Of all the things I have opinions and knowledge about, surely some of the least important must be the proper way to mark squads of Dark Angels Space Marines from the tabletop wargame/hobby Warhammer 40,000. When I started playing the game in 1996 or so, this stuff wasn’t so complicated. The 2nd edition codex had two full pages on how to mark your squads! But now, with dozens of different unit types in the game, I see a bit of confusion about this online, so I hope this guide will be useful to anyone who’s curious about this stuff.
A few notes before I begin. First, feel free to ignore all of this and paint your army however you want! They’re your models, after all. Second, it’s common for a Space Marine chapter while on a long crusade to change up its markings as needed, combine companies together as they take casualties, adapt their squad types for missions, etc. Third, while the books say the Dark Angels generally follow the Codex Astartes aside from the first and second companies, they also they like to be a bit mysterious and do stuff to suit their own purposes. In particular, it’s rumored that Azrael keeps the roster at well over 1000, which would have implications on a lot of the squad numbering I mention below. All of which to say, there are lots of reasons to deviate from any of this stuff.
Also, when I talk about left/right shoulder/kneepad, I’m always referring to the model’s left or right.
Choosing Your Company
All of your “greenwing” units belong to a company, typically the 3rd–5th, though if you wanted you could make a force out of a Reserve Company (6th–9th). It doesn’t matter which company you choose. The left kneepad of every member of that company will display its symbol, which can be seen here. The 3rd is the easiest to paint. If you intend to run Lazarus and not a generic Company Master, you should consider painting them as the 5th, or you can make up a story for why Lazarus is leading a different company, or why someone else is leading his—maybe he’s on vacation. (Dark Angels vacations are solemn affairs with lots of incense.)
Most marines will have their company marking on their left kneepad. There are some exceptions:
- Deathwing and Ravenwing units don’t put anything special on their knees. Their armor color tells you what company they’re in.
- The Scout company doesn’t have a knee marking. Note that in addition to scouts, the 10th company has a full complement of Vanguard squads (Infiltrators, Incursors, Reivers, Eliminators, Suppressors, Invictor Warsuits), so an Infiltrator squad, for example, might be from any of companies 3–7, or 10. (But not 8 or 9 because they’re all close support and fire support squads, respectively).
- Each company has 1 chaplain and 1 apothecary in addition to its other command squad units, but there are chaplains and apothecaries that are not part of a company, so you can decide if yours is attached to that company or unassigned and paint his kneepad accordingly. Interrogator-Chaplains, Techmarines, and Librarians are not typically of a particular company. Even if they’re wearing Terminator Armour, they’re still not part of the 1st Company and so should also have green shoulder pads. (Asmodai or Ezekiel signs their checks and approves their overtime, not Belial. But, again, paint your army however you want.)
The battle companies, 3–5, have 60 Battleline marines, 20 close support, and 20 fire support. More on that below. If you go over any of these limits, you can paint the extras as from a reserve company on their left kneepads.
The reserve companies, 6–9, are a little different. Six and seven are all battleline units. Eight is all close support units. Nine is all fire support units. These are used to supplement additional companies that might need more squads of a certain type than the codex allows.
Below, I’ll go over the major unit types and what goes on the shoulders. Many other Space Marine chapters assign a special helmet color to sergeants and officers, and use their shoulder trim to designate company colors. In general Dark Angels don’t do this.
Character markings, 2nd Edition Codex: Angels of Death.
Captains (Masters) typically have an imperial eagle on their right shoulder, Dark Angels symbol on their left. The right might be an angel, though (as seen on the Lazarus kit, for example), or some personal heraldry (Sammael). The captain of companies 3–9 will have his company’s heraldic symbol on his left kneepad or maybe on a tilting plate or elsewhere. One Master per company.
Lieutenants should have a red sword on their right shoulder, the appropriate Dark Angels symbol on their left shoulder. This includes the Strikemaster and the Talonmaster. Your company should have at most two Lts (though potentially one guy could have a set of Mk X eveningwear and a Phobos suit to wear for daytime fighting). (Source here is little bit shaky. The Dark Imperium box included two Lieutenants and its transfer sheet had two red swords. The GW studio Dark Angels Primaris Lt model has a red sword on his shoulder.) A mark of personal heraldry would be an acceptable alternative.
Chaplains have a skull on their right shoulder (over a black field generally but it’s fine to paint it green) and a Dark Angels symbol on their left. If it’s a Chaplain in Terminator Armour, he’s the 1st Company’s Chaplain, so his right shoulder should be bone white with a red Deathwing symbol and his left should have a Crux Terminatus.
Librarians have a horned skull on their right shoulder (over a blue field) and a Dark Angels symbol on their left. If he’s wearing Terminator Armour, it’s a green right shoulder with a DA symbol and a crux on the left.
Apothecaries have a helix on their right, DA symbol on left, and their company’s symbol on their right kneepad. Here’s a piece I did on apothecary armor colors.
Techmarines have a cog on their right shoulder, DA symbol on the left. Tip: There’s a DA-specific cog and head on the Ravenwing accessory sprue.
Ancients should have a laurel wreath on their right shoulder, DA symbol on their left. There’s a pad for this in the Company Veterans box.
Codex: Dark Angels, six edition
Company Champions have a special shoulder pad that comes in some of the command squad boxes. There isn’t a clear symbol or badge for the position.
There’s no consistent guidance on what a Champion should have. Some of GW’s studio models have a wreath, but DA definitely use that symbol for their Ancients. This piece shows a laurel wreath surrounding a skull. 🤷🏻♂️ I painted the 4th company’s checkerboard device on the right shoulder of mine.
Veterans in previous editions were marked with a red sword. Now that the Lieutenant has taken over this symbol, there hasn’t been updated guidance on how to mark up a veteran. My recommendation would be a white or silver sword, which is supported by the Company Veterans box art. This is sort of moot because there’s not a big reason to take Company Veterans or Veteran Intercessors, but this is still unresolved. Also, various editions of the codex differ on whether it should point up or down.
Bladeguard Veterans, Sternguard Veterans, and probably Vangaurd Veterans should have a Crux Terminatus on their right shoulder and a Deathwing logo on their left shoulder. There are crux transfers on the Indomitus sheet.
Deathwing Terminators should have a Deathwing symbol on their right shoulders, Crux Terminatus on their left.
Deathwing Knights have fancy Dark Angels on their right shoulders, Crux Terminatus on their left, and elsewhere (knee, tilting plate, wherever), a squad-specific pattern, typically a Quartering in some combination of red, green, bone, black, or white. Both shoulders have a thin green line tracing the borders.
Black Knights have gold pale over black on their shoulders. The right shoulder has a squad number, the left is a Ravenwing symbol. (“Fun” fact: Each Space Marine company has a traditional heraldic pattern and color. A gold pale is the 2nd company’s in many chapters. Dark Angels follow these loosely. You can see more examples here.)
Sergeants are not picked out in a conspicuous way as in other chapters that change the helmet color or add a stripe. A general Space Marine convention, though, is that sergeants have skulls on their helmets. You can also use the sword helmet from the upgrade sprues, or model your squads so that the sgt doesn’t have a helmet on to make him more obvious. For firstborn squads, the robed figures from the honor guard set make great sergeants.
Deathwing Terminator Squads
Deathwing squads aren’t explicitly numbered. Remember that their chapter badge goes on their right shoulder, the Crux Terminators on the left.
The Ravenwing is organized in a way that matches a previous edition’s concept of formations. There are two types of Ravenwing squads.
Attack Squads should have a gothic 1–5 on their right shoulder and a Ravenwing symbol on their left. They are composed of ten marines: six bikers, 1 attack bike, 1 Land Speeder (or Typhoon or Tornado variant). In the fluff these squads would be training and hunting together. All 10 marines would have the same number on their shoulder.
Squads 6–10 are Support Squads. They’ll consist of a squad of attack bikes or land speeders and a Land Speeder Vengeance or a Darkshroud.
Unresolved is how to mark up squads of Primaris Ravenwing marines, but I’ll make an argument for 1–2 Outrider squads, 1 ATV, 1 Storm Speeder for Attack Squads, and squads of ATVs in Support Squads with a Storm Speeder and/or the other heavy speeder types.
Nephilim Jetfighters and Dark Talons are flown by Ravenwing pilots, not Techmarines. if you want to put a decal on their right shoudler, squads 2 and 3 typically supply the pilots.
Battle company squad markings
Page 16 of the 9th edition Codex: Space Marines breaks down squads into three types. These squads are part of the battleline:
- Tactical Squads
- Intercessor Squads
- Infiltrator Squads
- Heavy Intercessor Squads
They should have a two-headed arrow on their right shoulder pads, a Dark Angels symbol on their left. Superimposed over the arrow should be the squad number, which should be 1–6. If you have more than 60 (!) of these, you should mark the extras as being from the 6th or 7th reserve company on their left kneepads. (The 6th and 7th would have squads running up to 10.)
Close Support Squads
These squads should have a four-headed arrow on their right shoulder, a Dark Angels symbol on their left:
- Assault Intercessor Squads
- Assault Squads
- Centurion Assault Squads
- Inceptor Squads
- Incursor Squads
- Reiver Squads
Their squad number should be 7 or 8. If you have more than 20 of these marines, mark the extras as 8th company.
Fire Support Squads
These squads should have a blast symbol on their right shoulder, a Dark Angels symbol on their left:
- Aggressor Squads
- Centurion Devastator Squads
- Desolation Squads
- Devastator Squads
- Eliminator Squads
- Eradicator Squads
- Hellblaster Squads
- Infernus Squads
- Suppressor Squads
Their squad number should be 9 and 10. Reserves go in the 9th company.
Also, from page 22 of C:SM:
Even the squads themselves can be broken down to fight in a variety of roles should their captain require it. Should three brothers be detached from their fire support squad to form an Eliminator Squad, the remaining seven can form a Hellblaster Squad, pilot Invictor Warsuits, or fulfill a number of other roles.
So as with the Ravenwing having mixed squadrons, your 9th squad might be 3 Eliminators, 6 Aggressors, and an Invictor, all with a 9 on their shoulders.
It’s fashionable these days to field squads of five, not ten. Two squads of five Intercessors would still all be part of, let’s say, squad 1, they’re just operating as two demi-squads. As such, all ten might have a “1” on their shoulder. One would be led by the squad’s sergeant, the other by a designated squad leader. In-game both are sergeants. Personally I give the proper sergeants an ornament on their backpacks and usually model them without a helmet, while the squad leader gets a helmet with a sword or skull on it. None of this matters in-game, it’s just a bit of flavor I try to sprinkle in.
I’ll update this guide as needed, or if I’ve gotten any of this wrong. One last note: my general feeling is that if you’re playing a pre-made army like Dark Angels, part of the fun is trying to be “correct” with all of this, but they’re your models so do whatever you think looks good! Even better, make your own custom succesor chapter and make up your own rules for how and why your chapter does what it does.
Here’s a quick infographic with some of these.
More in this series: