Diggin’ into the Dark Angels Codex: The Flyers

I have been leafing through the Dark Angels Codex for Warhammer 40K 6th Edition a bit more. Being a new book, a new edition, a new codex author, etc.., I am trying to let it sink in a bit before making any attempt at a review or judgement call.

Last week, I posted my musings on how the old staples of a Space Marine army were adapted to this edition of Warhammer 40K. Time now to look at the new and shiny.Summary: I want to like these. I like the models (especially the super-gothic Dark Talon). I am somewhat disappointed though. The Nephilim is a bit dull. It lacks a defining trait and competes with more point-efficient anti-aircraft and anti-infantry options. The Dark Talon is the more intriguing concept, adding the potential for unit work together through de-buffs. Highly elite Space Marines wont need those de-buff effects, however. They rules strike me as too timid for what it wants to be.

#1 – The New Dark Angels Flyers

Flyers are iconic for Warhammer 40K 6th edition. Official studio-rules for the game at last bring them into their own as something other than oddly high-flying skimmers.

Dark Angels get not one, but two new flyers. The rather arcane and unusual Ravenwing Dark Talon and the more business-like Nephilim Jetfighter.

With its more familiar weapon load-out and battle-field role, the Nephilim appears to be the easier of the two flyers to wrap my had around. So I will start with the Nephilim.

#2 – The Dark Angels’ Nephilim Jetfighter

Warhammer 40K Dark Angels Nephilim Jetfighter

Dark Angels Nephilim Jetfighter

The background for the Nephilim (a name describing half-gods and heroes of old in the Hebrew bible) is fairly straight forward. They are escort fighters for Thunderhawks and fill the role of establishing air superiority above the battle-fields of the Dark Angels.

The Nephilim comes with more mainstream imperial weaponry of 6 one-use-only Blacksword missiles (which are notably shorter in range than the 5th Edition one-shot-missiles on the Storm Raven), a twin-linked heavy bolter and a twin-linked lascannon.

The last can be switched for an avenger mega bolter, allowing the Nephilim to churn out 10 S5 or S6 shots each turn (as long as it has missiles). All of them AP4 however.

Thanks to the ‘strafing run’ rule, the “dakka-version” could certainly tear some mean holes in non-power-armoured infantry, though it strikes me as a rather extravagant tool for the job. And I doubt it’ll ever command the respect of a baleflame-spouting Heldrake in that role.

For its intended anti-aircraft role, the TL-lascannon have more punch for the AV12 (Heldrake) and AV13 (Necrons) in the 40K skies. Comparing it with ‘the other 6th Edition flyer’, the autocannon-Heldrake, the Nephilims ability to take down other fliers seems roughly on par. More precision, less shots, yet on average a similar chance to take down another flyer.

However, given the autocannon-Heldrake is hardly a fan-favourite out there, I don’t expect the (slightly more expensive, slightly less resilient) anti-aircraft Nephilim to win many “vehicle-of-the-match” awards either.

My Take on the Nephilim Jetfighter: Passable, but without oompf!

The Nephilim is a great-looking model, yet unexciting by the rules. To me, it lacks a true “wow” of its own. There simply is nothing “special” in the vein of the Chaos Heldrake’s baleflamer, the Necron flyers’ living metal or the Stormraven’s assault(-ramp)-potential.

The potential mass of S5/S6 shots lacks just a sliver of punch to offer good “anti-Rhino” suppression. As air-to-air jetfighter, it is roughly on par with the less popular Heldrake-variant, which is cheaper and better armoured (and vector-strike more fun). Presumably, finely tuned lists will thus look elsewhere for their anti-aircraft needs.

Still, if you take a Nephilim with your Dark Angels for the model, it’ll surely do its duty. The combination of both the ‘strafing run’ and its unique ‘unrelenting hunter’ rule give the Nephilim some all-round versatility, though it could (I think) be cheaper for what it offer.

#3 – The Dark Angels’ Ravenwing Dark Talon

Warhammer 40K Dark Angels Dark Talon Flyer

Dark Angels Dark Talon

I find the Dark Talon the more fascinating Dark Angels flyer, mainly because it steps far outside the familiar range of Imperial and Space Marine weaponry, bringing unique and arcane armaments to the battlefield. The more unusual design, featuring a sepulchre-like structure on its back, only emphasizes the mysterious nature of the Dark Talon.

By its background, the Dark Talon is much more specifically build to a particular mission of the Dark Angels (and the Ravenwing). It aides in the Ravenwings eternal hunt for the Fallen.

Its weaponry consists of hurricane bolters, which are clearly an anti-(light)-infantry weapon. They are likely used to best effect with the Dark Talon’s hover strike ability.

More intriguingly, it comes with two highly unusual weapons: The Rift Cannon (which creates an “Eldar-like” hole-in-reality effect) and the Stasis Bomb. Unfortunately, both seem – for all the mystery-steeped fluff – fairly lackluster in the actual game.

Both Rift Cannon and Stasis Bomb will hit those Fallen with Str. 5 and Str. 3 templates only. No AP-punch whatsoever. The added value comes with funky after effects; blind for the cannon and a stat-drop for everyone hit with the bomb (‘blind’ appears to be the new hotness in 40K game-design. Warp Talons have them too. I haven’t warmed to them yet).

My take on the Ravenwing Dark Talon: Interesting, realized with too much caution

I want to like the Dark Talon. Both for its uber-gothic visuals and for the hint at attempting to build synergy-of-units back into the game (after Chaos Space Marines sadly dropped the great Lash-&-Blast combo).

The implementation strikes me as too timid however. The effects are hardly the stuff that will make or break the fights for some of the new Deathwing and Ravenwing elites getting stuck in. And if the Dark Talon’s aid is not crucial, it’s hard to justify the costs.

I do hope, however, that GW keeps at the idea. This type of debuff-and-assist effects is what should define much of the upcoming Tau Empires re-write.

#4 – Verdict

These could have been better.

I like the models. I like the idea behind these flyers, the Dark Talon in particular. I wish Jeremy Vetock would’ve gone a bit more “Death-Ray-style” crazy with new, unique weaponry like the Rift Cannon.

I would’ve preferred the Nephilim to be more specifically geared towards anti-aircraft duty, as it sure as hell is a nicer model than those quad-gun-bastions and the Dark Talon is (by the background) supposedly the anti-infantry jet.

By no means, however, are these a ‘Multilator-style’ entry, which left me scratching me heads (to this day) about what was riding the game designers. Including the Dark Angels flyers for style, coolness and visuals will clearly be an option, even if they might be rare in the most competitive lists.

Do you agree? Do you have a different take? I would love to hear your take on these.