Editorial Rant: What Happened to Chaos?

Part 1: Where we came from.

As someone who has played this game for decades, and has loved it through thick and thin, I feel like I have to get this off my chest. But I warn you, although I cut this article down, it is packed with some thoughts from many era’s of the game, and where Chaos has been.

I’m a huge Chaos fan, and date back a pretty darn long time playing them competitively and ‘fluffy’ if you will. I ‘generaled’ Chaos forces in mega-battles decades ago that used to make the website of the GW Canada webpage. The first large tournament I ever won was with chaos (45 people +).

One of my first Forgeworld Pieces ever… long before “China-Bay” started pumping them out.

Yet my Ultramarine itch was definitely scratched with this immense, game changing, beautiful expansion of Space Marines in general, and the Ultramarines’ supplement specifically.

So with that in mind and the wonderful Chaos expansion “Vigilus Ablaze”, what could I possibly be jaded about?

A Bit of History…

This was what it meant to wear the ‘Black Hat’ in its hay day.

A long time ago…. In a game system, far, far away. We had these incredible list making capabilities. They went too far and to many new players these are times that are just fabled about and they’re hard to relate to the modern 40K. But most importantly Chaos was indeed potent. And to top it off we had these spectacular Campaigns. The Eye of Terror and Fall of Medusa Campaigns were something we’d never see the likes of again. It was a golden era I tell you, no matter what side of the fence you were on. We had these ‘secret’ e-Mail lists (I ran one of them) and out of them we would secretly plan our attacks on Imperium space, trying to win the outcome of a planet…perhaps a Forgeworld. It was a glorious time in the game. Then Chaos became a bit of a joke in the community. Crusades stacked up, and for what reason? We never knew. On the table you rarely saw them, in the background all we knew for a long time was “Chaos Space Marines” basically became that drunk uncle you had over for Christmas dinner once a year. He’d drink too much, eat too much, perhaps fart at the dinner table, pass out on your couch and then go home and you’d just wait to repeat the whole ordeal next year.

But Something Stirs in the Long Forgotten Darkness of Chaos….

And that would be the height of it. Chaos would never reach that level of popularity, or capability, or attention again. The classic bad guy would be reduced to ‘also ran’ status and forever lose its flavour, and be lost to all but the oldest among us. Or would it?

Part 2: Where we ended up.

Out of nowhere a shining beacon of light comes from the Darkness. It calls itself Vigilus. GW shows us an admittedly fantastic angle on the heretic Space Marines once known as humanity’s greatest defenders. They didn’t become primaris, but instead they seemed to meld with something else. Something from the warp, infused and intertwined with barely recognizable machinations of old Imperium. And the visuals were glorious:

By the soiled diapers of the god Emperor! What is this? Marines? Warp infused giant insects? Tell me more!

With all hope lost, we are bombarded with a collection of amazing new art, and sculpts. And bizarre imagery hits us with just enough familiarity of the “Chaps Space Marine” in it, yet with the twist of something as of yet unknown.

Then the models start coming out. Some of them are largely dysfunctional in the game, but they all look amazing. The icing on the cake for many is the new take on old favorites. Not just Abaddon, but the classics; Chaos Space Marines, and Terminators. These models sizzled with the creativity of old, and dripped with the menace and the darkness of the old evil we knew and loved. The story of Vigilus would give us so much hope, and a new heinously evil sand box to play in.

Yea that’s right Imperium… we even got our own friggin’ Stargate!

Then Reality Sets in…..

So here we are. Vigilus rulebooks in hand. New models on the tabletop. Expensive dice, and box sets. A thick, chunk of new character sprues and boxes. What did it amount to?

Riddle me this: What looks amazing, has 8 eyes, yet never ‘see’s’the table? This guy. One of my favorite new models. The Venomcrawler.

It took some time to set in. The Vigilus background had me riveted to my seat. Although a horrendously disappointing rule set, Lord Haarken of the Black Legion would terrorize Vigilus and pave the way for Abaddon. And yes Abaddon would face Calgar; face. To. Face. And yes, the whole thing ended in…. well, a bit of a disappointment. But no matter, there were games to be played, and new rules to be had.

Haarken really did herald something…. I’ll let you judge what it was.

The “Pump” was ending. We had our books, the new Detachments, and the new models. But it only took a few months to see we really had fixed almost none of the existing problems for Chaos Space Marines. Unfortunately for as good as they looked, marines (really any marine) still stunk. They were a ‘tax’ at best, and a point sink at worst. People still went to Daemons for better numbers, and even with the nerf to cultists, that’s still pretty much all you see leading the forces of Chaos on the battlefield!

We still fail miserably, but look mighty fine while doing it!

The truth is the heart of the army, the Marines, the Terminators were still largely… terrible. You’d see the odd flash of appearances here and there, but the best of Chaos still rested in Daemon trickery, and… Forgeworld!

Here we had these classic Legions. Word Bearers, Black Legion, etc, and almost nothing was done to them. In fact the greatest asset overall to the faction would be it’s “Renegade” rules. Every where you went there were “Flawless Hosts” and “The Purge”. Among most of those lists you’d see some great players trying something different

Vigilus gave us a tease. It’s almost like Games workshop designer’s set this up a long time ago, and didn’t follow through with it until it was almost too late. The good news was we had a revamp of the miniature line up and some fantastic additions. The bad news is after a few months, most of it has slipped into obscurity in competitive arenas.

At the time I write this, the most popular “Chaos Space Marines” armies I see are consisting of: Deredeo Dreadnaughts, Contemptor Dreadnaughts. Cultists. Many of the winning lists which are called “Chaos Space Marines” include Ahriman, Mortarion, and Plaguebearers.

I honestly don’t think this is where any of us were hoping Chaos would go, nor where we’d end up.

Part 3: Where we’re going….

Some people said to me this was GW’s intent. We were not meant to get a long over due over haul…. merely a stop gap. Some new detachments, and a few new models. GW themselves came out and reminded us; the codex is stamped on the cover letting us know this is just a subsequent version of the codex, including datasheets from other sources. Not a rewrite.

The thing I can’t understand is the meat of a marine army is…. marines. Why would you go to all that trouble of creating such an amazing line up of new sculpts and almost immediately relegate the core units to such a lowly status?

I think the answer was in the next big release…..

Stand aside Chaos! Your 2 wound successors are here, and we have…. New RULES!

So as an Ultramarine player I’m not going to lie. The new Codex Space Marines rules are fantastic. They are everything we wanted to see from Chaos: A rewrite. New Chapter Rules! Plenty of new Strategems, and re-jigging of clunky rules. Improvements to armour and weapons that just didn’t quite work before. It is new. It is shiny, and it works.

Chaos Space Marines have almost instantaneously been put in the back seat. The ‘class’ difference in these two core codexes is miles apart. This (to me) is undeniable. The differences are too many to list here, but suffice to say the highlights of these changes included the much desired “supplement” system we saw GW put to bed a while ago. How Chaos would dearly love that kind of attention.

But I don’t think this was unforeseen by the great Emperor. In fact let me ask you this question:

-IF- Gamesworkshop had released these two armies/models in reverse order, how much Chaos do you think they would have sold?

When? When can we have this?

When will it change?

I see some players have put Chaos away. The frustration has hit them. Many are very long time players of Chaos Space Marines, and the codex has taken a firm back seat for a very long time (I’d say since 3.5). Am I disheartened? Absolutely. Even as I take advantage of this stellar release with Ultramarines, there is a bitterness to it. A feeling of a friend left behind… ignored. Chaos IS supposed to be the big bad guy here. This has happened before, and it will probably happen again. Traitor’s Hate anyone? That was a bit of a kick in the pants that felt strangely familiar to this.

And with the current state of GW’s timeline, we have no understanding of when Chaos gets fixed. The scary thing is the amount of effort just put forth towards the intergalactic bad guys may mean the wait is in the area of a year or so! Think about it. We have xenos that need tweaking, and Grey Knights are incredibly dated. It could be quite a wait!

So now who’s stepping on who?

So just like Traitor’s Hate, and even the Wrath of Magnus we are given a carrot right at the end of a road. The Vigilus Defiant book was clearly a sampling of new, integrated rules for marines (they are now ‘detachment free’ and are simply Strategems for marines.) Whereas Vigilus Defiant became our bandaid. We could be wearing that band aid for quite a while.

It turns out Abaddon was most upset about his Legion traits.

What can we do in the meantime? As I write this GW have invented Shock Assault for loyalist marines, and given in a different name, and applied to Chaos as well; Hateful Assault. This isn’t nearly fixing anything, but it shows the ability to further ‘patch’ chaos without a full release.

We also just saw loyalist marines went down by a point each, making them just one point higher than a scout! I imagine we will see that change shortly as well.

I think these minor FAQ changes, and Chapter Approved/Big FAQ’s are what we’re looking at for the next year. We can also try to be proactive and email GW with our own findings. I encourage you to contact them here:  40KFAQ@gwplc.com.

Please be polite. As frustrating as this can be at times, it’s just a game, and I do think GW are better at listening to us, the player, than they have been in a VERY long time.

So if you’re still reading this, you must be nearly as crazy as I am…. or stuck on a very long bus trip. In either case I thank you for reading my rant. I realize it may ruffle some feathers, but it is written with good intentions.

Thanks for checking this out. Now back to painting Chaos Terminators, just ’cause! – Prot.


  • “Now back to painting Chaos Terminators, just ’cause!” << This last weekend I cracked open my shiny new termi kit and built three of the hulking bastards (for Kill Team … maybe APOC if I get too carried away), and it was glorious. I was reminded of how much I love and identify with CSM, and being 12 years old at the FLGS and hefting the old metal Chaos termi box I couldn't afford but dearly wanted, even though I was a diehard WHFB player already.

    Cheers for the write-up, I share your frustrations from this long war of ours. It's been a long fall from the glory of the 3.5 codex (remember when loyalists used *our* book's rules?? LULZ), made the more galling by the lame 'update' the 8E book got, even worse in the shadow of this new SM masterpiece. However the new SM book is *so* impressive that I'm genuinely looking forward to the eventual CSM redux + splat books, as the rules team / writers seem to have finally gotten a stride for how they should be doing codexes, but in particular marine ones. On the flipside, I also know through the years how painful it is to have an early codex or a late one – recall that 4E's C:CSM was the premiere of a new, brutally stripped down format with very few options, a design that was so reviled that every codex after it had more and more options returned. I, like you, really hope we're not stuck with the current 8.2 edition for years, because they've got other priorities.

    Speaking of, have you seen some of the rumors for next year? They seem very rumor-y, but chatter about World Eaters + Emperor's Children dropping later in 2020 is happening. IMO that makes a ton of sense for the first two Chaos splats (ala Ultras + White Scars), as both armies are based around old or flatout ancient kits that would sell like mad, as well as support a general CSM 8.5 codex.

    But I won't hold my breath … and I also don't know that I'll play anything but my various daemon armies in 40k, and keep the CSM for KT / APOC 😛


  • Yes it’s tough to watch. It feels slightly.. underhanded. Release a pile of stuff, wait for Chaos fans to hop on board, and then crush a new Space Marines Codex that is so utterly on the next level.

    I haven’t heard all of those rumours, but CSM perhaps even more than Codex Astartes are divergent. There really could easily be Chaos supplement which -could- fix this! I still keep painting Black Legion, and keep our fingers crossed. 🙂


  • Yeah, I’m still painting Night Lords. They’re my heartbreaker army — no matter how they perform in whatever edition is current, I’ll always keep chipping away at them, and they’ll always keep winning the battles that take place in my head.


    • We have to find a way to get some fun out of the army, even if it’s not ideal. I am still painting my Black Legion, hoping for change. I am still playing them, even with some Knights.


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