Unit Focus: Chaos Space Marines Monsters and Vehicles (2024)

Unit Focus: Chaos Space Marines Monsters and Vehicles (1)

In this article series we’re taking a look at the vehicle options available to each faction, looking at what they can do on the table, and talking about when and how to field them. You can find our Competitive Faction Focus article onthe World Eaters here.

The Chaos Space Marines are blessed for monster and vehicle options, owing to anincrediblypowerful duo of rules with Dark Pacts and the Marks of Chaos from the Slaves to Darkness Detachment. Even before you get to the mark-specific stratagems – all of which are very good – the ability to proc additional hits or lethal hits on 5s or re-roll 1s to hit makes their vehicle options substantially better than those in the Death Guard, Thousand Sons, and World Eaters – and at no additional cost.

As a result, there really aren’t anybadoptions in this list. They’re all essentially playable, but there are a few standouts which are just so good the rest don’t see much play. The Forgefiend in particular dominates among this list, but there’s a solid second tier of options you can comfortably still take in fringe competitive lists.

So join us as we go through the Chaos Space Marine monster and vehicle units, talk about what they can do, and how to use them.

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Unit Focus: Chaos Space Marines Monsters and Vehicles (2)

Chaos Land Raider

The Chaos Land Raider is the toughest transport option available to Chaos Space Marines, and unlike its counterparts in Death Guard, Thousand Sons, and World Eaters, it’s pretty formidable in the faction and is a borderline unit which can play a part in competitive lists. Land Raiders come with a pretty tough chassis – T12, 16W, 2+ save – move 10″ and can carry either 12 marines or 6 terminators/possessed, plus they have the Assault Ramp rule so units can charge the turn they disembark.

In addition to being pretty tough transports, Land Raiders come with some solid firepower: two Shoulshatter Lascannons, plus a twin-linked heavy bolter, and you can tack on a combi-weapon and a havoc launcher. Normally that’s just kind of mid but you’re going to give your Land Raider the Mark of Nurgle in order to get access to Dark Obscuration and that means you’ll also be able to do a Dark Pact to get exploding hits on 5+ when you shoot. This makes the tank’s lascannons much more reliable when you can frequently land four hits (with big upside), and can be particularly nasty if you combine it with Abaddon’s re-roll hits aura.

Chaos Land Raiders don’t show up often but they’re not bad and if you want to run one to carry a unit of Terminators or even Chosen that’s just good enough to be playable at a competitive level. Give it the mark of Nurgle to protect it from being destroyed on the first turn and proc extra hits. Use it to run a unit close for a protected charge, and then play aggressively with it after it’s loosed its cargo – Land Raiders have a whopping OC 5 and make for very solid objective holders in the middle of the table since they’re tough enough to shrug off most small melee attackers.

Unit Focus: Chaos Space Marines Monsters and Vehicles (3)

Chaos Predators

Chaos Predators come in two varieties – theAnnihilatorcomes with a S14 twin-linked lascannon sponson and the ability to re-roll damage rolls of 1 against vehicles and monsters, while theDestructorcomes with a 4-shot, Rapid Fire 2 S9 autocannon which improves to AP-2 when firing at Infantry targets. Both are reasonably mobile lightweight tank options which can push around the edges of the table and pick off key targets at range, and both benefit tremendously from being able to get extra hits from Nurgle Dark Pacts.

Of these, the Annihilator is the more useful, as Chaos Space Marine armies don’t really need the anti-infantry firepower the Destructor brings; they have tons of combi-weapons and Forgefiends do the same thing only much better. For the Annihilator the bigger problem is that while its four lascannon shots are good, they’re competing with the firepower you get from Obliterators, Forgefiends, and even Vindicators. Their biggest advantage is having 48″ range but on denser tables with shorter sightlines that becomes much less relevant.

As with many of these options, you can absolutely bring Predators in a list and compete, particularly if you’re going to be playing in vehicle-heavy environments with lots of open space. They’ve fallen out of vogue after the change to the rules for TOWERING and tend to lose out in list construction to other options.

Unit Focus: Chaos Space Marines Monsters and Vehicles (4)

Chaos Rhino

Chaos Rhinos of all stripes are great, and the Chaos Space Marines variant is no exception. There’sjustenough D2 indirect firepower in the game between Whirlwinds, Night Spinners, Plagueburst Crawlers, and Exorcists that you need a way to protect your infantry, and Rhinos fit that bill wonderfully. They’re fast (12″ move), sturdy (T9, 10W, 3+ save), and can carry up to 12 marines (or cultists/accursed cultists, if you’re so inclined), or as is often the case, two units of five Chosen, each with a Chaos Lord. In Chaos Space Marines they’re particularly solid as they’re able to take the Mark of Nurgle and use Dark Obscurationto avoid taking any shooting the first time they move into the open. All this and OC 2 for only 75 points.

Because current meta lists tend to run a lot of marine bodies, especially Chosen, Chaos Rhinos show up often in competitive lists. Mani Cheema’s World Championship list ran three, and stuffed two units into each, giving him a ton of tactical flexibility. On the table Rhinos can serve as both transports to ferry key units into shooting or melee positions, but they also work well as murder piñatas, holding units inside until they’re destroyed in the Shooting phase, only to dump out a larger number of models with higher OC.

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While your Rhinos’ primary function is protecting the fragile troops inside, they have plenty of purpose after the drop-off. Each one can add a combi-weapon and Havoc launcher to its arsenal – and should – and has OC 2. They’re great for sitting on objectives and blocking an opponent’s Movement. Put them right in front of enemy units, just out of charge range, and force opponents to move around them. Use them to charge enemy vehicles that would rather shoot at other targets. Throw out a tank shock or two. Be aggressive and creative and treat them as useful but expendable assets after they’ve completed their primary function.

Swiftblade:Since you’re almost certainly going to take Mark of Nurgle on any Rhino in your list, its hard to overstate how good the Rhino is for objective control, particularly when the objectives are on your side of the battlefield.Dark Obscuration forces your opponent to be aggressive to deal with the Rhino babysitting an objective, and the Rhino’s sturdiness means an opponent can’t just commit garbage-tier shooting to deal with it. If they want to stop you from scoring primary, they will need to get very close to the Rhino and attack with some good firepower, which can leave an opponent over-extended and primed to get cleaned up by Chaos Marine nastiness. Or they just have to let you score points, which is also cool.

Oh, and don’t forget the Rhino heals 1 wound in your command phase every turn. It’s a cute ability, but the healing adds up if the damage is dealt early.

Unit Focus: Chaos Space Marines Monsters and Vehicles (5)

Chaos Vindicator

Although slower than most other tank options (9″ Movement), the Vindicator comes with a tougher body (T11, 2+ save, 11W) and packs one hell of a wallop with its demolisher cannon – D6+3 Blast shots hitting at S14, AP-3, D6 damage at 24″ range. On top of that, the Vindicator comes with theSiege Shieldability, which lets it ignore the penalty for units in Engagement Range – it can both shoot its Demolisher cannon at them (as long as there are no friendly units within Engagement range of that same enemy unit) and it ignores the penalty to hit meaning it’s really difficult to take the Vindicator off its game.

The Vindicator gives you a compact but tough little midtable tank that can be easy to hide until you need it and difficult to stop once it’s going. They work best with the Mark of Nurgle for the extra shots but also do fine with re-rolls. That said at 190 points they’re always going to be competing with other top options.

Unit Focus: Chaos Space Marines Monsters and Vehicles (6)

Defiler

The Chaos Space Marines have the best possible version of the Defiler thanks to Dark Pacts and Slaves to Darkness and it’s still a pretty mid unit. The problem is the same here as every other place you can take a Defiler: They cost too much, because you have to pay for both mediocre melee andmediocre shooting, and that drives the cost of this unit too high. The Defiler’s cannon lacks the AP it needs to be an effective gun (it’s AP-1), and in melee only having 5 claw attacks makes it difficult for the unit to do anything but finish off a wounded vehicle.

That said, they aren’t so terrible you couldn’t run one to some effect. I’d treat it as a shooting unit – give it the mark of Nurgle and the twin Lascannons so you can maximize its ranged damage output, then play aggressively with it and use it to charge and finish off wounded units. With only 8″ of Movement it’s not super fast for a Vehicle and if you want to go melee-first with it you can put the Mark of Slaanesh on it instead and go for extra melee hits and Advance and Charge but that’s really more something I’d do as a fun exercise than something I’d put in a serious list.

Unit Focus: Chaos Space Marines Monsters and Vehicles (7)

Forgefiend

The current rock star of the Chaos Space Marines armory is a robot dinosaur beast with guns for arms and also a gun for a face. The Forgefiend is a relatively slow (8″) mid-size vehicle (T10, 12W, 3+/5++ save) which comes with three guns – an Ectoplasma Cannon in its mouth and your choice of two more Ectoplasma cannons (36″ D3 Blast, S10 AP-3 3 damage) or two Hades autocannons (36″ 6 shots, S8 Ap-1 2 damage). You can also theoretically give it a mouth attack instead of a mouth gun but you will never do this. The Ectoplasma Cannons are notably better than the Autocannon thanks to improved damage and AP despite having fewer shots (if the autocannons had 8 shots it might be closer, but right now against big infantry units Blast makes up for the difference).

What makes the Forgefiend a superstar in Chaos Space Marines is its unique faction ability,Daemonic Ordnance –each time this model shoots you can use this ability. If it does, until the end of the phase its ranged weapons gain DEVASTATING WOUNDS and HAZARDOUS. This is an easy trade-off to make and incredibly good. Turning Ectoplasma shots into unsavable 3 damage bombs is very good and fantastic for clearing out Terminators and other heavy infantry. With the Mark of Nurgle you up your odds of getting more hits off – usually 2-3 per volley, at least – and with the Mark of Chaos Undivided you can use full rerolls from Profane Zeal to fish for Devastating Wounds. Both are great.

Almost every CSM list wants at least one Forgefiend and many run two. Your first one is usually Nurgle marked to take advantage of Dark Obscuration, while if you run a second it’ll be running Chaos Undivided for the potential re-rolls. Forgefiends are also the only good reason to take a Warpsmith in your army. This isn’t a particularly competitive option, but you can do worse than having a BS 2+ Forgefiend and the ability to heal from your self-inflicted damage. They’re incredible damage dealers. Keep yours safe until it’s time to lash out and use its solid range (36″) to take out targets from a safe distance. Sometimes you’re just going to blow up from your own guns and/or failing pacts and so weigh your options carefully when firing on full power with the Forgefiend.

Unit Focus: Chaos Space Marines Monsters and Vehicles (8)

Helbrute

The brave little dreadnought that can’t is suprisingly bad in the Chaos Space Marines list, despite Dark Pacts. That’s because unlike most other things in this list, it has neither enough shooting nor enough melee attacks to even make good use of Dark Pacts. The Helbrute is a relatively slow (6″ movement) small vehicle (T9, 8W, 3+ save) that comes with a variety of ranged and melee options, most of them just kinda mediocre. Helbrutes come with a special ability,Dark Ascension,an aura which gives friendly units within 6″ doing Dark Pacts both effects – Sustained Hits and Lethal Hits – which is a nice bonus but just isn’t a strong enough buff to make them worthwhile.

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Helbrutes might potentially have some play if they were cheaper but at 140 points they don’t do enough for their cost. If you are going to take one consider going full melee with the Mark of Slaanesh plus Scourge and either fist or Hammer. Or alternatively go Nurgle with the twin lascannon and Thunder Hammer.

Unit Focus: Chaos Space Marines Monsters and Vehicles (9)

Heldrake

Once a proud mainstay of every Chaos Space Marines army, the Heldrake has gotten progressively worse since 8th edition, leading to this current lackluster iteration. Heldrakes are AIRCRAFT which come with a 20″ Movement characteristic, T9, 12W and a 3+/5++ save. The Heldrake comes with the Airborne Predator rule, giving it +1 to Hit against units that can FLY. That’s all OK, but when we start looking at their weapons and attacks things quickly get weird.

On the Ranged side Heldrakes come with your choice of the Baleflamer, a 12″ S6 AP-1 2 damage Torrent weapon which does D6+3 shots and has Ignores Cover, and the Hades Autocannon, which does 6 shots at S8, AP-1, 2 damage. The Baleflamer is the more attractive of the two options but no benefit you get from Dark Pacts applies to it, nor does the Airborne Predator ability, so you’re basically just ignoring a bunch of benefits. In Melee, the Hekdrake gets 5 claw attacks, which hit at S7 AP-1 2 damage with Devastating Wounds and Anti-Fly 2+. This is the more enticing option, and reason enough to pick Slaanesh for the Heldrake. Note that Khorne does little for you as your Lethal hits will mean bypassing the wound roll and opportunity for more devastating wounds.

All of this poor design comes with a 205-point price tag, making the Heldrake a pretty sad unit to field, all things considered. If you’re taking one I’d recommend going baleflamer + mark of Slaanesh or doing Autocannon + Nurgle. If you’re lucky you may even kill an Inceptor or two.

Unit Focus: Chaos Space Marines Monsters and Vehicles (10)

Heretic Astartes Daemon Princes

Daemon Princes come in two flavors: On foot and with Wings. They’re notably different in a few important ways:

  • The foot variant is slower (8″ Movement) but tougher (T10) and comes with theDark Blessing Aura,which gives friendly Infantry within 6″ the benefit of Cover against ranged attacks, andAscended Daemon,which gives him the ability re-roll one hit roll and one wound roll every time he shoots or fights.
  • The winged variant is faster (12″ Movement) and can FLY but is more fragile (T9) and comesDaemonic Destruction,which can do mortal wounds to a single enemy unit the DP charges (roll a D6 for each remaining wound on the Winged Daemon Prince and every 4+ is 1 mortal, to a max of 6), andFlying Horror,which forces one enemy unit it moved (normal or advance) over in the Movement phase to take a battle-shock test.

On top of this, the Daemon Prince must pick a mark (not Undivided), and gets a benefit for the Mark it chooses. For Khorne you get +2 to the Strength of the model’s Helforged weapons, Nurgle gives +1 Toughness, Tzeentch gives +3 Attacks on the Infernal Cannon, and Slaanesh gives him +2″ Movement. Daemon Princes hit at S8 on their big attacks and S6 on their sweeps so Khorne isn’t a bad pick but ultimately +2″ Movement and the ability to Advance and Charge with theUnnatural SwiftnessStratagem, as well as access to the Intoxicating Elixir enhancement for Feel No Pain, makes Slaanesh too good to pass up.

Normally the foot Daemon Prince is much better than the winged version but for Chaos Space Marines the ability to do mortal wounds on the charge, the ability to Advance and Charge, and going to 14″ movement makes the Winged Daemon Price a very good option to consider. Give your DP the Mark of Slaanesh and you can also give them the Intoxicating Elixir Enhancement to ensure they keep more of their wounds (that 5+ FNP is statistically similar to having 50% more wounds).

Daemon Princes aren’t common in CSM armies, but there’s reason enough to bring one occasionally.

Khorne Lord of Skulls

The only TITANIC unit in the book, the Lord of Skulls is in most respects a Chaos Knight, but with slower movement and using the rules for the Heretic Astartes faction. It comes with a very nasty axe which can cleave through most vehicles in one go with its 8-damage profile, and its guns range between “devastating to vehicles” and “devastating to heavy infantry and light vehicles.” For this, you pay roughly the same as a knight – 480 points – but you have the ability to benefit from abilities like the Warpsmith’s +1 to hit or Abaddon’s re-rolls coming from other units in the faction.

The big downside to the Lord of Skulls is that it’s locked to the KHORNE keyword, and so despite having solid ranged attacks and melee attacks can’t benefit from getting Sustained hits on 5+ or re-rolls through the mark of Chaos Undivided and the Profane Zeal Stratagem. Add those in and this guy might have been over the top, but that also may not have been a good thing for the game. The Lord of Skulls is a fun novelty at the moment who pairs well with Abaddon and the Warpsmith.

Unit Focus: Chaos Space Marines Monsters and Vehicles (11)

Lord Discordant on Helstalker

How the mighty have fallen. Once a mainstay of lists in 8th and even 9th edition, the Lord Discordant dropped from being a three-of to a one-of to an afterthought. In 10th edition the Lord Discordant has gotten a bit tougher (T10, 10W), but a bit slower (10″ Movement). Comes with your choice of a Helstalker Autocannon (3 shots, S9 AP-1, 3 damage) or Baleflamer (D6+3 shots, S6 AP-1, 2 damage, Torrent/Ignores Cover). Those are OK; I’d take the Baleflamer.

What previously made the Lord Discordant great was his melee output and sadly, that’s just not good this time around. The Lord Discordant gets four attacks with his glaive, a S6 AP-2 2 damage LANCE weapon, plus four Bladed limb extra attacks (S6 AP-1, 2 damage), and one from the Techno-Virus injector (S3 AP-3 2 damage, Anti-vehicle 2+) if you don’t take the Magma Cutter (a 6″ meltagun). This just isn’t enough output to do a ton of damage to the kinds of vehicle targets the Lord Discordant is ostensibly supposed to be taking on, and it’s not amazing for taking out marines, either.

The Lord Discordant also comes with two abilities:Corrupt Machine Spiritslets you once per turn curse a visible enemy vehicle within 12″ at the start of your opponent’s Shooting phase. They take a Leadership test and if they fail they can’t shoot this phase. If they pass they get -1 to hit for the rest of the phase. This isn’t bad, but it only affects shooting and passing a Leadership test is easy enough that you can’t depend on this ability or plan around it unless you’re bringing three Disco-Lords and picking on the same unit over and over. The other ability is Spirit Thief,which at the start of your own Shooting phase lets you pick an enemy vehicle within 12″ and for the rest of the phase, your friendly models can re-roll 1s to wound against that target. This is a good ability and helpful for getting more out of your Nurgle-marked Forgefiends and Obliterators, but being restricted to vehicles really limits its value. Both of these abilities in fact are just dead against some armies is really not great.

At 190 points this guy is just way too expensive for what he does. If you’re taking a Lord Discordant I recommend running him with the Baleflamer and Mark of Slaanesh. He’s not very good but if you’re up against knights he can punch above his weight, though I wouldn’t go charging them with him except to finish them off. The extra movement and hits make him much more workable in melee.

Maulerfiend

The melee version of the Forgefiend is faster (10″ Movement), and moderately tough (T10, 12W, 3+/5++ save), comes with two fists (6A, S14 AP-2 D6+1 damage) and your choice of either Lasher Tendrils (6 extra attacks at S7 AP-1 1 damage) or Magma Cutters (A 6″ 2-shot Meltagun). The Maulerfiend comes with theSiege Crawlerability, which lets you re-roll Advance and Charge rolls for it and ignore modifiers to its movement and advance/charge rolls (though this won’t stop you from being prevented from Advancing by a Night Spinner).

The Maulerfiend is OK but doesn’t do anything you really need – you’ve got plenty of melee punch from other units and you can deal with enemy vehicles at range. If you’re bringing one give it the Mark of Slaanesh.

Unit Focus: Chaos Space Marines Monsters and Vehicles (12)

Vashtorr the Arkifane

Poor Vashtorr. The would-be fifth chaos god of unimpeded ideation and unchecked progress has the profile of a Daemon Prince and comes with a heavy flamer (his claw, which has no melee profile), an AP-1 thunder hammer with Anti-vehicle 4+ (6 attacks on the strike and it can sweep for 14 at S7 AP0, 1 damage), and two abilities.Unholy Mechanismsis an aura that gives friendly Daemon Vehicle units within 6″ +1 to the strength of their weapons, andAgonise Machine Spiritslets you pick a visible enemy unit within 18″ at the end of the Movement phase – that unit halves its Move characteristic and gets -1 Attacks in melee until your next Movement phase. These are just OK. +1 Strength is only situationally useful now that toughness values go higher and it’s harder to cross a threshold with weapon strength.

Most notably, while Vashtorr can do Dark Pacts, he doesn’t have any marks and so never benefits from any of the Slaves to Darkness bonus abilities nor the added Stratagems, making him markedly worse than your average Daemon Prince in most respects. This goober might one day have a reason to recommend him in another Detachment but for now he’s just a unit you’d take for fun or as part of a challenge.

Unit Focus: Chaos Space Marines Monsters and Vehicles (13)

Venomcrawler

The most recent addition to the Chaos Space Marines armory and something only the undivided traitor legions get, the Venomcrawler is a fast (12″ Movement), light daemon vehicle (T9, 9W, 3+/5++ save) which combines mid-level shooting and melee into a relatively cheap package at 120 points. A Venomcrawler comes with two excruciator cannons (6 shots, S6 AP-1, 2 damage), giving it some OK output, and 6 attacks in melee with the same profile. ItsSoul Eaterability gives it +1 to the Attacks characteristics of its weapons at the end of each phase in which it killed an enemy unit. That’s pretty neat, and getting 14+ shots per turn on the Excruciator cannons can be pretty great.

At 120 points it’s difficult to expect much from the Venomcrawler. They’re OK but not good enough at anything to really be worth taking over specialists or other, better all-rounders. Having AP-1 on their attacks is really what’s holding them back.

Final Thoughts

The Chaos Space Marines have a ton of monster and vehicle options, and most of them are at least playable if not competitive, thanks in large part to how transformatively good the rules for Dark Pacts and Marks of Chaos are in the Slaves to Darkness Detachment. You can build lists that take a wide mix of these units and still do well, though current top lists tend to focus on taking 1-2 Forgefiends and a load of Rhinos for carrying troops around.

Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at contact@goonhammer.com.

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Unit Focus: Chaos Space Marines Monsters and Vehicles (2024)
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