Traitor’s Hate (and Gripes) for Chaos Space Marines

First of all, I’m pretty surprised the release of a single new CSM warranted a new supplement, 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!

99120102060_KharntheBetrayer01I’ll show Fabius the meaning of fabulous!

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.

Psychic Disciplines

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?

Rules Updates

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.


  • It doesn’t exactly call to me either I must admit. The only thing I really like out of is the Raptors and that is just due my love of jump packs.

    Roll on a Tzeentch book!

    • Chaz Sexington

      Raptors and Warp Talons can be decent to good if they’re given some combination of Deep Strike mitigation, T1 arrival, T1 charge (Like Raven Guard), or Shrouding/Stealth upon arrival (akin to AdMech/Skitarii). In today’s meta, they’re just too fragile.

      I share your enthusiasm for a Tzeentch Daemonkin! I actually just bought a metal Ahriman and Thousand Son Sorcerer in anticipation! New Rubric Marine models would be amazing, especially if given a solid boost through drop in points or somesuch!

      • Yeah it is a shame. I am glad people got something they can play with though.

        • After seeing the rules for the Raptor Talon, they might be functional :)

    • jack shrapnel

      formation rules have been leaked elsewhere. The warp talon one in particular allows them to assault out of deep strike (at the cost of disordered charge) and impose a -2 leadership debuff to a unit charged by two units of talons/raptors. 3-5 warp talon units plus a chaos lord who gets a free jump pack. 75 AP3 shred attacks assaulting out of deep strike seems pretty effective to me. Especially combining the leadership debuff along with the leadership debuff of the heldrake formation. I mean, you were going to bring heldrakes anyways right? lol

      • Actually, I don’t own a single Heldrake! The aesthetic doesn’t fit what I envision for my Alpha Legion, so I’m saving up for a Fire Raptor!

        The LD debuff doesn’t matter too much due to the prevalence of Fearless and ATSKNF. The issue is whether you get the charge on the turn you arrive; scatter mitigation is sadly lacking (Dimensional Key is awful). 50% of the time you will scatter, which averages 7″ inches, the average charge range. It may work, but in my head, it sounds like a lot of points getting grav to the face.

      • Actually, I don’t own a single Heldrake! The aesthetic doesn’t fit what I envision

      • Chaz Sexington

        I don’t own a single Heldrake – I’m more of Fire Raptor guy! They just don’t quite fit the less-mutated way I envision my Alpha Legion warband!

        Not sure behind your 75 AP 3 Shred maths; due to the disordered charge, you don’t get an additional attack, so they’re down to 2 attacks each on a charge. That’s also a big if, due to lack of Deep Strike scatter mitigation. At 30 points a model and 160 for 5, it’s too much.

        As I mentioned in the article, the Heldrake formation was probably gonna be decent, however, it won’t matter too much to the Raptor Talon – they should wipe weak CC units themselves, and if they’re against a Deathstar or something with ATSKNF or Fearless (which is most decent CC units), it doesn’t matter. I see it synergising well with Cyclopia Cabal, Terrify, and Psychic Shriek though!

        • Jack Shrapnel

          double specialist weapon gives an additional attack, hence 3 each

          • Chaz Sexington

            1 Attack base.

            • jack shrapnel

              my mistake… sorry… thought they had two base.. then yes, much less effective!

              • Hahaha, no problem:) I’m sorry if I come off as too dismissive of the formation; I agree it’s a significant boost, but I don’t think it’s enough:)

  • The new Kharn is sexy.

    I’m pretty well of the same mind with this add-on. I feel we were owed a damn codex. Not a supplement, not strap-on formations, but a real codex. As you said, the formations are nice, but they aren’t upping the value of the codex as a whole. I’m glad to see formations, and many of them really interest me, but this whole thing just feels like they are appeasing us.

    The only thing I can figure, and damn me for being optimistic here, is that 8th is in the works and they want to push out a new CSM codex for 8th. Since that won’t happen tomorrow, they are giving us something to hold us over. I could be very wrong, likely am, but it’s the only thing that makes sense to me. There’s no other reason the oldest codex in 40K – barring Sisters (but who cares about them?), is not getting a new codex.

    Still, I’ll be picking this up. I’m sure the fluff is great, and new powers and tactical cards aren’t bad.

    • Chaz Sexington

      Aye, I agree. I also just saw Khârn’s “new” rules last night – they’re identical.

    • A new codex at this moment would be good in the short run but probably not in the long run. Let GW sort out what they want to do with 40k and 8th edition. But once they are done with that, I’ll welcome a new codex (preferably after the first Space Marine update).

      • Agreed, but my fear is we get the first codex, which is what we did in 6th. We might be very good in the first 6 months, but then the slide begins.

      • Chaz Sexington

        I agree, but my fear is we’ll get the same treatment as last time. Being the first out the gate isn’t good – we’re good for the first 6 months, then we start sliding as the meta evolves to fit the edition and we’re left for years with a “bridge” codex.

        • Ok, we have been waiting for too long this time around, no doubt but I’m at the same time glad I don’t play lojalists and having a new book dropping every six months or so. That would be equally frustrating (while at the same time costing you a fortune).

  • The basic rules for the formations are on GWs Facebook today. They’re hardly disappointing. Raptor assaulting out of deep strike, Oblits firing twice a turn, Berserkers who stole the Wulfen rule for piling in and attacking helpless units in the movement phase.

    • Chaz Sexington

      I actually mentioned the assault of out Deep Strike above as a start to the problem with Raptors and Warp Talons in reply to Rory’s comment! I agree that’s pretty solid boost, but you have to remember they lack any sort of real Deep Strike mitigation (Dimensional Key is awful)! That means you’re 50% of the time gonna scatter a potentially very expensive unit. Pity the charge is disordered, but it is a start!

      Obliterators firing twice would be very nice if you hadn’t been paying 110 points minimum extra to get the Warp Smith per unit. It’s a boost, but not too much, I think. Maelstrom of Gore looked pretty tasty, mind. I think it’ll struggle to get across the table (taking a Cyclopia Cabal with Telepathy-sporting Sorcerers will help this), but with enough bodies, it just might!

      What stands out to me is The Lost and the Damned formation, which is just an objectively worse version of Unending Host. I feel like they tried, but I also think they fell short. They tried addressing the issues, but the underlying problems are too big to solve with formations.

      • I feel most formations end up with a tax unit now, with the tax being the fluffy model or unit that ties it together. I’m not sure if I’d prefer a Raptor Talon to my Shadowstrike Kill Team. The Scouts are a tax unit with a small benefit (no scatter within 9″ of TWO units). To get first turn Reserves, I have to buy a whole Pinion or Battle Demi Company.
        Maybe if they’d given the Raptor units the ability to start rolling for reserves on turn one?

        • For me, it’s the survivability of the Raptors and Warp Talons that’s the issue. They are going to scatter an average of 7 50% of the time, which is their average charge range. This can take them on top of enemy units and cause mishaps. It’s the random factor that’s the problem now – you can land 1″ away from a nice tasty target oooooor 12″ away and you’re mincemeat.

          As you mention late arrival is a big issue. You risk a large portion (I think it’s almost 500 points minimum) not turning up until T3-4, which is a big problem.

        • Chaz Sexington

          Yep, something like that would be good – alternatively scatter mitigation.

          • Cursed Earth.

            • That’s something I hadn’t thought of! Great idea!

            • Chaz Sexington

              Totally slipped my mind! Excellent idea :)

        • Dan Marshall

          Maybe not a pure CSM list, but allied with KDK or Daemons you can drop in cheap troops with icons & banners giving an automatic pass of the reserve roll and no scattering for the warp talons as they are daemons.

          • Chaz Sexington

            Banner of Blood won’t work at all (needs to be Daemons of Khorne), but yeah, Instrument of Chaos would work for Warp Talons with a Chaos Lord :)

  • ming2005

    I think the chaos gods laugh at the whining when you should be winning. Play style is important to the tougher, advanced armies like chaos and you have to play them as the designer or fluff intended. I have played vs Chaos players more than a few times in my day, and nearly every time the opponent seemed to think he was playing a list of generic Ultramarines with guard allies rather than war crazed axe wielding hate spewing boot stomping fear mongering warp spawned chaosy marines of Khorne. Drink a red bull, put on your horned helmet, grab your drakes, put your enslaved cultists as waves in from of your killers, and charge. Kill stuff. Screw objectives till you get it right. Throw out the new model rhinos and get the old spiky ones. Make the other opponent fear you personally. Make the blood tithe huge. Get your D-thirst going. I’ve seen it done, and it makes for a better game when you do what was intended for everyone involved. If you can’t, it may just be you are not (yet) suited for the burn-maim-kill it requires. Don’t make me me play your army against you! Aaaagh!!!!!

    • Our issue is everyone gets slaughtered in the first two rounds. We can’t get into close combat – Land Raiders are too expensive and Rhinos aren’t assault vehicles. While some units are tougher, like Daemon Princes and Spawn, none of our decent units are power armoured (bar Sorcerers and bikes).

      We are also hampered by a lack of (free) drop pods and truly fast units, like what Eldar and Tau have. Bikes are fine, which is why the Gorepack and MoN bikes are good, but they lack punch and grav.

      Our firepower isn’t good enough either when compared to what Loyalists, Eldar, Tau, or pretty much anyone else can lay down. We’re simply lacking in too many places.

    • Chaz Sexington

      Chaos is definitely not a tough army. A tough army would be Necrons. It’s impossible to play them in a balanced or competitive way as they were designed – 5th edition Rhino Rush. Our Berzerkers (or MoK CSMs, not sure what you mean) rarely make it into CC, Cultists are point for point way worse than IG platoons (and you don’t hear them lauding that unit). Bloodthirsters are Daemons (or KDK), so sure, we can ally them in.

      There’s a reason CSM do terribly at tournaments these days, only helped by ForgeWorld to get some Rapiers and the like in the mix.

    • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

      withlots of terrain and an unprepared opponent rush lists can work. We do have good assault units and some fastish units, but try this against a strong gunline, on an open table or against a true deathstar and see how you get on…

  • I think my starting point is the exact opposite. From what I’ve seen I’m very thrilled about the book. The formations are pretty good and can be put to good use. But hey, I don’t have a very attuned competitive mindset (or skill level). I feel the book will cater to my desires and style of play.

    • jack shrapnel

      I’m actually considering purchasing CSM because of what I’ve seen with this book. And I already have a ton of daemons and a KDK army!

      • I’m considering buying a couple of boxes for the Raptor Talon formation. That box is brilliant, full of extras bits and great looking models. And jump pack marines are so cool.

        • Chaz Sexington

          Happy to hear some people are enjoying it! It does help Raptors and Warp Talons, but for me, they are still too expensive in a world of Tau, Eldar, and Grav firepower.

          Again, this is from a competitive/game balance point of view, but the boost makes them a lot more viable for casual or low-powered games:)

          • You’re probably right about the power level from the competitive side of things. But frankly I don’t know how much cheaper they would have to be in order to shine against those armies you’re talking about. Five points less per model? Or maybe more.

            • Chaz Sexington

              Something like that – I’m not saying this doesn’t help, I just don’t think it went far enough. The issue, as is with 7th edition codices, is the abundance of firepower has made T1/going first so incredibly important.

    • Aye, this is more from a competitive/game balance point of view where I compare them to the power levels of what you see at tournaments. Some will be fine for casual games, though I feel a lot lack the saturation I would prefer.

  • While it’s not as good as we might want, some of them are actually significantly better than what GW’s hints are saying. The Raptor Talon doesn’t actually require Warp Talons, for instance, and the Helforged Warpack can be all MaulerFiends. The Chaos Warband gives ObSec all over the place, and when taken as part of the Decurion, gives free VotLW and Hatred (Armies of the Imperium) to everyone, plus a free roll on the Boon Table for one Character per Turn. Except if the Character is from the Warband, you get to roll twice, and take either or both of the results. And there’s no reason not to take it as part of the Decurion, since one of the Aux Choices can be as small as a single Spawn, so it only takes 30 Points to turn one of the Core Choices into a Decurion.

    The Lost and the Damned is pretty cool, too. 4-9 Units of Culties plus a Dark Apostle. The Dark Apostle gives Zealot to any of the Cultist Units within 6″, but the bigger deal is that when they’re wiped out, they come back on 4+ with Outflank. And Typhus can turn them all into Plague Zombies.

    It’s not all hits. The Terminator Formation is pretty lame, and the Possessed one completely fails to address their actual problems, for instance. But there’s definitely some good stuff in there.

    • Chaz Sexington

      The Raptor Talon I still think is overpriced due to lack of Reserve Roll manipulation or Deep Strike scatter mitigation, as they’re liable to be either late or out of charge range. The Maulerfiends aren’t too shabby!

      The Chaos Warband is just a slightly altered Black Legion warband (for the better), but those bonuses are still not enough for the tax 1-3 Terminators, Possessed, or Chosen, that you must take 2 units of CSMs (which are of dubious quality), 1-3 Bikes, Warp Talons, or Raptors (Gorepack is better for bikes, Raptor Talon if you’re dead set on the two latter), and 1-3 of Havocs or Helbrutes (Helbrutes are done better in the Helbrute dataslate). It feels superfluous. You also have a cap of 1 Sorcerer and no Daemon Prince (the best two HQs). What it does is all done better by other formations. Versus a CAD, it restricts good units, but gives you Hatred IoM, free VotLW, and a Boon roll per turn. Eeeeeeeh.

      The Lost and the Damned is awful when you compare it to what ForgeWorld offer – Unending Host detachment. You take Renegade Infantry platoons instead (which are objectively better than Cultists) and they return on a 2+, but with all the upgrades available to the IG. It’s simply objectively worse than what we already have.

      • Every unit in the Warband gets objective secured, that’s pretty big. Especially for units like Havocs, take five men with four special weapons, in a rhino, all ob sec. Can lojalists match that unit? Heck, even three terminators get much more use now that they have multi-purpose and not just a suicide mission or give them a Dedicated ob sec Land Raider.

        • I think you overstate the usefulness of ObSec; Land Raiders and Chaos Terminators are worse than Loyalists, regardless of ObSec, and they rarely take them.

          I have a soft spot for Havocs, but I just park them with autocannons behind a Aegis defence line and quad cannon and troll aircraft. Preferably these hold a backfield objective.

          The issue is they all die too easily in the current meta; our codex is built for 5th edition Rhino Rush tactics:(

      • Renegades can’t be turned into Fearless, FNP Zombies, tho. It’s the combo with Typhus that makes The Lost and the Damned worthwhile.

        ObSec Bikes are a pretty big deal. CSM has never had any access to that kind of fast ObSec before. Termies can also provide better reach out and grab capability with Deep Striking ObSec. Also, as pointed out below, ObSec Havocs in Rhinos, either bunkering in the back with 2 Autocannon or pushing forward with 4 Specials.

        It also unlocks the 0-5 Command Choices from the Decurion by adding just a single Spawn, which will give you all the Sorcerers and Daemon Princes you could want.

        • Chaz Sexington

          Compare our Decurion with the Gladius Strike Force. It is simply no match. No grav, no Chapter Tactics, no free transports etc.

          The issue is they all die too easily in the current meta and our codex is built for 5th edition Rhino Rush tactics:(

        • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

          Vraks or IA13 zombies are almost half the points of Cultists and have better FNP and can regenerate lost models. Respawning on 4+ is cool but not as good as having twice as many, better zombies to start with, and no Typhus tax.

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