HARBINGERS OF DOOM
Codex Chaos Space Marines introduces a number of new troop types for Chaos Space Marine Lords to use, but none are more interesting and useful than the Raptors. This month Jervis takes a closer look at the background of these carrion warriors, and discusses some of the ways they can be used on the battlefield.
Raptors are a debased form of the jump pack-equipped troops that fought in the Traitor Legions during the Horus Heresy. At that time jump packs were a rarity, and they were usually only issued to elite units of troops. These earlier forms of jump pack were rather more sophisticated and efficient than the ones commonly used by the Imperium in the 41st millennium, being considerably lighter and less bulky, while at the same time having a higher thrust to mass ratio which allowed slightly longer and higher jumps to be performed. Such was their complexity, however, that only the most skilled tech-adepts could attempt their construction, and with time even this ability was lost, so now all that can be done is to maintain those packs that still remain. If it had not been for the discovery of the STC for the jump pack currently used by the Imperium (by an unknown tech-priest on the backwater planet known only as DH2), it is likely that the Raptors would have been the only troops using jump packs in the 41st millennium.
At the time of the Heresy, though, very few units of troops were equipped with jump packs. In much the same way that Terminator armour is still seen as being a badge of honour, being a member of jump pack-equipped assault unit was a source of pride and prestige. Such troops, being rare, were employed only for highly specialised and often highly dangerous missions. All of these factors combined to instill a unique 'esprit de corps' amongst the warriors of jump pack-equipped units... and it was this spirit of dangerous individualism which was to have terrible consequences during the Horus Heresy...
When Horus began his revolt against the Emperor, his armies included over half of the jump pack-equipped assault units of the huge Space Marine Legions of those days. Although small as a percentage of the overall size of Horus's army, there were still tens of thousands of such troops under his command. Like all of the Space Marines in the Traitor Legions, these troops were slowly and insidiously corrupted by the Chaos gods so that, step by step, they were turned into something all together the opposite of what they had once been. Where there had once been proud, noble Space Marine warriors, there now stood the vain, selfish creatures that quickly became known by both themselves and their enemies simply as Raptors.
It would seem likely that the Raptors became dedicated worshippers of one of the Chaos gods, and that their appearance reflects this in some way, just as the Thousand Sons, Khorne Berzerkers and Plague Marines all have an appearance which reflects aspects of their patron god. However, exactly who the Raptors worship is by no means clear; it could be one of the major Chaos Gods, such as Tzeentch or Slaanesh, but is more likely to be one of the plethora of minor Chaos deities, that while not as powerful as the major powers, are every bit as dangerous and evil.
Whoever they worship, as time has passed the Raptors have become ever more corrupted, their armour mutated by some strange force of Chaos so that it no longer bears anything other than a passing resemblance to the power armour it once was. At the same time, the pride and spirit of the Space Marines that became the Raptors has been perverted to a vain belief in their own superiority over all other creatures, which is often expressed in acts of quite unspeakable cruelty. Although the Raptors will fight along-side other Chaos Space Marines, their haughty attitude and obvious disdain makes them unpopular, to say the least - a feeling that is reinforced by the Raptors' tendency to desert as soon as they have got what they want. And what they want appears to be nothing other than death destruction and the simple infliction of pain and suffering for its own sake. They circle the battlefield, swooping down on the weakest and most vulnerable target they can find, and then depart leaving death in their wake before the enemy can retaliate. Truly they are amongst the most loathsome of all the followers of the Chaos gods.
The first thing to note about Raptors is that you are limited to using only one unit of them in your army. I imposed this restriction partially to reflect the Raptors' rarity (in terms of the background), and partially because I thought lots of units of Raptors could unbalance the game. As a house rule you can use more than one unit in a game, or even field entire armies made up of Raptors if you so desire - if your opponent will agree and if you are willing to do all of the required conversions! But for the purposes of the tactics below I'm going to assume you only have one unit in your army.
Raptors are a useful addition to any Chaos Space Marine army, but like any fast-moving unit, they must be used carefully if they are not to be wiped out early on in every battle you use them in, especially as they are available in such limited numbers. You should therefore resist the temptation to hurl them out ahead of the rest of your army, as this will simply result in them getting killed piece-meal while they are on their own.
Instead you should try to hold the Raptors back and use them only once the rest of your army has engaged the enemy. This will allow the Raptors to harry specific troops while the enemy has its hands full trying to deal with the rest of your force. They are ideally suited to this tactic, and it also fits in rather nicely with the way they are described in the background, which makes it doubly worth doing (a victory won using troops in a way that they wouldn't really act is no victory at all, at least in my opinion!).
As for specific tactics once you do bring them into play, you' find that Raptors are very useful for taking out enemy units that lurk behind cover, such as mortars and Whirlwinds, which the rest of your army can't get at. Alternatively you can land them behind a position you want to assault so that their heavy firepower can whittle down the defenders and so you can catch the enemy in a crossfire if they have to fall back. Last but by no means least, Raptors can also be used to seize objectives or table quarters in missions that require such things to be done.