View Full Version : Musings on the new Blood Angels Codex

02-04-2010, 05:36
This had arrived in my mail this afternoon, and having some free time on my hands I decided to read the tome more or less cover to cover. What follows is a brief, by my standards, accounting of my initial impressions and reactions, posted here more with the goal of sharing a view than of proclaiming newly discovered and inviolable wisdom.

Let me be clear at the outset - this is emphatically not intended to be a comprehensive tactical discussion of the new Codex. There will be many other threads concerning that particular subject posted in the appropriate forum, no doubt filled with both aplomb and acrimony in equal measure. Similarly, my express intent is not to declare this or that unit and ability underpowered or overpowered, although this does not mean that I will shy away from offering a few quick reads. Rather, it is the overall structure and broad characteristics of what Games Workshop appears to have presented us with that interest me, and it is these that I intend to focus the remainder of this post on.

I should note that I have been a fan of the Blood Angels Chapter ever since the original "Angels of Death" Codex, a copy of which might yet be stored somewhere in my parents' flat, along with other reading material from my schooldays which I have long moved past, but yet which I am not quite prepared to discard. In point of fact, my first 3rd Edition army had been a Blood Angel force, back in the days when Blood Angels still lost random squad members to the Red Thirst and nearly every unit on the table had a one in six chance of dropping whatever it was doing on any given turn and running madly towards the enemy, holding their weapons by the barrel and wildly waving them in the air like primeval savages while screaming terrifying oaths, which I always imagined would have been far more impressive if rendered in German rather than the Italo-Latin archetype chosen by Games Workshop for the Chapter's background. ["I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse..."] Furthermore, I was one of the more imaginative types who had had the phenomenally original idea of fielding a Blood Angels army based on a core of four 8-strong Tactical squads deployed on foot. There was sound enough reasoning there, in the sense that 32 Tactical Marines were not that easy to shift off a given tabletop even without any of the supporting units wailing on the enemy, and the four heavy weapons plus four Death Company rolls (an average of two models succumbing to the Red Thirst) certainly helped the Blood Angel cause, while having one of the four, on average (based on battlefield experience rather than theoretical statistics), completely disobey the battle plan every single turn for the sake of wanton savagery was deemed an acceptable trade-off.

Let it not be said that I am sparing of my readers with respect to either sentence structure or length.

At any rate, the main point is that, while I had put down my Blood Angels by the time 4th Edition had arrived, partly due to having moved on both to other armies and to other systems, the release of the new Codex felt like the perfect excuse for me to go back and revisit the army, something akin to checking up on an old flame to see whether the spark is still there (which I would probably not endorse in real life relationships - mine, at any rate - but which can work quite well where toy soldiers are involved...).

Contrary to my habit of first reading the rules and the list before focusing on the background - not the least since I'd been reading background materials on Games Workshop races since around White Dwarf 153 or so (and still find Rogue Trader's vision of the 40k universe to be more engrossing than the current War Machine-like texture) - this time around, I read the Codex in order, partly to see if any references were made to the ongoing Black Library series on Blood Angels. Much of the background section was, as expected, standard “Space Marines with a blood fixation” fare, complete with a truncated and not quite as evocative a description of Baal and the Chapter's trials as I recall from "Angels of Death", but very much serviceable nonetheless. Some of the conflict descriptions were actually a welcome addition to the old lore, although I don't know if inserting the Sanguinor "Deus Ex Machina but you still have to work for it" character into the background was really necessary. Separately, the notion that Tactical Marines were viewed as senior in terms of both experience and ability to their Assault and Devastator counterparts was an interesting one (at least to someone who used to run Tacticals-heavy Blood Angels), although a few pages later the Devastators turned into hardened veterans themselves, which is not at all internally inconsistent. There were also the usual logical disconnects, such as the Chapter taking on only fifty new aspirants, of which "many" do not make it to Scouts and fewer still survive their tour with the 10th Company, every generation, i.e. twenty years or so, as the sole source of replacements for its battle casualties; or the fact that said aspirants are, by the time of their induction, effectively oozing with cancerous lesions and radiation burns (putting into question the whole "trial by combat" procedure insofar as selecting the "best" candidates as opposed to merely the ones whose limbs haven't quite rotted off yet), which in turn does not explain how the humans on Baal's two moons manage to survive into adulthood or had not already devolved into a stable but very much mutated genome, with either outcome putting the Blood Angels' recruiting practices into question. These are only to be expected in a Games Workshop product - after all, numerical inconsistencies, as one example, go all the way back to the time when someone thought it would be a good idea transform Space Marines from garden variety shock troops into Un-killable Except On The Tabletop Ubermenschen, or to develop a side product whereby several full companies of Space Marines could be fielded and destroyed in a single game (in fact, during the Epic 40,000 days, one of my proudest moments came when a section of my Eldar army numbering less than a hundred individuals including vehicle crewmen managed to completely wipe out two and a half Ultramarine companies together with all their vehicles and fire support in the course of a single assault phase). It’s the same way as in Warhammer, where the Empire’s population seems to be constantly exterminated by any number of threats, and yet the place remains one of the wealthiest and most powerful states in the Old World – some paradoxes are best left unresolved.

I don’t even want to think about the off-hand reference to the Blood Angels allying themselves with the Necrons so as to repel a Tyranid hive fleet, and both sides then deciding to go their own separate ways. Real life Comic Book Guys will be having a fit over that one for years.

The one thing that did stand out from the "usual and customary" background this time around, however, was the rather increased emphasis on "end of times" type language. Not that the "end of times" concept hadn't turned up in Games Workshop literature before. Rhana Dandra and Ragnar-Ork (or, perhaps, Ragna-Rork, or even Rag-Narork) date back to at least the 2nd Edition, Roboute Guilliman's wounds had been slowly healing through most of my adult life, and back in the day, the 13th Black Crusade was supposed to have been an event of truly apocalyptic proportions. And so Dante waiting for the final battle wherein an unidentified and incredibly shiny (if not shining) lone figure he, in a completely un-conceited way, believes to be himself, is supposed to protect humanity from something very, very bad (I suppose there isn't much else an aging Chapter Commander has to look forward to, unless he belongs to the Space Wolves, in which case the hangovers never really end); or half the known bad guys in the galaxy suddenly deciding to converge on a single planetary system containing virtually nothing of value except for an abundance of radioactive deserts and somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand frothing lunatics with a fetish for handwritten scrolls and drinking each other’s blood (one only marvels at how the Tau haven't yet decided to lay claim to Baal for the Greater Good); or the Flesh Tearers being given a scant two centuries to wrap up their affairs while the other successor chapters continue to sprout hideous or shameful mutations by the bucket load (my own personal suspicion is that the Angels Sanguine no longer remove their helms in public because their sarcophagi have somehow been modified by a particularly inventive Eldar Scout to stamp Hello Kitty tattoos on both their cheeks, and the Techmarines are too afraid of tinkering with revered technology to fix the problem); or any other signs of impending doom found in the new Codex, are all more or less standard fare.

It is the tone that grabbed my attention this time around. The Blood Angels are clearly about to be assaulted on all sides and blasted into semi-oblivion; Dante and his pre-Heresy walker somehow termed a "jump pack" clearly is getting ready for something big; the narrator's voice very frequently trails off after saying something especially foreboding (from a purely editorial perspective, having so many dot-dot-dots where actual periods and minor sentence revisions would have conveyed precisely the same effect can actually be viewed as poor writing skills); and if I read one more "time will tell if this minor detail is actually super important and will factor prominently in the immunity challenge on the next episode of Survivor-40k" remark I am going to seriously consider showing up to a Grand Tournament with an army of bright pink Plague Marines with converted bunny ears pinned to the backs of their helmets. Led by their hideously diseased Daemon Prince, Ea'st-hherr bh'Unnii. Sporting a Mark of Tzeentch for good measure. And covered with glitter. Do not tempt me.

I suppose this is precisely the sort of thing that ought to appeal to a younger audience, much like the prospect of a far-away yet inevitably impending 13th Black Crusade must have felt to anyone of the right age group reading the 2nd Edition Chaos Codex. On the other hand, Games Workshop is treading somewhat dangerous ground here in the sense that they cannot simply destroy the known 40k universe, which means that promising near-Apocalypses ultimately leads to under-delivering in terms of sheer carnage merely to preserve something of a realistic status quo. Thus, the actual 13th Black Crusade was, strategically speaking, not more than a whimper when it came, far from a mighty invasion blazing a trail to Terra itself. Imagine if Napoleon had set out to conquer Europe and promptly became bogged down halfway through Switzerland, spending much of his time litigating against the various cantons for right of way as well as contriving complicated financial schemes with the local banking system in order to keep his troops supplied - similarly, Horus Junior can't just throw away the "13" moniker on a small raid that only devastates a few hundred planets (out of at least a million human-populated worlds) and doesn't even make it a quarter of the way to Terra. In this regard, Games Workshop should either hold the Multiple Apocalypses that will, in order, first destroy the galaxy, then destroy all known life in the galaxy, then destroy all the stars in the galaxy, then destroy both this galaxy and the alternate reality of the Warp, then have the whole bloody thing be overrun by Orks just before the Jokaero make their triumphant return in a fleet of engine-less space ships constructed out of thumb tacks and jelly beans and crewed by, who else, rebel Zoats who had escaped from their Tyranid overseers (fans of Rogue Trader lore will appreciate this), and then Leman Russ shows up to challenge Fuegan to a drinking match (which is what the Eldar really refer to with their whole Rhana Dandra nonsense) - at any rate, Games Workshop ought to hold all of these things off as "distant but faintly visible future", i.e. place less of an emphasis on the image of Dante sitting in his rocking chair doing Sudoku puzzles while looking out the window every couple of minutes to see if the Ultimate Final Battle has finally begun whilst Corbulo broods by himself in the corner and refuses to divulge any of his prophetic knowledge lest this actually help anyone formulate a useful strategy; or adopt the Privateer Press approach, whereby massively massive (and hugely huge) armies drawn from a few minor kingdoms and semi-nomadic mutated hordes, collectively smaller in both numbers and scale than the pre-unification German states, expend titanic efforts on exchanging a few minor border forts and, as recent readers of War Machine's background will admit, conducting epically bloody company-scale raids against each other primarily aimed at securing, or destroying, a giant block of ice, while Unspeakable Evils commanding vast hordes of undead, mutated or otherwise un-hygienic creatures launch massive crusades whereby a full year must be spent on eradicating a few remote villages, no doubt due to all the attendant paperwork that must be filled out by the offending parties in triplicate.

In other words, my personal view is that Games Workshop would have been better served by either cutting down on the Apocalypse (a la War Machine) or, conversely, staying true to its roots and juggling a good dozen Heresy-scale threats but not letting any of those threats become immediate enough to actually threaten the status quo. In this regard, the Blood Angels Codex seems to be too much of a swing towards the early teenage fan - the relief for Baal is already on its way, which means conflict shall come very, very soon, which means that...

...for Horus' sake, you only get to have one 13th Black Crusade, or one final apocalyptic near-death experience for the Blood Angels Chapter. Just wanted to point that out.


02-04-2010, 05:36

All that aside - and in a surprising twist to those who'd manage to make it this far down in the post - it was the army list rather than the background section which had provoked me to write this in the first place, and it is to the army list section that I shall now turn. To belabor an earlier point, the intent is not to discuss every unit and ability in detail as it pertains to the current meta-game, but rather to share my overall impressions of it.

I should also, from the start, disclaim the notion that army list entries must in any way correspond to the army's background. This was a concept abandoned by Games Workshop some time ago, long before mixing Khornate and Slaaneshi units in the same army (led by Tzeentchian Heralds, of all things) became the acceptable norm. And so I was not at all surprised to see that the Death Company is now one, capable of being split into several smaller Death Companies each performing separate and independent functions; can legally number one hundred and eighty individuals or 18.0% of its total strength, a number that might phase even a veteran Flesh Tearer commander especially after one factors in the fact that more than a few dozen Blood Angels are supposed to be less susceptible to the Red Thirst either by virtue of their superior training and experience, or because, as Scouts, they haven’t had much of either yet; and can now be armed with Bolters as standard as well as being given a special rule specifically encouraging the players to load up on Rapid Fire weapons while having its hand to hand capabilities against armored opponents reduced to those of a mildly enraged Tactical Squad, albeit with the added possibility of unlimited power weapon and power fist upgrades at the customarily inflated points cost. I won’t even mention the fact that the Rage Universal Special Rule doesn’t even force the unit to charge an enemy – merely to move towards it – which means that Relentless 2-Attack Bolter Marines With Feel No Pain might well be the most cost-effective way of fielding the unit unless one uses the “sticking a jump pack on Death Company Marine makes him cost just as much as a jump pack Vanguard Veteran but with much better special rules” logic. Speaking of which, Vanguard Veterans without jump packs now look downright awful insofar as points efficiency, actually costing more than Death Company Marines.

The point is that even as Bolter-armed Death Company might not exactly fit the background material, which seems to mention something about a band of raving madmen foaming at the mouth, blathering something about the Heresy and tearing at the enemy with their bare hands and teeth, it’s just one of those things we are all going to have to live with. Like Blood Angels and Necrons forming temporary alliances against the Tyranids. Besides which, from a balancing perspective the Death Company isn’t actually all that bad – it isn’t scoring but takes up both points and a Troops slot – and shouldn’t generate a great deal more carnage than regular Tactical or Assault Marines (especially when buffed by a Sanguinary Priest) unless a Chaplain is involved and a charge takes place – or unless more points are plowed into the unit to begin with.

Rather, what struck me especially about the list is how Games Workshop modified the organizational chart structure in order to, well, presumably open up the gaming possibilities but also diverge the Blood Angels from a typical “Space Marine” list setup.

Recall that, typically, the organizational chart had followed certain conventions. Characters were in HQ, jump pack and skimmer units were in Fast Attack, heavy armor was in Heavy Support, and so forth. What the Blood Angels Codex does is throw that logic more or less out the window. Thus, no less than three character types (four if the Dreadnought-mounted Librarian is counted) are shifted to Elites; Troops include an “elite” unit (the Death Company), a vehicle (the Death Company Dreadnought) and jump pack infantry; Fast Attack suddenly sports an AV13 battle tank, which has the Scouts rule for good measure; and a Fast Skimmer troop transport lauded in the background section for its maneuverability and speed ends up as Heavy Support; while Land Raider tanks are offered as dedicated transports to any unit in the Codex, including the Vanguard Veteran squad situated in the Fast Attack section.

It’s almost as if Games Workshop had an internal meeting whereby a conscious decision was made to let the players “theme” their armies in any fashion they chose. You want Hero-hammer? Here are two HQ characters plus either up to nine Sanguinary Priests (each with a 6” radius Feel No Pain and Furious Charge buff) , or up to three Chaplains, or up to three Librarian Dreadnoughts, or any combination thereof. Want to play Armored Company? You get three tanks as Heavies, three more tanks with Scouts as Fast, then an MBT for each of your compulsory Troops choices to ride in, and if you really want to push it, there are some AV13 Dreadnoughts with free “Sustained Attack Without Limit” close combat weapons in the Elites section. How about a jump pack heavy force? Well, the basic jump pack unit is now scoring, so take loads of that plus Elite Chaplains with Priests together with HQ choices and Honor or Sanguinary Guard for back-up (one is cheaper and has a built-in buff, the other has more shiny toys), and you’re all set…What about a Ninja Tau That Can Actually Take A Punch force? Well, did I mention that the Land Raiders in the list can Deep Strike (to say nothing of all the units with jump packs, which Deep Strike as well but scatter only one D6 rather than two)? Other variants such as Six Dreadnoughts Without A Techmarine In Sight, Five Librarians In An Army, or even the somewhat more conventional Wall Of Tacticals With Feel No Pain And Furious Charge, are barely worth mentioning.

I’m not suggesting that some or all of these builds are necessarily overpowering, though some could ultimately prove to be – for example, Deep Striking a Land Raider without a Teleport Homer anywhere close to the action can be a dicey proposition if the opponent deploys correctly, but being able to drop three Land Raider squads as Troops, possibly Deep Striking, and still have a third of your points left for supporting units, might wreck certain builds – however, the mere fact that they are possible, whereby with many (if not most) other current 40k armies one is rather more hemmed in by the organizational chart, is striking in and of itself. On the one hand, this is eminently a good thing, as it allows players considerable flexibility in structuring their forces, whether for “theme” or “power”. Less cookie-cutter is better, in other words. On the other hand, completely unstructured list-building systems generally run into a balancing problem sooner or later. To wit, War Machine’s approach to the problem basically entails trying to overpower everything such that everything can be overpowered “equally” – but on the other hand, “one hit kills” of the opposing force from ability stacks and synergies are the norm rather than the exception. The 40k meta-game would be ill-served with a move in that particular direction, in my opinion, not the least because it would take an enormous length of time to properly “break” every organizational chart out there, which may or may not have a corresponding effect on army- and product-specific sales. And so, some degree of restriction and restraint on player whimsy is a good thing – but that isn’t exactly what we see happening with the Blood Angels (to some degree, yes – the Elites section is especially crowded with “useful” choices, most notably the Chaplain and Sanguinary Priest characters – but not nearly to the degree evidenced in some of the other Codices).

It will be very interesting to see if Games Workshop continues this “liberating” trend in future Codices or not. My personal guess is - probably, but not consistently. In other words, it is perfectly plausible that the next Codex will re-adhere to organizational chart conventions, whether in the name of balance, or because Games Workshop will not feel the need to “differentiate” it quite as much as it had with Blood Angels. On the other hand, there is a case to be made with respect to, for example, Dark Angels insofar as “breaking” the organizational chart in the name of differentiation – Terminators and Bikes as Troops choices without having to take a Master of the Random-wing, anyone? – and a door once opened is not always easily closed.

Here endeth my missive, much as the hour is late and I must be off to bed – besides which, it’s only a Codex, not a Brent Nosworthy tome on 18th Century tactics (highly recommended for period enthusiasts, by the way).

02-04-2010, 06:26
It's awesome how much you care about the Blood Angels to write all of that stuff, but I'm not sure if you are just trying to tell everyone your opinion or to try and facilitate discussion on the blood angels

02-04-2010, 06:48
Actually, from reading what fluff the Black Library has printed at this point the Blood Angels chapter seems to nearly get wiped out every week.

That said, I love your post. I'm reserving judgement until my codex gets here(crosses fingers, tomorrow I hope).

02-04-2010, 06:55
I'm not sure if I agree, disagree, or both with you, damn that post is long. It's not that I won't read your posts, it would be rude not to, but could you like post like 5 of your posts' key points so that me and others have no doubts as to what your points were.

02-04-2010, 08:56
Blood angels fluff has taken way too many heavy hits of late not to expect the codex to 1) Ignore the BL "books", 2) ignore the 950 death count from space hulk, 3) still manage to drop the ball.

But yes i agree the rules are fun, balanced and flexible so not all bad.

Gazak Blacktoof
02-04-2010, 11:04
I don't think that mauling the organisation chart will lead to less cookie cutter lists, I'm certain that there will still be a few lists that are beter than anything else that the codex can produce. I'm also of the opinion that this sort of shake-up would have been better suited to a non-codex marine chapter.

Why don't the blood angels just go to Ultramar and kick Guilliman's corpse in the head?:p

02-04-2010, 12:29
I really wanted to read your post, but without spacing it was just to painfull.
If you have the time at some point, i would recommend you to do it.
It would make me happy thats for sure. =)

Logarithm Udgaur
02-04-2010, 12:32
TL/DR (in this case standing for Too Long/Did Read).

You win the April Fools contest.

03-04-2010, 07:59
Interesting and amusing. I look forward to reading the Codex myself to formulate my own opinion. :)

Plastic Parody
03-04-2010, 08:33
re numerical inconsistencies (from the chapter organisation page)

43 land raiders
(only) 3 thunderhawk transporters

03-04-2010, 10:05
I am sadly waiting for mine to arrive. I will edit my 2nd founding chapter history to the new codex, and place a few more of my own heros and characters as I do not use GW special characters without a themed prearranged game.

I am personally excited about getting mine as i have missed getting to use my Blood Angels. And I am personally excited and sad to see some of the previous heros fall to the black rage. I think the end of time thing comes with 5th Main Rule Book saying the light of the emperor is beinging to fade. or something like that.

while yea its possible to field a army of dreads or tons of death company, I doubt we will see to many of them on the table. especially since neither of those builds can win a game unless they completely wipe the board. I think some of it is GW's attempt to get those with expendable incomes to blow it all. As I can see a full dread army costing a small fortune. Same with a fully fielded death company.

I do tend to agree with you on the fact that the history from the days of rogue trader and even 2nd were by far superior. Since i am not a fan of all the novels from the BL, as they are inconsistant with each other let alone the game. But this new fluff is still a far cry better then thier last codex, which did not have any real fluff what so ever. But as I have my own second founding chapter and my own history to draw on from games played with my friends I am not to worried of the new fluff and hope to have year of continued fun with my Blood Angels.

03-04-2010, 10:24
Was long, but loved it - and agree that every Games Developer needs to be sat down with a copy of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. There's only so much "oh my god, the end is nigh..." you can continually cram into the game before it gets rather ho-hum.

Reading the WD (haven't flicked through the codex yet) I'm mostly bemused at how BA are now one of the least codex "codex chapters" out there. I'm also left scratching my head at how little the names of the Force Org Chart categories resemble the actual roles of the units associated with them. :D

03-04-2010, 10:30
Considering that it takes 1 year to create a blood angel from the malnourished inhabitants of Baal secondus they can quite easily suffer massive casualty rates and not be in danger of extinction.

The only limiting factor is how many sarcophagi they have to use.

Remember that although space marines are rare they are recruited from humanity, one of the most populous species in the galaxy. Even if only a small proportion of humanity might work as a marine that's still billions of people. Marines are in no danger of ever going extinct.

The whole 'rare' aspect is an artifically contrived one produced by the High Lords of Terra to limit the number of marines and prevent another heresy. It has nothing to do with how many marines there COULD BE.