Background Material Evaluation.
As my long term readers know all too well, I have a soft spot for the Dark Angels and a couple of ancient Death Wing terminators that have not seen action in a very long time on the table top. So when I say that I was pleased to see the rules released for the Dark Angels in 30k, rest assured that I was very pleased indeed!
As the First Legion, the Dark Angels are pictured as being one of the most prominent legions in the early Crusade and the Emperor's personal army. They therefore became a template for the other legions yet to come. But more than that: they had access to all the old weapons from the Old Night that the latter legions did not (and instead relied on the Martian pact for armaments). Thus, the First Legion, have access to a wide array of weapons to use. Although losses in the Crusade would see the Sons of Horus become more important later one, the First Legion were a great threat to Horus in the Heresy: so much so that the Night Lords were sent almost in entirety to keep them at bay. Unsuccessfully. Hopefully we will learn more of their background in future publications when rules for the Lion become available. But for now, I'm pleased to see that the Legion is portrayed as very technologically capable, combined with a ruthless attitude to warfare and some sinister secret keeping.
Legion Rules Review.
There are only two rules to discuss here. I'm going to start with the big negative one first. And that is Covenant of Death. The Dark Angels way of warfare is similar to the World Eaters in more ways than many would dare to suggest. Only the complete destruction of an enemy is good enough. Therefore if they fail to have a greater number of units left, then they suffer giving 1d3 victory points to the enemy. This is even steeper than the Alpha Legion negative (Martial Hubris). I cannot underscore what a humongous negative this is. For goodness sake, play to win and play to massacre. This may mean taking lots of small units even, which will make the Dark Angels steep in points cost for 30k.
Their main rule though is a good one in principle. Mastery of the Blade means that they strike at 3+ to hit in close combat when using something that has a blade. Like a combat blade. Or chainsword. Or power sword. Or anything sword-like. They do like their swords! This is great when one is facing off against another legion (as is common in both 30k and 40k games). But it doesn't apply all the time. Only when the enemy is also at the same WS. Hence its not applicable all the time, but does give the legion a solid edge!
The Dark Angels are known to have stock piles of weapons from the Old Night. They therefore have access to the Terran Greatsword (not that great to be honest, unless you're fighting mechanicum monstrous creatures). The Calibanite Warblade is nice in the sense you get it for the same cost as a power sword, but it gets S+1 which is a very nice bonus. Take it if you were going to take a power sword, simply put!
The Plasma Repeater should be an awesome weapon. But unless its on a Support Squad mounted in a rhino, its really short range means that you're going to be taking a plasma gun most of the time in preference to a plasma repeater.
Stasis Shells are actually really good as they can downgrade an enemies abilities through merely hitting them (-1I and -1WS). Aim for something with WS=5 and then charge them with combat blades (or a Calibanite Warblade) for some good effects.
Molecular Acid Shells are totally worth it for heavy bolter upgrades as well. The variable AP alone means it can be absolutely devastating. Literally. Poisoned attacks are awesome. You won't look back after taking these once, I assure you. Totally worth it!
We'll look at the rites of war separately at a later date since there's now a proliferation of new rites available to all legions.
Overall, the Dark Angels are looking like a really solid legion with some nicely specific close combat bonuses augmented with acidic shells, stasis shells and upgraded power swords on characters which is all very nice. I'm a bit concerned with the Covenant of Death rule, but it can be played around with some forward thinking and army building.