Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Playing Dark Angels: The Apothecary

As I have been mentioning in my previous articles, one of the best ways to utilize the Dark Angels codex is to capitalize on its units that provide durability.  So far we have looked at how the Smoke Launcher keeps our vehicles on the field longer, and then ventured into the realm of dreadnoughts, where the venerable variety can shake off glancing hits like its no tomorrow.  Now we turn our focus to the apothecaries, the last piece of our durability puzzle.

If you've been using command squads and sanguinary priests from the newer codices, go ahead and forget everything you've learned about them (at least for now).  We're going to take a look at the basic functions of the DA Apothecary and how our different delivery methods work.

Every DA Apothecary carries the narthecium and reductor.  These provide two different benefits that actually fit our background pretty well when we compare it to how the newer units operate.  One the one hand, we have the ability to have casualties be ignored for morale, and on the other, we have the ability to ignore a single failed save each turn.  Let's look at these two abilities in depth:

One thing the Dark Angels are known for is their  determination and the thought that they will never run. Rather than give up their position, they will take the losses and incomming fire and continue to thin out the oncomming enemies with holy bolter fire.  The apothecary is one such tool we have for showing this on the table. 

Casualties suffered nearby are ignored for the purpose of taking morale tests, making our rank-and-file soldiers less likely to have to take the dreaded morale test that would have them start running off the table.  Combined with the Rites of battle ability that every Master has (including Belial, Sammael, and Azrael) which will grant every unit a 10 Leadership, your lines will be almost immovable.

The apothecary's Narthecium is our crown jewel, however.  This piece of wargear has a great benefit, but comes with a few restrictions.  Basically, we want to keep the apothecary away from combat, not falling back, and not pinned.  Since every one of our apothecaries comes on a Fearless paltform, the real thing we want is for the apothecary to not be tied up in close combat.

With that single requirement met, each apothecary has the ability to prevent a single unsaved wound.  This is of course useless on attacks that cause instant death or close combat attacks that ignore armor.  It does, however prevent wounds that our friends in other chapters would succumb to: ap1 and ap2 ranged weapons fire.  The most notable of these are the assault cannon and plasma weaponry, but wraithcannons and eldar pathfinders can produce these sorts of shots without inflicting instant death as well.

What this means overall, is that Dark Angels are able to survive plasma wounds that others would find fatal.  I guess that goes back to our 3rd edition roots where we were able to take more plasma options than other chapters.  At the time of our current codex's printing, this was the same as everyone else, but now it really brings out some of the old-school DA flavor.

When it comes to delivering the apothecary to the battle, we have several options.  Of course we can mount one up in a rhino, razorback, or drop pod.  The enclosed variety is best for wound support by not allowing the enemy's anti-infantry firepower to hit the command squad, and the rhino allows two members of the squad to shoot out the top hatch.  A plasma-weilding squad can do drive-by attacks and support their front-line bretheren with much needed healing support.

If we are using belial in our army list (which is actually recommended, even for a traditional battle company) we have the ability to take a terminator apothecary.  The apothecary makes the terminator squad much more adept at surviving weapons that would normally kill them, and are a great support unit, excelling in both close combat and fire support.  While its true you want the apothecary out of combat to keep working, assault with deathwing squads is preferred when hitting your enemy's meaty fire support units.  You should be expected to obliterate them in close combat, allowing your apothecary to do his job when the opponent begins firing at you again.  More than 90 percent of the time, the deathwing apothecary will be saving a fellow terminator, and he will typically save 3 such terminators over the coarse of a game, paying back his points two to three fold just from death prevention.

If Sammael is included in the army, we can have an apothecary in a Ravenwing squad as well.  This bike-mounted apothecary is quickly able to redirect his attentions where they are needed, and the squad may purchase a pair of plasma guns for fire support.  Remember that the apothecaries can heal the wounds caused by Gets Hot! as well, making plasma the preferred weapon type for command squads.

What's more, is that every IC in the codex allows the use of a command squad.  With the special upgrades from Belial to a second squad, this means the Dark Angels may include 3 apothecaries in a single list.  This is usually too many points spent on elite units, so is not recommended, but it does allow the player an interesting strategy to utilize from time to time.  In games where non-troop units can score, or objectives are not an issue, these medics can really provide a rock-hard core to the DA army.  By keeping the entire army close to each other, you have a hard-to-penetrate barrier utilizing armor and apothecaries to deny the enemy from inflicting casualties.

Most of this information may seem elementary, but when we start combining the topics discussed so far with a focused battle plan, you will start seeing the master general's army beginning to take shape.


  1. DA Apothecaries are extremely useful, especially with DW.

    I think I would prefer FNP most of the time, but at least this one allows you to affect multiple units.

  2. Another great article, sir! I've been fielding my space wolves for the last year, but I've settled into a comfortable place. I keep trying to play them defensively...

    I think it's time I try the Dark Angels, they seem more of a fit with my play style. Your reviews have really helped me to get a better insight on them as a playable army. Looking forward to more!

    Edit: This was accidentally posted in the tournament article...I copied it here where it belonged^^



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...