Chaos Space Marines Troop Review: Chaos Space Marines!

Hello fans of Frontline Gaming, SaltyJohn, and TFGRadio today I’m bringing you yet another unit that’s benefiting greatly from the Renaissance of Chaos in 40k, the Chaos Space Marine! For more reviews, bat reps, tactics discussions, and analysis check out the Tactics Corner!


The Chaos Space Marine is the elite soldier of the powers of Chaos in the realm of men. With all the benefits provided to them by their Progenitor Primarchs in their gene seed these warriors of the dark powers of Chaos are often bolstered by the power of a patron god or by the Pantheon of Chaos. These additional blessings make them superior in many respects to those Astartes who remained loyal to the cadaver on the Throne of Terra. Does this superiority in print translate to superiority on the table top though…


Prior to the release of Cultists as a Troop Choice in the 6th Edition Chaos Space Marine Codex the Chaos Space Marine, CSM, squad formed the back bone of CSM lists. They are versatile in armament, blessings, and size but were often viewed as over costed and rarely taken. The advent of the Traitors Hate and Traitor Legion detachments and formations however have changed the landscape of the Chaos players list meta, as covered extensively in my other articles, and the CSM squad is no different. With Veterans of the Long War for free in many of the detachments, with additional free benefits from having VotLW the CSM squad got huge boosts to their abilities without needing a massive codex re-write. Their addition as a mandatory 2-6 choice in the Chaos Warband means they will be seen a lot more on the table tops of the 41st millennium. Starting out at just 75 points a piece the unit is cheap enough.



  • Power Armor
  • Boltgun/Bolt Pistol
  • Frag/Krak Grenades
  • May Replace the Boltgun for CCW, may take a CCW for an additional 2pts each.
  • May take: Flamer/Meltagun/Plasmagun
  • If 10 or more may take an additional weapon above or; Heavy Bolter, Missile Launcher, Autocannon, Lascannon.
  • May include up to 15 additional CSMs.
  • May take VotLW for 1 pt each (This is unnecessary unless you’re running and actual CSM CAD)
  • May take a Mark of Khorne, Tzeentch, Nurgle, Slaanesh. (Usually this is demanded by one of the Traitor Legions detachments)
  • May take an Icon.

Special Rules:

  • Champion of Chaos
  • Additional Special Rules will probably be added through detachments and Marks of Chaos.


Like many of the other units being reviewed on Frontline Gaming for the Chaos Space Marines the CSM squad is benefiting a lot from the two newest releases for Chaos. Traitors Hate, but mostly Traitor Legions. Prior to these releases there just wasn’t enough gas in the tank for the CSM squad to be used over the less costly Cultists. The lack of any real formations/detachments of note for CSM prior to Legions and Hate meant that most players were building CADs to take just the best stuff from the book. Nurgle Lords on bikes, Heldrakes, etc. They weren’t using the CSM dex to take Chaos Space Marine squads, building a squad that worked cost too many points.

If you’re interested in running Chaos Space Marine squads you aren’t going to want to run a CAD, unless it’s a CAD using the Legion rules. Making them good usually requires VotLW, a Mark of Chaos, of some type and an additional rule or two. Until recently you weren’t going to get that at all, but now with Traitor Legions you can. The best option for CSMs is running them via the Chaos Warband Formation but I am going to break this down into the Legions I think provide the best bang for your buck while taking the generic Chaos Space Marine squad.


Alpha Legion– The best part about Alpha Legion CSM squads is infiltrate. Chosen, Chaos Space Marines, and Cultists in an Alpha Legion Insurgency Force have the infiltrate special rule and have Shrouded on the first turn of the game. This can be doubly beneficial. If you have them loaded up in Rhinos you can outflank a large number of units, or infiltrate a large number of shrouded units after deployment. When using this in conjunction with the Chaos Warband you can easily, and relatively cheaply, get 3 min/max Chosen outflanking in Rhinos, and up to 6 CSM squads outlfanking. It’s important to remember that CSM squads can be taken in squads of 20 so the ability to outflank/Infiltrate a few large blobs of CSMs, who have VotLW for free, is pretty decent. The Alpha Legion don’t have many of the extra tricks that the next 3 examples do but their ability to Outflank and Infiltrate large numbers of units brimming with Special Weapons can’t be overlooked.


Death Guard– The Death Guard may be the biggest winners in the Chaos Renaissance. When taking the Vectorium detachment your units of CSMs must take the Mark of Nurgle but the benefits gained in this formation far out strips that of a unit of Nurgle marked CSMs in a CAD of old. Yes, they get +1 Toughness as before, but in the Vectorium they get VotLW for free, Feel No Pain (with a -1 to initiative) and Relentless. Furthermore they get Stealth from shooting attacks made from over 18 inches away and re-roll FNP rolls of1! Now you have CSM squads that are super resilient, that can move and shoot heavy/rapid fire weapons at full BS. A unit of 10 CSMs can take an Autocannon, Plasmagun, and Combi-Plasmagun and move and still fire all of it at full BS. This also means you can unload all your bolters, Heavy Weapons, and Special Weapons and still charge into combat. Units of 10 or 5 Death Guard Chaos Space Marines can form the core of a list using the Vectorium detachment that simply isn’t going to die easily and can put out a large amount of mobile fire power. The only thing that could make this go from great to amazing would be letting CSM squads take Grav Cannons.


World Eaters– The appropriately named Butcherhorde detachment for the World Eaters makes for a pretty amazing way to run some Chaos Space Marine squads. Again, the most common way you’ll find CSM squads in any of these detachments is via a Chaos Warband and this one is no different. As part of the Butcherhorde your lowly CSMs get VotLW for free, but must buy the Mark of Khorne. However when you combine that with the other special rules of the Butcherhorde you get a unit that has Rage, Counter-attack, Fearless, Furious Charge, and Adamantium Will. Not to mention more than likely they’ll be benefiting from Blood Mad and gain an additional movement of 2d6 inches before the game begins. Two units of 10-20 of these guys can be terrifying to most regular units in 40k. Replace their bolters with CCW for free, and run them at the enemy behind a squad or three of Bikes from the detachment with Lords and you have a great follow up punch to a potentially massive turn 1 charge. For more on that, you should read the other tactics article about the World Eaters and Chaos Bikers. Used in concert with other Assault elements and loaded out to do well in Combat the World Eaters CSMs of the Butcherhorde can be a great unit to take.


Emperors Children– The Emperor’s Children Rapture Battalion detachment is the only one from Traitor Legions that potentially gives Death Guard a run for their money in the resiliency department. This is also arguably the weakest of the 4 discussed in this article, which may seem odd at first but a lot of it hinges on the fact that you this detachment has an element of luck involved. CSM units form the Rapture Battalion must take the Mark of Slaanesh and VotLW (this is free). For this they have +1 Initiative, a 6+ FNP, and they can make a single attack in close combat if they are slain prior to getting to attack. If you take an Icon of Excess that 6+ FNP becomes a 4+ FNP, which is none to shabby. Large blocks of CSMs running around with 3+ Armor and 4+ FNP is pretty good on it’s own but the Icon is a bit expensive at 30 points. If you’re going to invest 30 points in a unit to give them the 4+FNP you’ll want to make sure the unit is survivable in terms of model numbers and potent in terms of ability to deal out damage. For CSMs this probably means either an immobile Firebase, perhaps in an Imperial Bunker, within a Void Shield Generate, a Shrine of the Aquila, Aegis Defense Line or something of that nature. Alternatively if you trust the dice gods you could take larger blocks of CSMs with icon, CCW, and hope to get a good roll on the Combat Drugs table. 4,5,6 are probably the results to hope for. +1 Toughness, +1 Strength, or +1 Attack would be good to have on a unit that is already I5 with 4+FNP.


A Special Note on the Dreadclaw– CSMs, Chosen, and Helbrutes can all take Dreadclaws as dedicated Transports. For 100 points the Dreadclaw is more expensive than a regular Drop Pod but the Heat Blast, not having to disembark the occupants upon entry, and ability to fly this Objective Secured Drop Pod around the battle field even after it deep strikes; makes it much better than the vanilla version. Many CSM players aren’t sold on the Dreadlcaw for whatever reason, but if you’re running Chaos Space Marine Squads, or even Chosen, I would suggest taking 1 or 2 of these in your lists wouldn’t be a bad call.

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.

15 Responses to “Chaos Space Marines Troop Review: Chaos Space Marines!”

  1. Avatar
    Beau February 17, 2017 7:59 am #

    I assume Night Lords. Black Legion, and Iron Warriors are coming in part 2?

    I am one of the players not sold on the dreadclaw. Doesn’t it have a chance to eat the occupant? I would hate to lose a heavy weapon toting occupant before the game begins.

    • Avatar
      Threllen February 17, 2017 10:03 am #

      He was only mentioning the legions that worked particularly well with CSMs. None of those three really come close to offering you the same bonus on tacticals that the ones mentioned in the article do. Everything Iron Warriors gives them Slaanesh with a banner or Nurgle detachments do better. The other two don’t really offer much.

      With the dreadclaw – yes it does have a chance to eat it’s occupants. But you have to roll a 1 and then it’s random allocation. So even if you put a minimum squad of 5 in there it’s a 1/30 chance each game to eat the one model you don’t want it to. One of those dumb quirks Chaos always gets stuck with but it’s not huge.

      • Avatar
        Fagerlund February 17, 2017 2:42 pm #

        So what you’re saying is that the Dreadclaw has a 100% chance to eat the Heavy Weapon-guy in every game then. ;P

        • Avatar
          Threllen February 17, 2017 2:58 pm #

          Given my usual luck… yeah. Couldn’t be much worse than having Typhus win a challenge and then turn himself into a Chaos Spawn with his boon roll…..

        • Avatar
          AbusePuppy February 17, 2017 7:59 pm #

          Really, it’s more the 100% chance to cost trope what a drop pod doors that kills it for me.

          I mean, a Dreadclaw is almost the same price as a Stormtalon, but instead of having seven s5+ bs5 twin-linked shots, it has I’ve attack that might damage it.

          • SaltyJohn
            SaltyJohn February 18, 2017 10:34 am

            I don’t understand what you attempted to say in the first part of your post.

            Comparing a Dreadclaw to a Stormtalon is like comparing apples to lug nuts. They don’t even have the same battle field roles, abilities, or appear as options for the same armies.

          • Avatar
            AbusePuppy February 19, 2017 11:56 pm

            Ugh, phone typing- the 100% chance to cost triple what a Drop Pod does is what kills it for me.

            The Stormtalon and Dreadclaw are both flyers with roughly the same cost and survivability, but my point was that the Stormtalon is vastly better armed whereas the Dreadclaw… can carry a squad of dudes who are not all that good? I just don’t get why you like it so much. Yeah, it’s an ObSec flyer- but it’s not a tank so it can’t get onto a defended objective easily and once it’s in Hover mode it’s really not that hard to get rid of.

          • SaltyJohn
            SaltyJohn February 20, 2017 12:06 am

            CSM don’t even have access to the Stormtalon so why are you making that comparison? You may as well state that Havocs are bad because Grav Devastators are better; or that the entire Chaos faction is worthless because it doesn’t have Grav, Gladius, access to Librarius Conclave, so on and so forth in perpetuity.

          • Avatar
            AbusePuppy February 20, 2017 8:36 pm

            I don’t think the comparison is irrelevant- units don’t exist in a vacuum, we measure their effectiveness by comparing them to the other units in the game and seeing how they stand up. T5 with two wounds is considered “tough” in this game, but in AoS that’s actually a quite middling statline- it’s only in the context of each game system that we can assess how a particular set of numbers compare.

            So while yes, CSM may not have access to the Stormtalon, the existence of the Stormtalon sets a bar that CSM must still measure to- I would argue that it is what most players expect from a “good” flyer of its price and survivability.

          • SaltyJohn
            SaltyJohn February 21, 2017 6:10 pm

            I guess I need to start hoping into every non-space marine formation article and explain how whatever is written in it is wrong because Gladius with double demi-company gives 300+ points of free transports so playing anything else is bad. Your 1850 doesn’t measure up to 1850+300 free points and so the existence of Gladius sets the bar that the other list of only 1850 points must still measure to. That players need to expect a “good” 1850 list to measure up to 2150 points of Gladius due to the deficit in price and survivability.

    • SaltyJohn
      SaltyJohn February 18, 2017 11:58 am #

      No, sorry, there won’t be a part two. I wrote about the factions I viewed as best to utilize CSM squads in the new meta.

      As others mentioned the chance of losing an occupant is low, but flying objective secured drop pods are good. Also, if you’re putting a unit of 10 inside the Dreadclaw don’t put a Heavy Weapon on the squad, unless you’re running Death Guard, take double special weapons instead. Dreadclaw CSM squads with 2 melta plus combi, 2 plasmagun plus combi, or two flamers plus combi, are better load outs than throwing in a random Heavy that also must fire snap shots.

  2. Avatar
    Jamahki February 17, 2017 11:39 am #

    I ran one with my Iron Warriors at LVO, and it nearly destroyed a couple of Knights all by itself with the heat blast and fly over attacks. Lucky rolls for sure, but you’re absolutely correct that those three aren’t the most optimal options.

    Remember, however, that’s it’s two rolls to try to get a “1” and lose a model. Once on the embark before the game, once when you get out on the table. With CSM or Chosen, it’s less of a problem, but when you need to not roll a 1 twice on a 200+ point dreadnought or a unit of just 5 Melta Chosen, it’s a bit less palatable.

    • Avatar
      Threllen February 17, 2017 1:56 pm #

      It’s only one roll unless you get back in. Just roll once at the start of the game for “embarking” on it to start.

      “Roll a D6 each time a unit embarks on a vehicle with the daemonic possession upgrade (including rolling at the start of your first turn if a unit begins the game embarked upon such a vehicle.”

  3. Avatar
    Angry Ron February 18, 2017 7:27 am #

    Not to be that kind of guy, but you still get the legion rules if you takes Death Guard/whatever CAD…

    • SaltyJohn
      SaltyJohn February 18, 2017 10:33 am #

      Legion rules, but not the detachment rules.

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