Playing: Chaos Space Marine Tactics

Some basic tips on playing Chaos Space Marines

Tip #1: Know Thy Enemy

A huge aspect of deployment is knowing what the enemy capabilities are. In the current world, plasma guns and melta guns in abundance and are the bane of Plague Marines and Obliterators. If facing an opponent that has any significant number of these, deploy in cover and deploy your Rhinos near cover, such that if you need to bail you have other cover options that just the Rhino itself. I mentioned plasma guns and melta guns above, but Lascannons and Missile Launchers also apply. Learning about the other armies can take some time and I have adopted the policy of asking a few basic questions to my opponents, a) what units have ap 2 or ap 1?, b) what units have ap 3?, c) do you have any large or small blasts and what are their strength and ap values? This will help you learn what armies use ap2 or lower and which ones use ap3, and which ones got the short end of the stick.

Tip #2: Know Your Limitations

Daemon Princes (DP) are great, arguably the best HQ option in the CSM Codex. However, exposing the DP to significant volume of fire or the assault of a horde unit makes for their early demise. If the enemy has significant fire power, you need to be careful about having your DP out in the open. An ideal situation is to get your DP into an assault that you will win, but not win until their assault phase, so you can avoid being a fire target out in the open. This is definitely challenging and requires knowing the mathhammer and trusting the dice to fall properly. Unless your opponent is inexperienced or makes a bad play, this ideal scenario will be hard to achieve. Therefore, you will need to try to force the situation through timing, distance, and effective movement. Don't rush out turn 1, b-lining it for the nearest target, if it will leave you exposed to a high-level of fire. Furthermore, don't expose yourself to a charge from or into a large unit of "Boyz" or their equivalents, you can sometimes handle about 12-16, but more than that and you will either be looking at a tarpit or at a "hidden fist" that's just going to kill your DP after a round or two. Look to thin these units out before engaging.

Also know the limitation of your plague marines. Their choppy, fnp, blight grenade, t5 goodness can surprise the opponent that is too used to fighting space marines, but they are also initiative 3 and higher initiative power weapons (i.e. blood letters) will crumble them fast. As indicated above, this is also where plasma guns, melta guns, missle launchers, and lascannons turn your plague marines into I3 Chaos Space Marines, that are 8 points more expensive each. A good shot with a S8 AP3 Battle Cannon may spell doom for your plague marines if not in a vehicle or in cover. Most of what I said in this paragraph also applies to Obliterators, since you can only put so much faith in a 5+ invuln save, and S8 will make your 2 wounds useless.

Tip #3: Always Think Twice about Deep Striking

For Deamon Prince with Wings, don't bother even thinking about it. There may be the rare situation when this may work, but more often than not it will just leave your DP out in the open, with nothing to shoot and unable to assault. Without the ability to come in off an icon, you won't be able to confidently get get the position you need to make it worthwhile.

Obliterators will sometimes have viable Deep Strike opportunities, but you typically won't be playing with a lot of units and you may just be taking the choice of fire out of the opponents hands early game. As many experience, without the Oblit threat on the board the target decisions for then enemy become easy, DP and Plague Marines, potentially in that order. With Oblits on the board, it makes the decision process more complicated. That said, you might be playing a AV 14 spam list and you need those multi-meltas and meltas to get those close shots. Even then, think twice about it. Reserve rolls have this knack for not coming up when you need them and then its turn 4 or 5 and its just too late. Calling back to knowing your enemy, be careful where you deep strike, 225 points is too much for a suicide squad, so having a bunched up group is a tasty morsel for those plasma cannons, melta cannons, melta spam squads, double tap plasma guns, etc. If you are looking at units for deep striking melta, think more along the lines of termicide units, 3 Chaos Terminators with Combi-Meltas, but not in exchange for Oblits. If you went with AC/Las Predators, Termicide units might be something you want to consider to fill the DS melta role.

Tip #4: Creating Angles

Don't give your opponent the easy position and facing options. When deploying and moving, keep enough space between various units such that the opponent can only face one group of units at a time. This doesn't mean spreading out your entire army, since you need to support your own units (see below in Tip #5: Support Units), but in some cases you want to slightly split your force. Specifically looking at Obliterators, think of ways to generate side shots by force the opponent to face one of your units while having the other unit at a distance and angle that now has a good shot.

Tip #5: Support Units

This isn't a specific unit so much as making sure your units can support each other during the course of the game, this can mean screening your Oblits with Plague Marines or setting up counter assault opportunities with your Daemon Prince. Employ a "battle buddy" system. Main point here is don't leave your buddy out to dry, yes I know you're Chaos, but if you fight alone you die alone, this includes your Daemon Prince.

Tip #6: Herding

This is an extension of creating angles. Now that you have these angles, start to create pressure by closing the distance, when appropriate. This advice will not always apply, but when going for far objectives or trying to slow down armies that are faster than you, you may need to herd the opponent into corners and cut off their mobility, moving towards their objectives and preventing them from getting yours. Understand that there is only so much you can do against Eldar and Dark Eldar (or other fast skimmers), but do what you can to not just give them that late game boost onto objectives.

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