Chaos Space Marine Formation Review: the Plague Colony

Hello fans of Frontline Gaming, SaltyJohn, and TFGRadio today I bring you the somewhat new and upcoming Chaos Space Marine formation, the Plague Colony! For more reviews, bat reps, tactics discussions, and analysis check out the Tactics Corner!

The Death Guard, the XIV Legion of the Adeptus Astartes, hailed from the toxic world of Barabrus which led to them having a heightened resistance to poisons, disease, and mortality in a more general sense. They were known through out the Great Crusade as implacable warriors, with their Primarch Mortarion at their head they would wade into combat to slay the enemies of the Emperor. Most often deployed in large formations of Astartes on foot Mortarion made certain his warriors were trained to advance into the enemy while receiving, and dolling out, heavy fire. Once they’d fallen to Chaos and devoted themselves to Nurgle, the XIV Legion became even more stalwart and implacable warriors, often shrugging off massive volumes of enemy fire while continuously marching forward, pouring their own deadly fusillade into the ranks of their enemies. With their new rules the Death Guard are finally beginning to live up to these aspects of their fluff.


The Plague Colony is a special formation available as a core choice to the Vectorium Detachment of the Death Guard. Along with the Chaos Warband, and coupled with their special rules, the Plague Colony can be a truly devastating force on the table top, especially because of its resilience. With the possibility of being able to reduce their targets Toughness characteristic and ability to carry multiple special weapons on squads that are harder to kill than normal marines, Death Guard players have access to a cool formation that is both fluffy and good.



  • 1 Chaos Lord or Tyhpus
  • 3-7 Units of Plague Marines
  • 440 Points base, 800 points for a bare bones maxed out force.


Special Rules:

  • Fear
  • Enervating Pestilential Aura: Enemy models within 7″ of any Plague Colony units at the start of the Fight Sub-phase must reduce their Initiative and Weapon Skill by 1 for the duration of the phase. If the Formation includes the maximum number of units at the start of the game, the models within 7″ of any Plague Colony unit at the start of the fight sub-phase also reduce their Toughness by 1.


This is probably one of the most resilient of the formations available in the new Traitor Legions book when taken as part of the Death Guard Vectorium detachment. They are relentless, re-roll 1s when failing a Feel No Pain, and have Stealth when they are fired at from over 18″ away. The unfortunate aspect of this formation is that it’s best part isn’t unlocked unless you take the full 7 squads of Plague Marines, which begins at 800 points. Luckily though you can still build a decent list around that, one that even includes the ubiquitous Nurgle Bike Squad.

plague_marines_index_chaoticaEven if you only take the minimum requirements for the Formation and slot it into a Vectorium with a Chaos Warband you can get a really helpful formation. The Lord who comes as a requirement for the formation benefits from Enervating Pestilential Aura. If you take a Chaos Lord on Bike with the Warband and you put the lord from the Plague Colony on a bike as well, then shove them into a nice sized Nurgle Bike squad you have a nice little mini-Death Star. T6 units with FNP that re-rolls ones are good, plus they’ll have Stealth when shot at from over 18 inches away. When you hit a unit they’ll be fighting with 1 lower initiative and 1 lower Weapon Skill thanks to the Plague Colony Lord, if you were able to take the full Formation and still get a nice biker unit in the list the enemy you’re attacking would also be fighting at -1 Toughness.

Another interesting, if even more unfluffy than bikes, would be using Raptors and Lords with Jump Packs. Raptors that benefit from the Death Guard rules would be interesting to play. If the bikes are too cost prohibitive for how you want to run the Vectorium you can always try Spawn from the Auxiliary formation to go along with a Lord on Bike.

The issue with using this formation will be points. Much like the Thousand Sons are too expensive to properly fit Magnus into a list with them, or to be taken in large enough numbers to be effective, the Plague colony is cost prohibitive to be truly effective. It is that same mechanic built into all the 1k formations that hamstrings them. The notion that to be good the formation must take the maximum number of units is problematic when the units required are so costly. Luckily for Death Guard players the Plague Colony units are cheaper than 1k sons units and their lesser rules for when you don’t take a full formation is still useful. Overall the Plague Colony has some great rules and potential uses, it will just take real points finagling to get it all to fit!

As always, share your thoughts in the comments section! And remember, Frontline Gaming sells Games Workshop product at up to 25% off, every day.



About SaltyJohn

John has been playing Warhammer 40k since the 3rd edition box set with Space Marines, Dark Eldar, and weird green palm trees were in the set. He is currently a 40k Head Judge for the Las Vegas Open, the largest 40k tournament in the world. An avid board gamer, a huge fan of video games, and a guest spot on Geek and Sundry as a "Historian" during an episode of "Game the Game" round out his geek credentials. You can catch "Salty" John on TFG Radio's Twitch Show, and Podcast, as well as find him streaming video games on Twitch on the TFG Radio Twitch page from time to time.

21 Responses to “Chaos Space Marine Formation Review: the Plague Colony”

  1. Reecius January 4, 2017 7:22 am #

    I dig this formation. I struggle to see why you’d take it over a maxed out Warband for cheaper ObSec CSMs with MoN personally, but in a themed list 100% and I think you’d do just fine.

    • Threllen January 4, 2017 7:50 am #

      I feel like GW could have really made Plague Marines shine by giving them +1 to FnP when taken in a Death Guard detachment. Or at least when taken as part of the Plague Colony. As it is they are no more resilient than normal marines taken in a Death Guard detachment.

      Because, like you said, regular Marines in a warband just seem better. Plague Marines get slight advantages through blight grenades, plague knives, and 2 specials per 5 guys but they’re expensive. I just fail to see how those small bonuses outweigh their cost and the fact you can take heavy weapons on normal marines (with relentless) while also taking a variety of other ObSec units like biker squads.

    • SaltyJohn January 4, 2017 10:25 am #

      Yeah, it’s a shame that the maxed out Warband is so much better. If Plague Colony had obsec it would be an easier sell.

      • Beau January 4, 2017 10:43 am #

        I completely agree. I also wish their FnP got improved, but from my experience ObSec would be better. After the past 5 years with my 10k points of nurgle I have never tabled someone, and only been tabled by recent Eldar edition. Nurgle is meant to sit on objectives for 6 turns and win. Makes for very long games though.

    • Beau January 4, 2017 10:52 am #

      I agree Reece, if you run the DG Warband + Nurgle spawn, then squeeze in Nurgle Tallyband (spamming nurglings) with furies you can possibly have a game where your opponent never gets to claim an objective. Just pray they don’t have markerlights.

      • SaltyJohn January 4, 2017 11:10 am #

        That’s a great idea with the Tallyband…

    • abusepuppy January 4, 2017 5:54 pm #

      I think it’s all about the Aura. -1 Toughness is a pretty big deal- it means you can pulp a lot of MCs with Str 10 hits, it means your regular Power Fists can kill Bikes/Thunderwolves in one go, it means you get the Poison reroll against basic Marines, etc. I think if you’re gonna use the formation, you really want to look to ways to use that.

      The Warband is probably better overall, but I think the Colony has some uses.

  2. Schmuvness January 4, 2017 8:23 am #

    Tell me more about this ubiquitous Bike Squad. What size and load out are we talking about?

    • SaltyJohn January 4, 2017 10:26 am #

      I would say Lord, Claw, Fist, Sigil, Bike. Maybe even 2 of them, especially if one is from a max Plague Colony. Then 5-6 CSM bikers with Mark of Nurgle and a Fist on the Champion.

      • Threllen January 4, 2017 10:42 am #

        Nice thing about the warband is you can include 1-3 biker units so you could also supplement that “super unit” with 2 min size squads that are decent backfield objective grabbers. T6, 3+ armor, 3+ cover from a distance, FnP. Nothing game-breaking but they do require a decent amount of firepower to take down even in squads of 3.

        • Beau January 4, 2017 10:47 am #

          I usually keep my bikes in 1 star, and spend the points on nurgle spawn instead of extra biker units.

          • Threllen January 4, 2017 11:09 am

            I think either of them are a fine choice. Spawn have the advantage that you can take squads of 1 to make more targets, but pound for pound a 3 man squad of bikes is 20pts cheaper than 3 Spawn and is tougher in every scenario except if they somehow lose both armor and cover saves or the Spawn gets 4+ cover or better (ie ruins). Otherwise the 3+ armor (or cover) for a bike plus the FnP from the detachment more than makes up for 1 wound vs 3.

      • Beau January 4, 2017 10:46 am #

        I run the same, but remove the sigil and claw for a 7th biker (fluff and more ablative wound) and a blight grenade. I never let my lord tank shots or accept a challenge that’s what the little guys are for.

      • Schmuvness January 4, 2017 12:18 pm #

        I’ve been playing 4-5 Spawns as Carriers for my Lord from the Warband because they synergize well with each other and the must have Bikers i equip only with a melta bomb (to take out drop pods on objectives fast) and use them to turboboost onto objectives where i try to get a CC that lasts for the whole game ontop of the objective.
        The Lord has a Bike, Sigil, Blight Grenades and Plaguebringer. He is also my Warlord and rolls on the DG Traits. basically everything on there is great for him but the best thing to get is usually #6 which improves his and the spawns poisoned attacks to 3+. Alternatively you could cast Blades of Putrefaction on them for 2+ Poison (if they roll it). Endurance is also really nice on the spawns hence they can aslo re roll FnPs of one.

        I can also see though that a fist(and claw) could be nice for him. He has only Ini 4 so the Fist doesnt hinder him too much. I would refrain though from spending points for a fist on a bikerchamp. He only has WS 4 which hits basically everything on a 4+ and there are no rerolls unless youre fighting marines. An Axe would make more sense i guess. Its cheaper and you dont lose the attack.

        • Threllen January 4, 2017 12:51 pm #

          The p-fist on the biker champ is a bit more expensive than an axe but gives a much greater threat range. It’s 2-3 attacks that are actually capable of hurting a vehicle or insta-gibbing a T4 multi-wound model. You don’t want to get your important squad tied up by a walker or MC because the Lord needed some help beating it down. It’s not necessarily the most important, but it is a nice thing to have if you have some points.

          • Schmuvness January 4, 2017 1:35 pm

            That’s true of course, the thing is though, that at least in my meta game I play a lot vs necrons, vs expendable marines, vs eldar or vs Tau. hardly anybody plays walkers like dreadnoughts or even vehicles that hav a higher AV than 10 in its back except drop pods, for which i have melta bombs and two princes.
            So in almost all situation it is better to have a lot of attacks with a lower strength than few attacks with high strength.
            Especially agains Necrons or lots of Bikers the fist is just….redundant.

          • AbusePuppy January 5, 2017 7:15 pm

            The Fist reduces Necron resurrection saves, which will generally give you better returns than the Axe will. And it’s only one fewer attack anyways, so even against T4 targets the Fist is better.

          • Schmuvness January 6, 2017 8:05 am

            It is actually not.
            The only Necrons with T4, that you will encounter on the tabletop are Warriors and Immortals from a reclamation legion. The rest of a typical Necrons list has T5 or higher, so the S8 does nothing, because a good player will never let you reach these units.

  3. CJ January 4, 2017 12:24 pm #

    has anyone considered comboing this with the legacy Vessel of Dornurgh the Reborn?
    Its actually cheaper than daemonic possession and comes with it, and it gives units with icon of despair within 6″ rending and gets hot.

    Icons of despair are 10pts.. which is a bit much for fear and +1 combat result., wouldn’t put it on everything – But getting your unit rending could be critical in chewing through some particularly stubborn units, which otherwise the plagues would bounce off.

    • Beau January 4, 2017 2:59 pm #

      Can I put that on the helbrute from the warband detachment? does the rending work for melee and shooting as well?

      • abusepuppy January 4, 2017 5:52 pm #

        It is only for melee, not shooting.

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