Let’s get our hands dirty with some Dark Angels!
Reecius from Frontline Gaming here to wax philosophic on the latest and greatest rule book. Let me begin by saying I really, really like the Dark Angels codex.
After Chaos, which left me feeling let-down personally, I must say this book is an injection of renewed faith in 6th ed.
Before I dig into the article, though, I have to offer up this critique: a book that costs $49.50, produced by a company the size of Games Workshop that hits the shelves with as many typos and inconsistencies as this book did is shameful. They have absolutely NO excuse for this. None. I have been a professional copywriter and editor (I edited a print magazine for several years) and I know what it takes to scrub a document free of typos. In the grand scheme of making a book, editing is relatively one of the cheapest, fastest and easiest parts of the process. To drop the ball at that stage smacks of an amateur effort and makes GW look more like a garage operation than the biggest dog in the yard.
Secondly, when we have a digital version of the book that doesn’t match the print version all I can say is, WTF. Come. On. In most likely all of one minute of time, the individual writing the update for the digital version of the codex could then update the FAQ on GW’s website (which is a simple text document for crying out loud) while eating a sandwich. To have two official and contradictory sets of rules out at the same time while charging a premium price for each product is again, inexcusable and amateurish. This leaves the door wide open to competition and a very, very small effort at the administrative level at GW would solve this.
That said, while it is being done in a sloppy fashion, at least GW is answering some of these annoying rules questions. I am thankful for that much, but when the bar is set so low, it doesn’t take much to impress us.
Now, for Dark Angels. Mr. Vetock; well done! This book provides a lot of flexibility, flavor, and effective builds which to me is the hallmark of a strong codex. Please note, this article is not meant to be a comprehensive review of the book, but an overview.
A good codex in my eyes, is one that allows you to play multiple builds that reflect the background of the army and are effective on the table top. This is no mean feat, to be sure, but it can be done. Dark Eldar is the example I always use. You can play that book with multiple different builds as the race is represented in the fluff, and win a game. I feel that Dark Angels will be able to the same, which is great!
You can play Deathwing, Ravewing, Doublewing, “normal” Marines, and any combination thereof and every style is going to be good. Perhaps not win a tournament good (although I am certain we will see DA winning tournaments, just not every type of build), but good enough that if you go to the game shop for a pick-up game with a list you built, you will seldom find yourself completely outclassed. That is a win! We aren’t going to find players with only one or two solid builds.
Dark Angels really shine because they have access to a lot of very strong troops which is the baseline of a strong codex. I was really impressed with the Tactical Marines. They hit it out of the park with this unit, in my opinion (I was only a little disappointed that they didn’t get the option for a Heavy Flamer as was rumored).
They price out as Vanilla Tactical Marines for a “standard” full load-out is the same for Dark Angels, however, you don’t HAVE to buy everything as you do with Vanilla Marines. This added flexibility allows for a great deal of latitude when writing a list. You can take 5 marines with a heavy weapon, or 5 naked marines just for scoring objectives or riding in a vehicle. You can take 10 with just bolters for a bargain basement price and/or flood the field with bolters and scoring bodies, or kit them out with the works. You can also toss a Flakk missile in the unit, although for the price I am not a fan of it. If you play a lot of Cron air or similar lists though, you will enjoy this option.
I LOVE that level of flexibility. It makes me as a list writer happy. Scouts offer the same type of options, and give you the opportunity to grab some excellent, cheap scoring options to balance out the other, more expensive units in the book. Losing Combat Tactics for stubborn is a bummer but it does fit with the Dark Angels fluff and helps to differentiate them from Vanilla Marines.
Let me also give a big huzzah! for Devastators. My Vanilla Devastators have languished on the shelf for years due to their inflated points cost, and now we will be seeing these boys back on the table. With the addition of the signum on sarge, this unit is going to be fantastic. Cheap as chips Whirlwinds are fantastic, as are Predators. The Vindicator going up slightly is acceptable as the changes to blast markers really favors them.
The signature units of the Dark Angels are going to be very popular. Bikers got a boost in general with 6th ed, and the ability to take them as troops with a host of fantastic special rules means that Ravenwing is going to be very, very popular. Add to this the fact that Sammael is an absolute beast, and you have the recipe for success. I love the Black Knights as well. A unit that shoots incredibly well in addition to assaulting very well is going to have a host of utility and fills a lot of roles in a well rounded list. A fun question: do the Rad Charges and Stasis Anomaly affect models hit in a unit, or an entire unit when any of its models are hit? The wording is very ambiguous, and before answering, read the rules for the Stasis Bomb on the same page with a similar effect but totally different wording.
Deathwing are also going to be great fun to play. The changes to Deathwing Assault is brilliant! I just love rules that provide the opportunity for these little meta-games and tactical choices. Instead of rolling for reserves, if a unit opts to use Deathwing Assault, you CHOOSE what turn they come in (and no limit on the amount of units per turn, either!). Sweet! You can have them all come in turn 1, or 2, or mix it up! I love it as you can try and bluff your opponent into making bad choices with his deployment using this rule. As potentially a scoring unit, and combined with the Vengeful Strike and Split-fire rules, these units are going to be just a great tactical tool. It’s important to note though, that you can only make Ravewing or Deathwing troops in a primary detachment of Dark Angels, I missed that on my first read through.
The Deathwing Command Squad and Knights are fun units too, the Knights especially jumping out as a solid assault unit. With their ability to go Super Saiyan with their maces, increase their toughness and all having precision strike in combat, these guys can reliably fill a lot of gaps in a Dark Angels list.
The book also has a lot of synergistic elements, which I love! Units that can combo off of one another create so many opportunities for creative play and add so much depth and replay value to a codex. The floating church that gives stealth to units around it (although I loathe the model), rad and stasis charges, stasis bombs, psychic powers (and why is it everyone BUT Vanilla Marines get Divination? haha) and the very cool Banners, just to name a few.
And speaking of those very cool banners, the one everyone seems to be talking about is the Banner of Devastation. Turning Boltguns into Salvo 2/4 weapons is just sweet. You can combo this bad boy so many ways. As he is a primary target for precision strikes, barrage sniping, and focus fire, you need to protect him. Toss him in a vehicle (he goes well with a Land Raider Crusader whose Storm Bolters apparently are affected by the banner in addition to increasing the radius of the aura) which can further be buffed with a Power Field, Tac Marines, Termies, Bikers (relentless makes this just super good) Dark Talons, etc. Plus, take Azrael (who is just pretty dang awesome in general) and you now make all your Marines L10, which saves points on Vet Sarges, and those Tac marines are even better. And that is just what we see now!
The HQ selections are fun, useful, alter the FOC and the only minor complaint is that, IMO, Belial is a bit overpriced for what you get. Points reductions for most of the standard choices is interesting, and with all the wargear options available, you can really trick a custom HQ out to make him unique.
Gosh, if only the Chaos Codex had used some of this. Think how easy to do, and cool it would have been to have the option to take a Night Lords HQ that made Raptors troops, etc.? Such an easy way to make the book so much more varied and fun. Oh well.
The addition of tons of old school cool wargear (some of which have new rules) like the mentioned Power Fields, plus Displacer Fields, Conversion Fields, Auspex, etc. and you have a lot of really cool options to personalize a unit and give it unique functionality.
The list goes on and on. Cheaper Dreads, and a solid tool for every need an army has to win in 6th ed, and this book is really just a great all around effort. Nothing screams broken to me so far, either, but we are very early in to breaking this sucker down. In all, I am so much happier with this book than Chaos and I hope that we see more of this (sans typos) in books to come!