I'd pick chaos marines out of those three you listed, because they're the only one with a new codex. The guard one is waaaayyyy outdated, so you'll only be able to play them for a while before you have to change your army to some extent, and marines (being the GW golden boys) will probably be getting a new codex come 5th edition. Chaos is also really fun to play, skulls for the skull throne anyone?
Space Marines Its a flexible army but costly in points. They have a solid defense and attack, as well as CC and shooting. If you want it fast, you can have it fast. Tanks, Rocket launchers you name it. weakness is sometimes numbers. depends on your enemies too.
Chaos Space Marines Same as SM, but has the opportunity to field demons and all the nasty creations of chaos. They have differences as they cannot field landspeeders for example. But they have there quirks too. depends if you like the chaosiness of it all. The gods are damn fine might i add
Imperal guard numbers? there are a lot of them..but they aren't so strong..they can field some unique tanks and vehicles and can be quite annoying.
as Ubiquitous said..chaos marines have a new codex and they would also be my preference. but if your mind is set on a tactic let me know and ill see from there.
otherwise, go with what feels best for you, these are just suggestions
Depends on what you want to do with your army. I'd advise reading their codices, see what fluff you like, see what mechanics/units you like, and go to it from there.
Wolf's description is pretty accurate. SMs come in pretty much any flavor you like and are generally resilient. CSMs don't do shooting or anti-vehicle shooting as well as SMs, but have lots of cool options and models and have better melee options IMO. IG has the best tanks of the 3, but their infantry is useful really only for standing still and shooting. Overall, probably the worst infantry in the game as everyone else can at least boast a str 4 normal weapon or has some armor penetration. However, you can revel in the crappy infantry and take 50 conscripts for 200 points. Yowza. Kill it with numbers!
As a first army marines are great. Their stats and units are easy to memorize and can help you learn the rules of the game. Also, if you start getting bored with them, you can start adjusting them to become a dark angel, blood angel, black templar, space wolf, or sometimes even a chaos army. The chaos models and units are cool too, but as I said before, if you didn't get any Land raider crusaders, scouts, landspeeders, or whirlwinds in a normal marine army, you could easily make the army chaos by changing their banners, commander, and maybe adding some spikes here and there. If you want to learn how to play and use a very easy to handle army, marines would be your best bet. Chaos is a close second, but although they have a ton of different, cool looking, units, some of those units are considered useless or not worth the points by most people (ex. possesed marines). Meanwhile, the marines have whirlwinds, scouts, landspeeders, land raider crusaders, the They Shall Know No Fear special rule, and other special rules letting you combine your forces with a witch hunter or daemonhunter army. In short, a very adaptable army with tons of useful troops and vehicles. Chaos, as I said before, is a close second, but a marine army's ability to help you learn the game and then be transformed into a dark angels, blood angels, space wolves, black templars, chaos, witchhunter, or daemonhunter army is what I think gives them a slight edge over chaos. Imperial Guard I don't know much about, but I do know that their troops are weak and their codex is pretty old.
tryanids (i think i spelled it wrong..) sound cool although i play orcs in fanasty and i dont want a horde army (just thinking about it makes my pocket hurt). still a lot of freedom on stuff sound cool
my second army is tyranids. and it doesnt hurt the pocket to much. the other option is tau as Imperial Dragon says. dont know much about tau really not alot of mod involved (someone correct me if im wrong). but the whole greater good is quite funky in a hippy sort of way.
I field Tau and Thousand Sons chaos marines and the armies are my two favourite. Personally I would recommend the Chaos Marines simply for the sheer conversion possibilities allowed with chaos along with the fact that the codex is newer and not as limited in what makes a viable and powerful army list. That said, take a look at the Witch Hunter codex with the Sisters of Battle in particular. The have a very different playstyle (all emphasis on rapid fire range shooting backed up by large numbers of flamers) than most armies and the Acts of Faith they have allow you to alter the way they play from turn to turn as needed. Only downside to them imho is the cost as a Sisters army is going to be nearly all metal.
well if you want alot of variety id pick either csm or just plain sm. both races have lopts of untits and vehicles to pick from and their easy to convert if you want. and just fyi, tyranids, sm, csm, tau, eldar, chaos and orks all have new codexs
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