Captain’s Log: FAQ Submission for the Librarius

Captain Morgan is on deck
Captain Morgan is on deck

Greetings Wargamers!

 

Captain Morgan here for another random bit of musings. I have been super impressed with GW’s new FAQ policy and their recent openness to player feedback. I’m not sure that I believed that it would happen, or that it would be this soon that it would. I was very excited to take an opportunity to pitch in questions on their Warhammer 40,000 Facebook page. I’ve also taken time to read their drafts and take part in the conversation there, as I think that every player should. I’m going to skip the “Don’t just whine about rules, ask clarifying questions!” soap box because that’s just redundant to the intent, and generally what that does is dilute an FAQ/Errata document down. We know this. Does that mean that our impressions, arguments, and viewpoints on books are invalid? Not necessarily, so that got me thinking…

 

What if I did a Codex Review….

 

One of the things that people often talk about is how their book is better or worse than another book. The statistics from GT’s and tournaments support this. Regardless of whether you are a competitive player, some books are tit-for-tat just better than others out of the box. If we boil our world down to a single CAD, or expand it to formation land, this remains true. Of the many accusations laid at the feet of Games Workshop, the idea that they don’t playtest things thoroughly enough is quite common. Whether they do or they don’t doesn’t matter right now, because who does playtest things?

 

We do.

 

There is loads of experience that the community has using these codexes (because GW says ‘codexes’ is the official plural at the weekenders, apparently). Now we have a golden opportunity, because Games Workshop has opened their ears and is ready to listen to reasonable, constructive feedback about their game systems. With that in mind, I wrote a full-on codex review for the Blood Angels Codex. Before you say “a bad book still wins in a good player’s hands!” just remember, that a better book does even better in a good player’s hands. I just want everyone to start from the same line.

 

However, in writing this, I wanted to avoid the deadly sins about player feedback, so I created a few rules for my rules feedback….

 

A couple of quid-pro-quo...
A couple of quid-pro-quo…

 

1: Don’t be a jerk about it

 

Seems self-explanatory, right? People are less receptive to your ideas if you come off as rude. Games workshop is full of people, and those people should feel like reading feedback is like getting punched in their idea organ. You can be honest about feedback without being a jerk.

 

2: Focus on my experience

 

Theoretical concepts and math are good to reference, and some experiences are definitely anecdotal (because: dice game). That said, consistent issues and problems are worth mentioning. Holes in the range of rules (i.e. anti-air) within a book are worth pointing out. I made sure that I wasn’t just waxing theoretical about what “could” happen and focus on what happens a lot that is a real problem, not just a problem that one rare time when I rolled three 1’s in a row, for which I needed counseling…

 

3: Don’t just point out problems, offer solutions

 

It’s easy to point out others mistakes and issues, but that does not do any good unless you are willing to offer solutions to those problems. In any case where I was describing something that needed improvement, I tried to come up with a creative, thematic solution that would make a bad thing good, or a good thing better.

 

4. Don’t try to make it the best, just try to make everything in it good enough

 

One of the best things about the Eldar Codex is that everything is playable. I want that for not just my book, but for every book in 40k because that will make everyone’s games better. It’s easy to come up with wild, powerful things that will make your faction the best, but responsible feedback is more about making everyone’s game experience better, not just your own.

 

Moving On to the Juicy Part…

 

With my intent decided, I came up with my FAQ/Feedback notes, which turned into a letter, which then turned into more of an essay. If you’re interested, I have attached it below. You can read through it, or just skip it, it doesn’t bother me. The bigger point of this post was to celebrate that now at least GW is listening, and maybe my player experience can help them. They can’t consider it if they don’t hear it, right? Maybe if we can all contribute feedback in a positive way, we can take another step towards creating the best game possible.

 

To those that read it, you’re awesome! I don’t expect you to agree with everything I recommend or like it. I’ve got zero ego invested in this. My experience is not everyone’s, and is no more or less valid than yours. If you have ideas, go ahead and share them!

 

Until we meet again on the battlefields of the 41st Millenium!

 

Mephiston-Shrunk~Captain Morgan

THE LETTER – I DEFY YOUR TLDR!

To Whom It May Concern,

 

First, I would like to thank you and commend you for your efforts in addressing some of the game issues recently in your FAQ’s. I definitely feel that you will have a more engaged, positive consumer base by continuing to stay responsive and active in your support of the game. The recent changes have made it much easier for me to justify my continued support of your company. Keep it up!

 

With that in mind, I am going to beg your patience as I have some questions and some suggestions for your upcoming Blood Angels portion of the faction FAQ’s that you will be releasing. The first section of my email will be direct FAQ questions, while the second section is more geared towards feedback and constructive criticism about the issues and playability of the Blood Angels army in their current iteration of the rules in the 7th Edition 40k environment.

 

FAQ Questions

How do the changes to flyer rules affect formations that require a flyer (i.e. Angel’s Fury Spearhead)? Are formations that require multiple flyers allowed to be taken in a flyer wing, or must they be separate, individual flyers?

When measuring the distance of the beacons on the Augur Triangulation rule in the Angel’s Fury Spearhead, do you measure from the hull of the Stormravens while the Sergeant with the beacon is still embarked, or must the sergeant be disembarked? (If the sergeant must be disembarked, that will mean that in most cases, reserves won’t be able to charge from deep strike unless they arrive in turn 3 or later)

For the Angel’s Fury Spearhead Formation, does the Augur Triangulation rule work for units that arrive from Deep Strike on turn one, or do the beacons have to be on the table for a turn first?

 

Example: the three Ravens arrive on turn one. There are also several drop pods coming in on turn one. Would the units coming out of the drop pods gain the ability to charge the turn they arrive from deep strike provided they landed within 12″ of two of the Ravens (depending on the answer to #2)?

Does Mephiston gain psychic focus on the tree that he rolls his other powers on (example: he rolls twice on Fulmination for his non-fixed powers) because his Sanguine Sword doesn’t belong to any discipline?

In the “Defenders of the Cathedrum” formation, it lists a squad of terminators as a required unit. Are these assault terminators, or can they be regular terminators? The text says terminators, but the picture shows assault terminators.

Does the “Descent of Angels” warlord trait still work if the warlord is in reserves?

 

Player Feedback:

 

Just a disclaimer, this may seem long but I have put a lot of thought into this. I am an experienced Blood Angels player – having played the army for close to 18 years – and have experience from a player perspective having played dozens of games against a variety of opponents/factions in both competitive and narrative environments. I also run narrative and competitive events on a monthly basis in my area, including the only GT in my state, so what I haven’t played I have seen on the table. I don’t say this to brag or to puff myself up, but to frame that my opinions here are based on experience and come from a pure intent to improve the playability and enjoyment of the army as a whole. This is done free of the considerations such as “how do I sell more of ‘x’ model kit” and other financial recommendations, and when I mention costs I am only speaking about points cost, not actual monetary currency. I am not going to presume to tell you how to price your stuff. Take this as feedback from a long-time fan and avid 40k/Blood Angels player 🙂

 

Overall, the Blood Angels book struggles to be playable against many of the factions out there in 40k 7th Edition. While Eldar and Tau are good examples of armies that are currently very powerful, direct comparisons between BA and them are a bit more abstract simply because of the fundamentally different inner synergies of those books, so I will be using the Codex: Space Marines as a basis for comparison, as the units in that book are directly comparable in many cases. The only thing that I would make as a general take-away from the Eldar book is that everything in that book is good on the table. It’s all point-efficient, thematic, and dynamic. If every codex was like that, then we’d be in paradise as narrative and competitive players. You can throw darts at the datasheets in the Eldar book and make an army list that is good on the table, so you can literally play what you want and have a good time.

 

I digress, so let’s get back to the SM book. The main thing that you will notice is that the success of the Space Marine book over the Blood Angels book has to do with the tools available to deal with what you can see on the other side of the table. I will spare you a side-by-side comparison of each unit, as I’m sure you’re already thinking that this has become tedious to read, but I will reference comparable units’ stats, upgrades, and abilities as relevant. It is also not my intent to point out problems without offering an opinion on potential solutions. You are free to use or get ideas from my suggestions without obligation to me, as I only really care about making the best possible game experience with this army for everyone who plays the game, including the opponents. Nothing slaps you in the face more as a hobbyist than putting your painted minis on the table and having your opponent condescend to you about how weak your book is, and wipe you out with their list without even trying. That’s no fun for anyone. With that in mind, here we go:

 

Army Special Rules

 

The Blood Angels have had a variety of special rules since their original launch years and years ago. I would say that since I started playing them, we are probably at a low so far as thematic rules are concerned. The story and narrative of the chapter is excellent, and I have no complaints for how they are represented in the story. The twin curses and their nobility despite adversity is the main appeal of this chapter to me, so don’t change that. It just doesn’t feel like that gets represented on the table.

 

Simply put, having “Furious Charge” on everything doesn’t get the message across, and when compared to the dynamic chapter tactics of some of the SM book chapters, it is pretty bland, and in many cases has absolutely no in-game effect as it is wholly dependent on you making a charge. Assault in 7th edition 40k is incredibly difficult to pull off. Furious charge is a rule that only works if you have units that assault in their turn, and has no effect if you get charged. This is very frustrating when you see things such as combat doctrines that are both thematic and impactful in game turns.

 

To have the Black Rage be a consideration again, I would recommend bringing back some of the older mechanics that got dropped in the 4th and 5th edition updates. Where free units/rules are becoming more prevalent in games nowadays (such as Gladius), a thematically appropriate callback to those days when you would roll to see how many Death Company were in your army (like in 3rd) would be a great change. For example, Gladius Strike Force Style you could have several different formation/core slots. For every 3 non-independent character infantry units in your army you would get “x” death company for free with a free transport or jump pack upgrade.  I remember the old Reclusiarch rules that you would buy the character for a high point cost and then you would get death company that joined him as part of that collection. That has “Formation potential” written all over it. This creates a method of building your army that is useful on the table and also makes it feel like your army is subjected to the effects of the Black Rage. Even if not at a Gladius level, this could be an army wide trait like Chapter Tactics that for makes the Black Rage an inherent factor in Blood Angels list building. Considering that in a 2000 point game vs. a white scar Gladius, you are essentially bringing a 2000 point force against a 2500 point white scar force, having free death company is a drop in the pond in that perspective and doesn’t break game balance. It’ll also sell more death company kits.

 

Instead of the “Furious Charge” rule, I would recommend something like the “Encarmine Fury” rule from the Forge World Horus Heresy Blood Angel Legion Tactic rules. This is an excellent rule that lets your mandatory roll to wound be one less than normally required. I would also add that this would let you wound anything on a roll of 6, especially because of the high amount of toughness 8 models out there (Wraithknights as one very common example). This makes it useful all of the time in combat, and really emphasizes the Blood Angels close combat ferocity in a way that feels less luck-driven and more a part of the army’s identity.

 

With the difficulty getting successful charges off in this edition, having a mechanic in place that would help the BA get into combat more consistently would also help the army feel more thematic and effective on the table. Throwing the “fleet” special rule around is one solution, but I think a more unique chapter tactic for the BA would be something akin to a “+3 to charge distance roll,” or “may re-roll one charge distance d6” would really help. If the Blood Angels are to feel like the assault shock troops of the Adeptus Astartes, then we need something on the table to make it feel like we are able to close the distance and get into combat. Right now, even with jump packs, Raven Guard and White Scars do a better job of getting into combat than the Blood Angels.  

 

The HQ Slot

 

The main thing about the BA HQ slot is that is suffers from being overcrowded. Abundance of choices are generally a good thing, and I do like the variety that’s there, but there are still some holes that need filling and redundancies that are unnecessary, and some of the choices just don’t make sense to take. I am not speaking from a competitive standpoint when I say this. Some of the options here, which will be detailed respectively, have no synergy with their story and rules, or with the army. Some of them, however, are excellent and I think are a great addition to the book.

 

Captain: The captain is a decent HQ choice, and is mostly comparable to the SM version. Artificer armor is an expensive upgrade at 20 points (in Horus Heresy games, it is only 10 points and those games are designed for a larger point value). The upgrade to terminator armor makes little sense, as if you do take terminator armor then you are paying more for the 2+ save when you have the artificer armor upgrade for cheaper. If you were to take a relic – such as Valour’s Edge – then you pay points for a power weapon on the Terminator upgrade and then pay additional points for Valour’s edge, so you end up paying points for a weapon you won’t use.

 

Additonally, there is not an option to upgrade to a chapter master, which is something that the SM codex has. If you are thinking “Dante is the chapter master” then I would ask you how you would create a chapter master for the Angels Encarmine, Angels Sanguine, or Blood Drinkers? Also, despite Marneus Calgar being the Ultramarines Chapter Master, there is no restriction on upgrading an Ultramarines Captain and upgrading him or taking a Chapter Master with Ultramarine’s chapter tactics. Allowing a chapter master option in the BA book would really allow players a greater chance to expand their collection and create a custom hero. I would say do this for regular Blood Angels as well, because Dante is old but there were others before him that held the title that would be fun to represent in games. When playing in tournaments, or even narratively with strangers, creating a custom character is not allowed.

 

Librarian: This is a pretty good HQ choice, and so far as wargear and capabilities are concerned he is essentially on par with a SM librarian. The main difference which is the most keen is the lack of access to the Telepathy discipline. That alone has Blood Angel players dropping this guy at the curb and choosing librarians from other books. I have some ideas for formations for this character, but will put those under the formation section later.

 

So far as thematically, the option to take artificer armor would be nice. Considering that Blood Angels are supposed to be famous for their works of art and works of war, this would be a good way to represent that on the table. This holds true for the other character templates – such as Chaplain and Sanguinary Priest – who could reasonable be expected to have armor of that quality.

 

Captain Tycho (both versions): I’ve got to be 100% honest here, Tycho is probably tied for least useable character in this book. Tycho has a long and storied legacy from the BA codexes up to this point, however in his current iteration he doesn’t make the cut. Removing the specialist ammunition (like the sternguard have) from his arsenal was a blow by itself, but his famous close combat weapon – The Dead Man’s Hand – was completely removed from his entries. Essentially, he is punching with his AP – fists, which makes little sense because his warlord trait is geared for combat. Of the two, death company Tycho is probably the better version, but he would have trouble killing the Orks he hates so much with his base profile.

 

The model is a classic one, and a nice callback to the old generation Blood Angel Captain sculpt, but he needs an update. With the dynamic poses available from the base plastic kits, Tycho is a bit bland for the current generation of models. I still like him, and certainly don’t feel ashamed about putting him on the table from an aesthetic perspective (which I’m sure he’d appreciate), but I can build a better captain for the same or similar points costs that can do more on the table.

 

Librarian Dreadnought: I’m not sure why this guy made it to the HQ slot. As an upgrade for the Furioso in the Elites slot, he at least had a bit more of a place, but here it feels awkward to take as an HQ. When compared to the base librarian, he has little utility. Dreadnoughts in general have a hard time making a dent, and while the idea of a psychic pilot is new and unique, he is very easy to kill. Where a regular librarian can join a squad and stay alive, this guy has no one to save him. Many of the powers he has access to, such as Iron Arm in Biomancy, have little to no effect on him at all if rolled, and the risk of having a power that you can’t use is not worth rolling on the table. Again, Telepathy would be very useful. Also, he is expensive to take. Fully upgraded to ML2, he costs the same as Mephiston, and loses to Mephiston in a 1v1 fight 9/10 times. It’s hard to justify taking a ML2 psyker that can’t join squads, and who can’t benefit from cover as well as an infantry model. The fact that he has 2 base attacks is cripplingly bad, especially compared to Codex: SM dreads who have 4 base attacks. He needs a bit of a remodel and I think he’d be better back in the Elites slot with the Furioso, probably as part of a unit of Dreads where some of his powers could benefit the whole squad. The concept is awesome and I would hate to see him go. He just needs a little help.

 

Mephiston, Lord of Death: Mephiston is the first character that I ever bought, and I’m probably his biggest fan. Some of the changes that were made to him from the 5th to 7th edition codex made a lot of sense and were great to help with his playability. The switch to 175 points, and the downgrade from S/T 6 to 5 was a good move in my opinion, though I do miss his pseudo-primarch days sometimes. As he is, I think he’s a good character, though I have some ideas for what would make him a bit more usable as well.

 

First, the biggest problem with Mephiston is that his sword is AP3. The sword is treated as a regular force sword, despite the strong presence it has in the fiction as a master-crafted blade of lethal quality (it’s even named “Vitarus” so you would think that would make it in the codex, right?). It should be listed as a Relic of Baal, and probably be master crafted or have some other rule (rending?). I think the easiest way to fix the AP problem is to have his power – Sanguine Sword – make the sword S10 AP2. Doesn’t it seem odd that his lethal blade strikes with enough force to knock a titan off it’s feet but can’t hurt a Tau Riptide? Hoping for Iron Arm on the Biomancy tree isn’t a viable strategy either. I also have a hard time believing that he could strangle a demon prince bare-handed if he swings at Initiative 5. A lucky quickening roll could avert that, but that’s not a guarantee. You have to first get the power, and then hope your d3 roll is lucky.

 

Transfixing gaze is nigh-useless in the current iteration. Anyone that can get in a challenge with Mephiston (or would accept one) probably will have 2+ armor (because he can’t get through it), and Leadership 10. A return to the third edition rule would serve to emphasize this power’s relevance on the table, or at least add a modifier to the leadership roll (-2 to the required roll?). In the dozens of games that I’ve fielded him, I have yet to see this make a difference on the table.

 

While it’s nice he has fleet, when he’s attached to a squad he can’t use it, but on his own he’s too vulnerable so without a squad to support him he’ll never survive to get into charge distance.

 

He is also in need of a significant model update. His age is showing, and he seems tinier than even the new Tactical Marines, which is hard to image considering his reputation.

 

Overall, he’s good. He just needs that slight push to make him live up to his reputation.

 

The Sanguinor: If you were wondering who was tied with Tycho for the least useable character, then you’ve found him. The Sanguinor has such potential to be an awesome character, but he is just no good to bring. Like Mephiston, he suffers from a lack of AP2 in combat (I’ve once lost a challenge with him to a Crisis Commander Suit with Iridium Armor), but lacks the ability to even increase his strength to deal with some of the tougher threats out there. He’s also BS 5 but has no shooting weapon. He can only move 12″ and can’t use his jump pack to assault after moving with it, so he can’t get to combat to do any damage, and if he does get into combat the only things you can expect to kill with him are normal troops. He can’t join squads, so he is out by himself and will die (and has repeatedly) to a single squad of bolters or fire warrior shooting, which isn’t a very glorious way to die. His iconic story involves him beating down the baddest of the bad Bloodthirsters in combat, but he won’t even survive long enough to swing at one in combat. He’s the most disappointing 200 points (and before that, 275) that I’ve spent in an army list.

 

I know that sounds harsh, but I really think that he’s close to being good. If he is to be alone, he needs to be mobile and survivable, and if he is designed to be able to kill/fight in challenges with enemy HQ’s/Characters, then he needs to be able to hurt them. Make his glaive a Relic of Baal with a bonus to strength and AP2 or he won’t ever be a threat to enemy leaders. Here’s a few ideas that I had that I feel could help.

 

The secret is more than just stats: it’s mechanics that will make this guy the saving grace that he is supposed to be. He is the perfect candidate for a Lord of War (Unlike Seth, who we’ll get to later), and that’s the perfect opportunity to give his stats/gear the buff it needs to tangle with the big dogs. People will buy the  model and gladly play with him if they feel like he can be thematic and get work done on the table. If he is a saviour, then build in to his profile that he must start the game in reserve. Roll for reserve on turn 1, on a 5+ he comes in. Add a +1 to the modifier for every BA unit that has been killed so far, and then when he comes in make it hurt. Have his mask offer penalties to overwatch, give him a jump pack that can close the distance better, make him strike with a D weapon in combat,  allow him to charge from deep strike, auto-pass glorious interventions, but make him non-scoring. Make it so that for every unit he kills, you have to roll to remove him from the table (as his work is done), but because of that he can’t be killed. You can cost that appropriately that it isn’t unfair to opponents but is cheap enough to take the chance on him. At the very least, he needs to be harder to hurt (penalties on to wound rolls? Better invulnerable save?) and needs more wounds so that he doesn’t die to shoota boyz.

 

This is just an idea. He has great potential to be a cool character, but as he is he just clogs the HQ slot. I stopped taking him, because I got tired of the patronizing “oh, you’re playing with a handicap?” conversation with my opponent, and I am not the only one. Also, he’s got a rocking Ballistic Skill… but no gun.

 

Astorath: Astorath is a great, thematic character that makes an impact on the table. The only recommendation that I would make is to make the axe not unweildy. Maybe a -1 or a -2 to initiative, (which is how I feel about all axes) but unweildy is a really punishing rule. Even so, I think that’s the worst thing I can say about him, and it’s not really so bad. I like his character a lot, and I think he’s a great improvement over his original iteration, and I play him frequently. Just out of curiosity, is he wearing a mask or is that his face? Astorath is a great candidate for receiving free death company companions (like the reclusiarch did in the third edition book), especially considering his narrative.

 

Sanguinary Priest: This guys is probably the best HQ in the book. He’s cheap, he provides a great benefit to his squad, and he’s thematic to the army. He also needs artificer armor upgrade option, and the 1 pt cost to give him a bolt pistol is annoying, because it ends up costing you five points without some creative math to get your army points to even out at the standard (i.e. 1500, 1850, or 2000 pts). The model is fantastic. I often wish I could take more of him. It’s also a shame that I can’t put him in terminator armor anymore. The terminator priest I made for the 5th edition iteration has not been touched since the book came out. But, that’s the worst I can say. This guy is the sole reason that BA are even on the map competitively, mostly because people want the FNP to go with their Codex: SM units.

 

I would recommend going back to the third edition book and looking at the old Sanguinary High Priest option. That was a fun, dynamic model to bring that did work on the table. BA fans would go nuts over being able to field a cool character like that again.

 

Brother Corbulo: Corbulo is a cool character with a very key role in the lore, but he has a critical issue. He has to walk everywhere. His mobility is a problem, which is somewhat mitigated by drop pod possibilities. A boost to his FNP (4+?) might help with his survivability. A 2+ save would help (I’m sure you’re sick of me saying that, but there’s a reason I am doing it) as he gets killed quite often by krak missiles and the like. The old 2+ FNP was nice, but a bit too much. Considering that he and the standard Priest are used to accomplish that by attaching them to Iron Hands Bike Squads (yes, you can get a 2+ FNP on T5 bikes in ANOTHER book), it’s a bit of a drag that the former king of Feel No Pain has been so soundly dethroned. Just food for thought.

 

Techmarine: Here is the only HQ that I have never used. He just doesn’t get the job done, and is weaker than the Codex: SM equivalent at the same points cost. I just don’t see the point. That may be intentional on your part, considering the BA relationship with the Mechanicum, so if so then good job. Mission accomplished. I think he belongs in the Elite Slot, if anywhere. If he is going to stay in HQ, he needs a comparable stat line and role to the Codex: SM one.

 

Chaplain: This guy is basically par-for-par to the Codex: SM equivalent. As it is, that’s not terrible, but what was once a staple of Blood Angels Listbuilding and lore – The Reclusiarch – is gone and it makes us sad. That was a great character (and was greater when he came with a Death Company entourage, and has a power weapon that ignored armor) that is sadly gone. If you want to make BA players happy, bring the Reclusiarch back, especially as he’s the unit that allows us to take Forge World relic vehicles, and since he doesn’t exist that creates a difficult situation on the table if you want to bring your relic vehicles.

 

The Troops Slot

 

Congratulations! You’ve made it past the HQ. Get a drink and take a minute to stretch. This won’t take as long as the last one, but you’ve earned a breather for making it this far. Ready? Let’s go!

 

The troops slot is the saddest, loneliest slot in the BA codex, as it has a mere 2 options. Scout Squads and Tactical squads. Tactical Squads are great, and the heavy flamer option is nice. The kit is great too, so good job there. They don’t need a whole lot, though I would recommend allowing for an extra close combat weapon upgrade for 1 point a piece like the Carcharadons chapter tactics (again, to emphasize the close combat theme of the army). There’s very little about these guys aside from the Heavy Flamer that makes them stand out. Also, if a skinny eldar exarch can have 2 wounds, then a genehanced Astartes sergeant should as well. Back to artificer armor, with the sculpt of the kit it is easy to imagine that these guys could get it. Again ties into the theme of their skill as craftsmen.

 

Scouts are where we are hurting the most. We need WS/BS 4, for one thing. The fact that only 4 or 5 months after the BA book for 7th came out in 2014, the new Codex: Space Marines book had WS/BS 4 scouts for the same points cost was a real tough pill to swallow. On top of that, the scouts have no transport. I can think of no good reason why the shock assault chapter of the Adeptus Astartes should not have access to Land Speeder Storms to carry their scouts closer to engage the enemy.  

 

I will cover Assault Marines here as well. Please make Assault Marines troops again. This was a decade+ long staple of Blood Angels listbuilding and lore. Updating their wargear to match the marine version – such as being able to use eviscerators – makes sense. Right now, the most common use for Blood Angel Assault Marines is to put 5 men in Drop Pods, 2 with Meltaguns and 2 Melta Pistols on the sergeant. An effective anti-armor build for sure, but thematically pretty different than the “Angels flying on wings of fire” that they are supposed to be. When compared to the ridiculously powerful rules that Biker marines have (+1 Toughness, vastly better movement in multiple phases of the game, a built-in 4+ cover save via jink), Assault Marines seem to pale in comparison. Choosing between using your jump pack to move and moving less to get a re-roll on a random charge distance is being stuck between a rock and a hard place. I have a possible solution to this problem which I will cover in the Rhino section.

 

Elites

 

This section will be fairly brief as well in comparison to HQ. I’ll focus on highlights for each unit, as I think that only a few small changes can make these units go from passable to great. This slot is also a little crowded, but not to the same point as the HQ as you have 3 slots to fill (or 4 with the in-codex detachment).

 

Command Squads: As they are, jump packs aren’t worth 5 points a model. 3 is a stretch, but would match the Death Company. I’d make it 3 max. The mandatory champion/apothecary without allowing them to take upgrades is very restrictive. The SM command squad lets them take upgrades and be more customizeable. It also lets them take bikes. If a Captain takes a bike, why shouldn’t his honor guard join him? I’d rather not have a cookie-cutter similar build to SM. I’d rather have a better Jump Pack than be a cheap imitation of White scars, but you see what I mean. The point is that more customization for all characters will make this a better unit.

 

Death Company: Hands down one of my favorite parts of being a Blood Angel player. They need some fixes though. They cost the same (base) as their 5th edition counterparts but lost 1 WS and Fleet. This was a really tough blow. These guys rarely if ever make it to combat, and when they do, they are worse than they’ve ever been. So far as changes? I think a mechanics change would make these guys awesome. Have your death company size determined by the number of infantry in the army. A roll like back in 3rd wouldn’t suck, but is time consuming, which is why making it a fixed metric for free models in a formation (For every 15 infantry models, get 5 DC for free etc.) is a good idea. Also, give them Rending back from the 4th edition days. The weapon upgrades are too expensive to take a lot of. They get a lot of attack dice, but it’s like kicking a brick wall barefoot when fighting anything with a 3+ armor save or better. At 20 pts a model you’d expect more. They need fleet again, also. The random charge distances make that rule absolutely necessary for what is supposed to be your hardest hitting squad. The charge distance bonus as part of a BA chapter tactic would make this work, however.

 

Lemartes: Lemartes is good, except for one problem: he’s a 1-man elites choice. Make him like Lukas the Trickster from the Space Wolves book so that you can take him and he can be a part of the Death Company squad. For a 2 wound character to eat up 1/3 of your elites choices? Makes it hard to take him. Aside from that, I think he’s awesome. The model is the coolest chaplain character out there, IMO. Bravo to the artists!

 

Sanguinary Guard: These guys are really good, but just short of great. From a points standpoint, they are much better than they were. On the other hand, they really don’t live up to their story. These chapter champions and heroes have the same statline as a veteran sergeant. WS4? I read a story in the Shield of Baal: Exterminatus that says that one sanguinary guardsman killed a demon prince in close combat. A whole squad of these guys would die to a demon prince before swinging their weapons on the table. Do they all need to be epic heroes? No. I’d add a Chapter Champion character that acts like a company champion (character, has to issue/accept challenges). Also, make them WS 5. The fact that a great hero of the BA chapter hits a SM scout on a 4+ is silly. I wouldn’t mind paying points for an invulnerable save option, either.

 

Dreadnought:  Bring these in line with the Space Marine versions and they’ll be fine.

 

Death Company Dreadnought: WS 5, Fleet, and 4 attacks (like the basic SM dread) and he’ll be worth the extra 25 points from the regular Dread. Also, Rampage. Look at Murderfang as an example.

 

Furioso Dreadnought: This guy needs 4 base attacks and then he’s pretty good. Since he’s the BA version of a venerable Dread, the Venerable rule seem appropriate as well. Make the Furioso Librarian and upgrade (with the same venerable shenanigans) and he’s right as rain.

 

Terminator Squad: I’m of the opinion that all terminators in this book and others need 2 wounds and toughness 5. The idea that an Eldar Guardian get’s on a carrot and flies around with a toughness 4 – the same as a terminator’s – make no sense. It also makes little sense that a marine in power armor riding a fast-moving vehicle is harder to wound than an elite warrior in terminator plate designed to keep the occupant safe in nuclear reactors. At the very least, the BA versions need a points reduction to match Codex: Space Marines.

 

Terminator Assault Squad: Aside from re-stating what I said about Terminators above, a higher weapon skill would make sense for assault specialists. The company standard needs something as well. It’s too much of  a survivability liability to replace a storm shield with that. Little distinguishes these from Codex: SM terminators, and they lack the individuality of Deathwing or Wolf Guard terminators from a wargear perspective. Aesthetically, these models are beautiful.

 

Vanguard Veteran Squad: Change these guys to match the Codex: SM ones. Re-rolling charge distances is such a beneficial rule. Auto-passing glorious intervention? I’ve never had opportunity to even use this rule. Other than that, if you wanted them to be more unique, then you could have them charge out of deep strike like in 5th edition. With upgrades, they are very points intensive, and when it’s between them and death company, the Death Company are really really good. They need a different “gimmick” to make up for that, but even without I think they are pretty good.

 

Sternguard Veteran Squad: These guys are pretty good. I think 20 points a model would be a little more reasonable, as these guys are very points-intensive.

 

Fast Attack

 

We’re getting close to being finished here. Have a cookie (or biscuit if you’re British) and reward yourself for your customer engagement by getting through this much of the review.

 

Rhino/Razorback: I know that these are faster than normal SM tanks, but 45 points is expensive for a vehicle that is so easy to crack open. I think for the fast/overcharged engines a more appropriate point cost is 5 points for the upgrade if that’s the only thing that it does for you.

Also, being faster doesn’t help you close the distance when you can only get out of the vehicle if it only moved 6” and you have to wait a turn and get shot before you charge. Even if they blow it up on their turn, you still can’t charge on your own turn. Those game mechanics tend to keep you in your own deployment zone, instead of rushing towards the enemy like BA are supposed to do.

I think one way to help Blood Angels be unique and dynamic would be to allow charges from Rhinos. This calls back to the older styles of play from 2nd/3rd edition. Between points, formations, and the other creative tools at your disposal, I am sure that there is a way that you can do this that won’t be game-breakingly powerful. As the shock assault chapter with a desire to close the distance and get in their enemies’ face, this is a thematic way to display that with rules on the table. Considering that at the moment, Tactical Marines are the only troops choice that can take rhino’s, it makes sense that they would kit it out in such a way as to allow them to get into combat right after. Even something that would make it so that they can charge out if their vehicle blows up and they pass their pinning test? I’m just throwing out ideas here, but you get the overall theme. Help the army behave more like assault shock troops on the table.

 

Drop Pod: No changes needed

 

Land Speeder Squadron: I have no specific critiques on this one. It’s pretty cool, and as I mentioned earlier Blood Angels NEED Land Speeder Storms, but if you are looking for ideas on unique loadouts for these, then I’d say give them a frag assault launcher option (like on the furiosos) as a heavy flamer alternative.

 

Assault Squads: See above in the “Troops” section. That’s where these guys belong.

 

Bike Squad: I’d make these guys cheaper and take off the +1 toughness. This is a critique of bike units in 40k in general, because I can’t fathom how riding a motorcycle makes you harder to wound than putting on terminator armor. Jinking during a charge with no charge distance penalty? How about shooting? How is it that a character on a bike (who becomes relentless) can shoot all the salvo grav shots at full ballistic skill one-handed while driving a motorcycle? And yet, for whatever reason, terminator suits of armor (and the characters in them) cannot even take combi-grav’s or grav weaponry as an option? Blood Angels aren’t known as bikers, so I don’t feel like special bikers or bike rules are really thematic, but bike rules in general are incredibly powerful and cheap for what their rules give them.

 

Attack Bike Squad: See “bike squad”

 

Scout Bike Squad: Scout bikers are a great unit and a great addition to any SM book in my opinion. From a tactical standpoint, it makes sense to push these guys forward and scout things out ahead of the army’s main advance. There are only one or two things that don’t make sense about scout bikers. First, they still have a 4+ armor save. If Eldar Guardians can get a 3+ armor save by sitting on a supersonic carrot, then scout bikers should get a 3+ armor save for getting on a bike. Also, these make a good candidate for the “Troops” section because of their role. Food for thought.

 

Heavy Support

 

Stormraven Gunship: I remember a time when it was only Blood Angels and Grey Knights that had access to these flyers. More on that later.

With the new flyer rules out, Stormravens no longer can shoot full ballistic skill at other flyers. This is a significant loss of utility, and essentially removes it as an anti-air option. Considering that it has only 3 hull points (the same as a Dark Eldar Raider), it is too expensive for what it does. If you fully load it out with troops and a dreadnought, you are looking at 500+ points (depending on who you put in there) invested in a single flyer that is very very fragile and can no longer fill an anti-air role.  This needs a 30-40 point discount. Taking this in a flyer wing is point-cost prohibitive. I am not ignoring the benefits they get as attack flyers with the new rulebook. I’ve had a chance to test them and I think the new flyer rules are dynamic and cool, but that doesn’t help me shoot down other flyers.

 

Devastator Squad: What to do about these guys… it’s a tough question. There would have been good incentive to if they had access to the new grav cannons (like the SM book did when it came out not 6 months after the book I had been waiting 5 years for). Now with the new flyer rules out, they have become the only dedicated anti-air option in my book. Sitting at close to 200 points for a unit of Flakk missile devs, that’s a pretty pricey chunk out of my army list for a unit of shooty guys with – you guessed it – furious charge. That’s without a transport, so now you’ve got a bunch of guys out on foot that will die without shooting if you do not go first. The superior firepower of Tau, Eldar, and Space Marine shooting (among others) almost guarantees that.

All that aside, there is a way to make these guys cool for Blood Angels players. The answer is in loadouts (combined with some of the army-wide rules I mentioned earlier). Make Blood Angels devastator squads that can take Frag Assault Launchers or Heavy Flamers. How cool would that be? Not just cool from rules, but it makes sense that they would be able to kit themselves out with the bigger guns that support the chapter theme: close quarters combat. Not having these options is a real missed opportunity, and if you did come out with a box set with these guns I and every Blood Angel player I know (which is not a small number) would buy 2-4 of them instantly. You’ve got the tools you need to do it, especially since you gave the Imperial Fist guy the Frag Assault Launcher in Deathwatch: Overkill, so I say go for it. Make some money, and make some fans happy. Win-win.

 

Baal Predator/Predator Tank: The Baal Predator – the epitomal Blood Angels tank – has been hit so hard by this iteration of his rules that I haven’t used mine since this book came out. The move from Fast Attack to Heavy Support was brutal. The fact that it lost the “scout” special rule was also brutal, as it took a lot of the tank’s theme and utility out of the game. On top of that, the Flamestorm cannon option looks good on paper, but because of its range it never gets close enough to use. Being shaken or stunned means you can’t shoot it either (snap shots), and if you put heavy flamer sponsons on the side, that means that you can’t shoot the heavy flamers if you do manage to get close enough to drop the template. Fast vehicle or no, it’s suffering in this edition and needs a little extra help to get useful again.

My recommendations for this one are to make the Flamestorm torrent 6” (at least) and to have some sort of snapshot-removing mechanic for the sponson flamers. Give it back the scout rule too (maybe as a bonus if you put it in a squadron of 3?), and then allow players to take them in squadrons like the predators in almost every other marine book. Fast moving predator tanks were an excellent build that was very fun. As a bit of a tread-head, I want a reason to get more tanks. Predator tanks in a squadron like in the SM book (getting tank hunter/monster hunter in patterns of three) would fit in perfectly here.

 

Vindicator: Changes to bring this in line with the Codex: SM version would fit in fine. Not a whole lot else to say here.

 

Whirlwind: Again, bringing this in line with the Codex: SM version would be useful.

 

Land Raider Variants: These also need to be at least brought in line with the Codex: SM versions.

I also think that Land Raiders in general are a bit soft and easy to deal with in the current rules. For all land raiders to remain at a 250+ point cost, then they need to become Super Heavy Vehicles, in my opinion. 5 hull points should do it. This way, the redeemer can always fire its weapon (since it can’t be shaken) and they are less likely to be killed in 1-shot from a meltagun. Also, the fact that a Land Raider (the iconic space marine super tank) can’t take dozer blades and often gets stuck on small rocks makes the switch to SHV much more practical. If not, then a reduction in points is needed.

 

Lords of War

 

Commander Dante: First off, bravo! Dante is an amazing character and fits into this slot perfectly. I think he’s right where he should be for his points and his abilities, and wouldn’t change him unless you want to make him more expensive. An additional strategic warlord trait (because he’s the master tactician)? Most places that I have played, including big conventions such as the Las Vegas Open and Adepticon, don’t allow you to use the Tactical Traits Warlord Trait table (some don’t allow Maelstrom objectives period). It’s a shame to have that “Tactical Precision” rule when you can’t really use it that much. I’d pay 10 points more for a switch to the strategic table. Really, though. Such a good datasheet on this guy, I have no real complaints.

The model could use an update (much like Mephiston). He’s really good and an iconic sculpt, but his proportions are smaller than the new plastic kits. With how you guys updated Logan Grimnar, I have no doubt that you’d do an excellent job with Dante. I leave it in your capable hands.

 

Gabriel Seth: …gotta shake my head on this one a little bit. Not really sure what he’s doing here in this slot. Yes, he’s a chapter master, but he’s the weakest Lord of War in warhammer 40k. Period. 3+ save, no eternal warrior… we have a joke in the community that he’s the secretary at the 40k Lords of War meetings and that his job is to let people use his drop pods and to bring the “real” LOW coffee. I think that he needs a big buff to be in that slot, and that a model like the Sanguinor would be better served here. But hey, he’s fearless and Dante isn’t, so there’s that. Awesome model, too.

 

Formations, Wargear, and Miscellaneous Things:

 

Here we come to the last section. Get yourself another cookie and something to drink. Stretch, do some yoga, and keep the blood flowing however it suits you the most. Thanks so much for reading this far. I’m glad to tell you that your struggle is almost over, and we are into the last section. Hopefully my thoughts, impressions, and ideas have given you something to think about. I’ll spare you from repetitions of points I made up above, and try and focus on as much new material as possible. Let’s get started!

Formations

 

The biggest problem I have with the Blood Angels formations is that I had to buy a separate book to have them, and a large portion of them are not functional in games less than 2,500 points (4,000 in some cases). The Shield of Baal books were excellent campaign books and I really liked the art, the story, and the premise behind them. Unfortunately, all of that became invalidated when I tried using them on the table. Without getting nitty-gritty, the biggest takeaway from these formations for me was how they cost too many points and did too little on the table, and they didn’t accomplish what I think the designers intended for them to do. Meanwhile, when the Space Marine book came out, a myriad of very cool, thematic, and powerful formations came included with the book. I won’t lie, I felt pretty cheated by that move, especially considering the benefits (such as tank squadrons, Dread attacks, WS/BS 4 scouts) that were in the datasheets themselves. If BA are to be considered a “codex” chapter (or at least they are according to the guys who write the stories), then shouldn’t they get access to the same tactical formations as other “codex” chapters? The one that hit me the hardest was the “Librarius Conclave” formation, which was something that I always wanted for Blood Angels (again, according to the codex they have a higher proportion of psykers than most other chapters), but now couldn’t have.

 

Here are some formation ideas that I have (very basic) that would be appropriate for Blood Angels:

Librarius Conclave: 2-5 librarians, librarian dreads, with an option to substitute Meph for one of them. Same rules as Codex: SM, or if you’re looking to be more unique, you could work in a “power selection” mechanic, or perhaps a power enhancement mechanic (Sanguine shield’s invulnerable save increased by 1 per librarian within 12” etc.).

 

Recon Squadron: 2-4 units of Scouts (hopefully with a Land Speeder Storm option), 0-2 Units of Scout Bikers, 2 units of Baal Predators. Gives Baal Predators Scout/Inflitrate. Bonuses to reserve rolls and/or free locator beacons on the scout sergeants.

 

Armored Blitzkrieg: 1-3 units of Landspeeders, 1-3 units of Predator Tanks, 1-3 units of Baal Predators, 0-1 units of Vindicators, 0-1 units of whirlwinds. For every unit that suffers a hit from a landspeeder from this formation (or a “instead of shooting or moving flat out, land speeders may elect to nominate a target within 12”), apply a cover save penalty (-1? -2?) to the targeted unit when fired on by any of the tanks in this formation. All units in this formation must take overcharged engines if eligible for the upgrade.

 

Blood Angels Battle Company: (see close to the beginning of this review for ideas mentioned)

 

Death Company: 1-2 Chaplains, 0-1 Lemartes, 0-1 Astorath, 2-4 units of death company. 1-3 Death Company Dreads. Must take dedicated transports or jump packs. All units in this formation gain fleet. Units with a chaplain may charge out of dedicated transports (infantry cannot take drop pods as dedicated transports) or charge when arriving via deep strike on successful initiative tests.

 

Angelfall: 0-1 Sanguinary Priest, 0-1 Chaplain, 0-1 Captain, 0-1 Dante, 0-1 Sanguinor, 0-1 Astorath, 2-5 units of Assault Marines, 1-2 units of Vanguard Veterans, 0-1 Units of Sanguinary Guard. All units in this formation must be equipped with Jump Packs. All units in this formation must be held in deep strike reserve. Assault Marines from this formation have the Objective Secured Special rule. Roll for reserves for units in this formation on turn 1. Place Vanguard veterans first. Units from this formation placed within 6” of a vanguard veteran unit do not scatter when arriving from deep strike in the same or subsequent turn to the Vanguard Veterans’ arrival as long as the VV sergeant is still alive. Units from this formation that arrive on turn 2 or after may charge from deep strike if they pass an initiative test.

 

Skyhammer Annihilation Force: Is there another formation that screams Blood Angels right now more than this?

 

There’s some ideas for you. Hope it inspires you 🙂

What’s Missing

 

Right now, the Blood Angels are really hurting for anti-air options. Aside from Flakk missiles, which are too expensive points-wise, we have nothing with Skyfire. We need fighter aircraft (like the Stormhawk), an anti-air platform (such as the Stalker/Hunter), or an ability to charge/vector strike flyers with melta pistols (like the Swooping Hawks with their haywire grenade shenanigans).

Land Speeder Storms. I’ll keep saying it until it sinks in 🙂

 

Access to Telepathy

 

Relics

 

A relic that confers eternal warrior (such as the Shield Eternal from the Codex: SM book) would be great. Space Wolves(?) and Space Marines have such a relic, and it helps create custom characters that are survivable. Those are the most engaging kinds of characters for players looking to make their own mark, and opens a ton of fun hobby opportunities.

Fury of Baal is definitely not worth 25 points.

Valour’s edge is awesome. Build a mechanic in there that it’s discounted if it replaces a power weapon (such as a terminator captain’s power weapon).

 

Gallian’s staff is way too expensive and does too little, especially considering the penalty for failing with it. Cheapen the points cost, or give it a higher AP value to make it worth the investment.

 

Veritas Vitae is excellent. No changes please.

Angel’s wing would be awesome if it increased toughness like a bike does (and is equally as logical). Other than that, great relic.

 

Crown Angelic. Love it.

 

Psychic Powers:

 

Quickening is a good primaris power. I think it’d be better if it gave the character’s unit fleet as well as the character it’s targeting, otherwise he can’t use fleet (especially like a sergeant who can’t leave squads). Doesn’t need to give them bonus attacks, just fleet.

 

Fear of the Darkness is good the way it is. No changes.

 

Unleash Rage is also very good.

 

Shield of Sanguinius doesn’t do enough with a 5+ invulnerable save. Forewarning from the Divination tree costs 1 warp charge as has a 4+ invulnerable save. That’s a bit inconsistent.

 

Blood Boil is cool and useful, but should be Warp Charge 1 I think.

 

The Blood Lance needs an 18” beam at warp charge 2.

 

Wings of Sanguinius used to be my favorite power. Now it’s like a re-skin of the levitate power. Let us charge after getting our wings please. That’s the only thing that this needs to be worth it’s warp charge.

 

CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve reached the end. Thanks again for reading, and keep up the good work. I would love to hear your feedback on my ideas, and I hope that they came across as constructive criticism and not a “you did a bad job!” I really love this game, and want to be a positive contributor not just locally, but also be a helpful contributor to you by providing feedback. Let me know if you have any questions!

Chris “Captain” Morgan

9th Legiones Astartes

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