Hey there Chaos worshipers great and small, haughty and humble. Old Man Chaos here with a bit of an "op-ed" piece, as it were. I recently read an interesting article on Bell of Lost Souls and a bit more emotional, but no less interesting article on Spikey Bits regarding the state of Chaos Space Marines in the 6th edition. Both have come to the same conclusion- that 6th Chaos is a wreck- it doesn't have the versatility, lacks legion character/rules, and ultimately looks like its standing still compared to the newer 6th books (even though Chaos is ONLY one year old at this point). I can see where they are coming from, but I am not sure that their alarm is entirely justified... at the moment. I'd like to take a look at these issues for a moment.
1) Representing the Legions- We all love our legions. Its true- these are the ideas, the attitudes, the
visuals, etc. that made us fall for Chaos in the first place. I know so many of us dream of going back to the 3.5 book- which had so much character, imagination, flair, and so much content for those who wished to dedicate themselves entirely to a single legion. While times have changed, I believe that you could still pull it off for the most part. Have the Iron Warriors take allies from Imperial Guard- Leman Russ / Basilisks (traitor guardsmen or whatever for the troops). Word Bearers should team up heavily with Chaos Daemons (or the other way around?). The cult Marines are what they are (more on that later), but can be done. Alpha Legion SHOULD run cultist heavy (that is their nature, no?). The only ones I have a hard time seeing done "right" is Night Lords- not enough jump packs and bikes no matter what. It is my opinion that you could run your legion fairly close to the fluff- it's not perfect but way better than it was.
2) The book should be called Chaos Cultists instead- I for one see nothing wrong with the cultists. They are very cheap but not terrible at all- give them a mark to make them a bit tougher / fulfill the role you want them to. Sometimes power armor ISN'T enough or the correct application in a situation- a group of 25 cultists behind cover and going to ground can be just as survivable as power armor in some cases. It is a numbers game, and cultists are good at that. Further, the idea of cultists and traitors and mutants fit in perfectly with the fluff. Indeed, most of the books and such depict the actual Chaos Space Marine forces as being quite small- instead they have a ton of traitors and mutants and daemons. The recent Blood of Asaheim shows this incredibly well. Eisenhorn and Ravenor didn't fight a ton of Chaos Marines- they fought lower-level traitors and heretics, only rarely was a Chaos Marine involved. Since the old legions have broken into war bands and all that, I think any Chaos incursion would heavily feature cultists. Now, I don't want to play a cultist only army, but the option is there for you to have no cultists or a ton of cultists. That they are effective at holding backfield objectives and this is just fine for game purposes.
3) Just How Many Heldrakes? Now, most people would agree that the Heldrake is the book's one best/most powerful unit. Many opponents actually have a virulent dislike
for it, and woe be the person that takes 3 of them (or 4 with the Black
Legion supplement)! Now, I have only ever taken one in any game I have played (except against my brother- once). I have one for my Plague Marines and 2 for my Bezerkers, I was originally thinking that the second Khorne one would be for larger games or Apocalypse. But, some factors have recently changed my mind on this score. First, this summer I have met opponents who spammed a ton (I don't count troop choices as spamming, as they ARE the core of the army. If I take 6 troop choices of 5 Khorne Bezerkers each what do you want from me- I'm playing a World Eater army for goodness sakes!).
Maulerfiend (it is perfectly suited for the World Eaters). However, it does get targeted... a friggin ton. Indeed, I have not actually seen it be effective, since it always gets shot to pieces. With Armor Value 12 and 3 hull points, it is just begging to be shot and glanced to death. I almost stopped taking it, since it rarely got to a target! However, last week I played against someone else (also using the Dark Angels book, but a much more varied list), and I had put the Mauler in the list after all. He moved his Land Raider forward to get a clear shot at the Maulerfiend- he smiled, figuring he'd just punch through with his Lascannons and then he... whiffed. He missed, even with twin linked. I was stupefied. What happened next? The Maulerfiend charged the Land Raider and blew to straight to hell- clawed his way clean through it. Next turn, he charged through a ruin to get to the guy's Dark Angel squad. He tore through them, and attacked yet another. By the end, he was attacking the squad that was ON the objective, thus contesting. The Maulerfiend single-handed turned a close 5-4 nail-biter of a game to a 5-1 blowout. Now, that got me thinking... 2 Maulerfiends? Hahahaha. I really don't know.
5) The Big Four- here's an issue that's been bugging us for a bit now, getting accurate renditions of the cult marines. Now, the Death Guard are indeed the most vicious out there- you pay for 'em, but their absolute buggers. Khorne Bezerkers are no slouches either (to hell with Overwatch! Charge!). However, Furious Charge no longer gives them +1 Strength (like it used to). Further, they can pay +3 a model for a chainaxe that is AP 4... WTF? That hurts some armies, but... really? Not even +1 Strength...? It ain't worth the 3 points. Thousand Sons have a bit to like (sorcerers in each squad? Cool. AP3 Bolters? Die Space Marines), but they are a bit too costly to field them in any worthwhile numbers. Finally, Noise Marines have some decent abilities, but their weapons are very costly points wise. Those of us who love our Cult Marines have despaired for quite some time that NONE of the other units can actually BE part of their legion. A Death Guard lord that doesn't get... Feel No Pain, Blight Grenades, or Plague Knife? World Eater terminators that don't get furious charge? We all know this old chestnut, and I can only hope that, one day, it might be fixed (but at a points cost so high it may not be worth it).
costed Dreadnought HAD to be fixed, for example). The problem came with the next few books- Dark Angels, Tau, Eldar, and now, the hated Space Marines. Each book has been very strong- some argue that they are all better than the Chaos Marine book. Particularly, I look at this- the Heldrake was the premier model for the book, and powerful to boot. So what happened? They gave each book more skyfire options. Mein Gott- it feels like the whole Tau army has skyfire (they don't, but it feels like it)!! And now the Marines have 2 dedicated anti-air options AND 2 flyers! And what can Chaos Space Marines do about these flyers themselves? Heldrakes can take out other flyers (if they survive the Stalker/Hunters long enough to do anything), and... a Havoc that has a missile launcher and spends MORE points to get flakk and... that's it. Done. That is just poor planning on GW's part. And it DOES put Chaos at a disadvantage. Looking at Tau and Eldar, the Chaos Marine book does look like at times like it is more of a remnant of 5th than a real 6th edition book.
So, it does hurt that the Chaos Marine Codex is a bit slower, "older", and blander than the more recent books.
However, I do not believe that it is the doomsday that others feel it is. I have a few ideas about what Chaos players could do to even the score...
a) Stop taking Heldrakes?! I know that a lot of Space Marine players will be looking for sweet, sweet vengeance against all the baleflamers that burned them this past year. Thus, we can expect to be seeing a lot of Hunters/Stalkers on the tabletop. So, what should we do? Don't take Heldrakes. Let those fancy Hunters sit there and rot- in the new WD Battle Report it killed the Heldrake and pretty much did NOTHING the rest of the game. So when Space Marine players bring out 2 of those things... the joke will be on them- no heldrakes!.
b) Don't forget the Daemon Codex! I still believe that Phil Kelly saw in his mind's eye that the two books should act as one. Allying with Daemons can remedy some of the
problems of the Chaos Marine codex. Daemons will make a mockery of the
Centurion grav guns. Plague daemons can use poison to get rid of the Centurions in close combat, and not worry about getting shot up on the way to them. Bloodletters with S4 AP 3 Helblades are nasty against most Space Marines. Tzeentch deamons, well... they're screwed (we know that). Fiends of Slaanesh are still vicious. The Soul Grinder does have skyfire, and the Daemon Princes here are nasty (even if a bit pricey). I think the Daemons are a "monkey wrench", to be turned by the Chaos Marines.
c) Get Away from Online Lists! I have never published a list on this blog. Never will. I think of building a list as an art form- suited to each player and their
sensibilities. Trial and error, experimenting, taking the units that
bring a smile to your face (Dark Angel Land Speeder person did not have
"fun," even though he won, and he said it was HIS list that wasn't fun
to play, not his opponent or the mission or his codex), that is what it
is all about, in my opinion. Those that copy and paste their lists from
the internet have a weakness- everyone KNOWS their list. It's common to face a certain amount of X because all the net lists take X. Stop there. Don't copy/paste. Try something different. Something players don't always see. People are shocked when I whip out my Khorne Bezerkers ("CC troops? They don't work in 6th). Truth is, I have a 75/25 record with them this summer, by my reckoning. Opponents are taken by surprise, and thus have to adapt, and can't because they were planning on seeing the usual net list of Heldrakes, Obliterators, and "vanilla" Chaos Marines with a mark. Go for a more personal touch. It makes the game more exciting for you and your opponent.
d) Be Patient. Now look, a lot of Chaos players are looking at new Space Marine book and thinking "I'm screwed". Perhaps so. But I also know that weaknesses WILL be there. It will just take a bit of time to discover them (we can already see that Centurions are vulnerable to Daemons). Further, when the Tyranid and Ork books come out- there's going to be a ton of fun! Marine players will be hard pressed against the Xenos books, if Tau and Eldar are any indication. If the rumors are true, there will also be more supplements for Chaos, which is no bad thing. We just have to hang in there on this front.
To sum up, things are rough for Chaos players, but I do not think that it is THAT bad at all. The sky is not falling. Chaos players just need to adapt. I do agree that the newer codexes are much "fancier" than our book, and that certain things are unfair (Chaos could use more skyfire options, for example). However, Chaos Space Marines still have a lot to offer. No one should be saying that we Chaos players should just pack it in. No way. We must continue our war against the false emperor! Er... you know what I mean.
Until next time.