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.
Please take the time to read this article before continuing.
--Chaos Space Marines Unit Review--
Chaos Space Marines are one of the better units in the codex. They are not top-tier, but close. The main reason you should have renewed interest in this unit is their cost...maybe
Chaos Space Marines have gone down from 15 pts to 13 pts making them one of the cheapest power armor units in the game.
The two point reduction doesn't come without a price, lost in the update is the extra Close Combat Weapon and a point of Leadership.
Here is a side by side comparison of Chaos Space Marines from 4th edition to 6th edition.
The other big change is additional icons/marks available to the unit. This allows you to kit out your Chaos Space Marine squads to fit most competitive or fluffy needs. Keeping an eye on rising unit cost makes all the difference when constructing the perfect Chaos Space Marine unit.
--Chaos Space Marine Unit Mark Impressions-- (Hover over slide titles for additional info)
The Mark for real men. Taking Mark of Khorne points your Chaos Space Marine unit to assault. This Mark is an alternative for players not wanting to spend the points on Khorne Berserkers, but want a hard-hitting scoring alternative. Just remember with this mark switch out the Bolter for the extra Close Combat Weapon. That will keep your unit cheap enough in comparison with Khorne Berserker. This is where having special weapons like Meltaguns are important; they can really put one over Khorne Berserkers in a many situations.
Base Cult Troop to Mark Chaos Space Marine points gap: Khorne Berzerkers 105 vs. 85 Chaos Space Marine: 20 point gap
This is the worst Mark of the bunch for Chaos Space Marine units. It only has a minimal effect of benefiting a model with 6+ invulnerable save. Keep this Mark always for other units that already possess a invulnerable save.
Base Cult Troop to Mark Chaos Space Marine points gap: Thousand Sons 150 vs. 85 Chaos Space Marine: 75 point gap
This is the middle of the road Mark. In the last edition it was always better to take Plague Marines instead, but now with the 13 point Chaos Space Marine it deserves a second look. Cheap Toughness 5 Chaos Space Marines are a good alternative if you don't have the Chaos Lord or points to take Plague Marines as troops. Because the points gap between Plague Marines and Chaos Space Marines is one of the greatest consider taking larger units to increases the gap.
Base Cult Troop to Mark Chaos Space Marine points gap: Plague Marine 120 vs. 90 Chaos Space Marine: 30 point gap
This Mark is my favorite not only do you get to go first in most assaults, you get access to one of the best Icons as well. Like other Marks you have to think about cost and once marked there is only a 2pt gap between Chaos Space Marines and Noise Marines. In the end it comes down to options; are the special and heavy weapons better than what you can get from Noise Marines? It also comes down to what HQs you take and what roles you want filled.
Base Cult Troop to Mark Chaos Space Marine points gap: Noise Marines 95 vs. 85 Chaos Space Marine: 10 point gap
Regardless of all the options afforded Chaos Space Marine units; going bare bones is an alluring option for many "competitive"players.
--Chaos Space Marine Unit Icon Impressions-- (Hover over slide titles for additional info)
There is no point in not taking this Icon if you're already on the path of the Blood God. Besides the Furious Charge the real bonus is the re-roll charge distance. The only draw back with the Icon of Wrath is still no Fearless for your unit. Since you are going to assault, this makes it supremely important you attach a Chaos Lord for Fearless. Another consideration is Fabius Bile, since he gives one Chaos Space Marine unit Fearless as well.
Since you're not going to take Mark of Tzeentch in the first place this is a pointless Icon. As you will hear me repeat over and over throughout this series Soul Blaze is worthless. If only you could stack tokens than Soul Blaze would be something to consider, otherwise look the other way.
tooltip text="(pg. 104) 10 pts unit gets Fear"]Icon of Despair[/tooltip]
Another waste of points. Of course, if you local Meta doesn't have Fearless or Space Marines armies by all means take this Icon. Funny factoid: Chaos Space Marines are themselves not immune to Fear even if they cause Fear themselves.
tooltip text="(pg. 104) 30 pts unit gets Fear"]Icon of Excess[/tooltip]
The most expensive Icon, but worth it depending on the role you have for your Chaos Space Marine unit. If you plan on camping behind an Aegis Defense Line, this is the Icon for you. 4+ cover save and Feel No Pain makes for a tough unit to dislodge, especially if you Go to Ground (2+ cover). It is also great if you have designs on tar pitting other units. Just like the Icon of Wrath remember Fearless is your friend so have a Chaos Lord close by.
tooltip text="(pg. 104) 25 pts unit gets Fearless"]Icon of Vengence[/tooltip]
The best of the bunch. This Icon gives your unit the freedom to sit back, lose guys, and laugh at the Gods. Unless your plan is to keep your Chaos Space Marine units super cheap, always consider this Icon as an option. It also allows your Chaos Lord freedom to roam and help other non-Fearless units. As is the case with every Icon model; placement of the Icon bearer is critical, keep him in the middle of your units, and don't be a dick have a model to represent him.
Regardless of all the options afforded Chaos Space Marine units; going bare bones is an alluring option for many "competitive"players. Consider this, a 10-man Chaos Space Marine Unit with two Meltaguns and Rhino is 175 points: 15 points cheaper than an equivalent vanilla Space Marine unit, and 5 points less than a Wolf Standard Grey Hunter unit. The loyalists will have And they shall know no Fear and Grey Hunters a Close Combat Weapon and Counter-Attack.
The frustration many players will have with Chaos Space Marines units will come from losing combat. It is paramount to use Icons and Marks to your advantage and not be lulled into the cheap option, besides that is what Cultists are for.
One of the ways that separates Chaos Space Marines from the false Emperors champions is the ability to run in large units. Bare Bones 20-man is only 270 and adding an Icon of Vengeance is a no-brainer.
A Trip Down Memory Lane...
Chaos Space Marines goes back as far as Rogue Trader, but it wasn't till 1999 that they got a full-blown Codex.
In 1999 Chaos Space Marines were pretty bland to say the least; with few options and at 15 pts each they were pretty much angry Ultramarines. Aspiring Champions though could get Marks and various wargear --spending up to 100 points on a single model was possible. My favorite item from that time will always be the Axe of Khorne that would keep attacking as long as I rolled 6s.
We also get one of the earliest looks at the Alpha Legion with this model and paint job.
We then move on to 2002 with the release of the beloved Chaos Space Marines 3.5. As basic troopers not much changed: 14 pts instead of 15 and now units size up to 20. Chaos Space Marine units though exploded into a completely different unit with the stroke of a Mark. Marks allowed players to play their favorite Cult Troops, in addition specific rules were given for Night Lords, Iron Warriors, Word Bearers, and the Alpha Legion. Restrictions were light and easily exploited making this one of the most broken Codexes of all time. We also go to see plastic Chaos Space Marines here is the continued evolution of the Alpha Legion.
Moving to 2007 the Chaos Space Marine got a complete make over. Stripped was the ability to make whatever legion you wanted. Instead, Chaos Space Marines become bland and a new focus on minor renegades introduced. Gav Thorpe become enemy number 1 in the community and quickly moved to the Black Library after the release of the codex. A major problem with Chaos Space Marines in the 4th ed was Cult Troops (Plague Marines) completely out shined the basic Chaos Space Marine lacking in any flavor whatsoever. Here is a look at the Alpha Legion in 2007.
And here is what they look like now in 2012
Then there is the Veterans of the Long War Models gain +1 Ld and Hatred (Space Marines), a very situational upgrade.
I am a bit torn on the Veterans of the Long War upgrade. Part of me tells me it's not worth it and then the other part of me says, I see a lot of Space Marines and +1 Leadership is can make a difference.
Chaos Space Marine units for the most part trying to avoid assault, so why would I want to spend the points on a unit that plans on shooting and nothing else? I think the Long War upgrade does have a place just not for this unit.
--Ways to Play Chaos Space Marines--
Remember the building units should always be done in consort with an over arching theme to your list, because units are only as good as the rest of your army.
Death Star Configuration: 300 pts 15-man Chaos Space Marine unit with 2 Meltaguns , Powerfist, Mark of Khorne, Icon of Wrath, additional Close Combat Weapon instead of the Bolter. Run with a corresponding Chaos Lord for Fearless or take Fabius Bile for Strength 6 on the charge.
MSU Configuration: 127 pts 5-man Chaos Space Marine unit with Flamer, Rhino w/ Havoc Launcher. Sit back for scoring and poor mans Razorback. Flamer for non MEQ infiltrators and good Overwatch utility.
Balanced Configuration: 245 pts 10-man Chaos Space Marine unit with 2 Plasma Guns, Power Weapon, Combi-plasma, Mark of Slaanesh, Icon of Excess. Use this unit for midfield defense, it can easily out class any equivalent Space Marine unit. Consider a Rhino or additional Close Combat Weapon depending on role.
Horde Configuration: 345 pts 20-man Chaos Space Marine unit with 2 Flamers, Combi-Flamer, Mark of Nurgle, Icon of Vengeance. At a "reasonable" 345 this unit can hold objectives and take up a lot of real estate against Flyers. Flamers are for Overwatch and overwhelming other Horde units.
There is many more ways to build your Chaos Space Marine units, but as you can see the 13 pt starting cost per model is an illusion to say the least. Always keep this perspective, a 10-man Grey Hunter unit with Powerfist, 2 Meltaguns, Wolf Standard, and Rhino is only 225 pts.
Well that will do it for Chaos Space Marines, next up will be Cultists and there reintroduction to the ranks of the Chaos Space Marine codex.
It's Like Tactics is rated theory hammer because these are general observations and assumptions based on only few tested games.
For tactical articles feel free to email me to continue the discussion or if you discover an inaccurate interpretation of the rules-- edits will be made accordingly.
Also check out other articles in this series...
- Getting Restarted
- Breaking Down the Codex
- Chaos Space Marine Unit Review
- Cultist Review
- Khorne Berzerkers Review
- Thousand Sons Review
- Noise Marine Review
- Plague Marine Review
- Chosen Review
- Mutilator Review
- Helbrute Review
- Possessed Review
- Chaos Terminator Review
- Chaos Bikes Review
- Chaos Spawn Review
- Raptors Review
- Warp Talons Review
- Heldrake Review
- Havocs Review
- Obliterator Review
- Defiler Review
- Forgefiend Review
- Maulerfiend Review
- Rhino, Vindicator, Predator, Land Raider Review
- Abbadon the Despiler Review
- Huron Blackheart Review
- Kharn the Betrayer Review
- Ahriman Review
- Typhus Review
- Lucius the Eternal Review
- Fabius Bile Review
- Chaos Lord Review
- Chaos Sorcerer Review
- Daemon Prince Review
- Warpsmith Review
- Dark Apostle Review
- Final Breakdown