The Dark Fortress

Dark Angels and the 5th Edition Codex Space Marines

11 September 2008 | 5th Edition

There has been much excitement at the prospect of the forthcoming Codex Space Marines — not least from the DA perspective trying to second-guess which items migrate to us via an FAQ update. Rumour has it that nothing will migrate, and this has understandably caused a certain degree of anguish from many Dark Angel aficionados.

1. Is the grass greener?

A few gamers are already eyeing the SM Codex greedily with a view to using it as a basis for fielding their DA — their 'DA' becoming a dark green Codex chapter.

Of course be able to field DA models using Codex rules has always been an option, but now that option is becoming a lot more attractive. For any DA battle Company army (Greenwing) using the new SM Codex you will not notice any deterioration to your army in gameplay, in fact it could yield significant advantages in the form of expanded wargear options, unit costs, and weapon choices. Other than that if you like to use named characters then some of the Codex named versions might appeal on the grounds of greater effectiveness and flexibility — and there are a lot of them to choose from — just change the names.

If you sprinkle a terminator squad and a bike squadron into the mix, the differences will become slightly more apparent — but arguably both these individual units taken from the SM book are better performing anyway (they won't be hampered by being Fearless for starters) and could both be given the Stubborn USR if Pedro Kantor is taken as the HQ choice and that is a better option.

For those who run pure Deathwing or Deathwing-heavy multiwing mixes they will find doing so with anything other than the DA Codex is an impossibility, so that route is closed.

A plea for parity

So what's the point of this? Well I suppose keep an open mind about the SM book if the DA don't get any or many upgrades to pull them into line. Also it's a plea to those who are creating the new generation of Codexes to keep them tight and aligned as closely as possible, or risk the demise of some standalone Chapters if they are perceived as 'losing out'. I can't see there being any excuse not to keep them aligned apart from laziness. This plea also covers the Daemonhunters and Witch Hunters too, the former getting really left behind in the wake of the general 40K rush for 'progression'.

Relic Blades — a strength bonus too far?

One item that really caught my eye and sums up how the SM book has evolved and leaped ahead of ours is that of the Relic Blades. These are Str6 power swords that make our own Heavenfall Blades look very pedestrian, not only that, every generic Master, Captain and even whole units of Honour Guards can take them. OK so they need two hands to use meaning no bonus attack for a second close combat weapon but who cares if you are wielding what is essentially the Sword of Secrets, and more than one of them per army. It would be a great option to allow a similar weapon as an upgrade to the lacklustre Belial, for Sammael on his jetbike as well as our Generic Master — giving us a limited number of these weapons would cause a problem for Azrael's Sword of Secrets yes, but easily resolved by making it instant kill on a 6 for instance (one of several solutions stolen straight from Codex SM) — so retaining its greater power.

2. A way forward?

Let's sit back and take stock. As the Codex SM has expanded to allow different army types to be fielded, it might be worth seeing what advantages (if any) there could be in experimenting with building 'DA style' armies from it. And as always forewarned is forearmed so this exercise also serves to show what you could be facing across the table someday soon. These are just two routes, I shall be expanding upon this theme with future builds in future articles.

First, battle company or 'Greenwing'.

Battle Company Codex SM 1500 points

Just as an example here is gunline battle company list compiled from the new Codex SM, with DA costs and other notes for comparison purposes. It is certainly a very playable and well balanced setup so will not be uncommon.


Pedro Kantor
a neat storm bolter (he confers Stubborn to his whole army and gets Orbital Bombardment plus other tricks).


Tactical squad 1
10 men - power weapon, flamer, missile launcher.
[DA equivalent 10 points more expensive.]

Tactical squad 2
10 men - power weapon, plasmagun, missile launcher.
[DA equivalent 10 points more expensive.]

Tactical squad 3
10 men - powerfist, melta gun, missile launcher.
[DA equivalent 10 points more expensive.]

Fast Attack

Assault squad
10 men - powerfist, flamer.
[DA equivalent 35 points more expensive and has no flamer.]

Heavy Support

Devastator squad
10 men - 4 missile launchers.
[DA equivalent 15 points more expensive.]

Autocannon and heavy bolters
[DA equivalent 10 points more expensive.]

Thunderfire cannon
[No exact DA equivalent.]

1500 points. 53 models


So not including Kantor and the Thunderfire cannon, the SM list totals 1225 and DA 1315 making the DA list 90 points more expensive and with less options as the SM have the extra flamer and the dev squad a signum. Overall it's hard to see where the DA have any advantages, the DA Master would convey Rites of Battle yes, but arguably Kantor's Stubborn (for the whole army) is better — and very DA in character. Food for thought.

Next, Ravenwing with a 'white' twist.

White Scars Codex SM 1500 points

Here is an SM version of a Ravenwing army. I have concentrated on an all-bike army using 6 bikers per squadron for direct comparison with RW Attack Squadrons. Obviously Land speeders could be taken in the Fast Attack slots, just do the math yourself. Incidentally I prefer the Attack Bikes in the FA slots as units to contest objectives, I could have attached them individually to each Bike Squadron.


Kor'sarro Khan
Kor'Sarro Khan with a bike, he can 'Fleet' and has an instant death power weapon. He also confers the 'Outflank' ability on the whole army. Additionally, any unit he attaches to gains the Hit and Run ability.
[He's the same cost as Sammy, but he is not immune to instant death.]

Command Squad
5 bikers with power fist, 2 plasma guns, includes an Apothecary and a Standard bearer.
Note: Hit and Run confered by Kor'sarro.
[Closest RW equivalent 40 points more expensive — but the RW squadron is 6-man.]


Squadron 1
6 bikes - power fist, 2 meltaguns.
[RW equivalent 55 points more expensive.]

Squadron 2
6 bikes with power fist, 2 meltaguns.
[RW equivalent 55 points more expensive.]

Squadron 3
6 bikes with power weapon, 2 plasma guns.
[RW equivalent 55 points more expensive.]

Squadron 4
6 bikes with power weapon, 2 flamers.
[RW equivalent 55 points more expensive.]

Fast Attack

Attack Bike Squadron 1
2 attack bikes with multi-meltas.
[No exact RW equivalent.]

Attack Bike Squadron 2
2 attack bikes with multi-meltas.
[No exact RW equivalent.]

1500 points. 34 models.


Looking at the Bike Squadrons, is a difference of 220 points to equivalent Ravenwing Squadrons really worth it for Scout, Fearless and teleport homers (which aren't used in pure RW anyway)? No I think not. This is a shocking disparity — enough to field another squadron of bikes, or 4 attack bikes, or a couple of speeders!!

On this sample points could have been saved on using a Space Marine Captain instead of Kor'sarro Khan, but I went for Khan for a bit of flourish. A Captain armed with a Relic Blade would be 40 points cheaper, enough for another Attack Bike or a couple of bikers, however, some neat special rules would be lost.

3. Time for a change?

As never before the Codex SM is looking a very attractive way of fielding a Dark Angels army. You get better weapon options in many cases, and sometimes cheaper units too. There are more characters with better wargear; Librarians get a useful set of psychic powers; there are generic Chapter Masters as well as Captains; and as has been discussed before, some of the named characters confer some very neat tactical abilities.

The list is more flexible in that there are more items to select from (Scout Bikes, Attack Bike Squadrons for instance) and that doesn't include new items like the Sternguard Vets, the Ironclad dreadnought, the Redeemer LR or the Thunderfire cannon. It's also good to see Scouts back in the troop slot — albeit at BS3. It remains impossible to build a terminator as troops army from the new book, so at least the Deathwing has a uniqueness to set our DA Codex apart, but does that means that it effectively becomes solely a 'Codex Deathwing' — is that enough to make it viable?

4. Where next for the Daerk Angels' Codex?

Don't get me wrong, our book is still very useable and many will keep on using it to get the type of army that they want and the fluffy characters that go with it. It is not to say that a DA army will never beat a generic SM army again because of course it will. To be honest it's too early to write off the DA Codex until we get a better picture of what the future holds for it. Besides all that, it still contains a wealth of background materials worthy of a standalone book.

But a radical overhaul is needed not to make it more 'powerful' but to make it more comparable. As it presently stands it's looking the weaker of the two options available. So that means a look at standardising wargear and weapons across the Astartes armoury and possibly looking at characters and their capabilities. There are many simple things, like the way we can purchase assault and heavy weapons for Tactical squads, that need looking at too — why should we be different to a Codex Chapter in that respect?

It wouldn't surprise me that if it doesn't get updated it will move to a position similar that of the Daemonhunter/Witch Hunter books where just a hard core of players battle on for the love of the backstory and the 'uniqueness' despite the restrictions in other areas. In the case of the more game-orientated DA players they might migrate to (or at least experiment with) the Codex SM.

It would be a shame to see the once great First Legion in the position of needing to use a 'foreign' codex purely to remain on a level playing field — but unless things radically change, that is the way things are going.

Me, I'm just glad that Lysander and generic SM Masters and Captains in terminator armour don't turn Elite terminator squads into Troops. In that respect I can stick with what I know best for my still unique Deathwing.

Interesting times ahead.


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