The Forces of Chaos engage the defenders of the Imperium of Man during the 13th Black Crusade

Abaddon the Despoiler, with Cadia in his grasp

A Black Crusade is a military campaign unleashed upon the Milky Way Galaxy when the Forces of Chaos manage to unite under the leadership of a powerful Champion of Chaos. They then proceed to launch a massive offensive from their base within the great Warp rift called the Eye of Terror against the worlds of the Imperium of Man. The most devastating Black Crusades were led by the Warmaster of the Black Legion, Abaddon the Despoiler, the self-proclaimed heir of Horus, who has led multiple Black Crusades against the Imperium. The most recent of these campaigns was the 13th Black Crusade in 999.M41, the largest and most successful of them all.

The 1st Black Crusade occurred in the late 31st Millennium, five standard centuries after the end of the Horus Heresy. Utilizing the region of calm space around the Eye of Terror known as the Cadian Gate, Abaddon led the combined forces of the Chaos Space Marine Traitor Legions against scores of Imperial worlds, and was responsible for millions of deaths in the first week alone. Multiple worlds were lost before the Imperium could launch an effective counterassault, and although the Black Crusade was ultimately defeated, the Imperium was forced to heavily fortify the surrounding Cadian Sector, transforming Cadia itself into a Fortress World.

Over the course of the intervening ten thousand standard years, the Forces of Chaos have launched a further twelve Black Crusades. Millions of other attacks have been made on the worlds of the Cadian Gate by Daemon Princes and lesser Chaotic warlords, but the title of Black Crusade is reserved for the times when Abaddon or another powerful Chaotic leader is able to unite all of the Forces of Chaos located within the Eye of Terror in the pursuit of one goal -- the destruction of the Imperium of Man, the greatest bastion of Order in the galaxy.

The 41st Millennium saw two Black Crusades. The 12th Black Crusade, also known as the Gothic War, began in 139.M41 and lasted until 160.M41. It represented Abaddon's attempt to capture the ancient xenos artefacts called the Talismans of Vaul by the Eldar, but known to the Imperium as the six Blackstone Fortresses. The Eldar allied themselves with the Imperium to defeat the Chaos forces, and were successful, although Abaddon escaped with at least two of the Blackstone Fortresses.

The 13th Black Crusade began in 999.M41, and resulted in the largest mobilisation of both Imperial and Chaotic forces seen since the Horus Heresy. In this campaign, at least one of the Blackstone Fortresses was destroyed by Necron raiders. The Necrons had targeted the ancient fortresses because they had originally been designed and constructed by the Old Ones to defeat the C'tan during the ancient War in Heaven millions of years ago between the C'tan's Necron servants and the Old Ones.

The 13th Black Crusade was also the background to Games Workshop's world-wide Eye of Terror Campaign in 2003, which resulted in a minor victory for the Forces of Chaos and gave Abaddon his long-sought foothold on Cadia, though he suffered devastating losses to his fleet to secure it. During the campaign, Admiral Quarren led an Imperial counter-attack allied with the Eldar that drove off Abaddon's Chaos-corrupted Blackstone Fortress which had been possessed by an avatar of the Chaos God Slaanesh. But Abaddon's foothold in the Cadia Gate remained intact, with fighting still ongoing on Cadia and the surrounding worlds as the 42nd Millennium dawns. In response, the Imperium has stripped the garrisons along its farEastern Fringe to reinforce the Cadian Gate, which resulted in a full retreat of the Forces of Chaos from the Cadian Sector and produced the current stalemate. However, this weakening of Imperial defences hastened the onslaught of the Tyranid Hive Fleet Leviathan and the latest expansion of the Tau Empire until it was brought to a halt in the Zeist Campaign. At the present time Abaddon's forces remained bottled up on the surface of Cadia whilst the Imperial Navy's control of the Cadian Gate prevents the Forces of Chaos from expanding their toehold in Imperial space.

List of Black Crusades

The Black Crusades of Abaddon the Despoiler

  • 1st Black Crusade (ca. 781.M31) - Abaddon the Despoiler made many blood pacts with the Dark Gods in the wake of Horus' defeat. On Uralan, Abaddon recovers the Daemonsword Drach'neyen after battling his way through a haunted labyrinth to the great inner chamber where the blade has languished in stasis for millennia. The howling sword contains the bound essence of a dangerous Warp entity who has the power to rend reality apart wherever the weapon strikes. After the recovery of the malefic sword, Abaddon's power swells to inhuman proportions. Now recognised as the new Warmaster of Chaos Undivided, Abaddon makes his first attempt to launch a new offensive against the Imperium of Man folowing the Horus Heresy and initiates the First Battle of Cadia.
  • 2nd Black Crusade (597.M32) - The 2nd Black Crusade saw another failed assault by the Forces of Chaos from the Eye of Terror upon the defences of Cadia.
  • 3rd Black Crusade (909.M32) - The 3rd Black Crusade was carried out by the great Chaotic force known as The Host of Tallomin. The Host was lead by the Daemon Prince Tallomin but the assault was crushed by Imperial forces lead by the Space Wolves Space Marines. Tallomin, known as the "Prince of Daemon Princes" was either slain or banished by the Astartes who confronted him, but his final fate remains unknown to the Imperium.
  • 4th Black Crusade (ca. 001.M34) - Abaddon leads the charge against the adamantium gates of the famously unbreachable Citadel of Kromarch upon the world of El'Phanor. Only one in ten of Abaddon's spearhead reach the gates before they are trapped by Heavy Bolter fire. The gates are harder than diamond, but they split apart like cordwood before Abaddon's dolorous blow. The Chaos Space Marines and their daemonic allies feast upon the Kromarch and his kin that same night.
  • 5th Black Crusade (723.M36) - Doombreed, an ancient Daemon Prince of Khorne whose existence precedes that of the Imperium itself, declares war on the Adeptus Astartes. The Warhawks and the Venerators Chapters of Space Marines are lost in the fighting.
  • 6th Black Crusade (901.M36) - No information about this conflict is currently known in Imperial records.
  • 7th Black Crusade(811.M37) - The 7th Black Crusade was a Black Crusade launched against the forces of the Imperium of Man, led by the infamous Chaos Champion Abaddon the Despoiler and his Black Legion, launched out of the Eye of Terror in 811.M37. At this time, the Forces of Chaos spewed forth from the Eye of Terror past Cadia and then disappeared. This event is what earned this conflict its informal name of the Ghost War. The following years saw a game of hide-and-seek played between the Forces of Chaos and the Imperium of Man which spread confusion, paranoia, disinformation and deceit across the galaxy. Raids became commonplace in far-flung areas but eventually the servants of the Dark Gods returned to the Eye of Terror, having caused great difficulty for the Emperor's Loyalists but having proven unable to significantly degrade Imperial defensive capabilities at that time. During this conflict, when the Blood Angels Space Marine Chapter battled against the Forces of Chaos at Midian, Abaddon singled them out with implacable fury. He led a band of Khornate Berserkers into the teeth of the Blood Angels' Devastator positions. Even the Blood Angels' own Assault troops could not dislodge the frenzied warband and recapture the bodies of their comrades. But there is an obscure reference to the Blood Angels being saved by an unidentified Space Marine Chapter of mysterious origin. Written within the The Canticle of Cassandria Lev - Vol. CVI, the eponymous Sainted Sisters' highly mythologised and oblique account of the wars of the 7th Black Crusade, is found mention of a "grey-clad" Space Marines Chapter who came from "The outer night" to aid the Imperium, and whose "Jagged maw did swallow the stars ... and whose ... black gaze did mirror the void of oblivion." In the course of the canticle this Chapter's ships set upon Abaddon's forces following the disastrous defeat and routing of the Blood Angels at Midian and attacked the pursuing forces as Saint Lev writes: "...fell upon the servants of the skulled-one with great fury from the darkness, unseen as the beast that lurks beneath the black waters, death for death, blood for blood...thus were the Sons of Sanguinius bought respite, and did turn back upon their pursuers and so were the damned traitors of the false gods driven unto their ruin." Images of these events can be found upon the walls of the Cemetery World of Hypasitis created to house the honoured dead of that war, depicted in repeated fresco and bar relief. Curiously, the faces of the intervening Space Marines depicted there are obscured with featureless disks of black obsidian. Given the largely unknown history of the star-faring Carcharodons Chapter, accounts of their activities can only be constructed from recorded historical incidents and fragmentary records that are believed to have involved the Carcharodons on balance of evidence. This notable engagement is listed by Imperial savants as a "[Special] Probable Encounter/Recorded Sighting" of this notorious and mysterious Space Marine Chapter. After their rescue at Midian, the full might of the Blood Angels Chapter fell upon a vast Black Legion warband on the world of Mackan. Although the conflict ultimately ends in the near-extinction of the Blood Angels at the hands of Abaddon the Despoiler and his primary lieutenants -- the Sorcerer-Lord Iskandar Khayon and the swordmaster Telemachon Lyras -- the Blood Angels Reclusiarch Thalastian Jorus becomes one of the few Imperial heroes to ever land a blow against the Warmaster of Chaos. With his Chapter devastated, the Chaplain endures weeks of hardship in the wilderness and the constant trials of keeping his crazed warriors undetected on Mackan. When the time is right, Jorus leads his Death Company in a lightning raid behind enemy lines, butchering the unprepared sworn warriors of the Despoiler’s honour guard, and allowing the Reclusiarch to lock blades with Abaddon himself. It is said the Chaos Warmaster still bears the scars of that battle, even three standard millennia later. Whatever the truth of the matter, it is known that the Despoiler honoured Jorus once the war was over -- perhaps in mockery, or perhaps with nothing but sincerity. After Mackan, thousands of Blood Angels corpses were desecrated, their gene-seed ruined beyond recovery. Of all the Chapter, only a handful of bodies were left undefiled: Reclusiarch Jorus and his Death Company, clad in their battered and broken black ceramite, seated in makeshift thrones made from the armour of those Black Legion warriors they had killed on that fateful night.

  • 8th Black Crusade (999.M37) - No information about this conflict is currently known in Imperial records.
  • 9th Black Crusade (537.M38) - The 9th Black Crusade was a Black Crusade led by the infamous Chaos Champion Abaddon the Despoiler and his Black Legion, launched out of the Eye of Terror in 537.M38. Intending to bring about the demise of the naval fortress of Cancephalus, Abaddon lead his forces against the heaving populations of the nearby world of Antecanis. Monarchhive, the hive city that served as the seat of Antecanis' Imperial Commander, was besieged by Abaddon's vanguard. The Black Legionaries burn and butcher their way through the lower levels, whilst Abaddon himself storms its inner sanctums. The hive populations are slowly destroyed by the slaughter. By the time the forces of the Imperial Guard arrive from from Cancephalus to reinforce the desperate survivors, Abaddon and his favoured Legionaries have already left orbit, dropping a dozen cyclonic warheads onto the ruins of Monarchhive in a last gesture of contempt. The seventeen-year-long war that ensues robs both Antecanis and Cancephalus of their most precious resource -- manpower. Without the fleets of Cancephalus to stop him, Abaddon is able to ravage the rest of the sector at will. During this time, the Lamenters Space Marine Chapter is recalled along with a number of other Crusading Chapters by the High Lords of Terra to help deal with the rising threat of incursions from the Eye of Terror. But the Lamenters' fell reputation for suffering bitter reversals and dark turns of fate worked against them during their defense of the Hive World of Corillia from a Chaotic attack. The superstition-bound Mortifactors Chapter refused to fight alongside the Lamenters, abandoning the planet rather than serve besides fellow Astartes they consider cursed. Unwilling to desert the Hive World's population, the Lamenters held out alone against the Black Legion's onslaught for six standard weeks, suffering horrendous losses until the Ultramarines and White Scars led a battle group that broke though the Chaos warfleet to relieve Corillia. Reduced to barely 200 surviving Battle-Brothers by their sacrifice, the Lamenters were deemed lost when their fleet disappeared into a Warp Storm soon afterwards, only to reappear more than a standard century later on the edge of the Segmentum Solar, having slowly battled their way back from the outer void.
  • 10th Black Crusade (001.M39) - This Black Crusade is also known as the Conflict of Helica, during which the Iron Warriors Chaos Space Marines fought the Iron Hands on Medusa.
  • 11th Black Crusade (301.M39) - No information about this conflict is currently known in Imperial records.
  • 12th Black Crusade (139.M41) - Better known as the Gothic War, this Black Crusade was fought for control of the Gothic Sector in the Segmentum Obscurus between the Chaotic forces of Abaddon the Despoiler and the defenders of the Imperium. Abaddon lead his great fleet into the Gothic Sector, capturing two of the prehistoric xenos-built star forts known as the Blackstone Fortresses. Under Abaddon's control, the might of the Blackstone Foretresses is used to destroy entire worlds in the Gothic Sector during this campaign. The Despoiler's fleet is driven back at great cost, though Abaddon escapes with the Blackstone Fortresses into the Eye of Terror. The vast engines of destruction emerge once more into the material universe during Abaddon's 13th Black Crusade over eight hundred standard years later.
  • 13th Black Crusade (999.M41) - The greatest of the Champions of Chaos, Abaddon the Despoiler, launches an all-out attack by the Forces of Chaos upon the Fortress World of Cadia and the strategic Cadian Gate, the route by which the servants of the Ruinous Powers may once more strike towards sacred Terra. The Traitor Legions pour forth from the Eye of Terror, emptying a hundred Daemon Worlds and bursting into realspace in hitherto unforeseen numbers. Rumours persist that the Daemon Primarchs ride at the head of the armies, returned to the mortal realm to usher in the End Times. Imperial forces counter-attack, but there is no end to the forces of the Dark Gods. The Forces of Chaos succeed in gaining a foothold on the surface of Cadia, but these Heretics become trapped there when their fleet is driven back into the Eye of Terror by the Imperial Navy. A bloody stalemate ensues within the confines of the Cadian Gate, though this represents the most significant penetration by the Forces of Chaos into Imperial space since the Horus Heresy. Many fear that with all the threats the Imperium is facing simultaneously, the End Times have indeed arrived for Mankind.


  • Battlefleet Gothic: "The Galaxy"
  • Battlefleet Gothic Rulebook (Blue Book), pp. 92-103
  • Codex: Chaos Space Marines (6th Edition), pp. 22-23, 25
  • Codex: Chaos Space Marines (4th Edition), pp. 24, 46
  • Codex: Chaos Space Marines (3rd Edition, 2nd Codex)
  • Codex: Chaos Space Marines (3rd Edition, 1st Codex)
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  • Imperial Armour Volume Ten - The Badab War - Part Two, pg. 118
  • Liber Chaotica: Khorne
  • Tactica Imperialis
  • The 13th Black Crusade (Background Book), pg. 73
  • Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (6th Edition), pp. 177, 230-231
  • Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (5th Edition), pg. 148
  • Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (4th Edition), pg.136
  • Warpstorm (Rulebook), "Incident at Stranivar," "Wolf Pack," "Slayer of Worlds: History of the Planet Killer"
  • White Dwarf 286 (UK), "The Eye of Terror," pp. 69-70
  • White Dwarf 246 (US), "The Powers That Be," (by Jonathan Green)
  • Cain's Last Stand (Novel) by Sandy Mitchell
  • Execution Hour (Novel) by Gordon Rennie
  • Shadow Point (Novel) by Gordon Rennie
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