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The New Chaos Codex: The Book of Bad Guys (6e Version)
Has it really been five years since the last Codex: Chaos Space Marines charged out of Warpspace, boltguns blazing?  Well, apparently, it has…“And not a moment too soon!” some of you Traitor fans might be screaming.  Many, many CSM players were not happy with the prior version, though I didn’t think it was bad.  In any event, they didn’t have to wait 12 years for a new book, like Dark Eldar players did (mutter mutter grumble grumble….).

So, the new book is a huge change in direction from what came before, in the same way that the 2007 version was vastly different from the (overly-generous) 3.5 version, ja?  Well, no, actually.  There are some changes, but if you hated the prior codex, you probably will not be omg all in luv with the new one.  So first, let’s talk about what’s changed, and then, what hasn’t.

What’s New, What’s Not So Much
Probably the biggest change is that Daemons are not in the new book: if you want to field Daemons, you need to purchase Codex: Chaos Daemons and run your imps as an Allied detachment.  In their place, Chaos Cultists make their return: remember them as the Lost and the Damned from Codex: Eye of Terror (waaaaay back in the 3e days)?  Furthermore, Cultists are Troops, so you can once again field a Chaos army with a few Traitor Marines (or even none at all, actually) and lots of mutant scum (I still have nightmares about this army, from back in the day).

In addition to the Cultists, there are new units of course, chief among them being the Forgefiend, the Maulerfiend, and the Heldrake, the last of which is, as you might have guessed, a Flyer (hey, this is 6th Edition, you know, and Flyers are 6e’s trademark).  I’ll discuss the new units in depth later, but let me tell you about what hasn’t changed much.

Which is…well, most of what you’re familiar with, if you’re a Chaos player or one who regularly battles against them.  Oh, sure, some units are cheaper by a few points, some are a smidge more expensive, a small few (like the Daemon Prince) are much more expensive.  But pretty much, a lot of the codex doesn’t stray far from what came before. 

And by “a lot,” I mean Chaos Space Marines, Chosen, Possessed, Terminators, Raptors, Havocs, Obliterators, and the followers of the Chaos gods (Khorne Berzerkers, Thousand Sons, Plague Marines, and Noise Marines).  This trend holds true for Rhinos, Land Raiders, Vindicators, and Predators as well.  The same special characters (Abaddon the Sore Loser, Huron Blackheart, etc.) can be found: the new book doesn’t have any new ones, just slightly different versions from what you had previously. 

“That’s not so!” someone might protest.  “Berzerkers and KSons and Plague Marines and Noise Marines are Elites now instead of Troops!”  True, but depending on what HQ you take, such as a certain special character, a Chaos Lord with a Mark of Chaos, or a Sorcerer with a Mark of Tzeentch, you can use the corresponding unit as Troops.  So if before you were using Kharn the Betrayer and lots of ‘zerks, your 6e army need not change much, if at all.

When I review codices, I don’t discuss everything in the book (lest the review get too long), just the stuff that jumped out at me.  But before we move on to discuss what I liked and didn’t like about the new Chaos codex, let me advise you that the first time you read through it (if you haven’t already), you’ll want to have handy a copy of the 6e main rulebook.  The new C: CSM uses quite a few of the special fules, such as Rage, Zealot, Daemon, Fleet, and It Will Not Die.  Bear in mind that some rules that have been around for awhile (for instance, the aforementioned Fleet) have changed, as I discussed here.  Finally, there are quite a few new special rules—Champion of Chaos, Daemonforge, and Veterans of the Long War are just a few—that apply only to units from this book and make their debut there.    

Everyone clear?  All right, then: off we go.    

What I Like, and Why
.  The first thing one notices upon picking up and cracking open the new codex is that it’s a hardcover beast, about 100 pages long, with full-color illustrations and photographs, and the page edges are decorated with all kinds of appropriately sinister artwork.  It looks and feels like a 3e Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual, and I mean that as a compliment.  The book is really cool.

Fluff.  In the past, codices have laid on the “fluff,” or background material, way too thick for my tastes.  As in, too much in quantity and believability, and too little in originality and entertainment value.  If I ever read about one more “valiant last stand” by a “beleaguered, outnumbered” handful of “stoic, unyielding Space Marines” against “an overwhelming horde of raging, evil [fill in name of enemy army]” with “the fate of the [planet/Imperium/galaxy] hanging in the balance,” I might do myself an unpleasant injury with a gardening implement. 

The new book, however, does the fluff just right: not too long, not too short, covering all the old stuff veterans expect (the Primarchs and the founding of the Space Marine Legions, the Horus Heresy, the Long War) and adding some new material to make it interesting.  And the writing mostly avoids the “Mary Sue”-syndrome that frequently afflicts Games Workshop’s fluff.

Legions and Renegades.  One bit of fluff that the book does quite well is briefly describing the original Traitor Legions (Black Legion, Iron Warriors, Death Guard, etc.) and some of those Space Marine Chapters who have turned renegade (Flawless Host, Crimson Slaughter, Red Corsairs) since the Horus Heresy.  There’s an extensive list of “Excommunicated Chapters” and several photos of Renegade models to inspire you, if you’re so inclined.

Black Crusades.  Near the end of the fluff section is a good description of Abaddon’s ongoing threat to the Imperium.  I’ve criticized Abaddon as being the most cartoony and one-dimensional character GW has ever portrayed in its codices (along with his embarrassing daddy issues vis--vis Horus), but after reading this part, I had more appreciation for the Sore Loser.  In fact, I was bummed that GW hadn’t included details of all 13 Black Crusades.

Warlord Traits.  For your Main Man, you can use the Warlord Traits in the main rulebook, or you can use the Chaos Marine-specific ones in the codex.  My favorite is Black Crusader, where you and all of your pal-units within 12" have Preferred Enemy against Space Marines (and not just the “vanilla” ones).  

Chaos Boon Table.  By various means (a character killed an enemy character, by psyker power, or by Gift of Mutation), your leader-types can spontaneously generate additional abilities for themselves, even transforming into a Daemon Price right there on the table.  Or they can become Chaos Spawn, the codex’s equivalent of turning into a toad.  Or nothing can happen.  It’s all random, which makes control-freak players twitchy, but it’s very in character for Chaos.

Veterans of the Long War.  Most units in this book can spend points (1-5 per figure, depending on the unit, though Dark Apostles get it free and all special characters come with it) to gain Hatred against Space Marines and +1 Leadership.  Useful, and very in-character.  If you’re playing Renegades, especially recent converts, you can skip this to save points and be “fluffy.”

Chaos Lords have gotten cheaper since the previous book (65 points vis--vis 90 points), but they’ve lost their built-in 5+ Invulnerable Save.  As mentioned, if you give them a Mark of a Chaos god, then the corresponding Elite unit (Berzerkers for Khorne, Plauge Marines for Nurgle, Noise Marines for Slannesh) are counted as Troops, instead.  I’m hoping all this encourages people to take Chaos Lords in their armies instead of special characters, because I have a nigh-irrational hatred of SCs.

Sorcerers are 40 points cheaper than before, and if you give one a Mark of Tzeentch, then Thousand Sons will count as Troops, if you take them.  Sorcerers use the Biomancy, Pyromancy, and Telepathy disciplines from the main rulebook, and/or may use Tzeentch, Nurgle, or Slaanesh powers from this codex.  None of those are sad choices.

The Dark Apostle: the Larry Winget of the Chaos crowd

Dark Apostles are the corrupted version of Space Marine Chaplains, and in previous codex versions, were the go-to guy for Word Bearer armies.  If you’re going to use lots of Cultists, you’ll want one of these guys in their midst for his Zealot and Demagogue abilities, the latter of which lets units within 6" use his Leadership of 10.  

Speaking of Chaos Cultists, I’m moy pleased that they’ve returned.  True, they’re this codex’s version of Gretchin: mediocre stats, why-bother armor (Sv 6), garbage weaponry.  But they’re cheap (4 points a pop), come in large numbers (up to 30), are Troops, and can have Marks of Chaos, the most amusing of which is probably the Mark of Khorne (granting Rage + Counterattack).  Link them up with a Dark Apostle and you can have huge blobs of nigh-unbreakable scrubs serving nicely as objective-holders, tarpits, or screens for your better, more valuable fighters.

Helbrutes are the renamed version of the Chaos Dreadnought, and though their base price has gone up (105 points as opposed to 90 under the old book), the price for weapons has gone down.  You’ve also lost the ability to purchase extra armor, smoke launchers, and searchlights, three pieces of nigh-mandatory wargear for vehicles, IMHO.  Most importantly, though, when Helbrutes go into Fire Frenzy, they no longer have the ability to shoot at your own guys.  That’s always a good thing.

Noise Marines can, as always, take sonic blasters and blastmasters, both of which now Ignore Cover.  Need I elaborate? 

As I discussed before, most of the units from the previous version of the book changed little.  One exception is Chaos Bikers, who have gotten much better.  They’re less expensive (20 points each vis--vis 33 points a pop prior), and they’re solidly T5, not T 4(5).  True, they’re -1 on Leadership from before, but that can be remedied by Veterans of the Long War, if you’re really pressed.

The Heldrake is the obligatory Flyer for the new codex, and Wicked Uncle Kenton approves of the model and the rules.  Decent armor for a Flyer (F12 S12 R10), with 3 Hull Points, the ‘drake comes standard-equipped with daemonic possession, It Will Not Die, Daemon, Daemonforge (re-roll failed “to wound” or armor penetration rolls once per game), and Meteoric Descent (Vector Strike at S7 as if it were a Flying Monstrous Creature).  Also comes with a hades autocannon, a 36" S8 AP4 Heavy 4 Pinning item of happiness, or you can trade that in for a baleflamer, basically a S6 AP3 flamer with Soul Blaze and Torrent (I told you you’d need to get the main rulebook to look up out all the funky special rules….).  All for an MSRP of 170 points.

It's Puff the Magic Dragon's evil cousin

I said that Havocs hadn’t changed much, and they haven’t…except for one happy little line buried in the army listing for them.  Upon close inspection (page 102 of the English version), you will note that up to four Havocs may replace their boltgun with a variety of special or heavy weapons, including missile launchers…with flakk missiles (for +10 points in addition to the 15 points for the launcher).  Ironically, the stuck-in-time Traitors who have been fighting the Long War for 10,000 years have a technology the Imperial forces currently don’t have (at least, until their new codices are published).

I mentioned the Tzeentch, Nurgle, and Slaanesh psychic powers before, and I’ll finish this section by discussing them.  The Tzeentch powers are Tzeentch’s Firestorm (a 24" S2-7 AP – Blast with the ability to inflict more S3 hits); Boon of Mutation (used on friendly models to grant them a roll on the Chaos Boon Table—provided it doesn’t kill them first); Doombolt (18" S8 AP 1 beam); and Breath of Chaos (Poisoned [4+] AP 2 Template that can inflict glancing hits on vehicles).

Nurgle has Nurgle’s Rot (6" S2 AP 5 Assault D6+1 Poisoned [4+] that can’t hurt models with the Mark or the god’s Daemons); Weapon Virus (makes a unit’s ranged weapons have the Gets Hot special rule); Gift of Contagion (random bad effects on stats of enemy unit within 48"); and Plague Wind (12" S1 AP2 Assault 1, Large Blast Poisoned [4+]) for all kinds of giggles.

Slaanesh has Sensory Overload (24" S4 AP 4 Assault 4 Blind, Concussive, Pinning); Hysterical Frenzy (which sounds like the hissy fits folks at my work pitch, but actually gives a friendly unit a +1 to either Initiative, Strength, or Attacks [rolled randomly, of course]); Symphony of Pain (not the name of a Metallica album, but -1 to an enemy unit’s WS and BS, and effects from multiple castings are cumulative); and Ecstatic Seizures (remember the “Stop Hitting Yourself” bit from childhood, where one kid would grab another’s arm and whap him in the head with it?  Yeah, like that).  And hey!  No more Lash of Submission.  Hope you all had fun with that while it lasted.                                  

What I Don’t Like, and Why
.  The previous Codex: Chaos Space Marines, published in 2007, was $25 for just over 100 pages; the new one is $50 for the same amount of pages.  The difference is that the new one is hardcover and is in full color; the old one was softcover and had a lot of black-and-white artwork in addition to the color illustrations and photos.  Yes, the new book is better quality.  No, I don’t expect to pay 2007 prices in 2012.  But given the choice between hardcover + full color and something less than a 100% price increase, I’d go with the lower price every time. 

I, like many players, would prefer to buy codices for armies I don’t play just so I can know what to expect when I play against them.  When army books were $20 to $25 a pop, this was no problem for me.  When they climbed up to $35, I was hesitant to continue doing that.  And if $50 is what the price for codices will be from now on, there’s no way I’m going to buy books for armies I don’t have.      

No blueprints/rules for Legions and Renegades.  If I’m a first-time Chaos Space Marine player, there’s not a lot in this book that helps me build a Traitor Legion true to its character.  Oh, sure, it’s easy to figure out that a World Eater army should have lots of Khorne Berzerkers, or Emperor’s Children should have Noise Marines.  But what units should one emphasize when building, say, Alpha Legion?  Or Night Lords?  Previous versions of the codex said “Cultists” for the former and “Raptors” for the latter, but this one doesn’t.  Similarly, there’s nothing to tell you if some of the Renegades prefer certain units over others.

And while I wouldn’t want to go back to the 3.5e’s version with its overly-generous rules for Traitor Legions (Iron Warriors with 4 Heavy Support choices—really?), some rules for the original Marine Bad Boys would have added some more character to them, especially for the Black Legion, Night Lords, Word Bearers, and Alpha Legion.

“Cult” Chaos Marines in other Legions/Renegade Chapters.  Something that’s always bothered me is that the “cult” Chaos Marines—Khorne Berzerkers, Thousand Sons, Plague Marines, and Noise Marines—are tied to the hip with, respectively, the Legions of the World Eaters, Thousand Sons (appropriately), Death Guard, and Emperor’s Children.  Most players, I think, consider them synonymous.  I would have liked this codex to do a better job explaining that not all Berzerkers are World Eaters, not all Plague Marines are Death Guard, etc.  Because veteran gamer that I am (I’ve been playing since 1987), I can’t definitely tell you if any Thousand Sons (the individual troopers) can belong to any other Legion (say, the Black Legion, or the Iron Warriors) besides the “Thousand Sons.”

Daemon Princes.  Good googlers, have they gotten steep:  145 points base + another 10 or 15 points for mandatory upgrade to a being a Daemon of a Chaos God.  Now admittedly, you get some hoopy powers (DPs of Nurgle, for example, have Hatred against Daemons of Tzeentch, the Shrouded special rule, and are Slow and Purposeful), but no armor (you get the 5+ Daemon Invulnerable Save, and you can buy power armor for another 20 points).  The S6, T5, W4, I8 and A5 is sweet, but WS 9 is pretty much a waste, because once you get to WS 6 and above, you’re hitting anything on 3+.  If your DP wants wings (+40) and/or psychic powers (+25 points per Mastery Level), you might spend as much as you would on a Tyranid Hive Tyrant…and Hive Tyrants aren’t all that good.            

Chaos Spawn.  They’re better than they were under the previous codex—less expensive, better in the Assault Phase—but they’re still not that good, especially as a Fast Attack unit.  Not when Chaos Bikers and Heldrakes are so much better.

As I mentioned, there are a few new units.  Alas, I am not enamored of some of them.  Mutilators are hack-n-slash cousins of Obliterators: instead of being Heavy Support techno-mutants who grow guns out of their bodies, Mutilators are Elite guys who sprout power fists or chainfists or power weapons (-axes, -mauls, and –swords).  Other than that, they have the same abilities and stats as Oblits, including Deep Strike and Slow and Purposeful, and they come in squads of up to three, albeit 15 points cheaper.  Does anyone else doubt the wisdom of dropping in what’re basically three Terminators (although with 2 Wounds each) to stand around for a turn, shooting nothing (because Mutes don’t have guns) and not assaulting (because they Deep Struck), and then sucking up some rapid-fire love from every enemy unit in the same ZIP code? 

Another one that I’m not wild about is the Maulerfiend.  It’s a gorgeous model (in a dark, menacing, spikey metal-mutant-dinosaur kind of way), and it has its good qualities (12" movement, Fleet, It Will Not Die).  But I’m underwhelmed by its WS 3 and mighty 3 Attacks on the charge.  Yes, I’m remembering the magma cutters and lasher tendrils.  No, they don’t do much for me.     

What I’m “Meh” About
No Drop Pods
.  While the fluff says that the Traitor Legions attacked Terra via Drop Pods, they apparently have forgotten how to make or use them.  I understand that GW would like to differentiate between Loyalists and Turncoats, but the Spikey Boys could sorely use some Pods to get their slower units up close and personal.

Champions of Chaos.  It’s a rule that all Chaos Marine characters (special-, independent-, and squad leaders) have, which says that they must issue or accept challenges from enemy characters.  And while the rewards of winning a challenge is a roll on the Chaos Boon Table, you actually might not want your Cultist Champion to call out Logan Grimnar.  Just, you know: it might not end well for him.  Your guy, that is.

While I liked the Dark Apostle, the evil version of the Space Marine Chaplain, I’m not nearly as enthralled by the Traitor Techmarine, i.e. the Warpsmith (but then, I’m not enthralled by the current version of the Loyalist Techmarine, either).  Yeah, it’s nice that he’s an HQ unit; yeah, the Master of Mechanisms rules (especially the one about cursing enemy vehicles) are useful and sorta interesting.  Still, he’s just not all that.  If I were playing Iron Warriors, I’d take one as an HQ just for fluffy purposes, but other than that?  Nah.     

Warp Talons are another new unit that doesn’t get me all frothy.  They’re daemonified Raptors with lighting claws.  They have a hoopy power that Blinds units within 6" after the Talons Deep Strike in.  Sounds wicked cool, but they’re 30 points a pop and they don’t have grenades or ranged weapons.  Remember what I said about Mutilators dropping in and standing around, waiting to get shot?  Yeah. 

All that bling is going to get the Warp Talons on What Not to Wear

The Forgefiend is also a new unit, and when I first saw the model, I really, really wanted to like it.  And I do—more than the Maulerfiend, which isn’t saying much.  Like the Mauler, it’s a daemonic warmachine thingamabob, only shooty.  I’m good with the two hades autocannons that come standard, but I’m not totally sold on the optional ectoplasma cannons, which Gets Hot (and remember, under the new rules, Gets Hot affects vehicles, too).  The Forgefiend looks like it would be good at pasting light vehicles, especially those in squadrons (take that, you pesky Land Speeder Typhoons).  If it needs to stop a Land Raider or a Monolith, it’s going to have to rely on volume of fire, as there’s no option to get any weapon higher than S8.  It’s not that the Forgefiend is a necessarily bad unit for what it does, but for 20 points more…

It's like Jurassic Park: Steampunk

…I’d just as soon take the Defiler.  I guess.  You can outfit the Defiler to do just about whatever you want: kill infantry (battle cannon, heavy flamer or havoc launcher, optional heavy bolter), hunt vehicles (reaper autocannon or twin-linked lascannons), fight in close combat (add on a power scourge and another power fist and use Fleet to get in close).  The Defiler comes standard with searchlights, smoke launchers and daemonic possession, and like the Forgefiend and Maulerfiend, it has the Daemon, Daemonforge, and It Will Not Die special rules.  It’s just that the Defiler’s base cost is 45 points more than it used to be, presumably to make the ‘fiends more attractive to buy. 

All in all, I’m fairly happy with the new Codex: Chaos Space Marines, but then, I wasn’t unhappy with the previous version.  The new one basically leaves older units as they were, with a few upgrades and point-reductions (for the most part) here and there.  It presents more upgrades for characters to take, new and interesting (though not always effective) units, and several special rules unique to this book.  Nothing in this book makes me scream, “OMG, I gotta run out and get as many of those as I can!”  Conversely, nothing makes me yell, “WTF were they thinking when they wrote this?”  If you didn’t like the last version, I think you’ll like this one.  If you did like the last one, you’ll probably like this one a smidge better.   

Posted October 2012. All images are copyright 2012 by Games Workshop and used for review purposes. 


Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle