HTPBAC – Part 1: My thoughts on playing Blood Angels competitivelyThe Short Version:
The Blood Angels' chapter tactic is Furious Charge. If you aren't aiming to use your non-vehicle units in assault, even as a secondary role, you're probably better off taking another chapter's units. Other loyalist chapters get free rules that you could take greater advantage of, instead.
Blood Angels have some unique options available to them, and I believe that by using them, a competitive advantage can be gained against other MEQ armies. On the other hand, there are many unit options that are better off as other chapters, which make taking them in a Blood Angels list less effective by comparison, making said list less competitive.
This work aims to explore list strategies, ultimately eliminating those strategies that are more powerful in other codices, hopefully leaving a strategy that is most powerful within the Blood Angels codex.Chapter Tactical Inflexibility:
To be blunt, the only time we benefit from our chapter tactic is when we're charging
. Note: That isn't to say that we benefit when we're in close combat. We only benefit when we're charging
. In all other situations, nearly any other chapter's tactics are more valuable.
Ultramarines can choose their buffs as needed. White Scars can benefit from shooting, charging, breaking off, shooting, and charging again. Imperial Fists have benefits whenever firing a bolt-weapon. Iron Hands are a little tougher than normal, and their vehicles are tougher than standard. Raven Guard have an easier time getting their Jump Pack infantry into assault... though their Jump Pack infantry are not as good as ours can be. Salamanders [You're taking Vulkan, let's be honest.] get some of the best short ranged shooting in the game, and free upgrades to all their characters. 4 Bikers with 2x Meltagun and a combi melta sum at one point less than 5 Assault Marines with the same weaponry, in a free Pod. Said weaponry is more destructive, with the higher accuracy, in the hands of Vulkan's Salamanders. Somewhat more reliable, in that you are more mobile and less likely to be wrecked by a bad scatter. At the very least, they're comparable unit choices.
What, Blood Angels don't have the hands down best melta delivery in the game? Not so cut and dry? 105 pts for a pair of melta is 53 points per melta in an Assault Squad. You can do a pair of Melta on a trio of bikes for 83 points, at 42 points per melta. If you happen to kill your target, you can then chase down something else with the bikes. Sorry my, fellow sons of Sanguinus. I think my honest preference is for Bikes these days. You can fire and assault the same turn, even turn 1 if you're fortunate.
Drop Pod Assault Squads are good, but not the only method of delivering Meltaguns. I've been facing off against White Scars a lot, lately. I know. Those bikes carry their cover save with them, and can provide a cover save for units behind them. Invaluable for Jump Packers that want to move directly towards a target.
Black Templars... got a big dry shaft, in a distinctly uncomfortable location. The ear canal, if anyone's curious. So what do we pull from this?
White Scars are better at protracted combats, and receiving a charge. At close range, they're more able to make repeated shooting attacks if they are assaulted. If on the offensive, they can repeatedly charge a single unit, gaining bonus attacks and “free” rounds of shooting in between. Plus bikes that never die. Like, ever. That pretty much ignore terrain. They don't need
to be in Close Combat, but if it's advantageous they can do so, and if it isn't, they can break away. Their units can be geared towards shooting exclusively, if they desire, since they can flee from combat. Nice for anything that wants to shoot, shoot again, and shoot some more. Jumped out of a Drop Pod, and got charged? Hit and Run, baby! Masters of the Alpha, Beta, and Omega strike.
Iron Hands non-vehicles mimic a benefit of our Sanguinary Priests, albeit at a lesser effect. However, it's a free upgrade, and army wide. Their vehicles are innately superior to ours [If we don't pay for a Fast upgrade] as they get a free IWND upgrade. Our Fast upgrades are at a cost, even if it's a reasonable one in most cases. If you want a Chapter Master that just won't die, Iron Hands are for you. If you really like Land Raiders, than an IH Master of the Forge riding inside is going to keep it alive forever. Toss some Honour Guard in said Raider... they're going to make it there. If you want to go heavy into vehicles, it's hard to go wrong with Iron Hands.
Salamanders have more devastating close-quarters shooting weapons, and a Master-Crafted Close Combat upgrade on a Sergeant might balance out the effect of furious charge, after bonus wounds from flamers pre-charge. In a drawn out combat, a Master-Crafted Close Combat weapon pays off round after round. They stack damage up front, in the shooting phase, instead of extra hurt in the assault phase. More powerful Alpha Strike on turns that they can't assault, and are more capable of crippling an opponent before assaulting, lessening the need for overwhelming Close Combat ability. They use “Assault” weapons the way Blood Angels do, but better.That sounds rather negative:
Well... kind of.
It mostly just means that we need to rely on mobility, to achieve overwhelming force in the assault phase. Unlike many other factions, we REALLY don't want to be doing anything but wiping squads on the charge. Yes, it means we're at risk of suffering return fire, but there's only one way we're benefiting from our Furious Charge, and that's if we're charging. We can't be charging, if we're stuck in combat for multiple turns. Furious Charge generates extra kill-power, and we need it.
Besides, if you're charging with more than one unit, into more than one unit, what's going to be left to shoot you next turn?
So that leads to another, more-or-less enforced list building rule. Everything needs to get Close Combat upgrades. A shooty biker Sargeant needs a power fist, because after the bike squad shoots, the squad needs to charge. Without a second Close Combat Weapon, he might as well go for the Fist. The bikes need to charge “Squad A” so that “Squad A” can't shoot the Death Company, that are about to slaughter “Squad B” in a single charge. The Death Company wont need to endure the shooting of “Squad A”, so can then charge and mop up “Squad B” the next turn, without losing overly much to opposing shooting. If The bikes don't sweep their target too, of course.
To that end, we have units that are unique between other Marines and ourselves, in both Death Company and Sanguinary Guard. Both units move faster than infantry, and both units hit like a ton of bricks. Yes, other armies have units that can move fast, and other armies have units that are good in Close Combat, but none combine them like Blood Angels do. Many Marines have Vanguard Vets, or the like, but who uses them? Wolves have Thunderwolf Cavalry, but for Thunder Hammer + Storm Shield, they pay 75 pts a model. To the best of my knowledge, their chapter tactic is Counter Charge, which is an even more situationaly useful ability than Furious Charge is. Sure, they're tough as nails, and punchy as a racist Irish-joke. Blood Angels can put a lot down for the cost of three TWC. We might need to charge, but at least we get to choose that. An opponent needs to choose to charge the Wolves, before they can benefit. Look out, the Fire Warriors are charging me! Said no player, ever.
We can't do Alpha Strike shooting like Scars or Sallies. We don't thrive in drawn out combats, like Scars and Sallies can. We don't have the widespread endurance that Iron Hands have, particularly in their vehicles.
We do well on the charge. We have many ways to boost our Close Combat power. We can take pistol variants that no one else can, which are useful before a charge.
We have Fast vehicles, that can keep up with our high mobility non-vehicles. Those vehicles can protect our other units, by blocking Line of Sight or providing cover. This helps to ensure that the non-vehicles get to their target, while bringing to bear heavy weapons that are otherwise in short supply. In particular, a Fast Predator with Lascannon sponsons can move 6” and fire all weapons. This helps to ensure Line of Sight while adjusting position within a ruin, for example. This triples full BS firepower, compared to a Predator from another codex. We can move 12” and still fire a pair of weapons at full BS. That's useful when chasing down another fast vehicle, or while providing cover to advancing jump Pakers or Bikes. The dramatic improvement in firepower on the move meshes well with Blood Angels' reliance upon mobility.
We can still use units that don't necessarily play into these strengths, so long as they support the mobile units. For example, an opponent wishing to play a gun-line-type army will generally need to deal with targets on a proximity basis. Podding a pair of Dreads down into their line can draw fire away from the more expensive, more critical elements of your army, buying them a turn to advance unscathed, to deliver their assault potential at full strength. Mobile armies that don't wish to be thumped on by Dreads will need to move out of cover, or towards your advancing units to avoid the Dreads. That's good for your advancing units, to ensure they're within charge range.
At the very least, this keeps your army from being completely one-dimensional, and I do like Dreadnaughts. It's a niche market:
There aren't many ways to play Blood Angels competitively. You move very quickly towards your target, shoot it, and then punch it in the face. Rinse and repeat. You need speed to ensure you can wash over your targets like a wave, denying your opponent's firepower though engagement in Close Combat. You can't spend any extra turns in front of your opponent's guns. Even “weak” assault units must charge, to protect the heavy hitters. In doing so, the smashiest of your units can do their best to destroy a unit each turn, while the rest provide support and “pin” targets in place.
I think that's the Blood Angels' strongest strategy. Fast, punchy units, supported by Fast shooty units. Those shooty units should still plan to assault where possible. They can be supported by slower units that force distraction from the main force, or that can force your opponent to change position to allow more reliable assault by the main force.
In order to drive your opponents into you, it can be wise to Drop Pod threatening units behind their line. Such close proximity can make prioritization difficult for your opponent. Do they deal with the podded Dreads, or shoot the Predators that are screening your Death Company? Do they move forward, to deny your Dreads the ability to charge next turn, but then place themselves in range of Sanguinary Guard? Do they charge our podded support units, only to be pinned in place for charges from the advancing Bikers?Building a List @ 1500 – 1850 Points:
I'm old, and 1500 points has always been my “standard” list size. I've played games all over the board, and I find that 1500 points is still the most challenging value to play at. Most armies don't have enough points to cover all the bases. You are still going to have a weak point somewhere to protect, while you attempt to exploit your opponent's weakness. That said, my area is moving towards 1850 points as the new standard. I find that by building a tight 1500 point list, I can usually add a couple of toys, and then boost the numbers of a squad or two to fill out the extra points quite easily. In my mind, it's a 1500 point list + 350 more points.
Trying to give list building advice for Blood Angels is tricky, since there are roughly 100 different Dataslates, Formations and Detachments that a person can choose for Blood Angels now. To the best of my knowledge, there are options in the Rulebook, Codex, two Shield of Baal campaign books, and White Dwarf issue/s. There might be more, that's just what I know of.
I'm not fond of our Codex “Troop” choices, in regards to being able to play into a fast moving, punchy playstyle. I know that the 5-man Heavy Flamer Tactical squad in a Pod is pretty popular. Bare bones, you're looking at 115 points. You could instead buy 5 Bikes with 2x Flamers for the same price. If your opponent moves forward, or deploys infiltrators / scouts close to you, you could move, flame + shoot, then charge that target. If that target then moves away, or gets wiped out, you can then rapidly redeploy, turbo boosting if necessary, to remain a part of the game. Tacticals can't do that. All other load-outs can be done by other Chapters, and they generally have more useful CT's to apply to those builds.
You could play “Distraction” Scouts, by infiltrating Close Combat Weapon armed versions close to your opponent. They have the downside of being unable to charge during the first turn, and if your opponent goes first, they'll soak two rounds of shooting plus overwatch before they can charge. That presumes that your opponent isn't mobile enough to keep away from them. Will bike heavy lists be distracted
by Scouts? Doubtful, they're going to move off anyway. If the sit'n'shoot units are punchy themselves, such as SW units, or Chaos troops with Close Combat Weapon upgrades, they'll just wait and let you charge while they focus on the real threats. Their babysitting value as an objective camper is questionable, compared to other codices. For example, Iron Hands are more apt to take a Techmarine / Master of the Forge. In doing so, they can boost the save of a ruin, and the Scouts can take cloaks to gain a TEQ cover save, without going to ground. Blood Angels scouts, on the other hand, should be geared to chase down and punch opposing units, which doesn't mesh with sitting around holding the fort.
We have more options, though....
[Half way point... time for a break! See you in a couple days!]