I guess the first question, as always, is what do you want from the D-Co in your list? The best approach is to look at like this: will I usually be able to make this unit perform in a way that helps me win the game? In short, is it a useful unit in your particular build?
Lets get the super-simple overview of the Death Company over with:
- Furious Charge/Feel No Pain without Priest nearby
- Lots and lots of options
- Chaplain gives rerolls to hit *and* to wound
- Take up troops slots
- Rage- it's pretty difficult to control them
- Expensive points wise
- No invulnerable saves
- Average statline
- Take up troops slots
Let's face it, lots of what makes an expensive unit good is the ability to choose when and where that unit can do the most damage. With the USR Rage, Death Company really struggle with this- at least, that's the perception most people have of them. The key is to make them role-players in your army, using them as a brick to throw at your opponents window, and force your opponent to deal with the D-Co, or lose.
This requires a somewhat delicate touch, since simply ramming the Death Company down the throat of your opponent from the start will rarely work against a skilled opponent. Given any amount of reaction time, a good player will simply avoid the DC until they have the time or resources to deal with them. The best idea is to force them to react in a way that severely limits their options. A frontal approach won't really do this.
So, we're left with non-traditional deployment options. No jump-packs + starting on the table, no 'hide them in a Rhino and hope my opponent doesn't pop their transport, stranding the Death Company'. Instead, consider this: what's going to give me the best chance to force my opponent to react and make a tough decision?
Here's the simple truth about Death Company: they will murder one single unit dependably, and then do what they want until the opponent whittles them down, or you've won. The thing is, throwing them at a fully functional gunline isn't going to yield the results that the points you've paid reflect. Death Company are the ultimate 'mop-up' crew, delighting in chaos that is already in motion.
Death Company can kill tanks easy enough with infernus pistols/rerollable attacks given by the chaplain, and can kill just about any squad in the game if DC can get the charge. They can be dependable to kill whatever they want- they might be a big chunk of points, but they will kill what they want. If they have 6 turns of life, they'll likely kill 6 things, when properly tooled. Another important thing to note is that while the rest of your army is generally advised to stick together in order to keep the FNP/FC bubbles in effect, the DC can operate independently. It's nice not to have to support them in this way. The main obstacle is how easy they are to kill.
This presents a problem, since DC die as easily as any other marine with FNP, and cost over double what a regular marine costs. Finesse is required for DC, not only because they are hard to control, but also in judging where the threats to them lie. Knowing how to deal with these threats before the DC swoop in is important, since a single guard plasma squad will mess with the DC something fierce. Once the big threats are mostly taken care of and the battle is in full swing with little room for either side left to manouver, the DC can arrive and begin to create pandemonium. Remember, if they can't be reliably stopped, not much in the game is as good at killing things as the DC is.
There are two ways to go with these guys, in my eyes. One is the expensive way, and the other way is the cheap way. Wheeee...
The Expensive (and somewhat risky) Way:
So, how to load these guys up? I'll warn you now- it gets expensive quick. I like Jump Packs for Death Company. The reason is this: most transports are unreliable for Death Company, and the kicker is that a squad that can be lead around by the nose as easily as the DC needs good manouverability in order to present a threat to things every turn. If they get distracted by a random vehicle one turn, they need to be able to turn around and present a threat the very next turn in order to be effective. If they don't have jump packs, this is simply impossible. Put the packs on, and deep strike them in. The packs will help you determine when and where you want to bring them in fairly dependably. Put them in a place they won't get killed right away, and then let them go to town on the enemy's forces.
What's next? Probably a couple fists. They don't need many, really. But they need to be able to threaten everything, which fists help to do. Fists also have the added benefit of being at a different initiative level as the regular attacks, making every single power wound help. Here's an article that helps explain it in more depth. If you put a different weapon combo on everyone, it can also help to thin out casualties from plasma/melta weapons in squads, when they cause more wounds than your squad has, since you can just slap 2 AP2 wounds on your infernus pistol and the rest of the AP5 bolter rounds on the regular guys.
How many guys? I guess that's up to you, really. It's hard to put a number on this squad- 30 points base for a model is super steep, so getting lots of ablative wounds is sort of out of the question. Still, I wouldn't go out the door with fewer than 6 models in this squad. A couple casualties will slow down their momentum quite a bit.
Chaplains can be included as well, and can be pretty useful. The bigger the DC squad, the more you likely need a chaplain to make them better. Lemartes is head and shoulders above the other chaplains in the book for his points if you're going with Jump Packs on the D-Co. Simply ridiculous, the things the man can do when he takes a wound. The other chaplains are nice too, because they add an invulnerable save (which gives the DC a measure of protection against AP1/2), and can add another infernus pistol to the mix as well. Gets expensive though, doesn't it?
So, here's what I'd want in a fully tooled 'expensive' Death Company:
Lemartes, 6x Death Company w/ 2x Infernus Pistols, 2x Power Fists, 6x Jump Packs- 440 points
It's a lot of points for the somewhat small group of dudes, but you can cut the cost to 290 if you take out Lemartes. In exchange for these points, you get a wreckingball of a squad, who when allowed to multicharge, will destroy multiple vehicles, squads, and everything else.
The key, like I keep saying, is protecting them. The rest of the army needs to be built to be able to take out the plasma squads/russes the enemy has. Keeping them out of the charge range of the 5 LC terminators the other guy has, etc. It's a finesse squad.
The other option of course is a Storm Raven, but then to get full use of the raven's points, you want a dread inside as well, and then you've spent a few too many eggs on one basket. Still, coming in from reserve, the Raven presents a viable(ish) 2nd option.
The Cheap Way
|Sarah Palin... lol. Really?*|
These guys aren't really used as a mop-up crew as much, since we aren't putting the points into them that would let them do it. Instead, they're more of a counter-charge unit.
As a sidenote, if you're running DC in a Raven, you still have the option to give them Lemartes as an upgrade. His jump pack is wasted, but they can certainly still use him if they want. Just depends on what you want.
What about all death company armies?
Heh, I laugh when I see these kinds of armies. The idea that you have to table someone in order to win the game is ludicrous to me. Sure, these armies can be tough to deal with but seriously- if you want to play competitively, you're depending on the opponent not reserving anything, not deepstriking anything on turn 5, outflanking stuff into corners you're nowhere near, etc. It's too tall an order to realistically try to accomplish in a competitive setting. The fact that the army literally plays itself makes me extremely meh about it.
Two quick sidenotes about Rage
1) Rage can be bypassed, since it requires Line of Sight. If for instance, my squad of Death Company are all behind my Land Raider, and they can't see any enemy units, then they can move as regular squad would be able to. You can use this idea to gain a modicum of control over your squad, if done correctly.
2) Rage doesn't require you to charge the nearest unit. It also allows you to keep moving the models in your unit to a better place for them. All the rules say is that you need to move towards the nearest enemy unit- as long as you stay within 1" of the 'nearest' unit, you can slide the DC around the unit so as to be able to charge another unit (assuming you have enough movement).
Death Company is a tricky squad to use correctly. They're fragile, but they can sure pack a punch when used correctly. Simply flinging them at the opponent is not really a good idea. They require finesse.
What do you think of Death Company? Stupid? Useless? Awesomesauce? I'd like to hear what you have to say! I haven't yet seen someone use Death Company in a list where I really feared them, but I certainly think it can be done in the right circumstances. It just seems like a unit that can be good, but people don't generally have the extra points for it. Kind of like Sternguard. /shrug
Let me know what you think! Until next time...
*A note on the pictures: they all showed up when I searched 'Death Company' on Google Images. The Sarah Palin one made me laugh. Not sure how she made the cut.