Posts Tagged ‘Blood Angels’

It has been over six months since I concluded my last report of wargames-related doings with a vague promise of a game against my semi-regular Blood Ravens opponent which I’d sort-of lined up for the following week. Obviously an explanation of some sort is in order, and the truth is…

Well, blame the new Eldar codex, or my old Eldar army – one of the two, anyway. The new book appeared and I decided to dust off the army and give it a test drive. Suffice to say the Blood Ravens turned up with two Thunderfire Cannons, two fliers, and nearly a dozen Terminators and I was blasted off the table in short order, only managing to take out a handful of Tactical Marines in return. Coupled to my growing misgivings about the emphasis of the sixth edition, it was enough to make me take a sabbatical from the game (another of my semi-regular bouts of under-employment didn’t help matters much).

Oh well. I have been feeling the odd pang of the desire to play and/or paint again recently, and I was in town today anyway for work, and rather than go all the way in and back solely for one lesson, I thought I might as well see how things lay on the wargaming front. Out came the Blood Angels again.


And so I found myself squaring off against a neophyte Ultramarines commander – the signs are fairly easy to distinguish – in an exercise of the Emperor’s Will (one main objective each plus the usual minor ones). Not being familiar with the new Marine Codex I was wary, but at least I had an army I knew backwards.

Both objectives were placed in the centre of the table, which suited me, and deploying first I set up for a major push on both of them. My Terminators and Baal Predator went into reserve, while ready on the right flank for a lightning advance was a Rhino carrying a Tactical Squad, a full Assault Squad accompanied by Captain Zedrenael, Chaplain Aukon and a Priest, an Attack Bike and a Land Speeder. Posted on a hill in the centre was Honoured Brother Akakos, hastily retrofitted to a standard dreadnought configuration (CC/AC).

The Ultramarines put a lot of stuff into reserve – starting with Marneus Calgar and an Honour Guard. There was also a Librarian here, a Sternguard combat squad, and three Devastator Centurions. Actually on the table, a mechanised Tactical combat squad, an Assault combat squad, a foot Tactical combat squad and a Devastator combat squad occupied the centre, while over on the right flank a Land Raider Crusader carrying Assault Terminators set up facing the bulk of my own forces.

(Looking back at this game, I get the impression that the Ultramarine army was illegal – only one Troop choice – and that their commander was wont to get crucial game terms mixed up – not just things like Chapter Master and Warlord, which he thought were interchangeable, but also Reserve and Deep Strike. As will become apparent this did not profit him much.)

Anyway, I retained the initiative and began my assault by landing a Drop Pod as close to the Ultramarine-placed objective as I could manage. This was my first time using a pod and I was curious to see how it performed. A full Tactical Squad spilled out, while behind them the rest of the army moved up. On the first turn the Pod Squad mowed down the majority of the Devastator combat squad and left me well placed for a second-turn assault.

The Ultramarines responded by attempting to land a Dreadnought by Drop Pod on the board edge close to the bulk of my army – however, it scattered off the table and was destroyed. The Land Raider Crusader moved forward along the table edge anyway, disregarding the multi-meltas my army was toting. Apart from the surviving Devastator, who redeployed towards the right flank, the remaining Ultramarine contingent fired on and assaulted the Pod Squad, though without doing much damage.

On my second turn both my reserve units turned up: the flame tank outflanked and toasted the foot Tactical combat squad, while the reassuring presence of the locator beacon in the Drop Pod meant my Terminators were able to come on safely, close to the Devastator. The Attack Bike and Land Speeder fired on and destroyed the Land Raider, the Rhino-based Tactical Squad opened fire on and wiped out the Ultramarine Rhino unit, and the Blood Angels Assault Squad counter-charged the unit that had assaulted me the previous turn and wiped it out.

The Ultramarines centre had been smashed, but their Terminators were intact and they had many potentially powerful units still in reserve. Marneus Calgar teleported onto the table with his retinue, behind the bulk of the Blood Angel force, while not far away three Devastator Centurions appeared. The Sternguard appeared in the far right corner, not far from the Baal Predator and Blood Angel Terminators.

Marneus Calgar called in an orbital bombardment which vapourised Zedrenael and Aukon, while the Sternguard managed to kill two Terminators (a bit jammily, I thought – hey ho). However the Ultramarines were unable to assault and most of the Blood Angels were out of sight of the formidable anti-personnel firepower of the Centurions. Nevertheless the Ultramarine Terminators assaulted the Attack Bike and killed it, while the last Devastator shot down the Land Speeder.

It was time to redeploy, so the Tactical squad piled back into their Rhino, which motored away, while the Assault Squad pulled back away from Calgar as well. The Baal Predator motored up to the Sternguard and flamed three of them, while the Pod Squad occupied the Ultramarine objective. The Terminators squashed the last Devastator, while Brother Akakos waded into the Centurions and killed two of them (they did not prove as resilient as I had feared).

The Ultramarine Librarian finally showed up, but I was confident I had this game in the bag – I had two very mobile Troops units left, meaning I could either grab objectives or go for linebreaker points as the game closed, while the Ultramarines had only their elite units on the table.

Things turned out pretty much as I expected – Akakos killed off the Centurions and then chased down and flattened the enemy Librarian, while a ding-dong battle between the two squads of hammer-wielding Terminators eventually saw only a single Ultramarine survivor (who Akakos promptly shot). Calgar and his squad handily slaughtered the Pod Squad and moved on to assault and destroy the Baal Predator: this did not overly worry me, as it meant they were pulled even further away from the objectives.

The final few turns saw the Ultramarines frenziedly running around the table trying to kill anything they could get their hands on, regardless of the bigger strategic game. Their vastly depleted numbers meant they weren’t that destructive, however. In the end the last Sternguard was killed by the storm bolter on the Drop Pod, while Calgar’s retinue was wiped out when he assaulted the surviving Blood Angel Tactical Squad. It seemed somewhat fitting that the only surviving Ultramarine model on the table as the game ended was their Chapter Master, while I had a few Assault Marines and a Dreadnought left to hold objectives: probably not enough to actually kill Calgar, but I didn’t need to. One objective and First Blood gave me four points, compared to the solitary one the Ultramarines had earned for killing Zedranael.

So – first thoughts on the new Marine Codex. I haven’t looked at it in detail, but Thunderfire Cannons are still absurdly underpriced and I suspect Centurions are very capable of laying waste to anything in their path if used correctly. The Chapter Tactics rules look interesting too; I think my best fortune in this game was meeting a relatively green opponent. Splitting his army the way he did made it very easy for me to rapidly crush his initially-deployed forces and then deal more carefully with his elite second wave.

The army performed up to standard in this game, anyway, although losing the Captain and Chaplain to the same shot stung a bit. The big innovation this game was using the Drop Pod and I am rather impressed by the potential of this piece of kit, both as a way of getting Tactical Marines to the sharp end of the game and as an anchor point for my Terminators. I am aware all I am really doing now is tinkering with the same basic elements when I play Blood Angels, so what the future holds for me collecting-wise I’m not sure. As it is, I had a really nice time just playing a good, challenging game against a friendly and cheerful opponent. And of course I got to inflict a crushing defeat on him, which is always a bonus too.

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So, it’s been a little while since I chanced my luck in the wargames arena, but finally the mood was upon me again and I trundled into town for a pick-up game. Just from seeing the array of armies that people brought along for the afternoon/early evening games session, it seems like all those new 6th Ed innovations I was instantly dubious of, mainly because they seemed to have been included solely to encourage the sales of big and expensive flyer and/or scenery models, have caught on: I saw three armies each with multiple planes in them, and two which had brought their own scenic features.

Having said that, I also thought the ally rules were potentially iffy, and I was using those myself: just for a change of pace I’d spent the previous few days painting 500 points of Grey Knights, as they seemed to play to my strengths as a collector and painter, and the background was sort of appealing. Ending up playing another pure Grey Knight army was not really an ideal outcome, but that was what happened.


It was very clear my opponent hailed from a very different gaming tradition: I’d call myself a narrative gamer (hence my obsession with getting things like themes and squad markings right) but the guy across the table clearly learned his stuff in a far more competitive atmosphere. Rolling up a mission which basically revolved around storming the enemy table corner, he plonked down a defence line which effectively fenced it off, which was garrisoned by Inquisitor Coteaz and a tooled up retinue, not to mention two rifleman Dreadnoughts. Two Grey Knight Strike Squads, a lone Paladin, and a Grand Master were all set to Deep Strike.

As regular readers will know, I am deeply suspicious of Deep Strike, but I knew my chances of footslogging my own Grey Knights across the table were fairly slim. So my Knight-Librarian and his escort of Terminators went into reserve, while everything else (Captain Zed, a Priest, an Assault Squad, a Mechanised Tactical Squad, an Attack Bike, a Land Speeder and Honoured Brother Akakos) hid behind the terrain near my objective.

I had very low expectations as the game started, fully expecting to get mown down and assaulted off the board by turn 3. However, my cagey deployment worked out and all the Grey Knights could see was the Land Speeder (which they promptly shot down). On my turn everything charged forward, using cover to screen an advance on the enemy lines. Only Akakos hung back, ready to engage in an autocannon duel with his opposite numbers  (I was not optimistic), while my Grey Knight Strike Squad stayed concealed near my objective (I had a cunning plan).

The shooting from the enemy firebase started to whittle down my advancing force on turn 2, but thankfully Feel No Pain limited my losses. The enemy Paladin and a squad with their Grand Master teleported in in my table quarter, intent on grabbing the objective there, which was clearly cause for concern. Looking on the bright side, my own Terminators teleported in virtually on top of the enemy lines.

However, things took a decided turn for the worse when the Librarian’s attempt to cast Doom Vortex backfired on him, frying half the unit including the Librarian himself: 250 points gone in one fell swoop. Hmmm.

The last enemy Grey Knights teleported into my zone on turn 3 and my opponent was looking good: if he could take and hold my objective he would rake in the points at the end of the game. Normally I take maintenance of aim pretty seriously, but I clearly had to at least have a go at defending my own zone properly, because Akakos alone would probably not be up to it. That said, the Paladin charged Akakos, zapped his own synapses miscasting Hammerhand to make his hammer a Dreadnought-busting S10, and while staggering about clutching his temples was donked neatly on the head by one of Akakos’ autocannon, taking him out of the game.

On my turn I pulled the Assault Squad and Captain Zed back to support my Strike Squad in assaulting the enemy Grey Knights (my plan to have the Librarian Summon the Strike Squad to assist on the other side of the table had obviously been scotched). The Terminators and Attack Bike commenced their attack on the enemy defence line (the last Tactical Marines had been obliterated on the previous turn). And both actions went pretty well: one enemy Dreadnought was smashed by the Terminators, while one enemy Strike Squad was wiped out by a combined attack from Captain Zed, the Assault Marines, and my own Strike Squad. Akakos’ hopeful assault on the Grand Master’s squad was less telling, but at least it kept them tied up on their own turn.

Both forces were now fully committed and it was just a question of seeing how the dice fell. Over in the enemy zone, the last three Terminators were wiped out, but not before they broke Coteaz and his retinue and came within an inch of running him off the table. The Attack Bike was still on the spot to contest the objective, though.

In my own zone, Akakos was wrecked by enemy krak grenades, but the same combination of Assault Marines, Captain and Strike Squad engaged the Grand Master and his unit. This turned into a bloodbath, and at the end only Captain Zed and his Priest were left standing.

So, come the game end, the Grey Knights had a Dreadnought and the remains of Coteaz’s unit left, while I had the Bike and two characters on the table. Neither of us could claim an objective, the Grey Knights had First Blood, but I had Linebreaker: barely credibly, I had managed to draw the game.

Well, as I said to my opponent afterwards, I pretty much know the Blood Angels army backwards by now, and they performed about as well as I’d expect: lethal in an assault, even against Grey Knights, but less effective in a shooting match. Hard to say much about the Grey Knights I took myself, not least because half the points never really got a chance to show what they could do. It’s hard to judge the Strike Squad’s performance as they were operating in close support of a large Blood Angels unit, and while the Terminators soaked up enormous firepower and still did the business, that’s pretty much what you take them to do. I think it is just a case of increasing the size of the Grey Knight contingent and seeing what happens. I have yet another game against my regular Blood Raven opponent organised for next week, at 2K no less, which will give them another opportunity to show what they can do.

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I’ve started talking a fair bit about Standard Tactical Dogma when I write about 40K, but I’m increasingly aware that my perception of STD is mainly based on the internet, and specifically the writings of a particular subset of 40K players – mainly ultra-competitive tournament gamers. And the STD I see must surely be out-of-date now the Sixth Edition is established.

Take, for example, the STD insistence that meltaguns are the only sensible special weapon option for Assault Marines. I would disagree vehemently with this – partly because vehicles in general feel a lot more fragile than they have been in the past, but also because the humble flamethrower has also surely made a Sinatra-like comeback under the new ruleset, if not as a genuine assault weapon then certainly as a counter-assault weapon.


This certainly crossed my mind following my latest game, which was – as is standard these days – at 1500 points, played against – and this has certainly not been standard of late – Orks. My default list these days is the one I put together to handle the sit-back-and-shoot style of the Blood Ravens I’ve played twice recently so going up against another all-out assault force promised to be illuminating. We rolled up a very straightforward scenario, and – with one eye on the burgeoning horde of Greenskins emerging from my opponent’s figure cases – I decided it would be best to a) refuse a flank and b) Outflank with the Baal Predator.

My main squads – Tactical Squad, Assault Squad (Librarian and Priest attached), and Terminators – deployed centre-right, while the Attack Bike and Furioso Dreadnought hugged the right-hand table edge. The rifleman Dreadnought was a little further back, but as the Ork force was all infantry it seemed unlikely he would make a major impact.

Possibly intimidatingly, and certainly impressively, the Orks practically filled their 12″ x 4 foot deployment zone; I almost wished I’d brought my Whirlwind as this was certainly a target-rich environment. Two artillery pieces occupied some central ruins, while on either side I could see waves of troops in formation – on the left, Grots screened Shoota Boys, who in turn screened Lootas, while on the right, Grots screened Slugga Boys, who screened Flash Gits, Tankbusters and the Warboss and his henchmen. This was clearly going to be resolved by boots in faces.

Well, I got the first turn and moved forward cautiously with everything but the Furioso, which I obviously wanted in combat as soon as possible. I could possibly have assaulted the right-wing Grots on the first turn, but this would almost certainly have exposed me to a devastating counter-assault from the Orks behind them so let them be. My only notable shooting was from Brother Akakos, who picked off the Ork Shock Attack Gun in the centre and scored me First Blood (a rarity), though I forgot about this later when it might have made a difference.

The Orks advanced on both wings, except for the Lootas – and thus an interesting gap in the Ork lines on their left wing was created. Their shooting was predictably ineffectual, although the Tankbusters blew one of the Furioso’s arms off (the one with the heavy flamer, annoyingly).

On turn 2, the Baal Predator arrived from reserve, passed the Outflank roll and slotted neatly into the gap on the left Ork flank. The Tactical Squad piled out of their rhino preparatory to shooting up the right-wing Grots – my plan was to do enough damage to make them run, and thus allow the Furioso to assault one of the nastier Ork units they were currently screening.

Well, that didn’t quite work out, and so the Furioso Dreadnought had to assault the Grots anyway, wiping them out. Much more gratifyingly, I finally got to shoot all three weapons on the Baal Predator at the Ork Lootas. Ah, the delights of three flame templates at point-blank range! Twelve dead Lootas later that quarter of the table looked rather different.

The left wing of the Ork army was now somewhat disarrayed, as the boys on that side frantically scrambled to do something about the Baal, which was quite capable of torching a dozen models a turn. On the right they kept coming – the Warboss and his henchmen assaulted the Furioso, but didn’t manage to damage it, while the main Slugga mob attempted to charge the Tactical Marines – but effective overwatch fire, partly due to the squad flamer, stalled the assault. Having thrown all their heavy shooting at the Baal Predator, the Orks on that side of the table were finally forced to assault it to put it out of action – but it had done its job.

I was now able to launch some assaults of my own, the Tactical Marines softening the Sluggas up before the Assault Squad – buffed by the Librarian’s Unleash Rage power – charged in. Hammer of Wrath, Unleash Rage, and Furious Charge combined to give this a devastating impact and the Orks were wiped out for no casualties in return. The Terminators plunged into the fight between the Furioso and the Warboss, turning the tables in the combat and slaying the Ork leader.  The right wing of the Ork army was now effectively broken.

The next Ork turn mainly consisted of them trying to reorganise, which allowed me to press my advantage – the Assault Marines wiped out the Flash Gits, the Furioso Dreadnought destroyed the Tankbusters, and the Tactical Marines swung about to mow down the left-wing Grots, which were attempting to circle round behind them and get to the objectives in my deployment zone.

My instinct now was to consolidate my position as we looked to be heading into the end game – I thought I was probably ahead on points – and so I pulled everything back from the surviving Orks, planning to hunker down and ride it out. However, the surviving Ork Shoota Boys, Lootas, and artillery had quite enough collective muscle to squat on an objective while blasting me off another, as they proved almost at once by shooting enough Tactical Marines to briefly break the squad.

Possibly unwisely, and almost certainly feeling overconfident following my earlier crushing successes, I threw the Assault Marines at the largest surviving Ork mob unsupported – the Ork overwatch was punishing and the Orks absorbed the charge fairly easily. Even with the Librarian and Priest, this combat rapidly turned into a gruelling slugging match which I was lucky to survive, and in the end I had to bring in the Terminators to support the Assault Marines. This finally gave me the edge and the Orks broke – but at the very last minute of the game.

While all this had been going on, the Ork Zap Gun had destroyed the Furioso – who, to be fair, had been pushing his luck all game – and then engaged in a long-range duel with Brother Akakos. Akakos was a much better shot, but digging the Ork artillery out of its emplacement made this a tough nut to crack. In the end, though, after seven hard-fought turns the Orks were left with half a dozen fleeing boys, two cowering Lootas, and a Zap Gun, while I had the wounded Librarian, the Priest, two Terminators, half a Tactical Squad and the rifleman Dreadnought on the table. Another slaughterhouse, but I had scored First Blood, a Slain Warlord, and at least one Linebreaker, along with a solitary objective, while the Orks had nothing.

So, 4-0 to the Blood Angels, as it turned out, and something of an epochal moment in the ongoing saga of the army, as my win/draw/lose ratio now stands at 10/2/9 – back in the black, for the first time in ages. Recently I have felt much more like I know what I’m doing with the Angels, and the current Death Company-free iteration of the list is generally doing the business.

Obviously, 1750 or 2000 points is the next place to take the army, and I have ideas about how to do this – and, for that matter, some wildly different 1500 point lists (a Drop Pod list, a fully mechanised list, an Astorath-led Death Company-centric list and so on). The list of units-in-progress at the moment is quite lengthy.

But I’m contemplating taking a break from painting and modelling Angels and doing something completely different for a bit – there’s a Daemonic incursion brewing up in one of my drawers which I may give some attention to for a while, just for a change of pace. In terms of playing, though, I will be sticking with the Blood Angels for the foreseeable future.

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What’s on my mind with regard to the Blood Angels right now:

  • What should my first choice of Warlord be? To be honest I’ve always got my best results using Captain Zedrenael, contrary to Standard Tactical Dogma. The named Special Characters are really too expensive for a 1500 point game. The Reclusiarch works okay as a force multiplier but he isn’t fantastic in a duel, which is where he’s likely to end up. STD says a Librarian is virtually obligatory but I am not convinced following tonight’s display. Hmmm.
  • Should I think about putting my Furioso Dreadnought in a Drop Pod? One of the things I feel the army is currently lacking in is a serious Alpha Strike capability – short of Brother Akakos’ autocannon all my big guns are short-ranged. I have been contemplating a missile-launcher or lascannon Devastator Squad, but putting the Furioso in the Pod would be another option. Using the option to outflank with a Baal Predator would be another possibility – but with the Baal starting on my battleline I at least know where my enemy will be shooting on the first turn!
  • I am giving away First Blood points in virtually every game, possibly due to my lack of long-range anti-tank power and fondness for going vehicle-heavy. Not sure what to do about this except put my Attack Bike and Land Speeder into squadrons.

Anyway, I picked a fairly generic list for this week’s game, not having an opponent lined up, and – of course – found myself in a rematch with the Blood Ravens following last week’s inconclusive clash. Could this return engagement live up to the promise of the first game? Crikey, could it ever.


We ended up playing Big Guns Never Tire, which suited me (the Raven army was heavy in heavy support), with the Ravens getting first turn. Their Predator and Vindicator ended up dominating the centre and left side of the table, with a Tactical Squad holding down each flank and the Thunderfire Cannon and Scouts occupying a cluster of ruins on the right side of their deployment zone.

My list was similar to last week’s, except I had dropped the Reclusiarch, Land Speeder, and Death Company units  in exchange for a jump-packed Librarian, Assault Terminators, and Brother Akakos’ autocannon loadout. I opted to push up the right flank as that seemed to offer most cover for my Assault Marines and vehicles – only Brother Akakos occupied the left hand side of the table. The Terminators were footslogging due to my deep distrust of Deep Striking as a tactic. The Baal pushed forward with its Scout move in the hopes of toasting some Ravens on turn 1.

However, it was not to be: the Raven Drop Pod landed in my deployment zone and their Dreadnought emerged, promptly slagging the Baal Predator with its multi-melta – drawing this kind of fire is the Baal’s job, but I was still peeved. Heavy fire from the rest of the Ravens had relatively little effect, however.

On my turn Brother Akakos shifted into cover and got the rear of the Raven Dreadnought in his sights. The Attack Bike and Terminators also moved to give me options for dealing with the Dreadnought; everything else continued its push across the table. Akakos blew the enemy cyborg apart, leaving the Terminators free to assault the Drop Pod: at the time I thought this was perhaps a mistake, as it left them in the open in front of the lascannon-armed Predator, but this was arguably the most decisive move of the game. Needless to say they smashed the Pod to bits.

On Raven turn 2 the Storm Talon did not appear, but their Librarian and his Terminator escort did. With the locator beacon on the Drop Pod destroyed, my opponent carefully measured and popped them down a foot away from my nearest model – only for the dice to scatter them a full twelve inches in precisely that direction, the resulting roll on the mishap table revealing they had not survived the teleport, earning me a Slain Warlord point and wiping out a 350-point unit instantly.

It was not going all my way, however, as the Vindicator blew half the Assault Marines to pieces and the Predator gunned down a Terminator. On my own turn it proved tricky to get any of my own charges to connect: the wily Ravens of their second Tactical Squad chose to fail a morale test for casualties incurred by shooting to dodge a charge by the Furioso, the two survivors falling back to the table edge. I had some results in the centre as the Terminators were able to assault the Vindicator and destroy it, even if the mutli-melta on the Bike missed the Predator at close range.

The Blood Raven shooting continued to take its toll as the Scouts killed the Attack Bike and the Predator destroyed my Furioso Dreadnought. Most significantly, the Storm Talon finally arrived and promptly targeted Brother Akakos, thus proving I was right in thinking he could be considered a threat to the gunship – he was stunned, but this would not affect his AA potential.

On my turn 3 Akakos got on with his sacred destiny and opened up on the gunship, hitting but failing to damage it. The last remnants of the Assault Marines, having just shrugged off the barrage from the Thunderfire Cannon thanks to the Priest’s Feel No Pain blessing, jumped into assault range of the Predator, while the Terminators advanced on the first Raven Tactical Squad. An assault on the Scouts in the ruins failed to connect, but the Terminators broke the Tactical Marines and the Sergeant of the Assault Squad punched through the side of the Predator with his power fist, wrecking it.

Appropriately, given the participation of the Blood Angels and the Blood Ravens, the game was turning into a complete bloodbath, and this continued as the Talon went into hover mode and wiped out the last of the Assault Marines and Librarian, whose performance had been very underwhelming: at least he was only 125 points. The reformed first Raven squad fired at the Terminators with little effect (my tactic of keeping them line abreast at maximum coherency severely limited the effectiveness of the Raven plasma cannon) and, amusingly, the Thunderfire Cannon proved totally incapable of hitting the Tactical Squad at point-blank range.

To his everlasting shame, Honoured Brother Akakos proved completely incapable of shooting down the hovering Talon, only taking a hull point off it instead. The Terminators charged the first Tactical Squad again while my own Tactical Squad assaulted the Blood Raven Scouts. Both enemy units broke, the lone surviving Scout Sergeant fleeing the ruins, the Tactical Squad falling back to the table edge.

Blood Raven turn 5, and both armies were in tatters – the only fully intact unit was the Cannon. I got a nasty shock when the Techmarine detached himself from the gun and assaulted the Tactical Marine squad, after they had been shot up quite badly by the Talon – the Sergeant missed the chance to crush the boffin in a challenge and suddenly this looked like a fight I would be lucky to win.

On my turn, Akakos shot yet again at the Talon and would have destroyed it, but for it opting for evasive action (which at least meant it wouldn’t be doing much shooting on turn 6, if we got that far). The fight between my surviving Tactical Marines and the Tech ground on while – for the third turn in a row – the Terminators engaged the Raven Tacticals, finally managing to wipe them out this time. They consolidated towards the ruins where the fight was in progress, but it looked unlikely they’d get there before the game ended.

Which it did at that point anyway. The surviving Blood Ravens consisted of a lone Scout Sergeant, two Tactical Marines, the Thunderfire Cannon and its operator and the damaged Storm Talon. I had two Terminators, three Tactical Marines, a damaged Rhino transport and the damaged rifleman Dreadnought left on the table. No-one could claim an objective, both Warlords were dead, and the Blood Ravens had claimed First Blood for the Baal Predator – but I had killed two Heavy Support vehicles and had multiple units in the Raven deployment zone, while my opponent hadn’t managed to finish off Akakos and had nothing outside his own table half – which meant the game had finished 5-2 in my favour.

Well, I can’t honestly believe I won this one, given the pounding I took in the early turns. I think what lost it for the Blood Ravens, other than terrible bad luck with the Librarian and his escort (I’ll say it again: unmodified Deep Strike is a massive gamble and too easy to mess up), was the choice to move their vehicles up the centre of the table towards my AT units – killing these scored me relatively easy points. The relatively static nature of the Raven list also sort-of worked in my favour as I was always going to claim more Linebreaker points than them.

Of course, if my worthy opponent ever manages to get his Terminators and Librarian onto the table I suspect he will roll me over quite easily – then again, if I ever get my Baal Predator up close to his Tactical Marines that should have interesting results as well. But another excellent game against a strong army, played in the right spirit – 5-2 really doesn’t indicate what a close game this really was.

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So, the day of the long-planned, much-contemplated battle between the Blood Angels and the Blood Ravens finally arrived. I had, if I’m honest, been pre-thinking this one rather too much, writing at least three lists before settling on the one I eventually took. This probably constitutes list-tailoring, which I usually abhor, but I didn’t fancy getting blown off the table by the Blood Ravens’ massed firepower, and I wanted to give my opponent a decent match.


In the end I knew I would be staring down the barrels of a Vindicator gun, a Thunderfire cannon, three lascannons, and various sniper rifles and squad heavy weapons, to say nothing of the weaponry of the Storm Talon, so I decided to swamp the Ravens with multiple targets in the hope something would get through and do some damage up close. I left Captain Zed on the bench in order to give my Assault Marines some backbone through the presence of a Chaplain, took a mechanised Tactical Squad and a full Assault Squad, minimaxed Death Company and a Death Company Dreadnought, filled up my Fast Attack choices with a Baal Predator, an Attack Bike and a Land Speeder, and finished off with my regular picks of a Furioso, a Sanguinary Priest and a regular Dreadnought (with only the basic load-out for once).

The Ravens turned up with two full Tactical Squads on foot, sniper-rifle Scouts, a three-lascannon Predator, a Vindicator, a drop-podding Dreadnought and a Thunderfire Cannon. New to the build this week were six hammer-toting Terminators led by a Librarian in Terminator armour. These gave me serious pause, as I know just how hard to kill they can be (that’s the reason why I have some myself) – only my Dreadnoughts could reliably get through their 2+ saves and nothing could touch their 3+ shield saves.

And, well – well, the annoying thing is that GW Oxford has changed the hours of their games night so it concludes at 8pm. For those of us who work until 5pm this makes playing a full game, even at only 1500 points, a considerable challenge. Time limits (two hours a game) and/or fairly draconian points caps (1000 points on a 4×4 table does not seem unreasonable) are surely on the way. Either way, we only finished three turns of a potential seven.

I was lucky and got both the first turn and Night Fighting, and everything moved forward in a frontal assault on the Raven deployment zone. New Model Syndrome bared its teeth as the Baal Predator crashed into terrain hoping to eliminate the Scouts and immobilised itself on turn 1. Thankfully the Raven shooting was harsh, but not cripplingly so, and I was lucky with Jink saves on the Speeder and Bike: my main worry was their Dreadnought, which dropped into my deployment zone.

On turn 2 the central thrust continued from the Tactical and Assault Marines, with the Death Company Dreadnought also on the march and the Furioso preparing to engage the Raven Dreadnought. The Speeder and Attack Bike whipped around the Raven flank, destroying the Vindicator and threatening multiple units. The Furioso killed the enemy Dreadnought leaving me still confident.

Neither the Terminators nor the Storm Talon put in an appearance on turn 2, but the volume of fire the Ravens were able to generate was still worrying, and my inability to pass Feel No Pain tests was a bit irksome. The Assault Squad was heavily whittled down and the improved armour on the front of the Furioso also proved its value.

On turn 3 I finally got to assault, using the Attack Bike to draw off the Overwatch of the Tactical Squad and allow the surviving Assault Marines, Chaplain, and Priest to get in unmolested, while the regular Dreadnought assaulted the Drop Pod – the Death Company Dreadnought was out of range of the last surviving Scout. I think I made my biggest tactical mistake of the game in challenging the Raven Sergeant with my Sanguinary Priest; the two characters killed each other taking my Feel No Pain save with them – the Chaplain would have been tougher and faster in the challenge and allowed the Priest to hack down some regular guys. I’m not sure there’s any value to challenging a regular sergeant with a chainsword at all. (My biggest rules mistake was forgetting Hammer of Wrath for the Assault Marines and Attack Bike, but hey ho.) The Blood Ravens hung in there anyway, but their Drop Pod was trashed.

My opponent’s variable luck continued on his turn 3 as he failed both his 3+ reserve rolls again. The second Tactical Squad and the cannon fired at my Tactical Squad but only killed a single marine, while the Predator’s attempt to kill the Death Company Dreadnought was hampered by the improved cover save the Techpriest on the cannon had bestowed on the terrain it was moving through. The combat between the Assault Marines and the Raven Tactical Squad turned into a bit of a slugging match, but the Angels won and the Ravens fled. The game was finely poised; I was in a position to assault either or both of his Tactical Squads on the following turn, the Attack Bike was positioned to threaten the Predator, the Death Company Dreadnought would almost certainly have wiped out the Scouts, the surviving Death Company were slowly trotting into assault range… On the other hand the Terminators and Librarian presented a massive threat and I had nothing which could reliably damage the Storm Talon, and all of these things were on their way to the table.

But we had no time.  Pointswise it was 3-3, so we called it a draw – which we both agreed was a fair result. It had been a terrific game so far, and it was bitterly disappointing to have to abandon it halfway through.

My strategy seemed to work pretty well, dubious decisions with the Baal Predator notwithstanding (I was unlucky with the dice, obviously – is it worth putting a dozer blade on this thing? It would mean covering up some paintwork I’m very happy with). The only thing I might change would be to drop the Death Company units in favour of my own Terminators, now that I know the Blood Ravens are taking them too (we are already discussing a rematch in a more congenial venue).

I was rather impressed with how well the flank move by the Land Speeder and Attack Bike went. Bikes seem to have the potential to be seriously good in 6th Ed, but no-one seems to have noticed this yet – I’m almost tempted to dust off my plans for a White Scars army; basic T5 and an innate 5+ cover save when moving make for a very resilient force, while Hammer of Wrath is a nice perk too (when you remember it). The Land Speeder also seemed rather tasty: in larger games I can imagine a contingent of two Speeders and three Attack Bikes making the same kind of flanking move and causing a serious headache for most armies.

In the end though this was more about where and when we played the game than the rules and tactics themselves. This was a shame, so perhaps the biggest lesson was to start to think about other possibilities in this area. As usual we shall see.

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Well, nothing specific lined up for this week’s games night, so I turned up prepared to take on all comers – a busy week at the painting desk meant I was able to field one brand new unit and one at an expanded size (I also finished a melta-flamer Land Speeder, but couldn’t squeeze it into the list).


I found myself taking on a Daemon army at 1500 points – with the Daemon book being essentially new, this was the first time for my opponent as well as myself. We rolled up a mission where the outcome of the game was solely determined by the number of enemy units wiped out, which played to the Blood Angels’ strengths at least. It was also a refreshingly simple scenario which somehow suited the bleak polar board we were playing over.

The first thing that strikes me about the new Daemon codex is the sheer volume of dice-rolling and book-keeping required at the start of a game, with the huge numbers of random psychic powers and Daemonic rewards that needed generating even at only 1500 points. Daemons are an army I’ve toyed with collecting in the past, mainly because of the painting possibilities, but all this was a bit offputting, properly chaotic though it was: my opponent had a lot to remember every turn.

I deployed first and opted for a straightforward phalanx of Blood Angels: in the centre went Captain Zed, a Priest, and three full-sized squads (two Tactical, one of them mechanised, and an Assault Squad). On my left wing were a rifleman Dreadnought, a Furioso, and a melta-armed attack bike. Screening the right flank were five Terminators with hammers and shields. In front of me were two packs of Daemons, Bloodletters and Daemonettes, while a Slaanesh chariot was lurking out of sight in the far left corner.

I kept the initiative and everything advanced steadily across the board – there wasn’t much capable of shooting but the rifleman and rhino thinned the Bloodletters down a bit. On the first Daemonic turn the chariot rattled into view, heading for the left wing, while the Bloodletters and Daemonetters advanced on the centre. The Daemon shooting was minimal. In their assault phase the Bloodletters initially charged the Furioso until we realised this was illegal – not that I would have objected, obviously. They went for the Rhino instead and chopped it to pieces, III/5 safely piling out.

On my turn the Terminators advanced on the Daemonettes, while III/5 and III/8 formed up around the Bloodletters, III/3 holding their position. The Dreadnoughts and the Attack Bike moved towards the Chariot. The twin autocannon opened up on the Chariot and blew it apart, the Slaaneshi Herald it carried landing in front of the Attack Bike, which promptly fried it with its multi-melta. Rapid-firing boltguns and massed flamers from III/5 and III/8 wiped out the Bloodletters in the shooting phase, but left III/8 without an assault target. They would be exposed to a charge from the Daemonettes unless I could tie the Slaanesh Daemons up with a charge from the Terminators – but their charge roll fell an inch short.

On the Daemon turn, a Daemon Prince materialised in front of the Dreadnoughts and Attack Bike while an enormous Keeper of Secrets shimmered into existence in the rear of my army. The Daemonic shooting and psychic powers were ineffectual – luckily Captain Zed’s warlord trait meant he could extend his Ld 10 to virtually the entire army, as most of the Slaaneshi powers require Ld tests – and the Daemonettes charged the Assault Marines. Again the flamers proved their worth, killing several Daemons before the combat proper began. Zedrenael took on the Herald leading the pack in a challenge, but neither managed to wound the other. The Assault Marines won the combat and another Daemon evaporated.

It was now my third turn and I found I had no reason to move anything but the Terminators, which advanced on the Keeper of Secrets. The Dreadnoughts and Attack Bike opened up on the Daemon Prince, to little effect, which was slightly worrying. Both full Tactical squads opened up at the Keeper with meltas, bolters, and a missile launcher, taking three wounds off it.

In my assault phase Zedrenael and the Herald continued their duel, neither again being able to score a serious hit, but the Assault Marines hacked down the rest of the Daemonettes and a wound from instability carried over to the Herald. In my half of the table there was a moment of genuine hammer horror as the Terminators engaged the Keeper of Secrets hand-to-hand. The arcane lore of the great beast clearly did not extend to an understanding of the rules for storm shields, however (the Daemon General was a bit surprised too), and the monster’s attacks were harmlessly absorbed. Even needing 5s to hit the WS9 Daemon, the massed attacks of the Terminator thunder hammers were enough to batter it to a pulp, which I considered a result.

We called the game at that point, mainly because I’d been offered £50 to be elsewhere ten minutes hence. But it was looking grim for the forces of Chaos, as they were down to a wounded Herald of Slaanesh and two Daemon Princes (one of which had yet to arrive) and my casualties consisted of III/5’s Rhino and four Assault Marines. I was 6-1 up on points and while I’ve no doubt the Daemon Princes could have wreaked considerable havoc, it would have been relatively easy to scatter my forces across the table and make it impossible for the Daemons to kill enough units to get a win.

So, what do I feel I’ve learned? Well, this particular list felt pretty well-balanced, although I’m not wild about fielding a lone Attack Bike. 37 infantry gave it plenty of heft and it performed well in both shooting and assaults. And the utility of the flamers has given me pause for thought: I know that standard tactical dogma is to give Assault Squads two melta-guns, but a flamer-hand flamer combo was very effective here. Hmmm. The Terminators performed as well as I could have hoped; this is a unit I’m very happy with on every level.

The fate of the Chaos force really makes me think that what and where to Deep Strike is the biggest decision you have to make in the course of a game – in both this and last week’s game, a major unit Deep Struck in entirely the wrong place, right next to unit with a good chance of killing it (which duly happened). I don’t feel I suffered at all by not Deep Striking with either the Assault Marines or the Terminators – my tactic in using the Terminators is to march an impossible-to-ignore unit down the enemy’s throat, hopefully drawing fire away from my softer infantry onto this incredibly resilient squad.

Another very positive game, then. My main priority ahead of next week, when the long-planned Blood Angel-vs-Blood Raven game is scheduled, is to get a Baal Predator finished, as I am curious to see its psychological effect on an opponent. Beyond this, I just need to do some detailing on the Death Company (who, I note, didn’t make it into this game either). An army is never finished, it seems.

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Playing in my last few games, I’ve found myself becoming increasingly aware of what I’d call the ‘dead wood’ factor: the fact that quite significant chunks of my army just aren’t pulling their weight. Last time, for instance, virtually all the productive killing (i.e., when not under Eldar psychic control) was done by the Assault Squad (with an honourable mention for the Sanguinor). Thinking further back, I do recall commenting that most of my early victories were largely the result of Mephiston and the Death Company slaughtering large parts of the enemy force virtually unsupported.

This week, however, I found myself in a game where virtually everything pulled its weight. I had arranged to play our local Blood Ravens merchant and had even gone so far as to buy some new kit to counter the build I know he favours, but for silly little reasons the game never happened and now we have a fortnight’s wait before another opportunity arises. (Shocking levels of attempted intimidation and headology are now taking place, with us casually wandering past each other at games nights muttering things like ‘Thunderfire cannon’ and ‘Baal Predator with flamestorm cannon’ just loud enough to be heard.)

So I ended up playing a Chaos Marine army at 1K. I was mildly appalled by how few Blood Angels you get at this point size (and this was before I realised I was actually well over the agreed points – subtraction isn’t my forte and I was cutting down a 1500 point list). I ended up with Captain Zedrenael of the 8th Company, accompanied by a Chaplain and a Sanguinary Priest, leading into battle a demi-Assault Squad and a mechanised Tactical Squad (both 3rd Company, not that it really matters). Backing them up were a Furioso and a regular Dreadnought carrying twin autocannon (a slightly exotic load-out, but… well, that’s an explanation for another time).

The Chaos army was equally compact and consisted of a pack of Noise Marines, a mob of Cultists led by a Dark Apostle, a pack of Chaos Terminators (these had me rather worried) and a Slaughterbrute (ditto, until I realised it was just a Chaos Dreadnought after a rebranding exercise). In command was Lucius the Eternal.

The game boiled down to a tussle over two objectives, both in ruins in the table centre. I kept to one corner and put the Tactical Squad’s rhino on the flank, with the Assault Squad and characters taking cover behind the two Dreadnoughts. Facing me from left to right were the Slaughterbrute, Lucius, the Cultists and Apostle, and the Noise Marines (the Terminators opted to Deep Strike).

I got the first turn and everything trundled forward, the Furioso and rhino both popping smoke. The autocannon dreadnought scored four wounds on the Noise Marines but they passed all their saves: they call the autocannon an anti-vehicle weapon for a reason, I suppose.

The Chaos forces on the left pushed forward towards the ruins, the Slaughterbrute circling round to get sight of the rhino. The Noise Marine shooting brought the first nasty shock of the game as I learned their heavy weapons ignored cover as well as Feel No Pain: two Assault Marines went down hard. The rhino blew up, killing a single Tactical Marine but allowing the multi-melta in the squad to shoot at the Slaughterbrute at full effect next turn.

I continued to push forward on turn 2 with everything but the Tactical Squad, who opened up at the Slaughterbrute with multi- and combi-meltas. Both missed, of course, leaving the squad looking very exposed. The autocannon dreadnought mowed down a few Cultists.

On Chaos turn 2 the Terminators arrived, and – in a probably decisive move – teleported down where they were flanking my Dreadnoughts, rather than close to my infantry. Not that there was very much of that left: blastmasters and doom sirens opened up and wiped out the remaining Assault Marines, leaving just the three officers standing – at least they were now in assault range of the Cultists in the central ruins. In another key decision the Terminators opened fire on the autocannon dreadnought and destroyed it. Equally tellingly, luck was against the Chaos army on the left as both the Slaughterbrute and Lucius attempted to assault the Tactical Squad, but rolled 3s for their charge range and were left dangling,  Lucius having taken a wound to overwatch fire. The only bright spot was that the Chaos machine had killed the multi-melta earlier in the term.

Blood Angel turn 3 and it was happy time, in theory, as I got to assault – but some of these looked much too close for comfort. Captain Z, the Chaplain and the Priest got stuck into the Cultists, which was obviously going to go my way given I was rerolling 3s to hit and needed 2s to kill, while the Furioso steeled itself to engage the Chaos Terminators up close (at times like this I’m glad I gave it Blood Fists and not Talons). Over on the left the Tactical Squad did some serious manning-up as they took on the Slaughterbrute in close-combat.

Well, Captain Z challenged the Dark Apostle and took him apart with the greatest of ease, while the other characters killed six more Cultists for no wounds in return. Luck really was smiling on me as the Chaos general rolled snake-eyes, keeping the fight going into his next turn and shielding my characters from the attentions of the Noise Marines. The Slaughterbrute squished one marine but was immobilised by the Sergeant’s powerfist, bringing the rest of the squad into the fight as their krak grenades now only needed a 4 to glance the thing’s armour. The Furioso zapped one Terminator on the way in and flattened another in the fight, while the Terminator’s powerfists were defeated by its reassuringly high front armour.

On his turn the Chaos general did consider moving his Noise Marines up closer to one of the fights (they had nothing to shoot at), but as this could just leave them more vulnerable to an assault in my next turn he left them where they were. All he did was stick Lucius into the fight between the Slaughterbrute and the Tactical Marines. Lucius carved up the Sergeant easily, but the ‘brute lost another hull point to a krak grenade. This fight was on a knife edge, which was more than one could say for the one between the Cultists and the Blood Angels command staff: the two surviving Cultists fled the combat, freeing up the Captain and his colleagues. In the Furioso-vs-Terminators combat, the hulking cyborg crushed another of the Traitors, who again failed to damage it – but this time they fled and the Furioso ran them down, his consolidation taking him invitingly close to the Noise Marines.

My turn 4 and I was getting that game-in-the-bag feeling, provided I could stop Lucius from killing all my troops. The Captain and his fellows moved to enter the Slaughterbrute and Lucius vs Tactical Marines combat while the Furioso stomped up to the Noise Marines, declining to fire to increase his chances of being in charge range. And he was! Being Fearless, and lacking a single close combat weapon that could affect AV13, the Noise Marines could do nothing but let the Furioso splatter them across the landscape.

The Blood Angels characters entered the fray and Lucius spat his customary challenge. Chaplain Aukon looked around for Captain Zedrenael expectantly but realised the old warrior was hiding round the back of the Slaughterbrute, making a meal of fiddling with a melta-bomb. ‘You can handle this one, Chaplain,’ the Captain shouted cheerily. Muttering under his breath the Chaplain went one-on-one with Lucius the Eternal, as the Slaughterbrute exploded in the background.

Well, thank the Emperor for Rosarius saves, as after two rounds of closely fought combat the Chaplain managed to ding Lucius sufficiently on the head with his crozius for the Chaos warlord to fall over. The Chaos presence on the table now consisted of the last remnants of the Noise Marines, which the Furioso was happily battering his way through, and the Chaos general conceded with good grace, as we agreed that this had been a great game – had even a single combat gone even slightly differently, the whole outcome could have been totally different.

In my last army review I considered the Furioso to be a marginal performer, but he did the business on this outing. Notably, Blood Talons just wouldn’t have worked in this situation – there is a place for Blood Fists in an army list after all. I think putting the Terminators down so close to the one thing in my army that could reliably kill them was the biggest mistake my opponent made.

Apart from that – I’m not sure, to be honest. I’d been inclining more and more to the idea that Tactical Marines are not an optimal choice for a Blood Angels army – or at least, you have to choose between going all-out with specialist Blood Angels assault units, or just sticking with a more traditional Marine-style build and using some Blood Angel stuff to flavour it. Given my fondness for Captain Zedrenael as a warlord, I expect I will work towards the former, but still…

This was also, by the way, my first entirely Death Company-free list in… er… well, possibly ever. Obviously, I can’t say I really missed them much on this occasion, so there may possibly be food for thought there, too. Oh well. On the table at the moment are an Honour Guard squad, another Assault combat squad, and the makings of some Assault Terminators. My game with the Blood Ravens is a fortnight off so I have a little more time to decide what I’m actually going to take for that one, anyway…

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Well, it is written in the Book of Hackneyed Old Prophecies that a meteorite shall strike the Earth, someone shall say something about someone else in a newspaper, and other stuff will happen – and all this will be taken as a sign that your correspondent may be about to finally get another game in. And you know what, it came to pass!

Having said that, I felt the pain of not having played at all since last September: rusty doesn’t begin to describe it, especially when you consider I’d only actually played four games in 6th Edition prior to this latest comeback. I know I was all set on doing a WFB army, but that just wasn’t happening so I broke out the Blood Angels again to see if my lengthy meditation on the army had had any effect on how I played with them.


Well, I ended up in a pick-up game against Eldar at 2K. None of the new Blood Angel units I’ve been tinkering with were ready for the table (strictly speaking, half the existing army isn’t quite ready, not that it hasn’t stopped me playing them for nearly two years on-and-off) so I took a fairly standard list (for me, anyway) – built around two full-sized Tactical Squads, half an Assault Squad, a big chunk of Death Company with their Dreadnought, a firestorm Dreadnought, Devastators with plasma cannon and an attack bike with a melta.

It turns out I have been undervaluing my Sanguinary Priest as I’ve always forgotten he gives Furious Charge to whoever’s near him, so he got another run out. Just for the hell of it I decided to give the Sanguinor his debut, and to get us up to 2000 points quickly and easily I brought Astorath along. Yes, two special characters in the same list. No, I’m not proud.

The Eldar army was led by Karandras and a huge squad of Striking Scorpions in an infiltrating Wave Serpent (I didn’t know they could do this), another big squad of Wraithguard, a Wraithlord, some Dire Avengers, some Fire Dragons (both in Wave Serpents too), a war Walker, and some D-Cannon. Oh, and a Farseer.

The mission involved grabbing control of objectives with a random value. I ended up ignoring them; the main effect they had was due to the most valuable one ending up on the roof of a colossal building in No Man’s Land.

Anyway we squeezed our armies into our deployment zones (playing 2K on a 4×4′ table has its moments) and I managed to seize the initiative. Everything trotted forward with the Attack Bike immobilising Karandras’ transport and the Dreadnought killing a D-Cannon crewman; nothing else had a shot.

Not surprisingly the Eldar had me outgunned at all ranges, and their various lances and missile launchers were able to concentrate against my own, minimal heavy weapon units: the Attack Bike died almost at once and the Dreadnought was immobilised.

Obviously I had to close with the Eldar, but this brought me into a killing ground in front of the D-cannon, Wraithcannon, Avenger catapults and Fusion guns of the Eldar elite. I think I could have made some chances here had I not been rusty on the rules; as it turned out the mechanised Tactical Squad and the Death Company both ended up hung out to dry after leaving their vehicles but being unable to assault on the same turn (even though the vehicles hadn’t moved). The D-Cannon were devastating against my troops, still somewhat bunched as they were after leaving the transports, and the Eldar’s psychic presence – Puppet Master and Psychic Shriek – took a savage toll as well.

When the Death Company are wiped out in a single turn’s shooting without ever executing a charge, you know the Blood Angels are in for a torrid game, and yet it wasn’t all bad. The mid-to-late game put a smile back on my face as one Assault Marine and the Priest assaulted and slaughtered all of the gun crews, while the Sanguinor single-handedly wiped out the Fire Dragons on the charge.

At this point we had to halt the game, but I was prepared to concede – I had left the Sanguinor, on his own in the open, the two Assault models, a Tactical Squad bogged down in a frustrating sniping match with a Wave Serpent, and the Devastators (who were in a prime position to get Puppet Mastered every turn by the Farseer). After hiding from the Sanguinor in his immobilised transport for the entire game, Karandras and his retinue had finally emerged while the main objective was occupied by Wraithguard (one advantage of this was that they could barely shoot at anything, the ground was practically out of range of their guns). In theory I had two more turns to play but I doubt I could have shifted the Wraithguard.

Hey ho, we shall never know. What do I take away from this game? A burning sense of familiarity with the disembarkation rules, for one thing, but also some food for thought about army composition, as I’m not sure how I could have improved my chances in this game.

Well, a Librarian might have given me some psychic protection against the Farseer’s trick powers, I suppose: this guy really was a pain, but partly down to sheer luck – using Puppet Master, he killed two Death Company with a hand flamer (!) and immobilised the DC Dreadnought using a plasma cannon. Psychic shriek was also very nasty. But the main problems I felt I faced were dealing with the Eldar artillery and AT guns at a distance. It occurs to me that the hit-anywhere (on a good day) charge of a Vanguard Squad would have been massively useful against the D-Cannons, which – as it turned out – badly damaged the Death Company and utterly obliterated a full Tactical Squad. Would a Devastator Squad with four missile launchers have been more effective? I can’t help but think so; but then they would have been a priority target and required ablative squad members, so we’d be looking at a 200+ point unit rather than the 100+ points the existing one was.

Oh well: the ability of the Blood Angels to cause carnage at close quarters got a bit of a demonstration, although the Priest needn’t really have brought his chalice – the Assault Squad had the Red Thirst anyway. And the Sanguinor didn’t exactly distinguish himself, firstly by giving his blessing to the Devastator Sergeant (gee, thanks), and then by charging a Wave Serpent and missing with all six of his 3+ attacks. He didn’t get a chance to engage Karandras, which is where he really would have shone, I suspect, but he wasn’t embarrassing either. Astaroth was really very average, as usual: I’m starting to agree with everyone that he should only come to the table if you want to unlock multiple Death Company squads for your army.

Hey ho, not a brilliant comeback, but it could have gone worse. Sort-of in the works at the moment are the other half of Assault squad III/8, a Land Speeder, a Stormraven gunship, and an Honour Guard retinue for Captain Zedrenael, but the call of a Vanguard Squad – or at least Assault Terminators – is hard to ignore. The game I have provisionally lined up for next week is against a Blood Raven army at 1500 points, and I’m not quite sure which way to go in it. My main point of concern is the fact that I’m 95% certain the Blood Raven general is taking a Stormtalon, which I currently have no way of engaging at all (I can’t finish my own gunship by next week and even if I did I’ve no way of transporting it to the game venue).

I’m not really looking for advice on list design in general, but I do wonder how – short of a Stormraven – other Blood Angel armies get their AA complement? Especially given that the AA unit of choice for most Space Marine lists (the Contemptor Dreadnought with helical targeting array) is specifically not available for our army. Personally I’ve mainly contemplated a throw-enough-mud-and-something’ll-stick approach – a 9th Company Dreadnought with twin autocannon mounts, for example – but I know this is neither an elegant nor a realistic solution given the nastiness of some of the fliers out there. What do other people do? I would be interested to hear, even if it’s mainly of academic interest ahead of next week’s engagement. I suspect I will just have to try and hide from the plane by getting everything into combat as fast as possible; at least that will play to the army’s strengths.

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Well, to be perfectly honest, while the game against the Deathwing on Monday wasn’t a complete thumping, it did leave me rather pondering where to take the army next. It occurs to me that my usual operating procedure in this kind of situation would be to promise myself I’d go back to the army and fix it at a later date, and promptly switch to working in earnest on Daemons or Chaos Marines or one of the other armies on my to-do list. Lack of space in the garret sort of precludes that, and in any case I think actually going to the trouble of figuring out what’s wrong with the Blood Angels and fixing the list will do me all sorts of good as a gamer and a person.

So, ahead of a proper review and appraisal of the army and its record, I thought I’d get one more game in, with a slightly altered list. The main change was dropping Astorath and using a Captain as my HQ: now he’s basically I1, I think Astorath is a questionable warlord choice. It occurs to me that the change to Crozius Arcani to make them I1 is partly to make Captains a more attractive choice of leader. Mine is enjoying a newly blinged-up paint-job which I rather like; so much so I’m considering adding an Honour Guard squad to accompany him (the gun and run possibilities of a jump pack squad carrying plasma guns are also attractive).

Apart from the Captain, the new list includes two tactical squads, III/3 and III/5 (III/5 is mechanised), ten mechanised Death Company and a DC Dreadnought, plasma-cannon toting devastator demi-squad III/10/a, assault demi-squad III/8/a, an attack bike, a Furioso Dreadnought, a firestorm Dreadnought, and some Sanguinary Guard – I really wasn’t keen on still keeping the Guard in the army, but to get to 2000 points it was them or Mephiston.

Arriving in the shop I was interested to see, following my close encounter with the Contemptor Dreadnought last game, that these damn things have become all the rage – the AA possibilities if nothing else make them very attractive. Also, apparently a ruling has been handed down from on high: 30K units and armies are verboten in GW shops, so no danger of Scimitar jetbikes or Primarchs turning up (apparently a 20-man Space Marine Legion squad is only 80 points so this is just as well).

All of this was a bit academic as I found myself once again playing Bugs and his endless swarm of Tyranids. The match score between Bugs and myself currently stands at one apiece plus a draw (these games have included a spectacular reign of terror from Mephiston and the Nids eating my entire force). Bugs looked at the Furioso, the firestorm Dreadnought, and the Death Company walker and frowned. ‘I’m a bit worried I never have enough anti-Dreadnought weapons,’ he said.

I looked at the five monstrous creatures in his list and thought he probably wouldn’t have to worry too much, but as it turned out he may have been having a psychic flash. Nevertheless, as we unpacked, I looked at the three Tervigons, two Carnifexes, Venomthrope, Zoanthrope, and 140 gaunts in the Tyranid set-up zone and couldn’t help feeling that my 46 infantry, one bike, two APCs and three walkers appeared a bit wanting.

But on we went anyway, playing Big Guns Never Tire down the length of the table, with one objective in each end zone and two in no man’s land. I got the initiative and decided to play more aggressively than I have done recently, setting up III/5 and the Death Company for a mechanised push along the left flank, backed up by the DC Dreadnought. The jump pack units held back as a mobile reserve, along with the heavy firepower. III/3 was positioned to run forward and grab the right flank objective with the Furioso prepared to hold the centre.

And it went according to plan, initially, III/5’s rhino positioning to block line of fire to the Death Company rhino and the DC Dreadnought, and III/3 running forward to grab the other objective. The firestorm Dreadnought and Attack Bike both fired at the closest Tervigon and took three wounds off it. This was a good-ish start but there were still vast numbers of gaunts very close at hand, to say nothing of all the big monsters.

The Tyranids duly commenced their charge, moving forward as a wall of flesh. Their shooting was completely ineffectual, the wounded Tervigon losing another wound to a failed psychic test. In the assault phase thirty gaunts swarmed III/5’s rhino and destroyed it, the squad bailing out safely, while another thirty were out of range of the Death Company Dreadnought (possibly the game’s first really decisive moment).

Turn Two set up the way the game would go, though this wasn’t immediately apparent. The Death Company squad engaged the gaunts on the left who’d just destroyed the rhino, while the Death Company Dreadnought charged one of the other big swarms. On the right things were a bit more tentative, but the Furioso’s frag cannon ripped into yet another gaunt swarm and the firestorm Dreadnought continued to knock wounds off the wounded Tervigon. In the assault phase the Death Company Dreadnought killed 13 gaunts on the charge, and Bugs turned a bit pale.

The Tyranid turn really was decisive in hindsight: a mycetic spore plopped down near the devastators, and unleashed yet another twenty gaunts whose massed firepower wiped out the squad. The Tervigons all squeezed out reinforcements too, two of them exhausting themselves in the process. But the important stuff was elsewhere: the DC Dreadnought was charged by a Carnifex, but the Hive Mind had clearly underestimated how psychotic the walker was and the Tyranid beast was eviscerated before it could strike a blow. Bugs was now practically pallid, and things weren’t helped when Hormagaunts on the far right flank failed their charge on III/3  by a miniscule amount.

The mid-game was characterised by a real meatgrinder developing  on my left between the Death Company and three Termagant broods, the vampire-marines’ better skill, armour, and general unbalancedness allowing them to take on dozens of the little bugs on a fairly even basis. In the centre the Death Company Dreadnought continued to rip through Termagants, while the surviving Carnifex charged the Furioso and destroyed it, being heavily wounded in the process: enough for it to be put down by a rapid-firing III/5 the following turn. III/3 ended up fighting yet more gaunts, and the firestorm Dreadnought finished off the wounded Tervigon, frying the brains of numerous nearby gaunts.

At this point we paused and considered how it was going. To my surprise I was quietly confident about the left flank melee and not very worried by the presence of gaunts and a mycetic spore in my deployment zone, still having plenty of solid units to commit. The right flank was looking a bit iffy, though.

As it turned out, it worked out okay: the Death Company Dreadnought finished off the last gaunt and charged into another Tervigon, killing it on the charge. The Captain and his unit assaulted the Termagants in my zone and broke them on the charge, instant-killing the spore with an infernus pistol the following turn. The Guard charged the Zoanthrope and killed it before hopping over the central terrain to join the last Death Company survivor in the meat grinder combat. III/3 were wiped out by Hormagaunts, but the firestorm Dreadnought was in range to tie them up – and with synapse suddenly thin on the ground they were looking fragile, especially as they couldn’t hurt the walker.

And suddenly it was just a case of mopping up – the last few gaunts were duly polished off, the Death Company Dreadnought killed the Venomthrope on the charge, and the last surviving Tervigon was hosed down with fire by the firestorm Dreadnought and Attack Bike while III/5 trotted across the table to claim the right-side objective. The Tyranids were tabled on Turn Six, with the Blood Angel army still in respectable condition – three squads and a character in decent shape, the bike and two walkers both essentially operational.

Man of the Match surely goes to the Death Company Dreadnought, which directly accounted for thirty Termagants, a Carnifex, a Tervigon and a Venomthrope. That said, the firestorm Dreadnought also made a major contribution, doing the lion’s share of work in killing the two other Tervigons. But on the other hand, everything in the army pulled its weight, for once, with the exception of the Devastators who once again just acted as bait for a Deep Striking unit. I was honestly expecting both tactical squads to get munched after deploying them so far forward, but the aggressive style of play paid off. It also occurs me that every game I’ve won with the Blood Angels has featured a Captain somewhere in the list. Hmmm.

That said, this was a game decided by tiny chances – if the Carnifex had survived to attack the Death Company Dreadnought, if the Hormagants had made their initial charge against III/3 – and I’m aware this was a lucky win. But it’s nice to see how spectacularly well the Blood Angels can perform when the dice and conditions favour them, and it’s good to go into the review of the army with some positives to consider.

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How much can the change of a single rules mechanic potentially impact on a game? Read on and find out. Having assembled my army in conditions of the utmost secrecy, I turned up for my game with Big J to find he was basically reusing the same army from two weeks previous: possibly Couldn’t Be Bothered To Repack syndrome, to which I am often a martyr myself.

Big J had 2000 points of Deathwing: ’30 Terminators and a Dreadnought’ he cheerfully informed me, placing great emphasis on his habit of rolling 1s. Well, we would see. As a sometime Deathwing player myself, I noted his army was heavy on all the things mine isn’t: primarily Cyclone missile launchers and thunder hammers.

I’d brought Blood Angels, my latest attempt at combining a decent number of models with acceptable anti-tank capability. This particular list got tweaked after bad weather stopped me from preparing a few models for the table (or to put it another way – you’ll like this one – rain stopped spray). So there were two full Tactical Squads, one mechanised, a mechanised Death Company detachment accompanied by a DC dreadnought, a demi-Assault Squad with a Sanguinary Priest, a demi-Devastator Squad with two plasma cannons, some Sanguinary Guard accompanied by Astorath, a Dreadnought with a lascannon and a missile launcher and an Attack Bike.

The mission was Big Guns Never Tire with a straightforward deplyment option. The Deathwing deployed two squads in their righthand corner – I did much the same, but sticking the Devastators, fire-support Dreadnought and Bike down more to the left in the hope of getting some early shots. Knowing the Deathwing Dreadnought would be coming in on turn one by Drop Pod, I kept the jump pack units in reserve in order to avoid them being ambushed.

Well, the Deathwing kept the initiative and two more Terminator Squads teleported in close to their zone. The Drop Pod crashed down much closer to the Devastators in their redoubt and a Contemptor Dreadnought clambered out. This was novel. Still more novel was it opening up on the squad with two suped-up assault cannon, 12 shots at BS5: possibly I  was a bit unlucky with my saves, but all five Marines were mown down. I started to get that feeling yet again.

However, on my first turn the Bike and Dreadnought were both in a position to shoot back. The multi-melta on the Bike predictably missed, but the missile launcher got through the ancient monster’s armour and spectacularly blew it to pieces. Elsewhere, the two rhinos rumbled forward, followed at a trot by the DC Dreadnought.

On the second Deathwing turn the massed Cyclones on their right flank blew apart the fire-support Dreadnought and Bike, pretty much clearing me off that end of the table. On the other hand, the Deathwing had no real presence on their left flank, leaving me in control of that end. Possibly this was why they dropped in a Chaplain and another Deathwing squad quite close to my units.

I decided to try and consolidate by popping the Guard and the Assault Squad down in the same region, but the Deep Strike Gods are still looking wrathfully upon me: for the third game in a row where I’ve tried to Deep Strike, an elite squad scattered into another unit and suffered a mishap, ultimately winding up in front of three Deathwing squads near where the first-turn carnage had occurred. Sigh.

Nevertheless, by the end of the turn I’d managed to set up an assault on the Chaplain and his squad from the Death Company, supported by the mechanised Tactical Squad. Under the new rules the Death Company are monstrous on the charge, but a 2+ save is a 2+ save, and it was down to the power axe and the thunder hammer to do the real damage.

My cheeriness at fending off the Deathwing advance down my end of the table was shortlived as on the next turn the massed Deathwing swarmed, zombie-like, over the Guard and Astorath. (It’ll be interesting to get a rules clarification about Astorath’s axe: is it I1 like a standard power axe? If so, he’s a significantly less handy character.) In 5th Edition, even receiving a charge, I would have expected to do significant damage to the Terminators, but – as in the previous combat – the fact that power swords (and thus, presumably, glaives encarmine) are now only AP3 was hugely telling and I barely killed a single model before the entire 490-point unit was handily pulped.

With both sides now fully committed I was aware that I was badly down on points: we both held two objectives, but Big J had killed two heavy support units, drawn first blood and killed my warlord, putting him four points ahead. I needed to deny him at least one objective and start killing his heavy support. The only one he’d actually taken was the Drop Pod, which I’d totally ignored: but now my sole missile launcher started plinking away at it, hitting but never penetrating.

The rest of my cunning plan consisted of loading one of the Tactical Squads into its rhino and ramming it at one of the Deathwing’s objectives to contest, while using the Death Company units to run interference and bringing up the Assault Squad (my only non-Fearless unit, thanks to Astorath) to retain another objective.

Well, once again the AP3 nature of power weapons and blood talons was telling and the Dreadnought only inflicted two casualties, one of those when it exploded at the opposition (not a recommended manoever). Nevertheless, they did the job of holding the Deathwing up long enough for the rhino to tank-shock into position (running over two Terminators in the process), even if they did get the zombie-mob treatment from the Terminators. It was the end of turn 5 – it seemed like everything hinged on whether we would continue! The dice said we would.

(I initially thought that ending now would have meant a draw at 6 VPs each – but the 3 points from an objective, together with two for killing Heavy Support, one for First Blood and one for Slay the Warlord would just have meant me losing 7-6. Hey ho.)

So the game continued, and the rhino with the Tactical Squad inside got thumped by the Deathwing, killing everyone inside. Both armies declined to move on the final turn, realising the game was pretty much decided. Turn 6 was the final one, and the final score was 10-6 to the Deathwing.

Still, this was a fun game played in a great spirit, even if I was left scratching my head as to how to counter so many Terminators. My plasma cannons were Big J’s top priority, as he happily admitted, with my multi-meltas close behind. I couldn’t see a Vindicator lasting more than a turn or two against so many Cyclones, and the same goes for Furioso Dreadnoughts or Death Company Dreadnoughts with blood fists, the only assault units capable of cracking Terminator armour that don’t strike at I1 (well, I suppose there’s Tycho, but he’s just one man). I can see quite a few armies with the same problem; the simple shift to AP3 power swords makes massed Terminators an exceptionally tough prospect for armies without lots of low-AP shooting, massed Rending attacks, or cheap and numerous monstrous creatures.

The Contemptor Dreadnought was also potentially a nightmare and I suppose I was lucky to get it off the table on Turn 1. I don’t know how many points this bugger costs, but with armour like a Furioso, a 5+/6+ invulnerable save, 12 assault cannon shots at BS5, a built-in AA option and its parting gift of a 2d6″ explosion, I hope it is a significant amount. Tasty though one of these would be, I find myself suddenly dubious of including this 30K stuff in a standard army – are we going to see Space Marine jetbikes making an appearance in standard lists now? What about Angron in Chaos lists? I’m sure a semi-official ruling on this sort of thing can’t be far off.

Anyway, a very enjoyable game even if I suspect that to beat this army I would have to be very lucky or completely rejig my list to be a low-AP gunline. The latter is hardly practical at the moment, and the former would not be the most satisfying kind of victory. Still, I’ll take whatever I can get right now…

(PS If you’ve got this far, you may well be interested to know I’ve started contributing to a dedicated gaming blog entitled Plastic Crack – for the time being the battle reports are going up on both blogs, but there should be some PC-exclusive stuff from your correspondent as well as writing from some other folk on various topics too.)

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