Index Astartes: Dark Angels Review (Part 1)

Hi everyone, Michael here to take a look at some of the new rules for the Dark Angels in the Index Astartes. For more review and analyses, check out the Tactics Corner.

The Dark Angels were my first 40k army and have been one of my favourites ever since. Their codex has been a bit lacklustre in previous editions of the game, compared to the Space Marine codex. However, the Scions of the Lion now get access to both the Space Marine Codex and their Index Astartes supplement.

The release of the interim supplement has caused a lot of buzz online, with many decrying Dark Angels the new OP. I’m going to take a look at some of the rules and share my thoughts on how I think the rules will mesh with the army going forward into 9th edition. This will not be a full review, as I want to look at some of the units individually, but will focus on the new special rules for the army.

Chapter Tactic- Grim Resolve

The Dark Angels Chapter Tactic has got a lot better from its 8th edition version, in my opinion.

The previous version allowed you to re-roll 1’s to hit with shooting attacks if you did not move. The new version gives you +1 to hit. This is a better bonus, as it no longer negates the bonus aura of a Master (the Dark Angels Captain), meaning a stationary unit can hit on a 2+ in most cases, and can re-roll 1’s to hit if there is a Captain nearby.

The newer version also works in combat, so if you do not move (apart from pile-in and consolidation), you can get +1 to hit in melee. Paired with Shock Assault, this makes charging a Dark Angels unit a tough prospect, as they will be getting an extra attack and hitting on a 2+ in most cases.

The morale bonus is similar to previous, where you can only lose a single model to a failed morale test. This is a nice bonus, now that you have lost the ATSKNF re-roll. This means your bigger units will be more reliable under fire, as you know that there is a maximum loss you can suffer from any morale tests. This makes taking larger units of Marines to benefit from stratagems a nice bonus.

The benefit of +1 to hit is great on any backfield objective-holding units that are unlikely to be moving, so can gain the benefit from the start. Coupled with the bonus range to Heavy and Rapid fire weapons in the Devastator Doctrine, this makes your backfield units a potent firepower threat to the enemy from the start of the game. A unit of Intercessors with Stalker Bolters will be hitting on a 2+ and should have range for most of the board if well positioned.

Some of the new stratagems also pair well with the Chapter Tactic. Steady Advance allows an Infantry unit to act as if they did not move that turn. Not only do you get the benefits of Bolter Discipline, you can also get the +1 to hit for Dark Angels. This makes an Infantry squad great for moving onto an objective, as well as laying down some potent firepower. Steady Advance is also great for a Devastator Squad deploying from a Drop Pod on turn 1. A squad armed with Heavy Bolters or Grav Cannon will be hitting on a 2+ with the stratagem, with a mass of shots. Park the Drop Pod and Devastators on an objective and lay down some withering fire on the enemy army.

Another great stratagem to pair with it is Uncompromising Fire. This allows a squad to still fire while performing an action. You can have a backfield unit firing to full effect while also scoring you secondary points.

There are some down sides to the Chapter Tactic. The requirement to remain stationary is not ideal. The missions in 9th edition are all about moving into position to score objectives and secondary points, so there are going to be times when you will not be getting the +1 to hit bonus as you need to move onto an objective or in to position.

Equally, your Ravenwing units are going to have to give up other bonuses if they remain stationary to get the bonus to their weaponry. Not ideal if you are taking Bikes or Landspeeders to sit still for much of the game. Terminator squads are also unlikely to get the benefit on the turn they arrive from reserve, or are charging the enemy army. It might come into effect if you get charged before you have had a chance to move that turn. At least Terminators can use the Fury of the First stratagem to access +1 to hit in combat or shooting on the move.

Jink

The Ravenwing Jink rule has also been modified for the better. Previously, jink gave you a 4+ invulnerable save against shooting attacks if you advanced. This was a nice bonus, but really hampered the firepower of all but one of your Ravenwing units if you wanted the bonus.

Now, Jink provides you with a 5+ invulnerable save against shooting attacks, which increases to a 4+ if you advance. You lose this save until your next movement phase if you do not move in your movement phase.

One of the best aspects of the new rule is that it is active on turn 1 if you do not get first turn. Previously, if you went second, there was no way to activate your Jink save without a stratagem, so would be at the mercy of the enemy firepower, with little way to respond. The change to the rule means that your Ravenwing units will have an invulnerable save against enemy firepower, even if you do not get to go first. This should help with the survivability of a number of strong units, such as the Dark Talon, Black Knights and Talonmaster.

The increase to a 4+ invulnerable save if you advance is also a nice bonus. However, the loss of Speed of the Raven, allowing you to advance and still shoot and charge, will mitigate the effectiveness of doing so, unless your unit has Assault Weapons or does not need to fire that turn. The invulnerable save bonus will be great if you need to turbo-boost onto an objective and survive the enemy firepower.

The changes to Skilled Rider also means that Ravenwing are one of the few Biker units that can access a unit-wide invulnerable save. You can even pair Jink with Skilled Rider, making your unit -1 to hit with a 4+ invulnerable save, great for boosting the durability of a unit when you need them to survive.

Inner Circle

This is the rule that everyone has been talking about. The ability is very strong, but I don’t think it is as overpowered as everyone says, simply due to the limited number of units which it affects.

Inner circle allows you to automatically pass morale tests. In addition, each time an attack is made against an Infantry model with this rule, a roll of a 1-3 fails to wound. The unit also cannot fall back unless it passes a Ld test (unless they have the Vehicle, Chapter Master or Ravenwing keyword).

The immunity to morale is nice, but not what everyone is excited about. Inner circle Infantry units always have Transhuman Physiology activated. Don’t get me wrong, this is an incredible bonus that should really boost the durability of Deathwing Terminator units. This rule will apply to most Dark Angels characters on foot, as well as all Terminator units. The Transhuman bonus sadly does not apply to Ravenwing units, such as the Black Knights and Talon Master.

Inner Circle is great rule to have on your Characters and Terminators. Being wounded on a 4+ is great for keeping your units alive from heavy weapons and powerful combat weapons. It will help your Characters to be a bit more survivable against high damage weaponry if they find themselves on their own and can be targeted by enemy firepower. It also really boosts the durability of Storm Shield Terminators and Deathwing Knights. Getting wounded on a 4+ minimum and an effective 1+ save will make it very tough to shift the unit from an objective. In fact, the Dark Angels stratagem to give them +1 toughness will make small arms fire a laughable prospect for removing the Terminators.

As the Terminators and Deathwing Knights are a core choice, there are ways to give them objective secured through different abilities in the codex, making them even better at holding objectives from the enemy army.

Stratagems

The Dark Angels also get access to 7 new stratagems to use in addition to those listed in the Space Marine Codex.

Evasive Assault (1CP)– Use in the fight phase when a Ravenwing Biker unit made a charge or was charged and targeted. Until the end of the phase, the models gain a 5+ invulnerable save.

A nice bonus to help keep your Bike units alive in combat if they get charged by a unit wielding high AP weaponry. I don’t see it getting used too often, but a nice choice if you really need a unit to survive a round of combat.

Outnumbered by never Outmatched (1CP)– A Deathwing unit gains an extra attack in combat when targeting a unit with 10 or more models.

Again, a nice bonus that gives your Terminators a way to deal with horde squads. Combined with Shock Assault, this is a nice way to boost your Terminator’s attacks when fighting large enemy units.

Stand Firm (1CP)– Use when a Deathwing Terminator squad is targeted by an attack. Add 1 to the unit’s toughness.

Another great stratagem for boosting the durability of your Terminator units. Thanks to Inner Circle, this is only really of use when you are being targeted by S4 weapons or weaker, so great for reducing the damage caused by small arms fire. As stated above, coupled with Terminator armour and a Storm Shield, this stratagem will make your Terminators very resilient.

Full Throttle (1CP)- Use in your movement phase after moving a Ravenwing unit. The unit may move again (and can advance if it has not already done so). It cannot shoot or assault.

A situational stratagem, but great for getting into position to grab an objective, contest an objective or score a secondary objective. Paired with the Jink save, this will give you a highly mobile and durable unit.

High-speed Focus (1CP)– Use when a Ravenwing unit is targeted by a shooting attack. Until the start of your next movement phase, the unit has a 4+ invulnerable save against ranged attacks.

Great for the first turn if you want to give a bit more durability to one of your Ravenwing units. Also useful, as it is not a boosted Jink save, so you can remaining stationary and still get an invulnerable save. This means you can utilise the +1 to hit from your Chapter Tactic while still getting a save against enemy firepower.

Honoured by the Rock (1CP)– Allows you to give a Successor Chapter warlord a Dark Angels Relic.

Nice if you run a successor chapter.

Combined Assault (2CP)– Use at the end of the movement phase when you set up a Deathwing unit using Teleport Strike. You can set up the unit wholly within 6″ of a friendly Ravenwing Biker unit that has not advanced, and more than 6″ from an enemy model.

A key stratagem that will make your Terminators much more effective. The boost of needing a 6″ charge from reserves over a 9″ charge is huge, and means your Terminators are more likely to get stuck in to combat, rather than failing a charge and being picked off by enemy firepower. The mobility of Ravenwing Bike squads means that you should be able to get into optimal position to use this stratagem early in the game.

Conclusion

Dark Angels fans have a lot to be happy about at the moment. The main special rules of the army; Grim Resolve, Jink and Inner Circle, have been improved over their 8th edition versions, and they have access to some very useful stratagems.

The loss of Weapons of the Dark Age and Speed of the Raven are a bit of a blow, but I think overall that the army is in a good place in 9th edition. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait too long for the codex supplement to drop, but until then, I’m looking forward to a few games with my Dark Angels army.

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About Michael Corr

An avid 40k player and blogger from Scotland. I started in 3rd edition and have been playing ever since. I detail my adventures in my own blog "St Andrews Wargaming", highlighting my mediocre painting skills, regular battle reports and my occasional random ramblings.

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