Sunday, March 30, 2014
Chaos Cults: The Showdown
Regardless, a midst the swirling chaos of the warp, I have decided to take a look at the more prominent members of the dark ranks. The Cult Legions of the Chaos Space Marines. Everyone knows the fluff behind these guys, but what I am interested in right now is how they compare with each other. Nothing here should sway you away from using them in a themed list should you desire. But with the fascination with Nurgle Marines being the current flavor, I wanted to take a look at all four and really see what each cult has to offer, and which I think wins the favor as greatest among equals.
WARNING: the following is based completely on my views as a player, and I recognize bias is ever an issue with opinion/observation-based articles. As such, take all that you read with a colossal size grain of naturally occurring, flavor enhancing crystal.
Alright, so these guys aren't much special in terms of what they bring on the stat line. The notable exception is the WS 5. This is pretty nice as it means they'll be hitting most of their prey on 3's, and can keep them on the solid 4's to hit against big monster WS 9 or 10 models. It's not bad, but with them dropping to a single attack base, plus the dual armed perk... it's forces them into a vulnerable reliance on their icon to ensure they have rage, and the guaranteed 6 for the charge. The biggest issue here is that the unit has very little going for it in the current meta. They're entirely based on assault, so they really feel like a specialist unit, with their only real specialty being outplayed by most armies. These guys aren't bad, but they loose a little bit on heavy limitation. That said, their stat line is solid, and it fits perfectly for what they want to do.
Toughness 5. That goes a long way at making these guys do what they want to do, which is not die. Couple in the Feel no Pain and you have a nicely resilient unit. Unless the enemy throws some Strength 10 your way, you'll be granted that FnP, baring tricks like force weapons and the like. Either way, the stat line improvement on this unit over any grunt is amazing. It's no shock to me that people really like this unit. These guys can stand up to a lot of punishment, from anything that isn't Strength 10, and still manage to come out on top. Their double down of defensive perks works amazingly, and they have even more durability which well cover later in wargear.
Alright... these guys have a very cool special tweak to their stat line, one that should in theory be amazing right now. They have a 3+ invulnerable save, which really helps when taking hits from really scary shots like the Ion Cannon, Demolisher Cannon, Missile Launchers, etc. This is fantastic, and shouldn't be discounted. The only issue is that it falls apart when facing down small arms fire. Since the 3+ invulnerable is no different than a 3+ armor save against just about every piece of small arms, it's basically pointless in that scenario. This means you pay a lot for a model which gains nothing in terms of offense or defense in most cases, since small arms or mass high strength, crap AP reigns supreme in the meta currently. So while they gain some points for being awesome against heavy hitter lists, they just can't hold up against even the most basic of problems for marines... which is quantity of fire.
While this isn't always the greatest of perks, the unit snags a nice Initiative 5 score. This is great for the purpose of being both defensive and offensive. Defensive in the sense that you get to be offensive before most anyone gets to be offensive, or generally at worst simultaneous. Offensive for the fact of... well, you kill them before they kill you, and that's always a perk a good killy unit enjoys. It's also handy should the unit ever be require to take an Initiative test. Rare though it may be, they do occur on occasion, so its nice to have that buff at your back. We'll get into this a little later, but the unit can incorporate this bolstered initiative score very nicely. They loose a little bit for the buff not synthesizing with their real power (i.e. shooting), but it's not a terrible means of keeping the unit safe in the event of being assaulted.
As far as foot based assault marines go, these guys are pretty well second to none. They can reliable get to their opponent, and have plenty of attacks when they make it their thanks to Rage. The problem here comes about when the unit doesn't get the charge. This means they lose out on both Furious Charge, and Rage, making them nothing more than WS5 assault marines. Not terribly great in and among the plethora of shooting units of 6th edition. If they can make it there, they'll do some work... the trouble is getting them there. The Icon of Wrath helps, but we'll cover that in wargear.
This unit basically only has one special rule, and it's really all it needs. Feel no Pain. You really can't complain about it, and I can't say enough about it. Their only other real special rule comes about with the Icon, granting the unit Fear... but it's such an unimpressive rule to pay for. If it were free and built in, it'd be a great little boon, but paying for the rule just isn't worth the points unless you expect to be assaulted by anything others than Marines or Fearless units.
While I was initially skeptical about this unit's rules, I really think they are undervalued. First up, the unit gets Veterans of the Long War for free. An interesting note, as they are the only unit in the book which do standard. The unit also has a rule which basically makes their shots AP 3. This is very nice, as it gives them some solid punch through factor against enemy Marines. It's mitigated by their being a decent volume of cover saves, but at the very least, you break through the armor they're paying for. Much like the Plague Marines lost a little with 6th by the FnP dropping to a 5+, Thousand Sons gained a bit by cover being dropped to a 5+ standard. Unfortunately, the unit is stuck with Slow and Purposeful, which hammers a primarily shooting-based unit pretty hard these days. Next up through the Icon is Soul Blaze. I like many do not much care for this rule, but it does help a lot for this unit. As I mentioned before, they suffer from volume of fire. So this rule not only gives them a means to chew through lager units of infantry better, but in general make the unit a nice well-rounded unit with which to attack infantry. AP3 to hunt marines, and Soul Blaze to help cope with larger light infantry squads, or even put a few more wounds on any unit to stop a few extra bullets from flying your way. That last perk is the fact that the unit has a Psycher leading them. There are several pros and cons to this. Cons being that the price spikes for the unit, the powers are a bit random, and of course the powers they have access to are limited to the Tzeentch tree only, most of which don't synergism well with the unit wanting to shoot something to death (but one that does very, very well). The pros being that the unit gains a +1 to deny the witch rolls, they have a force weapon standard in each unit, and of course the ability to cast some potent powers which may help the unit. They are a unit which tend to have a lot of hidden perks, and while this is always great, many of the perks just feel underwhelming at times, and may not always come into play.
Alright, so as far as special rules go, this unit brings some nice ones to the table. However, it is fair to point out that while amazingly potent, each of the two come with their own tax. The first up to bat is the nice defensive trait of Feel No Pain. The ability to snag this on a troop choice is usually always a gold star for a unit. This case is no exception, as keeping your troops (especially these ones as they can be a little salty) is fantastic. The down side is that the rule comes at the cost of purchasing, and then protecting the Chaos Icon of Excess. This means you gotta spend more points and then spend the whole game trying to keep the bearer alive. That said, it is totally worth it. The second rule beats even it's USR counterpart. The ability for this unit to ignore cover with it's shooting attacks. Why this is better than the USR is that it flat states that cover may not be taken, rather than using the USR, which for some reason is lost on vehicle targets. While the sonic weaponry is fantastic, I'll cover it more in the wargear section, but as for the rule of the three unique weapons, it's amazing, if kinda worthless on one of them. But it's potency on the other two makes up for it in spades. The issue really comes in with cost, as the weapons do cost a pretty penny, and so it will spike the cost of the unit. That said, as with the Icon, if you are building the unit for ranged combat... it's absolutely worth it.
Alright, so there is no real easy way to put this, but the Kibz lose this bracket hard, and by hard I mean almost entirely. The unit comes stock with the usual marine "dual armed" allotted pistol and ccw. This is about the only real plus side for their wargear, as it starts to trickle downhill fast from this point on. The unit did manage to gain with the change over to 6th, as the skull champion can bring a few more tricks to the table. But beyond that, the unit only gained one new trick. At just under 5 points a model, they can be armed with chain axes, making their attacks AP4 in close combat. Now, this is actually a pretty cool perk, it's just too expensive. The only real other option here is to grab up to two plasma pistols on the unit. Since they're still expensive, and have the same 12" limitation on their range... these will... and generally should almost never see play. The Icon is good, but really it's a must have to make this unit go, as it nets them a guaranteed 6 out of their charge range, so this is where the points you'll see spent for this unit come from. Sadly, their options, while both good up front, cost too darn much for marginal gains. Can't say the wargear saves this tired old unit too much.
Now this is where we can start to see how units can really shine with some wargear tricks. This unit not only has some really nice special rules as they are, but their wargear options grant them some nice tricks as well. First up, the unit has defensive grenades. This is pretty stellar as not only do enemies gain no benefits for charging (handy when they have rage or furious charge), but you also get the boon of the Stealth USR from enemy fire within 8". Next up, you get Plague Knives, which grant you poisoned 4+ attacks in CC, and nets the unit dual armed alongside their usual bolters. This is a huge perk, as facing down monstrous creatures is really about as close as this unit gets to getting scared (as being smashed negate all of their defensive perks), and helps really hit those toughness 4 or lower models hard with re-rolls to wound. This item really helps keep the unit well-rounded, and prepared for most any fight. The Icon is pretty much garbage. Netting Fear really isn't that special these days as there's just so much that ignores it. The rule is nice when it comes free, but otherwise, save the points. Beyond these items, the unit can double down on the usual marine special weapons, alongside their champion taking, well whatever they want. This keeps the unit capable of building for most any need, as far as usual means go. This unit gets some pretty high love from their unique, and even standard options here. Two pus-ridden thumbs up.
So there isn't much here in terms of wargear options. Almost none in fact, as it's primary identity comes from the special rules. Beyond what was mentioned above for these guys, they really don't have much. Sadly, the only real report on this unit as far as wargear goes is that they lack ccws, and don't have the option to buy them. There's not much else to say here, but since their shots are AP3, and though not great, can have a chance (albeit poor) to net more wounds, I'll at least grant them a mediocre score, if for no other reason than their wargear synergizes with the edition.
Kings of the proverbial mountain, this unit gains what I feel to be the most from their wargear. Up front, the unit has very little "usual wargear" outside the standard bolt weaponry, and the ability to swap for dual armed or pay points for all three... plus the fancy frag and kraks for when they need to party really hard. Nothing terribly special here... but wait, because here's where it gets good. Sonic weapons, all three types, are amazing. The trick is knowing when and where to place them. The Sonic Blaster means you get a metric crap ton of shots, and a decent amount when on the move. The only real issue is that it knocks you down to half range like old school rapid fire. The Blastmaster is still the same crazy awesome piece it was before, only this time you can bring two to the party if you bought ten band members. Last but not least, the Doom Siren, netting your champion an AP3 flamer shot. The real kick to these weapons is that they ignore every unit's ability to claim cover. So the trick here is loading up units of these guys with sonic weapons, sitting back, and letting the god times roll; or loading up with dual armed, and slamming a doom siren on for really good measure. The Icon nets you FnP as we covered earlier, and is always worth the points. The only point against these weapons is that they are pretty costly, and so it drives the price of the units up, but it's hard to argue with the potency of what you pay for here. These guys are my winners for this bracket by far on sheer potential and capabilities.
Alright, so these guys look pretty good in terms of paying for what you get. The base KB clocks in just under 20 points, and for the bump in WS, and the special rules they can get access to, it's a little pricey, but not terrible. The real issue is that for these points, you aren't getting much more than a WS 5 Assault Marine, with a heavy reliance on getting the charge to make use of their tricks. This can be a real bear to deal with as getting the charge is hard enough as it is. You also have the detraction that their wargear option for being AP 4 (arguably the only real unique aspect to the unit) cost them an additional point cost of 3 per model. With their points already bordering on the high end as they are base, this cost just isn't worth the points you'll be spending for it. Factoring in also that this unit will be bringing their Icon, and you're already paying enough as it is. Were it factored in base, this unit would be a steal, but as it... the unit pays a bit too much for what amounts to only okay stuff.
There's no way around it, these guys are expensive. At just under 25 points a pop, they don't come cheap. That said... this unit is worth every last point you pay for them. It's rare that you see marines able to stand up to the punishment of enemy firepower as well as these guys, and as it is one of the major failings of the Marine in this day and age, the extra points are absolutely worth it. It does present a slight issue when it comes to affording much around them, so you can't run too many of these guys without breaking the bank on points, but about 3 squads should suffice to giving you a durable core for the list.
I'll spare you the gory details and get straight to it... this unit is too damned expensive. Just under the Plague Marine in price per model, a huge point sink for the Aspiring Sorcerer, and generally not that much return on investment... this unit costs the army too much. It has the chance to be worth it, but given the circumstantial nature of the unit, it's just too many points. These poor buggers lose this category hard.
Clocking in at the cheapest base model, these guys are pointed perfectly. They are cheap and easy to throw on the table as is, and the low base price allows for them to really utilize their wargear nicely. Since the price for their almost necessary weapon upgrades will bump them up to just over the Khorne Bezerker, and a few other upgrades like the Icon, Blast Masters and/or Doom Sirens, the unit will be a little expensive if kitted for ranged warfare, but you get every last penny of those points back on the investment. You can't get much better options in this category, as the low base price offers you the options of putting a lot of bare bones guys on the table, or kitting them up with wargear for a reasonable price point.
There's one way to play these guys... Move forward, collect skulls. The only real option comes about with how they do that one thing. Sadly this means they score pretty low on the table when it comes to what they offer to the list, as they do pretty much one thing. It also really doesn't help that the unit has exactly one transport option which is an Assault Vehicle... and it breaches the 200 point mark alone.
My basic thought on these guys is that they act pretty much like a marine squad with special weapons does, with the added perk of being extremely durable. The only real difference apart from that is that the unit will cause many a monstrous creature to have pause before assaulting them. Even with the ability to smash, and kill these pussy marines outright, they gain no benefit from charging, and are getting wounded on 4+ from each of them thanks to the plague knives. At 2 attacks a dude, it's a gamble at best. That said, the unit is pretty well rounded, but this means they don't really offer much you wouldn't get outside of regular marines in terms of possible tactics.
This unit is pretty much the opposite of the Khorne Bezerkers, but still sits on the far end of the spectrum. This unit wants to shoot, and really hates close combat. Being the only Cult unit unable to even be dual armed, and all of their rules centering around their shooting... the unit is not well rounded at all, and really fills only a single role. Shoot it. That said... they can at least be considered for tarp pitting a monstrous creature decently, so I'll at least give them a boon there. (get it?)
The winners by far, this unit is extremely capable of building for both ranged and close combat specialty. With Initiative 5 working well as either an offensive perk to use for close combat specialty and a defensive perk to strike before your enemy for ranged specialty, the unit's base trick works well for both of its builds, if maybe a little more consistent with the assault option. The unit can swap for or add a ccw to their wargear and become bred for assault. Add in the doom siren and the unit is vicious when it gets near you. Or the more common sight being the ranged units, which can build all sonic blasters, or add in blast masters for variety of shooting. Both builds are worth considering, and equally viable, making the unit capable of fulfilling many roles. That said, the unit will be useful really only for what it is build for as the ranged option makes the unit fairly static (given how salvo weapons reduce range on the go). But even so, it is the only one of the 4 cult troops which can build so dynamically for either close combat or ranged warfare.
Kharn the Betrayer
Kharn is a worth his points undoubtedly. He's a beast in close combat, and rarely finds an opponent he can't slaughter. He has two weaknesses in my opinion. One is not terrible, but it's killing off his own troops. This can be aggravating when it costs you one of your already expensive troops, and generally sucks if it's someone important like the icon bearer or the champion. His second is falling prey to instant death. With Power Fists being sparse these days, it's less of a problem, but monstrous creatures demolish him. His added perk of making his unit nearly impervious to psychic attacks is pretty nice, and he nets a pretty decent warlord trait. He's not bad, but not great.
Quite possibly the big winner of the special characters, Typhus is amazing. He's a psycher with some nice powers, he wears terminator armor into the fight making his already impressive defenses even better, and has a solid stat line with nice wargear. His well-known and fantastic trick of making the zombie apocalypse a real thing is amazing, and provides probably the best non-cult troop interaction of any character (save perhaps one of my favorites Fabius Bile, but that's only my opinion). Typhus is worth every penny, and really allows you to capitalize on building a themed list for his cult better than any of the others, given his interaction with Cultists, and filling in some nice durable cheap troops around the expensive Plague Marines.
Ahriman himself is great. His only real issues are that he himself is pretty expensive, isn't terribly hard to kill... and really just doesn't have a whole lot to offer the army he's with, since the Thousand Sons are just so far under par. Ahriman isn't terribly useful outside of just being able to throw out spells left and right, but his spells are more or less just extended beat sticks. Without Divination to really help his unit hit harder, he just feels unimpressive. That said, what he does do, he does very well. He's got a solid stat line for a Sorcerer (as he should) and does offer the army a solid psycher to rally behind, even if it is at the cost of being bound to their armor for all eternity. If nothing else, Ahriman gets some of his score from bad ass fluff and history.
Lucius the Eternal
Alright, so Lucius is a bit underwhelming, but does have a place within the ranks of the Noise Marines. He is built for close combat, and since the unit can build for cc, he really fits nicely with a unit built for that. On top of this, he comes with his own personal doom siren with which to yell the enemy to death. Fos-Ro-Da ftw. This means you can put him with noise marines and double down on the sirens, or slap him with assault kitted terminators and get an otherwise impossible siren shot added to them. I personally prefer the former myself, as terminators have no outlets for grenades out of Codex: Chaos Space Marines. Losing the I5 is a bit of a bummer in that regard. Regardless, Lucius is a fantastic duelist, and great for slicing through enemy foot soldiers like butter. He has some great tricks, and to be honest, he has my favorite model among the four cult characters (not factored into his score, I just like the model). A nice character, but not terribly special in all regards, as he'll die alot. He has several bad match ups in close combat and really isn't quite as potent as Kharn, even with the sweet doom siren action.
So the Noise Marines take the cake for me. The unit feels prepared for just about anything, it's rules cover both offensive and defensive aspects, and the unit feels generally capable in almost any situation. It's unique wargear is priced right, and keeps the unit feeling unique as compared to all other options in the book. But above everything else, the unit just feels better in more situations than the others. On top of this, there are some other categories that didn't make it article which also help, such as how their daemonic allies feature with them and hobby aspects which also make this unit superb.
I have always been a huge fan of the unit, and was happy to see them making a strong showing in this comparison. What makes me even happier is that the squad can be built without dealing with the horrid upgrade bitz by turning to Forgeworld. The new Kakophoni kit makes beautiful Noise Marines for both 30k and 40k games.
So there you have it. A long read I know, but I wanted to be sure to give each cult it's dues in each category. Hopefully this has been an enjoyable look into the legions devoted to the dark pantheon of Chaos Gods. Until the next incursion.