Hey everybody, Reecius here to talk about the newest codex and the first army I ever owned: Dark Angels! Be sure to check out the Tactics Corner for more great reviews.
The first legion is here and for once, they aren’t getting left out in the cold. Huzzah!
The book is a vast improvement over the last one, and should leave most Dark Angels players feeling very positive about their army. It gives you a ton of options to take on any other player and has some really fun formations and detachments to add some versatility and punch to a list.
This is an overview, not a comprehensive review. These are my first impressions based on personal opinion. Feel free to disagree!
There’s a lot to love in this book. Dark Angels have some awesome options in the form of reliable troops, powerful formations and detachments, and some very heavy hitting units such as the outstanding Black Knights. The Dark Angels improved nearly across the board. Their “Chapter Tactics,” so to speak, are expressed in several rules that apply to various units: Deathwing, Ravenwing and Grim Resolve. These provide some really cool special abilities to the Dark Angels that give them an edge. Also important to note, is that Dark Angels don’t actually have Chapter Tactics, and as such the restriction on Space Marines being unable to mix Chapter Tactics within a unit does not apply to them. You will be seeing many an Iron Hands Chapter Master on a bike riding with Black Knights, mark my words.
The only HQ that really jumps out at me at this point as solid, is Ezekiel. Previously, he’s typically been overcosted, but now he weighs in at a very reasonable 145pts. He’s mastery level 3 with 3 wounds (so good for avoiding death by Perils), comes with a 12″ Fearless bubble Warlord Trait and a 6″, +1 attack bubble. Not bad! Plus, the Dark Angels psychic powers are excellent, so this plus his access to many of the others is quite solid. His only limiter is being on foot with no ability to Deep Strike, which can be a bummer.
The generic Libby is a decent choice, too, just because he’s cheap and he is one of the few HQs in the book that can take Terminator armor or a Bike.
Speaking of which, Dark Angels psychic powers are incredible. Called Interromancy, the discipline has some extremely powerful debuffs that can make enemies more susceptible to morale effects, or simply nerf the crap out of their stats. There’s some powerful ones in there, for sure! GW is really cranking up the power of some of the pyschic disciplines.
In the troops department, you will be seeing lots of Scouts–which have become the defacto Space Marine troop choice in many lists–as they have Grim Resolve, which makes them even better for holding objectives. Grim Resolve gives them Stubborn and increases their BS on Overwatch, which is a solid ability. This combined with their already amazing mobility and deployment flexibility means you can build a great army for most missions with Scouts at the core. The Tactical Marines are also a solid choice if you opt to go with their Demi or Battle Company which further increases their BS for overwatch and can give you free transports as with their Space marine brothers.
The Elites slot has some great choices, too. First and foremost, the Ravenwing Command Squad, which is comprised of Black Knights. This is, IMO, the best unit in this book. They’re a typical biker in terms of stats apart form 2 attacks over 1. They have a twin Plasma Talon (18″ plasma gun), Teleport Homer, and a Corvus Hammer which is a +1S, Rending, Melee weapon. These are impressive weapons on their own, but when you factor in Skilled Rider, Scouts, Hit and Run, and the Ravenwing rule, you get a savagely potent unit. Ravenwing allows them to reroll failed cover saves when they jink, which means they have a 3+ reroll jink save, possibly a 2+ if near a Darkshroud. That’s, obviously, extremely good. They can upgrade one member of the squad to be an Apothecary, too, to increase their durability further. They’re a pricey unit, but worth every point and I expect we’ll be seeing a lot of them form the core of many deathstars.
Their Dreadnoughts also got the huge improvement of 4 attacks as did their Marine equivalents, and have Grim Resolve which is awesome, particularly in a Demi or Battle Company. Command Squads will also get some playtime as they are in line with their equally awesome Space marine brothers, now. Plop them in a Drop Pod with 4-5 special weapons and do work.
We’ve also got the now ubiquitous empty transports in Fast Attack. Drop Pods, Rhinos and Razorbacks, oh my! These make Dark Angels a fantastic ally, and they with Skitarii, Astra Militarum, Sisters, or other Marine Chapters will be very prevalent. Attack Bikes and Land Speeders will also have a bit of a Renaissance, I think, as with the Ravenwing rule and Scouts (on the bike), they have so many options to be relatively durable, cheap, objective grabbers which is super useful in this edition. The Darkshroud is also quite attractive as its 6″ bubble grants some seriously awesome benefits (Fear, Stealth, no Overwatch) and it become infinitely more durable with an extra hull point and the ability to reroll its Jink save for a 2+ reroll. Weapons that don’t ignore cover will really struggle, and melee will be the only real concern.
While Dark Angels are dramatically improved in general terms, there are still a few stinkers in there. Most of the HQs, for example, are a bit lackluster. Belial is still way overpriced, and GW didn’t want to give many of the others access to either Bikes or Terminator armor, for some reason, and as such it gets wonky to try and write a list for some of the formations and detachments. You can kind of fake it a bit by slapping a Jump Pack on a character and having him jump around with a Bike squad, but it isn’t nearly as good. Also, there’s the obvious oversight of new characters getting Ravenwing besides Sammael (who is still overpriced), so that is funny but lame.
Ravenwing are solid, but no Skilled Rider makes them strictly inferior to White Scars whom can also be ObSec. Again, some of the Formations and Detachments make up for this, but I’d almost always want to take Black Knights instead.
The Nephilim is better, for sure, but still not good. For his middling firepower, his price point should have gone down quite a bit more, IMO. It just doesn’t hit hard enough, and I doubt we will start seeing many of them. Same story with the Vengeance Speeder. While much better with the Ravenwing rule and an extra HP, it still tends to commit suicide shooting its main weapon….so, yeah. It’s expensive and while it hits hard, it just dies so easily and if you jink, it’s not shooting. Still not going to get much table time, IMO.
Also, Dark Angels Vets…still extremely mediocre. No Sternguard or Vanguard special rules, just a unit of Veterans with nothing special about them. You’d never take them over a Command Squad outside of fluff reasons.
There’s a lot of meh units in this book. Not bad, but not great. All of the standard predator chassis vehicles, whirlwinds, Land Raiders, etc. fall into this category for reasons we’ve covered a million times before. Yeah, you can buff them by taking them in units, but that is pretty negligible. Some folks are excited about the Hammer of Caliban formation that combines them all into one super unit with a Techmarine, but my feelings are that it will occasionally have a big game but is a ton of vulnerable eggs in one basket. Haywire units dropping in, such as we’ll be seeing with Skitarii, and Melee units, will be very dangerous to this. However, it does make some of the less popular vehicles at least worth considering.
Deathwing, while better, are still too pricey. Terminators just don’t warrant their price point, anymore. Some of the Formations and Detachments help a ton, but you still aren’t likely to see many armies choose lots of them outside of fluff reasons. I will say though, that the Deathwing Knights got a lot better. Still too pricey, but, significantly improved and with character support you could make a fun, powerful melee unit. With WS5, base AP3, and Smite, these guys can take a bite out of a lot of other units in the game, but still die like dogs to small arms fire as all terminators tend to. A tank character is almost a necessity.
The Dark Talon is certainly greatly improved, with its funky Rift Cannon that can shoot out a persistent Strength D Vortex if doubles are rolled on the scatter (1/6 odds), and is still a strength 10, AP2, blast otherwise, with strafing run to boot. Not bad. It also has Hurricane Bolters but that is a bit silly as those two weapons typically don’t want to be fired at the same target, but, it is nice when they can both be used. It also comes with a sort of cool Stasis Bomb which can remove models form play if it happens to wound them (unlikely in most cases at St4) and they fail an Initiative test, but, it does cause a unit hit by it to have their WS and In reduced by 3 until the end of the turn which is cool if you are in position to charge that unit in the ensuing assault phase. This is not a bad unit at all, just sort of middling.
Formations and Detachments
I separated this out as it bears special attention. This is where the Dark Angels get their magic. The Lion’s Blade Strike Force is OK. It gives you increases to Grim Resolve, which is cool and can be awesome vs. the right army, but not nearly as good as Combat Doctrines with Space Marines. You have to take a middling Assault and Devastator Squad too, which are not bad per se, but fall short compared to the options Marines get. A Dark Angels CAD I think, is the better choice unless you go for the full Battle Company in which case Dark Angels can be quite good as their Auxiliary Formations are awesome and are cheaper than the Marine options, meaning it is easier to min/max the battle company and shoehorn something else into the list, too.
The Deathwing Redemption Force Formation and Deathwing Strike Force Detachment are not bad. They give you some really useful reserve manipulation mechanics in being able to either choose the turn the Deathwing units come in before the game or during if you have Ravenwing support (who also come with Teleport Homers) means you can really counter some of the nasty Alpha Strike lists that we’re seeing in the meta at present such as Drop Pod Skitarii, which really rely on that initial punch to win the game. This combined with being Twin-Linked on the deep strike, and being able to shoot and run or run and shoot that turn, really helps to give the Deathwing that extra oomph they need to actually win a game. It will be a thinking man’s army, but that is not a bad thing. These detachments also allow you to take Deathwing in another army without fooling around with units you may not want to take.
Likewise, the Ravewing offer up some awesome Formations and their Detachment, the Ravenwing Strike Force, while flawed in the HQ section, is still quite good. The Strike Force allows you to take an all Ravenwing army if you choose, and give you some slick benefits, too. For one, the first turn they are on the board, they can all turbo boost or flat out count as jinking but shoot in the next phase at normal BS. Nice! This combos excellently with their next special ability which is to choose to have the entire force come in automatically on turn 2, no roll required. This is super powerful as it allows you to counter those Alpha Strike armies as with the Deathwing formations, above, and then come onto the table with some impressive defense, too. Not bad!
The Ravenwing Attack Squadron is a cool, cheap little Formation that consists of a single Speeder and a unit of Attack Bikes or stock Ravenwing. If the Speeder shoots and hits a unit, the Bikes get BS5. Also, Deathwing units arriving within 12″ don’t scatter. Not bad! It’s cheap, effective and BS5 Attack Bikes can do work with either Heavy Bolters or M.Meltas and the unit then provides a great way to get Deathwing where you want them.
However, the real money maker is the Ravenwing Support Squadron. This is an excellent Formation and one I think we will see frequently. It Consists of a unit of 3-5 Speeders and a Darkshroud or Vengeance. The Darkshroud is what you will see in it, every time, though, and here’s why. All the vehicles go into a single unit which gains Scouts (from the Nightshroud), Grim Resolve, Interceptor and Strafing Run…Wow! Interceptor on this unit is savage! Plus, the Nightshroud gives everyone Stealth, and has Shrouding, itself. That means they Jink at a 3+ or 2+ with a reroll. That is pretty savage. Interceptor is also incredible on this unit to help counter reserve tactics and Strafing Run is just icing on the cake. Lastly, the unit gains the ability to overwatch vs. an enemy unit that assaults a Ravenwing unit within 24″…again, Wow! That’s really powerful on a unit that shoots as much as this one can. This also means, it gets to overwatch for itself, too, at a minimum of BS2 no less. Not bad at all.
Lastly, the Silence Squadron is pretty meh, IMO. It consists of 2 Nephilim and a Dark Talon. They all come on a single reserves roll, and the Dark Talon’s Satsis Bomb doesn’t scatter and gets a bonus if you manage to slay the Warlord with it. Eh. Nothing special, IMO.
So there you have it! The Dark Angels have got a lot to be stoked about. There are a ton of ways to play them and they have vastly improved, on the whole.