A look at the new Raven Guard formations

Raven Guard have new rules from the War Zone Damocles: Kauyon book

It would seem some Games Workshop designers recently went on holiday to the Tower of London, and fell in love with the ravens.

It would seem some Games Workshop designers recently went on holiday to the Tower of London, and fell in love with the ravens.

In case you haven’t heard yet, Raven Guard players have a lot of new toys. Oh man. There are so many new rules, datasheets and formations in here, it’s almost as good as a supplemental codex. Let’s break down some of the good stuff for you here and we can just geek out a little bit.

The new Raven Guard Talon Strike Force

The biggest change is the inclusion of a new Strike Force, called the Talon. It’s exclusive to chapters using the Raven Guard chapter tactics, but the formations that make it up are not. It’s similar to the Gladius Strike Force that we all know and love, but it’s based on a new Demi-Company called the Pinion, which adds 1-5 scout squads or scout bikers, and specifies an Assault Squad and a Devastator squad instead of giving options for Fast Attack and Heavy Support. I wouldn’t go too nuts on scouts, though, because you’ll want a couple squads left for the Auxiliary formations. Interestingly, you can still choose to take a Battle Demi-Company if you choose and you’ll get the primary command benefits. If you base your army on a Talon Strike Force, you get a few very fluffy bonuses. First, you can reroll the mission choice, deployment zone and first turn. All or none of them, as you choose. This is pretty huge, and it represents the careful planning the Raven Guard are known for. Super fluffy. Second, you can start rolling for reserves from your FIRST TURN, on a 4+! More on this later, but again it represents a lightning strike at just the right moment. Super. Fucking. Fluffy. Last but not least (okay, probably least) you can choose to fail morale tests to represent a tactical withdrawal. While cool and moderately fluffy, there’s an cooler version of this later. Hold your horses.

The Pinion Battle Demi-Company itself also includes some benefits, of course. One of the nicest is the ability to have Scout Sergeants spot for another unit within 9″ of them, granting their weapons Ignores Cover for that turn. Wow. Camp some snipers close to your Devastators, or bring on a bolter scout unit close to some Sternguard. To make this bonus even easier to take advantage of, we get deployment shenanigans where a Scout Squad can escort another unit to Outflank or enter from Reserves (but not Deep Strike Reserves). They both come in on the same roll (remember, that roll can be taken on Turn 1 because of the other command benefit) and they must come in from the same table edge. If they came in within 9″ of each other, the escorted unit also gains Stealth for the 1st turn. That could make those Ignores Cover Sternguard a nice thorn in your opponent’s side, changing the tone and direction of the battle drastically.

New (and old) formations

Have I mentioned how fluffy these are? This is the closest thing I could find to a fluffy raven in creative commons. Use your imagination.

Have I mentioned how fluffy these are? This is the closest thing I could find to a fluffy raven in creative commons. Use your imagination.

Many standard formations are available to use with the Talon Strike Force. You still have your 1st and 10th Co. Task Forces, plus the Storm Wing, Anti-Air Defense Force, and Suppression Force. Something tells me you’re going to want to try out the new ones, though, because the benefits are so characterful and fun. I’ll list them out in order of what I think are the coolest first.

Let’s talk about the Ravenhawk Assault Group. It’s a Sternguard squad and a Dreadnought in a Storm Raven. When they come on from Reserve (again, it can be the FIRST FREAKING TURN if you’re using the Talon Strike Force) they can nominate a priority target, and they’ll re-roll To-Hit rolls against them. Both shooting and melee. But the coolest part for me is the Vertical Insertion rule. The Storm Raven deploys straight down and then hovers, using Deep Strike instead of coming in from an edge. The image of a gunship screaming in from orbit, next to my plummeting Drop Pods, and then blasting the retros right before it smashes into the ground, fills me with excitement. Kobrakei, the genius behind the Crimson Shrikes chapter, had a fluff piece about his Stormtalons doing exactly that before and it always filled me with awe. I love this formation. Period. If only the dread could charge on the turn it arrives, I’d be a happy man. That brings me to my next fave…

The formation everyone’s talking about is the Shadowstrike Kill Team. It uses Scouts and Vanguard Veterans for that incredibly fluffy Raven Guard 1st and 10th feel. Check this out… You get to flat-out choose when the Vanguard show up from Deep Strike Reserves. No roll needed. The buzz is that, if taken with the Talon Strike Force, you can auto-enter from Turn 1 unless they FAQ this or something. And why might they do that? Oh, maybe because they can charge on the same turn they arrive, and they don’t scatter if they land within 9″ of two Scouts Squads from the formation. Granted, this is rather situational and you’re not terribly likely to have your Scouts set up far enough in advance to make that first-turn charge really likely, but it’s possible. Remember, your scouts still infiltrate, so it’s possible. This will definitely make your opponent play cautiously, knowing anything too exposed can be picked off. More than that, this is just super cool. If Scout Bikes counted, I’d be all over this. As it is, I might struggle since these same Scouts and Vanguard can be used in other formations as well.

EDIT: I’ve since used the Shadowstrike Kill Team formation and it is just amazing. I wasn’t able to take advantage of On Time… because one of my squads got hosed out pretty quickly, but they were still able to use …On Target to charge out of DS. The great thing about this is mitigating the all-too-common issue of coming down and having to hang out for a turn. Obviously, but I can’t tell you how nice it was to get a fully-intact squad into melee with pretty much no hassle. If I had been able to minimize the DS risk as well, even better. This formation is now an auto-include for me moving forward. I can’t think of a better way to use my Vanguard.

I mentioned priority targets earlier, and here’s another one for you. The Raptor Wing includes a unit of Land Speeders and 2 Stormtalons. This formation automatically enters on Turn 2 if it didn’t already arrive on Turn 1. Very nice, especially if you’re not using the entire Talon Strike Force. The Land Speeders can nominate priority targets within 18″, which grants the entire formation re-rolls To Wound and Armor Penetration. Plus, they can re-roll Glancing hits in the hopes of getting a pen. Very, very nice for popping squadrons of light vehicles, amongst other things. I like the fluff here, because for me Raven Guard have a sort of spec-ops feel and the target priority stuff makes me think of very calculated, surgical strikes.

Edit: I used Raptor Wing as well, and it too punched above its weight. I always hesitated to take any fliers before because I was worried about reserves, but knowing they WILL come on early in the game makes them that much more effective. The threat these two fliers pose should not be taken lightly. Be prepared to Jink with them if you need to, but keep in mind that really reduces their primary purpose. If you need to zoom, do it. Keep in mind that even in hover mode, they’re Fast Skimmers, so they can move 12″ and still fire two weapons at full BS. Since they have exactly two weapons, that means you can use them to ‘kite’ enemies by staying out of their range while punishing them with heaps of high-quality fire. Remember as well that Strafing Run means you’re hitting on 2s against most targets. With the reroll from Twinlinked, you’re all but guaranteed to hit with 8 Str. 6 shots every turn. Hitting on a rerollable 2+ and then wounding on a rerollable 2+ is very satisfying, and if you can also reroll the wounds/armor pen? Yeah. Nasty. I used the bargain-rate Skyhammer missiles as well, because they’re cheap, and that’s another 6 shots, hitting on 2+, wounding on 2+. Yes, all these shots are at armor pen 4, so against marines they’re marginally less effective. They’ll still tear chunks out of most squads. Necrons, though? This is a fantastic way to force a lot of Reanimation Protocols dice. And even heavier troops in horde armies likes ‘nids will melt under this rain of fire. The Raptor Wing is another auto-include formation.

I love Drop Pods. So much so, they’re venerated by my chapter of DIY marines. Needless to say, I’m pretty excited about the Skyhammer Orbital Strike Force, which is basically 3 Tactical Squads and a unit of Land Speeders. Now we have to start making choices about where these land speeders will go, and if you’re doing the Talon Strike Force you’ll be up to 6 Tactical Squads. I’ll have to make hard choices about using my Drop Pods for this formation instead. The Tacs get a cool rule, where you designate a dropsite for them to clear. All units in the formation can re-roll To Hit and To Wound rolls of 1 against any enemies within 12″ of the dropsite. When the pods come down, they also only scatter 6″, and with the pods’ special rule you don’t really need to worry about mishaps. Since they’ll be pretty bunched up, the Tactical Squads also get to run AND shoot on the turn they come down, so they can really dominate a section of the board. If you have some Assault Cannons on the Land Speeders, you can really expect to mow down medium to heavy infantry with all those re-rolls. Very cool stuff, but I think this one won’t get as much attention as some others. It would be great for some board control, though.

Remember the Shadow Force Solaq box that just came out with some cool rules for the included units (Sternguard, Vanguard, Land Speeders and a Captain)? Well you can make your own now, so you don’t have to use the goofy weapon loadouts from the boxed army. You get some pretty sweet movement benefits with this one: reroll dice for Run moves and bonus 6″ for vehicles moving Flat Out. More importantly, anything in this formation gets Scout, just like in the old version of our Raven Guard Chapter Tactics! They also get Move Through Cover and Acute Senses for more reliable Outflanks, but I’m not sure how much the latter would benefit them, really.

The last one that I doubt I’ll actually use is called Bladewing Assault Brotherhood, but it IS a cool idea. It consists of a Captain or Chaplain with a Jump Pack (it’s required, and you’ll see why in a sec), Vanguard Veterans and 2-4 Assault Squads. First, they get to basically use their jets to disengage once during the game. Like, removed from the table, even if they’re locked in melee.  They just blast off and then they rendezvous with a fucking Thunderhawn Gunship. IN THE AIR! Is that the coolest thing ever, or what? They go into Ongoing Reserves, so they’ll be back… When they do come back, they get dropped off from the gunship, in a straight line, and then Deep Strike from there so they could scatter (with a re-roll). So, basically, you could tie up a few units until the rest of the army arrives gets up there, then GTFO and let the Rapid Fire boltguns shred them, or even wait for new units to join the melee and then jump out and get ready to do it all again. Of course, this is really playing the long game, but there’s nothing to stop, say, the now-under strength Assault Squads staying behind to hold back or mid-field objectives now that the opponent is stuck in the mud. It’s a really super-fluffy option that again fires my imagination. I bet a good general could come up with some awesome ideas.

New Raven Guard Warlord Traits

And here’s where I feel this book is almost like a Supplemental Codex. We finally get unique Warlord Traits, Objectives and Relics. Let’s talk about the Warlord Traits first.

I think the coolest is the one that was widely leaked, where you can basically take a free 6″ move if you’re targeted by a shooting attack. This extends to the unit you’re attached to, if any. If the squad can no longer hit you, they just lose their shots. If you’re in cover, you get an extra +1 to your cover save as well. Very, very fluffy, as you can just see them scatter or take little Jump Pack dashes, or even rolls, to plunge into cover or even back out of range.

Next up, you can re-roll charges against a nominated squad. Whilst many Raven Guard models have Jump Packs, this extends to any model. That could synergize well with, say, an Ironclad Dread charging the same unit. This one seems the least cool, maybe, to me.

I love this one: Once per game you can enforce Night Fighting rules as the army drops smoke or similar, which is just plain cool. While it may not be terribly effective, it will likely help your assault units get into combat with a couple more bodies, or defend the entrenched scouts with their camo cloaks.

Another interesting one forces your opponent to take a Leadership test before firing overwatch at your Warlord, and they take it at a -2 penalty. Against some armies, like Necrons or Tau, this could make or break a charge with a unit like Vanguard.

Another game control option is the ability to add or subtract one to the roll when determining Game Length. Subtle, but if you know you’re ahead you can get out before the enemy has a chance to hit back, or buy a little more time for a late-game push.

The last one, which is probably only situationally useful, is the ability to charge even after a unit has Run in the shooting phase. Might be good if you’re really pushing a unit up pell-mell, but they can only do it once per game anyway. Seems like it would rarely get used, to me.

New Raven Guard Relics

Some of these relics are so cool, including some boss rifles… And you can mix and match them with the Codex: Space Marines relics as well.

Armor of Shadows gives you a 2+, of course, plus Stealth. You also get Shrouded if you don’t move, Run or Charge in your previous turn. Could be cool if you’re waiting for a reaction strike, but it’s not cheap. I guess get it just for the 2+ more than anything.

Ex Tenebris is a custom bolter, said to be made by Corax himself for Conrad Curze. How cool is that? It’s got Assault 3, Rending and Precision Shots. Nice, mainly the Assault bit. It’s a steal, too, and a good reason to give a Captain or Chaplain an actual Bolter, for once. The conversion potential is strong with this one.

My favorite relic is a custom sniper rifle for a Scout Sergeant. It’s called Nihilus and it adds AP 3, Armorbane and Shadowshot. The latter allows the firer to choose a different target than the squad, and it counts as Strength 6 against vehicles. That means you can reasonable snipe the shit out of most tanks if you roll well. Remember, average on 2D6 is a 7, so you’re most likely to roll a 12, 13 or 14. Scouts are likely to be able to target side or rear armor as well. Since you don’t have to fire at the same target as your unit, you’re not wasting the rest of your shots, but you just might get lucky and take out a battle tank with a minimal investment in points.

Next up we have the Raven Skull of Korvaad, which just sounds cool. It grants a simple +1 to Weapon Skill and Leadership. If the bearer falls in combat, the Raven Guard get Rage and Hatred within 6″ of it’s last position. I can dig it.

The Raven’s Fury is a special Jump Pack that uses micro plasma engines instead of the regular jets. This gives Hammer of Wrath attacks a +2 Strength (re-rollable because Raven Guard) and Strikedown. Pretty cool.

My second-favorite relic is a pair of special Lightning Claws (surprise!) called Swiftstrike and Murder. They’re normal, but they add a special rule called Flurry, which grants bonus attacks for every Hit that’s scored. The extra attacks don’t cause extra hits, unfortunately. This can pretty reliably add an extra couple attacks per turn, which again turns a very fluffy but not-terribly-effective weapon loadout into a heavy-infantry slaughterhouse. At AP3 and Shred, these bad-boys are built to carve up heretics, renegades and xenos alike. I really want to convert these up, as I’ve always had a mind to make a counts-as-Shrike. This would allow me to run that same model as a captain if I so choose.

New Raven Guard Tactical Objectives

If you play Maelstrom games, these will fit right into a very fluffy and effective Raven Guard army. I’ll run through them quickly: The first one gives you a VP for destroying a unit with either Jump Pack units or a unit that deployed from a Drop Pod. The second, maybe most interesting, gives you a point for having no exposed troops in your army. They have to be either in a vehicle or close to cover. You can also earn points for causing failed Morale, Pinning or Fear tests. There’s one to get D3 points for taking out priority targets like Warlords or Super-Heavies/Gargantuans. Nice bonus there. You can net bonus points for charging and destroying enemies in one turn (something that really ought to happen a lot with this army) and the last one grants you points for taking out transports or Fast Attack options. All in all, very fluffy as you dissect an army, piece by piece.

It’s time for Raven Guard players to rejoice

These options are all fantastic, in my opinion, and they really complement the play-style I want to use anyway. I rarely play, but I have to admit these really excite me and make me want to get my army on the field. I spent quite a while putting together a bunch of Scouts over the weekend, since I need as many as I can get all the sudden. I have three Land Speeders, and I feel like they’re in short supply as well since several formations call for them. There’s no way I can really field all the stuff I need for a Talon Strike Force with a couple cool formations, but I can definitely field pretty much everything I love. Storm Raven packed to the gills, my 10 Vanguard (I may get more…), 10 Assault Marines, 2 squads of Scouts with CC, one Sniper Scout unit, I Scout Bike unit… Storm Talons, Land Speeders, Drop Podded Tacticals… You name it. It’s all there, with cool fluffy rules now to boot. They feel every bit the elite, specialized army I envision, striking out of nowhere and applying overwhelming pressure to break the enemy. So cool.

I hear there might be even more Raven Guard coolness in the next Damocles book, but I’m content just with this, honestly. How much better can it get?

It looks like I’ll be wearing my sunglasses at night for a while. What do you guys and gals think?