Typhus and Plague Zombies Review and Tactics - Warhammer 40k
Chaos Space Marines are the proud owners of the first army codex for 6th edition Warhammer 40k. With the new codex, a host of new options have opened to chaos players . . . and some old options as well. In fact, one of the army lists that used to exist in 3rd edition 40k, but then mysteriously vanished, was the Plague Zombie list. While rare in practice, what veteran chaos player didn't at least imagine the possibilities of sending a zombie horde shambling across the bitter battlefields of the far future?
With the new 6th edition Chaos Space Marines Codex, players can live that nightmare again. As a bonus, they get to run one of the most terrifying independent characters in the game, Typhus, of the Death Guard traitor legion. This article will review Typhus in all his corrupted detail; rules and strategies, and then will look at running hordes of Plague Zombies, supported by other Nugle-ish options. Bring your hand sanitizer because it's going to get messy!
Typhus, Host of the Destroyer Hive
Typhus was a traitor to the emperor even before Horus started his rebellion, being corrupted by the Ruinous Powers decades earlier. Typhus used his granted powers to rise through the ranks of the Death Guard chapter, spreading heresy as his influence increased, eventually becoming captain of the First Company. When Horus recruited fellow traitors to his cause, Typhus eagerly supported his Primarch, Mortarion, and joined in open rebellion.
After Horus fell, the Death Guard fled to the Eye of Terror. but became afflicted by a terrible disease called the Destroyer Plague. Seeing his chapter succumbing to the wasting sickness, Typhus bargained with the dark god, Nurgle, accepting the entirety of the plague into his body. Typhus and his fellow Death Guard, now terrible Plague Marines, are both infected and immune to the terrible disease, and are dedicated to spreading contagion across the galaxy.
Let's look at Typhus as he reads in the new Chaos Space Marines Codex.
Typhus: WS 6 BS 5 S4 T5 W4 I5 A3 LD10 Sv 2+
He is equipped with Terminator Armor, blight grenades, and the daemon weapon Manreaper, and has the following special rules: Fearless, Feel No Pain, Mark of Nurgle (already in profile), and is a Psyker with Mastery Level 2 (all Nurgle powers). He also has two additional powers that are unique to him, Destroyer Hive and Plague Zombies.
Whew! Let's dig a little deeper and see what this means.
Typhus in Combat
Typhus can be a beast in combat. If he charges in combat, he will have 3+1+d6 attacks, meaning between 4 and 10 attacks. If you are fighting Space Marines then his Veteran of the Long War rule gives him Hatred (Space Marines), granting him re-rolls on the first turn of combat.
Manreaper is a daemon weapon granting him that extra d6 attacks. It is a +2 strength weapon with AP2 and the melee, daemon weapon, force, and unwieldy tags. This makes Typhus' attacks Strength 6 and will ignore every armor in the game. The Force special rule means that he can spend a warp charge to make his attacks Instant Death - great in challenges! The only downside is that he is striking at Initiative 1, and so much survive higher initiative attacks and any power fists swinging his way. The good news is, he can take it!
With Toughness 5, terminator armor, 4 wounds, and Feel No Pain, Typhus is going to stick around. Let's look at that combination. If he is targeted by standard bolt guns, each hit must roll a 5+ to wound him (33%), a roll of a 1 on his armor save (16.7%), and then a 1-4 on his Feel No Pain (66%). Let's do the math on that: 0.33 * 0.167 * 0.66 = 0.037. That means each bolter HIT only has a 3.7% chance of actually causing a wound. The same goes for each normal melee hit at Str 4.
Let's look at a more powerful hit, from either or power fist or a lascannon. Both hits will wound on a 2+ and ignore his 2+ armor. However, since neither are double his Toughness, Typhus will still get his Feel No Pain roll. So, in order to be wounded, Typhus must fail his 5+ (66.7% to fail) invulnerable save and his 5+ Feel No Pain (66.7% to fail). The math says: 0.667 * 0.667 = 0.445. This means that each powerful hit will only wound him 44.5% of the time and because they aren't double his toughness, he will only suffer a single wound.
The Destroyer Hive
Once per game, Typhus can also use his special rule, The Destroyer Hive. In the Assault Phase, instead of attacking, he may unleash the hive! Place a large blast marker over Typhus. Every model under the template (friend or foe, but not Typhus) take a single Str 4 AP2 hit. Send Typhus alone into combat, pop the Destroyer Hive, and watch half of every model around him die (most of the time). This is great for fending off hordes or to finish off a Fearless unit that isn't going to break due.
Don't forget that Typhus is also a powerful Psyker! He must choose both of his powers from the Nurgle powers list, and it's actually a pretty good list. Some argue that it's stronger than the Tzeentch list. His powers will be rolled randomly, and they range from poisoned attacks (one AP 5 but the other is AP2, large blast!) and some debuffs. One malediction makes enemy weapons all have the Gets Hot special rule, and the other debuffs a unit, ranging from -1 attack to -1 Str and Toughness!
Typhus' other special abilities allow him to A) take Plague Marines as troops (rather than elites), and B) turn any Chaos Cultist unit into Plague Zombies.
What are Plague Zombies? Take your normal Chaos Cultists (guardsmen stats - 3's across the board, 1 attack, 6+ save) and give it Fearless, Feel No Pain, and Slow and Purposeful. For free. Typhus allows you to upgrade any Chaos Cultist unit for free. The only hitch is that the unit cannot purchase any upgrades, only have 1 attack, and cannot shoot any weapons. The latest Games Workshop FAQ clarified that zombie units can upgrade to include more cultists (4 points each), but nothing else. Yes, you can have 35 zombies in a unit!
On the assault, a unit of 35 zombies will give you 70 attacks! However, realistically, you will never have all 35 zombies surviving to Initiative step 3. However, even 25 zombies gives you 50 dice to throw on the assault. If half of this hit and then wound on a 5+, that equals 8 wounds. Versus power armored foes, that might mean 2 or 3 wounds. Not great, but not terrible.
Plague Zombies really excel at defense. They will still die in droves, but they are cheap and they will not run away. Let's look at a full unit of 35 zombies sitting on an objective. Assuming that they are hit with bolt guns: hits will wound on a 3+ (66.7%) and will bypass Feel No Pain on a 1-4 (66.7%). Math-hammer! 0.667 * 0.667 = 0.445. This means that it will take roughly 2 hits to statistically kill off a zombie. 35 zombies will take roughly 70 shots before they are destroyed. Since the zombies are Fearless, they will stand there to the last man, claiming or contesting that objective. That's not bad for 150 points.
For miniatures, I suggest the line of zombies from Mantic Games. They sell regiments of 28mm zombies in tattered clothing for pretty cheap, especially on Ebay! Check out the link below. You can even mix and match with some sci-fi bits to give your zombies the appearance of leftover Guard army!
So what do we do with these Plague Zombies?
First, let us consider what they are useful for. I see two viable uses for large units of Plague Zombies. 1) camp objectives, 2) tie-down opposing units.
We already looked at the math of killing off a 35 man unit of Plague Zombies: roughly 70 strength 4 hits are needed. This is a lot of manpower needed to move these suckers off an objective. What if we combined that with a cover save? Here's where placing objectives is important. Most of the standard battle missions have us placing objectives at the start of the game, so your mission it to make sure that you place them in cover. If you put your zombies in a a 5+ cover situation, then each strength 4 hit against them only has a 30% of causing a wound. Now it looks more like 105 hits to wipe out a 35 strong zombie unit.
At this point, your opponent will have no choice but to assault your zombies. This will deny them the cover save, and will also save your enemy's unit from incoming fire while they chew threw your zombies. With a large group of zombies only dealing 1 or 2 wounds a round in melee, your zombies probably wont be winning any combats. Your goal is to have them outlast your opponent and to keep that objective contested.
I suggest having a small, flexible unit kept in reserve near by. If your zombies are getting whittled down, then your reserve unit can enter the fray and mop up. Even a 5 man unit of chaos marines (with champion equipped with some kind of power weapon) will do the trick. They just need to prevent your zombies from being wiped out because even a single zombie can claim an objective and score points.
The alternate use is to use zombies as a speed bump to your opponent's assault troops. Rush them forward (well, shamble forward), and keep your power armored troops (plague marines or normal CSMs) on your objectives. The zombies will tie down an assault dreadnaught forever, or even severely weaken anything else. You can even screen an advance with zombies. Have them march in front of a unit of plague marines, providing a 5+ cover save for shots going through your zombies, and preventing your marines from getting tied up in unwanted assaults. Once your zombies have made contact with an enemy, they will condense around the assault and open a pathway for your marines to walk deeper into the enemy lines.
All the Rest
Running Typhus and a horde of zombies sounds fun, but it likely wont win you games. The zombies can take a hit, but they are going to have a hard time being aggressive and claiming objectives. They could use a little help.
Thankfully, we have a whole codex of options to include with them. Typhus also allows us to take Plague Marines as troops. The diseased marines are actually pretty good at killing things. They have high defense (Toughness 5, 3+ armor, and Feel No Pain), so they can keep killing round after round. Also, their Plague Grenades are defensive grenades, so they remove the bonus assault die when enemies charge them. The key is to get your Plague Marines stuck in deep inside enemy territory and start taking their objectives. They way the battle missions work, if you can "keep" your own objectives, then you often only need to capture a single "enemy" objective.
Plague Marines provide decent firepower, in the form of bolters and two plasma guns per squad. However, they can be decent in an assault. Their Plague Knives are poisoned weapons (4+). The cool thing about poisoned weapons is that if the attacker's strength is equal to or greater than the opposing toughness, the attacker can re-roll failed to wound rolls. This means that Plague Marines have a 75% chance of wounding other marines with each hit, and they are throwing 2 dice each, or 3 on the charge. Not too bad!
Camp your objectives with Plague Zombies, shoot down your enemies with bolters, Daemon Engines, and tanks, and then assault enemy objectives with Plague Marines . . . and Typhus. Yes, you will do fine.
There are many viable lists in the new Chaos Space Marines Codex, but the Plague Zombie list seems to be very popular (at least conceptually). Are we actually going to see hordes of zombies across the battlefield? It depends on how many people want to buy and paint dozens and dozens of zombies. I think the list will be competitive, not because the zombies are so amazing, but because they will require large amounts of enemy resources to destroy, which will free up our other amazing units to get the job done. I actually made a few dozen plague zombies back in 3rd edition, and they've been sadly put away or decommissioned in favor of other projects. I am very happy that I can pull them back out in 6th edition and start my own Zombie Apocalypse!
If you have any comments or suggestions, please post them below this article. I always reply and I enjoy hearing the thoughts of other gamers! Also, please check out some of my other Warhammer 40k articles, including my review of the new Chaos codex and my review/tactics of the new Heldrake flyer!