Ruleshammer 40k: Chaos Space Marine Dark Pacts

In this Ruleshammer we’re looking at the specifics around Chaos Space Marine Dark Pacts – when they can be used, and the effects they have.

Dark Pacts When and How They Can Be Used

If your Army Faction is Heretic Astartes, each time a unit with this ability is selected to shoot or fight, it can make a Dark Pact. If it does, select one of the following abilities for that unit’s weapons to gain until the end of the phase:
Each time a unit makes a Dark Pact, after it has resolved its attacks, it must take a Leadership test; if that test is failed, that unit suffers D3 mortal wounds.

The trigger here is the key part that I think can cause some confusion:

…each time a unit with this ability is selected to shoot or fight…

This leads to questions, such as whether firing Overwatch counts as being selected to shoot. Or how about if they’re using a fight on death ability? What if it’s a single model rather than the unit? Do Marks of Chaos apply? In this article we’ll address each of these questions in turn.

Do Pacts Work For Overwatch?

Yes. When firing Overwatch you select a unit and then shoot with it. There are some semantics involved, as you technically select the unit to Overwatch and then it gets to shoot, but it is the whole unit and you go through the process of shooting with it (though with limited target choices).

: Your opponent’s Movement or Charge phase,
just after an enemy unit is set up or when an enemy unit starts or ends a Normal, Advance, Fall Back or Charge move.
TARGET: One unit from your army that is within 24″ of that enemy unit and that would be eligible to shoot if it were your Shooting phase.
EFFECT: Your unit can shoot that enemy unit as if it were your Shooting phase.
RESTRICTIONS: Until the end of the phase, each time a model in your unit makes a ranged attack, an unmodified Hit roll of 6 is required to score a hit, irrespective of the attacking weapon’s Ballistic Skill or any modifiers. You can only use this Stratagem once per turn.

Would Marks of Chaos Activate for Overwatch?

No. The Marks of Chaos which have an effect on shooting attacks all specify “in the Shooting phase.” This makes them rules triggered in the Shooting phase.

Some rules allow a model or unit to move, shoot, charge or fight outside of the normal turn sequence. For example, the Fire Overwatch Stratagem enables a unit to shoot in the opponent’s turn as if it were your Shooting phase. When using out-of-phase rules to perform an action as if it were one of your phases, you cannot use any other rules that are normally triggered in that phase. – Commentary 1.1 Pg 10

so rules like this:

Warpfire: In the Shooting phase, if this unit’s weapons gained the [LETHAL HITS] ability this phase as the result of a Dark Pact, each time a model in this unit makes an attack, an unmodified Hit roll of 5+ scores a Critical Hit.

do not apply during Overwatch.

Rob: There is one exception here – The benefit for the Mark of Chaos Undivided is not locked to a phase, so if you Dark Pact and shoot Overwatch with an Undivided unit, they get to re-roll hit rolls of 1.

But is Dark Pacts not also a Shooting/Fight phase rule?

Actually, No. The wording for Dark Pacts is not limited to a phase, but to the action of a unit shooting or fighting.

If your Army Faction is Heretic Astartes, each time a unit with this ability is selected to shoot or fight…

Neither the Shooting or Fight phases are mentioned here, so this rule is not blocked by the Out-Of-Phase rules.

Do Dark Pacts work for Fight on Death, such as the Eternal Hate Stratagem?

No. At least, not as currently written (and this is also in-line with rulings made at Games Workshop events). The Stratagem doesn’t actually let you select a UNIT to fight; instead it does something subtly different.

: Fight phase, just after an enemy unit has selected its targets.

TARGET: One Heretic Astartes unit from your army that was selected as the target of one or more of the attacking unit’s attacks.
EFFECT: Until the end of the phase, each time a model in your unit is destroyed, if that model has not fought this phase, roll one D6, adding 1 to the result if it is a Khorne unit: on a 4+, do not remove it from play. That destroyed model can fight after the attacking model’s unit has finished making its attacks, and is then removed from play.

This specifically allows for destroyed models to fight. This might end up being the entire unit of them but these are still technically model fight activations. This actually gets kind of messy and I think most players might even ignore this distinction. Technically rules as written if for instance 4 of 10 models were destroy to “fight on death” you wouldn’t pile in with all 4, fight with them all, and then remove them. You activate one, pile in, attack, remove. Then the next, and the next, sequentially. This might even be important if any of the models you destroyed are more than 3″ away from the enemy unit, as your opponent could choose to remove models after the first fight on death that might prevent subsequent fight on death models from reaching engagement range in some (admittedly rare) circumstances.

Rob: This is also important because it means activating your models when they fight on death doesn’t mean you’re activating the unit. If that were the case then having those models fight on death would mean selecting the unit to fight, and that would make the unit no longer eligible to fight later in the phase (since, per the Core Rules, no unit may fight more than once each Fight phase) – only the models fighting on death would get to fight!

So no Marks of Chaos then?

Indeed not. As they can’t use Dark Pacts in this situation Marks of Chaos would not trigger. If they could use Pacts however, Marks would trigger because this Fight is not out of phase, it’s just sort of out of sequence instead. Fighting on death does generally happen within the fight phase (Eternal Hate always does but there are stratagems that allow it out of phase in some circumstances).

Does Abaddon give multiple Marks of Chaos?

Yes. The Marks of Chaos rules are quite clear on this:

When mustering your army, each time you select a Heretic Astartes unit to include in your army, if that unit is not an Epic Hero and does not already have one or more of the keywords listed below, you must select one of the keywords listed below for that unit to gain (note which units gain which keywords in this way on your Army Roster). Each time a unit with one of these keywords makes a Dark Pact, it gains the associated ability below until the end of the phase.

A unit that contains Abaddon as a leader is a unit that has all of the keywords listed in the Marks of Chaos section. Therefore any and all Marks abilities would apply to almost any shooting or fighting those units do, though obviously not when using the Overwatch or the Eternal Hate stratagems, for the reasons I discussed above.

Can I use Dark Pacts without any Targets?

Probably. At least for shooting, a unit does not as written need to have targets to be eligible to shoot, so technically you could declare you are shooting with a unit and make a Dark Pact but then declare no targets (regardless of if there are or aren’t any to choose from) for that unit and its shooting ends, at which point you’d have to take your Leadership test as normal.

But Why would you want to do this, though? Well…

Heretic Astartes Tzeentch model only. Each time the bearer’s unit makes a Dark Pact, take a Leadership test for the bearer: if that test is passed, you gain 1CP

A model with this could hang around on the back line with no targets but gain you CP each turn. I would caution against this being the expected interpretation though at casual or competitive games, it’s one that is frequently debated as far as I know.

Rob: This one is technically legal but a fair number of Tournament Organizers are ruling against it. That’s their prerogative, so check with your TO before you try this. That said, dropping 100 points on a 60% chance to get some extra CP on turns where you don’t discard a secondary mission isn’t great, and there are easily 4-5 better ways to spend that many points, so this clever trick isn’t even a good use of your time.

That’s all for this week. Have any questions or feedback? Got a rules question you want answered? Drop us a note in the comments below, ask a question in our Ruleshammer form, or head over to r/ruleshammer to discuss.