A few years back this book would not have meant a whole lot to me because I didn't particularly care about this particular bunch of space marines. That changed around a year ago when I started looking at the possibilities of an all-terminator army. The Dark Angels first company traditionally fights in terminator armor only, and in their 2008 codex it was possible to field an army entirely composed of these troops. It's cool, and different, and fun to play, and in the fall of last year I finally acquired such an army. More on their first battle here.
|The Apprentices still have no interest in fighting these guys again|
Also in the fall of 2012 I picked up the new 6th edition starter set for 40K and though I was expecting to build out my chaos force, I instead was sidetracked by the possibility of a Ravenwing army. After all I already had the codex, I had extra bikes(that I had been planning to use for chaos bikers - oh well) so it made some sense. So I picked up some more starter set bikers and some more speeders and pretty soon I had quite a pile of them, but with word of the codex being updated I decided to wait and see before actually building them.
Well the codex is here and it is a vast improvement over the previous one. Don;t get me wrong, I liked the old one too, but this one has everything that one did plus a whole lot more.
First, the negatives:
- It still takes a special character as an HQ choice to unlock Deathwing or Ravenwing as a Troops choice. This can be Belial the Deathwing captain, Sammael the Ravenwing master, or Azrael the frigging chapter master. I used to have a huge aversion to special characters and the group I played with had an agreement to never use them back in the 2nd & 3rd edition days, and we made fun of people who did. That has changed, and these days I am on board with treating the special characters as part of the army, but it would be better in my opinion to not require them for things like this. In the Space Marine codex if you select a standard captain and then mount him on a bike, it unlocks bike squads as a troops choice - something like that would have been nice here. Specials are nice and all, but sometimes the point costs and the flavor aren't quite right for what a player is thinking. It's not a huge issue as it was this way in the prior book - it's just something I was hoping would change.
- The flyers are being almost universally derided as inferior to existing choices for other armies. I haven't tried them yet myself but I'll take the internet's opinion on this. Some of the weapon combinations do seem a little pointless.
- Lots of typos - for going to a full color hardback and increasing the price significantly, I expect better editing than what we have seen here. Fortunately the FAQ is already out and corrects the known problems with missing or incorrect entries.
Aside from these the book has:
- Tons of background and nice looking art including coverage of the history, organization, the whole "Fallen" thing, and the successor chapters
- The traditional unit by unit review of everything in the list including background, rationale, and special rules
- There is a separate armory section in this one, and it's pretty extensive
- Not surprisingly there is a whole section with pics of very nicely painted mini's
All of this does give a very strong impression of what the Dark Angels are about. The atmosphere is that of a wandering order of monastic penitent knights doing their duty while keeping a terrible secret. Compared to something like the Ork codex it's all very grim and serious. Heck, even compared to the Space Wolves it puts the grimdark in to a whole new level. I can't see these guys sitting around their mobile asteroid fortress drinking and telling tall tales - they sing hymns and chant litanies. It's darned close to a whole chapter of chaplains. If you want a "serious" marine army, this is the one for you. I am also a little concerned that the knightly thing bleeds over into Black Templars territory too much but I suppose that will be handled whenever they finally get a codex update.
After all that we get to the army list section, also known as the good stuff. I'll discuss by unit type.
- Azrael: slightly better statline, slightly less expensive points cost, and makes both Ravenwing and Deathwing troops. I think he's going to be very popular as he enables the Doublewing army and gives you another HQ slot for a Librarian or Chaplain if you want one.
- Ezekiel - statline unchanged, cheaper, only level 3 psyker
- Asmodai - returning from the 3rd edition codex, same statline as an interrogaor-chaplian with less flexibility but has unique gear. Seems kinda pricey to me.
- Belial - Ah yes, another heavy-hitter. Nearly a 50% increase in cost but he has a better statline, his sword is nastier and he has a few more special rules. He's still one of only two ways to make termies troops so I expect he will be very popular too. I know he leads my Deathwing ...
- Sammael - the Ravenwing boss. WS up by 1, sword is nastier, more special rules, and his cost dropped by 5 points! Also, he can still take the landspeeder option and now it's AV14 front and sides AND has a 4+ save - yes, I will be trying that out just to see the eye-bugging that will go along with it.
- Company Master, the generic leader type - good statline and has lots of wargear options but for some reason cannot take a bike! He is also quite limited in his terminator armor options which seems odd too. I don't think this will be a very popular option
- Chaplains and Interrogator Chaplains - for 20 points difference I think Interrogator is quite a bit nastier - better statline, access to relics, and access to termie armor. I'd have to be pretty pressed for points to trade down.
- Librarian - Level 1 with an option to go to 2, access to 4 disciplines, option for termie armor - he seems pretty fairly priced.
- Techmarine - doesn't take a slot but only 1 wound, he can take up to 5 servitors as a sort of mini-squad. He does have access to the special wargear which could be interesting with things like the Power Field (4+ save to all models within 3") Can;t take a jump pack but can take a bike so that's an interesting option too.
- Command Squads and Deathwing Command Squads and Ravenwing Command Squads - another set of units that does not take a slot, but could be a serious points investment. It's 5 marines (3 for the bikerwing) and has options for standards/medics/champions as upgrades, and is fairly flexible with the gear. These are the 2-attack/leadership 9 veteran marines so it could be a fairly potent force. I have to figure out how to modify my old Belial-upgrade-command-squad from the old codex into this configuration, and whether I want to work one in with my in-progress Ravenwing army.
Troops - you have two choices:
- Scouts - your scouts are now just like other marine scouts - skill 3, Troops choice - but they are significantly cheaper. Still very flexible and a missile launcher scout can now take flak missiles. Not sure that's a great idea, but it is an option.
- Tactical Squads - if you outfit them the same way, they cost the same amount as before - but you have the option not to do that. There is more flexibility here. I can see 5 man squads with just a heavy weapon being an interesting option, especially for smaller battles as objective holders.
Flexibility is nice but I think we're going to see only a squad or two of tacs or scouts as the coolness of taking bikers or terminators as troops completely overwhelms these two choices.
- Deathwing Terminators - Basically the same as before with the option to take plasma cannons as the heavy choice and to up the squad to 10 marines. Point costs are pretty similar, they may vary by a few points depending on your configuration but it should be close. They have some more special rules than before. They can also take a Land Raider as a dedicated transport. At a ridiculous point level this could lead to the 9-land raider army (6 transports, 3 heavy support) which would be a lot of fun to see on the table.
- Deathwing Knights - NEW!- for when Thunderhammer/Stormshield terminators just aren't strong enough the Deathwing now goes to 11. WS5, Effective Strength of 6, (AP 4 but goes on initiative), and the option once per game to go to Strength 10. Oh and Toughness of 5 too when they are in base to base together. I nominate this unit as "most likely to be Vindicatored", but it still might be worth it.
- Dreadnoughts - They got cheaper - a venerable costs as much as a standard dread did in the last codex and can be upgraded to a Deathwing Vehicle which makes them even harder to kill. I think these will be more popular than dreads in standard marine armies, at least until the generic codex comes out
- Company Veterans Squad - Kind of an afterthought but they do have an interesting set of options. These might be a better bet in a smaller point game or as a Razorback squad. You can get a special and a heavy into a 5-man squad with them though which makes them more interesting than I originally thought. You can also tool them up for melee as they do have 2 attacks.
- Ravenwing Attack Squadron - up to 6 bikes, an attack bike, and a landspeeder, which for around 250-300 points can be divided up into 4 separate units, taken as troops with certain leaders, making 3 of them scoring. T5, 3+ save, multiwound units. That's pretty useful. Also, even adding a veteran sergeant back in they are 30 points cheaper. I use them in my Deathwing army for the melta and the teleport homers so this is good news for me.
- Ravenwing Support squadron - Speeders are cheaper, Typhoon launchers are more expensive, but together they net out at the same price. I don;t know how many of these we will see as I suspect many players will take them in the attack squadron first as they are independent units there. Still, if you really like speeders you could theoretically throw 22 of them down on the board now - Sammael + 3 x 5 Fast Attack support squadrons + 6 in attack squadrons as Troop choices. Fun!
- Ravenwing Black Knights - NEW! - I don't know, they're still T5, 3+, 1 wound models and they are 50% more expensive than regular Ravenwing. Why bother? Twin-linked plasma guns, that's why! Highly mobile re-rollable AP 2 Strength 7 weapons should be very nasty. They also have hammers but I think getting these guys into melee is a mistake - those plasma shots are what you're paying for. They will be am early addition to my Ravenwing army and we will see how they do.
- Ravenwing Darkshroud - NEW! - Mobile cover save boost and a small assault boost - not sure it's worth it but I am open to being convinced.
- Assault Squad - 30 or so points cheaper but likely to be overshadowed by all this other nifty stuff. I'm guessing that the hardcore Dark Angel players who already have them painted up will keep theirs, but I don't think we will see many new units joining the force.
- Nephilim/Dark Talon Fighters - NEW! - We needed some anti-air but a lot of people seem underwhelmed with these. I'm asking myself if they're more useful than another Ravenwing squad or more terminators and I'm not sure they are. Probably a later addition for me.
- Devastator Squads - cheaper all the way around: the squad is less, the vet sgt is now optional, and the weapons are cheaper. Very nice for a more traditional marine force, not as big for Deathwing/Ravenwing forces.
- Predator - Pretty much the same, lascannon options are slightly cheaper
- Whirlwind - 20 points cheaper which may make it viable in a smaller point game as they are comparable to Razorbacks now.
- Vindicator - unchanged
- Land Raiders - We now have the full set of 3, otherwise unchanged. They do have the Deathwing vehicle option which makes them a little tougher but it is not cheap.
- Land Speeder Vengeance - NEW! - Let's see, Armor 10, 2 Hull Points ... hmmm. It does have a nasty gun as being able to drop S7 AP2 large blast is going to hurt a lot of armies - like Deathwing! It's almost as if the Ravenwing was built to fight the Deathwing! It's more expensive than a Vindicator, and while it is more mobile it is also a lot more fragile. At this point I think it is mainly for the all-out Ravenwing themed army and I don;t know that I'm there yet.
Beyond this their special rules are a mixed bag: Inner Circle gives fearless and Preferred Enemy CSM - makes sense. Grim Resolve makes them Stubborn and replaces Combat Tactics, ensuring they will never run from a fight, even when it makes sense to do so. Warlord Traits are fine and flavorful. There's one that gives the Warlord and his unit Furious Charge which could be nasty but other than that I see nothing especially powerful.
Overall I think it's a really good Codex and is a good model for how these things should be for an established army at this point - nothing revolutionary in background or mechanics, just more options and more flavor. I don't know that it approaches Grey Knights in power but I think it's in the Space Wolf/Blood Angel power range. I also think it's going to be very popular as the first codex with real all-bike or all-terminator options. Considering I have two armies that use this book it has a ton of impact on me and I am very happy with it.
I was thinking that Apprentice Who might start his 40K days with this army but he seems more interested in "big monsters" so we may be leaning towards Chaos Marines or Chaos Daemons for him. Luckily one of those is already out and one is due out in a month or two so we will be taking a look at those in the near future.