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.

 

 

 

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