The Horus Heresy – Legion Overview: The Dark Angels, Part One

The Space Marine Legions of the First Founding make up the core factions and conflict of the Horus Heresy. In this installment, we interrupt the scheduled article as there has been a new sighting on the auspex – the mighty I Legion, the Dark Angels of the Rock. As these are a brand new set of rules, the Angels will be covered in more than one article. 


At the time of writing, it has been over fourteen years since Horus Rising, and almost eight years to the month since The Horus Heresy Book One: Betrayal. It has been a long road, but for Dark Angels players it has been longer than most. They are the last of the Legiones Astartes to get a full set of rules and, frankly, it was worth the wait.

Their rules are found in the brand new Book Nine: Crusade. Even a cursory glance shows that they have been given a “gold star” treatment – six Rites of War unique to this Legion alone, and a plethora of special characters and rules. They are the most in-depth and complex of all the Legions at present, as their noble history warrants. 

Let’s jump right in, shall we? This article, the first in the “mini-series” (or, dare I say it… a crusade?), will look at the special rules for the Dark Angels, and the first of their Rites of War. The second article will go through the remainder of the Rites of War, before we consider their Special Units and Characters, and round off with a bit of their history in the fourth of the series. 

Credit: @k3rrbox

Legion Special Rules – Legiones Astartes (Dark Angels)

All Dark Angels models with this rule get a number of benefits and bonuses, as you see with other Legions. These include:

  • Mastery of the Blade: Legiones Astartes (Dark Angels) hit on a 3+ in Close Combat when fighting a model with an equal Weapon Skill to them, and when they are wielding a sword (with a long list of what counts as a “sword” in the book itself). 
  • Scions of the Hexagrammaton: If a Legiones Astartes (Dark Angels) model is eligible (more on that later), it can select additional options from either the Scions of the Hexagrammaton or Scions of the Hekatonystika
  • Inviolate and Alone: Models with the Legiones Astartes (Dark Angels) rule can never benefit from Leadership bonuses or the Leadership characteristic from any model which does not also have Legiones Astartes (Dark Angels) or Sire of the Dark Angels.

Let’s take these first – Mastery of the Blade is brilliant, as much of the weapons you’ll be using as a Dark Angels player are swords of one type or another, which benefit from this rule. It means you’re just better in close combat than average, and gives your average Legionaries a 3+ to hit against enemies if they have combat weapons/chainswords. 

The Scions rules are discussed further below – they’re very good! Inviolate and Alone is a bit of an odd one, as frankly it’s rare to have a situation in a normal game where the unit you’re benefiting from doesn’t also have the Legiones Astartes (Dark Angels) rule, but it covers all the edge cases. 

All in all, a good start – you’d better get your bits boxes out and look for the swords! If I can make a recommendation, “Conversion World” have over twenty varieties of resin sword upgrades, with a very nice “flamberge” style which screams “First Legion”. Check them out!


Legion Specific Wargear

Credit: @praetorian_painting

Normally these sections of the Overview articles are a handful of entries. Not this time – we are delving into the forbidden vaults to look at all The Weapons of Old Night, which are as nasty as they are varied! Let’s take a look.

Terranic Greatswords & Calibanite Warblades – Calibanite Warblades are +10 pts for a Character who can take a power sword, or instead you can exchange an existing power sword for free. A Terranic Greatsword is Praetor, Centurion or Consul only, as long as they can take a Power Fist, and costs +15 pts. 

The Warblade is a +1 S Power Sword (not bad with the Mastery of the Blade rule!), and the Greatsword is +2 S Instant Death, Two handed. They both “suffer” from being only AP 3, but frankly they’re fluffy and tie into the existing rules well. I would, however, only take these on a “heavy hitter” character if their supporting squad has the ability to crack 2+ saves and/or armour, as otherwise you risk running into opposing Walkers or heavy infantry and getting into trouble. 

Plasma Repeater & Plasma Burners – Any Legiones Astartes (Dark Angels) model who can take a plasma gun or a twin-linked plasma gun can take a repeater for +20 pts or a burner for + 15 pts. You need to upgrade entire squads the same if you do this. The repeater is 12”, S6 AP 2, Gets Hot! Salvo 2/3, Twin-linked, and the burner is S 4 AP 2 Assault D3 + 1, Ignores Cover, Plasma Flame

To take the repeater first – this is a nice little gun which gives you a more reliable shot with Twin Linked while still wounding the average Marine on the same 2+. Potentially rather nice in a Support Squad, but the range makes it a bit of a hard sell in some situations – you probably need to pair it with a Drop Pod or Terrax Assault Drill, unless you’re in a Zone Mortalis. Alternatively, this could be very nasty on bikes…

The burner allows rerolls with Overwatch (Plasma Flame), and the D3 + 1 shots is rolled once for the whole unit. This is quite brutal, even at S 4 – I’d certainly think twice about charging that unit if potentially I was facing 2-4 Twin-Linked shots per model! The range is, again, a bit rubbish, but you’ll need to build the delivery system around a unit which has these. 

Stasis Shells – Grenade and missile launchers can take Stasis Shells for +5 pts. These are nice little weapons, granting Stasis Anomaly as a Blast, which reduces all models in a unit hit by the missile to Initiative 1 until the end of the game turn. This is really really good as a “combination attack” if you’re setting up a close combat. Note it doesn’t require a Wound or a Penetrating Hit or anything – just a hit. You could do dirty things with these to Dreadnoughts, by setting them up to be charged by other Walkers and getting wiped out before they can swing, for example! 

Molecular Acid ShellsSadly, the days of these tabling entire armies are in the past (perhaps we should be grateful!) Now they are +5 pt upgrades for heavy bolters, and are S 5 AP 4 Fleshbane, which means you have a very reliable source of wounds. I’d still take a Heavy Support squad with this upgrade if I had the slots, as Fleshbane can do wonders against Mechanicum and Daemons. 


The Hexagrammaton 

The Hexagrammaton are the famous “Wings” of the First Legion, and membership of them was “a mark of skill and worth within the ranks of the Dark Angels.” A Character or Independent Character can select a Hexagrammaton option for +25pts, and these can be “mixed and matched” within a unit to overlap the benefits of different Hexagrammaton (no cumulative benefits from the same rule!). However, no single model can buy more than one benefit. 

The choices are:

  • Scion of the Stormwing: A model with this rule, and all Legiones Astartes (Dark Angels) in the unit can Snap Shot at BS 2. 
  • Scion of the Deathwing: A model with this rule can re-roll the first failed To Hit role of any phase when engaged in a Challenge.
  • Scion of the Dreadwing: An Infantry model with this special rule, and any Legiones Astartes (Dark Angels) Infantry unit they join can choose to move a “flat 4”” through Difficult terrain, rather than rolling a check. They can also re-roll Dangerous Terrain tests. 
  • Scion of the Ironwing: When rolling on the Vehicle Damage table, a unit with the Legiones Astartes (Dark Angels) special rule which has this rule counts all Crew Shaken as Crew Stunned instead. 
  • Scion of the Firewing: A model with this rule and any Legiones Astartes (Dark Angels) unit it joins gains Hatred (Characters)
  • Scion of the Ravenwing: A model with this rule and any Legiones Astartes (Dark Angels) unit it joins can re-roll Run, Fall Back or Thrust distances.

So, let’s have a think about these. None of them stand out as “game-breaking”, which is a relief given many of them overflow onto squads.

I would say the Firewing rule is probably the most generally helpful, as there are many Characters in the game so it has a lot of general utility. Dreadwing also stands out as adding reliability to movement, which is always good, as does the Ravenwing rule. However, they’re frankly all not bad, so go for whatever suits your fluff, and don’t get caught up thinking they have to be units “suited” to that Wing. Ravenwing Tartaros Terminators anyone…?

Credit: @k3rrbox

The Hekatonystika 

These are the veterans charged with keeping “the most secret and dangerous knowledge acquired on the battlefield”. Any model with the Independent Character special rule can buy a Hekatonystika rule for +25 pts. This appears to be something they can select in addition to a Hexagrammaton rule (which would be pricy, but means you end up with some really nasty characters). 

  • Augurs of Weakness: When making an Armour Penetration roll against an AV 11+ facing, you can add +1 S to the attacking weapon.
  • Icons of Resolve: This model gets +1 A on any turn in which it, or a unit it is part of, is Charged by one or more enemy units.
  • Guardians of Sanctity: When making a Deny the Witch roll for a unit with this in it, roll an additional D6 and discard the lower result before determining success or failure. 
  • Slayers of Kings: This model may re-roll 1s to Hit when engaged in a Challenge, or combat, with any WS 5+ model. 
  • Hunters of Beasts: This model may re-roll failed 1s to Wound when engaged in combat with any model with T 5, or any failed to Wound rolls for T 6+. 
  • Reapers of Hosts: This model gains +1 A in any Fight sub-phase where they begin in base contact with more than one enemy model.
  • Breakers of Witches: This model can re-roll all To Hit or To Wound rolls when attacking an enemy unit affected by a Blessing, or with Psyker or Brotherhood of Psykers (or equivalent), or the Daemon rules.

Phew – what a load of options! As with the Hexagrammaton, all of these are good. I would suggest the standouts are Slayers of Kings and Hunters of Beasts, particularly against Ruinstorm Daemons or Mechanicum, as it adds a lot of reliability to your combat punch. Being able to re-roll Wounds with an Instant Death weapon such as a Greatsword or Paragon Blade can be really clutch. Breakers of Witches against the right armies would be devastating on a heavy hitting Combat character, and allows the Dark Angels to absolutely cleave through Daemons.

Augurs of Weakness is quite interesting, as it augments Power Fists quite nicely at first glance, but don’t forget it means your Terranic Greatswords can glance a Contemptor Dreadnought, which means you won’t get torn up in a pinch with a bit of luck. 

These are quite expensive upgrades, but I think they can certainly find a place in the average list. 

Rite of War – The Eskaton Imperative 

Credit: @the_forge_temple

The first of the Rites that we are going to look through belongs to the Dreadwing. “When the Lion decrees that a world must die, it is the veterans of the Dreadwing that take command of such operations… opening the forbidden vaults of the techno-arcane…”

This sums it up really! There are a lot of restrictions, however. 

To take this rite, you must take Destroyer Squads or Dreadwing Interemptor Squads as compulsory troops, and you must have at least one model with Scion of the Dreadwing in each of these compulsory troops squads. The force is intended to scour the enemy from the field – as a result, if the enemy has any units not falling back in their deployment zone at the end of the game, they gain +1 Victory Point, or +3 if its a Scoring unit. 

You also must have a Warlord with Scion of the Dreadwing (or the Primarch), and all Infantry units and Independent Characters need to deploy in a Transport, even if in reserves. No Fortifications or Allies, and you can’t take Independent Characters who are not part of the detachment (so, for example, no Knights Errant). 

These are a lot of hoops to jump through. So what do you get? Well, Dread Legion allows you to take Destroyers and Interemptors as Troops. You get the Marshal of the Eskaton, which means any enemy model who can draw line of sight to an Independent Character Scion of the Dreadwing within 12” reduce their Leadership by -1 (unless they are immune to Fear, and it is not cumulative). These are both good to start with – Destroyers and Interemptors are excellent squads, and you buff your chances of slamming into combat and getting a Sweeping Advance this way. Very fluffy. 

Masters of the Blackened Earth means for the whole game, all open ground areas of the battlefield outside of any players deployment zone counts as Difficult terrain (!!!). This doesn’t do anything extra to existing Difficult terrain, or impassable terrain. The Dark Angels player can then place Eskaton markers 6” from a table edge or a deployment zone, which generate a bubble of 6” Dangerous Terrain. This is amazing, as it can make it incredibly difficult for some armies to move around, and causes havoc for enemy assault troops and vehicles, whereas you will (no doubt!) have come prepared with Dozer Blades and the like. Bear in mind that, due to the rule about starting in transports, your Destroyers aren’t going to have jump packs, probably.

You then get Salt the Earth and Burn the Sky, which allows any Infantry with Legiones Astartes (Dark Angels) and a Scion of the Dreadwing, and any Independent Character with Scion of the Dreadwing, to take rad grenades (+30 pts/unit), stasis grenades (+30 pts/unit) or plasma incinerators for Heavy weapons (+25pts). These are amazing options when combined with Destroyers and Interemptors! Destroyers with plasma incinerators and stasis grenades is pricy, but means you are hitting a weakened enemy at Initiative 1 and giving them a Leadership penalty. You’ll sweep them off the board! Rad grenades are no brainers as well when combined with the Interemptor’s relatively low-strength plasma weapons. These are expensive choices, but utterly effective. 

This is a very fluffy Rite, which you need to build the army around, but encourages a lot of use of Land Raiders and Destroyers to bring a mounted force to bear and hammer the enemy off of the table. I can’t wait to see people build this, as I think it will look absolutely incredible. 


We’ve dipped our toe into this new Legion and it’s already half the length of a normal article! It’s clear the sons of the Lion are no pushovers – between their special rules and equipment your units will outclass and outgun other Legions, albeit at some cost. And if you go down the route of the Eskaton Imperative… there isn’t going to be a battlefield left when you’re done. Next time we take a closer look at the other five(!) Rites of War.