Thursday, May 27, 2010

Playing Dark Angels: The Smoke Launcher

If one is to point to a single item in the Dark Angels codex that makes it truly viable, it is actually not the ability to field Terminators as troops. The humble smoke launcher which comes as standard equipment on all but the Land Speeder uses different rules from the rest of the Imperium, as the rule is printed in the Dark Angels Codex. Instead of providing a cover save, the DA smoke downgrades all hits to glancing hits.

This has the effect of drastically increasing survivability for the target vehicle for the turn smoke is in use. Consider, if you will, how hard it is to kill a land raider using only krak missiles. With the basic load-out 3 weapons, the vehicle requires a minimum of five glancing hits to destroy. Chances are, the opponent will not be rolling 5s and 6s for every single glance, and on average, the opponent will need about 12-15 glances to take down a land raider.

This same benefit also applies to rhinos, razorbacks, dreadnoughts, and the other tanks DA have access to. All these armory items except the dreadnought are able to purchase two additional weapons to increase glancing survivability. These are the Hunter-Killer Missile and the Pintle-Mounted Storm Bolter. While the Hunter-Killer Missile is an expensive upgrade for Dark Angels, the extra Storm Bolter is extremely cheap, coming in at half cost to the 5th Edition codices. If you purchase both upgrades, the points costs even out.

I am not recommending that every vehicle should take both upgrades (or even that every vehicle should take just one of these upgrades). I am, however, pointing out a possible point of list optimization that is easily overlooked when coming from the vantage point of other Space Marines. Loading up up these items throughout the list can be a bit pricey. The Dark Angels block pricing structure, however, frequently leaves the list builder with 20-60 points left over which is best spent by purchasing vehicle upgrades rather than radically altering the list to fit in one more unit.

To make our Smoke Launchers even more awesome, consider the fact that with proper deployment, movement, and use of terrain you can still grant your vehicles a cover save. Combine smoke with cover and you have an armored force with armored durability unmatched by any other chapter (except perhaps Black Templars)

All this survivability does come at a cost, however. In most situations, surviving the torrent of fire is all you will want to do. When it comes to keeping a fire support platform doing its job, however, the Dark Angels smoke doesn't always deliver the better result. A blanket cover save lets a target ignore shaken and weapon destroyed results more easily, but our smoke-protected units will face these results much more often. For vehicles such as the Whirlwind and Vindicator that rely on using their primary weapon, a glancing hit is almost a death sentence anyway.

It has been my experience that the slight drawback mentioned above is negligible though. I have stated that with proper tactics you can still provide yourself a cover save, and you should be actively producing those results when it is beneficial to you. In the result that your weapons get blasted off, you are still able to tank shock with almost all of these vehicles. It's not a tactic that should be done at every opportunity, but there are situations in most games where a properly timed Tank Shock can swing the game. This is usually for removing units from objectives in the ending turns, but is also great for clustering enemies up for flame and blast templates.

With all the mechanical bonuses out of the way, knowing when to time smoke use becomes the next avenue for consideration. This is going to change from match-up to match-up, so I can only give some basic examples here. The first, and most obvious use of smoke is to avoid the reverse alpha strike. When the enemy has a strong anti-tank unit that will arrive completely in tact to face off against your vehicle in the next turn, it is almost always the right time to use Smoke Launchers. The most obvious examples of these are outflanking units and deep striking units coming in on turn 2 or later. Against an opponent that is using deep strike or reserves as a means for his entire army to enter, it is frequently best to not be on the table turn 1 so that he/she cannot get the alpha strike on your units.

The second general use, is also obvious, but is sometimes harder to judge. When an opponent gets a shaken or stunned result on your vehicle and intends on closing in the following turn, smoke can easily provide one more round of durability so you can intercept and/or counter the offending unit. This translates over to the Dreadnought especially well. In a turn where your dreadnought (armed with DCCW) has been shaken, smoke almost guarantees the behemoth will be able to continue his role of counter-assault. My next post will be detailing the specifics of this interaction, so I won't spoil it too much. Just remember that a mobile dreadnought is a happy dreadnought.

That pretty much covers the basics for Smoke Launchers in Codex: Dark Angels. Use it properly, and your forces will almost assuredly see the other side of the battlefield unscathed.


  1. It is kinda sad when an outdated rule is what makes the Codex good :P

    Good summary.

  2. Hey man, nice read. Thank you for this. I've recently started a Dark Angels army alongside my Space Wolves and I am looking for any tips I can find in using this outdated 'dex.

    Nice work!

  3. Page 55 – Smoke Launchers
    Change to “SMOKE LAUNCHERS Smoke Launchers are
    used to temporarily obscure the vehicle behind concealing
    clouds of smoke, allowing it to cross open areas in greater
    safety. See the Vehicles section of the Warhammer 40,000
    rulebook for details.”
    from the newiest errata nowyour no better then SM



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