Right, so I finally have a copy of the Chaos Codex in my lap, and as the Rampage hospital gets ready to increase in occupancy as my flatmates start to return from their night out, I can finally get down to some Chaos-y business.
First off, a disclaimer. I would fully encourage you to read some of the other Underlings blogs on this subject, as it's always good to be presented with 2 different perspectives. I have no idea what anyone else has wrote, making an effort to stay away from all Chaos related publications as much as I can, but I'll definitely go around and have a look once I've finished the series here. But anyway, on to the topic at hand.
First, as many people have already said, it is a very pretty book. It's nice to have a full colour hardback book with embossed logos and the artwork is exceptional, really benefiting from the colour. I've only flicked through so I haven't been able to pick a favourite yet, but it is outstanding. It might take a bit of getting used to, for example I turned to the Rhino entry to be greeted with a sentence telling me to turn to the vehicle upgrades page for points costs, and then when you find it you have to find another page telling you what the upgrades do. I'm sure that I'll get used to it with time though. Quick and strange comment coming up, it smells just like my Collectors Edition Fantasy rulebook on the inside (i.e. It smells good).
Quickly on to units. Today I'm going to start talking about the Troops choices, I'm not going to go into Typhus' Plague Zombies or units that can be unlocked as Troops choices, but I will be talking on the subject of Chaos Space Marine Squads, Cultists, and then the Chaos Rhino, starting from the top.
When I decided to do Troops choices first I thought it could be quite a boring introduction to the Chaos army, 'they are the backbone of the army blah blah', and that there wouldn't be too much to say about them. However, I have a lot to say about the standard marines here, and I like them.
Comparing them to a standard Space Marine, just statline and special rules based, they don't have, 'And they shall know no fear' (ATSKNF), and they can't combat squad. However, they do cost just as much as a Necron Warrior, 2pts less than a Grey Hunter. Not bad at all. I still would not say that they're just as good for their points as a Grey Hunter. Firstly because of not having ATSKNF. Even though you wouldn't expect them to have to have it, it's such an important rule as a Space Marine, making it very difficult to kill a squad in one go, such as them running off the board or catching them with a sweeping advance.
However, I do think that this lower base cost can make them a very good deckchair unit. Before going into upgrades and how this can be made even more effective, we can look at the unit sizes. One thing that I think makes this selection particularly interesting is the ability to take 20 Chaos Space Marines in a single squad. Just 15 Chaos Space Marines on an objective in cover is going to be one hell of a brick to get through, and that will cost you 205pts.
So, now looking at wargear, and believe me there's a lot of it. As I'm going through I'll stop at more interesting pieces. Starting from the top of the left column again, we have an interesting little piece that allows your Chaos Space Marines to take an additional close combat weapon in exchange for bumping them up to the cost of a Grey Hunter per model. Essentially, an extra attack. That's quite nice for if you're pushing a squad forward. I'm not sure how this compares to the rest of the Codex because I haven't been through the main challengers to this (things like Khorne Berzerkers) yet, but when I do I'll refer back and make a comparison. Alternatively, a Marine can swap his Boltgun for the close combat weapon for no additional cost. Again this kind of depends on how aggressive you plan on being with these guys but I always like to have a Boltgun for the range, so I probably wouldn't go for this option. All in all, I probably wouldn't go for the close combat weapons. I'd be holding out for better close combat units in the codex but even so, with 40k being much more of a shooting game in 6th edition I don't think that I'd get enough use out of them to justify the additional cost. Besides, 13pts for a T4 3+ scoring bolter is nice.
Now, into the special gear for these guys. The first one that comes up is something called Gift of Mutation. I think that this is a fantastic idea for a special rule. I'm not a fan of it from a competitive standpoint, but I am really tempted to take it on my Champions for my Word Bearers. What it does, is it allows your character to roll on the boon table at the start of the game, ignoring Spawndom and Daemonhood, which at 10pts is quite fun. The reason why I don't like it from a competitive standpoint is two-fold. Firstly, that table is extremely random, as it should be, and when I play competitively I try to cut down on randomness as much as I can and go for reliable units that I know can get certain jobs done, so I can intricately understand their strengths and weaknesses in each situation, with as few variables as possible. There are a lot of potential situations coming out of this. Also, you may roll a power that isn't particularly useful. For example, +1 initiative probably isn't going to be great for a champion in a unit that is camping an objective.
Moving on to the Marks of Chaos now. Starting with Khorne. I like this mark. For the same points cost as a second close combat weapon you can get rage and counter-attack. So basically, you get an additional +1 attack when charging and being charged (the latter if you pass your leadership check). However, that is only for a single assault phase. So this seems like a bit of a pointless mark for me at the minute, as for the same points I could get a close combat weapon which would permanently give me +1 attack, and I don't even have to give it to all models in the unit. Next.
Tzeentch time. This mark costs the same amount as the Mark of Khorne, except instead it gives you a 6+ armour saves. I smell mathammer time! So, what you're doing, is you're increasing the cost of your Chaos Space Marines squad by about 15.3% in order to make them 16.6% more durable against weapons that ignore your armour save. Ok, but then, how many weapons ignore a 3+ armour save? And then, how often is my squad of compulsory objective hogging troops going to be out of cover, where I would have got a cover save that cannot be worse than the save I am purchasing? Yeah, I'd skip this one too. Next.
Ah, the old favourite. Nurgle. Nice and simple, costs 50% more than the other Marks, but is +1 toughness. So you're essentially paying the points cost of a regular vanilla marine and swapping ATSKNF for T5. A better buy than Khorne and Tzeentch.
Going to Slaanesh, we have the same points cost/model as Khorne and Tzeentch, and is just +1 to initiative. Not bad if you're going for a combat unit. In fact, if you're willing to spend the points on making a Chaos Space Marines Squad a well hitting close combat unit, I'd probably take 20 of them, and give them close combat weapons and a Mark of Slaanesh. So you're getting 60 I5 attacks on the charge ignoring the Aspiring Champion. Not too shabby, but also really, really expensive, so I probably wouldn't bother.
Ok, that's it for the Marks, but we're not done yet. Chaos Icons. Icon of Wrath, Furious Charge and re-rolling the result for charge distance, although you can't re-roll just one of the dice like you can with fleet. This costs 10x as much as a Mark of Khorne, although you do need the Mark to get this icon. I probably wouldn't bother with this upgrade. For one you have to get a pretty useless Mark to get it and for another how often are your Chaos Marines going to be charging.
The Icon of Flame is the Tzeentch Icon. Essentially, it gives your unit psybolt ammunition, but swapping the strength increase for Soul Blaze. Honestly, I'd prefer have a strength buff that Grey Knights get, I don't really rate Soul Blaze, essentially just being the possibility of a couple more Boltgun hits, and at the same points cost of a Grey Hunter, I wouldn't purchase this Icon either, especially considering you also need to get the Mark of Tzeentch.
The Nurgle Icon causes Fear. Fantastic. Essentially it's just the War Shout that Howling Banshees get but at double the points cost. Again, I wouldn't bother.
Now the Slaanesh Icon is quite nice, but at double the points cost of the Tzeentch Icon, you'd expect it to be. Simply, it gives your unit Feel No Pain. I still can't see this getting used though. If you're camping an objective you're going to be taking Mark of Nurgle, and so wouldn't have access to this, the only time I can see this being used is through the 20 man strong Chaos Marine hammer that I mentioned earlier. But, it is already an extraordinarily expensive unit, I think that it's too expensive for what it is anyway, and this probably won't offset that too much.
Now, here comes my favourite Icon. The Icon of Vengeance. You do not have to purchase Marks in order to access it, and it's 5pts cheaper than the Icon of Excess (Slaanesh). It's ability is very straight forward, the unit gets fearless. Now try sticking a 10 man squad of Chaos Space Marines in cover with a Mark of Nurgle and an Icon of Vengeance. Yes, it comes in at just shy of 200pts, but try shifting that brick off an objective.
Last point now, I promise. A nice alternative to the Icon of Vengeance is Veterans of the Long War. You are saving the cost of a Grey Hunter by swapping the Icon of Vengeance out for this in a 10 man squad, and what it does is it bumps your Leadership up by 1. Meaning that when using the Aspiring Champions leadership you will be Leadership 10. As well as this, you are also getting preferred enemy Space Marines, which includes all of the Marine Codecies. Pretty nice.
In short, the way I would run a squad of these is as follows. 10 Chaos Space Marines with Mark of Nurgle and Veterans of the Long War. Sorry this has taken so long, but as I am now down the middle of the 3rd page on my Word Processor, I think I'm going to leave this here for now. I'll be back with another post within the next days. Hopefully concluding the Troops choices with Cultists and the Rhino.