With the release of Codex: Dark Angels, we find ourselves with a new twist on how to play Marines. Normally, Marines are prided on their flexibility...but now it seems the Dark Angels are strict and ordered. There is little flexibility, but a surprising amount of tactical flexibility. First we start with the HQ section. (Please note all comparisons are done in reference to Codex: Space Marines)
Combat Squad is a new concept being pioneered by the best of the best. It allows ultimate tactical flexibility on the field and in a sense, ultimate points denial while throwing units at the enemy! Basically what it is, is if you have a ten man squad, it can split into two five man teams and act completely independently. So how is this tactical flexibility? Easy. A ten man tactical squad is allowed a heavy weapon and special weapon, have five marines hang back with the heavy weapon and the other five advance with the special weapon and vet sarge. Two scoring units for the price of one, how could you complain? Well, I guess you could complain easily. As it is half the squad, if that portion is brought below 50% they get 1/4 of the points for the entire unit. If that half is destroyed they get half for the unit. Tactical Squads, Assault Squads, Devastator Squads, Company Veteran Squads, and Ravenwing Attack Squadrons all benefit from this rule. So how does that work in to the equation? Well I already told you about the tactical squad, where as the Assault Squad may engage twice as many units. The Devastator squad may split their fire as you are the one that chooses which model goes into which section...so a Dev squad with two heavy bolters and two lascannons is now a pretty sexy option! Company Veterans are like...well they are described below heheh. Ravenwing Attack Squadrons are different because they have a smaller squad size. Instead of breaking into units of five they break into units of three, and attack bikes are always separate.
First thing most people will notice is that he is now fearless. Dark Angel's have lost the Stubborn ability in favour of something far more potent. No more getting pinned by a lucky sniper! The next thing people will notice, is that the Company Master is 25pts more expensive than their vanilla counter part. Reasoning behind this is obviously the fact that they have an Iron Halo included in their profile. Now, previously I had mentioned that the Unforgiven had lost a decent amount of their flexibility...and this is apparent in their HQ section. The Master comes standard with Close combat weapon and bolt pistol, plus frag and krak grenades. He may replace the bolt pistol with plasma, the CCW with 4 possible choices (power weapon / power fist / thunder hammer / single or pair of lightning claws). The only variance he has in mobility is he may be equipped with a jump pack. He may not take a bike, artificer armour, or Terminator armour. Also, there is no option for Terminator honours...so at best he will have five attacks. In my personal opinion, the company master is no longer worth taking. Take either Azrael or Belial (both will be covered below.)
Without a doubt the coolest name for a character in the game. Again, more expensive then his vanilla counter part...and from what it seems, not many benefits to justify it. The Interrogator-Chaplain is the Unforgiven version of the Master of Sanctity, but they lost some of the cool abilities that made them unique. For instance, no more blades of reason...those have been shuffled back to little more than a fluff reference. They have a little more flexibility than the Master does. For starters they come with a Crozius Arcanum, Bolt Pistol, and both kinds of grenades. You can change the bolt pistol for either a plasma pistol or a power fist. The crozius has no option to be replaced. He has more variance in his equipment as not only is he able to take a jump pack, but he may take a bike or terminator armour as well. Interrogator-Chaplains also allow the Unforgiven access to the Sacred Standards. They don't all have special rules as in the previous edition but they do grant all units within 12” Fearless.
Chaplains are not as cool as their Interrogator brethren. They are 20pts cheaper, lose the terminator option, and don't grant access to Sacred standards. They are the Unforgiven's response to the vanilla Reclusiarch.
There is only one listing for Librarians, and really...they are just Codicier's. More expensive than their vanilla counter part...but then again they are fearless and come with two powers standard along with everything else. (Pistol, force weapon, grenades). I'll start off with what everyone is curious about...the new psychic powers. First off is Hellfire. A flamer with a random strength and random AP. Doesn't sound so hot does it? Now, consider that the strength ranges anywhere from 0 to 10, and the AP from 1 to 6. Obviously if you roll a 0 for strength you just wasted the shot...but you can nuke a monolith with this if you get lucky. The second power is Force Barrier. Once per turn the player may make a psychic test to save a wound, much like Iyanna from the old Iyanden list. Note: this power is just a leadership based invulnerable save for one wound!
Ezekiel, Grand Master of Librarians
It appears that Games-workshop moved away from wanting generic characters to pushing the special characters. In comparison to the last Codex: Dark Angels, Ezekial is approximately 10pts cheaper than he used to be. He is, effectively, the Unforgiven's answer to the Epistolary. So what makes him cool (aside from a bad assed name)? Well for starters he has his own psychic power in addition to the two others. His power is called Mind Worm. Think Mind war with a twist. Instead of rolling off and doing the difference in wounds, the target model takes a leadership test...if it fails the test then it “spends the remainder of the battle babbling incoherently about all the evil deeds it has committed in it's life time.” Basically, it's a leadership test or die. Now you might think that “Hey, my Ork Warboss wouldn't care about all the evil it has done.” But such is the strength of Ezekial that little Ghazkull wannabe can go suck his thumb in a corner for all I care! The downside of his power is that it is treated as being a heavy weapon so he cannot move to use it. Ezekiel's equipment has changed considerably since his last rendition. He is equipped much like the Librarian, but his weapons are both master crafted...also the Book of Salvation is now not nearly as much of a drawback as it once was. Now, instead of just being treated as a Holy Relic, it functions the exact same as a Sacred standard...making nearby units fearless. All this for less than 200pts.
Master Belial of the Deathwing
Remember how I said that a Company Master couldn't take Terminator Armour? Here is the reason. Belial is the character you must take if you wish to have a Terminator Master. Now, is that a bad thing? Definitely not! He is far cheaper than a Master would be if kitted out the same. For under 150pts you get some nifty bonus's, the main one being you can take Deathwing squads as troops, allowing you to make an entirely Deathwing army. He has three weapon options, all of which echo those of the Deathwing squads...only difference is that if he takes the Sword of Silence than it is Master Crafted. Doesn't sound too impressive I know, but if he is present than one Terminator may be upgraded an Apothecary and one may be upgraded to carry the Deathwing Company Standard. Not as fancy as the Sacred Standards, but is pretty damned close to it. Instead of becoming fearless, nearby units may re-roll pinning and moral, while the unit carrying the banner gets an additional attack as well.
Master Sammael of the Ravenwing.
We have all seen that beautiful model of Sammael riding a jet bike, so obviously...we want to know the rules that go with that beautiful piece of work. Sammael is, first and foremost, a Company Master...so he comes equipped basically the same. He gets the pistol, grenades, Iron Halo etc. What he gets in addition is the Raven Sword. Basically, it is the Sword of Silence but with a name befitting the second company. While he is on the bike, he gets all the fancy stuff, plus a bike mounted plasma cannon and twin-linked storm bolter...as well as the Adamantine Mantle! Too good to be true? Not entirely...reason I say that is because Sammael is not an Independent Character. Meaning he can never join units, can never be screened by units etc. But if your opponent wants to think that he is and doesn't question it...who are you to argue right? However, if you think that he is too fragile to go around like that than you always have the option of sticking him in a Land Speeder at no additional cost. And for just over 200pts that is quite a good deal. Twin-linked Assault Cannons and Heavy Bolters as well as having armour 14 front and sides. So either way, I figure both options are equally as fragile, just a matter of personal preference (which for me is definitely the speeder). Also, like Belial, Sammael allows one squad to become a command squad with the exact same effects. The Company standard doesn't change between the Deathwing and Ravenwing...just the look changes I guess.
Azrael, Supreme Grand Master
The true heavy weight of the chapter! Coming in at just under 230pts, Azrael is definitely a force to be reckoned with! Games-Workshop has done a good job properly bringing the Chapter Master of the First Legion into the game. Every piece of equipment he carries (aside from the grenades naturally) has been named! His armour is now called Protector and is treated as Artificer, his gun is called the Lion's Wrath and is now master crafted. The Sword of Secrets has changed slightly from the previous edition...it is now Master Crafted and is only useable by Azrael...which makes sense as it is his badge of office, and with the fact that he has 4 attacks base, taking him has gotten a whole lot more tempting. The Lion Helm has also been changed for the better, before it only gave an invulnerable versus shooting within a certain range, but now it gives what ever squad Azrael has joined an invulnerable save...period. Against shooting and combat! Finally, Azrael allows one standard bearer to take the Chapter Banner...but really it is no different than the Deathwing or Ravenwing Company standard. In fact, it is the exact same!
The Unforgiven command squads have moved away from the traditional sense of forming a retinue with the character as they do with their vanilla counter-parts. Instead, they are more akin to the seer council of the Eldar these days. One command squad can be taken for every independent character in the list. They are selected from the HQ portion of the army list but they do not, in fact, take a slot up in the force chart. Now, they can only ever have five marines in the squad (aside from any joined characters of course). They are Fearless and actually have some variance. They all, effectively, have terminator honours. They are more expensive than a regular marine and have an additional attack and leadership. A number can have special weapons (plasma pistol / gun, power weapon / fist, etc). The squad can have an Apothecary and Company standard, while not being as cool as the Death / Ravenwing standards, it still allows the re-rolls to the leadership tests. This is the squad, which if you have an Interrogator-Chaplain present, will bear the Sacred standard, and if a Company Master is present they can also take a Company Champion.
Deathwing Terminator Squads
The most legendary unit's in the Galaxy of Man! Deathwing is the First Company of the Dark Angels and their combat ability is second to none. As for their rules, well they are still pretty damned cool. They are now Fearless instead of being Stubborn, so now more worrying about having a squad pinned down from a lucky sniper shot. Their point cost has dropped, although they are still bought at a base price they come out to 43pts a piece now instead of 45. The downside of this price drop is they may only be taken in squads of five with only one heavy weapon. No more, no less (well, you can go without the weapon I guess but why would you want to). The Dark Angels, while being the first legion, have lost their veteran abilities it seems...because there isn't a single way to get a veteran skill in this list, and believe me...this is a unit that would be excellent to have tank hunter or furious charge on. Their old rules of being able to switch out their Storm Bolters & Power fists for close combat weapons (lightning claws and thunder hammers) has been returned. Now, that might not seem like a huge advantage, but the Deathwing have reinvented the term “speed bump”! They now have the Deathwing Assault rule. Basically, half of the Terminator squads that are being held in reserve (rounding up) may deep strike on the first turn with no roll, in addition any character in terminator armour may join one of those squads and drop with them. Combine this with the Ravenwing and you have a very nice surprise. Say you have three squads of terminators being held in reserve, two of them deep strike turn one and are more than half way up the board...surprise! The point's cost for weapons has changed as well; the assault cannon is more expensive, which is probably to discourage its usage...where as the cyclone missile launcher and heavy flamer have dropped in price considerably.
Scouts are the neophytes that have been inducted into the Tenth company of the chapter. They excel at infiltration and recon. Coming in at 13pts a pop, they are no longer the easy replacement for the Tactical marine...mainly because they are no longer in the troop section of the army list. That is one of the first thing that many people will notice with this codex, is that the scouts have been moved to elites. I figure it was planned this way to put more of an emphasis on the Tactical Marine. There really isn't much of a change between the Unforgiven scouts and the Vanilla scouts. In fact, aside from being Elites the only change I can see is that their shotguns are equipped with Man-stopper rounds and so have an additional point of strength. But as to why people would want a shotgun aside from the coolness factor is beyond me. A bolter or bolt pistol is superior in almost every way. Granted you can still assault after shooting a shotgun, the bolter has more stopping power.
Ah the Dreadnought...the one model that truly defines a Space Marine army. However, in comparison to the Vanilla version of the Dreadnought, I personally can say that mine will not see the field under the new codex unless I am playing a higher point cost game. Reason being that a basic Dreadnought (Assault Cannon, Storm Bolter, Dreadnought Close Combat Weapon) weighs in at a hefty 20pts more than the Vanilla Dreadnought. But there are always benefits to the price increase. Due to the veteran nature of the Deathwing, any Deathwing member that is interred into the sarcophagus of a Dreadnought is a Venerable member of the Chapter. To represent this, the Unforgiven are not limited in the amount of Venerable Dreadnoughts they can take. Also they may replace their Assault Cannon with a Multi-melta, Plasma Cannon, or Autocannon for no additional price. All Unforgiven vehicles now come equipped standard with Smoke Launchers and a Searchlight...and the Dreadnought is no different. But now come the disadvantages of these beautiful models. As I said before, there are no veteran skills available in the army list and the extra armour upgrade is now ten points more expensive than it was before. So a Venerable Dreadnought with Twin-Linked Lascannons, Missile launcher, and Extra armour is going to weigh in at 190pts. Is this really worth it considering that if you do not take Belial, it hampers your access to terminators? Not in my opinion.
The Techmarine follows the concept of not being actually in the army list. Instead of taking a slot on the force chart, one can be taken for every vehicle that is in your list (not including transports). They come standard with the usual kit for Unforgiven characters, but in addition to that load out they come standard with Artificer Armour and a server arm. Neither the servo arm nor the harness has changed, but the price certainly has. The base cost for the Techmarine is more expensive than their Vanilla counter-part, but to balance this out the servo-harness is cheaper. There is a heavy influence on plasma weaponry in the codex, and it is apparent here as the 0-1 on the availability of the plasma cannon totting servitors has been dropped. The cost of a basic servitor is more expensive, but they come equipped with a servo-arm...where as the cost to upgrade a servitor to carry a plasma cannon has actually dropped. Also with servitors, the abilities of the old Combat Servitor has been combined into the regular one, as they all come equipped with servo-arms.
That's right, Dark Angels are now able to take Veteran Marines, and this is truly the only squad available to the list that has a significant amount of variance to it. The first thing people will notice is, that while the first marines are bought at a base cost (20pts a pop) they may add marines on a piece meal basis...so you can actually have a squad with something different than a five or ten man squad. Also their weapon's load out has a great deal of variance in it. They may be kitted out for shooting, close combat, or support. Without a doubt, the most versatile part of the army. They are also akin to the command squads mentioned above in the fact that they all effectively have terminator honours.
Tactical / Devastator Squads
The Tactical Marine is the backbone of the Unforgiven army. No army can be made without them, and any army to do so (aside from first or second company lists) would be foolish to try not to. They are described in Codex: Space Marines as being the most tactically flexible unit in the Marine army. And this is true, except while they are tactically flexible, they are no longer flexible to the army list. For starter's, you may either have a five man squad or a ten man. The original five come with a Veteran sergeant standard so there is no getting around that to save points. To compensate for this inflexibility, all marines now come standard with Frag and Krak grenades as well as a Bolter and Bolt Pistol. My thinking behind the pistol is so that you can shoot a unit and still be able to charge. The sergeant has four options...Plasma pistol, power weapon, power fist, and melta bomb. The options for special weapons remain the same, where as the heavy weapons have changed. For instance, you may only take a heavy weapon in a ten man squad, and the plasma cannon has changed point costs with the lascannon. The missile launcher and the heavy bolter are even on point costs. Devastator marines are essentially the same, minus the special weapon upgrades and more access to heavy weapons.
The Assault Squad has changed very little from the Vanilla version. Again this is a squad that comes with either five or ten marines as well as the grenades standard. The squad may not be given melta bombs as before, but there is an added bonus that I find really cool. For no additional cost, the marines may remove their jump packs and purchase a dedicated transport at no additional cost. So it is quite possible to have ten assault marines in a drop pod or a rhino for no extra charge.
Ravenwing Attack Squadron
The Ravenwing has changed quite a bit from the previous edition. For starters they are now considerably cheaper. They also follow the selection process of the Tactical Squad. They start with three bikes and an additional three may be selected, the bikers may select special weapons, the sergeant may swap his pistol for plasma and at the same time pick up either a power weapon or power fist. An attack bike may be purchased as well, and the weapon it carries does not affect its price, so you can have either a Heavy Bolter or a Multi-Melta for the same cost. Finally, a Land Speeder Tornado may be added to the squadron, but sadly there are no weapon options, it must have an assault cannon and heavy bolter. So that covers the army list portion for the Ravenwing, but what about their rules? Well, they have lost Skilled Riders and Jink...but trust me when I say that what they got in return was well worth the loss. All Ravenwing bikers are now Fearless and have the Scout rule...but in addition they also all come equipped with teleport homers. Remember how I had told you about the Deathwing Assault? Well now consider this...Scout is before the first turn, so you can move 12” closer to the enemy, then on top of that they have homers for the Terminators to use when they deep strike turn one. So Deathwing has truly redefined the term “Speed Bump”.
Ravenwing Support Squadron
Here to emphasis the change to the Ravenwing, are the Support Squadrons. For a vanilla marine force, speeders may only be bought in squadrons of three, and those three must operate together as a unit. Well the Ravenwing takes that simple concept and blows it completely out of the water. For starters, the maximum number of Land Speeders allowed in one force slot is five. Seeming kind of unwieldy? Well, yea maybe just a little, but if you got the points then the looks on your opponents faces will be priceless. What is the downside to this seemingly wonderful squadron you say? Well, you may only take one Typhoon for ten points more, and you may only take one Tornado for either ten or thirty-five points. Now I know that this is a huge hit to a lot of people out there, but remember that you can get a Tornado with Attack Squadrons.
The Predator, being the main battle tank of the Dark Angels, should theoretically see a lot of action. And this is true. The Destructor variant is now a good deal cheaper than the vanilla version...however, you pay for upgrades out the wazoo! For starters, there is no separate profile now to differentiate between the Annihilator and the Destructor, you just pay points to upgrade the turret. Like I said for the Dreadnought, all Dark Angel vehicles now come standard with smoke launchers and search lights...extra armour how ever has tripled in cost so be careful with your tanks...you can't just drop a marine here or there to pick up the extra points so finding the space for extra armour might be a bit more difficult. The way the point costs are worked out, it makes it a very hard choice for me to want to take an Annihilator now. The reason behind the Annihilator is the three lascannons correct? Well, to get three lascannons with extra armour (my standard kit hold over from Codex: Space Marines), it is going to cost you 180pts, 30pts more expensive than the vanilla version...which can take Power of the Machine Spirit, match the Dark Angels in points, and have a better tank in the process. A Destructor with sponson heavy bolters weighs in at 95pts...15pts cheaper than the Vanilla, so well worth the points there.
Vindicator / Whirlwind
Both the Vindicator and the Whirlwind are tanks that grant access to ordnance weapons to Space Marines. The Vindicator carries the dreaded Demolisher cannon, strong enough to render Terminators to ash. The Dark Angels actually came out on top with the Vindicator as its price hasn't changed and it now comes equipped with Smoke and Searchlight, as all other vehicles in the list do. So basically, you are getting four free points, other than that the vehicle hasn't change in the least. The Whirlwind is actually much the same as the vindicator in what I can say here really...it has the same upgrades, its points have no increased. The one big change for this vehicle, is the Castellan missile load out. Instead of dropping minefields as the Vanilla whirlwind does, it instead drops fire. Take the standard Vengeance class missiles, reduce the strength and AP by one, and now throw in that it ignores cover and you good sir...have a light infantry terrorizer. Facing a pesky Imperial guard opponent who likes to stick his guys in terrain with Chamoline? Or how about an Eldar player with pathfinders and rangers? Drop this bad boy of a weapon on them and watch as his annoying units burn in purifying hell fires!
As one of the heaviest tanks in the game, the Land Raider stands out as a hallmark to the awesomeness of the Adeptus Astartes. The standard Land Raider has not changed in several thousand years (nor through a couple of codices). Still toting its usual weaponry of sponson lascannons and front mounted heavy bolters...the Land Raider is a sight to behold. Really, the only true rules change to the Land Raider is that they have clarified some issues. For instance, the Power of the Machine Spirit has been clarified so there is not much room for confusion, and the Assault Vehicle has been added to solidify that you can assault out of a Land Raider. Like all Dark Angel vehicles, it comes standard with Smoke Launchers and a Search light. Now, there are many variants of the Land Raider ranging from the Helios to the Prometheus. How ever, the only variant that is in the codex, is the Crusader...first pioneered by the Black Templar, it is the finest armoured transport / anti-infantry tank in the game. Replacing the heavy bolters with assault cannons, and the lascannons with Hurricane bolters. Any unit charging from the Crusader counts as having frag grenades...but considering all Dark Angels (aside from terminators) have frag already...seems kind of pointless to me, but that is what the Crusader does. Now here is the kicker, the Crusader is the exact same point cost as a regular Land Raider...so what did it lose? Yep, it lost extra armour! So if you are content to have a vehicle that just might have to run in a straight line then leave the armour off and have a cheaper crusader...if not, you can pay the 15 pts to bring it back to its cost in Codex: Space Marines. Finally, like I said before, they have clarified and made the rules much simpler. The Crusader now has a transport capacity of 16 and terminators take two slots. You really don't lose any space or gain any (just try and fight 16 marines into there and I will have to buy you a drink!), but it makes a lot more sense.
Aside from going the expensive route of Land Raiders, there are three other options for transporting your Marines into the heat of battle. The first is the Rhino...the standard chassis for most vehicles in the armoury. No frills, no gimmicks, nice and cheap. It is apparent that Games-Workshop is trying to entice more transport sales as the rhino is now a base cost of 35pts, coming with the standard Dark Angel load out, extra armour can be given to bring the cost back up to the usual 50. Next is the Razorback. An upgraded version of the rhino, it loses some transport capability for some added firepower. Although it does not have the wide range of options it had back in the third edition of 40K, it still has some decent output. It can either be equipped for anti-infantry with heavy bolters, or for anti-tank with lascannons. Though it is almost identical to the Rhino, it apparently is not as durable. The Rhino has the ability to regain mobility if it gets immobilized, the Razorback does not. The final transport is the legendary Drop pod. Like most other sections, the rules have been clarified. Now instead of deploying via Drop Pod Assault, they do in fact deep strike with Inertial Guidance Systems. Now, there is slight controversy behind the Drop pod which I will not get into, so let's look at the pod itself. It's more expensive than the Vanilla version, has no machine spirit, and no upgrade available. There is also the chance that it might not show up at all in the game. So for 15pts more than a rhino I'm not entirely sure the Pod o' Doom is worth it anymore.
Overall I must say I am impressed with this new rendition of the Unforgiven. I love the rules and I love the fluff. The fact that there is actually some substance given to the background and history is amazing compared to the mini-dex we last had. There are actual recorded battles, details on why the Deathwing are white, details on so much more history. GW has also brought back some pretty ancient artwork as well as some damned fine new ones. Now, there are some things I love and things I don't like. What I like is that the rules for everything are located between pages 23 and 55, where as the army list comes after the painting section. Seeing as how units are now bought in lumps instead of a piecemeal basis the army can be a tad harder to make...but to help that every unit and upgrade is done in multiples of 5. I also kind of miss the armour section, but the codex is laid out like the Eldar codex, so every entry has a list of upgrades specific to it, instead of just saying, “Go to the armoury and pick stuff!” So characters can be a little bit overwhelming and confusing at the start. One of the biggest complaints I have had with the codices of the past, is that the unit summary is in the stupidest place...like dead center of the book for instance. This how ever, is not the case as it is in the proper position that makes the most sense...very last page!
All in all, I heartily recommend this army to anyone, as I personally will be continuing the hunt for the Fallen.