Codex: Chaos Space Marines (9th edition) Review, Part 4: Crusade

Chaos Space Marines have a fairly hefty set of units available to them, mixing a bunch of Space Marine classics, unique units like Daemon Engines, and a huge host of Characters, both named and regular. In this part of our review we’re going to take a whirlwind tour through the highlights, but there’s some general points to cover off up front.

Because of the size of this review, we’ve split it into four parts:

  1. In Part 1 – We talk about the general overview of the book, what’s in it, our overall impressions, and the army-wide rules and concepts of the Chaos Space Marines
  2. In Part 2: The Legions – We talk about the eight legions outlined in this book, their rules, and how they’ll play.
  3. In Part 3: The Datasheets we talk about the units available to the Chaos Space Marine army and the options available to them.
  4. In Part 4: Crusade – This Article – we cover the book’s Crusade rules. 

Before we dive into the legions, we’d like to thank Games Workshop for sending us a preview copy of the book for review purposes.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

We’ve looked at the rules, the datasheets, and the likely competitive outlook for everybody’s favorite superhuman heretics, but now it’s time for the moment we know you’ve all been waiting for: the Crusade Rules Review.

And what a set of rules they are – at 18 page, they weigh in with the longest supplements on offer, bringing not only the typical stuff you expect – agendas, requisitions, battle traits, crusade relics, and a faction-specific mechanic or two, but also slamming in a full page of bespoke rules for each Legion in the book. If you wanted the rules to really push your rag-tag team of hard-bitten Space Demon Pirate Supersoldiers over the edge into something really memorable and truly unique, look no further.

Get in loser, we’re going blaspheming.

Chaos Warbands

Chaos Space Marines don’t have a strict hierarchy like their loyalist counterparts. Instead, they’re closer to Orks than they’d probably like to admit: Might may not make Right, but who’s really going to argue? As a result, your warband is led by a single Traitoris Astartes Character, who serves as your Warband Champion.

Terminator Sorcerer. Credits: That Gobbo

You’ll need to keep track of three separate resources for your champion:

  1. Personal Glory, which keeps track of how badass your champion is in his own right
  2. Dark God Glory, which is how satisfied your Champion’s patrons are with the sacrifices he’s made
  3. Warfleet Glory, which is the supplies, munitions, and other materiel that your champion has at his disposal

When you start your roster, each track starts at 4, and can go as high as 8 or as low as 1. Any time you finish a game, you’ll lose 1 from each track, but also gain Chaos Points. You can spend those 1-for-1 to increase one of the three tracks for your Crusade force. As you’d expect, you get more when you win, and fewer when you lose – d3 points for a loss, 3 for a draw, and d3+3 for a win. And you’re going to spend these, since if any of the tracks drops to 1 or 2 you’ll suffer a Forsaken Punishment, but if you can push it to 7 or higher, you’ll benefit from a Favoured Reward.

Generally speaking, the Rewards you can get are pretty solid, with useful discounts on requisitions and nifty bonus abilities that can really help you make your roster your own. The Punishments, though – yeah, you’re gonna want to avoid those. Every one of them is potentially brutal, ranging from preventing you from marking units for greatness, to having a unit suffer Spawndom without warning, to your Warband Champion suddenly forgetting that it’s not a good idea to leave his back open to his subordinates right after the weekly knife-sharpening session.

Favoured Rewards

Being a good little warband leader gives you rewards based on which track you’ve hit 7 or 8 favor points on.

Personal Glory

The Favoured Rewards for Personal Glory has two effects. The first, Blessed Champion, lets you use the Warlord Trait, Relic, Psychic Meditation, or Ascension to Daemonhood for free at the end of each battle which is nice and nifty but the cool stuff lives with Dark Destiny. This reward has you roll a D6 at the end of a battle providing your Warlord killed a unit, and on a 6 you get an extra Battle Honor and point of leadership. It’s gonna be rare but this is super powerful considering it doesn’t count towards your maximum number of Battle Honors.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Dark God Glory

On to Dark God Glory, which has another two effects. We have another Requisition based effect in the form of Worthy Offerings which lets you use Chosen of the Pantheon, Chaos Reward, or Commune with the Dark Gods Requisitions for free after a battle. Pretty solid especially considering Chaos Boons can just be given out like candy at that point via the Chaos Reward Requisition. We also have  Boon of Power which has you roll a D6 after the battle and on a 6 you select a unit with a Mark of Chaos and give it a Chaos Boon. Note, this includes non characters (in which case you pick the champion of the squad for the effects of the boon). This rocks because bumping up champions with some of those boons rocks

Warfleet Glory

Last up we have Warfleet Glory with another two effects. First is Feared and Respected which lets you use the Increase Supply Limit, Fresh Recruits, Rearm and Resupply or Specialist Reinforcements Requisitions for 0 RP. Solid but nothing to write home about. Unrivaled Raiders has you roll a D6 after the battle and on a 6 you select a unit that killed an enemy unit that battle (not your Warband Leader) and give it a Battle Trait, or Weapon Enhancement Battle Honor. This doesn’t count towards that unit’s maximum Battle Honors they can have which is neat making this boon as neat as the Personal Glory boon.

Forsaken Punishments

Of course, the whims of Chaos are as fickle as they are sinister, and you’ll need to keep all of your tracks at 3 or higher if you don’t want the bosses breathing down your neck. Underperform at your quarterly performance review and you’ll draw a whole slew of punishments from on high. Each of the three categories has a handful of penalties for you. One of them will always be the opposite of the corresponding Favoured Reward’s RP discount – for instance, if you don’t have enough Personal Glory, you’re branded a Falling Champion, which increases the RP cost of the same requisitions that Blessed Champion would get you a discount on – but the others can be downright diabolical.

A Warlord who fails to amass enough Personal Glory will have to deal with their Circling Rivals, who will challenge them at the first sign of weakness. Every time you finish a battle when you’re Forsaken on this track, roll a d6. On a 1, one of the other Characters in your roster challenges you for dominance. You roll 2d6, and if you roll under your Warband Champion’s Ld, you lower their Ld by 1 and take a Battle Scar. However, if your roll is equal to or higher than the Champion’s Ld, he’s just fucking dead – remove him from your order of battle, and the Rival character you picked becomes the new Champion. Thankfully, the Rival you pick can’t be a named Character, which is something, I guess.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Fail to appease the Dark Gods, and you’ll not only suffer from the RP penalties from Forsaken Faith, you’ll also invoke the Anger of the Gods. This forces you to choose a unit in your roster – and if any of them have a Mark of Chaos, you have to choose one of them – and roll a d6. On a 1, you roll 2d6 against the unit’s Ld, and if you roll under its Ld it takes a Battle Scar. If you don’t roll under its Ld, though, it’s time to start editing your roster – the unit suffers spawndom. And if all that wasn’t enough, even if you pass the check and only suffer a Battle Scar, you can’t buy it off immediately – you’re going to have to wait until your unit next gains a rank to remove any Battle Scars this rule hands out. Brutal.

Finally, if you make the mistake of letting your Warfleet fall into disrepair, the consequences you’ll suffer are simpler, but just as mean. Your Disillusioned Followers mean that TRAITORIS ASTARTES units on your roster can’t be Marked for Greatness, drastically slowing down the rate at which your units can advance and grow, while Dwindling Supplies mean that you’ll roll a d6 as soon as you gain your RP from a battle, and lose d3 on a roll of 1.

These consequences all suck, and you’ll want to avoid them at all costs. Thankfully, if you can just keep winning games, you won’t have to worry about it. That’s fine, right?

Agendas

Regardless of what Legion you choose, you’ll have access to these four agendas, plus your Legion-specific agenda. Wanton Hate keys off of the Let the Galaxy Burn ability, and lets each unit in your army gain an experience for each enemy they kill with a weapon that benefits from Let the Galaxy Burn on that turn. That means they’ll gain XP for kills with weapons that match the currently-active Wanton Act, or with flame weapons regardless of which Wanton Act is active. The XP caps out at 3, but this is a potentially useful agenda for forces that focus on rapid fire, pistol, assault, or melee weapons, since you’ll have plenty of opportunities to score XP with them.

Claim and Despoil sees your opponent setting out 3 objective markers for you to run down. Once you get to one, you’ll be able to perform an action to claim it, which will let you pick up a trophy and try and carry it away. If a unit is holding a trophy at the end of the game and is still on the board (or is in a transport that’s on the board), it’ll gain 3XP. But your real goal is to capture the trophy and drag it back to your deployment zone: you’ll pick up a Warfleet Glory for each one you manage to drag home.

The other action-centered agenda here is Blasphemous Ritual, which allows an infantry unit to attempt to perform a ritual if it’s wholly within 6” of the center of the board. The action completes at the end of your next Command phase, so be prepared to hold the center if you want to do this. Once it finishes, you roll 2d6, with a +1 bonus if the unit’s marked, and a further +1 if it’s got  the ICON keyword. Roll an 8+ and you have sufficiently blasphemed. Each unit that completes the ritual picks up 3xp and also nets you 1 Dark God Glory, up to a max of 3. You get nothing units who do the action more than once, though.

Finally, if one of your characters finds themselves under The Eye of the Gods, they can go hunting. Each time they kill a character, monster, or vehicle, they add a point to their tally, or 2 points instead if it had 11+ wounds to start or was the enemy’s Warlord. Units gain 2xp for every mark on their tally, and your Warband Champion will pick up a level of Personal Glory for each mark on his own tally – again, maximum 3.

Requisitions

It wouldn’t be a Codex Crusade review without Requisitions now would it?  And boy howdy do we have some really pricey ways of burning your hard earned RP.

Starting out with For Chaos! where for 2 RP you can give your Warband Champion 1 Chaos point, because why win games when you can take the coward’s path?

Chaos Reward is a tasty little number where for 2 RP, when a Traitoris Astartes Character gains a rank, in addition to any other Battle Honour they would gain (including Chaos Boons), you can turn them into a Chaos Spawn… You may also instead choose to gain a Chaos Boon and still maybe turn into a Chaos Spawn. So why take that risk when you can just rip that bandaid off and slap that Spawndom button? 

Commune with the Dark Gods is your bog-standard 1 RP to switch up the prayers known by a Priest unit. This might be useful if you find yourself wanting to change up your loadout, or if you only brought one Dark Apostle and want to be able to flex between two strategies between games. Not amazing, but when you want it, you really want it, so it’s nice to have.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Welcome to your biggest Requisition sink, Chosen of the Pantheon. Your units can’t start a Crusade with Marks of Chaos applied (except, of course, for Berserkers, Rubric & Plague Marines, and Emperor’s Children, each of whom already come with them baked in). Instead, you need to earn those fancy stickers for all of your units by gaining a rank and spending 1RP. Then you can upgrade that unit with a keyword, fancy rules, and the requisite Power Level/Points.

Lastly, it’s time to start your Ascension to Daemonhood. When your Traitoris Astartes Character gains the Heroic or Legendary rank, you can pay 2 Req to get noticed by Senpai and ascend to become a Traitoris Astartes Daemon Prince. There’s still a couple of hoops to jump through first though by fulfilling one of three different options.

  • The Coward’s Way – Traitoris Astartes Character with a Mark of Chaos and at least 1 Chaos Boon.
  • The High Road – Traitoris Astartes Character 3 Chaos Boons and a Mark of Chaos
  • Upper Middle Ground that gets a grudging pass from Beanith – Your Warband Champion that is Favoured in the Personal Glory category… and has a Mark of Chaos

Beanith: For reasons unknown they left out the Mark of Chaos requirement in the last two bullet points and then address it afterwards in the next paragraph when you remove the unit from your Order of Battle and replace it with a Traitoris Astartes Daemon Prince drawn from the same Legion.

Condit: Yeah, this is sort of confusing. Maybe with some clarification on requisition timing at level up this would make more sense, but it seems to me that if a unit with a single boon but no mark hits Heroic, you could just spend the CP to mark it anyway, and then be able to ascend? But as I read the rules for this, about the only situation where it would make a meaningful difference is if you didn’t have the supply limit to add the mark and buy a Daemon Prince? Maybe? It’s weird, whatever.

After that, there’s a little more paperwork to sort out for your new Traitoris Astartes Daemon Prince when adding them to your Order of Battle.

  • No switching Senpai, you need to keep the same Khorne, Tzeentch, Nurgle or Slaanesh keyword and Mark of Chaos.
  • If they were the Warband Champion, then they still keep the job.
  • You keep the same amount of experience and then gain the appropriate number of Battle Honours. (Beanith: technically this means you lose any bonus Battle Honours they may have earned from missions etc. I’d discuss this with your group and GM)
  • If the unit replaced had a Warlord Trait, Chaos Boons and/or any non-Crusade Relics, the new Daemon Prince retains all such upgrades that it is eligible to have without spending any additional RP.

As with the Death Guard and Thousand Sons versions of this, it’s pretty cool as a narrative arc, but if you do it for gameplay reasons, you’re probably doing it to get another caster on the table. It’s certainly an attractive alternative to Spawndom for somebody with a healthy number of boons, though.

Battle Traits

A single page for Battle Traits with only 4 tables sounds like a bit of a let down until you realize there are 8 more tables – 1 dedicated to each legion – so really, you’re spoiled for choice.

Cultist units aren’t just cheap chaff, they also serve as cheap chaff that can be used for completing actions and holding objectives. Best of all, should they last 6 games (or less if you’re an Agenda wizard) they have the option to become useful cheap chaff.

  • Devoted Slave gives them the CORE keyword
  • Believers of the True Faith gives them the Let the Galaxy Burn ability.
  • Favoured Servants gives them the Legion Trait despite having the Cultist keyword

The Daemon Engine and Machine Spirit units table makes for interesting reading until you realize the only Machine Spirit unit in the book is the Land Raider and this chart is just here so you can give that T9 tonk a 5+ Invun save. Black Templar envy much? The Loyalists have a few options of course in their book as well as the Forgeworld compendium, but all the Chaos versions lack the Machine Spirit keyword necessary to use this table. Maybe that will get addressed in an FAQ and we’ll get to see more 5++ Fire Raptor Gunships on the table?

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

  • Spirit of Damnation gives Machine Spirit units the Daemon and Daemon Engine keywords which grants the 5+ Invun save and regens a wound in your command phase. On the other hand, if you put this on a unit that already was a Daemon Engine, it’ll get an extra attack and regen D3 wounds in your command phase.
  • Warp-fuelled Destruction lets you use the Blasphemous Machines Stratagem for free. It’s normally a 1/2CP strat which lets you use the unit’s Full Wound profile for a full battle round.
  • Living Hull adds 2 to the units Wounds characteristic… zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Beanith: I hope you’re all upstanding decent people who roll for their upgrades.

Condit: I’m honestly insulted you’d imply otherwise about our heroic and amazing readers.

Core and Daemonkin units have some nice basic, but still solid, traits on offer.

  • Despoilers Without Mercy improves Ballistic Skills by 1.
  • Destined for Glory will give the unit another 2xp whenever they are Marked for Greatness.
  • Trusted Hounds lets the unit nominate a friendly Prince, Lord, Champion or Dark Apostle anywhere on the field and then be counted as if they were in range of their aura abilities.
  • Hate-fuelled Butchers improves Weapon Skills by 1.
  • Ambition’s Edge gives the squad leader +1 to Attack, Leadership and Wounds.
  • Bitter to the Bone lets you choose what Wanton act you want to use for that unit this turn.

Warpsmiths and Disco Lords get a crummy little table. Rites of Reforging lets a Vehicle unit pass a failed Out of Action test if they themselves survived the battle. Machine Lord lets them use their Corrupt Machine Spirits ability or its Enrage Machine Spirits an additional time once per battle.

Condit: OK, I have to take issue with calling this table “crummy”: Rites of Reforging, while kinda boring, is a very useful thing to have if you decide to run vehicles, as when it works it saves you an RP. But Machine Lord fucking whips – on a Warpsmith, it’s sort of whatever (though it can help you mitigate the degrading BS on a unit that you haven’t been able to entirely heal), but on a Lord Discordant, the 9” range combined with the ability to potentially slap some mortals on a nearby enemy could make this pretty darn cool. No disagreement on the “little” though.

Beanith: The Core Unit table is hands down the winner here for me followed closely by the Cultist chart oddly enough. Plenty of utility here for your troops to get the job done while your leaders prance about and grab all the glory.

Chaos Boons

Chaos Boons are a special type of Battle Honor that you can pick in lieu of any other type of Battle Honor. There’s a few catches for this however, this honor can only be given to a character and you must randomly roll on this table, just as the chaos gods intended. If you roll a duplicate result you suffer Spawndom turning your character you love so much into a stupid chaos spawn with a bad model and really aggressive mold lines. The table is a D33 table, but rolling the table isn’t so simple. You have to roll each D3 as both a D6 and a D3. Basically you combine the D6 results and if they add up to one of the gods’ sacred numbers  (ie 6,7,8,or 9) you get access to that god’s Sacred Boon table.

Condit: Ok so I hate this, and here’s why: rolling the Sacred Number to get a mutation is all well and good, but because the result you’re looking for here is on a 2d6 distribution, it means that Tzeentch units are the least likely to get their own unique mutations, and that just seems wrong and I hate it.

The standard table appropriately has a lot of standard upgrades such as Daemonic Flesh giving you +1 toughness or Dark Blessing which gives you -1 to be hit. The standout winner is probably Eightfold Eyes which requires a 33 on the table and lets you reroll a hit, wound, or save once per turn which is helpful all the time.

Chaos Rhino
Chaos Rhino. Credits: That Gobbo

On the god specific Sacred Boon side of things we get some more interesting upgrades. Each table only has 2 options in it and one is always “once per battle you can use the X or Y god appropriate stratagems for free” with Slaanesh and Nurgle being big winners on this and Khorne and Tzeentch falling into the “situational” category. As for the other boons we have:

  • Dark Majesty for Slaanesh: this makes it so enemy units cannot reroll the hit, wound, or damage roll against you. This is incredibly powerful and might be the strongest boon out of the whole table. Condit: Can’t wait for Greg to get a load of the Prince of Excess’s Auspices.
  • Revolting Regeneration for Nurgle: letting you regenerate a single wound in your command phase and auto pass Out of Action tests. It’s fine. Not great but fine.
  • Collar of Khorne for, you guessed it, Khorne: giving your character the ability to deny a psychic power like a psyker can. It sure is something, I guess.
  • Flaming Skull Face (fuck yeah) for Tzeentch: which gives you 6s to hit in melee do additional mortal wounds. Not nearly as cool as the name. 

These Boons are all mostly solid if not overly exciting. It is a really great modeling opportunity to keep your model changing as the crusade goes on, and turning them into a spawn as is inevitable. Everyone does that, right? It’s not just me, right?

Crusade Relics

Artificer Relics

The Maelstrom Key is a nice simple relic that gives the bearer the Deep Strike Warp Strike ability allowing you to drop in a support character or Daemon Prince alongside your brick of terminators. A very nice utility pick.

Sigil of the Shadowlord is a watered down version of the Word Bearer’s Crown of the Blasphemer. This version only grants the 4+ Invulnerable save to the Cult Demagogue model instead of the entire unit but makes up for it by also giving the Cult Demagogue 4+ to ignore mortal wounds. 

The Burning Rod (yes we all immediately leaped onto the “there’s a topical cream for that” joke grenade) is an upgraded stave that replaces force staves, staff of possession or Commune staves. After the bearer has resolved all of their attacks in the fight phase, select one enemy unit that was hit but not destroyed and roll 3D6, beating that unit’s Leadership will cause 3 mortal wounds.

Beanith: The Sigil is a bit of a garbage pick, not too many people would risk taking saves or mortal wounds on the character when you have two perfectly acceptable meatshields in the same squad. The Burning Rod is also wasted on the Cultist Demagogue, I’d totally slap that on the Master of Possession.

Antiquity Relics

Beanith: Four Relics in this section but each can only be given to the Character with the matching Mark of Chaos and for added spice, I’m going to let you guess which one is which.

Slaughterer’s Helm increases the bearer’s Strength, Toughness, Wounds and Attack characteristics by 1. The model is always considered to be engaged in Wanton Slaughter when making melee attacks and lastly they can not Fall Back or perform actions.

Book of Fate lets a Psyker model know all the psychic powers from any disciplines it has access to. Or you could piss this away on a non-Psyker unit which grants them the Psyker keyword along with Smite, Skeins of Fate and one other power from the Dark Hereticus discipline. They can then cast one power in your turn and deny one in your opponent’s turn.

Gurgling Doom is a delightfully brutal upgrade that your opponents will want to avoid at all cost. In the fight phase before the bearer makes any attacks, select an enemy unit within engagement range and roll a D6 with a 2+ causing D3 mortal wounds. That unit must then take an Out of Action test at the end of the battle even if they survived… but if they did kark it then subtract 2 from that Out of Action test.

Flawless Cloak lets the bearer ignore unmodified wound rolls 1-3 on all attacks and adds 3” to the bearer’s auras they may have as well as any abilities used in your Command phase.

Beanith: I won’t lie, these are some amazing relics and I love the Cloak and Helm but the Gurgling Doom is the winner here for me.

Condit: Unironically just the name “Gurgling Doom” makes me wish I was building an army that would let me use it.

Relic that isn’t a Vortex Grenade

Clearly they let an edgy eleven to thirteen year old name this sword the THE MURDER BLADE and then the writers decided to run with it and cranked the powers on the sword to 11 to match. This bad boy is Strength User and doesn’t bother with AP or Damage as any attacks that successfully wound the target immediately deal mortal wounds based on the target. Characters take 3 mortal wounds, Primarchs and Daemon Primarchs take D3+3 mortal wounds and everyone else gets dealt 2 mortal wounds.

Beanith: Ok this is almost on par with the Vortex Grenade but just gets pipped because it does bonus damage against Primarchs and no decent upstanding person brings those in Crusade right?

Norman: If you bring a Primarch to crusade I don’t wanna know you.

Rob: If you bring a Primarch to Crusade I want to cut him down with the Murder Blade.

The Traitor Legions

In addition to all the stuff mentioned above, every single legion in the book gets a page dedicated to it. Each legion gets: an agenda, a requisition, a table of 3 battle traits for Daemonkin, Core, and Characters, and a crusade relic.

Black Legion

Black Legion starts off strong with their Agenda Corpses and Cinders (bad ass) tasks you with killing every single one of your opponents units before the end of the battle (also bad ass). All surviving units get 3 XP and you get an additional D3 Chaos Points. If you don’t take this every game you can you’re a coward and frankly don’t deserve to have the new codex.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Their requisition, Champion of the Black Crusade, lets you simulate the wonders of having an overbearing boss (Abbadon) giving you extra work to do. When you use it, generate an extra Chaos Space Marines agenda, which is really cool on its own, and if you get more than 6 xp generated from the extra agenda you gain D3 additional Chaos Points along with an extra RP. If you fail, though, you get yelled at, causing you to either gain a Battle Scar on your Warband Champion or gain no Chaos Points for the battle.

On the Battle Traits table we have:

  • Brutal Enforcers: While a friendly Black Legion Core unit is within 3” of this unit they auto pass morale. Keep in mind cultists aren’t core and everything is minimum leadership 9 so this is kind of a waste on the table.
  • Accursed Crusaders: Once per battle you can use the Relentless Devastation or Veterans of the Long War stratagems for free on this unit. Simple yet effective.
  • Merciless Fighters: gives you +1 attacks against an enemy unit with 6 or more models. Very solid, if a bit niche.

Bringing up the rear we have their relic Foecleaver (very cool) which replaces a power axe and gives you a S+4 Ap-3 D2 weapon that gets +1 to wound against Imperium. This is fine, I guess.

Word Bearers

On to Word Bearers. Their Agenda Tainted Ground tasks you with tainting a bunch of objective markers by doing activities. The activity can be done once per objective marker and multiple units can do it a turn. At the end of the battle each unit that did that activity gets 1XP for each time they tainted an objective marker. This one’s pretty alright since it can be done quick and early on your home objectives, similar to raising banners in GT missions.

Their Requisition, Grisly Sacrifice, gives you the ability to sacrifice a unit to give XP to the rest of your order of battle. You select a unit, excluding daemons or the Warband Champion, and you remove them from your Order of Battle and the rest of your force gains 1 XP. In addition your Warband Champion gains Chaos Points based on the rank of the unit sacrificed; D3 if Battle-Hardened, D3+3 if it was Heroic and a whopping D3+6 if it was legendary. I love this one. It’s fluffy, it lets you remove scarred-beyond-repair units from your order of battle, and interacts with the faction specific mechanic nicely. Also you can say “You’ve failed me for the last time” when you use the requisition which is cool.

On to Battle Traits!

  • Unbreakable Devotion: This unit auto passes morale (boring) and if they do 2 or more actions in a game they get automatically Marked for Greatness (hell yeah). Black Legion take note: this is how you do it.
  • Unholy Hatred: You can use the Hatred Eternal or Cursed Despoilers stratagem on this unit for free.
  • Blasphemous Pact: Daemon Engine and Daemonkin models get a 4++ and others get a 5++. This is the clear winner of the 3.

For their relic, Word Bearers get access to Book of the Reiver which either gives a Priest access to all the non god specific prayers or gives a non priest the ability to be a priest that knows one prayer. This lets you nail the flavor piece of Word Bearers all being weirdo religious zealots while also giving you some useful tech.

Night Lords

The Night Lords Agenda Nocturnal Warfare plays right into their strengths. It asks you to keep a tally of when enemy models fail morale tests, fall back, or fail actions. At the end of the battle your entire army gains XP equal to the tally. I think this agenda, while not the most exciting, might be among the strongest in the game. You only need 3 enemy units to fall back in order to get as much xp as the “table your opponents” agendas, and you can still score this even if the targeted unit dies.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The requisition is very neat. Cursed Claw costs you 2 RP and lets you upgrade a unit of Nightlords Core (except Hellbrutes, they’re too mad) to become Cursed. Now, I know that sounds bad, but hear me out: the champion gets a warlord trait from the Night Lords list. In addition, every time they’re marked for greatness they get an extra XP. This all comes with the inability to mark them for a chaos god. Overall this is a great trade and really lets you play hero-hammer with your squads, which is both super neat and sets them apart from the other legions.

The Battle Traits break down as follows:

    • Feared Hunters: This trait gives the unit +1 to hit against characters and they cannot benefit from cover. This is fine but, to be honest, niche.
  • Strike as if From Nowhere: You can use In Midnight Clad and From the Night for 0cp on this unit. These strats both rock so this is a really great trait.
  • Murder on the Mind: 6s to wound in melee improve AP by 2. This can be really devastating and is solid on most units.

Last up we have the Crusade Relic Curze’s Orb which you can ponder every time your opponent uses a stratagem. On a 5+ you successfully ponder the orb and gain a CP. CP generation is always welcome so this is a great relic.

Condit: Also, Orb Pondering is the official past-time here at the Goonhammer Offices, so we’re glad to see a Legion really getting with the program here.

Iron Warriors

Kicking us here we have the Agenda Rubble and Ruin which lets your opponent designate a piece of area terrain as their “Bulwark” which gains a bunch of defensive features. In game you need to do an action with a Core unit to blow it up which gives them 5 XP and gives your warband 1 Chaos Point. Iron Warriors love blowing up buildings so this was kinda inevitable for their Agenda. Also, 5XP is a hefty sum so it’s very much worth taking.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Their bespoke Requisition lets you upgrade a Chaos Lord into a Warsmith (note, not a Warpsmith). Basically they gain the ability to heal vehicles for D3 wounds like a Warpsmith can. This has been a concept in the lore for a very long time so its nice to see some representation here.

Condit: Apparently, the “Enrage Machine Spirit” ability is stored in the “p”.

On to Battle Traits!:

  • Bitter Trench Fighters: Gives +1 attacks if you’re receiving the benefits of cover from an obstacle or area terrain. Great for rushing enemy positions, less good for your shooting units.
  • Masters of Annihilation: Lets you use Methodical Annihilation or Tank Destroyers stratagems for free on the unit. Given the constraints of who can get this battle honor, Methodical Annihilation helps….. Havocs with lascannons and that’s it I think so not optimal but Tank Destroyers are definitely nice to have.
  • Intractable Brotherhood: lets you aiuto pass morale (this is the 3rd legion specific battle trait that does that for those of you counting at home) and reroll Out of Action tests. This one does not spark joy to be completely honest.

The Iron Warriors relic, on the other hand, sparks a whole lot of joy. Warpbreacher can be given to a Warpsmith (note: not Warsmith) or a Lord Discordant which allows them to make a nearby vehicle a daemon engine for the turn. This rocks so hard flavor wise and unlocks a lot of great stratagems for you vindicators and stuff. Most importantly a Lord Discordant can buff a Land Raider to hit on 5s in melee which is very funny.

Alpha Legion

The Alpha Legion Agenda Strike From Within has your opponent set up 2 extra objective markers and tasks you with sabotaging them with an action with 3 XP for each sabotaged point. Kind of boring to be honest. I re-read this one like 4 times to see if there was some kinda extra effect like the sabotage sites exploding or impeding your opponent but no, just some XP.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Condit: That’s the Alpha Legion for you, always keeping you on your toes.

The Requisition Cult Uprising lets you give a cult unit 6 XP when you recruit them. Not very splashy but with all the cult units in the book and the synergy Alpha Legion can have with them this can be pretty valuable. 

Battle Traits!:

  • Veteran Insurgents: This gives you the ability to advance and shoot while doing an action without it failing. In addition it lets characters do actions without their auras turning off. This is really great especially since there’s a bunch of action based missions in crusade. Condit: It also combines with the Alpha Legion’s trait to give you some of the most flexible action-performing units in the game, at least from an activation economy perspective.
  • Infiltration Specialists: This lets you use the Forward Operatives or Renascent Infiltration stratagems for free. Nice solid strats to windmill slam every game.
  • Shadow Operatives: Grants you light cover if you’re more than 12” away. Considering the other defensive buff you get from the legion bonus and the fact Armor of Contempt exists this is a really strong one.

Closing us out we have the relic Shadesword which is a master crafted power sword with an extra point of AP and ignores invulns on a 6 to wound. Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Emperor’s Children

First off we have the Agenda Flawless Execution. The Agenda has you keep a tally for each unit, giving them marks for: killing a unit in shooting that was at full strength at the start of the phase, killing a unit in melee without taking damage themselves, and not falling back or failing morale over the course of the battle. At the end of the battle you get XP per tally but only if the unit is above half strength and and only to a max of 4. This is a really nice and interesting Agenda since its both flavorful and tasks you with playing differently than you potentially would.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The Requisition Lords of Hedonism lets you give a character with over 71 XP an extra Battle Trait (or Psychic Fortitude if its a psyker). This is fine I guess but also kinda really boring and realistically if you’re already at 71 XP you’re at critical mass for rules you’re realistically gonna remember on a character.

For the Battle Traits we have:

  • Fuelled by Sensation: Gives you a 6+++, upgrading to 5+++ if you’re below half strength. Very good, no notes.
  • Combat Stimulants: Lets you use the Combat Elixirs or Death Ecstasy stratagems for free. Another good pick due to 2 solid stratagems.
  • Favored of Slaanesh: Gives you an automatic mark for greatness if you destroy an enemy unit in melee. I really like the new design space of granting extra marks for greatness and this is super easy to do. I would roll on this table the second a melee unit hits 6 XP.

And who can forget the ol’ crusade relic. This one’s called the Soulsnare Sigil which gives you wounds back if you kill models up to a max of three. It’s me. I could forget this one.

Red Corsairs

Red Corsairs kick off with the Agenda The Tyrant’s Empire granting you 1 xp at the end of the battle for 3 units within 6” of your opponent’s battlefield edge and 3 units that are in range of objective markers. Kinda vanilla at first but there’s a nice little clause at the end that says if you win the battle you get an extra RP and your opponent gets none. I love this even more than the things that make out of action tests harder. Become the ruthless pirate warlord of your crusade group with one easy trick.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Their Requisition More Where They Came From is a bit steep at 2 RP but it lets you remove a unit’s scars and traits, generate new traits for each trait removed, and rename the unit. This is a great piece of tech to have in your back pocket, especially with the treasure trove of RP you stole from other people in your crusade group.

The Battle Traits are as follows.

  • Masters of Mayhem: this one has one of my favorite sentences in a warhammer rulebook “Once per battle, in your Command Phase, this unit can unleash mayhem”. Hell yeah that rocks. What unleashing mayhem does is put you in each Let the Galaxy Burn mode at once. A really nice pick for chosen or terminators with their wide variety of weapons.
  • Arch Traitors: gives you the ability to do the Death to the False Emperor! Or Relentless Devastation strats for free. These are both pretty niche strats to be honest so kinda a miss here.
  • Skilled Raiders: Lets you strategic reserve this unit for free. This is fine I guess but not always useful.

The crusade relic, Splinters of the Ghost Razors upgrades a lightning claw to be S+1 AP-3 and D2. It’s a solid upgrade to an already potent melee weapon.

Creations of Bile

Beanith: Normally I have Views on Named Characters in Crusade but in order for a Creations of Bile force to function you really need Fabulous Bill around to make the most of this list. Luckily he doesn’t need to be the Warlord or Warband Champion so there’s that at least.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The Agenda is Fresh Specimens and is a fantastic bit of Narrative work which we all love. Keeping a Fresh Specimens tally for every Creations of Bile unit from your army, add 1 to a unit’s tally each time it destroys a unit in melee with any of the following keywords: Character, Adeptus Astartes, Sanctic Astartes & Heretic Astartes.

At the end of the battle, each unit will gain 2 xp for each tally they have to a maximum of 4 xp plus if the combined tally is 6 or more, your Warband Champion gains 1 additional Chaos point.

In the Requisition section we see Bile flex his surgical might with Stable Enhancements. Purchase this Req after a battle where the Spider took part, survived and used his Enhanced Warriors actions on a Creations of Bile unit. Roll a d6: on a 1 that unit is deader than a space dodo and removed from your Order of Battle; on a 2 they gain an additional Battle Scar; and on 3+ the enhancement they gained in the battle is now permanent, increasing the unit’s Crusade point total by 1. They can no longer be targeted by Bile for future Enhancements.

Beanith: It’s a little janky but technically you could now give that permanently enhanced unit a Mark of Chaos which would normally prevent Enhancements.

Battle Traits for Creation of Bile units come in 3 different flavors.

  • The awesomely chocolatey Ravenous Biology which grants the unit a regen of D3 wounds in your command phase along with a reroll to any Out of Action tests.
  • The sugary, almost caramelly, vanilla Master’s Hounds which grants the unit the ability to Heroically Intervene with an additional attack when they do so.
  • The chemically sour pink rubbish that is Dermal Chitination which reduces AP1 attacks down to AP0. Largely pointless with Armour of Contempt. 

Beanith: Yes, I also have Views on ice cream too. No, I will not share my ice cream.

Lastly we have the Crusade Rule and it is a doozy. Supreme Creation is an Artificer Relic which just straight up gives the bearer an additional 3 Battle Traits of your choice which do not count towards the maximum limit of Battle Honours that unit can take (It’s 6 Battle Honours in case anyone was wondering). This being an upgrade from Fabulous Bill himself, it also comes with significant strings attached. They can not earn more than 1 xp per battle which is meh, and the real kicker is the unit cannot perform actions, use aura abilities or use abilities in the Command phase unless a friendly Fabius Bile is on the battlefield.

Beanith: You could use this relic on a Blooded ranked character sure… or you could wait for them to reach the Heroic rank first and then use it. Sure the climb to Legendary rank will take you 20 more games but getting your hands on that Vortex Grenade will be all the much sweeter for it. Much like this ice cream I’m currently eating.

Final Thoughts

Norman: Overall I’d give this book an A for effort and a C for content. Having a page for each and every legion is very cool but I think the Warband mechanic is kinda not worth the trouble at the end of the day. This doesn’t mean don’t use it, but it does mean it’s sorta a bummer when you see your Chaos Knight buddy stoked about damning their pilots for eternity. It can’t be understated how good it is though that they took the time to have all the standard sections and then special ones for each legion. Even though some are a miss, it gives you a sense of individuality that would be sorely missed otherwise.

Condit: Yeah, it’s sorta weird that the main narrative hook here for your force is one that will see you more focused on not having it come into play than trying to get the most play out of it. The Forsaken Punishments are just a bit too harsh for a narrative campaign, in my opinion, and I can’t see anyone spending a Chaos Point to push one of their glory tracks into the Favoured status if one of the others is at risk of hitting Forsaken.

Beanith: No Battle Scars at all. You’re stuck with the basic ones in the Big Rule Book in the section that has never being printed in any Crusade Mission Packs because <Beanith’s rant cut off here due to incoherent rambling>

Norman: Ok but do you remember the GSC scars? We might be better off.

Beanith: You’re right, the battle scar could have been “You know what? The Emperor has a point” and then the unit is removed from your Order of Battle and becomes a farmer or something.

Condit: Other than those two points, though, this supplement is pretty amazing for Chaos players, giving you plenty of options to build your particular collection of space jerks in whatever direction you see fit.

Beanith: I like it for the most part, the Warband stuff is pretty forgettable I agree but largely doesn’t impact the game when it’s played so it’s just paperwork for later. Another page of Battle Traits would have been nice, perhaps splitting out the Core/Daemonkin into their own charts, a Character chart and possibly one for Daemon Princes too. Chaos Space Marine will be hurting for Requisition early on as they juggle expanding their forces and slapping Marks of everything is a little mean and Emperor’s Children neatly sidestepping that little bit might make them reach for the pink and purple paint section. All that aside, I am very excited to see what the Chaos Marine players in my group will come up with. 

And with that we’ve finally wrapped our review of Chaos Space Marines. As always, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at contact@goonhammer.com.