The Gods blessed you too much, and now I shall end your misery! Such a fate does not await me! - Thorgar the Blooded One, on the you-know-whats.
This is what happens when you have stepped over a line that even Chaos doesn't cross. On top of all that, they're basically multiple Lord Voldermorts. If you even say Chaos Spawn-OH FUCK NOOOOOOOOGLARBABLAHBALHABALAHHBLBLBLBL... As my predecessor was about to say, they're so awful in 40k that even saying their full name here causes the speaker to mutate into one.
In Warhammer Fantasy, Chaos Spawn are mutations that only afflict those who worship Chaos (allowing the faithful to say their name without fear!). Exposure to the Warp for the faithful (or unaligned) instead causes mutations that corrupt the afflicted into more feral forms. Usually these mutations occur amongst common citizenry when the Winds of Magic blow too strongly from the miniature Eyes of Terror at the poles of the world, and patrols are required to cull them before they join the ranks of the forces of Chaos, although who it is that leads the purges differs from race to race. The Empire relies on the familiar Inquisition and Witch Hunters. Kislevites instead rely on their Dvoryanin and Boyars (nobles) to account for the status of the outlying populations. Bretonnian nobles consider all the peasants to be little better than this usually, and said peasants usually self-police due to their extreme devotion to the nobility (however, simply taking all babies born with mutations to leave in the forest is what caused the Beastmen to grow so prolific in the first place). Elves (High, Wood, and Dark) are near immune to mutation, as are Ogres unless they serve willingly. Lizardmen and the Undead (Vampire and Egyptian) are both immune to the power of the Warp, with the latter actually able to reverse-corrupt things. And there have been no reported cases of Orcs with mutations, so no one knows what happens to them.
Chaos Spawn occur far more often amongst Warriors of Chaos than Chaos Space Marines due to their EXTREME fucking devotion to the Chaos Gods, to the point that every last Norseman seeks to become a Daemon Prince and the Chaos gods spread their blessings liberally. These spawn are usually used somewhere between biological weapons, and the same roles used by dogs depending on the degree of the mutations.
Chaos Spawn fear symbols of Sigmar and similar gods, and the power of nature as channeled by the Wood and High Elves can cleanse mutations from a subject. In particular, a book series depicting High Elves fighting Dark Elves and Warriors of Chaos describe how the Champion of Slaanesh prior to Sigvald the Magnificent is cleansed of all Slaanesh's blessings by simply touching the Everqueen. Slaanesh, very VERY pissed, began pouring his Daemonic energy directly into the Champion. When the Everqueen let go of his hand, that energy immediately turned him into a Chaos Spawn on par with a Greater Daemon.
Tabletop-wise: much like 40k's old Spawns, Fantasy Chaos Spawn are terrible. They have low stats, slow movement speed with the inability to march or charge things (that last part is basically the stamp of death in Fantasy anyway). Their Marks of Chaos are random and cannot be counted on even working. Sadly, you'll probably need a few to run fun things in Warriors since there's a chance of failure to become one for some of your options. In addition, some choices of Lords or Heroes come with some as pets (Cultist-chan should really be the poster child of Warriors rather than 40k cultists).
The most significant Chaos Spawn in Warhammer is Scyla Anfingrimm. The only Chaos Spawn who yet has the favour of a god.
The Chaos SpawnaAIEEEEBLAAAAAAAAAAAHGGHGH- The unit in question were, in 4th and 5th Editions, considered by many to be the worst unit in any Chaos army book and, quite possibly, the entire game of Warhammer 40k (the Pre-Vetock Space Pope coming in a close second, until the Tyranid "champion" of Cruddace arrived). They were so bad, absolutely nobody took them. Not even for flavor or joke games. Even today they're still rare; the stigma is that deep. It became a meme that to even utter their name causes a horrid mutation turning you into a Chaos Spawn yourself. Wait! No! I didn't mean it- *OHSWEETJESUSMOTHEROFGODNOOOOOOOOOOO!!GLARBLBLBLBLWARUEAGIRHARAUIRGLLLLLAAAAAAAARGHHHHHHHH*
Ahem... Continuing where my predecessor left off, you-know-whats should only be referred to as you-know-whats. That or they-who-shall-not-be-named. Even though you-know-whats have received a nice crunch buff since then, the meme still remains since it fits the fluff pretty well.
In fluff, aspiring champions of chaos normally devolve into said units for any of the following reasons: if they use chaos solely for their own gain, their patron god thinks they're not worthy of their favor or have fallen out of their favor, they can't handle the sheer amounts of mutations they go through during their ascension into a full-fledged Daemon Prince, or, you know, it's Tuesday and Tzeentch is feeling bored since there's not a lot of "Just as Planned" going around. When this does happen, Chaos Spawns devolve into no more than mindless heaps of mutated flesh who attacks anyone near them and eventually die after a short period due to their unstable form and.....No.....NOOOOOOO! GLARBLRAWRGLARBL The only known exception to this rule is the beast called Foulspawn, who somehow managed to become a Daemon Prince of Nurgle after being transformed into one of the abominations.
Only Failbaddon can comprehend how truly goddamn useless these things are. Generally by looking in a mirror. Khorne only knows why he hasn't been turned into one yet. Though it turns out ADB knows- it's because he's refused to commit to any one Chaos God, so it's not possible for one of them to inflict this on him.
According to Black Crusade and The Tome of Fate, the Hereteks of The Hollows (specifically Magos Onuris of Forge Polix) have taken an interest in improving them to be useful. These "Death-Masques" have cybernetic implants forcibly installed into what's left of their brains and nervous systems. This combination of auger arrays, arcanocogitators, and drug-delivery systems not only allow Hereteks to control Death-Masques like giant, fleshy Servitors, but actually selectively mutate their bodies, enabling the Heretek to reshape a Death-Masque into a more useful form or give it whatever bio-weapons would be best for the present situation. This is awesome, but alas GW would never let us actually use something like this in-game when we could be having the "fun" of a pathetically random failure of a gribbly beast...
On The Tabletop
Although a terrible option due to their randomness and point cost (akin to the Daemons army fittingly, which is interesting because it shows just how better the Vikings are than their masters), they aren't unusable; like most things in the more balanced Warhammer they simply aren't as good as other options although taking them won't lose you the game. Thanks to a more recent update to the game making it possible for your models to suddenly turn into one of the fucking things, players should now own some (thanks Games Workshop, my wallet was getting too heavy to carry!) in case the Dice Gods turn on them.
Why These Units Used to Suck
You-know-whats were just absolutely horrible before 6th Edition. Costing the same as three actual Chaos Marines, they would wander around the board aimlessly with a throw of the Scatter Dice, moved D6, had the Rage special rule and died to Bolter fire earning your opponent a free kill point. They fucking sucked, essentially. There is considerable evidence that they were originally supposed to have the Feel No Pain rule, ergo making them marginally useful as a meat shield, but sadly the 4th Edition Codex, through a series of misprints, lacked this. To drive home just how bad these things were if they actually got into combat, there is no way statistically they could win combat against equal points worth of GUARDSMEN, the resulting extra wounds they would take from No Retreat would wipe them out immediately since they had no save. The ONLY thing they could tar pit was FIREWARRIORS and even then the odds were in the FIREWARRIORS' favor.
What These Units Are Like Today
Phil Kelly remembered that under that mass of writhing limbs and stupidity, there's generally a Chaos Space Marine, so brace yourselves for a shocker: they're not absolutely worthless anymore. New features include...
- A lower point cost (30, as opposed to the previous 40).
- Causing fear while being fearless themselves.
- No longer moving randomly or at a goddamn crawl. In fact, they move as fast as Metal Bawkzes and do not give a shit about terrain.
- Rage now meaning that they get +2 attacks on the charge, making it actually useful.
- A D3 roll every turn that determines what mutation they get for that turn. They can get a 4+ armor save, a roll of 2D6 for their number of attacks (you pick the higher one), or poisoned attacks (at 4+ to wound).
With the removal of No Retreat they also won't automatically shit themselves with a lost combat. Indeed, being Fearless, they barely care at all.
Their stats are otherwise unchanged, so holy shit, it's almost worth taking two or three of them and throwing them headlong at the enemy as a multi-wound distraction to soak up fire for you. Almost. Okay, that is not true. 30 points for a model with 3 T5 wounds that can move 12", has useful special powers, can be taken in squadrons and can become T6 with Nurgle is frankly excellent. Mark of Tzeentch could conceivably boost their staying power slightly too. Stay away from Khorne and Slaanesh, though. Unless you run into Grey Knights or Dark Eldar, for whom the Spawn is just a mild annoyance.
Alternatively, run several Khorne marked spawn towards any vehicle with rear av10 and watch them wreck all in their path, until your friends realise just what they are capable of and gun them down in a panic.
Actual serious use is fielding them as escort for a Jugger Lord. More wounds for less then a bike squad, and no encoragment to shoot... which your choppy lord should never do.
Fun fact: renegades can get an unmarked three Chaos Spa-*cough*-MCHERBINFERBER deal for only 55 points. Three spawn for under the price of two. Let the good times roll! Hey, wait a minute, everything's cool! I didn't say the words! I DI-GLARBABLAHBALHABALAHH!!
The other way they are useful (aka you need them now)
In the new Chaos Space Marines Codex there's a table, like the one in the Warriors of Chaos Army book, on which your HQ, when killing an enemy character (keep in mind: not IC, just C). It's a 2D6 table with some of classics: +1S, +1T, +1W...
But one of the results... forces you to swap your awesome super killy Chaos Champion with... err, the-one-which-shall-not-be-named! So now you have to buy a box of these sick horrors in order to play. At least for Chaos Warriors, the time when your Marauder Chieftain turns into a Spawn and still does more damage than it would normally is truly priceless. The same thing probably works for Cultist Champions too. Still it could be useful, since the you-know-what detaches from the unit and could be used to tie up something shooty with poor melee capabilities, like Devastator squad or Crisis team for a turn or two.
Cue rage and threats to eviscerate every GW employee that isn't Phil Kelly. But really, shut the hell up you fucking newbies; 'bout time you had to deal with this Chaos Spawn shit anyway...
Ohh my God-Emperor no waiiii.... RAWRAWRASDAFGSFDS (Automated Message From Cadia: We are out of Usable speakers and will be employing new ones at the Recruitment Center nearest you) (why do we do this in the first place?
On the bright side, their kit is really fun to mess with and has so many spare parts, you won't need to worry about not having enough horns and tentacles for your conversions anymore. also the chaos spawn have some bootiful hea- NO! PLEASE! WRYYYYYYTYYYYISU LFGERSU GWLRIGUSEUILGEHRIDDSFSFWGLARASHHHHBLBLBLBLB