Forces of Chaos Review, Chaos Space Marines: Alpha Legion

Hello fans of Frontline Gaming and TFGRadio; SaltyJohn  here to bring you a review of the new 8th edition Chaos Space Marines rules for Alpha Legion. For more reviews, bat reps, tactics discussions, and analysis check out the Tactics Corner!

The Alpha Legion, once known as the 20th Legion Astartes in the times of the Great Crusade, is known throughout the Imperium of man as a traitorous Legion of Chaos Space Marines. Numbered among the greatest enemies of the Imperium the Alpha Legion fights a shadow war in the 41st millenium; through out the Imperium of man the schemes and machinations of the Alpha Legion crumble worlds and cities to their goals. Experts in infiltration, and insurgency tactics the Alpha Legion stand out among the Space Marine Legions. When the twin Primarchs Alpharius and Omegon set their super powered Adeptus Astartes to task as terrifying as insurgency and manipulation the already feared Astartes become a completely different type or terror inducing foe. While their true purposes and goals are often shrouded in secrecy and can appear even self contradictory there is no denying the potency of the Alpha Legion when turning the denizens of the Galaxy to their will.


The Alpha Legion are portrayed in the fluff as experts in infiltration, insurgency, and covert tactics utilizing stealth and the local population to cripple a society before the main force of Astartes come in to clean up, if necessary. The nice thing about the Alpha Legion at the end of 7th edition and again in the new 8th edition Chaos Space Marine codex is that they’ve been designed to reflect this fluff and still be very effective on the table top. From their Legion traits to their stratagems and the way these all interact with the new and unique unit rules we end up with an army in 40k that is both effective and fluff driven. This particularly rings true for fans of the Dawn of War series, where the Alpha Legion in that PC Real Time Strategy game acted as the Chaos Space Marine force you could play. In 40k terms, if you like being in your opponents face early in the game, recycling units of cultists, and having your Warlord never die, this army may be for you.

Unique Units:

While the Alpha Legion doesn’t have any special units that benefits directly from them being in the Alpha Legion several units stand out as benefiting greatly from their trait and Stratagem. Khorne Berzerkers, Possessed, Cultists, and anything that has long range fire power that will stay 12 inches from the enemy all game.

Special Rules:

Legion Trait: Hidden in Plain Sight. Your opponent must subtract 1 from to hit rolls that target units with this trait if they are more than 12″ away.

Alpha Legion Artifact: The Blade of Hydra. *model with a chainsword only.

Warlord Trait Bonus: In addition to their Warlord Trait, your Warlord has one randomly selected Chaos Space Marine Warlord Trait (see left). If your Warlord is slain, you can immediately select another ALPHA LEGION CHARACTER in your army to take their place and generate a Warlord Trait for them (including this one). If the mission you are playing grants victory points for slaying the enemy Warlord, your opponent will only achieve that objective if all of the ALPHA LEGION CHARACTERS in your army have been slain.


Alpha Legion Stratagem: You can use this stratagem when you set an Alpha Legion Infantry unit during deployment. You can set up the unit in concealment instead of placing it on the battlefield. At the beginning of the first battle wound but before the first turn begins, the unit emerges from its hiding place- set it up anywhere on the battlefield that is more than 9″ away from any enemy models.

Chaos Space Marines Stratagem: Use this Stratagem at the end of your Movement phase. If you do, pick a unit of Chaos Cultists and remove it from the battlefield. You can then set it up again wholly within 6″ of the edge of the battlefield and more than 9″ from any enemy models, at its full starting strength. (Not an AL stratagem but one I think fits well with their style.)


The first thing that jumps out about the Alpha Legion is their trait. Similar to the Raven Guard Chapter Trait for the loyalist scum of the Imperium we have a really great way to add some resiliency to Alpha Legion units. In 8th edition shooting is king, and the first turn is exceptionally important to many armies. The best way to build lists for 8th are to build lists that excel at going second. One way to do this is extensive use of reserves, another is to take units that are extra hard to kill. With the way the new AP system works, and the massive nerf to cover in 8th the best way to do this is to make sure it’s harder for your opponent to even hit your models in the first place so -1 to hit may sound mediocre at first glance if you try it out you’ll see how great it really is.

The next great aspect to Alpha Legion is the ability to pay 1 CP during deployment and set up a unit in concealment. This can be done for multiple units so be sure to take detachments that give you enough CPs that you can spend 1-4 before the game and still have some for other stratagems in game. A few units that would really benefit from getting in this close to the enemy are primarily assault based units for some wonderful first turn charges. Khorne Berzerkers, Possessed, even Cultists. Units with shorter range firepower, like Chosen or Havocs with special weapons would benefit from being deployed closer to the enemy as well. A great tactic is infiltrating a big unit of Khorne Berzerkers with a banner, an Exalted Champion and Dark Apostle. For 3 CPs you’ve just bought yourself a first turn charge, re-rolling the charge distance if need be, that also re-rolls to hits and wounds, thanks to the nearby characters, and that benefits from an extra round of combat. It’s brutal.

Possessed are a good unit to take in an AL list if you can also fit in a small Battalion of Daemons with Changeling, Herald and 3 units of Brimstone Horrors. Which everyone can fit usually, it’s one of the most popular plug and play detachments so far in 8th. A unit of Possessed, 15-20 in size, with Mark of Tzeentch can advance deploy with the stratagem and daisy chain back to be in the Changelings aura for a unit that is now -2 to hit as the Changeling and AL trait stack. If you combine this unit with the Berzerkers from above you have a great one two punch of assaults turn one and then two. It is unlikely the Possessed can get wiped on the first turn so you’re almost guaranteed a great second assault wave, if the Apostle and Exalted Champ are still alive their aura effects will be great to use in conjunction with the Possessed as well. If you’re going with this build you could even include 1-2 Helbrutes with Mark of Tzeentch and advance them slowly with the Changeling for a -2 to hit them and then charge them in to have a nice third wave of assaults.

I listed Cultists as being good for an Alpha Legion list. The stratagem that recycles Cultist units and returns them at full strength is insanely powerful on a unit that can be 40 strong and is Objective Secured. If you take a nice sized blob of Cultists and spend a CP to advance deploy them in concealment you’ve got a cheap unit that is ObSec and hard to remove in a single round of shooting. If the enemy gets close to wiping them you just recycle them. By having a big blob of cultists deployed far beyond your own army you put pressure on your opponent and the objectives before the first rolls of the actual game occur. Putting your opponent on the back foot and giving you a distinct advantage.

The Alpha Legion trait is also good if you plan to run a Havoc gunline, or Obliterator gunline. The -1 to hit on a unit that is almost always going to be more than 12″ from the enemy is a great way to keep that fire base, hopefully over an objective, alive long enough to carry it’s weight and put the long range hurt on some important targets. As far as Havocs go the meta on them definitely changed from 7th to 8th. I personally like a mix of 2 Missile Launchers 2 Lascannons per squad and 2-3 squads of them. I like the mix in 8th because you can split fire for every unit these days and by mixing the units I don’t have to worry about my opponent focus firing all my Las Cannons out first turn, if he’s playing Knights, or focus firing out all the ML if their playing a horde army. The autocannon is, unfortunately, too many point this edition for what it does and Heavy Bolters don’t do enough wounds per hit.

Overall the Alpha Legion is a phenominal addition to the game and the Chaos Space Marine codex has clearly shown that the codices this edition will be balanced, powerful, and true to the fluff. Which is a welcome change from past editions where codices might be one of those but never all three.

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



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.

28 Responses to “Forces of Chaos Review, Chaos Space Marines: Alpha Legion”

  1. Avatar
    Majere September 19, 2017 1:48 am #

    One thing you don’t mention here is the synergy between the Alpha Legion trait and Miasma of Pestilence. You can easily have models with a -2 penalty to hit them with shooting, which can mean Overcharged plasma killing the firer on a 3 or less. I talked about it on my blog a while ago:

    • Avatar
      Cephalobeard September 19, 2017 4:48 am #

      Well, to be fair, he mentioned the much stronger version of that by discussing using it with the Changeling which affects multiple units.

    • Avatar
      highwind September 19, 2017 12:53 pm #

      Id rather combine Miasma with the Night Lords Strategem because both benefit a single unit and the Nurgle Icon also synergizes very well with the Night Lords legion trait

      • Reecius
        Reecius September 19, 2017 1:23 pm #

        It does indeed. Nurgle marked Night Lords Havocs provide a -3 Ld debuff, haha

        • Avatar
          highwind September 20, 2017 7:24 am #

          You mean Raptors, dont you?
          I like those aswell and they form a pretty brutal combination with Cacophonic Choir from the Slaanesh Discipline

    • Avatar
      Dbiesto September 19, 2017 3:26 pm #

      Best thing about non specific god legions is you can do combos. Alphas legion havocs/ obliterators with mark of nurgle and miasma of pestilence are scary. Hitting a gun line with noise marines. Unmarked god legions have awesome strategies

  2. Avatar
    Cephalobeard September 19, 2017 4:51 am #

    Huge fan of Alphas this edition. Just bought myself a Kharybdis. Looking forward to adding more Noise Marines to the lists.

    Zerkers, HQs, Noise Marines, Respawning Cultists, all so, so fun to play.

    • Reecius
      Reecius September 19, 2017 9:34 am #

      Yeah, Chaos is incredibly good in 8th ed.

  3. Avatar
    Blight September 19, 2017 7:13 am #

    Will say that the maulerfiends you mention wouldn’t get the alpha legion tactics so they’d only benefit from the changling’s aura for -1 to hit.

    • SaltyJohn
      SaltyJohn September 19, 2017 8:19 am #

      Yeah I messed up, I included a picture of the FW dread because I wanted to discuss Helbrutes but wrote Maulerfiends… Thanks for pointing it out!

  4. Avatar
    Max Mustermann September 19, 2017 7:19 am #

    I don’t think Maulerfiends benefit from the AL legion trait as they’re not Helbrutes, so they’d only be -1 with the Changeling and not -2 as stated in the article.

    • SaltyJohn
      SaltyJohn September 19, 2017 8:16 am #

      Yeah, I goofed, I meant to say Helbrutes and it slipped through in editing. I will change it, thanks for pointing it out!

  5. Avatar
    Chandler September 19, 2017 10:18 am #

    Well my Tzeentch army list for Warzone is including Oblits and Havocs with a JP Sorc. All Alpha Legion. -2 to hit Oblits with Changeling is insanely good combined with the stratagem that lets you deploy them from concealment. Also allowing the Havocs to be set up in the best position to get good line of sight on high value targets your opponent is trying to hide from big guns. As always, great write-up, John.

    • SaltyJohn
      SaltyJohn September 19, 2017 11:14 am #

      Thanks! I definitely think that AL is the best way to go for CSM at the moment, although CSM in general are just really good right now.

      • Avatar
        Jural September 19, 2017 12:25 pm #

        If you are going CSM this edition, there is really no reason (competitively speaking) not to make your havocs, cultists, and a few characters Alpha Legion, even if you end up making everyone else a different legion.

        So even an EC or WE army would benefit from making some of their forces AL instead… what a turnaround!

        • Reecius
          Reecius September 19, 2017 1:22 pm #

          Which is another reason why you must have your different detachments painted/modeled to reflect different “Chapter Tactics.”

          • Avatar
            Jural September 20, 2017 9:57 am

            Just buy your models on EBay, no two units (and heck, even models in the same unit) will look the same!

  6. Avatar
    highwind September 19, 2017 1:03 pm #

    I think you should also mention Lord Arkos from FW Imperial Armour… Being able to infiltrate naturally and offering a +1 movement/charge bubble aswell as an additional CP is really great for dedicated AL lists.

    • Avatar
      WestRider September 20, 2017 10:39 am #

      Do they explain anywhere how Models other than Arkos get The Faithless keyword? Because the CSM Dex only allows the 7 Legions+Renegades as replacements for the Legion keyword, and I can’t find anything about that in IA:Index Chaos or the FAQ on the FW site.

  7. Avatar
    Shas'itsa Mari'o September 20, 2017 9:13 pm #

    So I’m curious how the concealed deployment works with the rule of 50% of your units having to start on the table. They aren’t really starting in reserves to arrive mid battle as they must be set up before the first turn.

    Would they count as having been deployed on the table for purposes of determining that 50%?

    • SaltyJohn
      SaltyJohn September 21, 2017 8:41 am #

      The 50% rule applies, think of the units “placed in concealment” the same way you would a unit placed into reserves to come in later, like Terminators.

      • Reecius
        Reecius September 21, 2017 1:33 pm #

        We read it as counting towards the # of units in reserves.

        • Avatar
          Shas'itsa Mari'o September 21, 2017 5:18 pm #

          That’s how I was reading it as well, but could see how the argument would be made to the contrary. Just wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.

        • SaltyJohn
          SaltyJohn September 29, 2017 7:21 am #

          Right, that’s what I meant, hopefully I wasn’t unclear… 🙁

  8. Avatar
    David Hayden September 21, 2017 12:03 pm #

    I love Alpha Legion, and they’re strong.

    My problem is with the Berserkers. It’s too much 7th Edition creeping into 8th. Because list after list abandons other things just for them. So many other things seem pointless compared to the power of the Berserkers. They are *almost* the Warp Spiders of 7th. You see otherwise fluffy lists with Berserkers thrown in just because of their rules.

    • Avatar
      Cephalobeard September 21, 2017 12:40 pm #

      Zerkers are deleted almost instantly by anything that can shoot. If you’re losing to Zerkers, to either need to bubble wrap better or invest in more Chaff units.

      4.1″ Distance between you and your Screen = Zerkers can’t consolidate into your important units.

      • Avatar
        Cephalobeard September 21, 2017 12:40 pm #

        You need to either bubble wrap better or invest in Chaff*

        • Avatar
          David Hayden September 21, 2017 9:07 pm #

          I bubble wrap with Guardians and use Wraithguard, so they’re not a problem for me, but I know they are for some folks. My problem is from the point of view of when I play Chaos Marines, that they seem to be an auto take in too many Chaos Marine lists. Like why takes Possessed when you could take Berserkers and fight twice? That sort of thing.

          Only time I lost to them was on the Relic mission, and the Marine army was backed by the Changeling and loads of brimstones. My opponent started with the relic and ran behind the screen of brimstones. Couldn’t wade through them all in time.

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