Monday, 9 September 2013

Blood Angels: A Balancing Act

With the release of the Dark Angels and Space Marines codices, both of which are regarded as fairly close organisationwise but rather different ruleswise, my thoughts can't help but wander to what the future holds for their closest cousins, the Blood Angels.

Now I make no secret of my dislike for the Blood Angels. Not so much for their theme, history or doctrine so much as the over popularity of the pseudo-vampires and their tendency to be better than every other angel of death in almost every way. What once started as a neat mesh of gothic sci-fi and dark fantasy has turned into an over the top combat fest that turned into every tournament player's wet dream. When I started back in second edition, the Blood Angels were nothing more than a fairly balanced Space Marine list with more focus on melee than shooting, exactly how they should be. However, their descent into insane power and seeming increasing lack of weakness began back in third edition.

For those who weren't around for third edition, which I now dub as "40k for Dummies" due to it's bare bone, lack of variety nature, close combat ruled the roost. If you were a shooty army, you might as well skipped every one of your turns. As you can imagine, as an avid Ultramarine (and, later in the same edition, Necron) player, I lost pretty much all the time. This mindset, however, did wonders in boosting the popularity of the sons of Sanguinius as bandwagon players left and right came out of the wood work to take an almighty Space Marine army that ripped most anything to shreds in combat. I was ridiculed when I walked into a Games Workshop as inevitably someone would hark "He's a smurf player! So boring, everyone plays them!" to which the rest of the store, who unsurprisingly were Born Again Blood Angels, would shake their fists and mutter "Yeah!" like that kid who follows the bully who stole your lunch money everyday to look tough.

Even then Blood Angels took their fluff well. Space Marines would randomly succumb to the Black Rage and become Death Company, or would frenzy randomly as the Red Thirst took over, both of which magnifying your close combat abilities whilst inconveniencing you ranged abilities. It was insanely hard, yes, but that's how Blood Angels should be, and surely once Games Workshop ironed out the rules edition by edition, they would even out... right?


Blood Angels are harder than ever. EVER. If it's a chapter strength, it's rules are amazing and if it's a chapter flaw, it's even more amazing. How does that work? The Red Thirst is meant to be a curse, not a boon. I dare you all to point out one flaw with succumbing to the Red Thirst nowadays. You can't, can you? Then there's the units that a hard but have no specific relevant to Blood Angels at all. At what point were Blood Angels the only chapter to be so amazing with psychic powers that they were the only ones who thought of sticking a Librarian in Dreadnought armour? It's preposterous.

I dread the next codex, especially with the power upping and points dropping Warhammer 40k has gotten into as of late. However, all is not lost. I have a few ideas on how Blood Angels can be an enjoyable army to play as and against without hogging the lime light like a fat Eldar.

1. The Red Thirst

As I have stated before, the Red Thirst is a curse. It went from being a nuisance (making your unit move towards the nearest enemy when you fail a leadership test) to being something you'd hope would happen (gains furious charge for the rest of the game on the roll of a 1). Now I get this is meant to improve the Blood Angel's close combat abilities, but it's a flaw, not a boon. I suggest changing this to something similar to the Knights Errant in the Bretonnian army book. Something like:

Roll for leadership for every unit at the start of the assault phase. If the unit fails, it has to attempt to charge a unit if it is possible to do so (even if you would usually opt against it) and in that phase, the unit also gains Furious Charge.

A simple change over would make Blood Angels randomly dangerous when charging and makes the Red Thirst less permanent. It would also mean that, even if an enemy unit is 12" away, they have to attempt a charge and would prompt an overwatch attack regardless. It now has a flaw but it's still deadly.

2. Mephiston

Of all the Blood Angels, Mephiston is something of an oddity to me. On the one hand, I feel he has the best fluff of any Blood Angel special character, but on the other hand he's is overpowered to the max. Mephiston doesn't have to be unstoppably hard to be a good choice! He is, by far, one of the most insanely hard models in the game. Ridiculous stats, psychic powers, a good gun, artificer armour and a psychic hood that amplifies his power. In my opinion, if a single model can feasibly wipe out half my army, he needs nerfing. I have some modifications I think would help keep him hard but not over the top:

Psychic Mastery 3: It has been said on several occasions that Tigurius is thought to be the most powerful psyker in the Imperium, yet he is still ML3. I don't disagree with this as I personally feel Eldrad and Ahriman should be the only two ML4 characters in the setting. So why is Mephiston ML4? I hear you Blood Angels cry "because he pushed through the Black Rage!", but that still contradicts Tigurius being more powerful. You can still show this in the rules...

One Extra Warp Charge: I would change it so Mephiston still only had 3 powers, but 4 warp charges to show his psychic powers are super charged. It means his discipline and pure knowledge doesn't match Eldrad or Ahriman, but rather boosted by his willpower.

Drop Strength and Toughness both to 5: No Marine should be able to equally arm wrestle a Swarm Lord without special gear. Initiative 9? That's fine, it's essentially a "I'm quicker than you" stat and doesn't improve with every point unless your opponent's stat is also improved.

3. Dante

This one might confuse some people. What do I have against Dante? Well, first of all he suffers from what I like to call "I'm Batman" syndrome fluffwise. All you hear about Dante is that he's an amazing strategist who will one day save the Imperium. "But why? What's he done? What will he do?" I say, to which he will reply "I'm Dante!". He could do with a bit of an in depth account. Compared to the other main Chapter Masters, he's a little thin on the details.

But it's not just that, his Death Mask of Sanguinius is horrible. It drops the stats of an enemy character of his choosing. So you know that ultimate character you sank all your points on? Massive waste. Oh and who's that? Dante's BFF Mephiston? Oh look, he just chopped your 250 point character in twain. With his pinky. It needs a serious looking over. Maybe it should cause fear and/or drop a stats of a character within 12" or so once a game for a single turn? That could be used much more tactically and would at least give your opponent an incentive to keep his Warlord the heck away from him.

4. Librarian Dreadnoughts

I just cannot work out why Blood Angels get these things, yet no-one else does? If having a psychic wielding maniac in Mephiston wasn't enough, they also encased them in 3 feet of plate too? There is nothing in the Blood Angels background that I can find that warrants this unique unit. My stance for this is the same as the stance I took on Storm Ravens: All or nothing.

If there is a single Space Marine legion that should warrant having one of these units, it would be Thousand Sons having Sorcerer Hellbrutes.

Well, I've had my fair share of gripes. Was I fair? Was I being unfair? Games Workshop, are you looking for rules writers?


  1. Unfair!, to be honest it sounded like your average sour grapes from a Smurfs player.
    I don't play Blood Angels, but I no plenty who do and they are sound!
    Your a stand up guy for posting it though mate! Lets hope that the new bit of fluff for the Ultras makes it into their Codex to give them a little more Character, I feel they need it.

  2. 1. Yes the red thirst is completely broken! For example: I play with 2 assault squads, 2 tactical squads, and 2 devastator squads... EVEN if I'm lucky enough to roll a 1, it will most likely be on a useless devastator or objective holding tactical squad.

    2. Mephiston is clearly the best warlord in the Blood Angels codex, but that doesn't mean he's unbeatable. Lower his toughness to 5 and watch him get 1shot by strength 10 attacks. He also has no invulnerable save and is AP3, so even a single terminator will beat him silly...

    3. Dante's only real claim to fame, besides the fact that he's the CHAPTER MASTER, is how old he is... In terms of gameplay I really hate to use him. If you want to use attack with his power axe, then he's initiative 1. Without eternal warrior, and being only toughness 4, anything with a 25point power fist/claw can 1shot him. And crappy guys with lots of guns can easily mow him down.

    4. As I have learned to love Mephistion, and play a relatively fluffy list, Librarian dreadnaughts will most likely be my next purchase! They're fast and provide 5+ cover to dudes! Can't wait...

  3. I love it...totally characterfull. Every team needs a Ronaldo..the Imperium have theirs...unfortunately its not the Ultras. I miss the close combat days, the sheer heroism of getting stuck into your enemy hand to hand and being the penultimate warrior was Awesome, All those battles in the background fluff were about mighty warriors fighting to the death. Even when it comes to soldiery the poor old Ultras are lacking...the Ravens are killing it lol. I feel its not that the BAs, Wolves etc are broken, i feel its that the Ultras need some love to catch up!

  4. Please do not feel I've posted this to bash Blood Angels, far from it. You may recall I didn't mention hating Furiosos (because they're very fluffy and cool) or the descent of angels (although I feel it odd that Blood Angels seem to be the only chapter to realise they can drop Land Raiders from Gunships). This is about balancing.

    I find it a little cheap to, instead of debating my points and countering them, I got the typical "well, you're an Ultramarine player, you're just bitter" and a retaliation of saying, essentially, "my army's better than yours". I neither think nor want the Blood Angels to disappear from 40k, they have a lot of character and are far more interesting than, say, Dark Angels (personal preference, I'm not saying I hate or think they're boring). This article was about balancing.

    My main gripe is that Blood Angels, at some point became a no brainer because they outshone everything and that's when the bandwagon crowd came out of the wood works and decided to collect them. Worse still, GW decided to pander to these tournament player-esque hobbyists and proceeded to make them more powerful. That's what put me off them, I really don't think Dark Angels or Space Wolves have had that problem (don't bring up Deathwing armies, I've beaten them easier than BA armies).

    To address the 4 points above:

    1. The point is you can randomly get it. Your Devastators may activate, but if it's charge or be charged, you'll be happy when they pound the enemy into a fine paste. My point is I don't know any other army that randomly get quite a hard USR for the entire game, I mean even Dark Eldar have to work for their pain tokens. Even if BAs got this rule out of circumstance, at least that can be taken as a calculated risk on both sides.

    2. So give him Eternal Warrior too. That way, unlike Cassius who is also T6 he can't be instant killed by, say, Force Weapons. Either way a power fist will wound him on twos, I don't see much of a difference other than for the first time BA players will have to use him effectively and not just storm in and kill everyone.

    3. If Dante's so old, why doesn't he have more stories to tell?

    4. I'm not saying Librarian Dreadnoughts shouldn't exist, I'm saying there's no sense in them being BA exclusive. Blood Angels aren't a psyker focused army, they just have a particularly strong Chief Librarian. So if I make a homebrew chapter that have innate psychic powers and fall in line with the Marine 'dex, but I can't take Librarian Dreadnoughts, that makes sense does it? Also, Thousand Sons are a sorcerer army yet they can't have an equivalent. That is my point, if they exist then everyone should have them. Except Black Templars.

  5. Again it sounds like your griping. Ive never lost to a BA army even with the modern codex. Personally i think there fantastic and allow for an excellent close combat style of gameplay you dont really get elsewhere in the loyalist Astartes Chapters. Great freedom of choice backed up with excellent characters for amazing Gameplay.
    Ps dont feel its cheap...i just dont need to post long answers. If i had a reason i would. I was posting a reply so you know i read your blog,a little support.

    1. "Personally i think there fantastic and allow for an excellent close combat style of gameplay you dont really get elsewhere in the loyalist Astartes Chapters. Great freedom of choice backed up with excellent characters for amazing Gameplay.

      that's his point ... they are good at everything and get buffs here and there for no reasons, including units which can't be explained by fluff. This has nothing to do with winning or losing vs them.

      I think that Mephiston is pretty strange too, his stats look more like a mix of a Tyranid MC and Daemon lord

    2. Bigg, I'm not trying to jab at ya at all, you don't think Blood Angels are overpowered or are and deserve it, that's your opinion, fair enough. Blood Angels should be hardened, close combat specialists and I absolutely 100% agree with you on that and thank you for supporting my blog.

      However, Shadowcl4w 100% understands my arguement. Blood Angels get a lot of units and buffs that have absolutely no coherence with the fluff and are there for the sake of being there. Admittedly this has lessened slightly with the introduction of Astartes chapters gaining Storm Ravens, but my point is Blood Angels get a lot of benefits for no other reason than they're Blood Angels. Dark Angels are a fantastic example of unique gameplay and units that fit nicely in the fluff, however.

      Just remember, I never suggested any changes or complete removals of Death Company, Furioso Dreadnoughts, Assault Squads as Troops or Jump Pack Command Squads. They're very flavorful and stick to the fluff perfectly. As much as they annoy me when I play against them, I do like them being in their codex.

    3. And the Baal Predator. I forgot about that one.

  6. I posted this on my clubs Facebook page, haven't gotten so many laughs in a long while. they genuinely thought it was comedy piece or written within months of the codex being released. Thanks for the entertainment :)

  7. Definately a comedy piece, the fact we pay a significant more points for something in Codex SM means we are usually outnumbered when vs other power armour equivalent armies, the few extra benefits we receive aren't worth the points. I'd take Ultra chapter tactics over random Red Thirst anyday. Meph is a powerhouse but for 250 points appropriately costed and easily shut down/killed by an experienced player.