Tactica Chaos Marines: HQ and Wargear
So, by now I'm sure everyone playing 40k has experienced a bit of tournament "burnout" for 40k. Lots of opinions about the metagame becoming stale, certain armies being "overpowered", etc. Honestly, while there is some truth to that, I'm here to show that there are other options outside of the servants of the False Emperor by doing some army Tactics and analysis with my primary force, Chaos Space Marines, starting with HQ choices! I'm going to skip over the Special Characters available as most of them are covered here: http://www.thediceabide.com/2011/06/underplayed-overlooked-chaos-space-marine-special-character-review/ The first option we'll take a look at is the one that is seeing the most play in tournament Chaos armies: the Daemon Prince. Taking a look at his statline and rules, there's no wonder he's been the HQ du jour among Chaos Marine players since the codex came out. Let's go ahead and look at his various strengths and weaknesses:
Strengths: -High base statline. You don't see an HQ choice in a lot of books with WS7, S6, T5, 4 wounds, Init 5 and 4 base attacks before wargear at his points level. -Very resilient. He comes standard with T5, 3+/5++, 4 wounds and Eternal Warrior. Hard to complain about that. -Lots of great wargear options. All of the Marks are really good on him, though most likely you'll want to take a Mark of Nurgle or Slaanesh due to gaining T6 or I6 and access to Lash of Submission, respectively. As for Psychic powers, most folks take Lash of Submission which is a great choice as you can drag enemy units closer to your guns or strong assault units or push them away if they're becoming a threat.
I feel, because of the strength of Lash, lots of the other powers get overlooked and there are a lot of worthwhile options such as Warptime (which makes you an even bigger close combat beast) and Nurgle's Rot (which I've used to annihilate T3 troops, especially when they have a crappy armor save). Both Bolt of Change and Doombolt give you a strong ranged option (with the former being really good at cracking transports). Finally, Wind and Gift of Chaos offer some strong counters to high toughness and mutliwound enemies, respectively.
Last, but certainly not least, is the Prince's ability to take Wings, giving him high mobility and the ability to Deep Strike. Due to the Prince's assault role and large stature, giving him the ability to have an 18" threat range for assault (and tacking on 12" to the range of any of his Psychic ranged abilities) is pretty important. This is almost a "must have" for all Daemon Princes.
Weaknesses: -Monstrous Creature. Being a Monstrous Creature comes with a whole slew of weaknesses. He's more difficult to get cover saves for, meaning that if he's hit by an AP3 or better weapon, he's only got a 33% chance of saving the wound. It's not a huge issue as he's very resilient for his unit type, but you're going to want to hide them as much as possible and that can be difficult on some tables. He will quickly become a fire magnet for your opponent, so getting him into combat becomes priority #1 and can muck up your game plan.
-No non-psychic-based shooting attacks. This basically means that if you're not picking up a shooty Psychic attack, you're paying for BS5 and not using it. This means that you can get picked apart by massed fire without a chance to do any damage in return and at least earn back your points investment before getting into combat.
Next up is the Chaos Lord. What used to be a staple in Chaos armies pre-4th/5th edition, he sees less and less play, but has a pretty large amount of strong options open to him. Let's take a look at his strengths and weaknesses:
Strengths: -Tons of wargear options. This guy can be kitted out to kill in so many ways, it's almost overwhelming. As such, he can quickly become too costly, but if you keep him focused on 2-3 pieces of wargear, he does a lot of work for a relatively low cost. As before, the Mark options he has are really nice, though he has no ability to take Psychic powers so the Mark of Tzeentch or Slaanesh become less amazing than they do for the Daemon Prince (though a 4++ or I6 is nothing to scoff at, I suppose).
He has the ability to take a Twin-Linked Bolter or Combi-Weapon in addition to his Bolt Pistol/CCW at a pretty low cost which really helps his utility. I honestly have very little issue spending the 10 points to give him some bolter shots and the once-per-game Flamer or Melta shot. Melta Bombs are just filler but can come in handy and the Icon can come in handy for when you're Deep Striking in Termies or Raptors (or even a Daemon Prince) and even if you wanna replace him with a Greater Daemon, though that's a bit too expensive for my tastes.
Outside of that, he has the typical HQ Bike/Jump Pack/Terminator Armor options. However, he also has the ability to take a Daemonic Steed and Daemon Weapon. The Steeds are all fairly decent. The Juggernaut is okay as long as you have a decent foot-slogging unit to roll with (as his type doesn't change, only that he cannot be transported). The +1 attack and Strength can be very useful, but you may as well pay for the Daemon Prince at that point.
The Mount of Slaanesh is pretty much pointless as your type becomes Cavalry and there aren't any cavalry units in the CSM codex, thus removing your ability to hide him in a unit. The Disk of Tzeentch is nice if you wind up taking a unit of Raptors but is otherwise a little overcosted. Finally, in my opinion the best of the Steeds, if the Palanquin of Nurgle. It's a lot like buying Terminator Armor, but gives you an extra Attack and Wound, which when stacked onto the +1 Toughness you're getting from the Mark of Nurgle (which you have to take for the Palanquin anyways) can give you a pretty crazy amount of resilience.
As for Daemon Weapons, the options are pretty limited and most of them are pretty "meh". Your basic Daemon Weapon will be a Power Weapon that requires 2 hands to use (so no +1 attack when paired with a pistol) with a bonus D6 attacks every assault phase. You also have a 1 in 6 chance every combat to stand around hitting yourself with your own weapon (no attacks that assault and takes a wound with no armor saves allowed) which is a pretty huge drawback. That being said, there are a couple of decent choices here, depending on your mark. The basic weapon only confers +1 Strength which, given the drawbacks, isn't really worth it in the long run.
The Bloodfeeder isn't much better (and in some cases is much, much worse) as you get potentially double the attacks as with a normal daemon weapon. However, on the other hand, if EITHER of the dice for attacks comes up as a 1, you suffer the drawback of the weapon (no attacks and you hit yourself). If you wanna live the dream and potentially hurl out 16 attacks in one assault phase from one dude, go for it, but it's unreliable at best. The Manreaper is potentially nice, assuming you go after a lot of high-toughness enemies (we're talking toughness 6+ here), otherwise that 4+ to wound is kinda worthless in comparison to a normal Daemon Weapon.
Now we get into the cream of the crop in my opinion, the Deathscreamer and Blissgiver. Deathscreamer potentially has the same drawback as the Bloodfeeder, but also gives you a good amount of anti-MEQ fire and still functions as a normal Daemon Weapon (also the drawback is slightly less of an issue as your Invuln Save will be better with the Mark of Tzeentch, allowing you to save ~16% more often). Lastly, we see the Blissgiver which has one special ability, and it's pretty basic: Instant Death for all unsaved wounds. Coupled with the fact that you're going to be Initiative 6 with this weapon, that is potentially lots of instantly dead multi-wound enemies, making you a huge threat for other HQ choices, Monsterous Creatures and other multi-wound choices, like Paladins. I wouldn't suggest taking any Daemon Weapon in all honesty, but if you're gonna take one, I would go with Blissgiver.
-Cost. Assuming you don't take a crapload of expensive options for him, the Lord can be a great budget beater. A lord with Power Fist and no mark is 115 points and comes standard with a great statline and an invuln save.
Weaknesses: -Not a Daemon Prince. Let's get this out of the way now. For only 20 more points, you can get a lot more survivability. Granted, there are fewer options available to the Prince than the Lord, but most of those options are bells and whistles you wouldn't be taking anyways (like Steeds or Daemon Weapons). This pretty much sums up most of his weaknesses right here. If you wanna take a good HQ that you can hide in a unit and transport, pick this guy or the Sorcerer. If you want an amazing deal for the points that takes a bit more finesse to play? Take a Daemon Prince.
Lastly, we take a look at the Sorcerer, the most flexible of the Chaos HQ choices. He can serve many different roles like the Daemon Prince but can also hide in units like the Lord. Here are his Strengths and Weaknesses:
Strengths: -Non-Monstrous Creature Psyker. As he's not a Monstrous Creature like the Prince, he can be hidden in squads and transports and has the only Force Weapon in the entire codex (outside of special characters) letting him be a potential threat to multi-wound models.
-Good Wargear options. Outside of the Daemon Weapons and Bolter options, the Sorcerer has all of the options that the Lord has but also gets access to all of the Psychic Powers in the book. You can only grab 1 unless you have the Mark of Tzeentch (which then lets you pick up 2). If I see a sorcerer, he's usually sporting Wings, Mark of Slaanesh and Lash of Submission and acting as the same kind of disruption as a similarly geared Prince, just at a lower cost and the ability to hide.
Weaknesses: -Again, not a Daemon Prince. He suffers from the same issues that the Lord does. That being that for a small number of points, you can have many of the same options as you would but with a lot more survivability. He is a lot easier to hide than a Prince and if all you're using the Prince for is Lash anyways, checking out a Sorcerer might not be a bad idea.
-No Psychic Hood. Unlike pretty much every other MEQ Psyker, the Sorcerer doesn't have a Psychic Hood, meaning he's all offense when it comes to Psychic Powers and can be shut down by an opposing Librarian without the ability to return the favor. Having used both a Librarian and a Sorcerer and several occasions, I do miss having the extra Psychic defenses.
That's all for this article. Next up, I'll cover all of the Eilites options in great detail. Until then, Death to the False Emperor and glory to the Despoiler!