Codex: Dark Angels Crusade Rules Review

Codex: Dark Angels dropped last week and while there are lots of incredibly strong rules in it for competitive play, we’re also just as pumped about the book’s Crusade rules. In this review, we’re going to talk about the Crusade rules of Codex: Dark Angels, what we like about them, and some possibilities for running a force.

When the first previews for Codex: Dark Angels dropped back in… checks notes… early December, they came with a preview of some new Crusade rules focused on capturing the Fallen. Admittedly, this wasn’t something we were super enthused about – almost no one plays Fallen, even in narrative settings, so having rules that interact with the Fallen always feels like a waste. 


Cypher and Chaos Sorcerer. Credit: Greg Chiasson

Hunting the Fallen

Fortunately, Games Workshop was kind enough to give us some rules for Fallen that aren’t just a weird hodge-podge of the worst of both the Dark Angels and Chaos codexes. Instead, your Crusade army is on the hunt for the perfidious Fallen, doing everything they can to track down these infamous traitors and following any lead that may present itself, no matter how small. 

The way you’ll do this is by amassing Unforgiven Points. After every game, you’ll get 1 Unforgiven Point, and several of your agendas will give you more. There are also some Dark Angels-specific Battle Honours that will give you additional Unforgiven Points.

Once you are sufficiently Unforgiven and have amassed 20 points, your force has enough actionable intelligence to try to bring one of these scumbags in for a “friendly conversation” in a Capture Mission. There are a couple restrictions here: first, you can only bring Dark Angels units on the Capture Mission – the Inner Circle won’t allow the chapter at large to know about the Fallen, and anything that could risk alerting the greater Imperium is a hard no. Second, you must select the Capture the Fallen agenda, and your opponent gets the free Assist the Stranger agenda in addition to their normal agendas. If your opponent successfully assists the Fallen, their Warlord will get 3XP and their army will gain 1 RP.

“But wait,” I hear you say, “what if my opponent is an actual willing opponent and not an unfortunate victim I’ve somehow tricked into playing with my converted Fallen list?” Never fear (and also stop it with the Fallen army already): your opponent gets a free Fallen character model that is the target of their Assist the Stranger agenda. There are 3 choices here: a Captain with no Rites of Battle ability, a Librarian who only knows Smite, or my personal favorite (and I swear this is an actual verbatim quote from the rules): “1 Cypher.”

Beanith: I too was on the Cypher Train until I re-read his current data sheet and saw Mysterious Protection where alongside a 4+ Invun, you roll a D6 if Cypher is slain. On a roll of 2+, Cypher’s model is still removed from play, but he is not considered to have been slain for the purposes of any mission victory conditions. Maybe put Cypher back on that shelf?

Other than that, the mission plays more or less as normal, with you trying to grab the Fallen character at all costs, while your opponent hides them in their backline and does everything they can to stop you from getting through to them.


Dark Angels Blade Guard Veterans and Ancient
Dark Angels Blade Guard Veterans and Ancient. Credit: Greg Chiasson


That Capture the Fallen agenda is similarly straightforward: units get 3xp for every Fallen unit they destroy, and if any units in your army killed a Fallen unit, your Warlord gains a bonus 3xp. In other words, you’ll want to be going on those Capture Missions, as they’re excellent ways to get your Warlord and your premier character-hunting units a nice, fat chunk of XP, putting them well on their way to their next Battle Honour.

Of course, in order to go on those missions, you’ll need to build up Unforgiven points, and you’ve got several great options that will keep them coming at a healthy clip. None Must Know has your opponent pick 5 units, and you gain 1 Unforgiven Point for each one that dies. The twist here is that the units your opponent picks don’t have to be from their list – they can also dip into your army for targets. Of course, if they do that, you’re going to be doing everything you can to make sure that unit dies as the Inner Circle has decided that their knowledge of the Fallen must be purged. Dark Rumour gives you 3XP and 3 Unforgiven Points if you’re able to kill the enemy Warlord with a Deathwing, Ravenwing, or Inner Circle unit. If you can pull it off in melee, you’re even further rewarded, as you gain an additional 2 Unforgiveness, putting you a full 25% of the way toward finding your very own Fallen Character to bully. Finally, Mental Interrogation lets your Librarians flex their Interromancy skills, giving them access to a psychic action they can use against enemy characters within 12”. At the end of the battle, each of your Librarians get 1XP for every time they successfully completed an interrogation action. In addition, if you got off 4 or more over the course of the game, you gain 3 Unforgiven Points, or a whopping six Unforgiven Points if you can manage to pull it off 8 or more times.

Once you’ve got your 20 Unforgiven Points, you’re going to want to make sure your Deathwing and Ravenwing units have enough tricks to move in and effectively take out the Fallen they’ve located for you. To that end, you have two agendas that let you pump some XP into your First and Second Company units. Encircle the Foe lets you choose 3 or 4 Ravenwing units at the end of the game, each wholly within 9” of a different corner of the board, and give each one 2XP. The other agenda, The Deathwing Cometh, gives 2XP to a Deathwing unit that destroys any units on the turn it teleports in, or 3XP instead if it destroyed any Characters. If you’re taking a list heavy on one ‘Wing or the other, these agendas give you a straightforward way to rack up some XP by doing what you were probably already planning to do anyway. They’re not incredible, but they are nice tricks to have up your sleeve.

All in all, these agendas are chock-full of flavor and provide some excellent narrative hooks. The agendas centered around Unforgiven Points are particularly cool, and while they don’t offer as many XP as some other agendas, pushing you to a Capture Mission faster is a great upside, not least because it’ll finally give you an excuse to get those Fallen models out on the table without having to tie up your friends and force them to play.


Battle Traits

The Dark Angels have their own set of Battle Traits, designed to apply primarily to the faction’s special units. There are two traits each for Inner Circle Characters, Non-Character Deathwing Infantry, Ravenwing Bikers/Land Speeders and Ravenwing Aircraft, and finally non-Deathwing Infantry. The inclusion for Ravenwing aircraft here is a nice touch; those models look great and it’s cool to have some extra bonuses they can take. Silver Talon lets them re-roll one hit or wound roll when making attacks and is great for Darktalon Bombers, while Lightning Reflexes makes the High-Speed Focus Stratagem free if it’s used to give that unit the invulnerable save. Deathwing can get a second use of their Watcher in the Dark, while Ravenwing can get Swift Reactions to always count as having Advanced for the purposes of Jink – that’s pretty crazy! Non-Deathwing units get a couple of sweet bonuses as well, like a 5+ to ignore wounds while near an objective marker or the ability the Heroically Intervene.

These are some great abilities on the whole that add some welcome extra depth to the Dark Angels’ unique units. They’re also pretty strong on the whole, and are solid alternatives to your choices elsewhere.


Brother Fucko. Credit: Greg Chiasson


As you might expect for a chapter as secretive and obsessed with titles as the Dark Angels, there are a lot of custom requisitions to play with in Codex: Dark Angels. The Dark Angels have four custom Requisitions to apply to their Crusade forces. The first of these is Interrogation, which costs 0 RP and can be used after any battle in which you killed a FALLEN unit. Now normally this would be lame but as we’ve covered in the Agendas, there are actually some very cool ways you can make sure that you’ll end up actually playing against Fallen, which makes this cool as hell. After you take down one of the Fallen you can pick a Deathwing Librarian and/or an Interrogator-Chaplain and you roll to see if they can coax a confession out of the poor bastard. A high roll will net you special battle traits for one or both of your characters and these are pretty great (you can only ever have one, though). This is a cool (and free!) way to tie in your characters’ progression to the Hunt for the Fallen mechanics and it’s pretty great.

Inauguration is another really cool way of doing this – used after a battle where you destroy a FALLEN unit, this Requisition lets you upgrade the (non-character) unit who pulled off that feat to the Inner Circle, replacing Primaris units with either Outriders or Bladeguard Veterans or non-Primaris with Deathwing or Ravenwing units. They keep the XP and Battle Honours they had. Again, another great way of tying your units’ progression to the Hunt and very flavorful. Characters don’t have to wait for a battle with the Fallen – you can just use Inner Circle to induct them into the Inner Circle.

Finally The Lion and the Wolf makes a return here, in a place where it absolutely belongs. Like the Stratagem it replaces, this Requisition lets you upgrade a Dark Angels Infantry or Biker unit (though, unlike the 8th Edition stratagem, it can’t be a Character) to get a bonus against Space Wolves. Which is great because almost every Dark Angels player in the world somehow has a friend who plays Space Wolves and they play all the time. And those players will happily return the favor with The Wolf and the Lion on their end. Which is great for the rest of us, because it means you’re both spending that RP just to mess with each other and not on Inner Circle.


Deathwing Terminator Praetor
Deathwing Terminator Praetor. Credit: Jack Hunter


In similar fashion to the other special chapters with their own supplements that have Crusade rules, the Dark Angels have their own set of special honorifics to work with that replace the four they aren’t able to take from Codex: Space Marines. These are Master of the Deathwing, Master of the Ravenwing, Keeper of the Unseen Ritual, and Master of Watchers. These are interesting in that three of them can be given (and are automatically given to) special characters from the chapter – Lazarus always has Keeper of the Unseen Ritual, for example. As with the other Honorifics, these primarily give you free access to a Stratagem once per battle – Deathwing Assault, Swift Strike for Ravenwing, Battle Tactic stratagems for other Captains. Master of Watchers is the most interesting here, giving you +D3 Unforgiven points after every game and potentially being the one you’ll want to take first since it ensures a greater number of your Crusade games will involve actual Fallen, which seems like more fun.


Crusade Relics

As with every other book so far, you also have a selection of bespoke Crusade Relics that you can give to your Characters as they rank up and gain experience. One critical point worth keeping in mind here: there’s no blanket restriction on what sorts of Characters can take what sorts of relics. In other words, your vehicle-bound Ravenwing Characters can still take these relics, so long as they have whatever wargear they replace.

The Lion’s Roar, a relic combi-plasma, always fires the plasma on overcharge but can’t kill the bearer, and is Assault 2 at 18” range to boot. A neat upgrade for a character who can take it. Ravenwing characters can take The Raven’s Eyes, which lets them ignore modifiers to their movement, advance rolls, and charge rolls, as well as ignore any or all modifiers to hit rolls or to their Ballistic Skill. A slick upgrade available out of the gate that will go great on a Ravenwing Champion.

More experienced Characters can choose between the Monster Slayer of Caliban, a relic blade with a +1 to wound rolls against vehicles and monsters, and the Shield of Calloson, which is a storm shield that combines the new +1 to armor saves with the old 3+ invulnerable save, potentially making a Deathwing Character into a 1+/3++ perma-transhuman solid ingot of hatefulness.

Once your character has ascended to Legendary rank, they can take up the Mantle of the Seneschal, which adds 1 to their move, strength, toughness, wounds and attacks, making them into an absolute monster in the Fight phase. What’s more, once per game, this jerk can unleash the Savagery of Caliban, giving them a 6” Aura that adds 1 to hit rolls for melee attacks made by Dark Angels Core units. It’ll take you a while to earn this, but hoo boy will it be worth it.

Finally, your Ancients can choose from three Sacred Standards, each of which provides a unique Aura that will add even more bonuses to your forces. The Standard of Retribution subtracts 1 from the Damage characteristics of all attacks targeting Core units within 6”, while the Standard of Devastation allows Core units within 6” to generate additional hits on rolls of 6 when they’re targeting the closest enemy unit. Finally, if you find yourself lamenting the loss of the Chapter-specific litany from Faith & Fury, never fear: the Standard of Fortitude lets your Core units within 6” fire as though they’d Remained Stationary. Any of these could be useful in the right situation; just keep in mind you only get one of each.


The Three Wings
Examples of the three wings. Credit: Greg Chiasson

Building a Dark Angels Crusade Force

There are a bunch of different ways to build a Dark Angels Crusade force, but something you’re going to want to consider as part of your journey is picking up a few models to act as Fallen during games where you’re going on Capture Missions, and potentially pick up a Cypher model as well. It’s a big ask to expect your opponents to have one handy, and GW has (rather deviously) created a way of getting Dark Angels players to convert Fallen and buy Cypher. Not that they really had to work that hard, as that model rules.s

Beanith’s Dark Angel Crusade Force – The Reasonable Ones (Inherit Primarch Chapter) 

+ HQ +

Primaris Captain Steeve [5 PL]: Power Sword, WL Fury of the Lion

Interrogator-Chaplain Steeeve [5 PL]: Canticle of Hate

+ Troops +

Mook Intercessor Squad A [5 PL]: Bolt rifle, PF Sarge

Mook Intercessor Squad B [5 PL]: Bolt rifle, PF Sarge

+ Elites +

Deathwing Terminator Hammer Squad [9 PL] 3 TH/SS, 1 Heavy Flamer, LC Sarge

Deathwing Terminator Dakka Squad [9 PL] 3 SB/PF, 1 Cyclone Missile, LC Sarge

+ Fast Attack +

Attack Bike Squad Left Wing [6 PL] 2x Heavy Bolter, 1x Multimelta

Attack Bike Squad Right Wing [6 PL] 2x Heavy Bolter, 1x Multimelta

This was based on a list I threw together before Dark Angels became cool for a local store Crusade tournament back when the Index Astartes: Dark Angels dropped late last year. It was mostly an excuse just to play with my Space Marine Hero Series 2 Terminators and my beloved Attack Bikes at the time. The store Crusade tanked but I then went on to use the same list to test out the Crusade rules further for a campaign my group of friends are currently playing in.

Editor’s Note: You can find Charlie B’s updated Crusade Roster here

It’s now been updated using the new Codex, it’s built in such a way that I can split it into two 25 PL Patrol detachments so I can easily play Combat Patrol or Incursion level missions and me being me, I can randomise who would show up for each battle for a giggle… 

Because the board is so small for Combat Patrol or Incursion, typically the Mooks would hold the line and provide cover for the characters, the bikes will zoom up the flanks, and depending on which squad of termies came along, would either drop down in the middle or start on the board and move up the center with the characters for company.

Expanding the forces later throughout the course of the game, I might tell the Captain the Secret to get him the Inner Circle keyword. I’ll need a Librarian too for the Interrogation Requisition. More Mooks are needed and I’d also probably go overboard on the Ravenwing and build that biker army that taunts me from the pile of sprues. 

As for the Fallen? It’s pretty tempting to hand my opponent a Slam Captain to make life much more interesting for all involved. But it’s also an opportunity to make use of the Heresy era bits to make a cool looking Ancient Traitor to capture.


Final Thoughts

Rob: I’ll admit, they got me. I didn’t think they were going to be able to pull off the Hunt for the Fallen stuff but they knocked it out of the park. The Fallen mechanics and Unforgiven points are a strong mechanic, and the way they interweave with the factions’ custom Requisitions is pretty smart. The whole thing just kind of works, and I like what they’ve done, outside of the relics, which are a bit wild.

Condit: Another Codex release, another set of awesome Crusade rules. In addition to the really slick rules that will finally see Dark Angels players putting their Fallen models on the table in something approximating a “Real Game,” you get a set of agendas that are fun to chase and let you progress toward long-term goals, plus a whole slew of unit upgrades that are both powerful and fit right in with the faction’s lore. If you’re a Dark Angels player, you owe it to yourself to give these a spin. Bonus points to the player wild enough to just never go on a Capture Mission so they can rack up the most Unforgiven Points and be the Least Forgiven.

Beanith: I like the Agendas, they’re pretty cool but since you’re limited to taking only the one Agenda from this codex, you have to sacrifice an Agenda slot that would normally earn XP to gain the Unforgiven points needed for chance to face the Fallen and chance to use the Interrogation Requisition and Capture the Fallen Agenda. Munchkin-ing aside, I still love these Crusade Rules and can’t wait to see more Fallen taking to the field before being bundled into the back of a black land speeder and disappearing into the night.

Greg: Yes! Ha ha, YES!

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