Chaos Space Marines Codex 8th Edition: Review: Black Legion

For ten millennia Abaddon and his forces of have plagued the galaxy. Launching from the Eye of Terra, the warmaster has conducted 13 Black Crusades against the Imperium of Man gathering the various Chaos warbands and legion remnants in the warp under his banner; The Black Legion. Now, with the new Chaos Space Marines 8th Edition Codex, Abaddon and his Black Legion are ready to wreak havoc on table tops all over the world.

Hi, all. Chandler here with a review over the first and most formidable of the Chaos forces, the Black Legion. For more reviews, tactica, and strategy articles head on over to the Tactics Corner.

Chaos Space Marines have gone through an interesting life cycle in 40k. At times they have been one of the most fearsome top tier armies in the game, but have also suffered through years of mediocrity almost vanishing entirely on table tops the world over. Well, I am here to tell you that Chaos Space Marines are back! Prepare to see these guys all over the tables again because the new codex is here and boy is it good. This article focuses primarily on what I feel is one of the strongest legions in the book, Black Legion. So, let’s get to it.


The Chaos Space Marines codex gives us information on 7 of the Traitor Legions as well as rules for Renegade Chapters. If you play Death Guard or Thousand Sons, those legions are not covered in the new codex, but fear not as both of these factions will be receiving their own codex soon. Within the codex we have 13 new Warlord Traits, 9 psychic powers, 14 new Artefacts, and over 20 new Stratagems as well as Legion Traits and special rules. There’s a lot of great info packed in this book.

Special Rules:

First up, Legion Traits. These are nice abilities which are shared by all of your <Legion> keyword forces. In order to use them, however, all your units in a detachment must share the legion keyword.  In this case, that would be Black Legion. The Black Legion Black Crusaders Legion Trait is very cool.  It adds 1 to the Leadership of all your models and you can Advance and shoot Rapid Fire weapons as Assault weapons instead.  This means if you advance with a boltgun, you can still shoot but it is considered Assault 1, and you would then take a -1 to hit penalty for Advancing and firing an Assault weapon.  Still, this is a very useful trait. The Leadership bump is especially crucial with units that tend to suffer from Leadership woes like Chaos Cultists.

Despoilers of the Galaxy is another amazing special rule. Again, in order to gain access to this ability, your detachment must all share the same <Legion> keyword. This ability allows your Troops choices to control objective markers they are within range of even if they have less models than an opposing unit. A tremendous benefit indeed.

Next up, warlord traits. There are 6 standard warlord traits in the codex as well as 7 unique Legion warlord traits. The Black Legion warlord trait, First Amongst Traitors, is especially useful against Imperium armies as it allows you to trigger extra attacks from your Death to the False Emperor ability on a 5+ to hit instead of a 6+ for units within 6″ of your warlord. Units like Berzerkers can really go nuts with this ability against Imperials, of which there are no shortage of in the meta right now.

The Artefacts of Chaos are new relics for your Characters and come at no additional point cost.  Many of them will replace a piece of wargear, so you would have to pay for that wargear initially, but many of them don’t require any wargear at all. There are 7 standard relics that any army can use, and also 7 Legion specific relics. For Black Legion, we have the Eye of Night which allows you, once per game instead of shooting, to choose a visible enemy vehicle and roll a dice.  On a 2+ that vehicle suffers d3 Mortal Wounds.  Pretty awesome relic considering it is free! It is especially useful on a Daemon Prince with Wings who likely has no shooting attacks anyway, and the mobility to get around the board to see pesky vehicles that might be clinging to terrain to block line of sight.

Finally, there are the Stratagems. All of them are useful depending on the army build you are going for, but there are a few that really stand out here:

  • Daemon Shell – 1 CP: Select a Heretic Astartes Character with a bolt pistol, boltgun, combi-bolter, etc. Instead of shooting normally make a to-hit roll which cannot be re-rolled. If it hits, the target suffers D3 mortal wounds. If it misses the Character suffers D3 mortal wounds. (This one is risk/reward. Obviously you don’t want to do this with your warlord unless you are just absolutely desperate to kill something, but can certainly be useful on many characters such as the new Exalted Champion)
  • Veterans of the Long War – 1 CP: Select a Heretic Astartes Biker or Infantry unit in either Shooting or Fight phase. You can add 1 to the wound rolls made for the unit until the end of the phase. (This one is especially awesome with Berzerkers who can attack twice and sometimes up to three times. Throw in the Exalted Champion within range and they are suddenly re-rolling 1s to their wound rolls which combos quite nicely with this stratagem)
  • Fury of Khorne – 3CP: For a Heretic Astartes Khorne Infantry or Biker unit, it allows that unit to immediately fight again at the end of the fight phase. (This one has gotten a lot of attention for the fact that it could essentially allow Berzerkers to fight 3 times in a single turn. And while that is very awesome, it is much more difficult than you might think to pull off in practice considering consolidation moves, charge rules, etc. Still it is a nice trick to have up your sleeve)
  • Tide of Traitors – 2CP: Used at the end of the movement phase. Select one of your Chaos Cultist units and remove it from the battlefield. Set it up again within 6″ of any battlefield edge and more than 9″ away from enemy models at it’s full starting strength. (This is probably one of the best Stratagems in the entire book. Combined with the Despoilers of the Galaxy ability, this Stratagem adds a lot of flexibility in how you cover objectives in the game. I prefer to use this late game like turn 4 to get Cultists in position on an objective that my opponent wasn’t really accounting for. It works quite well with large blobs of cultists as you can survive a couple of turns of shooting then bring them all the way back to starting strength on the other side of the battle. It also helps mitigate giving up easy kill points. As the cultists die you are removing them and putting them back at starting strength making it tougher for your opponent to snatch those victory points.)
  • Let the Galaxy Burn – 1CP: Black Legion Infantry or Biker units can re-roll 1s to hit in the shooting or fight phase. If the unit selected is a Chaos Space Marines squad they can re-roll all failed to hit rolls. (This one is extremely good, especially when used with a beefy combat or high powered shooting unit that is not next to an aura character.)


Black Legion is probably the most flexible of all the Traitor Legions in the codex. They have a lot of tools available to them which make them a force to be reckoned with on the table. So, what are the best ways to use them? I think it lies in a mix of cheap objective controllers like Cultists who can come back in wave after wave, as well as high powered shooting and assault units.

First and foremost, you want to make use of those Stratagems which will require command points and lots of them. Fortunately Abaddon gives you 2 extra command points by simply being your warlord.  And he is actually worth taking now in your army. He gives a 12″ wide buff that allows all Heretic Astartes units to auto-pass morale which is huge considering those cultists you’ll be fielding.  He also allows all Black Legion units within 6″ to re-roll all failed to hit rolls.  Not to mention, he hits quite hard in combat as well with his Talon of Horus and his sword, Drach’nyen. His warlord trait is First Amongst Traitors, however, which might not always be useful depending on match-ups. But there is such a strong Imperial presence in the meta now that he’s still worth taking.

Cultists are once again the go to unit for Chaos Space Marines. And while that is somewhat disappointing for power armor fans, Tide of Traitors combined with Despoilers of the Galaxy is just too good to ignore in favor of plain old Chaos Space Marines. Consider the cheap price point for Cultist and the fact that you want to stack as many command points in this army as possible, you definitely want your Troops slots filled with Cultists over standard Chaos Space Marines. Not to mention that being Black Legion gives these Cultists a very nice +1 leadership buff which can really help them hang around in Morale.

Next, you’ll want some detachments that can really bring the pain at an affordable price point. The Outrider detachment is great for this in Black Legion as you can bring a squad of Warp Talons and a couple of Raptor squads loaded with plasma or melta to get in precise range to light up some nasty targets.  The meltas are especially nice here because you can use the Let the Galaxy Burn stratagem to allow them to re-roll 1s to hit with their meltaguns. Warp Talons are great for shredding up infantry units and can avoid overwatch the turn they drop in, which is amazing. Put a Sorcerer with jump pack next to them when they arrive and cast Prescience and Warptime on them in the Psychic Phase. Now, suddenly that Warp Talons squad is in the enemy’s face ready to charge without getting shot to pieces with overwatch. When they charge they’ll be swinging 2 attacks each, hitting on 2s with Prescience, and if you throw the Veterans of the Long War stratagem on them they will be adding 1 to their wound rolls as well and re-rolling them because of their dual claws.

The Vanguard detachment is also a nice option to supplement Black Legion especially with Khorne Berzerkers and Chaos Terminators. Berzerkers in Black Legion don’t hit with as much ferocity as their World Eaters counterparts, but with the right buffs in place they can be pretty brutal in their own right. Obviously you want some Rhinos to put these guys in. Squads of 8-9 are best and throw an Exalted Champion in there to allow them to re-roll 1s to wound.  The turn they charge you can throw on Let the Galaxy Burn to let them re-roll 1s to hit as well as Veterans of the Long War to let them add 1 to their wound roll. At Strength 5 combined with the nearby Exalted Champion they will be wounding most things you might charge on 2s re-rolling 1s. And they get to fight again after that. If you’re fortunate enough you can throw Fury of Khorne on them as well to let them fight a 3rd time. Note, that is a significant Command Point investment, but could definitely be worthwhile in how it can cripple an opponent.  Chaos Terminators are also a nice option to use, especially when kitted with combi-meltas or plasma.  Although expensive they are fairly resilient and can lay out some pain on the enemy.

Finally, the Spearhead detachment is a very nice option to consider. Aside from being able to use some of those awesome vehicle stratagems, Havocs make excellent choices and are versatile enough to be run in many different ways. Having a couple of squads loaded down with Autocannons hanging in your backfield next to a Chaos Lord or Abaddon is great. The Autocannon Havocs trick is no secret of course. The tactic has been sound since the index releases and it still proves to be so. Alternatively you can load these guys down with plasma or meltaguns and roll them around in some Rhinos to help them get into position.  All in all a great, affordable unit that shoots very well.

Now, let’s take a look at Black Legion list to see how some of the above fits in at the 2000 point level.

++Battalion Detachment – Black Legion++

Exalted Champion

Chaos Cultists x10
Chaos Cultists x10
Chaos Cultists x10

Heavy Support:
Havocs x5 Autocannons x4
Havocs x5 Autocannons x4

++Battalion Detachment – Black Legion++

Chaos Lord in Terminator Armor, Power Axe (Axe of Blind Fury)
Exalted Champion

Chaos Cultists x10
Chaos Cultists x10
Chaos Cultists x10

Khorne Berzerkers x9
Khorne Berzerkers x9

Dedicated Transports:
Chaos Rhino
Chaos Rhino

++Outrider Detachment – Black Legion++
Sorcerer with Jump Pack, Mark of Tzeentch, Prescience/Warptime

Fast Attack:
Warp Talons x5
Raptors x5, Meltagun x2, combi-melta
Raptors x5, Plasma gun x2, combi-plasma

Total Points: 1979
Command Points: 12

This list makes use of a whopping 12 command points thanks to Abaddon’s bonus, which gives you quite a bit of flexibility with your stratagems.  In this list Abaddon would be most useful sitting back with the Havocs allowing them re-rolls to hit while the Exalted Champions each ride with a Khorne Berzerker squad in a rhino pressing up the field.  The Sorcerer with jump pack and the Chaos Terminator Lord come down with the Warp Talons and the Raptors first to deliver punishing fire power and assaults using the stratagems and psychic powers to enhance the units. The cultists are moving up the field to grab objectives, and being replaced/moved as needed with the Tide of Traitors stratagem.  It has a good mix of brutal firepower as well as deadly assault potential. Your opponent will have to deal with the Raptors and Warp Talons in their face as you move your Berzerker squads into position to launch devastating charges out of the Rhinos with their Exalted Champions.

Black Legion is probably one of the most flexible of the new Legion options in the game. They have plenty of tools to build a versatile all-comers style army. Looking forward to seeing Chaos Space Marines back on the table again. Now, let the galaxy burn!


And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



About Chandler

Sometimes I play 40k. Sometimes I drink beer. Oftentimes I do both. I host an annual ITC Grand Tournament, Come the Apocalypse GT, as well as a podcast called Come the Apocalypse - a Warhammer 40k Podcast which you can find on iTunes or the Google Play Music store.

26 Responses to “Chaos Space Marines Codex 8th Edition: Review: Black Legion”

  1. LoneWolf6155 August 19, 2017 7:25 am #

    I love how the lists people are building now are so fluffy!

  2. Dbiesto August 19, 2017 10:47 am #

    Interesting list. With the 20 spare points, i would definitely kit out a havoc squad with lascannons. Also keep in mind Abaddon is marked by all gods, so is able to summon in any daemons you would need if you set the points aside. A tactic i was considering was dropping him down behind 2 squads of obliterators, with a warptime sorceror jump pack sorceror then summon in some bloodthirsters/ daemonettes turn 2/3.

    • Blight August 19, 2017 4:02 pm #

      Anyone notice how they changed the wording for summoning in the chaos marine codex? The summoned unit doesn’t have to be entirely within 12″ of the summoner anymore. Same as AoS summoning then and that can get you all the way across the board with a big enough unit.

      • Dbiesto August 19, 2017 11:47 pm #

        “This unit is treated as reinforcements for your army and can be placed anywhere on the battlefield that is within 12″ of the character and is more than 9″ from any enemy model.” Pg 117.

        Probably a typo, they forgot to add the “entirely” in bold from the index. The way it is worded still seems to imply the unit mist be within 12″ of the summoning character.

        • Blight August 20, 2017 1:03 am #

          They make a point to say exactly what the difference between within and entirely within means.
          Plus AoS summoning works like this. They even put an article up on the community site with tricks for how to stretch your zombie hordes out.
          Still have to stay outside of 9″.

          • Dbiesto August 20, 2017 10:46 am

            Just discussed it with a few other people and youre right! That is pretty powerful and needed with how summoning was nerfed.

          • Threllen August 21, 2017 6:17 am

            Tried to post this but not sure if it took because I don’t see it..

            The PDF version of the codex still retains the “entirely within” wording so it’s not the same as the printed version. Definitely needs an errata/FAQ to sort out which one is correct…

            Otherwise that is brokenly powerful that they made it easier to summon a 30 man unit of lesser daemons and you could literally then stretch that unit across the entire board.

      • Threllen August 21, 2017 6:14 am #

        Actually the online version of the codex still says “entirely within.”

        I think they accidentally omitted it in the printed version but it definitely needs clarification because I’m looking straight at the PDF version on my computer and it says “entirely within.”

    • CJ August 19, 2017 10:07 pm #

      Got to be honest, the idea of not moving Abaddon for a turn doesn’t sound too appealing. There are cheaper way to summon stuff, like daemon or renegade characters.
      The fact that Abbaddon can benefit from all the god specific stratagem and powers is very cool.

      The change of wording on daemonic ritual is a pretty big deal!

  3. Bluthusten August 19, 2017 1:36 pm #

    Mhm the center of my Black Legion is a huge blob of CSM (20) and Cultists (30-40) supportet by 2 Hellbrutes and some LasCannon Havocs.

    Combined with 2 Sorcerers (Jump pack), 3 Obliteraters and 5 Plasma-Terminators.

    It’s pretty nice 😀

  4. Bluthusten August 19, 2017 9:43 pm #

    “The Autocannon Havocs trick is no secret of course”

    can someone explain me which “trick” he means ?

    • Dbiesto August 19, 2017 11:59 pm #

      Probably the let the galaxy burn strategem or veterans of the long war. 2 cp to combine both for reroll misses and add 1 to wound rolls.

      After reading up on some strategems, 3 vindicators are cheaper than 3 havoc squads, and if you have 3, for only 1 CP you basically get 3D3 mortal wounds on a + or – on a 4+ 10+ models or – for character and technically is a 27″ range since you pick a point 24″ within range of all 3 vindicators.

      Vindicators are also 10 points cheaper than 4 autocannon havocs and more resilient than chaos predators.

      • Threllen August 21, 2017 6:53 am #

        Autocannon Havocs are also just straight up better by themselves than a Vindicator. I find its gun to be quite lacking personally. You have to move which lowers its effectiveness and it really doesn’t get a whole lot of shots most of the time. Three is great, sure, but it relies on getting there with all 3 and using the stratagem. Outside of that they’re pretty meh.

        There are lots of things you can do with Havocs to make them very scary. Havocs + sorc gives them +1 to hit from prescience and you can turn them into a very scary force for one turn if you throw +1 to wound on them and then use endless cacophony to let them fire again. Lascannon Havocs hitting and wounding a Knight on 2+ and then getting to do it all twice in a single turn is going to demolish it.

    • The Traitor August 20, 2017 12:39 am #

      If there’s something more I’m not aware of it, but I beleive he’s telling that autocannons are simply good.

  5. Don Tomaso August 20, 2017 8:28 pm #

    Why does the warpsmith cost the exact same as a techmarine but gets basically a free anti vehicle smite power?

    Also I´m puzzled by the psychic powers, why do SM get lame versions of the chaos ones?

    Using libbies when facing sorcs feels gimped for no apparent reason. I pay the same for a libby/techmarine so why get worse versions of them?

    • Dbiesto August 20, 2017 11:05 pm #

      Its an interesting decision by GW. I think SM get more tech Chaos get more powerful powers for making pacts with the dark gods. Fluff wise, its an interesting read basically sorcerors gave in to the dark gods temptations. Chaos has minimal skimmers and flyers, no sniper rifles, no grav. Each army overall has some advantages so some units are similar but better than each other. I wish chaos terminators had thunder hammers and storm shields is a good example.

      • Don Tomaso August 21, 2017 4:03 pm #

        I think that is moot since both sm and csm get plenty of units the others dont.
        SM get plasma toys, csm get spider tanks and forge fiends and cheap cannonfodder cultists that respond to auras.

        This doesnt answer why euqally priced units like libbies and techmarines get different advantages biased towards one side.

        Wonder how some of the nothing-ever-wrong cheerleeders in here would explain this away?


        • bonesaww666 August 21, 2017 5:20 pm #

          Honestly I do believe it has more to do with fluff, Chaos Sorcerers are supposed to be more powerful than their “abstinant, self castrating lap dog brothers”, Librarians are visitors to the warp where as Chaos Sorcerers are one with it.

          I wish Chaos Lords were still the face raping specialists of old, not saying they are bad; but anything short of a Chaptermaster (even then…) should struggle against a Chaos Lord who is theoretically the same and more than his Imperial Counterpart. On that note, I also think that fluff wise, Chaos Lords should have done very little to better their associates, it would have played a bit
          More into the selfish chaos aspect…

          • Don Tomaso August 21, 2017 9:28 pm

            In that case sorcerors should cost more and face bigger dangers. If you draw warp with no restriction like the libby then by all means I understand your bigger power but where is the risk and point cost that reflects this?

            And chaos techmarines getting semi smite powers for free?

          • Threllen August 22, 2017 11:25 am

            The techmarine smite power isn’t really “free.”

            For starters, it’s not worth all that much considering you have to choose between the smite and repair. So it’s not as if you get something in addition to repairing every turn. Plus it has lots of limitations (namely range on a model that has no access to bikes/jump packs). So if you only want to repair every turn you won’t end up using the curse. Is the choice nice to have? Absolutely. But it’s not a game-changer.

            Secondly, a bare minimum warpsmith costs 76p. A bare minimum techmarine costs 62. This is because the warpsmith has more expensive ‘tax’ weapons like the meltagun and flamer. You’re forced to pay for something that he is going to utilize inefficiently because you will often not be close enough range to really use them. So really, for what they are designed to do, a Warpsmith is paying 14 pts for his smite ability. If you tried to increase his base cost on top of that you would run into the problem you had in the index (and all of 7th edition) where you’re making him pay out the arse for stuff he isn’t going to utilize and you’ll never ever see one on the field.

            Since GW is going with the “all weapons cost the same for everyone” mantra the Warpsmith deserves to have his base cost adjusted to compensate for the fact his weapon kit comes with some inefficient add-ons. It’s just yet another reason you can’t take one little piece of evidence (base cost) between two units with different external elements and say ‘well these base costs make no sense. Therefore stupid.’

        • Freies Radikal September 2, 2017 8:58 am #

          May be, because SM should not get all the Chaos Stuff an More.
          Chaos lags a lot of regular Marine Equipment. The Basic Marine costs 13p but did not get the auto reroll for Morale. No Grav Weapons anyway used by CSM in the Heresy. So i didnt see why SM should get the better Psi Power additional.

  6. Threllen August 21, 2017 7:13 am #

    Semi-random question about summoning. Am I forced to summon something if I make the roll?

    Example – I want to summon in 30 bloodletters but I only roll a 10 on the summoning dice. Can I just decline to actually summon anything or do I then have to summon something else?

    • Blight August 21, 2017 1:12 pm #

      No you do not have to summon if you don’t roll what you wanted. Interesting with the digital vs paper copy. Hoping it works like AoS.

      • Pingor August 22, 2017 3:46 am #

        Wasn’t it like you only have to choose the god before?

        • Threllen August 22, 2017 5:39 am #

          You definitely have to declare the god ahead of time (although anyone marked doesn’t have a choice). I assumed you could say you don’t want to actually summon anything if the roll isn’t as high as you wanted but I wasn’t positive.

  7. Don Tomaso August 22, 2017 9:26 pm #

    “For starters, it’s not worth all that much considering you have to choose between the smite and repair. So it’s not as if you get something in addition to repairing every turn. Plus it has lots of limitations (namely range on a model that has no access to bikes/jump packs)”

    My god @ turd polishing aplenty.
    Please, knock it down a tad will you.

    Of course he pays more if he gets a meltagun instead of a flamer or should I use the same arguments about the flamer never being able to be used all the time too or that foot librarians suck because their smite isnt used every turn at optimal effect because no bike options for primaris? Where is their baked in at base cost compensation..oh wait!

    “You’re forced to pay for something that he is going to utilize inefficiently because you will often not be close enough range to really use them. So really, for what they are designed to do, a Warpsmith is paying 14 pts for his smite ability.”

    Guess what, the tecchie too needs range for his flamer so I guess you are trying to say that the techmarine is semi sucky as well since his flamer is not in range all the time nor his plasma pistol and oh, his servo arms are not in melee every turn either. Again, where is the techmarines smite ability “compensation” please?

    Before I went to work I took a look at both the tecchie entry and the warpsmith entry and unless I really remember everything wrong due to being late/haste they both cost the same base but one comes with a semi smite power for *tadaa* free while the other do not!
    No amount of ridiculous turd polishing will make this go away or all of a sudden be invisibly priced into the base cost.

    Now if the chaos codes has a separate 14p point value for the warpsmith smite ability at the back (something I admit I didnt have time to double check and simply take from memory that I havent seen) then I stand corrected and indeed the ability is being point cost forced on top the WS base cost and I applaud geedub for this logical consideration.
    If not then call it for what it is instead of trying to polish up the usual no-flaws-here-move-along picture.

    I never claimed it was game changing, not even close, just that it is quite annoying to use the same character for the same base points but my opponent gets semi-smites for free and I do not (same with psychic powers). I dont really fall for these excuses about things not being free because they cant be used every turn. Sheesh.

    “Since GW is going with the “all weapons cost the same for everyone” mantra the Warpsmith deserves to have his base cost adjusted to compensate for the fact his weapon kit comes with some inefficient add-ons.”

    This is so wrong I dont even know how to respond to it. Sure, the WS comes with a better meltagun (then a flamer) that he is *gasp* forced to pay for so he should get a free smite power because reasons. Check.
    I also love how you are “forgetting” to mention those cost compensations those “effective” techmarine servo arms at 24p come with ought to have.

    The conclusion after reading your arguments is thus that only one of the above characters is worth compensating because of forced on ineffective wargear despite the fact that both characters are loaded down with inefficient crap.

    And the whole, all weapons cost the same no matter platform approach is a BIG fail in the game design, granted it simplifies list building but it creates a big set of problems that I would be happy to discuss..if someone over at everything-is-perfect-land ever decides to bring it up.

    Oh and yes, I have waaay more free time at work then is healthy for you can see 😛

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