Friday, May 21, 2010

Inefficient Angels

The new Blood Angels codex has been out for a while now, and I've decided that it plays decidedly differently from the way the old one played.  Perhaps this seems like an obvious observation, but to me, it wasn't at first, really.  I want to outline what I think is different, and the direction it seems that Blood Angels will be headed in a competitive setting.

To start, I think the biggest change in the new codex is the loss of Preferred Enemy everywhere:  not FNP-en masse, not Fast vehicles, or more tooled-out veterans, but the loss of Preferred Enemy as a bubble given by Senor Dante.  I realize that not everyone played a crazy close-combat oriented army, but I think that the most 'competitive' of the PDF Angel builds utilized 'Bubble Power' quite a bit.  I'm sure there are those who disagree, but to me, I think that the loss of Preferred Enemy is the single most game-affecting change in the new codex.

With the new codex, we have plenty of options for getting rerolls to hit- Chaplains as elites and librarians who can 'cast' it every turn are great, except for the one sad truth:  they don't affect everyone all the time.  The tactical and assault combat squads I had with a single fist used to take down other squads twice or triple their size, simply because of the re-rollable fist every round of combat.  The lightning-claw veterans I used to rock against anything who charged or was charged by them was AMAZING, since rerolls to hit and wound, with no save possible really was very good.

Now, sure, if a general plans it well, they'll get off a single charge with their Chaplain-led squad and the squad will be just as good as they used to be in the PDF, for a round.  But, if the combat lasts for another round, the Chaplain will largely do nothing (because if they're stuck in combat with something that could hold out against all those rerolls in the first turn, they're gooing to be tough) and the fist hits like an ordinary fist, and largely has no real effect on the combat (especially if the enemy also has a fist).  To further complicate matters, if the unit is counter-charged, they lose both Furious Charge AND the ability to re-roll hits.  Why wouldn't an opponent counter-charge you, if it was at all feasable?

Another thing worth mentioning, I think, is that if you DO decide to give your key units Chaplains and/or Librarians, you're paying a much larger premium than the 200 points you used to spend on Dante.  Sure, you can argue that you're also paying for combat ability, but really, who are we kidding?  The points we spend on Chaplains is for the re-roll to hit, and nothing else.  Paying 100+ points for an alright guy in combat just isn't efficient.  Using a Librarian for his hood and second power is all well and good, except 1) it isn't a sure thing you'll get to use his power because of psychic defense and 2) if he's in the middle of combat with you, he's very likely to die anyways, negating your hood.

I suppose the conclusion to this series of paragraphs that I must point to is this:  Blood Angels in the last codex weren't efficient enough at combat to even be considered 'middle-tier', even with Preferred Enemy.  Now, we're forced to pay more points for less efficency in combat.  And I might add that all of our combat units are basically of the same consistency as the old codex- no new 'super-unit' out there to speak of.  Sure, you can have power weapons on every veteran now, and a storm shield- but it's nowhere near as cost-effective as similar units in other armies.  You can easily spend 600 points on an 'uber-deathstar' type of unit that can do less than other 400-point units in other codexes.  You can spend the same number of points on Death Company, and yeah, they'll be pretty scary.  But you can't control them, and they might just chase a rhino the whole game, or get shot by 9 plasma shots that essentially ignore cover (from the same 120-point Imperial Guard squad) and die horribly.

The arguement might be made that with the addition of FNP to everyone in the army (if you pay the points) is a factor that makes them of a similar efficiency to the PDF Angels, and I'm not sure I can totally refute that. What I will say is that while FNP is nice, there are a lot of things that negate it, and over-dependancy on it will in the end really hurt you in a competitive setting.  I also want to add that in a game where people tend to reserve their entire force quite often, you might not have time to win by attrition.  If a game only truly starts on Turn 3 or 4 due to reserves, you often don't have 3-4 turns to wear your opponent with power-armor down in a single combat.  In a game where everyone is required to be able to kill power armor easily, FNP is less useful than it appears at face value.

As a sidenote, I think this is what makes Mephiston a good choice in this codex.  People may not agree with me, but I think he is the single most efficient model in the book.  He is a one-model unit that gives himself preferred enemy, a jump pack, and S10 at I7 (or 8!).  He rolls as many power weapon attacks as most squads would be willing to pay for (and at a high weapon skill no less!), and is incredibly hard to kill.  Give me one squad worth 250 points that can do what he does, or even dies less quickly than him.  You can't, it doesn't exist.  Not in this book.

So, what do we do?  A combat army without good combat ability, how can we win?  There are ways.

Luckily, Fast vehicles are all over the place in the Codex.  It doesn't make Blood Angels the fastest army (not by a long shot), but it does make it one of the fastest.  The extra 6" you can move rhinos toward gunlines essentially gives them one less turn of pounding away at your AV11 before you get there.  In addition, you can still move 12" and fire a weapon.  This is a huge boon, as many combat armies that depend on killing vehicles through combat will get much fewer hits on your tanks.  Reserving things is much more viable because of this, and outflanking Predators in certain situations can be extremely nice.

The speed of the vehicles and their ability to fire a lot of high-strength weaponry, as well as deliver hard to kill troops makes Blood Angels great at objective games, and allowing transports to lay down their own supressing fire while getting troops to the place they need to be.  I think that (though it hurts my soul, somewhat) in the long run, the most competitive builds for Blood Angels will be mechanized, containing lots of (extremely) mobile shooting, with a solid (but not over-the-top) assault element.  In other words, this army is no longer doomed to live or die by the assault- it must now rely on a solid, well-thought-out mixture of shooting, speed, and assault.  It's not the best codex for any of these, but it certainly does well in all three.

There will of course be oddball lists, such as Storm Raven lists, AV13 spam, and Raider Spam (so, AV14 spam? lol) and each of those may or may not do well- time will tell I suppose.  I'm convinced that none of these lists will do great as take-all-comers in a competitive setting- all of them have a rock to their scissors. 

Maybe this little 'essay' doesn't say anything you don't already know- many seem already to be on their way toward figuring it out.  I hope it helped some people, though, since it took me many many test games and quite a bit of observation and thinking to finally draw this conclusion.  What I want this army to be and what it actually is, are two different things, and I need to come to grips with that.  Let me know what you think.  I'm interested to hear your thoughts.


Zac Pauga said...

I think your pretty much spot on with a lot of your observations but are being pretty hard on our little red buddies.

I suffered the same disillusionment your writing about, I read about FC FNP Assault marines that were troops and and thought an army of them would beat anything in close combat. But as you've said the sad truth is that assault marines are not our hammer, yes they will beat other marines in combat on the charge, but they are not killy enough to warrant huge multi-assaults.

The sad conclusion I've come to (especially when you factor in that I've converted 5 boxes of Sanguinary guard into assault marines with jump packs) is the strength of our books is cheap, fast, scoring vehicles with 3+ armor FnP guys inside. The FnP is so much more useful than FC and it keeps our scoring units on objectives.

For hammer units I've been exploring the terminator route again, TH/SS terminators are seriously one of the best units in the game and even at 45 points a model are undercosted. unfortunately My BA list is turning out exactly like my SM list, razorbacks and terminators.

Chumbalaya said...

RAS are still good for killing infantry or mop up, but they aren't going to be smashing everything asunder.

VV, characters and HG are my hammer units for a jumper army. In a more mixed list, Dreads fit in nicely.

I'll drop PE in a heartbeat if it means everything isn't overpriced and half of it is useless :P