Codex: Chaos Space Marines 10th Edition – The Goonhammer Review

Are you ready for the summer of Chaos 2024? We’re two weeks away from the release of the 10th edition version of Codex: Chaos Space Marines and with it, some fire rules that add a ton of depth and nuance to the faction. We’re excited to talk about this one, so get comfortable and dig in with us as we talk about the new Codex, the rules inside, and how they change the faction as a whole. 

Before we get started, we’d like to thank Games Workshop for providing us with a review copy of the Codex.


The Structure of This Review

Chaos Space Marines are a big (grande) faction. They have a lot of datasheets to cover and more detachments than any codex we’ve seen so far. So we’ve decided to break this review up into a number of articles. In this main article, we’ll talk about the book overall, offer some thoughts on its detachments and new rules, talk about the changes to datasheets, and our overall thoughts on the book. Beyond that, we’ve created a few additional review articles this week for you to check out which flesh things out even farther – check out the list with links below.

Know Thy Enemy – A Review for CSM Haters

Interested in knowing more about the new book but not so concerned about actually playing Chaos Space Marines? First off, you’re a coward. Second, we’ve written an entire review with the nuts and bolts of what you need to know going up against Chaos Space Marines. You can find that review here.

Detachment Reviews

There are a whopping Eight Detachments for Chaos Space Marines in the new book, and even the one taken from the Index has changed considerably. Rather than put all of them into this article, we’re giving each their own separate article to talk about what’s in them and how they play. You can find links to those articles below.

What About Noise Marines and the Emperor’s Children?

As you go through this review, you may notice that the Emperor’s Children are conspicuously absent – and that includes Lucius the Eternal and Noise Marines. Well, they aren’t in the new book; Games Workshop have already announced that they’ll be getting their own index – published free online – soon. So stay tuned for those.

Where’s Crusade?

As always, we’ve split out our review of the book’s Crusade rules to a separate review, to be published on Tuesday, May 14th. Stay tuned for that one.

Army Overview

Made up of a mix of heretics and traitors who turned on the Emperor ten thousand years ago and more modern renegades and raiders, the Chaos Space Marines act as a dark mirror to the Adeptus Astartes. These power-armored monsters have many of the same strengths and armament as their loyalist cousins but boast a host of unique weapons and abilities thanks to the pacts they’ve made with the dark gods. In practice, the Chaos Space Marines often tend to feel like a more melee-focused flavor of Space Marines, though in a similar fashion to loyalists, there are a number of different ways to play them, with different viable builds based on how you like to play. They’re a pretty versatile faction, and based on this book a powerful faction as well.

We think the following are five standout features of this book:

  • Solid internal balance. Games Workshop have done a solid job with internal balance for the faction this time around. Some key, powerful units have been nerfed, others have received interesting side-grades, and a few of the weaker options have been improved. If you were worried about a return to endlessly regenerating accursed cultists, be at ease: They’re a thing of the past. There’s a lot of power here, but a number of trade-offs have been made as well which make the book seem very powerful but not necessarily outright broken – though we think they may come close in a few spots.
  • The Detachments. They knocked it out of the park with the Detachments. Three out of the eight are straight fire and likely to see regular competitive play, while another two are very good and potentially viable. Only one of the remaining three comes across as a pure fluff option, and the two that aren’t are at least interesting to build around while not being likely to make a splash. All eight are clearly nods to specific legions, and while I don’t love the open-ended nature of them, not being forced into say, Dread Host because you want to play Night Lords is pretty great. 
  • Vashtorr’s Back, Baby! The puny god gets a much-needed facelift in the new book, making him almost playable. More importantly, the Soulforged Warpack detachment is straight fire – it’s so good I wish we were getting a new daemon engine with the book.
  • The Lord Discordant is still bad. Sorry if you still have three sitting around from eighth edition. They’re going to stay on the shelf, unfortunately. 
  • Stratagem names are all over the place. For some reason they’ve given identical stratagems in different Detachments different names. That’s just making things more complicated needlessly. Otherwise there are a lot of great Stratagems here across detachments, though some have a lot more to work with than others.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Army Rules

There are two rules here, both returning from the Index version of the army.

Dark Pacts

Dark Pacts are back as the faction’s army rule – but with one major change: You now make your Leadership test before you get the Pact’s effects. Fail and you take D3 mortal wounds. You still get your pick of [SUSTAINED HITS 1] or [LETHAL HITS] for a phase.

This is a small but important change – you’re now going to think twice before you pact with a Forgefiend sitting on 1-3 wounds, and you may lose a model every now and then before the benefit, which on the balance may nullify said benefit. That said, most of the time this won’t matter, since you’re usually passing on a 6+. That said, it’ll make a bit more of a difference in the Soulforged Warpack detachment when you’re testing at -1 Ld and taking an extra mortal wound each time you fail.

Cults of the Dark Gods

Another carry over from the index, your army can include up to 500 points of Berzerkers, Rubrics, Plague Marines, and Noise Marines. No, you can’t attach characters to them. And they don’t get Pacts, either. Well, aside from Noise Marines, who we’ve been told on Warcom will still have access to Pacts in their upcoming Index. For the most part, this is pretty blah – losing Pacts and character support often makes these units pretty bad in a Chaos Space Marines army, but there are occasionally places for Rubrics and Noise Marines.


There are a whopping eight Detachments here to choose from, each of which is dedicated to modeling a different playstyle and army. As we’ve already mentioned, we’re covering those in more detail in separate articles, which we’ll link to below in our quick overviews of each. As we go through these note that many Detachments have rules and effects which do not apply to DAMNED units. This is a new keyword referring to Cultists, Beastmen, and Traitor Guard.

You can click on the banners below to jump to the article on each Detachment, or just read the short version if you’re in a hurry.

Veterans of the Long War

Veterans of the Long War Detachment Focus

Ostensibly the Black Legion Detachment, Veterans of the Long War gives you the Focus of Hatred Rule, which is basically Oaths of Moment. At the start of your Command phase you pick an enemy unit to be your focus of hatred and until your next Command phase non-DAMNED units re-roll Hit rolls against that target. This is pretty great, though players will note that it has some odd non-synergy with Abaddon’s re-roll hits aura and the Chaos Terminators’ ability. The Stratagems in this Detachment are very strong – Contemptuous Disregard reduces the AP of incoming attacks, Millennia of Experience gives you a 6” reactive move when something comes within 9” of you, while Bringers of Despair straight-up gives one non-DAMNED unit Fights First for a phase against your chosen Focus of Hatred.

The ability to push out full re-rolls to hit against a single target every turn is very strong, and combines well with units which want to fish for Sustained Hits, like Forgefiends powered up by a Warpsmith. If you’ve got 2 CP to spend, you can also change to a new focus target when your current one is destroyed using the Endless Ire Stratagem. On the whole there are some solid Stratagems to work with here and while I think the Veterans are more in the “tier 2” level of these detachments, they’re still very strong and competitively playable.


Deceptors Detachment Focus

The Alpha Legion Detachment lets you pick up to three units each of Legionaries or Cultist Mobs in a 2,000 point game, plus any non-EPIC HERO characters attached to those units to gain Infiltrators before the game begins. This is one of those abilities that seems just OK until you start thinking about the reality of putting 75 cultists on the middle of the table before the game starts… plus another three units of Legionaries. In true Alpha Legion fashion, this Detachment has a ton of very tricky effects, including an Enhancement for an INFANTRY character which gives its bearer Stealth and Lone Operative and another which lets your character gain the abilities of any other character’s datasheet in your army each turn. 

On the Stratagem side you have a lot of the tricks you’d expect to see. There’s no Armour of Contempt equivalent here, but you have a fall back and shoot Stratagem, a 6” reactive move for infantry/mounted units, and a Stratagem to prevent reserves from being set up within 12” of one of your units – perfect for that 25-model Cultist blob you infiltrated to the middle of the table which can now block out the entire table. Oh, and my favorite of the bunch is Detonator, which you can use to force a non-TITANIC enemy unit to explode on death if they die within 18” of one of your characters. And From All Sides lets a unit get +1 to its charge rolls for each other unit in your army which made a Charge move that phase, to a max of +3, letting you pull off some truly crazy combos with 6” charges out of Deep Strike. 

On the whole, Deceptors is very strong, and along with Veterans of the Long War solidly in the second tier of CSM Detachments. There are some great Stratagems to work with here, and infiltrating three units is very powerful – Legionaries are sneaky good melee units for their cost so even if you aren’t loading up on choking the middle of the table with 400 points of cultists, you’ve got some solid options. 

Renegade Raiders

Renegade Raiders Detachment Focus

The Red Corsairs make a comeback with the first A-tier Detachment from the new set. Every unit in your army gets ASSAULT on their ranged weapons and any time a model in your army attacks a unit in range of an objective marker, improve the AP on their attacks by 1. This is just a bonkers good passive ability, and it’s wonderful for skirmishing on and around objectives, those things which determine primary scoring and a host of secondary objectives. So it’s pretty good. The most notable enhancement here is Mark of the Hound, which gives the bearer and his unit the Scouts 6” ability. 

The Stratagems here are straight fire. Unfailingly Obdurate is your oddly-named Armour of Contempt analog. Opportunistic Raiders is used at the end of the fight phase and lets any unit that was eligible to fight during the phase move 6” or 12” if mounted, making a fall back move if they’re Engaged. They can even embark in a transport if they didn’t disembark that same turn. Warpcharged Engines lets your Mounted or Transport unit auto-advance 6”, Ruinous Raid gives you full re-rolls to hit and wound against a target on an objective marker, provided you disembarked from a transport this turn (shooting and fighting), and Reaver’s Haste lets you advance and charge and gives you +1 to the charge roll if you charge a unit on an objective.

These are bonkers good abilities, and they’re all very much in-line with what the faction already wants to be doing. The only bad thing about this Detachment is that it encourages using lots of bikes, and those models suck. Otherwise, this detachment is absolutely amazing and one we expect to see play given how versatile it is.

Goatboy: This detachment is the shit. It will always work, it’s fast as heck, and turns on your Chosen back to the way we had them in the index. I think this Detachment is also one of the ones that good ole Abaddon will love to ride in – attached to his new best friend Chosen to get some amazing move, advance, charge, and shoot fools in the face. I am so thankful all my stuff is painted red because it does go faster.  

Good competitive Detachments work all the time and there isn’t anything tricky you need to do. Always being able to move, shoot, and be effective is the key to being powerful in 40K right now. I am not going to say the others won’t show up but this is definitely one of the best ones from this awesome book.

Mike P: Red Corsairs players are going to be ecstatic when they read these rules. This is an incredibly powerful Detachment, and one that I think will demonstrate the full strength and flexibility of the Chaos Space Marines toolbox. Whether you’re playing with your siblings on a kitchen table or battling in the finals of a major tournament, you can absolutely find success with this detachment. 

Now only is this Detachment extremely powerful, it’s also just plain fun. When CSM players imagine how they want their army to play, it’s going to be something very similar to this ruleset. 

Dread Talons

Dread Talons Detachment Focus

The Night Lords Detachment is, as you might expect, based around Leadership shenanigans – each time an enemy unit within 12” of one of your units takes a Battle-shock test, they get -1. Also, in the Battle-shock step of your opponent’s command phase, they have to test if they’re below starting strength and within 12” of one of your units. This is just whatever. It’s okay, and as we’ll see there are a few ways to use it, but this Detachment is really more of a Hear Me Out/Tier 3 pick – it can probably be used to build something playable, but unless Battle-shocking a unit on your turn becomes much more useful, it’s not likely to amount to much.

The Enhancements here are solid, with two notable stand-outs. Night’s Shroud gives the bearer’s unit Stealth, and Warp-fuelled Thrusters (Jump Lord only) lets the bearer’s unit drop back into strat reserves at the end of your opponent’s turn, provided they aren’t in Engagement Range. These are both great, and having a unit of Raptors who can drop back into deep strike reserves every turn is money. Eater of Dread is nice on a support character skulking on the board across the game, giving you a chance to generate CP in your Command Phase on a 5+, adding to the roll for each Battle-Shocked enemy unit. Will-Breaker triggers a Battle-shock after the bearer’s unit has fought, which isn’t a great time to trigger one, but isn’t nothing in the battle to flip primary and shut down enemy counterplays.

On the Stratagems front, there are some interesting things here but it’s mostly mediocre effects which require you jump through some insane hoops. Depthless Cruelty gives you +1 AP in melee against a unit that’s either Battle-shocked or below half strength. Pitiless Hunters lets a unit shooting a Battle-shocked or below half-strength unit re-roll all hit and wound rolls. If this was usable in melee as well it’d be amazing but as a shooting-only effect (Lowest of Men: WHYYYY) it’s a bit harder to use. Screaming Terror is great here though, giving you a 3” deep strike and immediately forcing a battle-shock test on a unit within 6” – with a unit of Raptors dropping in and giving a unit -2 this can immediately flip objectives and un-sticky them, leading to some fun shenanigans. The output boosting stratagems are Battle Tactics, opening up combo play with Lords. A Jump Pack Lord can drop down with Raptors, shock the daylights out of an infantry target, and then shoot it to bits with full hit and wound rerolls for free before (potentially) scooting off into the skies to do it again…

There’s some undoubtedly fun stuff in here, but the battle-shock effects in the army just aren’t quite there. You can definitely build around Raptors and Noise Marines and work on forcing 2-3 tests per turn on units at -2 and there’s something to that, but it still feels like you’re jumping through big hoops to get the same effects other Detachments just get for free. There’s some power here but it’s not on the level of some of the others.

Mike P: The fact that the Night Lords Detachment has not one, but TWO rules (a relic and a stratagem) which make enemies take Battle-shock tests after your unit fights shows that whomever wrote this Detachment is playing a very different game of Tenth Edition than the rest of us. This is one of the most completely useless effects possible in all of 40K, and the fact that it shows up twice here is really disappointing. 

That being said, this Detachment has some play. In particular, the stratagem Merciless Pursuit that allows you to charge an enemy unit after it has fallen back is extremely powerful and is going to win you some games by itself. 

From a flavor perspective, it’s also excellent that the Night Lords detachment heavily incentivizes you to run Raptors, and you’re going to start every list with three units. 

Lowest of Men: Night Lords always veer towards cute but slightly less reliable, and this Detachment sure is that. The Battle-shocking really does add up into armies that don’t have the best leaderships and / or are very dependent on defensive stratagems, regenerating stratagems and the like, and will suddenly find themselves losing out on their go-to clutch plays, but you’re always one successful test away from standing somewhere with your pants down. One incredibly silly/flavourful match up that’s worth pointing out is how this plays into the rarely seen Dark Angels – imagine running this at them and setting off every Battle-shock induced buff known to man! No wonder Thramus was a disaster eh…

Fellhammer Siege-Host

Fellhammer Siege-Host Detachment Focus

The Iron Warriors Detachment is a hard one to place. Depending on who you ask in our review working group it’s either in tier 2 with Veterans of the Long War and Deceptors or in tier 3 with Dread Talons. Here’s the thing – the Detachment rule is amazing: Each time a ranged attack targets a non-DAMNED unit in your army, if the strength of that attack is greater than your toughness, they get -1 to wound. This is very solid. Not full “Transhuman Physiology” good, but amazing for keeping your vehicles from taking wounds on a 3 from Lascannons and great on units like Terminators who need just a little extra durability. 

The problem is that the Detachment’s Enhancements and Stratagems are nothing to write home about. The Enhancements aren’t great, though Bastion Plate giving you a once per round reduce to 0 damage effect is solid on your Terminators. The Stratagems are likewise, just OK – Steadfast Determination gives a unit a 5+ Feel No Pain in the shooting phase, replacing an Armour of Contempt effect. Point-Blank Destruction gives a unit’s ranged weapons [PISTOL], Persistent Assailants gives you re-rolls to hit in the fight phase and re-rolls to wound if you’re below half-strength. And Pitiless Cannonade gives your unit critical hits on 5+ in the Shooting phase against a unit below half Strength, making it an interesting way to proc extra hits with Dark Pacts.

Like I said, these are fine. You’re mostly here for that solid Detachment ability, though. And there I think it’ll give you more value on T4 and T5 units than vehicles, where your biggest concern is more likely going to be Lascannons and the rare S12+ ranged weapon. At the end of the day, this Detachment just doesn’t really do what Chaos Space Marines armies want to be doing – it’s a Detachment which has you sit back and let the opponent dictate when and how to engage with you, and that’s really not what you want. 

Mike P: Vindicators and Obliterators are two units that are going to work very well in his Detachment, which is a success from a flavor perspective. Iron Warriors players can run Iron Warriors themed units and find a lot of synergy in this detachment. 

That being said, I am really, really confused why there are almost no damage buffs in this Detachment. The only real damage buff in the entire Detachment is the relic Warp Tracer, which prevents one enemy unit hit by the bearer from getting the Benefit of Cover. There’s a couple relics which slightly buff the damage of a single model and a stratagem which gives you Critical Hits on a 5+ versus enemy units below half-strength. Rules that give you a damage buff versus a unit below half-strength are almost all very mediocre in Tenth Edition. There are some useful things here and I’m eager to playtest it and see how the Iron Warriors actually perform, but I feel like there might be something missing here. 

Pactbound Zealots

Pactbound Zealots Detachment Focus

The Word Bearers Detachment is primarily based on the Index Detachment, Slaves to Darkness. Units in your Detachment gain an extra benefit when they make a Dark Pact based on their mark of Chaos. These haven’t changed – Nurgle and Tzeentch give you critical hits on 5 for ranged attacks based on whether you went Sustained Hits 1 or Lethal Hits, respectively, while Slaanesh and Khorne do the same for melee and Undivided gives you re-roll 1s to hit. What has changed is that now you have to pass the Leadership test to get the additional Pact Effect. This is a minor thing, especially on units with an icon, but still going to cost you the occasional bonus hits/wounds.

There are some changes – there are only four Enhancements now, so the Liber Hereticus is gone. And Infernal Rites is gone which, good riddance to the 2 CP version of Armour of Contempt. In its place we get Eye of the Gods, which you can use after a (non-Damned, non-Daemon, non-Epic Hero) Character from your army kills an enemy unit to give them +1 Move, Toughness, and Wounds, as well as +1 Attacks, Strength, and Damage on their melee weapons. So basically on a Chaos Lord, MoE, or Sorcerer. This is kind of neat but rarely useful. It’s no AoC, but you weren’t using that at 2 CP anyways.

Pactbound Zealots remains incredibly strong – the bonus crits make your melee and shooting units more powerful across the board, and while you have to test before getting the benefits of a Dark Pact, it’s not enough to knock this one down. Pactbound Zealots is the second of our three top-tier Detachments in the book and likely to see ongoing competitive play.

Mike P: The improved Dark Pacts only triggering on successful Leadership rolls is a really big deal. I’m not sure it’s unwarranted, because on-demand exploding or auto-wound 5+’s is such a huge power boost. Unlimited access would have made internally balancing the codex tricky. But it’s something that you really need to keep in mind when trying to understand how this detachment will shake out. Lining up a key play just to have your detachment ability fail to proc is going to happen more often than you realize. 

There is still a ton of power and flexibility in the rest of the stratagems, and outside of the new clunker it’s still one of the better suites of stratagems in the game. For example, Fall Back/Advance and Shoot/Charge, being harder to shoot at range, or fighting on death are all very powerful abilities. The one idea I’ll push back on is that Infernal Rites being gone doesn’t matter. The main issue isn’t that “Armour of Contempt for 2CP” is gone, but that “Armour of Contempt for 0CP if you brought a Chaos Lord” is gone. And the new Character boosting stratagem is just so, so bad. Coupled with Possessed and Masters of Possession getting nerfed, and there is less for Word Bearer fans to be excited about than I would have liked. 

Chaos Cult

Detachment Focus: Chaos Cult

Hey, it’s the bad fluff Detachment. You get two effects here. The first is that Traitor Guardsmen gain the BATTLELINE keyword. The second is that your DAMNED units can make a second kind of Pact called a Desperate Pact. Desperate Pacts are the same as Dark Pacts Mechanically but they happen when you make a Normal move, Advance, or declare a Charge. You make your pacts and after it’s done you add 2” to your move Characteristic and 2 to their Charge rolls. This is pretty cool, all things considered. The big shame here is that DAMNED units just aren’t that great because otherwise, +2 to charge on a unit arriving from reserves would be money. 

Enhancements-wise you have four options here, all of which can go on a Dark Apostle and three of which can go on a DAMNED model and all of which are pretty good. Cultist’s Brand gives the bearer’s unit the ability to re-roll Advance and Charge rolls. Amulet of Tainted Vigour is your new path to regenerating Accursed Cultists, letting you get back D3 DAMNED models in the bearer’s unit in your Command phase. Incendiary Goad gives DAMNED models in the bearer’s unit +1 Strength at below starting strength and +1 Attack below Half, and Warped Foresight gives the bearer Scouts 6”.

The Stratagems on offer here are pretty good, and three revolve around making extra pacts. Chosen for Glory lets you make a Desperate Pact in the shooting or fight phase, and gives you full re-rolls to hit, plus if you didn’t fail it you also get full re-rolls to wound. Similarly Infernal Sacrifice lets you take D3 mortal wounds and make a Desperate Pact in exchange for +1 Attacks in melee and an extra +1 Strength if you passed the Pact test. Crazed Focus is used in the Shooting phase and is the same deal but with +1 AP and +1 Strength if you passed the test. Reckless Haste lets a unit advance and charge. And Mortal Thralls lets a unit of DAMNED protect a unit of Astartes from enemy shooting attacks by taking mortal wounds instead of the damage meant for your unit.

These are all very good abilities on paper but they fall apart when it comes to the datasheets. There’s just not much power in the DAMNED datasheets, especially with Cultists and Traitor Guardsmen now having fewer weapon options. 

Mike P: These rules are fantastic. They really are. If you want to run an army of rabble all working together for the Dark Gods, this is exactly what you’re looking for. The datasheets are what’s going to let down the rules, and not the other way around. But if you’re running a Lost and the Damned theme army, then you’ve already won before the game even started.

The optimal list for this Detachment will likely be 2/3rd Cultists and Guardsmen, with 1/3rd of your army being generally good CSM damage dealers that gain little synergy from being in this detachment but provide enough pain that your opponent can’t just rush your rabble without any care. 

Soulforged Warpack

Detachment Focus: Soulforged Warpack

The final Detachment in the book is also one of its strongest. When making a Dark Pact in this detachment, your DAEMON VEHICLES can invoke their contract. If they do they get -1 Leadership and they get +1 to wound on ranged attacks or +2 attacks in melee. This is incredibly good. On average in melee it’ll get you more hits than the Pactbound bonus for having the correct mark for Sustained Hits on a 5+ with something like a Maulerfiend. Likewise, 

Against anything where +1 to wound matters, it’ll be at least marginally better than the sustained hits 5+ bonus. So it’s worth the extra hassle to build around.

Where things get really interesting is the Enhancements and Stratagems – Tempting Addendum is a must-take here. Each time one of your Daemon Engines within 3” of the bearer invokes its contract it takes an extra mortal wound if it fails its Pact test (so, D3+1), but until the end of the phase it re-rolls hit rolls. This is also bonkers good, and honestly almost good enough I’d consider it on a Lord Discordant just for the extra movement to have him in a more forward role. But as it is I think the play is to dump it on a Warpsmith babysitting a pair of Forgefiends. The other solid pick here is Forge’s Blessing, which lets you give a friendly vehicle within 12” a 6+ Feel No Pain each turn in the Command Phase.

On the Stratagem side, there are some fun effects to pick from. Desperate Pledge ups a daemon vehicle’s AP by 1 for a phase when it Invokes its contract. Predatory Pursuit gives you a 6” reactive move – but it has to take you as close as possible to an enemy unit., while Unstoppable Rampage lets a vehicle move through terrain as if it wasn’t there for a phase – either when moving or charging, letting you get up to some real fun nonsense. My favorite however is Daemonic Possession, which is used in the Command phase to give a vehicle in your army the DAEMON keyword, letting you make things like daemon land raiders, Helbrutes, and Vindicators.

This is the third of the three “top-tier” Detachments and one I think will be a lot of fun to play around with. There are some very interesting options here, and this may be the detachment where Maulerfiends finally shine, especially if they keep their 140-point cost. An army of Maulerfiends and Forgefiends sounds rad as hell. Dinobots, go!

Credit: Swiftblade


When it comes to the datasheets, there are a lot of little changes which amount to a lot, but with only one new unit and no massive overhauls. This is going to feel more like patch notes than a major update. That said, there are a number of winners and losers here, and we’ll sort the datasheet updates into categories accordingly. 

New Datasheet: Chaos Lord with Jump Pack

Let’s start with the new guy, who’s really just an updated version of an older guy who we never should have lost as an army. The Chaos Lord with Jump Pack is exactly as advertised on the tin. He’s a Chaos Lord with the standard T4 3+/4++ 5W defensive profile and he comes with the Lord of Chaos ability to use a Stratagem for free once per round. Note that this has the same name as the ability on the regular Chaos Lord and Terminator Lord, so if you double up you still only get one use per round. The Jump Lord can join Raptors (and only Raptors – no one can join Warp Talons), and has an ability called Cruel Hunter which lets his unit move 6” when making a Pile In or Consolidate move. He also has Grenades, which Raptors don’t have inherently, opening up some cheeky mortal wound plays.

The Jump Lord can either go pistol + Accursed Weapon or Power Fist and has the option to swap those out for a pair of Lightning Claws. I can’t imagine running this guy without a fist for the much-needed 2-damage output but I’ll probably put claws on one anyways for my Night Lords. 

Removed Datasheets

While there’s one new datasheet in the book, several were removed. The most obvious are Lucius the Eternal and Noise Marines, but we almost didn’t notice that the Exalted Champion is no longer available. That drops out one of the army’s cheapest character options but, well, the fact that we almost forgot about him says a lot about his competitive value.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones


These datasheets received a buff in some way or another. Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re playable or good, just that they’re better than they were.

  • Defilers can now use the Counter-offensive Stratagem for 0 CP. You can do this even if you already used it on another unit. You can only do this on one Defiler (but no one is taking two Defilers, so whatever), and it’s an interesting buff to have in your pocket, though pretty situational.
  • Helbrutes get +2 Attacks when they have two melee weapons instead getting Twin-Linked when they have two fists. This is a solid upgrade in almost every situation – it’s mathematically worse than twin-linked if you’re going into T12+ targets, but better against everything else and way better if you have any other combination of melee weapons – Fist + Scourge feels like a solid option here, though it makes me lament there’s no way to do hammer + scourge.
  • Warp Talons can go back into reserves at the end of the Fight phase if they were eligible to fight and no units are currently within Engagement Range of them. This is a huge glow-up, and the ability to leave the battlefield after destroying an enemy unit makes them some of the game’s best skirmishers.
  • Vashtorr received a big set of buffs. The Arkifane is now T10 (instead of T9), his claw shooting has ANTI-VEHICLE 4+, he’s S14 and AP-2 on his strike attacks and S8 in sweep, and any enemy units within 18” which shoot at Vashtorr gain HAZARDOUS on their ranged weapons. Is he good enough to play now? Enhhhhh maybe, but it’s at least a question I’d consider!
  • Fabius Bile can join Cultist Mobs and Accursed Cultists. This is pretty interesting, since it means he can give one of those units +1 Toughness, though if he joins Accursed Cultists they can’t Scout.
  • The Dark Apostle now removes Battle-Shock at 12”. This gives you a lot more flexibility with him if you need to get over a bad test.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Somewhere in the Middle

Some units received buffs and nerfs, or had abilities replaced with something comparable which changes their purpose. These are more like sidegrades than up- or downgrades.

  • Abaddon changed pretty substantially. He lost the four marks of Chaos, which seems like a pretty big flavor fail, and now just has Undivided. That’s pretty lame! That said, it really only affects the Pactbound Zealots Detachment, as that’s the only place marks matter other than the Let the Galaxy Burn Stratagem in the Veterans of the Long War Detachment. His auras no longer affect DAMNED units, which stinks, and Dark Destiny now goes off when you pass your pact with a roll of 7+, instead of being a 2+ after you pass. That’s fine, honestly. It’s a little worse mathematically (58% vs. 69%) but less rolling overall so I’m gonna call it a wash. Why is Abaddon in the sidegrade group with these cuts? Because now he can join units of Chosen, and that’s huge. Abaddon was previously wasted on units of Legionaries while a full brick of Terminators was often undesirable as they were slow or had to Deep Strike. Abaddon can now join a unit of ten Chosen and either Advance and Charge or just load up into a Land Raider. This is especially solid in the Raiders & Renegades Detachment, where you get bonuses for charging out of a Transport. It opens up a ton of new options for the Warmaster.
  • Accursed Cultists lose resurrection, but gain new movement. On the whole we think this is a get a glow-up. Accursed Cultists lost the Command Phase resurrection but gained Scout 6” and the ability to move when shot in a similar fashion to Berzerkers. I hope you kept all of your Accursed Cultists, because they’re going to be a lot of fun to use in the new codex.
  • Warpsmith Weapon options got rolled up into a single profile. Warpsmiths get their melee weapons rolled into a generic Forge Weapon. You lose DEVASTATING WOUNDS and S8, but gain ANTI-VEHICLE 4+ and hit on 3+. This is fine, as time spent choosing a melee loadout for your Warpsmith was time poorly spent anyway.
  • Fellgor Beastmen were either nerfed or buffed depending on your perspective, unless your perspective is “I don’t care about Fellgor Beastmen,” which is fair enough. They lose Scouts 6” but get +2 to their Charge rolls and can now come in on the first turn of the game from Strategic Reserves, treating the turn number as one higher. That makes them very capable of turn 1 charges out of Reserves… for whatever that gets you.
  • Chaos Bikers lost the Outflank ability. They can’t leave the table any more, but now they get +1 Strength on the charge. It’s a slight downgrade in terms of functionality but makes them better fast melee threats, and Warp Talons now occupy the role they were doing. 

Battle-Ready Venomcrawlers Credit: Swiftblade


And then there were some datasheets which received nerfs, or had several changes where the nerfs outweighed any buffs. Not every unit in this list is bad or unplayable – many are still very usable – they’re just worse than they were.

  • Cypher. Cypher’s pistols are now melee weapons, with more or less the same profiles. He still won’t use his bigass sword. He also had a major change to his Agent of Discord ability – it no longer has an Agents of Vect-style effect but instead increases the cost of Stratagems used on units within 12” of Cypher by 1. While it’s cool to see GW explore new design space with something like this, it feels so situational as to be worthless given the restriction of only working on Battle Tactics.
  • Venomcrawlers’ Soul Eater ability only works in the Fight Phase. This is a big nerf to their scaling attacks, and it’s definitely disappointing. Fight phase kills still charge the guns, but that’s the only time it happens.
  • Obliterators’ Focused Malice Mode (the Melta one) on their Fleshmetal Guns is now only range 18”. Dropping from 24” range is pretty brutal, and means you can’t melta something out of Deep Strike any more (though Rapid Ingress is still an option). They’re still very strong shooting units and have some good tricks in the new book, but it’s a definite drop in quality. They also only come in units of two models now, so you can’t stack buffs on four of them any more.
  • The Master of Possession lost his 6+ Feel No Pain ability. He no longer imparts this effect on the unit he joins. Just a straight downgrade here, with no replacement. 
  • Possessed can only use Unholy Bloodshed once per game. Possessed are the single biggest losers datasheet-wise, as their Dev Wounds ability moves to once per game. Getting Dev Wounds on the Master of Possession’s ranged psychic attack was one of the strongest uses of their ability, and now you have to choose between doing that once or getting Dev Wounds in melee once. They also lose the 6+++ Feel-No-Pain from Masters of Possession. For a unit that was rarely seeing play in successful CSM lists anyway, these are disappointing decisions, but there may be a place for them in the Raiders detachment.
  • Cultist and Traitor Guardsmen loadouts became box-locked. This drop in customizability was expected, but still slightly disappointing.
  • The Noctilith Crown lost its invulnerable save aura in favor of a Leadership buff. The Noctilith Crown going from “niche but very good at its role” to “completely useless” means it has been upgraded from “being on your shelf” to being “a glued-on part of your display board.”
  • Chaos Spawn. Chaos Spawn lost regeneration and are now OC 0. As a bit of a buff, they now give non-VEHICLE enemy units within 3” -1 to their OC. This won’t make up for suddenly being unable to hold objectives, and while Spawn weren’t showing up in CSM lists, it’s not a great sign for Death Guard, World Eaters, and Thousand Sons lists which used Spawn as fast holders. The -1 OC ability is at least interesting in that it has no floor, and can be used to make an objective completely untakeable by some units.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

New Ways to Use Units

  • Warp Talons. Let’s just address this nonsense right now. Warp Talons can now return to reserves if they were eligible to fight in the fight phase, but are no longer within Engagement range of an enemy unit. This. Is. Wild. A five man (or, even better, a ten) can essentially trade without trading, jumping out, murking something, disappearing into the sky, ready to come back via Rapid Ingress in your opponent’s turn and do it all over again in yours. Massive potential here, and a constant worry for your adversaries…
  • Abaddon. As we mentioned before, Abaddon can now join Chosen. That was always a big limitation for Abaddon as he could only join 5 Terminators in a Land Raider or ten Legionaries and let’s be real – Legionaries weren’t how you wanted to allocate his talents. Being able to join Chosen is just much more fun and gives him access to Advance and Charge and a unit of much nastier melee threats than Legionaries can offer.
  • Daemon Engines. The Soulforged Warpack adds a lot of value to Daemon Engines and really encourages some new lists that are more out there than other builds we’re likely to see. It’s an exciting way to play the army and we’re interested to see how it changes the viability of units like Maulerfiends and Defilers. The Soulforged Warpack might finally be what Maulerfiends need to see play, and if they keep their 140-point price tag, I can see a future for them in a world where they throw out 2 more attacks and can just move through terrain with impunity.
  • Chaos Bikers. Without their ability to Outflank, Chaos Bikers have moved more into of a fast melee/harassment role. They still have plenty of speed to do what they need to do, but aren’t a threat to pop out of reserves any given turn. They still have some crazy output potential for a three-model unit, however.

Vashtorr the Arkifane. Credit: Rockfish
Vashtorr the Arkifane. Credit: Rockfish

How They Will Play

While some things will change, we don’t think the core identity of Chaos Space Marines will change much. And that makes sense, given there’s only one new unit and most of the datasheets stayed pretty similar to the Index. They’re still an army with lots of nasty melee output and solid mid-range shooting threats who specialize in explosive bursts of damage output and dictating when and how it’s applied. And while the different Detachments in this new Codex offer a lot of different rules, ultimately we expect those Detachments which lean into the things CSM datasheets already want to do will drive the best results and be the ones used most often. 

Generally speaking, we’d group the Detachments in the book into the following tiers:

  • Tournament Staples: Renegade Raiders, Pactbound Zealots, Soulforged Warpack
  • Strong: Veterans of the Long War, Deceptors
  • Mostly Thematic: Dread Talons, Fellhammer Siege-Host
  • Meme-worthy: Chaos Cults

And depending who you ask, some of those vary – it may be that Renegade Raiders is more of an S-Tier cut above the others, while Wings thinks Veterans of the Long War belongs in the staples list. On the other end, Mike thinks Fellhammer Siege-Host is one of the worst Detachments ever printed, but I think that’s pretty hyperbolic for something that gives you some solid durability boosts. We generally agree on what’s in the top half vs. the bottom half however, and it’s clear that Raiders and Zealots are still among the strongest options on offer.

When it comes to units, a lot of what will be viable is going to be dictated by the final points. The current points push heavily toward Legionaries over Chosen with support from Raptors, Bikers, and Cultists and toward cheaper high-output vehicles like Vindicators, Predators, and Maulerfiends. Warp Talons will likely make their way into that mix, and Cypher is bound to hang around as a cheap backfield-holding Lone Operative, while Rhinos full of dangerous melee threats continue to loom large. 

Example Army Lists

You can find army lists for each Detachment in our Detachment Focus articles – check the Detachments section above for more on those. We’ve built a sample list for each army, using the current Munitorum Field Manual points and the printed Codex values for the Enhancements and Jump Pack Chaos Lord. 

Final Thoughts

TheChirurgeon: This is an extremely solid book. There’s a ton of power here and a solid mix of play styles. If you were a Chaos Space Marines player already, this book is going to make you happy – most everything you were already doing is still viable, but you have a ton more options to play with and some of those are incredibly good. Notably, the Pactbound Zealots detachment is still one of the stronger options just thanks to the raw output it brings to the table. 

If you were on the fence about Chaos Space Marines, now’s a good time to get into the faction. There’s a lot of power here, but also a ton of variety, and as we’ve pointed out, there are multiple Detachments strong enough to see play and success at the competitive level.

If you’re a Custodes player who read our review of Codex: Adeptus Custodes and came here hoping to see me all mad about Games Workshop “doing to my book what they did to Custodes,” well bad news: They didn’t – this book rules. Also I don’t generally tether my happiness to the competitive strength of my Codex. I played Death Guard at the end of ninth edition when they were terrible. But right now I’m looking at three boxes of Kill Team: Nightmare and planning a resurgence of my Night Lords. Hell yeah.

Goatboy: Chaos Space Marines will play the tabletop bully as they have in the past. They seem to be an army that can do most things in the game. Do you want efficient shooting? We got you. Do you want some assault punch that moves fast? We got you too. Do you like Giant frothing daemon infused robots that come at you and take your candy? We got that too.

This new book does all of that, updates a few things where needed, and gives you a ton of new ways to play. It is a very deep book which is a good thing as the faction is pretty big. While we didn’t get a ton of new models we did see a whole slew of new ways to engage with your ancient assholes of the warp which is a good thing.

Mike P: By simple virtue of having eight detachments, the CSM codex is a big success. No matter what your playstyle is or what your favorite units are, there is something for you in this book. 

I can’t get over the Red Corsairs or Daemon Engine detachments. They’re both so wildly strong, and in really different and fun ways. This codex can come roaring out of the gate and will put a lot of pain on the Necron, Thousand Sons, and Orks lists we’re going to see a lot of over the coming months. 

On the flip side, the same attention didn’t seem to be shown to the Night Lords and Iron Warriors detachments. They’re not awful, and I’m still looking forward to experimenting with them and having fun trying some different list ideas, but there are clearly different tiers of detachment strength in this codex. 

Wings: This seems like a well put together book overall – it has powerful stuff for competitive players to dig into, and the weaker detachments are at least interesting, which is welcome for more casual players. I also like some of the datasheet tweaks to give units new roles, and the book in general has the ineffable vibe of feeling right for the faction.

I do think Renegade Raiders is too much better as an all-rounder choice than everything else, but there’s other stuff to work with and I’m a higher on Veterans of the Long War than the others – for me it’s those two and Soulforged as A-tier. Soulforged scares me a little, as I think there’s a strong chance it’s too good in a fairly uninteresting way, but it at least has a fairly limited roster of tools to play with, and just the physical limitations of moving the models around might hold it back.

I like the book overall – I don’t think it quite hits the design heights of the Ork codex, but it’s definitely a Good Codex, and I look forward to seeing people try out the tools within it. If you’re worried about playing against it, make sure to go check out my review supplement here where I look at how it stacks up from an opponent’s point of view.

That wraps up our review of Codex: Chaos Space Marines but be sure to check out our Detachment Focus articles and check back Tuesday for our review of the Crusade rules. And if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at