TheChirurgeon’s Road Through 2024, Part 14: Testing the Dread Talons

Welcome back, Dear Reader, to my ongoing log of personal, hobby, and competitive progress for Warhammer 40,000. Last time around I talked about my final two days at the GW US Open in Dallas and touched briefly on what would be coming next, suggesting that my time with Death Guard might be coming to an end.

So let’s go back to the drawing board and talk about my options and what I want to play next. Essentially, I’m looking at the following options:

  • Night Lords. I’m really big on the idea of revisiting my Night Lords and doing a new army with them. I can try and make Dread Talons work but they’ll be just fine with Renegade Raiders or Veterans of the Long War. More importantly, I have a couple of sets of the new Kill Team: Nightmare box, filled with a ton of awesome new Night Lords bits. It’s a project I can spend some hobby time on – the goal here is to build another Best Painted army.
  • Black Legion. If the Night Lords take too long I can always fall back on my Black Legion, who are already painted very well. That said, I took them to Atlanta last year and didn’t win Best Painted, so I’m a bit hesitant to do it again. Also, the black and gold of the Black Legion isn’t as eye-catching as the lightning bolts of the Night Lords.
  • Thousand Sons. My Thousand Sons look great and are ready to go right now. They’re also one of the strongest armies in the game right now… but they’re also really hard to play. It’s an option I’ve got at the back of my mind right now but not one I really want to jump on at the moment, in part because I need to paint a few characters to get the army to the ideal competitive place right now. I also probably need to paint a whole new Magnus if I want to seriously compete for Best Painted with them.
  • World Eaters. I haven’t finished painting my World Eaters but they’re an army worth considering. That said, I need to paint about 20 Berzerkers for the army to be battle ready, plus a bunch of Exalted Eightbound. And also probably a Lord of Skulls. That said, I’m not sure it’s possible to regularly win Best Painted with the army – they’re just red and gold when it comes down to it and while my Angron looks great, I think they lack the kinds of models I need.
  • Death Guard. OK I could just go back to Death Guard. They’re still pretty fun, but I need to look at a build without Mortarion if I move forward with them, going to 30 Plague Marines and probably a series of Predators. I don’t really want to do that right now, so I’m going to put this idea aside for now.

With that in mind, I decided to start working on my Night Lords. I can come back to the Black Legion or Thousand Sons if I want, but for now I want to get some work done on my Night Lords. The bits for them are great, and it’s a good army for conversions and painting. Now I just need to figure out what I want to run with them.

Testing Dread Talons

I talked about testing Dread Talons in our review of Codex: Chaos Space Marines, so it’s time to actually put those ideas to work. Here’s my first pass at a list:

My Dread Talons List - Click to expand


Chaos Lord

Chaos Lord with Jump Pack

Haarken Worldclaimer

Master of Executions


Cultist Mob

Cultist Mob

Legionaries x5


Chaos Rhino

Chaos Rhino


Chosen x5

Chaos Bikers

Chaos Bikers

Chaos Bikers

Havocs (2x Lascannon, 2x Missile Launchers)

Heldrake (Autocannon)

Heldrake (Autocannon)



Warp Talons


Noise Marines

Noise Marines

Alright so the idea here is to get the Raptors close to an enemy unit, then hit them with the Noise Marines to force them to test at -2. If they fail, I can start hitting them with the Pitiless Hunters Stratagem to re-roll hits and wounds. Which is theoretically where the Havocs, Bikers, and Heldrakes will come in. That said, I probably want some Obliterators and more Havocs to actually make use of this.

For my test game I hit up the local Warhammer store and play a game against Greg (a different Greg from our site master and from Klobasnek), who is testing out his own Chaos Space Marines army. We do a test game on Sweeping Engagement and I end up going second, which isn’t ideal, as Greg spends turn 1 blowing up both of my Heldrakes, though he doesn’t manage much else. That’s good for me because the terrain we’re working with is pretty bad – I really need to get a good set of terrain going at that store.

So despite often being on an 8+ for his Battle-shock tests, Greg basically passed every one of them, or when he didn’t, it was after it no longer mattered for my guys. I didn’t have an opportunity to actually use Pitiless Hunters, and I generally would have been better off just having extra AP or re-rolls to hit with Veterans of the Long War. On that note, I had insanely bad luck with my Dark Pacts – I failed something like 12 out of 14 tests, usually losing an entire fucking guy each time I shot, including two bikes. On the flip side, Greg only failed two of his pacts – hilariously with the Forgefiend, who took a whopping 7 damage from his own shooting.

This game was pretty frustrating. Ultimately I think it was very winnable on my part, but every part of my army just felt pretty anemic – Haarken’s raptors spent like two turns locked in combat with Havocs, just continually failing to kill them, while the Noise Marine battle-shock tests never caused a failure. The only bright spot were the bikes, who consistently put in work and were well worth the 70 points they cost.

This just highlighted the biggest issue with the Dread Talons Detachment for me: Even if you can reliably force tests and put opponents on -1 or -2, you have no control or consistency when it comes to which tests they’ll fail, and they can just pass the ones they need and fail tests which don’t matter. And the reward for causing failed tests is marginal – why spend the time and energy on it when I can just kill the unit to keep it off an objective instead?

This ended up confirming what I already suspected, which was that Dread Talon is just too much work for not enough payoff. My next step is to test the army with a different Detachment, seeing how they feel as Renegade Raiders and Veterans of the Long War. That probably means looking at a Land Raider, and I’ll admit I’m interested in painting a new Night Lords Land Raider to replace the one I painted back in high school.

Hobby Project: How to Convert Night Lords Bikers

One thing I absolutely want in my Night Lords army is a unit or two of Bikes. I’ve painted Night Lords bikes before, but they’re all the older models which, if we’re being honest, look like shit. The bikes themselves are OK if a bit simple – they’re workable – but the riders are terrible, both underdetailed and undersized. I wanted to have some in my army, but if I’m going to do that, I need to do some work updating them. The upside is that this is exactly the kind of conversion project that will play well in paint judging.

So I decided to cut up some of the newer Chaos Space Marines and turn them into bikers. This sucks – I’m basically cutting the legs in two places: at the knee, and at the ankle, then repositioning the legs and feet to create outstretched legs which fit the bikes.

It also means cutting the torso from one of the legs in the new kit, and usually cutting a tabard off that as well.

Once that’s done I can position the torso back on the legs and use green stuff to fill the gaps between the legs and torso. This will all need more green stuff work and some sculpting and smoothing later.

I was looking for more bits to dress up the bikes with and realized I had a set of finecast heads from the old Night Lords upgrade kit for the old plastic Chaos Space Marines. These are too big and chunky to be useful on the new models but the wings on those heads are perfect for dressing up the bikes, and the Skull on the front plate of said bikes is perfect for making a disconnected Night Lords icon. I throw a chainsword on the back of the bike for a bit of extra dressing and I’m pretty happy with the result. Now I just need to do one more Meltagun and a champion with a power fist.

For the champion I want to do something a bit more visually interesting than a power fist so I give him a chainglaive. This is pretty easy to make – it’s a mounted Chaos Warrior spear arm where I’ve cut off the spear tip and replaced it with a chainsword.

For the other biker I do an extended arm using the meltagun from the Chaos Havocs kit – it doesn’t have the second hand holding it – and a standard biker arm for the other arm, using green stuff to basically add a “shoulder” which can hold the shoulder pad on top of it.

The quad of three turned out great, and I’m really happy with the helmet wings on the bikes as a way to add additional flair. Now it’s on to painting them, and I’ve managed to finish the first out of the three.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

He turned out pretty well! I’m very happy with this so far – I think he looks great, and the effect of putting a modern Chaos Marine on a classic bike definitely works visually. There are a few rough spots on there, but they’re nearly impossible to see without getting into the nooks and crannies of the model, and having him on the larger, 75mm base with some extra decoration really helps tie the whole thing together. I just have two more of these to paint and I think when they’re done they’ll look fantastic.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Of course, cutting up three sets of legs was a massive pain in the ass, to the point where I really don’t want to do any more of them, so I may pass on doing another set of these. It’ll heavily depend on just how badly I need to have a second unit of bikes in the army.

Next Time: More Hobby and Testing

Alright that’s it for this time. It was admittedly light on the gaming side but I kind of figured out halfway through turn 1 I didn’t want to keep going with Dread Talons and most of the work I’ve done of the last week was hobby stuff. My goal is to get in another game this weekend and finish at least one more bike for next week, though if things go well I’ll be able to knock both out. Check back next Thursday for more progress either way.

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