Codex: Chaos Space Marines (9th edition) Review, Part 3: The Datasheets

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 – This article – we talk about the units available to the Chaos Space Marine army and the options available to them.
  4. In Part 4: Crusade, we cover the book’s Crusade rules. That one publishes on Tuesday, just like all our other Crusade reviews.

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.

General Details

When reading our opinions on datasheets, make sure to keep the following things in mind:

  • Chaos Marines finally get the baseline two wounds that loyalists have been enjoying for a couple of years. Huzzah!
  • Traitor Marines also love a bit of melee violence – the baseline number of attacks for all actual Marines in this book is three, with some specialists getting more. You don’t get Shock Assault any more, but who cares, it’s built in.
  • Every unit except Cultists gets the new Let the Galaxy Burn ability, which gives them exploding hits on unmodified 6s to hit with certain weapons, and +2 hits with flame weapons.
  • All CORE and CHARACTER units (except where they’re pre-marked) have the CHAOS UNDIVIDED keyword, letting you purchase a Mark of Chaos for them.
  • DAEMONKIN units – Warp Talons, Possessed, Obliterators and the like – aren’t CORE.
  • All INFANTRY and BIKER units that can carry Rapid Fire weapons get the Malicious Volleys rule, which lets them Rapid Fire at full range if they Remained Stationary, or are a Terminator or Biker unit.
  • All Daemon Engines get a 5+ invulnerable save, and heal a wound in your Command Phase.

Finally, a few units that were in the previous codex have vanished into the Warp forever more. These are:

  • Lords and Sorcerors with jump packs – the one that actually hurts a bit, and generally reduces the army’s mobility by a significant amount. It particularly sucks for Night Lords armies.
  • Greater Possessed – presumably because the models are of a scale with the new plastics anyway. Just fold your dry boney guy and your wet toothy guy into the new Possessed units.
  • Mutilators – Too good for this world.
  • Berzerkers and Kharn the Betrayer. They’re in this month’s White Dwarf and eventually will be in Codex: World Eaters.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones


Welp, there sure are a lot of these, Time to sub-divide.

Named Characters

Wings: Abaddon the Despoiler leads the charge here, and he’s completely buck wild. For 300pts, imagine Roboute Guilliman, Morvenn Vahl and a Phoenix Lord all smashed together, given every Chaos Mark, the ability to be an Agent of Chaos when your Warlord and three Warlord Traits to round stuff out. As of the Balance Dataslate, there’s probably an argument that The Silent King contends with him for best centrepiece unit in the game, but there’s not much in it, and Abaddon is likely to be in almost every list.

Abaddon’s Lieutenant Haarken also gets a pretty hefty upgrade, finally becoming a worthwhile inclusion in an army. He’s effectively a Chapter Master for the Black Legion, and applies full Wound re-rolls as well if you use his buff on Raptors. Crucially, his melee weapon now doesn’t suck – the spear is still only for throwing (though is at least far nastier for this), but his lightning claw has been boosted up to AP-3 and D2, making him pretty dangerous. Given the absence of generic jump lords he also has a pretty unique niche, and the overall package seems pretty decent on rate, so maybe someone other than Rob will finally put him on the table.

Rob: I am so damn excited to play Haarken in my Black Legion lists.

Wings: Huron Blackheart gets rather more of a sidegrade – in 8th Edition, he was very much a value package, and this time around he’s a much nastier fighter (and is a Chapter Master for Red Corsairs, which is powerful), but loses his Command Points bonus, and is no longer a Psyker most of the time. His Hamadrya instead lets him cast a power once per battle, though does at least allow you to choose any Dark Hereticus power when you do so. He’s definitely still pretty good overall – Advance and Charge remains a super powerful Legion Trait, Chapter Master is a good ability, and a pocket Death Hex is sometimes going to win you the game.

Rob: The upside to Huron being a temporary psyker is that you can still pick the Abhor the Witch secondary if he’s your only psychic option. 

Wings: Our next nefarious contestant is Fabulous Bill himself, still juicing Marines up with special sauce via the Enhance Warriors rule. This lets him give a TRAITORIS ASTARTES CORE unit that doesn’t have a Mark one of three buffs at random (rolling two dice and picking if his Acolyte is still alive), either +1S, +1T or +1A. All that’s pretty nice, but having to not take a Mark does cut off some combo potential. He can obviously come along with the Creations of Bile to do this, but does also have the Agent of Chaos keyword, though it’s currently a little unclear how that interacts with the rule that you cannot have units from more than one Legion in the same detachment. Past that, he’s much nastier in melee than he used to be, sporting 6 attacks at D3, but still has a slightly nerve-wracking lack of an invulnerable save.

Moving on to the most luscious of all datasheets, if the Emperor’s Children are your legion of choice you get to take Lucius the Eternal – and you’re going to, because he kicks ass. He’s priced to move, coming in at 120pts with the Mark of Slaanesh included for free, and is a lethal counter to any quality opposing melee units. As long as he’s up against any enemy units with an unmodified weapon skill of 3+ or better, he sports a spectacular eight attacks at S5 AP-3 D3, and he combines that with the ability to pick one nearby enemy unit to FIght Last each Fight Phase. Lucius is exactly the kind of Character you want in Nephilim, because he plays like he’s got at least a Warlord Trait and Relic built in, but doesn’t cost you any CP> Oh, also, when the opponent finally kills him they take Mortal Wounds in revenge. Good stuff.

Last among the Named Characters we have the enigmatic Cypher, who also whips. He’s an Agent of Chaos that can bring him without using a slot in any detachment with a Chaos Lord, his pistols are pretty nasty now, and he has several spicy tricks. He’s pretty tough, getting Transhuman for hits and a 4+ invulnerable save, he interferes with any special abilities your opponent is using to gain CP (preventing any CP gain other than the Battle Forged bonus on a 4+), and has the absurdly cool Escape ability, allowing you to whisk him off into Strategic Reserves at the end of any Shooting or Fight Phase once per battle. That’s a lot of shenanigans for a mere 90pts, and it seems like Cypher’s time could finally be nigh.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Standard Characters

Wings: There aren’t going to be too many shocks for anyone looking at the various Chaos Lord and Sorcerer datasheets – they do what they say on the tin, and they’ve universally picked up one additional attack and wound each, which is great The Exalted Champion gets a little more of a shakeup, with their aura now just being a down-the-line Lieutenant buff (RR1s to wound for CORE) rather than the melee-only full re-rolls from the past. Bizarrely, they also now have an entirely fixed loadout, but it’s at least a pretty decent one, sporting a D2 power axe and a combi-melta. You’re likely to have better uses for your points, but they’re still here. The other nice surprise is that Sorcerers have been bumped up to having two Denies each, which is pretty cool. Wrap it up, Librarialures. 

Rob: The big challenge for Sorcerers is that the Dark Hereticus Discipline kind of stinks, making them significantly less useful. You’re more likely to take a Master of Possession instead, since the new Malefic discipline is really, really good. 

Wings: The Master of Possession, your source of powers from the Malefic discipline, doesn’t get the second Deny, but can hurt enemy Psykers in other ways. Specifically, if a Psyker model has one or more Wounds from the Master’s staff allocated to them, they automatically suffer Perils of the Warp, and the Master also has a 12” aura that causes an additional Mortal Wound on Perils for enemy Psykers. Given that they don’t even have to fail a save for this to go off, that’s pretty hilarious, and means that opposing casters have to be genuinely wary of going anywhere near the Master.

Your final source of powers is the Daemon Prince (as long as you don’t make them Khorne). These are just pretty nifty all-round Monster Characters – they’re not too expensive (180pts with wings, a sword and a Mark, the latter of which they have to buy one of) and pretty dangerous, hitting at S8 -3 D3 with their sword, or a mighty S9 if they’re Khorne. Not mandatory, and the increased expense of setting up powerful Trait or Relic combos on them probably makes them a bit less useful, but also just generically pretty good. In a potential preview of Daemon rules (given the rule is just called “Daemonic”), their invulnerable save also now improves to 4+ against Ranged Attacks.

Rob: I’m still unconvinced. There’s no greater delta in this game between “What a unit looks like it can do” and “what a unit actually does” than the Daemon Prince, whose 6 attacks always manage to disappoint.

Wings: If you’d rather shout real loud than cast spells, the Dark Apostle is your choice, providing you access to Prayers to the Dark Gods. There are definitely use cases for some of these, with the new version of Illusory Supplication and the Slaanesh Advance/Charge being particularly eye-catching, and the price tag on these is pretty reasonable given their disciples are now baked in. 

What if you want prayers and spells? Surprisingly, there’s now an option for that in the brand new Dark Commune, a Cultist HQ unit. This is extremely unusual as HQs go, being made up of five models (the leader of which has the CHARACTER keyword, so Look Out Sir is still go), each of which contributes different things. Least complicated are the two Blessed Blades, who just add some OK-ish melee attacks (though still at an abysmal WS4+), and mostly exist to catch thunder hammers straight to the jaw for the crime of thinking that studying the blade has equipped them for battle. The other three models provide, variously, a buff aura for CULTIST units, providing +2 Ld and re-roll 1s to hit, a one cast Psyker (who, because they’re a Cultist, is limited to only the first three powers) and the Cult Demagogue leading them up, a Priest who can chant either Dark Zealotry or one other prayer (which again has to be from the first three in that list). This unit is, bluntly, weird as hell – it’s a cool idea, and packs quite a lot of different things into one package, which is cool, but runs pretty hard into two issues – the really spicy stuff for the Hereticus and Prayer tables aren’t available to it, and it’s spectacularly fragile if the opponent gets a swing at it. The unit totals up to 10 wounds, but it’s T3 with a 6+ and no invulnerable save, so dies to a light breeze, which is going to be pretty nerve wracking. Even in a post-Bodyguard world, there are some positioning shenanigans you can do with a five-model CHARACTER unit, but while very cool, this unit probably needed to be a bit cheaper to make it into lists. The possible exception is if you slap the Crown of the Blasphemer on them in Word Bearers, as with a 4+ invulnerable save, the unit looks far more appealing.

Last up, we have your two flavours of mechanics, the Warpsmith and Lord Discordant. The Warpsmith makes your vehicles nastier by using Enrage Machine Spirits (+1 to hit with ranged attacks), fixes them up via Master of Mechanisms and has a hilarious array of pistols attached to their tentacles. They’re also extra tough with a 2+ save. Nothing too surprising, and totally fine, but hilariously overshadowed by the Lord Discordant. These have changed a reasonable amount, and on first glance have lost a few things – their Aura is gone, so they no longer provide a mass buff to your Vehicles/mass debuff to enemies. Instead, they can either give one of your friendly Vehicles +1 to hit in melee, or deal some mortals to a nearby enemy vehicle each Command Phase. That’s the bad bit. The good bit is that they’re now 9W, cheaper than they used to be, and have a more useful allocation of attacks. They’ve dropped an attack from the steed claws, but now get six attacks with their glaive, which hits at S6 AP-3 D2, and gets +1 to wound on the charge. Against enemy vehicles you can also make this even better by taking a Techno-Virus Injector, now just a flat +1D in melee against them. The baleflamer is also now a free upgrade, and has 2d3 shots, to which you get to add 2 thanks to Let the Galaxy Burn, making it mean. Finally, you can of course stick a Mark on these, and it definitely feels like escorting a few of these with the Mark of Tzeentch (maybe one as Slaanesh for the Intoxicating Elixir) near to the opponent’s lines then unleashing them is going to create an absolutely crushing amount of pressure in some games.

World Eaters Killteam. Credit: Jack Hunter


Don: Troops are the mainstay of the legions and it is no different here. For the most part, these have gotten better, and there’s a new troop option to consider in this Codex.

Legionaries are the Chaos Space Marines we all know and love – the same guys running around in books of old. I am glad they changed the unit’s name to something other than the Faction Name, since that could cause confusion with certain stratagems in the past. These are your all-purpose unit. They can shoot, Psychic, and do melee. They are ObSec infantry with a 3+ save and Armour of Contempt. You can still kit them out to be all melee, all shooting, or a hybrid of both, and now there’s a 20-point upgrade to make one of the models in the squad a psyker. They are one of the few units that can take a Mark of Chaos and an Icon for the full benefit. A squad of 10 with an Icon and Mark of Khorne with chain swords is going to throw out 41 S5 AP-2, 1-damage attacks for 200 points, which is a good rate – they feel efficient. If you bring the balefire tome to make one of them a psyker, they can cast 1 Dark Hereticus (Sorcerer/daemon prince list) power and deny 1 power, and they’ll automatically know the power corresponding to their mark. They do suffer from the “what’s in the box” syndrome that is so frequent among Chaos units these days, but I would not be surprised if you see these frequently in CSM lists. I love this unit. The only downside here is the unit’s base mobility, since it’s only 6”. 8/10

Cultist Mobs are named differently but mostly unchanged. Unlike in Death Guard and Thousand Sons they get to keep Objective Secured, but similar to both of those books, their squad size is now 10-20…. it feels like they are trying to get rid of the huge blobs. In order to bring the unit in line with the newer model release from Blackstone Fortress, they Cutlist mob gained the ability to take Grenade Launchers, which are basically 24” krak grenades. On the whole, Cultists are useful but I don’t think you will see them flooding the tables. Their best use is completing actions and holding objectives, and that’s where the new Tide of Traitors Stratagem can help out, returning D3+3 destroyed models, which can be used to position on (and steal) nearby objectives.This time around Tide costs 1 CP and can be used every turn in your Command phase..  6/10

Accursed Cultists are the newest kids on the block and they have a lot of play. The unit is composed of 2 different types of models – mutant cultists that are basically Tzaangors without an invulnerable save (i.e. T4), and Torments, which are basically Chaos Spawn inside the unit, only with cooler models. These guys can’t go in transports or do actions but every turn in your command phase they can either get back 3 mutants or 1 Torment. They have an aura of -1 LD. They have a 6+ FNP mechanic. Furthermore, mutants are ignored for morale purposes when slain – only the Torments count with regard to that. I think these will be very common in CSM lists due to how sticky they are and their ability to hold objectives. 8/10

Night Lords Terminators – Credit: RichyP


Don: When you absolutely have to get something done you call in the Elites! I’ll start off by telling you that the fallen, Berserkers, Rubrics, and Plague Marines have been removed from this book. In order to play all of those, minus the fallen, you will need their respective codexes. 

Chaos Terminators: Yes, many of you will be very frustrated with what they did to this unit. Almost all of the weapons got rolled up into a single profile – Accursed Weapons, which are basically power swords that give you +1 attack, and these are the same weapons that Chosen get. 

Rob: I’m of two minds on this one. On the one hand, this solves the longstanding problem of “Chaos Terminators come with a single chainaxe/pair of lightning claws and I need to build a unit of 5” that’s been present for the last 20 years, but on the other hand, I definitely want the ability to do full units of Lightning claws.

Don: Yeah, Terminators also suffer from “what comes in the box” syndrome,” so no more plasmacide units. They did get an extra attack, wound,  and Ld, but they lost the ability to take an Icon which makes marking them less important than you’d like but still good. They are fairly beefy and can put out a surprising number of wounds. I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw most of these units kept at the bare bones cost of 33 points per model. Rating: 7/10

Chosen: These guys are basically Terminators that can’t take a chainfist, have no invulnerable save, have a 3+ save, and can go in Rhinos. I could see minimum size squads in Rhinos,  dreadclaws, or more being a way to get durable AP-3 or AP-4 melee spam. The third wound here makes them interestingly durable and it’s worth noting that if they destroy an enemy unit, they get all 3 parts of Let The Galaxy Burn for the rest of the battle. 8/10

The Master of Executions moves to Elites – a move the faction needed, but they just dropped the ball here. What should have been a Judiciar equivalent was basically turned into a chapter champion. He’s still a beast, but suffers from not being as good as your other options. His axe became “better” as the randomness on the damage was moved to 2, though 6s to wound do 2 mortals instead of normal damage now. 5/10

If there’s a big glow-up winner in the book, it’s Possessed, who come out swinging here. They’re faster, they’ve doubled their base damage, gained an extra wound, don’t have random numbers of Attacks, give -1 Ld to nearby units, and are now T5. They’re scary, especially at only 28 points per model. Notably, they can take an Icon but can’t be given a mark. Said Icon gives you +1 on attrition tests they take, helping you auto-pass if there aren’t any modifiers in play. Possessed are fast, durable, murder machines. I can see many lists running at least one squad of 5 as a unit to counter Marine equivalents or to maul vehicles/monsters. 8/10

The Helbrute has long been forgotten by many players. Here they get the stats/ability boosts we saw for the unit in Death Guard and Thousand Sons – complete with the drop to 6” movement – but have the ability to take a Mark of Chaos and a unique Stratagem that makes them interesting. If they get attacked in the Shooting phase, you can immediately shoot at one of the units that shot the Helbrute  or the closest unit. I don’t know if that is going to make him interesting enough to bring,  but it is something. 6/10

Wings: I’m reasonably high on Helbrutes, they’ve been priced such that they cost the same as a Loyalist Dreadnought with a Mark, meaning you can either have them dirt cheap or (I think more likely) with the Mark of Tzeentch to make them extra durable.

Finally there are the Noise Marines, who are Elites and never benefit from a Legion Trait unless they are Emperor’s Children (in which case they’re also Troops). These guys don’t shoot on death any more but gained a bonus to their sonic weapons. Sonic weaponry now increases damage by 1 for any attacks that target units within half range and the AP on the guns increased by 1. They also cap at a squad size of 10 with a minimum squad size of 5.  Another big change is that they can no longer be equipped with chain swords, moving them into a pure shooting role. They are very interesting especially with the CSM and Emperor’s Children Stratagem support.  8/10

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Fast Attack

Don: Speed is a necessity in 9th edition and CSM have loads of options for that. 

Let’s start with the Venomcrawler – these guys have moved up and become Fast Attack choice. They move a little bit faster now (12”), dropped to 9 wounds and have a bit more reliability in their weapons. Their cannons went from Assault d3 to Assault 3. These guys also buff your psykers within 9” by giving the +1 to their psychic tests, making them great companions for Masters of Possession. They still explode on 5+ and their melee weapons were combined into a single profile (something common in the CSM book), and like everything that isn’t a cultist, they have Let the Galaxy Burn, which routinely equated to a 5/4 ratio of damage increase during the turns its active. This guy is a cute addition to any daemon engine-centric list, especially for the cost of an unequipped Helbrute. 8/10

The Chaos Spawn is also on the glow-up list. They’re identical to their cousins in the DG and 1k sons Codexes, but have the added benefit of any time a shooting or melee attack is allocated to them, after the attacking unit’s activation is resolved, any Spawn that is not at full health, regenerates any wounds it is missing at that point. This is what the multi-wound necrons should have as their rule (outside of the vehicles and monsters.) It makes them surprisingly difficult to shift, especially if they are hiding. The best part? It only costs 2 more points. 8/10

Chaos Bikers didn’t get new models (Rob: Boooo), but they’re the fastest Core Units that can take an Icon to receive the full benefit of the Marks of Chaos. Each has 3 wounds and 3 attacks and Ld 9. I could see some lists built around these guys with the buckets of dice they put out for their cost. 7/10

On the other hand, Raptors lost their icon and a lot of customization options on the champion in the unit. They’re still fast infantry and can be given a Mark, however, and with 3 attacks base and a 4th from their Astartes chainswords they can definitely throw some wounds on your opponents. They also have a 6″ Fearsome aura, which gives -1 Ld. This combines with the Night Lords Terror Tactics trait (which gives enemy units within 9” -2 Ld) to give your units getting +1 to wound vs LD 8 units like intercessors if they are Night Lords. You can still take a couple melta/plasma/flamers in these units if you want to. 8/10

When you absolutely need to delete units and sow panic among your opponent’s ranks, you send in the Warp Talons. They have 5 lightning claw attacks each with 6 on the champion, but they don’t’ have the CORE keyword, instead trading it out for the new DAEMONKIN keyword. Also new is their ability to prevent falling back: Warp Talons gained the same ability that dark eldar wyches have – When someone attempts to fall back from them, excluding monsters or vehicles, they have to roll off with the warp talons player. If the warp talons player rolls higher then that unit become ineligible to fall back. I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least 5 of these in every CSM list. 9/10

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Heavy Support

Wings: Quite a broad range of stuff here, with a mix of Marine equivalents and Chaos-specific spice.

To start, let’s look at Havocs, dark mirrors to loyalist Devastators. These are, honestly, pretty cool – they don’t get access to some of the newer, fancier heavy weapons like grav cannons and multi-meltas, but they get some alternative bonuses for being long in the tooth. They’re T5, can move and shoot heavy weapons without penalties, have three attacks each and have part of the cost of their guns baked in, meaning they’re decent value. A squad loaded out with havoc autocannons (autocannons with AP-2) only runs you 125pts compared to 130pts for heavy bolter Devastators, and better in most ways. The other unique weapon they do get access to is the reaper chaincannon, a very tasty piece of kit (especially in Black Legion with Abaddon’s full Hit and Wound re-rolls). Add in the fact that the sergeant can be quite nasty up close if you buy him a melee weapon, and you have a unit that feels like it’s maybe a little less useful for extremely focused roles than the loyalist equivalent, but much better as general all-round shooty guys. Whether that’s a slot you need could prove an open question, but they’re cheap enough to try out.

If you want a bit more heft to your guns, Obliterators return, and are still super nasty. Gone are the random profiles – instead you now pick your poison, going for either a high rate of fire horde clearer, a mid profile that’s roughly equivalent to their old mode (at one fewer shot) or high powered anti-tank fire, striking with d3 shots at a mighty S9 AP-3 D4. The guns are now Heavy, but the unit can move and shoot without penalty, and get the option to fire into melee at -1. In addition, their combat stats are now vastly nastier, making bully charging them a far less safe way to shut them down than it was before. They’ve jumped to 4A a piece, and hit at S10 AP-3 D2, enough to give most possible assailants some serious pause. They’ve also gained a fifth wound and are a bit cheaper than they used to be, so while the all-in devastation you used to be able to unleash with Endless Cacophony is gone, it’s easier to fit a unit int, and they’re much more useful when you aren’t plowing all your buffs into them.

Up next we have the four classic Space Marine tanks, and you’re going to want to sit down for this one. They buffed the Land Raider. A mere six years on from the launch of 8th Edition, it has finally been accepted that the basic Land Raider ain’t what it used to be, and the datasheet has been given a shot in the arm. Specifically, it has been boosted up to T9, and given “soulshatter lascannons” on its sponsons, which hit at Dd6+2, making them a much more potent threat. This is cool! Do more of this Games Workshop! Break free of the chains of history! Cast down the injection-molded idols of your forebears! It’s even just about plausible that there’s Iron Warriors lists where the Land Raider is genuinely good – the Balance Dataslate has confirmed that they’re getting Salamanders-style no Wound re-rolls, and they have a -1 to Wound stratagem, which adds up with Armour of Contempt to make these absurdly hard to kill. Tragically, even there it’s possible that six years of datasheets marching on has left this behind again, but at least an attempt has been made.

But wait, there’s more – all the classic tanks get some sort of improvement! The Predators both jump up to T8, and the Annihilator gets the swanky soulshatter lascannons on its main turret as well. Vindicators, finally, have their demolisher cannon bumped up to AP-4 and d3+3 shots, giving it a pretty scary floor in potential output. All three of these have the same problem they’ve always done, which is that “random tank” doesn’t really fit with the 8th or 9th paradigm, but running either a turret only Annihilator or a Vindicator with a siege shield added doesn’t seem totally implausible.

Rounding out Heavy Support are the three Daemon Engines, all sporting the same upgraded profiles they had in Thousand Sons. These are generally a lot closer to decent on rate than they used to be, but still probably a little short of what you want in a list without a specific plan. The specific plan that feels most likely to work out is Maulerfiends in either Red Corsairs or Iron Warriors – they’re not too expensive, and hit like a freight train if they can connect, which either Advance and Charge or extra durability helps them to pull off.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Dedicated Transport

Wings: Rhinos are fine, and this army has units that will want them. I do think this woudl have been a good opportunity to bump their capacity up to 11, but you work with what you’ve got Next! 

Mike P: Players shouldn’t forget the Termite exists! (Wings: I forgot) Everyone’s favorite metal box with a drill comes in at T8, making it a very interesting option for Iron Warriors players. Termites probably won’t be in completely optimized CSM lists, but they’re a perfectly viable option that can shine in the right builds. 

Rob: Similarly, the Dreadclaw Drop pod is also still around, although it’s a Fast Attack. It’s still a wonderful unit capable of dropping your assault units near enemies on turn 1, and in Emperor’s Children it’s an absolute boon since you can drop a unit out and use Honour the Prince to near-guarantee a 9” charge.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones


Similar to the Heavy Support Daemon Engines, the Heldrake comes sporting its fancy new 9th Edition profile, and here also gets the specific boost that it has a baleflamer, so Let the Galaxy Burn makes its shooting quite a lot nastier. Iron Warriors or Red Corsairs still feels like the most likely home for one as a distraction, with maybe an outside shot on Night Lords, as they’re good for delivering the Terror Tactics aura, and can still reach out and put Vox Scream wherever you need it.

Lord of War

Wings: Khorne’s large robotic sons have been putting in the hours to keep Chaos Space Marines fringe relevant up till now, and gets given some pretty potent upgrades here. Almost all the guns are significantly better, with only the hades gatling cannon unchanged, it gets more base attacks (and still goes up as it degrades), and has some improved base stats (including the always juicy 2+ save). It does go up in price a bit, so if you bring three you’re not really getting anything else, but now that a Super Heavy Auxiliary is essentially free, one definitely feels worth a try. Don’t forget that you can use the new Infernal Engine stratagem for -1D too, another strong argument for just taking one of these, and doing that makes the model very tough to alpha strike down. The Lord certainly isn’t cheap, but as long as you keep 2CP up it is outright one of the hardest targets to burst down in the entire game, and hilariously lethal in response, so if you want to try one out, go for it!


The Noctilith Crown gets a bit of a refresh from the last Edition – it still seems unlikely to tear up the top competitive scene, but it’s a lot more fun to use now. It’s main schtick is still providing a 4+ invulnerable save (now only against shooting) to units that are wholly within a certain range of it, but that range now grows over the course of the battle, starting at 6” and eventually expanding to a massive 18” bubble. If enemies come in close the guns are also a lot nastier, and finally you can have a PSYKER or PRIEST unit perform an Action to draw Loathsome Insights from the Crown, gaining you a Command Point, and a chance to swap one of their powers/prayers if you roll under their Leadership on 2d6. This is obviously especially strong for Priests, because the Action runs from the end of your Movement Phase to the end of your Turn, so you give up almost nothing to perform it – hand out your buffs in the Command Phase, then pray for Command Points and pretend like you’re an Ethereal. Does that make this worth 100pts? Probably not, but it’s at least a cool thing you can do with it.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Army Lists

With units covered, it’s time to finally look at some test lists from our authors. There are many, many ways a Chaos Space Marines army can go and these represent just a few of the possible permutations that we think have some competitive value. 

Wings’ Idiot Monster Mash List

Supreme Command Detachment

Abaddon, Warlord, pays for Warlord Traits – 300pts, 1CP

Red Corsairs Battalion

Lord Discordant, baleflamer, Mark of Tzeentch, Trait – Hatred Incarnate – 190pts, 1CP
Lord Discordant, baleflamer, Mark of Tzeentch, Relic – Gorget of Eternal Hate, Trait – Flames of Spite – 190pts, 2CP
Lord Discordant, baleflamer, Mark of Slaanesh, Relic – Intoxicating Elixir – 190pts, 1CP

Legionaries, Chainswords – 90pts
Legionaries, Chainswords – 90pts
Cultists – 50pts

Helbrute, multi-melta, Mark of Tzeentch, power scourge – 125pts
Helbrute, multi-melta, Mark of Tzeentch, power scourge – 125pts
Helbrute, multi-melta, Mark of Tzeentch, power scourge – 125pts

Raptors – 110pts
Raptors – 110pts

Havocs, chaincannons – 145pts

Rhino – 80pts
Rhino – 80pts

2000pts, 2CP

I didn’t promise this would be sensible. You could definitely make a case for running this as Iron Warriors too, but given that the basic plan is to slam your Discolords and Dreadnoughts into the enemy as hard and fast as possible, I decided that sticking with Red Corsairs was more sensible. A wall of Helbrutes and Disco Lords, mostly with the Mark of Tzeentch for extra resilience, is going to put the opponent under appalling pressure when it hits, especially with Abaddon in tow. You’ve still got enough points left for plenty of units to play objectives, and some Havocs in case there’s a horde that needs mowing down. You could probably also shuffle one Discolord out for Huron and not be sad about it.

TheChirurgeon’s Iron Warriors

Iron Warriors Battalion Detachment (-2 CP, 2,000 points)

HQ: Lord Discordant w/Baleflamer (175), Warlord: Daemonsmith (-1 CP)
HQ: Lord Discordant w/Baleflamer (175), WL Trait: Bastion (-1 CP)

HQ: Master of Possession – Pact of Flesh, Cursed Earth (105)

Troops: Legionaries x10 – Mark of Nurgle, Balefire tome, Icon (220)
Troops: Legionaries x10 – Mark of Nurgle, Balefire tome (215)
Troops: Cultists x10 (50)

Elites: Obliterators x3 (270)
Elites: Terminators x10, Mark of Nurgle, 2x Reaper Autocannon (355)

FA: Venomcrawler (105)
FA: Venomcrawler (105)
FA: Chaos Spawn x3 (75)

HS: Maulerfiend w/Lasher Tendrils (150)
HS: Obliterators x3

I haven’t put a ton of thought into this list – but what I did know is I wanted to build an Iron Warriors list heavy on fast daemon engines supported by protected Lords Discordant. The Iron Warriors don’t really have much in the way of Relics I need, but I can absolutely make use of both Daemonsmith and Bastion here to buff units and hold objectives. The Legionaries are where I’m a bit unsure – the Terminators are the midtable objective holders, since the mark of nurgle and other strats make them tough as hell – and the legionaries can buff them with Miasma of Pestilence as needed. There’s a chance this list is better off cutting the MoP and the Chaos Spawn for a third Lord Discordant and cutting the psykers altogether – I’m not ruling it out. 

Mike Pestilen’s Word Bearers

Word Bearers Battalion Detachment

HQ: Dark Apostle (-1CP): Illusory Supplication, Daemonic Whispers
HQ: Master Of Possession: Pact Of Flesh, Cursed Earth
HQ: Sorceror: Diabolic Strength, Warptime

Troops: 5 Legionaries, Icon
5 Legionaries, Icon
Troops: 5 Legionaries, Icon
Troops: 10 Cultists
Troops: 10 Cultists

EL: Master Of Executions: Ul’O’Cca The Black
EL: Decimator
EL: Decimator
EL: 5 Possessed
EL: 5 Possessed
EL: 10 Terminators, – Mark of Nurgle, chainfist, meltagun

FA: Raptors, Power Fists

Mike: This list is built for board control and the Word Bearer’s secondary options through disposable Icon units. There’s some additional synergy here; resurrecting the Nurgle Terminators to do more damage is big, and Venomcrawlers can help with that by giving +1 to cast. This isn’t necessarily what I’d take to LVO, but there are some good ideas here to test out.

Next: Crusade

That wraps up our look at the army’s datasheets, and wraps up our look at the matched play rules for the Chaos Space Marines. On Tuesday we’ll complete our review by looking at the Crusade rules for Chaos Space Marines.

Part 4

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