Thursday, November 29, 2012

Chaos Space Marines in 6th: Basic and Khorne Chaos Space Marines

Old School here to begin talking about the 6th Edition Chaos Space Marine Codex and how I feel about the units based on my experience with the units and general observation from the table.  I have had some time with the codex now and will cover it from a perspective of what works, not so much a "what works in the current meta" stance. I encourage readers to add to this through comments regarding their experience as well.

So where else would we start than with the unit the whole book is named after: Chaos Space Marine. In this post, I will cover the basic CSM options and then look at the mark of Khorne and its options. This single troop choice has so much meat to it that it cannot be handled thoroughly in a single post.

A Cheaper Chaos Marine?

Chaos Space Marines experienced a drop in points in the new book from 15 to 13 points base. In exchange they gave up a point of leadership and their dual close combat weapons. Good deal right? Well, let's take a look.

The basic Chaos Space Marine is essentially a tactical Marine without and And They Shall Know No Fear (one of the best rules in the game) or combat squads. He has a bolter, pistol and grenades, but if you expect this guy and his buddies to stick around (mostly in close combat), then you are misleading yourself. In a toe to toe fight with tac marines, they will draw most times, but if the CSM win, the tacs withdraw and then do anything they want. If the tacs win, the CSM either run and suffer from regrouping, never regroup of get run down (better than 50% chance if they break).

Does this mean we need to take tons of upgrades? I say not always. I do think that if you have a strong scoring core already built into your list and want a mobile objective taking unit, then small CSM squads can do just fine. Rhinos can give them mobility, they can carry a single special weapon to be dangerous and if they die, your solid scoring core is hopefully doing it's job.

Before we move on, I will say that in general, you want a CSM unit to have a purpose, otherwise cheap cultists could just fill objective holding slots. While small, unmarked units of CSM can do that, for the points, I would rather have more bodies and if I am going to invest in power armor for troops, it will be with intent!

So What Can We Take?

Here is where the rubber meets the road for the Chaos Space Marines. Upgrades are what will allow you to change with the times, adapt to the local situation and take a mediocre troop choice and turn it into an effective unit, while also fulfilling your fluff desires (possibly)!

-Weapons: The weapons we take will define our goals on the field as much as the marks or icons we take. Midfield shooters will likely want to rock plasmaguns and avoid the heavy weapons. Backfield units may want to take a plasma gun for the threat range or a flamer for a little defense while they may also want to explore a missile launcher or autocannon so they can threaten the entire board. Aggressive units will likely want Meltaguns as they can still assault after shooting them, which plasma will deny and flamers could actually take them out of assault range!

Extra close combat weapons are great and give us a leg up, but aren't necessary depending on what units you take and what you want to do. Khorne units may not want the extra cost of keeping the bolter, but Tzeentch guys sure as hell better have a bolter and may not have any need for the CCW, ect. You need to consider whether or not you will want that tactical flexibility for having a bolter or not or if you just want to pay the points.

Marks and Icons: Marks and Icons are great for many units across the codex, but nowhere else can they define the role of a unit as much as they do here.

The Icon of Vengeance and regular CSM can go together very well. If you want to keep things cheal and fearless, then you can go unmarked, take an icon, some weapons, maybe a rhino or extra combat weapons and be on your way. There isn't much else to say. Fearless CSM aren't too bad and a unit of ten will generally come in just a little over the price of a tac squad. You may not be going to ground any time soon, but you also will be good to the last drop.

Khorne: Units with the Mark of Khorne gain Rage and Counter Attack, both of which are welcome. Units that choose this mark will want the extra close combat weapon to make the most of their mark, but they should keep their bolter if they can to remain more flexible.

This unit is obviously an aggressive unit, so I would arm it with meltaguns and give it's champ the cheap option of a power weapon (hoping it will kill most opponents with the weight of its attacks). In this way, the unit can move and fire and assault while providing a threat to vehicles along the way.

This leads me to What Icon should the Khorne CSM take? They have two choices here, the Icon of Vengeance (IoV) or the Icon of Wrath (IoW).

The IoW will ensure that your unit gets into assault by re-rolling charge dice and will also help you by giving a strength boost on the charge. This unit can and should eliminate most basic Marine Equivalents (MEQ) and most basic xenos when it charges. It should also be able to hold its own against the same. Units of 8-10 will be fine, but aggressive units like this may come under heavy fire early in the game. Unless they start in a rhino, I would recommend larger squad sizes like 12-16 (ooo fluffy), but keep them out of situations where leadership could become an issue. This is why this unit is a great choice to run with a Chaos lord. Not only does it increase the capabilities you took it for, but it also adds fearless to the unit. Without a lord, I would worry about large volume firepower, Psyker Battle squads or anything that can smash a big unit like this in combat. Bottom line: No rhino, lots of bodies, special weapons and a lord = beatstick.

That brings me to the Icon of Vengeance. An aggressive, fearless unit can really hurt enemy units, serving to hold them in place for more aggressive units or to just chew into the midfield and dig in, possibly scoring with the last angry heretic from the squad. Squads of 10 or more are preferred here, but bigger squads could take you further. Ten man squads in rhinos are certainly viable as well. These are poor man's Grey Hunters and while they don't outperform them, they can be a useful midfield unit. Obviously, the IoV will be useless if this unit is joined by a Lord.

Out of the two choices for Khorne, I would take a single unit of the IoW squad and only take one. Join the lord to it and run up the field along side some other combat units screaming for glory. Why not khorne berzerkers in this role? They are fine for it and have better WS and even fearless. The special weapons are what I am interested in here. If you think you can live without special weapons or even the flexibility of bolters when there is nothing to assault, then go for the zerks.

In general, I would avoid small five man Khorne units as they will likely never justify themselves on the table over a cheaper, plain CSM. I also am not too thrilled about massive 20 man units, since the investment may cost you effectiveness in other units in your army. At the end of the day, you will only be able to take a single objective.

Alternatives to the two ideas above can be provided by other HQ choices.

Dark Apostles can give many of the same benefits and even give an extended bubble to the front lines. Just be careful as they are not as resilient or as mean as Chaos Lords.

Warsmiths can fill the tenth spot in an IoV squad and provide the second Melta gun, flexibility in the form of the flamer, utility in melting vehicles and killy power in CC with their impressive array of attacks and improved armor save.

Sorcerers and Daemon Princes are also possibilities in lists that include these units, but since they will tend to act separate of these two, I will leave them for another post.

That is it for now. Be on the look out for more posts on the basic CSM builds with the other marks and more articles on the codex as this series matures. As I stated in the beginning, thoughtful comments regarding your personal experience are certainly welcome as we can use that to draw more insight on the units in this book.


  1. I have played a few games with Dark Apostles, and I have to say they disappoint. I would go with the chaos lord every time; you can run cheaper if you're going for just a weapon and a mark, when you connect you will actually do damage.

    1. Yeah, that's why I stuck to them as an alternative. My big recomendation for Khorne Marines right now is to mob up, take the IoW, bolters only if you can afford them and run with the Lord. They will do tons of damage, grind the opponent and allow the rest of your army to do its job.

      The only thing I would really worry about is another Chaos list. It is hard to deal with the Heldrakes the turn they come in.

    2. If you're not taking a Heldrake of your own, you've got fair few anti-air relability, unfortunately. With Chaos' poor excuse for dreadnoughts, you can't take some riflemen and use them to fend-off any aerial threat reliably well.

  2. Oh, I always have two drakes. It's the turn they come on board that's killer. Then again that's how it goes for my opponent too when mine come in.