I was talking to a friend the other day and he asked me if we had broken the Chaos codex, to which I replied: nope! And not much desire to, either! When I asked him if his group had managed to crack it yet, he said nope, not much desire on their end to do so, either!
I thought that was pretty interesting as it tells the tale well, and a lot of the folks I have discussed this with are in the same place. I still stand behind my statement that the Chaos codex is a good book. It is a fun read, great art, the codex has a great deal of internal balance, you can build a lot of themed and competitive lists, and you can take it to a tournament and expect to do well.
My issue with it, and this has been echoed by a lot of folks, is that I just don’t have any desire to play the army. I have already sold my World Eaters and I have someone interested in buying my Night Lords, too. I would rather see someone who really wants to play the armies have them than for them to gather dust on my shelf.
I thought that that was interesting, though. Why is it that I, and a lot of other folks, just aren’t that motivated to play Chaos right now? Normally when a new book comes out, we dive into it with enthusiasm and look for cool themed lists, the most powerful combos and lists we can come up with, etc. With Chaos, we really have not had that drive to do so.
So why is that? Why is it that a book that is well crafted, with a cool back-story that really grabs your imagination, not all that fun to play for some of us?
The issue for me is that I can never make a list that I feel is done. I want to include a lot of different units as I love the Chaos models, but I just can not seem to make it all work in a way that I like. For example, I want to use Raptors for my Night Lords as I think they can be great when used right, and they fit the background. However, if you want to invest any points into the unit to make them hard hitting, you really, really quickly see that you need to give them a Lord to make them Fearless or that large points investment becomes a huge liability as one bad leadership check can see them running away or run down in combat. When you add in that Lord, you start feeding more points into the unit and it isn’t long before you may as well build it into a full on Deathstar….then you realize Chaos units don’t make good Deathstars compared to similar units! Doh! As with the Raptors I used as an example above, they get pricey, and can pack a punch, but then they run into a unit of Harlequins or similar and they get mulched just like a unit of normal Marines at a much higher price point. You end up with a very expensive unit that needs to be dominating but isn’t.
That need to babysit units to make them reliable really irks me. Chaos units get super expensive, super fast. As a competitively minded player, I am always thinking about risk vs. reward when building units. The more points I drop into a unit, the more reliable they need to be to justify the investment. Otherwise, you end up with one bad toss of the dice away from losing a close game.
The issue is further exacerbated by the fact that you have a lot of these types of units that require babysitting: Terminators, Raptors, Bikers, Regular CSMs, etc. if you want them to be geared up for kicking ass. Otherwise you have to run them cheap to minimize the risk they pose. MSU Chaos works, without a doubt, but it still falls short of loyalist MSU lists, and I just flat out don’t particularly enjoy playing MSU lists as each unit becomes very one dimensional in most cases, and I am drawn to multi-functional units for their increased durability and flexibility.
With only two slots for HQ, that sucks up your options, fast. I do not feel that the Icon of Vengeance is a safe investment as sniping is such a commonly used tactic. Every Character has precision strike to take out that Icon in shooting or HtH, and barrage snipping is commonplace, and also very, very reliable. When you mix in psychic powers like presence you can pretty much count on losing that Icon quickly, and there goes a large points investment. A good player will make it a priority to attack the unit’s weakness and cripple them. This may be a good case for the humble Rhino if there ever was one. I still feel that the Rhino is not worth the points and risk of giving up First Blood, but hey, we’re trying to polish a turd, here. Gotta work with what you have!
What this means is that we are seeing lots of lists that are really similar to one another which is a shame as Chaos should be a dex with a ton of variety. Double Dragon is almost a given, and then a unit or two of Havocs, Oblits, and then troops, which most commonly are Plaguemarines, Zombies and Noise Marines. With the cost of Chaos units, this can end up being your entire army and you find yourself woefully outgunned against most other armies. You often have to min/max certain units (troops, frequently) to free up enough space to pack in the punch you need to hang with the other books.
I do love the HQ slots, though. Every choice is good. I mean that too, I have seen each unit played effectively, from the special characters to the generic ones. Lords are extremely flexible, the Sorcerers are great fun, the Daemon Princes can be made into brutal combatants (if a bit pricey) and the Special Characters all have a lot of utility. Even the Warpsmith and Dark Apostle can be really powerful, cost effective choices. Having any of these HQ choices turn into a Spawn and being forced to challenge is certainly annoying, but I can live with that for the punch these guys often pack.
This version of Chaos packs more variety than we had with last edition by a long shot, but I keep coming to the same issue: I can not make a list that feels complete. Not that they are bad, just not complete. I always feel like the list has a major lacking in one of the categories I always think about when building a list. I also like playing armies that are as unique as I can get them, but with the Chaos book it is really hard to do without building massive weaknesses into a list.
So what are my thoughts on the book, now that we have had some time to digest it and run it through its paces? I think it is a good book, great for modeling and painting, sufficient for competitive play but just lacking in a certain excitement that I get when building lists out of other books. What are your thoughts, now that we have been able to play it for a while?