Monday, 31 October 2011

Armies In Focus: TKE'S Blood Angels Part Two - Elites

[Image from B+C]
For my Elite slots, I have opted for two Sanguinary Priests, each armed with a Power Weapon instead of the default Chainsword, and retaining their Bolt Pistol.

Given that they only have a single Wound apiece, this is probably a loadout that surprised and even confused a number of you.  Firstly though, why I chose Priests at all:

I should get this out of the way early - they're unique to the Blood Angels.  As a result, they bring with them a differentiation from other MEQ lists, and, to me, are something truly iconically Blood Angel in origin.  Essentially, this is a fluff justification for the unit, I concede - but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.  I wouldn't play Blood Angels at all if they were not an army I love the fluff for - as mentioned recently by Von (of Game Over fame) they were the main protagonists of the Battle For Armageddon book that taught me how to play Wh40k in the first place, back in the mist-shrouded days of Second Edition.  Blood Angels were indeed the very first army I ever played, therefore, although I didn't truly own anything that could be called an army by today's standards.

As an aside, the Space Wolf Codex was the first Codex I ever bought, and along with my WFB Dwarfs book, was read from cover to cover many many times, and every page pored over for hours.  I'm mainly known as an Eldar player online, but really there's little in the 41st Millennium that I haven't some special affection for - though admittedly my fondness for Tau is entirely based on the old Fire Warrior FPS and their on-table style, their fluff has never grabbed my interest like the various branches of the Imperium, the enigmatic Eldar, the brutal simplicity and diversity of Orks, or the multifaceted nefariousness and wanton maliciousness of Chaos.

Given that I have a long standing (I started playing at the age of 8, in 1994) fondness for the Blood Angels, for me, playing them was simply a matter of time and money.  Never in any doubt, lest I quit the game altogether, my dedication to having a uniquely Blood Angel force is a large part of why the army is not yet finished - every model will be unique, and that involves time and effort, as well as buying a ton of extras for kitbashing.  It was only natural, then, that I would build a force using some truly iconic BA stuff, and Priests fall very much under this umbrella.

In game terms, though, there are solid reasons too (and this is where Baal Predators lose out - don't think I didn't TRY to love them!)  Firstly, the Priests add bite to my unit, by granting Furious Charge.  This makes it much more likely for my guys to punch out tanks that I disappointingly only Immobilised (or missed...) with the Meltagun, instead of using a solitary S6 Attack.  This also gives them a significant advantage against fellow Min-sized MEQ units, while wiping the floor with things like IG and Eldar without FnP.  Obviously, more resilient units are still proof against this, such as Plague Marines, and we still don't have the volume of attacks to really wipe out Combat Squads with FC alone.

More importantly, the Priests provide a FnP "Bubble" effect - by conferring this USR on all of my units within 6", I create little bastions of toughness and resistance to small arms fire beyond that of regular Space Marines. This furthers the advantages of my Assault Marines in combat against similarly sized enemy units, and also provides a significant boost in the Shooting Phase, which makes this ability (in my eyes) much stronger and more valuable than the "line-breaking" boost of Furious Charge.

With that the case then, why have I gone for the Power Weapon, if I think the charging in is using the lesser of my abilities?  Why not opt instead for an Infernus pistol, to add to the unit's duality and anti-tank capability, adding a measure of reliability by virtue of simply hitting targets more often?

For a time, I tried fielding Priests with both, but the problem with the Infernus Pistol is simple, and twofold.  Range: It is nigh-impossible to Double-Dice from a top hatch.  This means the Priest is forced to disembark, and, while I often opt to do so anyway, I want to be doing so on MY terms, not because circumstances dictate that I have no choice, and attracting a heavier weight of fire on my position.  Remember, there are only ever 6 models in the unit - lapping Wounds onto the No-More-Survivable-Than-The-Rest Priest is FAR from difficult for the enemy to achieve, and it only takes one bad and one average roll in succession to lose him.  This leads then into the second flaw: Cost.  While I hugely appreciate Mat Ward's contribution in reintroducing the Hand Flamer, and spreading about the Infernus Pistol, the system of costing needs an overhaul for these weapons...and especially for the Plasma Pistol.  I think this could potentially be a topic of it's own for later in the week, since I've digressed quite enough today already....yes, I like that idea better.  Suffice it to say, that 15 points is in no way hugely steep for an extra Melta shot in theory, but in practice it's far from worthwhile on a 1W character, especially in conjunction with a PW also, for a 80-point investment that will surely topple to a single opportune Krak Missile, and is altogether too likely to topple to a Bolter round. [Aside again - this forms a large part of the basis for Exarchs NEEDING to have 2W.]

So, again, why the PW TKE?
Well, if we look briefly at the options for Priests, we can see only one that benefits the stronger of his two abilities - Terminator Armour.  Everything else is a weapon upgrade, or affects his speed and Deployment options alone*.

Since Terminator Armour will prevent him riding with the rest of the army onboard my Razorbacks, and prevents the nice spreading out of my forces with 5 guys and a character in each of 4 of my Razors (and the greatly reduced speed will isolate them and leave them unable to affect the game at critical junctures) it's a definite no-go...not even truly an option for my list.

Combi-Meltas cure the range issue of the Infernus, and basically add the same, although being 1-use is obviously a downside.  The other downside, losing an Attack, is usually countered by pairing with a Lightning Claw, an eminently logical and powerful combination - but this then runs counter to the Cost benefit, and simply doesn't appeal when points are tight enough in my list already**.

Of course, that latter addition, the Lightning Claw, is selected to boost the guy's combat prowess - so let's look briefly at that.  With WS5, he hits most things on 3+, even most enemy 'Elite' troopers.  Seems a little bit of a waste to not be rolling as many A as possible, generating a higher potential number of rolls to Wound, and thereby Saves, no?  Apart from his improved WS, he's a Veteran Sergeant - so the only benefit a Serg has over him is not being an Independent Character, and 'hiding' in a unit with Wound Allocation.  Does this point to a reason to simply NOT upgrade the Priest, and put extra gear on the Serg? Of course - but what kind of coward doesn't want such mighty figures leading the charge?  Plus, of course, the WS5 means I'm much more likely to get hits with the Power Weapon...and it's not like they're cheap enough to simply shrug ineffectiveness off.  It would also create a lopsidedness to the list, even if I purchased one for each Razor Sergeant - the Librarians become much higher (and easier!) Target Priority, meaning I am doing myself few favours, and my opponent some...clearly counter-productive.

Finally, of course, there are the rare but vital situations when you want the Razor to retain it's Scoring status, but have something to tarpit, or smite Furiously.  Perhaps there's an Outflanking Sentinel or War Walker nearby, and you need to move 18" to the closest Objective this turn, but if said Walker pops the Razor, a nearby Battlecannon/Prism Cannon stands poised to obliterate your Troops, with no reliable way to silence said Ordnance?  In this case, the Priest will be best wandering out by himself to tie up the foe.

Naturally, you're thinking - TKE, the Power Weapon won't help you there.  Of course it won't - but it won't always be a Walker.  Perhaps it's an Obliterator on a single Wound after previous turns' Shooting.  Perhaps it's the remnants of a Marine unit, or Guardsmen...anything with some anti-tank firepower, that you can't really spare the Scoring status of your eminently mobile Transport for.  Versatility, and Preparedness.

A few Priests with Power Weapons on Mackan, and the hated Despoiler would never have had his victory over our Battle Brothers.

...So, I hope that covers sufficiently why my Priests are the way they are, and why Priests - although I grant not even naming any of the alternatives is an unusual step for such an article.


* - Naturally, Terminator Armour does both of these too, but the more important factor for my comparative purposes is the only thing it has over these - the improved survivability of going from a 3+ save to a 2+, which is all the more important when you have Feel No Pain.  Only dying to small arms 1/12 times, as opposed to 1/6 is a HUGE bonus, if such a thing can be accommodated easily.

** - With the rumours abounding of the new Necron gear (permanent Night Fighting, particularly) I'm beginning to wonder if my poor Scions of Sanguinius are going to regret their inability to power a Searchlight without needing extra batteries.  More efficient engine block my arse.

Also - yes, that second pic is actually some of my own work.
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