Tactica - Blood Angels Death Company

Death Company are still a remarkable unit but they are often discredited in the 5th edition of the rules due to the nerf on rending (it now only auto wounds on the wound roll of a 6 instead of a 6 to hit, as in 4th) and with AP 2 overcoming feel no pain. It is true that these troops are easier to kill, but they still have the potential to be one of the most deadly hand to hand troops in the game.

The first choice you must consider is what you will arm them with. Bolters or pistols and off hand weapons. Many people take bolters for deep striking them, but the logic and math tells you that more attacks in hand to hand will lead to more successful rending attacks. By lower your attacks by only 1 with choosing bolters you are actually lowering your probability to achieve rends a great deal. If you couple in the reroll to missed hits with a chaplain on the charge, you truly are giving up a great deal for that bolter.

Your second choice is how you will get them in contact with the enemy. Foot slogging it across the board is not simply not an option. Any player who has fought them before will consider them target priority number 1, and will go to great lengths to kill them. Likewise, putting them in a drop pod is not a good option, because they will be sitting ducks following the deep strike. Granted if you can land them behind cover, or time the drop exactly on the right turn when the rest of your army hits, this can work out – but this is a situation that will not happen every game, so cannot be considered reliable for every game.

The two primary options are either jump packs or rhinos. Both have their strengths and weaknesses.

The rhino is the option I prefer. This gives me the ability to turbo charge to the enemy lines on turn #1 and give the enemy something they must eat through before they an shoot my death company. Often times I will not turbo charge. Rolling that ‘1’ and stalling the engine can leave your death company out of the fight – so I only roll it if I am playing an army that I know will try to beat me with mobility.

It might seem that a rhino would be easy to pop, but after popping smoke the other player must sink considerable fire power into the rhino, and then put even more firepower into killing the marines. Even if they glance or penetrate, there is a huge chance they will only stun,shake,immobilize or blow the storm bolter off the rhino. None of these results matter to you! The only thing that matter is if they wreck the rhino or destroy it - If they don’t achieve this they have a serious problem next round. It is true there is the downside that you can’t charge with the death company on the turn you drove it 12” - 18”, but if you charged with them on the first turn they would be in combat well in front of the rest of your line, unsupported, anyway. The rhino also provides the death company with a mobile wall, once they are stuck in, to impeded counter charge units or block line of sight. I am also fond of using this unit to tank shock any weak units that might try to tarpit my DC. I find the more rhinos and armor I put into my lists, the more likely my DC rhino is to survive the initial turn of shooting it must weather.

I have used jump pack death company enough to know that this does give some more movement options. However, the death company is still a sitting duck for certain armies, and templates can spell real problems for them. Jump packs do give you some options for quicker responses, but you must be careful to keep them properly screened. I find this type of DC works best in tandem with other jump pack units. Overall I have not been as pleased with the jump pack option as I have been with the rhino option.

Lastly, you must choose how you will lead your DC. Letting them run wild is really no option at all. You could put them inside the rhino and they are then ‘controlled’ until they get out, but a clever enemy will lead your DC on a goose chase leading you away from the meat of his army. Since you automatically pay for your DC when you buy regular squads, you must get the maximum value for your points. To do this you must include a chaplain. You want the ability he gives the DC to reroll their missed hits in hand to hand. Why? Because more hits equal more rends, and this is where the strength of the death company lies. If you forego the rerolls the chaplain grants the DC, then you are actually lowering the damage output of the unit a great deal. Litanies of hate makes the DC rending still valuable (albeit a bit nerfed).

The other thing you must consider is that you want enough death company to make a dent in whatever they are facing, and you want them to be able to weather a round of shooting. I have found the minimum number of death company I like to take to be at least 7 marines, lead by a chaplain.

The death company can win you games, but they cannot do it alone. I have seen many players throw the death company at the enemy, but they must have other troops to fight along side them. If not, the enemy will just ‘ork’ the DC and swamp them or shoot them to death. The DC is a scalpel to take out key enemy units – it is not a brick to be haphazardly thrown at the enemy lines!