Monday, March 23, 2015

Blood Angels in 7th: Fast Attack: Assault squads

I’m not going to go into depth about Land Speeders, AttackBike Squadrons, or Scout Bike Squadrons. They’re all basically the same as the Space Marine versions, but with Furious Charge. Since they’re not assault units, this doesn’t matter much.

Assault Squads

Assault squads are probably my favorite Blood Angel unit, not due to their performance on the tabletop but their aesthetic and background. While we now have a bunch of more elite jump pack squads, Assault squads still appeal to me as the basic troopers hurling themselves at the enemy with rocket packs.

When the codex came out, there were a lot of discussions about whether Blood Angel Assault squads should be Troops or Fast Attack. By the background, they should certainly be Fast Attack; Blood Angels have no more Assault squads than any other Codex Chapter. History is more murky. Since the introduction of the modern Force Organization Chart, Assault squads have jumped back and forth between slots.

3rd Edition Rulebook Army List: Troops
3rd Edition Mini-Codex: Fast Attack
4th Edition PDF Codex: Troops
5th Edition Codex: Troops
7th Edition Codex: Fast Attack

That makes it look like most of their history has been as Troops, but the 3rd Edition Mini-Codex lasted for 9 years (1998-2007), making the distribution through time much more even. As for me, I started playing with the rules in the 3rd Edition Rulebook, mostly because I could take more Assault squads. However, the Mini-Codex came out before I could build much of an army, so I spent the next 9 years using Assault squads as Fast Attack. That’s how they were cemented in my mind, and I recall complaining vociferously when they were moved to Troops in the PDF Codex. Thinking back, I just didn’t like the PDF Codex and was looking for stuff to complain about.

As I’ve said before, our 7th Edition Codex is in many ways a throwback to 3rd Edition, so it makes sense that Assault squads move back to Fast Attack. This means we can’t take them as our compulsory Troops, but getting Furious Charge (including the 3rd Edition Initiative bonus) makes up for this.

Assault squads have the same statline as Tactical Marines, but come with a chainsword, bolt pistol, and jump pack. Even at minimum squad size, two Assault Marines can take flamers, hand flamers, meltaguns, inferno pistols, plasma guns, or plasma pistols (everything but grav weapons). The Sergeant has the standard weapon options, but can also take a combat shield or meltabombs. Finally, the squad can drop its jump packs for a free Rhino or Drop Pod. I have a hard time seeing when the Rhino is a good option, but the Drop Pod is worth considering for some configurations.

As I mentioned above, we’ve got access to a lot of elite jump pack units, with Death Company and Sanguinary Guard taking pride of place, so why take basic Assault squads? There are two reasons.

First, numbers. At 5 points a model cheaper than our next cheapest jump squad (Vanguard Veterans), you can get a lot more Assault marines for your points. While they won’t hit as hard, they are great at overwhelming the enemy and simply providing too many targets to stop. If I’m running my Assault squads this way, I take full squads, give them two special weapons (usually meltaguns) and take a Veteran Sergeant with a power weapon. I generally split these into Combat Squads during the game. One squad contains the Sergeant and tries to assault as soon as possible while the other contains the meltaguns and will hunt enemy vehicles before supporting my other assault squads. Splitting these squads gives your opponent a lot of targets to deal with, all of which are somewhat dangerous, for relatively few points.

Second, Assault squads are our most efficient special weapons squads. With the option to take two special weapons regardless of squad size as well as special pistols on the Sergeant, they can bring a lot of specialized firepower for relatively few points. In most cases, you’ll want to give these squads a Drop Pod to reliably deep strike them next to their target. If my army includes Dante, and thus has Descent of Angels, I will leave these squads with jump packs so they’ll retain mobility after they land. 5 Assault Marines with two meltaguns and a Sergeant with 2 inferno pistols are only 145 points; very cheap for a squad that can put 4 melta shots into almost any target on the battlefield.

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