Monday, January 7, 2013

Calypso2ts - CSM Allies - Troops

For some reason it appears that Imperial Guard are the allies of choice for just about anyone who can take them.  While I like the idea of traitor Guardsmen, there is something indescribably compelling about bringing along a detachment of Chaos Space Marines to the battle to guide the Daemonic infestation.

I am going to lay the groundwork to work through the entire CSM codex in this post and I will start with the base requirements for an ally - HQ and Troop selections (I will only discuss troops today and move to HQ next).  In selecting these units there are two criteria for allies I am going to discuss.  First, allies need to bring something to an army that it cannot do well on its own.  Second, allies need to complement the playstyle of the base army.

In my experience the major weaknesses in the Daemons codex includes:

1 - Expensive troops that must be left in reserve,
2 - Poor ability to destroy vehicles in the shooting phase,
3 - No psykers to act as force multipliers,
4 - Force fragmentation due to required reserves
5 - Difficult to take advantage of fortifications,
6 - Difficulty dealing with flyers.

Although Daemons have benefited significantly from the rule changes between 5th and 6th edition in many ways, three of the six weaknesses enumerated directly relate to their difficulty interacting with the new 6th edition rules.  Luckily, as the first codex of 6th edition Chaos Space Marines (CSM), they were designed to some extent with these rules in mind.  They are also the only Battle Brothers for Daemons - which is a bit of a moot point compared to the other available allies because they cannot join/be joined by Daemon units.  Keeping these weaknesses in mind, and dealing with the most significant first, the CSM troops section offers some great opportunities to resolve a few of these shortcomings.

There are really two options for an Allied CSM contingent with troops - remember the cult marines can only be unlocked with a primary detachment including the appropriately marked Lord/Sorcerer - Chaos Space Marines and Cultists.

Chaos Space Marines are very reasonably priced - 2 points less than a plaguebearer stock - and provide a MEQ statline.  They can take the normal complement of ranged weapons (melta, flamer, plasma) and have a heavy weapon option too.  There is a very specific reason, however, that I do not like them as an option for a Daemon Ally - they bring a MEQ stat line to the list.  Do not get me wrong, marines are good and these marines are cheap, but Daemons dodge a lot of firepower by presenting a hugely different target profile from most other units.  Vindicators, Basilisks, Plasmaguns and a variety of other weapons lose a significant amount of their luster when there is not a 3+ to bypass.

The addition of Cultists to the CSM codex is one of the most underrated additions to the new book.  Cultists provide scoring bodies for 9 points less than a CSM with a typical guard statline.  The come default armed with a pistol/ccw and can be taken in squads of up to 30.  This makes them the perfect backfield objective camping unit - 20 bodies for under 100 points is not something Daemons are used to having.  They are also perfect for manning an Aegis Defense Line with a Comms relay to guarantee most of the Daemon primary detachment will arrive by Turn 2.  Their weakness in Close Combat (or shooting for that matter) is less relevant for Daemons who can put a large number of deadly bodies between the cultists and enemy troops.

When taken with an Aegis, cultists also avoid the inherent vulnerability of any Daemon ally - being left alone to face enemy shooting on Turn 1.  In most cases their 2+ from going to ground will be enough to keep them healthy - and with Night Fight in half of games and going first in half of games, they will be strongly protected in 75% of games.  That said, the major weakness for Cultists is not being shot off the board - it is failing a leadership test and running off of it. Addressing this problem requires appropriately sizing the squad and  attention to the HQ section to select a choice that preserves their ability to Go to Ground behind an Aegis while bolstering their leadership to prevent them from fleeing the moment bullets start to fly.

While fearless offers cultists the opportunity to stay put and get slaughtered to a man, it also greatly reduces their survivability behind an Aegis or in Area Terrain.  Generally speaking, Daemons have the luxury of ignoring leadership completely with universal Fearlessness and taking a non-fearless unit goes against the conceptual unity of the army - but I think it is important to utilize an Aegis to its maximum potential.

Before moving to HQ units, I am interested in some feedback on my argument against CSM as a troop selection and against taking a fearless HQ!


  1. I think that Daemons need some armor. Anything that will be good against daemons (mass amount of shooting), will not be good against that 3+ armour. I think sticking a squad of cultists and another squad of cultists with a dark apostle would be the best option for holding an objective. In one squad you have fearless, in the other squad, you can go to ground with ld 10, so you end up getting the best of both worlds. Fearless when you need it, not fearless when you don't.

    That might be a bit of overkill for holding one objective, but by god, you are going to hold that objective like nobody's business...

    Stick mark of khorne and axe of blind fury on him and you have got a deadly i4 killer that can even wipe terminators.

    But honestly what i think the daemon army lacks is scoring troops with good armour saves, which CSM gives them. I think nurgle CSM could be the best option for scoring allies for daemons. Or just no mark at all, leaving them cheap. Cheaper than plaguebearers and will be good surviving against what the daemons army is not good at surviving against.

    I mean sure they are vulnerable to plasma, melta, and other things, but daemons are so up in the opponents face that that to try to shoot for the CSM in the backfield and ignore the daemons dropping in their face would be near suicide. I believe that the CSM would go almost ignored.

    I'm attempting to bring two squads of 10 CSM (one has 9) of the mark of khorne in rhinos. One squad has a dark apostle with the mark of khorne and axe of blind fury. The reason i think these will be at all useful is because while they are rolling up the field, the daemons will be taking the brunt of the fire and the CSM will almost be ignored until it is too late. If they do choose to shoot at them, it will just be giving the daemons in their face more power to counter them.

    Point is, every time i have played IG as allies (which i usually do, until recently), they almost go completely ignored. And i think that when you put CSM on the field, they are steadfast, and useful (unlike the IG). Stick a unit of Csm with ranged weapons and a sorcerer in the backfield and they can actually do some damage to anyone that tries to intrude on their objective (unlike the cultists).

    All this is just my 2 cents

    1. This is great feedback, thanks for taking a read and posting such a thoughtful response. I am going to disagree on taking stock CSM. While Daemons may be susceptible to small arms, the solution in my opinion is not to open up a secondary vulnerability by including a model that is orthogonal to the small arms threat. Instead, I think you want to overwhelm your opponents ability to cope and utilize the weapons they prefer - in most cases plasma, battle cannons or artillery.

      For CSM that means cultists. I like the concept of a Dark Apostle if bringing two units of cultists, so at least one of them can go to ground and use his leadership 10. I might even be inclined to put the apostle on the Aegis all alone and a cultist squad there all alone as well.

      On Monday I will incorporate some of this very good feedback into my HQ discussion, but I wanted to at least respond in the meantime!

    2. Hmm, i would honestly take one CSM, maybe 7-9 strong with MoN and No icon as well as 20-30 cultists and a Dark apostle to stick in one of those squads depending on yur opponent to have the best of both worlds. Anything that can bypass your aegis (Deep striking units, artillery, outflanking, etc...) will absolutely wreck your cultists, and it won't matter whether or not you have two squads of them.

      Just another tidbit i thought i would share

  2. I figure that the purpose of a swarm of cultists is to lock a backfield objective down tight, and that Plaguebearers already do a satisfactory job at that role. Similarly, the most units you are deploying in the backfield, the less units you can shove in your opponent's face and dilute their firepower against your front-line drops. Being able to plonk down a unit of Horrors or Plaguebearers onto any objective seems like a decent advantage that (non-deepstriking) allies can't bring. If they're going to sit at the back, they need to have some long-ranged element, otherwise it's points taken away from what should be a strong front-line push.

  3. My problem with Plagues in that role is you cannot guarantee they will sit on a comms relay Turn 2. It really is an incredible force multipler and just about the best reason to take an Aegis. The same goes for Horror, Daemonettes and bloodletters which are all much more expensive. With a 2+ go to ground, not many armies can clean out 20-30 cultists before Turn 2.

  4. This might be a little too strange but have you considered a Nurgle Warpsmith? Besides rocking a gorgeous model he has 2+, T5, comes standard with a power axe and can curse vehicles. I've been using him with my cultists by sticking him at the front of my aegis to absorb hits with his 2+ and "look out sir!" any that get through. He's LD10 and if your opponent starts dropping assault marines or shunting gk near you to try to take your objective he's very able to cut down the enemy and help win the assault. The cursing isn't a huge ability but it might get a hullpoint out of a flier (you might be able to repair a soulgrinder hullpoint too). oh and he can shatter defenses so soulgrinders phelgm can do more. Just a random though for you. He's a bit pricy but I've found he does his job well and most people don't expect him.

    1. I like the warpsmith, I do not think MON brings much to the table for him since the unit is majority toughness 3 - but he has some awesome utility.

      I do like the cursing to deal with some of the high volume of fire units as well - like a Leman Russ Punisher which I see once in a while. Even an unlucky turn with a Land Raider Crusader can make him pay for himself.

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