All pictures provided by the gracious jimmyzimms and Nitpick of Taccomms fame. Thanks you two!
Welcome back! This time we’re looking at around half of the Chaos lists available in EpicUK. There are 7 Chaos lists and I felt it better to split the article up into two parts. This time covering the forces of chaos undivided – the Black Legion, Iron Warriors and the mad cultists of the Lost & the Damned. Next time we’ll look at the Chaos cult lists because they are distinctly different to these undivided lists due to the abundance of some interesting special rules…but more on that next time!
The two Chaos marine factions this week play differently to each other and very differently to the loyalist marine chapters too while the Lost and the Damned are a whole host of weird and wacky.
First up for those following along these Chaos marines have three major differences from the loyalists: first they don’t have ‘And They Shall Know No Fear’, second they have larger base formation sizes and lots of ways to add more and more upgrades to their formations and thirdly they lack the Thunderhawk Gunship and Landing Craft
That first difference means they don’t break any of the morale rules and are thus easier to break (normally) and they suffer from casualties in combat resolution and blast markers when broken in the same way as anyone else, which can be especially disheartening for expensive tough troops like Terminators or Land Raiders. Sometimes an opponent will favour breaking these formations with blast markers and then killing them with more blast markers rather than trying to crack their armour.
The second however gives you a counter to being easier to break (by having more models they need more blast markers!) and also giving you a lot of flexibility in how to build your formations, what tools to equip each formation with depending on the role you want it to fulfill etc. A lot of these upgrades are fun toys to use too! The thing to be careful about is adding too many upgrades to your formations, you don’t want to spend too much and not have enough points left for buying other formations, remember to aim for 10-11 activations in a 3k points game (unless you have some clever things in mind).
The third difference can either be big or small depending on how you’d choose to field your loyalists but this difference means that the traitor legions are less air mobile and have pretty much no ability to leave the table once they’ve arrived on it and less ability to precision drop forces right onto an enemy in response to their battleplan. You can orbital drop but that requires pre-plotting at the start of the game so is less responsive and you can teleport terminators but once they’ve teleported they’re stuck on foot.
Apart from the Iron Warriors though your Chaos forces have one big, big advantage. Daemon summoning!
Daemon summoning allows you to purchase a pool of various types of daemons and, when activating formations that have bought the ability to do so, summon a semi-random number of them to add to the formation for that turn. The individual daemons themselves are usually fairly potent (if specialised) and provide a variety of useful tactical options, both defensively and offensively. For example you may decide to protect an important formation by activating them early and summoning Daemons into them, bulking up the formation and making it more dangerous to attack, as the Daemons last until the end of the turn they may help protect that formation for the entire turns duration. This is particularly helpful for protecting your BTS. On the offensive this allows you to essentially bring in the ‘support fire’ element that having your formations working together without the need for a second formation. See a target, declare an engagement and summon a small handful of Daemons to add another load of attacks all of a sudden and do what would normally require supporting attacks with just one activation.
Note: Daemons are removed after rolling to rally at the end of the turn so a formation that has, for example 6 marines and 2 daemons with 6 blast markers gets a chance to rally and remove those blast markers before the daemons vanish even though the 6 blast markers would break the 6 marines normally
Note: Daemons can be summoned within 5cm of an existing model of the formation…which means you can gain an extra 5cm of range on an engagement for example! Sneaky!
Combining the Daemon summoning with the options to make large, more powerful formations and you can create very self-sufficient forces.
Now, on to the Lists themselves!
The Black Legion
These guys are your oxymoronic ‘generic Chaos’. They can be stand ins for any legion or none, make use of Daemons, have loads of war engines, foot sloggers, elites, orbital drops, etc.
Broadly this list plays Epic in the normal way, get activations on the table, move them to where they need to be to contest objectives, use shooting to chase off small stuff and weaken larger stuff, organise supported attacks, engage and hold on to the end of turn 3. They have all the tools needed to do this and plenty of fun toys to use to get there too. The big selling point here though is the availability of Daemons. The list is well tailored to make good use of them. Note the Daemonic Pact upgrade for 25 points – it allows you to summon Daemons in the upgraded formation AND gives you one free lesser daemon to summon. Buying a few of these Pacts will give you to core of your Daemon pool and then maybe spending a few points elsewhere will get you everything you need to be able to bring on large forces of Daemons where you need them and then return them to safety for appearance elsewhere next turn.
It is strongly worth considering which type of Daemons you want. The Greater Daemons are potent but require using a Champion upgrade as a sacrifice (or an average 4d3 roll) and you can only have one on the table at a time. Take one because it’s cool and not that expensive for what your get. remember, the average on 4d3 is 8 and having a Champion gives you +2d3 to summon meaning on average you’ll succeed in summoning your Greater Daemon and all of them come with a Daemonic Focus which means they can choose to stay on the table at the end of the turn. This means a turn 1 average roll adds the Greater Daemon to your formation for potentially the entire game, not bad for 100pts. The lesser Daemons are your ‘bread and butter’ here and there are a few stand outs. The Flamers of Tzeentch are probably the best by being a focused FF unit allowing them to be useful on both offence and defence with their main liability being a poorer 5+ save (which you get around by hiding them behind your 4+ save chaos marines!) otherwise they’re granting you 2 4+FF attacks each so just dropping in 3-4 into a formation gives you a scary 6-8 more attacks hitting on 4s! The Daemonettes are good too, suffering from the problems of being a CC focused unit they make up for it with a 3+ to hit and first strike allowing them to shred opposition before it gets to attack back. The Bloodletters are much the same as the Daemonettes with more attacks but only on 4s and suffering from the same CC only problem. The Plague Bearers are a different style of unit, with their strong 3+ save they make a great frontline and are fantastic as a defensive summon to protect your formations by being able to just bounce 2/3rds of all hits. A mix of Plague Bearers and Flamers probably gives you the most variety and options though you’d want the ratio to favour the Flamers. Taking only Flamers is always a good option. Otherwise I personally prefer the Daemonettes to the Bloodletters because killing first also acts as a defensive measure.
Next think about where you want the Daemonic Pacts, your big core formations are good choices but sometimes adding one to something smaller like a unit of Chosen means you can transform a 4 stand infantry unit into an 8 stand major attacking piece (garrisoned forward turn 1!). It’s always worth knowing which formations you want to summon into while planning your turns, being able to suddenly shift the direction of an attack can really surprise an opponent and change their responses. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that each unit with a Pact must summon Daemons or even worse thinking each formation with a Pact should summon 1 per turn. The big strength is being able to suddenly add a considerable amount of extra power in one or two places each turn.
One thing to note is that the Daemonic Pact is an upgrade to the formation itself, not to a single model in the formation. This means that so long as one stand remains it can summon daemons…that one random surviving rhino after lots of casualties can potentially summon in 6 stands of daemons from nowhere turning that easily ignored one model into 7 and all of a sudden become a major threat!
Aside from the Daemons the list has various useful formations. The core one itself is a solid, heavily armoured, well equipped set of infantry good on both offence and defence, good in both CC and FF with a good threat range out to 60cm without needing to double. Commonly this formation will be deployed mounted in Rhinos and with a Daemonic Pact. This isn’t super cheap but it gives a strong, mobile force with the ability to spike its power by summoning. it can also be upgraded with many additional stands. Other uses are to take them without the Rhinos and instead garrison forwards due to the 15cm movement and provide a firebase in the middle of the board or to mount them in Dreadclaws for an orbital drop. Mounting in rhinos is the most flexible and probably the most popular use however. These formations will likely for the core on your army, being both your attacking pieces or for holding ground. Often these formations should be the ones making engagements with the other elements in the army the support for them.
The cheap, well armed Chosen are also fantastic as scouts. 145pts for the formation mounts them in rhinos for mobility and for 170pts they can have a Pact for summoning tricks. You also have access to Terminators, and can get up to 6 of them in a formation giving them even more offensive power than loyalist marines. However the loss of ‘And They Shall Know no Fear’ makes the chaos terminators far more vulnerable. An opponent will often place a few blast markers to break them and then just destroy them with additional blast markers, bypassing their fantastic 4+ reinforced armour. They also can get very expensive so really need to have a target and then ideally be in range to contribute further to the game. A one turn teleport to wipe out something and then having them stuck 80cm or more from objectives or other useful targets is a waste. Otherwise the rest of the army is both fast (with rhinos or by default) and potent on both attack and well armoured. You pay the points for this but it gives you a lot of flexibility to build a list matching how you want to play.
There is another area with some stand outs. Warengines. The Decimator is a Baneblade equivalent with short range but powerful weapons while the Doomwheel is tough, fast and festooned with guns. The speed and flexibility of the Doomwheel makes it a very popular choice, rolling in to be a support fire element for any of the core formations, tough enough that it won’t just be chased off without the opponent committing real force to do so and even after the main fighting has been done the speed means it can dash out and contest or capture objectives.
Overall the Black Legion is flexible and potent with many fun units to use. It tends to play more like up-armoured Imperial Guard than a loyalist marine chapter but that makes it sit in a unique niche. Probably the biggest thing to pay attention to when putting together your list is to not get too carried away with upgrades. Remember, activations can win you games! Though there is less of a pressing need for them when you can summon in Daemons where you need them, allowing you less need for having support fire moving along your main attacks and allowing you to transform small disposable units into potent forces all their own.
Lost and the Damned
I must admit to having never played using these, nor against them so I unfortunately have limited advice here! I will do what I can to provide some guidance though!
First up the list is intended to represent traitor guard forces, cultists and other madmen and the mutants infesting Imperial realms. It also have access to the greatest volume of daemons (see the notes above for how useful they can be!) and Daemon Engines an almost unique set of units giving a host of flavourful options. You can put large numbers of troops on the table (and by can I mean will!) and then support them with a diverse and eclectic mix of other units providing a real bit of visual flair.
The list itself is very abrupt with a few Imperial Guard units in the support slots giving the strategic and tactical flexibility an army needs and the standouts are the Stigmatus Coven and the Daemon Engines! These need to be either undivided or aligned to a specific god which determines the units and upgrades available as well as constraining what units can be taken in the support slot. Remember, if you want to take a Khornate set of Daemon Engines you must first take a Coven aligned with Khorne.
The Coven formation is very flexible, lots of options and lots of combinations allowing for you to really mix and match to suit what you want. I’ll point out some general features and then present a few possible combinations that might have some good uses.
So the main coven is the core of the army that unlock everything else. It’s got some good flexibility with options for Mutants or Cultists. The cultists are basically guardsmen and carry a short ranged and mostly ineffectual gun, but weight of fire and the ability to place blast markers is helpful. The Mutants are a bit tougher and better in an engagement. There’s not a huge disparity here so choose your preference. The leader of the coven though gives more options, the Aspiring Champion is better as a normal leader with commander and leader abilities and is a better fighter while the Demagogue gives +2d3 to summon Daemons. The coven then can choose up to 4 upgrades (which contain much of the other Imperial Guard units like griffons) and one of those 4 choices can be a free Daemonic Pact.
Note that the pact here does not come with a free Daemon for the Daemon Pool so you have to buy all your Daemons individually. Note also that the value of the Daemons changes a bit. The Flamers remain probably the best all round and it’s hard to go wrong with them. But the value of the Plaguebearers goes way up because the majority of your Coven is 6+ or no armour (or 5+ if in trees/cover) and having a wall of a few Plague Bearers (perhaps 3?) as the troops closest to the enemy so they take the hits first on their 3+ save is dramatically better than it would be in the Black Legion list (with their fairly uniform 4+ save).
You can then also mount the Coven, adding to the cost fairly considerably. 200pts naked (i.e.: with a Daemonic Pact) is competitive, mounting into the land transporters (which are pretty good too) makes it cost 260, adding in 2 Daemons to the Daemon pool is 40 so for 300pts you can get the formation, mounted and added to the Daemon pool. Which is not a bad choice. Something built like this is good to be a core fighting formation, the kind of thing you use to press forward and attack with, hold ground with, etc. Used in a similar way to an Imperial Guard Infantry company. Get the infantry in to cover when you can and be a general pain in the enemy side.
A more defensive option could be to take the naked coven and add a single griffon. This costs 235pts but because everything is speed 15cm or less and only one model is faster than 15cm it can garrison. Which means you can start with an artillery piece half way up the board, in cover, surrounded by bodyguards that is able of indirect firing 60cm further. Now, it’s only 1BP so really won’t hurt very much but that’s a simple, reliable way of putting blast markers on the opponent, anywhere they are and it’s in a package that requires meaningful forces to shift from their position, most scouting forces will not go anywhere near it in a fight so it will need your opponent to commit proper forces to deal with it, otherwise they abandon the center of the table to them. Not bad for such a low investment. You can make this Garrison force even tougher by upgrading to add some big mutants or spawn though not the hounds as they are speed 30cm so can’t garrison). Doing this changes them from a cheapish thorn in the opponent’s side to something you want to be a proper combat unit.
The Chaos Altar upgrade adds even more to your summoning capability, but loses you the ability to garrison (because it’s a warengine) and it’s slow so it makes the speed boost of mounting in transports moot. So by taking it you’re committing to ground pounding mostly unarmoured infantry over the table. As a defensive formation to sit on a blitz it’s good or something you can commit to a march order turn 1 to make sure it is relevant to the middle of the board early. It also makes the formation even better at summoning Daemons…except oftentimes it will be too far away and too slow to be able to make the most use of them (having a 30-35cm threat range on an engagement and a few 30cm guns with poor stats otherwise). The real standout upgrade for me is the Big Mutants. They carry poor guns (but can place blast markers), have a great save, have good FF and CC and a macro weapon attack and can come in large numbers. Taking a naked coven with a Demagogue, replacing 6 mutants with big mutants costs 320pts, mounting in land transporters for 90pts (1 for each big mutant, then 3 more for the rest of the formation) more and adding 2 Daemons to the pool for 40 more costs a total of 450pts. This is a big formation (6 big mutants, 5 other coven, the demagogue, 9 transports for 21 models) that is quick across the table and has a core of tough, dangerous fighters and the weight of numbers behind it to be a threat. Even taken in smaller numbers the Big Mutants (perhaps add 2 or so?) means you can hide your weaker troops behind them to absorb the hits and then bounce those hits on 3+, hiding some flamers of tzeentch behind a thin line of big mutants would be potent!
Keep an eye on the CC only stuff though, CC is generally weaker than FF due to the ways an opponent can exploit CC only troops. CC only works on the attack and not when you are attacked (because your opponent can make sure they don’t go into base to base with you) and it also can’t provide support fire. If you do take it remember you’ll need to work a bit harder to make it work for you than you would with FF focused troops.
Outside of the coven is the Daemon Engines and these are very varied and which ones you choose changes how the formation behaves a lot. Much like with the coven I will pick out some options that stand out to me as it’s just too varied to cover it fully!
First up is the Khorne Lord of Battle. 400pts of warengine monstrosity, even coming as a terrifying pair for 800pts! It should fairly handily murder whatever it gets its hands on…hands being the operative word here. It’s biggest selling point is being brutally good in CC but it is only speed 25cm so it not that hard to keep away from. If it can’t CC it still has respectable FF and with high DC6 it gets plenty of attacks and outside of engagements has meaningful firepower. It’s just not going to be such a satisfying large amount! It you take it a pair is much more likely to have a major impact but it is a lot of points so it’s a real commitment to take it that way. The alternative is to use it defensively as a countercharge threat, they work better as singles in this way. Get one sat on an objective (such as your blitz!) and anything that is contesting that objective (within 15cm) should also be within your CC engage range of 25cm. If you are determined to use them as an attacking piece then commit to it and force your opponent to deal with them. Double or March into your opponents half and keep pushing on to their blitz. Marching turn 1 and doubling turn 2 means you can cover 75+50=125cm…the table is only 120cm across so you should be well able to reach your enemy blitz, have put blast markers on whatever is protecting it and engage it in CC turn 3, shredding whatever dares stand before you. The real goal is to make the opponent have to deal with you which means you may be able to get that CC ability in action more than once.
Both Slanneshi options are fantastic, hard to go wrong with either. The smaller Daemon Knights suffer from being fairly easy to break and suppress and mostly relying on their firepower bu they are fast, fearless scouts with potent firepower. They should allow you to control the middle of the board from turn 1, chasing off enemy scouts and remaining a threat throughout the game. Just don’t expose them to meaningful enemy firepower. The Scout titans can be taken solo or as pairs (so long as you have enough coven of the right alignment to take them!) and both are very good. The Questor is probably the better solo option due to sheer weight of fire but the Subjugator with it’s CC (and long range ability to put blast markers down range or blow up transport vehicles) is terrifying. While CC focused units generally suffer in comparison to their more FF focused ones the sheer threat range and high base speed of the titan means it can usually get into position to catch anything it wants and then engage it to CC. Find the nastiest warengine your opponent has and utterly shred it. You’ll find that very satisfying.
Father Nurgle provides some artillery support that competes, in my eyes, favourably with the basilisk. Indirect firing gives you 90cm of disrupt range, not quite enough to hit into the enemy deployment zone turn 1 bt they are decently tough and fearless. For the same points you could take 4 basilisk and have the ability to indirect fire anywhere on the board turn 1 which is also a very valuable option, enabling you to destroy enemy elements such as their own artillery, destroy a transport somewhere, etc. Both choices are good, though pricy at 325pts.
Key to pay attention to when building is that you have tons of options and can bring tools in various unique ways to solve your problems. Think about the objectives and how you will secure them then take the units best able to achieve that for you…then make sure to spend a few points on something extra silly and fun that you like the look of! Probably the biggest thing to be careful of is overspending on upgrades, remember to have enough activations on the table too not just 5 massive covens with every upgrade going!
The problem with taking 5 massive formations is that if your opponent has the standard 10 then they will be able to deny you any objectives by just moving around you with impunity after your 5 have activated and they’ll have 5 more actions to go! It also means they can potentially get their 5 extra formations in a support fire position around one of your big formations and…well…you might be big and tough but are you 5 formations optimally arranged by the opponent tough?
From a modelling perspective this list is great though, plenty of freedom to make varied, colourful and diverse units and conversion.
The Iron Warriors are an interesting list. Sacrificing much of the ‘chaos’ stuff in return for a few tweaks to existing formations, different availabilities of existing formations and a few unique units of their own. Focused very much on artillery, heavy firepower and armour.
In the broadest sense this changes the way the list plays away from being able to exploit summoning and the new and unique options that opens up to instead play more like a heavily armoured imperial guard army. Slower and more methodical with standard reliance on supporting formations, prepping targets and engaging them as well as the volume of firepower to blow apart most support formations on the opponent’s side from safety.
The first difference is that the core formations lose the ability to enter the table from orbit (as they can’t be mounted in dreadclaws) and so they will be on the table either in rhinos or garrisoned forward. They also cost more as they swap out two of their regular marine stands for two havocs, increasing the firepower and FF capability of the formation by a small amount. However, there formations have now moved from support slots into core – Defiler Packs and Vindicators and these open up a host of interesting options and allow a purely armoured force if you so desire.
The defilers are potent, tough and good in both CC and FF and the shooting phases, they come with Infiltrate and Fearless and Walker making the surprisingly mobile and with a large threat range. They are expensive however and, while potent, that cost means you won’t get as many of them as you may have wished. It’s hard to go wrong with a few of them though! 6 of them is 405pts and throws out a great deal of CC damage and a respectable FF attack too. They are especially good at dealing with tough infantry on the opposing side with their CC macro weapon attacks, just make sure to destroy any skimmer transports those infantry may be planning on hiding behind first!
The particularly interesting formation however is the Vindicators. Normally these are an upgrade or a small formation in their own right and by being small and often expensive or an upgrade they are rarely worthwhile. Here however they are a cheap(wish) armoured formation running 6 strong and can be upgraded to 9 strong for 355pts. These carry a lot of firepower good against both infantry and tanks, ignore cover, are fairly fast (25cm) and have walker to allow them to safely go through cover (which makes them faster than you’d think just looking at 25cm). The short range gun is a concern as using it puts them into engagement range…but they’re not bad in a firefight. If these guys can sit in support fire position they can add a considerable amount of raw power to any engagement. I’d strongly consider including a few of these formations in your list, mobile firebases able to get forward, dig out entrenched opposition and then add support fire to your more aggressive engagements. They pair great with some Defilers!
There are two other main features the Iron Warriors have as their unique selling point. Access to sheer volume of Warengines and indirect firepower and artillery. You have access to Basilisks and can add basilisks as upgrades to many of your formations. The upgrade option is of questionable value as moving means you can’t fire indirectly…but the basic gun is still very long ranged and be either BP or regular fire. The cost can be a bit steep to add them liberally though as upgrades. However as a stand alone, indirect firing formation hidden at the back they give you many options, especially as the more indirect fire you have (without compromising your core attacking elements!) the more extreme the advantage they provide becomes. What these allow you to do is pick on the smaller, mobile or vulnerable formations of your opponent’s army with indirect fire from a position of safety. This means you can spend a few activations at the start of the game or turn where you don’t commit any of your forces to dangerous positions and can instead fire from safety. This in turn means you can hope to draw your opponent into committing their important resources forward but unable to attack effectively allowing you to react to them at your leisure. Furthermore you can use your artillery to pick on and bully those smaller formations your opponent is relying upon to give them an activation advantage, stripping them away to give you the advantage later in the game.
Now, artillery is expensive and isn’t going to protect itself so it will need something to babysit it making the costs even higher. Don’t go overboard on it as you’ll cripple your attack elements. Remember, the artillery is unlikely to win you the game, they are support for the guys who will do the hard fighting on the front lines, not a replacement for them.
I would be remiss to not mention the Ordinates Chaotica, a stand alone war engine unique to the Iron Warriors. It’s a monster of indirect barrage fire, tough and able to protect itself against smaller formations. It’s kind of like a basilisk formation writ large. One of these and a basilisk formation is expensive but very satisfying and should give you plenty of indirect fire options! It won’t stand up to any dedicated attack units though, things like aspect warrior or terminators flying in on thunder hawks or vampires will tear it apart. So it, too, would need protecting. A screen of Chosen is good for this role (same for protecting basilisks). They’re cheap at 125pts and with scout can prevent the enemy getting too close to attack the tanks. The Chosen won’t chase off anything that’s a proper attacking unit but they will instead buy you time to move your artillery or other formations into position as the opponent will have to deal with the Chosen first.
Finally your access to Warengines is pretty fantastic. You can take Decimators and Stormlords, both barrage weapon carrying bane blade hulls. Not cheap to take enmasse but singles of the Decimator are very dangerous and fearless to boot. Capable in engagements and a threat when shooting. The threat range on the main gun on both is 60-75cm depending on if you advance or double so is surprisingly large The other weaponry is short ranged so you’d need to be aggressive to get much use out of it, in both cases an early aggressive push of either doubles (to shoot garrisons) or marches should set you up to be a threat that needs to be dealt with.
With the Iron Warriors you lose a lot of the chaos toys of the other lists and instead gain access to some potent armoured weapons and artillery. Unfortunately (apart from the Vindicators!) these are expensive, much more so than a few Daemons would be so you need to think about what you are going to use as your main attackers – 3 of things like the Vindicators and/or Iron Warriors Company at 3k is a good start. Then start filling in support elements and don’t go overboard with artillery or war engines (though…take some obviously! They’re great!)
Luckily you’ll probably find that if you get some Daemons models and an Iron Warriors army…you can use it as both Black Legion and Iron Warriors with very little difficulty…two for one!
Hopefully there’s something useful to you in here, I’ve not had a lot of experience using many of the lists here so the advice is a bit shakier than it may be for other armies…