Chaos Space Marines

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In the table-top wargame Warhammer 40,000, the Chaos Space Marines or Chaos Marines, are Space Marines who serve the Chaos Gods. They are also referred to as the Traitor Legions, primarily in background material written from the perspective of the Imperium.


The background shown in both Codex: Space Marines (Haines and McNeill, 2004) and Codex: Chaos Space Marines (Chambers et al., 2002) states that the Chaos Marine Legions were nine of the twenty Legions of Space Marines who fought in the Great Crusade for the Imperium of Man. At this time the Warmaster Horus, first among the Primarchs, and the Luna Wolves (later the "Sons of Horus") were corrupted by Chaos and instigated the galaxy-wide civil war known as the Horus Heresy.

Further background to the Chaos Space Marines is explored in detail in the 'Horus Heresy' series of novels. After the death of Horus and the end of the Heresy, the remnants of the nine Legions along with the other Imperial forces that had joined Horus escaped into an area of the galaxy known as the Eye of Terror. Due to the nature of Chaos, and the temporal instability of the Warp, the very same Chaos Marines who revolted against the Emperor continue to fight against the Imperium.

The Legions have kept their old names, with the exception of the Sons of Horus who were renamed the Black Legion by their new leader, Abaddon the Despoiler. Besides Horus, two other Chaos Primarchs were believed to have been killed during or shortly after the Heresy (Konrad Curze of the Night Lords and Alpharius of the Alpha Legion.) The seven surviving Primarchs have since become Daemon Princes. These daemonic Primarchs rarely take part in the affairs of their Legions or any part of the Warhammer 40,000 universe. For example, Magnus the Red, Primarch of the Thousand Sons is the most powerful of all the Daemon Prince sorcerers. Yet he rarely enters the battlefield, even though prior to the Horus Heresy he always took part in his Legion's battles and was a determined warrior. Angron however, Primarch of the World Eaters, led an invasion force in what was to become the First War of Armageddon. Some of the Legions have pledged a particular loyalty to one of the four Great Chaos powers but the eight Blood Lords are loyal to Angron alone. The same is the case with the Death Guard, where the Primarch Mortarion's war council is known as the Lords of Decay. Abaddon the Despoiler has taken charge of the Son of Horus, now known as the Black Legion. Abaddon is the only Chaos Marine since Horus to be able to command the loyalty of all nine Traitor Legions, and has led thirteen Black Crusades against the Imperium of Man.

Gods of Chaos[edit]

  • Khorne: Khorne is the Chaos God of war, blood, and violence, and personifies the emotions of hatred and blinding rage. He acts outwardly by seeking the deaths of others, preferring close combat over ranged weaponry, and the only things he respects are strength and martial prowess. Khorne's followers are always ferocious warriors. Men turn to Khorne for martial power and the strength to conquer but he doesn't care for his followers or from where the blood flows, only that it does as he sits upon a throne crafted from the multitudes of skulls from enemies and allies alike. He openly despises magic in all its forms, believing it to be effeminate, weak, and the craft of cowards.
  • Nurgle: Nurgle is the Chaos God of death and mortality, embodying disease and rot, and personifies the emotion of despair. His power comes from the inevitability of death and decay, and Nurgle is often referred to as 'Grandfather Nurgle', as entropy is the most ancient of forces, and he is the only one who even pretends to care for his followers. Nurgle's followers are granted power by their acceptance of this reality. Nurgle prides himself on the achievements of his followers, gifting them with hideous diseases while sheltering them from pain, and his followers rejoice in their blessings, shrugging off lethality and disfigurement in a state of rapturous undeath. Tzeentch is his equal and opposite, and the two will frequently battle each other.
  • Tzeentch: Tzeentch is the Chaos God of change, revolution, knowledge, vigour, and sorcery, and is the personification of hope or ambition. His titles include the Changer of Ways, the Architect of Fate and the Great Sorcerer. Tzeentch excels in subtle machinations and is patron to schemers and conspirators of all sorts, favouring the cunning and the wise over the strong. He is also among the most progressive and enlightened of the Chaos Gods, seeking betterment and refinement, though he ultimately manipulates his followers and betrays those who become useless to him.
  • Slaanesh: Slaanesh is the Chaos God of lust, pleasure, and satisfaction, and personifies desire. A sensuous, androgynous deity that is simultaneously referred to as male and female, Slaanesh is associated with hedonism and decadence. He/she is known by many colourful names such as The Prince of Pleasure, She Who Thirsts, and the Lord of Excess. Slaanesh is said to be both the youngest and weakest of the four Chaos gods, though early in its existence it was far stronger, and murdered and consumed nearly the entire pantheon of Eldar gods. Slaanesh's creation was due to the sum of the Eldar's own excesses over millennia, due to their uniquely powerful psychic presence in the Warp, excesses described as equal parts hedonism and painful delight. This event led directly to the near-extinction of the Eldar, and the creation of the Eye of Terror. Mortals who seek charisma and fellowship follow Slaanesh, for its mark makes one popular and inspiring, though its followers are just as likely to be terrifying orgiastic maniacs. For this reason, the followers of Slaanesh are known to be particularly dangerous, as they seek pleasure with hopeless abandon in all martial actions, even those actions considered suicidal by any sane commander.

Although those are the main Gods of Chaos, there are many more. Some haven't even been referred to. These are just the four Ruinous Powers. Also, these gods have their equal and opposite, and frequently battle each other. Nurgle and Tzeentch oppose each other, as Nurgle embodies the static and inevitability of death while Tzeentch is the personification of change and hope. Devotees of Slaanesh and Khorne frequently battle each other, since Khorne exists solely for the glory of combat – followers of Khorne favour might and brute strength over all, while Slaanesh exists solely for pleasure - The followers of Slaanesh embody excess in every way.

Forces of the Chaos Space Marines[edit]

Each of the Chaos Space Marine Legions fights using a different style of warfare; also, four of the nine are dedicated to one of the four major Chaos Gods. Codex: Chaos Space Marines (Thorpe, Cavatore et al., 2007) includes the current rules for fielding a Chaos Space Marine army in a game of Warhammer 40,000, 4th or 5th Edition. The previous Codex, published in 2003 for 3rd Edition, also includes rules for fielding the troops of the specific legions, but this Codex was designed for 3rd Edition and cannot be used with 5th Edition.

Chaos Space Marine Traitor Legions (excluding the Red Corsairs) are as follows:

  • Emperor's Children, devoted to the Chaos God Slaanesh. The Emperor's Children were considered the most disciplined Legion before the Heresy, however their obsession with attaining perfection inevitably led to their downfall and worship of Slaanesh. The Emperor's Children make extensive use of Noise Marines, armed with exotic Sonic Weaponry.
  • Iron Warriors, specialists in siege warfare. The Iron Warriors grew disillusioned during the Great Crusade, believing they had been betrayed and forced to fight endless sieges while the more favored Legions claimed honor and glory. They are the mortal enemies of the Imperial Fists, who similarly specialize in siege warfare. The Iron Warriors possess a large number of Obliterators, marines who have been turned into hulking monstrosities of flesh and machinery, able to create nearly any weapon from their bodies.
  • Night Lords, specialists in fast strikes and terror tactics. Made up of criminals and murderers from their home world of Nostramo, the Night Lords were the most terrifying of the Legions. They were despised by their own Primarch Konrad Curze, a fact they were all unaware of. Kurze allowed himself to be killed by an Imperial assassin, wanting to prove that even the Emperor was willing to resort to such dishonorable actions.
  • World Eaters, close combat specialists and shock troops, devoted to the Chaos God Khorne. The most barbaric of the Legions, the World Eaters were known to slaughter countless in their fury. The legion's unity was shattered by their Champion Kharn the Betrayer who attacked his comrades in a rage, leading to infighting that caused them to split into smaller warbands. The World Eaters are devoted to the God Khorne, boasting more Khornate Bezerkers then any other legion.
  • Death Guard, specialists in biological warfare, devoted to the Chaos God Nurgle. The Death Guard were known for their incredible fortitude, fighting across the most noxious and hazardous war zones unscathed. On their way to join the traitors besigeing Terra the Death Guard became trapped in the Warp where they were ravaged by plagues of the Chaos God Nurgle. In desperation their Primarch Mortarion swore devotion to the plague god to save his legion. The Death Guard is composed largely of Plague Marines, specializing in biological warfare.
  • Thousand Sons, containing many sorcerers, devoted to the Chaos God Tzeentch. They are the sworn enemies of the Space Wolves, who even before their fall despised them for their use of psykic powers. During the Great Crusade the Thousand Sons devoted themselves to the pursuit of knowledge. In an attempt to warn the Emperor of Horus's betrayal, the Legion's Primarch Magnus the Red resorted to forbidden sorcery. His plea was ignored and their rivals the Space Wolves were sent to apprehend him. Horus manipulated their orders causing the Space Wolves to assault and destroy the planet. The Thousands Sons were forced to swear loyalty to Tzeentch in order to survive and escape into the warp. There they would lick their wounds and regroup, so that one day they would enact retribution upon the Space Wolves Legion and their Primarch Leman Russ. In an attempt to stop the mutations plaguing them, the Legions sorcerers inadvertently turned all the non-psychic marines to dust, trapping their souls in their armor. While a very small warband, the Thousand Sons have more Chaos Sorcerers then any other.
  • Black Legion, formerly the Luna Wolves and later Sons of Horus, now led by Horus' lieutenant Abaddon the Despoiler. Before their fall the Luna Wolves and their Primarch were the most favored of the Space Marine Legions. Later renamed the Sons of Horus in their Primarch's honor, and the Black Legion after his death. Their leader Abaddon seeks to unite all the forces of chaos under him and destroy the Imperium. The Black Legion has launched thirteen of these Black Crusades. The Black Legion is the largest and most infamous of the Chaos Warbands.
  • Word Bearers, fanatical Chaos cultists, utterly devoted to the dark gods, and the first legion to be corrupted. The Primarch Lorgar, leader of a religious order on his homeworld, grew disillusioned with the 'Imperial Truth', the rejection of religious superstition and belief in science and logic. Seeking something to believe in they turned to the worship of the chaos gods. The Word Bearers make extensive use of summoned daemons.
  • Alpha Legion, specialists in infiltration and subterfuge. The last legion to be founded, the Alpha Legion was known for its use of deception and subterfuge to achieve its goals. Virtually nothing is known of the Alpha Legion. They spread lies and dissent where ever they go, fanning the flames of rebellion. Unknown to everyone, the Legion's Primarch Alpharius had an identical twin brother Omegon, who would often impersonate him while he performed secret tasks. The Alpha Legion makes extensive use of Chaos Cultists.
  • Red Corsairs, a pirate band specialists in hit and run attacks led by Huron Blackheart. Prior to their fall the Astral Claws chapter led several other chapters to rebel against the rulers of the Imperium in the infamous Badab War. Following their defeat and the near death of their leader the Astral Claws fled into the Warp where they became the Red Corsairs. The Red Corsairs have amassed a massive pirate fleet, becoming a force to be reckoned with, rivaling that of the ancient traitor legions.

The legions are often featured in short stories and novels published by Games Workshop's publishing arm, The Black Library.

Since the Horus Heresy, many Space Marine Chapters have been corrupted in one way or another by Chaos. No specific rules exist for renegade chapters, allowing players to adapt other rules to represent their forces. According to the records of the Ordo Malleus (the body responsible for protecting the Imperium from Chaos and daemons), approximately 50 chapters have turned renegade after the Horus Heresy; however, the accuracy of this number is doubtful. Examples of given Space Marine chapters include the Sons of Malice, the Damned Company of Lord Caustos, the Violators, the Steel Cobras, the Thunder Barons, the Sons of Vengeance, the Silver Guards and most notably the Astral Claws (known as the Red Corsairs since their rebellion).

Differences between Chaos Space Marines and Space Marines[edit]

The Chaos Space Marines have the same origins as the Space Marines. Due to their allegiance to Chaos, Chaos Marines can be mutated or willingly possessed (except for the Thousand Sons Rubric Marines), thus making themselves into monsters, faster or otherwise superior to the Space Marines and other inhabitants of the Warhammer 40k universe. Chaos Marines have extended lifespans due to the time-warping effects of the Eye of Terror, and the fact that space marines as a whole are unable to die of old age, and their millennia of experience gives them levels of mastery with more advanced skills and tactics that Loyalist Space Marines do not have. However, they are inhibited by their own anarchic nature, limited numbers, and constant infighting. If they were to organize and form an army equivalent to the tactical army of the Imperium, they would be a greater threat than they are now. Abaddon of the Black Legion seeks to unite all of the Chaos forces and lead them to a last Black Crusade against the Imperium.

Chaos Marines are equipped with the power armour and weapons they had when they initially betrayed the Imperium, which are broadly the same as those used by Space Marines (although some differences now exist). The current setting of the Warhammer 40,000 game is about 10,000 years after the Horus Heresy, and, while the Imperium has made some technological advancements, Chaos Marines have far more limited access to the handful of new inventions that have appeared on the galactic scene. For example, Iron Warriors are known for capturing and using Imperial tanks. This is not a strong differentiating factor though, as the Imperium merely replicates or rediscovers technology designed during the "Golden Age of Technology" (also known as the "Dark Age of Technology") and has very little understanding of it; thus there have been very few developments during the last 10,000 years.

Other tie-ins[edit]

  • The death metal band Debauchery released several tracks/albums with references to the World Eaters. Most notable is the track "KILL MAIM BURN!".
  • The British death metal band Bolt Thrower released a song titled "World Eater" on their album Realm of Chaos. The entire album is, in fact, themed around the Warhammer 40,000 concept of Chaos, as evidenced by the Games Workshop-produced artwork of the original printing, and song titles such as "Plague Bearer", "Dark Millennium", and "Through The Eye Of Terror".
  • American Doom Metal band Cirith Ungol released the songs "Chaos Rising" and "Join the Legion" on their 1991 album Paradise Lost.


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  • Index Astartes: Emperor's Children, White Dwarf 255
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