Last year I had been building up and playing with my Iron Warriors and I realized that while I had some khorne berzerkers I really didn't want to make them a focus of my IW army. It was the "tank" army and also my "one of everything" army for chaos marines and so while I might add a squad or two I really wanted to make a separate force to focus on them. Besides, it's not like I can;t ally the two together. That's how I came to build my second (after the Iron Warriors), er, third (after my Death Guard) chaos marine army.
I knew I wanted the core of the whole thing to be 3 squads of berzerkers, in rhinos, led by a Dark Apostle (for re-rolls to hit) and an Exalted Champion (for re-rolls to wound). I already knew I was going to go whole-hog and make them World Eaters and with zerks becoming troop choices for the WE's in the Codex it made for a nice little Battalion and came out to 900- 1000 points depending on how I load them out. So, about half of a normal army.
For the berzerker squads I made them identical: 8 guys (Khorne's sacred number), 5 with chainsword and chain axe, two with chainsword and plasma pistol, and the champion with powerfist and plasma pistol. I know some people prefer full melee and skipping the 21 points of plasma I have here but I just find it to be useful enough that I want that capability in my squads. It's not like they're going to be up close! Three plasma shots can often inflict a wound or two on the way in and that can really help against tougher targets. Does it matter against a dire avenger squad? No. But against the wave serpent that brought them to the fight, it's a nice boost.
The HQ's are mainly there to buff the squads and yes I do try to keep at least two squads within the buff radius when they debark, all three if possible. It ramps up the carnage to an unbelievable level when it all comes together like that. They also can contribute nicely themselves when I give them plasma pistols too, and/or as relic caddies - the Apostle gets the Black Mace pretty much every time and the Exalted Champ gets the Axe of Blind Fury sometimes, the Brass Collar other times.
So what about the other half of the army? I want to add either extreme speed, as in "causing hurt on turn 1" or I need some good long range firepower. Like lascannons.
Well, I like Helbrutes so I've been working those in, usually accompanied by a Khorne Lord on a Juggernaut. They all move 8 so they make a nice block of hurt moving up faster than normal infantry though slower than the rhinos. It hasn't worked out as well as I have hoped though I think some of that is on how I have used them more than the units themselves. It can be tricky to fit 3 rhinos into a small space so sometimes the third rhino is away from the other two. I think working this up as a group with the brutes and the juggerlord has a lot of potential so I need to try it out. Beyond that I will always try to find a way to fit in a helbrute or two in any chaos marine force.
On the Juggerlord - Juggernauts are just cool. I have always liked them but have never had a 40K era army that could use them outside of Epic - until now! I like the old metal ones. I like the newer plastic conversions people do. I really hope GW comes out wit ha new one at some point so they don't get squatted in the next edition - but that's a worry for another day!
I took two of them in my fight against the necrons and they did really well but it was almost overkill as they are redundant with the Apostle once the fighting starts (re-roll everything vs. re-roll ones) so from one point of view one is probably enough. They add neither speed nor firepower so they're really an extra helping of Turn 2-3 melee like the zerks themselves.
From another point of view though, 3 of them would fit nicely in a supreme command detachment and would give each rhino and squad a solid "buddy" to accompany them. I haven't done this yet but don't think I won't be considering it in the next fight or two. The biggest problem here is that there is only one Axe of Blind Fury! So the other two have to settle for power axes and get all sullen about it.
I tried a defiler and had mixed feelings about the whole thing. he makes for a nice big centerpiece model but is hurt by the split firepower/melee capabilities. What's fun on a 120-150 point Helbrute - a big fit and a big gun - becomes annoying to demoralizing on a 180-200 point crab scorpion monster. I'm trying to look at it as he adds some decent ranged firepower while still being a true melee monster like the rest of the army - I'm just not sure it's decent enough for the 177 points he cost me in the last battle. Of course, here again the answer might be "take two or three instead of just one" but that's going to get expensive fast. I have to say though that the idea of sending one downfield alongside each rhino does have an impact. I'll have to see if I can work out the points.
Ah the Heldrake, hated scourge of early 6th Edition, almost forgotten chaos flyer of 8th. I wanted something that could get across the field fast and hurt some things - something that would present enough of a threat that it would divert some firepower away from my rhino's on turn 1 and maybe turn 2.
So I took one.
He did a few wounds and then died in my opponent's first shooting phase.
I took one in the next battle. he did manage to eliminate an entire squad this time, then he died in the opponent's first shooting phase. Again.
They are really cool - the model is amazing, and no other army has anything like them. I want to use mine but the obvious strategy is to zoom upfield, roast something, then execute a turn one charge and hurt something up close. he soaks up firepower for sure, but since he's right up on the enemy force a lot of it is short-ranged firepower that wouldn't be coming at my rhinos anyway. He's soaking a bright lance or two but he's also soaking a whole bunch of wraithweaver and shuriken fire. I'm just not sure a single drake is an effective use of points. Once again I am thinking that either zero or two of them may be more effective than one. Another thing to try out next fight.
Things on the list that I haven't tried yet but am thinking about:
- Obliterators: deep strike, fairly tough, lots of shooting - really need to try them out but at 195 points, well, ouch!
- Terminators: I bought a box of chaos terminators for the army with what I thought was a good plan but ... they are still in the box as it doesn't seem so good now. Deep strike is a powerful thing but if it's mainly to shoot stuff I think the obliterators may do it better and without a psyker to cast Warptime on them (Khorne!) a 9" charge is pretty iffy, even with the Icon of Wrath added in for a re-roll. Still haven't given up but they will probably come in after the obliterator test.
- Cultists - no. I can take berzerkers as troops! This is a non-cultist army!
- Bikers - maybe someday but not right now. Faster, yes, some firepoer yes but not really threatening enough to draw fire from the rhinos and not long ranged enough to really hurt something
- Raptors - probably not. Not enough melee ability and not really enough firepower either though the deep strike option is nice.
- Warp Talons - yes, these will be getting a test. Melee only but can deep strike and can remove overwatch and are not too expensive - lots of potential here for a squad.
- Havocs - I actually did take missile havocs in one fight and I have to say it does feel nice to have a solid long ranged blasting unit in the backfield. It's not super-thematic but it's about as much as a Helbrute and can hurt things from Turn 1 while holding an objective. They may make a return at some point.
So there's some thinking behind the army. Blaster and I are actually in the middle of another fight so I'll have an update on that next week!