Introduction | The Imperium of Man
Ancient Races | The Forces of Chaos | Alien Aggressors
The Forces of Chaos are a faction in the science fiction tabletop game Warhammer 40k. Players who choose to use one of the Forces of Chaos as their army take the role of one of the most serious threats to all life in the galaxy. These armies come from a strange and dangerous place: the Warp.
The Warp is a parallel dimension to what is known as 'realspace'. It is a space of pure psychic energy that flows like a river. Those with psychic abilities and Warp capable ships can enter the Warp and take shortcuts through it to distant places in realspace. But the journey is dangerous because Warp Storms can bring ships far off course - in time and space. Due to its unpredictable nature the Warp is also known as the Realm of Chaos.
Although it is a hostile environment for creatures of realspace, the Warp is the home of many different terrifying beings, which can cross the border between the dimensions through rifts. These rifts may occur randomly, by accident or deliberately. Psykers can utilise the energy of the Warp and gain great abilities in realspace, but they are always in danger of getting corrupted. Those influenced especially easily by Chaos are inexperienced or untrained psykers.
The Warp is influenced by the emotions of those living in the material world - through these emotions beings were created in the Chaos. Some of them became strong and so the Gods of Chaos were born. Their power reaches into realspace, where they search for worshippers who increase their strength with their emotions as well as the sacrifices they make. To their devoted servants the gods offer gifts and blessings which make them powerful beings themselves. In particular, if a person decides to worship only a specific god they can receive great powers.
There are four main Gods of Chaos: Nurgle, Khorne, Tzeentch and Slaanesh. They are rivals to each other and constantly at war. Each of them strives for total domination over the Warp as well as the material world. Every god also has their own army and controls a realm in the Warp - but only part of the Warp is controlled by the gods.
Nurgle, the oldest of the Chaos Gods, is the god of death and decay. His followers have appalling appearances shaped by disease and corruption, but are also happy and friendly to each other. One of the reasons for this is that although they are bloated and putrid from illness they do not feel any pain, which also causes many mortals who suffer from diseases to pray to Nurgle. To his enemies Nurgle brings disease and decay.
The most powerful of the Chaos Gods is Khorne, the god of violence, anger and hate. He is said to sit on a brass throne atop a growing mountain of skulls of those who have been slain in his name. His followers are warriors - in mind or body - who honour their god by shedding blood. What sets him apart from the other Chaos Gods is that he does not like the use of psychic powers and his followers rely purely on their physical strength.
Tzeentch is the god of change and therefore closely associated with magic. He is aware of all the dreams, hopes and plans of those in realspace and actively interferes in their fate as well as the fate of all things. Not even the other Chaos Gods know what his intentions are. Tzeentch attracts psykers, scholars, intellectuals and artists who search for knowledge. All of his followers are gifted with psychic powers.
The youngest of the Gods of Chaos is Slaanesh, the god of excess, greed and pleasure. She came into life at the Fall of the Eldar1 because their search for pleasure nurtured her. Slaanesh's left side is male, while the right side is female and she combines features of both sexes. None of those who worship Slaanesh would think of denying themselves pleasure and luxuries, just like their god. All servants of Slaanesh have very sharp senses and seek pleasure in battle. They often enchant or trick their victims.
The Chaos Daemons
Hell exists, and it sprang from the nightmares of mortals.
- Inquisitor Thrax; Codex Chaos Daemons, 4th edition
Every Chaos God can create daemons from his own power, which then fulfil their will and can be reabsorbed by the god at a later time. The appearance and abilities of each daemon reflect those of their god, which makes each of them unique. In realspace daemons can be killed or more likely banished back to warpspace. Just like the Warp is hostile to mortals, realspace is not a friendly environment for daemons over a longer time. Alternatively daemons can also possess the mind of a mortal - psykers are especially prone to this kind of fate - while other mortals may offer their body willingly. A larger group of daemons needs a Warp rift to enter realspace.
The Daemons of Chaos vary in their size and powers. The leaders of an army of daemons are often Greater Daemons, powerful servants of their gods. The only creatures of Chaos which can become as powerful as them are Daemon Princes, mortals who did a Chaos God great favours and through many mutations ascended to being an immortal daemon themselves. Daemon Princes are also the rulers of the Daemon Worlds, whole planets in realspace that have been corrupted by Chaos. They can shape these worlds in whichever way they like.
The larger part of a daemon host are Lesser Daemons, intelligent creatures who usually have a more or less humanoid appearance. They are accompanied by various Chaos beasts which they use as steeds and for hunting, as well as by daemon engines, part magical and part technological machines.
Daemons of Nurgle all have a repulsive appearance. They have greenish skin with many pox; at some places the skin is even torn open and the intestines show, or fall out of their bodies. They fight with rusty swords that bring disease to whoever they cut. They are led by the Great Unclean Ones, the Greater Daemons of Nurgle, which are each representations of the god himself. They are fat, stinking, bloated beings which have every possible disease and can hardly be hurt. They fondly regard the Lesser Daemons as their children. An army of Nurgle is often accompanied by huge flies - which are sometimes used as steeds - and also by masses of agile Nurglings - little daemons with razor sharp teeth.
Khorne's daemons look the most like typical devils or demons as they are imagined in Christian folklore. They are hoofed creatures with long horns and red skin, most of the time bearing long fiery swords. The strongest of all daemons are the Bloodthirsters, the Greater Daemons of Khorne. They are huge beasts with leathery wings, often wielding large double axes - axes which are possessed by a daemon themselves. They also wear brass armour parts as protection from magic spells. The steeds of daemons of Khorne are often Juggernauts, large beasts in brass armour.
The daemons of Tzeentch constantly change their shape and often leave a trail of multicoloured flames or even appear translucent. They are magical beings which can alter reality. The Greater Daemons of Tzeentch are the Lords of Change, large bird-like creatures with great intelligence and magical abilities. They can even see into the near future by using the knowledge of Tzeentch himself, and they manipulate the fate of others. They often appear to be physically weak, leaning on large staffs and staying at the back of the army, while in fact they are strong not only in mind but also in body.
Slaanesh's army consists of many strange creatures which appear to be at the same time both ugly and beautiful, bewitching their opponents to make themselves seem attractive. Most of the time they combine male and female features and have strange mutations as well as skin of pastel colours. The largest number of the daemons are Daemonettes, terrifying creatures of mostly female appearance with clawed feet and crab-like hands who sometimes ride on vaguely lizard-like steeds. The Greater Daemons of Slaanesh are the Keepers of Secrets, tall, slender creatures who confuse and enchant their victims, feeding from their emotions.
An army of Chaos Daemons probably combines models with the greatest number of different appearances in all of Warhammer 40k. While the Lesser Daemons are at least human-sized, their looks vary greatly depending on which god they belong to. It is easily possible to combine troops from all the gods in one army, while some players may want to specialise with a specific kind of daemon. Each of them has different abilities in battle and every single daemon has a unique look. It is the player's choice if they want to use the violent close combat fighters of Khorne, daemons of Tzeentch which shoot magic fire at their opponent, the tough close combat fighters of Nurgle, or the fast, clawed creatures of Slaanesh. A daemon army is a very strong force, but there are some opponents like the Gray Knights which can give them a very bad time.
The Chaos Daemons are the only army which can be used for both Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40k, but they of course have separate rules for each system. The models are all very detailed and often have tiny bits which have to be glued to slightly less tiny bits, which means they are not an army for impatient or unskilled model builders.
The Chaos Space Marines
I murdered thousands for the Emperor and he gave me nothing except his damning silence. Now his lapdogs yap for every life I take, while the gods promise me the galaxy.
- Svane Vulfbad; Codex Chaos Space Marines, 5th edition
After the Great Crusade, in which the Emperor reunited the many planets on which humans lived, the Emperor returned to Terra to work on a secret project although his mission had not come to an end yet. Some of his followers and even Primarchs became dissatisfied and started to mistrust their master. Slowly they became tainted by the Chaos Gods, who told them lies about the Emperor and promised them great powers. Even Horus, the highest Primarch and closest to the Emperor became corrupted and promised the Chaos Gods to kill the Emperor for them in return for power.
Horus managed to convince other Primarchs of his cause and many Space Marines and Imperial soldiers followed him. Whole legions were corrupted by Chaos and those within them who were still loyal to the Emperor were murdered. The Traitor Legions turned against their brothers and in the end attacked even Terra, the human homeworld, itself. In the end the Emperor himself was able to defeat Horus, but he was also badly wounded and from this time on was reliant on the life sustaining functions of his Golden Throne. The Space Marine legions which fell to Chaos were driven back and banished into the large Warp rift known as the Eye of Terror, where they inhabit many Daemon Worlds. Their new leader became the First Captain of Horus, Abaddon the Despoiler, and they still wage wars against the Imperium.
While some of the legions of the Chaos Space Marines are the followers of a single Chaos God, many worship all four of the gods. While sometimes new Chapters of Space Marines fall to Chaos, they are all still reliant on human resources to fill their ranks. They genetically improve the children of slaves to transform them into Space Marines. Additionally many Chaos Space Marines show mutations which they developed during their life in the Warp rift. Even their power armour, weapons and war machines were transformed, while usually still leaving them recognisable as belonging to a Space Marine. Those among them who serve the gods best ascend to being Chaos Champions or even Daemon Princes with great powers.
Just like the loyal Space Marine Chapters, every Chaos Space Marine Legion has their own specialisations and appearance. The Iron Warriors for instance specialise in siege warfare and the destruction of the enemy's defences as well as building fortifications themselves. They do not worship a specific Chaos God. The armour of the Iron Warriors is silver with some parts painted in yellow with black stripes. The Thousand Sons are a legion with many potent sorcerers and are therefore worshippers of Tzeentch. Their most powerful sorcerer, Ahriman, tried to protect them from the mutations provoked by the Warp, which unfortunately turned them all to ashes, but still their blue and golden suits of armour stay animated by magic. Only a few powerful psykers are still alive to lead the Thousand Sons, who are slow but powerful warriors. The legion known as Emperor's Children have been corrupted by Slaanesh and now live a life searching for pleasures. Their most common fighters are the Noise Marines, who wear black, white and pink armour, often use sonic weapons and are addicted to the sounds of battle. The Plague Marines' bodies and armour have been corrupted by Nurgle, now showing signs of decay and rust and taking a greenish colour. They spread disease wherever they go and due to their mutations hardly feel any pain. One of Khorne's most powerful armies are the World Eaters, who have been violent berserkers ever since their founding. This did not change when they joined the forces of the Blood God; only their armour changed to red and brass colours.
The Chaos Space Marine Legions are not united any more but split up into smaller war bands which fight with as well as against each other. They raid planets, take slaves or make organised assaults on the Imperium. Quite often they are aided in this by Chaos Cults which develop in secret on many Imperial planets.
Playing an army of Chaos Space Marines doesn't require as many tactics as playing normal Space Marines. Their standard troops are comparable to their Imperial cousins, but added to this are various large monsters and mutated creatures.
There are many legions of Chaos Space Marines, but only basic models are available. Players who want to get a specific Chaos Space Marine army can purchase conversion kits and decoration to build a lot of different Marines. In some cases the players are expected to convert models to their preferred shape themselves. The same goes for the many tanks and other vehicles. As most of them are derived from standard Space Marine equipment, the player has to convert normal Space Marine models with the help of some buyable parts and a lot of imagination. There are on the other hand also a few special daemonic war machines for sale. While the models of the Chaos Space Marines are still recognisable as Space Marines, they have many details and symbols, as well as sometimes mutations, which make it obvious that they are a force of Chaos.
Let the Galaxy Burn
Chaos is the ultimate evil in the universe of Warhammer 40k. It spreads like a disease and nobody seems to be safe from it - human or alien. Only the Tyranids may be a more destructive force. The Eldar are convinced that one day the Warp and realspace will destroy each other in a last battle, and still they try to prevent this. But how can a war against gods ever be won?