OK, so quick heads up, this will be a long post. I'm hearing a lot of chatter about "Inner Circle Squads", "Plasma Predators", "Jetbike Units" and such in wishlisting threads for the new Dark Angel codex (which we've heard naff all about).
So far, gathering rumours, we have the following;
- Dark Angels and Chaos will be in the starter box for 6th
- Dark Angels may, or may not be a Chaplain heavy chapter, with specific chaplain units offering bonuses like Sang. Priests or Wolf Guard.
There is nothing else. GWs new rumour policy has hit us all. No confirmation that anyone is working on a Dark Angels book.
Now. As far as the fluff goes, the Dark Angels are a Codex Adherent Chapter with the exception of the Deathwing and the Ravenwing.
The Vanilla Space Marine book, though showing its age compared to Grey Knights and some of the newer books is still a competitive book (if only at tier 2) and is capable of a wide variety of armies.
So, given GW's predeliction with releasing a Marine codex very close to a new edition release, to capitalise on "Little Timmy" wanting to be an 8ft tall superwarrior, it is a fair bet that both Chaos Legions and a marine codex of some description will come out just before or just after 6th edition hits. As Dark Angels are confirmed in the box set, this would mean the aforementioned Marine codex should be Dark Angels.
Or would it?
For a stand alone Dark Angels codex to be viable, there needs to be significant divergence from the current regular Space Marine codex or any one in the future. Ravenwing will need to be comparable power wise with White Scar bike armies (they currently aren't) and the tactical marines would have to be significantly different to justify a Dark Angels "Greenwing". This divergence brings with it complexity.
Complexity is the issue. At first glance, Codex: Space Marines is a simple book. Tactical Squads at its core, battle company ethos. ATSKNF makes them more forgiving, combat tactics looks like a nice trick. The basic building blocks of the game are in this book, because they have to be. Most new players of the young variety will be picking Space Marines. As you know more about the game, then you can squeeze the power out of the book with Vulkan, Shrike and Khan, avoiding some of the more underpowered units in competitive play.
A Dark Angels codex that is divergent enough to justify its own existence will not be like this, so it makes little sense for GW to put this up as the poster boy.
[EDIT] By poster boy, I mean the chapter that gets "the push". In the box set, on the starter set of paints etc.
It also means the following;
- Black Templars, Space Wolves, Blood Angels, Dark Angels, Vanilla Marines
- Imperial Guard, Tau, Orks, Eldar, Dark Eldar, Tyranids, Necrons, Daemons, Chaos Space Marines
- Grey Knights
- Sister of Battle
16 factions. Given the design time needed on a book is upwards of 6 months (closer to 12 is my guess), your factions get updated less often, their models go through peaks and troughs of sales. This is ignoring any development on WHFB.
Rolling the Dark Angels into the Vanilla Space Marine book frees up design time. That means better (and more regular) Xenos updates. Which means Space Marine players have a reason to buy another army, rather than just another codex. While the Space Marine line is hugely profitable and units go across the books, having players invest in another faction with guarenteed more regular updates would go a long way to GW developing a cross sell strategy.
So how difficult would it be for Dark Angels to be incorporated into the current incarnation of Vanilla Marines? Well;
- Tactical squads, predators, dreadnoughts, assault marines, librarians, masters (captains), devestators, land raiders, vindicators, whirlwinds, land speeders and scouts all get a straight port across (with the requisite points and options adjustments)
- company veterans become sternguard or vanguard, respectively
- Sammael is added as a special character with his jetbike or land speeder. He replaces combat tactics with scout.
- Belial goes straight across. He replaces combat tactics with fearless and allowing terminator squads as troops (he gets a points bump)
- Terminator squads no longer split into assault and tactical. The terminator squad costs X points (less than 200) for 5 terminators equipped with 4 powerfists, 1 power sword and 5 storm bolters. Upgrade to chainfist for 5 points per model. Upgrade to lightning claws for 5 points per model, upgrade to THSS for 10 points per model. Cyclone missile launcher, assault cannon and heavy flamer stay the same price. In this way, your THSS equiped squad is going to cost you more than it does now (and should appease some of the moaners), but you gain tactical flexibility. And if you want a mixed squad, you have to buy 2 kits (bonus for GW)
- Ravenwing no longer exist. They are absorbed into the bike squad entry.
- maybe room for a third DA special character, as we are the poster boys (Ezekiel or Azrael) who grant Stubborn in place of combat tactics, or in addition. Lose a couple of the lesser played UM SC - sicarius, the librarian. I'd keep Khan, but he may go also.
So you get a codex with deathwing, a better ravenwing, can still build an army based on tactical marines thats effective and you don't affect the current space marine codex in a horrendous way.
I appreciate everyone wants to be a unique flower, but when looking at the constraints on the design team already (who have to balance 16 factions in 40k and however many else in Fantasy), it makes sense from a business perspective and for the good of the game system to roll Dark Angels into the new Space Marine codex.
[EDIT] Seeing as a lot of replies have been SOLELY related to my pointing out of the weaknesses of the Dark Angels book, I've removed it. It's not relevant to the argument.