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The Aspiring Champion's Handbook

Brother Nihm Hobby Guide

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Brother Nihm

Brother Nihm


  • 11,858 posts
  • Location:Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Faction: Scourges of Quintus
The Aspiring Champion's Handbook

By Minigun762.

Welcome brothers. I have been sent to aid your fledgling warband with knowledge imparted onto me from the dark gods themselves, so heed my wisdom or perish in failure.


This is a guide aimed at helping the newer players who are drawn to Chaos and Warhammer 40K in general. I will assume that those reading this have read over the most basic rules and have a general understanding of the game and terms. The intention here is to help those new players create a solid basic army foundation from which to grow as their experience increases. I have also included some observations that might help more seasoned veterans hone their own forces.

Table of Contents:
Chaos Legions and Renegades - Why play them?
Army themes/Structures/Compositions/Main Army types
OR "Building the army I want to play"
Example Armies

Chaos Legions and Renegades - Why play them?

This is just a very brief overview of the main Chaos forces in the galaxy. The Chaos Lord’s Handbook has more detailed information as well as other internet websources like Game Workshops own pages and Wikipedia.

Alpha Legion
Known for being incredibly secretive, plotting and for their use of sabotage, cultist support and other underhanded methods. Color Scheme is blue and green

Black Legion
Often described as the “Ultramarines” of Chaos because they are the most widely shown example army and they incorporate all elements of Chaos into their armies. The following is an introduction to the Black Legion, by Gree.

Storm of Iron Spoiler:
With the supply of a massive amount of new geneseed.(Courtesy of the Iron Warriors: see the novel Storm of Iron) We have a large amount of new Black Legionaries and other recruits eager to serve the despoiler. So the question that everyone is asking is….

Why play Black Legion?

Simple, you are the best. The Black Legion in the greatest of the Chaos legion, the most dangerous legion that the Imperium must face. They are the archetypical chaos legion incorporating all the strengths of chaos.

They were Horus’s own legion. They were the personal guard of the Warmaster. They might not have been the first to turn to chaos in the heresy but, they where the one’s who spearheaded the Heresy.

Horus was the best and brightest of the primarchs, no one could compare to him, and that extends to you as well. Who else would have discovered how to gain the upper hand in daemonic possession and learn the secrets of all four cult legions?

Your forces are led by Abbadon, the most powerful chaos lord. Or by one of his lieutenants, all ancient veterans of the Horus Heresy and terrifying warriors. You even invented the monstrosity that is the Chaos Defiler.

You are the greatest in the heresy and after the heresy you continue to be the best. To be one of the Warmaster’s chosen is to be the elite, no other force can compare to your skill in war.

In battle you have all the options of the Chaos codex, you can have a perfectly valid reason for having Berzerkers march alongside Noise Marines with a squad blessed by Nurgle led by a Chaos lord of Tzeentch.

Even the members of other legions and chapters have joined you, swearing service to he Black Legion and wearing their colors. Others merely ally with you, following your lead in battle.

A Black Legion army has a striking color scheme with many variants. When your opponent looks upon your army he knows that you are EVIL. There is no confusing with names like the Emperor’s Children or Thousand Sons. You are bad to the bone and proud of it.

If someone dares accuse you of being Chaos ultramarines then you have no choice but to send their souls screaming to the Dark Gods with Abaddon patting you on the back saying ‘’Good job trooper (Insert name here)’’

So pick up your bolter and chainsword and don that suit of black power armor and prepare to the join the Black Legion, I’ll see you on Cadia.

Death Guard
Cult legion under the Chaos god Nurgle, god of Decay and Despair. Typically use the extra resilient Plague Marines as their troops. Color Scheme is decaying green, white, brown and grey

Many of your pestilent Nurglings are wondering what legion to play. Then it hit’s you. You want to play Death Guard! Good ole’ Mortarion’s boys. But why exactly play Death Guard?

Simple, you’re dead. Who doesn’t love zombies? Who doesn’t love zombie super-soldiers in power armour who are practically impossible to kill? That’s what the Death Guard are, that and more.

The Death Guard have a massive amount of fluff stretching back to the Heresy and beyond. They are one of the founding legions so you should get some respect from the young renegades.

Furthermore you have no need of the fancy sonic blasters that the Emperor’s Children have or the swanky guns that the Iron Warriors have. You are a footslogger and proud of it! If it worked for Mortarion ten thousand years ago it can work for you!

If course you do not need to be restricted to the pure infantry approach, after all the Death Guard had some bikes and jump troopers. Turboboosting Nurgle Bikers will make the shootiest Tau or Guard player cry and hide in the corner.

And even if you are defeated just grin and bear it. After all you are Nurgle followers and you will simply accept what it is. Eventually your implacable hordes of plague-bearing zombie super-soldiers will weather the storm of fire directed against you and triumph over the foe.

So eventually you will follow the long and difficult path of Death Guard commander, maybe allying with a few other Nurgle-worshiping Space Marines along the way. I hear the Cleaved are looking for allies these days.

And then when you get to the Plague planet you can be at the rotting feet of Mortarion himself, bearing the stinking load of dead corpses to tribute to Nurgle. Wow, I think I need to puke at that image

Emperor’s Children
Cult legion under the Chaos god Slaanesh, god of Excess and Perfection. Composed mostly of the very fast Noise Marine troops. Color Scheme is Black and Pinks and Purples

Iron Warriors
Siege and fortification masters. Typically depicted as armor heavy with lots of firepower. Have a strong rivalry with the Imperial Fists Space Marines Chapter. Color Scheme is Metal and Gold

Sick of taking time out from battle to pay homage to arrogant warp entities? Would you rather build a Titan than a Cathedral? Then you my friend should play Iron Warriors!

Probably the most secular of the big bad 9 the Iron Warriors are the same rigours siege masters today as they were 10,000 years ago. Centuries of fighting as individual units rather than companies pre-heresy meant these guys learned how to hold their own and learned well.

They were the first legion to corrupt a space marine Vindicator, now everyone does it! This is the only force where 9 Obliterators is fluffy not cheesey.

Many ask where were the Iron Warriors during the 13th Black Crusade? I’ll tell you where, they were out defeating a Titan liego, a full Imperial Guard regiment and a company of Imperial Fists to claim a vast amount of geneseed that has kept the other legions going.

Iron Warriors rarely ally with other chaos space marines because why would they need to? With masses of men and machines ready to grind any opposition into the dust the Iron Warriors are just about as self sufficient as it gets.

If you despise the Gods but want all the great stats that worshipping them brings a little creative modelling can justify your Iron Warriors being Toughness 5 (Bionics) Weapon Skill 5 (Servo Arms) Sonic Weapons (What Iron Warriors doesn’t love big guns!?) or a 4+ invulnerable save (Force Shield Generator).

So if all this sounds appealing to you then strap on your helmet, hop in your Vindicator and start blasting holes in the pathetic shanties of the Imperium! May the wrath of Perturbo spread!

Night Lords
Masters of terror tactics and psychological warfare. Use fear to break their opponents then swoop in fast for the kill. Color scheme is dark blue and gold.

Welcome devotee of the Haunter! I see that you are fresh from Nostramo and you are asking yourself the most critical question. Why play Night Lords?

The answer is simple. They are badass. Our Primarch is Batman, except better. Konrad Curze was unquestionably the most screwed up crazy primarch out there, and we love him for it.

Curze beat up Rogal Dorn, one of the greatest of primarchs, rather easily. A tutor or warrior in a privileged world did not raise him; no he fought his way up in the alleys as a predator.

His planet was completely free of crime by the time he ascended to power. The False Emperor’s lackeys later mismanaged it and only Curze had the gut’s to put his world out of its misery. He was so terrifying he blew up his own homeworld. That’s awesome.

If you would read Lord of the Night we have access to awesome fluff that is rarely topped by other legions. We where one of the few legions that was actually betrayed by the Emperor rather than just launch into rebellion.

In the Night Lords it is not only your privilege but also your duty to mess with the opponent’s mind. We have other races crap themselves in terror at the thought of being brutally murdered in the dark.

We are the masters of stealth and terror tactics. When Horus was dead and the other legions fleeing like pansies to the Eye we where killing Imperial dogs in the Eastern Fringe.

And if so someone claims Curze sucked because he died, well he chose to die to prove a point, winning a victory over the corpse-god that no other primarch had, Not even Horus himself.

If you are a Night Lord you are free to use every dirty trick in the book to win, in fact it’s encouraged. Feel free to use any of the chaos powers for temporal power and wealth for your own gain.

The Night Lords are one of the few legions that do not worship the chaos gods. Their faith is weak, as was the faith in the Corpse God. All a true Night Lord needs is fear, a weapon more deadly then a bolter or chainsword.

Hopefully that bump in the night is you stalking your prey through the darkness, or that cut-off scream is the last sound your victims make. Men have heart attacks at the merest whisper of the Night Lords. I’ll see you in the Night.

Thousand Sons
Cult legion under the Chaos god Tzeentch, god of Sorcery and Change. Led by powerful Sorcerers the rank and file Rubric troops are animated suits of armor containing the souls of the original marines. Color Scheme is blue and yellow

Word Bearers
Worshippers of Chaos in all its forms. Notable for being the only legion to still have Chaplains in their ranks. Extremely faithful and devoted. Have a strong rivalry with the Ultramarines Space Marine Chapter. Color Scheme is dark red and silver

World Eaters
Cult legion under the Chaos god Khorne, god of War and Slaughter. Original source of the partially lobotomized Beserkers who are fanatical warriors who seek only to kill in their god’s name. Color scheme is red and bronze

So now many of you guys are out of anger management and wondering which of the legions to play. Then you realize there is only one possible choice for you to take. The World Eaters.

So why play World Eaters? Simple, they are badass incarnate. They kill anything in close combat, well almost anything, charging a Carnifex with some berzerkers aren’t too smart but going at some gaunts with some enraged genetically engineered killing machines is always fun.

You are one of the original legions of the Great Crusade; you have awesome and tragic fluff behind you. If you like Gladiator then this is for your. Angron was one of the most badass primarchs out there.

The World Eaters were considered terror troops in the Heresy; unlike the Night Lords it was completely unintended. Everyone was scared of having them and their entire planetary population massacred.

Angron was a beast in combat, read any of the Heresy novels and you will understand what I am talking about. Jumping from a thunderhawk in midair to kill his own marines is pure unadulterated badass.

And guess who was the first legion to breach the Emperor’s palace? The World Eaters. They took out the fortification of the Imperial Fists almost single-handedly and butchered all the way short of the Emperor’s throne room before Horus got himself killed.

Now on another note Khârn, you should play World Eaters just because of this guy. He’s like the chaos version of commissar, only infinitely more badass. In fact he is probably the most badass World Eater after Angron himself.

As World Eaters you are so good in close combat that you have no need of those pansy magic that all the Thousand Sons are talking about. After all why turn your opponent into a chicken if you can bury a chainaxe into them instead?

Even being defeat is a victory for you, after all Khorne cares not where the blood flows, only that it flows.

Red Corsairs
While not an original Traitor legion, they are the most famous Renegade Chapter. Led by the half-bionic Huron, they act as pirates and raiders. Color Scheme is red, black and gold.

Building the Army that you want to play

The very first thing I'm going to tell you is this:

This is your army and you are going to be the one paying for it, painting it and playing it, so you might as well be enjoying it.

All the advice in the world about which unit is better or what idea is better means nothing if you don't like the unit or want to build a different army. So first thing first, play with the models you want, how you want.

That being said, there are some tips and tricks that can make you a better player. The most basic thing is the army itself.
Even before we start talking about who or what is in your army, you need to decide what kind of army you want to play.

What type of army to build towards is a question alot of people already know the answer to. They love the idea of hordes of crazed power armored guys with chainswords slaughtering their foes or giant tanks blasting away with big nasty guns. This will give you a style of play that you will want to build towards. In addition maybe the individual loves the look of a certain model or the fluff behind a particular character, this is also something you could build an army around.
You will often have much more fun with an army if you set up a theme and have it guide you, rather than merely cherry picking the most overpowered options or units.

Now assuming you have decided on a proper theme, its time to think about the best way to translate that theme onto the table top.

In general there are 3 major types of armies, those are:
1) Assault-based armies
2) Shooting-based armies
3) Balanced armies

Furthermore, there is an additional element you have to think about and that is Mobility.

Assault armies are going to try to win through meeting the enemy and pounding in his/her face until they stop moving. This can only be accomplished at very close ranges. On the other hand, Shooting armies attempt to blast the opponent out of the water. They also have the ability to fire at long, medium or short ranges, depending on how they're equipped.
Balanced armies tend to have shooting elements and assaulting elements.

Because of the nature of 4th edition and the importance of objectives for winning games, all armies need some elements of Mobility in their army to grab and contest those objectives.
Unless you have a theme that says otherwise, you'll find the most success working with a balanced force. Balanced armies tend to have atleast 1 unit who can handle any given situation and so they're normally more flexible and adaptable than armies based on just assault or shooting. This can be very important if you go to a tournament and will fight a wide variety of armies.

Now I'd like to give some general "themes" or "observations" that are relevant now and take into consideration the rumored changes in the upcoming 5th Edition.

1) TROOPS! These guys are better and even more important. At the moment, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the basic CSM is the best Troop choice in the game. Thanks to being upgraded with Bolters/Bolt Pistols/Chainswords and Krak/Frag Grenades not to mention superior Leadership to loyalist marines, you have a unit that can effectively handle most anything you'll come up against. You have the chance to kill anything that’s not T8 or AV13 with just your stock gear (albeit not a very good chance for some of those things).
Currently, troops are also your best bet to hold objectives, since you can field them in large enough squads to resist being cut down to below half strength. In the upcoming 5th Edition (due out the middle/end of "08 say the rumors) Troop choices will be the ONLY scoring units available.
The take home message from all of this is simple: You want alot of bodies on the table and you want them from your Troop FOC slot.

2) Vehicles, the typical theory here is "all or nothing". The idea is that you either want to de-value/minimize the opponent's Anti-Tank weapons by giving them no viable targets OR overwhelm their AT weapons.
Say your opponent has 2 Lascannons in their army
Now you could use:
A) 0 tanks
2 tanks
C) 4 tanks

For simplicity's sake, we'll say all the tanks are the same, naturally having different AV's can complicate it but the idea is the same.


A) They have to fire their 2 expensive Lascannons at your basic infantry or some other similar unit. Out in the open 1 Lascannon will kill a marine about 55% of the time, so basically 2 Lascannons = 1 dead marine a turn = waste of an expensive weapon
They can either target both Lascannons onto 1 tank and probably kill it, then repeat the next turn so you have a fairly good chance of losing both tanks by turn 2 or 3. Or fire 1 lascannon at each target, but again both tanks are likely to be dead in 1-3 turns
C) Regardless of if they fire both Lascannons at 1 target or split them up, you still have 2-3 tanks which are not receiving any fire. If you focus on eliminating those Lascannons, you might keep the rest of your armor safe for the remainder of the game.

3) HQs, we have some AWESOME choices, however it’s really easy to start spending alot of points in just a few models. I see alot of armies using a Daemon Prince and a Winged Sorcerer or Lord all decked out. In a 1500 Point army, those 2 units can run you upwards of 20% of your whole army! It’s my personal belief that I like to keep my HQs to less than 10% of my army whenever possible. Naturally you can't do this for a 1K game since the cheapest HQ starts out at 9% of that already, but the point is to try and remember that the more you spend on that fancy leader, the less you have to buy Troops and its Troops, not leaders who win battles (see point 1)

4)Playstyle, for the most part, Chaos excels as a Medium-Short range army. Similar to Space Wolves or Sisters of Battle, we are at our strongest between 24" and charge range from the enemy. To this idea, we typically don't want to put static Heavy weapons into our Troop squads. It’s better to give them Special weapons instead. Use your other FOC slots to provide you with the Long Range Firepower you need, Obliterators are golden for this, but so are Defilers and Predators and Havocks. Or get your support through Short Range but Fast/Mobile units like Raptors/Bikes/Deepstriking Terminators. Just remember Chaos normally likes to get up close and personal (but that doesn't have to mean assault -oriented)

The last thing I wanted to do to help all those Aspiring Champions out there is present 3 sample army lists.
They are all built to 1000 points and each will be geared towards one of the 3 major playstyles (shooting, assault, balanced). They will all also reflect the ideas I have mentioned above (cheaper HQs, lots of Troops etc).
Now it’s important to note something and I want this to be very clear.

These are not super powerful broken lists of doom

These are examples of how to build a decent list that will allow you to learn about the game, develop your own playstyle and still have a fair chance of winning. With that said, here we go!

Example Armies

1000 Point Assault Army

HQ: 125 Points
Chaos Lord, Power Weapon, Jump Pack

TROOP: 553
8 Khorne Beserkers, Skull Champion, Power Weapon,Meltabomb
Rhino, Extra Armor
10 Chaos Space Marines, Icon of Khorne, 2 Meltaguns, Champion, Power Fist
Rhino, Extra Armor

FAST: 170 Points
8 Raptors, 2 Flamers

HEAVY: 150 Points
2 Obliterators

Total: 998 Points
Notes:What you have here is a force that is geared to move fast towards the enemy. The Lord will go with the Raptors squad and cut through light infantry supported by a pair of Flamers. The speed of the Raptors should allow you to get good placement for those Templates and intercept scary assault units like Harlequins. The Beserkers squad is there to hunt heavier infantry like Loyalist Marines or Necron. The Power Weapon combined with the sheer number of attacks will chew through most normal units. The Khorne-marked CSMs are primarily there to hunt enemy armor or MCs. Dual Meltaguns with a Power Fist will put the fear into even a Land Raider or Hive Tyrant and the large squad combined with the extra attacks from the Icon will mean you should win almost any assault. Lastly, even in an assault army its good to have some ranged support. A pair of Obliterators will give you the weapons you need to hurt fast moving Skimmers that might stay out of range of your Melta squad.

1000 Point Shooting Army

HQ: 110 Points
Chaos Sorcerer, Doom Bolt

ELITE: 133 Points
6 Chosen, 5 Meltaguns

TROOP: 450 Points
5 Chaos Space Marines, 1 Plasmagun
5 Chaos Space Marines, 1 Plasmagun
5 Chaos Space Marines, 1 Plasmagun
5 Chaos Space Marines, 1 Plasmagun
5 Chaos Space Marines, 1 Plasmagun

HEAVY: 300 Points
6 Havocks, 3 Missile Launchers
6 Havocks, 3 Autocannons

Total: 993 Points
Notes: As you see, we have an all infantry army, we also have many many Scoring Units which is a nice thing. The small 5 man Plasma Gun squads might look weak and vunerable, but they also present 5 distinct targets for the enemy in addition to being a total of 25 marines. The PlasmaGun matches the Bolter perfectly, allowing you to stand still and shoot to 24" or move forward and get into Rapid Fire range. The 2 Havock squads provide the long range covering fire you'll need to weaken the enemy at range. Their most important targets should be Transports holding dedicated Assault squads or MCs, both of which will be tough to kill in Assault since we don't have Power Fists. The Chosen squad will hang back with the Sorcerer and focus on Horde units or Assault troops. While not as good as a Power Fist, a Force Weapon will give you something to use against MCs. Lastly, all CSMs come standard with 2 Close Combat Weapons, so we get 2 attacks normally, which is the same as a Loyalist Assault Marine.

1000 Point Balanced Army

HQ: 130 Points
Chaos Sorcerer, Wind of Chaos

ELITE: 160 Points
5 Terminators, Power Fist

TROOPS: 465 Points
10 Chaos Space Marines, 2 Plasmagun, Icon of Chaos Glory
Rhino, Extra Armor
9 Chaos Space Marines, Champion, Power Fist
Rhino, Extra Armor

HEAVY: 245 Points
Predator, Autocannon, Heavy Bolter Sponson
Vindicator, Daemonic Possession

Total: 1000 Points
Notes: Unlike the previous list, this is an example of a Mechanized force. On the table we'll have 4 pieces of armor, 2 Transports and 2 Tanks. The opponent now gets to decide whether or not to kill the 2 Tanks blasting away at his army OR the pair of Transports rolling close with their deadly cargo. The 1st CSM squad is made to disembark and Rapid Fire into the face of the enemy. 4 Plasma shots and 16 Bolter rounds will ruin most people's day. The 2nd squad is an Assault escort for the Sorcerer. The Power Fist as well as the Force Weapon. will keep them safe from MCs and scare other HQ units, and when you jump out of the Rhino, Wind of Chaos will help even the odds since it can and will hurt anything regardless of Toughness or Cover. The Terminators are there as a mobile support unit. Once you have closed with the enemy, bring them in using the Icon. Rapid Fire that turn then charge the next. In many ways, its a combination of the 2 CSM squads.

One last comment. In each of the above lists, I have added some mobile elements. The Assault army and Balanced armies are faster thanks to Rhinos and Jump Infantry BUT the Shooting army has the advantage of the most bodies on the table, not to mention that the majority of the army can still move 6" and fire something.

Well there you go! I really hope that this serves as a useful guide to start building your own Chaos Warband.
Now get out there and slaughter for the Dark Gods!


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I just want to say thanks for this article as a new CSM player it is very helpful and i will use it as my starting point. :woot:

Trevak Dal

Trevak Dal


  • 4,033 posts
  • Location:Tennessee
  • Faction: Black Legion (Night Blades)
Perhaps given the new Codex, this should be (at least the 1000 point sample armies) re-written?

Using these base lists as a template within the new book here's what I got based off of new options, basically trying to recreate/update these lists but not really trying to innovate as I believe these are "Learning Lists" not going for min-maxing and such as Nihm stated:

Assault Army:

HQ: 130 points

Chaos Lord: Power Weapon, Jump Pack, Aura of Dark Glory (5++ invuln) Mark of Khorne Veterans of the Long War

Troops: 523 points

8 Khorne Beserkers SC (Power weapon, Meltabombs) Veterans of the Long War, Rhino; Extra Armor

10 Chaos Space Marines AC (Powerfist) 2x Melta Guns, Veterans of the Long War, 9x Extra CCWs, Mark of Khorne, Rhino; Extra Armor

Fast: 188 points

8 raptors AC (-) 2x Flamers, Veterans of the Long War, Mark of Khorne

Heavy: 152

2 Obliterators Mark of Nurgle

Total: 993 points.


Shooting Army

HQ: 90 points

Chaos Sorcerer: Mark of Slanesh (Primaris Power chosen-most similar to Doombolt) Aura of Dark Glory

Troops: 540 points

5 CSMs AC (-) Plasma Gun Bolters/Boltpistols (B/BP)x 3.

5 CSMs AC (-) Plasma Gun Bolters/Boltpistols (B/BP)x 3.

5 CSMs AC (-) Plasma Gun Bolters/Boltpistols (B/BP)x 3.

5 CSMs AC (-) Plasma Gun Bolters/Boltpistols (B/BP)x 3.

5 CSMs AC (-) Plasma Gun Bolters/Boltpistols (B/BP)x 3.

5 CSMs AC (-) Plasma Gun Bolters/Boltpistols (B/BP)x 3.

Heavy Support: 369 points.

6 Havoks AC (-) 3 Autocannons

6 Havoks AC (-) 3 Autocannons

6 Havoks AC (-) 3 Plasma Guns

999 points total

(The Chosen were subbed out, since they have lost Infiltrate, and are quite expensive)


Balanced Army

HQ: 115

Sorcerer Sigil of Corruption (4++ invulnerable save) Burning Brand of Skallathrax Chaos Artifact (taken to best represent Wind of Chaos-though not as good admittedly against toughness 5+ and vehicles as WoC, but you get it and a random spell from the BGB)

Elite: 174 points

5 terminators AC () 1 Powerfist, Heavy Flamer

Troops: 489 points

10 Chaos Space Marines AC (-) 2x Plasma Guns, Rhino, Extra Armor and Havok Launcher

9 Chaos Space Marines AC (Powerfist) 1x flamer, Extra CCW x8, Veterans of the Long War, Rhino, Extra Armor and Havok Launcher

Heavy: 230

Predator Autocannon HB Sponsons

Vindicator Daemonic Possession

999 points.

Edited by Trevak Dal, 06 October 2012 - 12:25 AM.

"Our Turn" - Centurion Khârn.


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