CSM Review: Fast Attack: Chaos Spawn

“The basis of all true cosmic horror is violation of the order of nature, and the profoundest violations are always the least concrete and describable.”

-H.P. Lovecraft


A Chaos Spawn is what happens when you flip your coin for the Dark Gods and end up tails- the inevitable fate for the overwhelming majority of its champions. Mutated to the point of incoherence and unrecognizability, they are flailing masses of agonized flesh that lash out at whatever comes near them. Depending on which of the Chaos powers they worshipped before their devolution they may take any number of forms, but they inevitably come with masses of deadly appendages and a hunger for the death of mortals as revenge for what they have become.

In the context of the game Chaos Spawn are a bit of an unusual unit; they are a mid-range combat unit with many stats that are a bit above the norm, but none so high as to make them into an easily-classifiable specialist at any particular task. They are relatively quick (Mv7″) and reasonably tough (T5 W4 5+), but concentrated fire will drop them well before they reach a defended position. They can also put out reasonable damage (WS4+ S5 d6 Attacks), but certainly won’t be killing off units on their own. Their real virtue is that they are cheap and disposable- at 33pts apiece, you’re not investing much into getting them, and indeed they are the cheapest Fast Attack choice available to a CSM army or to the Chaos metafaction as a whole.

Spawn can be taken in units of 1-5 and may select any Legion trait or Mark of Chaos.

Wargear, Special Rules, and Options

Chaos Spawn have a surprising number of abilities on their sheet for how basic they generally seem. At the most fundamental level, they come with a melee weapon that almost any unit would be proud of, their Hideous Mutations. Starting at S5 AP-2 and Dmg2, the Mutations are strong enough to wound anything smaller than a tank pretty easily and have sufficient AP to give even Terminators some pause. The really clutch part, though, is the two damage that they deal per swing- for anything with multiple wounds (Primaris Marines, the aforementioned Terminators, monsters and vehicles, etc) that can be a pretty terrifying prospect, as they are typically looking at a 5+ or worse save in order to stave off the damage. Even most characters are going to be leery of fighting a Spawn- they might kill it pretty easily, but if it gets to swing back at them, there is a very significant chance it will eat away at their wound count or even kill them outright.

To make them even more dangerous, each unit of Chaos Spawn rolls up a random “mutation” each combat phase when they attack. There are three possibilities, and all of them are excellent- you’ll never be sad to see any of them as they are all strict improvements. Razor Claws improves your weapon’s AP to -4, meaning most units will get no save at all against it (or are relying on an invuln); Grasping Pseudopods adds +2 Attacks for the turn, giving you an average of six swings at a target; Toxic Haemorrhage lets you reroll failed wounds, giving you a much better shot against large targets and more reliability against small ones. Though you have no real control over which ability you end up with on a given turn, all of them do the same basic job (improving your damage output) and so end up being more than acceptable.

Just to add insult to injury, any unit locked in combat with Chaos Spawn has -1 to Leadership, making any morale tests a little bit more dangerous. It’s not a huge deal, but it can synergize with some psychic powers (like those of Slaanesh daemons) and push Marines and other high-leadership units towards having to worry about morale, especially in combination with Legion traits or other special abilities.


So let’s be upfront: Chaos Spawn aren’t going to be a mainstay of your army. They simply aren’t tough enough to shrug off a lot of damage; any kind of S5+ weapon will cause them significant problems, as they rely heavily on their Toughness to shrug off damage. Heavy weapons like Missiles and Lascannon will also give them a bad time, stripping off multiple wounds in short order. This dual vulnerability can feel pretty punishing at times, but the truth is it’s not as bad as all that. They may not be much good as the centerpiece of an assault, but as an opportunistic assaulter they are second to none.

All sorts of weapons will tear apart a Chaos Spawn, but the key thing to remember is that any guns aimed at them aren’t shooting your other units on the field. Chaos Spawn are cheap and easy to hide behind vehicles, buildings, etc; if the enemy is spending effort killing them off, your other units are probably taking a lot less fire, as they take a disproportionate amount of firepower to get rid of. If you’re doing it right, no one is even going to bother to shoot at your Spawn, as they will have Khorne Berzerkers, Maulerfiends, Chaos Bikers, Possessed, Daemon Princes, etc, as much more pressing concerns.

So your Spawn won’t be at the forefront of your assault, but what they should be doing is piling in on other combats to help out wherever help is needed or starting fights with weak units that don’t really want to be in a fight in the first place. A unit of Chaos Spawn will chew up a group of Tactical Marines pretty easily and probably take minimal damage in return; likewise heavy weapon units. Their favorite of all is non-Flying vehicles, however- not only do they lack the ability to attack back effectively, but the Spawn’s multi-damage weapon is extra effective against them and if they choose to fall back they will inevitably just get re-assaulted again the following turn, effectively reducing them to hitting on 6s with everything. Remember that the enemy can’t shoot overwatch at you if they can’t see you- with the relatively small model size and count in a unit of Spawn, you can often tuck yourself behind some terrain to assault the enemy unmolested.

The key to being successful with Spawn is to make them a non-issue in your opponent’s mind- taking lots of other threats is part of this, but also avoiding overinvesting in them is also important. I always run mine in solo units, though a unit of two is probably still defendable. More than that, however, and you have a pretty significant chunk of points right there and a much more valuable target for the enemy to point guns at- avoid this at all costs. Spawn should always seem like an afterthought on the battlefield, pouncing in to kill something where they aren’t expected or are simply too much trouble to deal with at the time. As mentioned earlier, their ability to take small squad sizes and reasonably cheap price per model make them one of the best ways to fill out your FA slots in a detachment- if you’re aiming to take a Brigade or Outrider, Spawn can be an excellent addition.

Also, it’s easy to forget that Chaos Spawn still are part of their Legion and will benefit from all of the buffs that your characters give out. (They are not, however, Infantry, and thus can’t carry the relic, have a harder time getting cover, etc.) Although you probably won’t be working too hard to get them in range of buffs, it’s very possible for them to join in on a larger combat and end up benefiting from one or more auras; the Chaos Lord and Dark Apostle are good choices here, as they help mitigate the poor accuracy on the Spawn’s attacks.

Closing Thoughts

Though in the dim past they were one of the laughingstocks of the game, Chaos Spawn are pretty legit these days. You may not see them as a centerpiece of a lot of Chaos armies, but they fulfill a very useful role in terms of both army construction (i.e. filling slots) and on the battlefield (i.e. harassing the enemy.) They’re a very solid unit with some great modeling possibilities and every once in a while you will have one of them go hog-wild and do 12 or 16 damage to a Knight or the like- pretty good for a unit that costs barely more than a Lascannon!

As always, remember that Frontline Gaming offers great deals every day in their webstore if you’re looking to add to your army or start a new one.

P.S. If you have any good conversions for your Spawn, especially Slaanesh- or Emperor’s Children-themed ones, I would love to see them. Looking to do an “upgrade” on my own ones and looking for ideas.


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.)

27 Responses to “CSM Review: Fast Attack: Chaos Spawn”

  1. Arabviking October 25, 2017 5:36 am #

    Nice review.

    How can the spawn get legion trait if they are not infantry?

    • abusepuppy October 25, 2017 6:07 am #

      Whoops, yeah, that shouldn’t be in there; they are Legion units, but don’t benefit from the traits. Fixed.

      • lessthanjeff October 26, 2017 2:12 am #

        I’m still seeing the line “Also, it’s easy to forget that Chaos Spawn still are part of their Legion and will benefit from all of the buffs that your characters give out as well as any Legion trait you have selected.” which will confuse people.

        • abusepuppy October 26, 2017 3:27 pm #

          Huh, I thought I got that one the first time around. Re-edited, lemme know if it’s still showing up?

          • Shagrat October 27, 2017 5:01 pm

            Spawn can be taken in units of 1-5 and may select any Legion trait or Mark of Chaos.

            Still in there.

  2. Threllen October 25, 2017 6:40 am #

    Spawn are an interesting unit but they seem a lot squishier this edition. They can’t get T6 for starters and they were actually really resilient against heavy weapons last edition due to no instant death or multiple damage. Scatter lasers shredded them but what didn’t scatter lasers shred?

    On the other hand their assault can be very potent but even if you want to take multiple of them to take advantage of their assault it’s best to keep them to 1 per unit so your opponent doesn’t feel like they are a big threat and can’t just mass firepower at them.

    • abusepuppy October 25, 2017 6:43 am #

      Yeah, they’re definitely easier to kill due to the way multiple wounds work, but most things are easier to kill now, so that’s a small issue in the scheme of things. Their melee attacks being -2AP and 2Dmg is a pretty huge upgrade, though, and their mutation table is significantly better than it was before.

  3. Dbiesto October 25, 2017 8:04 am #

    Spawn definitely got a nerf. You can squeeze them into a brigade, a cheap outrider detachment, or ? and use terrain to hide and camp objectives without any nearby Obsec. I feel like warptime is required with 3 units of 5, but when you can get 5 possesed for 110 with a 3+/ 5+ warptime and renegade for 110 points for 10 t4 wounds vs 20 wounds with no save, i would probably take possesed just to camp objectives. They can benefit from changeling so mark of tzeentch them. Chaos spawn are very slow and squishy compared to a lot in the codex but have their uses, although a lot less threatening for not benefiting from chaos daemon auras.

  4. Beau October 25, 2017 8:08 am #

    I have about 20 converted dire wolves that I use as either nurgle spawn or beasts of nurgle, and I am always torn which to take (they fulfill some very similar rolls, but spawn have better damage output vs beasts better survivability)

    I also usually run them solo because that can give the opponent a headache trying to decide how many units to dedicate shooting at them to kill them. Often times scatbikes whiff too many attacks to finish the 1 spawn off, then by the time they killed the ones that were about to charge they don’t have as much threatening firepower to harm the rest of my army.

    Spawn’s 2 damage attacks are also very good at taking out hordes that have DR or FnP (such as pox walkers).

    I usually have 1 full unit of 5 bodyguard a nearby daemon prince(s) especially if I think I can pull a turn 1 assault with warp time (I have been using the renegade legion advance and charge trait with them, has that been an oops?). With prescience on them as well, and the chance to perhaps get 40 attacks with some luck, they truly can devastate a vehicle or monster.

    • Dbiesto October 25, 2017 8:12 am #

      Take beasts of nurgle. 5++ disgustingly resilent and heroic intervention for 5 more points and 1 less movement. Also, a nurgle daemon character can heal them.

      • Beau October 25, 2017 8:20 am #

        That nearby herald also buffs str by +1!

    • Beau October 25, 2017 8:40 am #

      Oh no after reading this article I just realized spawn don’t get legion traits cuz beasts… I have been cheating >.<

      • Dbiesto October 25, 2017 8:51 am #

        Ya, that alone killed it for me. Use them to fill out a brigade.

  5. TFG October 25, 2017 8:12 am #

    Dunno, I don’t really see 7″ as being all that fast. I guess your point about them being a second wave assault unit/distraction type thing is valid, but I’m more than a little salty, considering they used to move 12″. I could be crazy, I think they’re a little overpriced at 33 points each.

    • Beau October 25, 2017 8:33 am #

      1 would definitely be useless, and I would not want to be facing a full shooting army like Tau with them. They can be good for soaking up overwatch fire, and a 5 man unit with warp charge could try for a turn 1 charge.

    • Beau October 25, 2017 8:41 am #

      Actually now that I realized I have been derping and they don’t get legion traits, they are indeed not so great…

      • Threllen October 25, 2017 9:00 am #

        Yeah, a 7″ move is not enough to get a T1 charge even with Warptime (unless you get pretty lucky with deployment and rolls). If they got to move and advance as a renegade legion it would be great, but they can’t so they just get 14″ + charge range which is not good.

        • TrexPushups October 26, 2017 6:55 am #

          They seem like they would be excellent force org fillers for brigade seekers.

          Once on the table they are handy at providing counter assault capacity and providing overwatch soaking for rhino or land raider mounted assault forces on turn 2.

          The morale debuff is a lovely little bit of icing on the cake of devastation. If they are supporting a nurgle raptor unit that is a -3 debuff before even considering something like nightlords. At that point even msu space marines are risking losing models to morale with a single casualty.

          That isn’t bad at all.

          • Threllen October 26, 2017 11:35 am

            I didn’t mean to say the unit itself is terrible. I just think the idea of trying to make a big squad of them work isn’t a good idea. They’re pretty powerful but extremely squishy to heavy weapons so if you make them a big target (I.E. – a group of 5) then they’re just going to get crushed. Since they have a relatively short movement and aren’t affected by legion traits that makes it really hard to get off turn 1 cheese with them by using warptime. You could do it in 7th with Invisibility on them and a biker lord but that isn’t a possibility anymore.

            But, yes they do have some use as single model units. They fill out brigades really well and they can do some damage solo where your opponent might underestimate them or might not want to dedicate units to dealing with them.

  6. WestRider October 25, 2017 2:56 pm #

    Yeah, they still seem good to me, but their role has definitely changed from 6-7th, when they were super fast and made a great bodyguard Unit for a Juggerlord or someone like that. The solo harassment/Objective camper thing does seem to be a good role for them now, but I kind of miss their “blitzer” playstyle.

    I have a bunch of Rat Ogres and BlightKings that I use as Spawn sometimes, but my custom-made ones are all Khornate. I do have a decent pic of them up, tho, might be some ideas you can make use of: http://s16.photobucket.com/user/WestRider/media/Chaos%20Marines/DSCN1810_zps5b8d4c64.jpg.html

  7. OnboardG1 October 25, 2017 11:31 pm #

    They’re fun to throw into combat alongside Night Lords to stack the Ld debuff further. And with the latest AM FAQ…

    • Reecius October 26, 2017 8:54 am #

      Yeah, Night Lords love them =)

  8. Seja October 25, 2017 11:39 pm #

    I use them to fill up points and as a backfield blocking unit against Deep Strike.
    In my last battle, the Spawn sat behind my heavy weapons line and did nothing but deny an area to deep strike into. It was a great investment in my view 🙂
    Yes, for some more points you get a whole bunch of buddies to block even more space (Cultists), but the Spawn is more flexible in its use.

    Though be careful about putting them to far to the front in Turn 1, as one lost Spawn will grant your opponent a First Kill Victory Point.

  9. Horton October 26, 2017 2:46 am #

    I REALLY like chaos spawn. Excellent unit.

  10. Wuffell October 26, 2017 11:08 am #

    Perhaps you could also do an article on the two FW spawns? Thanks 🙂

    • abusepuppy October 26, 2017 3:33 pm #

      I will for sure be doing an article on the Giant Spawn later. The Spined Chaos Beast… maybe. It’s kinda just worse than the Giant Spawn, unfortunately.

  11. The Traitor October 27, 2017 3:42 pm #

    Hmmm… They’re hard for me to take now compared to the fiends of slaanesh. The fiends are squishier, but at this point it doesn’t even matter that much, and they’re much faster and have two excelent special rules. I guess a pount could be made in that spawns allow you to keep CSM as a faction, but usually I’m taking enough of them to fill a detachment anyways.

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