CSM Review: Elites: Khorne Berzerkers

Khorne Berzerkers are, at last, what they are always supposed to have been- murderous killing machines capable of chewing through insane numbers of enemies in a short time. And I think this is something we can all be glad for, because the Berzerker is one of the most iconic units of 40K, and certainly of Chaos Marines– even many of those who don’t play the game recognize their chant of “MAIM, BURN, KILL!”

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Khorne Berzerkers are the basic melee combat troop in a Chaos Space Marine army. (I say, “troop,” but really they are an Elite unit for any legion other than the World Eaters. Still, often enough it will be true.) Designed to mash and smash in close combat, they come with an excellent array of melee weapons and other gear that makes them excellent specialists for eliminating enemy infantry in short order.

With a fairly standard Marine statline, Berzerkers only deviate form the norm for their codex in a couple places; they come out with an extra Attack over a normal Chaos Marine, which is to be expected, but also have an extra pip in Strength- a much more important improvement that has them wounding most enemies on 3s and even the toughest of targets on no worse than 5s. At 16pts a pop, they are slightly on the expensive side for T4/3+ models, but not exceptionally so, even when fully-kitted. Squads can be anywhere from five to twenty models strong, and a free Champion upgrade (+1A, +1Ld) is included in every unit.

Wargear, Options, and Abilities

Each model in the unit comes with Frag and Krak Grenades as well as a Bolt Pistol and Chainsword (which grants a bonus attack, for a total of three swings.) Either of the basic weapons can be swapped out for a Chainaxe (+1Str, -1AP); I don’t think there’s much argument for anything other than taking the Chainaxe in place of the Bolt Pistol, for reasons that will be obvious in a moment. Two members of the squad can take Plasma Pistols in place of Bolt Pistols, which isn’t a terrible option but as I never really take Bolt Pistols I don’t feel it’s a strong choice. The Champion can, as usual, take anything off their dedicated list- which, it should be noted, includes Combi-Weapons if you feel like you want to go down that route. Finally, one member of the squad can take an Icon of Wrath, which allows them to reroll charges- highly recommended in most cases.

Apart from Death to the False Emperor (which is common to all CSM units), Berzerkers have only one ability… but it’s a doozy. Blood for the Blood God allows a unit of Berzerkers to be chosen to fight twice during each turn, rather than only once- that’s six attacks per model, and four of them at -1AP. Anything short of T7/3+, Berzerkers will generally chew to pieces in a single turn.


Well, I mean, it’s obvious, right? You assault things with them.

Seriously, though, Berzerkers now set the bar for what a melee unit should be able to do nowadays; they are one of the premiere “blender” units for tearing apart infantry of all sorts, though they will struggle a little bit with Terminators or other models with 2+ saves. Against light infantry such as Conscripts, however, they will absolutely destroy them and even tougher units like enemy Marines are in serious trouble. Chainaxes bring the unit up to even destroying lighter vehicles and monsters pretty easily, as the S6 attacks from the Chainaxes will do some serious work on them.

Of course, the traditional issue with Berzerkers has been one of delivery, but thankfully that problem isn’t so crippling anymore. Alpha Legion and Renegades can both field Berzerkers and have good ways of getting them closer to the enemy more quickly; Rhinos are much more viable as a way of transporting assault troops and are tough enough that they won’t simply crumble the instant the enemy looks at them anymore. Even running units on foot isn’t completely nonviable anymore, though in competitive play it probably is a bit of a non-starter as an overall plan.

Despite their rather simple functionality, Berzerkers can serve a number of roles in an army. As part of a melee-heavy force, they can serve as a strong primary thrust- with their massive close combat abilities and potential to cover a shocking amount of ground on the charge (theoretically as much as 24″ from assaulting alone!), the enemy cannot afford to ignore them for long and yet they are cheap enough to field in significant numbers. They can also serve as a lone infiltration element used to delay and distract the enemy when taken in an Alpha Legion detachment- sneaking in 1-3 units of Berzerkers is a nasty surprise for any opponent, since they can quickly become a problem entirely out of proportion with their cost. Finally, they can be an excellent countercharge unit in a shooting army, giving you a last-ditch tool to eliminate anything that gets too close to your lines- even just five Berzerkers is often enough to finish off the remnants of something that is weakened by the rest of your army, all the more so in concert with a multicharge from an HQ or some other nearby forces.

Although Berzerkers certainly benefit from many of the buff auras available to Chaos Marines (such as the Chaos Lord, Dark Apostle, or Exalted Champion), they aren’t reliant on them to be functional and are quite capable of doing most jobs on their own. As such, I usually find it best to let them roam free on the battlefield rather than trying to leash them to a character- in a one-on-one battle with most enemies, the Berzerkers are usually going to come out on top, even if they take some attrition in the process.

One important thing to remember with Berzerkers is that not only will they get to make both sets of their swings before the enemy on the turn they charge, they also get to make their Pile In and Consolidate movements even if they aren’t within 1″ of any enemies on the turn they launch an assault. It is virtually impossible to space out units sufficiently to avoid becoming engaged by Berzerkers if they wipe something out with their initial set of swings, so small chaff units simply won’t slow them down at all. Of course, you are still limited to only being able to make attacks on units that you declared a charge on that turn, so it often benefits you to launch a multiassault anyways, but against some armies just locking up a bunch of their units in combat is perfectly fine if it will stop them from shooting next turn.

Of course, Berzerkers aren’t without their weaknesses. They’re pretty helpless anytime they aren’t locked in combat, and the existence of overwatch means that you are likely to suffer a fair few casualties even under ideal circumstances, unless you can consistently charge from out of line of sight (which is a bit optimistic.) They also rely heavily on getting two sets of swings in to do their full damage, which means that against another competent melee unit being interrupted (by the Counter-Attack stratagem or an ability that gives “always strikes first”) can put a significant damper of their fun. Abilities that give improved overwatch (Tau Supporting Fire, Mordian regiment trait, etc) can also slow them down a lot. And, of course, defensively they are just regular Marines, so it’s not that hard to just vaporize them with normal guns- and in fact, easier now, since they no longer are particularly resistant to morale.

Final Thoughts

Khorne Berzerkers are a strong unit these days, since they are excellent for clearing out the massed infantry formations that are pretty common. Though you can’t expect them to do everything for you, Chaos-aligned armies can benefit a lot from bringing a contingent of them, whether large or small. Though they are at their best in an Alpha Legion or World Eaters army, almost any of the Legions- or even a generic Chaos army- can make excellent use of their abilities to maim, burn, and even kill.

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About abusepuppy

AbusePuppy is the one who has been ruining 40K for everyone this whole time. He is also searching for the six-fingered man and is one of the three people who know the secret recipe for coke (not the soda, the illegal drug.)

24 Responses to “CSM Review: Elites: Khorne Berzerkers”

  1. Blight October 4, 2017 7:43 am #

    I love this unit so much. Never been happier to have a nice little force of World Eaters. So far they scare the crap out of my Alpha legion and Black Templar friends.
    I have suggested them to the Alpha legion player.

    • Reecius October 4, 2017 12:34 pm #

      Yeah, I think a strong argument can be made that AL Berzerkers are the most optimal version of them, but if you can deliver WE Zerkers they clearly are the most punishing!

      • Dbiesto October 6, 2017 12:42 pm #

        I played the World Eater rhino rush army before warlord traits. Oh dear god they are so brutal!!! 9 + chaos lord for rerolls is amazingly good. Either a stormtalon for fire support or hell drakes to tie up shooters with 3-5 rhinos rushing up in your face is scary.

        • Dbiesto October 6, 2017 12:43 pm #

          Before legion traits

  2. Horton October 4, 2017 8:01 am #

    Berzerkers are absolutely crazy. They are the melee kings of 8th edition. I love it!!! Now if only KDK would get rules again…

    • Reecius October 4, 2017 9:30 am #

      They are incredibly good.

      • Ty October 4, 2017 10:15 am #

        How good do you think they are in World Eaters as compared to Alpha Legion and such?

        • Reecius October 4, 2017 11:24 am #

          They certainly hit the hardest, you just need a delivery mechanism. Rhinos work great, IMO.

        • Jural October 4, 2017 1:12 pm #

          Their problem is that they are so effective and relatively expensive, so the opponent will focus fire on them, and likely obliterate the Rhino, meaning you need a few Rhinos filled with them, adding even more cost…

          Alpha legion allows you to be right in people’s faces turn 1- which is awesome.

          Otherwise, you need to either overwhelm the opponent with enough Rhinos, or make sure the rest of your army is able to dish out a serious pounding if the opponent ignores them.

          Limited data so far- but I have found pairing Berserkers in Rhinos with a Chaos Knight is effective, and if you do go Rhino crazy, make sure to mix in some Chosen or some Noise Marines (obviously need a second detachment if running WE.)

          Also- in the 48 hours the rules were not FAQ’s, I really enjoyed running Berserkers in my EC army!

  3. Cephalobeard October 5, 2017 7:13 am #

    The unit that single-handedly justified my Kharybdis. Haha.

  4. Weird_Guy October 5, 2017 9:40 am #

    Good article, i really like bersekers this edition.

    “they also get to make their Pile In and Consolidate movements even if they aren’t within 1″ of any enemies on the turn they launch an assault”

    Why is that?

    • Reecius October 5, 2017 10:18 am #

      Per the GW FAQ.

      • Weird_Guy October 5, 2017 10:27 am #

        oh i missed that. Thx Sir!

      • Alex Anon October 6, 2017 12:26 am #

        Just curious which faq this is. I can’t seem to find a mention about this on the gw website.

      • Cephalobeard October 6, 2017 5:22 am #

        Happen to have a link to that? I’ve scoured every post and can’t find it. They really could benefit from a centralized FAQ station on the community site.

        • abusepuppy October 6, 2017 3:59 pm #

          The FAQ confirmed it beyond any doubt, but it’s actually exactly as per the BRB as well. p.182, “Choose Unit to Fight With”:

          “Any unit that has charged this turn, or any unit that is within 1 inch of an enemy, can be selected to fight.”

          So anything that launches a charge will get to fight, regardless of whether there is an enemy around; this is particularly relevant for units like Berzerkers (who get to fight twice) or Hormagaunts (who can pile in 6″ at a time.)

          • Alex Anon October 6, 2017 5:05 pm


  5. ApothecaryBradicus October 6, 2017 7:09 pm #

    Has anyone had experience running them in a Kharybdys? Not sure if this is even necessary anymore with Alpha legion around.

  6. Mike October 7, 2017 4:40 am #

    How would you recommend painting an Alpha Legion Berzerker?

    • MidnightSun October 9, 2017 2:58 am #

      As Black Templar Sword Brethren.

      Or Orks.

  7. Mike October 7, 2017 4:54 am #

    Is it worth relying on foward operatives for khorne berzerkers as a tactic for Alpha Legion or would you still give them Rhinos in case you go second?

    • abusepuppy October 8, 2017 10:23 pm #

      I have used Forward Operatives even when going second and been very happy with it; you know what the turn order will be before placing them (including whether or not the initiative has been seized), so you can always choose the most appropriate spot for them as needed. It ends up becoming pretty expensive if you’re running multiple units, but it’s a very powerful way to deploy them nonetheless.

  8. N.I.B. October 9, 2017 12:10 am #

    Berzerkers + Forward Operatives is bananas. If you go second and don’t have at least two units of big cheap screens, you will suffer. You could also try to spread out a lot and force the Berzerker player to choose, but not all armies can do this and get away with it, and it should put most on the backfoot nevertheless.

  9. Stellan August 24, 2019 12:16 pm #

    Nicely written. I know this is an old post but with the new +1 attack for space marines I felt these guys deserved a revisit. As World Eaters these guys now pack 9 attacks a piece on the first fightphase (there will not be a second fightphase). And the sergeant can have a whopping 9 powerfist attacks s10 making him just below a smashcaptain for pure killpotential. I find rhinos to do great work for these guys as you absolutely need to deliver the first blow, any melee unit in the game absolutely demolishes these guys.
    I like World eaters just because they become troops, but they are good in any legion, downside of worldeaters is that you cant bring a sorcerer for warptime.
    Threat saturation is key for a list with zerkers imo. Focusing a rhino and killing the dudes inside is easy work for most armies. But combo them with fast slaanesh daemons / knights / discolords or any other “cannot be ignored” unit keeps the rhinos safe and sound. Obliterators also come to mind as that type of unit*
    I find using units of 5-7 in a rhino is eough as a unit of 5 puts out 47 attacks already, getting extras is probably more for soaking overwatch, but really your rhino should be doing that part for you. The powerfist is worth it!

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