This is the second post in which I talk about the Chaos Space Marines. Last time I talked about Leadership and Morale and a lot about what differentiates Chaos Space Marines from loyalist Space Marines (i.e. not the spikey bits). This time around I’ll talk about the Champion of Chaos, both the army wide special rule but especially the common Aspiring Champion of the Chaos Space Marines.
The death of a Champion of Chaos should be a terrible loss to the Chaos Space Marines, not devastating like the loss of Synapse to the Tyranids but terrible still. The Champion holds the army together. When he dies the army will start to crumble under the weight of opportunity and the survival instincts of its individual members. In order to carry burden of this central role the Champion of Chaos needs ways of staying alive better.
The much maligned Champion of Chaos army wide special rule forces the model with this rule to issue challenges whenever possible, even it would be better not to issue a challenge at all. It’s a game-mechanic that removes player control over the model. This presents a huge liability as the Champion of Chaos, especially the Aspiring Champion, often lacks true survivability. He just can’t take a punch. Personally I find the mechanic really good, from a fluff point of view. It is fitting for a couple of reasons – the first resonates back to opportunity and the second to the manner of which the chain of command is maintained within a Chaos Space Marines army.
The chain of command is built around power. Command is given to the Champion because of his martial prowess and ability to lead. The rest of the squad believe him to be most likely to lead them to power and spoils. This means that the Champion needs to step up when needed in order to maintain his right to command. No Chaos Space Marine will follow the coward that run and hide in the face of danger. The Champion should be in the forefront, taking the first blow. The Champion might not like this arrangement, especially the part regarding taking the first blow, but that’s the deal.
Opportunity is on the other hand the individual Champions inherent urge to gain power and potentially fulfilling his personal ambitions by catching the eye of the Dark Gods. Because of this, opportunity is a risk. By forcing challenges the player needs to take this risk into account when building the army and gearing the Champions. But in order to make it worthwhile to invest points to equip the Champion, he needs an increased chance of actually winning the challenge. The key to winning is not dying.
Now unlike the squad leaders and champions of other factions the Champion of Chaos is a ruthless cutthroat whose prime concern is his own survival. Just because he need to step up and take the challenge to maintain command doesn’t mean that he actually intends to the first one to die. This should of course be reflected in the rules. Most units and models outside of Chaos Space Marines that have a rule that forces them to issue and accept challenges have some kind of boon for doing so – additional attacks, re-roll to hit or to wound or something else that increases their offensive capabilities. This is understandable from their fluff stand point; characters from “honourable” factions (Armies of the Imperium, Eldar and Tau) step up to protect their squad, Chaos Daemons lack free will, Dark Eldar and Necrons are too arrogant and fail to see the risks involved, Orks just like to fight and Tyranids will win or adept though death. Boosting their offensive capabilities is understandable.
Remember, the primary concern of the Champion of Chaos isn’t defeating the enemy, but not dying. Only by not dying can the personal ambitions be reached. So what the Champion of Chaos needs is an increased survivability not increased killing power (although one could argue that killing stuff before they kill you is a good way of staying alive). There are a couple of ways to a achieve this – invulnerable save, re-roll armour save, forcing re-rolls on successful to wound rolls. The mechanic that I would like to see implemented is the ability for a Champion of Chaos to take Look out Sir! in a challenge. This would be both useful, characterful and in line with the modus operandi of the Chaos Space Marines.
Selfish and ruthless men like the Chaos Space Marine have an absolutely incredible ability to accept and rationalize other peoples death as a justifiable price for their own survival. Ok, your Champion is an evil bastard that threw a couple of his own men to die in his place but he ultimately got the job done and you are all still on the route to victory, power and spoils. Let’s not dwell to much over whose blood got spilt. It wasn’t yours after all. I would love this mechanic.
In the first part of the series we mitigated some of the Leadership and Morale issuse of the Chaos Space Marines by adding Stubborn and/or an ability to re-roll fail tests to the Champion of Chaos rule. In this part we looked on how to increase the Champions survivability by adding the ability to Look out Sir! in a challenge to the Champion of Chaos rule.
Next time I talk a bit about the unwieldy Chaos Boons and the wargear of the Champion.