In this installment of “Send Me In Coach!” Mark “Neomaxim” Gottlieb takes a closer look at Possessed.
Anyone who has played 40k with me knows how much of a struggle it is for me to turn off “tournament” mode. I’ve even had to add other tabletop games to my hobby-life, just to play something casually, or purely for the joy of the thing itself. The issue at hand, is that I LOVE 40k; fluff, models, competitive, all of it, and that can be a frustration when the two sides of my hardcore fandom don’t quite align.
Let’s be honest. Most tactica articles out there speak to the top 1% table strategy. There isn’t a single thing wrong with this, but a reality for the vast majority of us out there is that the top local event tables don’t always evoke the same meta we might theoretically be preparing for when we are at the list-building phase.
To this end, I want to talk about the second-stringers… those sub-optimal units so frightfully often relegated to our model storage that they never get to come out on game day. This isn’t about just reminding ourselves to take a breath and love our personal favorite units though. A LOT of players get deeply disrupted when the status-quo gets weird, and that in and of itself is a powerful advantage. For players who have been around for a bit, just saying the word “Lictor-shame” evokes this perfectly.
Today I want to look at my personal favorite, recent, second-stringer… the Chaos Possessed.
Clocking in at about 30% more points than a stock Chaos Space Marine (themselves not being exactly kings of points efficiency), and without any guns at all, Possessed can be a really hard sell to those trying to squeeze every drop out of their list. In an age where even the humble bolter can generate enough shooting to make real contributions, foregoing shots had better come with some serious benefits.
What are those benefits? At a glance, you pick up a daemon-save, always appreciated, but not necessarily incredible, an additional 1” of movement, another -1ap melee attack, and a suspiciously unreliable attack profile of d3 hits per model. The last of their improvements is being S5, and a second wound which is where we finally get something substantial to be more excited about. A few nice pick-ups to be sure, but quick math shows why these guys aren’t the auto-include so many players gravitate towards.
So what reason is there to even give these guys a look?
There is a certain secret sauce some units possess (no pun intended), which helps them transcend merely acceptable stat-lines. In this instance that sauce is found by examining these models as receptacles for buffs. Synergy is increasingly important to playing 40k at a higher level, and some models end up earning space in your collection by virtue of their ability to
absorb flavor. Possessed are the tofu of a Chaos army. Devoid of much flavor or merit on their own, but suddenly hearty in a stew.
Benefitting from being both Heretic Astartes and Daemons (without losing out on the benefit of whatever Legion you make them a part of), means that these humble punchers can take on all kinds of buffs that they might not otherwise. Being unaligned, and allowed to take the Mark of any Chaos God while in many Legions, furthers this. Whereas World-Eaters might be able to field superior Berserkers, they literally aren’t an option should you find yourself wanting to mine some of the deep power groups like the Flawless Host have available to them.
Hand-in-hand with this is the idea that small boosts pick up exponential value, when applied to a big unit, or with the right buff. Being Daemons makes Possessed a prime target for Warp-Time, where suddenly that 1” movement gained over most infantry is utilized twice. In a tournament scene where board-control is becoming more and more critical to success, and Space Marines can literally (again?) be dropping out of the sky and into your face, having a huge, and fast-moving foot-print of twenty bodies, can be game-changing.
But you are probably, rightly, pointing out the fragility of those twenty, pricey bodies. Remember my speaking to how big groups gain that much more from buffs? Well these twenty, two-wound models just love making friends which some of the amazing support choices Chaos brings. A Dark Apostle with Benediction of Darkness brings value to almost any army. The flat -1 against ranged attacks is invaluable as the best defense in 40k is invariably just being hit less in the first place. Couple this with say, Alpha Legion Possessed, and you have created an offensively hard to shit tarpit that your opponent will feel bad devoting fire to, and which even the ever-present Plaguebears would acknowledge as being pretty tough. Oh, and these benefits don’t even hinge on a psychic test being made.
Speaking of which… you do remember the flexibility of those Marks right? A Poxbringer of Nurgle slapping Miasma of Pestilence on your Nurgle Possessed might as well render them vulnerable if it gets off, or cleverly placed Feculant Gnarlmaw just helped ensure your Warp-Timed Possessed can do some serious alpha-striking. A Virulent Blessing, incidentally is as yummy on offense as the other perks are to defense, incidentally.
That is just one avenue to defense, by the way. Even within pure Chaos, a Master of Possession can be on Cursed Earth duty in the early game, and shift to Infernal Power or Mutated Invigoration when combat is imminent.
One last general point I do want to mention is the game-time oddity of a heavy hitter coming in the form of infantry. Chaos is one of the armies who can easily make their offensive threats come not in the form of vehicles, super-heavies, or other tempting Las-Cannon catchers. Your opponent will hate putting high damage, low shot count, weapons into Possessed, but small-arms won’t exactly do the trick either.
Want to lean into offense? A Greater Possessed and a Sorcerer with Diabolic Strength, and Prescience creates Possessed at the mythical S8, each throwing D3 + 2 hits, thanks to Heretic Astartes newly gained Hateful charge attack. That is a lot of power coming from these Possessed, and as we all know, rolling volume of dice can help make damage output more predictable.
This really is the tip of an iceberg of customization, as it doesn’t even address some of the other Legions, and Chaos God combinations. More importantly, as a PART of a well composed list, those support models will and should have other recipients of their buffs waiting in the wings once the Possessed are finally out of position, worn down, or whatever the case might be.
Best of all, the balance of offense v. defense Possessed can be adjusted by YOU the player, sometimes within the game itself to reflect your needs against that meta, or opponent.
Are they fire and forget? Nope, but that wasn’t my intent here. The goal is to simply suggest that some models I love (yeah the kit is aging, but each model can be made so unique and cool), can be elevated to “worthy” status, and deserve to be owned. You may literally own units that do each of their roles better, but tofu is versatile, dammit, and ugly Marines need love too.
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