Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Guest Post: Dark Angels Codex Review - Part 1

Today we have the first of a series of review posts from our neighborhood Dark Angels expert, Will. Check out what he has to say about the new codex after the bump:

When Evan invited me to write a review of the new Dark Angels codex I thought to myself “just one?!” and asked if I could turn it into a mini series. I’m Will and I’m the stubborn Dark Angels player whose models have appeared in some pictures featured on the blog. I’ve been playing Dark Angels since late 5th edition and this is the most excited I’ve been for a new codex release. This mini series will be an effort to discuss my thoughts on the new codex and how I see the First Legion being utilized on the tabletop. This inaugural review will cover my thoughts on the Lion’s Blade Strike Force Formation and the Deathwing and Ravenwing Strike Force Detachments. In the next post, I’ll cover the updates to special rules for the Dark Angels and the exciting changes and additions to the wargear options.

The Lion’s Blade Strike Force is a great representation of the way I’ve always thought Dark Angels should be played: a core of power-armored marines supported by Deathwing, Ravenwing and an armored column otherwise known as the Ironwing. This core is made up of one (Objective Secured!) Battle Demi-Company and the supplemental forces are made up of the various formations for the Ravenwing: Attack Squadron, Support Squadron and Silence Squadron; Deathwing: Deathwing Redemption Force; and the Ironwing: The Hammer of Caliban.

The Detachment receives the unique command benefit of firing overwatch at full ballistic skill. Additional formation rules notwithstanding, this means that each unit receives a free round of shooting if the opponent assaults you. Keep in mind that blast weapons will still not be able to fire in overwatch despite being at full ballistic skill. That makes the Battle Demi-Company core of at least 26 stubborn or fearless space marines extremely scary to shift. Combining this staying power with the mobility of the Ravenwing, the surgical strikes of the Deathwing, or the resiliency of a Landraider-spearheaded armor column makes for some truly impressive board presence.

Some may balk at the hefty price tag on each of these supplemental formations but the other side of that coin is the fact that each formation will be able to exert their influence on the table top because they will not suffer from being under-manned or under-armed. The price tag also forces you to start thinking about how you’ll use these precision tools before you even approach the table top. The Dark Angels chapter are known for their brilliant planning and seeing that be a necessary part of effectively fielding Dark Angels is a great addition.

The Ravenwing and Deathwing each received their own unique detachment in addition to the formations included in the Lion’s Blade Strike Force. In my opinion these are the reincarnation of Sammael and Belial’s ability to make bikes and terminators troop choices, respectively. These formations are slightly less well thought out by the Games Workshop design studio in my opinion but still could be fun and effective. In a way they almost feel like a smaller version of the Apocalypse formations.

The Ravenwing detachment is named the Ravenwing Strike Force and consists of a mandatory 1 HQ and 2 Fast Attack with options for an additional 2 HQs, 1 Elite, 10 Fast Attack and 3 Heavy Support. The detachment must either start entirely on the board or entirely in reserves. If it is reserved, the entire detachment automatically comes in on turn 2. In either case, any unit that turbo-boosts or moves flat out on the first turn in which the detachment is present on the board counts as jinking but is not forced to snap fire the following turn. That is wonderful for getting into position on a flank or to hide behind terrain closer to your opponent’s deployment zone.

The one glaring oversight of the detachment is the requirement that the HQ choices have the Ravenwing special rule. As of publication, the only HQ in the book with the Ravenwing special rule is Sammael on his jetbike Corvex or in his landspeeder Sableclaw. While these are technically two different HQ entries in the new codex, they are mutually exclusive choices and thus you are forced to take Sammael with this detachment. Dark Angels Librarians, Chaplains, Interrogator Chaplains and Techmarines have the option to take a Space Marine bike but doing this doesn’t explicitly grant them the Ravenwing special rule. I’m hoping this is corrected in an FAQ.

The Deathwing detachment is named the Deathwing Strike Force. Surprise! The detachment has a compulsory 1 HQ and 2 Elites with options for an additional 2 HQs and 10 Elites. The entire detachment must have the Deathwing special rule or be a venerable dreadnought with a drop pod. Additionally, all units in this detachment must start in reserve. The detachment does not overwrite the drop pod assault special rule (as Evan pointed out) so at least one of your dreadnoughts would arrive turn 1 and prevent you from losing.

The detachment isn’t intended to be used in isolation, however, because if your army includes a Ravenwing Attack Squadron or the Ravenwing Strike force you may choose to automatically pass or fail any reserve roll you make for units in the detachment. The amount of control this gives you to choose when and where you apply pressure is huge as long as you have the Ravenwing delivery system to reliably get it there. I could see the Ravenwing Strike Force and Deathwing Strike Force detachments being used together to make an army with a very unforgiving turn two strike.

The last special perk of the detachment is that units may ‘run and shoot’ or ‘shoot and run’ the turn they arrive via deep strike. This helps mitigate the damage done by scary blast markers during the opponent’s shooting phase while not diminishing your own shooting power. Interceptor blast markers will still be a threat.

All in all, I’m very pleased with the new codex. It was an unexpected change of events to be the last Space Marine codex released after feeling like the guinea pig for Codex: Space Marines in 5th Edition and 6th Edition. I’ll begin breaking down the impact of the exciting changes and additions to the Dark Angels’ special rules and wargear in my next installment.

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