[Guide] The Enemy: Chaos Space Marines

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[Guide] The Enemy: Chaos Space Marines

Post#1 » Jun 06 2013 11:50


The Enemy: Chaos Space Marines
A comprehensive guide for facing the champions of Chaos.

Authored by DaSkyman


Welcome, Commander, to the strategic aid for combating Chaos Space Marines. This compendium contains the basic information deemed valuable to commanders that will face a Chaos Space Marine army on the battlefield.

The concept of having articles written for fighting specific races has been around for some time, but has never gained enough momentum to be worth pursuing. I thought I'd see if I could get the ball rolling with Chaos Space Marines. The forums have more viewers than ever, so perhaps now is the time to start compiling our collective knowledge.

There was a discussion for taking on the Dark Eldar elsewhere in the forums, and is a great example of what can be accomplished with collective experience.
I chose CSM because they are very common in my area and I wanted to learn more about them, all while sharing what I learn. I am by no means a CSM expert, and I call upon the collective knowledge and wisdom of the orbital to help me write this article.

These can change, but I feel that these are the goals we should be aiming for in this article (and any others that people start up)
-Keep It Simple: these articles can never prepare a player for every situation, no matter how detailed. So instead, we can focus on the basics of the army, how it plays, and maybe the key units to watch out for.
-Experience: I have very little experience playing the new CSM codex, so I've gleaned what information I could, posing as a new CSM player on other forums, asking for pointers. Obviously, experienced players, for and against, will have the most to contribute.
-From a Tau perspective: Some things just don't matter that much to us, and some things matter more. With a Tau perspective in mind, we can focus on the most important basics to know when playing against CSM with a Tau army. Plus (maybe) how the CSM player will think when we are playing him.


Table of Contents

Section 1: An Introduction to the Fallen Legions
Section 2: Key Characteristics of the Chaos Space Marines
Section 3: Warlord Traits and Psychic Powers
Section 4: Commonly Encountered Units
Section 5: Less Common, but Dangerous Units
Section 6: Rarely Encountered Units
Section 7: Notable Commanders
Section 8: Basic Tactics and Thoughts[/center]
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An Introduction to the "Fallen Legions"

Post#2 » Jun 06 2013 11:51

An Introduction to the "Fallen Legions"

Chaos Space Marines are a horrifying and deadly force to be reckoned with. They were once proud champions of mankind, but they gave in to their selfish ambitions and turned to the Chaos gods for even more power. Their pacts with the ruinous powers give them abilities beyond those of their loyal brethren, and they can strike fear in the hearts of those unprepared to face them.

The Warp is an unknowable thing, and even now, Chaos forces raid the borders of the Tau empire, despite the bulk of their forces being confined to the Eye of Terror. Chaos Space Marines pose a particular threat to Tau commanders because they are so unreasonable and unpredictable. Too often, a machine construct of the forces of Chaos is struck down by the powerful Railgun, only to rise again, stronger and more terrible than before. Fanatical hordes of human cultists overrun Tau firelines, when reason would expect them to flee in the face of such horrific losses. In fact, recorded instances of Chaos forces retreating before death are very few.

Not only are Chaos famed for their war madness, but they are also known for their variety. No strike force is the same as the last, and the differences can be the undoing of even a seasoned Tau commander. The gods of chaos are many, and each bestows unique and twisted gifts upon his worshippers. Many Tau commanders, considered veterans of Chaos conflicts, fall easily when faced with followers of a different god. The insane bloodlust of Khorne, the pestilent resilience of Nurgle, the nimble speed of Slaanesh, and the shifting adaptations of Tzeentch. All of these have confounded Tau commanders and should be studied to avoid further defeats.

It is important to understand your enemy, and Chaos are a difficult army to understand or predict. This compendium can give you the basics of combatting these crazed warriors, but Chaos Space Marines are notorious for springing suprises on their enemies at opportune moments. Tau Commanders, in order to fight Chaos Space Marines, need to be ready for the unexpected and never underestimate their enemy.

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Key Characteristics of the Chaos Space Marines

Post#3 » Jun 06 2013 11:51

Key Characteristics of the Chaos Space Marines

In general, Chaos space marines are a mid-to-close range army. Their most powerful weaponry is relatively short ranged compared to Tau or Imperial Guard weapons. This is not to say that a CSM force cannot be made up of entirely long range units. However, close quarter units are very common. Some special Characters are champions of a specific god, and their related elite space marine units become Troops. These units are all foot troops and vary in abilities. All of these units are also Fearless.

Marks and Icons

Almost every non-vehicle unit either has a specific god's mark, or they have access to them as a unit upgrade per model. A unit cannot be marked by more than one god (thankfully) and each mark has specific advantages to it. Also, a psychic that is marked by a particular god must generate at least one of his psychic powers from that god's discipline.
Mark of Nurgle: The most expensive mark, grants +1 to the model's toughness
Mark of Tzeentch: The 2nd most expensive mark, grants +1 to the model's invulnerable save (to a max of 3+ and min of 6+)
Mark of Khorne: Grants Rage and Counter-attack special rules
Mark of Slaanesh: Grants +1 initiative

Icons, like banners are an upgrade carried by a single model that benefits the entire unit. Most units that are marked by a particular god can also be given an Icon. Chaos Cultists, Mutilators, Obliterators, Warp Talons, and Warp Spawn cannot take icons, and the special elite units can only be given the icon corresponding to their respective deity.
Icon of Despair: Nurgle only. Grants the Fear special rule
Icon of Flame: Tzeeentch only. Grants all Bolt type weapons the Soul Blaze special rule
Icon of Wrath: Khorne only. Grants the Furious Charge special rule
Icon of Excess: Slaanesh only. Grants the Feel No Pain special rule
Icon of Vengeance: Grants the Fearless special rule

Note: the X-only icons benefit models in the unit that carry the corresponding mark. So an attached Lord, with no mark, would not gain Feel No Pain if joined with a Slaanesh unit carrying the Icon of Excess. Keep this in mind when using precision fire on these mixed units.


Chaos vehicles differ from space marine vehicles in several ways. Traditional tanks like the predator, land raider and vindicator are very similar, but can access Daemonic Possession, which reduces the BS to 3 in exchange for immunity against crew shaken/stunned on the vehicle damage chart. This works especially well on the Vindicator since its Demolisher Cannon cannot be snap fired and the Land Raider since it carries so many twin-linked weapons. Traditional tanks can also have their damage output amplified through the Warpflame Gargoyles and Destroyer Blades upgrades. The Warpflame Gargoyles grants Soul Blaze to all of the vehicle's shooting attacks and works exceptionally well on Vindicators and the Predator. Destroyer Blades allow hits against a unit that has been tank shocked, more hits if they try a Death or Glory attack.
The Hellbrute is the only vehicle (besides the Helldrake) that is not Heavy Support. It is rarely seen, but is just as deadly as a regular Dreadnought, for cheaper.

The rest of the Chaos constructs are machines controlled by daemons. These vehicles (Mauler/Forgefiend, Helldrake, and Defiler) are all quick and hard to kill thanks to special rules like Move Through Cover, Siege Crawler, Fleet, Daemon and It Will Not Die. In addition, daemonic vehicles can amplify their damage output for one phase per game, re-rolling To Wound or Armour Penetration rolls at the small risk of losing a Hull Point. Keep this ability in mind to avoid being caught off guard.

Army Special Rule: Champion of Chaos

Models with this special rule must issue and accept challenges whenever possible. Just about every character in the codex has this special rule with the exception of the Daemon Prince. So, a Daemon prince is not required to challenge, but as he is a Monstrous Creature, he cannot be joined to a unit and therefore must accept any challenges issued to him. This can sometimes be used to redirect a character's attacks away from the rest of your squad, but there are few Tau units capable of surviving two rounds of combat with a Daemon Prince, so be cautious of issuing challenges to one, lest your unit lose the combat in your own Assault phase.
As a bonus, if the Champion of Chaos kills an enemy character with regular attacks, challenge attacks, psychic attacks or even shooting attacks he rolls for a reward on the Chaos Boon table. See below.

The Chaos Boon Table

Chaos Space Marine characters can also access a random table of various abilities, special rules, or characteristics. A champion will roll D66 before deployment. Based on his roll he could get just about anything. He could be transformed into a Warp Spawn or Daemon Prince, he could receive defensive bonuses like improved armour saves or Shroud, he could receive melee bonuses like Instant Death or Fleshbane attacks, any of his regular characteristics could be improved, he could even generate up to 2 extra Boons! At 10 points it can be quite the steal, but it can also be a complete waste. Because of the unpredictable nature, expensive HQ's are generally not given these gifts. But an aspiring champion transforming into a Daemon Prince can be a nasty suprise. Keep in mind, that if any of your characters are killed by a Champion of Chaos (just about every Chaos character), that champion gets to roll on this table.


Chaos Space Marines are surprisingly limited in their deployment options. Deep Strike is essentially their only alternative deployment option outside of regular walk-on reserves.
Deep Strikers: Obliterators, Mutilators, Chaos Terminators, Warp Talons, Raptors, Characters in Terminator Armour
Infiltrators: none (D3 units if Warlord has the appropriate trait)
Outflankers: none
Scouts: none

Since the Chaos Space Marines are limited in their alternative deployments, Tau have an advantage before even putting a model on the table. Proper deployment can win you the game, and Tau have a much greater degree of deployment flexibility. However, the 3rd warlord trait grants a Chaos player up to 3 infiltrating units, and two of the Special Characters automatically come with this trait (Ahriman and Huron Blackheart).
Despite their lack in deployment flexibility, Chaos Space Marines can close the gap very quickly. Many of their units can get to grips with a Tau battleline faster than expected. Their lack of "pre-game" speed is made up for during the game, and they don't even need a lot of transports to achieve this. Turn 2 assaults are a very real possibility, even in Chaos Space Marine armies not specifically built for rush assaults.

Unlike Tau, Chaos has access to many units that are, or can be, scoring units. Most of these units are Fearless and hard to take down, especially in numbers. Chaos can bring large numbers in all of their scoring units, giving them a large degree of durability.
Scoring units: Cultists, Chaos Space Marines
Potential Scoring Units: 1000 Sons, Plague Marines, Noise Marines, Khorne Berserkers, Chosen

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Warlord Traits and Psychic Powers

Post#4 » Jun 06 2013 11:51

Warlord Traits and Psychic Powers

Chaos Space Marine Warlord Traits

1- 12" aura, Preferred Enemy "Space Marines"
2- Warlord + Unit's melee attacks have "Soul Blaze"
3- D3 infantry units gain Infiltrate during deployment (any infantry unit!)
4- Warlord + Unit have Hatred
5- Warlord has Fear
6- Warlord may reroll on boon table

Overall, these traits lend themselves well to an "up close and personal" warlord. Most of these traits, we can disregard as Tau. The important trait to look out for, is #3: D3 infiltrating units. This trait allows the chaos player an immense amount of deployment flexibility, a luxury most Chaos forces will not have. Keep in mind that the special characters Huron Blackheart and Ahriman Automatically gain this trait.

Psychic Powers

Chaos Space Marines can choose from 3 different Psychic disciplines: Tzeentch, Nurgle, and Slaanesh. A psychic with a particular mark must generate at least one power from their corresponding discipline.

Discipline of Tzeentch
Primaris: variable strength, blast at range that potentially chain attacks more models in the unit
1-2: can grant a friendly character a Chaos Boon
3-4: is a similar to the Tau Fusion Blaster, but is Detonate instead of Melta
5-6: a poison template that is AP2 and can easily glance any vehicle

Discipline of Nurgle
Primaris: short ranged 2-7 weak, poisoned shots
1-2: works like the Neuroweb System Jammer, except has double the range
3-4: a random reduction of a model's characteristics. Also a small chance to grant Shrouded to the target
5-6: a poison large blast that is AP2 but short ranged

Discipline of Slaanesh
Primaris: Concussive, Blinding, Pinning attack at range
1-2: random +1 of either Initiative, Strength or Attacks to a unit
3-4: -1 to WS and BS of a unit. Also increases the effectiveness of Sonic Weaponry against that unit
5-6: causes a hit to every model in a unit at 24" and wounds at that model's strength

Chaos powers generally fall into the categories of either direct attacks or curses. Few augment their own units, so psykers are used in an offensive capacity. Depending on the discipline, these psykers may not need to get very close to use their powers. Some of these powers can be devastating to our infantry and vehicles. with no psykers of our own to challenge them, Tau need to remove the psyker threats quickly in order to avoid disproportionate damage.

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Commonly Encountered Units

Post#5 » Jun 06 2013 11:51

Commonly Encountered Units

While these units may not be present in every Chaos Space Marine army, many of these are in most. By preparing to face these units, a Tau commander can increase his effectiveness against the majority of Chaos Space Marine armies. There will always be suprises, and unexpected lists, otherwise the game would not be any fun, but these units are a good base for most Chaos lists.

Plague Marines

By far the most popular special infantry unit. T5 and Feel No Pain make these units very difficult to erradicate. Fearless makes it even harder. They are great all-rounders, capable of hurting even high toughness models with ease, killing vehicles with Krak grenades, and are even resistant to assaults thanks to their Blight Grenades (defensive grenades and assault grenades).
Counters: Volume of Fire, Low AP Weaponry, Darkstrider

Noise Marines

Powerful at range, with cheap sonic weaponry that ignores cover and puts out high volume of shots. Particularly deadly against kroot and pathfinders, but restricted to 24" range. Their salvo weaponry allows them to keep firing on the move, increasing their threat range. Fearless, so they are not likely to move involuntarily either. If given the Slaanesh Icon of Excess they have the Feel No Pain rule.
Counters: Low AP Weaponry, Vespid


Very fast, difficult to put down, and will wreck absolutely anything it gets into close combat with.
Counters: Anti-Tank Weaponry1


Arguably, the most commonly encountered Chaos Space Marine unit. Hard to kill thanks to a 12/12/10 Armour Value and 3 Hull Points on top of a 5+ invulnerable Daemon save, It Will Not Die and regular Flier survivability. The most commonly taken weapon: the Baleflamer, is a torrent S6 AP3 Turret weapon, roasting almost any infantry easily, and with no cover too. If that weren't enough, it has a Vector Strike of S7 when it is Zooming, and it ignores Stunned/Shaken results thanks to its Daemonic Possession rule. And all this for a similar points cost to the Sunshark Bomber. Many competitive armies will ally with Chaos simply for access to the Helldrake and its many benefits.
Counters: Anti-Tank Weaponry1 accompanied by Velocity Trackers, Twin-Linked Anti-Tank1/Anti-Transport2 Weaponry accompanied by Early Warning Overrides, Razorshark


Simple troops choices, somewhat similar to an infantry squad of Imperial Guard. High number of models with weak characteristics. Used to camp on objectives in cover, draw fire away from the specialist Chaos units and overrun enemy defenses through weight of numbers. Typhus' cultists are doubly hard to kill or run off the board thanks to Feel No Pain.
Counters: Pulse Weaponry (S5), Large Blasts

Daemon Princes

Very tough, capable of flight, level 3 psychic mastery, can be a Daemon of any of the 4 primary Chaos gods. A perfect wound sink, just like the XV-104 Riptide, only sometimes tougher to kill. A priority target that can destroy entire armies in a short amount of time. Each Daemon has a special rule related to their particular god, instead of the one usually associated with a Mark.
-Daemon of Tzeentch: re-roll saving throws of 1, Hate Nurgle
-Daemon of Khorne: Furious Charge, Hate Slaanesh
-Daemon of Nurgle: Slow & Purposeful, Shrouded, Hate Tzeentch
-Daemon of Slaanesh: Fleet, Rending, +3" to their run, Hate Khorne
When combined with different pieces of wargear or artefacts, a Daemon can become an unholy terror in combat, nearly impossible to kill, and a flier to boot! Note, it is not a "Champion of Chaos" so you will not be able to sacrifice a character to save the squad. When generating Psychic powers (Khorne has none) then the Daemon generates at least one power from its appropriate table, and the rest can be from Biomancy, Pyromancy, or Telepathy.
Counters: High Strength Weaponry, Low AP Weaponry, Darkstrider


Tough to kill and versatile in their shooting capabilities. Only come in units of up to 3 and are vulnerable to all the same things a Terminator is. Make good use of the mark of Nurgle, bumping their toughness up to 5 and avoiding Instant Death from most weapons. Often arrive through Deep Strike since they are small units and need to get closer to use some of their weaponry.
Counters: Low AP Weaponry, especially with an Early Warning Override


4 Hull points, It Will Not Die, Daemon, Smoke Launchers and Daemonic Possession make this vehicle particularly hard to put down and it is bristling with weaponry. It carries the feared Battle Cannon along with other weapons with higher volume of fire. Two power fists makes it quite proficient in close combat as well. A great all-round choice for Chaos commanders.
Counters: Anti-Tank Weaponry1

Chaos Rhino:

No different from the Loyalist Rhino, aside from the upgrades available. Commonly taken to cheaply ferry Elite close combat units closer to the enemy. Daemonic possession, while relatively expensive on a Rhino, can make it immune to stunned results, should it survive the hit.
Chaos Rhinos can also be upgraded with offensive capabilities. The Dirge Castor upgrade disallows overwatch from units within 6", and Destroyer Blades can cause damage to units they Tank Shock, so don't let any Rhinos with these upgrades make it to your lines, even if they are empty. The Havok launcher is essentially a twin-linked frag missile and adds some ranged firepower to the Rhino. The Havok Launcher can be deadly to Pathfinders and Kroot, especially if the Rhino has the Warpflame Gargoyles upgrade as well, granting Soul Blaze on any hits.
Counters: Anti-Transport Weaponry2

Budget HQ's

Lords and Sorcerers. Lords with the mark of Nurgle, Slaanesh, or Khorne make those related Elites into Troops. Sorcerers with the mark of Tzeentch turn 1000 sons into Troops. Can ride into battle on various steeds, increasing their speed (except Nurgle) and attacks. Even basic commanders are dangerous, and should be given a wide birth. Chaos HQ's can be very cheap or very expensive but their points almost all go towards defensive or close combat upgrades.
Counters: The variety in which Chaos HQ's can come in, makes it impossible to determine what will be most effective against them. Use your discretion.

1 Anti-Tank Weaponry: Heavy Rail Rifles, Railgun Solid Shot, Ion Accelerator, Fusion Blasters, Longstrike
2Anti-Transport Weaponry: Missile Pod, High Yield Missile Pod, Ion Weaponry, Seeker Missiles

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Less common, but Dangerous Units

Post#6 » Jun 06 2013 11:52

Less common, but Dangerous Units

A Tau commander can expect to see these units from time to time, but should not expect to see them in every game he plays against Chaos Space Marines (unless, of course, he keeps playing the same opponent). The units described here are by no means useless units and can be very effective in their respective roles. In some ways, it is more important to know the rarer units' capabilities than the common ones, since these will be the most likely to surprise.

Rubric Marines (1000 Sons)

Resistant to low AP weaponry (4+ Invul save), fearless, and very shooty (AP3 bolts). Their squad is the most expensive of all the Specialist Elites, but automatically comes with a Level 1 Psyker carrying a force weapon. Should they take the Icon of Flame their bolts inflict Soul Blaze. They are not as common, but a couple squads of these accompanying Ahriman puts you against a lot of Invulnerable saves, AP3 shooting, and a lot of Psychic attacks.
Counters:Volume of Fire

Khorne Berzerkers

An excellent assault unit, with easy access to Chain Axes. They are not as dangerous to armoured infantry, but they are deadly against most of the Tau infantry. They usually need Rhinos to get them closer, but can also come in large units to soak up fire, or infiltrate depending on the Chaos Warlord and his trait. Fearless to boot! If they take an Icon of Wrath they become even more fearsome on the charge.
Note: With the increase in 4+ armour save popularity (Necrons and Tau), Khorne Berzerkers have started to appear more often. Not as often as Plague or Noise marines, but definitely more so than the Rubric marines (1000 sons) thanks to the option of Chain Axes (AP4)
Counters:Low AP Weaponry


Not as popular as their CC counterpart, but capable of putting out S8 AP2 blasts from a survivable chassis. It comes with Hades Autocannons standard and is pretty expensive. It is not quite as fast as the Maulerfiend but it does not need to be in order to get in range. A Forgefiend fully equipped with 3 ectoplasma cannons will cost 200 points.
Counters: Anti-Tank Weaponry1


A traditional close combat jump unit, but can come in numbers up to 15 and carry some nasty ranged weaponry (Meltaguns). The unit size makes Deep Striking a bit more dangerous, so it is not uncommon for Raptors to deploy on the board. Though this does give you time to target them at range, you will have to weigh their importance against other deadly targets. Jump units can cross the gap between armies very quickly and can be deadlier than they appear.
Counters: Volume of Fire, Low AP Weaponry

Warp Spawn

They are not hard to kill with dedicated pulse shooting, but are dirt cheap for what they bring and can tear Tau apart easily if they get into close combat. They are also deceptively fast and are a handy unit to have. For this reason they can often be a last minute addition to Chaos lists.
Counters: Volume of Fire, Railgun Solid Shot, Darkstrider

Chaos Bikers

Fast like SM bikers, and can make good use of all of the Marks and Icons. In particular, the mark of Nurgle increases their toughness to 6, or an Icon of Excess gives them Feel No Pain! They can be a very tough unit to kill. Weapon options make them a great all-rounder unit too. They are one of the more reliable anti-tank units in the codex, thanks to their speed, option for meltaguns, and close combat weaponry like Power Fists or Melta Bombs.
Counters: Volume of Fire, Low AP Weaponry accompanied by Cover Removal

Chaos Vindicators

Suprisingly one of Chaos' best ranged anti-tank. S10 AP2 ordnance, just like the regular Vindicator. When upgraded with the cheap Warpflame Gargoyles, can cause additional damage to large units of infantry over time. Tough against Tau S7 shooting thanks to upgrades like Daemonic Possession and its front armour of 13. It can also be upgraded to ignore dangerous terrain tests, so the only way to keep it away is to kill it.
Counters: Anti-Tank Weaponry1, Anti-Transport Weaponry against side armour2


Just like the Space Marine Devastators, Havocs can fill a wide range of roles. However, unlike Devastators, they are capable of carrying Autocannons. Autocannons to deal with all targets or they can be equipped for anti-air with missile launchers and flakk missiles. They are one of the few Chaos Units capable of anti-air, but are fairly expensive when kitted out this way. Unlike most Chaos units, they cannot come in units larger than 10. Havocs can also be given 4 specialist weapons (melta/plasma/flamer) and be used as a cheap alternative to Chosen Special Weapons teams.
Counters: Volume of Fire, Low AP Weaponry

Chaos Land Raiders

Expensive but effective. Even harder to kill than before. Makes good use of Daemonic possession with its twin-linked weaponry. So even a stunned result won't keep it from continuing toward your lines, and a shaken result won't affect it's shooting at all! A lack of Drop Pods makes the Land Raider an even more popular choice for Chaos commanders than Loyalist ones, as it is one of the few reliable means of transportation for Chaos infantry and Terminators. Be wary of Land Raiders with Destroyer Blades, as they can still cause damage when they tank shock your units; though if a Land Raider is Tank Shocking your lines then you most likely have more pressing issues.
Counters: Fusion Blaster, EMP Grenades, Longstrike Hammerhead with Railgun


The Chaos equivalent of a Techmarine. Brings even greater survivability to the (already tough) Chaos vehicles, can reduce a terrain piece's cover save in your deployment zone (Ruins in particular), decent in close quarters, and is not all that expensive either. Is the most useful in Chaos armies that bring a lot of tanks. Most likely will not be the Warlord, as he only has 2 wounds, like the Sorcerer and Dark Apostle
Counters: S8 Weaponry, Low AP Weaponry

1 Anti-Tank Weaponry: Heavy Rail Rifles, Railgun Solid Shot, Ion Accelerator, Fusion Blasters, Longstrike
2Anti-Transport Weaponry: Missile Pod, High Yield Missile Pod, Ion Weaponry, Seeker Missiles

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Rarely Encountered Units

Post#7 » Jun 06 2013 11:52

Rarely Encountered Units

These units are usually only taken out of curiosity, specific needs, or lack of models. They can be very good at what they do, but for one reason or another, are often left at home in favor of cheaper or better units. Though it may be that you rarely see any of these units, it is important to understand them in order to be prepared for the few occasions you will be facing them.

Chaos Predators

Sometimes ignored since it is not a Daemon vehicle and there are shootier alternatives. However, the Chaos Predator can be upgraded to put out an exceptional volume of fire and adopt a fantastic anti-infantry role. A Chaos Predator carrying an Autocannon, 2 Heavy Bolters, and Havoc Launcher with the Warpflame Gargoyles special rule can ruin any infantry blob's day, and all of that for less than 135 points! It is also one of the more reliable Tank hunters with the option of 3 Lascannons on a BS4 vehicle.
Counters:Anti-Tank Weaponry1, Anti-Transport Weaponry against side armour2

Warp Talons

Harder to kill than Raptors, but more expensive, no shooting and a bit better against armoured units (Battlesuits) in close combat. They also potentially cause Blind to any units they Deep Strike close to. Given the dangers of Deep Strike, landing within 6" is not going to happen often, and our battlesuits ignore Blind anyways, so this power is not as effective against Tau.
Counters:Early Warning Override, Volume of Fire, Low AP Weaponry

Chaos Space Marines

Ironically, this basic troop is usually left at home in favor of cultist mobs and marked Elites. The marks of chaos, icons, and close combat upgrades make them quite versatile, and can be a cheap alternative to some of the more specialized close combat units. Similar to their Loyalist brothers, and not to be underestimated.
Counters:Low AP Weaponry, Volume of Fire


Essentially, a squad of Chaos Space Marine Champions. When Abaddon is taken, these elites are sometimes taken since they become troops. While expensive, they can bring up to 4 special weapons and already carry close combat weaponry. Thankfully, the unit can only come in squads of up to 10 and is not Fearless, like most of the other Elite choices.
Counters:Low AP Weaponry, Volume of Fire, Vespids


Not a bad unit, just often overlooked for cheaper units. They can make good use of most of the Chaos Marks and have decent shooting capability. Can Deep Strike behind your defense line and hit your Firewarriors with Autocannons (AP4). Remember that they do not carry Power Fists standard. Usually taken with an HQ that wears terminator armour or as a wound sink in lieu of a Daemon Prince.
Counters: Low AP Weaponry, especially with an Early Warning Override


Very very effective in CC against all armour types, but lack any way of reliably getting there. No scarier to Tau than regular terminators, and in some ways less scary since they do not carry any ranged weapons.
Counters: Low AP Weaponry, especially with an Early Warning Override


The Chaos equivalent of a Space Marine Dreadnought, but cheaper and potentially deadlier. However, it is often ignored in favor of the faster, tougher, deadlier, more reliable Maulerfiend. Can be equipped to be shooty, like its Loyalist counterpart, but has no access to drop pods. As it is the only non-Heavy Support vehicle, it can be taken to fill out points and increase the number of vehicles on the board, for a decent price (equivalent of two fusion piranhas). It's Crazed special rule makes it somewhat more effective than a regular dreadnought, but it has to survive a glancing/penetrating hit first.
Counters: Anti-Tank Weaponry1, Anti-Transport Weaponry2


Quick moving and somewhat more survivable than a regular Chaos Marine. Excellent in close combat, but usually deemed overpriced for what they bring. They do not have access to power weapons, making them a poor choice against most armies, but perfectly capable against Tau. Being demonically oriented they can be unpredictable, and there are other close combat units that are more reliable, for cheaper.
Counters: Volume of Fire

Dark Apostle

Similar to a Lord, but has fewer options. He is a leadership boost for nearby units and can reroll on the Boon table. Often unnecessary if the enemy force consists of a lot of specialist units, but can be a huge asset to large numbers of Chaos Cultists.
Counters: Player's Discretion

1 Anti-Tank Weaponry: Heavy Rail Rifles, Railgun Solid Shot, Ion Accelerator, Fusion Blasters, Longstrike
2Anti-Transport Weaponry: Missile Pod, High Yield Missile Pod, Ion Weaponry, Seeker Missiles

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Notable Commanders

Post#8 » Jun 06 2013 11:52

Notable Commanders

Chaos Space Marine Special Characters are very powerful figures that bring a lot to the table. For this reason, special characters are common in Chaos Space marine armies.

Abbadon the Despoiler

Incredibly expensive, unlocks Chosen as troops, and has every Mark of Chaos. Very effective in close combat against all unit types, but slow on foot and weak at range. Needs to Deep Strike or ride in a Land Raider to be effective.

Huron Blackheart

A toned down Abaddon, his combat familiar allows him one random psychic power each turn (from either Biomancy, Pyromancy, or Divination; also randomly determined). His familiar only allows him that one power, not the Primaris Power.
Still very effective in close combat, not as hard to kill as Abbaddon but quicker. Weak at range, but he carries a flamer. He also has the powerful warlord trait Master of Deception, allowing D3 infantry units to infiltrate. An army with Huron could potentially infiltrate 3 units within 18" of your line. Those could be Spawn, Khorne Berserkers, or even the rarely seen Mutilators.

Kharn the Betrayer

An absolute monster in close combat, has the Mark of Khorne, basically immune to Psychic powers or Force Weapon Instant Death and poses a threat to his own unit. To Hit rolls of '1' in close combat hit a friendly model, the rest automatically hit an enemy. Unlocks Khorne Berserkers as Troops.


The ultimate chaos psyker. Psyker level 4, has the Mark of Tzeentch, can manifest up to 3 witchfire powers in the same shooting phase. Unlocks 1000 Sons as Troops. Very deadly, but 2nd most expensive special character, after Abbadon. Shooty Chaos armies benefit greatly from his presence. He also has the Master of Deception warlord trait, like Huron Blackheart. Watch out for infiltrating Spawn, Talons, or pretty much any close combat unit, while his 1000 sons and Forgefiends sit back and shoot you with low AP weaponry.
He is a commonly taken character; for a tough Troop choice, sneaky warlord trait, and incredible psychic prowess. Refer back to the Chaos Psychic Powers to see his Psychic Tzeentch powers. In addition to the Tzeentch table, he also generates his powers from the Biomancy, Telepathy, and Pyromancy tables


Nearly as expensive as Ahriman, is a Psyker level 2, carries a S6 AP2 close combat weapon, has the Mark of Nurgle, and is harder to kill than a Greater Daemon in some ways. Once per game he can cause a Large Blast attack in close combat that will kill just about anything near him (friend or foe).
He can also choose to transform any cultist units in his army into zombies with Feel No Pain, Fearless, and Slow and Purposeful (before the game begins, not during). They also carry no ranged weaponry, so they are solely intended to overrun the enemy battle line through weight of corpses.
His psychic powers must all be generated from the Nurgle table, see the Chaos Psychic Powers for more details on these.
He is one of the most popular SC since cultists are usually an autoinclude in most Chaos armies anyways.

Lucious the Eternal

Very difficult to kill in close combat. He has the Mark of Slaanesh, and is a deadly character to be in a challenge with. This tends not to matter for Tau, but allied commanders should steer clear of him.

Fabius Bile

An odd character. Can be difficult to kill, and can inflict instant death in close combat. He also grants +1 Strength and Fearless to one unit in his army. Carries an 18" range needler that wounds on 2+. He is most dangerous to monstrous creatures like the XV-104 Riptide.

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Last edited by Das'Kyman on Jun 07 2013 03:07, edited 2 times in total.

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Basic Tactics and Thoughts

Post#9 » Jun 06 2013 11:53

Basic Tactics and Thoughts


Chaos Space Marines have some very scary close combat capabilities, but that doesn't really matter for Tau. If he is kitted out for CC, then that is less points spent on surviving your shooting or shooting at you. Just keep your distance to deny him the use of his points spent on Close Combat.

Chaos units are, as a whole, exceptional in close quarter combat. As Tau, we (correctly) assume that we will lose combat, but we cannot give ourselves any credit at all when we are facing Chaos. We might hope to survive into the enemy's assault phase with other armies, but with the amount of Fear, AP4 or less, number of attacks, and number of bodies a Chaos unit will likely wipe out a Tau unit in a single round of combat. This can be an advantage in allowing us a free turn of close range shooting against these units.

Chaos units tend to be either very fast or very slow. Recognize which ones are which so that you can prioritize correctly.
Fast Units: Warp Spawn, Maulerfiends, Anything in a Rhino, Defilers, Chaos Bikers, Possessed, Daemon Princes, HQ's on steeds
Slow Units: Plague Zombies, Mutilators, 1000 sons, Terminators, Obliterators, Noise Marines

All Daemons get a 5+ invulnerable save. That goes for Vehicles, Warp Talons, Possessed, and Daemon Princes. Remember this when considering removing cover from a Helldrake or Maulerfiends. Removing a 5+ cover save will not really benefit the shooter, increased Ballistic Skill would usually be the better route.

Chaos has a lot of scoring units, and they can all be large and durable units. This makes Chaos very good at playing to the missions. Recognize how much firepower it will take to kill a unit, and what units pose the greatest threat to your army. Oftentimes a blob of 35 plague zombies is less of a priority than a rhino filled with 5 Chosen toting special weapons, even if it will take more firepower to remove the Zombies.

Soul Blaze. There are many units in the Chaos Space Marines codex with access to this special rule. Vehicles can take a cheap upgrade for it, Tzeentch marked units can take an icon for it, and some units come with it standard. Soul Blaze can be especially deadly for Tau due to low majority toughness and smaller unit size. Be wary of exposing your infantry to enemy units with this special rule, lest they burn up in subsequent turns.

Daemonforge vehicles can boost their damage output once per game. Remember, that goes for Helldrakes, Maulerfiends, Forgefiends, and Defilers. This is especially dangerous against Tau vehicles. Thankfully, this can only be used for a Shooting or Assault phase, meaning a Helldrake will not be able to apply this special rule to a Vector Strike (Movement Phase). Remember also, that this only applies to failed to-wound and armour penetration rolls, so a glance cannot be re-rolled to try for a penetrating hit.


Chaos vehicles are not exceptionally well armoured, but many have built-in invulnerable saves or regenerate hull points. This makes them exceptionally hard to glance to death, and with mostly AV12 vehicles, our high amount of S7 weaponry will have a reduced effect. For this reason, Fusion Blasters, Heavy Rail Rifles or Railguns are the anti-vehicle weapon of choice when facing Chaos Space Marines. The AP1 increases your chance of managing a Destroyed result on the damage table, and things like Longstrike or the Puretide Engram Neurochip can be invaluable for insuring a penetrating hit.

Broadsides with the High Yield Missile Pods, are still a legitimate choice against Chaos. Their 2+ save makes them highly resilient against most Chaos weapons, and above all, the feared Helldrake. Their S7 weapons may not be the weapon of choice against a Daemon Engine, but overwhelming amounts of firepower will still bring it low. A full squad of Broadsides can do exceptionally well against Chaos Space Marines.

Invulnerable and FNP saves are prevalent in the Chaos codex, plus a lot of Fearless and Leadership 9 or 10. Focused fire is usually needed to eliminate targets, so don't spread your shooting around.
Precision Fire won't do you much good in picking off leaders to hurt morale, but it is still very useful for removing special weapons. In particular, precision shots should be used to pick out models carrying Icons in order to debuff the entire unit. Regular Chaos Cultists are one of the exceptions. They cannot take an Icon of Vengeance, so should they lose their Champion they drop to a leadership of 7 like the rest of us!

Use Deployment to your advantage. He has fewer options in deployment than Tau do (unless he has the 3rd warlord trait and infiltrates D3 of his units), especially when you are taking Stealth Suits and Kroot. Do not be deceived! The lack of deployment flexibility is made up for by in-game speed. Chaos can quickly encircle and close with their prey. Deployment is an advantage, but remember that it is only a little bit of one.

Stay away from all Chaos Space Marine characters, especially their independant characters. Even when they appear weak in close combat next to some of their more specialized units, they are better than Tau. And if you lose any characters to a Chaos Champion, that enemy character will most likely only get stronger thanks to the Boon Table. Also, keep in mind that any attack, be it Shooting, Psychic, etc. from a Chaos character that kills your own character, grants a Boon from the Chaos Boon Table.

The Chaos Space Marine codex has a gap in mid-level firepower that can be hard to fill. Because of this gap, lighter vehicles (like the Piranha or Devilfish) are more durable by default. Hence, Piranhas carrying fusion blasters can be a great unit to have against Chaos Space Marines. Their fusion weaponry can ensure a Daemon Engine's destruction, and the Chaos player has fewer weapons optimized for destroying fast, light skimmers.
However, some Chaos armies include few to no vehicles outside of Helldrakes. In these circumstances, a piranha's usefulness drastically decreases and its survivability drops because it is the perfect target for a Helldrake's Vector Strike. Be mindful of potential Vector Strikes and take your piranhas in squads to make sure you are getting the most out of them.

A note about combating infantry with the Mark of Nurgle. Darkstrider can actually be a very valuable asset here. He negates the bonus toughness, essentially wasting a large amount of the Chaos Space Marine player's points. When joined with large units of Firewarriors, Typhus' Zombies or Plague Marines fall much easier. When accompanied by Pathfinders carrying special weaponry (Rail Rifles, in particular), even Nurgle Princes with Iron Arm can be harmed.

Field Experience

The Orbital maintains a library of documented encounters with Chaos Space Marines. Consulting these battle logs can improve your knowledge of Chaos Space Marine tactics and force composition, and is highly recommended. These are listed with the most current reports first.

2000 pts vs. Chaos Space Marines
Farsight Enclaves vs. Chaos Space Marines (1000)
1750 Farsight vs 2000 Chaos
1850 Tau vs Chaos Space Marines
Tau (SM) vs. Chaos Space Marines - 2000pts
1000pts Against Chaos
Fire Record - 75T2 vs Chaos Marines
1000pts vs Iron Warriors (Chaos Marines)
Keep in mind that some of these reports are outdated and can only offer small amounts of relevant information. For this reason, all Shas'O are encouraged to deploy recorder drones and submit logs of their own encounters with the Chaos Space Marines.

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Last edited by Das'Kyman on Jun 18 2013 12:23, edited 8 times in total.

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Re: [Article Submission] The Enemy: Chaos Space Marines

Post#10 » Jun 26 2013 09:11

The Academy Article above is a living document. It will continue to be updated as our forces develop new tactics and strategies.

Please visit the discussion related to the above article here.


As per request from Shas'Ui Da Skyman, I have updated this article to conform to his updated tactics and information as of 6/28/2013.
Updated again as of 7/24/2013.
Non-interactive systems monitor.

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