Army Review: Codex Bad Space Marines (or how I learned to stop worrying and love the Cabal)


The history of the 40k universe begins with the Chaos Space Marines. Without the betrayal of Horus, the lore of the Imperium would not be as engrossing, and they are portrayed as the greatest threat the Imperium has ever known. As such an iconic and important villain in 40k, their rules must reflect this and allow them to go toe to toe with the mighty armies of the Adeptus Astartes in an even match up. Right??? For more reviews, analyses and battle reports, check out the Tactics Corner.

These army reviews are intended as tongue in cheek looks at popular army builds in 40k. No digs at any playstyles or players are intended, it’s all just a bit of fun!


The forces of Codex: Bad Space Marines have a plethora of options available to field in a battle. You can go for the mainstays of the Space Marine army; Chaos Space Marines, the dark mirror of Tactical Squads, Veterans of the Long War. You can go for Chaos Terminators or Chaos Bikers. Alternatively, you could assemble a force made up of the elite of the Chaos Cult troops; Plague Marines, Khorne Berserkers, Thousand Sons or Noise Marines, each a warped bastardisation of a once proud Space Marine. These choices weave a diverse tapestry to create a Chaos Space Marine army, each choice being valid. There are no wrong decisions, all of your options are equally awful.


The forces of the Bad Space Marines display an equal diversity in their fighting styles. The Iron Warriors excel in ranged and siege combat, the World Bearers go for the hack and slash of close combat, to name but two. These fighting styles are as varied and diverse as the Chapter Tactics of the loyalist Space Marines and are well described in the background section. You don’t actually get any rules to represent these styles, such as an equivalent of Chapter Tactics though. Don’t be ridiculous. These updates are most likely to be included in the next edition codex. Surely. Any time now.

Chaos Space Marines are one of the most reviled armies in the 40k universe. Contrary to popular opinion, this is not due to their betrayal of the Emperor or the frequent attacks on the Imperium. No, the Chaos Space Marines are the most hated as they are the Hipsters of the 41st Millennium.


If a piece of wargear or tactic was not developed before the year 30,000, then the Chaos Space Marines want nothing to do with it. This is the main reason that you will never find Grav weaponry or any decent weaponry in Codex: Bad Space Marines. The forces of Hipster Chaos prefer to take tanks such as the Land Raider or Vindicator. These tanks look really cool on the battlefield, but are actually quite ineffective compared to modern variants and improvements. A win-win for them.

Special Rules:

And They Shall Know Fear- The Chaos Space Marines make their home in the Eye of Terror and the Warp. A vast and savage land that defies the laws of psychics, where giant unimaginable monstrosities reign supreme and every day is unending madness. Despite this, they still get really upset when a particularly scary Space Marine runs towards them.


The Curse of Eternal Optimism- The Gods of Chaos have gifted all Chaos Space Marine players with the Curse of Eternal Optimism. This boon unites these players in the mass delusion that everything will be better in the next edition’s codex. This gift imbues the Chaos Space Marine player with all the power they require to spend months on end constructing and painting their highly converted and thematic Chaos Space Marine army, only to watch it be massacred on turn 2 in their first game with it.



A Codex: Bad Space Marine army is a tough challenge, even for a seasoned 40k player. The secret to succeeding with the army is to [roll a D6 and consult the random table below for the next joke in the article]:

1- The Gods of Chaos laugh at your pitiful roll. Immediately remove your 250 pt Warlord Model and replace it with a Chaos Spawn. The Spawn has no limbs or teeth and will merely wander in a 1” circle until the end of the game. If assaulted or shot at, the spawn immediately dies. Isn’t this fun!

2- ally in as many Daemon units as you can possibly fit in your army. Be sure to take two 5-man units of Chaos Space Marines and the cheapest HQ you can find so that you can still boast you won with a Chaos Space Marine army.


3- take the Mark of Nurgle. Who needs tactics or firepower when you have +1 toughness! Don’t worry if your army is painted up as followers of Khorne, Slaanesh or Tzeentch, Space Marines players have been doing this with White Scars for years.

4- cry mostly.

5- take Cultists. Simply swamp the board with as many cheap bodies as you can, it works for the Imperial Guard! Take care to move each of your 100 cultists individually and refuse any help in moving the models from your opponent. This way, you can squeeze maximum enjoyment out of your turns.


6- Play against Orks or Dark Eldar! In this case, your opponent will be equally unaware of what winning a game feels like. This one is trickier, as you will need to recall rules that you may not have used in a while, such as how to actually take cover saves and what happens when you win a combat. You will need to pace yourself carefully though, as neither player will have played a game past turn 2 or 3 in a long time. Remember to hydrate.

Advanced Tactics:

Many months ago, rumours began circulating of a new psychic formation for Space Marines, the Cyclopia Cabal. The formation would grant a new psychic power that allowed the psykers to take over an enemy unit and shoot with it as if it were their own.


The internet immediately exploded, claiming that the new formation was ridiculously overpowered and would destroy the game as we know it. Why should your opponent get to use your unit of overpowered shooting death?

The rumours were then further clarified that it was a new formation for Chaos Space Marines. The internet responded: Really? In that case, it’s totally cool. Go ahead, take two even, we don’t mind.

The introduction of the Cyclopia Cabal has been a great boost for players of Codex: Bad Space Marines. For one phase of the game, it allows the players to feel what it is like to have an effective unit in their army. The Chaos Sorcerer casting the power gets bonus casting dice for each other Sorcerer close to him. This gives him even more of a chance of killing himself with a Perils roll, so you want to ensure you have the maximum number of Sorcerers in the formation to take his place when his head invariably explodes. The formation gives no bonus to the casting roll of the power though, these sorts of bonuses are reserved for loyalist Space Marines. How are Chaos Space Marine Sorcerers supposed to have any knowledge of the Warp or how to harness its energy? They have barely been living there for 10,000 years.


Many new Chaos Space Marine players will want to get their gaming shrines set up nice and early before a game. This is easy to do. Simply place your copy of the 3.5th edition codex in a nice pentagram, surrounded by candles. Don’t worry about the blood offering for the shrine, this will be amply supplied when you are unpacking all your spiky Rhinos and Terminators.


Despite the many failings of Codex: Bad Space Marines, it can be used to build a competitive tournament force. For example, such a list could be:

  • Cyclopia Cabal- 5 Chaos Sorcerers- Bikes, Mark of Nurgle
  • Riptide Wing- 3 Riptides with Heavy Burst Cannons, SMS, Early Warning Override
  • Riptide Wing- 3 Riptides with Heavy Burst Cannons, SMS, Early Warning Override

See? Easy.

And as always, Frontline Gaming sells Games Workshop product at up to 25% off of retail, every day!

Frontline Gaming will buy your used models for cash or store credit!



About Michael Corr

An avid 40k player and blogger from Scotland. I started in 3rd edition and have been playing ever since. I detail my adventures in my own blog "St Andrews Wargaming", highlighting my mediocre painting skills, regular battle reports and my occasional random ramblings.

17 Responses to “Army Review: Codex Bad Space Marines (or how I learned to stop worrying and love the Cabal)”

  1. Torsten October 31, 2016 3:44 am #

    Thank you Michael, i had a great laugh any a lot of fun reading it.

  2. WestRider October 31, 2016 8:10 am #

    “2- ally in as many Daemon units as you can possibly fit in your army. Be sure to take two 5-man units of Chaos Space Marines and the cheapest HQ you can find so that you can still boast you won with a Chaos Space Marine army.”

    Nah. It’s two Units of Culties and a Daemon Prince with a Spell Familiar. Still technically a Chaos Space Marine Army, even without any Chaos Space Marines at all! 😉

    • Michael Corr October 31, 2016 1:38 pm #

      Nah, I’d still go with Chaos Space Marines just to freak people out: “What are those in your army? Never seen them before”.

  3. Chaos Reigns October 31, 2016 8:41 am #

    Best Chaos article I’ve ever read, for sure. I am the unicorn that tries to do well competitively with only CSM and no daemons. The best I got to was a spawnstar led by Abaddon, a sorcerer for the BL ignore cover nova and buffs, with Belakor for invis, MSU marines, and a Fire Raptor. It performed well, but I was not happy to have to bring Belakor to compete in the current meta, too much of a crutch. I’m interested to see how SoS and GSC change the deathstar meta, but I’m in between a lot of ideas of what I want to play.

  4. CJ October 31, 2016 9:44 am #

    Damn, I rolled a 4..

  5. Sad Rubric Spammer October 31, 2016 10:35 am #

    I hate you so much. Not because this is false, but because it is all true.

    Also you should run the bikes in the riptide list without marks so they can, you know, not be stuck with mandatory Nurgle powers.

  6. Sad Rubric Spammer October 31, 2016 10:38 am #

    I hate you so much. Not because you are wrong, but because it’s all true.

    Also drop the mark of nurgle on the bikes sothey get powers that, you know, useful.

    • Sad Rubric Spammer October 31, 2016 10:50 am #


  7. Laserfrog October 31, 2016 11:49 am #

    Love it. All so true. I especially liked the part about…

    —Roll a D666 on the Positive Review Table located on Page 57, Sub-appendix A.3—

    …and that was definitely my favorite part! Seriously though, with all the CSM players we have at my LGS, there are at least four pocket notebooks lying around the shop filled with nothing but Chaos Boon pre-game accounting. Building a CSM list: almost as much fun as doing your taxes!

    Also, hate to be TFG, but seriously, “World Bearers?”

    • Michael Corr October 31, 2016 1:57 pm #

      I honestly thought they were called “world bearers” until I just googled it. 🙂

    • abusepuppy November 1, 2016 6:25 am #

      >Also, hate to be TFG, but seriously, “World Bearers?”

      Yeah, because those two legions of Red Angry Guys What Hate The Imperium are soooooooooooo different, aren’t they?

      • Blight November 1, 2016 8:05 am #

        Well yeah. In just about every way. Angry guys who hate the imperium describes all Chaos.
        Just because they both have red in their colors doesn’t mean their fighting style or temperament is anything alike. Word Bearers don’t even specialize in close combat.

      • Laserfrog November 1, 2016 8:51 am #

        I’ll get back to you as soon as I finish painting my Ultra Wolves. Because two chapters of Blue Stoic Guys What Love The Imperium are so different.

        • abusepuppy November 2, 2016 3:46 pm #

          You’re not wrong. Space Marines are boring and bland.

  8. Blight October 31, 2016 1:49 pm #

    I use a dry erase board to keep track of everything.

  9. David Alastair Hayden November 2, 2016 1:33 pm #

    I laughed. It’s all so true.

    Except this: “The formation gives no bonus to the casting roll of the power though, these sorts of bonuses are reserved for loyalist Space Marines.” What self-respecting CSM player doesn’t pay for his sorcerers to have familiars?

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