Forget your past life. From this day forward you are simply a Dark Angel. Nothing else is of consequence, the Chapter is all that matters.
And lo, Supreme Grand Master Azrael did survey the serried ranks of the Deathwing, and he called them good. Thus did he send them, five by five, against the enemies of the Imperium. But his heart was heavy, for they did fall in their numbers to plasma shot and melta blast, and it was really freaking hard to shoehorn an extra squad into a 1,500 point army list. But then a hunched figure, laden with heavy robes, did speak unto our beloved commander. And he said, "Forgive me, my lord, for I am but a lowly game designer, but could thou not send seven or eight terminators, where five would fall?" And Azrael smiled upon him, and named him Jeremy Vetock, and it was good. But it was deemed that Belial's sword should still suck, for the Dark Angels are an intractable lot. But the tactical squad sucketh not, and the green marine is exalted in the sight of the Emperor.
So there I was on Saturday morning, beating down the doors of my local game shop for the honor of being the first in my area to purchase the new edition of Codex: Dark Angels. (Just kidding, I pre-ordered. The Sons of the Lion are notorious planners.) There are other places on the Internet you can read the analysis of respectable and learned sages of the 40k community, but I wanted to say a few words here because I've been anticipating this for so long. In case you don't have time to read my ramblings, I'll say up front that I'm very pleased with the book, and can see myself happily playing Dark Angels until the next codex comes out in five or ten years.
I had three main hopes for the book. It delivered on all three:
- Some interesting, flavorful special rules and wargear choices
- More flexibility for Deathwing squads
- A reason to take power armor
Reactions to new codices tend to come in two varieties: either game-shaking competitive powerhouses, or "this is a nice, balanced upgrade." On first read, the Dark Angels book falls into the latter camp. For example, consider some of the new units: Deathwing Knights and Ravenwing Black Knights, both fancier versions of their corresponding units. Deathwing Knights are armed exclusively for melee, have storm shields and beefed up melee weapons, get hammer of wrath, and get a crazy, one-time strength 10 AP 2 melee attack. Black Knights all have bike-mounted plasma guns and have strength 5 rending melee attacks. They're both attractive, but neither are the sort of thing I'd structure an army around. Instead, they're decent units I'd take for fun when I got tired of fielding legions of vanilla terminators.
Speaking of terminators, they got some nice changes. They cost a few points more now, and the thunder hammer/storm shield combo costs a nominal amount of points instead of being free. But you can still mix assault and shooting type weapons in a squad, you're not limited to five terminators, and they get a nice buff on the turn they deep strike. Deathwing Assault is also tighter, as you can now strike with ALL of your Deathwing units in one turn instead of half (keeping in mind you still need to abide by the 6th edition rules about reserves). Belial costs a bit more now, as well, but his stats are finally appropriate for a space marine captain and his squad doesn't scatter when deep striking. That's a pretty nice buff to my play style.
More importantly, the book makes a number of different builds viable, so I'll actually have the opportunity to change my play style over time. Tactical squads got the most unexpected boost - in a five man squad, they can take either a special OR a heavy weapon, including a missile launcher with flakk rounds. That's a good answer to the profusion of flyers and it makes for some interesting MSU plasma spam builds.
So while there are more options, there are not infinite options. I don't see many people starting new armies based on the book or models, but it's nice for the existing players. The book suggests a few different styles of play that are very distinct from other power armor books such as the Blood Angels and Codex: Space Marines books. That's a good thing. It gives you some room to breathe, but it still feels like Dark Angels. Probably one of my favorite things is that some of the models I've been painting for fun are now viable. The wait was worth it.