Basic Tactics and ThoughtsRemember...
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 steedsSlow 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.Tactics
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 MarinesFarsight Enclaves vs. Chaos Space Marines (1000)1750 Farsight vs 2000 Chaos1850 Tau vs Chaos Space MarinesTau (SM) vs. Chaos Space Marines - 2000pts1000pts Against ChaosFire Record - 75T2 vs Chaos Marines1000pts 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.Return to Compendium Index