Monday 13 July 2015

Dark Angels Codex Review Part 7- Formations

This is the final part of my 7th edition Dark Angels Codex review, focussing on the new Formations in the book. Unlike the previous sections of my review, I am going to repeat the reviews I have already posted for the Ravenwing and Deathwing formations that I have previously covered. This is so that I can put them into context when looking at the formations in general and when looking at the Lion's blade formation.

Battle Demi-Compay:
Though similar in name, the Dark Angels' Battle Demi-company is different to the Codex Space Marine formation. It consists of either a Company Master or Chaplain, three units of tactical marines, a unit of assault marines and a unit of devastator marines. It has the option to add up to one unit each of the company command squad, company veterans and Dreadnoughts.
The bonuses you get are overwatch at BS3 if you did not Jink (technically, a Chaplain on a bike could join a unit in the formation and Jink) and gives the formation objective secured.

The battle demi-company is a decent formation and gives a nice bonus to your overwatch attacks. You are forced to take some mediocre unit choices that I have covered previously, namely the assault marines and Company Master/Chaplain, though these units do get some bonuses in the formation. Having objective secured devastators and assault marines is good, the high mobility of the assault marines should help with objective grabbing, especially in maelstrom missions where they can move from objective to objective and the objective secured should help them with scoring.

There are obvious comparisons to the battle demi-company in the Space Marine Codex and I am torn as to which I prefer. The space marine demi-company gives you more choice as to which heavy support and fast attack choices you can add. You have a unit of Devastator centurions in place of the devastator squad, and for the fast attack choice you can take a bike squad, attack bike squad, landspeeder squadron or Centurion assault squad. In addition, you can have a choice of the three Dreadnoughts available in the codex. I feel that this range of choices will give you much better options for how you want to build your army and the Dark Angels battle demi-company is more restrictive.
The space marine formation also allows you to enact the Tactical Doctrine, a one-use only ability should increase the damage output of the company, particularly the tactical marines. The Dark Angels formation gives you the overwatch bonus and should essentially triple your damage output from overwatch. Depending on the armament of your tactical and devastator squads, this could amount to significant damage for any unit that is charging you. This ability is always active and not one use only, though it does rely on your opponent charging you, so may be of less use against certain armies.

Deathwing Redemption Force:
This formation consists of an independent character in terminator armour and 2-5 Deathwing terminator units. There is the option to add a unit of Deathwing command, Deathwing Knights and a venerable Dreadnought (in a drop pod). All units in the formation must start in deep strike reserve.

The entire formation gets Preferred enemy (Chaos space marines) and two special rules. The first is a modified version of Deathwing assault. This allows all units from the formation to arrive on turn 2, 3 or 4 (must be chosen after determining Warlord Traits). Any special rule that allows you to know exactly when your reserves will arrive is a powerful tool to fold into your battle plan. The second special rule is Take the fight to the enemy, the pseudo-battle focus as described above.

At a minimum of 490 pts (two units of Deathwing terminators and a Librarian in terminator armour), this is a lot of points to keep in reserve, especially in smaller games, though the disruption they can cause to the enemy plans when they arrive may be worth the cost. I say disruption, as two unit of 5 terminators do not put out a massive amount of firepower, compared to Grav Centurions or Grav cannon devastators arriving in a drop pod, but they are certainly not a threat that can be ignored for long. Once they get into combat, the terminators will likely make a mess of any backline vehicles, heavy weapons squads or objective holders, so your opponent will be forced to either shoot at them or send units to deal with them/hold them up.

Ravenwing Attack Squadron
This formation consists of a Ravenwing bike squad or attack bike squad and a Landspeeder Vengeance or Darkshroud.

EDIT- This formation consists of a Ravenwing bike squad or attack bike squad and a Ravenwing Landspeeder or Landspeeder Vengeance, the Darkshroud cannot be taken. Thanks to Westrider for pointing this out in the comments.
The formation provides scout (for the landspeeder Vengeance). In addition, it provides a special rule that if the landspeeder hits an enemy unit, the Ravenwing unit gets +1 BS when firing at the same enemy unit. This is a useful special rule allowing you to more effectively eliminate a chosen enemy unit with your ravenwing squad (when paired with special weapons such as grav gun, meltagun or plasma gun).
The other special rule is essentially a longer range teleport homer for the Deathwing.

This is a nice formation that does not require many units in order to gain access to the special rules. My choice would be a Ravenwing bike squad armed with either grav guns or meltaguns, supported by a Ravenwing Landspeeder. The speeder would most likely be armed with a heavy bolter and assault cannon (or multimelta if paired with meltagun carrying bikers), meaning it is likely to get a hit against an enemy target and give the Ravenwing +1 BS against the enemy target.

Ravenwing Support Squadron
This formation consists of a unit of Landspeeders (must be at least 3 strong) and a Darkshroud or Vengeance.

The special rules for the detachment gives the speeders Grim Resolve, Interceptor, Strafing Run and a new special rule, called Ravenshield. This allows the formation to overwatch an enemy unit attacking another Ravenwing unit within 24". This is an amazing ability to have. Imagine 4 assault cannons and 3 heavy bolters overwatching at an enemy unit. This has the potential to cause great damage to the enemy unit, in addition to the overwatch from the unit being assaulted.

I look forward to giving this formation a go, but it would require the purchase of another Darkshroud and a couple of landspeeders. Maybe that was the intention all along?

Ravenwing Silence Squadron
This formation consists of two Nephilim Jetfighters and a Dark Talon.

This formation lets the Dark Talon to use its stasis bomb without scatter and gives a bonus to removing a model in the subsequent initiative test. It also provides a bonus if the enemy warlord is killed in the attack.
As a formation, all three flyers come on from a single reserve roll, which can be re-rolled.

An interesting formation that gives a more accurate stasis attack and might be worth trying if you happen to have the three flyers available, but unlikely to see much play.

Hammer of Caliban:
This formation consists of one techmarine, one land raider (any variant) and one unit of Predators, Whirlwinds or Vindicators (must be 3 strong). The formation gains Monster Hunter and Tank Hunter. In addition, the techmarine must start embarked in the Land Raider, but it gains BS5. The tanks must also form a single squadron.
I don't really see the point of this formation. The Land Raider might provide some added durability to the unit, but how often do you want to field a unit of 3 Predators or Vindicators? I can see the appeal of a unit of 3 Whirlwinds as they are a fairly cheap unit and can provide a lot of anti-horde firepower. But then you are forced to take a Land raider (that costs more than the three tanks) and  techmarine for no real benefit to the whirlwinds. The whirlwinds already get a decent bonus to a unit of three, I don't see tank hunter and monster hunter being a huge boon on strength 5. Also, as you probably want to keep the whirlwinds out of line of sight, you will be essentially hiding a land raider for the whole game.
I see the special rules for the formation being of most benefit to the Predators, who can can a lot of high strength weaponry making the tank/monster hunter bonuses more useful.

Lion's Blade Strike Force:
This is the Dark Angels' equivalent of the Gladius strike force from Codex Space Marines. It consists of at least one Battle demi-company, up to one Inner circle (Company master, Interrogator-Chaplain, Librarian or any of the special characters) and at least one Auxiliary choice (any of the formations listed above or a scout support company consisting of 1-5 units of scouts).
The big bonus of the strike force is that it allows all units in it to fire overwatch at full ballistic skill (unless they jink). You also get access to the free transport options if you take two battle demi-companies (one led by a Company Master, the other by a Chaplain).
The overwatch advantage this formation gives seems amazing. If you are building a static gunline Dark Angels army, you will essentially get a free turn of shooting at any enemy unit that tries to charge you (assuming the weapons can overwatch). Combine this with the Ravenwing support squadron and you will be able to decimate a lot of enemy units that try and charge you. I'm not sure if the combat doctrines from the Gladius strike force are more useful. They are one use only, but will give a big boost to your damage output for three turns. It will just depend on what your army composes of and what kind of army you will be facing.
One issue I have with the Lion's blade is that it excludes arguably one of the best units in the codex; the Black Knights (either the unit or the command squad variant). I don't think the Gladius actually prevents you from taking any unit in the codex. I feel that the Lion's blade is much more restrictive than the Gladius:
  •  Each unit of bikers you take forces you to take a Landspeeder.
  • The choice of heavy support vehicles is quite restricted. You can only only take a Land Raider if it is part of the Hammer of Caliban and this must form a unit with three predators, vindicators or whirlwind. You cannot take any of these units individually on their own. The Armoured Task Force in the Gladius formation is much less restrictive.
  • You may only take a single additional character apart from the Company Master/Chaplain. You could not for example take Sammael and a Librarian (unless you equip a character with terminator armour, but then you need to take two units of Deathwing terminators just to access the character).
  • You can only take a Techmarine as part of the Hammer of Caliban.
The formation does have some bonuses over the Gladius:
  • You can take 1-5 units of scouts in the Lion's blade compared to 3-5 for the Gladius.
  • If you wish to take terminators, you need a minimum of two units in the Lion's blade, compared to a minimum of three units for the Gladius (though this can be a mix of terminator, Sternguard and Vanguard veteran units).
Overall, I think the Lion's blade strike force is a decent formation. It is a bit restrictive, but gives a nice bonus in the form of dramatically increased overwatch capability. The real winners in the strike force  (and indeed, the whole codex) are the Ravenwing. I look forward to trying out the strike force. My default choice will most likely be a Battle demi-company with Ravenwing attack squadron and Ravenwing support squadron.
Deathwing Strike Force:
The strike force consists of one HQ and two Elite slots with the option for additional HQ and elite slots.
All units in the detachment must have the Deathwing special rule. Fortunately in this case, the detachment does not have the same problem as the Ravenwing detachment as Company Masters, Librarians and Interrogator Chaplains have the Deathwing rule and access to Terminator armour, meaning you have a lot of options for which character leads your strike force, so the choice is up to you.
Venerable Dreadnoughts can be taken in the detachment, but they must purchase a drop pod as a dedicated transport.

The first command benefit for this detachment is Summoned to War. All units in the detachment must begin the game in Deep Strike Reserve. If the army includes a Ravenwing attack squadron or Ravenwing strike force, you get to choose to automatically pass or fail reserve rolls for units in the Deathwing strike force. This is a very powerful rule that allows you to choose exactly when your units arrive to best suit your battleplan and how the game is going.
The second benefit is a Deathwing battle focus, allowing the terminators to shoot then run or run then shoot on the turn they arrive from deep strike. Again, a nice ability allowing you to spread out your forces to guard against template weapons or to get back in range if you scatter a bit far from deep striking.

There has been some debate online about whether the Deathwing terminator units can purchase a land raider as a dedicated transport in this formation and allowing the land raider to deep strike with the terminators. From my interpretation, you cannot take Land Raiders in the formation. The Land Raider cannot deep strike, so cannot be placed in deep strike reserve, meaning it cannot be used in the formation. As amusing as the idea of deep striking land raiders is, I don't think it will be allowed by a large number of players (never mind the rules).

The biggest loss to the Deathwing is the change to the old Deathwing assault rules. In the new Strike force formation, the earliest a unit can arrive is turn 2. This means that it is impossible to field an all Deathwing army without entering the realms of Unbound army building, as you must have at least one unit on the board at the end of turn 1 to not automatically lose. As Belial (and Azrael) have lost the ability to make Deathwing terminators troops, the formation is the only way to take an all Deathwing army, but the formation makes the army unplayable on its own. I think that this is a real shame, as taking an all Deathwing or all Ravenwing army was a nice feature of Dark Angels armies and gave them a unique flavour. While it is possible to field an all Ravenwing army, this formation has its own problems that I have discussed previously, the impossibility of an all Deathwing army outside of unbound (which a lot of people don't like to play or is flat out forbidden in some circles/tournaments) means that it may make some people's carefully crafted armies unplayable.

Of course, you can still field an almost all Deathwing army, but will need to take an allied contingent, with perhaps another character in terminator armour and a unit of scouts as the compulsory troops choice. You just have to hope that they can hold the enemy off for a whole turn or else you forfeit the game.
Ravenwing Strike Force
Now that Ravenwing can no longer be troops, this detachment is the only way to field an all Ravenwing army (outside of unbound).

The strike force consists of one HQ and two fast attack units, with the option to add additional HQ, elites, fast attack and heavy support choices.

All units in the detachment must have the Ravenwing special rule. Despite there being 3 HQ slots in the detachment, the only HQ unit in the codex with the Ravenwing special rule is Sammael, meaning that you cannot field any other HQ character in an all Ravenwing force. Given that the detachment has three HQ slots, I think the intention was to allow other bike-mounted characters in the detachment, but the rules as written does not allow this. This is supported by the detachment special rule that allows you to re-roll your warlord trait. As Sammael has a fixed trait, a re-roll would be unusable, which suggests that other characters were to be allowed. With little chance of an FAQ to fix this issue, you will need to come to an agreement with your opponent to be able to field a bike-mounted chaplain or librarian.

The detachment gives you a couple of special rules for your Ravenwing force.
The first is Speed of the Raven. This gives you the ability to turboboost or move flat out in turn 1 (or turn 2 if the detachment starts in reserve) and count as jinking, without having to fire snap shots in the following turn. A nice benefit which would allow you to rapidly redeploy your army in turn 1 and attack the enemy force with full efficiency in the next turn.
The second is Strike as one. This allows the entire detachment to arrive on turn two en mass if held in reserve. Any rule that ensures massed reserves on a set turn is very useful in overall battle planning.

One downside is that the detachment does not get objective secured. I am a big fan of this special rule and is a potential game winner in certain scenarios.

I like this formation (as I want to field an all Ravenwing army) and it gives some nice benefits to the force. It's just a shame that the rules were not fixed to allow other bike-mounted characters to join the army. I used to regularly field a Librarian with my Ravenwing and want to try out the new Dark Angels psychic powers. Hopefully I will get some nice opponents who will let me field them.
That is the end of my review of Codex Dark Angels, I hope you have enjoyed it and found it informative.
Overall, I am very happy with the new codex. Finally, the Dark Angels have a decent codex with which to take to the battlefield. The real winners appear to the Ravenwing. They got a huge boost to durability with the Jink re-roll and now have access to the fantastic grav weaponry that other Space Marines get.
There are obviously issues with the codex that I have highlighted previously. The problems with HQ units in the Ravenwing strike force and the essential removal of Deathwing assault are two that leap to mind. Despite this, I look forward to playing many games with the new codex in the coming year and the opportunity to take my Dark Angels to the field once again, its been a long time since they last saw the tabletop.
Part 1- Ravenwing
Part 2- Deathwing
Part 3- Special rules, Traits, Psychics and Relics
Part 4- HQ and Troops
Part 5- Elites and Fast Attack
Part 6- Heavy Support and Lord of War
Part 7- Formations


  1. I ran a Lion's Blade with a Demi-Company a few days ago. Did pretty well, tho it's really cramped at 1500. ObSec Jump Infantry were definitely nice, good mobile Objective grabbers. The Shoot & Run on the drop Turn is really handy for the DeathWing, and the full BS Overwatch can be devastating. I think in the future I'm going with a smaller Auxiliary Formation at 1500, tho.

    I don't have my book on hand right now, but I'm pretty sure the RavenWing Attack Squadron is a regular Speeder or a Vengeance, but not a DarkShroud.

    I must admit, I was kind of disappointed when I got the Dex, because some of the early leaks had made it sound like the RavenWing and DeathWing Strike Forces were also available Core Choices for the Lion's Blade, which would have been really cool.

    The Hammer of Caliban is kind of obnoxiously unwieldy, but I sort of still want to give it a go. One nasty little trick someone pointed out to me is that the Techmarine still keeps Tank Hunter and Monster Hunter even if he leaves the Land Raider, so he can hop over and Join a Dev Squad or something and give them a major boost. I'm thinking AutoLas Predators and a standard Land Raider for it, tho a Crusader or Redeemer would likely be able to make better use of PotMS.

    1. I think you are right about the Ravenwing attack squadron. In that case, I would take the normal landspeeder over the Vengeance.
      I think the Lion's blade (and Gladius) will struggle in lower points games, simply because the "buy in" eats up a lot of points.

      I think Ravenwing units will be much easier to add to the Lion's blade than Deathwing as they are significantly cheaper to do so.

  2. Thanks for this, it's going to help me list build in the future, previously I didn't have a clue but at least I can now have a pretty mixed force but it does seem I'm going to have to do far more Ravenwing than I first thought, still I've got enough to keep me busy for a long time.

    1. Glad it has been helpful Dave. I think I will be favouring a Ravenwing heavy force. I just love biker armies I guess. Recently purchased some additional landspeeders to be able to make a Ravenwing support squadron. Fortunately, Ravenwing bikes and speeders are fairly easy to paint, once you've done your undercoat, a lot of the work is done!

  3. Funnily enough, I can remember a time not that long ago when blood angels land raiders could deep strike.

    Nice reviews mike. Keep up the good work!

    1. The horror! I'm sure someone will convert some parachute accessories to allow their Land Raiders to come in from deep strike.

  4. To clarify, the last two are detachments, not formations. Also, the Deathwing Strike Force detachment and Ravenwing Strike Force detachment are NOT the only way to run a battle-forged all-Deathwing or all-Ravenwing army, respectively.

    The all-Deathwing option is out, because both the Deathwing Strike Force detachment and the Deathwing Redeption Force formation require them to come in on turn 2 at the earliest.

    However, there are several Ravenwing formations, so you could easily take any blend of Ravenwing Attack Squadrons, Ravenwing Support Squadrons, and Ravenwing Silence Squadrons and it would still be a battle-forged army. You don't even need an HQ! (You could just nominate one of your sergeants to be your Warlord)

    Great review, though! Thanks!

  5. I think it's pretty obvious that the bulk of the effort went into making the Lion's Blade Strike Force, and the other two detachments were more of a bone tossed to those who have purist collections... Without checking to make sure they would work.

    1. It's a real shame as I'm sure a lot of people liked running these armies. The Ravenwing one is fairly easy to fix if your opponent lets you take other bike mounted characters in the strike force (all my opponents have been fine with this so far).
      An all Deathwing army will take a bit more fixing to be battle forged and playable.

    2. Hi honestly, from both again and a fluff perspective, I don't think that the Deathwing are supposed to operate alone. They are a surgical strike force dedicated to the redemption of the Sons of the Lion. They are able to maintain this focus because of the synergy they have with the rest of the chapter.

      Plus, Games Workshop doesn't want you to buy fifty terminators and hang up your brushes. 😉

      On the other hand, I really think that the Internet needs to break this obsession with hating Unbound. It wasn't a mistake or a misprint. GW sees it as a great and legit option for building a rules-legal army. In fact, in my local GW store, the manager welcomes Unbound lists wholeheartedly!

      The fact of the matter is, if a player if going to violate Wheaton's Law, he doesn't need GW's permission. He was going to do it anyway. Just don't play against that guy. And don't be that guy. 😇

    3. I've never actually played unbound, the benefits of the formations and the combined arms detachment are not usually worth the sacrifice for me.
      I think the big fear from Unbound is playing something with 3 heldrakes or 5 wraithknights, etc, but these should hopefully be a rarity. I think in a local club with people you know, it shouldn't be so much of a problem. It's just that nobody seems to do it.

    4. You still get all the benefits of formations with Unbound.

    5. So, for instance, you can take the Deathwing Redemption Force, get all the rules and bonuses from it, then take a single Deathwing squad (or more), making your list unbound, and deploy that one on the table at the start of the game. The rest of your army comes in per formation rules, and only the one that is not part of the formation does not get the special rules.

  6. I really enjoyed reading this entire review, thank you very much for taking the time out to analyse the codex and getting this work online. I stumbled across this while looking for opinions on Command Squads but the whole thing has been great so it's much appreciated :]

    As I'm a few months behind the rest of the comments you may know these by now:

    1) A pure Deathwing force is possible straight out of the codex if you take a DW Strike Force; unlike the DWRF the DWSF has no special rules interfering with the Drop Pod Assault rules so if you bring along a Ven Dread you're free to drop them in on the first turn as usual via the DPA rule, giving the opponent two 3HP AV12 units to deal with in the first turn before the Terminators start showing up. For 2+ Dreads on the first turn you need at least 3 in the list, though.

    2) The RWSF has been FAQed as of December:
    Page 159 – Ravenwing Strike Force, Restrictions
    Replace this with the following: ‘All units in this Detachment must have the Ravenwing special rule (pg 148) or be a Dark Angels Character equipped with a Space Marine bike.’

    So now that is far more flexible rather than just wondering how to get three Sammaels into it.

    I'm basically agreed with your assessment, Corrm: it's a good codex but the Deathwing have been knobbled in several ways which is both disappointing and unnecessary. I e-mailed Jeremy Vetock about this issue and mentioned that while it's cool to forge a narrative with the RW calling in the DW and the like, it's not cool to FORCE a narrative on us by limiting the inclusion of our unique Terminators, especially when it's been our trait for at least ten years AND the Codex Marine Formations have no such issues at all. Mr Vetock, surprisingly, said that he had no idea about these issues so it's safe to say that he had next to no involvement in our new codex...I find that a proper shame as he did such a great job with the theme of the 6E book. We can but hope that it's FAQed at some point. :(

    Nice job again, Corrm - thank you.

    1. Cheers Mauler! You have been very methodical in going through and commenting in each section of the review.

      As to your points:
      1- This is true, the drop pod venerable Dreadnought is a way to get the Deathwing Strike force to work, but to me, a Deathwing army should be all terminators. Just a personal preference there, but it does look impressive on the battlefield.

      2- I modified to Ravenwing review to include the new FAQ amendment. Maybe I should change this section too. I've found an Interrogator-Chaplain on bike to be a great addition to the Ravenwing army. Check out the Blog Wars X battle reports and army review in the Tournaments tab to see how he got on.