The Deathwing are the Dark Angels’ first company. Like most first companies, it is comprised of veteran battle brothers. The Dark Angels are unusual, however, in having a large enough supply of Terminator suits that they can outfit the entire company in them. But recent changes to the rules and storyline have seen power armoured marines join their ranks. With 10th around the corner and the Leviathan box including Sternguard Veterans, I thought I’d take a look at the history of the Deathwing’s development, and spell out exactly who should be wearing bone white.
TL:DR, these units are part of the 1st company and so can/should be painted bone white *:
- Deathwing Terminator Squads
- Terminator Squads, Terminator Assault Squads, and Relic Terminator Squads
- Deathwing Knights
- Bladeguard Veteran Squads
- Sternguard Veteran Squads
- Vanguard Veteran Squads (probably)
- Dreadnoughts †
- Land Raiders †
- Belial, other Captains in Terminator Armour ‡, and arguably a Primaris Captain with Relic Shield, especially if he’s leading Bladeguard Veterans
- Deathwing Strikemaster
- Primaris Lieutenant §
- Chaplain in Terminator Armour
- Deathwing Command Squads, comprising Apothecaries in Terminator Armour ‖, Ancients in Terminator Armour, and the Deathwing Champion
- Bladeguard Ancients
Librarians and Interrogator-Chaplains are members of the Librarius and Reclusium, respectively, not the 1st Company, though they are part of the Inner Circle.
A Brief Deathwing History
The Deathwing as a distinct part of the Dark Angels were introduced in the Deathwing expansion of Space Hulk. Alongside the game Games Workshop released a short story by Bryan Answell and William King that followed a small group of Deathwing Terminators who return to their home planet to find it has been infiltrated by Genestealers. Not expecting to survive, they repainted their black armor bone white, which represented death in their culture, and were able to defeat the cult. All Deathwing Terminators adopted the bone white color scheme in recognition of this feat.
This story has been retconned in two ways. First, the battle brothers in the story had a culture taken very broadly from the American Indian peoples. While a few Dark Angels models still depict feathers, a lot of this has been walked back. Second, the entire story is now considered to be apocryphal. There may not have been an actual squad that saved its home world in this way, but the story of righteous Dark Angels crushing an uprising of people they had thought to be loyal to them is now used as a fable to teach newer Dark Angels about treachery as they are prepared to learn the truth about the Fallen.
As I’ve noted in previous articles, Games Workshop wouldn’t fully develop the Dark Angels storyline until the runup to 2nd edition. Nearly a year after Space Hulk: Deathwing, 1990’s White Dwarf 129 shows Deathwing in power armour (pgs 26–29).
The mandate that members of the Deathwing only ever wear Terminator Armour is stated plainly in Codex: Angels of Death (1996):
Note that members of the Deathwing always fight in Terminator armour, and are never fielded as Veteran squads in power armour as is the case with most other Chapters.
The following page (37) spells out the organization of the entire chapter. For the Deathwing, its members are: Master, Chaplain, Apothecary, Standard Bearer, 20 Terminator Squads, Dreadnoughts, Land Raiders.
Deathwing Knights came along in 2012. Belial was also promoted to the head of the Deathwing, and the story from “Deathwing” is now listed as an “Apocryphal Tale.” Company Champions are a new character type around this time, getting a model in the plastic Deathwing kit.
A few years later, GW began to greatly expand the Horus Heresy-era lore, inserting the Deathwing as one of the six wings of the original chapter, many of whom were veterans who served as honor guards. With the “Deathwing” story out of canon, the bone white color scheme was given a new origin: a battle brother who took a blow meant for another was allowed to repaint that part of his armor white.
Through 9th edition, Dark Angels lists were explicitly forbidden from taking Sternguard Veteran and Vanguard Veteran squads, but the new Bladeguard Veteran and Bladeguard Ancient units were given the Deathwing keywords. At the time GW was keeping Primaris and firstborn units strictly separate. Terminators were firstborn, so there was nowhere for Dark Angels to stick their Primaris veterans. Thus, the Deathwing for the first time was able to field models in power armour.
(There was also a matter of practicality here. The Bladeguard models came in the Indomitus launch box. GW’s choices were either 1) forbid Dark Angels players from using the models they’d just bought, 2) make BGV company veterans in green, or 3) allow power armour in the Deathwing. Option 1 doesn’t make commercial sense and would feel bad. Option 2 probably would have been fine. GW went with 3 and changed the lore.)
In 10th edition, GW has decided to relax the Primaris/firstborn distinction, and has outright said that Primaris marines can wear Terminator Armour. Meanwhile, Sternguard Veterans are included in the Leviathan box, with Deathwing transfers for their left shoulders and the Crux Terminatus for their right. No in-story explanation has yet been given for this change.
There hasn’t been any word about Vanguard Veterans, but the Dark Angels index doesn’t forbid them. Organizationally if Sternguard are in the 1st, it makes sense for Vanguard to join as well. Jump pack Primaris models are expected to be coming with the 10th edition Codex: Space Marines. It’s possible we’ll see updated Vanguard squads then.
† Dreadnoughts and Land Raiders can, of course, also serve other companies, in which case they’d be green. ↩
‡ Belial is at present in charge of the Deathwing in GW’s storyline, but that shouldn’t stop you from using a different model if you want to. It’s easy to imagine him putting someone else in charge temporarily. Also Dark Angels call their captains “Masters.“ ↩
§ As with the Primaris Captain, this model can lead Bladeguard Veterans, so it’s easy to imagine he might be a member of the 1st. Note that in 10th edition, any Primaris Lt can lead a Bladeguard Veteran Squad, not just the Indomitus model with the storm shield. ↩
‖ See here for more on apothecary paint schemes. My preference is that the Apothecary retain the cold white of his office with a bone white shoulder pad, but you could paint him all bone white if you prefer. ↩
More Dark Angels stuff I’ve written: