Terminus was not concerned with the Imperials knowing who he was. He was infamous throughout the galaxy and fear would win him yet another battle before it had begun. He stood on the bridge of his flagship and let the Imperial spy drones through the gunlines so that they could see who held the rope around their necks. The image came through slowly on the Imperial monitors…
As we count down the last few days before our battle against Bull's Dark Angels, I thought I would take this opportunity to go through some of the models that will make up my Plague Marine army and explain to the uninitiated their pros and cons and maybe why I chose them. I'm going to start with the core unit, the Plague Marines themselves.
WHAT ARE PLAGUE MARINES?
This is what my whole army is about. They are normally an Elite choice in the Force Organisation Chart (FOC), however, if you take an HQ with the Mark of Nurgle then Plague Marines can be taken as a Troop choice instead.
Why would you want to do this? First of all, Troop choices are scoring units so therefore the only ones that can hold objectives (with a few exceptions). This not only gives you a better unit to hold said objectives but also frees up your three available Elite slots for additional funky stuff – Terminators, Hellbrute, Possessed, etc.
THE BIG CONS
The downside to having Elite choices as the backbone of your army is that they cost a lot more from a points perspective – the standard Chaos Marine costs 13pts, a Plague Marine costs 24pts, that's nearly twice as many standard marines for the same cost!
The other main downside to Plague Marines is that they are only Initiative 3. This means that most other models, especially loyalist marines, will be striking before them in close combat (at Initiative 4). The implication of this is that you're going to have to survive a round of incoming swings before you get to hit back.
THE LOVELY PROS
If getting to punch after everyone else is the big issue then Plague Marines have the means to survive the incoming hits. First of all they get Blight Grenades, which counts as both offensive and defensive grenades. This means that anyone steaming into your unit doesn't get their +1 bonus Attack for charging – that can add up to a lot less hits to have to survive.
Next pro – they are tougher than almost everyone else! Most space marines are Toughness 4 but, being all blighted and bloated by Nurgle, Plague Marines are Toughness 5. This means that your standard Dark Angel space marine is going to need to roll a minimum of 5 on a D6 to wound you. That is going to filter out a lot of the hits too.
Then we get a standard 3+ space marine armour save BUT on top of that we get "Feel No Pain". This means that, should I roll less than 3 and fail my armour save, my Plague Marines get an ADDITIONAL 5+ save which can only be negated by Strength 10 weapons or Instant Death by some other means (force weapon).
So, as a small example of what this means…
A unit of 10 Dark Angel space marines charges my unit of 7 (Nurgle's magic number) Plague Marines. They have one attack each as standard and would normally get a second each for charging (but don't thanks to my Blight Grenades). They roll their 10 attacks, needing 4+ to hit me, averaging 5 hits. With those 5 hits they then need 5+ to wound me, averaging 2 wounds. I get a 3+ armour save, which means I'm more than likely to save both. If I don't I then get to roll again for "Feel No Pain" and on a 5+ ignore the wound.
Now you see why they cost 24pts per model!
BUT THAT'S NOT ALL…
I've only spoken about their defensive strengths. Offensively they get to take a boltgun (standard marine weapon), a bolt pistol AND also get a Plague Knife. This means they get 2 Attacks as standard in combat (one basic and an additional for have two close combat weapons). Their Plague Knife has the "Poisoned" characteristic which means I never need worse than a 4+ dice roll to wound, regardless of the Toughness of my opponent (I'm looking at you T8 Wraithlords!).
Continuing our example…
We lost no models in the Dark Angels' initial round of combat. We now get to attack back. My 7 Plague Marines get 2 Attacks each, needing 4+ to hit, followed by 4+ to wound. On average that leaves the Dark Angels needing to take 3 or 4 armour saves of which they're likely to fail at least one. Had I charged the enemy unit, my Plague Marines would have had 21 Attacks in total, giving a likely result of 2 or 3 dead Dark Angels. Of course the dice don't always follow the course of logic or averages so there is the potential to wipe out a unit when charging.
You can expand the unit up to 20 models but they cannot take any heavy weapons (missile launcher, lascannon, etc.) – it's not their way. However, you can take two Special Weapons (Plasma gun, Meltagun, Flamer) regardless of the size of the unit. This gives you the option to take several smaller units to max out on funky guns. Stick them in a Rhino and you have a Chaos approximation of a Razorback.
Their resilience does give them a huge advantage over standard Troops, meaning you're likely to hold onto an objective for longer. However, you are at the mercy of the dice-gods and your precious Plague Marines could hold out for several turns under immense fire, or fold in a single round – I've had both happen in my first game of 6th Edition. Their cost also means you're always going to be outnumbered and their weapon options means you're not going to be able to take part in a long-range firefight – you're going to have to get up close and dirty.
WHY DID I TAKE THEM?
I'm a chaos marine player to the core and to me these guys are the epitome of chaos marines – zombified elite troops that just keep coming and do not die. I could have taken a single unit as an Elite choice in a more standard chaos marine army, but I like armies that have big themes. They may cost a lot of points and I may not have many of them on the table but the absolute fear they will instill (once fully painted) marching across the board is (virtually) unmatched by any other Troop choice in the game. They are bursting with character (literally) and are fun to convert and paint. From a modelling and painting perspective you can't go wrong with these guys and they allow you a lot of freedom and forgiveness when creating your army.