Again, appologise for the lack of update but work has been a bit frantic and I've been distracted by Call of Duty - Black Ops. Anyway, in between work and shooting people I work with on Black Ops, I've been thinking about what I would like to take to the UK 40K GT next year and I've been thinking about those armies people write off such as Grey Knights and Dark Angels. Both have fantastic backgrounds but tend to be a bit limp in the old rules department for how they run on the tabletop.
So whilst lurking around on the Bolter and Chainsword, I came across a comment that Arron Dembski-Bowden made when somebody asked him about his take on Dark Angels...
If you don't mind me asking, A-D-B, what would your take have been on the DA if you had complete freedom? Assuming you feel able to tell us - I don't want to put you in an awkward position!
Sorry for taking so long with this, I'm really struggling for free time lately. It's been a bit of an insane weekend, like.
I think it'd be inappropriate and disrespectful (even by my misbehaving standards) to answer that directly, and although my tastes for the First Legion are different to what came before in Descent of Angels and Fallen Angels, that doesn't mean I think they're unworthy novels at all. I can say what I hope comes across in the short story in Age of Darkness, which is called 'Savage Weapons' as a working title.
1. The Lion. I envisage the Lion has the absolute embodiment of knightly perfection. He's noble, honourable, austere, almost cold to the mortals around him. Not disrespectful or condescending, but distant and inhuman in his regal professionalism and honourable perfection. He's a medieval warlord, a king of a powerful nation, and carried many knightly traditions from his homeworld with him into the wars of the Great Crusade. Part of this is that he grew for a while in the wilderness of Caliban, and that experience has stayed with him. Part of it is his upbringing in the knightly orders. With his Astartes, it's a different matter. They know him well enough to see the subtle smiles or the fires in his eyes when he speaks of something he's passionate about, but to most humans he seems an austere and majestic primarch - a tactical genius, wreathed in knightly tradition, but not as immediately charismatic as the more charming Horus or Sanguinius.
2. I try to consider most Legion's Astartes as Soldiers + Something Else. When I write about the Night Lords, I try to convey that they're not these ultimate, elegant swordmasters; they're murderers first, and soldiers second. When they fight, they don't duel or care about technique. And it's not because they're stupid, it's because they're fighting to get a knife into your throat right from the first moment they see you. If I wrote about the World Eaters, I would make them Roman gladiators first (with the traditions and customs that come with it), and soldiers second. I'd have made the White Scars warriors first, and soldiers second, playing up the subtle differences there. It's not to diminish any Legion or make them less efficient, it's to highlight how their upbringing and Legion customs shape them as soldiers. They're soldiers, sure. But they're also something else. With the Dark Angels, I see them as knights first, and soldiers second. Their skills in warfare are shaped by the fact they're a knightly order with their own traditions, codes and customs. Each one has a knight's devotion to war; to maintaining his weapons; to considering his primarch not as "master" or "Father", but instead "my liege". The primarch is their genetic father, but that's secondary to the fact that he;s their liege lord - the man to whom they owe fealty. They're bound by their oaths as much as their blood, and take pride in that. (Conversely, this is what would've made the betrayal of Luther and the Fallen all the more difficult for many of them. They're spitting on their sworn fealty, not just rebelling against a father.)
3. Caliban. It was dangerous for far, far more than the Great Beasts. It was classed as a Death World in Imperial archives, and every Dark Angel will have a wealth of tales of hardship and struggle while he grew up there. Think of everything that went wrong in medieval Europe and the Dark Ages, and magnify it by ten. The Order's wars with other knightly orders were crusades that spanned continents and killed hundreds of thousands. The forests stretched on forever, making travel between settlements no easy feat, and communities struggled year after year at the wilderness' edges. The trees bled poisonous sap once you split their bark, making quality lumber even harder to come by, and the beasts in the woodland were all born of savage, lethal breeds - from vermin with no fear of humans, right through to packs of beasts that leave isolated villages devoid of life after they hunt. Locust swarms would leave towns suffering and starving, while outbreaks of Black Plague would devastate entire towns, and knights would have the grim duty of marching in with torches to burn the dead in massive funeral pyres. And the Dark Angels would all be warriors that grew up in this, and survived it. While Caliban would be changed by the Lion's crusade against the Great Beasts, it would still have strong echoes of its Death World roots.
Yeah. Hope that helps.
So, that has got me rethinking about the Dark Angel background and I'm currently re-reading Descent of Angels which has been regarded as the worst Horus Heresy book and I'm quite enjoying it. Not too sure if I'll play a Dark Angel army just yet, but I have been looking at them in a different light.