Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Embracing the Black Rage part I

"Treat them with honour,  my Brothers.
Not because they will bring us victory this day,
but because their fate will one day be ours."
                         Astorath the Grim, Blood Angels High Chaplain

more after the jump...

The Death Company is one of the most iconic units of the Blood Angels and their successor chapters. They also happen to have a pretty sweet model kit. Unfortunately, they seem to rarely see the light of day in most army lists these days. The reasons for this are quite obvious to anyone who's read the codex and have been discussed at length in many other places. Simply put though, they are as follows:

1. They have the Rage universal special rule
2. They are a troops unit which can never score.

These are some pretty good reasons not to take a unit. This series of articles isn't intended to tell people not to take them, though. Instead I want to explore the best way to field them. I want to look at how we can incorporate them into an army list, or even base an army around them entirely, and still win games with them. This won't necessarily help you to build the next great grand tournament winning list, but hopefully it will help us to see more of those guys in black with the red X's on the battlefields of the 41st millenium.

I have been including some Death Company in many of my army lists for some time now. Its my nod to the fluff of the Knights of Blood. A successor chapter so overcome by the flaw and so destructive to friend and foe alike that they have been declared renegade by the High Lords of Terra. They're also actually quite fun! Further more I am currently involved in an escalation league with my local gaming group. In the league I have been running a Death Company themed army and have actually been doing quite well with them. 

In this first article I want to discuss unit construction and delivery methods. Death company can be fielded in units as small as 3 or as large as 30 and anywhere in between. They can be on foot, or take any of the normal dedicated transports allowed in the codex, or can even be equipped with jump packs. Every model in the unit is capable of upgrading it's weapons. All these options can be confusing and overwhelming. Too often they can be too tempting as well. 

Lets take a minute to review the unit and its abilities and rules real quick before we delve too much further, shall we? This will help to understand what we're dealing with as we try to build out a good unit later. 

First the statline. WS5, BS4, Str4, T4, W1, I4, A2, Ld8 Sv3+
Not a bad statline for a base 20pts! Weapon skill 5 means you'll hit most other basic infantry on 3's with your 2 base attacks. The rest are all just your bog standard space marine stats. 

Next up the Special Rules
Feel no Pain
Furious Charge
Relentless and
The Black Rage

Lets look at these a bit closer and what they do for the unit.

Fearless mitigates their paltry leadership of 8. They won't break and run away and they can't be pinned. This is nice in many ways as you know that unless they're wiped out or you go to ground they'll still be kicking ass next turn.
Feel no Pain is one of my favorite things about them. They are quite resilient against most anti-infantry fire. It mostly just bounces off of them. It also makes it so your opponent needs power weapons to reliably deal with them in close combat.
Furious Charge really makes these guys threatening. On the charge they are going before most other MEQ units, hitting on 3's and wounding on 3's. Not too shabby. Also any powerfists they have will count as str9 against vehicles. 
Relentless. This one is I think overlooked by many people. The death company can take either bolters or bolt pistols and close combat weapons as their standard weapons. The ability to fire those boltguns at 24" can really come in handy in some situations. Also the ability to thin down an overwhelmingly large squads (like large boys mobs or tryanid broods for example) with some bolter fire and still be able to charge can be really nice. I just wish they had more options available to them to really take advantage of this rule (like plasma guns would be awesome!) oh well.
The Black Rage. This is the biggy that has everyone steering clear of the unit. This gives them the Rage universal special rule which dictates most of their movement and makes it so they can never count as scoring. 

So with that out of the way lets look at building a unit of these bad boys trying to play to their strengths whilst mitigating their weaknesses. But first, an example of a common DC unit I often see online:

Death Company x10, 1with a Power Fist, 9 with Power Weapons

That's 360pts for ten guys! And that's before we give them any sort of transport or jump packs (which they need if they ever want to see action) Even thought they have feel no pain they are still pretty fragile and there are a lot of plasmaguns, meltaguns and missile launchers out there all of which ignore both their armor and their feel no pain. If you put a unit this scary on the table it's going to be blown to kingdom come turn one and you'll have wasted 360pts plus the cost of the transport. 

Now, using them as a distraction unit to draw those high strength, low ap weapons away from the rest of your army is a perfectly viable approach and one which I employ quite regularly. However, they don't need all of that to put the same kind of fear into your opponent. Lets instead look at a unit I often use that costs much less and achieves the same goal of drawing the armies anti-tank fire away from my other vehicles for a turn or so.

8 Death Company
1x Powerfist and boltgun
1x Power sword and bolt pistol
5x boltguns
1x inferus pistol and chainsword
Drop Pod

This unit costs a total of 250pts and that includes the cost of the transport. I like the Bolters here as the turn they land they can take a decent amount of shots at something like a squad of long fangs or devastators. With proper positioning around the drop pod I can usually provide them with a 4+ cover save from much of the return fire that's going to be coming their way as well. This unit, when dropped into your opponents deployment zone will cause nearly as much fear as the other unit. It will take almost as much firepower to deal with as the other unit as well. But for all that it's 110pts cheaper! With those points you could actually take a chaplain and really increase the squads damage output as well as add an invulnerable save to the unit. More on that in future articles though. 

Anyway, this is running a bit long so I'll end it there. In the following articles I will get into the lists I am using for the league how I play them, as well as how to just add a unit of Death Company into more traditional lists. So I hope this gives you some food for thought.

Questions, comments or criticisms are quite welcome!


  1. This is a great article. I never thought much of Death Co. In the past, but this is pretty eye opening.

  2. Let me start by saying that your Angels were what finally sold me on doing a Knights of Blood theme for my current BA army.

    A few questions: First, do you have any issues with your 10 man squad surviving past your opponent's shooting phase? Second, does rage ever bone you since you're running them without jump packs or a mobile transport?

    Have you ever considered running a Dante bomb? Basically a large unit of DC jumpers with Dante joined in. It's expensive, but Dante gives a precise landing and hit and run both of which help to mitigate rage.

  3. 3d8575be-529c-11e1-925b-000bcdca4d7a, first off that's quite a screen name! ;D

    Secondly, "Let me start by saying that your Angels were what finally sold me on doing a Knights of Blood theme for my current BA army."

    This may very well be the nicest thing anyone has ever said about any of my 40k armies! I can't say thank you enough. That is such a huge compliment!

    As far as your questions go I am only going to give you some quick answers here and now. I plan on delving into these topics in future articles so bear with me.

    I can't remember ever having the entire unit destroyed in one turn, but it's come really close on a few occasions.

    Rage has boned me at times. It's the main reasons why I still wouldn't recommend these guys for a top tier tournament list. I just want to try and help people who want to incorporate them into their regular games of 40k.

    Finally I have tried the Dante Bomb once. It landed, failed to kill a Battle wagon with 3-4 infernus pistols ;/ and then died when the guys shock attack gun (yes really!) landed a direct hit with a str10 large blast. I failed all but 2 cover saves and lost both Dante and the Chaplain and all but two regular DC. It sucked! Despite that I will probably look at the Dante bomb in a future article as well, and hope to try it again some day!

    1. Lets try this account and see if it comes up with a more pronouncable name :) I don't post on forums very often.

      Just out of curiousity how many DC were you running in your Dante Bomb? Right now I'm running a complete jumper list and I'm toying with the idea of DC, but theyre kind of a tough nut to crack in terms of using them in a way that mitigates their weaknesses.

      Looking forward to reading what you've got to say about them in future posts.

  4. Much more pronounceable!

    I think I had 10DC plus Lemartes. I know that's not huge, but its 505pts before any weapons upgrades, 730pts if you count Dante.

    I do hope to try it again someday as it still sounds fun, but I think that it's going to need to be an 'ard boyz sized list to really accommodate them.

  5. I agree on the points level. I think its not a terrible "rock" unit for a pure jumper list if you go big on the body count.