25 years of Dark Angels wargaming

4 September 2012 | 6th Edition

As the Dark Angels have been with us a long time, it seemed opportune to see how their game rules have developed in the Warhammer 40K game.

This excercise is fraught with difficulties, not least because I have very little printed material from the early days, but also having to circumvent any Intellectual Property issues arising from too detailed an appraisal. So I have limited this to listing rules developments rather than producing them verbatim.

I have also limited these to specifically DA differences from the standard Codex Space Marines of the tme and the then current editions of the Wathammer 40K game (unless marked as otherwise) as both obviously affect the thinking behind designing a codex for a standalone chapter.

So, from 25 years ago to the present day, the Dark Angels.

1. THE RULES

Rogue Trader Rule book 1st Edition [GW 1987]

  • A mention of the Dark Angels' "Feast of Malediction". Chapter founded by a "Lyyn Elgonsen", but no specific Dark Angel rules.

White Dwarf 96 [GW 1987]

Chapter Approved article introducing the "Raven Wing" — the 7th Company of the Dark Angels.

  • Concept of a fast attack wing developed.
  • All troopers armed with bolt gun, frag, krak, and blind grenades. They ride bullock carts (an early form of Sammaels jetbike) and are in squadrons of five.

White Dwarf 126 [GW 1990]

An article on Epic Space Marine Legion organisations establishes the first appearance of the Deathwing, Ravenwing and "Ironwing" (the latter now defunct) as the three separate battalions within a typical Dark Angel Regiment.

Codex Angels of Death [GW 1996]

By Rick Priestley and Jervis Johnson.

A joint Codex with the Blood Angels for the 2nd Edition of Warhammer 40K, this is the first proper Dark Angels book containing many chapter-specific rules that were to remain with the DA for the next 10 years.

  • Rules for special characters Azreal, Asmodai, Ezekiel, Sapphon, Brother Bethor and Sergeant Naaman introduced.
  • Concept and rules for Interrogator-Chaplains introduced.
  • Deathwing rules introduced. They deploy in squads of five with one heavy weapon. All DW are Immune to psychology.
  • Ravenwing revised — they now equipped with land speeders, bikes and attack bikes.
  • Ravenwing Jink Save Expert Riders rules introduced.
  • Rules for the Masters of the Deathwing and Ravenwing introduced.
  • Blades of Reason rule introduced.
  • Book of Salvation rule introduced.
  • Rules for the three Dark Angels Sacred Standards introduced.
  • 6th and 7th Battle Companies can use Bikes and Land Speeders respectively.

Codex Dark Angels 3rd Edition [GW 1999]

By Jervis Johnson.

A development and refinement of the Codex Angels of Death that pulls the Dark Angels into line with the 3rd Edition of the Codex Space Marines and the Warhammer 40,000 3rd Edition Rulebook (1998). I shall only detail rules that affected Dark Angels and not show generic changes that were introduced via 3rd Edition Codex Space Marines.

  • Rules for a pure Ravenwing army led by a compulsory GM of the RW introduced.
  • Intractable rule introduced.
  • Stubborn rule introduced.
  • Ravenwing "Jink" save and re-roll of the Difficult Terrain tests rules introduced.
  • Hunting the Fallen rule introduced.
  • Cypher rule introduced.
  • Optional Vet Sarge upgrade introduced.
  • The "No Non-Human Allies" rule introduced.
  • Blades of Reason no longer a proper weapon but a wargear upgrade.
  • Changes to the three Dark Angels battle standards.
  • Rule changes for DA special characters Azreal, Asmodai, Ezekiel, Brother Bethor and Sergeant Naaman revised.
  • Special character Sapphon is no longer available.
  • DW Immune to Psychology rule is dropped.
  • DA Tactical squads get access to cheaper plasma cannons than Codex SM.

Codex Dark Angels 3rd Edition [GW 2002 second print edition]

By Jervis Johnson.

The golden age for the Dark Angels rules with plenty of fluff items still available in gameplay. Basically this edition was as the original 1999 edition (detailed above) with the following important changes (many of which incidentally were influenced by opinions from the members of the Dark Angels and others on the Bolter & Chainsword forum).

Items changed from the First Edition
  • The GM of the DW is no longer compulsory choice for leading a pure Deathwing army.
  • The Intractable rule revised to make it more playable.
  • The Stubborn rule revised to make it more playable.
  • Points cost for Deathwing Terminators reduced (from 52 to 47 points).

Forge World Imperial Armour Volume 2 [FW April 2004]

  • Mortis Dreadnought rules introduced.
  • Land Speeder Tempest rules introduced.

Dark Angels FAQ v4.1 [GW Sept 2004]

Available for download only, these rule revisions were intended to plug the gap and bring the Dark Angels 3rd Edition Codex into line with 4th Edition of the Codex Space Marines (Sept 2004) and the Warhammer 40,000 4th Edition Rulebook (Sept 2004). I shall only detail rules that affected Dark Angels and not show generic changes that were introduced via 4th Edition Codex Space Marines.

  • The characters of Hero, Librarian and Interrogator-Chaplain changed to follow Codex SM profiles.
  • Stubborn now had to be paid for as compulsory extra for members of the DW and all ICs.
  • Specialists (Techmarines, Apothecaries and Standard Bearers) are no longer available to Deathwing or Ravenwing Command squads.
  • Turbo-boost rule introduced for the Ravenwing.
  • Deathwing squads can no longer mix assault and tactical Terminators.
  • DA Librarians now gain access to Codex Space Marines Psychic powers.
  • The "No Allies" rule introduced.
  • The 0-1 Crusader restriction brought in.

Codex Dark Angels 4th Edition [GW 1st March 2007]

By Jervis Johnson.

Wholesale changes to many aspects of how the Dark Angels play with the discontinuation of many traditional rules and the detachment of many fluff items from gameplay.

As this is the first codex in the new 'combat squad' era of Space Marines and later shared with Codex Blood Angels I shall only detail specific rule changes that affect Dark Angels as I am assuming that combat squads and many other weapons/wargear changes will be incorporated into the main Codex Space Marines Redux — for instance the removal of the standalone Armoury/Wargear/Vehicle upgrades section with all options now incorporated into the unit/character/vehicle profiles.

HQ new or changed:
  • Belial — Master of the Deathwing — rules introduced.
  • Sammael — Master of the Ravenwing — rules introduced.
  • Revised rules for Azreal and Ezekiel.
  • Rules for Chaplains/Interrogator Chaplains introduced.
  • Revised rules for Company Masters introduced.
  • Fixed psychic powers for all Dark Angel Librarians introduced.
    (No longer having access to Codex Space Marine psychic powers.)
  • Revised rules for Librarians introduced.
    (Librarians now only at one level Ld9.)
Elites new or changed:
  • Veteran Squads (including a Company Champion) are introduced.
  • Command Squads now become Elites, and other rules revised.
  • Scouts now become Elites, and other Scout changes.
  • The 0-1 Venerable Dreadnought restriction removed.
  • Deathwing Assault rule introduced.
  • Deathwing mixed assault and tactical terminator squads reintroduced, and other rule changes.
  • Deathwing Assault rule introduced.
  • Deathwing Stubborn changed to the "Fearless" universal special rule.
  • Deathwing and Ravenwing may now take Apothecaries and Standard Bearers. [Only if specific HQ characters are present.]
  • Generic rules for Chapter and Company standards are introduced.
  • Rules for Techmarines changed, plus the introduction of Servitors.
Fast Attack new or changed:
  • Ravenwing Combat Squad rule introduced.
  • Ravenwing Attack and Support Squadrons formations introduced and other weapon rule changes.
  • Ravenwing bikes adopt the "Scout" universal special rule.
  • Ravenwing adopt the Fearless universal special rule.
  • Ravenwing bikes get teleport homers.
  • Ravenwing can now take the Typhoon Land Speeder variant.
Heavy Support new or changed:
  • Castellan missiles for Whirlwinds rule introduced.
  • Land Raiders are now a Heavy Support option only.
  • Crusaders are reduced in cost and the 0-1 restriction is removed, and other rule changes.
All rules/items below have now been discontinued from gameplay:
  • Terminator Honours. (ICs lose a base attack, but see bolt pistol entry above).
  • The ranks of Captain and Leader have been removed.
  • Specific sub-lists for pure Deathwing or Ravenwing armies.
  • Dedicated retinue command squads.
  • Dedicated transports for the Deathwing.
  • Special character Asmodai.
  • Special character Brother Bethor.
  • Special character Sergeant Naaman.
  • Tank Hunters and Furious Charge specialist skills.
  • Hunting the Fallen.
  • The Cypher rule.
  • The "No Allies" rule.
  • The Blades of Reason.
  • The rules for the three specific Dark Angels Sacred Standards.
  • Techmarines ability take Terminator armour, or a bike.
  • Scout bikes.
  • Proper Attack Bike Squadrons for the Ravenwing.
  • The Ravenwing "Jink Save" and "Skilled Rider" rules.
  • The ability to take non-Ravenwing bikes, attack bikes and Land speeder units.

GW Apocalypse Datasheet [GW Oct/Nov 2007]

Land Raider Ares rules introduced [OK not strictly uniquely DA — but certainly started as a DA vehicle].

Dark Angels FAQ 2008 "Canadian" [GW June 10 2008 Canada, globally 11 July 2008]

Available for download only. This FAQ was greeted with derision upon its release as it seemed to miss out much that was known to be required. However, that aside there were some useful clarifications in here, and essentially two or two-and-a-half new rules were added as well.

New Rules
  • Split combat squads may be used from reserve in conjunction with drop pods.
  • Drop pods may be deployed empty.
  • Whirlwinds must choose their ammunition at the start of the game.
Changes
  • Company Masters must now conform to WYSIWYG when armed with more than two weapons.
Clarifications and corrections

Various other items were also included, but these amounted to either typo errors found in the 4th Edition Codex, or specific item clarifications. They consisted of:

  • Sacred Standards and who they effect.
  • The Book of Salvation and who it effects.
  • Ravenwing Company standard and how many can be taken.
  • Searchlights and how they work.
  • plit Tactical squads using one transport.
  • Razorbacks taken by full 10-man Tactical squads.
  • Costs for Company Veterans' combi-weapons.
  • DA and assaulting from Drop Pods.
  • DA Thunder Hammer, effects on high toughness models.
  • Drop pod weapons, pintle mounted storm bolters and Rhino's storm bolter arcs of fire.
  • DA shooting psychic powers.
  • Models choosing to use one weapon over another.

Dark Angels FAQ II 2008 [GW July 24 2008]

Available for download only. Many items are the same as on the recently released "Canadian" FAQ but a major error has been corrected and three new clarifications have been added. This now means the FAQ is a lot more relevant and useful.

Changes
  • Split combat squads may no longer be used from reserve in conjunction with drop pods. A reversal to the ruling of the "Canadian" FAQ.
Clarifications and corrections

Various other items were also included, but these amounted to either typo errors found in the 4th Edition Codex, or specific item clarifications. They consisted of:

  • Command Squad weapons upgrades replace existing bolter or chainsword.
  • Scout Sergeants may be given a sniper rifle upgrade.
  • Veteran Sergeants may be given upgrades from the pool of options available to the rest of the Veteran Squad, counting as part of the whole squad's allowance.

Dark Angels FAQ III [GW Oct 10 2008]

Available for download only. Another FAQ release drawn by the requirement to dovetail the DA with the recently released Codex Space Marines. Many items here are repeats of those detailed in the July 10 2008 FAQ shown above, but there a few new items that I have detailed below:

New Rules
  • Changes to the Combat Squad rules means that only Troop Combat Squads are now scoring.
  • All models in a Veteran Squad may now upgrade their weapon. The 0-3 restriction model restriction for upgrades has been lifted entirely.
  • All models in a Scout Squad may now upgrade their weapon.
Clarifications and corrections

Various other additional items were included, these amounted to specific item clarifications. They consisted of:

  • Scout Squads unit size.
  • Company Master and wargear.
  • Azrael, Command squad and Company Champion.
  • Ravenwing Standard Bearers and/or Apothecaries.
  • Chaplains and Librarians on bikes are confirmed as not being able to use RW rules.
  • Taking items from the Codex Space Marines within the DA armies.
  • Storm shields and Company Veterans.

DA Official FAQ Update V1.1 [GW Jan 14 2011]

Available for download only. A surprise FAQ rules update that many attributed to poor GW sales (-4% year on year) figuresrecently released. It could also be to even up SM chapters after the release of Codex: BA and before the March release of Codex: Grey Kmights.

Within the update many items were repeats of clarifications detailed in the October 10 2008 FAQ shown above. There were however a few very important wargear and rules changes that quite frankly set this FAQ ablaze. At last the DA are gaining parity (albeit slowly) with Codex: SM. Ironically, this makes the DA more effective at the same time as slightly less divergent, in the same way we were with the 3rd Edition Codex referring to items in the 3rd Edition SM Codex.

New or changed rules
  • Narthcium / Reductor rule changes (now in line with Codex SM).
  • Cyclone missile launcher rules change (now in line with Codex SM).
  • Typhoon missile launcher profile change (now in line with Codex SM).
  • Sniper rifle rules change (now in line with Codex SM).
  • Storm shield rules change (now in line with Codex SM).
  • Whirlwinds and their multiple rocket launcher rules change (now in line with Codex SM).
  • Power of the Machine Spirit rules change (now in line with Codex SM).
  • Drop pods profile change (now in line with Codex SM).
  • Combat shields rules change (now in line with Codex SM).
  • Power of the Machine Spirit rules change (now in line with Codex SM).
  • Company Veterans options points change (now in line with Codex SM).
Clarifications and corrections

Many items were as per Oct/10/2008 FAQ. The few new items consisted of:

  • ATSKNF.
  • Multiple combat squads deploying one dedicated transport.
  • Razorbacks and squads with more than 6 models.
  • Ravenwing attack squadron with attached Land Speeder.
  • Techmarine repairing multiple vehicles.
  • Techmarine repairing from within a vehicle.
  • Power of the Machine Spirit, smoke and firing.
  • Drop pods counting as immobilised.
  • Drop pods and scattering off table.
  • Scout sergeants and sniper rifles.

DA Official FAQ Update V1.2 [GW Jan 16 2012]

Available for download only. Part of a glut of Official Updates across a broad range of 40K Codexes and the main Rulebook too.

Specifically within the DA's many items were repeats of those detailed in the January 2011 FAQ shown above. There were very few new items, just four in fact, and two of those were also present in a Codex Space Marine Update released on the same day. Meaning the DA had just two updated items to note here in our DA rules history.

With this update the DA are slowly catching up with the 5th Edition Rulebook released three-and-a-half years ago! Unfortunately, this is bad news for the Ravenwing.

New or changed rules
  • Changes to the Ravenwing Combat Squad rules on p27 of the Codex concerning the scoring status of Ravenwing Attack Squadrons' Bikes and Land Speeders (now falls in line with the main rule book).
Clarifications and corrections

Many items were as per January 2011 FAQ. The three new items consisted of:

  • Deploying Combat Squads from reserve (not strictly DA as it also appeared in the Space Marine FAQ).
  • Deploying Infiltrating Combat Squads from reserve (not strictly DA as it also appeared in the Space Marine FAQ).
  • Mind Worm rolls to hit.

DA Official Update for 6th Edition V1.0 [GW June 30 2012]

This faq appeared the same day as the release of the 6th Edition Rulebook. Its task clearly was to pull our elderly Codex into the environment of the new game edition. Despite the number of entries (denoted by the now familiar magenta text) no changes were made to existing purely Dark Angels rules as many items here are exactly the same as the V1.2 [GW Jan 16 2012] faq detailed above.

We now wait for the release of our 5th edition Codex for more fundamental changes.

Which means as this article is really only concerned with Dark Angels chapter-specific rules, disappointingly, there isn't a lot to get too excited about with this faq.

New or changed rules
  • Changes to the Combat Squad rules on p23 of the Codex (*).
  • Weapons rules change, now needing to consult the reference section of the 40K Rulebook (*).
  • Vehicle rules changes (specifically hull points), now needing to consult the reference section of the 40K Rulebook (*).
  • Unit and character stats changes, now needing to consult the reference section of the 40K Rulebook (*).
  • Toughness Values changes. Where two Toughness values were shown, i.e. for Bikes, now only use the bracketed value (*).
  • Librarians psychic powers changes. Now use either powers from Codex Dark Angels or generate them from the 40K Rulebook (*).
  • Librarians gains a new stat: a Mastery Level value (*).
  • Psychic hoods rules change. Now refer to the main 40K Rulebook (*).
  • Changes to Ezeliel's rules as per other DA Librarians.
  • Ezeliel gains a new stat: a Mastery Level value. (All Space Marine named Librarians/Psykers similalry changed — some more advantageously than others).
  • ATSKNF rules change, now use that from the Special Rules section in the 40K Rulebook (*).
  • Techmarines, Blessing of the Omnissiah rules change (*).
  • Machine Spirit rules change. Now refer to the main 40K Rulebook (*).
  • Chaplains and Interrogator-Chaplains Crozius Arcanum rules changed. Now refer to the main 40K Rulebook (*).
  • Dozer blades, hunter-killer missiles, searchlights and smoke launchers changes. Now refer to the main 40K Rulebook (*).

(*) Asterisk denotes the same changes were made across all Space Marine based Codexes so nothing uniquely DA here.

Clarifications and corrections

Many items are as per the January 2012 FAQ. The four new items consist of:

  • Rhino repair rule clarification as a result of the new vehicle Hull points rules.
  • Mastery Level for DA Librarians clarified as a result of new Psyker rules.
  • Mastery Level for Ezekiel clarified as a result of new Psyker rules.
  • Librarians' and Chaplains' status when on bikes clarified.

Dark Vengeance 40K starter box [GW Sept 1 2012]

With much fanfare the 6th Edition's starter set was launched containing Dark Angels and Chaos Space Marines and Cultists.

Three named Dark Angel independent characters were introduced, one of which was the Limited Edition Chaplain model, the first such since 2007's 4th Edition DA Codex saw Belial and Sammael. As part of the contents roster sheets were included for each unit and character, and by scrutinising these a couple of interesting rule and stat changes came to light.

HQ new or changed characters:
  • Balthasar — Company Master — rules introduced. An increase in BS over the current generic Master.
  • Turmiel — Librarian — rules introduced. Decrease in BS, Init and A over standard Librarian but an increase to Ld10.
  • Seraphicus — Interrogator-Chaplain — rules introduced. Same stats as current Interrogator-Chaplain. New rule 'Litanies of the Dark Angels' (see below).
Other new or changed characters:
  • Sergeant Barachiel — Deathwing squad sergeant — rules introduced. Essentially a DW sargeant with a fixed weapon option.
  • Veteran Sergeant Raphael — Tactical squad sergeant — rules introduced. A Tac sergeant with fixed weapon options.
  • Sergeant Arion — Ravenwing Bike squadron sergeant — rules introduced. An Attack Squadron sergeant with fixed weapon options.
Other new or changed items:
  • Ravenwing Bikers stats changed. An increase in Ld.
  • 'Litanies of the Dark Angels'. Changed rule: targeted towards Chaos Space Marines army only.
  • Also interesting to see that no one is given the Fearless universal special rule and there are no Deathwing or Ravenwing special rules.

3. Summary

Over the years it is worth noting that there has been a steady change in the some significant core special background abilities of the DA. Take for instance the Dark Angels, Deathwing and psychology:

  • In the Codex Angels of Death, all members of the Deathwing including all characters were immune to psychology. They could not be effected by fear or terror and were immune to psychological effects.
  • This was then changed to "Stubborn" for ICs and Deathwing and Veteran Sergeants with the Deathwing upgrade in 3rd Edition. This afforded the then DA some distinctive "character" and fighting mettle. This rule could be usefully conferred upon units that Stubborn models were attached to or led. Stubborn autopassed Morale tests.
  • In the 4th Edition DA Codex used concurrently with the 5th Edition Rulebook, Stubborn effectively become the "Fearless" Universal Special Rule for ICs, Deathwing and was expanded to cover Ravenwing biker units too. However Fearless could no longer be conferred upon other units as Fearless models would lose it when attached to a unit without it. Fearless autopasses all Morale and also Pinning tests. At the same time Dark Angel Company Masters, Azrael, Belial and Sammael gained the Rites Of Battle special rule allowing all units to use the characters (Ld10) for Morale, Pinning and Leadership tests provided a model with the rule is on the table. So, Rites Of Battle attempted to make up the ground for the loss of conferred Fearless — while Fearless itself in terms of immunity to psychology was slightly better than 3rd Edition's Stubborn.

Overall the Dark Angels rule changes throughout the 25 years reflected current gaming thinking at the time and largely followed suit with other Space Marine codexes with the obvious exceptions of Chapter-specific characters, rules and organisation. That was until the 4th Edition Codex. This broke new ground for SMs in 40K and was supposed to be the template around which subsequent SM codexes referenced. But that turned out not to be the case. The 5th Edition Space Marines' Codex saw to that with greater list-building and unit flexibility, a reshuffled Force Organisation chart, cheaper points costs, the introduction of new units, and differently functioning units, weapons, wargear and vehicles despite having the same names as those of the DA Codex.

Essentially our current 4th Edition Codex has been caught up with and out-manoeuvred by newer more adventurous ones. To some our Codex Dark Angels should be entitled Codex Deathwing — as that is probably the bit where we still differ majorly in game play from any other, despite encroachment from the Space Wolves' Loganwing and more recently the Grey Knights.

Upon integration with the 6th Edition game as we have seen little in the way of pure Dark Angel rules have changed. But unfortunately, others are catching up. For instance the Jink Save, once the sole preserve of the Ravenwing, is now a feature the whole of the Astartes' speeders.

Here's looking forward to our 6th Edition Codex setting us apart once again.

Codex Dark Angels 6th Edition [GW Jan 2013]

By Jeremy Vetock.

++ Awaiting updated information from the staff of the Librarius ++

Codex Dark Angels 7th Edition [GW 27 June 2015]

Unspecified author.

++ Awaiting updated information from the staff of the Librarius ++

4. Updates

This is an ongoing project and as rule developments, updates and new Codexes become published so this will be updated accordingly.


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