Codex: Chaos Space Marines – Review

It would seem that my adoration and praise of the Chaos gods have once again been rewarded. Games Workshop were kind enough to supply us with a review copy of the new Codex: Chaos Space Marines. Having been lingering for a while now compared to the other Astartes factions, are the edge-lords of 40K ready to rock with the big boys on the scene? Let’s have a gander and see…

Unsurprisingly, the heretic astartes are now cheerfully brought up to par with their loyalist cousins. Yes, they finally have more wounds! This little gag was very much getting stale and I’m pleased to see it can finally be put to bed. However, that’s not the only inclusion in this tome of treachery.

As a 9th edition book, you’ll find all that you’d expect in Codex: Chaos Space Marines. You’ve got new warlord traits, new relics, stratagems and psychic powers. Although, one thing to note is that you’ll find a lot more of some of these compared to other codexes. For instance, you’ll find 94 stratagems, 16 psychic powers and 11 Prayers to the Dark Gods. This cluster of goodies alone grants a fair heft of versatility! I hear you query in awe – why are there so many?!

Gifts of the Gods

Well, that is because each of the legions represented in the book gets a cluster of its own stratagems alongside the generic ones available to all. The legions included are the Black Legion, Word Bearers, Alpha Legion, Night Lords, Iron Warriors and Emperor’s Children. There are also rules for the Red Corsairs and Creations of Bile warbands. Thus, whilst it seems there’s a lot for players here, you should consider that these are somewhat segmented based on chosen legion. As I’m sure most of you are aware, the World Eaters are notably absent due to their upcoming codex release.

But how do all of these things come together to represent a legion in Codex: Chaos Space Marines? The answer to that is – very well! Whilst some are reprints of previous traits or abilities, plenty are new. All of them help each legion to stand alone as a force outside of simply being all-encompassing Chaos Space Marines. As an example, the Night Lords have a Secondary Objective they can take that allows them to score a victory point each time an enemy unit fails a morale test, falls back OR fails an action. This gives them ample opportunity to accomplish considering they also natively subtract 2 from the Leadership of enemy units within 9 inches.

My beloved Word Bearers can still make their warlord a daemonic badass via the Exalted Possession trait. Given to a Dark Apostle, you can line up some Dark Prayers and Stratagems to make him a terrifying monster!

Marked for Glory

Marks of Chaos also make a glorious return in Codex: Chaos Space Marines and have all the effects you’d harken back to the 5th edition codex. Mark of Khorne gives units +1 Strength when charging or charged, whilst giving them an Icon of Khorne also increases the AP of all melee attacks by 1! The Mark of Slaanesh allows the given unit to always fight first in combat whilst the Icon of Slaanesh will give them +1 to hit with each melee attack. The Marks of Chaos now come at a cost of both points and Power Level, but this feels perfectly fair. I, for one, am elated to have them back as actual benefits, rather than unlocking certain stratagems or traits.

Daemon Weapons have also made their way back, must to the exaltation and/or disdain of some players. These tools of war are very powerful but come with a risk. Each time they are used, you must pass a Leadership test of the unit making use of them, or else they suffer Mortal Wounds before they attack. Alternatively, you could choose not to take the Mortal Wounds but cannot make any attacks with the Daemon Weapon that turn. The risk and reward here is fun, but I’m curious if we’ll see much of these used in competitive play. It takes me back to my days of fielding Typhus, only for his Manreaper to kill him and have him turn into a Chaos Spawn – happy times!

Wanton Destruction

Other rules granted upon us in Codex: Chaos Space Marine include our own equivalent to Space Marine doctrines. “Let the Galaxy Burn” not only grants additional hits with flame weaponry but allows the escalating violence to pay dividends for us! Warhammer Community covered this and it feels like a very welcome inclusion and one of the few things I’m happy to see mirrored in this codex.

You may well have seen some of the hubbub regarding some new rules for units within the book. Not least of all the Chaos Land Raider, now storming in with Toughness 9! This monster rolling around firing lascannons with a belly full of Terminators may become a mainstay in many lists. Especially when considering Terminators now have 3 Wounds! Chaos Spawn also got some fun new rules where if a Chaos Spawn is not killed by an enemy unit shooting or fighting attack, it regenerates all of its wounds! This makes it akin to Nurglings in Age of Sigmar. Will we see them taken en masse? I don’t think so…but I’ll give it a try because it sounds hilarious!

Generally, after going through the book, it feels like Codex: Chaos Space Marines definitely leans into being a more combat-focused army. With Legionnaires having more Attacks and things like Warp Talons having 5 Attacks to start…things will get choppy when mixed with Wanton Slaughter!

Missing In Action…

Nonetheless, there’s something about the book that puzzles yet entices me. The Traitor Guardsmen we recently saw for Kill Team are completed missing! The Guardsmen, the Chaos Ogryn and Traitor Commissar are all missing. This will, naturally, lead me to wild speculation. There’s a chance that they have unfortunately been missed from the book. Alternatively…we could well be getting a Traitor Militarum book on the horizon. There’s little to nothing to support that, but it would certainly have me absolutely overjoyed.

Nevertheless, strange omissions be damned, Codex: Chaos Space Marines is a fine book if a little overdue and uninventive. The new models coming out (hopefully soon) are a fantastic addition to the Chaos line. The rules supplied for each legion really help them to feel distinguished and interesting.

There’s nothing groundbreaking in Codex: Chaos Space Marines that I can see. It’s, if anything, simply brought up to speed with the other books that have come out up to now. This is fine, of course, but something a little more left-field would have been welcomed after such a long wait. Considering that, I’ll not look a gift horse in the mouth and I probably shouldn’t complain too much about getting a book that, at the very least, fulfills its purpose. I imagine things would feel fresher if the few new models for this book were actually available alongside it…

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