The Book of Decay Pt. 1, HQ Options

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This is an extended review of the options for playing Chaos Space Marines with a Nurgle theme.  Please be aware that the purpose of this review is not to guide players to make "killer" armies.  Instead, consider this a guide to help players create themed yet competitive lists.  Finally, be aware that contained herein are theopinions, experiences, and statistics originating from butone player.

BOOK of DECAY - part 1, HQ options
For Nurgle players, HQ choices provide the first part of our tactical triad.  Often choosing the proper HQ becomes pivotal in our army's make up.  That said, it is important to live by the motto of: army first commander second.  We must first determine the type and style of army we wish to compose then, and only then, selecting HQ options which compliment the army.  Because of the general expense of Nurgle HQ options, players should consider using counts-as models as their army commanders if the fit is appropriate.  These will be discussed in-depth in part 5.

The Nurgle Army
Nurgle armies resemble their patron god in both composition and execution.  The lists should include units with the Mark of Nurgle where possible, T5+ as often as possible and units of 7 (or a multiple thereof) when possible.  Themes of 3 are also acceptable as the Plague God seems to prefer this number as well.  Nurgle-aligned units tend to rely close ranged weapons or even melees where the full results of their enemies' deaths can be appreciated.  That said, a Nurgle-themed force should shun long-ranged units and units with no marks or marks of other gods. 

When playing a Nurgle army, a player should build his force around one or more of the strengths of a Nurgle force: durability, firepower, and cohesiveness.  Nurgle-marked units and similar forces sport a Toughness of 5 and good saves.  This can make them hard to kill.  Units with multiple wounds should also be considered.  A good Nurgle force should be able to absorb large amounts of punishment before being destroyed. 

Nurgle forces (primarily Plague Marines) also can carry amazingly devastating short-ranged weapons.  Plasma Guns are central here.  However, don't overlook Flamers and Meltaguns in their own right.  Plague Marines, for instance, are one of only two Chaos infantry units capable of taking two Plasma Guns for only seven models.

Finally, the Nurgle forces earmarked below utilize their durability and firepower to form a very cohesive force.  Nurgle armies do not need to specialize various units into ranged, close combat, or other designations.  Instead, the entire selection of forces can make a single-minded vessel of destruction which can steam-roll its enemies into despair.  So we'll begin by discussing every unit and every upgrade in order and then conclude with a look at army lists which incorporate these themes.

Chaos Lord
Chaos Lords are the cheapest HQ option available to Nurgle players before upgrades.  As a rule, they are close combat monsters with a high WS, I, and A statistics.  They also have access to a number of neat toys which can augment their fighting abilities. 

A couple notes on Lords.  Aside from being close combat tooled characters, they are Fearless.  In many ways this is a liability in 5th Edition.  Be careful.  You can easily find yourself taking "bonus" hits if you lose a combat.  On the flip side, Lords sport an inherent Invulnerable Save which can be very nice - specifically against your own Daemon Weapon.

Mark of Nurgle
The Mark of Nurgle provides the Lord with limited protection against enemy attacks.  This protection is best realized against S3 attacks (Lasguns, Eldar in close combat, Orks in the 2nd round of combat).  S4 attacks also take a slight hit, but the majority of S4 attacks are delivered with enough potency in the "to hit" region that the Mark makes little difference.

Also of minor concern is the limited use of the Mark.  Whereas the Marks of Khorne, Slannesh, and Tzeentch arealways counted, the Mark of Nurgle will not help you survive Instant Death or powers such as Gift of Chaos.

Overall, the Mark of Nurgle is a fluffy novelty useful for unlocking other wargear options, but it should not be seen as a stand-alone must-have item.

Personal Icon
If you're using Deep Striking units (Daemons, Terminators, Obliterators), a Personal Icon can be great.  Bringing in units (especially Daemons) within assault range of your Lord without deviation is awesome.  For the points cost, this upgrade is definitely worth it.

These are a decent budget tankbuster especially if your Lord is wearing Power Armor.  The limited number of attacks you get when you use grenades can be a bummer.  But Meltabombs can statistically glance even Land Raiders on average. 

Close Combat Weapons
Power Weapon
For the Lord on a budget, the Power Weapon is a decent choice.  But I find little reason why your Lord should be forced to settle for less than the best.

Power Fist
With the new rules for extra close combat weapons, Power Fists are a bit lower on the combat hierarchy than they were in the 4th Edition.  Unless you are facing vehicles or Monstrous Creatures, I'd look at Lightning Claws or a Daemon Weapon instead.  If you're fighting vehicles, consider a Chainfist or Meltabombs instead.

Whereas the Chainfist used to be the least efficient choice for Lords, thus it climbed to second worst and this is no work of its own.  It has simply been replaced by the Power Fist for the worst.  If your Lord is going tank hunting, this may be a good option, but it is limited to only Lords in Terminator Armor.

Lightning Claws
Still one of my favorites, individually they are a little weak, but in pairs they can be amazing.  A Lightning Claw will wound a T3 model 88% of the time as opposed to 83% for Power Fists.  Against T4 models, the percentage drops to 75%.  As power weapons, you're still going to be cutting through everything and at initiative too!  Factor in your +1 attack and I think these are the second best close combat choice available.

5th edition blessed us with new poisoned weapon rules which enable a 75% chance of wounding anything T4 or lower.  Against anything T5 or highter, we're wounding on a normal poisoned roll.  Combine this with the power weapon status and bonus attacks and you've got a real winner.

A word of caution, though, while 6 attacks is gorgeous, you're statistically likely to get one very bad result each game.  Make sure that you're keeping your Lord supported with other models.

Ranged Weapons
Plasma Pistol
Yay, spend points on something that can kill your Lord.  Okay, wait, don't.  Plasma Pistols certainly have their place.  But for the points, you can buy a Plasma Gun for someone else in another unit.  Really, for the price of the upgrade you're not getting much.  If you're within Plasma Gun range, you should probably be charging.  If you let yourself get within range but outside of assault range, you should probably shoot yourself with that Plasma Pistol.

Twin-linked Bolter
Summed up in a word as "worthless".  Gaining twin-linked status to a weapon I've never actually used is a waste.  Certainly, you gain a 98% chance of hitting, but Lords are primarily close combat tooled.  So stick with that theme.

As a Melta, Flamer, or Plasma option, this has a little potential.  Primarily, the potential lies in both Flamer and Plasma options.  Combi-Plasma weapons offer decent firepower (especially on Terminators) while carrying less risk than their 4th Edition counterparts*.  Combi-Flamers make great crowd control weapons and are advantageous against Nurgle armies' greatest threats: namely swarming armies.

Every Lord worth his name needs a ride
Terminator Armor
For overall durability, nothing can match Terminator Armor.  Gaining Deep Strike and Relentless** is always good.  Overall, Lords need Terminator Armor if they don't have Wings or Steads.  There isn't a whole lot left to say.  This is a good choice.

Jump Pack / Wings
Giving your Lord jump pack or wings is a double-edged sword.  It means that he can get into combat earlier and normally where you want it which are both good things.  However, as most of your army will be relatively slow, it may be an inefficient use of points or even dangerous to try to make your Lord faster.

Now, when discussing Jump Packs or Wings, one very important distinction to make is that Wings do not make their bearers Jump Infantry whereas Jump Packs do.  Both upgrades allow the bearer to Deep Strike and move as Jump Infantry.  However, Wings are superior as they also allow the bearer to be transported in a vehicle.

Bikes are fast.  They're nice and fast.  They confer a Toughness bonus to the rider, which is, of course, in the best interest of Nurgle.  They can also provide some much needed speed to a Nurgle list.  Likewise, being able to Turbo-Boost can add durability and speed simultaneously.  In theory, Bikes are perfect for Nurgle lists except for the fact that they simply do not fit with the fundamental themes of ponderous, unyielding walls of infantry.

Palanquin of Nurgle
As much as I really like this option, it is very expensive.  Gaining an extra attack and wound is very good.  But the town side is that he becomes a magnet for all sorts of killing-ness.  The lack of standard Victory Points rules means that killing expensive characters isn't nearly as desired as it once was and gaining the ability to hit 11 times on the charge with your Daemon Weapon or 6 times with your Lightning Claws is still very tempting.  I'd avoid this unless you're playing large point games.

Plague Lords in a nutshell
Overall, I'd rank a finely tooled Plague Lord as a 5/5 for appropriate ness and a 4/5 for tactical capacity because of his tendency to have such a high cost for his value.  Good tactics involve picking on the little guys.  Your Lord is a close combat power house.  But he's also fragile and expensive.  A good Lord will run between 150-200 points but can still get splattered by a Meltagun toting Guardsman or Power Fist wielding Veteran Sergeant.  Pick fights you can win.  Don't charge that Wraithlord or Carnifex.  Instead go after those Guardians and Termagaunts. 

Chaos Sorcerer
Sorcerers function like Lords in many ways.  For the Mark of Nurgle, Wings, Meltabombs, Plasma Pistol, Palanquin, Personal Icon or Terminator Armor, refer to the Lord entry as they are carry the same general themes.  Sorcerers have access to a few options which Lords do not.  But they pay for it in terms of points and a lower Weapon Skill.  The primary advantage to Sorcerers is, duh, their sorcery.  These powers readily augment your army in a variety of ways.

Sorcerers, unlike Lords, are not Fearless which is a benefit in close combat.  They retain the Lord's Invulnerable Save, though, which is handy against Perils of the Warp tests.  Otherwise, focus on picking a strategy for your Sorcerer and sticking to it.

We'll get this one our of the way early.  Don't waste your points.  Focus on one power and go with it.  Taking two powers is going to be expensive and worthless as you can only ever use one per turn.

Psychic Powers
In regards to powers, pick one that you can use a lot.  Psychic powers are expensive.  Powers like Doombolt and Winds of Chaos are deadly but useless if your Sorcerer is in close combat.  Likewise, powers like Nurgle's Rot and Gift of Chaos are only useful when you're keeping close to your enemy.

Doombolt is a fairly decent ranged attack.  It is potent against MEQ Definition: Marine Equivalentenemies but not so much against swarms.  If you want to keep your Sorcerer away from enemy combats, this is probably the way to go.  As most Nurgle forces focus on ranges of less than 24", Doombolt can allow you to augment squads of Plague Marines.

With the Sorcerer's Force Weapon and decent combat stats, Warptime can be a valuable asset.  With shooting attacks, it is not so potent.  However, the effects of Warptime are valuable whether you are shooting or assaulting (or both).

Gift of Chaos
Combined with Chaos Spawn models, this power can be extra special nasty.  Being able to simply kill your opponent's characters outright is great.  Being able to kill that character and replace him with a 3 wound model with up to 6 attacks is absolutely beautiful.  However, the range of this power can be rather restricting.  Remember that this power may still be used even if your in close combat which further adds to its efficiency.

Winds of Chaos
Winds of Chaos is another great psychic power which only has two drawbacks.  Firstly, it's range is very limited.  Secondly, it is a shooting only power.  Other than that, being able to ignore all armor saves and all cover saves is great.  Also, auto-glancing vehicles while ignoring cover saves can be a very nasty surprise to fast skimmers even with the limited efficiency of glancing hits.

Nurgle's Rot
The Nurgle only psychic power is, unfortunately, a bit weak.  Against tough adversaries like Terminators or monstrous creatures, you'll find little use for this power.  However, against swarm armies the power can be potent.  Drop your T4(5) 2+ save Sorcerer into a pile of enemies and use this power over and over again to thin out their ranks.  This is a tried and true tactic that can be delightfully painful to your foe.  Combine this with Daemons Deep Striking on your Sorcerer's Icon and you can reduce large enemy forces in a very small amount of time.

Socerer of Nurgle in a nutshell
Sorcerers excel in support roles.  This can make them a more integral part of your army than a Lord in many ways.  As they can effectively be very shooting or assault oriented, you can put them at the head of a similarly tasked unit and make great strides toward killing enemies.  In contrast to Lords, Sorcerers make great hunters for enemy characters and/or monstrous creatures.  They can also turn the tide of a flank when they provide the right powers at the right time (i.e. Nurgle's Rot, Gift of Chaos, Winds of Chaos).  To make the most of your Sorcerer, build an army strategy and then tool your Sorcerer to fit that strategy.  If you try to make a unit fit your Sorcerer, chances are you'll waste points on both.  Overall, a properly kitted Sorcerer gets a 5/5 for appropriate ness and a 5/5 for tactical viability.

Daemon Prince
Daemon Princes are literal beasts in the game.  For all of their power, they are relatively cheap.  You can easily tweak out a Prince of Nurgle for less than a Lord will cost you.  The Prince sports a decent save, Eternal Warrior and is a monstrous creature.  While he may lack shooting potential (though sporting the ability to take psychic powers) he more than makes up for this in close combat insanity.

Mark of Nurgle
Of the three Nurgle HQ choices, it is the Prince who benefits most from the Mark of Nurgle.  Giving your prince virtual immunity from small arms fire is always a good thing.  Most weapons cannot easily wound him and he is automatically immune to Instant Death.  Therefore, the Toughness bonus received from the Mark can be the most useful on a Prince.

Wings are a very decent option for your Prince.  Deep Striking a Monstrous Creature can be stressful for any opponent.  However, keep in mind that in doing this, you will automatically forfeit almost two full turns of combat.  My recommendation for Winged Princes would be to use cover well and assault quickly (hopefully by turn 2).  In contrast to the Lord, a Prince can hold his own in combat and you should not hesitate to send him hunting for almost any target out there from other Monstrous Creatures to tanks to infantry mobs.

Psychic Powers
Princes have access to the same Psychic Powers which Sorcerers do.  They follow the same patters as Sorcerers when it comes to choosing them.  There are, however, a few exceptions.  Due to the incredible value that Princes have in close combat, I'd suggest that you avoid powers like Doombolt and Winds of Chaos because you'll want to keep your Prince locked in close combat for as much of the game as possible.  Powers like Nurgle's Rot and Warptime are especially useful because of their direct advantage to close combat tooled models.  A Daemon Prince with Warptime is a very powerful foe indeed.

Nurgle Prince in a nutshell
Nurgle Princes are dead easy to use.  Shove them into an enemy's weak spot and let them work.  Obviously it can be a little more complex than that.  But such tactics are not easily discussed on paper.  Try to keep your Prince shielded from enemy fire and don't assault enemy units who can easily ignore armor and survive his attacks.  A Daemon Prince will drop 5 attacks on a charge against Terminators and these will almost all hit and wound with Warptime.  That means potentially reducing the unit to 1-2 in a single charge.  This is acceptable.  But against a unit like Khorne Bloodletters, you will be facing many more bodies and many more attacks.  It would be complete reasonable for such a unit to kill you Prince in one round of combat.  So spend him wisely.  A Daemon Prince gets a 5/5 for appropriate ness and a 5/5 for tactical capacity.

*I am in the camp that Combi-Plasma weapons may be rapid-fired during their one shot.
**While Terminator Armor does not confer that actual Relentless rule, its effects are the same.   

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