Chaos Marines: What Makes Us Special
As to be expected, following the release of the Codex Space Marines book, there has been a tidal wave of complaining, wish listing and just general whining from the Chaos Marine players. In a follow up to my last article, Codex Space Marines: A Chaos Perspective, I've decided to take the other approach, what is it that Chaos has that makes them stand out from vanilla marines.
Probably the most dramatic choice that Chaos Players can take is the Daemon Prince. This monster can be a fairly inexpensive choice, but really, it's more exciting to give him wings and some sort of beat stick to pound in loyalist faces. The Daemon Prince has the capability of becoming a level 3 psyker (higher than loyalist Librarians), with access to Biomancy to get things like Endurance, Iron Arm and Warp Speed, tack on a Black Mace and this guy will really be devastating, as most chaos players know. The best way that marines have to counter this is going to be their Stalker, but with a 3+ save, it's not going to cause much more beyond a check to crash.
Space Marines just got access to their own cheap sorcerer, so good for them, they're no longer overpaying. So what makes Chaos Sorcerers so good? Well, the fact that they can be upgraded to a level 3. It's a very cheap upgrade, and makes Chaos Sorcerers much better than their loyalist counterparts. 3 rolls on Telepathy or Biomancy is going to dramatically increase the chance of getting the spells you're shooting for (like Invisibility and Endurance).
Chaos Space Marines are still a point cheaper than their Tactical Marine stepbrothers, the reason I point this out though is that a Tactical Squad with the same upgrades as the previous book are almost exactly the same points! Don't freak out about their tactical marines going down in price because now they're paying for their upgrades and the difference is negligible. So with that said, Chaos Space Marines still get access to two special weapons, making them a more effective unit on the move than Tactical Marines. This is about the time where your normal internet complainer would start going on about ATSKNF. Yes, loyalists do have this rule. No, it is not the greatest thing since gravy. Not being able to auto-fail LD checks makes this ability much less effective, also, not getting swept from combat can often mean you keep the enemy protected in combat when you only have 1-2 survivors. In the end, I still firmly believe that ATSKNF is one of the most overrated abilities in the game (I don't think it's bad, I just don't think it is as amazing as people tend to think).
Space Marine Scouts are the closest thing that loyalists have to Chaos Cultists. Unfortunately for Space Marines however, Scouts are still far more expensive and don't come in as large of squads. The ultimate poor-man's scoring unit for Chaos Marines is just a mile beyond the closest thing that Marines can bring without allies (i.e. IG, which CSM can also take).
If you're looking at the opposite end of the spectrum, Plague Marines are arguably one of the toughest scoring units in the game, and again, totally unique to Chaos Space Marines. Loyalist marines don't have any way to get scoring terminators, so the closest thing they have are some bikes, which don't have the wonderful FNP rule. Additionally, in combat, Plague Marines have a pistol and poisoned 4+ combat weapon, as well as defensive grenades. I'm sure I don't need to do much convincing on how good these guys are, but do remember, vanilla marines have nothing like them.
Noise Marines are probably a bit underestimated. For a low investment of 120 points you have a simple 5-man squad that carries a krak missile launcher with a blast that ignores cover. This is a prime weapon for annihilating MEQ, as well as being an inexpensive scoring unit.
It's no secret that Space Marine terminators aren't that great, but the Chaos equivalent I think is a bit more playable. Being far more customizable, and with a much more reasonable price tag, you can even take small 3-man squads to serve as distractions, or vehicle assassins loaded with combi-meltas. Having the capability of changing what power weapon they want to be equipped with adds a bit of flexibility too, meaning that unlike loyalists, if you don't want to go last, you don't have to.
The newest rage in the Space Marine book is their bike squad, it's a fast method to deliver a bit of fire power, can get hit and run, as well as a bunch of other goodies. What don't they have? Easy, two hand weapons! That's right, Chaos Marines have the common sense to bring a knife to a gun fight, giving them more attacks than loyalist bikers. If you want to spend a few more points, you can even make your bikers T6!
Speaking of T6, Chaos Spawn with Mark of Nurgle are a fast assault unit that doesn't need a transport. Regular marines severely lack in the fast assault unit department, with pretty much only Assault Marines (boo...) being the only unit that can get around fast and has more than 1 attack in combat. A dirt cheap unit of 5 Nurgle Spawn is just amazing, and like most everything else on this list, unique to Chaos Marines. Want to know a little secret? These guys are practically immune to Grav weapons! Suck it Centurions!
If I didn't mention Heldrakes here, I wouldn't be doing my job. Probably the single item that everyone else in the game wishes they had is the beloved Heldrake. Never has there been a single unit in the Chaos book that has caused so much complaining (from other players for a change) than this lovely beast. Utterly unstoppable at wiping marines off the board, the Heldrake totally ignores that great cover save that White Scars players seem to be bragging about, and are very hard to kill with S7 anti-air options (which are most AA options).
On the surface, Havocs might just seem like Chaos Devastators, but when you really dig into it, there are some key differences. First of all, instead of a Multi-melta, Chaos Marines get the arguably more useful Autocannon, but the really big deal is that they can take 4 special weapons. Again, Chaos wins out on mobility.
Obliterators are the rough equivalent to Centurion Devastators. You probably will always take Mark of Nurgle, and when you have that and VOTLW (for that handy LD bonus), you are still a few points cheaper than a lascannon Centurion. On the surface, a Centurion has a bit more fire power, but lacks an invulnerable save, and becomes far more expensive than an Obliterator once fully upgraded. Additionally they only have 2 ways to get into position, either foot slog across the board, or buy an expensive Land Raider (or Storm Raven) to transport them around in. Keeping in mind that they don't have an invulnerable save, you can be sure that anything with a AP2 gun is going to be blasting these guys to pieces.
The last unit I'll mention also goes to a fast assault unit, the Maulerfiend. Only slightly more expensive than a dread with 2 CCW's, the Maulerfiend has a 5+ invulnerable save, fleet, moves 12", has IWND, and has those handy magma cutters (basically free melta hits in combat). I believe that this model is further evidence that CSM are meant to be a fast army, since not many people get a 12" move combat monster out of their heavy support.
Overall, the new Marine book is fine, I don't dislike it at all and I'll probably end up making a Salamanders force at some point, but really, the key to winning at Chaos is to really understand what they bring that you cannot emulate elsewhere. You might argue that vanilla marines have better Tactical squads to our Chaos Marine squads, but so what? We have Plague Marines and giant mechanical dragons! This is not a time to be in despair over the state of Chaos Space Marines, instead this is a time of celebration. The more marine players we see on the board, the better Chaos Marines get, this army is practically designed to shred 3+!