For a more recent take on this codex please read my thoughts on the new faq
. I would recommend a read of this article first to understand my point of view.
So to start off with there are only two real reasons to choose a Dark Angel force; Deathwing and Ravenwing. Besides the obvious fact that they are the First Founding and posses one of the more fleshed out and well conceived background of any of the other Chapters.
The idea of an all Bike or all Terminator army has always appealed to me and when I decided to get back into the game after losing faith half way through 4th Ed, I decided that this was something that would help rekindle my interest in the hobby.
The fact that I was able to procure so many Terminators and Dreadnoughts from the purchase of 3 “Assault on Black Reach” boxed sets convinced me that this was the way to go. I have always been a fan of elite armies too (my last 4th Ed army was 13th Company).
So all this aside, let’s have a look at the Codex and see what we have.
Please bear in mind that although there may be reasons to collect the main force of Dark Angles this Primer will be focusing on White or Black armour only. Also since both of these types are Fearless I will not be discussing certain effects of Wargear that makes units Fearless such as Ezekiel’s Book or Chaplains Honour of the Chapter.
HQ wise your options are quite limited with the main strand of your army making the choice in HQ compulsory. Belial, Master of the Deathwing; who makes your Terminator units Troops: or Sammael, Master of the Ravenwing; who makes your Bike units Troops.
Belial has only one thing going for him in terms of a standard Space Marine Captain. He is cheap. At 130 points he has decent stats and can choose different types of armaments for free. He comes with a Master Crafted Power Weapon and Storm Bolter. These can be exchanged for free for a pair of Lightning Claws or a Thunder Hammer and Storm Shield. These options have their own thing going for them and it is handy being able to exchange them depending on your army choice and the role you hope for him to serve.
Sammael has two options. He can be riding either a Jet Bike with a Plasma Cannon and Twin Linked Storm Bolter, a Master Crafter Power Weapon, an Iron Halo (4++) and the Eternal Warrior Special Rule or on his Speeder which has a Twin Linked Assault Cannon and a Twin Linked Heavy Bolter. The fact that he is firing with a BS of 5 means that he tends to hit with everything in this capacity and can afford to move just 6” and fire all weapons due to his rather outlandish A14. Taking this option will remove his Close Combat abilities however and that Master Crafted Power Weapon can come in handy. Also the price tag of 205 makes him a definite chin stoker in terms of army selection but nothing in this Codex comes cheap.
Both of the above also allow one squad of their appropriate Variant troop choice to be given an upgrade of an Apothecary and a Banner Bearer. The Apothecary is the old school version that allows you to ignore one failed armour roll per turn. It is however of no use against an attack that causes Instant Death or a Close Combat attack that negates armour saves. The Banner provides every other model in the Unit with an additional Attack in Close Combat. Good on Bikes but a little bit overkill on the Terminators, but this all depends on army selection.
You will then be left with a tough choice as to which of the other HQ options will best fit your army.
The Librarian has no Invulnerable Save and only a LD9. This make him difficult to use but I have found that his placement in a squad with his Force Barrier; essentially an Invulnerable save made on the Librarians LD, does keep them alive for longer. Having said that if he fails it you lose an Independent Character. It strikes me that one of the things that they have going for them anyway is their ability to hide in a Unit. This Power makes that defunct. The second Psychic power is called Hellfire and is a Flamer Template S2D6-2, AP D6 Assault weapon. This averages out as a Heavy Flamer but can be really good or really bad. Too much dice rolling to make it effective in my book. As for the real reason anyone will take a Librarian, Psychic defence, he has a Psychic Hood, but not a very good one. Both players roll a dice and add it to their LD. His is 9 and most enemy Psychics are 10. This makes it a little too unreliable to make this option worth their 120 points. All in all I wouldn’t take him unless I was playing another fluffy list and had the points to spare. As I will discuss later, you almost never will.
If you are still interested in a Librarian and or Psychic Abilities/Defence then you could have a look at Ezekiel, Keeper of the Keys, Grand Master Librarian of the Dark Angles Chapter of the Space Marines. That is an awesome title, but I’m afraid that’s where his coolness ends. For 170 points you get a LD 10 Librarian with a 2+ Sv, 3 Wounds and no Invulnerable. His Psychic Hood becomes a little bit more reliable and he gets the new Psychic Power Mind Worm, which causes any model within 18” chosen by Ezekiel to take a LD test which, if failed, is removed from play. That sounds good but it counts as a Heavy Weapon and isn’t reliable enough to make him worthwhile.
Chaplains come in two styles; the standard dude at 100 points has 2 W’s and can’t take Terminator Armour. The Interrogator Chaplain is 120 points and has 3 W. He can also take Terminator Armour. Both come with a 3+ and a 4++ and a Power Weapon. Both versions and the unit they are with may Re-Roll to hit on the first round they charge. This makes them very useful and this is slightly better than Preferred Enemy in that it works against all unit types. There are good reasons to take this guy. I know that some people take the standard cheaper version on a bike and pile him into combat with a full (6 man) Ravenwing squad, preferably with a Power Fist and the Banner (+1A). Can be useful but this depends on the rest of your list and points.
Azrael, Supreme Grand Master comes in at 225. For this you get 4 W, 2+, 4++ (conferred on the whole Unit) a Combi-Plasma and a Master Crafted, S6, Power Weapon. Not bad, eh readers. The trouble here is not with Azrael, it’s the rest of the Army. He might be worth those points were it not for the fact that everything in this Codex is overpriced.
The last thing under HQ’s is the Command Squad. Quite simply, get Terminators instead. They are too costly and not effective enough. As soon as you start making them useful they come in at about 250 points, Razorback included. This is the full cost of my standard issue Terminators, who are just plain better and 9/10 times will be a Scoring unit.
On to Elites:
Company Veterans; see Command Squad entry above.
Scout Squads are in this codex as troops. Unlike their Space Wolf Brothers they do not deserve to be in here. I imagine that they were put here to stop the loophole of aggressive Terminator lists with small Scoring Scout Squads left behind. Heaven forefend this Codex might be playable. These are standard Space Marine Scouts, except they have decent BS and WS of 4. They also have to pay 5 points each on to their starting cost of 80 for a Sniper Rifle. Hilariously they can also take a Drop Pod.
I have read some interesting takes on the Techmarine entry in this Codex. At 75 points he comes with the 2+ and Blessing of the Omnisiah that we would expect. He also takes up no place in the FOC but instead you can take one for every Elite or Heavy Support choice taken. This has led some people to work out a Dreadnought and Predator list that forms a defensive ring around Techmarine’s and a few Razorback Troop Choices. The Techmarine’s are all placed in base contact with at least 3 of the vehicles all of which provide each other with Cover Saves. The Techmarine’s then fix any Weapon Destroyed results for all of the Vehicles they are already in contact with before the shooting phase. I like the idea of how cheesy this is but I still don’t think it would work very well. (This has since been fixed by the FAQ)
Dreadnoughts in this Codex are one of the few things that work. 125 Points gets you the basic Cybot with an Assault Cannon and Dread Close Combat Weapon with Storm Bolter, Smoke and Light. You can upgrade the main weapon to a Twin Linked Lascannon for 20 or a Multi-Melta, Plasma Cannon or Twin Linked Auto Cannon for free. Extra Armour is 15 and the Pod 50. He can also make the Storm Bolter a Heavy Flamer for 5. The Close Combat Weapon can be upgraded to a Missile Launcher for 10. The best part of the options however is the upgrade to Venerable for 20 points. There is no limitation on this so I tend to take 3! My standard list, when using Armour Values, will have 2 Ven Dreads with Lascannons and Missile Launchers, being covered by a 3rd with an Auto cannon Heavy Flamer. These guys can take the hard knocks better that a Land Raider in my experience. The Venerable Rule allows you to force your opponent to re-roll the dice on the Vehicle Damage Table. They are such a burden to kill that most people get frustrated and start shooting elsewhere. There are a lot of arguments against them at present due to the Melta Meta game and the fact that the +1 to the Damage makes this re-roll ineffective. There is good logic behind this, but clever placement of units will make you opponent struggle to get into range and with 3 dreads to deal with when he does, chances are his unit and transport are now yours.
Now we come to the main Elite choice that has interested anyone in collecting a Dark Angels force in the first place. A Deathwing Terminator squad costs 215 points and gets you 5 Terminators. The Sergeant has a Power Weapon and Storm Bolter and the lads all have Storm Bolters and Power Fists. One model may take either a Cyclone Missile Launcher (Heavy 1 Missile Launcher (Frag or Krak)) for 20, or replace their Storm Bolter with an Assault Cannon for 30 or a Heavy Flamer for 5.
ANY Model can replace their Storm Bolter and Power Fist for a Thunder Hammer and Storm Shield (4++ in Close Combat only) or a Pair of Lightning Claws for free. Any model can replace its Power Fist (or Power Weapon on the Srg) for a Chain Fist for 5. The thing about these guys is the mixed weaponry. They can tailor their unit for both Shooting and Assault. This was a new option available only to them until the Wolf Guard came along.
They also come with an interesting Special Rule called Deathwing Assault. This allows up to half your reserved Deathwing Squads to Deep Strike on the First Turn. So if you have 3 squads of Terminators, two will automatically arrive on the first turn and you roll for the remaining squad as normal. I tend to use these squads in two main ways. If I am playing with Armour, then I kit out one squad as an assault squad with The Srg and Apothecary getting Lightning Claws, the Banner Bearer and another Terminator get the Thunder Hammer and Storm Shield and the last Terminator gets a Heavy Flamer and Chain Fist. These guys then travel with Belial with his Lightning Claws variant in a Land Raider Crusader. The other two Squads in this list are kitted out as follows: The Srg comes as standard, one Terminator takes an Assault Cannon, one a Chain Fist, with the two remaining equipped as standard. I then fill out the 1750 with the above mentioned 3 Ven Dreads and a token Speeder with a Multi Melta.
If I am not going with Armour then I fill as many squads as possible with the following layout: Srg as standard, one Chain Fist, one Assault Cannon, one Twin Linked Lightning Claws and one standard.
When doing this variant I normally assign Belial to one squad with his Power Weapon, Storm Bolter variant as he then gives the squad an extra 3 wounds. I normally putt as many of the incoming wounds on him as possible. The second of the first turn DS’ing squads then gets the Apothecary making them more resilient. There is no reason as per Codex that Belial must be assigned to the Unit that receives the Apothecary upgrade although the Banner and Apothecary must be in the same Unit.
The purpose of all of the above options is wound allocation. They work well like this and can cater for most eventualities.
There is only one Troop entry. They are Marines yet more expensive. If you want to play Marines, use that Codex and pretend they are Dark Angels.
Fast Attack has a few interesting options.
The Assault Squad suffer from the same problems as their Marine counterparts without the potential that some of the latter Codex has to offer in terms of Special Characters.
Ravenwing Support Squadron consists of speeders. Each Speeder costs 65 points and comes with either a Heavy Bolter or a Multi Melta. The squad consists of 1 to 5 Speeders (the idea being that this makes a 10 man squad). This sounds good so far but bear in mind we are already paying more than we would be in the Marine Codex for a Speeder that can’t Deep Strike. Also the Weapon Options are severely limiting. One Speeder per Squadron can get an Assault Cannon or Heavy Flamer. One other can be given a Typhoon (48”, S5, AP5 Blast 1, Twin Linked). They serve a purpose but are nowhere near as good as their other Marine Counterparts.
I will occasionally use these units but when I do I will nearly always have them in two squadrons of 1 with Sammael on his Speeder as a body guard for them. His Armour 14 makes him the more obvious target and this keeps the others alive a little bit longer.
Ravenwing Attack Squadrons may be chosen as Troops when you take Sammael as your HQ. The squad begins at a base cost of 120 points for 3 bikes, one of whom is a Srg. The bikes themselves come with Teleport Homers and Scout. 2 of the models can take Special Weapons of Flamer, Melta or Plasma. For an extra 100 points you may take an additional 3 Bikes. You may also take an Attack Bike for 50 points with either a Heavy Bolter or a Multi Melta. If you have the full squad of 6 Bikes then you may take a Speeder with an Assault Cannon and Heavy Bolter for 100 points.
Two good things here; the Attack Bike and the Speeder and 3 of the bikes can split off as Combat Squads. This means that in a single Unit Entry you may have up to 4 separate Scoring squads. I will also point out that since the Codex trumps the Rulebook the rule on Vehicles never Scoring is over ruled here and thus these Speeders chosen as part of the Squad upgrade can Score.
I use these squads for two things in my list. Firstly it is probably the best place in the whole Codex to get anti tank in the form of Melta Weapons. The second is in conjunction with the Deathwing and the aforementioned Deathwing Assault. The Terminators can come down on the Teleport Homers. This means that you can play very aggressively throwing forward the Bikes in the Scout Move (although the Codex restricts this to a 12” not Turbo Boost) and dropping Terminators into the Enemy lines very early on. I tend to play a Unit of three Bikes, with double Melta and an Attack Bike with a Multi Melta. I will usually combat squad these up so that I provide more target saturation and more distractions as to where my Terminators will be coming in. If I have Sammael in the list then I will upgrade one squad to have double Plasma, and one of these dudes will be an Apothecary. This unit is more durable, but let’s not get carried away. It is not hard to kill 3 Bikes, even when ignoring a failed Sv.
Upgrading the Srg to have a Power Weapon or Power Fist is an interesting decision. Firstly you want to go with the Fist if you have the points and certainly with a squad that has Melta Guns as you can always finish off the Vehicle you have just shot up with the Fist. The Power Weapon gives the Srg an extra attack giving him 4 on the charge. If this guy was in the squad with the Plasma Guns, chances are this will come in useful. Overall though, in my book if you need to charge a unit with a 3 man Bike squad, you are doing something wrong. They are not for assaulting. You may have points left over at the end of your favourite list though and if that is the case then these make good options. My advice though would be to only ever assault if you know that you have to and preferably just to clean up a unit that the DW are already in combat with. Remember that Terminators cannot perform a Sweeping Advance but Bikes can. It is worth remembering this to help wipe out weaker infantry units such as Necron or Tau.
The Heavy Support slots consist of the same entries as the Marine Codices but they are more expensive. The only noticeable difference is the Power of the Machine Spirit rule for the Land Raiders (no Redeemer available) which is the older version. The Machine Spirits BS2 and its ability to only work when moving 6” makes it weaker than other versions, however it gives the model Extra Armour for free.
I am going to show you two main variants that I have used to good effect in the tournament scene over the last few years. Both lists need a lot of practice and you have to get used to the pain of losing models that cost an average of 43 points regularly to incoming fire.
Belial, Lightning Claws
Upgraded DW Squad, Srg with Claws, Apoth with Claws, Dude with H. Flamer and C. Fist, Dude with TH/SS, Banner with TH/SS.
DW Squad, SB/PW, SB/PF, SB/CF, Assault Cannon/PF, SB/PF
DW Squad, SB/PW, SB/PF, SB/CF, Assault Cannon/PF, SB/PF
Venerable Dreadnought, Twin Linked Lascannon, Missile Launcher
Venerable Dreadnought, Twin Linked Lascannon, Missile Launcher
Venerable Dreadnought, Twin Linked Auto-Cannon, Heavy flamer
Land Speeder, Multi-Melta, Heavy Flamer
Land Raider Crusader
So Belial and his Squad go in the Crusader, with the Speeder hiding behind it. The Dreads take one flank holding together for support and the Deathwing Squads take another flank themselves.
Raven Death 1750
Upgraded DW Squad, PW/SB, Assault Cannon/PF, SB/PF, SB/CF, Apoth with Claws
DW Squad, SB/PW, SB/PF, Assault Cannon/PF, SB/CF, Claws
DW Squad, SB/PW, SB/PF, Assault Cannon/PF, SB/CF, Claws
Upgraded RW Squad, Srg with PW, Apoth with Plasma Gun, Dude with Plasma Gun, Attack Bike, Multi Melta
RW Squad, Srg with PW, 2 Melta Guns, Attack Bike with Multi Melta
Land Speeder, Multi Melta, Assault Cannon
Land Speeder, Multi Melta, Assault Cannon.