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The New Chaos Codex: The Book of Bad Guys Got Better 
Long-time Jungle visitors will probably know that I never do reviews of the latest Games Workshop products. Why not? Because a few months after the latest codex or miniature comes out, the buzz is gone and everyone is talking about the next thing to come from GW. But because the latest Codex: Chaos Space Marines has generated such discussion on various Internet forums, and because it has made such an impression on me, I must go against my usual tendencies and discuss it.

I like this book. A lot. It is flawed, but is the best Chaos Codex I have ever read (and no, Games Workshop is not paying me to endorse this book).

What I Like, and Why
At this point, I am sure that several of you Gentle Jungle Visitors are convinced that I have lost my mind. “The new Chaos Codex is crap,” you may be thinking. “How much crack is Kilgore on, anyway?”

Bear with me while I do some ‘splainin’:

The new codex puts an end to the cheese. Did I say “cheese?” So, sorry: I misspoke: there is no cheese, of course. But there are some armies that are much, much easier to play than others, and one of the easiest was the Iron Warriors under the previous Chaos Codex. With the new codex, gone are the IW armies that can field nine Obliterators and four Heavy Support choices, the latter in exchange for two Fast Attack units (for IWs, giving up two Fast Attack choices for another Heavy Support was like your average college-aged male giving up opera tickets for a weekend at the Playboy Mansion). 

Also gone are some really devious armies like my friend Ken’s Cultist-laden Alpha Legion, with 80 infiltrating, Fearless, dirt-cheap scrubs carrying icons to summon daemons and otherwise act as an unbreakable tar pit. I have nothing but love and respect for Ken, but I’ll be happy to see that army go. What’s not good is that under the new book, Ken cannot use those 80 Cultist figures he bought, built, and painted (more about that, later). 

The veteran abilities have been eliminated: no more tank-hunting squads with Strength 10 lascannons, no more armies where everyone infiltrates. Many players (including me) used them, but they were gravy ladled on way too thick. Chosen can still Infiltrate, and Plague Marines, Khorne Berzerkers, and Thousands Sons have some special abilities, but your rank-and-file Spikey Marine does not. And that’s for the best, methinks.

Daemons have been slowed down: no more moving on the same turn as they are summoned, though they can still assault on the same turn as they appear. Also, no more of those hyper-fast Daemonic Beasts, such as Flesh Hounds: in the brief time I played them (in the Summer in the City campaign), my Hounds made some astonishingly long charges. Daemons have also been significantly de-fanged: no more Daemonettes with rending, no more Bloodletters with S5 power weapons and 3+ Armor Saves. On the plus side, Daemons are now Fearless, and the Daemonic Instability  rule is no longer in effect: you will no longer lose Daemons because they failed a Break test. 

The new codex is easier to use. You no longer need a Mensa membership or a juris doctor degree to quickly put together a Chaos army that follows all the rules. The previous codex had an often-bewildering plethora of units (and associated rules), weapons, wargear, veteran skills, psychic abilities, daemonic abilities, and “gifts of the gods.” Throw in the rules for specific armies described in the “Books of Chaos” section of the old codex, and it was very easy to make a mistake and build an illegal army list. 

And if you weren’t a Chaos player and was fighting against someone who was, you basically had to take them at their word that their Chaos Lord didn’t have more than their fair share of toys and dirty tricks, that they had correctly configured their Chosen, that their "cult" troops had the correct weapons (Death Guard were not allowed missile launchers, for example), and so on. As I’ve mentioned, I played (and still play) a Chaos army: given all the combinations of stuff and rules to go along with it, it would have been very easy to pull the wool over an opponent’s eyes when it came to army-building. 

The new codex has New and Improved Badness. Yes, many units were toned down, but there’s still plenty of butt-kicking to be found in this new version. Thousands Sons, with their AP3 boltguns, are actually badass for the first time ever in the 40K game. Possessed Space Marines are expensive but can get way-cool abilities, rolled randomly, of course: Scouts, Furious Charge, Fleet of Foot, Rending, Feel No Pain, or Power Weapon. Nothing wrong with any of those. And I’m pleased to see the return of Huron Blackheart, missing in action since the Second Edition-era Chaos Codex went down the Memory Hole.

Possessed Space Marines: they're expensive, but I looooooooooooooooooooove these guys

Chosen can have up to five special weapons, or five guys with power weapons, power fists, or lightning claws. Yeah, you read that right: five guys with power fists. Ouch! Obliterators and Raptors are no longer 0-1, so if you Iron Warrior folks really, really want to, you can still field 9, but you’re not getting any other Heavy Support, as Oblits have been moved out of Elites and into HS. And any army—not just the Iron Warriors—can have Vindicators. 

Speaking of Heavy Support, Defilers have lost that cowardly indirect fire ability, but have gained Fleet of Foot and can have up to 5 Attacks by replacing the heavy flamer and reaper autocannon: as they’re vehicles, they can block line of sight to units behind them as they rush across the field. No, they aren’t extremely tough (AV 12), but they still have Daemonic Possession—nothing wrong with that, either. 

Some of my favorite goodies are the subtle ones. Regular Chaos Marines, for example, come already equipped with bolters, bolt pistols, close combat weapons, frag and krak grenades, for only 15 points. “Big deal,” you say. Yes, it is a big deal. Chaos Marines can stand back and shoot up to 24" with their bolters, or advance and shoot twice up to 12"; in the next round, they can switch to pistols, fire those, then charge. No more worrying (as Loyalist Marines currently do) about having to give up shooting (with rapid-fire weapons) to charge, or to give up charging to double-tap their bolters: Chaos Marines have the best of both worlds. And no, krak grenades aren’t the best for killing tanks, but they don’t suck, either. 

Other goodies are the lower point cost for Rhinos (35 points each) that already come with searchlights and smoke launchers. Yes, the nigh-mandatory extra armor is 15 points, jacking the price of your ride to 50 points, but a comparably-equipped Loyalist Rhino costs 59 points (50 for Loyalist Rhino + 3 for smoke launchers +1 for searchlight + 10 for extra armor). If you run a lot of Rhinos in your list, you’re looking at enough savings to buy some extra toys for your characters.

Speaking of characters, I’m jazzed about the built-in 5+ invulnerable save for Chaos Lords and Chaos Sorcerers. And the Daemon Weapons are just GAMF (God Almighty Mother F—well, you know). 

The new codex makes the Spikey Marines a lot fluffier. Because I have been playing 40K since it first washed up here in the States, back in 1987, I didn’t expect to see anything about the Horus Heresy that I hadn’t read a million times before. The new codex pleasantly surprised me by adding material and making that old story interesting again. For the sake of the new players, the book also describes very well the Chaos Gods, something the first Chaos Codex for Third Edition failed at miserably.

Some of the "new" Chaos armies you'll find in the latest version of the codex

I also liked the material about renegades that turned to Chaos, post-Heresy (about 50 Chapters have gone to the Dark Side, according to the new book). I liked all the images of these “new” Chaos armies, especially the Disciples of Destruction, Hakanor’s Reavers, and the Flawless Host (page 20), and I really got a chuckle out of the tiger-striped Claws of Lorek (page 18) who look a lot like a certain Loyalist chapter I am VERY familiar with….

Is it he a "Fighting Tiger of Chaos?"
No, he's one of the "Claws of Lorek"

What I Don’t Like, and Why
Okay, so much for the gushing. Now let me point out some spots where the new book falls short or falls right on its face. 

No Lost and the Damned, or “What Am I Supposed to Do With All Those Scrubs?” I mentioned that my friend Ken’s Alpha Legion relied heavily on dirt-cheap, ill-armored, ill-equipped Cultists: nowhere in the new codex is there any option for fielding them, or Traitor Guard and Mutants from the Lost and the Damned list from Codex: Eye of Terror. If you used Cultists in your Alpha Legion, as you were allowed to under the previous version of the codex, you are SOL (Sorely Outta Luck): those models are going on the shelf. If you played LATD, I suppose you can hang on to your copy of Codex: EoT and use your army in friendly games, but to the best of my knowledge, LATD are no longer permitted at many tournaments. 

I’ve heard rumors that a follow-up codex will re-introduce rules for cultists, but until I actually see a copy of the cover posted on the Games Workshop site, I’ll remain skeptical. After all, how long have there been rumors of a Codex: XenoHunters

The Lash of Submission is the new Pie Plate of Doom. When the previous version of the codex was released, powergamers everywhere bought, built, and painted Iron Warrior armies so they could take advantage of all the ordnance blast markers they could dish out by taking Vindicators, Basilisks, or Defilers (the 5-man Troop squads with heavy weapons and the afore-mentioned 9 Obliterators were icing on the cake). 

With the new codex’s release, powergamers everywhere are falling down and hurting themselves as they run to the store to buy, build, and paint Slaanesh armies. Why? So they can field Daemon Princes and/or Chaos Sorcerers with Lash of Submission, which allows the Slaanesh player to move enemy non-vehicle units 2d6" in pretty much whatever direction desired, so long as the casting model can pass a Psychic test (10 or lower on 2d6). 

Years ago, it seemed like no one played Slaanesh. Now, we will be up to our eyeballs in the pink-armored perverts. Break out the psychic hoods, folks…. 

No painting guide for armies. While I like all those hoopy new Chaos armies that are featured in the book, it’s a bummer that GW didn’t give us a guide to painting them. Previous codices have provided photos of models and told you what paints were used for priming, basecoating, and highlighting, but you’re not going to get that in this book. It would be very helpful, especially for new gamers, to be told how to achieve the distinctive look of the Sons of Vengeance (page 24) or The Cleaved (page 68), two of my favorites.

The Cleaved: I love 'em, but I'd really love to have a painting guide for them, too

No distinction among daemons. Yes, I like the new daemons, but if I had my choice, I’d prefer my old Daemonettes and Bloodletters: I paid more points for them, but they were unholy terrors that ripped their way through the enemy. While I imagine I’ll have success with the new daemons, I don’t think my opponents will mumble “Oh, sh*t” when they materialize near the enemy’s lines. 

And the new Greater Daemons? Eh. Not bad, but not nearly as cool as the old Greater Daemons. Under the previous rules, when a Bloodthirster got a hold of the other guy’s army (which they could do quite easily, given those wings), your opponent would wish he’d stuck with playing Magic: the Gathering. Now? I’m not so sure. 

Red Corsairs color scheme. The Red Corsairs are fairly recent Traitors, and draw their ranks from Marines who have deserted their Chapter. Previous versions of the codex described the Red Corsairs as wearing their old armor, with the Imperial insignias blotted or crossed out with red paint. The new codex depicts them as wearing red from head to toe. Now, instead of looking like a rag-tag collection of misfits, they look like Blood Angels Gone Bad. BOOOOOOORING!

Huron Blackheart (center) and obviously Red Corsairs, with allied Chaos Space Marines

No clear list of original Traitors. Previous versions of the codex included an easy-to-read list of the Legions existing at the time of the Horus Heresy and which ones turned against the Emperor. New players would benefit from such a list, but the new codex doesn’t have one. 

No satisfactory explanation of how the Chaos Marines stay in the Long War. One would think that without resources comparable to the Imperium’s, the Chaos Marines would have been worn down and eliminated a long time ago. With a million worlds and untold trillions of citizens, the Imperium is much more able to produce troops, vehicles, weapons, and ammunition: how do the Chaos Marines stay in this fight? 

The previous codex alluded to the huge numbers of the original Legions, how time moves differently in the Eye of Terror (so that many of the Chaos Marines that survived the Horus Heresy are still alive in the present), that Fabius Bile has deals with all the major warbands to supply them with cloned troops, etc. I was never totally convinced by these explanations, and the new codex doesn’t go out of its way to convince me, either. Ah, well: I suppose if I can believe in superpowered renegade Marines that summon daemons to fight other aliens and other superpowered Marines in the distant future, I guess I can believe that somehow they find suitable reinforcements. 

Missing the Mark. One final quibble I have with the new codex: it’s difficult to locate the section where the effects of Marks of Chaos are given. FYI, it’s page 25 of the English language version, at the beginning of the “Forces of Chaos” section.

Hey, look! I finally found the Marks of Chaos

What I’m On the Fence About
There are several changes between the previous and the new codex that I am not sure whether I like. 

The toy store is closed. As I mentioned, veteran abilities are gone, and that’s all right by me. Many other nifty little toys—minor psychic powers, daemonic gifts, and “gifts of the gods”—are gone, too, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, those abilities and items were each just one more thing to keep track of and possibly screw up during a game; on the other hand, they added a lot of flavor to armies. My favorite goodies were:

  • Chaos Hounds (WS 4, S 4, T 4 A 2 ablative armor that moved at the same speed as your character, even if they were on a bike—all for 12 points each!); 
  • Daemonic Strength (+1);
  • Daemonic Talons (rending!);
  • Dark Blade (power weapon that add 2 to the user’s Strength—combine with Daemonic Strength for a REALLY good time);
  • Kai guns (24" range, S 6, AP 3, Assault 2 badness);
  • Collars of Khorne (negate psychic powers on d6 roll of 2+);
  • Khornate chainaxes (best armor save possible is 4+…on second thought, maybe I’m glad to see those go, too);
  • Manreapers (+d6 Attacks; at my gaming store, these weapons were referred to as “man-rapers”);
  • Combat drugs (all kinds of goodness);
  • Blasted Standard (2d6 S6, AP4 hits on an enemy unit within 6");
  • Thrall Wizards (sacrifice one to use another psychic power in the same turn).
Ah, well. What are ya gonna do?

“5 & 10” rule for special and heavy weapons. In the new codex, a squad of regular Chaos Space Marines can exchange one of their bolters for a plasma gun, melta gun, or flamer (a “special weapon”); if they have at least 10 members in the squad, they can replace one of their bolters with a missile launcher, autocannon, heavy bolter, lascannon, or another special weapon. This mirrors what GW has regulated recently for Blood Angels and Dark Angels, albeit without the option to split the squad into “combat squads.” 

This requirement prevents players from filling their Troop choices with dinky little squads consisting of one guy with a special weapon, one guy with a heavy weapon, and three bulletcatchers with bolters. The assumption, of course, is that having dinky little squads like that is somehow a bad thing, but I’m not sold on that assumption.

On a side note, this “5&10” rule does not apply to Plague Marines, Noise Marines, and Khorne Berzerkers.

Daemons no longer count as Troops. If you were taking fewer daemons because you preferred Chaos Space Marines, you can now have your cake and eat it, too, as daemons no longer use up force organization slots. If, like me, you used daemons to fill your Troops, you now need to actually get some Chaos Space Marines into your Chaos Space Marine army. 

What’s the deal with Chaos Spawn? On the one hand, they’re “Slow and Purposeful,” which, as the rulebook tells us, means they always move as if through difficult terrain, and never receive a bonus for charging. On the other hand, they’re Beasts (see “Unit Type” under their description in the section “Chaos Space Marines Army List”), which means, according to the rulebook again, that they may Fleet of Foot and have a 12" charge range. Whaaaat? Does anyone else see a contradiction here?

Spawn are 40 points each; are WS 3, S 5, T 5, have 3 Wounds, d6 Attacks each round (and no +1 for charging, remember), and have no Armor Save; and come in packs of 1-3. So what that means is that Spawn are expensive; don’t hit all that well, but when they do, they can hurt; and can’t take much of a punch. The models are cool, but I think I’d prefer Raptors or Chaos Bikers for my Fast Attack choices. 

Special Characters: Meh. All of the usual suspects—Abaddon, Kharn, Fabius Bile, etc.—that you’ve seen in previous versions are here; the only “new” character is Huron Blackheart. All of the special characters have changed a smidge: maybe a stat or two have gone up or down, weapons might do slightly different things, point values have changed. None of these changes are radical, and as I don’t play special characters anyway, I admit to not caring at all. 

Huron is the star of the special characters

How Do Old Armies Work With the New Codex?
After reading about the changes I’ve described, you may be wondering how armies built using the much more lenient previous codex fare in the transition to the new codex. The answer is, “It depends.”

As I mentioned, if you played your typical Iron Warriors army, you are in for an unpleasant surprise. You’ll probably have to beef up your “tactical” squads to at least 10 guys each, your Basilisk is now a dust-catcher, and you’re going to have to decide whether your Heavy Support will consist of your nine Obliterators or your Vindicator and your Defilers. 

If you played an infiltrating, Cultist-heavy Alpha Legion, like my pal Ken, you are boned. As mentioned, no armies infiltrate now, and you’ll need to buy lots more Chaos Space Marines to replace those Cultist figures that will hopefully be useful again when and if GW ever resurrects LATD. But you still have that snazzy paint scheme going for you. 

As for everyone else:

The Black Legion is the Ultramarines of the Chaos Codex: GW didn’t hobble you like they did some other armies, but they didn’t bless you with anything more anyone else, either. And you’re still stuck with Abaddon the Sore Loser, the most boring special character Games Workshop ever created (read any of the fluff: Abaddon is always angry. Always. I guess losing your daddy in the war will do that to you.). 

The Chaos Furies used by Night Lords are now just Lesser Daemons. Night Lords lose the Night Vision veteran skill, Stealth Adept skill, and the ability to trade in two Heavy Support slots for an additional Fast Attack. On the plus side…well, to be honest, I don’t see any plus side….

Word Bearers lose their accursed croziouses, and the Demagogue ability. If you were sacrificing Elite, Fast Attack, and Heavy Support slots to get more daemons (formerly Troops), you need not do that anymore. If you were sacrificing Elite, Fast Attack, and Heavy Support slots to get more Chaos Space Marines (say, nine squads of them), you may have an overpopulation problem, especially if those nine squads are all 20 guys each. 

World Eaters lose Blood Frenzy and some toys (chief among them being the aforementioned Khornate chainaxes) and no longer get +1 to their rolls to summon daemons. If you relied on your Bloodletters and Bloodthirster to do a lot of hack-and-slash, you will sorely miss them. 

Death Guard lose True Grit, some toys (the “man-raper,” unless you use Typhus), the +1 summoning daemons, and Plague Bearers, but they’re no longer bound by the rule that only the first two Rhino-mounted squads counted as Troops and the rest were Fast Attack.

Emperor’s Children lose Warp Amps, combat drugs, blastmasters and sonic blasters on their Predators, +1 summoning, and those rending Daemonettes. But they get a modified version of Warp Scream (+1 to their own Initiative instead of -1 to the opponents’), and everyone can swap their bolters for sonic blasters, and one guy per squad can have a blastmaster. And then, of course, there’s that Lash of Submission thing that will win you all kinds of friends and composition points at tournaments.

Thousand Sons players have nothing to bitch about. Yeah, yeah, yeah: your regular guys no longer have two Wounds, you lose some toys like everyone else, your daemons aren’t as good as they used to be, yadda yadda yadda, whatever—shut up, already, because every one of your basic guys is now packing an AP3 bolter. The Alpha Legion folks want you to kiss their Cultist-free butts, okay? Congrats, Ksons: you’re the new Iron Warriors, the army everyone will love to hate. 

KSons: if you play something besides Marines, Sisters, or Necrons, you still don't sweat them

There It Is
So, that’s the new Codex: Chaos Space Marines. Despite its blemishes, some of which are pretty bad, I prefer it a lot more over the codex it replaced. As I adjust my Chaos army to the new book, I find that while the new book takes away some of my favorite things (Chaos Hounds, daemons as Troops), it gives new things (bolters + bolt pistols + close combat weapons as standard, cheaper Rhinos, Defilers with 5 Attacks and Fleet of Foot) that are becoming my new favorites. 

Posted October 2007. All images are copyright 2007 by Games Workshop and used for review purposes. 


Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle