Thursday, 13 January 2011

Chaos Space Marines: New codex, anyone?

I am happy to announce that we have a new author on the blog. He is a lean, mean drum machine (actually he is a real person) and he is known only as "Tzif". Children speak of him in hushed voices around campfires lest the Ruinous Powers steal their souls while they sleep. He is a major Chaos aficionado while his miniature collection pushes a five-digit figure in points. You can bet he is not very happy with the latest Chaos Space Marine codex and he has something to say about it (would you like some cheese with your whine Tzif?). The following article is not just a rant though. There is a lot of constructive criticism in there and a good read for everyone. Enjoy! - The Antipope

CHAPTER 1: Whining about how our current codex sucks in comparison with last edition Chaos Space Marines codex and the current 5th Edition codices of other armies, opinions on what was rightly changed, and what was unfair:

As everybody knows, our best time was during the fourth edition, when I kept an army of each of the Legions mentioned. I enjoyed it much, I must say; I didn't always win, but I loved the personalized character and the variety in that Codex. And then, from what I know, players of other armies complained about the Iron Warriors being overpowered, and the result was throwing away the Legions concept as a whole. In the current Codex, everything seems to have been "stripped down" to mostly generic choices with little variety. I had to sell my Basilisk, and my Daemons went to the shelf, to be given away later.

 I got really disappointed with the new Codex, and when the 5th Edition & the current Space Marines codex came out, I became furious. Our codex was "nerfed" down, and the Space Marines were even further boosted. I got "Vulkanized" and "Kahned" a few times, and that's when I decided to stop playing for about a year. I started playing again, and got the other new codices in my hands. Then I saw the new Imperial Guard; More variety, ability to create several both competitive and themed at the same time army lists, and a big amount of new vehicles. Actually, no other army had to ditch previously owned models, except Chaos Space Marines (Sonic-armed vehicles, Basilisks etc, and I would dare to say Daemon models, as they are too generic and a waste of points in this edition, nobody really uses them anymore, especially since they got their own Codex). The Tyranids got a fantastic new variety as well, and, ehm, should I really comment on the uniqueness and customization ability of the Space Wolves and the raw killing power of the Blood Angels? I could go on for hours about how great their codices are, and how "overpowered" some things are as well (Mephiston crushed my tournament army almost single-handedly; The model is small in size, can jump from cover to cover out of sight, has better stats than a Primarch -see Angron's Apocalypse stats-, is as tough as a Great Unclean One, as strong as a Daemon Prince -Stronger than a Codex: Daemons DP for sure, and can go S10-, with as many attacks as a Bloodthirster and more Wounds than any other rational Power-Armoured model. Logan Grimnar makes Lascannons move & shoot, not to mention Thunderwolf Cavalry, Arjac, who can't be targeted individually and throws a S10 shot, and many more nice features).

Don't get me wrong, I don't whine that those codices are "cheesy". Everything has a points price, and I find them all fair. But, my issue here is that they *do* have those choices, and what we have, is: 3 HQ choices, which have the only difference on the Marks and possible Psychic Powers. And that's it. Daemon Princes are really weak compared to last edition, without the ability to get a 2+ Save (nobody ascends to Daemonhood wearing Chaos Armour or Terminator Armour?). Oh, indeed, Chaos Armour was removed too... Abaddon has a good chance to hit himself (as well as any other Chaos Lord with a Daemon Weapon), and even if he didn't, he costs as much as Logan Grimnar, who beats the Warp out of this over 10.000 years-old clone of a Primarch (not to mention making Wolf Guard Troops choices). Kharn kills a number of his own squad members along with enemies, but I can't complain, his background is awesome, his relatively cheap points cost and raw power outweigh this drawback. Lucious, Fabius Bile and Typhus are not as useful as before however, at least in Tournament play. Chaos Raptors became just overpriced Jump Marines, as they lost their Hit & Run rule, which made them so great and unique in the last edition. I totally agreed with the increased points cost and Toughness reduction of Obliterators. However, being susceptible to "Gets Hot!" feels really weird, as in their background story they still imitate their weapons (how can you burn yourself since you have "white-hot plasma coursing throughout your body"?). Possessed are a unit depending on pure luck, and being a Strategy Game, one can't pick his forces based on pure luck, but with a plan in mind. Possessed force you to make a plan for them right when the battle begins, which means that with an undesired result, you have a useless unit for way too many points. As for vehicles, I can't really complain, it's good we got to get Vindicators (so mine didn't have to go on the shelf along with the other models from last edition), although it kind of sucks that Dreadnoughts don't Fire Frenzy if rolling a 1 when Immobilized, or Blood Rage if rolling a 6 while all their ranged weaponry is destroyed, it was really fun and theme-promoting.

I know very well that the Chaos Space Marines codex will be the last codex for 5th Edition -no surprise here, I just hope the 6th Edition Space Marines won't beat us up as a codex again- (although I wonder why this happens, as Chaos Space Marines are one of the most popular armies..! OK, I see that the lower-selling armies are now being refreshed, and they need that, but I simply thought that "primary" armies such as Space Marines and Chaos Space Marines had a higher priority -well, loyalist Space Marines do have that priority-), but at least this gives lots of time to design a good codex!

CHAPTER 2: Ideas, suggestions and opinions for a new Chaos Space Marines Codex:

OK, enough whining! After a long time playing and 3 different Chaos Space Marines codices, taking in mind the philosophy of codex-writing in this edition, my thoughts on a great new CSM codex are the following:

A. Keep the "generic" concept, as going back to Legions would be against the simplifying strategy GW has been following in the new codexes. However, there could be more HQ choices, reflecting both the spread of villains from Legions, leading their own Warbands, and allowing players to make their own Legion-themed armies and still have that "special" feeling (just like a Space Marine player is able to field a Master of the Forge for an Iron Hands army, a Captain on a bike for White Scars, etc).

My ideas for HQ Choices are:

-Daemon Prince; Ideal stats in my Opinion: WS6 BS5 S6 T6 I5 W4 Sv3+/5+, with options for Marks, Psychic Powers (See "Chaos Sorcerers" for additional abilities about Chaos casters, with immunity to the Perils of the Warp -a Daemon Prince is a Daemon himself, and therefore should be immune to the Perils-. Actually, they could just not need to take psychic tests at all, they are the power of the Warp incarnate!) and Wargear (Wings, Daemon Weapons, Chaos Armour). I wouldn't recommend Gifts, as there should still be a distinction between Chaos Space Marine and Chaos Daemons Daemon Princes. It's also very weird that Daemon Princes strike last when assaulting into cover, but this is more of a Monstrous Creatures issue than a Daemon Prince issue.

-Chaos Lord; I believe they are fine as they are: "Simple", with heroic Marine stats, although I believe they should confer some tactical asset which would make them more useful (being tainted doesn't mean one has forgotten his tactical skills!). Wargear for Lords with no Mark of Chaos could "unlock" several abilities: A) Chaos Space Marine Bike: Chaos Space Marine Bike squadrons can be taken as Troops Choices as long as they don't carry an Icon other than Chaos Glory (reflecting a Night Lords Chaos Lord). B) Jump Pack: Raptors count as scoring units as long as they don't carry an Icon other than Chaos Glory (Reflecting a Night Lords Lord). C) Unmarked Chaos Lords, not wearing Terminator Armour or a jump pack and not riding a bike or a daemonic steed may take the Infiltrators and Scouts Special Rules, which they confer to any unit they join and its dedicated transport vehicle (Reflecting an Alpha Legion Lord).

-Warsmith; Chaos Lord stats, Servo-Arm, Feel No Pain (due to bionics), Chaos Armour (2+ save), may not take a Mark of Chaos, access to Wargear, including unique Wargear, such as a servo-harness (actually, I once had converted an Iron Hands Terminator Captain with a servo-harness, how cool would be allowing servo-harness along with Terminator Armour? The Dark Mechanicus can have its own little patents!), and maybe a one-shot auxiliary Heavy Weapon! Another really interesting idea is an upgrade to an Obliterator Lord; No other wargear might be taken, keeps the Warsmith statline, gains a 5+ Invulnerable Save, Obliterator Body Weapons, becomes Slow & Purposeful and counts as 2 models for transport purposes.

-Chaos Sorcerer; Chaos Sorcerers are not reflected as the mighty psykers they are supposed to be. A Librarian or a Wolf Priest can now be much more powerful. Perhaps the ability to cast 2 Psychic Powers/turn could match that up, and perhaps some counter-psyker abilities (Chaos Space Marines really lack in that area, while the Eldar and all Loyalist Power-Armoured armies have some sort of psychic protection provided by their psykers, Chaos Sorcerers and Daemon Princes should for sure have some tricks to play on rival psykers!). Perhaps some protection from the Perils of the Warp should be there for Chaos Psykers too (living in the Eye of Terror sure makes you more resistant!), the most balanced thing I can think of is not having to re-roll successful Invulnerable Saves when suffering a Perils of the Warp attack.

-Dark Apostle; Lesser stats than a Chaos Lord, may not take a Mark of Chaos, Cursed Crozius (Power Weapon & 4+ Invulnerable Save), access to Wargear, confer an ability to a unit he has joined (giving +1 Attack or Rending ability -or both, or having to choose which one every turn- to all members of the squad as long as he lives sounds good and different than a Chaplain's ability), +1 to Reserve rolls for Summoned Daemons as long as he is alive.

B. Special Characters:

-Abaddon: People avoid taking him, because his effectiveness is not respective to his points cost. Having an average (compared to the other Space Marine top-of-the-line characters) close-combat character who has a chance of not only making no attacks, but also to hit himself can only be described as disappointing (explains losing 13 crusades though :P). Logan, Mephiston and other "lesser" in both age and experience characters can best him in a fight with ease, I hope he will fit his status in the next codex..!

-Kharn: He is great as he is; Perhaps give him +D3 Attacks instead of 1 when Charging. Blood for the Blood God!

-Typhus: Old Manreaper rules, please (+ Force Weapon)!

-Lucius: Same statline, same Wargear, although his Armour of Shrieking Souls ability should be changed to reflect the fact that he comes back to life using the body of his slayer; If Lucius is slain by a non-vehicle model, that model must immediately take a Toughness test. If he succeeds, he tests again at the start of its owning player's next turn and every turn after that (its doom is inevitable). If it loses, remove the model from play as a casualty and put Lucius back in its place with 1 Wound remaining. If that model was part of a unit, move Lucius the minimum distance needed to be 1" away from the unit. If he is killed again, the same applies for the model that killed him.

-Ahriman: Ok, here is the arch-psyker of the Chaos Space Marines, and is not nearly as powerful as a Farseer, and not really more powerful than an Epistolary Librarian. Allowing him to re-roll a failed psychic test and all attempts to resist or nullify his psychic powers suffering a -1 penalty (Psychic Hoods, Wolf Tail Talismans and the like) should be a must for such a master of sorcery. Access to powers of other Gods would seem reasonable, for such an arcanist.

-Fabius Bile: The random statline was quite cool, but even as he is now, he's fine.

-Huron: Perhaps his Invulnerable Save should become 4+, as he just turned Renegade, so his Iron Halo should still be there. Getting Feel No Pain from his several Bionics should also be taken into consideration.

-Where is Cypher? Bring him back!

-Doomrider would be a fun comeback as well ;P

C. Let's go to my ideas for the Elites:
-Chaos Terminators: Thunder Hammers and Storm Shields, please..!!!

-Chosen: I find them fine as they are in terms of rules, although allowing them to mix their weapons more ("five models may choose <insert weapons list>" instead of "four models may choose <list of some weapons> OR <list of other weapons> OR <list of other weapons>").

-Possessed: The abilities that are now Random, should be available to buy with points.

-Dreadnought: Fire Frenzy if rolling a 1 when Immobilized, Blood Rage if rolling a 6 while all their ranged weaponry is destroyed or are otherwise unable to shoot.

D. The Troops are okay as per entry, but I believe cult Troops should be 0-1, unless a Lord or Daemon Prince with the appropriate Mark is present. Also, perhaps it's time to introduce Drop Pods? Oh, and give Khorne Berzerkers Rending (Khornate Chainaxes -Chop for the Blood God!-). And allow Noise Marines to take up to 4 Blastmasters, creating their own "Sonic Havoc" Squad, just like it was back in 3rd edition! Blastmasters are costly anyway, so it shouldn't be a problem ;)

E. Let's move on the Fast Attack:

-Bikes: They are okay.

-Raptors: They should get Hit & Run back!

-Chaos Spawn: Perhaps reducing its points cost (it's too expensive for a slow melee unit with no armour Save), giving it a 6+ Sv, Feel No Pain and maybe Rending attacks would make it something more than just a points-filler ;)

F. And the Heavies:

-Predator: Fine

-Land Raider: Fine

-Vindicator: Fine

-Defiler: Fine

-Havocs: Perhaps work on their points cost.

-Obliterators: Fine

G. Summoned Daemons:
To give a little more character than the generic dullness which exists now regarding summoned Daemons, I suggest they keep the same stats, but to be allowed to be marked for some pts/model.

H. I believe the Marks of Chaos should offer just a bit more than just +1 on some stat. They should also confer some other ability, and, in addition, when taken by Daemon Princes or Chaos Lords should affect the army composition (at least regarding Troops). Vehicles should be able to be marked as well:

+1 Attack, Furious Charge. A Lord or Daemon Prince with the Mark of Khorne may remove the 0-1 limit for Khorne Berzerkers, and allows vehicles in the army to bear the Mark of Khorne. On Tanks, the Mark makes them count as 1 AV higher when ramming, and when tank shocking, any models forced to move suffer a wound on a roll of 4+, armour saves allowed. On Walkers, it confers +1 Attack and Furious Charge.

+1 Toughness, Feel No Pain.  A Lord or Daemon Prince with the Mark of Nurgle may remove the 0-1 limit for Plague Marines. and allows vehicles in the army to bear the Mark of Nurgle. Vehicles with the Mark on Nurgle are surrounded by sickly smoke and clouds of infectious insects. They get a 5+ cover save and in addition have the same effect as Nurgle's Rot. Walkers with the Mark of Nurgle are also considered as being armed with defensive & assault grenades.

+1 Initiative, Hit & Run.  A Lord or Daemon Prince with the Mark of Slaanesh may remove the 0-1 limit for Noise Marines. Walkers with the Mark of Slaanesh get +1 Initiative and the Hit & Run rule. Tanks with the Mark of Slaanesh have the same effect as a Dirge Caster (commulative with another Dirge Caster). In addition, all vehicles of Slaanesh are able to replace weapons with Sonic Weapons.

5+ Invulnerable Save (or improve an existing Invulnerable Save by 1 if already existing), use two Psychic Powers/Turn (even the same power twice. Chaos Lords with the Mark of Tzeentch confer a +1 bonus to Reserve rolls due to their oratory skills). A Lord or Daemon Prince with the Mark of Tzeentch may remove the 0-1 limit for Thousand Sons.

I wouldn't worry about cult troops "losing their worth" due to the fact that the Mark effects I suggest confer bonuses they already have. Berzerkers still have higher WS (and Rending as I suggest above), Noise Marines still have access to unique weaponry, Plague Marines still have Blight Grenades, and they are all still Fearless ;)

H. And finally, here are my suggestions on Wargear/vehicles:
-Perhaps Chaos Lords should have access to Thunder Hammers and Storm Shields.
-Daemon Weapons should not stop all attacks on a roll of 1. If there MUST be some form of a risk, at least that shouldn't be causing wounds to their wielders. Instead, if punishment is necessary, just rule that on a roll of 1, the model gains no extra attacks and the weapon strikes as a normal close combat weapon (with no special abilities other than the +1 strength [due to its size]).
-It seems we lack in vehicle variety, especially compared to loyalist Marines. Perhaps a new Chaos Land Raider pattern would be nice, as well as Blood Slaughterers of Khorne!

I know many of my suggestions sound like a "previous codex comeback", but as you can see, I tried to bring them all to "5th edition philosophy". Some of them didn't even need any changes in my opinion. As you can see, I am not asking for a "Chaos Mephiston" or any "super-duper immortal units". I just believe we need our old flavor and variety back, in a way that we can have a wider variety of things we can actually use, catching up with the more recent codices. I know I am not the only Chaos player believing that. The only reason I started playing 40K again, and the main reason most old Chaos players (I'm 25, not that old, by "old" I mean Veterans from the previous Editions) still play Chaos, is because we just love it! Even with an out-of-date codex with potential for only 1-2 competitive tournament lists, we keep playing, even when the other codices simply throw dust to us. I just don't want to believe that this exact reason is the reason we are going to wait until a new codex (Chaos sells good because we love it, not because it is a super-codex).

With all the above elements I showed in my suggestions, I believe the Chaos player will have a hard time choosing from so many colorful and useful units, rather than go straight to "2 Lash Princes, 9 Obliterators, 20 Berzerkers, 10 Plaguemarines" because he has no other chance with other lists.


  1. you forgot to mention how stupid is that when the guy holding the units mark dies the unit suddenly forgets who it worships?? and also the land raider is pointless for a "combat" army, you dont have the machine spirit so you cant wizz forward and use your lascannons and its too expensive to just be "predator with armour 14". if your going to make a renegade codex at least let them keep some of the current imperial tech, you get vindicators but did noone think to bring a landspeeder or 10 with them or forget how to launch drop pods from your battle barges??

    needs considering in the near future as spacemarines need a worth rival and it should always be chaos

  2. Chaos Special Characters NEED Eternal Warrior. Typhus and Kharne should not be killable by a missle launcher, they're 10000 years old for gods sake

  3. Good, reasonable analysis and conclusions to match. I like many of the suggestions too, and agree with what seems to me to be the underpinning philosophy, that a predictable balance relative to other codices can co-exist with plenty of variety.

    I hope very much there are people reading this more say in how things pan out. I hope too that they don't have more say for too much longer - engaging the wider community in games design and testing can't hurt if this article is a sign of the quality of community thinking.

  4. Thank you for the nice feedback, my friends! I consider emailing all these to GW's codex writers -if I manage to find their email addresses, that is-. I don't expect them to use all the stuff I suggest, but I hope they will consider some of those things when they sit down to write our next codex ;)

    I tried to be "fair" and "reasonable". Most suggestions for a new codex I saw online were little more than wishlists, or too complicated things. I tried to keep things simple, and to give our army a great variety of selections & tactics, background support reflected in the army list entries, as well as the ability to field several competitive armies using different combinations in each, without having to resort to one or two "uber units"!

  5. And I would like to take the chance and thank Tzif one more time for his extensive article. Hope he can contribute regularly in the future (wink, wink).

  6. Thats a good read!

    I must add that a few of the old wargear options or deamonic gifts wouldn't go a miss in allowing us to make chaos lords into the characters they are!

    I'm not saying bring it all back, just a few choice pieces that added a bit of flavour (like just some of the gifts of the gods (Axe of khorne please!)

    The current theme for eternal warrior is "oh I wouldn't want my shiny character to die so he shouldn't" - By this logic ALL chaos characters should have it! But I digress thats silly, kharn and typhus definitely need it (especially kharn, I mean come on, he couldn't even be killed at the siege of the imperial palace I think he has a bit more cojones for being shot in the face than calgar).

  7. Ok I have only been playing a year or so but I need help understandings what u mean by 0-1 when asking about marks. I have played friendly and small tournies and never been told I couldn't have ksons 2 squads and 2 squads of zerkers.

  8. Hello Anonymous,

    In the previous CSM codex, you were not allowed to have more than 1 unit of each: Thousand Sons, Berzerkers, Plague Marines, Noise Marines, unless your army was led by a Lord or Daemon Prince bearing the appropriate Mark (in some armies, you could have only 1 type of those, or none at all). In this codex, the limit was removed. Although it sounds "fun" that it was removed, however, we get to see lists which simply don't fit the Chaos background story; Khorne and Slaanesh hate each other, so it is quite reasonable that it's quite unlikely to see Khorne Lords recruiting Noise Marines, or Slaanesh Lords recruiting Berzerkers.

  9. @ Alphz: I totally agree with you on the Eternal Warrior matter, which is an addition to my rambling about most CSM characters being thousands of years older than any Loyalist character and still have worse stats, wargear and special rules.

  10. Good analyses and I agree on most points. I just think instead of getting more units from the (loyal) Space Marines, they should get some new units of their own (e.g. a new daemon engine or a special type of chaos marines). I think the Dark Apostel is not necessary if the Chaosgeneral gets some new options to fit the idea of the Apostel (I think Chaos Generals should finally get a 4+ inv. save of their just seems silly that they are less protected than loyal captains that may not even be a 10th of their age). Warsmiths could be Dark Techpriests with stats that could be used to represent Warsmiths in Iron Warrior armies. Furthermore I think Chosen ones should get +1 attack like loyal veterans (again...why are chaos veterans, who are maybe thousands of years old, weaker than their loyal and far less experienced counterpars).

  11. Great read! Honestly, I would be happy with just the addition of a Drop Pod. Surely, a band of renegades would be able to produce a loyalist copy?

  12. I agree with most everything in this article, quite a good read. I was actually messing around with some experimental rules of my own for the current codex, without making it too complicated and keeping with the "streamlined" GW approach, and my BIGGEST things were that
    A) Summoned Daemons can take Marks, and Greater Daemons may buy Wings (as well as being granted the psychic power said Mark grants to Daemon Princes)
    and B) LAND RAIDERS GET POWER OF THE DAEMONIC/MACHINE SPIRIT!!! They used to have split fire, now they need to be worth their points and stand next to their Imperial equivalents. This NEEDS to be a thing. And a Land Raider variant (Chaos Redeemer?...) and DROP PODS (anybody heard of a little thing called a Dreadclaw???...)
    That is all. Good read man.

  13. Maybe the 0-1 rule for leaders could be if a lord already has a mark then it becomes 0-1 because you get people like Abaddon and other undivided leaders getting noise marines, plaguemarines, zerkers and 1ksons for their warbands.
    Deamon Princes definately need more variety 'cause whenever I use em they die in turn 1-3 every time!
    Now I don't know the old codex very well but I was dissapointed by this one, They should add traitor guard just copy+paste the seige of vraks rules if you have to but they are really fun to use!

  14. I read this article and was shocked...only because I recently started playing and, like Tzif says, I decided to go chaos for the idea of it...chaos is fun and just plain cool. I was surprised when I read about the old codices...I realized the new codex was geared towards creating entire armies of Noise Marines, or Plague Marines...and that infuriated me. I only use one squad of NM and 3 squads of regular marines with marks...I loved the idea of Chaos being renegades and sounded incredibly customizable. It was later after I played that I realized that the only customizing I was doing was their paint jobs. I love your ideas Tzif, and if it was up to me I'd say let YOU write the next codex. ^_^

  15. As a SM player I can understand your frustration. I remember when the this book first came out and having my units herded into nice circles for vindicator rounds was just wrong. That said chaos did lose it's flavour and possessed & deamons were ruined in the process. I will say that you guys can't have our Thunder Hammer & Stormshields - hell what's next? You want our multi-meltas and land speeders too? (That's fine - let us have a choice for Toughness 5, fnp, & defensive grenade troops).

  16. ..I realized the new codex was geared towards creating entire armies of Noise Marines, or Plague Marines...and that infuriated me. I only use one squad of NM and 3 squads of regular marines with marks...I loved the idea of Chaos being renegades and sounded incredibly customizable. It was later after I played that I re