My Tactics pledge: I am not the greatest player, nor a seal pup. I will endeavor to speak from my experience and always be honest about what is theory and what is play tested. Never will I assume to know better than anyone else... unless I must call out ego or pretension.

Funny things happen when a codex is leaked a week early. As many have noticed quite a few bloggers have the new Chaos Space Marine codex. Frantically bloggers had reviews and insights up within hours. My plan is to avoid reading them like the plague.

Instant analysis is often shortsighted and based on antiquated meta, but that isn't the reason I'm avoiding them. I am curious to see if my conclusions about the codex will be the same as the punditry.

So if you see similar analysis on other sites understand I am writing independent of what else you might have read.

Where do we start?

Typically, websites break down a codex unit by unit, while I will be doing much the same it is important that units don't exist in a vacuum so cross referencing is paramount.

In this article some general concepts that define the Chaos Space Marine codex will be laid out, after which I will break down units into tiers.

Concept Number One: Chaos Space Marines are all about the options

This makes it very similar to the 3.5 Chaos Space Marine codex. Just take a look at a unit like Chosen as an example.

Chosen Army Entry


This is in stark contrast to the Necron codex where you had very few ways to change units.  This codex will be a min-maxers wet dream.

The ability to customize units goes beyond only adding a meltagun. How you adjust your unit with better stats and universal special rules is critical. As I mentioned a few days ago this codex is very malleable and adjustable to the ever-changing meta. It is very hard to judge units, so it is important to look at the base cost and the number of changes you can make. Typically, more upgrades is better, but we shall see how some units are made worse because of cost to effectiveness ratios.

Concept Number Two: Chaos Space Marines the new Hero Hammer 

Hero Hammer is an old concept where you could build immensely powerful characters that won games single-handedly. Entire comp systems were built to disallow certain characters. Even today many Fantasy tournaments don't allow characters in their events.

The new Chaos Space Marine Hero Hammer is built around designing Lords, Sorcerers, and Daemon Princes that are pretty broken. Adversely, this makes basic HQs better and cheaper than most of the unique characters in the codex.

So how does Phil Kelly balance the potential of devastating HQs? Well he adds something ingenious: the Champion of Chaos rule.

Champion of Chaos Rules

A model with the Champion of Chaos special rule must always issue and accept a challenge whenever possible.
If there is more than one model in a combat with this special rule, you may select which model issues or accepts the challenge.
Whenever a character with the Champion of Chaos special rule kills an enemy character, you must immediately check to see if the Dark Gods reward him. To do this roll on the Chaos Boon table.
The boon lasts the for the rest of the game. If a boon is rolled that character already has, the roll has no effect.
If an enemy characters dies as a result of multiple Wounds being allocated to it simultaneously, and one or more of those Wounds were caused by the champion, that champion still rolls on the Chaos Boon table.
Note that destroying the models in a Sweeping Advance does not confer a roll on the Chaos Boon table.

Basically, it forces characters to always challenge. This rule makes it very important knowing how to juggle challenges between your HQs and lesser characters. Sometimes you want to challenge with your HQ for an mass killing or take a challenge to keep a combat going. Other times you want to avoid another dangerous character, so you sacrifice a lesser character instead of risking your HQ.

Concept Number Three: Know when to mark and divide

The clearest illustration of this is with the rules for Psykers.

Generating Powers

Chaos Space Marine Psykers have access to the Biomancy, Pyromancy, and Telepathy disciplines. For each Mastery Level he has a Psyker may make a roll on one of the tables available to him. If the Psyker has a Mark of Chaos, or is a Daemon of a particular Chaos God, they must roll at least one, and may roll up to half, of their powers on the table that corresponds to their patron deity.

Overall, the new psychic powers are doodoo and made worse because you must have a power from your Chaos God of choice. On the flip side you will sacrifice access to other bonus if you choose no marks. Phil Kelly's eternal quest for balance has made him meticulous in assigning point costs and negating certain combos. Without keeping a close eye on upgrades can make a cheap Chaos Space Marine unit a very expensive one in no time.

Concept Number Four: Randomness for Random's Sake

Certain units like Possessed, Spawn, and Hellbrutes have random elements. Most random elements have only good outcomes. I personally enjoy most random elements, but I draw the line with Boon of Chaos table. Not only is it ridiculous, it has a good chance of doing absolutely nothing. Then there is pretty darn good chance you will be turned into a Spawn! I cannot wait for the nerd rage when someones Chaos Lord is turned into a Spawn because he has to roll on the damn chart. Luckily, randomness can be avoided for the most part.


 This codex will be a min-maxers wet dream.

Concept Number Five: Leadership without Fearless

If you look across the entire codex you will notice a universal one point drop in leadership for non-fearless units. At first I was very disappointed with this change, because the fear of losing a winnable combat costing an entire unit wasvery disheartening, especially when Space Marines don't have this problem.

So it is very important to understand that Phil Kelly has put in clear ways to mitigate this problem.

Lords can transfer Fearless to the units they are attached to is a big deal. This is the reason that you will see Lords more often than Daemon Princes. The ability to attach and avoid unnecessary leadership checks is paramount.  The lack of Fearless ties back to challenges because risking a HQ also puts risk on the rest of the attached unit.

If you follow and understand these general concepts I think you will be on your way to making fun and competitive lists with ease.

So how do I rank the units you can find in the Chaos Space Marine codex?

  • Ahriman
  • Chaos Lord
  • Daemon Prince
  • Sorcerer
  • Cultists
  • Chaos Terminators
  • Noise Marines
  • Plague Marines
  • Obliterators
  • Havocs
  • Rhino
  • Typhus
  • Kharn
  • Chaos Space Marines
  • Thousand Sons
  • Khorne Berserkers
  • Chaos Bikers
  • Heldrake
  • Defilers
  • Abbadon
  • Fabius Bile
  • Lucius
  • Dark Apostle
  • Mutilators
  • Possessed
  • Chosen
  • Raptors
  • Chaos Predator
  • Chaos Land Raider
  • Chaos Vindicator    
  • Forgefiend
  • Warpsmith
  • Huron
  • Hellbrute
  • Warp Talons
  • Maulerfiend

There you have it, my break down of the Chaos Space Marine codex. Next up a unit by unit analysis and history lesson coming to a Blood of Kittens blog near you!


It's Like Tactics is rated theory hammer because these are general observations and assumptions based on only few tested games.