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New Chaos Space Marines Codex Review (6th Edition Warhammer 40k)

Updated on May 5, 2014

What Do We Have Here . . . ?

On October 6th, 2012, Games Workshop released Codex: Chaos Space Marines, the first army codex written for 6th edition Warhammer 40k. Months of content rumors swirled around the internet prior to the release, creating a frenzy of excitement and supposition. What new units would there be? How would the codex take advantage of 6th edition rules? Would they advance the story timeline past the 13th Black Crusade? Finally we have answers.

The hardcover book itself contains beautiful, full color illustrations scattered throughout. Every page has a colored border and is tinted to look like corrupted parchment. Chaos icons, skulls, and daemon cherubs adorn the white spaces, similar to the core rulebook. The cover art is recycled from the Black Library novel, Blood Gorgons, by Henry Zou; however, it is such a gorgeous painting that I have no problems seeing it again. Raymond Swanland is my new favorite artist.

In addition to the full color pages, hobby gallery, fluff and the army roster, Codex: Chaos Space Marines also has a fold-out reference page at the end. This tri-page reference sheet is an interesting choice for the designers and I really like it.

Enough about the book itself. What's inside? My goal for this article is to provide an overview of what is new and how some of the core Chaos mechanics work. There is too much in this book to cover in great detail in a single article, so I will link to additional articles where I will analyze specific units in much greater detail. If you have any comments or suggestions on anything I've written, please post them below this article. I always answer and encourage participation!

Better to Rule in Hell . . .

Let's start off by looking at all the units in the book and where they fit in the Force Organization. New units will be listed in italics.

HQ

  • Abaddon the Despoiler (unlocks Chosen as Troops)
  • Huron Blackheart
  • Kharn the Betrayer
  • Ahriman (Master Level 4! Unlocks Thousand Sons as Troops)
  • Typhus (unlocks Plague Zombies and Plague Marines as Troops)
  • Lucius the Eternal (unlocks Noise Marines as Troops)
  • Fabius Bile (enhances a single Chaos Marine unit)
  • Chaos Lord (any mark will unlock that Cult unit as Troops)
  • Sorcerer (buy up to Master Level 3, Mark of Tzeentch unlocks T. Sons as Troops)
  • Daemon Prince (wow, those stats!)
  • Warpsmith (similar to Techmarine with corrupting powers)
  • Dark Apostle (6" Ld bubble and has Zealot special rule)

That is a crowded HQ section! There are so many choices here that I think we will see many variation of Chaos armies around the world. The Daemon Prince no longer automatically your best option (it's still nice, though!). Do you want to go strong melee? Take a Lord or a special character (or Daemon Prince). Do you want to go strong Psychic? Take Ahriman and a sorcerer and cast up to 7 psychic powers a turn. Force multipliers? The Dark Apostle makes units better, granting them Fearless and Hatred (everything!), while the Warpsmith can recover lost hull points for your vehicles, but can also curse enemy vehicles and deplete cover saves in your enemy's deployment zone.

Almost every character in the game can roll (or purchase a roll) on the Chaos Boon chart. This is a d66 role (one die is the 10's digit, the other the 1's digit). This chart represents the mysterious gifts of the Chaos Gods, and can result in anything from Spawnhood, an increase in stats, or even apotheosis into a Daemon Prince. Rolls purchased before the game cannot turn your character into a Chaos Spawn or Daemon Prince (whew!), but any character that kills another character in melee immediately makes another roll on the chart! This can further increase stats, but can also result in a beautiful and chaotic transformation.

There are too many option to cover in this article, so I will post a more detailed HQ breakdown in another article soon. I'm really looking forward to dissecting these options!

We Hated Few . . . We Band of Betrayers

The Troops section is now listed directly after the HQ, with Elites to follow. Usually this is the most boring section of the Army Roster, but there are some interesting changes to look at now.

Troops

  • Chaos Space Marines
  • Chaos Cultists

The way you purchase units in the new codex format is a little different. You now purchase a champion and a minimum number of soldiers for a set price, and then add additional soldiers and options from there. For instance, it is 75 points for an Aspiring Champion and 4 Chaos Marines. You can then buy up to 15 additional Marines for 13 points a piece. You can purchase a single special weapon at any unit size, then an additional special or a heavy weapon when you reach 10 models.

Did you notice that Chaos Marines are only 13 points now? That's because they no longer come with bolt pistol, close combat weapon, AND a boltgun. Nope. They only come with a boltgun and a bolt pistol (Champion gets close combat weapon, for free). In the past, the standard Chaos Marine came with all three, which meant that he got 2 attacks in melee, or 3 if he charged.

We can still do this, but we have to either A) trade our boltgun for a close combat weapon (for free) or buy a close combat weapon for 2 points per model (putting us back to 15 points per Marine). I like this change because it doesn't cost us any additional points, but it allows for greater flexibility if we want to save points here and there.

There are three additional options that your Marines can purchase (as well as many other units in the army): Icons, Marks, and Veterans of the Long War (new ability).

Marks of Chaos:

  • Khorne: The unit gains Rage and Counter Attack special rules.
  • Tzeentch: +1 to a model's Invulnerable Save (or gains a 6+ invulnerable save).
  • Nurgle: +1 Toughness
  • Slaanesh: +1 Initiative

Icons of Chaos

Icons no longer allow you to deepstrike without scattering, however they give your unit cool abilities. Some require you to take a specific Mark first (Mark of Khorne for the Khorne icon). Let's look at those in more detail:

  • Icon of Wrath (mark of Khorne only): Furious Charge and re-roll Assault distance
  • Icon of Flame (mark of Tzeentch only): Soul Blaze
  • Icon of Despair (mark of Nurgle only): Fear
  • Icon of Excess (mark of Slaanesh only): Feel No Pain
  • Icon of Vengeance: unit gains Fearless

Veterans of the Long War is a new special rule for Chaos Space Marines. It gives every model in the unit +1 Leadership (to maximum of 10) and gives Hatred: Space Marines! The designer's note states that this applies to all units from every Space Marine related codex, ranging from vanilla marines, Blood Angels, and all the way to Grey Knights. Remember that Hatred allows you to re-roll misses in the first round of any combat. That's not bad for +1 point per model!

One other big change that affects every unit with a champion in it: there is now a Wargear section of the army list! Unit champions can almost always buy ranged and melee weapons from the wargear list, which includes everything from plasma pistols, to combi-meltas, to power weapons and lightning claws. With this setup, you could potentially build a 10 man unit that could fire off 3 plasma gun, 3 flamer, or 3 melta shots in a single round (the champions would be a one-shot deal due to his combi-X weapon).

Did you notice that there are Chaos Cultists now?

These are basically like Imperial Guardsmen but without access to all the heavy weapons. For 50 points you get a champion and 9 cultists armed with a close combat weapon, an autopistol (bang-bang), and 6+ armor. You can upgrade everyone to an autogun (same as lasgun) for +1 point per model. Now, the real kicker is that you can buy up to 25 more cultists for 4 points a piece (5 points if you give them autoguns). One cultist can buy a heavy stubber (what is this, Necromunda?) or a flamer, and the Champion can upgrade to a shotgun. You CAN, however, buy a Chaos Mark for the unit, at 1 to 2 points per model.

Cultists may not have a lot of offensive power (versus power armored enemies, at least), but they are a lot of cheap wounds that your opponent has to chew through. Plop a big unit of them on top of an objective and make your opponent waste shots killing your cultists. These little guys really come into their own when you add a Dark Apostle to the unit (from the HQ section). The Dark Apostle lets them use his Leadership of 10 if he is within 6", however if he joins the Cultist unit, then he shares his Zealot rule (from the main 6th ed rulebook). The Zealot rule gives the unit Fearless and Hatred (all). Wow! Now you have a 35 man unit of Fearless troops that are Scoring (can hold objectives). Are you kidding me? Or this Fearless unit can engage an assault specialty unit (enemy Terminators) and tie them up for most of the game . . . just keep that Dark Apostle away from any thunder hammers.

Also . . . and this is a big also . . . Typhus can turn cultist units into Plague Zombies for free. This gives them the Fearless, Feel No Pain, and Slow and Purposeful special rules, but doesn't allow them to buy any other options. Now, here is a point of contention. Typhus' rule specifically says that the Plague Zombies "may not purchase options", and under the Cultist army list, the first thing listed under Options is to buy additional cultists for 4 points/model. The new FAQ is out and it states clearly that we can have Plague Zombie units of up to 35 models! Yes!

For a detailed review of Typhus and the Plague Zombie army list, look towards the bottom of this article for my link to my new review!

A Cult of Personality . . .

"Chaos Superstars, that is what you are, coming from afar, reaching for the stars ."

Elites

  • Chosen: so many options (but no terminator upgrade).
  • Possessed: Not as random as before!
  • Chaos Terminators: a few changes.
  • Helbrute: aka Dreadnought with new options.
  • Mutilators: close combat Obliterators.
  • Khorne Berzerkers: 1 less attack, but better rules and chainaxes (S: user, Ap: 4).
  • Thousand Sons: Boltguns still AP3, 4+ invulnerable, and Sorcerer champion.
  • Plague Marines: Toughness 5, Feel No Pain, and Poisoned Melee weapons.
  • Noise Marines: cheaper sonic weapons (Salvo rule and Ignore Cover) and not bad assault

Remember that having a Lord with appropriate mark, Special Character, or Sorcerer with MoT will unlock the Cult units as Troops.

The only real new unit are the Mutilators. They are basically Obliterators that can choose from different melee weapons as opposed to ranged weapons. The have 2+ armor (Fleshmetal) with a 5+ invulnerable (Daemon rule, which also gives them Fear). Each combat round, they have to choose between a pair of: lighting claws, chainfists, power axes, power mauls, or power swords... and they cannot choose the same weapon pair twice in a row. They have to switch back and forth every turn (hey, it's chaos!). They can also be given Chaos Marks!

The Helbrute (aka Dreadnought) has some interesting changes. First, it has a fantastic model from the Dark Vengeance boxed set (though I hope a unique kit will come out soon). Secondly, you can really customize it. It comes standard with a power fist and a multi-melta, but you can trade the multi-melta for an additional power fist (and upgrade both fists to combi-bolters or heavy flamers), or trade out the multi-melta for a different ranged weapon (including a plasma cannon). Alternately, you can trade a power fist for a Thunder Hammer, Power Scourge, or a Missile Launcher (frag or krak, no flakk). So you can have a double-melee or a double-shooty Helbrute. The Power Scourge, by the way, is a Str 8, AP2, weapon that subtracts D3 from your opponent's Weapon Skill. Not bad!

Helbrutes are still "crazy" but not nearly as much! Now if they lose a Hull Point, they have to roll on a chart and will give them anything from "fire twice", to "Rage", to "Fleet and Rage". No longer will you kill your own troops!

Again, there are so many options here that I cannot possibly cover them all in this article. I might do a whole article on Chosen and Terminators alone because there are so many things you can do with them. Chosen can have up to 4 members trade out for specialist melee or ranged weapons, plus the Champion, and a 5th member can have a special or heavy weapon. They no longer Infiltrate, though. So many options to chose from . . . Yes, another article is in order.

After These Messages . . .

So far I've covered the contents of the HQ, Troops, and Elite sections of the Army Roster. I've also gone over the effects of Marks, Icons, and the Veterans of the Long War rule. I'm already running over 1,000 words, and yet I've hardly scratched the surface of the new codex.

I will cover the Fast Attack and Heavy Support sections next, but since there are so many new options buried there, I will have to start a new article; an Overview: Part Deux. Included will be a breakdown of the new units, including the Warp Talons, Heldrake, and Forgefiend/Maulerfiend!

Thank you, as always, for reading! Please check my profile for links to my other Warhammer 40,000 articles or click on some of the links below:

Now, please feel free to post comments or ask questions below. I always answer and I can't wait to hear the community's thoughts on the new Codex!

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    • murphy80 profile image
      Author

      Murphy 3 years ago from Florida

      Yes he does :)

    • profile image

      Flare 3 years ago

      Does Kharn unlock berserks as troops?

    • murphy80 profile image
      Author

      Murphy 4 years ago from Florida

      Gah, you are correct! What happened to my proof reading skills?! Correcting now (again!) :)

    • Marsden4 profile image

      Marsden4 4 years ago from UK

      No worries!

      It was a great article!

      I've played against the Chaos Marines a few times now! Those plague marines are nearly impossible to shift with lasgun fire!

      (Also just noticed every entry that should say "prince" is spelled "price" for some reason! Sorry for not pointing it out in the first comment!)

    • murphy80 profile image
      Author

      Murphy 4 years ago from Florida

      Thank you, sir! I will correct them now. I'm glad you enjoyed the article! The new Chaos Marines are my go-to army. Even with the release of the new Daemons, I will still likely play the evil marines as my default army.

    • Marsden4 profile image

      Marsden4 4 years ago from UK

      Fantastic hub! Really enjoyed reading it!

      Just found a couple spelling mistakes that could be corrected:

      "No longer is a Daemon Price..."

      "...Plague Zombie unites... "

    • murphy80 profile image
      Author

      Murphy 4 years ago from Florida

      Thank you, sir! Our local group played fantasy for a long time, too, but have gone back to 40k with the new edition. I wanted to get the second part of the article up tonight, but it might have to wait until the morning. We had a long game and I've very pleased with how the Chaos army played. More to come...

    • Arioch profile image

      Gordon D Easingwood 4 years ago from Wakefield, United Kingdom

      Excellent hub all ways good to read about warhammer, interesting to see the difference between warhammer fantasy and 40k books as well.