40K: Dealing With Death Company

The Blood Angels and the Death Company are making a brutal return to the tabletop in 8th – but they are hardly unstoppable.

This past week, we’ve been pretty pumped about the return of the Blood Angels. We talked about cool stratagems, fancy relics, new psychic powers, their mighty warlord traits, and we’ve even tossed out a few ways to use them. But one thing we kept coming back to was the Death Company and their powerful First Turn Charge options. They have two ways to get into close combat on turn one pretty reliably and that has folks a tad concerned.

But fear not! It’s not as bad as it seems. We’re here to talk about a few ways you can shut it down – or at least minimize the damage.

Recognize What Is Coming

When you look at your opponent’s army list or at least what they are pulling out to setup (you do exchange lists before a game, right?) and you see Death Company with Jump Packs you have to know what’s coming. Ask yourself two questions:

  • Is it one squad or two?
  • What’s my biggest target for them?

The reason you need to ask that is because it’s going to determine how they are going to get to you. If it’s one squad, that means you can expect Forlorn Fury, doubly-so if they have less units to deploy than you. That will help them get First Turn and get the double move on you. If it is two squads, you can expect that AND probably a Deepstrike with Descent of Angels coming your way.

You need to know what their most likely targets are as well. Do you have a Knight? Maybe you have a juicy squad of Dark Reapers. Or maybe you have a squadron of Artillery-toting tanks that needs to get wrecked. Those are the things the Death Company are going to want to smash. Protect them!

Counter Deploy

Bubble Wrap is your friend. This term gets toss out a lot, but if you have no idea what it is, you’re probably thinking about the stuff in the picture above. “Bubble Wrap” in 40k means surrounding your important stuff with cheap, disposable stuff that can take the initial damage and not really cost you anything.

For many armies, they have something they can use to protect against dangerous threats like the Death Company. For others, it’s not as obvious. For example let’s talk about Eldar. Sure they have cheap Guardian Squads that could fill this role – but have you considered a squad or two of Rangers?

Why Rangers? Because they infiltrate and can move up to create a “bubble” of “you can’t deepstrike here” goodness. Remember, Death Company that is deepstriking still has to deploy more than 9″ away – they don’t get to bypass that rule! “What about the double move! They will just leap over and assault!” Yes – that’s why you need a good layered defense. Or better yet, deepstrikers of your own!

Reserve, Reserve, Reserve!

If it’s looking like the Blood Angels are going to get first turn and dive headlong into your lines then you need to consider alternative deployment strategies like Reserves. In other words, DON’T BE THERE. If your heavy hitter is their most likely target, can you reserve it!? You’re not going to go first anyways, why not move it on the board later and just counter-punch with it!

A popular counter we’ve discussed is just deepstriking your own hammer in after the Death Company have already assaulted. They go first, they first turn charge, and then they kill or cripple your “bubble wrap” – good. That’s just where you want them. Why? Because now you simply FALL BACK (providing there is a unit left) and shoot them!

This is going to take some planning on your part. You’re actually going to have to think about distances and positioning as well. Don’t give them a unit they can consolidate into (which means you’ve got to be 3″ or more away from your bubble wrap). Give yourself an area to deepstrike into as well. You’ve also got to remain 9″ away – don’t forget that! This really does take some board awareness to pull off.

Seriously, They Are Still “Just Marines”

Hey – can your army kill 15 Marines with a 3+ save and a 6+ “Feel No Pain” save in one round of shooting and/or assault? What about 30 marines? If you said “No” then you’re going to have a problem. But if you said, “yeah, probably” then I’ve got news for you: You’re going to be okay.

I’m not trying to downplay how deadly that first turn assault is because it’s EXTREMELY deadly. But if you deploy wisely and limit the amount of units they can actually charge, then your counter offensive should take the wind out of their sails.

Death Company are expensive to load-up. A full squad is going to be well over 300 points after Jump Packs, Power weapons and other fun gear. Plus they are going to have to invest pretty heavy into Command Points to even get them across the board. Basically, after that first turn charge…they are spent. After that initial gorefest of first round close combat, if you position correctly, they should be out in the open just begging to get crushed. So take them out.

Watch Out For The Follow-up

If you’re a Blood Angels player and you’re reading this, you might feel like I’ve just given away all your secret tech. Except I haven’t – this should all be pretty basic stuff for players to know, at least conceptually. Death Company are scary, but they can’t do everything. They are still “just Marines” and can be killed the same. You need to have a plan to Follow-up with the rest of your army. Which is my next point:

Watch out for the follow-up!

Let’s pretend you’re playing 2000 points. The Blood Angels decided to take 400 points in Death Company. That means there should be 1600 points of Blood Angels screaming down the pipe at you.

How the rest of the game is going to go is really going to depend on that “OTHER” chunk of the army. Is it more assault squads? Is it ranged support? Is it characters? Do you see a Storm Raven (or two)? And can you deal with it?

Ideally, as the non-BA player, you’ve taken your lump from the Death Company and managed to “Trade” points so that you’re up. You might have lost a 200 point unit, but they just lost 400 points of Death company. So now the game is 1800 points vs 1600 points. They are a turn closer, however. Take a breath and get ready to take on the rest of them – you’re in for a fight!

Are you prepared to take on the Blood Angels and the Death Company? How are you planning to deal with the First Turn Charge(s)?

  • Kabal1te

    The major problem with the idea of trying to survive first turn alpha strike and “trade points” as you put it is that more often than not you have lost so much by the end of turn 1 that you don’t have enough on the table to put a dent in your opponents force. It isn’t just the death company hitting you. The rest of their army is going to do something too. Ultimately there needs to be something more to disadvantage the person that goes first, either that or a change in the turn order be it alternating activations (which still can run into issues as long as lords of war and other super power units are a thing in my opinion) or a more simultaneous system used by some other games like battletech.

    • usGrant7977

      The rush to be the first could be costly. Throwing caution to the wind should mean no Cover Modifiers. Strike first, strike boldly, strike naked.

  • zeno666

    The roll for initiative is the mest tactic thing in 40k these days… sad.

    • banana raccoon

      You should actually play some games. Going first gives a huge advantage but playing into the various alpha strikes is the defending player’s mistake first, and problem with the game last.

      • SilentPony

        What was the statistic out of the first 8th tournament, that the player who goes first wins 80% of the time?

  • David Clift

    It’s not too difficult to hold in reserve around 80% of your points; at least with Tyranids. Even better is the units you deploy being such as Biovores which can ignore LoS.

  • SilentPony

    Now if there’s a death company dreanought or 2 in drop pods ready to go after your vehicles, you’re gonna be in a world of hurt

    • LordKrungharr

      Aren’t the Lucius Pods like 150 points now though? That’s pretty expensive, and a big footprint (besides the Dreadnought) to deepstrike successfully 9″ away in many cases.

      • SilentPony

        Honestly I do power level mostly so I’m not too concerned with points.
        Also magna grapples on the dreads add 2″ to charge against vehicles, and a 7″ charge is way more reliable than 9″
        Also they consolidate a full 6 inches. So it’s easy to tie up units.

      • zeno666

        Also its no longer available from Forge World.

        • SilentPony

          Just get a normal drop pod, and don’t put any of the little infantry holders inside it. Haven’t met anyone yet who wasn’t okay with a drop pod proxing as another drop pod

          • zeno666

            Indeed, has been working for me 😉

    • AkulaK

      Dreadnoughts can’t go on pods anymore, i don’t know about FW pods, but for 40k pods i’m sure.

      • Michael Goldsberry

        It is extremely common for people.to proxy regular drop pods for the lucius pattern that can hold dreads just fine.

  • Drpx

    Can your army kill 90 Guard who are immune to morale in one turn? Then you’re going to be okay! Can you absorb 20+ mortal wounds in one psychic phase? Then youre going to be okay! Can your army target characters no matter how close they are…..

  • AkulaK

    There is a way to pump out 100 gauntlets/power sword attacks with a 10 man Death Company Squad… Sure they are expensive and not so resilient for their price, but there is no way to kill them T1 if they come from deepstrike. You can just hide your valuable units by deeptstriking them yourself.