Codex Chaos Space Marines has recently been revised
(again!), adding even more variety to the army and making it very formidable. This variety makes it potent, but also adds a small degree of difficulty to the army, as some players will be tempted to take strange combinations of "super" troops that will not work. The key to winning with the Chaos Space Marines is to find a balance of troops that will work, and then using them to compliment each other on the battlefield. To this end, look for a good mix of close combat and firepower units, emphasizing the aspect you believe is better for your style of play. Without fire support, your close combat troops would be chewed up by opposing fire. Similarly, without close combat troops, your firepower units can easily be assaulted and overrun.
LORDS OF CHAOS
Lords, Sorcerors, and Daemon Princes make up the HQ choices for a Chaos Space Marine army. Each has its own unique options. A Lord has the most flexibility, but if you want a combat monster, you can't get much better than a Daemon Prince, which is also a good value.
Don't go overboard on wargear and daemonic gifts. They are very useful and can make your character very powerful, but the points add up and you can have a prohibitively expensive character that causes you to have less Chaos Marines in the army than you otherwise could have. Choose the gear and gifts that you think would do the most good first, and then move on to choose anything else you feel you have the points for. Don't jump toward Daemonic Stature, either, unless you're willing to make your Lord a big target.
Your Lord's Mark of Chaos should be the Mark which best suits the type of army you're going to be playing. If you plan on playing a Khornate army, go for a Mark of Khorne. If you plan on mixing a few different gods in the army, go for the Mark of Chaos Glory.
The Sorceror can be useful, giving you access to psychic powers. If you do choose a Sorceror, pick a psychic power that supplements your army. Doombolt is a boon to to close-combat heavy armies that have little firepower, and Gift of Chaos can be useful in any type of army.
CHOSEN OF CHAOS
The Chosen are a flexible unit, but they have one central focus: close-range attacks. Their Infiltrators ability lets them get close to the enemy from the start, where they can unleash up to five assault weapons! Chosen can be a hard-hitting forward strike squad, or even just a distraction to take some of the attention off of your main force.
Also in this category we can include Chaos
Terminators. They're a good value with some flexibility. I would
suggest taking just a handful of power/chain fists, leaving a number of power
weapon attacks for dealing with troops before they can strike (or
simultaneously). Also, some combi-weapons aren't a bad idea.
The basic Chaos Space Marine squad is a versatile unit that can be used for either close combat or ranged firing. It does either of these well, especially as units come equipped for both. The Icon you take should be based on the character of your army. Nurgle will be tough and defensive, Tzeentch will add some extra saving potential, Khorne adds some hitting power for combat, and Slaanesh can take on Marines before they can take you on.
Besides the basic Chaos Marines, you have Berzerkers, Noise Marines, Plague Marines, and Thousand Sons. Berzerkers are naturally close combat units, Thousand Sons provide you with some resilient mobile firepower that can blast power armored targets, and both Noise Marines and Plague Marines give you some decent fire support that can hold its own in close combat.
Chaos Marine Bikers are a good support unit. They are fast, and can be equipped to fight both close combat and have some ranged ability. Use them as a mobile reserve, moving quickly to shore up your lines where they're needed. Another role they do well is quick assault, matched up with other fast units to make a fast run on the enemy. Bikers can be given any of the five Icons, though the best are likely Khorne and Nurgle. Khorne will make them combat beasts, while Nurgle will give you extremely tough Bikers. If you want to go for a cheaper option, Chaos Glory will help the unit stick around.
Havocs are purely a fire support unit. They can't do anything else, nor should they. You should emphasize either anti-tank or anti-infantry weapons, but if you want to mix them go for an even split of both types. Missile launchers and autocannons can work for both roles. You can also have a mobile Havoc squad equipped with assault weapons. Having the ability to take all Icons can make for some interesting Havoc squads. Nurgle and Tzeentch add some resilience. Khorne and Slaanesh just boost combat potential, which seems a bit awkward for a firepower based unit unless you're running a themed army.
Obliterators are a wonderful unit. They are resilient, and can put out some heavy firepower. They are also decent for aiding in an assault, using their power fists. Obliterators are great for tearing into vehicles both at range and in close combat. The only drawbacks are that they are vulnerable to fast well-armed assault units, and are not cheap, at 75 points each a unit of three will cost the same as fifteen Chaos Marines!
Possessed Marines are pretty much a close combat unit that will get a random ability. Whatever Icon you give them, they will still be primarily a close combat unit.
Raptors are a speedy assault unit. They can jump across the battlefield, hiding behind intervening terrain, keeping themselves out of line of sight until they pounce on the enemy. Raptors do well with the Icon of Khorne or Chaos Glory. They should be supported by other units when they make their assault, or take on a unit that can be beaten quickly and doesn't have much support. Raptors make a fine "retinue" for a Lord. They pair up well with Possessed who have the Daemonic Flight ability also.
DAEMONS OF CHAOS
Greater Daemons are very powerful models, but in order to make sure you can summon one, you should probably take Daemon Chains for its host. Don't fight the possession too long, because you're taking a chance on the host getting killed, which could cause the Greater Daemon to have only a brief presence on the battlefield. Greater Daemons are quite nasty in close combat, and can spearhead an assault.
Daemon Packs are basically some extra assault ability for the army, which can be brought in after the battle starts. Make sure you have plenty of Icons, so you don't miss any chance to bring your daemons into play.
Rhinos are almost essential for all of your close combat units that don't have Daemonic Flight. They will help the units reach the enemy faster and safer. Daemonic Possession is a useful ability, though extra armour will do the trick nicely since a Rhino will typically have very little to fire. Havoc missile launchers and additional combi-bolters give you some extra fire support, which can be useful, but should held to a minimum unless your army is lacking in firepower else wise.
A Dreadnought is a nice investment, but can be slightly dangerous with its Fire Frenzy. Still, it gives you some decent ranged firepower and great close combat ability tied up in one package. Vehicle upgrades should help the Dreadnought's survivability, and can help boost its combat abilities.
Predators are simply fire support that can move around. You can equip it for anti-infantry, anti-vehicle, or both. Daemonic Possession is a good upgrade, as it allows your Predator to always be able to fire and move (provided the weapons aren't destroyed and the vehicle isn't immobilized), though the reduction in BS could hurt.
Land Raiders will be low in number in any Chaos army. They are firepower and transport combined. If you choose a Land Raider for your army, let it transport your most important squad(s), such as your Lord and Chosen. Daemonic Possession is helpful, but again the lowered BS might hurt.
Vindicators are a new addition to the vehicles
that a Chaos Marine army can take. They provide you with a solid,
hard-hitting but short ranged Ordnance blast. Daemonic Possession is a
must-have, since you won't be using your BS to fire the Demolisher Cannon
anyway. If you're going to be facing heavy infantry or tough vehicles,
this is a solid vehicle to have.
The Defiler is interesting, giving you an ordnance weapon on a model that is geared for assaulting things and hurting them. A Defiler can have either extra heavy weapons, or extra Attacks. With its Fleet ability and the potential to have five attacks (six on the charge), the Defiler has some serious potential for beating on units or vehicles. Just be careful not to get engaged with anything that can hit back hard (power fists, Monstrous Creatures, and enemy walkers).
TACTICS OF THE DARK LEGIONS
The basic tactics for Chaos Space Marines all center around the same principle. Set up a firepower base, and use it to support your assault troops as they move forward to engage the enemy. It's certainly true that this is the idea around which almost all tactics are formed. However, there are many variations to this theme that can be used by the Chaos Space Marines, especially with its flexibility in army design. Below, I'll examine a few of those variations.
This is a simple variation on the theme of run forward with the assault troops while the firepower units sit back and shoot. A flank assault is simply taking all of your assault units and running them up the side of the battlefield, hitting your opponent's army in its flank, or side. This can be very effective, as many people tend to stick their least powerful units on the flanks, or leave them otherwise under protected. By hitting the flank of the army, you can drive through weak units and begin to push forward into the stronger units from the side or rear, catching them between your flank assault and your firepower base. This tactic is sometimes known as the "hammer and anvil", with the hammer being your flanking force and the anvil being your firepower base, the idea being to smash the opposing army flat against your anvil, using your hammer to do so.
A simple variation to this tactic would be to use faster units for the flanking force, and send slower-moving assault units up the center of the battlefield, giving you a two-pronged attack to catch your enemy in. This can also be very effective.
The Chaos Space Marine army has access to a lot of vehicles. This tactic exploits that access by throwing forward a force of armoured vehicles carrying assault units. At the forefront is the Lord's Rhino or Land Raider, and behind it or to its sides are Rhinos bearing other units. Predators can bring up the rear slowly, or hold back and fire with full effect at the opposing army.
Once the armoured thrust is in position, the assault units dismount and launch their attack, hitting the opposing army is a swift wave with minimal losses. The vehicles then move aside, but stay close to their troops in case they're needed to move the units again.
You can give your armoured thrust an extra amount of firepower by putting some havoc missile launchers on the Rhinos, allowing them to put out a stream of missiles while moving forward, and then support the units while they're fighting.
This is an infantry-based tactic that works very well. A wedge is formed consisting of assault units forming two diagonal lines, with fire support units coming up behind them to form the third wall of the triangular wedge. The assault troops move forward and assault the enemy once in range. The firepower units move with them, supporting them by weakening units for assault or discouraging the involvement of other enemy units. In this role, Noise Marines and Thousand Sons work best. The Thousand Sons are able to fire their bolters on the move, while the Noise Marines have access to Assault weapons. A Dreadnought is tempting to have in the midst of the wedge, but it can be dangerous to the units in the wedge.
Another themed assault force is the speed assault. This is an assault force made up of Raptors and Bikers (though they will move around terrain, instead of over it). The idea is to move quickly toward the enemy, hopping around behind terrain to keep them out of line of sight, and then pounce on the opposing army once they're in assault range. Try to have some icons with the Raptors and Bikers, so you can summon the daemons to them. Another useful trick is to use an Aspiring Champion in one of the units as a daemonhost for a Greater Daemon, who will make the assault that much more deadly.
As a fun trick, this force can summon basic daemon packs into the midst of the opposing army, or close to it early in the game. A unit of Lesser Daemons in the midst of an army can cause a lot of havoc, and will go a good distance in disrupting your opponent's plans and causing him to have to react to yours.
DEATH TO THE FALSE EMPEROR!
There you have it, a treatise on tactics available to the legions of the Traitor Astartes, and the units available to them. Versatility is the key to success in any Chaos Space Marine army, and is the most important aspect of their forces. With a good mix of units, you can face a wide variety of foes with confidence, knowing you've more than a fighting chance to take them on. With the above tactics, and those you're likely to create as you gain experience, you can take the fight to Terra and bring death to the False Emperor and crush the weakling Imperium of Mankind!
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