Mad, bad and dangerous to know: Using Renegades and Heretics in a Chaos army

As you all know by now, I am a bit of a hobby butterfly, moving from one project to another, always looking for that perfect army that I like both on the field and in the background as well. I have some large armies that I do not plan to get rid off anytime soon, such as my 17.000 points of Eldar or 15.500 points of Blood Angels, but some smaller armies come and go or end up taking new directions as time goes by.

Chaos has always been one of my favourite armies, but for some reasons I have never taken it to the same extreme as with the others, rather building several self-contained lists that I can combine if needed. I had an Iron Warriors army in 3rd edition, the epitome of cheese at the time, but I sold that only a few months ago to give them a new loving home. Then I started 4th and 5th edition with my ‘Everyone infiltrates’ Alpha Legion list, which has taken a backseat as it is simply not very competitive at the moment. Right now, I am mostly rocking the Plague Riders, my Nurgle army.

When I began my Alpha Legion list, it had the option to include Cultists, an option that then vanished before coming back in the current codex. So I already had quite a few Cultists models, in fact I used House Delaque minis for Necromunda as there were no official models at the time. With the new edition (or rather the old one as 6th is a thing of the past), I did a swap deal with a Dark Angels player, so we bought two boxes of Dark Vengeance, then traded the respective halves to each other so I had the Chaos contents of two boxes and he the Dark Angels contents. This added another 40 Cultists to my collection, but the thing is that Cultists are not all that great in the current book, mainly because they pay 10 points for a useless Champion with victim stats and another point each if they want to buy a lasgun, so you end up paying 5-6 points for a weaker version of the Guardsman, who is slightly overcosted to start with.

Fortunately, the guys at Forgeworld totally have our backs and in the amazing Imperial Armour 13, they supply a list for Cultists armies that is much better than the paltry single entry in the Chaos Space Marines codex. In fact, this book is so amazingly cool that it should be shown to all GW codex writers every morning just so they see how wrong they are. Heck, it is twice the page number for the same price, with better pictures and much better background, but that’s neither here nor there.

So, what does it offer?

First of all, it offers a complete FOC chart that can ally with other Chaos forces as Battle Brothers. As you are now free to match detachments from multiple armies, this means that you can easily combine them with Chaos Marines, representing an uprising receiving unexpected reinforcements or a Marine warband bringing along their cannon fodder, or Daemons, representing the Cultists catching the eye of a powerful Daemon and opening a Warp Rift to unleash hell.

In addition, they are cheap, dirt cheap in fact. A single Renegade Infantry Squad costs 30 points for 10 guys with the option of 10 more (20 if your Arch Demagogue is a Master of the Horde, more on that later) for the same price. As 3-5 Squads make a single Platoon, which is a Troops choice, you can end up with between 30 and 150 guys in a single FOC slot, all for the modest sum of 90-450 points. They also pay no extra points to swap their Autopistol and Knife for a Lasgun, Shotgun or Autogun, so they end up costing half of what regular Cultists cost. Granted, they are only WS and BS2, but who cares with those numbers? It is possible to increase them to WS and BS3 for a token sum, however, I would not do that as adding another 10 points per squad (regardless of models in the unit) defeats the purpose of bringing so much chaff to the table.

Another asset is the Arch Demagogue, the compulsory HQ choice. He comes with 4 assistants in a command squad, but is not forced to stay with them as he has the Independent Character rule. And I would keep him away from them, as 4 guys without armour make a crappy bodyguard. If he is the Warlord, he can choose a Devotion and they are the real moneymakers for him, as you can tailor your army based on that choice. For example, a Master of the Horde allows Renegade Squads to be 30 strong, as well as returning them back to the game on a 5+ if a complete squad of 15+ is wiped out. A Heretek Magus has better armour and toughness and opens access to Defilers and other vehicles, a Rogue Witch is, surprisingly, a Psyker who gives access to more Psykers, and so forth. The ones I like best are the Mutant Overlord, who gets a small, but useful Mutation, as well as letting you pick Mutants as Troops and buy a single unit of Chaos Spawn and the Revolutionary who gets a free covenant (see below) and Zealot.

Finally, as lowly Cultists, they do not gain real Chaos Marks, instead having access to Covenants. A Covenant is bought by a character or champion at a flat fee and adds a bonus to every member of his unit. Those bonuses are quite good, with Nurgle granting FNP 6+, Slaanesh Fleet, Khorne Shred in the first round of each melee and Tzeentch something I have forgotten right now, which might be because that one is actually not that good. As they are not Marks, they can be combined in a unit by having an Arch Demagogue join a unit with a different Covenant, giving the unit both bonuses. But even without double-dipping, paying a mere 10 points flat per unit is a great way of adding a lot of ‘uump!’ to a unit. An Arch Demagogue’s Covenant also adds more units to be used in the army.

This shows how elegant this list really is in terms of design. Choose a theme (Dark Mechanicus, hordes, mutants, elite soldiers) and get new options by choosing the matching devotion. Then add a god and you get even more options based on who your Arch Demagogue is aligned with. So easy and yet so cool. Depending on what options you select for your Arch Demagogue, the army will be wildly different, which really reflects a chaotic rabble of Renegades brought together and held together by a single charismatic leader. Two thumbs up for rules matching fluff!

So, having said that, I want to talk about what I would take to add some mass to my Nurgle army.

Renegade Command Squad: 4 Disciples with Lasguns, Arch Demagogue with Power Axe, Refractor Field, Mutant Overlord, Covenant of Nurgle: 95 points

Enforcer: Power Axe, Combat Drug Injector: 45 points

  • The Commissar equivalent adds +1 to the unit’s Leadership role (yes, units roll d6+4 the first time they take a test and keep that as their Ld score for the whole game) and has a Combat Drug Injector which gives his unit Rage, so 2 bonus attacks for charging.

50 Mutant Rabble: Laspistols and Close Combat Weapons. Mutant Champion with Covenant of Khorne: 170 points

  • Yes, you read that right, 50 guys for the price of a Tactical Squad. By adding the Arch Demagogue and the Enforcer, they gain Rage, Fearless, Hatred and FNP 6+ to go with their Shred from the Covenant of Khorne, so this is a unit that can potentially dish out 211 attacks, re-rolling to hit and wound in the first round. Granted, it is unwieldy and rather slow, but it is a dirt cheap unit that must be dealt with or it will overrun even elites.

Infantry Platoon: 3 units of 20 each, one with a Demagogue with Covenant of Nurgle (one squad per platoon gets one for free as he is the leader of the whole platoon). One unit has Lasguns and two Cultists have Grenade Launchers, one Lasguns and two flamers and the last one melee weapons and pistols and two flamers: 230 points

  • Another 60 bodies to form a second wave.

1 Blight Drone: 150 points

  • Available as my Arch Demagogue has the Covenant of Nurgle.

Field Artillery Battery: 2 Heavy Quad Launchers: 60 points

  • Insane value for points as you get a copy of a Thunderfire Cannon without the Techmarine to go with it at a third of the rate. I have two old ones with Squat crew, so they can be my Mutant gunners.

That would be my first draft of a Renegade detachment, leaving of course lots of slots open for more units. Right now, this brings over 130 bodies to a Chaos army, adding some cut-price artillery with the Blight Drone and Quad Launchers as well. I could scrounge through my bits boxes to see if I have any spare Guard tanks to add, I believe I still have a Leman Russ there and there is a Hydra languishing on my painting table too.

Right now, this clocks in at 810 points, with the Blight Drone being the most expensive single model. So I could add 1190 points of Nurgle Marines to that and see how it fares on the table. The biggest drawback is the sheer number of models you need for it though. I have thrawled eBay to find as many Delaque as possible, so I think I could fill the complete Infantry Platoon with them interspersed with plastic Cultists, though I want to keep the plastic ones for the Mutant Rabble. I am considering buying some Beastmen Gors to add to the Cultists with Pistol and Sword to fill the Mutant unit.


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