We’ve finally got the thing we were waiting for 2 editions – new Chaos Space Marines Codex. Its last version was released in the very beginning of the 6th edition and it will be remembered forever. Very soon, after the other books were released. It started to appear more and more helpless. The release (and then – reissue) of the 2 supplements, sloppy Khorne Daemonkin codex were supposed to change the situation, but they didn’t help much. Only the Traitor’s Legions book, released in the end of 7th edition managed to give players what they asked for – the variety and competitive combinations. The Legions book is missed very much – it brought unique warlord traits, detachments, formations, rules and relics for EACH CSM legion. Maybe it didn’t bring Chaos to the top of tournament armies, but there were many interesting and effective combinations. And not all of them had a chance to be tested since when this book was released, everyone was already waiting for the 8th edition.
Now, when the new edition has come, all these books are nullified and we are starting from scratch. So, have GW succeeded in representing one of the most vicious threats to the Mankind in the game?
Well, we still have special tactics for each legion (Just as Space Marines Chapter tactics), unique stratagems, warlord traits and relics – so, yes, GW kept legion diversity and it’s great. Death Guard and Thousand Sons are not in this book since they are going to have their own codexes very soon. Why not? 3 loyal chapters of the 1st founding have separate books, and it’s ok. However, you can still take Plague Marines (who’s got many new options, including close combat) and Rubrics from the CSM codex.
Sure, if you compare these legions features with the old ones, you will see that there are less of them. Only one for each legion, just as Loyalists have. But this doesn’t mean that it’s boring. You can combine legion tactics, warlord traits, stratagems, and relics to represent your legion the best way. There’s also a tactic for renegade chapters in case if you don’t want to collect old Heretics. And there’s one more important thing – in the 6th edition codex, there were NO legions at all. So, now we really have more diversity that we used to. And more that the Loyalists have.
There are more different options. First -icons (Nurgle Icon has its range increased, btw). Second – 3 additional spells from the Gods. You can increase (or create 5+) invuln, get 5+ FNP, or -1 to hit to protect your squad. Isn’t that great? But this only works if you take the mark of the corresponding God. So, now that gives the meaning to the Marks and you have to think before taking them. In the Index, they were almost useless. Unfortunately, they don’t give any abilities themselves, like they used to. This wouldn’t break the balance and would motivate players to create themed armies. Well, anyway, before the 6th edition you couldn’t give Marks to every squad at all.
There are also other spells -3 from the Index and 3 new ones. They are kind of the Loyal ones, but…better. It’s very unfamiliar, to say that – but this CSM codex is better than SM. It was obviously done in accordance with the loyalists – there are some similar stratagems, legion tactics and spells are very close. But there are a lot of small differences that make CSM better. So, new spells. We have our own Null Zone (Death Hex), which works on target in 12 inches instead of the 6-inch aura. And it’s much better – there are not always more than 1 squads in 6 inches of you. And if they are – not all of them have an invuln to switch off. And 12 inches is a nice range which gives you tactical flexibility. Next – you can buff your squad just like loyal psykers. But they have +1 Str, Attack, and Toughness. Chaos has +1 Attack and +2 Str, which correlates with its aggressive tactics. And it’s more useful – it’s always better to strongly improve one thing, that many a little. So, we have a nice bonus to attack abilities. And the third spell is kind of unusual – choose the squad in 6 inches and compare your D6 roll with its toughness. If you win – the target suffers 3D3 mortal wounds. If it was a character, you can turn also him into a Chaos Spawn. Loyalists have something like that, but with D3 potential damage and the target also rolls a dice -so, more factors involved. In fact, chaotic version of this spell has 30% chance to deal some damage to the most armies. And just imagine, how effective it can be against T3 Eldar or Imperial Guard… Moreover, 3 Index Spells are still great, so now you have a great choice between 9(!) useful spells, while loyalists, in fact, have only 3. So, nonetheless Sorcerers now have the same casting abilities as Librarians and don’t have familiars (but there’s still a command reroll, though), our magic is more aggressive and dangerous.
What else was 6th edition codex famous for? Champion of Chaos special rule, of course! Aaaand it’s gone. Relax. Challenges are kind of impossible with the new edition mechanics and Chaos Boons are now a stratagem. So, if you want(!) you can spend 1 commend point after killing a character to roll for a boon. There are only 11 boons now, but all of them are useful. You can still turn into a Spawn or a Daemon Prince, but there’s no Icy Aura and every other boon improves some of your stats.
Stratagems are great. We have +1 to wound roll, chance to heal or resurrect units like an apothecary, Daemonforge which now let’s reroll EVERYTHING. Legion unique stratagems will also make you think twice about the choice. Shoot twice (Slaanesh Obliterators!) or attack one more time (120 attacks from 10 Berzerkers!) Alpha Legion can «deep strike» any unit, and Word Bearers re-roll any of the summon dice and don’ts suffer perils. There are also stratagems which copy those from the SM book – vehicles bonuses, additional relics, etc. The good thing is how they are arranged in the book – while SM codex is sometimes chaotic (Huh), here we have all in the logical order. It’s obvious that GW is working on the mistakes.
Speaking about the mistakes – we have some unit changes. Obliterators in the Index were so awful, that now they are given 4 shots instead of 2 without any changes in price. And it makes them useful – nonetheless, a random weapon is still doubtful, they are cheaper than terminators and can give 12 plasma-like shots after the deep strike. The possessed now have 2 wounds, also, at the same point cost – so, there’s no reason not to include them in your roster. A lot of units, like Defilers, got cheaper.
But the most interesting thing is in the new units. Yes, there are new units in CSM codex (no new miniatures, though). Now you can take an Exalted Champion -a corrupted copy of the Space Marines Lieutenant, who also lets you reroll 1s to wound. A must-have choice in any roster. Other «new» units are not so new – now you have daemon troops in CSM codex! Just like in old editions. The limited choice, and it won’t change gameplay greatly, but it still ads diversity to this army.
Relics are divided into the God’s, Legion's and 3 common. There are our old friends – Axe of Blind Fury, Black Mace, and Murder Sword. Unfortunately, they’ve lost Daemonic attacks (and a chance to hurt you). But it’s ok since now they are free and not supposed to be to powerful. The mace looks the best because it’s the most versatile one. God’s relics are all nice, which again brings more meaning to the marks and keywords. And the Legions also have some interesting stuff (2+ armor for CSM, finally). SO, a command ability to take more than one relic might be really useful here. SM relics are not half that interesting.
We won’t discuss legion tactics since GW has described them all during the last week. It seems that only Emperors Children and Black Legion are hard to use. First – you are supposed to charge yourself due to the aggressive CSM style, so you will hit first anyway. Second – the only rapid-fire weapons you have are bolters and plasmas – so, if you are going barefoot, and then running – you won’t survive long enough to kill somebody. And if you are using transport, there’s no need to run. A really weird stratagem. For example, Renegade chapters have charge after advance and it’s great.
So, in the long run, we have presumably the best CSM codex since 4th edition. There are Daemonic allies and Legions with many interesting options. There are a lot of ways and combinations to destroy your enemy, most part of them – workable. If you compare this book with the new Space Marines, you’ll see that it’s much better. In this edition, loyalists have only one effective instrument – gunline. Nonetheless, they’ve got a bunch of new primaris units. But CSM can effectively use close combat (Berzerkers, Possessed), fearsome deep strike units (terminators with comb-weapons, Obliterators are back), a variety of Daemon Engines, effective both in close combat and from distance (now, with improved Daemonforge). Loyalists just don’t have all this stuff. And CSM can still make the same gunline if you want to. So, there’s no need to look back on the Legions book and say that it used to be more things there. Yes, it did. But in 8th edition realities and compared to the previous codex, now CSM is one of the most interesting and playable armies in the game. And there are two more legions to come soon…