Ponderings: Squads of Chaos Space Marines

Chaos - NurgleOn Wednesday night I ran two squads of CSM (Chaos Space Marines). It’s hard to deny that the current codex is geared towards undivided so I thought I’d give it a go and see what I thought. At the moment I’m still on the fence but figured I’d toss out my thoughts and solicit feedback as well.

CSM run you 13pts a model, super cheap. You can get yourself a 10-man squad for 140pts (the 5-man buy-in is more expensive). No arguments that the base cost is cheap but let’s dive into this a bit more. If you want to get them the CCW (close combat weapon), to make them like the CSM prior to this codex, then you’re paying 2pts a model, so now we’re at 15pts a model, still cheap.

Now there’s the considerations on wargear. If you’re going dual special weapons or a special weapon and a heavy weapon then you’re looking around 25pts there on average. Chaos Champions need to issue and accept all challenges so at least taking a power sword is advisable, in my opinion, so 15pts there. Oh, we need a Rhino so 35pts there. This, I feel, is the bare minimum and clocks in at 235pts.

We have those wonderful marks to consider and icons, this is where things get steep. The cheapest mark is 2pts a model with the most expensive at 3pts per-model. I don’t feel a mark is really required with this unit but I did want to toss it out there. The biggest issue this unit faces is not being fearless. You can get an icon to gain fearless at 25pts. You can also take Veterans of the Long War at 1pt per-model and boost your leadership by 1. You of course get hatred (Space Marines), but the LD boost is universal. Veterans doesn’t make you fearless but an LD boost is handy when you’re not fearless. So, either grab that icon and hope you don’t lose it or take VotLW. Take both if you feel like dumping a lot of points here.

For my comparision I’m going to make, let’s take a 10-man CSM squad, give them two plasma guns, take the CCW, the Icon of Vengeance, give the Champion a power sword and grab a Rhino. This unit runs 265pts. The comparision is Plague Marines, my favorite troop unit. I’m going to compare with how I run mine. I take 6 Plague Marines with 2 plasma guns, Champion with a power fist and a Rhino and it costs 244pts, or 21pts cheaper with 4 fewer bodies. I know many prefer a 5-man Plague Squad but I find 6 to be my magical number of bodies for these guys.

The direct evaluation between the CSM and Plague Marines. Both are fearless but Plague Marines are naturally fearless and not reliant on a piece of wargear that can be sniped out. Plague Marines are T5, CSM are not. Now, we can give CSM the Mark of Nurgle to get T5 but we raise the cost of the unit by 30pts to do so. Plague Marines have FNP, CSM do not. Plague Marines have defensive grenades and plague knives (4+ poisoned melee weapon), CSM do not. Lastly, the Plague Champion has better odds of winning a challenge overall, at least in my experience.

The last thing to look at is unit size. We’re comparing 10 CSM to 6 Plague Marines. As far as shooting potential goes, it’s not a big difference, a few bolters. As far as being shot at, if both units take 10 rapid firing bolters then that’s 2.178 dead CSM and 0.948 dead Plague Marines, so less than 1. What Plague Marines lack in bodies they make up for in resilience.

Just to play along with this some more, let’s say we mark the CSM with Nurgle and use the same example with being shot at. The CSM now goes down to losing 1.437 Marines, obviously better than before, but now the unit runs us 295pts, or 51pts more than the 6 x Plague Marines and still less resilient model to model. Those 51pts can buy me 2 more Plague Marines and I know damn well 8 Plague Marines will outperform 10 CSM.

As you can see, I’ve been putting a lot of thought into CSM. The biggest thing against them for me is they lack fearless. I can handle not being as tough as Plague Marines since model to model they are cheaper, but I hate relying on an icon for fearless. VotLW is nice but if you taking a pounding in close combat then it’s little comfort and you can get your ass swept, which makes the Chaos Gods cry.

The downside to Plague Marines as troops is you need a marked Lord. This is my biggest contention with them. I dislike the idea of needing a marked Lord, or Typhus, to get my favorite unit into the troop slot now. Having an HQ choice forced on me sucks. I suppose what I need to determine is what sucks less, a forced HQ or weaker troops? From what I’ve experienced thus far, I’d say the forced HQ is easier to swallow.

  • TheRhino

    I don’t want to hear any complaints about forced HQs….;).

    • http://creativetwilight.com/ Thor

      Vroom, vroom!

  • JustHippie

    I think you should play a few games with NO fearless units and see if it really matters with Ld8 and up most Ld9′s and 10′s. After all 6th edition was good to regrouping above 25% so that 10 man squad will need to be only 2 guys before you need 1′s to regroup. At that point they’re pretty much dead anyway.
    The fact that you can get a CSM for 1pt cheaper than a S3 T3 Daemonette is pretty sweet. I’d try at least one bigger squad on foot maybe 14-16 bodies, good luck killing them off a home objective.

    • http://creativetwilight.com/ Thor

      I think they have their use. Give them a CCW and VotLW and call it good on upgrades, well after weapons anyway. Shave off the CCWs if points need to be saved. And exactly, let them squat at home and use the heavy weapon.

      Now, the Rhino bound troops is where I have a hard time justifying them. No natural fearless means subject to pinning, morale from losing bodies on an explosion, being swept from the unit that charges your ass after exploding your Rhino, etc. I just don’t see these guys as a front line troop unit without heavy investment and then it’s just not point efficient.

      It’s because of that I have a hard time running an undivided list. I want my troops where I want them and Plague Marines always do the job. Maybe when I build up my force a bit more basic CSM will work. If I can provide enough threat to pull the heat off them then things could work. I’ll still test lists with them in there now as well and see how it goes.

      • JustHippie

        I hear your fears on pinned units and fleeing but simply based on my experience with Kairos @ Ld9, and most Marines when I used the Changeling it is just VERY rare that Ld9 fails. And they have to force the test first to boot. Save the points for the units you want to really be good at their specific job(melee). I’ve always felt those points spent on Plagues could be put to better use.

        • http://creativetwilight.com/ Thor

          Bear in mind though only the Champ is LD9 and he HAS to challenge. Of course they won’t be in combat every single game but it’s a consideration. It’s mostly close combat I’m concerned with, being stuck at LD8 and losing combat (more often than not), and being swept. You recall those days of being swept playing Orks? It sucks.

          Beside, Plague are good at their specific job, being an unmovable unit on an objective. Also, as noted, my Plague setup is cheaper than 10 CMS. I’m saving points by using Plague Marines.

          • JustHippie

            Aaaaaaand see TheRhino’s comment below. lol

            • Epaminondas

              Hysterically, I was so impressed by the dual rhinos with dual specials, I built my Legion force around the concept. I view it as a nice mobility/shield boost to deliver those special weapons and troops where they need to be. I really don’t like the codex marine one heavy one special set up; means you are always wasting the heavy slot, or the special or the bolters.

    • http://www.creativetwilight.com/ Kamui

      One thing the CSM do better than plagues is the dirt-cheap scoring unit. I’ve had good luck with a 5-man Grey Hunter unit toting a plasma gun and nothing else. It’s 85 points, does a good job of holding a position even without fearless, and is little enough threat to be ignored if you’re throwing scary units in their face. You could do a similar unit for 90 points (you’d have better leadership but less HTH capacity.) Even in a rhino they’ll be cheap, leaving you plenty of points for your breaker units.

      Leave the special HQ at home and throw the elite plague marines into your enemy’s face as denial units. Hold your objectives with cheap units, and throw your big-nasties into his army to make sure that if they ever do reach your objectives they’ll be broken down enough to be mopped up by bolter/plasma fire. That’s not to say I would fill my troops choices with 5-man bargain units. You’ll probably want a couple of tougher troops to hold the more dangerous objectives, and also to draw fire from the smaller squads.

      • http://creativetwilight.com/ Thor

        Grey Hunters have something CSM do not though, ATSKNF. At the very least you aren’t going to get swept in combat and you auto-rally, that’s huge.

        I hear you though, however it’s hard after so long with Plague Marines who are awesome at their job. Those Plague Marines have won me countless games.

        • http://www.creativetwilight.com/ Kamui

          ATSKNF is definitely nice to have but in this case it has almost never come up. In many cases they receive very little attention because my termies and larger squads are drawing all of the attention. When they do take fire they usually stick until they’re dead. I’ve mostly used this in 5th though, and when they did break they were often walked off the table anyway, since they are usually camping on a rear objective.
          Plagues as elites can still do the job of keeping your opponent occupied and denying objectives. If you’re using them to draw focus you can move the cheap scoring units around more freely. You could do the same with cultists for fewer points, but I still think you’re getting better value with CSM in smaller squads.
          I would also be interested to see how 20 man CSM squads would fare.

  • SpectreForeman

    I bought a bunch of Chaos Marines off of Ebay and one box to put special weapons on before the codex came out so I would have a solid 3 squads and have been having a really hard time figuring out the best use for them. It’s nice to keep them really cheap, but they just seem lackluster in performance so far.

    • http://creativetwilight.com/ Thor

      They can suffer the same fate as Space Marines with the special and heavy weapon setup. You have one weapon good for moving and one for sitting, no real synergy. You can go dual specials but then you shorten your range to mid/short range. With the stuff I’ve been bitching about, they aren’t exactly the best unit for holding mid-field or getting in someone’s face, in my opinion at least.

      Yeah, I’m not exactly sold on them either…obviously.

  • SpectreForeman

    I think that putting them in Rhinos has been part of the problem for me though. I can’t seem to make it work for me in 6th.

  • Guest

    I think the bigger issue is getting into the mindeset of playing chaos marines, not playing like regular marines upgraded with chaos bits. The chaos marine codex points in the way the designers want you to go…follow what is most dangerous and points efficient. Go team nurgle…

  • tzeentchling

    I’d point out that Fearless can be granted by attaching a Fearless character to them – a Lord, an Apostle, or any special character. Not great always, but an option nonetheless. Fabius Bile is also an option for fearless for at least one unit.

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