So, you're a Chaos Champion. You want to do a bit of conquering and rampaging. You're gonna need an army. It's all well and good having your big meaty, armoured retinue but there's not a lot of them. The beastmen are fairly useful but they smell awful and you can never quite tell if they've understood your orders. As for the minotaurs and ogres....sheesh. No, you need some human followers of the dark gods. Some useful cannon fodder who can actually hold a conversation as well as take part in a summoning or two. You need some Chaos thugs!
These illustrations come from the Chaos Thug entries from Warhammer armies and Slave to Darkness. There were three levels of Human mortal in the chaos lists, the highest being the Warriors, with the Marauders beneath and at the bottom of the pile are the Chaos Thugs. The lists contain options for both mounted and foot. Unfortunately for us citadel never made any mounted thugs. We can only imagine what they would have been like.
Chaos thugs were one of the most numerous of the chaos ranges and the random wish mash of armour and armament makes them the dark reflection of the Fighters ranges. Each figure is a character all to himself and it looks like most of the studio sculptors added figures to the range but a lot of them seem to be the work of Aly Morrison and the Perry twins. In fact, a game of name the sculptor would be need to be GM'd by one of the old school masters themselves in order to be truly accurate.
Hordes of psychedelic barbarians and semi-dressed murderers mingle with shoppers from bizarro-armour-R-us and mutated highway punks. Sculpting these guys must have been great fun. You can see the armour scavenged from a thousand battlefields and all manner of vicious weapons for chopping and bashing the heads of all the doubters of the chaos gods strengths.
The very randomness of the Thugs appearance said 'Chaos', the image of rabid, desperate murderous worshipers organised into regiments and let loose against the best that the Empire could raise. The thug is more than a mere human in baddies clothing though. They are stronger and tougher than a normal human (and come on bigger bases!) hardened by their experiences in the chaos wastes and having to fight for their very existence. The foot soldier of the chaos gods isn't the robot like warrior hiding behind his plate armour, it's the ultra-violent Chaos Thug who will go to any lengths to be noticed by the dark gods and raised above his peers.
Marauder even did a regiment of the hairy little bastards. Looking like Mad Max's medieval wet dream, these guys dialled down on the individuality but kept the studded, ripped-up body suit and crazy hair do look.
By the time the second Realm of Chaos book, Lost and the Damned, came along there were only two ranks of Human Chaos followers. The Chaos Marauders had disappeared and many of the models that had made up that rank were dropped into the Thug range (or promoted to Chaos Warrior status). Other figures such as the Chaos Brothers were also included in the 1991 catalogue as thugs.
As well as some of the figs from the F5 Marauder range (personally I really like this range) but then Thugs always had the option to wear Heavy armour.
Even a couple of guys from this Warrior release got demoted to thug status.
By the time 4th edition came around there was only Chaos Warriors left. The thug was no more.
In later editions a new troop type, The Chaos Marauder entered the lists. Half naked with horny helmets, they represent the normal foot troops from the north. They aren't thugs though......