How do you make ‘Space Vampires’ more vampirey? Why, you dress them in black power armour of course! With the new blood angels releases just around the corner, it seemed apt to take a look at one of their signature units – The Death Company.
A Bit Of History
Is it possible that the guys from GW’s early days weren’t massive Hammer Horror fans? So many miniatures, particularly Fantasy’s Undead range, looked like they’d just walked off set of one of their classic scary movies. I have it on good authority that one of the old ghouls is actually based on Peter Cushing (not really). Their biggest star was of course Dracula, played expertly (and often against the odds) by Christopher Lee (who, the rumours say, is a GW player too). Ok, so I can’t make any direct link, but when I look at images like the one above, it’s hard for me to not drawn a few comparisons.
At the end of the Rogue Trader era of 40k, it wasn’t the smurfs who were the poster boys of the game, but instead the Blood Angels held that crown. As well as appearing on John Blanche’s iconic box art for 2nd Edition, they saw a clutch of new releases too, including the Death Company. In 1993, the unit that for many defines the sons of Sanguinius got their first box release of ten miniatures including the first Death Company Chaplain. This chaplain is widely regarded as being the first Lemartes though back then he didn’t really have a name. it was during this time that they also appeared on the cover of Codex: Angels of Death, a testament to their status as a beloved unit within the game.
The first true Lemartes, along with the second iteration of the Death Company arrived in 1999 for 3rd edition and one of the coolest miniatures from the 2nd edition era (says I) was replaced by one of the dorkiest looking metal chaplains to ever derp its way across the table top. The Death Company box was released as a metal/plastic combo of five miniatures and a series of shoulder pads came out as well.
The modern box set and the new, much cooler Lemartes crashed down alongside a Death Company Dreadnought in 2010 and the boys in the black suits could now bound around in jump packs. This is one of the earliest examples of a truly modern kit with bucket loads of options and very high quality plastic sculpts. At the time of writing this, these weren’t available on the UK site but there’s bound to be a repackaging in the works to bring the kit in line with the current look of GW’s products.
Let’s Get Fluffy
The Black Rage was born in the aftermath of the Horus Heresy. Rocked by the death of their beloved Primarch, Sanguinius, the Blood Angels were as close to inconsolable as Space Marines can be. In the battles that followed a number of the Legion, and the chapters it would break up into, began to see visions of Sanguinius’ death at the hands of his fallen brother, Horus. Tormented by these nightmarish hallucinations, they became uncontrollable. Those afflicted descended into insanity, fuelled by rage, sorrow, pain, hate and regret. Only two warriors who have gone fallen victim to this genetic flaw have ever been released from its dark clutches, and most find themselves in the Tower of Amareo wherein reside the Death Company, clad in their black armour that sets them aside from the rest of the chapter.
The curse of the Black Rage is a blessing on the battlefield, conferring an unrelenting viciousness to the Death Company when they are loosed on the Imperium’s enemy. Each Astartes believes himself to be the reincarnation of Sanguinius and fights with much of the Primarch’s ferocity and skill. The Captains and Chapter Masters of the Blood Angels and their successor chapters know what such a weapon can do and deploy these brothers to inflict the most amount of damage to the enemy, while also looking over them with the care and charity that is part of the Chapter’s doctrine. The grim truth of this though is that many, once their thirst is sated and the battle won, die without their madness sustaining them.
Lemartes lost his mind to the Black Rage as the Blood Angels were preparing to face an ork horde on Hadriath XI. He did not fall in battle and so was taken to be mercifully executed. As Astorath the Grim, High Chaplain of the Blood Angels prepared to execute Lemartes, he realised that Lemartes was in control of his thoughts and his body. His life spared, Lemartes is the only Blood Angel ever to show an ability to live on while in the grips of the Black Rage and whats more, he has the ability to inspire other members of the Death Company around him to fight on harder and with greater purpose.
Time To Talk Tactics
It will be interesting how these change after the release of the new Codex so I won’t go into too much detail here, but it has been a (relatively) long time since the Blood Angels have been a ‘top tier’ sort of list. In 5th, the Descent of Angels builds (all jump packs, all the time) were a nightmare for many, but since then they’ve wavered somewhat as power creep has moved other codices beyond them. The Death Company themselves though, while an expensive unit if you give them all the bells and whistles, have remained an ever present in many people’s lists just because of their great value in assault.
They have a lot of attacks and an extra point of strength too, so on the charge, five of these guys can wade through a whole mess of enemies and with the standard Space Marine save as well as FNP, they’re a bit more durable than normal marines too. That being said, they are a shell magnet and your opponent is going to throw a lot at them to stop them reaching their targets and that FNP will only get them so far. Either have them deep strike with jump packs (which makes them a little pricier) or pack them into a transport and run them fast up the field. Then, just give them the weapons you think you’ll need to get the job done – hammers and fist, or axes and swords.
Lemartes, while making the unit even pricier, gives you some great boons too, meaning that you’ll be hitting and wounding a lot more. But like I said, let’s wait to see what the new ‘dex does with this unit.
If Looks Could Kill…
The Blood Angels already look pretty cool in Red Armour, so how do you up those stakes even further? Black. There is an inherent coolness in the look of the Death Company due to their black armour which of course reflects the rage within. Adorned with blood drops, wings and the red crosses, so long associated with plague victims, these guys have a lot going for them in terms of looks. Whats more, all their weapon options can make them look all the more like a very special unit. One particular quirk that I like of recent years is that a couple of Blood Angels successor chapters, including the Angels Encarmine have their Death Company wearing white armour instead of black. This look is a startling contrast and when executed well, looks fantastic.
Lemartes is of course a Chaplain and nearly all Chaplains have skull helms but his seems to look more skull-like and more grimdark. The pose of the current model is great at conveying the man who walks through madness that the character is, and like the others, there is so much iconography and detail across all of his armour.
Ah, The Memories…
Back in 2nd Edition, I had that first original box of Death Company and it’s one of the kits I remember most fondly from that time. For that day and age, it was so full of options and really quite a dynamic box despite being metal (though I can’t remember if it was 100% metal or not – I think it was…). I’m very tempted to try my hand at them again, and if I can squeeze in some time for these guys next year, I might just do that. I can see some form of Space Vampire making good allies for my Mortifactors.
There are some things in this world that do not change. Those two fundamental truths of death and taxes can be joined by a third: Space Marines in black armour wielding hand-to-hand weapons will always be cool. And the Death Company have so much more going for them than that in those stakes too. They are ferocious, perfectly sculpted and with a fully detailed background too. Ultramarines may be the poster boys, Chaos might be ‘the Greatest Threat’, Tyranids may be the xenos-du-jour, but these guys have a classic, permanent coolness that can’t be denied. What’s more, with an inclusion in the new campaign box and at least a box revamp in the offing, they look set to retain their influence and status in the game.
Are the Death Company your favourite unit? Want to add your history with this unit to this page? Are you haunted by the death of Sanguinius? Add your comments below please!