Monday 18 December 2017

8th Edition Dark Angels Codex Review: Part 1- Special Rules, Relics and Warlord Traits

Welcome to part 1 of my review of the new 8th Edition Dark Angels codex. The Dark Angels were my very first army in 40k (far too many years ago), so I was eager to find out what the new edition of the game had in store for them. I had already played a few games with my Ravenwing army from the Index, and rumours seemed to suggest good things on the horizon for them. 

The first part of this review will look at the Special Rules for the army, as well as the new Relics and warlord traits. Part two will look at the Stratagems and Interromancy Discipline. I plan to use a similar format to my last Dark Angels review, so will review all the Ravenwing units together, followed by the Deathwing. If you are not too bored with me by then, I'll take a look at the other units in the army. 

Special Rules
Grim Resolve
This is the Chapter Tactics of the Dark Angels army. This means a Dark Angels unit will never suffer more than one casualty as the result of a failed morale test. Combined with And They Shall Know No Fear, this means the Dark Angels army has little to fear from morale tests. A unit of 5 doesn't tend to suffer too much from the effects of morale in a Space Marine army, but this will be very useful for larger units. While MSU is very popular and effective in 8th edition, there are situations where it benefits you to have larger units, such as using Stratagems on a unit, gaining you maximum effect.

I can also see it being of use for some Ravenwing Bike units. Say you have a unit of 5 Bikers with two special weapons. You lose three casualties from the unit. If you want to remove the Sergeant to keep the special weapons, you go down to Ld 7 and could lose both models on a morale roll of a 6. It is still a 1 in 36 chance of rolling two sixes in a row for the morale test and losing both models, but it has actually happened to me before. With Grim Resolve, you will only lose a single model. I know this is a rarity, but it can be useful every once in a while. Plus, if you run larger squads, this gives you more cover to not losing a whole unit thanks to a poor morale roll.

In addition, a unit with Grim Resolve gets to re-roll To Hit rolls of 1 if they did not move in their prior movement phase. This is a nice bonus for backfield objective holding units such as Scout Squads, Tactical Squads and Devastator Squads. This essentially gives you a free Captain re-roll for these units if they don't move, which is a nice bonus that should really boost their accuracy. I don't think this part will have much effect on my Ravenwing units, as they tend to always be on the move.

One thing I have been seeing a lot online is people saying that you will be able to re-roll 1's to hit in overwatch with units as you did not move in your opponent's movement phase. However, the rules says they can re-roll all to hit rolls of 1 as "long as it did not move in its prior movement phase". To me, the enemy movement phase is not the unit's movement phase, so you only get the re-rolls if you did not move in your own movement phase.

It will be interesting to see how this Chapter Tactic will work in game terms.

If the unit Advances, it gains a 4+ invulnerable save against all shooting attacks until the start of your next movement phase.

This rule applies to Ravenwing units in the army. To me, this is a big boost to the Ravenwing units. In the index, they only got a 5+ invulnerable save, but it is now boosted to a 4+ invulnerable. This actually makes a big difference and makes Jink a good prospect for a unit of Bikers and will really help in certain missions, particularly maelstrom ones, I think. You can turbo-boost onto an objective to score it and get a reasonably level of durability against enemy fire. I think this will be a big boost for my Ravenwing army.

Inner Circle
The unit automatically passes morale tests and re-rolls failed To Hit rolls in the Fight phase against Fallen units.

The first part is good, you don't want to lose an expensive Terminator to a failed morale test in a unit. Could encourage you to run larger units of Terminators, but they are still very expensive for what they can do, so I don't think you will see it often.

The second bonus is very situational and don't know if you will ever see it used.

Defenders of Humanity
The units essentially gains Objective Secured, allowing them to hold an objective if the enemy unit does not have a similar rule. I have spoken about this before and think it is great, potentially game-winning in many situations.

I would have loved to have seen a similar rule to Leman Russ tanks for the different wings of the army, for example, granting Ravenwing Bike Squads objective secured in an Outrider Detachment and granting Deathwing Terminator squads objective secured in a Vanguard Detachment, but that is just wishful thinking!

Warlord Traits
The Dark Angels get access to their own Warlord Traits table, giving some nice bonuses to your warlord and the army.

Fury of the Lion
If your warlord charges, was charged or performs a heroic intervention, friendly Dark Angels units within 6" add 1 to their Strength characteristic for the Fight Phase.

This one is not bad actually. It will allow you to wound most units on a 3+ in combat. It gets really good for units with Power Fists or other weapons that double their strength characteristic. It will take most units with a Power Fist up to S10, as you are not getting +1S, but add 1 to your strength characteristic, so this applies before you double it, at least the way that I read it. This could be very useful in the right situations.

Courage of the First Legion
Friendly Dark Angels units automatically pass morale tests if within 12" of your warlord.

Given Grim Resolve and ATSKNF, I don't see much use for this warlord trait. You already have some pretty powerful defences against morale, and there are better warlord traits available.

Brilliant Stratagist
Once per game, your warlord may re-roll a single to hit, to wound, damage roll or saving throw. In addition, each time you use a Stratagem, on a 5+ you gain 1 command point.

To me, the best trait available. You almost get a free command point re-roll for certain rolls and get a 1 in 3 chance of gaining a command point when you use a Stratagem. Given how useful command points can be now, I can see this one being very popular. I will like it for my all Ravenwing army, where it can be hard to build up command points due to the limited Detachments available and expense of the units in the army.

Your warlord can target enemy Characters with Pistol, Assault, Rapid Fire weapons and Grenades even if they are not the closest model. In addition, they can make a heroic intervention or pile in towards the closest enemy character instead of the closest enemy model.

Could be useful for taking out buffing characters with a tooled up Master (Captain equivalent), but again, there are better traits available.

Master of Manoeuvre
You can re-roll the dice roll for Advance or charge moves for all Dark Angels units within 6" of the warlord.

This could be quite useful under the right circumstances. The Dark Angels have some powerful combat units in the form of Black Knights and Deathwing Knights, so ensuring that they can get into combat is a good idea.

Stubborn Tenacity
Roll a D6 each time your warlord loses a wound, on a 6+ the wound is ignored. If they did not move in their last movement phase, add 1 to the roll.

This one is not too bad. If you are going for a static warlord to buff your gunline, this could actually be pretty effective, giving you a 5+ roll to ignore all wounds. This will make your warlord pretty durable against enemy fire and attacks.

For me, Brilliant Strategist is the best warlord trait, simply as the chance to gain command points is too good to pass up, given how powerful some of the stratagems are. However, there are still some useful traits such as Master of Manoeuvre and Stubborn Tenacity, as well as Fury of the Lion in the right circumstances.

Relics of Caliban
The Dark Angels also get access to some pretty good Relics in the army. As with other codices, if your army is led by a Dark Angels warlord, you may select one Relic and give it to a character for free (barring the cost of the weapon being replaced in some cases).

Heavenfall Blade
Replaces a Power Sword or Master-crafted Power Sword. This is a melee weapon with +2S, -3AP and D3 damage that allows the bearer to make one additional attack with the weapon each time they fight.

This is a decent melee weapon, taking most characters up to S6 and allowing them to deal D3 damage each turn. On a Dark Angels Master, this will take you up to 5 attacks each turn, with the option of going up to S7 in some cases if you take the Fury of the Lion warlord trait.

A Storm Bolter that has an additional -1AP and does 2 damage.

Decent enough, but doesn't really jump out at me as a worth using up in a Relic slot. Could be useful, but there are much better Relics available.

Shroud of Heroes
Your opponent must subtract 1 to hit from all to Hit rolls against the bearer of the Shroud of Heroes.

This is one of the best Relics available to the Dark Angels, for me. This makes the character carrying it more durable to enemy attacks. There are so many combinations available in the Dark Angels army to make it even better. For example, added to a Darkshroud, this gives -2 to hit against the character for shooting attacks. You can also target an enemy unit with the power Aversion, giving one unit a further -1 to hit (both shooting and combat). This will make the character -2 to hit in combat against one unit, meaning he will be hit on a 5+ in most cases, making them much tougher to slay in combat. This would be really good on a Ravenwing Talonmaster, making it much harder to kill.

Mace of Redemption
A Power Maul that is +3S, -3AP and D3 damage. In addition, you can re-roll failed to wound rolls against Heretic Astartes units with the Mace.

I like this Relic a lot. It will take most characters up to S7, go through most armour and do D3 damage with each wound. This is a really strong Relic weapon as well. I am torn between whether the Mace or Heavenfall Blade is better.

Against most armies, I think the Blade is a better option. The extra attack can go a long way and S6 is not much different to S7 against most things except vehicles. Against Chaos Space Marines, I think the Mace is a better option, as the re-rolls to wound will help you do more damage in combat.

Lion's Roar
A Combi-plasma gun that makes the Plasma gun 18" Assault 2 instead of 24" Rapid Fire.

A decent weapon that will be useful at the 12-18" range, giving you an extra shot over the Rapid Fire version. I don't see much use for this in most cases, the Dark Angels have Plasma pretty well covered in the codex.

The Eye of the Unseen
All enemy units within 3" suffer -1 Ld. In addition, any enemy characters within 3" can only be chosen to attack in the Fight phase after all other eligible units, even it they charged or have a rule allowing the to strike first.

This is a reasonable Relic for me. It would work well on one of the Champions (Company, Chapter, Ravenwing or Deathwing), allowing them to act as a character-hunter. The -1 Ld penalty also works well when combined with some other units in the Dark Angels army or psychic powers that work on Ld tests on enemy units.

Overall, I still think the Shroud of Heroes is the best of the Relics available, but there are certainly other ones that are worthy of consideration. The two combat weapons are solid choices, particularly if you know you will be facing Heretic Astartes units.

A good start to the codex so far. They have some nice special rules for the units in the army, as well as a few very strong warlord traits and Relics.

The next part will take a look at where some of the real flavour of the codex comes in, the Stratagems.

What do you think of the new rules reviewed here? Any ones you are excited to try out or disappointed in?


  1. The issue with the re-rolls comes around as it's says "long as it did not move in IT'S prior movement phase". By saying "it's" and not "the" it can be taken to mean the movement phase in which it is allowed to move, which is not the enemies movement phase. Therefore, if it didn't move the last time it could move, in the controlling players movement phase, then it could be taken that it gets the re-rolls in overwatch.

    I would have to say, that RAW then it would get re-rolls, but I'm not sure that is what is intended.

    1. I agree. It will be more useful for backfield units to get re-rolls in overwatch. My Ravenwing will be moving around too much!

  2. Another solid write-up. I'm looking forward to breathing some life into my own Unforgiven force. I concur with your assessments so far!

    1. Cheers Dave! Next part up tomorrow. My first game with the army is tonight, so hoping to get some thoughts on the Ravenwing up this week.

  3. Cheers for breaking it down. Nice to see what the loyalists are up to.

    1. Thanks Rory. I think the army is solid, not the best out there, but it has potential.