I’ve read through the 10E codex. Here are a few observations.
Deathwing vs Inner Circle: It explicitly says that the Deathwing is the first (outermost) ring of the Inner Circle. It’s okay to use those terms synonymously. Also, it mentions that Interrogator-Chaplains take “the solemn vow of the Deathwing,” further muddying the distinction between the two terms. For clarity’s sake I think it’s still best to use “Deathwing” to mean current members of the first company and “Inner Circle” to mean higher-ranking Deathwing and assorted other officers.
We also get further confirmation that not all Chapter Masters are necessarily in the Inner Circle.
Bladeguard, Sternguard, and Vanguard Veterans: The passage on the Deathwing opens, “The Dark Angels outfit their entire 1st Company—the Deathwing—with Terminator armour, lightning-wreathed power weapons and towering relic shields.” Boy do I hate using a comma splice to interpret a passage—my Republic for a full stop after “armour.” Not every Terminator carries power weapons or relic shields, but Bladeguard Veterans do. There’s no further mention of the lesser, non-Terminator veteran squad types, and not even a small passage saying, “Azarael decided that since Games Workshop included Bladeguard and Sternguard in starter boxes, he has to let them into the Deathwing.” But The Unforgiven rule on page 59 does give them all the Deathwing keyword, so you’re free to paint them in bone white and use Deathwing stratagems on them.
Ravenwing Aircraft: The Ravenwing section (oddly on the page before the Deathwing) puts the Dark Talon and the Nephilim Jetfighter as those “among” the “the Dark Angels’ arsenal of sleek aerial fighters.” The above-mentioned Unforgiven rule gives the Ravnewing keyword to all aircraft, so if your Sammael wants a few other planes in black, go for it.
Units without Models: Talonmasters and Strikemasters have their own sections, but no rules. Interrogator-Chaplains do not have their own section (they did on previous codexes) but do have decals on the included transfer sheet. GW’s been pretty consistent on this lately: if a unit doesn’t have a model, it isn’t going to have rules.
We’re getting some very cool models in this wave. My wishlist for future releases, in order of preference, would be:
- Black Knights (outrider-sized)
- Talonmaster kit (or a suitable upgrade to Storm Speeders)
- Deathwing Command Squad
- Sammael in plastic
Fluff and Lore: Overall the book is fine but could be a bit heavier on the story elements. The fall of the Dark Angels is brief and to the point. The events of the Lion, Son of the Forest and Arks of Omen are summarized but the story doesn’t progress from there. The only new addition is the Inner Circle Companions who are not quite said to be the Lion’s crew of Risen. We do get a bit more color on the story from White Dwarf that shows the Lion occasionally intervening in Fallen interrogations. The storytelling in the 2E book was probably the best; the amount of material in the 5–7E codexes is unlikely to be matched again.
On Supplements: I wish this weren’t a supplement to Codex: Space Marines. I think it complicates balance for that book, and requires making design and balance compromises for the divergent chapters. Instead, my preference would be this: if you want to use one of the detachments from C:SM (Gladius, Ironstorm, etc), go for it, but you can only use units from that book. Your Deathwing Terminators are just regular Terminators there. Your bikes are regular bikes. No Deathwing Knights, no Black Knights, no Dark Angels characters. Likewise for Blood Angels, Black Templars, Space Wolves, and Deathwatch. It would allow GW to balance that book on its own merits without having to worry about competitive players cherry picking strong units from a supplement.
In turn, the lists in these supplements could be much more limited but more flavorful. Think World Eaters, Death Guard, and Thousand Sons—they can’t take normal Chaos Space Marine units, but instead they get a smaller set of options that are heavily themed to their Legions. What I’d like to see for loyalist supplements are major restrictions: prevent Black Templars from using Intercessors, Assault Intercessors, and Scouts in favor of Crusader Squads. Then make Crusader Squads really good. Replace Space Wolf squads with their Long Fang, Bloodclaw, etc. equivalents. Let Space Wolves be Space Wolves.
How would I handle Dark Angels? I’d strike most greenwing units that overlap the purpose of Deathwing and Ravenwing. If you want tough, slow infantry, you take Terminators, not Gravis. (Remember, if you have lots of Gravis models you want to use, you can still run them in C:SM detachments.) If you want fast guys with chainswords, you take bikes, not jump packs. For fun, maybe also replace Intercessors with Dark Angels Intercessors and let each squad take a Hellblaster for every five models, and give them a special sergeant with a Calibanite power sword (and letting GW sell extra Inner Circle Companions to be painted green with bone robes).
I could go on, but the general idea is focus. The fewer units an army has access to, the more focused it can be. The more focused it can be, the better GW can tune each unit. Outriders could be replaced with Ravenwing Outriders and have more attacks and/or stronger chainswords. Deathwing Terminators could be true terrors. Chaplains could be monsters. Librarians could have different abilities. And everything would be contained in one nice book.
All that said, you can do some of this yourself by just leaning into Dark Angels-specific units in your lists. But because every supplemental unit has to remain compatible—and balanced alongside—every vanilla unit, I do wonder if it limits GW’s ability to really let loose.
Combat Patrol: The new Vengeful Brethren combat patrol is as strange as the we thought it was when the rumors came out. I like this mode a lot. If haven’t tried it, or don’t take it seriously, I think you’re missing out. I know that the point of these boxes is that they’re not supposed to overlap heavily (Intercessors aside) with the other combat patrol sets. But overall I think Octavius is the most Dark Angel-y box, especially if you substitute Belial in for the captain.
The Rules: I haven’t mentioned the actual gameplay stuff so far, because I’m not that worked up about it. Partly because I mostly play Kill Team these days which is, in my opinion, a much better, more tactical game. But also because GW can just change the points and buff units whenever it feels like it needs to. Better an undertuned force that can be brought up than an overpowered one that makes everyone hate Dark Angels for several months.