Chaos Space Marines are for Chumps

Yeah, I said it. Chaos Space Marines are for chumps!

Every now and then I engage in the sadomasochistic act of writing a competitive CSM list that actually has Chaos Space Marines in it. I love my Night Lords army and want to use it but every single time it blows my mind how incredibly awful CSMs are.

And when I say Chaos Space Marines I mean the actual Marines. Not the book in general but the core unit of the army: the Power Armored terrors of the galaxy…that are never, ever actually used in competitive Chaos lists.

The CSM book actually has a powerful build or two in it (and I mean literally, 1 or 2) but the supposed backbone of the army is absolutely, unequivocally the weakest troop to have come out in 6th edition. I would go further with that and state that the ONLY troop worse than the Chaos Space Marine in the entire game at the moment is the Black Templar Initiate…and even then, just barely. I would prefer a unit of Grots to a unit of CSMs. Seriously.

Why are these boys so utterly horrible? Let’s discuss that point.

It’s actually a combination of several very, very bad design decisions that combine to create a perfect storm of suck.

The first and biggest problem is morale. I guess when you turn away from the Emperor and decide to become a warrior of the dark, unforgiving Gods and live in a place as close to hell as it gets in 40K you also become a big, giant wimp where you previously Knew no Fear. How does that make any sense? I understand the desire to show that as they have become self serving they are no longer as stalwart as loyalist Marines, but come on, they shouldn’t be total wussies.

This in and of itself isn’t unforgivable, but we’ll get to why this is the nail in the coffin of this crummy unit in a bit. Why this is immediately bad is obvious though. Getting run down in combat erases the entire unit. The MEQ stat line is nothing to get excited about, either, and there are so many units in the game that WILL beat them in combat and cost less points that it is a very real concern. For a unit that is meant for taking objectives, this is a huge liability.

If they break in any other phase, fail a tank shock test, etc. they fall back and IF they rally, they are essentially out of the game for a turn. Again, many units face this same issue but there is a HUGE difference with CSMs: point cost. Chaos units can get crazy expensive and they 100% do not justify that cost either in terms of their performance on the table or, particularly, in light of the fact that one flubbed morale check and you can kiss that pricey unit goodbye. Every single point invested into CSMs is a liability. It is far, far different to lose a 108pt unit of Firewarriors (who kick ass and take names for their points) than it is to lose a 200+ point unit of CSMs. Oh, and Tau get Ethereals too…for 50pts….which give all of them within 12″ stubborn LD 10….yeah, eat your heart out, Dark Apostle. Because of their enormous vulnerability, you want to run CSMs as cheap as possible or not at all.

But, but, but…what about the Icon of Vengeance, I hear you crying! Forget it. That piece of junk is also for chumps. First of all, it is way overpriced. Second of all, precision strikes, barrage & tank sniping, etc. are HUGELY prevalent. Every sarge, IC, barrage weapon, sniper, etc. in the game is able to take this expensive Icon out of the unit and any good player will aim to do so. Since the model isn’t a character or IC, you have no defense against this, either. You could put it on the Champ, but as he must challenge or accept a challenge, it makes the Icon even more vulnerable in combat although it does give you a tad more safety from shooting. Even without precision shots or barrage sniping, simple attrition will take it out. For 25pts there is no reason this upgrade shouldn’t be permanent. Dark Angels, for example, pay 1 point more per model and get ATSKNF which makes them 1,000,000 times better. They are reliable. The Icon of Vengeance is more expensive and blows.

And that brings us to our second point: the stupid Champion of Chaos rule. Apparently when you turn to Chaos you also become a suicidal idiot. Rules that take player choice away are bad, bad, bad. The old Rage should have shown the game devs that. No one wants to watch their models act of their own accord, they want control. Watching your apparently clinically depressed CSM sarge accept a hopeless challenge is not fun. It’s even less fun when you die in said challenge, fail your morale check and then the entire unit is run down. What fun, narratives forging all over the place…..

Now of course, you can babysit these scaredy cats with a Lord but that is not exactly a scaleable solution, is it? You can take 2, max and that is definitely not the best use of a Lord. IMO, you need a minimum of 4 troops to really get the job done in 6th. To exacerbate the issue, considering the Lord also suffers from suicidal depression and will gladly fall on the challenge sword, the unit is really not that safe. Trust me, I have seen a 20 man unit go down like punks when a 3 wound Lord gets owned in a challenge (and that is not hard to do) and subsequently gets swept. You could take Fabulous Vile if you wanted to, but he sucks as an IC and when you add his points into the cost of the unit he buffs, it is not at all worth it, IMO.

It frustrates me to no end (if you couldn’t tell) to see what should be one of the best and most flexible units in the game suck sooooo hard. I have literally seen ONE person use regular CSMs in a tournament (and I go to tournaments all the time) since the new book dropped and he used 2 minimum 5 man squads with no upgrades in Rhinos with Havoc Launchers. They sat there all game and hoped out of their transports on the last turn. I know a lot of loyalist marines do the same thing but for one, they do it better and for two, that sucks, too! You could run them as naked Bolter slingers but why bother? Their damage output is meager and you could just about take 3 units of Cultists for the same points. Far more points efficient. Every Chaos list I see has no actual Chaos Space Marines in it! Haha, something is not right with that picture.

In the end, you see nothing but Cultists and Zombies with the occasional Noise Marine and Plague Marine. Chaos had the potential to the coolest book in the game and instead it is just a frustrating book with a very small amount of builds that actually function in a competitive setting. Looks like yet another edition of playing my CSMs as counts-as Loyalist Marines….I guess they are just deep under cover!

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About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!
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Bigpig
Bigpig
8 years ago

Spot on analysis. Too bad, too. I have a whole collection of world eaters waiting to be painted that will spend the edition as Space Wolves. 🙁

C.J. Young
8 years ago
Reply to  Reecius

I think you hit the nail on the head with this one Reecius. I love CSM armies but no matter how many times I try to make CSM even somewhat competitive it fails spectacularly. It should have been a great book but it just misses the mark and it is supremely frustrating.

I can’t wait till the new SM Codex because I will be playing it as “counts as” CSM. I think the Black Templar’s would be great rules for a Word Bearers Army.

Big Jim
Big Jim
8 years ago

I concur wholeheartedly, the current situation is despicable. It shows a real lack of vision and understanding of 40k in the games design department. It was bad enough that our bread and butter CSM are wussies filled with fear, but shackling them with the COC rule for challenges killed them completely.

I will be jumping onto the Codex SM bandwagon and will just save all my CSM Daemonic stuff for Apoc games.

bogalubov
bogalubov
8 years ago

I think the problem of CSM being horrible extends beyond them. They are just the worst example. The best troops are eldar jetbikes, fire warriors, cultists and guardsmen. The only thing (except pulse rifles) that these units have going for them is cheapness. It allows you to spend minimal points on troops and invest the rest into offensive fire power. Warp spiders, riptides, heldrakes, vendettas or whatever high power non-troop choice you can think of are going to be doing the heavy lifting.

So although you need multiple troop choices to score objectives, for the most part these guys will be sauntering onto empty objectives after all the other guys’ units are dead.

High strength, multishot weapons and easy access to low AP weapons have rendered power armor a liability. That combined with low firepower and expense make 3+ save units crummy. Why pay a bunch of points for power armor when the guys wearing it have low shooting output and die easily to a host of weapons?

The DA marines might be better than CSM, but no one is running a bunch of tactical teams as the core of their list either.

Adam
8 years ago

It’s funny, but I hear these complaints all the damn time, and frankly, I don’t see it…

Not having ATSKNF has helped me on so many occasions it’s not funny. There is nothing worse than having a single marine decide that his will to survive for the emperor, so he wont do what he should do (die) so that my army can shoot all it’s lovely plasma in the face of that big Trygon… Don’t get me wrong, auto-rallying is nice and all, but I could count the number of times I’ve missed ATSKNF on one hand.

Seriously, if my marine squad is getting slaughtered, I want them to die, the quicker the better! If they’re going to die anyhow, then there is no better time than dying on the enemy turn and not protecting the enemy with their lack of knowing fear. Choosing to flee with combat tactics would be great and all if it didn’t require the init roll off, but since it does, the enemy often has a much higher chance of keeping you in combat than you do of fleeing.

Nearly every game I play includes 2 units of 10 marines with 2 plasma guns in a rhino with havoc launcher. I agree that other upgrades are fun on paper, but in general just eat up points. If I really want to spend more points on them, then VotLW is where I go, but that basically never happens.

Forcing challenges is annoying, I totally agree there, but I’ve actually had so many shocking results because of it that I feel like I’d challenge every time anyhow just to see what happens! Like my lucky cultist champ who got turned into a daemon prince!

Maybe i’m just the vocal minority, but I really actually have no problems with my undivided troops.

Adam
8 years ago
Reply to  Reecius

Maybe I’m just lucky, but I’ve never been run down after losing combat by 1 from a mandatory challenge… knock on wood.

Raw Dogger
Raw Dogger
8 years ago
Reply to  Adam

Ironically, it is a unit in your own codex that makes your 10 man Tac squads in Rhinos almost a complete waste of points. I’m speaking, of course, about the Helldrake. The Helldrake alone will kill both the transport and the unit that is in it (i.e. Vector Strike then 360 degree flame). If you sit back further than 36 inches, its not like it’s that hard to pop a Rhino first turn leaving your marines out in the open for crispy time. This is why you don’t see tactical squads on the table anymore.

Adam
8 years ago
Reply to  Raw Dogger

The problem is that kills loyalists just as easily, except the loyalists cost more points, so what’s the complaint? I lose less points to a drake than the so-much-better loyalists?

Hippesthippo
Hippesthippo
8 years ago
Reply to  Reecius

Your hatred of the Heldrake is almost hilarious. People wayyy over estimate it. I say this as someone who has played both with and against it quite a bit.

Try playing WITH it, that will probably help you figure out how to deal with it. Seriously. It has rear armour 10 and has to pass over you to be most effective.

Yes, it’s good. I’d still trade it out of my codex for Broadsides or Wave Serpents.

Alan
Alan
8 years ago

Great article. I think part of the problem was the inherent flaw in their design being a fairly CC based unit (the marines in particular) and 6th being fairly shooty. This is further annoying as hell because they were the 1st 6th edition codex, so you’d think they would have been more designed with 6th in mind, but hey. Almost all 6th edition assaulty type units have little gimmicks attached that allow them to be effective in the 6th shooty meta, or synergize well enough with the rest of the army to make them effective, which they just didn’t give to CSM. I guess until the next CSM dex, people got a ton of cultists to paint haha.

Alan
Alan
8 years ago
Reply to  Reecius

HA! Yes, no they’re not CSM, they’re uh Black Dragons and that thing that looks like a baledrake is an allied Salamander construct. Yes…. yes.

Alan
Alan
8 years ago
Reply to  Reecius

Hey, I mean if you guys playtest your zombie 40k game for LVO and find the zombies keep killing the heroes or are too OP you can just replace em with CSM who will run off the board immediately! Huzzah!

Raw Dogger
Raw Dogger
8 years ago
Reply to  Alan

It’s almost as if GW needed to sell a lot of cultist models? Surely the design department isn’t influenced by the sales department? That would just be silly.

bogalubov
bogalubov
8 years ago

They could have at least let us keep the close combat weapon free of charge. After a thousand years of being evil, how do they not carry around some sort of shiv?

Crispy
Crispy
8 years ago
Reply to  Reecius

It’s all the stress of getting killed. Their nerves a shot haha

anonymou5
anonymou5
8 years ago

I played a Chaos Space Marines versus Chaos Space Marines match at the ATC versus Goatboy. There was literally one Marine on the table (A Sorcerer).

Compare that to 7 MCs, 40 cultists, 4 Heldrakes, 20 Daemonettes, 20+ Plaguebearers…

So with that wide sample size, I think you’re dead on.

Darthdiggler
Darthdiggler
8 years ago

Imagine the chaos dex without cultists as an option.

Mercutioh
Mercutioh
8 years ago

This is my forever complaint against GW. THE SCOURGE OF THE MF”ING GALAXY IS CHAOS. WE’RE THE GREAT FREAKING ENEMY. And yet, the loyalists do every phase of the game better than we do.

They get more flexibility. More bang for the buck. and sweeter rides. Don’t even get me started on the freaking Centurions. (SERIOUSLY GW YOU’RE OUTDOING OBLITERATORS NOW??!! I HAVE RAGE!)

apparently we were broken back about 2-3 editions ago. And we’ve been paying the piper ever since.

But, I will continue to fight my way through the mindless loyalist hordes(and getting my teeth kicked in by footdar). Throwing heldrake after heldrake into the emperors lap dogs.

*sigh* There’s always 7th edition to hope for.

Abaddon
Abaddon
8 years ago

I have found a 10 man unit of CSM with Mark of Nurgle with a Lord to be a good option.
Also, Obliterators are still better than Centurions. Obliterators can change weapon options each turn, and can deep strike. Centurions can’t.

The good thing about CSM is you can still win with it. And it feels good when you do, because it is pure skill when facing these newer books.

Also, the book works much better in Apoc in case you haven’t figured that out. The higher the points the better CSM become, unless you are running Zombie or Cultists spam.

Hippesthippo
Hippesthippo
8 years ago

I’ve been playing CSM/CD lately and have actually been pleasantly surprised with my basic Marines. 2x (5 CSM, Plasma, Combi-Plasma, Rhino, Havoc Launcher). At 147 pts each, they’ve definitely surpassed any expectations I had for them before testing.

They provide nice utility/midfield scoring. I’ve actually been contemplating dropping a unit of Havocs to bump their numbers up to 10 strong each. They really support the rest of my (rather fast) army quite well. You just can’t ask too much of them.

I’d kill for Grey Hunters, but I can’t have them, so why cry over it. At least I have an army to support my troops, unlike Wolves, who have to rely on them to do everything.

Hippesthippo
Hippesthippo
8 years ago
Reply to  Reecius

That’s why you take fast assault units, fliers, and fmcs of your own. 🙂

Tangentical
8 years ago

I hear you! I know it isn’t popular and is in no way awesome but my only really answer to the whole CSM leadership issue has been Fabius Bile. He can sit in one unit making them fearless and upgrade a 20 man unit to fearless and St 5. Hate paying the tax as he isn’t great himself but it is what it is.

Tangentical
8 years ago
Reply to  Reecius

And why the guy who genetically engineered the noise amplifiers onto the Noise Marines in the first place doesn’t unlock them as troops ill never understand. Sure he didn’t go all out Slaanesh but his retinue is meant to be all dudes he messed up with genetic mods like the noise amps.

steven morrow
steven morrow
8 years ago

im just wondering how much having chosen available as troops without abaddon will help that. with larger numbers of special weapons packed in to 5 mans. Extra firepower plus extra attacks and full bolter bp and ccw. May give more viable mid range firepower beyond normal csm squads. at 190 or so points with 3 specials and havos rhinos give you some bang for your buck and still have cultists for backfield scoring. I dont think it will make any fights easy, but it will give you heavy concentrated ap 1/2 firepower where you didnt before. Plus you have them without having to drop 265 on abaddon who is basically stuck on foot without an expensive land raider.

steven morrow
steven morrow
8 years ago
Reply to  Reecius

Just from my experience ive found that chaos space marines just do not have the necessary morale mitigaters to justify doing anything but use min units, As far as maxing out weapon options i think a more conservative approach is best. I would say two or three weapons per squad. less and you might as well use regular csm. More and the points add up fast. The csm ld is great in a gun fight but fails way too much in close combat so i advocate using them in firefights. One of the most annoying things for me is no barrage weapons at all. So no suppression and no way to hit units cowering behind ADLs. Sure you have noise marine weapons but no cheap barrage like whirlwinds, biovores or even griffons. Its not that Chaos space Marines are bad, its just that you dont have access to Easy answers. Allies help but as a whole CSM is very restricitve tactics wise.Too much risk vs reward

steven morrow
steven morrow
8 years ago
Reply to  steven morrow

This is for competitive play. A TAC army is very difficult. If you are playing your buddies like I do most of the time they are fine.

Alpharius
Alpharius
8 years ago

I can’t believe the book has only been out for a year or so, and we are down to this crap. GW really dropped the ball on this one, and Phil Kelly should be ashamed. Half the book is shit and the troops are poop barring cultists\zombies.

Instead of dual lash + 9 oblits we have plague marines\zombies\cultists & hell drakes.

Reecius – any thoughts on making a Frontline Gaming Chaos Codex? You guys could get the community behind you, like you did with the tournament FAQ. Play test it internally based on the 3.5 with elements of the new one worked in and make a download on your site.

lordalchemy
8 years ago

Sup Reece, what happened to stopping the CSM hate? I agree on a lot of your points however i still love using them. I keep my units under 200 points and run 3- 4 squads of them (10man, plasma/melta, ccw, pw for champ), definitely investing to many points in them is a waste. Have i lost them to stupid challenges? Definitely, which is why i run them as a shooty unit, i try not to assault unless i absolutely have too or know that i can win the fight. In short, i run them as firewarriors if you get my drift.. book is still alot of fun to play.

DCannon4Life
DCannon4Life
8 years ago

Regular CSM do, indeed, suck. Furthermore, Icons, all of them, suck. Finally, the fluff/rules interface for many (most?) CSM units sucks. For example, regular CSM should have the option to not take an Aspiring Champion at all (remember the old days when you got to upgrade for free for running a God’s favorite number?), Icons should be carried by each individual squad member (think personal-sized amulets, amirite?) OR they should be re-envisioned as one-use pieces of gear (e.g. “Once per game all friendly units within 12″ get to re-roll their Feel No Pain saves”), and Obliterators should be Fearless AND BS5.

My son is young enough (12) to be a romantic when it comes to choosing an army (and lists). Watching him choose Noise Marines breaks my heart a little–not because it’s CSM, but because he’s going to lose more games than he should have to. The learning curve is too steep and the tolerances too tight for list-writing and in-game decisions. I will not blame him if he decides the army, and 40k itself, is not his thing.

In the meantime, I have guided him toward the best 1500 point list I can afford (only ONE Heldrake, cha-ching!) and I play learning games with him constantly. My point, I suppose, is that getting my son excited about the hobby feels a lot more like ‘work’ and is frequently not what I would describe as ‘fun’.

Thanks a lot, d-bag that wrote the CSM Codex.

Fulcrum
Fulcrum
8 years ago

Reece you’re gonna get carpel tunnel if you keep trying to explain this to the strategic savants over on faeit212.

grizz
grizz
8 years ago

All of this along with the constant price increases and B.S codex creeps and new ways that games workshop finds to suck every last dime out of your wallet is the reason y ive been selling off all my gw stuff and gone to heavy gear i used to have 6 armys ranging. 3k points +

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