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(Pre-Codex) Blood Angels Tactics Discussion

Assault army with only a handful of hard hitting assault units. A fast moving force, built around a slow moving infantry core. A unique army, with less unique options than their vanilla counter parts. A deep strike shock force, with no real punch to it's Deep Striking units.

Blood Angels are in a bad spot right now.

Doom and gloom aside, the BAngels have a lot going for them. The unique units they do have are fairly good, if not the best. They do have options beyond the vanilla Space Marine units, even if the Space Marine units are arguably better. Their troop type is a straight upgrade on the regular Tactical Squad.

The BAngels have always somewhat suffered from a bit of schizophrenia. Unlike the Space Wolves and Dark Angels who can justify their unique combat doctrines through their fluff, the BAngels need to compromise between their unique flavour and generally being codex adherent. As such, although many have been sold on the Blood Angels as being the best close combat army of the Imperium, in a world where Black Templars charge better, Space Wolves hit harder and even Raven Guard have better jump pack and Deep Strike expertise, the Blood Angels can't compete.

In all honesty, 7th Edition Blood Angels were best as a tank based blitz krieg army... which was then given Terminator assault formations. More than any other chapter the BAngels suffer from a confused identity, and 8th Edition hasn't done much (if anything) to fix that. In 7th, some people even played them as simply red Space Marines!

The new 8th Edition codex for them will drop soon, and thus far all of them have been absolute winners. But there will be a good month or two before BAngel players will be able to make use of it, and I have been asked to take a look at their tactics. Since the new codex isn't out, I'm going to talk in generalities rather than hard numbers, and perhaps talk about what I think makes Blood Angels unique.

So lets create a niche for the BAngels.

Possibly just a Dark Angel cos-player...

The Elite Vanilla

I'm going to argue for the case of Blood Angels being like superior Space Marines.

That seems a bit weird, considering they have fewer options than the normal Marine codex. To understand where I'm coming from, you'll need a brief introduction to the 4 combat roles:

  • Leader acting as force multiplier
  • Troops for contesting objectives
  • Fire support to actually damage things
  • Skirmishing unit to delay and disrupt the enemy

  • Hopefully these make sense to people, but if you want a more comprehensive break down, check out my list building and tactics guides.

    Blood Angels have slightly better options in each of these roles, and we're going to build a case for them being just plain better Space Marines... despite the lack of Chapter Tactics and unique Stratagems!

    The Best Objective Fighters

    Blood Angels tactical squads are exactly the same as normal Tactical squads, bar one minor detail: the heavy flamer. How can one weapon make such a difference? It makes all the difference.

    On paper the heavy flamer looks like a straight nerf to the older version. Rather than being an Assault weapon it's now a heavy one, meaning it now suffers for moving and shooting. Or does it? In 8th Edition heavy weapons suffer a -1 To Hit if they move. As Heavy Flamers automatically hit, this is no longer an issue. True, they can't advance and fire without effective penalty as the humble flamer does, but that's not an option available to most tactical squads.

    This allows the Blood Angels tactical squads to march up to objectives and lay down some serious (and quite literal!) fire power on any dug in unit. If you like, you can squeeze in 3 such weapons into one squad (flamer, heavy flamer and combi-flamer), making for a fairly scary round of shooting.

    Defensivly, thanks to these weapons auto-hitting, they have potentially better Overwatch than Dark Angels!

    This means the BAngels have some of the best troops for fighting over objectives. A nearby Librarian buffing them with psychic powers can also give them a significant edge in close combat too, and the BAngels are flush with units that can tip the balance in a melee, even if they can't individually carry it all the way.

    I will say, though, that due to the short range of weapons weapons, a Rhino or drop pod is close to mandatory. Drop pod are tempting, but since a Blood Angels player is usually there for the Jump Pack troops and the Descent of Angels tactic, putting your Tacticals in a Rhino is possibly the best option.

    Hopefully they come back with overcharged engines though...

    Fire Support Skirmishers

    Lets talk about the unique units of the Blood Angels.

    The first is the Baal Predator. This could be configured to the gunzerker dual-assault cannon, or the incendiary flame storm canon turret. As a bullet hose, the Baal Predator does quite well, but it could be argued that other Space Marine vehicles do it better.

    The flamer version of the Baal Predator is really somewhat of a multi-role unit. Whilst it can put down some fire, it's much more useful as a skirmisher. It won't do massive amounts of damage, but it can be a fairly effective blocking unit, literally using it's bulk to block line of sight. Shooting units will have a tough time shifting it, and close combat units will have to weather some fairly hefty over watch... and then still have trouble shifting it.

    This largely sets the tone for the Blood Angels, and why individually their units don't hit that hard. Each of their skirmishing units punches way above what you would expect of disruption forces, to the point where they blur the line between Fire Support and Skirmisher.

    The classic example is the Blood Angel Assault squad. Unlike the vanilla, these units carry heavier special weapons than flamers; the meltagun and plasma gun. Having these two special weapons makes them more of a threat to larger and elite units than their more codex adherent bretheren. However, whilst they are more of a threat, they are still not a signifigant threat.

    That's not a bad thing though, as it turns nearly every single one of the BAngel Skirmishers into Distraction Carnifexes. An assault squad ignored could easily take a chunk out of your tanks and leaders. A pair of melta guns on FLY units which can hold their own in combat is fairly respectable.

    The BAngels also have access to some heavier Skirmishing units in the Furioso and Death Company dreadnoughts, and of course BAngel terminators will inevitably be buffed by whatever chapter tactic they get. These may not fit the light stereotype for Skirmishers, but they perform the same role in hugely disrupting enemy battle lines and plans. I would perhaps skip the dreadnoughts though, as you'll always compare them to Venerable and Ironclads from the vanilla codex and feel disappointed.

    Death Company and Sanguinary Guard fall somewhere in the middle, having the strong mobility of skirmishers, but having quite a hefty melee punch. They're certainly not the best in game, but they can be some of the fastest. The ability to Deep Strike in on one side of the battlefield and still make it to melee on the other before the game is over is not something to be ignored.

    What this means is that you potentially don't need a separate Fire Support unit for each Troop taking objectives. You can instead take two hard hitting Skirmishers, leading to a very aggressive army. Which is what the Blood Angels should do... be right up in the enemy's face, disrupting the heck out of their battle line whilst the Tactical squads make a mockery of the other Troops in close order shooting and melee!

    More Leaders than is reasonable

    At current count the BAngels have 10 unique leader types compared to the vanilla Chapters handful. That's an awful lot. What's even better is that these leaders are often multi-role.

    The Librarian Dreadnought is an absolute beast to shift, psychically buffing his comrades whilst still being a bullet magnet for the army. The combination of being tough and supporting his troops makes him a particularly strong pick, even for low point value games.

    Sanguinary Priests buff the melee output of Troops around them, and have the apothecary trick of bringing models back to life. Paired with Intercessors, he makes them better in combat and more durable.

    Even Mephiston can take two roles as a melee powerhouse and psychic master.

    Putting it all together

    Blood Angels are not that much different to Space Marines. There's not a huge amount to seperate them (yet!), but the tweaks they have to certain units give them more options with a bias towards agression.

    Instead of treating them as a melee army, instead treat them as a balanced army. They have tools to hit hard in shooting, and they can hit hard in melee. They extend this balance out to their Skirmishing Fire Support units, with a variety of multi-role units.

    Play aggressively with them, but make sure they work together. Since they won't have the punch of specialist Fire Support units they will need to focus fire to disrupt enemy plans and take out units. Terminators and Assault Troops make for a nice pairing, the Jump Packers pining an enemy in place for the Terminators to stroll up and finish the job.

    Things I'd like to see

    More of a wish list than anything, but I'd like to see a Chapter tactic similar to the Emperor's Children, where they hit first in combat. That would make a massive amount of difference, and put their Tactical squads on even footing with Grey Hunters.

    I'd also like to see some rules allowing them to charge more easily, but I have to admit that would make them a little too good as a melee army. Perhaps a stratagem for when a Deep Strike melee unit needs to get into combat?

    Overcharged engines allowing heavy weapons to be fired on the move, or something similar. The extra movement on Advancing is largely wasted on any vehicle other than a Rhino, and even then it's not that compelling.

    I think the key change I'd like to see is a buff to the Death Company. Right now they're just slightly better Iron Hands veterans, rather than a truly scary unit.

    Right, I've rambled enough. I'll be able to give more concrete advice once the actual Codex drops before the end of this year. Please remember everyone in the internet is wrong, especially teachers who write blogs. If I got something wrong, let me know in the comments below.

    Until next time!

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