Editorial: Why the Dark Angels FAQ rules, actually.

I don’t want to steal any thunder from Jack’s excellent post about the Imperial Fists, but I’m also not done being exultant about how incredibly good Dark Angels are now. I happen to think their FAQ rips, so I’m obviously going to write about it more, but this is mostly about Imperial Fists. The goal here isn’t to stunt on them, because they’ve already been done dirty enough and I genuinely don’t think dog-piling is funny. I’ll style all over the Iron Hands for their metallic whining, but Fists have suffered enough.

Every space marine chapter is just a different type of Guy. You got your flamer Guys whomst are nice to guardsmen, your rule-followers, and if you start looking at Chaos they have some indescribably weird Guy Types over there. Imperial Fists were the Ultimate Bolter Joes, with the ability to take like 60 Stalker Bolt Rifles and, for one turn at least, make them all rail rifles. That was their Bit, and it got taken away. What the hell! Every other chapter got to keep doing their same bit to varying degrees, like Space Wolves are still going to Do Space Wolves Shit even though most of the good rules got swapped from Wulfen to Thunderwulfen. Deathwatch are maybe the closest to having their tools yanked, but even in that case, where they lost a lot of the utility of Special-Issue Ammunition, they traded it for getting to take bonkers things like 30 Objective Secured Outriders, or an incredible amount of every Primaris infantry unit that isn’t Supressors, which are a unit that probably died on the way back to their home planet on account of having never been seen on a table. Fists lost their Main Deal and got nothing in return. Brutal!

To put this in terms I’m more familiar with, join me as I make an analogy about the most prominent art form of the modern age: Posting. Imagine you were a Poster – which you are, we all are, it’s all we have left at this point – and your Gimmick was posting screenshots from poorly-translated Super Nintendo games (for our younger readers, these are like memes but require somewhat less work). You carefully curate a folder of appropriate reply images, and even name yourself Da Game Qu0ter or something, and you never, ever break kayfabe. You speak entirely in Altered Beast dialogue. It’s going great – you aren’t posting enough to drive the joke into the ground, it’s just hooting and hollering all around, everyone loves you. Then you wake up one day and the admins have made wordless image posting a ban-worthy offense regardless of context, and there’s no real chance of it changing any time soon. What can you do with that. Why even bother Posting like this, and what is a Poster without their Posts?

Dark Angels never had a bit like that. Games Workshop (and Forge World, this has been a problem in 30k as well) never really had a good idea what they’re about – they weren’t really a definable type of Guy. The players tried it, we leaned hard into being Plasma Guys, or Motorcycle Guys, or heavier than usual, but those are all just different types of suburban dad and they weren’t really supported in the rules anyway, and they weren’t unique where they were. If you wanted to play bikes, there were still White Scars, and if you wanted Terminators you weren’t really “playing” so much as “being gently deposited into an open grave every time you hit the table and going down for a dirt nap”. Knightly Vibes was as close as we had to an identity, and Buddy, Black Templars are right over there. Weapons of the Dark Ages was brilliant, but not something you could build around.

Somehow, against all odds, they seem to have figured it out this time. The stalwart nature of the chapter is reflected in having Transhuman Physiology up all the time on Terminators, and the updates to Jink finally make Ravenwing work the way they always should have. I say “should” there, but what I mean is that the players’ power fantasy matches the fluff, and both of them line up with what happens on the table. That is what good army design looks like. Is it powerful? Of course it is, it’s going to completely nuke the hell out of people and generally refuse to die. But that’s not why – or at least not only why – I love this Index PDF so much. It’s because my marines finally have a niche, there’s a Type Of Guy they get to be. I honestly adore them for this and I want everyone to know this feeling, we used to call it “joy” in the before-times, that’s in such short supply now.

Reader, it sucks mondo ass that the other Indexes and FAQs aren’t this good – meaning both “powerful” and “well-thought out” here – and it extremely sucks ass that Fists had a Gimmick and now they flatly do not. I can’t fathom why anyone thought this had to happen, they weren’t exactly dominating the top tables after the Doctrine changes, and this fundamentally screws them out of the type of lists they wanted to run. The picture in the Codex is of an army you’ll never see again, because it’s dumpster garbage now. This isn’t a nerf in the traditional sense, a quantitative change where your army still works but not as well, it’s closer to the type of change that limiting CP-regen and hiking the price of Castellans was, just qualitatively spiking your entire concept though the floor and tramping it down. Straight up I don’t see the point of them anymore. I like Fists. They look cool, even though they’re all objectively dorks.

The worst part of all this, the one where I start to feel seriously bad for the dozens of hours and hundreds of dollars that people spent painting yellow marines, is that even though I wake up in a cold sweat worrying that next year’s Dark Angels Supplement is going to have take-backs on some of the absurdly good new stuff we got, at least we know we have a book coming, and anything that gets taken away is likely to be redressed with new and returning toys. There’s no indication that the existing supplements are getting revisited any time soon, so Imperial Fists are stuck with this mess of an FAQ for the foreseeable future.

It’s a huge mistake, and I hate it.