Greetings. Blood Angels. Enjoy. Hah.
Sons of Sanguinius - Before I cover the Chapter Relics and other unique components of the Blood Angel rule-set that serve to set it apart from other Adeptus Astartes codices, I wanted to quickly touch on what their equivalent of a Chapter Tactic is - army-wide Furious Charge. This is obviously a very handy rule for an army that has traditionally been the most close-combat oriented of the various existing Space Marine books, and serves to replace the hugely random and unreliable Red Thirst rule from the previous codex. I see this as a nice buff for most units in the codex as the differences between And They Shall Know No Fear and Fearless are insignificant enough to say that either are great on a unit, while going from having a 1 in 6 chance of benefiting from Furious Charge on any given unit to always having it is obviously a positive change. Of course, it bears mentioning that the Red Thirst does return in an altogether different form via the various formations and unique detachments in the codex, but generally speaking its' replacement for standard gameplay is very handy indeed.
The Red Thirst - Having been replaced by a blanket Furious Charge provision for all units regardless of whether they succumb to their genetic blood frenzy, the Red Thirst instead exists as an exclusive benefit for the Blood Angels Battle Company and the Baal Strike Force, providing all units affected by it with a +1 Initiative bonus in any turn it makes a successful charge that is not also a disordered charge. Combined with the +1 Strength bonus on the charge provided by Furious Charge, this makes Blood Angels undeniably the combat specialists among the Adeptus Astartes; having a mess of Strength 5 and Initiative 5 attacks coming from assault-grenade wielding basic Troops is both surprising and potentially brutal, though obviously the dedicated melee units are the ones that benefit the most from the two buffs. The combination of Furious Charge and the Red Thirst won't turn your basic Tactical Marines into melee blenders but it definitely helps to shore up the general vulnerability of most Space Marine units in close combat.
Warlord Traits - Considering that the last codex Blood Angels received was all the way back in 5th Edition, I can't perform a direct contrast and comparison between two mostly similar sets; rather, I will merely judge these based on their individual merits compared to the mostly top quality rulebook traits. Overall, the Blood Angels Warlord Traits are closest to being a mix of the Personal Traits and the Command Traits from the core rulebook, acting as buffs to the Warlords' combat proficiency or turning him into more of a utility. I rate most of them as solid and one or two in particular as absolutely fantastic, albeit dependent on how your army is built.
1) - (Red Rampage) The addition of Rampage to a Space Marine character is a nice buff to their melee damage output, particularly for Blood Angel characters who tend to be better suited to that area of combat than most generic Space Marine models. Unfortunately, this can't be given to a hand-made Chapter Master or other exceptionally powerful and valuable melee tank, but for a Captain with the Valours' Edge it can be quite handy.
2) - (Speed of the Primarch) This buff turns even a Captain into a supremely fast combatant capable of fighting as swiftly as an Eldar Autarch, while it obviously combines hilariously well with the Red Thirst to allow you to deny oft faster xenos characters their main advantage against Space Marines in combat. Much like the Red Rampage, however, it will prove almost useless on a buff-oriented or otherwise ranged character.
3) - (Artisan of War) Applying Master-Crafted to a single non-relic weapon for a Warlord choice isn't that big of a deal given that it is an upgrade that usually costs a handful of points to provide a re-roll on one to-hit roll each turn, though at the very least it helps to maximize the damage output of a given character. Of the three more "Personal" Warlord Traits here, I see this as the weakest overall and the one you should usually re-roll unless your Warlord happens to be equipped with a deadly ranged or melee weapon.
4) - (Soulwarden) I like anti-psyker defenses as much as anyone else, especially if your Warlord happens to be a psyker or is attached to a unit that has also been joined by a psyker, but obviously this one tends to be rather situational. It only applies to psychic powers that are specifically targeted at the Warlord or any unit he is a part of, while it also has no bearing on a game where psykers aren't present - though that is becoming increasingly rare in 7th Edition.
5) - (Descent of Angels) Of the two buff-oriented traits available in the codex Warlord Traits table, this is the one most suited to a standard Blood Angels force and thus the trait you are probably going to want the most. Being able to re-roll failed reserve rolls across the Warlords' detachment essentially for free so long as they are Jump, Flyer or Skimmer type units is huge given that Adeptus Astartes armies tend to have some of the best reserve-based tactics in the game, while those units that arrive by Deep Strike additionally scatter only D6" instead of 2D6". This is basically a superior incarnation of the classic rule that is this traits' namesake, though obviously having it as a randomly determined Warlord Trait on a D6 chart isn't as useful as being able to guarantee its' use each game as was the case with the old codex. The abilities here are awesome enough even without considering how well they stack up with Blood Angels exclusive and general Adeptus Astartes units; it is a fantastic trait and one you should almost never re-roll.
6) - (Heroic Bearing) The second of the buff-oriented traits available exclusively to Blood Angels players, this one only really shines when used in conjunction with allied Imperial forces - specifically those armies that aren't also Adeptus Astartes. Providing a 12" bubble of Fearless is phenomenal for units hailing from the Astra Militarum or both Adeptus Mechanicus codices, but for Space Marines that already have the fantastic And They Shall Know No Fear special rule as part of their stock makeup, it isn't all that big of a buff. This is largely because both rules generally accomplish the same thing, manipulating the many Leadership-based rules of the game to your advantage by effectively ignoring most of them; Fearless units can never break from a combat in an unwanted scenario, but they also can't choose to Go to Ground or perform a "Our Weapons Are Useless" movement. Overall though, this is a great trait because of its implications for either just a Blood Angels army or for a force that contains one or more Allied Detachments hailing from the Armies of the Imperium.
Armoury of the Angels - I will be covering the items that have received major changes between codices, rather than wasting my time by looking at the minor meta-dependent tweaks each gun received with each new core rule edition.
Blood Talon - As much as it is a downright shame these were changed, one has to admit it makes sense in the context of 7th Edition; adding Shred to a Strength 10 weapon is arbitrary at best, but unique rules like that possessed by the classic Blood Talon have been disappearing for the current and last edition. The reality here is that you pay two handfuls' worth of points to upgrade standard power fists to gain the Shred rule, maximizing the damage output of melee-oriented Furioso Dreadnoughts but in reality making little actual difference unless the opponent in question happens to be Toughness 9 or Toughness 10. Even Wraithknights are still wounded on 2s by the Blood Talons, so outside of visual benefit or making sure to avoid the curse of bad rolls, these can be quite easily skipped nowadays.
Furioso Force Halberd - While this technically didn't exist in the 5th Edition codex, the important thing to note here is that a Furioso Librarian previously didn't gain any Strength bonuses from using its' force weapon, but now always gains the x2 Strength bonus typical of standard Dreadnought melee arms. It also doesn't class as a specialist weapon and thus stacks with other regular melee weapons to provide an extra attack, essentially serving as the classic Nemesis Doomfists from the 5th Edition Grey Knight codex. It's a nice little bonus for a unit that definitely classes as "unusual" in the Blood Angels HQ slot.
Blood Chalice - Though the direct comparison between codices might paint this particular item in a bad light, when you consider that its' wielder still confers Feel No Pain to his unit via a Narthecium and that all Blood Angels now innately have the Furious Charge special rule, its' new version is actually quite a handy little tool for dedicated melee units. Providing +1 Weapon Skill to any unit a Sanguinary Priest or other such character wielding a Blood Chalice joins stays very much in line with the various +1 stat bonuses for charging present throughout the codex, further emphasizing the Blood Angels' specialty of rapid and hard-hitting assaults.
Magna Grapple - Despite being one of the most awesome and themed weapons in the old codex, this unfortunately sits in the same exact category as the Blood Talon; it didn't need to be changed but the rules designers nonetheless decided to streamline it with the core rules to its' detriment. Gone is the special shooting attack and the ability to pull enemy vehicles closer to the firer; these have been replaced with Move Through Cover and re-rolls on failed random charge length rolls for the user. At the very least, these now act as a free exchange on smoke launchers and as such are actually quite decent for melee-oriented Dreadnoughts; the thing is, unless you have access to transports for said Dreadnoughts that aren't themselves ludicrously expensive (i.e. a Stormraven) melee dreadnoughts tend to be rather poor in practice.
Overcharged Engines - Instead of all Blood Angels vehicles with a Rhino chassis being forced into paying 15 points to gain the Fast type regardless of whether they needed it or not, the new codex instead only makes this mandatory for Rhinos, Razorbacks and Baal Predators while allowing other suitable vehicles to have the option of purchasing it for slightly less than it used to cost. For players that love their Fast tanks - and yes, they are still awesome - the newly styled Overcharged Engines essentially amount to a 5 point discount per tank in the new codex, or a 15 point price reduction if you take certain vehicles and feel they don't require the upgrade. All in all, this is a nice little change.
Relics of Baal
The Angel's Wing - I really like this piece of wargear if only because of how cheap it is given what it does compared to a basic Jump Pack. Much like a Webway Portal fielded by a Dark Eldar character, this specific piece of wargear should only be used if you plan to Deep Strike a character down with a unit and don't plan on using a Drop Pod. This generally means you want to put it with some kind of Jump or Terminator unit, both of which Blood Angels players have lots to choose from. It is obviously list dependent but it is a great tool to use if you plan on constructing an alpha-strike to add to your list of tactics against opponents.
The Crown Angelic - Functioning almost exactly like a Death Mask albeit with an added -2 penalty to enemy Leadership when they take the Fear tests this item mandates, this not only doesn't really compare to similar items in other 7th Edition codices but it is entirely built around the concept of making Fear useful in a standard game. This is Warhammer 40,000 where the majority of armies are outright immune to Fear or are so terrible in combat that it won't ever make a difference to the outcome of a given combat, much unlike the special rule of the same names' far greater prominence in Warhammer Fantasy. This is very nice if you know you are facing Orks specifically, but otherwise I would skip it.
The Veritas Vitae - We've seen almost this exact piece of wargear in several 7th Edition codices, and it really is no different here; it is a cheap extra Warlord Trait that is rolled up from the awesome rulebook Strategic Traits table. This is fantastic for any Blood Angels Warlord given how much all units can benefit from the extra buffs provided by having two separate Warlord Traits, and as such it is well worth picking up in every game.
Gallian's Staff - Much like the Angel's Wing, this is a cheap 10 point upgrade to a piece of stock equipment, replacing a Librarian's force weapon with a slightly improved force staff. Other than its' unique Rage-Fuelled special rule, it is identical to a standard force staff; the reason you would want to field this is hat it allows the user to re-rolls 1s when attempting to harness warp charges for psychic powers, though it comes with the added risk of any re-rolled 1s that subsequently roll 1s inflicting automatic unsaved wounds on the wielder. It's a nice little piece of wargear for improving a Librarian's chances of successfully casting his psychic powers each turn, but it isn't all that fantastic and the risks attached to the item are rather unsavory even if they are incredibly unlikely to ever negatively impact on a game.
Fury of Baal - The mandatory super-powerful pistol of the codex, this is unique in a sense that it is surprisingly expensive given its' equivalents in other codices, though it obviously is the hardest hitting by far. For the price of a Power Fist, the Fury of Baal gives a Blood Angel character what amounts to a master-crafted Plasma Pistol that doesn't suffer from Gets Hot, meaning that whether you use it or not will strictly come down to whether you consider Plasma Pistols to be worth it on their own merits. Paying an extra 10 points over a Plasma Pistol to re-roll to hit and not have to worry about Gets Hot is decent enough, though I still question the worth of paying so many points for a gun you will likely only get to fire once or twice in a game. I think it is pretty decent, especially as Space Marine characters are all at least Ballistic Skill 4, but you may want to consider cheaper sources of improving a characters' damage output, or rather just reinvesting those points elsewhere.
Valour's Edge - Given that a standard power weapon is a mere 5 points cheaper than the Valour's Edge, this is a surprisingly well-priced AP2 melee weapon in a gamut of codices where such tools are usually either scarce or abhorrently expensive. If you want a melee-oriented character that can at the very least stand toe-to-toe with 2+ armoured opponents, the Valour's Edge is an extremely valuable and almost mandatory weapon choice, especially if you make full use of all the various stat boosts Blood Angels can exclusively employ.
Quickening (Primaris, Warp Charge 1) - The first of the combat-boosting psychic blessings, Quickening provides a single character within 12" of the psyker - or the psyker himself - with a +D3 bonus to his Attacks and Initiative while also granting them the Fleet special rule. White the latter buff is useless if the targeted character is part of a unit given that Fleet doesn't extend from character to squad, the overall idea behind the power is actually quite nice and stacks perfectly with the many stat buffs you can get from other parts of the codex. This further allows Blood Angels to turn their melee characters into absolute wrecking balls that can slice through entire units at a time and is very amusing in conjunction with a particular model such as Dante.
Fear of the Darkness (One, Warp Charge 1) - Despite being a relatively short-ranged malediction with a rather finicky effect that many armies can outright ignore, forcing a given unit to take an immediate Morale test with a -2 penalty to their Leadership is really darned good even if just for removing something like an Objective Secured unit from a particular objective. It is a hilarious power against most Xenos armies and still has its uses even against other Space Marines, the -2 penalty allowing it to remain relevant even against the higher Leadership armies. That this doesn't operate around causing Fear despite that particular rule being in the name makes me appreciate this psychic power even more.
Unleash Rage (Two, Warp Charge 1) - Again with the combat-based buffs, this instead has an 18" range and targets a single unit rather than just a character; those under the effects of Unleash Rage benefit from the Rage (I see what you did there, rules designers) special rule or, if they already had Rage, they gain a blanket +1 attack bonus that isn't reliant on successfully charging an enemy unit. Given that all Blood Angels natively possess the Furious Charge special rule, casting this on a unit of - for example - Assault Marines will see each of those relatively cheap Space Marines dish out a whopping four Strength 5 attacks each on the charge, turning them into quite a nasty melee unit in a pinch. This tends to be one of the major components of "buff stacking" you can do to Blood Angels dedicated assault units, leading to brutally powerful assault units that most opponents won't be able to deal with in a straight melee.
Shield of Sanguinius (Three, Warp Charge 1) - A slightly inferior form of the Forewarning psychic power from the Divination discipline, this provides the psyker and his unit with a 5+ invulnerable save, essentially giving them the best part of the Daemon rule for free. Not being able to target a unit other than the one the psyker is joined to while also only providing a 5+ invulnerable save instead of a 4+ invulnerable save makes the Forewarning power the superior of the two otherwise very similar powers, but that doesn't mean Shield of Sanguinius isn't a very useful, good quality power to have.
Blood Boil (Four, Warp Charge 2) - The first of only two witchfire-type powers in the Sanguinary Discipline, Blood Boil functions as a focused witchfire that targets a single model within 18" and has a rather unique functionality. The target model is forced to take two separate Toughness tests that, for each failure, result in them losing a wound with no saves allowed; if the model dies as a result of the psychic power, a large blast with Strength 4 AP5 and Ignores Cover is immediately placed over the models' dying position. This is a great power to pick out important models from a unit or try and snipe the last wound off of the enemy Warlord, and the secondary effect is actually quite powerful when you consider it is a large blast that doesn't scatter whatsoever.
The Blood Lance (Five, Warp Charge 2) - The other witchfire power available to Blood Angels psykers without using any of the rulebook disciplines, the Blood Lance instead functions as a Beam with a 12" range and an impressive punch at Strength 8 AP1. That it makes use of the titular Lance special rule ensures it is a potent anti-tank tool while also being able to easily snipe wounds off of monstrous creatures and force characters to shudder through a Look Out Sir roll. This is a hold-over from the 5th Edition Blood Angel codex and I am glad that it has returned and functions virtually as it did before.
Wings of Sanguinius (Six, Warp Charge 2) - Another blessing that targets a single friendly unit within 12", this has arguably the most potentially game-changing effect with the ability to move a given infantry unit up to 12" in any direction, almost like a free move. It might seem innocuous but once you consider the worth of mobility in competitive Maelstrom of War games, it quickly becomes evident just how strong this power is; it can guarantee you an objective-grab, move a target unit into effective shooting range of an enemy squad or get them out of harms way from an impending assault. While it does prevent the affected unit from charging in the same turn, even using this just to cross the board early on with something like an Assault Squad - remember, Infantry is a blanket unit type and the various sub-types such as Jetpack and Jump will thus still benefit from this power - is very useful and well worth its place as the highest numbered power in the Sanguinary Discipline list.
Formations and Detachments
Blood Angels Battle Company - Much like many of the 7th Edition codices released prior to Necrons, the Blood Angels codex features a single formation and one unique detachment that trade-off one key bonus special rule for the former versus the unparalleled comparative flexibility of the latter. In most other codices I've reviewed I generally favoured the detachment simply because the one advantage the formation would get just didn't outweigh the option to build the list you want rather than be penned into a preset and usually sub-par unit composition. In this case, I feel that at the very least the Battle Company is decent enough even if it isn't exactly ideal; Blood Angels Tactical Marines have it better than their equivalents in other Adeptus Astartes codices because they can utilize Heavy Flamers, but being forced to take six units of them with the only major benefit from the formation that they can actually utilize being Objective Secured makes the formation difficult to recommend. The combat oriented HQ choices and the mandatory three separate types of Dreadnoughts makes this specific force suited to Multiple-Small-Unit (MSU) reserve-based play featuring lots of Drop Pods, making full use of its Objective Secured and Red Thirst special rules. This is where allowing Tactical Squads to use Heavy Flamers proves a great boon for Blood Angels, even if I still think the formation as a whole is decidedly mediocre due to the overall unit composition.
Baal Strike Force - Like the many examples before them, the Baal Strike Force apes two of the three benefits a Battle Company provides but uses that sacrifice to empower the freedom of choice; it is a detachment that is quite similar to a regular one but comes with an additional Elites slot and trades Objective Secured on the Troops choices for an army-wide Red Thirst. The interesting thing to note here is that unless you build your army for combat, the Red Thirst probably isn't worth losing Objective Secured for, much unlike many of the other unique detachments throughout 7th Edition codices that provide players with a very tough choice on that front. I guess one can say that the good thing here is that it is probably the least restrictive of the detachments released so far by not losing a single slot and merely gaining one, but while I do think a +1 Initiative bonus on the charge for all units in the detachment is pretty powerful, it really isn't that far removed from the classic 5th Edition Furious Charge which provided the same bonus. If an army of Strength 5 and Initiative 5 Space Marines that strike as such on the charge only appeals to you or you intend on building a melee-oriented Adeptus Astartes army, the Baal Strike Force is doubtless a good replacement for the standard Combined Arms detachment; otherwise, Blood Angels players shouldn't feel forced to take it as it doesn't provide anywhere near the level of buffs something like a Necron Decurion does.
Incoming mandatory and unnecessarily long closure to article; authorial powers activated, override initiated. Have a good day!