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A Guide to Building a Word Bearers Army

Submitted By: Irisado Date: November 5, 2012, 08:20:53 AM Views: 4845
Summary: A guide to building a Word Bearers army in sixth edition. This is an updated version of the article I wrote for building Word Bearers armies in fifth edition.

A Guide to Building a Word Bearers Army in Sixth Edition

The sixth edition Chaos codex has shifted the goal posts in comparison to the previous edition of the Chaos codex back towards a more even relationship in terms of the narrative between the Legions and Renegades.  This means that it is now easier to represent Word Bearers armies than was the case when I wrote the previous article on this subject.   That said, there is still a lack of detailed narrative regarding the original Chaos Legions in the sixth edition codex, so this revised version of my 2011 article is still, hopefully, relevant to all those of you who are thinking of starting a Word Bearers army, but do not really know where to begin.  This article outlines the options available to Chaos players who wish to use Word Bearer themed armies, in order to help players to create a force which accurately represents the background of the type of Word Bearers force which they want to field.

Who are the Word Bearers?:

The Word Bearers are a fanatical Chaos Space Marine Legion, devoted to the worship of all the Chaos Gods.  They are also unique among the Traitor Legions, in the sense that they still have Chaplains, known as Dark Apostles, who often lead the armies of the Word Bearers into battle.  Word Bearers armies are also characterised by the high number of daemons which they can summon to fight alongside their regular units.  Word Bearers view all but the most powerful Greater Daemons as being inferior to themselves, hence they are more than willing to summon as many daemons as possible to serve as a vanguard, or cannon fodder, to soften up the opposition, before committing the rest of their forces, and crushing any survivors.

A Word Bearers army is, therefore, an army which tends to feature a significant number of daemons, possibly a Greater Daemon, and may also be led by a Dark Apostle.  In all other respects, it differs little from the other Undivided Chaos Legions, so it is one of the more flexible Chaos Legions which can be fielded.

Why field a Word Bearers army?:

The Word Bearers are an inspiring Legion to play if you are interested in the relationship between Chaos Space Marines and daemons.  The Dark Apostles of the Word Bearers, and other senior figures within the Legion, seek to control daemons, and make them subservient to their needs.  This is unique amongst the Legions, since most try to bargain with daemons, in order to gain power, but this is not the case for the Word Bearers.  Daemons will obey the commands of the Dark Apostle!

Word Bearers are also much more fanatical than many other Chaos Legions, yet they are not one dimensional killers in the same manner as Khorne Berzerkers, so if you want to field an army of fanatics which are actually capable of thinking during a battle, then the Word Bearers are for you!  The Dark Apostles may whip their troopers up into a fervent frenzy, but there is a battle plan behind the attack, and if any forces are to be sent forward as cannon fodder, it will inevitably be the daemons which are sent forth as a shield to protect the more valuable Chaos Space Marines.

The Word Bearers, furthermore, were the first Legion to be fully corrupted by Chaos.  While the Sons of Horus (Black Legion) were the first Legion to openly turn to Chaos and rebel against the Emperor, the way in which the Emperor had rebuked Lorgar, the Legion's Primarch, for his slow conquest of worlds, and for spending too much time disseminating religious doctrine, sowed the seeds for the corruption of the Word Bearers long before any other Legions turned traitor.  Lorgar subsequently referred to the Emperor as being irrelevant, and someone who had not grasped the fact that humanity needed religious domination.  Submission to Chaos was, according to Lorgar, the only way to save the Imperium from being overrun by alien hordes.  The Chaos taint thus started not with Horus, but with the Word Bearers Legion, and the Word Bearers were responsible for the spread of the taint to other Legions through the insidious use of warrior lodges; informal clubs within the Legions that corroded the belief and corrupted instrumental members of each legion under the guise of brotherhood and equality.  In light of this, what could be better than fielding the first Legion which turned to Chaos?  The Word Bearers were the first true traitors, not the Black Legion.

There is plenty of scope for rivalry in a Word Bearers army.  Does your Dark Apostle have total control, or are there other individuals who seek to overthrow him?  Alternatively, perhaps these individuals operate in the shadows, looking to guide your force in a different direction, due to their own hidden agendas.  In my Word Bearers army, for example, the Dark Apostle and Chaos Sorcerer have their own separate plans for the element of the Legion which they command, with each often trying to second guess the other in terms of the reasons a particular battle is being fought, and whether there is some concealed motive behind it.

Speaking of rivalry, the Word Bearers despise the Ultramarines more than any other Marine Chapter, so if you're looking to start a Chaos army, and you have opponents who regularly use Ultramarines, fielding a Word Bearers force would add an extra narrative dimension to your battles.

Word Bearers forces are, finally, colourful.  Many of the other undivided Chaos Legions are painted in rather dark, and, in most cases, relatively drab, colour schemes, so if you want a force which stands out, and looks impressive, then the Word Bearers fit the bill with ease.

How are the Word Bearers represented on the field of battle?:

There are three categories of Word Bearers forces which could be put together, depending on the type of Word Bearers army you wish to field.  There are significant differences between the categories, as there are a variety of approaches to building Chaos armies in the current codex, so there should be something of interest to every Word Bearers player.  Each category falls into one of two particular concepts, and is discussed in turn below:

The Word Bearers Legion Army Concept:

Word Bearers Legion Army (Background Purist Version):

The sixth edition codex, and the allies system, makes this build much easier to assemble than was the case in fifth edition.  This is the least flexible of the options for building a Word Bearers army, but it is much more interesting now that Chaos Daemons can be taken as allies, and the Dark Apostle has its own unit entry.  It is most likely appeal to those players who wish their list to resemble the background from Index Astartes and edition 3.5 of the Chaos codex.  It is worth noting that the Word Bearers Legion is still a very unified Legion, so it would not be unusual to field such an army.  To field such a force, the following choices and restrictions apply:

  • A Dark Apostle, equipped as standard, or with additional undivided rewards or artefacts would lead the army.  It would also make sense to equip a long serving Dark Apostle with the Veterans of the Long War upgrade from a narrative perspective, although it would not be all that much use in tactical terms.  No Mark of Chaos, or marked artefacts would be chosen, as Dark Apostles have no loyalty to one particular Chaos God.
  • The army is highly likely to include regular daemons, while the presence of a Greater Daemon would also be likely in a Legion force, particularly in larger battles.  The allies system makes this very easy, and very rewarding for Word Bearers players.  You simply have to decide which daemons suit your style of play, or compensate for weaknesses in the Chaos Space Marine element of your army, and choose your units from the Chaos Daemons codex accordingly.
  • No Cult troops would be included, since these would not fight in a Word Bearers Legion army.
  • No Marks or Icons, except for the Icon of Vengeance, would be taken in a Word Bearers Legion army, due to its undivided status.

In all other respects, you have a free hand in designing your army, since Word Bearers Legion armies are just as likely to include infantry units such as Raptors, Havocs, Terminators and Obliterators, and any of the vehicles, as any of the other more flexible Legion armies, with the Black Legion being the most obvious comparison.

Word Bearers Legion Army (More Flexible Version):

This differs from the purist concept outlined above in one crucial respect, and that concerns the use of Marks of Chaos.  While the restrictions regarding Icons remain unchanged, the use of Marks to personalise your Dark Apostle, so that he has a bias towards a particular Chaos God would be permissible.  This may even be particularly appropriate if you plan on using allied daemons from just one Chaos God, as the Mark would represent the pact which the Dark Apostle has agreed with the Chaos God in question in return for receiving daemonic support.

In all other respects, the principles outlined above remain unchanged, so once again, there is actually a significant amount of freedom with your unit choices.  This means that apart from the inclusion of daemons, and a Dark Apostle, one Word Bearers Legion army could actually look quite different from another, due to different preferences on the part of players regarding the supporting units.

The Word Bearers Warband Concept

For those of you who find the Legions too restrictive, and want something different, the Chaos codex allows you to achieve this without abandoning your preferred Legion concept completely, thanks to its emphasis on Warbands.

A Word Bearers Warband Army:

As the sixth edition codex highlights, the Chaos Legions have fragmented during the years since the Horus Heresy, and many Warbands have been formed.  These Warbands are groups which have broken away from their Legion, and fight under the banner of a powerful leader, carving their own path of destruction across the galaxy.  While such forces are likely to have Word Bearers units at their core, they are also likely to attract Chaos forces from other Legions, or elements from Renegade Chapters or armies to join their cause, meaning that your army selection is more flexible.

The Dark Apostle, and your two compulsory troop choices (most likely two Chaos Space Marine squads) are likely to be Word Bearers, so the restrictions which apply to them in the Legion lists are also likely to apply here, save that your Lord or Sorcerer may have pledged loyalty to a particular Chaos God, and could be marked accordingly.  If so, you may also want to consider giving the equivalent Chaos Icon to your troops, in order to represent their loyalty to their master, although this may not be necessary if they have not yet been deemed worthy.

Your choice of units is where the main differences between the Legion and Warband concepts are to be found:

  • Cult units can be selected.  These may have split from their own Legion and joined up with your Warband, or they could be a fragment from a Renegade army or Chapter.  They are still likely to be restricted in number (this is not the Black Legion after all), but this could be represented through the size of each squad if you wanted to select one of each Cult unit.
  • Any Mark of Chaos or Icon may be chosen.  Units of any type may well have different allegiances, due to the fact that they have gone their own way in terms of which Chaos God(s) they support.  Accordingly, you could include a number of different Icons for your units if you so wished.
  • Unit preferences and restrictions are eased.  There is no certainty that any Word Bearers units in the Warband would still have connections with daemons, so you could field a Word Bearers Warband without daemons if you wish.

This concept is much more flexible, in that there is less of a fixed core around which to build this type of Word Bearers army, since it is no longer part of the Legion.  If you do not like daemons, for example, their absence would not be considered strange in a Word Bearers Warband, while your leader could even be a regular Chaos Lord or Sorcerer if you wanted to be extremely radical, as he could have abandoned the doctrines of the Dark Apostle in pursuit of his own more nefarious plans.


The two concepts and three categories presented above are highly unlikely to be exhaustive, but for those of you looking for some structure to help you in your quest to build a Word Bearers army, they offer you some ideas which may help to guide you in the direction which best fits the style of army you wish to field.  All of the options are perfectly valid from the perspective of background, so the choice comes down to the type of Word Bearers army you are most attracted to.

I hope that this article has inspired all prospective and existing Word Bearers players who read it, and that it has given you some ideas about how to start a Word Bearers army, or develop an existing one.

November 2012.

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November 15, 2012, 02:55:03 PM
Thanks for your comments, and I'm sure that the links will prove useful.

Regarding the Legion concept, this is covered in the first section of the article regarding how to assemble an army which adheres to the Legion background, which takes its inspiration from the original Index Astartes article.  The reason why it isn't complemented by a sample army list is because that would involve going into tactics for the different elements of the army, and that's beyond the scope of the article.  The purpose of this article is simply provide an overarching narrative framework to inspire players to build their own armies, rather than have them mimic a sample list.
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November 15, 2012, 10:01:58 AM
I appreciate the effort and research you have put into this article from a fluff point of view, but I must comment that I am a little bit disappointed you didn't include a section on how to build an effective word bearers army while remaining faithful to the legions tenants.  Perhaps you could have made a 1500 or 2000 point army list featuring a Dark Apostle, no Marks, and Allied Daemons and broken down each choice as to why it is effective given the army constraints.  Other thing you could have done is include some extra bits that a potential Word Bearers player might find interesting like the colour schemes of the army or modelling components that not everybody knows about such as Forge World and GW Kit:

Word Bearers Dreadnaught =
Word Bearers Rhino Doors =
Word Bearers Land Raider Doors =
Word Bearer Shoulder Pads =

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