|Ready for Eternal War!|
Originally posted by me on BoLS.
I'm just going to go out and say it, I love Phil Kelly. This man has brought us many great works and the new Chaos Space Marine codex is no different.
He leaves his trademark design elements in the codex because he allows you, the player, the ability to customize your army as you see fit. The best thing about all of his books is that he gives you options. Options that can be kept cheap, so you can field of what you love, and options that can gear your army out to the teeth but at a competitive price. This is why I believe Phil Kelly is the best GW designer.
This is long!
Be prepared to read :)
This review is not going to be a direct compare and contrast of the old CSM book. I will still compare a little bit here and there, but the reason I'd like to avoid this is because this is the first codex to be written in 6th Ed. If we think back to what GW designers did with 8th Ed. Fantasy, we might assume that this codex is what's going to determine the scale of power and direction that future 40K books will be written. Whether or not this is true is unknown until the next couple of books come out.
Let us explore some of the options in the new CSM book shall we?
The first thing I'll talk about are some of the unique special rules that the Chaos Marines come packing with. Champion of Chaos is one of the more interesting things about the codex. Just like Warriors of Chaos, anyone that has this rule MUST issue and accept challenges whenever they can. This is good because it gives you more rolls on the Dark Gods table, but bad because the rules for challenges for 40K kinda suck. Champions can literally challenge your badass Chaos Lord out of combat, so that means that every unit you take better have a Champion in there to accept in your lord's behalf. The last thing you want is some measly little fodder tanking Abaddon's full range of attacks.
Another cool thing about Chaos Space Marines is that they have their own Warlord Traits table. Almost all of these results are useful and some of them can really cause dramatic game effects. The most prominent one is Black Crusader which gives the Warlord and all units within 12" of him Preferred Enemy towards Space Marines. Veterans of the Long War is another thing that comes stock on some HQs and can option that you can buy per model for some units. This gives you Hatred vs. Space Marines. Space Marines have been defined to be all existing flavors of marines, so when you combine this with the fact that 70% of the armies out there are packing loyalist power armor, this is huge.
One of the most reoccurring themes running through this codex is that everything has a use. Phil Kelly made the entire Dark Gods table practical, minus the random degradation into a Chaos Spawn. All of the underpriced and unused units from the last book has been dropped in price, made significantly better, or given new upgrades. In fact, most of the units that were used a ton last edition either got a tad bit more expensive, or didn't go up in points at all, or in some cases, even dropped in points but with some changes made to their character. The best example of this are the Plague Marines and Obliterators. Plague Marines got a point more expensive, lost a point of Leadership but gained Poisoned Knives (4+ Poison). Everything else stayed the same minus the fact that there's no more no-scatter Icons but all Champions get the right to take Gift of Mutation. This is actually quite good because for a measly amount of points, you pay for a chance to get something good before the game even starts! Since you roll for everyone with this rule before the game actually gets rolling, this might be a little bit of record-keeping that can bother some people. But hey, it's an option and not something you must take.
Moving at Oblits, I have something very exciting to tell you. They still keep their 2+/5++ but they do so in the form that they have Fleshmetal and are considered Daemons. This means they cause Fear as well and have the Bulky USR. I guess what I'm trying to say is that they no longer have Terminator armor. They still have all the fancy weaponry that they're known to have and they even gained the Assault Cannon as one of their new weapons. The kicker to this is that they can no longer use the same weapon in two consecutive turns. That means you'll have to Lascannon one turn and Plasma Cannon the other or something. Either way, this isn't a huge turn off for me because they are now cheaper. Not just that, but they can be marked, so for a whole 1pt more compared to last edition, they can be made T5 Oblits with all the gunbells and whistles.
The meat and potatos of this codex is the Chaos Marines in my opinion. Although the Cult units are just as nice (I'll get to them next), I think the normal Marines will be a go-to option for players. First, they're incredibly cheap compared to every other marine in the game. If you want, you can give them an extra hand weapon for a few more points. In addition, you can give them the option to take a normal Tactical layout of Special Weapon + Heavy Weapon, or you can give them 2x Special Weapons if you have 10 guys in the squad. They can take Icons, they can take Marks, and they can take Veterans of the Long War. I'm not joking you when I say these guys are what real Tactical Marines should look like. They're incredibly flexible, easy to manage and customizable to world's end. Being a Death Guard player myself, I'm really looking forward to 16pt T5 bolter-holding Marines. Of course if you're a Khorne player, you will love the fact that for a few more points than a standard Marine, you get someone who can have 2 attacks base, Rage and Counter-attack, and if you really want, Hatred vs. all loyalist Marines.
Cult units are in the codex and I think they're better than before. Khorne Berserkers are one of the cheaper options and they can be given AP4 Chainaxes as an upgrade. They only have 1A base now, but the fact they have Counter-attack and Rage makes up for it IMO. Their damage is still awesome with Furious Charge and WS5, but their biggest boon is the fact they're so affordable. Plague Marines I already talked about above so I won't get into it, Noise Marines got cheaper and better because of the alternations to their Sonic weapons. Sonic Blasters are now 2/3 Salvo and Ignore Cover, and the Blastmaster is S8 AP3 Blast and Ignores Cover as well. The only bad thing is that they need 10 guys in a squad in order to take a Blastmaster now, but that's what you get for getting the option to take 15 more Noise Marines in a squad (many Cult units can be taken in great numbers). I guess if you take a bunch of these guys and put them behind a Aegis Defense Line, you can have one hell of a firing squad. Thousand Sons seem to be the weakest choice of the codex because they're pretty much unchanged minus the fact they come stock with Veterans of the Long War. I just wish Soul Blaze was actually better.
In terms of HQs, I think CSM hit gold. Not only are their Special Characters pretty good, but their normal HQs are great! For example, both the Sorcerer and the Chaos Lord start off dirt cheap. Smack a few upgrades on them from the Chaos Armory and all of a sudden, you've got yourself a total badass. Sorcerers are extremely cost effective as you can take a Lv.3 Sorc for a little more than a standard Librarian. Not just that, but the lores for Nurgle, Slaanesh and Tzeentch are all pretty good I think. Lords, given a respective Mark can unlock Cult units as Troops for the game (Sorcs with MoT unlock Thousand Sons). Not just that, but they can be given loads of upgrades, gifts and wargear that'll remind of you a codex made long long ago. Warpsmiths do what Techmarines do but a little in reverse. This mainly comes with their ability to Shatter Defenses (basically an inverse Bolster Defenses) and ability to repair. Daemon Princes got a huge buff to their statline, can take Wings, Power Armor and must be upgraded to a specific Daemon. If you're a Khorne, for example, you automatically gain Hatred towards Slaanesh, but you'll gain Furious Charge. Tzeentch Daemon Princes can re-roll all saving throws of a 1. Keep in mind that these are different than marks, because a Nurgle Daemon Prince will not have the +1T like you would think. Also, to my dismay, but it doesn't look like Daemon Princes have Eternal Warrior either. Lastly, we have Dark Apostles. They're pretty much the same as a Chaplain but they have a different set of abilities. Dark Apostles still enjoy the same Chaplain statline and 4+ invul, but they can re-roll results on the Chaos Boon table after deployment, and make other friendly units around them Ld.10 just like they are.
As for Special Characters, I'm fairly pleased with what I see. Abaddon is still a badass and he a choice between a AP2 Daemon Weapon or a x2S AP3 Talon of Horus that has Shred and strikes at I6. The two Specialist Weapons gives him 5 attacks base and his Warlord Trait is Black Crusader automatically. He comes with Eternal Warrior and also makes your Chosen troops. That's just pretty ridiculous. Where Abaddon is pricey, you have someone like Kharn who's just a one man wrecking machine. For the cost, I don't think there's a character out there that has WS7, 5 attacks base, 7 on the charge with Rage, 6 on the Counter-Attack, always hit on 2s with Hatred (re-roll hits). The best part of it all? Gorechild is +1S AP2 and strikes at his I5 normally. With Furious Charge and Armorbane, he's basically tearing through everything in the game that he can get his hands on. Ahriman shows up to the party as the first Mastery Level 4 Psyker. He can give D3 of your units Infiltrate and cast 3 Witchfire abilities per round. I'm not sure if he's worth the 230 price tag, but he's definitely an iconic Thousand Sons HQ choice. Last, I'll talk about Typhus. He's a tad more expensive than before, but his statline is now normalized with a SM Captain and is definitely better than before. He still has his Manreaper, which is a Daemon Weapon, Force, Unwieldy +2S and AP2, but his biggest boon is the fact he can make Plague Zombies! Any Cultist unit that the army can take turn into Fearless, FNP and Slow and Purposeful scoring units. Sure, they lose some attacks and can't take any upgrades, but you'll be hard-pressed to remove 35 of those suckers from anywhere.
Other characters such as Huron Blackheart, Fabius and Lucius are still in the game, but I don't think they'll see much play compared to the others. Huron might because he pretty much has Master of Deception just like Ahriman (D3 units Infiltrate), and Fabius maybe because he can buff a unit with fearless and +1S (imagine making this unit like Khorne Berserkers), but I honestly can't say much about Lucius. Once again, for 3 straight books in a row, Lucius is just terrible. AP3 Sword at base S, you get Shred and a cool special rule that makes your attacks equal to your opponent's WS in a duel, but come on. What is AP3 going to do to a 2+ character who challenges you? Is it that hard for GW to make his armor 2+? Maybe that way he can take advantage of passing his armor saves and making the opponent take S4 AP2 No Cover hits for each save he makes. For now, he'll find himself chilling back on the shelf. Again.
Now that that's out of the way, it's time to check out some of the new stuff.
First, I'll talk about the new Dreadnought aka Helbrute. He's not bad. The first thing you'll notice from the Crazed special rule is that Phil Kelly removed virtually all downsides to him killing your own units. No one liked when Fire Frenzy would blow up your Land Raider, and it makes more sense to have him shooting twice at your opponents instead! The Mutilator warpy close-combat Obliterators are pretty cool, but with a price tag of over a Space Marine Attack Bike each, I'm not so sure. I think it's a little bit of a fail on GW's part because if they wanted to sell new models, they should of made them amazing. Sadly, no grenades, expensive marks and the heavy price tag will probably be the death of them even before they hit the field. So what about the Warp Talons? They're OK, but I'll probably rate them the same as Vanguard Veterans. Maybe a little better because they have 5+ invuls due to Daemon (and thus also have Fear), and come stock with Shreding Lightning Claws. The fact that they can be marked makes it cool, but then you're looking at Vanguard Veteran prices. The one thing that really stands out about them is that when they come in, they Blind everyone within 6" of their drop zone. That means if you thread the needle at the right time, it can be devastating for your opponents next turn as they're technically combat ineffective. This, however, depends on how reliable your opponents are at making their Initiative tests. Unfortunately, more chances than not, most people will pass just fine.
I'm not sure what to say about the Helldrake to be honest. I loathe the model so I'll probably never own one, but I can see how it can be good. For 170 points, it comes with Daemonic Possession and a Hades Autocannon. The one thing that really stands out is that it's a Daemon so it enjoys a 5+ invul, comes with AV12/12/10 and 3 HP, but has the It Will Not Die USR. Being a Flyer, this makes it quite a bitch to kill when you math it all out. I personally would just take it with the Baleflamer because you can take it for free because it's a S6 AP3 Torrent, Soul Blaze template that will kill MEQ like crazy. As if you need more ways to kill loyalists right? Oh, and before I forget, the Heldrake has something called Meteroic Descent. This allows him to Vector Strike while Zooming dealing S7 hits. Not bad. That's fine and dandy, but most people around my neck of the woods are talking about the metal dogbeasts: The Forgefiend and Maulerfield. One is geared towards CC and the other delivers respectable long-range firepower. The Forgefield is capable of laying down 3x S8 AP2 Get Hot Blast templates on someone like a pseudo Executioner, or it can sit back and unleash 8 S8 AP4 Hades Autocannon shots since it has two of them. He's only BS3, but statistically, your range to inflict more damage can be higher when compared to a GK Rifleman. The Maulerfiend, on the other hand, has Magma Cutters (that deals with armor) and two Power Fists to get all up in the enemy's face. You can also upgrade him with Lasher Tendrils to decrease your enemies' attacks. Since the Maulerfiend has a special rule that allows it to move 12" ignoring terrain, it can surprisingly move up the field very quickly and charge targets from a very respectable distance. Both metal doggies have Daemon, Fleet and It Will Not Die, so it's going to be pretty annoying to with when you start rolling those 5+s.
I think it's time to wrap this up. Let me finish by saying that a lot of the bread and butter units got a huge facelift. Havocs are now as cheap as standard CSM, can take marks for the same cost, and have much cheaper heavy weapons. Oh, and they're also the first Dev unit in the game that can take Skyfire Missiles (although you have to pay extra). Chosen are still there and are still great, although they lost their ability to Infiltrate. I say they're great because they can still take a ton of special weapons and their price is very attractive. Possessed are good, Raptors are cheaper (comes with Fear!), Bikers are fantastic, and the Spawn is cheaper, and better. Basically, everything got cheaper and better, and full of customization options like marks, veterancy and cool little chaos gifts. The main one from that list to look after is the Bikers, man. To put it into perspective, you can get 3 bikes with 2 Meltaguns for under a hundred points. Then, you can add up to 7 more bikes for a measly 20ppm. And yes, you can mark them and give them Veterans of the Long War as well. If I didn't hate bike models so much (long story), I would take a huge unit of 7 Nurgle Bikers (T6!!!) with 2x Meltaguns and a Fist and call it a day.
Vehicle wise, everything stayed the same, but got cheaper. The Predator Annhilator is also cheaper than their loyalist counterparts. Sadly, the Chaos Land Raider can still only take 10 max models, and only sport one variant, but the army-wide points reduction sure makes up for it. I guess the only loser here is the Defiler as it got more expensive, but it gained the same properties of the other Daemon-machines so its hard to say if its a bad buy or not. It was probably too cheap last book anyway.
There are some things in the book that bother me though. I already shared some of my complaints above, but I'll go over some of the new ones. The first is the Chaos Icons. The reason why I never brought Icons up before is the fact that they're still given to one model to hold. If that one guy dies.. and that's really freaking easy with 6s to snipe, Focus Fire and all that chaos that goes on the battlefield, the entire unit loses the Icons abilities. It doesn't matter if you pay a big expensive Icon of FNP on your Slaaneshi units (yes, Slaanesh, not Nurgle), you lose it of your model gets picked out. For this reason alone, I will never take a Chaos Icon. My second complaint is the Chaos Artefacts that you can pick from. I really liked how Daemon Weapons worked in the last book where different marks gave you different effects, but now you have Chaos Artifacts kinda like how 8th Ed. Warhammer Fantasy books have 8 or so unique items. One part of me is excited because this can possibly mean more unique flavorful items for newer books to come, but the other part is sad that I can't take a Blissgiver anymore. Some of you will be happy with the new unique weapons though, although I think I'll probably just take Abaddon if I needed something more badass. On the plus side, Daemon Princes can run around with them, so that's pretty cool.
I guess the new Chaos Artifacts have to do, I can't go into too much detail, but my eye is set on two in particular: The Dimensional Key and Burning Brand of Skalathrax. When I first read the Dimensional Key I thought it was a misprint, but apparently, when the bearer kills an enemy model in an assault, the key unlocks. From then on, all enemy models within 12" of the keybearer treat all terrain as both Difficult and Dangerous, this includes attempts to charge as well. On top of that, anyone coming in from DS near 12" of the key don't scatter. Sounds really good does it? It does to me! As for the Burning Brand, it's basically a S4 AP3 Flamer with Torrent and Soul Blaze. Yum.
My last complaint is probably something that all Legion players share, and that's there's not enough Legion representation. You know what? That's what Horus Heresy is for. Legions are clearly extinct in the new book although they did give you some new units. Cultists are for the Alpha Legion players, Dark Apostles for Word Bearers, Warpsmiths for Iron Warriors, and Warp Talons are for the Night Lords. That's great and all, but I think we can at least do something with the Sacred numbers. If Thousand Sons can take a free upgrade to make their Aspiring Champion a Sorcerer for every 9 they would take, I bet good money that they'll take that. At least give the Noise Marines the ability to take a Blastmaster at 6! You know, small things like that can make a big difference.
But hey, you know what? Who am I kidding? I think the book is great. I rate it a solid 8/10 in terms of Internal Balance, External Balance, Fluff and Playability. There's tons of great options that you can pursue; from keeping everything cheap and spamming the hell out of cultists and normal marines, or you can go quality with full marks, icons and chaos gifts. The point is: You can do whatever you please and you will probably still field a fun, viable army for many years to come. This is the hallmark of a good book, a keeper, a timesake. Players need something that can fiddle around with for the next couple of years and I think they will be very pleased with this one. When Phil Kelly wrote the Space Wolves codex, I prayed to the Dark Gods that one day, all marine books will be like that. A hell of a good way to start a new edition I'd say.