Friday, December 23, 2011

Blood Angels Codex Review Part 1 - Special Rules

Yes, this is long overdue, but FINALLY after a year and a half of play-testing, I believe I can give a solid review of the units in the Blood Angels codex based on a decent amount of experience! I'll start with the special rules, and then go on down the line by Force Organization slots.

Just to give people an idea of how many games I have under my belt with the army, I try to get in two to three games a week. Sometimes it's more, sometimes it's less, but I think I'll just go with two so that I don't over-inflate the number I'm going to calculate. Since the codex came out I have played with them nearly twice every week, minus about a month's-worth of other stuff coming up, so that's right around 170 games with them (though if I include special events, and home games with them, I'm probably over 200).

I have tried DoA several times, along with razorspam, hybrid, and just about every other build (minus an all Death Company build, because that's just silly). I've tried multiple different unit configurations, and army builds, and I've even played against Blood Angels a bunch.

So now that that's out of the way, I'll start by going over the core Blood Angels army-wide rules.

1. Descent of Angels
So originally this special rule was a point of controversy. You had "internet celebrities" like BushidoRedPanda from BoLS claiming that Land Raiders could use the rule because the Assault Squads inside inherently had the ability and thus conferred it to the tank. So many people got the rule so wrong, and so I'm here to clear it up and give you my thoughts:

"A Blood Angels Unit with this Special Rule can re-roll failed reserve rolls if arriving by Deep Strike. Also, due to the precision of their descent, it scatters D6" less (normally D6" rather than 2D6"). Other units in the Blood Angels army that can arrive by Deep Strike do so using the normal rules."

This ability is granted by equipping a jump pack, though some units already have the rule listed in their entry. Since attached vehicles are separate units, they do not benefit from this rule. It's kind of obvious and isn't nearly as poorly written as some rules.

So, I honestly believe that as a rule, this ability is pretty solid. One of the major drawbacks of Deep Strike in 4th Edition was that it was so dangerous that nearly nobody used it. With the addition of the "Mishap Table" (that is MUCH more lenient than just losing the unit like in 4th Ed), and the use of this rule, any Blood Angels unit using Descent of Angels is almost guaranteed to arrive where you want them. Bringing these units onto the table faster with a re-roll of their reserves roll is also pretty stellar.

However, while an army built around jump-packing units coming in from reserves looks and sounds extremely cool, competitive, and fluffy all at the same time, it really isn't. Blood Angels armies in the fluff are almost never comprised of all jump-packing Assault Marines. It's not that it doesn't ever happen, but in most battles that you read about, they are supported by the rest of their Index Astartes counterparts (Tactical Squads, Devastator Squads, etc), and often include a unit of Death Company as some of the Blood Angels have succumbed to the Black Rage. So, there's the fluffy part gone. As for being "competitive", yes they certainly are. I don't want to weigh this post down with a competitive army vs competitive generals discussion, so I have a quote that sums it up:

"Great players play armies greatly, great armies get played by everyone."

Many players think Blood Angels are a "tier-one" army, and this couldn't be further from the truth. Aside from Chris Dubuque's stellar accomplishments with the army last year at Mechanicon, can you think of a GT or Regional-level tournament that Blood Angels have won lately? Do they consistently place in the top three slots? How about the top eight? They don't, and if they do rank highly it's not a consistent thing. They are one of many armies that players get hung-up on both on "how awesome they are" and "how hard they are to beat", and they are mostly brought as a DoA army with minor variations. You have to understand where the design concept came from. Aside from its glaring obviousness as a list build, the specifics were designed to take advantage of a vehicle-heavy environment. When your opponent slaps down ten or so transports and tanks, this list becomes instantly viable. When your opponent deploys a horde army, or a hybrid army, the list exponentially decreases in functionality. It is meant to attempt an alpha-strike on vehicles and mop-up the list's squishy innards.

2. Red Thirst
Red thirst is an ability on all Blood Angels Space Marines with the exception of Death Company and most of the Special Characters. At the beginning of the game you roll a D6 for each unit with the special rule. On a roll of a one, that unit loses "And They Shall Know No Fear" (ATSKNF) and gains the Furious Charge and Fearless universal special rules. On the onset, this sounds really amazing, but again you have to think about the rules for a few seconds as opposed to falling head-over-heals in love with flashy words. Okay, Furious Charge is obviously a benefit. There is no down-side to gaining it as a special rule especially in an assault-oriented army. The problem is units only get that rule if they roll a one. That means only one in six units with that ability should get Red Thirst for any game, and you only get that roll once. Now we'll look at Fearless. On the surface you may think it is a better rule to have than ATSKNF because you simply pass all morale checks. However, ATSKNF is more than that as it lets you attempt to fail a morale check and escape combat. With Fearless, you might get stuck in a combat you don't want to be in, and you'll take extra wounds because of it. Similarly, your opponent might multi-assault you just to get your Fearless unit in the same combat as a weak unit so that you have to take extra No Retreat wounds. It can very easily become a liability depending on the situation and how smart your opponent is.

However, there is something you can do with Red Thirst to make things interesting. One of our special characters (Astorath, The Grim) grants units the Red Thirst rule on a die roll of three or less. That's 50%. Half your army can have Furious Charge with him leading it! That's pretty cool, especially since that sort of lets you have more of a theme with your army. If you even wanted to go another step, you could have him and Apothecary Corbulo in the list. Corbulo lets you re-roll any single die roll for the game, so you could re-roll a Red Thirst roll for a unit that you really want to get that ability. Say you have a Terminator Assault unit in your list. With Corbulo and Astorath, you have a 75% chance of giving them Red Thirst without having a Sanguinary Priest with them or nearby. I never said it was worth doing (that's a LOT of points), but it is interesting.

I'll go over the HQ's in the next entry, so stay tuned!

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