Thursday, 12 May 2016

Angels of Death Codex Review- Part 6: Raven Guard Formations

Welcome to Part 6 of my Angels of Death codex review. This part will look at the formations for the Raven Guard (that can also be used by other Space Marine chapters) that were first introduced in the Kauyon supplement.

Pinion Battle Demi-Company
This formation consists of:
1 Captain/Chaplain (no Terminator armour, but can be replaced by a special character Captain/Chaplain)
0-1 Command Squad
3 Units of Tactical Squad
1 Assault Squad
1 Devastator Squad
1-5 Scout or Scout Bike Squads

The command benefits for this formation are:
Scout Support- Each Scout sergeant (or veteran sergeant) can spot for a unit in the formation if in range of the enemy unit. The unit from the formation gains Ignores Cover. This is a nice bonus for the formation, but will force your Scout units to get in close to the enemy in order to do the spotting, so makes them more vulnerable to charges. This will be very useful for a tooled up Command Squad or Devastator Squad or for Tactical Squads targeting light infantry in cover. This might be more useful for Scout Bikers, enabling them to close with the enemy quickly and for added durability if they are charged.

EDIT- As Nick pointed out below, I misread the rules for Scout Support. The Scouts have to be within 9" of YOUR unit, not the enemy unit. This obviously makes a big difference to the durability issue as you will probably not need to close quickly with the enemy, but will need to stay close to your own forces. Also, check out Nick's Review of the Raven Guard formations (from someone who can actually read the rules before they review them!).

Wayfinders- Each Scout or Scout bike unit can "lead" another unit on from reserve. You only make one roll for reserves, but the led unit can outflank along with the Scouts and gets Stealth if within 9" of the Scouts. This can be a great way for getting in on the White Scars' outflanking fun with your Raven Guard and ensure that your reserves arrive in force. This would be useful for units embarked in a transport or on bikes for added mobility in the enemy deployment zone, as well as giving your led units a 3+ Jink or 4+ smoke launcher save the turn they arrive.

A decent battle company formation for the Raven Guard (or other chapters), though you will want to take a lot of Scouts or Scout Bikers in order to maximise the benefits of the formation, potentially making this a very expensive force. If only this formation gave you Objective Secured as well, it would be extremely powerful.

Shadowstrike Kill Team
This formation consists of:
2-4 Scout units
1-3 Vanguard Veteran units (must have jump packs)

The benefits include:
On Time- You can automatically choose to pass or fail your reserve rolls with the Vanguard Veterans. This is great for ensuring that your reserves arrive en masse and works really well with the second benefit of the formation.

On Target- Deep Striking units in the Formation do not scatter if placed within 9" of two scout units from the formation. Also, the Vanguard Veterans may charge on the turn they arrive from deep strike. The no scatter bonus is nice, allowing your Scout units to set up a prime enemy target with a charge, especially if they infiltrate and then scout. However, I think the big bonus is being allowed to charge from Deep Strike for the Vanguard units, especially as they will get fleet charge re-rolls for using their jump packs in the assault phase (assuming they are Raven Guard), as well as Hammer of Wrath attacks. One of the downsides of deep striking a combat unit is having to wait a turn till they can charge and weather an enemy shooting phase. This formation negates that disadvantage by allowing you to charge straight away with your combat veterans.

Overall, I really like this formation. It may be expensive (especially if you tool up your Vanguard Veterans for combat), but will allow you to deliver a surgical strike to key enemy units without having to worry too much about the durability of your jump pack troops to the enemy firepower the turn they arrive. If you are taking this, I would suggest taking locator beacons on your Scout units. This should allow you to spread them out, but still ensuring that your Veterans will deep strike with some accuracy (though only within 6" compared to 9" for the formation).

Bladewing Assault Brotherhood
This formation consists of:
1 Captain/Chaplain/Captain Shrike
1-3 Units of Vanguard Veterans
2-4 Assault Squads

All unit must have jump packs and the formation cannot number more than 30 models. For this, the special rules for the formation are:
On Wings of Fire- This allows all models in the formation to disengage (go into ongoing reserves), even if in combat. Quite useful for removing your units if you are in unfavourable combats or to rapidly redeploy your forces.

Thunderhawk Assault- Units from formation in reserve arrive at the same time, so you make a single roll for reserves. The units must deploy on a single line, but can re-roll the scatter dice when Deep Striking. If not so sure about this one, the re-roll to deep strike scatter is nice, but forcing to deploy in a straight line is a little restrictive.

Not a huge fan of this formation, the special rules are not great enough for the units you are forced to take. I think the Shadowstrike Kill Team is the better formation.

Skyhammer Orbital Strike Force
This formation consists of:
3 Tactical Squads (in drop pods)
1-3 units of Landspeeders

Dropsite Clearance- This allows you to pick a point on the table. Any unit from the formation to re-roll ones to Hit and To Wound on enemy units within 12" of this point. Drop pods also only scatter D6" if they land within 12" of this point. Some nice bonuses for this, but it does force you to concentrate your forces in a small area if you wish to utilise the special rules for the formation. Also, there is no rule in the formation that allows all three drop pods to arrive at once, so you will generally only get 2 of your pods at once (unless you have many more in your army).

Shock Assault- Allows tactical squads to run and then shoot when they disembark from the pod. A nice bonus and useful if you find yourself out of position. The ability to shoot and then run would be useful, allowing you to fire in rapid fire range and then gain some distance on the enemy.

A decent formation, but not one I wold be too inclined to take. I think it is outclassed by the next drop pod formation on the list.

Skyhammer Annihiliation Force
This formation was released a while ago, but it is nice to have a copy of it in the book to save you printing off one of the leaked images from online.

This consists of:
2 Assault Squads (must have jump packs)
2 Devastator Squads (must have drop pods)

This formation gives some significant special rules:
Shock Deployment- You may choose if all units in this formation arrive on turn 1 or 2. They arrive automatically, all at once with no reserves roll required. This is great for ensuring that your force arrives when you want and in significant numbers.

First the Fire, then the Blade- Gives the Devastator squads Relentless the turn they arrive and allows the assault squads to charge the turn they arrive. A massive bonus for the Skyhammer and one of the reasons it is so popular. One downside of drop pods for Devastators is that their shooting will generally be wasted for the turn they arrive and this negates that. Load up with Multimeltas for tank hunting, heavy bolters for killing hordes or grav cannons for killing anything! Getting to assault on the turn you arrive is also great, meaning less chances for the enemy guns to kill your assault marines.

Supressing Fusillade- Any enemy unit target by the formation's Devastators must take a Morale test on 3D6, regardless of casualties. If they fail, the enemy must Go to Ground, if they pass they cannot fire Overwatch. Wow. This is great, your opponent is penalised even if they pass the test! This is great paired with the assault marines, allowing them to assault without the risk of overwatch fire killing the squad before they can attack.

Leave No Survivors- The assault marines can use their jump packs in the movement and assault phase. Great for ensuring that your assault marines will make their charge. In addition, if you charge a unit that has gone to ground thanks to Supressing Fusillade above, the assault marines get to re-roll ALL failed To Hit and To Wound rolls. Again, a fantastic bonus for ensuring that your assault marines cause maximum damage in combat the turn they arrive.

As you will probably know already, the Skyhammer Annihilation Force is a great formation. The synergy between the Devastators and Assault Marines with the special rules is great and this formation is a real threat to any enemy force. A popular load out seems to be Grav Cannons for the Devastators and maybe even flamers for the assault marines or a tooled-up Veteran Sergeant for combat. As you can see, this formation can start to get very expensive if you load up the different squads for maximum effect.

Shadow Force
This formation consists of:
1 Captain (no terminator armour, can be a special character)
1 Sternguard Veteran Squad
1 Vanguard Veteran Squad
1 Unit of Landspeeders

For the special rules, you get Acute Senses, Move Through Cover and Scout, as well as Swift Redeployment.

Swift Redeployment- Infantry units can re-roll their Run moves, vehicles get to move an additional 6" when moving flat out.

I'm not wild about this formation. Scout and acute senses is great for ensuring that your units can Outflank on the side you want on the battlefield. Swift Redeployment is ok, but you will probably want to be shooting with your Sternguard squad and will need to wait a turn to assault with your Vanguard squad. Again, no rule for allowing he whole formation to deploy with one reserve roll, so your forces may come in piecemeal.

Ravenhawk Assault Group
This formation consists of:
Sternguard Veteran Squad
Dreadnought (any type)
Stormraven Gunship

The formation special rules are:
Targeted Strike- When the unit arrives from reserve, choose an enemy target. All units in the formation get to re-roll failed To Hit rolls against that target for the whole game. A pretty good bonus given the firepower the Sternguard squad and Stormraven can put out.

Vertical Insertion- The Stormraven can deep strike, but must hover the turn it arrives. This allows for a different deployment for the flyer, but makes the Stormraven much more vulnerable to enemy firepower and assault, so probably not worth it. Given the distance a flyer can move each turn, I don't think you will have too much of a problem getting where you want with the Stormraven, so not sure how useful this rule will be, especially as you cannot assault from it the turn you arrive.

It doesn't actually say you need to deploy the Sternguard squad and Dreadnought in the Stormraven, but I guess that is the intention. Not wild about this formation too, the Stormraven is very expensive for what it brings to the table and you are unlikely to use the assault vehicle rule for the Sternguard squad.

Raptor Wing
This formation consists of:
A unit of Landspeeders
Two Stormtalons

The special rules for this formation are:
Incoming Support- The two stormtalons automatically arrive on turn 2 if held in reserve. Great for ensuring your flyers arrive together. The worst thing is your flyer not showing up until turn 4, so this is a great special rule.

Priority Target Received- One per turn, the Landspeeder can nominate a target within 18" and line of sight. The two Stormtalons can re-roll failed To Wound and Armour Penetration rolls against the target, even re-rolling glancing hits to get a penetrating hit.

I know that Nick (the Burning Eye) is a great fan of this formation and I can see why. Anyone who has read my White Scars battle reports will know I am a fan of the Stormtalon. For their points cost they can put out a lot of firepower and have good durability for a flyer. Getting two to arrive on turn 2 with re-rolls to wound are great for the flyer, ensuring you should cause maximum damage against most targets. The rules even allow the Landspeeder to fire at a target too. I have not tried this yet, but think it will be well worth a go. I am unsure whether a single landspeeder is sufficient as once it is destroyed, you will lose a big bonus of the formation.

Talon Strike Force
The Talon Strike Force is the Raven Guard version of the Gladius, suiting their army style and providing some nice bonuses.

The formation consists of 1-2 Core choices, 1+ Auxiliary choice and 0-2 Command choices. The core choices are the Battle Demi-Company (from Codex Space Marines) or the Pinion Battle Demi-Company. The Auxiliary choices include the new formations detailed above as well as some from Codex Space Marines including the 1st and 10th Company Task Forces. The Command choices include the Strike Force Command and a Reclusiam Command Squad (no Librarius Conclave for the Raven Guard).

The Command Benefits for the formation are:
Extensive Planning- You get to re-roll the results on the mission table and when choosing deployment zone and who deploys first. This is a huge bonus, giving you a great chance to get a more favourable mission as well as getting to choose which side to fight from and whether to go first or not.

Know When to Strike- You can start making reserve rolls from turn 1, with units arriving on a 4+. This is great for getting your forces to show up right from the start of the battle. Also great for a null deployment option without automatically losing the game.

Know When to Fade- You can choose to fail morale checks for units in the detachment. This could be great for getting out of unfavourable combats, especially as marines have little to fear from sweeping advances. This could also make your opponent hesitant about shooting at units he wishes to assault, as you only need a few casualties to possibly fall back out of range.

I like the Talon Strike Force. Extensive Planning is a great bonus as going first in 40k is often the key to victory and anything that improves your chances is useful. I don't think it is as powerful as the Gladius or even some of the other Gladius-type formations in Angels of Death, but it is very characterful for the Raven Guard.

Part 1- New Psychic Powers
Part 2- Imperial Fists, Crimson Fists and Black Templars
Part 3- Iron Fists
Part 4- Salamanders
Part 5- Raven Guard Rules


  1. A nice review mate - though you might want to re-read the Pinion demi-company rules. The scout units doing the spotting only have to be within 9" of the unit they are spotting for, not the enemy unit! This means they don't have to get close, and can quite easily spot for a long ranged devastator unit - 4 ignores cover lascannons perhaps?

    1. Thanks Nick! I hadn't realised I had misread it. That makes them a lot more effective in that case! I'll make the changes above.

  2. Thanks for the review! I'm a great fan of the Raptor Wing, too, and also the Ravenhawk AG, but more for fluff reasons.

    As for the Skyhammer AF - that thing is an abomination that has to die imo. I've tried it once, and it was just silly. All those special rules make it very hard to counter and not a lot of fun for your opponent. It actually ended up as a running gag that whenever I declared something the Skyhammer formation could do everyone in the room would join in with me playfully declaring in a condescending voice: 'Because - SKYHAMMER, dawg!'

    In tournament play, I guess it's alright, whatever.

  3. There are some good formations here, a couple I quite like, namely the shadow force and bladewing.

    It's one of my hopes that when the BA's get their Gladius style detachment that there will be a few bladewing type formations, with DC and Sanguine Guard units as well as normal assault and vanguard units. After all, Blood Angels do like there assaults.

    As for the skyhammer, well that's just cheese, very smelly cheese at that.

    1. The ultimate of cheeses. I have only run it once, but my Devastators had missile launchers and heavy bolters and the assault squads were 5 man strong, so mild cheddar at most.

  4. I really like the Talon Strike Force, but I always struggle with the choice of what to take as my Core. The Pinion is cool, but so hard to compare with the massed ObSec of a regular Demi-Company.

    The Shadowstrike Kill Team is definitely the big winner of the Auxiliaries, tho the Raptor Wing is close behind. Note that the Speeder from the Raptor Wing can also go Flat Out after marking a target, letting it jump behind LoS-blocking Terrain or something to keep it safe for future Turns.

    I really like the Bladewing Assault Brotherhood, if only for fluffy/coolness reasons.

    The Skyhammer Annihilation Force isn't actually part of the Talon Strike Force. They left it the same as it was in Kauyon, when the SAF was still a limited availability thing.

    The Other Skyhammer, as with the Pinion Demi-Company, feels like it just falls short. If the Tac Squads also got Obsec while in range of the target point or something, I'd be much more of a fan. Note that, in a Talon Strike Force, even if you have no other Pods, you can roll for the third one on Turn 1 anyhow. That said, I kind of like the idea of keeping a more accurate Pod in Reserves to drop in on an Objective later on, after you've had a little more time to clear out stuff that might have been screening it.

    Also, regular Scout Squads can't take Locator Beacons, just Teleport Homers. Locator Beacons are only on a few Vehicles and Scout Bikers.

    The Shadow Force is pretty much garbage as far as any sort of competitive use is concerned. I do sort of like it as an option for including SM along with IG or something in a fluffier list, emphasizing the difference between the regular dudes and the Marines.

    The Ravenhawk Assault Group is, yeah, kind of meh. The Deep Strike ability could be nice because even tho they can't Charge out of it, the dudes can still Disembark normally, which means they don't have to run the risk of being in a Zooming Flyer that gets shot down.

    I need to do a full write-up on this one myself, just to make myself really think through it all, since I want to use it for an Alpha Legion Counts-As Army.

    1. I think they made a mistake making the Gladius objective secured. No other formation released has been objective secured and it makes the Gladius far more powerful as a result, so less of the other formations are being used.

      You should do your own write up, would be interesting to see another perspective on the formations and rules (plus it should bring in more traffic to your blog!).

    2. There have been a few others that included ObSec for a few of the Units, but yeah, giving it to the entire Demi-Company was way over the top.

  5. The Raptor Wing is a bit obsolete with Death from Skies. Now, you can take an independent formation of 2 stormtalons without Land Speeders, and if the opponent hasn't any flier you win a +2 to reserve rolls. In an army that roll for reserves from turn 1, that is huge.
    The only concern I have with the Talon Strike Force is the lack of librarians.

    1. Unfortunately, I don't own Death from the Skies and wasn't planning on picking it up. £35 seems a bit pricey for an update to the flyer rules.

    2. The re-rolls on the marked target and auto-arrival Turn 2 are still pretty nice.

  6. So just so I am clear, even though these were intended for ravengaurd there is no rule preventing them from being used with black templar chapter tactics?

    1. There are no rules in the formations that prevent other chapters from using them as far as I am aware. The Pinion Battle Demi-Company and Shadow Force even allows special characters from other chapters to be taken in place of the Captain in each formation.