One of the most surprising things to come out of this year’s previews was the news that we’d be getting not just a new model for Fabius Bile, but also for a Bile-specific faction called Creations of Bile, which represent the armies that Bile is experimenting on and working with, offering his gene-splicing services in exchange for fresh genetic material, relics, or whatever else he demands. Bile has always needed something like this; previous incarnations of Bile have seen him affecting a single unit at a time which, while thematic, wasn’t really evocative of Bile’s influence or the armies in his service (if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend checking out Josh Reynolds’ Fabius Bile books, which dive into his Consortium of traitor apothecaries).
With War of the Spider, we finally have rules for Bile’s faction, presented as an entirely separate <LEGION> option for a Chaos Space Marines/HERETIC ASTARTES army. But how do these rules stack up? Are they a powerful new tool in Chaos players’ arsenals or are they just a fun diversion for modelers with too many Haemonculi bitz in their bitz box? And how do Bile’s rules stack up – do they match his sweet new model? Let’s dive in and find out.
Fabius Bile Himself
Let’s start with Bile and his datasheet. He’s got a new datasheet to go with the new model, and the first thing to note is that his statline has changed: Bile has lost 1 point of Strength and 2 Attacks, though these have been factored in elsewhere. His special helping backpack, TheChirurgeon, has been dramatically improved: In addition to the previous ability to regain D3 lost wounds at the start of each of your turns, it also now gives Bile the ability to ignore incoming wounds on a 5+ and now makes 3 extra attacks each Fight phase at S4 AP-2 1 damage. The Rod of Torment has been upgraded to S+1 to account for the change in Bile’s Strength attribute but is otherwise unchanged. The Xyclos Needler also got a major upgrade, and is now a S2 AP-2 2 damage weapon that wounds non-VEHICLE, non-TITANIC units on a 2+. This is a huge boost and gives Bile some extra killing power.
Fabius Bile also retains the Enhanced Warriors ability, which allows him to upgrade a non-character HERETIC ASTARTES INFANTRY units. However, the ability has changed significantly: Now at the end of your (not “any”) Movement phase you can upgrade a friendly unit wholly within 6″ that hasn’t been upgraded yet. You roll a D6 and on a 1 a model in that unit is destroyed. Then you roll a D3 to get one of the following benefits for the rest of the game:
- The unit gets +1 Strength
- The unit gets +1 Toughness
- The unit gets +Attacks
The Surgeon Acolyte
Bile can be accompanied by up to one Surgeon Acolyte. This is a T4, 1-wound CHARACTER with a 6+ save. The Acolyte doesn’t do much on his own but what he brings to the table is the Another Pair of Hands ability, which lets you add or subtract 1 from your D3 roll for the Enhanced Warriors benefit. The Acolyte is a must-take for Bile and means that +1 Toughness is always an option, and one third of the time you’ll have your pick from all three, meaning that if you don’t want Toughness, then your chances of getting what you want double when rolling, to 67%.
These are big changes for Bile. He desperately needed an invulnerable save and while he didn’t get one, the ability to ignore wounds on a 5+ with TheChirurgeon is a good consolation prize. The extra consistency on Enhanced Warriors is also great, since getting +1 Toughness is almost always useful and not having to roll for each model in the unit means that it’ll generally be much safer to use this on larger units of 1W models.
So the real question here is: What do you want to be enhancing? Well, generally the answer is “whatever will give you the most value from a T1 enhancement” and that’s generally going to mean A. Units that are on the table turn 1 with Fabius, and B. Units with more models that want the benefits that Bile can give. Melee + Close Combat Weapon Cultists are an easy choice here, where losing a model hardly matters and whether they have S4, T4, or +1 Attack, you’ve suddenly made 29-30 models much, much better for free. Possessed are another great target, where going to T5 is significant if you can’t get the coveted +1 Attack. Khorne Berserkers also make good targets for the same reason, and being able to give a unit of Noise Marines +1 Toughness isn’t terrible. Beyond that though, it’s hard to recommend a ton of units here – most melee threats want to not end their first Movement phases out in the open unless it’s right before a charge, and the Chaos Space Marines army list just doesn’t offer a ton of great INFANTRY options.
One useful thing to note is that the rule around Fabius Bile and legion traits still applies, so if you want to use Fabius without all the other rules from his faction to just boost a unit of World Eaters Berserkers or Alpha Legion Possessed, that’s an option too.
Wings: Do watch out for the new wording requiring the unit to be wholly within 6″ – that makes really big squads like cultists possible but logistically challenging to set up. There’s plausibly some good game to be had bringing Bile along with the Thousand Sons, especially the Cult of Duplicity – he can buff up a unit at the end of the movement phase before they teleport across the board in the psychic phase.
Creations of Bile
If Fabius Bile is your Warlord, you can replace the <LEGION> keyword for units in his detachment with CREATIONS OF BILE. Troops with this keyword get the “Objective Secured” bonus other armies get as well as a custom Legion Trait and access to relics and stratagems for the Creations of Bile. From a rules standpoint, they’re somewhere in between the Renegade Chapters of Vigilus and the Traitor Legions of Faith and Fury with regard to support – Creations of Bile have a very good Legion Trait, but fewer relics, no Warlord Traits, and seven stratagems. Power-wise, they’re on the upper end of your options, but not quite as good Alpha Legion or Emperor’s Children.
Legion Trait: Experimental Enhancements
In a Battle-forged army, INFANTRY, BIKES, CHARACTERS, and HELBRUTES in a Creations of Bile Detachment get this trait. It is insanely good, especially for Chaos Space Marines, where a good number of the traits you can get are functionally worthless. +1 to Movement and Strength is a significant boost on a number of key units, including Warp Talons (who want to have S5), Possessed, where going up to 8″ movement is helpful for getting off early charges, Bikers, who are very threatening melee threats at S5, Terminators who can take a more lethal approach with S5 Power Swords, Lords Discordant, where the S+1 boost opens them up to more Relic options than just the Intoxicating Elixir, Daemon Princes, who love being S8, and Helbrutes, who suddenly look very interesting with 9″ movement and the ability to make Power scourge attacks at S9. Now I know what you’re thinking, you’re saying “Rob you’ve been trying to make double scourge Helbrutes work forever.” And to that I say “Shut up, Wings. This time it’s gonna work.”
Wings: I love that my hypothetical opinions about Dreadnoughts live rent free inside your head.
TheChirurgeon: Who said anything about rent-free? I’m sending you an invoice.
There are no Warlord Traits; Bile is your Warlord and he’s still locked into taking the Lord of Terror Warlord Trait, which is not so useful in 8th edition, but hopefully will have more value in 9th.
Relics of Bile
Creations of Bile get three relics all their own. The Helm of All-Seeing gives them a way of getting back CP spent on Stratagems; this is a pretty rare ability for Chaos Space Marines and so it’s a good one to have, and worth spending 1 CP on to make this your extra relic as it’ll pay for itself during an average game and get you some bonus CP on top of that. The Living Carapace gives a model +1 to its saving throws (not invulnerable saves though) and has it regain one lost wound at the start of each turn. This can be pretty solid on a Lord Discordant, where gaining a total of 2W per turn can be a real pain and having a 1+ save is going to be really helpful as you go up against a lot of AP-1 and AP-2 shooting. Even against AP-3 weapons it’s a better deal since you only drop to a 4+ save and don’t have to rely on your invulnerable save yet.
The Hyper-Growth Bolts are special bolt ammunition like we’ve seen for the traitor legions before. A model with these can opt to fire them as a single shot instead of firing normally with a bolt pistol, bolter, or combi-bolter. If they do, the shot always wounds on non-Vehicle targets on a 2+ and does 4 damage. It’s a very nasty little package, but delivered at AP 0 it’s going to let you down a lot.
The Creations of Bile have seven Stratagems of their own to choose from, on par with the number given to the traitor legions in Faith and Fury. Something to note is that for whatever reason, with the exception of Taken Alive, none of these can be used on CHAOS CULTISTS.
One of the most powerful stratagems of the bunch was already previewed on WHC: Macrotensile Sinews is a 1 CP Stratagem that lets a non-Cultist INFANTRY unit in your army Advance and Charge in the same turn and they get +1 to Advance and Charge rolls. This has to be used at the start of the Movement phase so it won’t help you get Deep Strikers into combat the turn they arrive, but it combines with the Legion Trait to do some fantastic movement combos. With this you can rush a unit of Possessed across the table in short order, giving it a little more than 20″ threat range. It’s also just fine on Berserkers and Warp Talons that you chose not to deep strike… it might actually be worth considering, given their 25″+ threat range and having S5 attacks. And that’s before you start factoring Warptime into the mix. Add in that psychic power and a turn 1 charge is all but guaranteed as your unit flies across the table.
There are a number of other stratagems worth considering in the group here as well. Dermal Chitination (1 CP) is used during your opponent’s Shooting phase when a unit of INFANTRY is targeted to give them +1 Toughness until the end of the phase. This is handy for shrugging off incoming attacks and works well on Possessed, Berserkers, and other melee units that might otherwise be a little too fragile with 1 wound and a 3+ armor save. Monstrous Visages (1 CP) works in any phase to give one of your INFANTRY units an aura applying -1 to hit to enemy units within 6″. If you’ve pushed some hard-to-kill Possessed into your enemy’s face, this is a great way to punish them, and it also lasts for the whole turn once up, so you can activate it in shooting to benefit in melee as well.
The Master is Watching (1 CP) lets a unit within 12″ of Bile that has Line of Sight to him re-roll hit rolls in the Shooting or Fight phase. I’m skeptical that Bile is going to keep up with his creations for the melee part to be much use, but it’s a great ability to throw on some Havocs, who love the full re-rolls.
Supreme Creation (1 CP) is also interesting, usable once per game before the game beings to upgrade a single non-Bile Creations of Bile character (I love that they include this rider, as though Bile is a unit you’d ever want to use it on). You can pick one of the following bonuses for it to apply for the rest of the game:
- Prime Test Subject: The model gets +1 Strength and Toughness
- The Master’s Hound: The model gets +1 to Advance and Charge rolls and gets +1 Attack the turn it charges or performs a Heroic Intervention
- Ravenous Biology: The model ignores incoming wounds on a D6 roll of 6+ and at the end of any Fight phase in which an enemy model died within 1″ it can regain D3 lost wounds.
Ravenous Biology is funny but the real question here is whether you’re taking Prime Test Subject or The Master’s. Both Daemon Princes and Lords Discordant benefit greatly from the strength and toughness boosts, which helps turn them into even more insane combat monsters. That probably gives it the edge over Master’s Bloodhound, but the ability to add an extra +1 to charge rolls on top of Macrotensile Sinews and the Legion Trait or even the Tip of the Spear Specialist Detachment Warlord Trait mean you can create some incredibly scary movement options as well and the extra attack is very good to have, though most of the time you’ll likely be running Daemonkin Ritualists.
The other stratagems are more of a mixed bag. Venomous Claws (1 CP) buffs a non-Cultist unit in the Fight phase, making it so unmodified hit rolls of 6 automatically wound, but only if they’re being made with the unit’s default melee weapon, i.e. the unlisted one all units have. This would actually be amazing on Cultists but because you can’t take it on them it means that it’s really limited to Chaos Space Marine bodies. To make this worthwhile you’re really looking for S4 models who have 2+ attacks and limited weapon options, such that you’re making 1 attack with a chainsword and the others with the default melee weapon. This is a real problem because most chaos units don’t have a lot of base attacks. The need to use the base melee weapon cuts out say, Berserkers, because with those you’re mathematically better off taking AP-1 on the chainaxes than relying on 6s to autowound.
So who does this work on? Well, Bikers are an OK target, since they’re limited to chainswords and locked in at S4 attacks. Getting 2 attacks from each bike on the charge can help ensure you’ll get the most damage out of this unit, though we’re really only talking about 1-2 extra damage from a full squad’s worth of attacks. If you’re really trying to make this work, the ideal target are probably Chosen armed with ranged weapons, since they’ve got 2 attacks base and in a pinch you can charge in with them and use it to get off some extra damage. But then you have to run Chosen and even then the benefit for your costs isn’t great. This is a long way of saying this Stratagem is bad and you should just use Veterans of the Long War instead, which it doesn’t really combo with.
Taken Alive (1 CP) is one of the few stratagems that works on Cultists – it’s used when an INFANTRY unit destroys an enemy model with a melee attack; for the rest of the battle the unit that model was from counts melee losses double for the purposes of morale checks. A unit can only be affected by this Stratagem once. This is interesting, and the hoop to jump through isn’t too big, but Morale just doesn’t matter that much in 8th and we’re not sure how much that will change in 9th, making this difficult to evaluate. It’s also based around killing a model but not destroying the unit and while I suspect it could be helpful finishing a unit off, my notion is that it’s not good enough in the current edition.
Wings: It’s worth saying that double-counting casualties is one of niche morale effects that occasionally can matter in 8th, specifically being extremely relevant against horde orks. If you kill 20 Orks from a unit of 30 that’s within 3″ of another unit of 30, normally nothing happens – but with this you wipe the squad unless they auto-pass.
Creations of Bile are an interesting angle for Chaos Space Marines that favors an Infantry-heavy approach for rushing your opponent early out of the gate. It’s not a particularly different build from what we currently see in Alpha Legion, Night Lords, and Emperor’s Children. The downside is trading off the Alpha Legion and Night Lords’ tools for extra -1 to hit modifiers, but that won’t matter nearly as much if those are going away in 9th edition anyways and you can still use Miasma of Pestilence to get the first -1 to hit modifier on your Possessed. At that point, Creations of Bile offers something that none of the other legions can offer, which is an insane boost to movement, extra Strength without the need for a Greater Possessed or Herald, and the ability to advance and charge in the same turn, which none of the other legions can offer. This is really cool… but it comes with a major downside, which is that you’re going to outkick your coverage – your Possessed need to stay within 6″ of a Master of Possession to get the Vessels of the Neverborn and Shepherd of the True Faith abilities to go off, and that poor bastard is capped at around 13.5″ of movement on Turn 1 if you’re exceptionally lucky. There’s potentially an opportunity if you’re facing a short field to use Warptime on the Master of Possession and just run the Possessed once but that’s probably not getting you the turn 1 charge you’re looking for. So you can make that turn 1 charge buuuuuut it’s going to be with D3+1 Attacks per model which is not ideal.
Otherwise, Daemon Princes and Lords Discordant both love the Strength and Movement boosts, and they love to be Supreme Creations. There’s some value here just for running those though again, probably not more than if you were running one of the other top legions. There is however some real meat to the idea of running a bunch of double scourge Helbrutes here who can dart across the table and flail it up. Trust me on that one.
When it’s all said and done, Creations of Bile are neat, and likely to produce something that looks competitive if you’re interested in trying to make them work, but not liable to make a significant dent in the tournament meta for Chaos Space Marines. They’re a wonderful intersection of strong enough to be playable and fluffy without being overly broken, in much the same way that the Faith and Fury rules were. They just don’t create quite enough synergy.
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