This weekly guest article comes to you courtesy of The Jersey General.
Despite what GW seems to believe, what with completely ignoring it, the Internet has become a big part of our hobby. Of course that leads to many turning to this magical world of all-you-can-click porn and Nigerian princes waiting to give you money to get hobby advice. One of the biggest debated questions usually becomes “what army should I start with?” Now the easy answers are usually what do you like…what models appeal to you…Do you want to play IG and always win… but then there are those looking for a good army to provide an introduction to the game and many people (and seemingly GW) say Space Marines. I think this is just not a wise decision. Modern Marines have become trickier to play and can be complicated for a novice player. Personally I go for something a bit pointier and say to pull out the tried-and-true devotees of the dark gods…the Chaos Space Marines. Why? They can field a varied army list, they’re fairly simple and straightforward and they will teach a player how to play the game.
First, I feel the CSM dex and the Ork dex are the bar to which other dex’s are measured as to quality. I say this for 2 simple reasons. 1 they’re balanced and 2. you can easily have a half dozen players all have completely different armies that are all competitive. Orks lose the recommendation just because they’re labor-intensive. A new player may be overwhelmed when he asks what he’d need for a 1750 point army and the answer is 160 models. So Chaos it is then. Chaos has the ability to become the army you want it to be. First you can take Marine squads and add marks to give them a bit of a bonus. These guys are decent all-around and have the added bonus of not forgetting those heavy chain-swords in their other pants so unlike their loyal counterparts, they can engage in CC and have a shot at doing fairly well. They’re not fearless, but since our focus is about learning the game a new player should know how morale works before getting too many fearless units or modifiers like ATSKNF. These guys can get transports, can be run in horde-sized mobs and can take plenty of weapon choices to get their assigned job done. When the rookie is ready to start specializing there are cult troops. Here you have scoring units with stats and special rules that put them on par with some armies elites. They do what they’re designed for well and even the less popular choices like Thousand Sons are viable in the right list.
Second, you have the models. They’re readily available, largely plastic and lack massive gaps in their model line that are becoming common in newer armies. New players don’t always like the idea of reading about some cool unit only to discover there’s no model (and sometimes no picture…) and they have to build one themselves. Yes, there are a few metal models that are a pain (Oblits) but lets be honest…in this hobby learning how to deal with these sort of models is part of learning the hobby. If the new player does want to convert, though you have options and there are Chaos aspects that are forgiving. A plastic Chaos Marine and a bit of greenstuff can make a Plague Marine and seeing that they’re supposed to look like rotting blobs of putrid flesh it can look less then spectacular and still be suitably Nurgle-y for example.
Chaos introduces basically everything you need to know to play the game. They don’t have any funny rules, but use most of the core rules you’ll see. They have monstrous creatures, independent characters, named characters, normal troops, fearless troops, vehicles, transports, walkers and just about anything else you’ll need to know about. Through the army, you’ll see Relentless, Slow and Purposeful, Furious Charge, Feel no Pain, and just about every other universal special rule in the book. The only things missing are fast, open-topped or skimmer vehicles.
Chaos are more of a jack of all trades then most armies. Their basic troop can hold its own in CC, can bring special or heavy weapons and can take marks to specialize their mission further. Beyond that you have cult units. As a player gets to know himself as a gamer, he will discover what strategies he likes and what works for him. He can then expand with cultists that follow what he wants from the army. This is also an army that can grow with the player. With some armies when the time comes to expand, it’s often more of the same thing (ask Necron players what I mean…). That’s not a bad thing at all, but if a player has a budding force and wants to experiment, having so many choices gives new opportunities to try things out without completely re-building the army or changing its entire construction.
At the end of the day an army choice is something a gamer has to consider carefully. This is far from a cheap hobby, so its important to pick an army that becomes an investment. Just about any army can be picked up by a rookie and will draw them into the hobby if its right for them (except maybe Necrons, sorry guys but you still suck). Putting a few hundred bucks into some models means changing your mind completely isn’t always an option. Having an army that can change with a player, do so many things and get them into the game is valuable so I usually will point someone to chaos first. Besides, Grandfather Nurgle always needs more children to spread his infectious love.