The Dark Fortress

New Dark Angels direction

21 November 2006 | 4th Edition

We're all aware of the many 4th Edition Codex Dark Angels rumours floating about, many of which have been dissected piecemeal as they are exposed and for me therein lies the danger of becoming blinkered and not seeing the wood for the trees.

I am interested in taking a longer view of the general direction things are going. Despite not knowing what to believe or discard there is a convergence of ideas and themes emerging from the morass so maybe, even at this early stage, this is worth examining.

Where we are now

For me I think our current Codex/FAQ situation is almost dire. Our Codex was written in a different era and unfortunately the FAQ served merely to fit the square peg of this Codex into the round hole of the 4th Edition game. It just doesn't work. For those who worry about being 'nerfed' by the new Codex — I feel we are actually 'nerfed' already — the current status of the Dark Angels has been in hiatus for some time, yet we have all struggled on manfully.

We are now in the era of drop-podding, trait marine, rending claw, fleet-of-foot, fearless, AP2-toting armies many of which are game-wise, a lot better than we are (I'd give my eye teeth for Cleanse and Purify), whilst our traditional 'advantages' as such, the pure Deathwing or Ravenwing armies, aren't everyone's cup of tea and many don't field them en masse which negates this advantage. Hunt the Fallen — how many times is that forgotten/disregarded? Competitively we have become a slightly below par quirky green Space Marine army and nothing more.

The 3rd Edition 'speciality' of cheaper plasma cannons is denied us, yet many opponents still see us as a plasma-death force with a reputation for a standing still and shooting, a perception that surprised me when I saw it on another forum recently. This is thanks mainly to Intractable, but haven't folks heard of turbo-boosting Ravenwing or deep striking termies? Apparently not, and I can see why because these aspects of static shooting/stoic defeat in assault don't really mix with new developments in the Codex Space Marines which makes great play on movement AND firepower AND offensive assault. In 3rd ed it worked OK where armies were largely shooty OR assaulty but rarely both, the DA being at the shooty end of the market. In 4th ed our role has blurred somewhat but we have definitely lost out in many areas.

So are we victims of our own preconceptions? Maybe.

Back to our roots

If the DA are to flourish in the game we need to get back to basics. The first Chapter formed by the Emperor we are the 'First and Finest'. But we have a dark secret (which actually isn't so secret) and we are on a constant, well, 'crusade of atonement' if you like, to try to regain our honour. Now this for me is the key. Currently the Cypher and Hunt the Fallen rules are bolt-ons that don't fundamentally effect the physical way we play the game — they are more fluff-orientated and as such often overlooked, the Cypher rule is particularly lame — I've never actually played a game where he has been present. But I do see a need for Hunting the Fallen to become integral to force selection and the physical way we play. The question is how is this to be realised?

Maybe where we are going — my personal view

Judging by many rumours, we are to become MORE assaulty, MORE flexible, MORE shooty, faster(?), and LESS dependent on standing around. Am I the only person to hanker after a force that can deep strike or infiltrate or scout deep into enemy territory, pluck out or kill a Fallen agent and get the hell back out?? Because that's to me where we are going.

I do feel there is a pattern forming of a new fluid, dynamic, almost a 'rapid response' type ruleset emerging; where RW can be taken as troops, backed up by heavy armour; or where DW Termies can form the backbone of an army, yet have the backup of hard-hitting heavy weapons squads; of Battle Company tac squads taking the fight to the enemy through better cc equipment. In short the emergence of unique force. Our armies will reflect more closely our raison d'être, the DA will become the 'Snatch Squad' of the Index Astartes.

Winners and losers

Undoubtedly in some instances what we love will go (or might go): Stubborn, Intractable, Jink Save. It seems to me that Battle Companies will gain quite a bit of added potency and could well regain some ground on trait Marines, Ravenwing will become the fast, elite scouting-ahead force that it always should have been but never quite managed to be, (but at the expense of Jink save, which really only helped Speeders anyway).

The losers are probably going to be the beloved Deathwing, with talk of one less heavy weapon per squad (not confirmed, and actually contradicted by rumours of an EXTRA assault cannon on an upgrade sprue) and the loss of Stubborn, many will feel this is just a complete sell-out. Yet even here I am optimistic. Deathwing Terminators (we are told) will cost more than standard termies — there is still a reason for this, just we don't know what yet. Personally I can't see this solely being for 'First Turn Deep Strike' as I think this will maybe be linked to the Master of the Deathwing rather than being costed into individual termies. So let's keep an open mind on the 'losers' at present.

Dark Angels renaissance and the emergence of the 'Multiwing'

So all is not lost then? Nope of course not. Just that we must learn to do things in a new and hopefully better way. It will be a vastly different style of play and force selection, but one that will reinstate our total uniqueness. New players picking up the new Codex won't know any differently anyway, whilst for many more long-term DA players there will be transitional pains no doubt, and some might give up, but overall I think we are in for a very exciting ride.


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