Reviewing Codex: Dark Angels

So. It is here. After what seems like decades, a Codex for the Dark Angels that promises to be worthy of the chapter.

I should note that, as a reviewer of this book, I have an almost unimaginable amount of bias. The Dark Angels are, far and away, my favourite chapter and I have been playing them longer than some of the people in my gaming group have been alive (I am not an old fogey, I am just not!). The army I have amassed for them is better counted in terms of companies rather than squads. I want this book to be good.

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The first good surprise – the chapter organisation section has a complete breakdown of the Dark Angels. This may be a small thing to some of you but, for someone eyeing up way too many Deathwing Terminators already, it is good to see how far there is to go before one can say one has the complete Deathwing.

The answer, incidentally, is 8 more squads.

This includes their equipment as well. For example, the Dark Angels are noted as having 21 Land Raiders (which is good – means I am halfway there already…).

Interestingly, things are a lot sketchier for the Ravenwing, and this is mentioned in the body text – the Dark Angels just do not like to report what their bikers are doing!

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I want to tackle the background properly, to see if there are any other clues about the Dark Angels rebuilding their Legion and what they intend doing thereafter (can’t help thinking the ends justifies the means there – which precisely mirrors something Jervis told me about his take on the Dark Angels about 20 years ago). However, I have already dived into a few pages, and I am confident the Dark Angels are just as nasty as they have always been.

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Those looking for painting tips are well catered for – after all, we Dark Angels are very strict about our unit markings! Most companies are covered, along with some of the Successor Chapters. Not many changes here, but there are a couple of things to look out for. Members of the Ravenwing Inner Circle, for example, have a gold bar on their shoulder pads. Easy enough to retro-paint, I think.

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The artwork is of GW’s usual very high standard, and there is plenty here to evoke the right atmosphere, putting you in the mood for putting more Dark Angels together (one company is never enough!).

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So, on to the army list.

Many of the forums and rumour sites have already done the details to death, and I won’t re-hash them here. Instead, I’ll give a broader perspective, from the point of view of someone who has at least played one game this week with the new book.

First off, if you are a Dark Angel player who has always felt like the butt of every other army in the game – good news, this is the Codex you have been waiting for. There are a lot of tasty items here, along with more ways of building an army than you can shake a dead Watcher at. For example;

  1. Use the Combined Arms Detachment (and, unlike some other Codexes, this remains a most viable option)
  2. Use the Lion’s Blade Strike Force Detachment
  3. Use the dedicated Ravenwing and Deathwing detachments
  4. Use the new formations
  5. Mix all the above together!

To an extent, Option 5 might be the one many pick.

On the face of it, the Lion’s Blade detachment seems a non-brainer. After all, who knocks back Overwatch at full Ballistic Skill? Plus, the core models will all have ObSec, plus you have a chance of getting free Transports.

The bad news is that the formations in this detachment that you want to use are very expensive. If you just stat out a decent Demi-Company, just using the compulsory units with some reasonable upgrades, you will hit 1,200 points very quickly. In a 1,500 point game, that just ain’t going to cut it. Once you hammer that down to about 1,000-odd points, you then start looking at armoured support. But the Hammer of Caliban is a great big chunk, adding a Techmarine, a Land Raider and, let’s say, three Predators. Sure, it will kill anything you point it at, but unless you are facing a Baneblade or Knight, there is a lot of firepower going to waste there.

It also means you are greatly frestricted in what you can and cannot take. Unless you go CAD, you can no longer add in, for example, a single Whirlwind for a bit of artillery support. You have to go for three Whirlwinds (flattening any infantry they bombard) and an escorting Land Raider (Lion alone knows what he will be shooting at while the Whirlwinds do their thing…).

The good news, however… being forced to use three Tactical Squads, backed up by Assault and Devastators, will remind you just how good your basic, average Marine can be.

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So, why put yourself through the pain of using these formations? Because the benefits, frankly, balance the hassle very nicely. That Hammer of Caliban gives you a BS 5 Land Raider and both Tank Hunters and Monster Hunters on every model in the unit. The Ravenwing Attack Squadron effectively has 12″ teleport homers. The Ravenwing Support Squadron will be bombing around the table with re-rollable 2+ cover saves.

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We can cut to the chase here. While there are many different units and combinations that will shine over the next few months as people get to play with this Codex, there is one section that stands out from the start – just as everyone focussed on Scatter Laster Jetbikes and Wraithknights when the new Eldar Codex, and later began to see the Aspect Host might be the real heavy hitter, there are lots of nice options for the Dark Angels now, but the Ravenwing are the guys who stand out.

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The Ravenwing get to re-roll all Jink saves, as standard. That would be enough to get people looking twice at them, but this means the Black Knights have a 3+ re-rollable Jink, and everyone can be given a 2+ re-rollable save through the presence of the Darkshroud. This makes them very, very durable.

Whether they can dish it out is another question and I suspect the better approach will be combination, Ravenwing and Deathwing, perhaps with the odd Hammer of Caliban tossed in.

I’ll be coming back to this Codex a great deal over the next few months and I’ll see if I can get a battle report sorted. However, I am confident in giving you all a firm verdict;

 

This is a great Codex, and if you are a Dark Angel, you will not be disappointed.

 

 

 

Leaders of Men (and Elves)

I’ve been messing around with some character models of late – after doing that big block of Witch Elves, it was nice to return to something with a fast turnaround time.

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The first was this chap, Kaldor Draigo, leader of the Grey Knights. I wasn’t going to bother with any of the Grey Knights special characters but both Draigo and Crowe turned up at really cheap prices, and I could not say no. And, at the end of the day, as far as the fiction is concerned, Draigo might just be the greatest hero of the Imperium ever. It seems he even turned up in the Fantasy Battles End Times.

Chatting to Alan, we did a brief back-of-the-envelope comparison between Draigo and a Bloodthirster (Alan is looking at doing Khorne Daemonkin) and we came to the conclusion that Draigo probably wins if he gets the right psychic powers off (having a bit of support from the odd Paladin won’t hurt either). Still, the Grey Knights are currently on garrison duty (at home, rather than waiting for play in the office) so it may be a while before I try him out.

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I had a Skyrunner Fareseer and Warlock already, using bitz from Chapterhouse Studios, but it was nice to finally get round to picking up the newer models to fit in with the rest of the Jetbikes. I could really use a clutch more Warlocks on Jetbikes to pad out my squads (and add the awesome) but then, I really need more Jetbikes full stop…

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This was a fun one. Another Warlock on foot, just to prepare me for when I (finally) get hold of a Vaul Battery and can start using foot-based Guardian Hosts. However, I also picked up (I really cannot remember where from, probably eBay) this classic Rogue Trader era Eldar Guardian leader – I figured he would make for a good Autarch with few upgrades, making him a cheap option compared to the winged model currently available. Always nice to get some of the older models in an army sometime.

 

Coming Up

I’ll be doing a review on the (long awaited) Dark Angels Codex very soon – I have already tried them out this week and the book is all kinds of awesome. If you are a Dark Angels, ignore the naysayers. This is the book you have been waiting for.

We also have a Warhammer Fantasy campaign day coming up tomorrow, and I will be busy tonight, beavering away on a new character model for the High Elves that I want to give a whirl. More details next week!

A Frenzy of Elves

Planned to finish these on our Saturday painting day but finally polished them off last night – a nice big block of Witch Elves backed up by characters and a Cauldron of Blood.

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As you can see, there are still some gaps on the movement tray meaning this unit is ripe to be expanded, but with 25-odd Witch Elves all done, it is certainly enough to be getting on with!

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I have yet to try them out on the battlefield but it is clear these girls need to get into close combat – where, with all the buffs they get from super-Frenzy, the Cauldron and their leaders, they will mince just about anything, from Zombies and Skavenslaves to Chaos Warriors.

The trick will be avoiding being hammered before they get there,

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There are several ways to do this. I am not too fussed about magic, as Dark Elves can certainly hold their own there and the Ward save the Cauldron grants is easily bumped up through Magic Resistance of a character or two. Being charged is not much of an issue, even if the girls get hit in the flanks, as their sheer damage output will more than compensate, even on the sides. In fact, I may actively be looking to get flanked as that allows them to hammer (and possibly rout/destroy) three units at once rather than just one!

The problem is missile fire. The Ward save granted by the Cauldron will help with that in a big way, but I like to be sure. The answer may be following this unit with a Sorceress who, through Dark Magic, has access to plenty of spells that cock up shooting (even Wood Elves, with their ‘ignore all negative modifiers’ rule will not do so well if they are at BS 1…). I also note that an Assassin can sit in this unit without getting butchered and with a free choice of a 50 point magic item, may find something that protects the unit as a whole…

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But back on to the good stuff. I have already painted up two characters to lead this unit (and may end up having both in there), the first being a Death Hag. This girl can carry a 50 point magic weapon into battle and while the Ogre Blade seems like the obvious choice, I am wondering if something that gives her more attacks will help more as they will all be poisoned. Especially if the unit is also carrying the Razor Standard, giving everyone Armour Piercing.

However, the star,by a long mile, is Hellebron. She is a helluva lot of points but with up to ten (ten!) S10 attacks, coupled with Always Strikes First, I am not sure there is anything she cannot simply murder in one turn. Who needs Killing Blow or Multiple Wounds if you are kicking out that much firepower? She could slaughter entire ranks on her own and for challenges, she can single-handedly finish off anything in just a turn, maybe two. at an absolute stretch – Vampires, Dragons, pumped up Chaos Lords… bring them all on.

Looking forward to getting this unit on the table…

Ivy and Ice

Slowly, very slowly, the Harlequin force grows and this weekend I finished another couple of units. As I have posted before, the Masque of the Dark Night has colour schemes based on villains in Batman.

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After doing one Troupe based on Harley Quinn, I had already pegged another to be done as Poison Ivy and, this weekend, I finally got round to it! Two-tone green and flashes of orange work well, I think.

Now I just need to do one more Troupe to finish off the Troops slots in this little force – and I have no idea which villain to base that on! Time to hit Google, methinks…

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I also polished off another Shadowseer, this one done in the theme of Mr Freeze – all the greys work well on this model, I think (because, you know, lots of grey and Shadowseer…). I wasn’t going to have duplicate characters, as I hate models that look the same for leaders, but the colour schemes I have picked are very different (the first was based on the Penguin) and you really cannot have too many Shadowseers.

I am loathe to do another Death Jester as a) the models are again exactly the same and b) I am not really rating Death Jesters right now. However, the first could be got round by using one of the older metal Death Jesters (might look odd though) and as for the latter, well, they are only 60 points base.

Right now, I can do two formations of Harlequins, the Cast of Players which combines a Death Jester and Shadowseer with a Troupe (so, too many to use a transport, thus they will be walking) and the Heroes’ Path, which brings along a Shadowseer, Death Jester and Solitaire. If I did just one more Death Jester, I could take both formations at once…

What I really need to crack on with now are the Voidweavers and one more unit of Skyweaver Jetbikes. These done, I will be free to use any formation. One more Troupe on top of that and I will have enough to do a ‘proper’ Harlequin detachment.

So, lots to do!

Right now though, I have some more Catachan Guard on my painting table (just about to finish off the second platoon – which means I need to start concentrating on the big stuff like tanks and flyers) and a Skyrunner Farseer and Warlock. We have a group painting day coming up this Saturday during which I am aiming to complete, from start to finish, a full unit of Witch Elves and a Cauldron of Blood. That will give me a full 2,000 point (if not completely viable) Dark Elf army!

Also looking forward to the new Dark Angels Codex later this month. Really liking the new Space Marine one, just hoping the Dark Angels get some of that formation goodness! Honesty would not mind if the Dark Angels book said ‘use everything in the Space Marine Codex that does not have specific chapter tactics, and then add these new bits.’ That would suit me down to the ground…

Storm of Magic

After a canny purchase on the Bring and Buy stand at Campaign (Milton Keynes) this year, we are starting to introduce the Storm of Magic rules to our fantasy campaigns. And that means ‘tooling up’.

The first thing needed are Arcane Fulcrums, and I have finally painted two up (you really need four). These took longer than I had thought, due mainly to the sheer number of skulls present on both.

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I have another two (different) Fulcrums in the works and, frankly, they look way easier to do. They’ll be polished off in a week or two.

As well as Fulcrums, armies in Storm of Magic get a points allowance to spend on, well, cool stuff – binding scrolls, legendary magic items and various pacts.

The pacts are interesting but basically mean bringing a mini-army with you and I really don’t fancy starting yet another army for Fantasy right now, as my Dark Elves (only ever supposed to be allies, originally) are occupying enough of my time. The legendary items… again, interesting, but some of them are a bit two edged for my liking, though the floating tower has some potential and could make for a nice model. If I see a watchtower going cheap on eBay, I might have to indulge.

No, for me, it will be all about the binding scrolls – which means Monsters!

I am keeping my eyes peeled for a Zoat or maybe a Cockatrice but I figured I would start big and so spent a little time re-basing this dragon.

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Not the biggest one I could have picked but we are doing 2,000 point battles which means only 500 points in the Storm of Magic allowance – and that just ain’t enough for a fully-fledged Emperor Dragon. Which would have been nice.

One Shot, One Kill

The Imperial Guard (sorry, Astra Militarum) army progresses slowly, being very much a ‘second tier’ force at the  moment, so no urgency is present. Still, doing the odd unit here and there, it is coming on with the second platoon well under way now.

This weekend, I added another squad to the platoon and also polished off the first special weapons squad. Being a Catachan force, they just had to be snipers.

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As they were snipers, I wanted to go a bit further with the vegetation that I have been putting on the bases of many of the infantry. In this squad, they all have vegetation, and the snipers themselves have a bit more than usual. My particular favourite is the chap aiming his Long Las from between two fern fronds.

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I have one more Infantry Squad to do for the second platoon, then their Command Squad, and then that is finished – I am going to try very hard to resist to do a third (though that would mean I have the whole company done…). After that, I just need to do a handful of tanks and flyers, and then this force will be ready to take to the field for the first time!