Warhammer 40K Codex: Chaos Space Marines Review

We're making dark pacts in the pursuit of power (as usual) with our review of the new Warhammer Codex: Chaos Space Marines

Published: June 25, 2022 5:57 AM /

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Chaos Space Marines Charge Into Battle. Image: Games Workshop

When the Warmaster Horus first set off in traitorous rebellion against his father, the Emperor of Mankind, he set in motion a 10,000 year war, pitting his legions against the Empire of Man. Fueled by the four gods of chaos, many of those Space Marines who sided with Horus soon began to feel a change in their very being. From shifts in personality and an inability to curb their base desires, to actual physical changes mutating flesh and melding it with their Astartes armor, these Chaos Space Marines became the single greatest, cruelest, and most debased threat to humanity. And now, with the release of Warhammer 40K Codex: Chaos Space Marines, you, too, can field an army of these visions from hell on your very own tabletop! Games Workshop sent us Codex: Chaos Space Marines to check out, so read on for our thoughts on the book and new rules.

What Is Codex: Chaos Space Marines?

The Warhammer 40K Codex: Chaos Space Marines is a brand new rulebook needed for fielding legions of Chaos Space Marines in Games Workshop's massive sci-fi tabletop wargame. The book clocks in at 184 pages, and covers the lore of various Space Marine legions who have fallen into Chaos -- as well as the history of the Horus Heresy, recently released in its own right in a new edition which we reviewed here. The book also includes the rules for playing a Chaos army, Crusade rules for campaign/narrative play, and data sheets for every Chaos Space Marines unit.

Codex: Chaos Space Marines. Image: Games Workshop
Codex: Chaos Space Marines is now available for pre-order. Image: Games Workshop

The book is laid out, as all Warhammer 40K Codexes are, in an extremely clear, easy to follow manner. You'll need the core rulebook to play the game, as these Codexes come without the rules for how to play the game, but those are available for free from Games Workshop if you don't already own it. I've always loved the layout of these books, and with a force as big and varied as the Chaos Space Marines, the structure they stick to makes it quite easy to find what you're looking for and start building your force.

What Legions Are Covered In Codex: Chaos Space Marines?

The Codex: Chaos Space Marines book covers rules for eight different legions within the general heading of Chaos Space Marine. Those included legions are:

  • Black Legion - led by Abaddon the Despoiler, the self-appointed Warmaster of the Chaos Space Marines, the Black Legion are the largest combined force of Chaos Space Marines, and hold no allegiance to any one particular Chaos God.
  • Word Bearers - The first to fall into Chaos during the Horus Heresy, the Word Bearers are religious zealots who spread the word of the Chaos Gods through blood and gore, and easily pact with daemonic entities
  • Night Lords - These Chaos Space Marines thrive on causing as much psychological terror as possible in their foes before they strike, preferring to attack forces already set to crumble from prolonged mental torture
  • Iron Warriors - The Iron Warriors are masters of siege-craft, and build terrifying structures while easily tearing apart their opponents' defenses before charging in with heavily armored war machines and daemon engines.
  • Alpha Legion - The Alpha Legion is made up of the best schemers, liars, and creeps in the galaxy, and they are experts at attacking from within, seeding mistrust and doubt, and raising up cults to help them in their quest for dominance.
  • Emperor's Children - Devout followers of the Chaos God of excess Slaanesh, the Emperor's Children attack their foes with an assault on all the senses, from riotous noise to an intoxicating musk as they seek even more vile and novel sensory experiences
  • Red Corsairs - The Red Corsairs are the pirates and raiders of the galaxy. Though not an official legion in their own right, this brotherhood of Chaos seeks to destroy and plunder anything that gets in their way.
  • Creations of Bile - Like the Red Corsairs, the Creations of Bile are not actually a Legion, but instead are the augmented science experiments of Flavius Bile, former head apothecary for the Emperor's Children.
Codex: Chaos Space Marines. Image: Games Workshop
The Legions of Chaos can quickly overwhelm their foes in Codex: Chaos Space Marines. Image: Games Workshop

Not included in this book are specific rules for forces of Chaos Space Marines who have their own Codex, meaning the Nurgle-worshipping Death Guard and the Tzeentch-tainted Thousand Sons don't get much coverage here, nor do the bloodthirsty Khorne-worshipping World Eaters, who will be getting their own Codex soon.

What Rules Are Included In Codex: Chaos Space Marines?

Along with detailed lore, each of the above-mentioned factions has their own dedicated set of rules and additions you can bring to your army, including Legion-wide traits, Warlord Traits, Command Point Stratagems, Relics, and Secondary Objectives. While you can unit your chaos legions under a single banner, to really get the most out of your army it seems best to choose one of the Legions and create a unified force.

Codex: Chaos Space Marines. Image: Games Workshop
The Black Legion struts its stuff in Black and Gold in Codex: Chaos Space Marines. Image: Games Workshop

Some of my favorite specific rules highlighted in Codex: Chaos Space Marines include the Legion Trait "Black Crusaders" for the Black Legion, which allows a player to ignore all modifiers to a Combat Attrition test, and grants a +1 to hit rolls for attacks made by the Legion under certain (very attainable) circumstances. These rules reflect the Black Legion's reputation as the epitome of what it means to be a Heretic Astartes.

I also really love the Eightfold-Cursed Crozius, a relic weapon for the Word Bearers that - when wielded by a Priest - automatically wounds when it successfully scores a hit. The Warlord Trait "Murderous Reputation" for the Night Lords is also a standout, as it basically says "your warlord is so terrifying opponents near him lose the Objective Secured ability." I could go on and on picking out rules that really shine in Codex: Chaos Space Marines.

What Are Some Standout Datasheets from Codex: Chaos Space Marines?

It goes without saying that Abaddon the Despoiler, Warmaster of the Chaos Space Marines, should be the true standout in this book. Complete with a nasty suite of weapons including the Talon of Horus (which can shoot and attack at melee), Abaddon is a 9-wound character with a 2+ save, a 4+ ward save, and he can't lose more than 3 wounds in the same phase. Along with a full repertoire of abilities for both himself and the units around him, he's also just... awesome to behold: 

Abaddon the Despoiler in Codex: Chaos Space Marines. Image: Games Workshop
Abaddon the Despoiler in Codex: Chaos Space Marines. Image: Games Workshop

The Codex also includes datasheets for Haarken Worldclaimer, the mouthpiece of Abaddon, Huron Blackheart the dread leader of the Red Corsairs, the Astartes augmenter Fabius Bile, Chaos Lords, daemons, cultists, that damnable Lucius the Eternal, Obliterators, Daemon Engines, and even the Dark Commune, a group of witchy-looking cult leaders who can whip your Chaos cultists into ship shape. 

The Dark Commune Commands Your Cultists. Image: Games Workshop
The Dark Commune Commands Your Cultists. Image: Games Workshop

What Are Our Final Thoughts on Codex: Chaos Space Marines?

I went into this Codex thinking there wouldn't be much that appealed to me. I'm not a Chaos player (I have a few armies built several of the Xenos races, like the T'au and the Aeldari), but after reading through this Codex I am absolutely sold on the power, flexibility, and thematic fun of running a Chaos Space Marines legion. Codex: Chaos Space Marines is a thoroughly modern interpretation of the Chaos Space Marines, bringing them fully into the latest edition of Warhammer 40K while still keeping them full of the terror and trickery that make them one of the fiercest forces in the game.

Codex: Chaos Space Marines. Image: Games Workshop
Death comes for all who oppose the forces of Chaos in Codex: Chaos Space Marines. Image: Games Workshop

Should I Buy Codex: Chaos Space Marines?

If you're building or already have a Chaos Space Marines legion, then the new Codex: Chaos Space Marines is absolutely essential. Along with being a compelling and haunting read in the lore section of the book, the new rules are completely comprehensive and will ensure your Chaos forces are fighting at full strength right away.

The copy of Codex: Chaos Space Marines used in the creation of this review was provided by Games Workshop.

Review Summary

With a wealth of new options and a deep dive into the lore, the new Warhammer 40K Codex: Chaos Space Marines brings the galaxy's greatest threat home. (Review Policy)

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More Info About This Game
Learn More About Warhammer 40,000
Game Page Warhammer 40,000
Games Workshop
Release Date
September 1, 1987 (Calendar)
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