I Bring Ill Tidings Regarding the Reign of Terror

Well well well. It’s Dark Angels Week again here at Goonhammer, everyone’s least favorite week. You could call this one a lot of things, but I think we’ll start off being kind and say it represents a regression toward the mean, which is a phrase that means I never studied statistics. In short, the good news is that the Deathwing army box is loaded with exceptionally dope models. The bad news is that it comes with the codex. 

Other, better, writers have covered the narrative play and competitive play aspects of this book, but I do feel compelled to issue a correction on a previous post of mine, regarding the terror group Dark Angels: you still do, albeit under sharply limited circumstances, gotta hand it to ‘em.

I don’t think I need to go into the specifics of why the rules are a let-down, but I do have some personal favorite insults. Talonsmaster are gone. Terminator Apothecaries are gone. The new Inner Circle Companions are best regarded as Shitty Bladeguard. The Lion, their father and also their daddy (these are different things), got worse. At current points, Deathwing Knights are dead on arrival. At nearly 300 points, and capped at five models, you are simply not taking them. Which is a shame because they’re one of the very few units in the entire game to have not just one, but two incredible kits.

Dark Angels Deathwing Army. Credit: Kay Sharrock

I’m as bummed as anyone about this book being a dog, but I’ve also been in the Dark Angels game long enough to know that this is just how it goes. It turns out that the run of being pretty good in the last few years was an aberration, and they’ve reverted to where they were for the entire history of Warhammer from its invention until circa 2019, which is “not as good as Iron Hands”. I’ve seen worse, at least – there’s nothing in here as openly contemptuous as the 4th edition pamphlet where Dark Angels storm shields gave a 4++ in melee when everyone else’s got a 3++ and also worked against ranged attacks, a slight I remain real raw about. They aren’t bad – these are still Space Marines – but they aren’t good compared to the rest of the chapters either. Not anymore. Just play them in an Ironstorm or whatever it is you people do.

This degradation has understandably affected some of you negatively. Many more of you – here I am speaking to the haters and the losers – are probably pleased with it. You don’t have to live in fear of getting bullied by Terminators anymore, and I love that for you. For me, and this is probably coming less from a place of sanguine enlightenment and more from being bone-tired all the time, it’s fine. I didn’t feel guilty when everyone suddenly had Transhuman Physiology, and I don’t feel abandoned now that it’s gone. It is what it is.

It’s possible, if you’re the optimistic type, to hope that a new Munitorum Field Manual is released at some point, and it could even fix some of the worst problems, but if it doesn’t that’s OK too, there’s still some juice here. In any event, the iron law of Conservation of Terror remains in effect, only the object has changed. In light of the Dark Angels’ newly diminished state, there is only one way to respond: Fuck it, we ball. 

The way I figure it, I was already going to lose every game anyway, so it doesn’t really matter if the book sucks. It’s almost a relief, not having the pressure of good rules to live up to. I get to live my best life, and not have to even trouble myself rolling my eyes at some dingus who has a problem with getting stomped. I have never given these sorts of people any regard, and so even now – when their cries of Blood Angel or Space Wolf superiority are based more solidly in fact – those cries will continue to fall on deaf ears. As Chase put it so succinctly all those years ago in Stop Competing, “I don’t play Space Marines. I play Dark Angels”.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Look, maybe this is facile but bear with me here: every game has a winner and a loser. With this new Codex it might be you a few more times than it was before. But the wager is, always has been, what makes it fun – you are putting yourself on the line and every roll of the dice during your game is For Real. Pick up a d6 and roll it right now. Pretend that it’s the bottom of turn 5, you’re out of CP, and this is the final armor save to decide if your warlord, alive on one wound, will survive and claim an objective, or die and lose you the game. Go ahead and roll it, and tell me if you felt anything at all. You didn’t, because the thrill isn’t in seeing the number 6, it’s in the context of it. What do you have riding on the outcome, and can you try again or is this it? The worse your army is, the fewer Deathwing Knights you have, the more each of those rolls will matter. You can roll dice a hundred times in practice, but none of those are the ones (or sixes, har har) that count. You are now, by virtue of having less margin for error, wagering more on every toss. When your rules sucks every dice roll could herald catastrophe, and that alone makes each one that much more interesting. It’s a gift. Enjoy that for what it is.

I’ve been maining my other army – T’au – since the start of 10th, and letting my Dark Angels gather dust. I did this because it made my games easier. T’au were better. They still are better, now by a wider margin. 


I am jazzed to get back into Dark Angels, because whatever juice they lost via their rules, they picked up three times over in the new miniatures. Yes, the only thing I’ve painted in the last 18 months has been a Shin Musha Farsight that I’ve had since it was released (also my paint job actually sucks), but I’m looking at these new models and feeling like it might be high time to do something stupid. The new Terminators, especially the Deathwing Knights, are big chunky boys and I love them (please ignore that I already have 25-30 older Terminators and don’t need new ones). Even if the Inner Circle Companions are trash, their models are great and the standard bearer guy is my favorite Guy With Flag since the Indomitus Bladeguard one who’s carrying a whole entire skeleton on a pole. Large Belial is lovely, and the new drip god Asmodai is even better. They’re eating good on Caliban.

The Reign of Terror hasn’t ended, it’s just changed direction, and in a strange way it feels like a return to form. The Dark Angels have come home.

Hell yeah.