Saturday, March 9, 2013

6th Edition Chaos Space Marine Cults: Nurgle

Nurgle is one of the more odd fantasies of the 40K universe.  The mere idea of a corpuscle encrusted Gawd engendering loyalty amongst anyone seems, to say the least, odd at first.

Mortarian and the Green Death that followed him and other tales of foulness are the hallmark of the dread Death Guard whose putrescent presence is beyond understanding.  Their unholy number 7 is the harbinger of dark times.  Papa Nurgles legions swell after every battle as the dying and the infected cry out for life everlasting in place of their impending doom.  What choice have they?

We won't speak about allies here as we are examining the cult itself.  We will cover the possibilities of allies in other blogs though.

The Tools of Nurgle:

The Primary tools that a force of Nurgle will characteristically carry are

The Mark of Nurgle.  It's pestilential presence grants the otherwise superhuman corrupted Space Marines into veritable titans of fortitiude, nigh impossible to kill.  Even the most basic trooper with this mark becomes a substantial load to take down and what was once highly effective bolter fire becomes worse than paltry lasgun fire to them.  If you want to kill that which is inevitable, your work is cut out for you.  Entropy stops for no one.

Plague knives adorn the belts of every true follower of Nurgle.  The poison rules are ruthless in 6E, allowing the Plague knife wielding maniacs to pump out a sheer volume of wounds that is impressive against anything, no matter how tough.  In fact the tougher they are the worse the disappointment they are prepared to mete out to the enemy.

Blight Grenades restrict the enemy badly, acting as a frag grenade and helping them ignore the initiative penalties of terrain.  As the Plague Marines are I3 to begin with, they need all the help they can get.   What sometimes gets overlooked with Blight Grenades, is that units shooting at them from 8 inches or less grant the Plague unit Stealth and also allows them to steal an enemies charge attacks from them.  So in overwatch and in normal situations, the unit enjoys an even better defense than just their stat line, frustrating the enemies attempts to affect them even further.

The Icon of Despair forces the enemies of Nurgle to gird their loins and make a Fear Test, or drop to I1 in close combat, which could seriously mess with some units that would traditionally like to swarm the lines.  Certain units have notoriously low LD and would be really screwed if this happened to them.

Palanquins of Nurgle make a Warlord next to unkillable.  +2 wounds is a huge upgrade and another attack added to what is likely a boat load already will turn any Nurgle character into a poisonous blender.

Ichor blood is very Nurgle as the very innards of the Plague marines are so vile that the blood coursing through them can harm you.

Black Mace:  One can argue who most benefits from the use of the Black Mace, but the way it works plays well and in character in an army the Destroyer Hive is involved in.  In some ways it's like havimg a second Destroyer Hive in the way it works and can help replace it, so to speak if you don't take Typhus.

Veterans of the Long War upgrade:  Coupled with Plague Knives Poison re-rolls to wound, that's a fearsome.combination!

Chaos Boons:  Of all the cults, the Boons table is oddly fitting but also incredibly powerful on models that already have such a large benefit of survivability.  Nearly all the Boons would turn super human monsters into the pinnacle of enemies in challenges and just in general.  Such boons are much more likely to be ENJOYED by those receiving them thanks to the toughness of the unit leaders.

Nurgles Finest

Amongst Nurgles fetid host are certain personalities you may encounter.
Typhus is a monster because he carries a Daemon weapon and his Destroyer Hive ability makes him equally scary to hordes as he is to normal men.  2+ armor on a Tough 5 leader that can hit that hard?  Yeah.  watch out!  On his own, launching from within a bodyguard into an enemy will be more than enough trouble for almost any unit he decides to bother.  He is a unit unto himself.

In character, albeit more associated with Slaanesh according to the fluff, would be Fabius Bile.  He and his legions would find endless petri dishes within Nurgles ranks and it wouldn't be hard to imagine him helping to lead.  More importantly, he can empower a normal Chaos Space Marine who serves Nurgle into a beastly STR 5 Tough 5 monstrosity.  This is no small thing.  In addition, he gets a gaggle of attacks on the charge and his attacks cause Instant Death.  He has no AP, but he's also not going last most times; and seven attacks should give him a very good chance when charging to get a death dealing wound through to an enemy challenger.

Nurgle Psykers

Nurgle has easily one of the scariest Psyker powers I've seen, Plague Wind.  It is a large AP 2 blast, wounding on 4+.  Wow.  Nothing and no one wants to get hit with that kind of firepower.  Even were you not to gain that particular power, Nurgle Psykers have other tools...

Nurgle have access to Telepathy like all Chaos Sorcerers do.  Invisibility really helps the Plague ridden to overcome their initiative negatives among other benefits, and only one of the powers in the Discipline is useless, but that can be exchanged for the rather useful Primaris power of Psychic Shriek, so you really can't lose. 

Pyromancy has no bad spells but ultimately I feel like you can get equivalent value from other weapons platforms that aren't sorcerers.  They only serve to make a "shooty Psyker" that can fire "pretty okay" attacks.  Probably not as useful overall tothe force, but when you need the shooting in a list, they can augment it here.

Biomancy oddly seems to be a better shooting Discipline and has the added benefit of being synergistic with the powers of Nurgle and the Boons.

Overall I'd say go with Telepathy (shooting for invisibility and Hallucination, but the Primaris power being very good) and Nurgle (Plague Wind and Gift of Contagion being the best choices) as Disciplines if you do play a Nurgle Cult.

Let's Build It

So a true Cult of Nurgle starts, as it always does with any army making sure we have the essentials handled.  That means the Troops and leaders usually.
Unfortunately, the powerful army of Nurgle is priced accordingly.  A basic troop unit that can essentially take anyone, anytime, and take it like a champ is a scary proposition and this is NOT a cheap Cult.  Though other Cults aren't cheap, you can really expend a masssive amount of points in troops.  Nonetheless you must trust that it will be worth it.  It does limit the rest of the list so I feel that if you really want to play a true Nurgle cult, you have to really make sure the rest of the list helps you avoid getting the troop choices wrapped up with enemies until they can reach their objectives (unless it's an unfair fight which Nurgle units are perfectly capable of causing).  They can handle a lot of threats in melee, but getting slowed down too early by unimportant things can be a key strategy that enemies will attempt.  It almost requires you to go with larger units to break free faster or just grind longer til the cavalry arrives to free you.  Unlike a lot of armies, Nurgle doesn't have to fear being caught out in the open and fortunately, 6E favors large units, so go big or go home.

The troops of Nurgle can literally wound any kind of unit that isn't AV 13 on all sides.  They also won't see the same attrition other armies will suffer.  That means they might be able to get away with less core Nurgle troop choices and that opens up Pandoras box for us in potentially making use of a Marked Chaos Space marine unit instead of all three used as Plague Marines.  This may be one of the few cults that can get away with two core troop units of their trademark units.

Because their core troops can wound anything with a toughness characteristic, Melta Guns actually make the most sense as it lets them attack the only thing they can't with their knives or grenades.  Plasma has always been the most popular choice, and if all you take is 7 Plague Marines per squad, that is probably fine.  But I am not at all convinced that losing the charge due to plasma is a great idea when you take 14 of them.  You'll make up anything you might have lost with sheer volume of attacks and survivability.

410pts 14 Plague Marines (2 Melta Guns, Power Axe+Melta Bomb+Gift of Mutation, Icon of Despair, Veterans of the Long War)

410pts 14 Plague Marines (2 Melta Guns, Power Axe+Melta Bomb+Gift of Mutation, Icon of Despair, Veterans of the Long War)

This allows us to re-roll misses the first round of combat and re-roll wounds most of the time.  Nasty.  The leader, if he swings, is going to really be a strength for the units, with a Boon to start it all off.
HQ's are a tough call in this list.  I feel like with the cost of the Troops choices being so high we need a less expensive HQ in order to help fit a third troop in.  Fabius allows us to empower even the unit immensely.  He himself comes with SEVEN attacks on the charge and while none of them are power attacks, they do inflict Instant Death! You can absolutely find worse combatants in your army.  He makes the unit fearless too.

165 Fabius Bile

266pts 14 Chaos Space marines (Mark of Nurgle, Gift of Mutation, Power Sword+Melta Bomb, Icon of Despair, 6 Extra Close Combat Weapons)

These troops are as mean as Possessed, but for a fraction of the cost and of course, tougher.  I didn't upgrade ALL of them with extra close combat weapons because inevitably there will be attrition; so why pay extra on men who will never see the fight anyways?

The list is bloated like Papa Nurgle, filled with deadly villainous putrescent damned souls, and a lot of them.  A lot more than many armies will ever be able to kill.  Secure in the knowledge that scoring is no problem, we now need to infect the enemy into bite sized pieces before we arrive to take advantage of our numbers and resiliency.  Then we can steam roll them with the inexorable cause of decay.

Anti Air-craft is important and 7 Nurgle havocs is tempting but the price for such a unit in this list really hurts worse than in some.  So for that Reason, the Icarus Cannon with an Aegis Defense line is probably more advisable.

85pts  Aegis Defense Line (Icarus Cannon)

Manning a one shot cannon requires you to invest in a gunner worth a darn, and under normal circumstances, you might not want to dedicate a ton of points to the task but when you think about it, the back end of the deployment zone needs a presence anyways in this force a little later in the fight so you aren't losing a lot by investing in competence there.  We will put a Chaos Lord in charge of that.  Intercept allows him to UNman the gun in the round he needs to act and man it again if the game calls for it after that.  He can assist in backfield defense in a huge way, as he is nigh indestructible when armed in the full regalia of Nurgles wonder.  We want to take advantage of the extra wounds he has to give while on a Palanquin so we take Ichor Blood.  The Black Mace is positively devastating and his Boons will likely grow greatly once the enemy penetrates the deployment lines.  He will embolden a unit of Nurgle Marked ruffians who will serve as his bodyguard while he carries out rhe execution of everyone he surveys.  the Chaos Cultists also can stop an enemy from interuptin their Lord if the need arises and too many flyers have gotten involved in the fight.

175pts Chaos Lord (Mark of Nurgle, Palanquin of Nurgle, Ichor Blood, Black Mace, Gift of Mutation)

70pts 10 Nurgle Cultists (Mark of Nurgle)

Blocking for this army is important for much the same reasons as the Thousand suns and they even feel similar in their overall strategy even though they definitely accomplish it differently.  Khorne can tear you apart with a blizzard of attacks, Thousand Suns can topple your empire with terrifying shooting, and Slaanesh can shake you to your foundations with the sound of their thundering artillery but the slow grind of Nurgle requires a different approach.  So long as the force is MOVING forward, it is winning because your hope of killing them if you get blocked too long (speaking as the enemy here) is next to none and you certainly wont have anything in your force tough enough to take all the poison they can dish out if that happens.  Getting past them with pods and other means is a legit tactic so we need back field deterence that can keep up with a forward push.  A stagnant unit won't do.

We also really haven't got the anti-terminator/Paladin threat we need either, which is one of the unit types that could give us trouble, as such enemies can conceivably make a mockery of the many gifts of Nurgle.

Mobile Chosen can kill anything that we actually fear.  Obliterators can also kill anything we need them to, while defending the backfield and if necessary, block or attack from the enemy's rearside via deep strike to slow THEM down or just reduce enemy firepower if that's whats called for.  Chosen lost their ability to outflank in this edition, but that doesn't really hurt their efficacy with plasma!  They can seriously take a hit and their overwatch is nasty.  They are getting three attacks each when being charged as well!  Overall a very doughty and worthwhile unit for its role.  I can easily see going several ways here with a pair of Maulerfiends being chief amongst those options.  I think there are good options here, but I am going with the Chosen in this case because it hardly matters WHAT they are hitting, it's going to hurt.

232pts 7 Chosen (Mark of Nurgle, 5 Plasmaguns, Combi-Flamer)
35pts Chaos Rhino

152pts 2 Obliterators (Mark of Nurgle)

As I'm fond of saying, this isn't the only way to built your cult, but it gives you ideas to work from and it is a complete list you can build and play with confidence.  It will do especially well against Elite armies if you are patient, and certainly will be no joy to hordes.  It is more numerous than many Space marine type armies and not in a superfluous way.  Tough, able to poison anything, able to kill anything in its way, able to score easily and to break the enemy lines through sheer force of will.  The powers of Nurgle and their mighty cults will be legend under your command.

To summarize my list ideas:
85pts  Aegis Defense Line (Icarus Cannon)
152pts 2 Obliterators (Mark of Nurgle)
70pts 10 Cultists (Mark of Nurgle)
266pts 14 Chaos Space marines (Mark of Nurgle, Gift of Mutation, Power Sword+Melta Bomb, Icon of Despair, 6 Extra Close Combat Weapons)
410pts 14 Plague Marines (2 Melta Guns, Power Axe+Melta Bomb, Gift of Mutation, Icon of Despair, Veterans of the Long War)
 410pts 14 Plague Marines (2 Melta Guns, Power Axe+Melta Bomb, Gift of Mutation, Icon of Despair, Veterans of the Long War)
232pts 7 Chosen (Mark of Nurgle, 5 Plasmaguns, Combi-Flamer)
35pts Chaos Rhino
175pts Chaos Lord (Mark of Nurgle, Palanquin of Nurgle, Ichor Blood, Black Mace, Gift of Mutation)
165 Fabius Bile
Total Models: 65
Total Points: 2000
Total Kill Points: 9
Total Pieces of Armour: 1


  1. I like these cult lists a lot but I don't see them faring that well against IG+SW with double blob godness or necrons with wraiths and flyers. How would the cults fare in a tough environment do you think?

  2. I think the articles are intended to highlight the strengths and weakness of each cult. I benefitted greatly from the article on the Cult of Slaanesh.

    Blastmasters rule.

  3. He's right, I am building purist cult forces here as you can see, Tirader, but to answer your question on this particular list:

    Blob+ SW is an issue for everyone. IG blobs as allies are exceedingly popular for a REASON. Drop podding Space Wolves are also feared for good reason.

    But look at this list. Anyone who wants to drop on you is asking for it from those Chosen. As good as Space Wolves are, they have an LD weakness also, and the Icon of Despair is there to help accentuate it. Veterans of the Long War makes Space Wolves sad little puppies when they fight Plague Marines as well (re-rolling to hit and to wound? yikes!) and in such large numbers, Space Wolves are going to be rowing uphill. So it's really only the IG shooting that concerns one, and the Plague Marine toughness is so great that they can compete against it if they bring anything normal. A Colossus would hurt any army, so that goes without saying but who better to take a pounding from it than properly spread out tough Plague Marines?

    Blobs might endeavor to tie you up as you approach, effectively blocking the enemy but there again, that's why the Obliterators and chosen are there to spearhead your way and perhaps CLEAR the way with flame and ferocity or at minimum, pull them out of the way.

    There is no Panacea, but can it compete? I'd say yes. Against Necron threats like Cron-Air late game shinanigans its well suited.

    Why not try it out and see?

  4. I will be building a Nurgle cult army, and found your article very interesting. If I may ask a few questions?

    I have a landraider with deathguard forgeworld doors that I am currently converting, what would be the best way to use it in a cult army?

    It seems that chaos dreadnaughts (hellbrutes?) have fallen out of favour. I have both the forgeworld deathguard dreadnaught models, is there a way to successfully use them in a cult army, or would I be better of cutting my losses, selling the models and buying something else.

    I will also be building a traitor guard army (nurgle worshippers of course), how would you ally the two forces?

  5. Icon of Despair does nothing against Space Marines due to And They Shall Know No Fear, which oddly enough makes them immune to Fear on top of everything else. Also 10 Cultists is worthless. A single round of shooting from a single Grey Hunter unit is likely to take them out. With units like that with cheap bodies you pay for more. You are basically given an IG blob as a Troop Choice in the Codex, why not take it?

  6. @Peter: I think that 10 cultists need to be targetable before it matters. I dont think they are the priority. they dont NECESSARILY need to be deployed to start either.

    If one weas asking them to do anything other than continue to exist, it would be a bigger concern. As it is, there will be more than enough to concern the enemy that isn't a cultist. But yes. Like ALL units, they can be killed. However if there is a hard to kill lord there to take the hits initially, the Grey Hunters may find their lives sold very cheaply.

    I dont think anyone is arguing that they are awesome. Just a valuable addition in this case as extra wounds.

  7. @William: Dont know how I missed this post. My apologies!

    Your LandRaider, as with al;l Land raiders is too expensive not to use it to transports a nasty surprise to the enemy gates. So I suppose Terminators will always be the best choice there, and Marks of Nurglke make them EXCEEDINGLY ridiculous to kill! hard to go wrong there.

    I think the Dreadnoughts in this kind of cult army are of no help. They fit better into Undivided armies where points are more freely spent on luxury units. But I will say that an outflanking Dreadnought could be a very nice unit to have. Huron might be the guy to take if that's the plan. But by and large in a Cult army...tough sell.

    Guardsman are really good allies for most armies. let me just point you out to the special Weapons squads section in the IG codex. Read it REALLY CLOSE. See anything completely ridiculous? I do! Good lawd, what a great defensive unit for your chaos forces to repel the enemy from the walls.


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