Lessons Learned: Making Chaos Marine Squads Work

Chaos StarEver since the current Chaos codex came out I had decided that undivided was going to be my route. That’s not to say I do not take marked units or cult units but that I do not follow a particular patron. The codex lends itself very well to an undivided approach and so I’ve run it that way ever since.

Now, there’s a fair amount of pissing and moaning about your basic Chaos Marines. Apparently for 13pts a model people want everything. I don’t disagree with every complaint people have about them but I’d rather find something that works than rage about it.

When I began using them in the new codex I gave every Champion a power weapon. I figured if they need to deal with challenges, which they do, then they should have a fighting chance. Of course generally the people who take the challenge are doing it to minimize damage to their squad or because they want to get stuck in combat and that power sword doesn’t scare them. Suffice to say that those 15pts spent on the power weapon ended up wasted far more often than not. In addition, I was buying VotLW (Veterans of the Long War), for the squad to raise their LD +1. So, with the Champion alive I would be at LD10 (not bad at all), and then LD9 for the rest of the unit. Naturally my Champions would die and I would be testing on LD9 and then dealing with modifiers from combat. I have had these units run down far more than I probably should have. Not to mention running off the board at the worst times.

What I’ve started doing lately is not buying the power weapon for the Champion, not buying VotLW for the squad, and for the exact same points buying the Icon of Vengeance. The icon makes the squad fearless so long as the bearer is alive and adds +1 to combat resolution. It’s not perfect but it’s workable. I put the icon on one of my special weapon Marines and keep him wrapped with bodies. No sense putting it on the Champion who will get challenged out and killed. I’ll let my Champion die before I let my icon die because with this setup my Champion does very little for me. He’s useful if my icon goes down but that’s about it.

Of course the icon bearer can be sniped out, there’s no getting around it, but I have found the points spent on the squad this way far more useful than what I was doing before. The unit can’t go to ground with the icon, which can be rough, but having fearless has paid off far more often than going to ground ever has for the squad. I’m also far more confident in the squads run this way. I have lost the icon, been run off the board or swept, but by contrast to before it happens a fraction of the time and having troop units you can depend on is pretty crucial.

  • TheRhino

    Sounds like a solid build, but why double up with icon and special weapon on one Marine?

    • Special weapons, whatever they are, are what lend the unit their teeth and I of course aim to keep them alive so it makes sense (to me), to give one of them the icon as well. I could put an icon on a bolter and spread my assets but then I’m trying to keep alive a bolter dude instead of that meltagunner. Know what I mean?

    • Grrr. I think my reply disappeared on me.

      Anyway, I always try and keep my special weapons alive as it is for obvious reasons so giving one an icon as well just made sense to me. If I spread my assets and gave a bolter dude the icon then I’m trying to keep alive a bolter guy to keep fearless instead of trying to keep alive a special weapon guy. I’d rather my last man standing be my icon with a useful weapon.

      • JustHippie

        Watch out for Turner and his precision shots. :P
        Glad this is working out for you now and it does make sense. Barrage weapons and precision shots can be an issue but staying in that rhino as long as you can will help with that(or at least till your Spawn and DP can kill the barrage stuff).

        • Precision shots are an issue no matter what really. Be it my icon being hit, that special weapon I need, my HQ riding in a squad, etc.

          The nice part about the icon also is I can be a bit more aggressive. I don’t get out of my ride unless I need to but at least now when I do I’m pretty safe in knowing they’ll still be around after the retaliation.

          • JustHippie

            I should have been more specific. The Champion can ‘Look out sir’ whereas the rest of the CSM can’t. By having the icon on a regular dude he has to take those precision shots and Barrage and has NO option of LoS.
            Don’t get me wrong, rarely do folks even pull those precision shots out and allocate them but if they do(Turner) it will be an issue.

            • If I weren’t forced to challenge I’d definitely stick it on my Champions.

  • Epaminondas

    From tinkering with HH lists, 20 bolter marines with or without the extra CC weapon are pretty good at sucking up hits and dishing out damage. Pretty much every army has tools against power armor, but 20 bodies is a much different proposition than MSU 5 man or 10 man squads

    • Utilizing larger squads is something I want to play with as it’s pretty unique to Chaos. Just waiting to get though the SS before I get back to experimenting.

      • Epaminondas

        Played with a HH list last night, kill points :) The 20 man squads got shot down to 8-10 guys. Normal marine list would give up 2-4 KPs off that. 20 man squads? 0.

      • khorneinquisitor

        I have run large squads before. They work well given very limited meta, but ultimately you have to have something to keep the bubbas alive. Sorcerers are handy here, as are terminator lords stuck up front to do the opposite (ie- he saves for them, not them taking it for him). With th IC and LOS, you can pick and choose a little better. The blob works amazing with psykers and buffs as well (ML 3 with biomancy powers). But all in all, bolter spam works fairly well. Plus if you run two, you can stick a dark apostle towards the back to double down on fearless (icon and apostle) making it very difficult to make them run plus he impacts a bubble.

        • This is something I’ve experimented a bit with a while ago but not lately. That being the use of HQs in a more support oriented role like you said with a Sorcerer and/or Apostle. I’ve always enjoyed support characters, especially the overlooked ones. I had pretty good luck with Fabius in the past on that front.

          • khorneinquisitor

            I have never used Fabius. While I have often been tempted, when it came to special characters he just never won out as my CSM tend to be more shooty and I see his enhancement as for more assault armies.

            I strongly suggest trying out chosen as a troop selection. Abaddon costs a lot, but if you run black legion or use him, the use of Chosen allows you more flexible options. Not just guns, but you can stack 5 power weapons in a squad. With a MoS and power swords, they assault with a crushing 4 attacks each.

            • The problem, as always with Chaos, is getting those Chosen with power weapons delivered. It’s the thing that annoys me with the codex and why I tend to stick to the units that can deliver themselves: Bikes, Spawn, Raptors, etc.

              • khorneinquisitor

                Agreed, You run about the most effective assault CSM list I have ever seen. I do like your usage of the cheaper, stripped down CSM as back-line defenders.

                • It took a lot of ass kickings to get to that point. Definitely looking to change it up though. Not much fun to play someone and know what they are fielding without even looking.

                  • khorneinquisitor

                    The undivided route really offers very limited troop options.

                    • Yes and no. It is if you look at undivided as CSM and Cultists. However, undivided just means not aligned to one particular god. So, I can field Plague Marines and still remain undivided, or Zerkers, etc. Really, anything that is not mono-god is undivided.

                      Meant to mention that to you with your fluffy Word Bearer force. You can take marks or cult units and still be undivided because of what I was just saying. It does not break fluff and in fact promotes it. Word Bearers worship all gods equally so it’s not out of place that certain units take on aspects of particular gods in the force. A mark is just that, a mark, a boon for an undefined period of time; basically until that god removes it. Cult units would work too. If you wanted to keep it fluffy then just model them to fit your warband instead of using a Zerker model for example.

                      Unrelated, you get my email?

                    • khorneinquisitor

                      I like the idea to model my regular CSM to fit cult troops. Simple, but I never thought of it. Hrmm.. My list that you are talking about is purely unmarked not out off fluff but I just never marked any of them. From a fluff POV I may mark them to get a better feel as these are the Apostle’s personal guard so they would be the best (hence the chosen). Points is an issue though…well, as always.

                      Yes, I got your email. Will send a response via email.

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