First of all, I’m pretty surprised the release of a single new CSM warranted, but I’ll take what I can get. The new model is amazing and I love it! While he’s “just” mirroring his FW pose in baroque power armour, it works really well. Thus, Khârn the Betrayer’s model is updated for the 41st millenia!
At first glance, it may be this supplement simply does what Angels of Death did for SMs – a bunch of formations (11, specifically) in one supplement (remember, formations didn’t exist when the CSM codex came out) and adds new Psychic Disciplines, Tactical Objective Cards (Maelstrom missions didn’t exist either when the CSM codex was released), and updates some minor rules, e.g. Khârn and Predators/Vindicators.
Now, bear in mind my pros and cons are from a competitive and game-balance point of view – obviously before I’ve even read the new supplement – so they are subject to change yadda-yadda.
According to the GW website (with at least two spelling mistakes/typos, inconsistencies with the spelling of “sorcerer,” and no Oxford comma, the heathens!), we’re getting the following formations:
Chaos Warband: “a Helbrute, a Chaos Space Marines Sorceror, a set of three Chaos Bikers, a set of 5 Havocs, a set of 5 Warp Talons, a set of 5 Raptors, a set of 5 Possessed, a 6-man Terminator Lords [sic] Cadre and 20 Chaos Space Marines.”
Helforged Warpack: “a Forgefiend, a Maulerfiend, a Helbrute and a Warpsmith.”
Maelstrom of Gore: “You’ll receive Khârn the Betrayer and 48 (yes, forty-eight) Khorne Berzerkers!”
Raptor Talon: “10 Raptors, 5 Warp Talons and a Chaos Space Marines Lord with Jump Pack to lead them into the fray.”
Heldrake Terror Pack: “2 Heldrakes.”
Renegade Knight: “an Imperial Knight Warden and 1 Renegade Knight transfer sheet.”
Favoured of Chaos: “15 Posessed [sic], a Daemon Prince and a Chaos Space Marines transfer sheet.”
To begin with, my problem with formations is that we already have a buttload of formations compared to most other codices. Our underlying issue is our codex. This becomes very clear when you take the good formations with CSMs in them – such as the Cyclopia Cabal and the Gorepack – and realise the CSMs units in those aren’t bad to begin with. When you boost our decent models by giving them access to useful rules and spells, lo and behold, they function!
These formation also don’t have a large percentage point tax of the formation (which may be the dumbest and worst way of trying to balance a game I’ve ever heard of) made up of Possessed or Warp Talons (The Raptor Talon formation genuinely made me shudder). You can’t Warp Talon-tax the CSMs into prosperity.
As far as a Decurion/GSF goes, there’s not much point. Our gear is objectively worse in almost all cases. We don’t have access to drop pods, combat squads, combat doctrines, as good equipment as the Loyalists, ATSKNF, PotMS etc. Imagine a GSF with none of that.
In essence, formations can make some of our alright units (Daemon Princes, Sorcerers, Spawn, Bikes, maybe PMs etc) worthy of the Dark Gods. The problem is the rest of the codex. If our decent units are boosted, that just further creates internal (and external) codex imbalances as we become even less likely to take the worse units.
What would make you take Terminators? I mean, SMs don’t take Terminators and ours are objectively worse. Cultists are objectively worse than Guardsmen and were only taken because they were a cheap tax to get us another Sorcerer in an Allied detachment. What would make you take something that bad? What possible upgrade?
Then I look at the formations. The Chaos Warband just looks like the Black Legion Warband (which gave a circumstantial Preferred Enemy and re-rolling boons). Next. Helforged Warpack; AV 12 for everyone! Looks like a Daemon Engine Pack with a Helbrute. Next. Maelstrom of Gore. Khârn’s Butcherhorde with the CSM units traded for even more Berzerkers. The Raptor Talon, unless they have T1 Deep Strike and Charge or Stealthy and Shrouded, is useless. The next two are just two Heldrakes and a Knight, which isn’t really a formation as much as it’s two and one model. Either way, Heldrakes are still decent, and so are Knights. Then the Favoured of Chaos; a smaller version of the Tormented.
Only slightly more useful than the nipples on the Blood Angels’ power armour.
In essence, the formations are either:
A) A slightly reworked Black Legion formation
B) One or two models that are decent
C) Maybe the worst units in the game, combined.
None of these are gonna bring anything new to the meta due to the aforementioned issues with underlying problems. However, these are 7 out of 11 new formations. Maybe there is something there.
Rumoured to be copy/paste jobs of what they did for SMs, which if true, is lazy as Hell. AFAIK, none of the SM Psychic disciplines are as good as Telepathy, so they wouldn’t matter, really. Furthermore, our Sorcerers (see above) are already pretty decent. I’ll reserve some judgment here though – some powers may work differently in concert with a CSM list.
But are they better than Telepathy?
I’m presuming it’s making Predators and Vindicators 1-3 per Heavy Support due to the line “- Updated rules for fielding Chaos Predator and Vindicator squadrons.” Doesn’t matter too much; I’ve not seen a single one used by SMs recently, so I doubt allowing us to spend less Heavy Support slots is gonna matter much, especially when our Predators can’t take PotMS. If there’s a point reduction or free upgrades in a 1-3 Predator/Vindicator formation combined with rules similar to the old Predator Assassin Squadron, I think we might be getting somewhere though, especially as there’s four more formations with no details.
With regards to Khârn, he’s apparently getting a new datasheet, thus new rules. Rumours are this means he can be taken in both KDK and CSM detachment and might even get Eternal Warrior. So, he might be able to match a generic Space Marine Captain. If he gets Eternal Warrior, you will still have the underlying issue of delivery method and who to join him up with.
Tactical Objective Cards
Well, colour me interested! This might be what I want! While I don’t mind the standard Tactical Objective Cards, as I enjoy aiming for the Warlord Trait that grants double points for holding Objective X, thus the extra hold Objective X cards in my deck are of use.
I’m afraid the hype hasn’t gripped my embittered heart. The new Khârn model is gorgeous. The Tactical Objective Cards are a nice touch. Reworking the rules for Khârn, Predators and Vindicators is a nudge in the right direction, but the rest seems to leave a lot to be desired. I’ve said it so many times in this blog post, but without a full codex revamp, no amount of formations is going to address the underlying issues inherent to the Veterans of the Long War.