Monday, January 16, 2017

Angel's Blade Review (finally): A book of missed opportunities (Rant)

So, it has been months since Angel's Blade came out. I feel I have broken enough salt off of my keyboard to actually say something about it here, and in light of newer releases, better illustrate the failure that it is. But be warned, this is a full on Rant post.
Also, please don't come in with "Well X, Y and Z have it worse," or "Why not just play Vanilla then?" First of all I likely know x, y and z have it worse (sorry Orks) HOWEVER they didn't have to pay $60 for this book ON TOP OF $60 for Sheild of Baal ON TOP OF $10 on ebay for Deathstorm ON TOP OF a $60 codex. Also, as a customer, every release I have to pay for should be usable and decent. Just because your codex is worse doesn't mean I should get crapped on with a release. "Fairness" isn't a thing when I am spending money. As for playing SM... No. I play Blood Angels. I always have and always will. They are my army. I shouldn't have to abandon what I have done for 15 years because GW can't write rules.

I will open with what I liked about the book in this short list
1- Great fluff. No really worries on that front. Cool story, decent writing, go little vignettes and action throughout.
2- Archangels Orbital Intervention Force- This formation is the truth. Forget the normal terminators in it. It is all about Assault Terminators. Being able to deep strike and assault is amazing with TH&SS. Best way to remove those super threats like Wraith Knights and Stormsurges. I run two squads with all TH&SS and one squad with 3 TH&SS and 2 Lightning Claws. I find have two guys that can strike at initiative can be really useful. AP3 and shred is a nice boon too. The fact that it is a disordered charge as well means these two guys are useful increasing the number of attacks the unit has, as they still get +1 for having two CCW. The problem is, as a formation, they are free and open as a detachment to EVERYONE. Anyone wanting to run TH&SS Termies will just take this and run it with their White Scars or something. Once again, BA are relegated to just being useful as allies. At least it is for killing potential now instead of drop-pod taxi-service.
3- Golden Host- Also pretty good. Not as amazing as above, but very fun and fluffy. I am sitting on a bunch of sanguinary guard to build to do this.
4- Chapter Ancients- Three dreads is fun I guess. Decent rules too. I have a concept I want to test of 3 dual auto cannons and drop pods. Drop in and get 8 S7 Twin Linked shots each (4 at two separate targets). Basically take out and entire gladius' worth of transports in one turn. Alternatively, frag cannons can be really really nice.
5- Reprinting the psychic disciplines from Angels of Death. Saves you from having to go out and buy the book. Very Un-GW like IMO.
6- Ability to play an all DC army. Not very good IMO, but potential for CRAZY FUN! And a super fluffy list to boot. Also useful potential for playing some obscure chapters (seems like a cool way to possibly do a Carcharodons chapter.
7- Fixed terminator captain, assault squad and devastator squad. Profiles and gear now in line with codex SM.

Okay, now I recommend you go get some water. It is about to get really REALLY SALTY
Start off easy with a minor annoyance. The colour plates. You know those static diagrams of marines and vehicles throughout. They are terrible. Way too cartoony and way too bright. WAY TOO BRIGHT. The GW graphic guys need to go take some lessons from Forge World or historical uniform societies. These are just cheesy and no where near as good as what is in the BA codex itself. Please please PLEASE go back to the old style of artwork for all future books. PLEASE. I can't stand to look at these.

Lets dig into the meat and potatoes of it all though. First off, this is, in its simplest form, just a Shield of Baal reprint. Several of the formations are copy-pasted out of SoB with one rule added (even the Archangel Orbital Intervention Force). The whole thing just smacks of laziness. A lot of laziness. No one seemed bothered to come up with anything useful AND new or critically think about what was bad about pre-Angel's Blade BA.

1- Super expensive underperforming formations
2- Too many mandatory units in some formations (demi-co)
3- Limited to no OBSEC (CAD/Allied det only. OR Take a super massive formation that can't be used in typical games because of cost)
4- No Decurion

1- Super expensive underperforming formations
2- Too many mandatory units in some formations (demi-co)
3- Limited to no OBSEC (CAD/Allied det only. OR Take a super massive formation that can't be used in typical games because of cost)
4- Useless Decurion

See the difference? So lets start with that. The Decurion is useless. First of all, the USEFUL bonus for the decurion EXACTLY matches the Demi-Co. EXACTLY. +1 Initiative on the charge. Oh, but wait, that is also what I get for using a Baal Strike Force in the codex, which doesn't have a million and one useless requirements to take it. Oh, I also get to reroll my warlord trait when using BA or Angel's blade traits. You know... just like a Baal SF.

I am not saying I needed or wanted free transports. In all honestly, I didn't. But I did want something new and useful. Getting zealot for being  reduced to 50% or under is USELESS. First of all, it only applies to the first round of combat in which I charge. Secondly, the BA player is relying on their opponent being bad at math to allow it. Say I have 2 squads in charge distance of 5 marines each. To get the Zealot bonus, I have to loose 3 marines. Say he shoots a squad and kills 2 marines. Well now instead of shooting them, he will shoot the other and kill 2 marines there. Now I have 6 marines in 2 squads charging without Zealot. BUT Even had they chosen to shoot the one squad and kill 4 marines, I would be left with ONE MARINE with Zealot... ooooh so scary... Another thing, this stresses you buying even numbers of marines, since to get Zealot on a squad of 6 would be the same as a squad of 5. Same for 7/8 and 9/10. Which ultimately will make the formations MORE expensive than they already are.
Speaking of expensive, lets look at the Demi-Co. Mandatory Dreadnoughts and Honour Guards! WHAT! Not other SM demi-co has this AND THEY GET FREE TRANSPORTS AND OBSEC. Dark Angels get their AMAZINGBALLS Grim Resolve to boot! Remember, BA trasports are also already 10 points more than their SM equivalent (for fast) Once more, I am not saying I needed free stuff, but BA have to PAY MORE FOR A FORMATION WITH LESS RULES AND STUFF?!?!?! FOR THAT CRAPPY ZEALOT RULE?!?! Maybe GW could have done some cool disordered charge out of a Rhino/Razorback instead as the bonus for taking an Angel's blade or two demi-co. That would have been useful, fun AND fluffy without being overtly broken IMO.

Now lets talk about the other Demi-co, the Archangels. Not nearly as bad. At least they have some useful rules (can come in from reserves turn 1, which if you are clever with drop pods, can mean they all show up). But then again it too has TWO MANDATORY DREADS! I love dreads, but GW is killing me. This already requires FIVE ELITE CHOICES. It isn't cheap at all! For a cherry on top there is no way outside of including an entire DC strike force to get a chaplain in the first company.
Now lets look at ALL THE OTHER missed opportunities of the books
1- No Contemptor or Cataphractii Terminators. I don't get why these are Vanilla only. Why? Wouldn't GW sell more is ALL chapters (particularly 1st Founding BA, DA and SW) had access to them? I mean, GW printed a new terminator captain and the psychic powers again. What would two more pages have been?
2- Did not fix Vanguard Veterans. Ours are still the most expensive ones out there weapon-wise. SM pay 5 points for power weapons. We pay 15. That's right, the assault chapter once again has to pay more... but that really doesn't matter because...
3- No real jump pack formations. Really disappointed that there was no Vanguard/Assault Marine formations in the book. Those are signature BA things. Furthermore, instead of the Zealot rule this would have been the PERFECT opportunity to bring back Jump Pack troops. Make the angel's blade Obsec and instead of the Zealot rule, have assault marines count as troops and we would have had something. I mean, SM can do it with bikes (and White Scars bikes at that). DA too. Why not make Jump Packs great again?
4- A reason to take demi-co's/battle co's. I don't think I need to rehash this, you should be able to deduct my thoughts on the matter from all the above.
5- For as much of a Shield of Baal reprint this was, GW should have put Cassor and Rafen's DC in here. Particularly Cassor since he is ONLY in SoB Deathstorm, which isn't available anymore. Or you could have made Moriar (with the same rules? I wouldn't have cared). Also, by leaving them out, they can't be used in the ALL DEATH CO DETACHMENT! How dumb...
6- No librarius conclave. I get it, I am asking for ANOTHER vanilla marine thing. But Psychic powers are a big part of the game now. Something would have been cool. Conclave or not, there should have been something that allowed for some psychic manipulation.
7- A flyer. It could have been new. It could have been something SM have. For "owning the skies" BA sure have the fewest flyers. Did you know BA don't even have access to all the FW flyers (Storm Eagle and Caestus Assault Ram for instance). This is a hold-over from when BA had the Storm Raven and no one else did... but that's not true anymore is it GW? I have spoken on this a before... it just doesn't make sense for BA to ONLY have the Storm Raven. And they, we don't even have any really useful formations for them!!!
In comparison to all the Chaos releases of late, even Traitor's Hate, and especially the new Imperial Fall of Cadia stuff, this was a terrible release. I essentially paid $60 for printed access to the Archangels Orbital Intervention Force. I miss the days of my only complaint being a Necron fist bump... and with Fall of Cadia, I bet I will eventually have to suffer that again.