Chaos Space Marines
"And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer
And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.
And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say: "A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine."
And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.
And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth."
- – Revelation 6:8
"The treachery of demons is nothing compared to the betrayal of an angel."
- – Brenna Yovanoff
Chaos Space Marines (also known as Heretic Astartes and Astartes Traitoris) are, simply enough, Space Marines that have fallen to, or were inducted to, Chaos. They are also one of the main factions in Warhammer 40,000. The first Chaos Marines were born during the Horus Heresy from the nine Traitor Legions. Since then, many Space Marines (and even a few full Chapters) have gone rogue, becoming Renegades. However, this is mostly a fluff distinction, as the Codex (or the models for that matter) does not differentiate between the two.
CSM supplement their lack of more easily available loyalist resources (recruits, tech, supplies, etc.) by way of daemons and Warp energy from the dark Gods, plundered weapons from whoever is unlucky enough to lose an engagement to them, and renegades from the Imperium, which are always available because the Imperium treats its subjects like steampunk condoms.
- 1 Overview
- 2 The Traitor Legions
- 3 A "Meta-History" of Sorts
- 4 See Also
- 5 Gallery
Chaos Space Marines are basically Imperial Space Marines who have forsaken their oath to the Imperium of Man to serve the Ruinous Powers, which is Heresy. Marines do this for a number of reasons, although the cause of this is usually finding that the ways of Chaos suit them more than the Imperium, or the classic case of the Imperium dicking them over (largely the case for post-heresy chapters).
The origins of Chaos Space Marines go back to Erebus of the Word Bearers, the first Chaos Marine, who then corrupted the recently-emotionally-discouraged Primarch Lorgar to Chaos. Erebus would then set into motion the events that would lead to Warmaster Horus being wounded on Davin's moon, where he would fall to the corruptions of Chaos. Horus, supreme Warmaster of the Imperium, would then gather
7 8 more of his distraught brother Primarchs to his cause, along with a good fraction of Imperial forces and the Adeptus Mechanicus in full-scale rebellion, resulting in the Horus Heresy. That didn't go so well. When Horus got roflstomped by the Emprah during their duel (at which point he was the only remaining traitor primarch that hadn't been banished into the warp or else simply fucked off and went AWOL), most of the Traitors fled to the Eye of Terror because of the loss of leadership, resulting in what would be known as "Chaos Space Marines".
Naturally, they fight just like Space Marines except
on average they are stronger, more experienced, and older, given that the majority stood with their Primarchs during the Great Crusade only worse because Mary Sues need punching bags. They keep using shit they were equipped with prior to the Horus Heresy such as bolters and the ever useful Space Marine plot armor, which would explain why they didn't fistfuck each other to death before reaching the Eye of Terror, or why they would follow the lead of a particular Saturday morning cartoon villain.
Chaos Marines are also commonly known to compensate their aging weapons (which didn't really age much, considering how fucktarded Imperium tech support is) by using demon magic for that extra edge in combat. Naturally they lack some of the weapons and equipment Imperium "invented" (or rather dug up) for the last 10,000 years, such as Razorbacks, Centurion suits, assault cannons or grav guns, and although they often get their hands on such pieces of tech (mostly by killing corpse-worshipers who own them), their Dark Mechanicum allies have few to zero spare parts and/or ammo for them, those trophies rarely last in use for a long time. The latter reason is also why Chaos Marines no longer use some of them more delicate and advanced tech like Land Speeder variants or Whirlwinds, which they definitely HAD before the Heresy - those things require just too much maintenance to fit into their more independent and chaotic combat doctrines.
For all their powers from Chaos, however, most of them are nowhere nearly as organized as their loyalist counterparts. Turning to Chaos tends to drive Marines insane, usually causing them to lose much of the tactical prowess they had as loyalists. That said, organized legions like the Word Bearers, Thousand Sons, Iron Warriors, Death Guard (once they got their shit together), and Black Legion still remain much more of a competent military force than one might think. This is emphasized in the Black Legion novels, where the narrator has to explain to the freaking Inquisition, of all people, that the Chaos Legions don't have any dedicated supply lines, logistics, infrastructure, shipyards, independent manufacturing, or even the ability to feed their own forces. And since the Imperium can't effectively garrison every world (at least not without sacrificing the initiative on all fronts) the Chaos Space Marines still remain a great threat despite their shortcomings...
...though many of those problems were eventually solved as the Traitor Legions regained their Heresy-era numbers (or even more in some cases), and various industries were built or captured from the Imperium; the Idolator ship and two Planet Killers were made 100% from Chaos factories.
After all, the tree of heresy can grow from the smallest seed.
Different warbands of Chaos Space Marines are every bit as prone to fighting each other as they are anything else for any number of reasons; evil doesn't get along with evil, they're all nuts and just want to fight something, or the other warband worships a different Chaos god. Yeah, these guys are nuts. The phrase "the devil is not mocked", comes to mind, as was aptly conveyed by Alpharius during the height of the Horus Heresy. Infighting inside individual warbands is not unheard of, and their leaders always have to watch their back because every single Marine has hopes of killing their superiors and taking over. So yeah, if they didn't have the Eye of Terror to hide in and the Imperium wasn't so idiot-ball prone, it probably would have killed them by now. However, when they DO get their shit together, they fuck up the Imperium on a scale undreamed of by almost every other race in Warhammer. See the Dominion of Fire or the Cholercaust Blood Crusade. GODDAMN IT, KHORNATE BERZERKERS ARE AWESOME.
They were the oldest fogies (or at least the ones from traitor legions are anyway) in the setting, barring the space elves, that one angry viking dreadnought (who's about their age), the Tomb King expys and maybe a few of the Omnivorous Space Bug Lizards things but now they've been retconned. CSM today may be some of the veterans from the Heresy or they could just be newfags that decided they were too cool for the Imperium. Fucking hell this is depressing.
Many Chaos Marines eventually dedicate themselves to one of the four Chaos Gods, becoming little more than an extension of the god's will. This path has great risk and great reward, as the Chaos Gods are quite capricious; between two equally-dedicated champions, one will become a horrific beast that should not be named, whereas the other will achieve apotheosis and become a Daemon Prince.
- Khornate Champions: Those who worship Khorne (such as the World Eaters Traitor Legion) become close quarters badasses full of RAAAAAAAAAGGGEEEE! Khornate champions are among the best dedicated melee fighters in the setting. They are insane, ruthless, and barbaric, and continually lust after BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD and SKULLS FOR THE SKULL THRONE! Marines dedicated to Khorne are usually called Khorne Berzerkers, after the Berzerkers of the World Eaters Legion, of whom Kharn (swell guy by the way) is the most famous. They are famed for their use of the chainaxe and their fucktastically fearless charges. They also get the best speeches. Although do note that Khornate followers are not all pure-CQC fighters, any weapon that spills blood in honorable combat like heavy weapons or vehicles is welcomed by Khorne. "BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD! SKULLS FOR THE SKULL THRONE! MILK FOR THE KHORNE FLAKES!! BUTTER FOR THE POP KHORNE!!"
- Nurglic Champions: These guys are rotting, diseased, decaying sacks of flesh who can take hits that would kill a squad of Terminators. They're something of a meat shield as far as Chaos is concerned (although not as much as Chaos Cultists). They've contracted every disease in creation and then some. Despite looking like a bag of things best not described, Nurgle's followers won't hesitate to give you a big, long, family hug. D'awww. The Death Guard fell to Nurgle, but it wasn't really their fault. Typhus is Nurgle's most prominent champion, and he never lets his dad forget it.
- Slaaneshi Champions: The followers of Slaanesh simply want to experience pleasure to the highest degree, most of which usually involves the euphoria gained from killing another person. Thus, Slaaneshi followers typically hype themselves up on drugs in order to intensify the sensations they experience, whether from sex or from slaughter. Slaaneshi Marines have taken so many drugs their bodies start to produce them normally. And yes, this is really canon. They also get penis fingers to give them the extra edge in combat (somehow) and hyperactive awareness, meaning that Slaaneshi followers typically move so fast that they're at par with Eldar reflexes. Doomrider is one of the most famous Slaaneshi champions (at least on /tg/), although he isn't from the Emperor's Children, the Chaos Legion that fell to Slaanesh; Lucius the Eternal, on the other hand, is.
- Tzeentchian Champions: All followers of Tzeentch are tricky and conniving, and many of them are also powerful psykers (as Tzeentch is the god of magic). Warriors under Tzeentch tend to rape anything in ranged combat with either enhanced weapons or SPACE MAGIC that would turn heroes into Chaos Spawn, squa-GRAABBRLBLLRBLRLRBLR*BLAM*
- Undivided: Back in the good ol' days, Chaos Undivided was the concept of worshiping Chaos as a combined entity or pantheon. The Word Bearers were probably the most well-known worshippers of Chaos Undivided. Since then, it has been largely retconned; instead, Chaos Undivided refers to Chaos Marines with the support of all four Chaos gods... because apparently that's different somehow (the former is monotheistic worship of Chaos as though Chaos itself was a god, the latter is the worship of aspects of Chaos as separate deities). This has left the Word Bearers in something of a weird spot, as their core concept has been badly mangled. Although, this is not completely out of place: Undivided followers do have the support of all four Chaos Gods due to their doctrine, but because they don't swear complete servitude to one like what the Death Guard and World Eaters did, they don't receive the full power of each Chaos God either. This isn't a bad thing, though, as even at a glance it's easy to see how the gods of Chaos compliment each other when undivided. And undivided worshipers are usually not insane. Plus, the more you do to prove yourself to each god, the more benefits you get from each. It's a longer game than swearing yourself to just one, but the end benefits are larger as well. If you can survive long enough to reap your rewards. Most importantly, perhaps, is that the critical flaws of each of the four is balanced out by the others, so while you'll be a jack of all trades you aren't going to be a one-trick pony most of your enemies know how to counter. And you'll still have Chaos empowerment and the sanity to use it intelligently.
Note that many bands of Undivided Marines exploit Chaos for their own gain and feel little devotion to the Ruinous Powers, seeing it as no more than a tool for their goals. The Alpha Legion, for instance, are closet loyalists (or double heretics, or triple heretics, or brothas doin' it for themselves, nobody knows), whereas the Night Lords Legion only cares about spreading terror, which Chaos is undoubtedly useful for, but they look down upon the religious. Similarly, the Soul Drinkers, a Renegade Chapter with an entire book series, are enemies of both Chaos and the Imperium of Man (though they fight for the Emperor's ideals; it's complicated, but likely has roots in the current Imperium being the antithesis or something akin to the Imperial Truth), although most in the Imperium would consider them "Chaos Marines".
- Malice: Way back when, Warhammer Fantasy Battle had a minor Chaos God named Malal. Malal was a paradox, in that he is the embodiment of Chaos' chaotic behavior. His main goal was the spread of chaos (not the Warp energies, but actual chaos like anarchy and disruption) by screwing up the plans of the other Ruinous Powers, so he had dedicated Champions that hunted down other Chaos Champions and generally dicked over the Chaos Gods. However, Games Workshop had to remove him from the setting due to a trademark dispute with the author that invented him. In 40k, meanwhile, there's a warband called the Sons of Malice that hunt down other Chaos Marines and seem to worship a minor Chaos power named "Malice." This has led /tg/ to believe that Malal/Malice exists in 40k and can be invoked upon for power, although this is of dubious canonicity at best.
The Traitor Legions
When the Horus Heresy struck, nine of the original twenty Legions turned against the Emprah. These guys are basically the original and the best. All of these survived the Siege of Terra and escaped into the Eye of Terror with a very large number of bodies (Space Marine legions frequently numbered up to 100,000 members by the time of the Heresy). Over time, they have become widely scattered, generally working in mixed warbands combining a variety of Traitor Legionnaires, Renegade Marines, and lesser humans (frequently rebellious Imperial Guard). However, it should be noted that quite a few Chaos Marines still fight as a Legion (generally drastically reduced in size) led by their original (now-Daemon) Primarch (if they're still alive, anyway). It's very rare to see more than a Grand Company (roughly equal in size to a Chapter of loyalist Marines) in any given battle unless it's an organized invasion (of which the most notable examples are the Black Crusades led by a certain armless failure), the Legion's Primarch himself calls them to fuck some shit up, or you're dealing with the Word Bearers or Iron Warriors, who are generally more organized than anybody else. The following are the nine Traitor Legions:
- Emperor's Children: Also known as the Chaos Pretty Marines, their Primarch is Fulgrim, who is now
a paintinggetting his serpentine dick sucked by a swarm of daemonettes on his pleasure planet. possibly still a paintingThey don't operate as a Legion at all anymore, mostly because Kharn and the Slave Wars kinda fucked all their shit up. Anyway, they were basically OCD hyper-perfectionists that also really liked to party. They got ever-more hedonistic, attracted the attention of Slaanesh, and the rest is history. Their Cult unit is the Noise Marines, which are (as their name implies) Chaos Marines that like to kill people with noise. This used to mean sweet heavy-metal guitars, but GW retconned that, so now they have less-impressive (but still cool) bass cannonssonic cannons.
- Iron Warriors: The evil twins of the Imperial Fists, they really like to build shit and then tear (somebody else's) shit down. In other words, they are masters of siege warfare (basically, rooting out cover-camping bitches). Their Primarch is Perturabo. They're generally the second most coherent of the Traitor Legions, retaining most of their pre-Heresy organization and numbers, although their great companies are generally independent and only answer to Perturabo himself, who for his part doesn't give a fuck and let them fight each other just for lulz. Also, they probably created the Obliterator Virus, seeing as how they seem to have special connections with the Obliterator Cult. Sadly, they can no longer take Basilisks and don't have any special rules or Cult units (seeing as how that was quite broken back in 3rd), but GW did throw them a bone in the new book with the Warpsmith (not to be confused with a Warsmith, which is also Iron Warriors-related). One of their noted leaders is Honsou, a Warsmith in the running for "evilest villain".
- Night Lords: Their Primarch was Konrad Curze (also known as the Night Haunter). They're basically space-terrorists, which (unsurprisingly) means they created Raptors, the sociopathic, predatory answer to the loyalists' Assault Marines. They prefer ambush tactics, which is quite difficult when you're a bunch of eight-foot-tall transhuman psychos clomping around in power armour and wearing stupid bat-wing helmets. They also like screaming like maniacs to cause terror. They are one of the few traitor legions (in fact, pretty much the only one) who refuse to employ daemons or live in the Eye of Terror. (Well, at least the warbands that remained loyal to Curze's vision. The biggest extant warband worships Chaos and is lead by a Daemon Prince.) They're also one of the few Traitor Legions that has a dead Primarch, on account of Curze's desire to go down in a fucked up version of suicide by cop to vindicate his obsessive belief that monsters and criminals should be put down like rabid dogs.
- World Eaters: A legion of rabid, Khorne worshiping, bloodshed-obsessed maniacs that was handpicked by the Emperor to be hyper-aggressive, murderous, psycho attack dogs from the very beginning. Their Primarch is Angron, who is the Galaxy's Angriest Man. Dissolved after Kharn turned the legion against themselves, what a guy. Now acting as roaming warbands and mercenaries. They still unite every now and then when Angron wants to fuck something's shit up, such as Cadia. The
onlylegion known to get shit done when called up to do so.
- Death Guard: Mortarion - Didn't show up much in the fluff until the release of the Death Guard codex, though Plague Marines and champions can be found in many other warbands and, next to Khorne Berzerkers, are the most common cult unit. Also before the Thirteenth Black Crusade Typhus's Plague Fleet kicked major ass in systems all around the Eye of Terror, turning entire planetary populations into zombies. As of 8th edition, they are now their own separate army. Oh, and Mortarion has returned, and his model is controversial in terms of appearance. They also possess a planet known as the "Plague Planet".
- Thousand Sons: Magnus the Red - Another legion that doesn't show up much at all in fluff after the Horus Heresy and rubric marines don't show up much in other legions' warbands and most warbands use their own sorcerers. Except for Ahriman; Ahriman goes out trolling the Harlequins and those few Inquisitors. Ahriman also does this because Tzeentch likes dicking Magnus over in his passive-aggressive way. Fluff-wise, Thousand Sons walk through the universe, searching for knowledge like ancient books and artifacts to research and nerd out in their libraries, and magicking the shit out of anyone stupid or bold enough to stand in their way. Being smart and cunning motherfuckers they fight only where it really needed and only on their own terms (read: very rarely). Have recently succeeded in fucking up the Fenris furries with Big Red leading them and are now their own army and range of models, including a giant daemon version of Magnus with wings.
- Black Legion: Horus (kind of) - Originally called the Luna Wolves and then the Sons of Horus, though Abaddon formally disbanded the Legion and used its assets and whatever ragtag allies he had as the foundation of the Black Legion. Unites every now and then when Abaddon wants to launch another Black Crusade. It's honestly a miracle they survived this long, seriously if you look at their battles and losses it really makes no sense how they managed to live long enough to become the Black Legion, let alone the wars after. Known for calling black crusades, massive chaos invasions that consist untold numbers of chaos space marines (provided there's an ass to pull them out of), daemons, and general renegades and heretics all working together to try and tear the Imperium a new asshole. They are the largest legion by far, stated to outnumber the Word Bearers ten to one, namely because Abaddon preys on the other Legions and lures their troops into his own. Unfortunately, they have no real central command structure outside of a Black Crusade, and even then Abaddon can't keep the Legion's shit together for very long before they start breaking off every which way in search of a fight, usually getting slaughtered not long afterward.
- Word Bearers: Lorgar - The only Traitor Legion to have retained its Chaplains, who would later become the first Dark Apostles, who can often lead a Word Bearers' Warband in the place of a Chaos Lord or Champion. They're one of the more organized and complete legions as they have a central daemon world of their own named "Sicarus". Sicarus is covered in dozens of temples and cathedrals devoted to Chaos. The Word Bearers are still united under the banner of their Primarch: Lorgar (even if the lazy bastard never does anything these days but sit around doing nothing). The most coherent after the Iron Warriors, seen as their great companies (or Hosts, as they call them) are still working together under the watchful eye of the Dark Council.
Alpha Legion: Alpharius/Omegon- No such Legion or Primarchs exist, further speculation on this issue is heresy and will result in execution. Said nonexistent Legion has not trolled the Imperium for the last 10,000 years by faking the death of every member, any idea to the contrary is HERESY. Also, masters of sneaking around undetectedfucking their enemies' brains with multi-step Just As Planned schemes, that aren't overly complicated or lack the fallback plans (unlike Thousand Sons ones). In fact, their fallback-fallback plans usually have their own fallback plans just in case. Pretty much everything the Imperium knows about them is a lie, suspected to be one, or a truth no one believes in since it looks like a lie.
Naturally, not everyone turned traitors.
The legions of old are not the only source of Chaos Space Marines, with the fluff no longer being clear on whether they even are the largest source anymore. It's either the traitor legions or the Ultramarines who have produced the most Chaos Marines and renegade Chapters. Loyalist marines get turned to Chaos like all the time (well, okay, it's actually pretty rare considering the limited numbers of Space Marines, but significant enough). Most often it's just a few individual Marines or squads, sometimes going as far as entire companies, and rarely (but not rarely enough) entire chapters turn to Chaos. Sometimes it's the Imperium's own fault for turning initially loyal Marines against the system due to a misunderstanding or an overzealous Inquisitor declaring them heretics and the new 'renegades' then realize that since no matter what they do they'll be viewed as traitors by the Imperium, they may as well become traitors in reality. Sometimes, like with the Abyssal Crusade, it's a case of just as planned succeeding so hard Tzeentch isn't even miffed that particular plot gets tied up. Other times, Marines "caught" some Chaos taint due to fighting Chaos too much without proper Librarian control (bonus points if Librarians themselves get corrupted), committing terrible crimes in their fights against the Ruinous Powers, or trying to fight Chaos with Chaos, like the Relictors. And finally, a Chapters' own flaws in temperament may leave them all too easily manipulated into bringing their damnation upon themselves, or Crimson Slaughter's case, the loyalist elements of Fourth Company broke away when they fell.
What is the most surprising, is that shit still happens despite loyalist marines being heavily brainwashed, even more than the Death Korps of Krieg or Sisters of Battle (both of which are famous for having close to zero Chaos corruption rate). More so, marines even have a specific organ, to make them even more brainwashable. Some speculate the reason behind this is just Astartes longevity - after all SoBs and Kriegers don't get continuously exposed to the Ruinous Powers for hundreds of years. Others say that Marines are just naturally susceptible to corruption, which makes sense if you believe the story daemons tell: that the Primarchs were made with the help of the Four, and were given their power to make them something more than just genetically engineered humans. A theory from 30k states that the reason Marines are more easily turned to Chaos is that Marines naturally are fanatical in almost anything they do, and when feeling scolded by the very thing they are fanatical about it makes them do a full 180" to worship something else instead. This is what happened to the Word Bearers, and most modern-day Marines are
at least as religious as the Word Bearers were before the Horus Heresy either atheist or view the Emperor as a sort of Living Saint. Marines that worship anything are rare and looked upon as oddballs by the rest of the Adeptus Astartes. Usually it's whole Chapters rather than individuals that do it. Being Space Marines are highly valued by Chaos, they might simply be singled out for dedicated attempts to corrupt them whereas even Sisters of Battle are basically ignored and either get corrupted the same way as Guardsmen or not at all because Chaos doesn't care about them. It does care about Astartes.
ADB once said that Abaddon embodies the old Biblical thing about Satan refusing to bow down to man, and this might be applied to most Chaos Space Marines. Space Marines are expected to give their whole lives - centuries (if not millennia) and sometimes even beyond that - to war, so that ordinary humans, most of whom will never have to fight for their lives, can live in relative comfort. Unsurprisingly many Space Marines do resent this on some level, although regular indoctrination helps them cope with that particular feeling by redirecting it toward xenos/heretics in a more productive way. It has been suggested that Marines genuinely treating mortals with respect are probably in the minority, though, and then along comes a Word Bearer talking about these gods who will set them free, who'll make them the masters instead of the servants... Despite the nigh-constant indoctrination, these words don't always fall on deaf ears. Which is still really weird since the Astartes voluntarily chose their life barring the rare Chapter that conscripts/kidnaps aspirants. Sure, they might change their mind over time, but they didn't go through all those trials and hardships and training just to decide it wasn't worthwhile after all.
Renegades also have rather divergent attitudes to the Traitor Primarchs. Some venerate them as the daemonic overlords that they are. Others wonder why everyone seems to fanboy themselves over beings who "lived" thousands of years ago and even then only for a few verifiable centuries before vanishing up their own arses to sit out the wars that the renegade has potentially been fighting for far longer than the Primarchs were ever alive for.
No matter the true reason behind, this shit happens, and from one retcon to another after-Heresy chapter renegades become more and more prevalent to the point that they could actually outnumber the old Legions, even if the Black Legion isn't shy about inducting any who is willing to join and swear fealty to Abaddon amongst their ranks.
Although, "Renegade" is also used to refer to non-Chaos aligned Astartes and other rogue but non-Chaos forces. They aren't generally against the Imperium, either. At worst, they're just pirating as needed to survive and little else but it isn’t uncommon for them to (futilely) try to find absolution or just ignore their own expulsion and continue to serve the Imperium as usual. Which is hilarious.
A "Meta-History" of Sorts
I suppose we should start at the beginning? So, back in the day, Chaos introduced in the tome Slaves To Darkness, which was effectively an expansion to Rogue Trader. That's right, the original 40k didn't have Chaos, although it did have Warp Demons. In the original Rogue Trader narrative, the Emperor was encased in the Golden Throne because he was thousands of years old and he needed life force from psykers in order to survive. Once Slaves to Darkness and its sister book Lost and the Damned were introduced, it was revealed that there was this event called the Horus Heresy, and Horus was a primarch that rebelled and nearly killed the Emperor. Talk about a pretty hefty background update!
Crunchwise, the CSM were just marines with some different wargear selection, as well as the ability to get Chaos mutations. It gets really confusing from there (Can you say, D1000 chart with 100+ mutations?) so the less said about the First Edition days, the better. The first, most important thing to remember is that Chaos was effectively a WHFB expy, so it included beastmen, daemons and renegades all rolled into one.
2nd Ed: First Age of Whoop-Ass
Hoo-boy... I want you to picture it, if you can, a codex wherein Chaos Lords had no stats under 5, daemons could be freely taken in any FO slot (or the equivalent for 2nd Ed) and everything, everything could push a loyalist's shit in. The CSM received a promotion in the fluff to primary antagonists after getting retconned into the reason as to why the Emperor ascended to the Golden Throne (via Horus traitorous ways and that mortal wound). Those were the days of 2nd edition; that's when Chaos was a unified front led by an interesting character on a 10,000 year quest for bloody vengeance. These were the days when a Bloodthirster would use an Avatar as a speedbump, and yet the only trump against CSM were the Eldar (And to a lesser extent the Tyranids when they evolved beyond Genestealer cults). Your characters could equip a Bloodletter's sword if you so chose to do so, as well as Chaos Terminator armour that could save on a 2d6 roll of 2+. Noise Marines, Thousand Sons, Khorne Berzerkers and Plague Marines all got their start here, and they started out as Troops (or rather, their second ed equivalent). You could also take Foulspawn, a special character Nurgle Thing/Daemon Prince with 19 wounds (!) that stole wounds from his kills and could regenerate lost wounds every turn. And guess what? You could field beasts, renegades and daemons in your army. It was also possible to give Chaos Marines equipment and vehicles that only their loyalist equivalents get nowadays (including assault cannons, storm bolters, cyclone missile launchers, and various support vehicles), in order to accurately represent the equipment used by Renegades from later Foundings. However, they had to pay an extra 50% traitor tax in order to take them.
Yeah, it sounds fucking insane and the coolest thing ever, and it was. Arguably, things were a bit nascent because in spite of all the other extras, they were still very much just space marines with other armies rolled into it. They had the same stats and many of the same rules and wargear as their loyalist counterparts.
Third edition started by screwing everyone: the rules were fucked up to try and shift the balance of power towards infantry and away from characters (so sayeth GW, anyway). Regardless, this is one of a few times that GW actually dialed back the power creep inherent in their game systems to such a degree that all existing armies got hosed (worst of all, Eldar) and CSM were no exception. The Codex pumped out was a hackneyed shadow of its former self that needed constant reference checks to the main rules because all the rules for your stuff got printed there instead of your codex. This first release however brought about the much-loved Obliterators, Possessed and Raptors and GW did make rules for entire cult armies available for download on their website at the time, which was a thing GW used to do.
Halfway through its life-cycle, GW introduced Tau and Necrons, breaking the game with Fish of Fury and just simply existing, respectively. In the midst of this renewed cheese surge, the CSM got a second lease on life, cranking their competitiveness to second place behind the dreaded third ed 'crons. These were the days of the 200+ point CSM lord that could out-punch fucking ANYTHING! We're talking about a wargear sheet noticeably larger than any other faction, which also included the curious ability to make your aspiring champions psykers. You could load up a squad with stacks of veteran skills, sneaking them into position, moving through cover and then finishing with a furious charge. That enemy crab thing gets its big introduction as a monstrous creature AND a walker! These were the days when you bought as opposed to rolled for the powers your Possessed had; where you could dedicate vehicles to the Gods, and that gave you certain options (thus creating the Sonic Dreadnought... and Predator). You could take a Slaaneshi psyker and give him and his unit immunity from shooting attacks with a well rolled minor psychic power. Best of all, these were the days of fielding Traitor Legions - ridiculously unbalanced lists that would either fall flat on their faces and cost way too much (Thousand Sons) or tear the fucking table in half (Iron Warriors).
Games Workshop tried valiantly to dial back the cheese by releasing Imperial Assassins, Daemonhunters and Witchhunters but once the Eye of Terror campaign hit and the official (and also cheesy) Lost and the Damned rules were out, third ed was firmly captoored by chaoz.
4th Ed: The Sudden Betrayal
That rat-bastard, pointy-eared fuck! In 4th ed, Gav Thorpe raped Chaos and left her to die in a fucking gutter. Those broken-as-hell traitor legions lists? Instead of fixing them for players that liked the other legions, they were removed. Veteran skills? Gone. Wargear? Toast. Lost and the Damned? More like "lost-a la vista," amirite. Daemons? Worst of all, Thorpe figured they needed their own, super-shitty codex. CSM players were pissed at the "streamlining" their armies got, but they endured it because at the time there were a few nifty silver linings. You could still technically have your cult army/legion/whatever and they were all not bad; that is to say the codex was at least internally balanced. During this time, the Eldar got pumped from worse than last place to playable, Tyranids got an update that was fair as well, Fish of Fury got pulled from the Tau Codex and the loyalists got a decent buff in the 4th ed SM codices. Nothing spectacular, but everything felt fair; it felt like we could have fun with each other and save our bitter sniping for the rightly-deserving Necron players and their totes OP 3E rules. For a brief period of time, the rules system was stable and there was hope that this trend might continue...
5th Ed: Abandon (the Despoiler) Ship!
And then this happened. GW, in a moment of clarity and business acumen, summoned Matt Ward from the pit to turn the 40K metagame on its larynx through its asshole to promote sales of their most popular line, Space Marines. Dawn of War had just come out and Relic/THQ made the Space Marines really good (and Imperial Guard, and Eldar, especially the Eldar but they would have to wait until 6E to get their cheese on). CSM didn't get a release in this edition because GW decided instead to dedicate their time to fanboy service while throwing a bone to the Dark Eldar and Orks. This was when the 4th ed. rules were used to create the well-known CSM mono-build for 5th ed (Lash Prince, Plague Marines, Termicide, Obliterators and maybe a Chosen squad for guiding deep strikes). However, once the 5th ed Grey Knights landed, Chaos was truly on its ass. These were the days all the jokes made against Chaos finally made it to the internets and the forces of Chaos shifted from that terrifying adversary feared across the galaxy to the Imperium's punching bag du jour. Many were the veteran players who simply left in disgust.
6th Ed: A New NOPE!
Rumours started pouring in furiously when 6th ed was nearing release. Close combat will have AP values? Oooo! What's this - CSM will be the first codex out the gate? Hot damn! New models? BITCHIN'! Revamped rules to finally reclaim some of the fucking glory we lost in the last two goddamn editions? Hallelujah!
So, 2013 has come and gone along with that release and I think we can all say how disappointing that truly was. Of the few bright spots was a new flyer with a *AHEM* gigantic exhaust port. ("Gaze into the Eye of Terror!" and "Glory to the Goatse of Chaos!" were only some of the reactions.) Many lulz were enjoyed by /tg/ of its... ahem, questionable design aesthetics. This however says nothing of the fact that crunch-wise it is arguably the cheesiest flyer in all of 6th ed - praise the dark gods, indeed?
Aside from the Heldrakes however, the codex had a lot of questionable design choices. Well, not really because there was a lot of dead weight and questionable mechanic design in that book; unlike their loyalist counterparts, the Chaos Army could not properly run MSU builds, since "all its shooting" was in the Heavy Support section, and "all of its speed" was in the Fast Attack section; this contrasted drastically with Marines being able to do ranged threats in their entire FOC via Rifleman Dreadnoughts, Sternguard, Land Speeders and Razorbacks, or their ability to apply pressure via Bike Troops & Drop Pods. In theory, 6th edition was supposed to compensate for this overspecialization by doubling FOCs at 2000 points, but most tournaments ran at either 1850 points or "1999+1 points".
Speaking to questionable design, Mutilators and Warp Talons reeked of lazy design, while mathhammer and an emphasis on "disembarked troops" holding objectives meant that many tournament armies became little more than a tide of Cultists and Heldrakes, leading to a paradoxical consensus that the best way to with with Chaos Space Marines was to not actually take any Chaos Space Marines. Needless to say, this did not go well with many players.
When it comes to the traitor marines themselves, /tg/'s opinions were divided. Some praised the new design for its focus on intricate trims and warp-induced mutations (eyes, tentacles), whereas others disliked it for its lack of Grimdark, claiming it looked too cartoonish and too playful. Crunchwise, as if we haven't said it enough, this book was well and truly fucked. We really tried to like it, but any list that requires supplements and/or Forgeworld models/books to fill strategic gaps in the codex is a pretty bad list.
7th Ed: What the Fuck is this even
Chaos Space Marines played similar to their loyalist counterparts, having access to most of the same wargear and vehicles, plus some unique stuff at the expense of all the stuff that makes loyalists remotely useful in a (completely vain) attempt to play up the RIP AND TEAR side in an edition favouring shooting. They have some of the same strengths and amplified weaknesses, expensive-to-overpriced units, are easily often outnumbered, but overall, they tend to play too aggressively to the point of carelessness. Thanks to all this nerf-slapping, their ranking amongst armies has tanked from the notably OP 3.5 days; the codex and army have since fallen into decline due to progressively weaker books in favour of the worst kind of fan-service for a handful of factions. CSM did get a release in the form of Khorne Daemonkin, but it just blended two books together with some new rules and wargear instead of fixing glaring problems with the units in them; they were weak due to their garbled 6E codex. Fortunately, 7E has been putting the screws to every single Codex released in 5th Ed while GW releases an unrelenting tide of half-assed pseudo-codices that don't even cover an FOC while adding bullshit mechanics like grav-spam, decurions or buffing the Eldar sky-high.
That lasted until the release of the Traitor Legions supplement. With the release of the supplement, CSM got legion specific buffs and abilites, for Fluffy builds. For example, Alpha Legion armies can't have any marks, but they get to pass on their warlord trait to a friendly character if the current warlord dies. Night Lords get Raptors as core, Iron Warriors get Mutilators and Obliterators, Word Bearers get Possessed, and so on. Ironically, it's now better to take Khorne CSM over berserkers, because they're basically the same unit, but one is cheaper. Overall, Death Guard and Emperor's Children seem to be the best options at the moment, followed by the Alpha Legion. Basic Emperor's Children marines with Icon of excess are 190 pts for a 10 man squad of initiative 5 marines, with 4+ FNP, Fearless, and a roll on the combat drug table, which can give them +1 WS, BS, S, T, A, I. Death Guard Marines, meanwhile, are incredible also (Likely even better than the EC ones), 170 pts for a 10 man squad of toughness 5 marines with 5+ FNP and fearless but with a -1 to initiative. Iron Warriors, while initially derided, can bring three pairs of Tank Hunter Obliterators and three Twinlinked Vindicators at 1850 points, with a team or two of fortification-camping, Fearless, Tank Hunter, ObSec Autocannon Havocs.
For the second half of 7th ed, it was safe to say that CSM were solid again. Could every Legion deal with Scatbike spam, Crisis/Markerlight shenanigans, or free DTs easily? Not exactly. But World Eaters could get to melee faster than anyone else. Black Legion could pull crazy alpha strikes and use 13-point marines with Rage, Counter-Attack, +1 strength if the charge roll is 8+, Ld9 (10 on the champ), Crusader, Fear, and Hatred (with permanent re-rolls to hit against Imperium). So we might not be quite as good as Craftworld Eldar, grav-spamming Smashfucker Loyalists or Guard and their absurd amounts of ordnance but CSM could fuck up the mid-tier Tau, Mechanicum and Necrons with ease again (the less said about the benighted Nids, Deldar and Orks the better; don't ask about the Sisters). We're calling that a result! It seems someone understood the risk-reward paradigm of the CSM (the risk in putting your eggs in a basket that would either collapse or rip and tear your opponent).
... and then 7th ed. ended. A minor loss but thank god that's over!
8th Ed: Time to hope once again?
The Traitor Legions book was a decent step forward in the era of 7th edition and 8th edition was certainly full of changes. Traitor lists largely remained although they were nowhere near as wild as the last edition. Thankfully, a lot of the garbage from 6th and 7th has been thrown out with them. No more "randomness because Chaos, guys!" as pretty much all the random tables from all over 7th are scrapped as are the Decurions. This is a big step forward although a curious step into the mists of time, harkening back to 2nd.
For a moment, CSM could still ally seamlessly with Daemons and Renegades until GW patched out soup lists. There were some issues with the index but Vigilius Ablaze brought us new units and models, which then found their way into the Codex. Said book not only patched the problems with the index, but added Legion Traits that help the Traitor Legions excel in their fluff-based specialties. The Thousand Sons and Death Guard also received their own Codexes with their own special flavor of nastiness.
9th Ed: The Galaxy Ablaze Once Again
Things are getting HOT! There's a new codex around the corner with updates to Death Guard and Thousand Sons. CSM are slated for a release in early 2022. Which is good because our book is old and NOT doing well. In fact GW has failed to FAQ Chaos Marines to 2 Wounds yet (They are waiting for the codex). However their new previewed datasheet points to them having better stats than Primaris Marines. They are slated for a new range of models including a variety of cultists and chaos marine models. Shit, it looks like Renegades and Heretics got rolled into the CSM book, so that's interesting.
- Warriors of Chaos: The much
more competent usefulless punching bag counterparts to the Chaos Marines in Warhammer Fantasy, at least until the Age of Sigmar took hold.
- Chaos Warriors: each member of this parade of ruin.
- Chaos Space Marine Warband Creation Tables
- Chaos Warband Creation Tables
- Tactics on how to play them.
- What it's like: A short story meant to place emphasis the uncertainty of the life of a chaos space marine.
|Playable Factions in Warhammer 40,000|
|Imperium:||AdMech:||Adeptus Mechanicus - Mechanicus Knights|
|Army:||Imperial Guard - Imperial Knights - Imperial Navy - Militarum Tempestus - Space Marines|
|Inquisition:||Inquisition - Sisters of Battle - Deathwatch - Grey Knights|
|Other:||Adeptus Custodes - Adeptus Ministorum - Death Cults - Officio Assassinorum - Sisters of Silence|
|Chaos:||Chaos Daemons - Chaos Space Marines - Lost and the Damned - Chaos Knights|
|Xenos:||Aeldari:||Dark Eldar - Eldar - Eldar Corsairs - Harlequins - Ynnari|
|Tyranids:||Genestealer Cults - Tyranids|
|Others:||Necrons - Orks - Tau - Leagues of Votann|