Like I am sure we all have, I heard last week about the new Chaos Space Marine supplement, Traitor's Hand, as well as new psychic powers and a new Kharn the Betrayer (awesome model, one that I am looking forward to painting. Big time.). Now, I know some Chaos fanatics are chomping at the bit. I am excited too, though I am much more guarded and cautious about it. In fact, I doubt that the book will really help us Chaos Space Marine players very much. Indeed, the cards seem stacked against us. So, I decided to come out of hiding and offer my 2 cents about CSM and my hopes/fears for the Traitor's Hand book.
(Note: This rant does not address Khorne Daemonkin (which is a solid book), only the regular CSM book)
1) Units are over-costed for what they do (except Plague Marines perhaps). They therefore have a smaller footprint and lower model count (unless you're doing cultist spam- in which case the book should be called "Chaos Cultists" and not CSM). You can bet that if you run a CSM force that you WILL be outnumbered (no matter who your opponent is), but without a significant advantage or mechanic to overcome that numerical inferiority. GW needs to either lower the points costs or give CSM MORE special abilities to compensate.
3) CSM lack drop pods- which puts them at a severe disadvantage against Space Marines. Again, this makes no sense fluff wise or game wise. How do CSM NOT have drop pods? These were a staple of the Great Crusade (Istvaan drop site massacre anyone?)- how do CSM not have them in the 41st millennium? And if you are doing more recent heretic CSMs (like Crimson Slaughter, the Purge)- surely they would have them too, as drop pods ARE what SMs do in the 40K era... I really don't get this one.With all the new shenanigans with "free" drop pods and the like, well, it puts CSM behind the 8-ball. I don't necessarily want "free" drop pods, but let use use them. Oh, and NOT the FW one that costs a bazillion dollars- let us "Chaos" out regular drop pods.
4) Lack of Formations is a major sticking point for me. SMs get formations that are each better and more outlandish than the last. Seriously, between the SM codex and the recent Angels of Death supplement the SMs have SO many great formations to choose from, each with nifty bonuses. What does Chaos get? Hmmm... Up till now, not much. Yes, I hope the Traitor's Hate book fixes this, but if you have seen the few other CSM formations that have been done till now they are but shadows compared to other factions formations. What besides the Sorcerer Cabal has been good for CSM? (And Chaos Daemons fare little better- I have to have 90 Blue Horrors to field a Tzeentch formation. 90! Are you fucking kidding me?). CSM needs solid Formations to catch up with everyone else.
5) Chaos gets NOTHING for free (besides Chaos Focus for psychic powers). Nada. Zilch. I have played SM players tacking the decurion and I can't stand it anymore. Free Rhinos, Drop Pods, and Razorbacks have really fucked things up. Free?! My friend Brian simply takes free Razorbacks (pays for the Las) and Drop Pods- he wrecks havoc every single time against almost every opponent because he gets in for face quickly with the drop pods, fires a ton of las shots, and because the transports are free it means he has points to spend on other things. For a 2,000 point game he figured that he used about 400 points in transports. He had a 400 point advantage. How is that fun or fair? (And the Chaos Boon table is too random and too situational to count as a free bonus as opposed to free transports)
6) There are many specialist units that aren't actually "special" at all. Warp Talons are supposed to be fast, hard hitting close combat units, but they don't pack any more of a punch than other units, and they are so damn expensive so what's the point? Maulerfiends are close combat wrecking machines, but their weapon skill is lousy, and their base attacks are too few. Mutilators suck big time too. Chosen are good but far inferior to Sternguard or Command squads. I could go on , but seriously, the specialized units are anything but special.
7) Again, compared to their SM counterparts, CSM get shafted on army-wide tactics. Ultramarines get to chose from 3 doctrines (and can re-use them if they take the decurion). Iron Hands get FNP, Fists get Bolter Drill, etc. Sure, Plague Marines get FNP, but at a premium cost. Iron Hands get it for free. I don't want what they have, but give me some equivalent, for free.
8) Chaos characters must challenge is a great concept in theory. Its fluffy and fun. But again, when enemy characters are usually better equipped or have better special rules, far too often my champion dies. What is the point? This one is a minor problem, but still blows.
9) Chaos have rules that HURT the Chaos player. Like becoming a spawn. Getting hit by your own Daemon weapon. Daemonforge. Helbrute rage. Once again, I get the fluffy idea- they have traded their souls for power, and that entails risk. I get that and love it. But the "bumps" they get are not great- For example, Daemonforge allows re-rolls, but at the end if you roll a 1 you get wounded. Oh, and it only can be used once. Now, if it was every turn I say the risk is acceptable in exchange for what it can do- you could dole out a ton of damage but also risk dying. But once a game? Not that helpful considering the risk. How come Ultramarines allow everyone to re-roll ones for a turn without harm?
10) Chaos needs an improvement in their HQ choices. Compared to more recent HQ entries for SMs, the Chaos HQ choices are lackluster, at best. Sure, Typhus is a beast, and Kharn can be brutal, but besides them, what other HQ really works? Biker Lord truthfully, and that's about it. We need them to get beefed up a bit- better special rules or weapons options. Also, the Dark Apostle and the Warpsmith should be 1-3 per choice rather than 1. Being only 1 limits you greatly.
So, those are my 10 problems with Chaos as of September 2016. Now, I feel that Traitor's Hate is only going to be a band aid at best, as it cannot possibly be able to address too many of the big problems, as the book is only a supplement. Nothing short of a complete overhaul and new Codex can even begin to surmount the problems that this past edition has given us. A campaign supplement is not focused on that at all, actually.
So what will Traitor's Hand give us? We will get a couple of formations that, my gut tells me, won't be that helpful or special compared to SMs. There won't be any new units. No legion rules. No drop pods. We will have a decurion (which Cult CSMs will not be able to utilize), but I doubt we will get the luxurious SM treatment. My sad prediction is that Traitor's Hand will be cool for fluff, but poor (once again) for actual gaming. Have you seen some of the formation bundles that GW has on their website? It looks like things we have seen before (Malestrom of Gore), and things that are useless (yet another half-baked attempt to see Possessed with their Favoured of Chaos bundle).
There are some positives though. First, rules for a Chaos Knight. This is a nice plus, though I do not think Knights are be all and end all. I do like the idea of having that option though. The other thing is that Predators and Vindicators will be in formations of 3. This is really good, and is what SMs have in that respect.
I want to have hope that Traitor's Hand will make me want to play regular CSM again, but I have my doubts... Who knows? Maybe I'm wrong and will have to eat my words. I wouldn't mind eating crow if that means CSM are feared once more. I don't want a "win" button- I just want to see CSM stand toe to toe against all comers again. As of right now, we cannot do that.
Until next time...