Designing a Fluffy Raven Guard Army List v2.0
3. The Basics
4. Unit Breakdown
5. HQ Breakdown
6. Sample army list
This article is the second, updated version of the original 'Designing a Fluffy Raven Guard Army List' post, fully in line with the 5th edition rulebook and Space Marines codex. This article is designed to aid aspiring Raven Guard players in designing a well thought out, fluffy army list for their army.
As you read through this article, I would like you to keep in mind that most of the points made here are based on my personal knowledge and experience with Raven Guard. None of the opinions or suggestions presented in this article should be considered to be written in stone. In fact, I highly encourage you to not only follow this article's advice but to also expand it and adapt it - that is, after all, the Raven Guard way. Readers of the previous version of this article may notice that some points and concepts remain the same, or at least very similar. This is intentional. While many units and rules changed or were added in the 5th edition codex, many more still yet stayed the same, so I feel that the previous version of this article covered the points adequately.
The 5th edition Codex: Space Marines allows for an excellent hybrid of competitive nature with what I call the 'fluff factor.' This holds especially true in the case of the Raven Guard. While this article will help you design a fluffy army list, I will do my best to keep the competitive nature of gaming in mind as well so that both facets of the hobby may be appeased.
Thank you for reading, and I hope you find this article beneficial.
2. Raven Guard Fluff
From Index Astartes:
The Raven Guard combat doctrine is one of tactical prowess. Where other forces barge straight into battle, the sons of Corax choose instead to plan out their battles. It is not uncommon for Raven Guard forces to employ the use of guerrilla or assassination tactics to avoid direct combat with the enemy and make for an easy victory.The Raven Guard specialise in devastating strikes behind enemy lines, guerrilla warfare and rapid reaction to enemy manoeuvres. During the Great Crusade, the Raven Guard conquered countless worlds thought impregnable, by the precise application of force at an enemy's weakest point. At the outbreak of the Horus Heresy, the Raven Guard was almost destroyed, and only by employing the most desperate of measures, was the Legion saved.
One of the wonders of Raven Guard fluff is that the force is a mainly Codex chapter. This allows a player a large amount of freedom in choosing models for his or her army list because it means that the Raven Guard, while giving preferential treatment to certain units or tactics, does make use of just about every available model in Codex: Space Marines in some fashion or another.
Though the force allows for a freedom of choice, typical Raven Guard fluff revolves around a few key units. When designing my Raven Guard army lists, I try to adhere as closely to the established fluff as possible. In order, a fluffy Raven Guard army list should incorporate Assault Marines, Scouts, Drop Pods. From this point on, this concept shall be abbreviated as ASD.
Over the course of this article, you will read several quotes that are commonly associated with the Raven Guard and with Raven Guard fluff. Each of these quotes is taken from a number of sources including Codex: Space Marines and Index Astartes. Read them, and consider how they may apply to your army list and how it plays on the table.
3. The Basics
Raven Guard saying:
When you're designing any army list, not just the fluff lists or the competitive lists, it is a good idea to sit down and think carefully about each individual unit you choose to include. What role(s) will they fill? How will they work in certain scenarios, and how will they work alongside the rest of the force?From the darkness we strike; fast and lethal, and by the time our foes can react... darkness there and nothing more.
These questions are all things you should think about when designing an army list, even a fluffy one. Just because you are writing a fluffy army list does not mean you have to limit yourself to a noncompetitive list, and Raven Guard are one of those armies that you can be fluffy AND competitive with.
Consider the quote above. It describes the common fluff approach to Raven Guard tactics - strike quickly, strike decisively, and do not give the enemy a chance to retaliate. How will that apply to your army list and, eventually, your overall tactics with it? The saying calls for speed and stealth and power, all of which are at your fingertips as a Raven Guard player. Remember the concept of ASD - Assault Marines with their speed and melee might, Scouts with their stealth, and Drop Pods with their element of surprise and tactical flexibility. They are all competitive yet fluffy choices for a Raven Guard force.
That said, designing a fluffy list does differ in some ways to a purely competitive list. Below I have compiled a basic list of do's and do not's when creating your list based on fluff:
- Consider the ASD concept when designing
- Feel free to develop your own characters and unit names
- Embrace all aspects of Raven Guard fluff
- Design and playtest several different styles of army list
- Enjoy yourself!
Remember that fluff does place certain bendable restrictions on your choices, but that as long as you can develop well thought out explanations as to why you include what you do, just about any unit in Codex: Space Marines is an option to you.
- Limit yourself to only a few choices, even ASD
- Ignore established Raven Guard fluff
- Design your lists purely around winning, such as min/maxing etc.
- Become obsessed with victory
4. Unit Breakdown
In this section I will go over a basic breakdown of each Raven Guard unit. In some cases, more than one Force Organisation selection will be placed in a single summary - this is because the units are similar enough in gameplay or fluffiness that they do not necessarily need their own separate summary. Each summary is numbered, and the order the units will be discussed is Troops, Fast Attack, Elites, Heavy Support.
4.0 Summary of Units
This is a summary of how fluffy each unit choice in Codex: Space Marines is, based on the common fluff. Each unit is given a value range between 1 and 9, with 1 being the least fluffy for Raven Guard. Below this section you will find a more in-depth analysis of each individual unit.
[8-9] Assault Squads, Scout Squads, Tactical Squads, Vanguard Veterans
[5-7] Bike & Attack Bike Squads, Land Speeders, Sternguard, Dreadnoughts
[3-4] Terminator & Terminator Assault Squads, Devastators
[1-2] Techmarines, Ironclad Dreadnoughts, Heavy Tanks
4.1 Tactical Squads
Tactical Squads form the backbone of every Space Marine chapter in existence. Not only are they probably the fluffiest selection for any chapter, these squads are also some of the most versatile selections in Codex: Space Marines. The Raven Guard commonly deploy these squads via Drop Pods according to common fluff, so for your fluffy army list, this deployment method is definitely the way to go. Tactical Squads give you potential anti-tank firepower, fire support and, importantly, bodies on the table.
4.2 Scout Squads
Where Tactical Squads are the backbone of the Raven Guard, Scout Squads are the meat of the force. After suffering dire losses during the Horus Heresy, it has been difficult for the Raven Guard to fully recuperate. To help offset their loss of numbers, they have enlisted a large number of Scouts to help fill out the ranks. Part of the ASD concept, Scout Squads are excellent support squads and objective holders, utilising their Infiltrate USR and with the option of Camo Cloaks. Forces following the common fluff should always take Scout Squads.
4.3 Assault Squads
A second of the three choices in ASD, Assault Squads provide valuable melee support. Swift and tactically flexible, it is difficult to imagine a fluffy Raven Guard force without at least one of these squads.
4.4 Vanguard Veterans
Sergeant D'Kestrel, Raven Guard 1st Company:
Vanguard Veterans are a uniquely interesting squad for a Raven Guard commander to consider. Jump infantry are extremely common for a typical Raven Guard force, and the squad's Heroic Intervention special rule truly embodies the concept of striking from the shadows. They could possibly seem like a no brainer decision for a fluffy Raven Guard list. However, their cost often offsets their tactical flexibility, with players quickly choosing to spend the points elsewhere. Vanguard Veterans are risky to use but can often surprise you, and should be considered carefully when planning an army list.We go where we wilt. We slay who we wilt. Let the Emperor judge the righteousness of our deeds.
For those players seeking to recreate the old Shrike's Wing from the 4th edition Codex: Space Marines, this squad is excellent for that purpose. They are even roughly the same cost, when you include all of the upgrades, and make an excellent squad for Shrike to command in larger point games.
4.5 Bike, Attack Bike & Scout Bike Squads
When it comes to quick and flexible units, Bike and Attack Bike Squads tend to fit the bill quite well. While not nearly as common as jump infantry, the tactical application of a squad of Bikes is not something above the Raven Guard. ASD should typically take precedence over your choice, but a Bike Squad would not be out of place in a Raven Guard force.
4.6 Land Speeder Squadrons
A common misconception about Land Speeders is that they are every bit as fluffy a choice as ASD. I disagree with this idea. While another quick and flexible choice, Land Speeders are another of those choices that should fall lower on the scale than ASD. Like most other choices in the codex, however, they are as fluffy a choice as you can make them.
4.7 Terminator & Terminator Assault Squads
The Raven Guard is one of the original founding Legions, and due to that fact are now one of the oldest chapters of Space Marines. It is safe to assume that they will have some of the most venerable pieces of equipment available to Space Marines, including Tactical Dreadnought Armour. Due to the nature of the common Raven Guard tactical doctrine, however, Terminators are put to rare use and your fluffy lists should often not include more than a single squad of them. Both types of Terminator Squads are useful additions to your army, packing a solid punch and providing a resilient unit to help secure objectives.
4.8 Sternguard Veterans
The second of the two groups of Veterans included in Codex: Space Marines, Sternguard can be a very fluffy choice for a Raven Guard list. Such an old chapter will undoubtedly include many veterans in its ranks. They are one of the most versatile ranged squads in the codex, and deployed via Drop Pod Assault (remember ASD?) they can be where you need them, when you need them.
4.9 Dreadnoughts & Ironclad Dreadnoughts
Dreadnoughts, like Terminators and Veterans, can easily be explained due to the age of the chapter. However, they are not as commonplace as in other chapters, and when they are used they are usually deployed via Drop Pod along with a large chunk of the main force. This should all be reflected in your fluffy army list - at most take only a couple Dreadnoughts, and deploy them in Drop Pods.
Ironclad Dreadnoughts, however, are much less fluffy than your regular Dreadnoughts. Designed specificall for siege warfare, the Ironclads would very rarely be used by a chapter who prefers to strike from the shadows over assaulting a solid formation head on. Ironclad Dreadnoughts should probably be left at home.
4.10 Techmarines & Servitors
Every chapter, even Raven Guard, incorporate Techmarines and their accompanying Servitors into their ranks. Due to the nature of Raven Guard tactics and their focus on infantry rather than armour, however, it is rare to field a Techmarine for any reason, making them a less fluffy addition to your force according to common fluff.
4.11 Legion of the Damned
It is simple to explain the presence of Legion of the Damned in a Raven Guard army. And that explanation is that it is not explainable! The Legion of the Damned show up when they choose, where they choose, and they leave the field of battle just as mysteriously as they arrived. Although expensive, a squad of these shadowy Marines can provide excellent support to your army as well as a nice few models to show off. If you choose to include them in your force, their fluff speaks for itself!
4.12 Heavy Support
According to Raven Guard tactical doctrine, your force should be swift and brutal. There is a focus on ASD and the power of infantry. Rarely do surgical strikes or guerrilla warfare incorporate the heavy tanks of the Imperium.
I have placed the Heavy Support section of Codex: Space Marines into one category because the overall picture does not fit with the common fluff of the Raven Guard chapter. Potentially the fluffiest choice in this section of the codex would be Devastators, supporting your forces from the ground.
For an army list designed around the concept of ASD and the common fluff, most Heavy Support choices should be avoided unless it is absolutely necessary to take them.
5. HQ Breakdown
Every non-special character choice available for a Space Marine army is a potentially fluffy choice, so it is very difficult to go wrong in this section. However, each choice has a variety of different options that I feel should be gone into in some detail to give you the 'inside scoop' on what's what in a fluffy Raven Guard army list.
Make sure to keep in mind the concept of ASD even when choosing your HQ choices, as choosing between jump infantry, Drop Pods, etc. can alter your HQ tactics greatly.
5.1 Chapter Master & Captains
Essentially identical in stats, Chapter Masters and Captains are both very fluffy choices for your Raven Guard army. Of the two, taking into account both fluff and competition, the Captain is probably your better bet. The Orbital Bombardment of the Chapter Master is often not worth the cost in medium sized or smaller games, and the Chapter Master of the Raven Guard remains unnamed and surrounded in mystery in the common fluff.
Captains are very solid choices for a variety of reasons. They can be kitted out to be ranged support, melee support, or a hybrid of both, providing a great leading character for your force. Choosing a Captain also allows you to create your own fluff for him, which itself is a great reward.
5.2 Honour Guard & Command Squads
Similar to the required characters to choose them, Honour Guard Squads and Command Squads are very fluffy additions to your force and, when kitted correctly, can be very solid units as well. It is typically expected in a fluffy Raven Guard army to deploy these squads, like others, via Drop Pods. Not only can these two squads be kitted out to be tactically flexible units in their own right, but they make marvelous fluff and modeling centerpieces as well.
Librarians are not as often taken as the other choices available to a Space Marine commander, but they are still a very useful and fluffy addition. Most chapters will have a small force of Librarians at their disposal and the Raven Guard is no exception. They can provide valuable melee support as well as a variety of offensive and support abilities via their psychic powers. Like the other choices, deployed via Drop Pod or Jump Pack are usually the main methods of delivery in a Raven Guard list.
Like most Space Marine chapters, the Raven Guard have a number of Chaplains who see to the day to day prayers and battle rites of their brothers. This fact makes them an automatically fluffy decision, and in terms of your army list, Chaplains provide a lot for a little. Coming in as one of the cheapest HQ selections, Chaplains can add a lot to an already formidable Assault Squad by taking a Jump Pack and utilising their Liturgies of Battle and Hnour of the Chapter special abilities. Chaplains are a common HQ choice for a fluffy and competitive Raven Guard list.
5.5 Master of the Forge
It is likely that the Raven Guard counts a Master of the Forge amongst their ranks, being one of the oldest chapters in the Imperium. However, like Techmarines, their skills are not tailored to the typical combat doctrine of the chapter whole, which makes the Master of the Forge the least fluffy HQ choice for a Raven Guard army list.
5.6 Kayvaan Shrike, Shadow Captain of the Raven Guard 3rd Company
Captain Kayvaan Shrike:
The only Raven Guard special character to date, Captain Shrike is a fluffy choice by definition. Improved since the 4th edition Codex: Space Marines, Shrike now sports an invulnerable save that improves his survivability while he still maintains an incredibly efficient anti-infantry role. His 'See, But Remain Unseen' special rule adds a whole new dimension to your force's deployment options and his Chapter Tactics makes your melee units frighteningly fast.Wherever you tread, tread lightly. We are closer than you think, and our blades are sharp.
The only drawback to selecting Shrike as your HQ is the limitations on fluff - he has pre-established fluff and can't stray from that too much, which restricts your ability to create fluff for your HQ. Beyond that limitation, however, Captain Shrike is one of the best HQ choices a fluffy Raven Guard army list can take.
6. Sample Army List
This is a sample 1500 point army list, utilising the ASD concept as well as the rest of the common Raven Guard fluff.
HQ2: Chaplain w/ Jump Pack
EL1: Dreadnought w/ Assault Cannon, Heavy Flamer, Drop Pod
TR1: 5 Scouts w/ Camo Cloaks, Sniper Rifles, Missile Launcher
TR2: 10 Scouts w/ 4 Shotguns, 5 Bolt Pistol/CCW, Power Fist
TR3: 10 Tactical Marines w/ Meltagun, Missile Launcher, Power Fist, Drop Pod
TR4: 10 Tactical Marines w/ Meltagun, Missile Launcher, Power Fist, Drop Pod
FA1: 5 Assault Marines w/ Flamer, Power Fist
FA2: 5 Assault Marines w/ Flamer, Power Fist
Total Points: 1495/1500
Scoring Units: 4
Total Models: 48 + 3 (Drop Pods)
This force gives you two fluffy HQ choices, both respectable close combatatants, to lead two identical Assault Squads to be supported by the ten man Scout Squad. With three Drop Pods raining upon the enemy, and a solid core of models, this is a well balanced, reasonably competitive and, most importantly, very fluffy Raven Guard army list.
Raven Guard motto:
In the end, deciding which units fit into the fluff of a Raven Guard army list lies solely with the list's designer. The entirety of this article is based on my personal experiences both with 'theoryhammer' and on the table battles as well as my personal knowledge of Raven Guard fluff. Most of my information comes from Index Astartes as well as the Lexicanum wiki for 40k fluff.Victorus aut Mortis
I fully recommend you, the reader, to try out a variety of options in your Raven Guard army lists and not to restrict yourself to only a few choices. Expand and adapt the contents of this article to fit with your own personal playstyle as well as your own interpretations of the fluff of this wonderful chapter of Space Marines. I encourage you to write as much fluff as you want, create characters and unit names and form a solid background for your force even as you collect and assemble your miniatures.
Keep in mind the common fluff presented by Games Workshop, upon which the concept of ASD was based primarily on. But also keep in mind that not even this should restrict you completely; do not let the common fluff hold you or your Raven Guard back.
In the end, I hope this article will aid you in designing your own fluffy Raven Guard Army list. Thank you for reading!