Codex Chaos: The Marines
Lately, I've been quite busy with life, but that doesn't mean I've totally neglected the hobby. In between my adventures, I've decided to work on a lovely Red Corsairs force. After chatting with my buddies, mostly Reecius, Pete, and Nick, I think I'm starting to make sense of this convoluted book. When I start making any new army, the first thing I look at are the Troops. Since I don't plan on using any Cult troops, that pretty much means Chaos Marines and Cultists. I'm sure you've read plenty about why Cultists are the bee's knees and all that from around the net, so instead I'm going to look closer at the normal Chaos Marine squads. They have received plenty of flak from everyone with an opinion, but personally, I'm quite smitten with them...
On The Cheap
A bare bones chaos marine surprisingly comes with quite a lot. For a mere 13 points, you get a standard marine stat line, full complement of grenades, plus the obligatory bolter and bolt pistol. If you're just looking for a nice horde of bodies, a unit of 15 marines is only going to run you 205 points! You also have the option to exchange their bolters for close combat weapons, if you are so inclined to run that blob of power armour into the fray. Stripped down they're really not that bad and can give you a scoring unit with plenty of bodies.
If there's one thing that we know Chaos loves, it's accessories. For 2 points a model, you turn your Chaos Marines into Grey Hunters... minus a couple special rules. We all know that Grey Hunters are under cost, so I wont be one to complain that they're not as good for the same points. Instead though, being totally objective, 15 points for a Chaos Marine with bolter, pistol and CCW does sound pretty tempting... It's still fairly cheap for a unit of these, clocking in at 160 for 10, and it means your unit will be equipped to handle any situation. Something else you can consider is that the whole squad does not need to upgrade. If you're planning on taking some ranged casualties, you can keep the front half of the squad with bolters, and then upgrade the others to have the full kit. This will save a few points, but probably require a bit of finessing.
Marks of Chaos are another way that you can start customizing your troops. Before I get into them though, I want to be clear that I'm not going to be talking about fluffy reasons to take X, Y or Z. To me, a Mark of Chaos is simply a special rule that you pay for, not the means to determine what units you will and wont use.
Mark of Khorne - For only a couple points, you're giving your marines Counter Charge and Rage., effectively increasing their attacks in the first round of combat by 1. The downside though is that you have no way to deliver them, aside from a rhino. This also opens up the ability to take the Icon of Wrath, which is Furious Charge and re-rolling failed charges. I can tell you, as a fantasy player, re-rolling charges is hugely underestimated. If you are running a big block of combat equipped marines, it may not be bad to mark them and give them the icon to make some poor-mans Berserkers.
Mark of Tzeentch - This is by far the worst mark if you ask me, a 6++ save isn't going to get you anywhere, I don't think I'd even take this in a Tzeentch themed army, sadly the Icon is also next to useless, statistically causing one additional S4 Ap5 hit.
Mark of Nurgle - The most expensive of the bunch, but makes you a lovely T5. To really capitalize on taking CSM squads over cult troops, you need to look at what CSMs do better. If you just take stripped down T5 bolter troops, it might work out alright, since you'll be saving about 50% per model, once you start adding other options though, the Plague Marines quickly come out ahead for the cost. Similar to Tzeentch, Nurgle's Banner is quite lackluster and should probably be avoided.
Mark of Slaanesh - Possibly the best of the bunch, which is a bit unexpected! For a couple points you make your marines a lovely I5, meaning that you should always be considering a pistol/ccw configuration of some sort. When you compare them to Noise Marines though, they are lacking Fearless, but have access to special weapons. Their banner is also probably the best Icon that CSM have available, making the whole unit FNP. This effectively makes a unit that is a hybrid of Nurgle and Slaanesh (syphilis?), with both added combat effectiveness and survivability. Something to consider at least.
Undivided - Going with no god is going to save you a few points, and since CSM come so cheap as it is, if you don't need to make them expensive, then don't. The only icon that they will have access to is the Icon of Vengeance, which is going to make the whole squad fearless, but if the Icon dies, the squad loses it. This is very important to remember, especially around characters who will be sniping your banner on a 6. With it's hefty point cost, I find the Icon of Vengeance hard to justify most of the time, but may well be worth considering in a big unit.
Veterans of the Long War - The last of the CSM pt/model upgrades, VotLW is actually pretty interesting to think about. For a mere point, you're increasing your LD by 1, which since we aren't fearless, can be quite helpful. Additionally, you get Hatred for marines of all varieties! If there are Marines mopping up your local meta, then this is a must-have. Even if the marine population is low though, this is probably a good rule to keep smaller units from running off the board (5 points of a unit of 5 marines? CHEAP!).
Autobots, Roll Out!
The last thing to consider when talking about CSM is the venerable Rhino. 6th edition has put a serious nerfing to vehicles across the board, and generally speaking, if your opponent has to shoot your rhinos, they will and the tank will die. If you want to take them to keep the troops inside alive, it might just be cheaper to buy a couple red shirts to stand in front of the bullets. When using rhinos nowadays, I find it more effective to use it on the first turn or two to move your troops onto forward objectives, then bailing out before someone puts a lascannon through it's ears. If the rhino accomplishes that, then it has my permission to die. That said, Rhinos now have access to a huge compliment of weapons, you can strap on a second twin-linked bolter, a combi-bolter, AND a Havoc launcher. I don't think I'd go that far, but it is interesting to wonder about a transport fully laden with firepower. Personally, I'll keep mine cheap, possibly adding a Havoc Launcher to make it into something of a threat, or to at least give me something to do with it in subsequent turns.
As usual, it's all about exploiting the strengths of a unit, when compared to the alternatives. You don't need to take any special characters or Chaos Lords to take CSM squads, and when compared to their Cult troop counterparts, they often have a layer of added flexability. Want Berserkers with Bolters? How about fighty Noise Marines with some assault weapons? Well these are your best option then!