Chaos Marines. Emo Space Marines, basically. They're an unhappy bunch - something to do with a "disagreement" with the Emperor. In Chaos Rising, the first Dawn of War II expansion, however, they're more than unhappy. They're positively vexed.
Why? It's all down to those pesky Blood Ravens. They've only gone and returned to sub sector Aurelia where a long lost frozen ice planet has reappeared from the Warp. This simply will not do.
If that wasn't enough, the CSMs have to contend with the Space Marines, Orks, Eldar, and Tyranids all bolstered by new units. Of these, the showstopper is clearly the Tyranid Genestealer - the fan favourite, the jewel in Warhammer 40k's blood-soaked eye, the… horrible, nightmarish blur of claws and teeth that keeps all budding Space Marine commanders up at night. As any 40k fan worth his or her salt knows, the Genestealers are the tabletop equivalent of the xenomorphs from the Alien films, and the source of terror in cult Games Workshop boardgame Space Hulk.
If there's a unit we're most pumped for during our hands-on with Chaos Rising, it's the Genestealer. But, since the CSMs are the new race, it's only right to start with them. They work, predictably, like the SMs, but with an interesting hook: units can specialise by committing themselves to one of the three gods of Chaos. Licking Khorne's arse will lend you a melee focus, bowing down to Tzeench will improve your ranged abilities, and, finally, giving disgusting fat slob Nurgle a great big hug will improve your support abilities (as well as give you a horrible disease. Probably).
The three CSM commander units, however, have already pledged their allegiance to one of the Chaos gods, and so fulfil differing roles in a similar fashion to the other races' commander units. Of these, the Tzeench worshipping Chaos Sorcerer is most interesting. It's a powerful caster with useful summoning abilities, and it can take control of enemy units and turn them against their comrades. Take that, SMs.
Chaos Rising brings a new single-player campaign, which we're not allowed to talk too much about... yet!
The CSM base unit is the Heretic - melee fodder, basically. They're cheap to produce, making them useful control point and power node capturers during a match's early moments. And they have a useful trick up their sleeve: Worship. Activate this ability and the Heretics will gather in a circle around a sacrificed unit, supporting nearby friendlies with heals or damage buffs.
Havok Marines are the CSM version of the SM Devastator Squad, and specialise in heavy weapons. They can be upgraded with rocket launchers, making them great tank busters. At tier two, Bloodletters become available. These red-skinned daemons are great melee units, and perfect for strike assaults - teleportation makes them quick movers, and they're hard to kill, too, because of their phase shift ability. Then, of course, you have the CSM Dreadnought - a terrifying prospect, particularly when upgraded with a missile launcher which enables the rocket barrage ability. For the Bloodcrusher, picture a daemonic rhino charging into enemy infantry. Ouch. And then there are the durable Plague Marines, who are immune to suppression. That's right, kids, they're immune to suppression.
DoW II's quick, action-oriented pace means competitive multiplayer matches rarely reach beyond tier two, but our play test afforded us the luxury of taking our sweet time with the CSMs - enough time to pump out some devastating tier three units. The CM Predator is, like the SM Predator, one of the best vehicles in the game. Is it better than the SMP? Hard to tell at this stage, but it does have bloody spikes on the front, so it's definitely cooler.