The Emperor’s Children are the most devout worshippers of Slaanesh amongst the Heretic Astartes, every blow and bolt round they deliver is done in the Dark Prince’s name. With the recently released Faith and Fury giving each Legion its own rules along with Chapter Approved giving the Chaos Space Marine Codex a huge shot of adrenaline, the Emperor’s Children are primed to be placed on the tabletop.
Today, we’re going to look at the major payoffs for playing in Emperor’s Children, some unit and character combos, a sample list, and finally tactics for how to play as and against the list. If you’re looking to take your gameplay with the Emperor’s Children to the next level, then look no further!
Before we get started, we are going to define the term “payoff” so there’s no confusion on definitions. In this article, a “payoff” is something you get for playing specifically Emperor’s Children that’s highly powerful and that can not be accessed otherwise. For example, the Stratagem Honor The Prince is a payoff, as this is a highly powerful Stratagem only available to Emperor’s Children (hereafter EC)
On the other hand, Veterans Of The Long War would not be an example of a payoff here. Even though it’s another highly powerful Stratagem, it’s available to all non-Renegade forces so it doesn’t fit our definition today. Finally, these entries won’t be in any particular order. We aren’t trying to organize things by their power so much as providing you with what the best tools you have to play with are.
Noise Marines As Troops: This is something that EC have had since the codex has dropped. Noise Marines have been a perfectly reasonable unit for all of 8th, and getting them as troops is icing on the cake as this not only saves you a few points on your troops choices (it’s one less unit of Cultists or CSM to fill out a Bat), but it also makes them score objectives while being outnumbered like other troops do.
Abusing Always Strikes First: As a quick refresher, EC units always strike at the same time as units that Charged in the Fight phase. This slants the army in a more melee direction, but there’s an extra spicy thing about this. The Counter-Offensive Stratagem that everyone uses to interrupt the flow of combat states that it must be used after your opponent fights with a unit that Charged. So, if you charge your opponent and then fight with a different unit than the one that Charged (perhaps a unit from a previous Charge), then your opponent can’t interrupt you. They have to wait until you fight with a unit that actually Charged in the turn.
Glutton For Punishment: EC have some reasonable offensive Warlord Traits and they’re certainly fun, but at the end of the day you have a ton of offensive tools and options and limited defensive ones. A straight -1 Damage as a Warlord Trait is extremely powerful and it still leaves you open to put an offensive Relic of choice on your Warlord if you want to pump up their Damage. When you consider that Incessant Disdain let’s your Characters dive into Combat, you can make a lawnmower of a Warlord that can take a serious beating in return.
Combat Elixirs: Combat Elixirs is a highly versatile Stratagem that lets you adapt your list to your opponent without actively counter-listing. Your opponent brought a lot of Bolter fire and you don’t want your large unit of Noise Marines to die? Make them Toughness 5! Need some Warp Talons to drop in and kill your opponents Imperial Knight? Bump them to Strength 5 so you can actually get some Wounds on it! The power of this stratagem is in its flexibility, and although you can build specifically around it you will often get better mileage out of using it reactively.
Excess of Violence: At first glance, this Stratagem is frankly kind of terrible. A bonus attack for every slain model is pretty narrow. After all, if you’re killing a huge portion of the unit already then there’s no point since they’re all dead, and if you are struggling to kill your target this Stratagem won’t help much since you aren’t getting the kills to generate bonus attacks. However, this Stratagem gets really appealing when you charge multiple units. By splitting your damage across multiple enemy units you can practically double the amount of attacks one of your units would otherwise make. This is one of your more situational Stratagems, but it’s a total blowout when you line it up.
Incessant Disdain: Although narrow, this Stratagem allows your Characters to make large Heroic Interventions and possibly even perform a little Character assassination while you’re at it. Having 1-2 mobile HQ’s that are armed to the teeth for melee Combat will make your opponent’s Charges very difficult.
Honor The Prince: This Stratagem, more than any other single ability or Relic, is what defines EC as an army from a gameplay perspective. This is a truly unique ability, and frankly it’s overpowered at 1CP. The ability to turn a dice rolled in a charge roll after it’s rolled into a 6 is essentially an auto guarantee on that charge, and there’s a few units that can really exploit this, like Warp Talons. Any successful EC list will have a plan to use this Stratagem every game at least twice. We’re gonna get into this Strat a lot more in the next section.
Excruciating Frequencies: This is easily the second best payoff that you get for playing EC, falling very narrowly behind Honor The Prince. Noise Marines were already a undervalued unit in the Chaos Space Marine arsenal, and they received a sizeable points cost reduction in Chapter Approved. This makes them a very reasonable unit, albeit one that’s focused primarily on killing Infantry. However, Excruciating Frequencies let’s a squad of Noise Marines pull double time and threaten anything in the game that doesn’t physically have a 2+ Save. Your Sonic Blasters can take out a Predator or half the health of a Knight. Add in Veterans of the Long War and Excessive Cacophony, and you can shred an opponent’s entire flank to pieces with just one decent sized unit of Noises.
Armor of Abhorrence: Some armies have really terrifying Overwatch, especially Tau. This Relic lets you turn it off so you can get some kind of threat in. Throw this on a Demon Prince, use his large base to tie up a couple of units, and then get in there with your other threats.
Remnant of the Maraviglia: This Relic opens up an alternate style of army construction for EC. In general, EC are a melee focused army with some fire support. The Remnant flips this equation on its head, allowing you to build a more gunline focused army with a single, devastating Shooting Phase. However, the Chaos Space Marine Codex doesn’t have the units to really capitalize on this kind of effect. If you use Forgeworld, then you can wreak havoc with some Deredeo’s. Overall this Relic is a little hard to build around for EC, but the potential is there.
Raiment Revulsive: This thing is practically built for Demon Princes, and along with the update granting them Hateful Assault, a DP with an Axe is actually a highly attractive option. On the charge, you’re looking at 5 S8 AP-3 Damage 3 swings and a single talon swipe. Normally the accuracy loss is an issue, but the Raiment Revulsive lets you re-roll those 2’s when rolling to hit. This makes your DP reasonably suited to taking down any large targets, dealing an average of about 11 Damage to a Vehicle or Monster compared to the 8 or so you would get with Talons. The load out is adjustable to preference, but the end result is always one wrecking ball of a Demon Prince.
So, we have the payoffs for playing EC. The question is, what do we do with them? The reality is that you can’t fit all of these into a single list, and for the same reason you won’t fit all of these unit combinations in either. Instead, you have to pick and choose what you run with.
Mutilators/Warp Talons+ Honor The Prince=Pressure
That’s right, I said Mutilators! Normally these units are regarded as terrible because of their inconsistent profile and the difficulties around getting them to combat. Luckily for you, Honor The Prince makes charging out of reserves practically a guarantee and therefore removing the biggest issue with this unit. At only 105 points, it’s hard to complain about getting 12 ~ S7 AP-2 Damage2 swings. Obviously you have a random profile and that’s an issue, but again it’s 105 points.
On a similar vein we have Warp Talons. This unit denies Overwatch on incoming and can really mess up most units in the game with their 3 Lightning Claw attacks on the charge. Honor The Prince makes them also likely to land a charge out of reserves. These two units also make great use out of Combat Elixirs, as they can both benefit from both the bonus Strength or bonus Attack.
Throw on +1 Attack and Diabolic Strength on a single Mutilator and you have a one man wrecking crew with a solid AP and Damage roll. The exact combination is up to you, but you will definitely want at least one unit of Warp Talons in every list and optionally a second unit of your choice to bring in as Reinforcements. 10 Talons and 3 Mutilators aren’t super invasive at 295 points, and they guarantee strong deep strike threats.
The One Unit Rock Concert
Noises are the other must-run unit to include in EC, and their damage value is through the roof. Consider an Apostle and a Sorcerer giving them +2 to hit with Shooting Attacks (Warp Sight Plea+ Prescience), Combat Elixirs providing +2 Movement, and the godly result of Veterans Of The Long War+Endless Cacophony+Excruciating Frequencies.
A squad of 14 Noises with 12 Sonic Blasters and 2 Blastmasters would make 72 Strength 5 AP0 Damage 2 shots and 4D6 Strength 5 AP-1 Damage 2 shots, moving 16+2D6 inches for Advancing with a 24” threat range on their guns. That’s a 47” threat range on average yielding a total average of 25 dead Primaris Marines or about 30 Damage in total to T7, 3+ targets with a Chaos Lord to re-roll 1’s.
These bad boys easily kill a Knight on average. Sure it’s 6 CP counting Elixirs and some psychic powers, but you easily kill 500 points of stuff while your 254 point unit is still alive and needs to be dealt with. And when they do, the Noises shoot again while still being at +2 to hit. And you still have your two units of Reinforcements that will make their charges. Talk about scary!
Turn One Direct Impact
If there’s one thing Chaos Space Marines are good at it’s getting in your opponent’s face on the first turn. With a mixture of Warptime, a couple fast units, and Heldrakes you can lock your opponent’s movement options down. A squad of bikes with two Plasmaguns and a Combiplasma on a champion will run you 236 points, and they can clear 28” of space on Turn 1 from Warptime. After some shooting and charging off of your Bikes and two Drakes, you can charge 3 different units and tie them down from shooting you on your next turn.
You could go with the Soulforged Pack as well and have some Drakes and a Maulerfiend or two instead. Maulers only move 10”, but double moving and advancing moves you to ~27” and you can still charge thanks to Infernal Engines. Or run some Fiends and Bikes and use the Bikes to rush in on 2 after shooting for a couple turns. There’s a lot of ways to do this, and none of them are wrong.
The Psychic Possessed Partybomb
A lot of models in the Possessed bomb out of Daemonkin Ritualists got cheaper in CA2019. Now, 20 Possessed only cost 340 points, and you can make them Toughness 5 from Combat Elixirs, give them a 4++ from a Master of Possession and a 5+++ from Delightful Agonies. Finally, you take a Dark Apostle for Benediction of Darkness and the Remnant of the Maraviglia.
This is a bomb unit that’s incredibly frustrating to remove from the table for about 525 points, and the remaining 1475 or so can be spent on guns. The Apostle can keep making the Possessed -1 to be shot until the turn he activates the Remnant. Nobody is going to charge those Possessed for fear of their1+D3(2+D3 with Vessels of the Neverborn) attacks that cause
Mortal Wounds on Wound Rolls of a 6. Meanwhile, you can slowly start claiming board space while your gunline does its thing.
The Roving Gunline
Chaos Space Marines don’t have the best tools when it comes to shooting your opponents off the table. However, we do have great midrange control and a lot of buffs to push our units to incredible heights. 3 squads of 12 Noise Marines with 10 Sonic Blasters and 2 Blastmasters each will click in at 660 points (throw a Lightning Claw on one Champion to really please Slaanesh with that 666 point price tag) and provide you with the base of a moving fire platform that can also defend itself in melee.
Against tougher targets, any unit can use the combination we talked about earlier and swing way over their belt, and with the Remnant of the Maraviglia you can have one truly incredible turn. Throw in 1-2 units of Bikes to move around and lay down more bullets and some Plasma and a unit of Obliterators and you have the building blocks for an Emperor’s Children gunline. Definitely a wildly different take on the army, and although it’s probably not as effective as going more melee focused this avenue of attack is great for people wanting to shoot their opponents off board.
Now that we went over some potent unit and ability combinations, let’s look at a sample 2000 point list for Emperor’s Children. We’ll put some of the combinations we talked about above together and then fill in the detachments to make a deadly army on the tabletop.
Emp Children Bat
Sorcerer with Jump Pack, Stave 116
Sorcerer with Stave 88
3X5 CSM 55/165
Emp Children Bat
HQ’s: DP, Wings, Axe, Warlord, Warp Bolter (Glutton for Punishment, Raiment Revulsive) 168
Chaos Lord, Pack, 2 Claws (Rapacious Talons 1CP) 103 (271)
Troops: 2X10 Cultists 40/80 12 Noises, 10 Sonic Blasters and 2 Blast Masters 220
Everything else: 3 Mutilators 105
10 Warp Talons 190
3 Obliterators 285
2 Maulers, Lashers 244
9 Bikes, 2 Plasmaguns, Combiplasma 236
Let’s start by looking at our overall gameplan and where our CP goes. We start with 13 CP, but we spend 3 pregame on an extra Relic and Combat Elixirs. We also plan on spending 3 on 3 uses of Honor The Prince, and that leaves us with 7. That’s not a lot, but it’s enough and every time we make a Charge without needing to use Honor The Prince we effectively save a CP to use elsewhere.
This list is looking to aggressively keep it’s opponent under attack by sending threat after threat at them while pelting them with some quality shooting off Noises and Bikes. We have lots of Psychic Powers to buff all of our various units, and a healthy amount of targets for them.
On Turn 1, we’re looking to send in a very buffed up Maulerfiend into our opponent’s lines and try to tag something important, ideally on the charge and if necessary by Piling In/Consolidating. On Turn 2, one of our melee deep strike threats and Obliterators land while our Warlord gets close and we start ramping up the pressure with our various threats hitting simultaneously. On Turn 3, our remaining reserve threat lands and cleans house.
While all this is going on, the Noise Marines and Bikes move around shooting targets. The Bikes spit 36 Bolter Rounds and 3 Plasma (6 of the target is at 12”) shots every turn and the Noise Marines should pick up a unit a turn with a little CP. Once the Noises are in position, shooting them off the board becomes unappealing because they will shoot back as they die and engaging them in melee becomes unrealistic due to all the threats in your opponent’s lines.
Ideally, this list is looking to pressure your opponent into focusing on your plethora of melee threats while your ranged elements quickly delete key targets and leave them defenseless. If either your Noises or Bikes are largely untouched by Turn 3 it’s almost certainly a win for you since your opponent won’t have the resources to address them.
This list also has acceptable levels of defense against really aggressive armies thanks to its 3 units of Chaos Space Marines and 2 units of Cultists. These units provide reasonable objective play and some resistance to enemy Reinforcements dropping in on key targets. The Chaos Lord with Jump Pack also serves as an extra melee deterrent against trying to close against your Noises or Bikes, since he can easily destroy most units on his own with a decent Daemon Weapon roll and possibly Excess of Violence.
– Highly flexible. The order of what units go where and which units receive what buffs and Stratagems isn’t set in stone, lending the list a high degree of flexibility.
– Above average melee with a small amount of very high quality shooting. You aren’t weak in any particular area so there shouldn’t be any matchups that are a total blowout for you besides maybe competitive Space Marine builds.
– You’re live every phase of the game . With 5 Psychic Powers between your two
Sorcerers and the Daemon Prince, you have lots of options for making any unit over perform on the spot, and your reasonable shooting and melee means your opponent has to play around both your melee and ranged elements.
– You’re highly CP reliant while only having 7 CP to spend on all the other actions you might want to do. You run out of gas quickly, so hopefully you roll some 9’s on your Charge rolls to save some CP.
– Although you don’t have a really strongly defined weak point, you also don’t have a really defined strength either. Many of the best lists in 40K are overbearing in one particular area and weak/dead in the rest. Although you are significantly more flexible than most other armies in the game, your overall power level is lower than the genuinely competitive lists.
– A lot of your melee threats rely on coming in as Reserves or just running at your opponent. Although you have tools to boost your success rates in these areas, your opponent can deploy and move to make your options limited or difficult. The downside to being a very reactive army is that your opponent gets to react to you as well.
There are a couple of ways you could improve or change this list while keeping the core of it the same. For starters, the small Battalion with your 3 units of Chaos Space Marines and 2 Sorcerers could be changed to Red Corsairs. This would have practically no negative effect whatsoever while giving you 3 additional CP to play with, which in turn greatly improves your options on the table.
In addition, you could cut the Obliterators for 2 Heldrakes with Baleflamers. Although your raw damage output would obviously be lower, the Heldrakes could tie down a lot of early threats and movement options for your opponent while clearing an even bigger hole in your opponents lines. This change is more of a player preference decision then a strict power boost, but it’s a change to consider.
That about wraps us up for our Emperor’s Children Tactics article. There’s a few different ways to approach Emperor’s Children, and although they aren’t the most competitive force on the table they’re more than reasonable and a blast to play.
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