Chaos Space Marines

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Commissar.gif This article or section is EXTRA heretical. Prepare to be purged.

"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

Chaos up in this motherfucker.

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 does not differentiate between the two. Oh, there was a time when there was a crunch distinction that was worth a damn, but those days may never return.

CSM supplement their lack of more easily available loyalist resources (recruits, tech, supplies, etc.) by way of Chaos warp stuff from the dark Gods, plundered weapons from whoever is unlucky enough to lose an engagement to them, daemons because they are aligned with Chaos, and renegades from the Imperium, which are always available because the Imperium treats its subjects like steampunk condoms.

Overview[edit]

Birds have never been so scary.

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 against the Imperium, resulting in the Horus Heresy. When Horus got roflstomped by the Emprah during their duel, 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 fist fuck 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, giving themselves penis fingers 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 later 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.

The eternal war rages on.

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, causing them to usually lose much of the useful tactics they had when they were loyalists. Although, more organized legions like the Word Bearers, Iron Warriors, and Black Legion do still remain much more of a competent military force than most of the other traitor legions.

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, other warband worships a different Chaos god. Yeah, these guys are nuts, infighting inside individual warbands is not unheard off, 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 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!!"
  • 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.
  • 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
    • Ahem. To continue where the previous writer left off... squads of infantry into ash, and vehicles into puddles of molten goo. The Thousand Sons Legion is dedicated to Tzeentch; their (former) chief diviner, Ahriman, is one of the better-known Tzeentchian sorcerers.
  • 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 (such as Failbaddon). 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...well except Failbaddon, who for some reason does not seem to get that his position as the "Most powerful champion of Chaos" is an ironic joke. Also, 5th Chaos God Malice, there is a raging debate as to whether Malice is the weakest or the strongest of the gods. And no, its not another incarnation of Tzeentch as was thought many, many millennia ago…

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 not, or double heretics, or triple heretics, or Brotha's 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 (they fight for the Emperor's ideals… don't ask, it's complicated), 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[edit]

When Space Jehovah's Witnesses come knocking, don't answer the door.

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 Pretty Marines, their Primarch is Fulgrim,who is now a painting getting his serpentine dick sucked by a swarm of daemonettes on his pleasure planet. possibly still a painting They don't operate as a Legion at all anymore, mostly because Kharn 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 attentions 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 cannons sonic 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 Perurabo himself, who on his part don'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 walking around in Power Amour and wearing stupid bat-wing helmets. They also like screaming like maniacs to cause terror. They are one of the few legions (in fact, pretty much the only one) who refuse to employ Daemons or live in the Eye of Terror (well, at least the "loyalist" warbands, the current bigger one is lead by an actual Daemon Prince, which is pretty contradictory). They're also pretty much the only Traitor Legion that has a dead Primarch (except Black Legion), on account of Konrad Curze's desire to go down like an emo to rebel against daddy.
  • World Eaters: Angron- 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 only legion known to get shit done when called up to do so.
  • Death Guard: Mortarion - Don't show up much in the fluff, though plague marines and champions can be found in many other warbands and, next to world-eater berserkers, are the most common of the one-deity dedicated units. Also before Thirteenth Black Crusade Typhus's Blight Fleet kicked major ass in systems all around the Eye of Terror, turning entire planetary populations into zombies.
  • 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 majicking the shit out of anyone stupid or bold enough to stand on 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.
  • Black Legion: Horus - Originally called the Luna Wolves and then the Sons of Horus. Unites every now and then when Failbaddon wants to launch another Black Crusade. It's a miracle they're still surviving with Abaddon's incompetent leadership and numerous failed black crusades, which should have probably left them extremely undermanned. However, their ranks are quickly filled by the millions of volunteers who sign up because god damn that paint job looks cool actually its because Failbaddon keeps stealing other legion's troops or 'buying' them and daemons with big promises he can't keep. Basically he is like a compulsive gambler who has borrowed money from every money lender in existence, some of whom are gods. They are the largest legion by far, stated to outnumber the Word Bearers ten to one. They have no real central command structure outside of a Black Crusade, and even then Abaddon, being the failure that he is, 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 afterwards.
  • Word Bearers: Lorgar - The Only Legion to have retained its Chaplains in the form of 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 exists, further speculation on this issue is heresy and will result in execution. Said non-existent Legion has never 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 undetected fucking enemies brains with multi-step Just As Planned schemes, that aren't overcomplicated 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 Imperium knows about them is a misinformation, suspected to be one, or a truth no one believes in since it looks like a misinformation.

Renegades[edit]

The legions of old are not the only source of Chaos Space Marines, nor are they even the largest source. Loyalist marines get turned to Chaos like all the time - most often it's just a few individual marines or squads, sometimes it goes so far to 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. 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. 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 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 bring their damnation upon themselves.

What is the most surprising, is that shit still happens despite loyalist marines being heavily brainwashed, even more than 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 didn't get continuously exposed to Ruiniious 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 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, which, when feeling scolded by the very thing they are fanatical about, 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.

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- 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 resent this on some level (those who treat mortals with respect are probably in the minority) 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...

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.

A "Meta-History" of Sorts[edit]

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[edit]

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. Your characters could equip a Bloodletter's sword if you so chose to do so, as well as chaos 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 a special character Nurgle 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, but they had to pay an extra 50% traitor tax in order to take them.

Yeah, it sounds fucking insane and the coolest thing ever. 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.

3rd Ed: Roller Coaster into Awesome[edit]

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[edit]

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![edit]

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 old guard who left in disgust.

6th Ed: A New Hope? A New NOPE![edit]

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? Well, not really because there was a lot of dead weight and questionable mechanic design in that book. Speaking to the former, Mutilators and Warp Talons were just laughably useless. On top of that, random tables plagued the book (though nowhere near as much as the Chaos Daemons), troops were of questionable value and utility and the army played like Space Marines, but with too many goddamn cuts to it.

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[edit]

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 vain attempt to play up the RIP AND TEAR side. 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 is 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.

Yup, it's safe to say that CSM are good again. Can every Legion deal with Scatbike spam, Crisis/Markerlight shenanigans, or free DTs easily? Not exactly. But World Eaters can get to melee faster than anyone else. Black Legion can 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 rerolls to hit againts Imperium). So we may not be quite as good as Craftworld Eldar, grav-spamming smash-fucker Loyalists or Guard and their absurd amounts of ordnance, but we can 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: Oh Gods how do we fix this?[edit]

The good news is that Matt Ward has left GW; bad news is first because of the reason why (Death threats, you guys?) and second is that GW is still making terrible decisions with their intellectual property... which is more or less someone else's IP, but whatev. Regardless, just look at the gimped releases for the non-marine/guard/craftworld armies and you'll get an easy sense of how inept they are. HOWEVER, GW does apparently read the criticism they get on the internets and they do take it seriously. And that's what we're here for! Unfortunately, they've brought Ward back onto the team, but they have totally torn 7E apart and drastically redid the rules. ATM, CSM doesn't have a codex but neither does anyone else, owing to the fact that the rules were so dramatically altered from 7th.

What does this mean for the future? Well, seeing how the Traitor Legions book was a decent step forward there is hope for a functional army where the crunch matches the scary what-the-fuckery of the fluff. This is nice; according to the news, the Traitor lists aren't going anywhere and whatever weakness the current list has is mainly a go-to while the book gets written. Benefit of the doubt, sure - but there's not a lot else to go on, here.

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. CSM can still ally with Daemons and Renegades so that's still nice (although it would be nice if Renegades had a list that didn't rely on Forgeworld). There are some issues with the index we've been handed but this too shall pass.

Overall, things are looking bright for what is arguably the most benighted faction in the game aside from Sisters. Those poor gals...

See Also[edit]

  • Warriors of Chaos: The much more competent useful less punching bag counterparts to the Chaos Marines in Warhammer Fantasy, at least until the Age of Sigmar took hold.
  • Tactics/Chaos Space Marines
  • What it's like: A needlessly elaborate and dysfunctional take on the subject. Seriously, they'd get fuck all accomplished if they were as described. (As if they aren't getting fuck all accomplished already) A fluffy, grimdark take on the subject. People complaining about absurdities and functionality have a strangely selective ability to suspend disbelief when looking at other factions.

Gallery[edit]

The Traitor Legions of Chaos
Chaos Legions: Alpha Legion - Black Legion - Death Guard - Emperor's Children
Iron Warriors - Night Lords - Thousand Sons - Word Bearers - World Eaters
Warbands: Apostles of Contagion - Bloodborn - Blood Gorgons
Broken Aquila - Crimson Slaughter - Foresworn - Red Corsairs
Sons of Malice - The Flawless Host - The Purge - The Scourged
Skyrar's Dark Wolves - Warband of Subsector Aurelia
Forces of the Traitor Legions of Chaos
Leaders: Chaos Champion - Chaos Lord - Daemon Prince - Dark Apostle - Sorcerer - Warsmith
Unaligned: Chaos Raptors - Chaos Spawn - Chaos Chosen - Cultist - Havocs - Mutilators
Obliterators - Possessed Marines - Tech-Assassin - Warp Talons - Warpsmith
World Eaters-Only: Berserkers - Berserker Dreadnought
Death Guard-Only: Malignant Plaguecaster - Noxious Blightbringer - Plaguereaper
Plague Marines - Plague Zombie - Poxwalkers - Plagueburst Crawler
Emperor's Children-Only: Noise Marines - Sonic Dreadnought
Thousand Sons-Only: Exalted Sorcerers - Prospero Spireguard - Rubric Marines
Rubric Terminators - Thrall Wizards - Tzaangors
Vehicles: Bike Squad - Chaos Dreadnought - Dreadclaw Assault Pod - Helbrute
Infernal Relic Predator - Land Raider - Mastodon Heavy Assault Transport
Predator Tank - Rhino Transport - Sicaran Battle Tank - Stalk Tank - Vindicator
Flyers: Harbinger - Hell Blade - Hell Talon
Titans: Daemon Knights - Chaos Emperor Titan - Feral Warhound Titan
Ravager-Class Titan - Chaos Warlord Titan - Woe Machine
Unaligned
Daemon Engines:
Decimator - Defiler - Death Wheel - Forgefiend
Heldrake - Maulerfiend - Soul Grinder - Wirewolf
Daemon Engines
of Khorne:
Blood Reaper - Blood Slaughterer - Brass Scorpion - Cauldron of Blood - Death Dealer
Doom Blaster - Kytan - Lord of Skulls - Skull Reaper - Tower of Skulls
Daemon Engines
of Nurgle:
Blight Drone - Contagion - Foetid Bloat-drone
Nurgle Plague Tower - Plague Hulk
Daemon Engines
of Slaanesh:
Hell-Scourge - Hell-Knight - Hell-Strider
Questor Scout Titan - Slaanesh Subjugator
Daemon Engines
of Tzeentch:
Aether Ray - Doom Wing - Fire Lord of Tzeentch
Mirrorfiend - Silver Tower of Tzeentch - The Auruntaur
Auxiliaries: Chaos Daemons - Fallen Angels
Playable Factions in Warhammer 40,000
Imperium: Adeptus Custodes - Adeptus Mechanicus - Imperial Guard - Imperial Knights - Space Marines
Officio Assassinorum - Inquisition - Deathwatch - Grey Knights - Sisters of Battle
Sisters of Silence - Squats - Militarum Tempestus
Chaos: Chaos Daemons - Chaos Space Marines - Lost and the Damned - Renegade Knights
Xenos: Dark Eldar - Eldar - Eldar Corsairs - Harlequins - Ynnari
Genestealer Cults - Tyranids
Necrons - Orks - Tau