The official release of the Blood Angels is just around the corner and already those with preview codices are pouring through the book for tactics and strategies, looking for an edge come release date. Yours truly, Mr. Black, is of no exception to this, so let’s jump right in and take a look at what Codex: Blood Angels has to offer.
This week we’re tackling the special character HQ choices presented in our shiny new book, we’ve got a lot of bits and information to cover so instead of some snappy prologue we’re just going to dive right in and take a look at a lot of returning favorites and some very impressive newcomers to the fight. Warning though, even though we’re only talking the Special Characters, we’re covering a lot…
“Showing off Sanguinius’ O Face”Dante, a name that is synonymous with the entire Blood Angels army, the supreme leader and embodiment of the chapter’s ideology. A large list of titles to live up to. And how does he ante up? Well at first glance Dante appears to be only marginally better than the typical Space Marine Captain, boasting stats only slightly higher in some area, but nothing to call home about. Yes, it’s true that if all we where getting out of this deal was a small stat increase then Dante would easily be a waste of points, but that’s never the case with Special Characters now is it? No, like most others, Dante’s potential lies in the abilities he gives to the army as a whole, and in this case he changes the fundamental makeup of the roster itself. Yes, like seen in Codex: Space Marines taking this specific HQ allows you to field certain units as Troop choices, in this case the elite Sanguinary Guard; in this respect Dante allows you, by his very presence, to field an army composed of a small number of decked-out super-squads, each individually a force to be reckoned with. I could go on about the exact ramifications of this army list but I feel that would be better covered with the Sanguinary Guard themselves, so I shall leave that for their respective section, Dante brings a lot more to the table than a mere roster switch-up.
Dante, being the commander that he is, does bring an air of tactical tricks to the battlefield, aside from the swarms of gold-plated artificer-clad Bat-nipple adorned Adonises that are the Sanguinary Guard, the first of which being his improved Death Mask of Sanguinius, which has a special place for me as far as abilities go in that it will never be useless, under any circumstance. Here we have a rare ability that, before any close contact is even made by the enemy, applies a negative to an opposing model with no chance of miss or save. It is a small factor in this not-so-subtle effect that many can take for granted, and in doing so will miss half of what makes the ability worthwhile to begin with.
The last of Dante’s abilities I’ll talk about (he has plenty more) is to some his best ability and to others a kinda “meh” add-on. I’m speaking of Tactical Precision, a nifty little quirk that in the right situation can be a game-changer… For me though, that’s all it is, a nifty little extra… I know some who have stated it’s his best ability but, for me anyway, it was a passing note. Given the built-in Descent of Angels rules that each Jump Pack marine will already have and Tactical Precision just becomes a bit lackluster to me. Granted, I don’t feel like Dante is overpriced, otherwise this would be the first ability I’d say lead to said issue, but given how, well, reasonable his overall cost is I can’t complain about more bang for your buck, and, in the end, that’s what I feel Dante is compared to many other choices in the book: Slightly more bang for the buck.
Final Comments: Dante is one of those choices that make me look at a Space Marine Captain and wonder why I wouldn’t spend the extra points on the menagerie of abilities Dante brings to the table.
Chapter Master Gabriel Seth “Like the little brother who got stuck with the hand-me-downs…”I can’t help but think the Flesh Tearers Chapter Master as a poor man’s Dante. He has roughly the same stat line, the only difference being his Initiative, and his wargear looks more befitting to a Space Marine Sergeant than the leader of an entire chapter, seems Lemartes got Dante’s old Jump Pack once he outgrew it, which I’m sure didn’t help the ball of angst that is Gabriel Seth… Anyway, in exchange for the downgrade in wargear and cutting the bell-and-whistle abilities that Dante has you save an economical amount of points, but that’s just a preliminary outlook, to see Seth’s potential we have to overlook the lack of fancy wargear and take note of what makes the Chapter Master unique:
An eight-foot chainsword.
A rending, Power Fist strength chainsword that strikes at initiative.
In concept we have a formidable weapon capable of Instant Killing most Space Marines before they even get to hit, and that alone would make up for the lack of specials that Seth has, but, in the end, there is a noticeable drawback to the tool itself: it isn’t a Power Weapon, relying on a rending roll to achieve it’s goal. Now, to me, this simply amplifies where Seth’s true prowess lies on the battlefield: carving vehicles up like a Thanksgiving turkey. Yes, the benefit of a high-strength rending weapon is that most armor is only a passing annoyance, from tin-can Rhinos even up to the mighty Land Raider, Seth can eviscerate them all with relative ease… This of course is secondary to the Flesh Tearers prey of choice: The Dreadnought. Yes, it seems that Seth embodies everything needed to deal with the rampaging mecha-coffin, and I can’t help but note that, as apparent as it may be.
All in all though, vehicle killing and Chapter Mastery aside, we’re faced with the fact that pretty much everything Seth does a normal Space Marine Sergeant can do as well, sometimes better. Give a Sergeant a Power Fist and he can still do pretty much everything listed above, and with more efficiency in that the Power Fist will always be, well, powered, rather than having to rely on a six. Now figure in that the Sergeant has a whole squad he can’t be picked out from, and that he chimes in at half of Seth’s points, and we see the issue arise fully. Now, Seth is an Independent Character, and he can go where he pleases while the Sergeant is held down to a squad, but in the end, is that really worth the triple-digits you’re paying for it?
Final Comments: I’d like to like Seth, I would, but he’s the middle-child between Dante and a Captain, and in the end each of those options will probably bring a better investment of points. Sorry Seth, like most middle-childs, I’ll be paying more attention to your siblings.
Astorath The Grim
“Hey, uh, guys…Did someone switch Seth and Astorath?”
Bringing in the new wave of characters we have Astorath, the High Chaplain of the Blood Angels and completely not the embodiment of what the Flesh Tearers are about. Here we have yet another character that, by his very presence in the army, changes the dynamic of it’s make-up; in Astorath’s case, allowing for a whole lot of pissed off Death Company. Again, as with Dante, I’ll keep the actual talks of that particular army choice to the Troops entry. Moving on, Astorath is a newbie to the codex, so he gets a fresh perspective when looking at: stat-wise, he is nothing special, he matches the standard Space Marine Captain in every way, albeit a better armor save, so given that, we must look at his build in abilities and wargear to see his true merit. Starting with wargear we see nothing of special note, he seems in every way the quintessential Blood Angel load-out, Jump Pack and all. What sets Astorath a part in regards to gear is The Executioner’s Axe, which not only boosts his Strength but forces the rerolling of Invulnerable Saves… A powerful weapon on it’s own, but we still haven’t justified his points yet.
Now to look at the meat of Astroth’s abilities (which in the end will be the reason you take him): He is a Chaplain, first and foremost, and carries all the benefits that brings, which are taken to a higher level with the Blood Angels, given the extra boost Chaplain’s bring to Death Company, next we have the Shadow of the Primarch ability, which changes the likelihood of your units gaining Furious Charge and Fearless from one-in-six to one-in-two… Now, this can be accomplished just as easy, and with added benefits, by the Sanguinary Priests, but I feel the real benefit of this ability is not having to rely on them, possibly even saving points by not including them… Of course, given that with Astroth you can take a whole army of Death Company, and both abilities become rather trite. Can a full Death Company army really work? Probably not, but still, the option to change the dynamic of your army leads to variation, and variation is something I will never complain about in a new codex.
Final Comments: Astroth leaves me with mixed feelings, it just seems that his two main abilities: the removal of Death Company limits and Shadow of the Primarch are counter-intuitive. He’s a cool character, and one I myself will be fielding, but in the end I can’t but shake the worry I’m wasting points on things I’ll never use…
The Sanguinor, Exemplar of the Host“For the last time, I’m NOT a Daemon Prince!!”
Ok, so The Sanguinor has probably gotten the most hype over any of the other HQ choices in the book. The real question is, “Is it warranted?”. Well, yes and no… It’s true, he is probably one of the nastiest melee hitters in the 40K universe, which is saying a lot. He boasts an impressive state-line with high WS, BS, I, and Attacks, even more impressive than the mightiest of Chaos Daemon Princes (which he totally isn’t… totally…) . There is no point in going over his stat-line, it’s optimal, it’s almost over the top. Short: It’s good, so no need to waste time analyzing it.
In addition to the beastly stats he also acts like a Chapter Banner to all units within proximity, and if that weren’t enough, one Sergeant in the army will randomly gain a boost in stats that make him comparable to a mini-Captain.
In the end, I wish I could say The Sanguinor had more super-powers than he does, but in reality, while he does give a good boost to nearby units, you’re predominately paying for a melee killing machine, much in the same vein as a Daemon Prince. In the end you have to ask yourself: Is this amount of killing power, combined with his inherent army-boosts, worth more than a Land Raider with all the extras? Well that will be determined by the individual needs of your army, for me though, he seems like a choice that I’d want to field, but in the end would cut due to points restrictions. Larger games though, in the 2500 pt area, I can easily see The Sanguinor being a prime candidate for an HQ slot.
Final Thoughts: The hardest hitting beat-stick any codex has seen in a long time, if you can afford him.
Mephiston, Lord of Death
“…I got nothing…” -Mr. Black
Here we have one of the scariest Independent Characters to ever walk the face of the 40K world, a IC so scary he has a little bit of pretty much everything that makes another character good. He’s a surpreme melee fighter, he’s one of the most powerful psykers out there, and he damn near can’t be killed. For some reason, I always picture Mephiston as the result of someone in development taking their twinked-out Dungeons and Dragons character, the one who they painstakingly exploited every rule they could muster to make, and just dropping him into the Blood Angels book hoping no one would notice. The end result is clear, we have a powerhouse of a character than can do a little bit of everything, and do it well, yes, you would be hard pressed to find a more impressive Independent Character.
…Wait, he’s not a what?
Ok, so apparently Mephiston is such a badass he doesn’t need a unit to cavort around with, instead choosing to go the single-man route, I suppose he just wishes really hard he was a Monsterous Creature (hell, he almost is). So enough beating around the bush, how does he measure up?
Well, for starters, Mephiston has one of the highest stat-lines you’ll ever see in a codex, putting any other Space Marine to shame. He’s got the whole package, high WS, S, T, I, everything, which alone would make me want to field him, even if he is the cost of a Land Raider. But that’s not all kids, Mephiston here is the head Librarian of the Blood Angels, and thus has access to a trinity of psychic powers in The Sanguine Sword, Unleash Rage, and Wings of Sanguinius, which all respectively: make his already high strength higher (the max it can be, in fact), make him hit you more, and make him move faster. Yes, Mephiston is all about self-buffing, which brings him to Ludicrous Level as far as stats go.
Now, one of the things I noticed almost immediately is that, even though no conventional weaponry can Instant Kill him, he actually lost a bit of survivability from last edition. No Rosarius or Iron Halo has always plagued him, but at he had Feel No Pain… This edition, well, he’s lost a bit of survivability. Now, he got tougher to make up for it, and some will argue that the weapons one would use against him already didn’t care if he felt pain or not, but this is just something I can’t held but notice in the new book.
In the end though, for all his psychic power goodness, Mephiston is all about the stat-line, and when it comes time to trim the fat, I just don’t think that will be enough to warrant his inclusion in the army, especially given that for a few points more, you can get The Sanguinor, who has a stat-line to rival Mephiston as well as providing more benefits to the rest of your forces.
Final Comments: Sorry Mephiston, but to me you’re in the same boat as Seth, someone else can do your job a bit better for comparable pay, and when we’re dealing with points-totals this high to begin with, I’ll probably just scratch up the extra bit for The Sanguinor.
“The Two-Face of the 40K universe.”
Tycho is an interesting model, both from a story and rules perspective. For those that don’t know, Tycho first appeared in a Blood Angels battle report in an old White Dwarf and, due to fate or some other force, was kept around… In my mind as a bit of a joke, as an Ork Weirdboy was what killed him.. Anyway, the character survived and his hatred for Orks grew to such a depth that the Black Rage overtook him and he was inducted into the Death Company. Flavorful to say the least. Now, why bother saying all that? Well, on the topic of flavor, Tycho comes in two: Normal and Death Company. This is a unique take on the character and really boosts the aspect of fluff intermixed with rules, and that’s something I can’t help but make special note of.
Moving on to his stat-line, we have a named character much on par with Gabriel Seth: comparable stats to a Space Marine Captain, with his Death Company ones being slightly higher in the WS and A department, but not overly so. It’s a respectable line, but given the others we’ve seen here, it almost seems a bit lacking, but this is an illusion caused by the other monsters in the book such as Mephiston and The Sanguinor.
Looking at abilities, he actually has two sets, one to display his old Captain days and another to show his decent into Death Company madness. The Captain set is standard in most every way to a conventional Captain with the except that Tycho hates Orks, he really, really hates Orks. In fact he may be one of the last vestiges of a particular Preferred Enemy; these days most people hate the generic enemy, Tycho brings an old school ideology to the field: “Generic hate is for losers”. Given the above though, the Captain Tycho profile is rather “meh” to me. It’s full of fluff and flavor, no one can argue that, but for tactical prowess it’s rather bland, which is why I get excited when I see Profile No. 2, the Death Company.
The Death Company Tycho is a model that impresses me a great deal; for a reasonable amount of points you get an HQ that both hits like a brick and is hard as hell to wound, having all the traits of the normal Death Company with the profile of a pissed-off Captain. Frankly, when I look at him, I see a reasonably costed Mephiston, albeit without the psychic powers, and when compared to other HQ choices in his points bracket I also feel that Tycho is the choice as far as efficiency go. Now granted, the DC Tycho is not without his drawbacks, he really stops functioning as the typical HQ and more of what I’d expect to see in a unit-upgrade, and in the end that’s really how I feel about him: He’ll fill your mandatory HQ slot so you can focus on other goodies, but he doesn’t bring that HQ feel to the table.
Final Comments: All in all, both choices are solid, and the ability to choose whether you want a more traditional feeling leader or just a savage beatstick really makes this character shine. A mixture of fluff and rules shows just why Tycho as a character has come this far from his humble White Dwarf beginnings.
~So there we have it, the whole of the Special Character choices for Codex: Blood Angels. And after looking at them all, what are my final thoughts? Well presented here we have a wealth of choices that each allow for a different play-style and in some cases an overarching “feel” to the army. One thing that I feel was displayed here, and continues to be in not only the remaining HQs but the codex as a whole is balance. Some are going to cry and whine, such as it is with every new codex that is released, but after sitting down and truly looking over each choice, I can’t see anything that isn’t point-costed appropriately. This codex to me really sets a bar for ones to come in it’s balance of sheer style and coolness mixed with rules and mechanics. Stay tuned next week for the remaining HQs and Elites! – Mr. Black