Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Liturgies of Blood: Blood Angel Codex Review Part Two

Welcome back to dramatt’s rather late review of the new Blood Angel’s codex. This time we are going to cover the special characters that the Blood Angels have, new and returning. The new codex now contains 6 special HQ units and 2 special upgrade characters. This is up from the 5 special characters that were in the last Blood Angel pdf and up from the 6 that were in the 3rd edition (same number of special HQs though) . This is showing an increase in the number of special characters, but before anyone starts to shout about how we are moving to HeroHammer who have to look at the situation. Now that Blood Angels have a real codex with more fluff than we’ve seen for a very very long time it only makes sense that new characters have been introduced to the Blood Angels stories and legends and having a model for these new guys only makes sense. Plus the point of a new codex is to get new stuff and that means new special characters. People want new things without losing old things, so we end up with more special characters than we had before. I know that lots of people don’t always agree with all of GW’s business practices, but making new things better to sell them seems like a pretty standard idea in the business world. But that is a topic for another day so anyway, on to the characters themselves.

I suppose we should start with the Lord of the Host himself: Commander Dante. In terms of fluff Dante hasn’t changed that much. He is still older than balls (having been chapter master for like three thousand years now) and supposedly venerated for his tactical knowledge and general awesomeness. New to his fluff is how he is supposedly waiting for a time of crisis where he has to save the entire imperium, which would be cool. Dante costs the same as a ten man assault squad with power weapon and meltagun and comes with a jump pack. His stats have been slightly changed grabbing him an extra wound and initiative. He makes the sanguinary guard troops choices (although why anyone would want them even as troops is beyond me). His weapon loadout is still the same, with a infernus pistol (used to be called the Perdition Pistol before the entire army could take it), the Axe Mortalis (which despite the cool name is just a master crafted power axe), and the standard Iron Halo. His Death Mask of Sanguinius has been changed to act like a regular death mask like the sanguinary guard have and to significantly reduce one enemy independent character’s stats (this effect lasts even if Dante is killed). Dante also gives the squad he joins the ability to arrive from deep strike without scattering (assuming they are jump infantry) as well as the rule Hit & Run. Perhaps most glaringly absent is Eternal Warrior. Apparently three thousand years of chapter mastering isn’t enough to stop you from getting blown away by a single melta gun. All in all a pretty useful guy, but if the enemy doesn’t have an IC or you aren’t using much jump infantry to put him with he may have a hard time earning his points.

Next we come to one of the new additions to the army: Gabriel Seth, Chapter Master of the Flesh Tearers. Seth is the cheapest of the BA special charters(still a lot more than a regular chapter master though). And he probably isn’t even worth that much. He is one of the only two special characters who is stuck on foot with no way of having a jump pack (along with Tycho). He comes with a pretty blah stat line for an special character HQ: the same as a regular Captain’s with one extra wound and attack (for a total of 4 each). With only regular power armor and an iron halo his saves aren’t anything to write home about. For weapons he has a regular bolt pistol and a huge ass chainsword. This chainsword, called the Blood Reaver, is a strength 8 weapon with rending. The fact that he still always allows armor saves 5/6s of the time makes him a lot less useful in close combat where his special rules kick in. He has a rule called Whirlwind Of Gore which lets him give up his regular attacks to automatically hit every individual model that he is in base to base with. A nice way to snipe out special guys, but as he still allows armor saves its usefulness is limited. His other rule Ferocious Instincts means that anyone who rolls a 1 trying to hit him in close combat takes an immediate strength 4 hit as he headbutts them back. Cool to think about, but not that useful in real life. To sum him up he is the cheapest special character, but probably not as useful as a cheaper non unique Captain.

Another newcomer to the Blood Angels is the new high chaplain guy: Astorath the Grim. Astorath is only a few points shy of the same price as Dante himself. He counts as jump infantry (he doesn’t actually have a jump packs, but uses wings). Fluff wise Astorath is the guy who comes around to the Blood Angels and their successor chapters to finish off any Death Company who lived through a fight and his presence makes regular Blood Angels more likely to succumb to the Red Thirst. His rules reflect this as he removes the 0-1 limit on the Death Company and causes red thirst to activate on a roll of 1-3 rather than just 1 (although if you run Sanguinary Priests the Red Thirst isn’t neccessary). His stat line and the rest of his rules are the same as a regular Reclusiarch (the generic HQ chaplain) except for his weapon: the Executioner’s Axe, a strength 5 power axe that forces successful invul saves to be rerolled. Although he does have some good points in the end Astorath is probably just doesn’t add enough to useful in most armies as the Death Company aren’t nearly as useful as they used to be and can’t hold points and Priests make the Red Thirst unnecessary. His axe is awesome, but doesn’t justify all the extra points from a generic Reclusiarch. If you want to try a Death Company centered army, though, Astrorath is a must have (literally as he is the only way to have multiple Death Company squads).

The last of the newcomers is The Sanguinor, Exemplar of the Host. A mysterious guy who shows up to kick ass when the Blood Angels need help the real identity of this guy is unknown. I’ve heard all sorts of cool speculation, like he is a manifestation of the Blood Angels collective physic powers, or perhaps even a fragment of Sanguinius himself preserved by the Emperor. In any case he is the most expensive special character. His weapons and gear are pretty standard: artificer armor, grenades, a jump pack, and a Glaive Encarmine like those used by the Sanguinary Guard. It is his rules and stats that make him interesting guy. At weapon skill 8 he hits almost anything on 3s. His BS is 5, although that is irrelevant as he doesn’t even have a gun. Strength 5 is always nice, but Toughness 4 is average. His 3 Wounds seems a little low for his points, but he does have Eternal Warrior (the only guy in the BA codex to get it) and a special rule (not wargear) that gives him a 3+ invul save. Initiative 6 with 5 attacks can be all sort of deadly. For rules he has Avenging Angel that lets him chose one enemy HQ at the start of the game and reroll and To Hits and To Wounds against that HQ, The Sanguinor’s Blessing that beefs up one sergeant, Aura of Fervor that gives all units (except himself) within 6 inches +1 attack, and the standard Descent of Angels, Fearless, and Furious Charge. The biggest drawback to this guy is that he lacks Independent Character status, which means he can’t join units to meat shield for him. He has to be all by himself. With good play techniques to keep the enemy from just massing shots on him he can be a real beast, but it is up to you if you want to commit so many points to something you have to baby so much.

Now we get to the resident BA-dass: Mephiston, The Lord of Death. The fluff for Mephiston is largely the same with a few hints that he might be slowly giving in to the dark side. The best way to think of the new Mephiston isn’t as a space marine, but rather a monstrous creature. Like the Sanguinor he doesn’t have IC status and can’t be put with a squad. His stats are rather, looking like they were ripped out of the Tyranid codex. The Tough 6 helps make up for the fact that he still doesn’t have Eternal Warrior. His points are smack in the middle of Dante and the Sanguinor and he comes with artificer armor, a plasma pistol, a force sword, the usual grenades, and a psychic hood. If you notice he has no invul save, by far his biggest weakness requiring careful play to make sure a group of lascannons don’t just blow him out of the water. He comes with pre-selected psychic powers that can give him wings for a turn, preferred enemy, and strength 10, as well as the ability to use all of them in one turn. For rules he comes with the usual And They Shall Know No Fear, and Psyker. More importantly is that he is Fleet and that his Transfixing Gaze is now an ability that forces an enemy independent character to pass a leadership test at -4 or Mephiston gets to reroll all To Hits and To Wounds against him. Now obviously without any kind of invulnerable save Meph is weak to a number of things and most other players will just start listing things that they have that can tear him a new one. However, between having wings and Fleet he can be incredibly mobile and easy to hide so that you can choose what he hits. The list of things that eat him may be long, but the list of things he eats is even longer. Of course his points are kind of salty so you have to make sure to use him well and can’t just throw him up front and hope for the best.

The final special HQ is return Captain Tycho. To be honest I’m not entirely sure why he is in the codex as according to the fluff he is already dead. Even on his own page it talks about how he died during the third battle for Armageddon after finally snapping and joining the Death Company. At any rate he is the second cheapest special HQ, being only a few points more than Gabriel Seth (and more useful). The interesting thing about Tycho is that he comes in two different flavors: regular and Death Company. His regular form has the same stats as a generic captain (he is a captain after all), while his Death Company form loses a BS and two to his leadership, but gets an extra WS and attack. Both of his forms have the same gear which is pretty nice as he comes with artificer armor and an Iron Halo, plus some his weapons. His gun, the Blood Song, is a combi-melta that can fire sternguard ammunition. His close combat weapon is the Dead Man’s Hand that acts like a power weapon with built-in digital lasers. He also has the standard bolt pistol to give him an extra attack for dual-armed. Regular Captain Tycho’s rules are fitting for an army leader with Rites of Battle, but no fancy shenanigans. Death Company Tycho doesn’t have Rites or even IC, but gets Rage, Fearless, Fleet, Furious Charge, Feel No Pain, and Relentless (which goes well with his gun). Both forms of Tycho have his fluff based Preferred Enemy: Orks as Tycho hates him some greenskins. If you are trying to get a fair amount of bang for your buck Tycho either form of his aren’t bad choices and are generally a fair amount better than any generic HQ, but his power and rules aren’t as game-changing as his more expensive brethren.

Although Lemartes and Corbulo aren’t HQs anymore they used to be and they are still special characters so I’ll be giving them a quick review of their own. Lemartes is now an upgrade character for the Death Company. Fluff wise Lemartes has had a 180 degree change. Where he used to be the High Chaplain and responsible for guiding the souls of all the Blood Angels he has now fallen to the Black Rage and only holds on to his sanity by sheer force of will and is carted from battle to battle. He comes with a jump pack and costs just a little bit more than the elites slot chaplain with jump pack and combines the special rules and equipment for the chaplain with the rules of the Death Company. Plus he has his own rule where if he loses one of his two wounds both his strength and attacks increase to five. If you were planning on running a Chaplain to boost the Death Company Lemartes is a logical replacement unless you are really hurting for points, but in an army without much Death Company Lemartes doesn’t really add that much. Corbulo is now an upgrade character for the sanguinary priests. His fluff remains largely unchanged as he is still the visionary for the Blood Angels as he sometimes has visions hinting of the future as he searches for the cure to the Red Thirst and Black Rage. Corbulo costs a few points over double that of a plain priest with no extra wargear. His stats are the same as a priest except for an extra wound and attack. His equipment is also mostly the same except for his sword which hits at S5 and has Rending. His Chalice of Blood works the same as a regular priest, but gives him Feel No Pain on a 2+ rather than a 3+. Also he allows you to reroll any one die as long as you do so before he dies. Corbs is a good option when looking for a priest to help beef up a hammer unit, although without a jump pack he isn’t much use for a regular assault squad and there isn’t a lot of point in paying extra just to throw him into a tactical squad.

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