Editorial: Can we not, with the Fallen thing?

Assuming the 2021 release schedule doesn’t get any more buck wild than it currently is, it’s about to be Dark Angels Season here on Goonhammer, and we’re here to talk about the Darkest Angels there are: Fallen. Like shaking the burnt crumbs out of a toaster, the Fallen are the charred waste that fell out and made a huge mess when Caliban exploded, and have been a core part of the Dark Angels Experience since the beginning. They’re annoying garbage and rules that interact with them are a waste of ink, but again, that’s the Dark Angels Experience, baby.

I am now taking a trip down memory lane to max-power Ironstones and Thunderfire cannons sitting in dev doctrine all game, while Dark Angels were specifically barred from even getting litanies on their Chaplain Dreads. This background is important, to understand why I am so hype about how good the index is, and how good they’re set to become, come the new supplement. What I’m somewhat less excited about is the virtual certainty that some of this supplement will be wasted on rules that only interact with Fallen, that famous army we all love to collect. It’s one thing when Chaos Space Marines are getting bonuses against Imperium armies, since those actually exist, but literally the only way you’re going to see a Fallen army is if your local Dark Angels player converted one and forcibly loaned it to you for a game, purely so they had one to fight (I have, for sure, not done this, never, no).

It’s not even entirely clear what Fallen are supposed to be. Are they something that exists only in the fluff, and shouldn’t have rules? Are they random individuals or squads running around independently, embedded in other armies? Maybe they’re just another type of chaos warband? They’ve been all of the above, at different times. The 8th edition Dark Angels Codex even presented the option of a legion-sized force massing in the Eye of Terror, but we’ve seen no rules around that concept. What the hell, people?

The closest they came to being a real army was in the 7th edition Rise of the Primarch campaign, and the 8th edition Chaos Space Marines codex – take your pick – where Cypher and 3 squads of 5-10 Fallen (which are straight up Chosen with the worst imaginable combination of keywords possible, just absolute dogshit) was a legal vanguard detachment in a Chaos army. Vigilus II: Vigil Harder had a specialist detachment which expanded them to something like a playable force, by allowing Sorcerers and Rhinos, until the 2020 GT packet hilariously took it away again. The number of rules exceptions to deny them options is almost longer than the list of things that are allowed. The fact that even Rhinos were only briefly permitted is a real head-scratcher, Cypher can’t summon daemons (the sorcerer could, but alas), and he can’t call in Imperial agents – which is fair, but you have to admit that it would have been cool. Probably worth noting here that at no point did the ITC track Fallen as its own faction, making it functionally “not a real army” by competitive standards. (Rob’s Note: RIP Chase, who ran an army of Fallen + a Fortress of Redemption and a crapload of summoned daemons only to find after going 2-3 at his event that they weren’t a tracked faction he could score Best in Faction for. King shit right there).

The fluff and the rules never really meshed: first they had fluff and no rules, then Dark Angels had rules about fighting them while Chaos had rules so bad that they ensured Fallen would absolutely never show up on the table. The latest fluff opened the door to them becoming a real playable faction, but the rules support somehow got even worse, despite continued insistence from the Dark Angels codex that you simply must have tools to deal with this type of thing (the tools you get aren’t even particularly good).

Alas, my poor rhino. Credit: Greg Chiasson

So, what’s the deal here? The broad strokes are that Fallen are either Dark Angels rules using Chaos models, or Chaos rules with Dark Angels models. If you’re looking for conversion opportunities, those options still exist, as they always have. Kitbash until you hit the desired level of Chaos, and use FALLEN as either the CHAPTER or LEGION keyword, depending on which codex you’re building off of. Neat! Who needs bespoke rules, anyway?

So why not run with that? Get rid of the damn thing, leave Fallen in the fluff, and forget that the whole thing happened. That might even be the plan: the only rules interactions with FALLEN are in the Dark Angels index PDF. There, non-vehicle INNER CIRCLE units can’t fall back out of combat with them, and Ezekial’s special force sword goes to flat 3 damage against them – though that one’s good on quote-unquote “normal” HERETIC ASTARTES as well – so nothing of real value is lost if Fallen crawl back up their own warp-hole and die.

But if, and I think this is likely, Games Workshop decides to keep them around as the CSM subfaction that Dark Angels can wail on extra hard, it’s either going to be a waste of space in the DA supplement, or they can (please!) expand on them until they’re Real Boys. This is perhaps less insane then the Imperial Fists book giving some of its finite layout space over to Crimson Fists, but I’d still rather not have stratagem or objective cards that I immediately shred because they key off of a faction that, as a practical matter, doesn’t exist. Not everything that exists in the fluff needs models and rules support! GW clearly knows this, because they haven’t made models for the oft-requested “woman” yet.

Cypher and Chaos Sorcerer. Credit: Greg Chiasson

I think there’s three other paths forward here. One is that when the new Chaos book drops circa 2027, it finally makes Fallen a subfaction on par with the other Traitor Legions, giving them access to the full slate of Chaos Space Marines units. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but treat them like Word Bearers, another legion with no model support: a warlord trait, relic, chapter tactic. I’m not asking for anything special, and it pains me to beg for something to be as good as Word Bearers, but it would still be a vast improvement over what’s currently available. Who knows whether this will happen, but in the Long War against GW’s publishing capabilities, it’s probably the most likely outcome. Second-most-likely, I suppose, behind “no substantive changes, also go to hell”.

I’d be more interested in Fallen as a Ynnari- or Genestealer Cult-style army, able to soup in Space Marines and Chaos detachments. Make Cypher and his disloyal 16-31 the core, but allow players to mix in daemon engines and loyalist assets. Cypher seems like a friendly guy, or at least is the kind of d-bag that can work both sides, and it would look rad as hell on the table. Also, give him back the ability to take assassins. How hard can it really be to trick an Eversor. They don’t seem like they ask a lot of questions. White Dwarf editors: hit me up, my DMs are open.

The other thing I’ve been considering is, screw it, put them in the supplement. Make Fallen a Dark Angels successor, maybe jiggle the handle on their keywords a little bit if you insist. The special units and the Honoured By The Rock stratagem even make a sort of sense: they’re known for stealing crap from Caliban, due to being from there in the first place. This does raise some questions around whether and how to handle Fallen Primaris marines, but I don’t feel like these are insurmountable. The answer is: I do not care. Just make it work. This is simple, elegant, and will 100% absolutely not happen.

In conclusion, Dark Angels are a land of contrasts.

Have any questions or feedback? Drop your notes in the comments below or open up your front door and yell them into the street. The winds will carry your voice to Greg’s ears, where he will lie awake through many a sleepless night contemplating their haunting meaning. Or you can email us at contact@goonhammer.com.