The Goonhammer Review: 10th Edition Chaos Space Marines Index

The Chaos Space Marines had to wait a long time to get a new Codex in 9th and that meant for most of the edition they were sitting on a single wound with their troops. CSM received one of the later books in that edition but in 10th they’re poised to be among the first releases. In this review we’ll look at the index datasheets for the Chaos Space Marines and talk about their rules and how they’ll play in 10th edition. And I say “we” because today I’m joined by Michael Pestilens from Warphammer – Mike wants Chaos fans to know that while Warphammer is temporarily down as they deal with some tech issues after being hacked, they’re close to getting that resolved and will be back and better than ever in time for 10th Edition.

Before we begin we’d like to thank Games Workshop for providing us with a review copy of the Index for review purposes.

Army Rule: Dark Pacts

Each time a unit with this ability is picked to shoot or fight, it can make a Dark Pact. If you do its weapons gain either LETHAL HITS or SUSTAINED HITS 1 until the end of the phase. Each time a unit makes a Dark Pact, after it resolves its attacks, it has to take a Leadership test; if it fails, then the unit takes D3 mortal wounds.

This is a powerful ability, and there are other ways to make it more powerful – see Detachment Rules, below. Your best units are basically going to use this every time they shoot or fight.

The Lost and the Damned

As a secondary army rule, your army can include Khorne Berzerkers, Plague Marines, or Rubric Marines from their relevant codexes. These can bring different things to the table, though there are weird issues with each of them in terms of how they combo with Chaos Space Marines, and none of them get Dark Pacts. Let’s look at each option:

  • Role-wise, Berzerkers may be the least useful as your army already has good, fast melee threats. That said, the ability to Blood Surge is interesting and an OC 2 melee unit which can score LETHAL HITS on 5+ isn’t bad at all, so there may be a place for one of these. The downside is that these guys really want the benefits of Blessings of Khorne, which they won’t get in a CSM army.
  • Plague Marines bring LETHAL HITS with them on their plague weapons and can gain SUSTAINED HITS 1 and crit on a 5+ in the Shooting phase with a Dark Pact. This doesn’t combo with their auto-hitting weapons at all but can give you some decent output with their bolters and blight launchers. Their melee weapons are OK but that’s about it. They’re really just a tougher, slower objective holder if you take them in CSM.
  • Rubric Marines are probably the most interesting option of the bunch, and that’s taking a unit of Warpflamers. This is also a good pick since Pacts wouldn’t have helped it anyways so you aren’t giving anything up. Instead the idea is to get one of those really great AP-1 Warpflamer units for controlling the table, and they still benefit from Bringers of Change and the Icon of Flame to buff their output with wound re-rolls and +1 to AP on critical wounds.

Credit: PierreTheMime

Detachment Rules: Slaves to Darkness

Detachment Ability: Marks of Chaos

This rule gives your army bonuses based on their Marks of Chaos. When you muster your army, each HERETIC ASTARTES unit which isn’t an Epic Hero can gain one of the Khorne, Tzeentch, Nurgle, or SLaanesh keywords (if it didn’t already have one). Each time a unit with a mark makes a Dark Pact it gets a bonus.

  • Units with the Mark of Khorne get a bonus in the Fight phase – if you picked LETHAL HITS for your pact then the unit scores critical hits on an modified 5+.
  • Units with the Mark of Tzeentch get a bonus in the Shooting phase. If you picked LETHAL HITS for your pact then the unit scores critical hits on an unmodified 5+.
  • Units with the Mark of Nurgle get a bonus in the Shooting phase. If you picked SUSTAINED HITS 1 for your pact then the unit scores critical hits on an unmodified 5+.
  • Units with the Mark of Slaanesh get a bonus in the Fight phase. If you picked SUSTAINED HITS 1 for your pact then the unit scores critical hits on an unmodified 5+.
  • Units with the Mark of Chaos Undivided get to re-roll hit rolls of 1. This one is lowkey super useful and worth considering over some of the LETHAL options, and it’s a great pick for something you think will either want bonuses in the Shooting and Fight phases or won’t benefit much from LETHAL HITS or SUSTAINED HITS – units with low volumes of high-value attacks are perfect for this, as it boosts their accuracy and you’re unlikely to get value from the rest.

This basically further underlines the fact that most of your units want to be using a pact every turn, every time they activate – the upside is just too good to leave on the table. Additionally you may have already noticed that some marks are just always correct for some units depending on whether they’re shooting or melee specialists. If you’re wondering about whether LETHAL HITS or SUSTAINED HITS 1 is better, you can read an analysis of that in our Hammer of Math article on the topic.

Mike P: It is a very welcome change that we no longer have to pay points for Marks. In addition, any unit can gain access to Marks, meaning Daemon Engines like Maulerfiends and Daemonkin units like Possessed are no longer left out of the fun.


The enhancements run the gamut from utility to pure damage output. Each God mark gets an enhancement, as well as a general Undivided enhancement. 

  • Liber Hereticus is your Undivided choice. This gives you both Lethal Hits and Sustained Hits 1 when you make a Dark Pact, rather than choosing one. This isn’t flashy, but is useful. 
  • Eye Of Tzeentch gives you 1CP if you pass a leadership check after doing a Dark Pact. Generating CP is always useful, with the only downside that you’re less inclined to give Characters the Mark Of Tzeentch in general. 
  • Orbs Of Unlife are your Nurgle flavored enhancement. Roll a dice for every enemy unit within 6” of the bearer at the end of the Fight phase, and do d3 MW to that unit on a 4+ (adding 1 to the roll if you used a Dark Pact that phase). This is a solid pick for Characters that will get in the fight. 
  • Talisman Of Burning Blood increases the bearer’s melee weapons’ Strength and Attacks by 1, increasing that to d3 if you used a Dark Pact. Not bad, especially when your Khorne character can get Lethal Hits on a 5+ to Hit. 
  • Intoxicating Elixir seems to be the most well-rounded choice. Your Slaanesh character gets a 5+ Feel No Pain when making a Dark Pact, and one unit hit by its ranged or melee attacks each phase has to take a battle-shock test. 

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones


The Chaos Space Marine stratagems are a complete success from both a flavor and crunch perspective. 5 of the 6 stratagems provide an additional benefit if the unit using them has a certain Mark Of Chaos. It’s nice to have Marks used to unlock additional benefits from stratagems, rather than serving as a restriction. 

  • Infernal Rites (2CP) will be the most familiar to 9th Edition players, as it is a copy and paste of Armour Of Contempt on any unit for a phase. Reducing incoming AP by 1 on a unit in a key moment can be very valuable. That said, Space Marines get this same Stratagem for 1 CP, and just knowing that makes me seethe with rage. 
  • Profane Zeal (1CP) lets you reroll 1’s to hit and wound for a unit. If the unit is Undivided, then you get full Hit and Wound rerolls. Priced very well, this is a stratagem you’ll both use often and incorporate a nice target for in your list-building. 
  • Eternal Hate (1CP) will help shore up melee matchups. Roll a d6 each time a model in your unit dies during that Fight phase; on a 4+ (3+ for Khorne units), that model will fight before being removed. A Lord Of Skulls fighting on death on a 3+ is hilarious. 
  • Skinshift (1CP) lets you heal flat 3 wounds on a unit in your Command phase. If it’s a Tzeentch unit, you can also return a destroyed non-Character model to the unit. This is situational, but you’ll use it when you have the opportunity to return up to 5 wounds of Terminators, or push a Vehicle back over the point it gets -1 to Hit from having too few wounds remaining. 
  • Unnatural Swiftness (1CP) lets any unit Fall Back and still shoot/charge that turn. If it’s a Slaanesh unit, you can also Advance and still shoot/charge. Both the generic and Slaanesh specific uses of this stratagem are very valuable tools to have. 
  • Dark Obscuration (1CP) gives any unit in your army Stealth. If you pick a Nurgle unit, that unit is instead untargetable outside of 12”. A valuable addition to your toolkit. 


While not quite the full house-building brick of the Space Marines Index datacards, Chaos Space Marines have one of the largest sets of datasheets of any faction. Initially I had written here about how we weren’t going to talk about every datasheet, but then Mike P and I got on a roll and two hours later we’d just done that so uh, yeah here are all the datasheets, with some thoughts on use.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Abaddon the Despoiler

I am happy to report that Abaddon the Despoiler remains an absolute beast. Clocking at T5, 9W with a 2+/4++ save and Ld 5+ he’s got a solid statline and his melee profiles give him two options with DEVASTATING WOUNDS – Drach’nyen gives him 8A at S14 AP-4, 3 damage – great for taking down vehicles and monsters – while his Talon of Horus gives him 14A at S7 AP-3 1-damage – great for pushing out mortal wounds with Devastating Wounds and Sustained Hits from your Dark Pact. Oh yeah, while we’re on that – Abaddon is the only model in Chaos with all four god keywords, meaning that if you perform a dark pact with his unit he’ll get the 5+ bonus no matter what you pick. Because LETHAL HITS and DEVASTATING WOUNDS don’t combo, you’ll pretty much always want Sustained Hits with him to push out 2-5 extra hits. In addition to having better Ld, Abaddon can also get you back a CP every time you pass a Leadership test for a Dark Pact – just roll a 2+. Last but not least, Abaddon’s Warmaster ability gives him one of three aura abilities in your Command phase:

  • Paragon of Hatred – Friendly HERETIC ASTARTES units within 6” re-roll hit rolls.
  • Mark of Chaos Ascendant – Friendly HERETIC ASTARTES INFANTRY and MOUNTED units within 6” have a 4+ invulnerable save
  • Lord of the Traitor Legions – Friendly HERETIC ASTARTES units within 6” re-roll Leadership and Battleshock tests

These are all great, and they have their uses – but re-rolling hits is the one you really want to be using. The 4+ invlunerable aura is solid but Abaddon’s Terminators will already come with a 4+ invuln* so whether you want to use that will depend on what you need to protect nearby. The Leadership test buffs is neat as well for avoiding mortals from failed tests but will likely be something you look to late in the game when battleshock tests become more common. But that re-roll hits aura is fantastic for generating consistent offensive output with units like Obliterators and fishing for extra hits with SUSTAINED HITS. Anyways if you’re taking Abaddon it’s almost certainly in a Terminator squad and you probably don’t want to put him in a Land Raider since you’ll lose the aura benefits. If there’s anything weird about Abaddon, it’s that Terminators don’t really need him – they already have a 4+ invulnerable save and they re-roll all hits after they make a Dark Pact, so it’s harder to get value out of his auras with him unless you’re going with the Leadership side. And on that front, it’s a shame – and absolutely baffling – that Abaddon can’t lead a unit of Chosen.

One thing to note: Abaddon isn’t nearly the invincible machine he was last edition – he will get wrecked by a character of sufficient size rocking up to your unit with the Challenge Stratagem so keep that in mind when you’re pushing your terminator brick around.

*Errata pending

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Other Epic Heroes

Besides Abaddon, the Chaos Marines have a few epic heroes to choose from. Here’s a thing to note about the Chaos Space Marine Epic Heroes: Unlike the Space Marines, none of these guys have a Faction keyword save HERETIC ASTARTES, so there are no restrictions on putting them all in the same army. 

  • Abaddon’s herald, Haarken Worldclaimer, returns in a form that’s pretty recognizable. He’s still got a 12” jump move, T4, and 5 wound with a 3+/4++ save. He still comes with the Helspear, an Assault 1, Sustained Hits D3 12” ranged weapon that hits at S8 AP-3 3 damage (a nice glow-up), but now he has two melee options as he can (finally) use the spear in melee combat. The Herald’s Talon does 6A at S5 Ap-2 2 damage with PRECISION (very solid), while the Spear’s melee profile gives you one EXTRA ATTACK 1A S8 AP-3 3 damage with LANCE and SUSTAINED HITS D3 – that’s a solid addition and overall I think Haarken is a pretty nasty melee threat. As you might expect, Haarken leads units of Raptors. While he’s doing so his unit does mortal wounds to enemy units on the charge – you get one for each 4+ you can roll for a model in that unit, which is pretty solid if you charge in with a unit of 11 guys and knock 5-6 mortals out before fighting starts. Haarken comes with an aura to affect leadership as well – while enemy units are within 6” of Haarken they take battle-shock tests if they’re below starting strength rather than half strength in their Command phase. Pretty nifty for trapping units in combat with you after you kill a single model (remember: Battle-shocked units have to make desperate breakouts if they fall back). 
  • Huron Blackheart comes with a Chaos Lord Statline similar to Haarken’s. He can join Chosen or Legionaries and comes with a S6 heavy flamer in his Tyrant’s Claw and a pair of melee options – his exalted axe gives him 6A at S5 AP-2 D2, while the claw acts as his sweep and gives him 10A hitting on S4 at 1 damage. Huron doesn’t have a triple-select aura, but he does come with three very good abilities he can use. First, the units he leads get +1 to their OC (including himself), which is pretty solid for getting a unit of OC 2 Chosen. His Red Corsairs ability lets you redeploy up to three infantry units from your army after both players have deployed, including putting them into Strategic Reserves, and his Hamadrya’s Knowledge ability is a Psychic ability (note: Huron does not have the PSYKER keyword) gives you a once-per-game ability to make a normal move of D6” after an enemy unit ends a Normal, Advance, or Fall Back move within 9” of Huron’s unit. This is great for avoiding a charge you don’t want or move-blocking a key unit. These are all really good abilities and having Huron lead a unit of Chosen gives you some nasty options.
  • Fabius Bile comes with a Chaos Lord profile (plus an extra wound and Feel No Pain 5+) and while he has some weapons, you’re really taking him for his other abilities. Fabius can join a unit of Chosen or Legionaries and whatever unit he joins gets +1T and +1S to their melee Attacks (only the bodyguards). The Toughness boost is the more important one here, as getting your Chosen to T5 is more useful than getting their Accursed Weapons to S6. Fabius’ other abilities are defensive – his Surgeon Acolyte lets you drop the damage of one attack per turn against his unit to 0, and his Chirurgeon let’s Fabius stand back up on a 2+ the first time he’s destroyed. Fabius is alright, but it’s not clear to me that he’s worth paying for to get +1T on a unit.
  • Cypher has a Chaos Lord profile and Lone Operative and comes with the ability to “Vect” an opponent’s Stratagem once per game, making it cost +1 CP (note that this can be used against Command Re-rolls though I recommend using it against something like Overwatch). Cypher’s offensive capabilities are wrapped up in his pistols – he comes with a pair of pistols he can blast away with. Both have ASSAULT, PISTOL, and SUSTAINED HITS 1 – his bolt pistol does 6 shots at S4 AP-1 D1, while his plasma pistol has 3 shots at S8 AP-3 2 damage – a nasty amount of shooting for a single model. His Guns Blazing ability sweetens the deal – every time an enemy unit is picked to shoot, if one or more of those attacks targets a friendly Heretic Astartes unit within 3” of Cypher he can pop off as if it were your shooting phase at that target. This is pretty funny, but with only a 12” range, Cypher basically has to be in shooting range in order to be shot, which means by the time he gets to use this ability, he’ll be dead.If you’re taking Cypher use his Agent of Discord ability early since it doesn’t rely on him staying on the table.
  • Lucius the Eternal is the only model I’ve seen who changes army comp – while he’s your WARLORD, Noise Marines gain BATTLELINE. I’m not sure that matters but it’s interesting. Anyways, Lucius can join Noise Marines or Legionaries and while he’s leading a unit they gain the Fights First ability, which makes them a nightmare to charge. Lucius has a Chaos Lord profile and comes with a Doom Siren (S6 AP-1 TORRENT) and a Duellist’s sword and Lash of Tormet, which gives him 8 PRECISION Attacks at S5 AP-2, 2 damage. That’s all perfectly solid and he’s a good addition to a unit of Noise Marines. His extra ability is the Armour of Shrieking Souls – when he’s killed, the unit which killed him takes a Ld test. Fail and they take D6 mortal wounds. If they die from that he stands back up with D3 wounds remaining. 
  • Vashtorr the Arkifane is also in these datacards. He’s pretty disappointing, same as before. He’s got less Toughness (T9) and more wounds (14) than a Daemon Prince, and comes with a 2+/4++ save. He comes with an AP-2 heavy flamer and two melee options: The hammer strike does 6A at S9 AP-1 3 damage with ANTI-VEHICLE 4+ and DEVASTATING WOUNDS, which isn’t bad, while the sweet gives him 14A at S7 AP0 1 damage and ANTI-VEHICLE 4+, which is pretty bad. Vashtorr can hilariously do Dark Pacts with the other Chaos gods and comes with two abilities: His Unholy Mechanisms aura gives friendly DAEMON VEHICLES within 6” +1 Strength to all of their weapons – great for getting Defilers and Forgefiends to S11 on their cannons – and his Agonise Machine Spirits ability lets you pick one visible enemy vehicle unit within 18” at the end of your movement phase to halve its move characteristic and get -1 Attack on its melee weapons. This one isn’t bad if you’re going up against melee vehicle threats.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Other Characters

Chaos Space Marines have a lot of character options, particularly when you break them out by armour type. Almost all of them are melee threats or improve their unit’s melee output. Most of them can join either a unit of Chosen or a unit of Legionaries, so the ones who can join other units are worth special consideration.

  • The Daemon Prince comes in two flavors – winged and on foot – and the on foot version is likely the better of the two. Your Daemon Prince gets a benefit based on their keyword – Khorne gives you +2S on your melee attacks (more helpful than it sounds), Tzeentch gives you +3 attacks on your shooting attacks, Slaanesh gets you +2” Movement, and Nurgle gets you +1 Toughness. Slaanesh and Khorne are the big winners here, in part because they’re more useful and in part because they’re also the pacts you’ll want to make. The Winged Daemon Prince comes with abilities that do mortals on the charge and can cause battle-shock tests which are good but the on foot version gives friendly INFANTRY within 6” the benefit of Cover. Otherwise he’s a competent melee combatant but with only AP-2 on his strikes he’s likely to disappoint against heavier and vehicle targets, even with S+2 from Khorne.
  • Chaos Lords still only come in one flavor, but now they have options, thankfully – you’re no longer locked into a thunder hammer and plasma pistol, and now you can take an accursed weapon, power fist, or chainsword instead of a hammer, and you can take an accursed weapon, hammer, power fist, chainsword, or bolt pistol instead of the plasma pistol (and go uh, double hammers, I guess). The hammer hits on a 3+ and has S8 AP-2 2 damage so it’s not bad. Note that none of these options gives you twin-linked so going double accursed does nothing for you. A Chaos Lord can join Chosen or Legionaries and once per battle round, his unit can be targeted with a Stratagem for 0 CP, even if you’ve already used that strat this phase. This is most likely going to be Infernal Rites, but firing Overwatch and interrupting in melee are also both great uses. On top of this once per battle a Chaos Lord can buff himself for a single Fight phase to improve his S, A, AP and Damage by 1. Terminator Armour chaos lords lose the hammer but can get twin-linked accursed weapons and trade out their once-per-game buff for halving incoming damage to their model. They can join Terminators and keep the once-per-round free Stratagem ability.
  • Sorcerers also come in power and Terminator armor varieties. Power Armour Sorcerers give their unit (Chosen, legionaries) -1 to be hit and come with Infernal Gaze, a nasty little psychic attack. Every time a unit gets hit by it, they have to pass a Leadership test or take an extra D3 mortal wounds. Put these guys in Terminator Armour and they lose the -1 to be hit but give their unit the ability to re-roll Advance and Charge rolls. They still have Infernal Gaze but trade out the extra mortal wounds for Death Hex, which lets you pick a visible enemy unit within 12” and roll a D6. Score a 2+ and attacks against that unit improve their AP by 1 for a round. 
  • The Master of Possession comes with the ability to join units of Possessed in addition to Legionaries and Chosen and that’s what he’s going to do – and probably why he has 8” Movement. He gives his units +1 to Advance and Charge rolls, plus Feel No Pain 6+. He has a nasty little Anti-psyker 2+ psychic attack of his own that can throw out 2 PRECISION PISTOL attacks which do either S4 D2 shots or S6 D3 depending on whether you chance the HAZARDOUS part and he can buff his psychic attacks by +1 to hit and +1 to wound by taking a mortal wound on the unit before he makes attacks.
  • The Dark Apostle can join Legionaries, Chosen, Cultists, or Accursed Cultists. He gives his unit +1 to wound in melee and can sacrifice his disciples to do mortal wounds to nearby enemy units. He can also remove Battle-shock from units within 9”. He’s fine, but he’s not the best buff you can give a unit, nor is he a great melee fighter.
  • The Exalted Champion is a decent melee fighter who gives his unit (Chosen, Legionaries) +1 to hit. He also gets +D3 Strength on his melee attacks when he makes a pact, which is only marginally useful as he starts at S5. The good news is that he’s one of a few characters who can attach to a unit which already has a character, so you could pair him with the Dark Apostle for +1 to hit and wound.
  • The Master of Executions is the other double-attach character, and he’s got a nasty S7 AP-2 2-damage axe with PRECISION and DEVASTATING WOUNDS. The units he leads re-roll hit rolls against units below starting strength and re-roll wound rolls against units below half strength. Also a solid add. He can get you extra CP by killing characters.
  • Pour one out for the Lord Discordant, who got done dirty this edition. He’s slower (10” movement), and although he appears tougher (T9 10W with a 2+/5++), he’s very targetable now and likely to get shot off the table. He’s also not nearly the melee blender he was, lacking the kind of high-strength volume of attacks he used to have (though he still gets +1 to wound on the charge). He can give enemy units within 12” -1 to their hit rolls or turn off their shooting at all (they have to pass a Ld test), and he can curse an enemy vehicle within 12”, giving friendly units re-roll 1s to wound against it, but neither of these is likely enough to make him worth taking.
  • The lone character who can join a unit of Havocs, the Warpsmith also has Lone Operative if he’s within 3” of a friendly vehicle, so you get some options with him… but he doesn’t give the unit he leads anything, so you probably won’t do that. His best trick is that he can give a friendly vehicle within 3” +1 to hit and heal it for D3 lost wounds, and that’s solid enough to consider him when you’ve got more than one or two vehicles which spit out lots of shots. He can also make enemy vehicles within 12” take a battle-shock test but that’s just kind of whatever.

World Eaters Killteam. Credit: Jack Hunter


The lone battleline option for Chaos Space Marines are Legionaries, and it really seems like we’re meant to take a lot of them, but… Chosen are right there. Legionaries come with the statlines you’d expect and OC 2, and they can re-roll wound rolls of 1 in melee – or all wound rolls if they’re in range of an objective marker. This pushes them a bit more toward melee instead of shooting, and they can put out some solid damage if you give them chainswords and heavy melee weapons. That’s for the best since their other options aren’t great, though the Havoc Autocannon is a pretty solid heavy weapon option for the unit. Note that for what I assume are space reasons, the unit can take a missile launcher, plasma gun, lascannon, or heavy bolter, but these profiles aren’t on the datasheet.

Anyways, give these guys some chainswords, an accursed weapon, a heavy melee weapon, and maybe an autocannon, then use them to aggressively push on objectives.

Possessed. Credit: Rockfish
Possessed. Credit: Rockfish

Other Infantry

  • Chosen are the other unit most of your characters can join and these are my favorite unit in the basic infantry set. While they aren’t BATTLELINE and they’re only OC 1, they come with 3W and accursed weapons, boltguns, and bolt pistols and they can replace some of those with combi-weapons to get some anti-infantry/devastating wounds punch. What I really like about these guys is their versatility – they can still shoot and charge after Advancing or Falling Back, and with an icon they re-roll Leadership Tests for Dark Pacts (and at a 6+, they’re already likely to pass). Chosen are just really solid, relatively durable brawlers – their only downside is that they lack an invulnerable save but that’s where Abaddon is going to give you the most value on his aura. 
  • Chaos Terminators have the profiles you’d expect, save for being the only terminators with a 5+ invulnerable save (and not a 4+) in 10th edition. This is also almost certainly a typo and likely to be corrected in an upcoming Errata/FAQ doc – and after that i’tll be worth giving these guys a serious look. They come with 3W and a 2+ save and each time they make a Dark Pact, they can re-roll hit rolls until the end of the phase. That’s pretty great and it allows you to fish for either Lethal or Sustained Hits. One cool thing is that while you can put these guys in a Land Raider, if you give them a Terminator Chaos Lord they can use Rapid Ingress for free the turn they want to come in, and you can do this multiple times.
  • Havocs are pretty much unchanged, save for what their weapons do. They’re still T5 and they come in units of 5. This time around they can ignore all modifiers to hit rolls and ballistic skill when shooting. They have their choice of Lascannons, Heavy Bolters, Missile Launchers, Reaper Chaincannons, and Autocannons, and notably these all hit on a 3+ and lack the HEAVY rule. Of these the missile launcher is the most versatile, though if you’re rocking Abaddon and his re-roll hits aura taking four Lascannons is pretty nasty. Fortunately for us, despite the box having very limited weapon options, we can still outfit the unit with any four weapons we like. 
  • Noise Marines return as a solid all-rounder unit which gain BATTLELINE if Lucius is your warlord. They come with bolt pistols and close combat weapons but any number can have sonic blasters and one can have a blastmaster. The Sonic Blaster is still an Assault 3 weapon but now it hits at S5 AP0 – about the same deadliness, but now (and very importantly), it lets you advance and do action-like things. The Blastmaster still has two good modes, and its single frequency mode has HEAVY with S9 AP-2, 3-damage, making it one of the better options for hunting heavier targets. Every Shooting phase you can pick a unit that the Noise Marines hit with a ranged attack and make them take a Battle-shock test.
  • Chaos Bikers lose 2” of Movement (down to 12”), but keep T5 and 3 wounds. They can leave the battlefield at the end of your opponent’s turn and go into Strategic Reserves, which is pretty neat. Otherwise, they’re a bunch of combi-bolter-and-chainsword marines.
  • Raptors are still the army’s jump infantry, and they still lack a meaningful heavy melee option outside the champion’s power fist (which you’ll want to take as it hits on a 3+). They come with an a 6” aura to give -1 to Leadership tests, which is neat with Haarken, and they force Battle-shock tests at the start of the Fight phase. If you’re taking Haarken you’ll want these. Otherwise, their utility will come down to point costs, as CSM have very limited access to decent weapons on mobile bodies otherwise. 
  • The Dark Commune is a bit of a weird unit, acting as a kind of Cultist command squad. It can join units of cultists (either regular or Accursed), giving its unit a 5++ invuln save will lend them a surprising amount of durability. Giving its Cultist unit one turn of advance and charge plus a damage output boost means they can also skirmish with some units or charge onto objectives. It’s not a bad upgrade in power and for the right price might have some 
  • The Traitor Enforcer is another command squad unit, able to join units of Traitor Guardsmen. The Enforcer gets a 4+ feel no pain while the Ogryn is alive and while he’s leading the unit they can use Insane Bravery for free. Well, “free” – it costs you one bodyguard model every time it happens.
  • Cultist Mob – These guys return as your rank-and-file cheap bodies. They only have OC 1 but they have sticky objectives, letting you hold objectives after they die. That’ll be good for holding your one backfield objective all game, even if these guys get shot off it by desolators or mortars.
  • Accursed Cultists return largely unchanged, which isn’t a bad thing. The ability to regenerate 1 destroyed Torment or 3 destroyed Mutants in each player’s command phase, combined with a 6+ Feel No Pain and OC2, means these are going to be surprisingly annoying for your opponents to shift off objectives. 
  • Traitor Guardsmen return as your “slightly more durable than Cultists” objective holders, gaining the Twisted Defence Force rule to always have cover while on an objective. 
  • Fellgor Beastmen, fresh from the Gallowfall Kill Team box, are an intriguing choice for CSM players. Their damage output and durability isn’t impressive, but with Scouts 6” and +2” to their charge rolls when charging units on objective, they have some utility. 
  • Possessed lost some consistency but gained more upside. They lost an attack and point of AP in melee, which seems worse on the surface. The upside is that they gained Devastating Wounds whenever they make a Dark Pact, meaning they’ll be consistently throwing out some mortal wounds. You’re still going to view this as a strong choice for your shock troops in 10th Edition, and you’ll want to pair them with a Master of Possession for the extra durability and speed.
  • Warp Talons going up to S5 and retaining AP2 with full rerolls on their claws means they’ll still hit hard in 10th Edition. They no longer prevent Fall back, but now force any enemies falling back to take Desperate Escape tests, meaning they are going to lose models if they try to escape from your talons. 
  • Obliterators will be one of the star units for Chaos Space Marines in 10th Edition. The main improvement is the addition of the Warp Rift Firepower rule, letting each unit of Obliterators gain the Indirect Fire rule once per game. This will make it much harder for opponents to hide from their slow movement, whether you start them on the board or deep strike them. The heavy profile gaining the Melta 2 rule and doing flat 6 damage while within 12” means they are going to tear through any vehicles or monsters that get near your lines. 
  • Chaos Spawn can no longer choose their unit size, coming in units of exactly 2 models now. The good news is they gained a 5+ Feel No Pain, in addition +1” Movement, a 4+ Save, and moving to a more consistent 2+d6 attacks in exchange for losing the random d3 bonus. Their healing has also been changed to d3 wounds healed in either player’s command phase, which means they are less frustrating for opponents to play against. 

Word Bearers Venomcrawler
Word Bearers Venomcrawler. Credit: Jeff Scarisbrick

Vehicles and Fortifications

  • Helbrutes went from slow walking boxes to… slow walking boxes with synergy for the rest of your army, which means they will start seeing some real play. Whenever one of your units within 6” of a Helbrute makes a Dark Pact, it gets both the Lethal Hits and Sustained Hits instead of choosing just one. Improving to a 2+ Save will help it stay on the table. 
  • Land Raiders got a nice glow-up in this index, and will be especially valuable for melee focused lists. Their Assault Ramp rule lets your units charge after they disembark, helping get your Possessed and Terminators into the fight. Another buff is that its movement no longer degrades, so it is no longer slower than your footsloggers after taking damage. 
  • Predator Annihilators lost a shot with their main lascannon, but gained wound rerolls on that 1 shot and reroll all damage rolls of 1 when shooting monsters or vehicles.  
  • Predators Destructors are now designed to go after heavy infantry, gaining +1 AP whenever they target Infantry. The main issue is a typo on the main autocannon. All other Predators get Rapid Fire 2 autocannons to go up to 6 shots while within 24”, but the CSM version is missing this keyword. Hopefully this is fixed in an early FAQ. 
  • Vindicators got a glow-up, with everyone’s favorite chunky metal box clocking in at T11, and upgrading to 3+D6 shots on its main gun. It can also shoot units in engagement range, making it tough to shut down. 
  • CSM Rhinos are almost identical to the loyalist Space Marine versions. The notable issue is that they don’t have Firing Deck 2 unlike the loyalist and other Chaos Legion rhinos. This is almost certainly a typo and likely to get fixed in an FAQ.
  • The humble Defiler returns largely unchanged. It went up to T10 and gained a variety of special abilities on its weapons, so you’ll have more interesting choices to make when selecting its loadout. At D6+3 shots on its Defiler cannon it’s a bit more reliable than before and it gained the much-needed ability to walk over terrain features less than 4” tall and friendly monster and vehicle models when it makes a Normal Move or Advances.
  • Forgefiends received a glow-up that will make any Daemon Engine players happy. The plasma went up to S10, and the gatling cannon got 50% more shots (in exchange for losing 1 point of AP). The real benefit is its Daemonic Ordinance rule, which lets it gain Hazardous and Devastating Wounds when it fires. This will add some consistent mortal wound output when you’re firing 12 2-damage gatling cannon shots each turn. 
  • Maulerfiends should reach melee more consistently now, with innate rerolls to advance and charge rolls, as well as ignoring any or all modifiers to its movement and advance/charge rolls made for it. Going up to T10 will help it shrug off incoming melta. 
  • Venomcrawlers got a boost to their shooting and downgrade to their melee, doubling their number of shots but losing Strength and AP on it’s claws. 
  • The Heldrake got an upgrade, although time will tell whether it was enough to get it off shelves and onto tables again. Hover lets it operate as intended, and the baleflamer and autocannon both received improvements. Its main function however is doing real damage to units with FLY in melee. The combination of +1 to Hit, Anti-Fly 2+, and Devastating Wounds on its claws means it will throw out some real mortal wounds versus flying targets. 
  • The Lord Of Skulls is still an impressive datasheet, albeit changed in some significant ways. It went down to a 3+ Save and 8” Move and 24 Wounds, but got upgraded to a beefy T13 and OC8. It lost an attack, but went up to flat damage 8 to make up for that. The biggest change is that it has the Towering keyword, meaning it can always be seen and see enemy units, provided there is true Line Of Sight. You’ll use the Lord Of Skulls more as a durable shooting platform and less as a melee hammer… although it is still plenty capable of that too. 
  • The Noctilith Crown has received a simplified datasheet, setting the 4++ invuln aura to a permanent 9” range and removing the CP generation/prayer and spell swapping. It also provides cover to units that can’t be fully seen because of it. Note that it doesn’t have the Heretic Astartes keyword that it’s 4++ invuln aura checks for, so it no longer gives itself its own 4++ invuln. Being T11 with 14 Wounds will still make it unappealing for your opponent to put firepower into. 

The Five Coolest Units

  • Abaddon the Despoiler – the Warmaster is still a great unit with some good abilities and while he’s not the invincible midtable machine he was there are still good reasons to include him in your army. 
  • Chosen – Chosen are just tough, incredibly versatile units, capable of shooting, fighting, and moving however and whenever they like. If they had OC 2 they’d be the perfect unit but as-is they’re merely very good.
  • Obliterators – might just be too good now. Yeah, they only have a 4″ Movement, but with Deep Strike and the ability to arrive via Rapid Ingress they can mitigate most of that. The ability to give them indirect fire is huge and all three of their profiles are absolute fire, plus they’re more than capable of punishing you in melee as well. These guys really love hanging out with Abaddon but they’ll do just fine without him and they give the faction some very versatile anti-vehicle shooting.
  • Possessed – these guys are absolute murder blenders, capable of mixing speed with insane damage output. That you can give them DEVASTATING WOUNDS is huge, since it often means a 5-model unit is going to be able to throw out 4-6 mortal wounds when they swing on relatively average dice.
  • Haarken Worldclaimer – Abaddon’s Herald has some real chops this time around and as the only character who can lead a unit of Raptors, he’s worth considering just on that angle. He’s got solid damage output and the ability to dump out a bunch of mortal wounds on the charge with his unit really helps make Raptors more threatening. Add in how his Battle-shock aura combos with their Leadership debuff and you’ve got some nice synergy.

Word Bearers Hellbrute
Word Bearers Hellbrute. Credit: Jeff Scarisbrick.

The Five Biggest changes from 9th

  • Legions are out. Forget about your legion rules and traits, it’s all just CSM now. And while there will likely be special Detachments in the future to work with, none of the CSM characters have the kinds of faction keywords to create restrictions like the Space Marines do, so we may see more flexibility on Chaos Rosters even after the Codex drops.
  • Get used to making deals with the devil(s). Dark Pacts are a huge boost and it’ll be worth using them early and often to boost your damage output. Yes, that means you’re going to lose some models to pacts during your games but that’s a small price to pay for the sheer power you’ll get out of Pacts in the long run. That said, pacts are all volume plays, so look for places where you’ll be able to get more than just one or two boosted hits off them.
  • Terminator Bricks are out. Terminators are fine and 2+ saves are great in this edition but the 10-model Black Rune Terminator Brick is probably a thing of the past. That said, Terminators still have tons of value and may see more play with Land Raiders thanks to the Assault Ramp ability.
  • Psychic Buffs are gone. While the army still has some psychic abilities, we’re no longer building game plans around stacking Cursed Earth and Invigorated Mutation, nor bringing dead models back to the table. Possessed operate much more independently now, even with support from an attached Master of Possession.
  • It’s time to shelve your Lords Discordant. The model had a fantastic run from its debut in 8th edition up to now, but unfortunately the sun seems to have set on this guy. I’m sure there’s a cost point where he’s worth taking but he just doesn’t have the staggering damage output he used to have – particularly when it comes to trying to take down enemy vehicles.

Wrap Up

Mike P: Chaos Space Marine ranged damage output has improved, making any Iron Warriors players happy. Forgefiends, Obliterators, Venomcrawlers, and Havocs all shoot better than they did before. The big question for Chaos Space Marine players will be incorporating these improved guns while also leaning into the melee that Chaos Space Marines have traditionally done very well. Choosing the right Marks to unlock powerful combos for your units in key moments will also be crucial.

Rob: I’m pretty happy with the datasheets here. The Dark Pacts ability isn’t my favorite, but it’s interesting and powerful enough, and there are enough good datasheets that I feel like there are viable armies hiding in this Index. I’m mostly excited to try a list that runs Abaddon and Haarken now, and my Chaos Land Raider is primed to take the stage again competitively. I’m also interested in trying out some of the fringe units with interesting abilities, like the Helbrute and the Heldrakes. This Index doesn’t have the raw power of Thousand Sons or World Eaters, but it has a ton of versatility and neither of those books get access to Obliterators.

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