Chaos Space Marine Kill Team Tactics

Hello there! Are you a traitor or heretic who hates the false emperor of mankind? Do you seethe with rage at the sight of newer, larger space marines? Do you like the flexibility of being able to run cynical warriors from the Eye of Terror or a bunch of bare-chested religious fanatics with improvised weapons?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you’re just the right type of bitter madman to consider a Traitor Marines Kill Team. Welcome aboard! Your membership into this exclusive club comes with a gallon of Imperial Standard salt, to be kept with you at all times. The upside to Chaos Space Marines is that you get some sweet modeling opportunities and you aren’t playing a bunch of loyalist dorks.

As always, an article like this represents a point in time. This article was updated for Kill Team’s 2nd edition shortly after the game’s release in September 2021.

Strengths

  • Elite, but also a horde  – Traitor Marine kill teams are built as either six chaos space marines or three chaos marines and 8 cultists. As a result, they can either play as a small band of heavily-armored, APL 3 operatives or a more horde-like group with lots of chaff to rush objectives.
  • Flexibility – Chaos Space Marine fire teams are among the game’s most versatile options. They have access to special and heavy weapons and combat specialists, they can shoot and fight twice, and they’re one of the few fire teams in the game that gives you access to all four TacOps categories – Seek and Destroy / Recon / Infiltration/ Security.
  • Cultists – Cultists aren’t amazing, but they activate in groups of 2 and can be pretty deadly if you mass their effects. They allow the Traitor Marines team to operate with incredible flexibility.

Weaknesses

  • Specialization – Traitor Marines are decent in a lot of ways – they have good speed, firepower, and durability – but they aren’t amazing in any one category. They aren’t quite as durable as Plague Marines or deadly as Rubric Marines and while they make up for that by having access to a sixth body in marine-only teams, they’ll definitely feel a bit outmatched when it comes to taking on those other marines one-on-one.
  • Melee – Chaos marines are OK at melee – they have access to Chainswords, and 4 attacks at 4/5 damage is nothing to sneeze at – but outside of the champion your options are limited (thanks primarily to being stuck with whatever is on the Chaos Space Marines sprue). Again, this is an area where being good at a thing but not great is a bit of a bummer.

Competitive Rating: TBD

It’s still early days for competitive Kill Team and the Chaos Space Marines but their tactical flexibilty and decent units mean they’re unlikely to be worse than just “mediocre.” Watch this space, as we’ll update the faction’s competitive rating as the meta develops.

 

Operatives

Traitor Space Marine kill teams are composed of two fire teams, chosen from two options: Chaos Space Marines and Chaos Cultists.

Chaos Space Marine fire teams consist of three Chaos Space Marines, and unlock the Seek and Destroy, Recon, Infiltration and Security Tac Ops, giving you complete flexibility in selecting Tac Ops for your secondary objectives.

Chaos Cultist (Max One) fire teams consist of eight chaos Cultists, of which two can be gunners. You can only take one of this fire team, so the most models you can take in a Traitor Marines kill team is eleven, and your first decision will be whether to take a Chaos Cultist team and have a horde of chaff backed up by some power armoured marines, or whether to take a pure marine force but only have six models. Most of your Chaos Cultists – the warrior operatives – have a Group Activation of 2, so even in an 11-member kill team you’ll have at most 8 activations per Turning Point.

Chaos Marines by Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

Chaos Space Marine [Warrior]

This is your standard Chaos Space Marine, though if you take a cultist fireteam you may not actually field one in your kill team, as there are better options available. The main thing they bring to the table is the ability to take chainswords, making them your best rank-and-file melee option. On that note, your first decision when taking one of these operatives is whether to arm them with a bolter, or bolt pistol and chainsword. Bolters are a solid ranged weapon, particularly combined with Malefic Rounds and/or Belt Feeds. Chainswords give them a solid close combat punch, but Chaos Marines punch as hard as Primaris marines (4 attacks, 3/4 damage) in close combat already and limiting yourself to 6″ range for that extra melee damage is a big tradeoff.

APL 3, 3+ saves and 12 wounds give you a tough model with a hard punch in shooting or close combat, and the ability to choose what you want from the roster when you know the mission. If you know you’ll be trying to knock tough enemies off objectives in a table with a lot of terrain, then BP/chainsword is a good option; if there is a lot of open ground then boltguns with Malefic rounds are a good loadout. The biggest reason you’ll want to take one of these over one of the other team options is basically their versatility – they’re better fighters than gunners, even with fists, and while bolters are weaker than plasma guns and melta guns they don’t have limited range like the latter and can shoot twice with Malecious Volleys. 

 

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Chaos Space Marine [Gunner]

A Chaos Space Marine with a slightly weaker punch – they only have 3 attacks with fists – but a choice of plasma gun, meltagun and flamer. In a six-man chaos marine team you will have definitely have one of these. You can only have one gunner or heavy gunner per fire team and you’re limited to only one gunner per kill team.

The weapon choice will be based on the mission and the enemy. If you are facing hordes, then a flamer is a good choice; against high-armour, high-wound targets a meltagun. Plasma guns are almost as good as meltaguns at punching through armour, especially if you take the risk and Supercharge it – which is worth it when the target has a high save. Plasmas also make a great backfield sniper, but if we’re being honest meltaguns are just more fun if for no other reason than they will typically just delete a unit entirely if it gets too close. Of course that “close” part is the rub – the most striking difference between weapons is that flamers and meltaguns have a 6” range and plasmas do not, meaning that the latter can punch models out from across the board while other weapons have to get close. As you build your roster you’re almost certainly going to have one of each of these gunner options so you can swap them in and out of fire teams as the mission dictates.

 

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Chaos Space Marine [Heavy Gunner]

The Heavy Gunner is basically a gunner but with bigger weapons – they have the option of taking either a Heavy Bolter or a Missile Launcher. Both weapons are heavy, so you can’t do more than a dash and fire with them unless you buy Suspensors, a 3 EP upgrade that risks sinking a lot of points into a single model.

The Heavy bolter, particularly combined with belt feeds and malefic rounds (to re-roll 1s to hit) gives you an AP1 weapon that you can split across multiple targets, though it costs you five equipment points for this loadout. While it can’t hit as hard on an individual shot as the Missile Launcher, the extra shots you do get, combined with the fact that it’s a bolt weapon and so can shoot twice with Malicious Volleys means that it’s the superior choice most of the time, though missile launchers give you a ton of versatility with their two ammo options. Frag gives you Blast, helping you really clear out hordes, while Krak give you AP1 power fist shots, dealing 5/7 damage. It’s a fine choice but mathematically the heavy bolter is going to be the play more often as it’s a much more reliable weapon, particularly after the upgrades. The missile launcher is going to give you the most bang for your puck taking out big, tough things (such as Tyranid Warriors, Custodes, or Krootox) on turns when you use Let the Galaxy Burn to force out more crit damage.

Aesthetically we prefer the heavy bolter, though.

 

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Chaos Space Marine [Icon Bearer]

A Chaos Space Marine Warrior with exactly the same options, but with the addition of an Icon. Models with an Icon count as being one APL higher for the purposes of holding objectives, so a marine with an icon holds an objective vs a normal marine. The icon also gives them a uniqu action – Icon of Vengeance (1 AP). The Icon of Vengeance action inspires a model within 3” that allows it, if it gets criticals on a roll in a fight or shoot action, to convert a failed roll into a successful one. This is nowhere near as good as the Death Guard or Thousand Sons Icons, but if combined with Malicious Volley or Hateful Assault you can get two uses out of it and it’s still a good way to smooth out some of your variance. And while the icon action is situational, you will inevitably take an Icon Bearer in your fire team because it can substitute for a Warrior model and is better at holding objectives for free.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Chaos Space Marine Aspiring Champion

The inevitable leader model you will choose for your Kill Team, the champion cannot take the range of weapons a Tactical Marine Sergeant can, but you can take a plasma pistol and power weapon or power fist on him. Like many Leaders he comes with an extra wound and improved WS, and because of that and his melee options he’s going to be your best melee combatant in every game.

With the options available, you can pick a bolter to be exactly the same as a standard Chaos Marine but with one more wound, or choose a bolt pistol or plasma pistol (pick the plasma pistol) and a chainsword, power fist, or power weapon. Power weapons are 4/6 but score criticals on a 5 or 6, and powerfists are 5/7 but can only be parried with critical successes. While power weapons do damage more consistently, the powerfist having a 7-damage critical hit means that it can completely destroy a cultist, guardsman, neophyte, or repentia on a single hit as you charge in, and only being parried by crits gives it a further advantage at pushing damage through. Because killing things before they can hit you tends to be much more important than consistent damage in Kill Team, the power fist is going to be the superior option most of the time despite only hitting on a 3+ but the power weapon isn’t terrible. Don’t waste your time considering the bolter or chainsword – they’re only here for aesthetic reasons, though a bolt pistol may have utility for double-shooting with Malicious Volleys.

 

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Chaos Cultist [Fighter]

Six of these will inevitably make up the main body of your Cultists fire team and with a GA of 2, you activate these models in pairs. They lack heavy punch, and have lasgun-level weapons (4 shots, 4+, 2/3 damage). They can choose between autoguns and fists or autopistols and brutal assault weapons. The difference between them is that if you take autoguns you lose one dice in fights as fists are worse than brutal assault weapons, vs not being able to shoot further than six inches. I think you can guess which one I would pick (hint: Take the range).

These seven-wound, 5+ save models basically fulfil the same role as lasgun guardsmen or autogun neophytes – they sit on objectives and chip away at other, better models, making it easier for your marines to gun them down or punch their heads off, and ideally softening up your targets so you can kill them with the first hit on a charge if you have to fight in melee. They’re much more effective against lightly armed models, and softening up or gunning down guard equivalents if they’re able to catch those targets out of cover is their perfect situation. Their lack of armor and low wound totals means they want to stay in cover for as long as possible. Otherwise cultists have almost no support other than the Strike From Within Tactical Ploy (1 CP), which you can use in the set up operative step to put one operative in Conceal orders anywhere on the killzone within ▲ of heavy cover and more than ⬟ from any enemy operatives or the enemy drop zone, letting you essentially start on a forward objective (especially handy given cultists only have 2 APL). This is powerful enough to make cultists worth considering in almost any mission.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Chaos Cultist [Gunner]

You can take two of these, armed with either a Flamer or Heavy Stubber, and you can pick two of one type if you like (unlike some other kill teams). This means you can look at your opponent and then decide whether to take Heavy Stubbers. If you do, put them on vantage points and try and snipe with what is basically a bolter that re-rolls ones to hit. You have Fusillade on the model as well with the heavy stubber, but with 4+ to hit it’s not advisable to use it – you’ll typically want to commit all of your shots. Heavy Stubbers are also heavy, so take a turn to get into position on a Conceal order, and then switch to engage. As with all Cultist models, definitely stay in cover.

Flamer gunners will instead be moving up with the main force to contest central objectives. Jumping out from behind LOS-blocking cover and flaming everyone you can is a solid tactic, but expect to catch a bolt round in the head after doing this, as squishy cultists with special weapons are a choice target.

Remember that, unlike regular cultists, gunners are GA 1, and so activate individually.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Chaos Cultist Champion

Given this model is competing with giving a Chaos marine a plasma pistol and power weapon or power fist and an extra wound, you will never see it in matched play or competitive play. Or even semi-competitive casual play. A cultist with an extra wound and access to an autogun and fists, a shotgun and brutal assault weapon, or an autopistol and brutal assault weapon, this is basically a cultist with an extra wound and no reason to give up your access to power weapons or your team’s best melee option by a significant margin.

If you do go with leading your team with a cultist champion, good luck to you, and good luck to your champion as standard humans giving Chaos Space Marines orders has always seemed bad for their life expectancy in the background.

 

Ploys

Traitor Marines have three each of Strategic and Tactical Ploys. The three Strategic Ploys these only affect Chaos Space Marines, and you have the option to Hateful Assault (do two Fight Actions if you don’t Shoot), Malicious Volleys (do two Shoot Actions with bolt weapons if you don’t Fight) or Let the Galaxy Burn, which scores you critical hits on 5+ with on one dice during one of your actions with a model. There’s a lot of obvious utility in either Hateful Assault of Malicious Volley, and the latter works especially well with your Heavy Bolter-armed heavy gunner operative. Let the Galaxy Burn is more general in use since it can be used in Fight or Shoot Actions. They’re all pretty great, though.

The team’s Tactical Ploys are more of a mixed bag. Veteran of the Long War means that if you have failed to cause any wounds in an attack, for 1CP you can repeat the attack. This is great for when you roll all ones with your meltagun or missile launcher, or your opponent uses a ploy to get out of taking damage, or they roll really hot on their saves. It’s both more drastic and less common than just using 1 CP to re-roll a single die, but it’s a good option for when you whiff hard.

Strike From Within lets you infiltrate a cultist forward, and is the only ploy that can affect cultists, letting you deploy one cultist in Conceal orders further up on the battlefield during the set up step. Putting a squishy cultist close enough to enemy lines for them to get murdered pretty quick may not be advisable though, but if you can put a heavy stubber on a vantage point or a flamer behind somewhere it can jump out and flame a couple of enemies that could be worth them inevitably getting beaned. Or if your opponent is running a smaller team and over-committing to one side of the table, you can use this to make them regret those decisions by placing a Cultist on an objective they can’t easily reach or threaten.

Warp Infused lets you ignore stunned and modifiers to APL and not count as injured so it’s good when you’ve got a marine down to the last couple of wounds and/or stunned and you need to get what you can out of them while they last.

The Strategic Ploys here are really solid, and Veteran of the Long War will largely displace a command point re-roll for when your dice really hate you. The others are more situational.

 

Equipment

Most of the Traitor Marines’ equipment options are focused around Chaos Marines, and Cultists are too squishy to tool up in any case. There are the usual grenades to choose from, but there are a couple of options to buff bolters that you need to think about what combos you will choose from here. It can be tempting to overdo it on a single model, but most of the time you’ll be better served spreading the love around.

Malefic rounds give bolters P1, which means if you score any critical hits you become AP1. If you already have P1, like a heavy bolter heavy gunner does, then P1 becomes AP1. Heavy Bolters with AP1 and the ability to split dice between targets using Fusillade mean you are rolling your attack dice against two defence and against low-save targets with fewer than 8 wounds you may be able to nail two in a turn. Is this better than just using a missile launcher? There’s a decent chance of it, especially given your ability to shoot twice with Malicious Volleys. On that note, because volleys doubles the value of Malefic Rounds, it’s one of the more useful options in the Traitor Marines armory.

Then there are Belt Feeds. Belt feeds give a bolter weapon Ceaseless, and this lets you re-roll ones to hit. It’s 2EP for a bolt pistol or bolter and 3EP for a heavy bolter. Combined with Malefic Rounds for 5 EP you can really tool up a heavy bolter into a nightmare, double-shooting AP1 shots that can split fire across targets and re-roll 1s to hit. Also, several chaos marines are modelled with belt-fed boltguns, so this is nice and thematic.

Dark Blessing [3EP] adds one to the attack dice for a melee weapon, which is a good choice for a power fist or power weapon, as additional attack dice = more hits = more dice to win with. If you’ve gone with a fighty champion it’s a good choice.

Grisly Trophy costs 3EP, but gives a 3” debuff to enemies, subtracting one attack dice from their shooting or melee attacks. Again this is a good choice on a fighty champion, and with Dark Blessing you very much push melee fights to your advantage, giving you one more dice and taking one from your opponent.

Suspensors (for 3EP) let a model with a heavy weapon move and shoot. A solid choice for your heavy bolter or missile launcher, but if you’re already taking malefic rounds and belt feeds on a heavy bolter you’re likely investing too much also giving Suspensors to the model.

Sacrificial Dagger (another 3EP item) gives you back 4 wounds once per turn when you incapacitate an opponent in close combat. Possibly a good combination with a tooled-up fighty champion, but you’d potentially be sinking a lot of EPs into one model if you want to give them Dark Blessing and Grisly Trophy as well, so they dominate in close combat.

 

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Sample Roster

Because almost every option you’ll realistically want to take can be fit into a Chaos Marines roster, there won’t typically be a ton of variation at this part – most of the variation will come in building the fire teams before the battle and customizing them with specific weapons.

Operative Weapons
Chaos Space Marine Champion Plasma Pistol and Power Fist
Chaos Space Marine Icon Bearer Bolter & Fists
Chaos Space Marine Gunner Plasma Gun & Fists
Chaos Space Marine Gunner Meltagun & Fists
Chaos Space Marine Gunner Flamer & Fists
Chaos Space Marine Heavy Gunner Heavy Bolter and Fists
Chaos Space Marine Heavy Gunner Missile Launcher and Fists
Chaos Space Marine Warrior Bolter & Fists
Chaos Space Marine Warrior Bolter & Fists
Chaos Space Marine Warrior Bolt Pistol and Chainsword
Chaos Cultist Gunner Heavy Stubber & Fists
Chaos Cultist Gunner Heavy Stubber & Fists
Chaos Cultist Gunner Flamer & Fists
Chaos Cultist Gunner Flamer & Fists
Chaos Cultist Warrior Autogun & Fists
Chaos Cultist Warrior Autogun & Fists
Chaos Cultist Warrior Autogun & Fists
Chaos Cultist Warrior Autogun & Fists
Chaos Cultist Warrior Autogun & Fists
Chaos Cultist Warrior Autogun & Fists

 

This is a full roster for competitive play that allows you to take any available special or heavy weapon, any combination of weapons for cultists (ignoring the melee loadout options), and the only real limitation is that you can only take one Chaos Marine with bolt pistol and chainsword if you want to go melee. That’s rough, but ultimately taking more than one is unlikely most of the time anyways. Once you’ve got used to the faction, possible modifications would be dropping one heavy weapon or the bolt pistol & chainsword marine and adding a spare Champion with plasma pistol and power weapon for when you need less immediate stopping power.

 

Example Kill Teams

So what kind of teams will we be fielding with this roster?

The Sinister Six

This Chaos Marine Kill Team consists of:

  • Chaos Marine Champion with plasma pistol and power fist/power weapon
  • Chaos Space Marine Icon Bearer with Boltgun & Fists
  • Chaos Space Marine Gunner with Plasma Gun & Fists
  • Chaos Space Marine Heavy Gunner with Missile Launcher & Fists
  • Chaos Space Marine Warrior with Boltgun & Fists
  • Chaos Space Marine Warrior with Boltgun & Fists

This team is all power armour and 12+ wounds, and built with a powerful firebase (plasma gun and missile launcher on vantage points ASAP) in mind. The Champion, Icon bearer and Warriors then move forward (at least in pairs if not as a group to enable them to support each other if required) and contest centre objectives. Let the Galaxy Burn combined with heavy weapons fire kills things quickly, as the automatic retained dice from cover is a standard save and your opponent is fishing for 6s while you are fishing for 5s or 6s.

Individually the models are powerful, but you still have six of them and they’ll squish any guard-equivalent models that get in their way and you’ll get a fair number of Overwatch actions in the first couple of turns thanks to your smaller size. You also won’t give up Overwatch shooting to 5-model teams, either.

From a TacOps standpoint, this team is well-positioned to take any of the available options. Against lighter teams Seek and Destroy will be a solid choice as you’ll likely be able to reliably score Execution, Deadly Marksman with your plasma gun or heavy gunner, and Rob and Ransack with your Aspiring Champion. Security will be a good play against smaller, more elite teams, where you can stay hidden to score Damage Limitation or use your slightly higher numbers to plant and destroy banners or Seize Ground. And against slower teams Recon and Infiltration can be solid plays. You’ve got lots of options, which can be a bit paralyzing so get in some practice games against different types of teams to understand how these change.

The Horde

This Chaos Marine Kill Team consists of:

  • Chaos Marine Champion with plasma pistol and power fist/power weapon
  • Chaos Space Marine Icon Bearer with Boltgun & Fists
  • Chaos Space Marine Gunner with Meltagun & Fists
  • Chaos Cultist Gunner with Heavy Stubber
  • Chaos Cultist Gunner with Heavy Stubber
  • Chaos Cultist Fighter with Autogun
  • Chaos Cultist Fighter with Autogun
  • Chaos Cultist Fighter with Autogun
  • Chaos Cultist Fighter with Autogun
  • Chaos Cultist Fighter with Autogun

With this team your firebase consists of the heavy stubber gunners and some of the Chaos Cultists, who want to get on Vantage points early on and then pick off key targets from a distance. Take all the Chaos Marines and 2-3 Cultists, and contest the middle objectives. You’ve got cultists you can leave behind as you take objectives to hold them and sit in Conceal, and marines to push forward and murder things. You’ll be playing the marines very aggressively due to their short ranges, and likely not using any Strategic ploy except Let the Galaxy Burn, as you’ve only got one bolter to fire twice, and one nasty close combat model. This may be a team where you want to put Dark Blessing and Grisly Trophy on your Champion though.

Although you still have access to every TacOp category with this list, you’ll likely find that taking cultists and having more bodies is going to push you away from Seek and Destroy and Security and more toward Recon and Infiltration, which are still both options since you have a Chaos Marine fire team. If you are taking Security, avoid Damage Limitation – your cultists just aren’t durable enough to score it.

 

Final Thoughts

A Traitor Marine Kill Team combines the strengths of a Tactical Marine Kill Team with some slightly better options (Icon Bearer, ability to take bolt pistol/chainsword marines) with the flexibility of being able to take a horde fire team choice and have 11 models on the table. With characterful legions to choose from (do you like drybrushing and hazard stripes? Or drybrushing and contrast? Or painting unlikeable edge lords with wizard van lightning on their armour? Or unlikeable religious bores that are a more boring red than World Eaters and Blood Angels? Or black armour and gold trim?) as well as ample space to create your own warband and colour scheme, you can go wild in a limited scope painting project based on a single box of marines and a couple of boxes of cultists.

As a whole I feel that GW should have included autocannons as an option on heavy gunners as it is in the start collecting, and that the cultist entry should have been more based on the Cultist models they still sell (the Blackstone ones) and not the cultist models they stopped producing at the end of 7th edition (try buying cultist flamers and shotgun leaders, you can’t from GW). What is there gives you ample space for creativity though, and more customisation options than marine tactical fireteams.

With a rich range of pieces and conversion ideas you could do anything from a ‘primaris’ alpha legion team to a Mk III armour Iron Warriors team, and the Necromunda range makes a great place to steal cultist models from. Chaos Marines is one faction where you can let your imagination run wild in terms of conversions, so have fun.

Have any questions or comments, or want to share your Chaos Space Marines Kill Team with us to feature on the site? Drop us a line in the comments below or shoot us an email at contact@goonhammer.com.