Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Unforgiven: Moving forward with the Deathwing

The first Deathwing Terminators will always have a place in my heart and my army.
With the release of the new Dark Angels codex, the Deathwing were put in a difficult situation.  From a modeling perspective, things have never been better.  The release of the new Deathwing command squad box has added a host of interesting and flavorful bits, most exciting to me being the inclusion of the daggers that always used to accompany the Deathwing (as iconic as the feathers).  The exciting conversion opportunities afforded by these new pieces are somewhat diminished when considered in light of the Deathwings’ actual rules on the tabletop.  At first glance, everything seems fine;  terminator squads can still take mixed weaponry and they have gained a few new special rules (splitfire, vengeful strike, and an improved Deathwing assault).  Unfortunately, the points cost of the unit has gone up considerably to reflect these additions (a squad with 5 thunder hammers and storm shields with a cyclone missile launcher moved from 235 to 270 pts)  And if you want to take them as troops, you still need to pay the Belial tax (he is better than before, but is considerably more expensive, as well).  I will not expound upon these shortcomings any further, but if you would like to read more about it, Kirby over on 3++ details it quite well.
In light of these issues, do I still want to play a Deathwing army in 6th edition?  Absolutely.  I love terminators too much to simply let them go, and while I might make a hybrid Ravenwing list, I still want to play primarily Deathwing.  Besides, I am not too worried about making the most competitive army in the first place; I would rather have a characterful themed one.  So where does this leave me?  In trying to answer this question, I would like to start what will hopefully be a long series of posts detailing the evolution of my Deathwing army (which has slowly been growing since 2nd/3rd edition).

In this first post I plan to talk about the new Deathwing Command Squad box.  I would like to make some comparisons to earlier terminator kits, discussing how things have changed and how the new parts might be used (and how I plan to use them).

The first terminator box to pass the $50 mark.
One of the more subtle, yet significant changes present in this kit are the helmet designs.  When the multi-part plastic terminator box was released, terminator helmets changed by losing their distinctive gill slits and lengthening the overall frame.  The new kit (the plastic Wolf Guard were the same) has redesigned the helmets again to be more reminiscent of the old.  I prefer this stubier, more compact look.  It brings back fond memories of 2nd edtion and Space Hulk.  Also, the helmets are attached to the sprue in a more thoughtful way.  Before, they attached to the sprue via their little “cat ear” projections, making them very difficult to remove without destroying them.

Another welcome addition to the kit that harkens back to earlier editions is the inclusion of five daggers, one for each terminator.  These “broken” daggers were a large thematic element of the venerable metal Deathwing, mimicking the fallen angel with his broken sword that adorns their banner (which was also nicely sculpted for the box!).  For years I have been looking for a suitable dagger to fill this void, because without them I felt my terminators were slightly lacking and too similar to traditional terminators.  I was never able to find ones that seemed right.  These new ones are exactly what I was hoping for, they are small and unobtrusive (something that can be difficult to come by in 40k...) and come as separate parts.  The first thing I did upon opening the new Deathwing box was trim one of these daggers and experiment how I could add them to my existing terminators.  I am pretty pleased with how they attach and plan to order multiple sets of the daggers to add them to all my existing squads.
Finally, they look like Deathwing!
Overall, the selection of weapons they include with the box is good, giving you one of every heavy weapon (for the most part, they are not too cluttered with Dark Angel iconography, that could have otherwise made you second guess using them. The assault cannon they included with the last Dark Angel update was a particularly bad example of this...).  They also give you a set of storm bolters, each detached at the wrist (a nice change from being already attached to their respective arms).  Interestingly, each of the storm bolters has the same magazine style (a short sickle design, only one of this style is included in the normal terminator kit).  I like the uniformity this provides, and am pleased that they did not give them all drum magazines, as I feel they are overused and too bulky.  They do include a single storm bolter that is attached to the arm, and it is left-handed (a first for terminators as far as I am aware)!  The only slight downside of this is that it has a ridiculously large scope mounted to it.  My disdain for them on bolters (of any sort) is depicted in the banner of the blog, ha ha.  They are short range assault weapons meant to be shot from the hip (they do not even have stocks!).  A bulky magnifying scope simply has no real purpose, some sort of holographic one perhaps but not what we have been given for years.  Fortunately, this is easily rectified with an x-acto knife.
Much better, might experiment by adding a holographic sight. 
Unfortunately, they only include one thunder hammer, which is a shame because it is still the most useful weapon along with the storm shield for the terminators (it has a slightly new design that is fresh without breaking too much from the old one).  They do come with a full set of storm shields, however, allowing you to make a unit of the elite Deathwing Knights.  Each of the shields looks wonderful, displaying a unique version the robed figure that defines the Dark Angel’s banners.  Thankfully the detail is fine and only slightly raised from the shields, preventing it from looking gaudy and overwrought (something of a problem with most of the recent Space Marine figures, particularly the character models).  What’s more, there are even matching shoulder pads to go with each shield, depicting the same shadowy figure.  The maces that go with the shields are a bit disappointing however.  While the design looks nice, the head of the mace is simply too big for my tastes (the thunder hammers suffer from this a bit too).  The  weapon’s subpar AP4 combined with the Knights’ inability to take heavy weapons, will (I feel) make them a rare sight on the battlefield, despite their models and background being quite neat.

Sadly storm shields are about all that makes terminators good anymore :(
Another element that was added to the kit to create the knights are the first true robbed bodies (there is even a cape!).  They are nice little chest pieces that slot into standard terminator backs and are compatible with the normal terminator legs.  With a little trimming, most could be used for non Dark Angel terminators.  Thankfully the normal terminator helmets slot in normally, and you are not required to use the hooded heads.  This flexibility is welcome, particularly when many of the hooded heads are a bit underwhelming.  I also think that many of them would benefit from a little trimming so that they fit deeper into the terminator armour, as most of them make one question if a person’s neck could stretch out so far.  One of the chest pieces has the face (with a rebreather) modeled in already, and looks much more natural because of it.  

I am glad the normal helmets fit in nicely.
I think the robbed bodies will be widely used to fashion command squads and terminator sergeants, even if they rarely see use for the Deathwing Knights as they were originally designed.  I am seriously considering using them as a base to build a new squad of terminators entirely armed with thunder hammers and storm shield (would you believe it will be my first, ha ha?).  This way I can use them as Deathwing Knights in friendly games (after all, maces look a lot like hammers right!?), just to get a feel for them and not write them off entirely.  The squad could also be broken up and added to my existing squads to bolster my plasma gun defenses.  Most of my squads were built around the release of the 4th edition book where storm shields were much weaker (4++ only in close combat) and assault cannons were godly.

Another thing that caught my eye was how the apothecary’s narthecium/reductor has changed since its debut in the Grey Knight terminator box.  The new one is a little more flashy with a small circular saw attached to it and a devastating looking drill.  I think I prefer the more subtle Grey Knight version, but there is nothing wrong with the new one.  I built a terminator apothecary well before either of these kits were released, but I think he holds up well.  He was a simple conversion combining a chainfist (how else would you cut into tactical dreadnought armour?!) and the reductor from the Space Marine Command squad.

The Grey Knight and Deathwing reductor respectively.
My apothecary has a penchant for chainblades.
I think that about covers it.  In the near future I hope to post some pictures of my terminator squads and the new thunder hammer/storm shield squad I am building, as well as some musings on a new conversion for Belial (sadly lightning claws are no longer very effective)!

- Godwyn Fischig

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