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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Blood Angels - More shooty than choppy?

The other night I was chatting with a reader when they made the seemingly absurd claim that Blood Angels are a poor codex in comparison to the others released during 5th edition (obviously excluding Tyranids and Sisters of Battle). This had me dumbfounded for a second as Blood Angels, whilst certainly not complained about to the extent of Grey Knights, Imperial Guard or Space Wolves, are one of the better armies out there. I mean come on, FNP/FC Marines and Fast Rhinos/Razorbacks plus nearly everything else your standard Marine army has access to? Sounds pretty damn good though you obviously pay for it.

Drawing this conversation out further saw the reader was peeved about the lack of combat ability the Blood Angels have and this is often what Blood Angels are portrayed as - an aggressive Marine force. Whilst they certainly have one of the more successful base units in relation to combat (Furious Charging and FNP Assault Marines), there are no other units to really help them carry the load. Furioso Dreads are nice but slow (and Libby Dreads are expensive, not a 100% thing and still suffer from meltaguntotheface syndrom) as are TH/SS (particularly with FNP). This can be alleviated somewhat by Land Raiders and Storm Ravens but you can generate a very rock-like list then and unlike Space Marines, Blood Angels do not have Gate of Infinity. Death Company are vastly overpriced with Jump Packs and without Rending, are just glorified Assault Marines in combat. Sanguinary Guard are nice but at 40 points a pop are missing an invulnerable save and WS5 which basically relegates them to a very reliable beater unit. Vanguard Veterans/Honor Guard can all be tooled out nicely where they can actually punch and take a punch back but they are quite inefficient when they do this as you need to buy both Storm Shields and combat weapons. You can make effective units by mixing and matching these options but it's very different from having a reasonably priced unit with an invulnerable save, punching power and the ability to launch assaults.

The reality of it is, trying to make an army based around such units is going to have its drawbacks and match-ups where is just can't do well. You can certainly use such units, Sanguinary Guard running behind Razorbacks make a great addition to a Mech list as they do provide some combat options. They aren't going to go toe-to-toe with anything running lots of power weapons for an extended period of time but they will chop through small units pretty quickly and put a dent in any strong combat units the opposition has.

That's the premise of the Hybrid Jumper lists - adding units like Devastators, Bikes, Land Speeders, Dreadnoughts, Razorbacks, Stormravens, etc. cover these weaknesses (i.e. Purifiers w/Halberd spam). The point of such lists here is that one can create a list which is aggressive and has combat oriented units (i.e. large jumping ASM units) whilst not totally gimping yourself overall. Running a pure Jumpers list is both fun, fluffy and decently competitive but there are some armies it just hates to meet. By adding those non-aggressive units in which provide some ranged support, Blood Angels can play an aggressively based list without some of the major match-up issues when there is no fire support.

The conclusion the reader reached was that whilst Blood Angels are portrayed as an aggressive  Marine force which uses speed and assault troops to tear you a new one, the codex doesn't always portray that too well. By building lists without this concept as the sole focus, Blood Angels become a lot better and play as one of the better 5th edition books. This of course involves shooting and with excellent shooting platforms such as Devastators/Sternguard/Scouts with FNP, Dreadnoughts, Land Speeders, Predators (of both types), Storm Ravens and fast Razorbacks, Blood Angels really make a better shooting force than assaulting force. Certainly assault units can and do find places in Blood Angel armies and one can make aggressive armies and do well but you'll often find the strength of Blood Angels like most of the current Marine books is shooting and the main Blood Angel advantage here is fast tanks (i.e. more moving and shoot) and FNP on their Marines (i.e. more durability for foot units).

And this is important to remember. Whilst 5th edition certainly has a lot more shooting armies doing well than assault armies, assault isn't an ignored aspect of the game. You certainly don't have to be good at it to win games consistently but it is a viable option when done correctly. Too often one sees lists of both extremes, especially in the case of Blood Angels. Going full shooting is fine with Blood Angels even if some people gripe it doesn't fit with their fluff but you'll often be losing something when going full assault. You'll find moving both lists a bit more towards the middle (some more than othres) will net you a more balanced list with more tactical options against a greater variety of opponents. In the end, yes Blood Angels do do shooting better than assault which can clash with some player's assessment of how they should play on the tabletop but with some outside the box thinking, you can get an aggressive list which has assault elements and is still playing to the strengths of the codex as written and thus do well on the tabletop.

But wait, there's more as this conversation led to something more in-depth. Long story short, this led the readier and I to discussing the good things about Blood Angels and how to use one of their most flexible units - the Razorback. Whilst a lot of people will complain about the Razorback and its proliferation throughout all the Marine books currently, there is a lot of differences between how each army is run and importantly, they do have aggressive elements to them. They are not simply sit back and shoot. We'll look at three of those constructs within the Blood Angels book post :P (sorry! I want it to have shiny pictures and stuff). We've covered this topic briefly before but we're going to go a lot more in-depth into the basic army strategy and unit tactics within each army (Flamestorm, MEQ Eldar and Blood LasPlas - stupid names galore).

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