the Flesh would cower in the presence of their masters, or their masters would take a cruel delight in whipping them into faster motion. I mean, have you read C.L. Werner's The Siege of Castellax?
> Space Marines would put a sour taste in my mouth to field as a CSM player in a CSM list, and all, but I suppose that's my problem, not yours. I admit, the thought of fielding TH/SS Termis in a Land Raider Redeemer does start making me drool. Same with Drop Pods, Storm Ravens, Thunderfire Cannons, Sternguard, a hard-as-nails IW Chapter Master on a bike w/ the Shield Eternal and a Thunder Hammer...
All right, somebody stop me.
> Space Wolves are viable not only if you want your CSM to represent 13th Company pups, but also if you want to play with the fallen Wolf Brothers chapter, the ill-fated only successor chapter that the SW ever had, which tragically fell... muahaha. Or, hell, if you just want some cool alternative rules for your CSM (particularly Khornate CSM). New SW book should be coming out soon, so who knows how the units you'd want to take will change: will the price of Long Fangs still be dirt cheap? Will Grey Hunters still be far and aways better than CSM and Tac Marines for almost the exact same number of points? Will Thunderwolf Cavalry modeled as Skullcrusher models with CSM arms/weapons still be badass? ...probably. Probably all of those.
> Dark Angels I think would only work, realistically, as a Fallen warband. But then you can't bring Cypher and his bonafide Fallen/Chosen formation or anything, so... I'll leave that up to you.
> Blood Angels could be tempting to field as Khornate blood-butchers, I think. Death Company as counts-as-Berzerkers would be awesome—finally a statline to reflect how terrifying 'Zerkers ought to be, in my eyes. Blenderfist Furiosos would also make great Helbrutes, I think. A Sanguinary Priest as a Dark Apostle is also a great fluffy reinterpretation of a thing of which the CSM have a crappy version.
> Inquisition has plenty of scope for radicals who have strayed too far from the path of rightousness, of course, but there's not much meat to the Inquisition codex. Servo Skulls could dial in your Forgefiend/Obliterator/Vindicator blasts, if you like.
> Grey Knights... no. Just no. I know you want to, like, have your super-Slaaneshi “perfect warriors,” or run your Sons of Malice anti-Chaos Chaos, but... *grumblegrumble* fine. Do what you want. See if I care. Though the omnipresent access GK have to Benefic Daemonology kind of undermines a lot of “alt-fluff” options you have...
CSM AS ALLIES
Your loyalty to the Dark Gods wanes, though your soul is already forfeit, and so you decide to... branch out a little. Or perhaps you fall deeper into Their sway and collect a purer form of worship unto Them.
Either way, whether you're playing with Daemons or some other army, the fact remains: you're no longer bringing CSM as your primary detachment. But you don't want to leave your CSM languishing, so, sensibly, you decide to take an allied detachment. You wouldn't leave us entirely, would you? ...would you? WOULD YOU?
Daemons are the obvious force to ally CSM to, for much the same reason as the opposite way around: they're battle brothers. Arguably even moreso, honestly, given that CSM are the only allied detachment that Daemons won't hit every single time they pique a god's wrath on the Warp Storm table, since their the only list that doesn't count as an “enemy.”
Assuming a Daemons primary detachment, consider what sort of synergies you can work on. Are you bringing Fateweaver for his various rerolls and reliability? Well then, that strikes me as a fine time to bring a character with a weapon like the Black Mace or the Axe of Blind Fury—or even, perhaps, the Hand of Darkness. You know you're going to be able to reroll a 1 for your bonus attacks (or to hit, for that last one), so the risk of these high-risk, high-reward items is largely mitigated. Are you running Tzeentchi daemons at all? Well, you want to take advantage of the Divination you can be throwing, so why not add a Forgefiend? Heldrakes are always nice too...
>>> Allied Contingent for a Fateweaver List
265 – Daemon Prince of Nurgle w/ armor, wings, the Black Mace
50 – 10x Cultists
170 – Heldrake w/ Baleflamer
175 – Forgefiend w/ 2x HACs
...or perhaps you're running a Skarbrand list and want some high-Initiative yet tougher-to-kill-than-T3/5++ folks on the board:
Crimson Slaughter Allied Contingent for a Skarbrand List
190 – Lord with MoS, Blade of the Relentless, Daemonheart, bike, SoC, meltabombs
220 – 10x CSM w/ MoS, ccws instead of bolters, 2x melta, and a Rhino w/ dirge caster
244 - 7x Bikes w/ MoS, IoE, 2x plasma, champ w/ power lance
With any luck, with Seekers and/or Flesh Hounds pouring up the board, the dirge caster might even make it far enough across the board to support some T2 assaults.
Or maybe you've used up your HQ slots in getting a Greater Daemon and some Heralds, and still want to bring Be'lakor?
Allied Contingent for Including Be'lakor
350 – Be'lakor
50 – 10x Cultists
170 – Heldrake w/ baleflamer
What I'm trying to get across here, is while you can just add some CSM nasties willy-nilly, if you consider what your list is trying to do and complement that, you're likely to do better. Don't drop 450 points on a Lord with a biker retinue if the rest of your list is a wall of Soul Grinders and Horrors with Fateweaver that will be hanging back shooting and summoning—that Lord is likely to get splattered as it charges up the field alone. There's nothing wrong with bringing units that fill gaps that your initial codex isn't able to fill to increase your list's flexibility, and indeed this is your chance to play with just the shiniest toys in the CSM codex, but don't bring a unit that doesn't mesh with your list at all. This advice goes for any codexes out there, not just when allying yourself alongside Daemons.
Now we have a special series of guest posts from @mayegelt , covering the few areas of Chaoticism in 40k that I don't have nailed down: Lords of War and Forge World. Note that I have mildly edited the formatting of these posts so they fit with the rest of the tactica; they can be found in their original form on pages 3 and 4 of this thread, and each segment will be linked to .
LORDS OF WAR
This segment originally found here.
>>> Lord of Skulls!!!! (Found in Escalation)
This guy was the previous Chaosy version of a warhound Titan. Slightly more expensive at just shy of 900Pts but also had some bonus stuff to go with it. Also a damn site cheaper in money though as the Warhound I believe is about £250ish and the Lord of Skulls is only around £100.
Going on to the stats and stuff though... Here you get a Super-Heavy Walker and all the standard rules that go with that. It also gets IWND, Rage, Fleet, Daemonforge and Daemon. So slightly faster than normal and hits a bit more, and gets a 5+ daemon save. It is also reasonable armour at 13-13-11, so not bad but not great.
It comes with 2 guns. The first is the Gorestorm though that can be replaced with an ichor or Daemongore. The other is a Hades Gatling what can be replaced with a Skull Hurler. The Gorestorm and Daemongore weapons are kinda the same thing but the first is S8 AP3, while the upgrade makes it S9 but gains 'Instant Death' but also 'Gets Hot'. The weapon itself is a Hellstorm Flamer template. The Ichor is S7 AP2 Large Blast so also not a great weapon considering the just shy of 900pts this beasty costs.
The bigger choice comes from the option of the Hades Gatling what is your standard S8 AP3 gun but with 12 shots a turn, so mass numbers of shots. Also has pinning. The Skull Hurler takes a different method to do the same job. At S9 and AP3 still this weapon has an Apoc Blast, and any successful saves are made to reroll against it.
Now here comes the big reason to take it... Close Combat. Starting with a rather terrible A4 it does get 6 on charge. But for every HP lost by it during the game it gains an additional attack up to a max of 10 attacks. With 9 Hull points to lose this mounts up to max at the point it still has 3HP left. Also because of IWND then it can lose HP and regain them, but doesn't lose the bonus attacks. These attacks are of course made with the normal Titan/Knight style weapon, so a D weapon with AP1 and on top you do not get your Stomp attack but instead get an arguably better Thunderblitz attack what of course happens before combat rather than I1 like a Stomp.
Overall rating for this is it is a big load of points to burn and personally I am happier to spend the points on a load of smaller things. But taking that Skull Hurler can truly do a load of damage to a clustered unit of tanks or MEQ. But with that upgrade and the Daemongore one as well you are spending over 1000pts on a single thing with only a 5++ and no voidshields or anything else to protect it.
>>> Greater Brass Scorpion of Khorne (Imp Armour 2013)
Once again a model that costs a fair bit of money £140ish. This model is a big expense at around the same as the Warhound Titan. With a reasonable AV of 14-13-10 and 9HP it has a stronger front than the Lord of Skulls but also a weaker rear what is vulnerable to bolters and such. This combined with it having a Doomsday Reactor (+2 to cata damage table) it means it goes out with a rather large BANG!. Though also having Daemon, IWND and its very special Runes of the Blood God rule that means all psy powers thrown at it will suffer a peril regardless of if they pass or fail to cast.
This beast also starts with more attacks and is also very fast at getting to combat due to having a charge range of 3D6 rather than the normal 2D6, though lacking Fleet that the Lord of Skulls gets it doesn't get that nice reroll on distance. In combat it isn't a slouch, but does lack a D weapon. This is a major upset for a model costing as much as many of the alternatives that get one. HOWEVER it makes up for this in a way with instead of the normal D3 stomps it gets D3+2.
Now for the firepower. It comes with 4 guns:
- The first is a Scorpion Cannon this is like the Hades Gatling with S6 AP3 and 10 Shots.
- The second the Soulburner is basically a Demo cannon like on a Vindicator but ignores cover.
- The other 2 guns are Hellmaw Cannons. These are your basic S6 AP3 Flamers.
The overall for this is again an expensive beasty, and personally I think once again it is to many points for how good it is. When something like the cost of 2 Imperial Knights, it isn't as good IMOO.
Chaos also gain access to Warhound and Reaver Titans, though they are a bit special as they can have marks that means things like Reroll Smash D3 for number of hits, IWND, Reroll 1s to hit, or lower then enemy LD in combat. Though reviews of these can be found for the Imperial versions. Also they get the Thunderhawk Gunship what is the same as the Imperial version but you can get it possessed so it will eat your crew but restores its hull points if it does. Also as it gains Daemon it gets a nice 5++ save.
FORGE WORLD: TANKS & MONSTERS
This segment originally found here.
>>> Storm Eagle Gunship
At just over 200 pts this is a great transport for large squads as it has room for 20. Also being an Assault Vehicle people can disembark and still charge on the same turn! So load it up with 10 Terminators and you can move in and dive out straight in to combat. It can take a variety of weapons to make it either a troop or tank killer. So with AV 12-12-12 4HP it can stand up to a bit of dmg.
>>> Spartan Assault Tank
Basically a larger version of the Land Raider. It gains an extra HP and can hold 25 rather than the normal 10, it also doubles up the Lascannons by having Quad Linked ones (Heavy 2 Twin-Linked) on each side. All of this makes it so much better than the original for only around 50pts more. When Terminators are bulky so are counted as 2 models each for transport space this means that you can actually fit a good size squad in there to get them in to battle.
Once again same as the Imperial version. It has major advantages compared to normal ones by having the option of having heavy flamer sponsors plus the normal options of lascannons or heavy bolters. It can also swap the autocannon on top for more options than just the normal Twin-Linked Lascannons.
These options are:
- a 18” Large Blast version of a Melta.
- A Flamestorm Cannon (S6 AP3 flamer).
- Conversion Beamer is a bit of weird one with the strength and AP getting better the more range you have between you and your target. It is a that at close range is just S6 AP-, Mid range 18-48 S8 AP4 so still not great. At 48-72 it becomes a beast with S10 AP1. All of these are Large Blasts as well, but you can't move and fire this weapon.
- The last is a Plasma Destroyer, a Plasma Cannon with 3 shots a turn that doesn't have 'Gets Hot'.
Overall this is a ton better than the normal Pred and I don't really see a point in taking a normal one above it other than the lascannon sponsors cost 10pts more than the normal one.
>>> Contemptor Dreadnought
These are your classic versions of what Helbrutes are. They gain an extra WS and front armour and Attack. The also have a smoke launcher and searchlight, fleet and adamantium will. It starts with a powerfist and a TL-heavy bolter but can change the gun for multimelta, TL autocannon, plasma cannon, TL Lascannon or a secondary powerfist. The last 2 options are that it can trade it in for a conversion beamer the same as listed above for the relic predator. The other is a Butcher Cannon, what is a Hades Autocannon but doesn't have pinning.
What also makes this special is that it can replace that powerfist with a Chainfist, Multimelta, TL Autocannon, Plasma Cannon or another TL Lascannon, Butcher Cannon.
Any of the powerfists or Chainfists also have a gun attached what is either a combi-bolter as standard, but can be upgraded to melta, flamer, soulburner (not the same as the one for the Lord of Skulls) what is a 24” S4 AP4 small blast rending attack, or you have the plasma blaster what is a normal plasma stats but 18” and Assault 2.
We also have a nice rule of Hellfire Reactor. This has the nice bonuses of giving you a 4+ save vs Glances and 6+ vs Penetrating hits, Also any psyker in melee with him takes a S2 AP2 hit at I10, and when it goes BOOM you add +D3 to the range of the explosion.
It can also be marked up to get Rage / Rampage, IWND, Assault/Defence grenades OR can reroll 1s for the invuln save.
Now for the bad news. This thing costs almost double the cost of a Helbrute as standard, and if you arm it up with 2 good ranged weapons it will cost you a lot of pts and can still only shoot 1 target.
>>> Blight Drones
Costing half way between a Maulerfiend and a Forgefiend these little things are 12-11-10 2HP, but as flyer / hover what is also a daemon of nurgle so gains shrouded (yay for 2+ jink cover save!) this makes them tough to deal with and come in squads of 1-3.
They come with a rather naff S6 AP4 Flamer OR a 36” S8 AP3 Assault 1 Large Blast gun (basically a short ranged battlecannon without the ordinance rule).
In addition to this they also come with a reaper autocannon, though at only BS2 it doesn't hit often. But as a flyer it can be skyfire!
You can however only take them if you take Plague Marines in your army and class as fast attack.
These are soooo awesome just for the facts that they are flying 2+ cover save battlecannons what can also shoot down other flyers! Though they are about £40 a model.
>>> Blood Slaughterers
Costing about as much as a Maulerfiend these don't look very impressive to start with. They class as walkers though they kinda hover about. They are slightly better armoured than a Mauler/Helbrute with 13-12-10 3HP. Also they have Rampage, Fleet, Daemon of Khorne. Though they are hard to control as they MUST move as fast as possible towards the closest viable enemy every movement phase and get +D3 attacks on charge.
The other thing is gets is it can swap the dreadnought CC Weapon for an Impaler what always hits on a 4+ and at only 12” range isn't great, but S8 AP3 isn't bad. The special rule with it though is if it Pens a Vehicle or causes an unsaved wound against an MC it drags them 2D6” towards them. Making it so much easier for it or of course the rest of your army to charge it.
It is a Heavy Support, but can only be taken if you have Khorne Berserkers.
>>> Plague Hulk of Nurgle
Basically a Soulgrinder of Nurgle and costs the same. It doesn't get the autocannon, but does come with Vomit S5 AP3 Flamer with Poison 3+. A Rot Cannon what is a weak version of a battlecannon as only S6 but also has Rending. It also gets the Ironclaw and can upgrade to a warpsword the same as a grinder.
This can be taken as Heavy if you have Plague Marines.
>>> Giant Chaos Spawn
Costing more than 2.5 normal Spawns in pts this one is a MC, it is also higher in WS, S, T, W, A and comes with a 4+ save. It also has a weird mutation rule that can give it a S6 hit against all enemies in melee, -2I to all enemies in contact OR 2+ FNP!
So as a MC you are nicely AP2 for those random D6+2 Attacks (+2 more if you charged). Kinda nice for a creature costing you less than 100pts. The only prob is it comes in 1s and it will be a big target for shooting as it only mutates in melee, so no 2+ FNP until you get in combat.
>>> Decimator Daemon Engine
Decimators are basically the Daemonic versions of Dreadnaught / Helbrutes. The problem is at over 200 points they are a little expensive for what they can do. With Deepstrike ability you can land him where you want to and start the feast of souls.
Armour of 13-12-11 with 3HP gives them a good amount of resistance, especially when combined with the fact they are Daemons so have a nice 5++ save. Also with that extra armour on the back they aren't able to be killed from people running behind you with bolters after that deepstrike. On top of both of these you have unholy vigour which means that you can ignore immobilise and weapon destroyed on a 5+ and with Daemon resilience they ignore stunned and shaken on 2+.
Now even better than above when it dies (awwwwww) you leave it on its back on the table. Then at the start you your turn you roll a dice, on a 1 you died (awwww) on a 2-5 you stay where you are, on a 6 you stand back up with D3 HPs.
It can be marked in the same way as the Contemptor. The weapons it starts with are a pair of Siege Claws what is your basic Dreadnaught CC Weapon but with a Heavy Flamer built in. Now what makes these special is they also have Shred (reroll failed to wounds!) and if it attacks building or transport with people inside they take D6 heavy flamer hits per claw (2D6 toasty goodness!).
It can however swap these awesome weapons for the Butcher Cannon (same as Contemptor), Soulburner (24" S5 AP5 Ordinance, Large Blast, Rending attack) or a Great MEQ killer in the form of a Stormlaser (36" S6 AP3 Heavy D3+2).
FORGE WORLD: CHARACTERS
This segment originally found here.
Rules for the 3 of these are all found in Imp Armour 2013 Apoc. But they are still almost identical to the ones found http://www.forgeworld.co.uk/Download...Characters.pdf
Take 1 Chaos Lord of Nurgle. Knock off 1WS, add Blight Grenades, Feel No Pain, LV2 Psyker (restricted to Nurgle's Rot and Gift of Contagion + Wasting Disease a 24” S3 AP2 Fleshbane WC1 spell. Most importantly he can take Plague Zombies like Typhus, BUT his have Furious Charge for free!. Though he does have a shitty Warlord Trait. This guy is good for making all those cultists get FNP, what as he can turn any in your army (rather than the normal any in detachment) he can make a Helcult in to a zombie Helcult, so when those zombies die giving the Helbrute they can FNP to stand back up again.
>>> Zhufor the Impaler
Again take 1 Chaos Lord of Khorne. Add 1WS, S, A, Terminator Armour, Eternal Warrior, Furious Charge & Adamantium Will. He starts with a powerfist with an Assault 3 Stormbolter built in. OR he can use an Chainaxe that gives +2A. He may also take a squad of Khorne Terminators as a bodyguard what counts as the same HQ choice as him. Though he can leave them as soon as he likes. He also comes with the Legendary Fighter Warlord trait that gives you 1VP for every character he kills while in challenges. He also costs slightly less than he does on the above link.
So major advantages are things like having S10 on his melee attacks with the fist and having Eternal Warrior. The Negative is not being able to have a Axe of Blind Fury.
>>> Arkos the Faithless
Take 1 Chaos Lord with T5 and A4. Give 1 Combi-Melta, Aura of Dark Glory and a melee weapon with +2S AP3 and Rending. Also any squad he is in gains Counter Attack. Also if he is your Warlord you can reroll your dice to see who gets to setup first and seize the initiative.
...here end the words of @mayegelt . +rep him generously and thank him for your more-complete tactica covering more aspects of Chaos Space Marines.
TACTICS: SYNTHESIS & SYNERGY
We've covered a lot of units, but only glanced at how they work well with each other and how you can build lists around them. Now we're going to look at how to make those things work together and how to adapt to the various hard-headed threats out there. We're going to touch on flyers, list design theory, how to break the key links in an opponent's list using the tools you have available... you know, the fun stuff.
FLYERS & ANTI-AIR
First question when it comes to flyers and anti-air: do you need to consider them. This is no idle question, as not having to worry about this sort of thing will free up quite a few points and ease your concerns in your mind.
What I mean to ask by that is, more or less: are there enough flyers in your meta, your area, your FLGS, that to have a shot at winning you need to bring the flyer-killing stuff? We're not at the release of 6e anymore: with the release of the Wolves, pretty much everyone (except the poor, neglected Sororitas) has their own flyer; a very large number of players have at least one flyer or FMC in their lists, by now.
An additional consideration: even if several players regularly bring a flyer in their list, can you get away with ignoring it? Focus on playing the mission, getting objectives secured, working on your Maelstrom mission cards, getting into melee, whatever—can you afford to ignore that flyer and still win?
Because CSMs have pretty poor anti-air, to be perfectly honest. It's hard to have good anti-air unless you can field, say, your own flyer with high-strength, low AP guns like a Crimson Hunter, an AT-kitted Stormraven, or a Vendetta. Or, if you're going Forge World, Sabre Turret Platforms.
What options do CSM have, then?
- Flakk missiles: overpriced.
- Fortification quadgun or icarus lascannon: enemies can deploy cover to block the gun entirely (unless it's, say, on top of a Bastion).
- Heldrake with HAC: only AP4, so no explosions, and you pay full price for a Heldrake but don't get a baleflamer.
- Forgefiend with HACs and Prescience: Prescience is hard to cast, these days, and you're still only hitting on 6s.
- Allied Soul Grinder: 3 BS3 S7 shots might glance a flyer once, but... you're also sacrificing shooting your main gun/assaulting a unit with the Grinder.
- Allied Slaaneshi DP w/ Lash of Despair (and possibly Iron Arm): you can pay a ruinous price for a 50% shot at Iron Arm to make this guy reliable; otherwise you'll have trouble glancing AV12 at S6. Very expensive for a coin flip chance at being good and very fragile against enemy Skyfire. To be fair, it'll put the hurt on lighter flyers/rear armor 10/FMCs quite well.
- Snapping fire with Havocs, etc: an inefficient use of your scant shooting that should be focused on targets where it'll actually do you good. You can use Prescience here too, but with as many lower-S shots as a Forgefiend or half as many as-high-or-higher-S shots.
Your best bets are honestly a Prescience'd Forgefiend and/or a Slaaneshi Lash-DP. If you're taking a Lash Prince, you've guaranteed that your allied HQ won't be able to take Prescience, so if you want to take both, you'd need to go Crimson Slaughter->Sorc->Balestar. An upshot to these units is the fact that they still have a whole lot of utility against other opponents: even if you take out that flyer/don't end up facing one, the Forgefiend and Prince are still going to be able to choose their targets from the enemy with impunity.
There's a rare chance you'll be able to get a meltagun onto a Skyfire Nexus objective and there will be an enemy flyer nearby, or something, but... that's not something you can plan for or rely on, and a good enemy player will be wary of that sort of thing.
Let's talk Heldrakes, then. Heldrakes have a moderately high strength D3 auto-hit attack, right? Well, yeah... but by Vector Striking, with the new FAQs you are sacrificing the ability to shoot at that flyer, since you apparently lost the ability to spit metal out your ass-jet. All perfectly well and good if you have a Baleflamer and want to torch a squad on the other side of that flyer, but it's another argument against taking the HAC: you can only use half of your armament against any given enemy, so unless your opponent is absolutely spamming flyers...
Additionally, Vector Striking—unless you use the movement to fly off the board—is going to flash your AV10 ass at the enemy. If that's a Vendetta, don't be surprised if your opponent goes into hover mode and launches an unwelcome attack up your kilt. If the enemy flyer has, say, a Storm Raven's multi-melta (or is it an assault cannon) on its 360 degree turret, they may not even have to Hover. Or, hell, if it's a Crimson Hunter which can't hover, it'll still probably be able to get the angle thanks to Vector Dancer. And I don't even want to talk about a Flyrant or a Lash Prince in that position. Basically: beware flashing your rear armor, and consider the enemy vessel's armament, unless you are pretty sure your remaining shooting can take off any hull points/wounds you need to.
PLAYING AGAINST CSM (and what to expect from your opponents)
This is a CSM-geared look at playing against CSM, with an eye toward what to do if you end up against another CSM player—but also keeps a eye out for what you can expect a canny non-CSM player to try to pull against you, the CSM player.
Some armies *cough*Eldar*cough*Tau*cough* have the sheer quantity of shooting and the mobility to back it up that you may never come to grips with them, unless you got the first turn and your whole army is in assault range on T2. Trying to rush no-man's-land against a gunline is always demoralizing: still, it plays to those armies' strengths to have you come to them, and they know their priorities: kill your fastest and killiest stuff before it reaches combat. Mind you, I'm assuming you're playing a melee-obsessed list like most CSM players; you might be running a Noise Marine gunline, for all I know.
The important thing to draw from this, though, is the prioritization: you're probably not going to have the luxury of that much shooting to take out an enemy player's 2+ jinking Nurgle Mace Prince and/or their AoBF juggerlord in a bunch of spawn, and/or their allied Seekers. Capitalize the strengths of your list vs theirs, of course—hit that Nurgle 2+ jinking Prince with all the sonic blasters and blastmasters you have, by all means. Your strengths, like theirs, though, are likely to lie in combat, so the important determinant of the conflicts lies in who gets the assaults on whom; whose loadout trumps whose, and who has been knocked around more than the other coming into the fight.
Some things to bear in mind:
Getting the assault may be important, but when both of you are on bikes, that's a big threat bubble for both of you to be skirting around. To avoid this, bear in mind that...
Bait is a very kosher part of the play and counter-play of CSM. Feed your enemies those squads that aren't doing much, so you get the assault with your real, valuable units against their real, valuable units. Bear in mind your bait has to be tempting enough that they judge the exchange to be valuable enough to engage in—10 cultists aren't likely to sucker in the enemy's mega-deathstar, but a Rhino full of CSM who'll be forcibly disembarked and unable to fight next turn may well be... even if the enemy shooting kills the Rhino and they assault the squad itself.
A Mace Prince or AoBF Lord is going to strike before a power fist and probably kill the bearer—possibly even through a SoC's 4++. Heck, a lone Prince has the Initiative that it doesn't mind being assaulted by just about anything other than an enemy Prince, given that the enemy will have to challenge you, and you'll be just fine that first round of combat with your extra wounds spilling over. And if you're going to get drawn into a Mace-down or an Axe-off, try to a) have the assault and b) have dealt a wound or two to the enemy character before assaulting. Also it may help to d) pray to the Dark Gods that your opponent rolls a 1 for bonus attacks and you don't. No, I'm not telling you c), in case I play against you some time...
That in mind, keep in mind how the challenges will play out. Boons will make things a bit unpredictable, but you should be able to mentally map how the champions and HQs in a combat should play out. Sending out a sacrificial champ isn't necessarily the best choice, as it doesn't offer a one-turn-buffer anymore: since extra wounds spill over, you're just giving that character free rein against your unit for a turn. I really dislike that particular rule change in 7e, since it actively disincentivizes the weaker side of a combat from accepting challenges.
Plague Marines or a Nurgle Lord with blight grenades just about castrate Khornate charge bonuses. The defensive buffs of the former just about trump the first-round offensive bonus of the latter, unless you've got a real nasty Khornate melee monster.
Keep in mind who has assault grenades and who doesn't. Beware of/try to get into cover when using/against units without assault grenades, like Warp Talons, Possessed, Daemon Princes, allied Seekers/Daemonettes... I've had a squad of 20 grimoired Daemonettes lose combat by a painfully large margin against 7 Plague Marines in cover, striking last and with fewer attacks vs poisoned 3+ rerolls to wound. More fool me for making that assault.
Make your shooting count. Focus your fire to get first blood cracking a vulnerable unit like a Rhino—killing Rhinos is generally great, too, since it slows down your enemy and gives you the edge in mobility. All the more reason not to rely on them in your list, I say. If the enemy are hitting home in staggered waves, that gives you more time to pounce on his forces piecemeal. Shoot at enemy Havocs out of cover, shoot at the enemy buff-slingers, or that Daemon Prince who's only vulnerable briefly because you spent all your dispel dice to deny his Iron Arm.
And speaking of piecemeal, if you have a mobile force, or a deep striking contingent, or outflankers, see if you can get your opponent to split their army—then isolate and overwhelm. Deployment is important here: if all your fast stuff, most of your army, is on one flank but your firebase and HS choices are on the other, it'd be the work of a single movement phase to consolidate your forces, but you might bait the enemy into splitting into two prongs.
Chaos vs Chaos is a fun mirror match, all told—a nice challenge of generalship. Have fun with it!
Y/N: DARK VENGEANCE?
Ah, Dark Vengeance. Some of the most beautiful—but also some of the worst-equipped—models that GW has ever produced.
So, what to do, what to do. First, if your collection is limited to Dark Vengeance and little more, don't use the Lord mini they give you as the Lord, unless you're also going Crimson Slaughter and kitting him out fully as Kranon the Relentless (with Daemonheart, Blade of the Relentless, Slaughterer's Horns, and all). Rather, go with that cool Aspiring Champion in the 7e Dark Vengeance or that Chosen with the power axe—that'd make a nice Lord w/ Axe of Blind Fury, if I may say so myself.
Furthermore, the rest of those Chosen... are really less than ideally kitted out. They definitely cost too damn many points, are too fragile, and are too slow to be fielded together—I'd much rather see individuals of that squad used as squad champions and the like. Turn that power fist into a Plague Marine champion; remove one of the lightning claws from the dual LC mini and so you could make 2 minis with one LC, or kit somebody out with fisticlaws pretty easily. The power maul champion (canonically Draznicht, I suppose, thanks to his third eye that gives him Preferred Enemy precognition), um, makes for a neat Dark Apostle, though I'm unlikely to field him as such too often (read: likely not ever). Or you could swap out his maul.
The Helbrute and cultists are pretty perfectly suited to make a Helcult, though the fact that half of the cultists you get have to spend points to lose their bonus cc attack/still be worse than Guardsmen kind of annoys me. I'd much rather have 20 ccw cultists, all told (conversions are difficult on those minis, but I'm sure most opponents would be fine if you just told them that all were melee-weapon having). The various Helbrute formations upgrade the Helbrute from a mediocre unit to a useful, cool, effective one, so as far as I'm concerned, those are the only ways to take the unit.
You can attempt to carve off all of the Dark Angels iconography from the tactical squad, etc, if you ended up with that half of the kit as well, but I know from experience that it's not all that easy, and that some of those HQ characters have some awfully intricate and buried heraldry. The tactical marines basically only have shoulder pads to carve the DA symbol off of, but are left looking pretty basic and loyalist afterwards—ah well, nothing that can't be spikified with a quick rummage through the bitz box.
One option is to paint the DA like Fallen, of course (in the black armor they wore during the Horus Heresy, I imagine, rather than in the modern DA green, but with the same iconography). Take them next to Cypher, perhaps, in his Fallen/Chosen formation, with a bunch of special weapons added in!
Honestly, I'm surprised that I haven't seen a glut of Chaos players with Fallen contingents, these days, thanks to Dark Vengeance (and aided by the return of Cypher!) but I'm not displeased by the lack of such... it lets those few that do crop up stand out more. I honestly think I've only seen one person take this idea and run with it, online or off, besides my brainstorming out loud about it.
So, Dark Vengeance: Y/N? Honestly, I think it is worth it, just for the sheer number of models you're getting for the price (especially if you're splitting the price with a DA player), and for the mini-rulebook that comes with it. That doesn't change the fact that you're going to end up with some beautifully modeled-yet-terribly-equipped minis that you'll be hard-pressed to include in a competitive list, though.
COLLECTING YOUR ARMY
Among defining factors that will act as real-world limitations to fielding all of the cool lists that you're be able to think up, far and away the largest is what actual Chaos Space Marines you have in your possession. As I see it, there are three main states of collecting an army: building from the ground up, working with what you have, or being spoiled for choice.
Building From the Ground Up
If you're starting with absolutely no Chaos minis, you have the benefit of a blank slate—but still have the daunting task of pulling together an army that you have no guarantee will be fun on the table, once you're done. Good for you for seeking out a tactica like this one, as it may well give you a feeling for what you want and a sense of direction you would otherwise be lacking in your list: some overall cohesion to aim for.
Which is not to sneer upon the merits of simply buying what you think looks cool: what is competitive this edition gives no guarantee of remaining as such in codexes to come, and if you want to prioritize having a cool collection of minis that you enjoyed building and painting and having on your shelf, then by all means go right ahead. Still, on the actual game board, you can avoid some embarrassment by not having to buy any units that—for now—are pretty useless.
At least units you buy—while they may shift up and down in competitiveness—are going to stay yours and, except in rare cases, stay legal for just about ever. I don't know how fast you, the tactica reader, are going to be able to collect your army, whether you intend to spend several hundred dollars/pounds/euro just getting the army off the ground, or if you're going to barely be able to buy a unit every now and then, but if you can manage even, say, a box a month, then in two or three years you're going to have an impressive force to be reckoned with—and that's not even counting deals you can get on ebay for cheap armies, or buying armies from people a your local FLGS leaving the hobby/moving to a different army, or whatever.
First off, you are going to need a Daemon Prince and a spare Spawn to tote to games, in case you roll a Dark Apotheosis or Spawnhood result on the Boon table. A shame the Daemon Prince that gets spawned doesn't technically have wings, but still: if you're getting a Daemon Prince model, build it with wings or (if you have the technical know-how and pieces, though it's really quite easy) try magnetizing the wings onto it. A Prince with wings and a Black Mace is a fun starting point for the army, certainly, or Be'lakor, and when you aren't playing with the fellow, you have your Apotheosis spare sitting around ready for use. Just what I think, mind.
From there, I say build your list in chunks. Start with an HQ and 2 Troops for the first 500/750 points, then build with a couple other fun units: a retinue for that HQ, if it was a special character or on a bike/juggernaut, for instance, a heavy support choice or two, and/or a transport vehicle.
It's good to decide on an overarching theme to build towards early: Are you going to bring a marks Lord/Sorc and bring some squads of cult troops? Are you going to have a fast in-your-face force of bikers/spawn, HQ killnasties, and maulerfiends, supported by Troops CSM in Rhinos with dirge casters? Or are you trying to run a solid gunline with maxed Heavy Support, anchoring the line with cheap MSU units of 5 Noise Marines with a blastmaster each? Are you going to be bringing in Daemonic allies or fortifications of some sort? Which codex or supplement are you going to run, and if it's Black Legion or Crimson Slaughter, is the background purist within you strong enough to demand that you paint that supplement's soldiers in their proper color scheme?
By that same coin, however, don't be afraid to proxy units (with your opponents' permission) to see if that is what you want for your mainstay army before you've bought all the units, or to try new things and see if you like those better. Who knows, maybe you'd prefer a Nurgle Bikerlord for that sweet T6, Fisticlaws (or BBoS) and Plague Marine Troops, rather than an AoBF Lord. Or want to try running both.
Play around. Have an idea of where you're headed, but don't lock yourself into some idea of exactly how you must build your army—you having new experiences, to say nothing of new dataslates/supplements/formations, etc, coming out, or a new codex dropping, should all readily be able to change your mind.
Working With What You Have
Perhaps you've started with your CSM recently, and want to win more matches so you read up on this tactica, now regret several past purchases. Maybe you inherited a large chunk of CSM from a friend on the cheap. Perhaps (*sigh*) you bought Dark Vengeance—hopefully the 7e box, then, with the extra cool Champion, and not the 6e-whose-tiny-rulebook-is-already-invalid version.
Use what you can. Don't be afraid to chop-and-swap bits and special weapons, or to convert CSMs into, say, Noise Marines or Plague Marines. My points on Dark Vengeance go into that sort of mindset quite well, I think: don't be afraid to get chaotic with your Chaos conversions. When this codex was released, I tore my Defilers (one of which I got from a friend in just such a dump-purchase as I described last paragraph) in half in order to turn them into Soul Grinders, and have had few moments so cathartic in the length and breadth of my hobby career.
And what you get is likely not to be all bad: I imagine that you'll find a use for, on average, more than two-thirds of piecemeal-acquired armies. Say what you will about how mediocre this codex is, it certainly smoothed out quite a few of the low points of the 4e CSM codex (while, sure, introducing Mutilators as a new low).
Being Spoiled For Choice
So you have 10k+ points of CSM and were just brushing up on tactics, here. Thanks, but I think you have your collection well in hand.
Let's wrap up with some general thoughts on improving your play that don't fit into the general “CSM” mold, but that can still improve your play.
Mathhammer: Bending the Odds in Your Favor
There are deeper layers to peruse, of course. You can get into Mathhammer, the crunching of statistics to optimize units, for example—but I warn you, then you'll lay awake at night calculating the average number of glancing hits that a Forgefiend using Prescience and Daemonforge will do to a jinking Wave Serpent, and the like.
(2.25, by the way, assuming the Serpent Shield downgrades all pens into glances and they don't have holo fields/some other way to boost their Jink)
Or how many glances/pens a S7 Armorbane weapon swung by Be'lakor would do to an AV 13 Knight. Or the percent odds of a lone melta exploding a Land Raider. Or how many unsaved wounds, on average, a Wave Serpent will do to a Swooping T6 FMC with a 2+ jink save (which the Serpent Shield will Ignore Cover on, but will only be twin-linked if the twin-linked scatter lasers manage to get a hit on 6s). Or how many average unsaved wounds a lightning claw will do versus a power sword (+bp), on average, with and without the assault attack bonus and against lower, same and higher Toughness-than-your-Strength opponents. OR...
You get the picture. There is an awful lot of brain-horsepower you can waste on the nuances of statistical averages, and the relative merits of how to finesse the odds in your favor.
There are programs and apps you can use for building army lists, to automate a lot of the manual adding of points in the head (to say nothing of getting rid of those annoying arithmetic errors), which also often store those lists for later perusal and tweaking, but also allow you to print them out for bringing into the store or to tournaments: I myself bought Quartermaster on my iPhone, and I daresay I have gotten far more than its moneys' worth out of it (after figuring out how to download army templates from an independent website, for legal reasons), and have found it worth every cent. Very crisp, clean and efficient. Army Builder seems like a popular (computer) program I've seen multiple people using, as well.
Streamlining your list creation process and having an easily accessible archive of lists is incredibly liberating, I have found. I frequently find myself whipping out the Quartermaster app to scribble up a new list that tries out some odd synergy I've been considering when I have a few free minutes.
That's All, Folks
Thanks for reading this tactica. I'd wrap a bow around it and tie it off for you, really, but I don't know if that's necessary. I mean, thanks for reading it; thanks for paying attention to my wordscribbles. I write this for you all, and it's your responses and spirited disagreements/debates/expansions on my thoughts that make it all worthwhile.
And before this circle-jerk becomes too self-congratulatory: good night, dear Heretics. Good night...
Will be reading this in depth. Looks good Mossy!
Glad you're excited, Mr. "Wizard, Never Trust A."
Added in Troops, Elites: Cult Troops, Elites, Fast Attack, Heavy Support, and Daemons Allies. Those last two had to be put into Post #3, not #2, so I edited the table of contents to match the shifting of HS from the one to the other..
I am enjoying this a lot! Thanks very much!!
I'm glad you're finding it useful. I should be posting it a bit slower, now—only a section or two a day—now that I've edited, posted, and so exhausted everything from the old thread.
Significant differences from last version of this thread: added a section on which codex/supplement, added Be'lakor and Cypher to special characters, tweaked up or down some unit entries based on 7e (Nurgle daemon princes up, Heldrake down, etc) or based on supplements (plasma chosen with Draznicht, etc). Also minor grammatical tweaks.
Up next: Helbrute formations. I've realized I should have actually put them before Daemon Allies, so they'll be edited in before that segment, rather than after it.
Thanks so much for this - It's alot of fun to read and very usefull!
I did notice one thing though;
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