Imagine, if you will, that after two years of playing with the Knights of Ashteth, I was flabberghasted to discover a few things… changing. The worm had turned. Prancing around with crab claws and nipple piercings was no longer really me. There was a new book on the block, and it detailed two other great Powers of Chaos, and one of them was bellicose, blackly humorous, drowning in despair and loving every minute of it, and always ill. Imagine, if you will, that I forsook old allegiances, and took up the ways of Father Nurgle, only to discover that army lists now apparently worked a little differently…
In building my Death Guard army, I’d like to end up with a force that I can use at 500, 1000, 1500 or 2000 points with the minimum of fuss, so I’ll be building in the usual series of expandable blocks. I’d also like to see some properly monstrous Champions of Chaos on the table, really flex my modelling muscles, and so I’ll be including a randomly generated Renegade warband in each stage of the army’s evolution. Finally, I’ll be experimenting with the Rewards of Mortarion rather than of Nurgle on some of my Champions; I quite like the idea that the Plague Marines see their Primarch as a sort of intercessor to the Master of Maladies, and maybe I’ll get to model some of his grim-reaper-ish aspects onto my Champions if I’m lucky.
The Core of the Carcass – Lieutenant Commander Sebhorrea
To start with, I’ve decided to roll up a Chaos Champion or three, the idea being to assign each one to a different 500 point sub-section of the army. The process for generating Champions starts with determining their profile, so I fish out some d10s and start rolling, ending up with an ordinary Traitor Marine, a Champion, and a Major Hero.
That Major Hero will probably make quite a credible general, so I’ll start there. Tempting as it is to make him an Exalted Champion, those set you back a good few points in a Death Guard list*, so I’ll go with a Mighty Champion. His Mark of Nurgle takes the form of some lovely Tentacles; he gets d4+4 Chaos Rewards, and I promptly roll a 1. Five rolls on the Reward table later, and I end up with two Chaos Attributes (a goat’s head with a crown of toes, most implausible), Chaos Armour, Chaos Spawn, and a Gift of the Gods. Since he already has power armour, I elect to refuse the Chaos Armour in favour of a Gift of Mortarion, and end up with Yellow Dementia. Well, he’ll hit like a ton of bricks (doubling his Weapon Skill and Strength), but he’ll have very little choice about doing so (having to charge if the opportunity presents itself). Meanwhile, his Gift of the Gods (rolled on the Nurgle chart) comes up… Face of Nurgle. I’m not sure quite how that’ll co-exist with his existing attributes; I may attempt some sort of decayed, Beastman-like visage with a crown of gnarly growths on top, or I may opt for a more Nurglish appearance, keeping the horns and the beard, and maybe a bulbous set of forehead-toes forming the triple circle emblem of his Dark God. All praise Nurgle!
His retinue already comprises seven Chaos Spawn: former Traitor Marines with (appropriately) seven Chaos Attributes. I decided to roll them as Dominant Attributes so I didn’t end up with something that’d be far too tedious to deal with across seven models, and end up with Burning Body (+1 T, and sending extra fiery attacks back when outnumbered), Puny (-1 S and T; physically wasted), Scaly Skin (higher armour saves), Metal Body (-2 WS and BS, +1 S, T 5), Long Spines (more attacks back when outnumbered for half the unit, though alas not poisonous), Mace Tails (an extra attack for half the unit), and an opportunity to invent my own. Putting all that together, we end up with some Traitor Marines at WS and BS 2, S4 and T6, with an array of extra attacks (especially when outnumbered) and a hefty 2+ armour save, and something else. The image that comes to mind is one of ancient Plague Marines: atrophied, mummified corpses, hard-wired into their armour, minds long since rotted away. Perhaps, when they die, their dessicated flesh erupts from their armour in a cloud of spores, leaving behind a small template like that created by the Staff of Nurgle, which will deal a nasty hit to anyone careless enough to walk through it?
With five Rewards I’m also allowed two rolls to see if he accumulates Followers, and one comes up a six, so I end up with three rolls on the Followers table, and amass two pairs of Chaos Cultists and three Ork Freebooters. I decide to roll a Follower Attribute for the Cultists together, and the Orks together, since they’ve probably been with him for a while; the Cultists grow to twice their natural size and the Orks get Rotting Flesh. The Cultists must surely be approaching Traitor Marine proportions by now, while the Orks have clearly contracted something distinctly un-Orky (maybe the same flesh-rotting disease that afflicts the Chaos Spawn – in fact, that’ll be the effect they leave behind; a pool that inflicts the Rotting Flesh Chaos Attribute on anything that moves through it). Half the Cultists can be equipped with flak armour for free, and the Freebooters have access to their unit options, including the compulsory heavy weapon. Since there’s only three of them I don’t fancy making them a front-line fighting mob, so they can have a suitably Orky autocannon, sit at the back and blow things up from afar.
Finally, I have 5d6 points for technological equipment – 25 points doesn’t mean anything too fancy, but I buy him a plasma pistol with a targeter (so he can pretend to shoot things) and a refractor field to help him not die. The remaining points will be saved up to buy some Terminator armour once he has a few games and a few more Rewards under his belt.
Lieutenant Commander Sebhorrea and Retinue: 423 points
Lieutenant Commander Sebhorrea was – technically still is – a faithful and fanatical officer of the Death Guard Legion, who has remained loyal to his Primarch throughout the Great Crusade, the Horus Heresy, and the ten millennia of the Long War. Although the constant itching and scabby flaking of his skin drives him to distraction and induces a truly foul temper, he’s no fool; he’s masterminded small cult uprisings and plague outbreaks on half a dozen worlds, responsible for the Devouring Shingles that brought havoc to Barabbas’ Fall and the Pox of Minmax that turned a quarter of that planet’s populace into bulbous lard-pawed hunks and made drooling imbeciles of the rest. His closest associates are the poor souls in whom those great works remain most evident, testimony to his previous accomplishments, and an honour guard of truly ancient Traitor Legionnaires, long since reduced to naught but spores and corpses in sealed armour, driven by a ghostly echo of their chain of command.
In building up to my full 1000 points, I think I’d like to expand on some elements of my Champion’s retinue, suggesting the broader force from which they’re drawn.
I’ll start with units of Chaos Cultists and Ork Freebooters; the rank and file from which those more elect (read ‘disease-ridden’) members of my Champion’s retinue are drawn. Seven Chaos Cultists (I’ve already fluked into quite a few sevens, so let’s stick with them and keep Father Nurgle happy, eh?) set me back 70 points – they’re quite cheap and quite fragile, so rather than fling them into the thick of battle I think I’ll give them a decent heavy weapon and use them to provide covering firepower. A missile launcher’s a trifling 50 points and has the flexibility to blast a variety of targets from a safe distance, plus I like the idea of modelling them as carrying extra shells, finding ranges and so on and so forth; sort of an extended artillery crew. The comedy potential only intensifies when I roll Stupid as their Chaos Attribute; obviously the strong ones were siphoned off into the retinue and the remaining dimwits were given one big gun between the seven of them and told to sort themselves out.
Sons of Sebhorrea: 7 Chaos Cultists: 3 lasguns, 3 suits of flak armour, 3 laspistols and 1 missile launcher: 120 points
The less fortunate victims of the Pox of Minmax suffered from a degree of mind-rot before being swept up in the wake of Sebhorrea’s grand design. Although loyal, they are regrettably dimmer than last week’s dead glowsticks, and the entire cabal can just about be trusted to remember which end of their bazooka to point at the enemy and which way round the shells go in. Mostly. Some of the time, at least.
The Orks also have to have a heavy weapon, but I want to take advantage of their higher Toughness and resident character and turn them into a more flexible battlefield presence, following the Retinue around and maybe trying to do some damage in close combat. As usual, I decide on seven models, including the mandatory Kaptin, at 85 points. Since they might be spending time on the move, I shan’t overspend on their heavy weapon, and opt for a simple grenade launcher; they’ll be carrying boltguns as standard, but I also invest in frag grenades (for clearing out particularly numerous enemies at closer range). Moved by a further mad whim, I’ll go back to Sebhorrea’s Technological Equipment allowance and buy a power glove which can be passed on to the Freebooter Kaptain**, who’s obviously a bit of a hard case.
Grimskul’s Goffik Geezers: 6 Ork Freebooters and Kaptin: 1 grenade launcher, 1 power glove, and frag stikkbombz: 122 points
Grimskul found himself abruptly bereft of clan, tribe and home when the Devouring Shingles virus finally evolved into a form that could effect Orks. When all hope seemed lost and only a handful of the Boyz were left alive, the tribe were visited by a foul-tempered mutie who introduced them to the secret ways of Nork; Gork and Mork’s lost brother who’d been stuck at the bottom of the great drops in the sky for ten thousand years. Grimskul considers Sebhorrea to be the prophet of Nork (after all, he’s a funny green colour and he’s got loads of scars; must be an Ork, right?), and has stuck by him ever since, even though he can’t pronounce his name. A few of the lads who’d already got the Shingles survived – all right, so their skins still flake off inch by inch every couple of days, but they’re not dead and they can be trusted to fire their big gun. The rest of the Boyz follow Grimskul into battle, keeping up the Orky end of things as best they can in somewhat reduced circumstances.
The next thing I fancy is a suitably brutal close combat unit. While I could go for Traitor Marines, my old army (the Knights of Ashteth) were very heavy on the Traitor Marine front and I fancy a bit more Chaotic variety in this one. Pestigor fit the bill on both fronts, with a chance of multiple Attributes and Weapon Skill, Strength, Toughness and Wounds characteristics which equal or beat the Marines. They also have those goat-like faces, linking in to Sebhorrea through that mutation. They only get one Attribute, more’s the pity, but it’s a good one – Snake Tails for half the unit, offering an extra poisonous attack at Strength 5! With that in mind, and considering their lack of armour, I decide to go for quantity; a unit of fourteen with no upgrades.
Bray of Rumpviper: 14 Pestigor: 140 points
The lowest of Sebhorrea’s minions are an unpleasant lot indeed; slithering, howling, hopping-mad beastmen rounded up from the plague-cradle planet where his rise to power began.
Coming close to 1000 points, I’m left scratching my head a little. I am entitled to a vehicle, thanks to Sebhorrea’s presence, but the remaining choices are either a bit uninspiring, a bit too cheap (leaving me with awkward points left over) or a bit too expensive (Land Raider).*** Instead, I opt to stick to my principles of Chaotic variety and take some Chaos Squats; the advantage of these lads being that any number of them can carry heavy bolters around, giving me some punishing anti-personnel firepower on some fairly tough little bodies. I can’t quite take all the heavy bolters, but I can squeeze in a minimum-sized squad with three, and two Chaos Attributes to boot: Snake Tails and Manic Hatred. Not terribly useful for a fire support squad, but certainly appropriate.
Brotherhood of Rumpviper Hold: 5 Chaos Squats: 3 heavy bolters: 175 points
Trapped in the Eye of Terror when their prospector vessel was lost in a warp storm, the surviving Squats of the Rumpviper Hold believe themselves forever cursed in the eyes of their ancestors – not by Chaos itself, but by the cruelties of random chance, hence their allegiance to the power most strongly opposed to Tzeentch, the patron of such unfortunate events. They and their Beastmen slaves joined Sebhorrea on one condition; that never in all their service would they suffer a Champion of Tzeentch to live.
Total: 1000 points
* – with typical Realm of Chaos attention to detail, the points cost for an Exalted Champion and associates is 600 points in the generation rules, and 800 in the army lists.
** – I’m not entirely sure I can do this, but you can certainly pass down random Technology from the Reward Chart, so I feel that hand-me-downs from the random wargear allowance ought to work the same way.
*** – oddly, there’s a picture of a Predator right next to the vehicles section of the list, but no points cost for one. Or Dreadnoughts.