Normally I’d review a whole section of the book in an article, but with a man this big he needs an article all to himself. Click to read on, or check out the Stratagems Corner for more previews and tactics.
As one might expect from good ol’ Leon himself, Lion’el Johnson boasts one of the most impressive statlines we’ve seen in the game so far on a non-titanic model. Movement 6″ is about what we’d expect from most Space Marine dudes, but from there it gets a bit wild. Strength and toughness six both make him quite beefy, while a whopping ten wounds puts him even above his brother. (Take that, Smurfs!) Weapon and ballistic skill 2+ are to be expected, of course, and with five attacks he can make every swing count, especially on the charge where he gets an extra one. Finally, since he literally “knows no fear” it’s only appropriate that he has a massive leadership value of twelve; you’re not gonna be worrying about morale checks with this guy! Lion’el comes in at a very respectable price of ten Meltaguns plus two Rhinos minus the price of a sergeant from an Invictor squad- not cheap, but for what you get it’s a bargain. He does, of course, take a Lord of War slot.
Wargear and Special Rules
Like all Space Marines, Lion’el comes with the Bolter Drill ability (which gives him an extra hit on an unmodified 6 with a Bolt weapon) and Hateful Assault (granting him +1 to charge rolls and heroic intervention rolls), as well as the standard Dark Angels doctrines. His impressive statline makes these abilities even more effective than they are on normal models, so we can call this a big plus in his favor.
Beyond that, he wears the Armor of Four Protections, which grants him a 2+ armor save and 4+ invulnerable save, which improves to a 3+ when attacking one or more models in melee combat. You can also choose to activate each of the four following effects once per game, at the start of any phase: until end of turn, subtract one from all hit rolls; after suffering an unsaved wound, force the enemy to reroll all successful wound rolls for that attack sequence; improve all Bolter weapons Lion’el is armed with to AP-4 (unless it would otherwise be better); and finally, reroll hit rolls of 1 during the charge phase. This is a great suite of abilities, and while it’s unfortunate they aren’t active all the time, the ability to trigger each one when you need it most gives him excellent flexibility and really plays into the Dark Angels’ flexible playstyle very effectively.
Of course, The Lion doesn’t just benefit himself- as befitting a Chapter Master, he hands out a powerful aura to nearby units that can easily make him the centerpiece of an entire army. All Imperium units in his detachment can reroll failed morale checks- very nice for some Guard or Sisters allies- and any Dark Angels units within 6″ of him must reroll all hit rolls. Note that due to the updates in wording, these abilities work before modifiers- so even if you’re shooting at an Eldar airplane with -2 or -3 to hit, you’ll get to reroll all of your shots, regardless of the die facings. That’s the kind of firepower that most armies dream of.
Lion’el’s armaments are no less impressive, either. His Sword of the Dark Ones is absolutely devastating in melee- S+1, AP-4, DmgD6, and if the enemy successfully makes an armor save against it, they suffer one moral wound. Pretty dang powerful there, as it will kill most anything it hits in a flurry of blows! He also has a Chainsword (S+0, AP0, make one extra attack) for fending off hordes, always a welcome bonus.
But the best part is his gun, the Lion’el’s Roar. You might assume it’s just a normal plasma weapon, but think again- this thing has a statline from heck. Its standard mode is 24″ range, S9 AP-3 Dmg1 and Rapid Fire 1; nothing to write home about, but when you overcharge it, it goes up to an incredible S12 AP-5 Dmg4 Rapid Fire 2!! Wanna vaporize any any enemy in a volley of shots that’s sure to leave a mark? The Roar will do the job, even against tough targets. It does have the standard downside to plasma in that it removes the wielder as a casualty if you roll a 1, but when you’re taking down a Centurion with every shot, that’s hardly even a concern- it practically pays for itself! Plus, it can benefit from Weapons of the Dark Age for only 1CP to boost its stats up even higher if needed.
Honestly, as much as I’m praising this guy, I think people will love him when he first comes out- but the reaction may turn in a month or two when you’re tired of seeing two or three Lion’els in every army, duking it out in the middle of the table with each other. It’s very cinematic, but I feel like they pushed the envelope a bit too hard with this guy and made many of the same mistakes that they made with the initial Space Marine release. Still, it’s easy to complain about success, so let’s see how this all pans out.
With a beatstick like this, your army’s plan tends to revolve entirely around him- the classic “moat” army, if you will, and you’re gonna want to bring as many Dark Angels units to take advantage of his auras as possible. Obviously Stormravens are great here- they can move and shoot without penalty and carry so much durable firepower that they can really blast any enemy flyers off the table in short order, but there are plenty of other units you’ll want to try as well. Thunderfires are, of course, a natural choice, as are Las-Plas Razorbacks. Minimum-sized Tactical Squads are also great when you put a Lascannon and Plasmagun into them, as that’s a lot of mobile firepower when following Johnson around.
Honestly, just about every Dark Angels army is gonna want their Chapter Master in the mix, and a lot of other armies will as well. I’m not gonna go into details about every single one, but at this point no matter what army you play you should be looking to find room for Lion’el unless you have a specific reason not to.
With a unit this powerful, there’s always going to be a certain amount of meta-warping that will occur- people are going to look for ways to kill him. However, with his powerful defenses and extremely powerful psychic powers, there just aren’t that many units powerful enough to power through Lion’el when he’s at full power. My only real recommendation here is bring snipers and hope that you can peel all ten wounds off him before he gets to your lines, otherwise you’re gonna be in trouble.
With all of the releases of May behind us, it’s a wonder to look back and see how far the game has come since the beginning of the year- but regardless of what changes the future may hold in store, I think it’s a safe bet that the Great Lion himself is gonna hold a steady place in the game’s future for months to come, or at least until they drop 9th Edition as promised at the start of next year.
As always, remember that you can get your wargaming supplies at great discounts every day from the Bitz N’ Kibbles Wargaming Emporium and Discount Dog Supplies, whether you’re looking to upgrade an old dog or buy a new army.