Monday, November 8, 2010

Chaos Space Marines: A close Up

Hello Children of the Inter-tubes, this is Zombie Joe and its Monday and I am at work, so what better thing to do then update my blog. Today’s topic is, if you haven’t already noticed then you need to start reading the headings, Chaos Space Marines.
CSM are my first love. I started them all those years ago at the age of twelve. Back when Abbadon was cool looking. They were then and still now a very balanced and easy army for any age war gamer to start, and yet they are completely capable of opening up a can of whoop-ass soup. Why is this? Well let’s begin with the basic Chaos Marine.
                To start each Marine is fifteen points and comes with two close combat weapons, a bolter, frag grenades and some cheap upgrades. Couple this with the fact that they can take marks that increase their stats further and you have a very stable and cheap basic unit, cheap enough that a horde wouldn’t be impossible to do. For beginner there is nothing simpler to understand than a Space Marine. They are walking tanks full of PewPew. But it doesn’t stop there.
Given how balanced the codex is a new player doesn’t have to worry about his obvious weakness. Such as with Eldar if they bring too much of one and not enough of the other to the game and get their all assault army shot up, or Necrons who need to use their teleportation to flee from assaults. The CSM codex gives access to hardy and power HQ’s, i.e. Abbadon himself or even better the dreaded flying Tzeentch Warptime Daemon Prince, cheap troops, acceptable elites, and powerful heavy support.
While on the topic of troops I would be disconsolate if I were to forget to mention the patrons of dark gods. Death Guard, Thousand Sons, World Eaters, Emperors Children; the best of the best in the CSM codex, capable of turning this army into any type of fighting force. With the staying power of Death Guard and there T5, the shooting majesty of the Thousand Sons, and the face to face bashing of World Eaters and Emperors Children, this codex and be altered to fight any force without giving its self up to weakness. Such as, if I were to take Berserkers into a fight against a unit even more elite in combat then them, I still have space marines! That is 3+ save and fours across the board. I can weather the hits and let the rest of my army do the crushing. That is where the Obliterators and Defilers come into play.
There is nothing bad in the CSM heavy support chart. Predators, Landraiders, and Vindicators being proven stables in any army, we find ourselves looking to the other choices. Nothing in the chaos codex has more artillery then the Defiler. Sure we lost the barrage feature from the previous codex, but who cares. You run these beasts as objective protectors and lob S8 AP 3 pies and obliterate your enemies. Speaking of obliterating, how about having access to a Deepstriking universal weapons platform. You use the Icons of Chaos and you have a unit that never mishaps and can come crashing down on tanks, troops, and objectives with an array of weapons that would make the Kremlin cry. The last unsung hero of the heavy support column is the lonely Havoc. Seldom seen in my communities but such the torment of enemies of players who know their value. Being able to take four Missile Launchers or four Lascannons in a single squad can make that squad an insta-boom tank killer.
Elite slots have two really good choices and two fun choices that competitively I would think twice about. CSM Terminators are comparable to any other terminator out there, unless that other Terminator has storm shields and an Austrian accent. They can use the same icon Deepstrike methods as Obliterators to drop down and lay down some hurt or be thrown into a Landraider and launched into a twenty seven inch charge if you properly use your Lash of Submission. However, it is the Chosen that give me the vapors. These guys can infiltrate and drop twenty plasma shots onto unsuspecting troops or infiltrate and nuke silly Landraiders looking for that early morning assault. These guys make outflanking Genestealers look like pesky ants when equipped and used properly. That leaves only the Dreadnaught, an awesomely fluffy addition to an army but not always the most reliable. Just to make this clear, I am not saying that it is bad, personally I love using them especially three of them with flamers and three Defilers and two Daemon Princes and a greater daemon to make bug paste out of Nidzilla lists, but they do get confused at times and that hurts when you’re at the winning moment about to contest and take an objective and your Dreadnaughts run the wrong way or shoot you in the arse. That leaves the Possessed troops as well. They fall into that same category as the Dreadnaught. They are fun and if you get power weapons very useful. But, in the end, that unpredictability makes them less advantageous then other more competitive choices. They take skill to use because you can’t predict what they will have. I find it is the mark of a great tactician to find ways of making any unit work but if you are one of those players more concerned with winning then winning with style then you probably won’t take these as a unit in your army.  
All that remains is the Fast support and limited daemon resources the codex offers. It is commonly accepted that the CSM Fast support lacks in power. Now this is true and untrue at the same time. They are all perfectly acceptable additions to any list and if used properly are quiet successful. But, what they lack is that special quality that makes them seem specific to the army. They don’t have any special Chaos powers, other than marks. The Bikers and the Raptors are nothing more than slight variations of the basic troop, but that doesn’t make then worthless. Too many players these days think that everything needs its own obvious ability, that its tactical use should be simple. This is not true, some units don’t come with AP 3 Bolters or Lance weapons, some units are just plain reliable.  
Daemons. Daemons are the biggest gripe that veteran CSM players have. We miss the choices that we had with Daemons before they went rogue. No point in complaining about what cannot be control. We are but flecks of sand in a universe dictated by chance and chaos. So we accept our fate and look at what we can do with what we got. Greater daemons, being only 100 points, are excellent shock troops when you’re taking the fight to your enemy. When at the last crucial moment when you got only three marines left and the enemy is chopping the up, then suddenly, your champion falls to the ground as his body is wracked by change. His limbs extend, his flesh boils, his eyes burst, and he explodes into a mighty daemon that turns the tide of battle. Nothing beats that moment. Lesser daemons can do the same thing though with less narration. Cheap and taking no force organization they can bolster lines or distress your thinned out enemy formations. They are fantastic tactical choices.
That covers this dissertation of the CSM codex. Without doubt if you’re new and want an easy but powerful army than you know where to look. You got the options and power to make a fighting force that can weather any storm and break any fortress. But they also have tactics. They aren’t some leaf blower list that doesn’t require any more thought than “how many dice do I roll?” you got choices that can solely depend on how good you can think on your feet. You got choices that, although strong, mean nothing if you put them up against the wrong enemy or in the wrong place. CSM offer you the world in options and who could ask more for.
So my friends that concludes this session. This is ZombieJoe saying, “You can’t stop the signal.”


  1. Yoyoyo, this is Nolan from AP1. I also play Chaos Space Marines, and I think you've made a pretty accurate description of what's in the Codex. However, you underplayed how useful the Fast Attack slots really are. Raptors are great. No ifs, ands, or buts, Raptors are flying machines of ultimate destruction.

    Here is a 170 point squad that I regularly field:
    5 Raptors including:
    Champion with 2x Lightning Claws and melta-bomb
    plasma pistol
    2 normal dudes.

    This squad will slag any tank you find and with 4 claw attacks from the champion on the charge, they can really put some beat down on stuff in combat too. They get largely overlooked by the enemy when the enemy is also faced with your 2 vindicators, land raider, demon prince, and 4 squads of Marines. Point for point, in larger games this unit is indispensable.

    Also, the other HQ options in the book are great. The Demon Prince and special characters are no doubt awesome, but even the humble Chaos Lord is great. The thing that really makes the Chaos Lord shine in comparison to the Demon Prince is that he can join units. Put him with 9 Berserkers in a Land Raider, and he won't die, and give him a Demon Weapon, and he can rip through and entire enemy unit in one turn.

    Anyway, that's my 2 cents to contribute to this nice little Chaos overview.

  2. You make a good point. I did fail to address the other HQ's that we have. Each is great in there own right. If your fancy is blasting things to death with Ahriman or even just slashing troops with a lord. There is not bad choice if you make sure that it works for you. Abaddon is a horrible choice if you don't give him the vehicle and support he needs. Eternal won't save you from twenty bolters rapid firing and a couple of las/missile/plasma. I don't personally use lords often but I have seen some very good use of them.

    As for Raptors. I don't disagree that they are bad. Truth be told they are good. What I mainly intended to say was that they get overlooked by players because they are not unique with there abilities. They are just flying marines (which makes they good since the basic marine is great). I think if they had some special options that set them apart aside from the packs they might stand out more. They also struggle with the fact that its a mech game now. Footing it across the board is very risky and usually a bad a idea. I have had good luck with them as well. I think the biggest issue is when I think CSM they just don't jump to mind.

    I should mention the irony that I am investing large sums of cash into making an all Night Lords raptor (with the out of print model).

  3. I haven't struggled at all with them. Even against a Tau army I played (static enemy+ lots of shooty=dead Marines), my raptors had no trouble getting to the enemy lines. The key is to use your transports as cover. Since you can have your tank facing any direction at the end of its movement, run its length parallel to the enemy unit, and bunker your stuff down behind it. Raptors are great when used in conjunction with other units.

  4. That is a very good idea, I will have to try that.