Hardcover Quality or price gouge?
I must say I was very skeptical of the price increases when the hard cover books were launched. I picked up the cheaper digital Codex Adeptus Astartes when it was released as I was already sick of lugging too many books around (and allied most of the cost reduced portions as 'counts as' Blood Angels) but found the lack of tactile feedback really reduced the whole army building and gaming experience. Sure I could tap to gain special rules instantly, but when you've been playing since 2nd Ed you don't need to know the stats of a Plasma Pistol. This time around I reserved my copy of the physical book (noting that GW have split the digital editions into three confusing price levels) and have flicked pages to my hearts content all weekend. The price did sting a little and the level of hobby content in the Codex is way below any previous version, way too little for a supplementary rule book. The pictures are not flattering (I can see paint chips and mold lines), the painting guides have been removed, and everything aimed at the collector and gamer rather than the hobby enthusiast. The layout is much improved, however, with paper quality, full colour printing and excellent new artwork making up for the lack of conversions or special scenery display pieces.
So many Special Rules!
With the changes from 5th, to 6th, to 7th Editions of 40k "Special Rules" drastically changing the way the army played it has been difficult to keep up with the options available to you when building an army. Thankfully, GW have streamlined the new book. Furious Charge is now army wide and listed in the model stats, the bonus to Initiative when charging is now conferred by Corbulo or the use of the "Baal Strike Force" detachment (which removed Objective Secured by the way!), and the increased Weapon Skill of certain models is now a bonus from Sanguinary Priest's Holy Grails. This should not be confused with the general "Apothecary" Feel No Pain, as the Sanguinary Novitiate of the Command Squad now confers FNP without the bonus to WS provided by a grail (and actually matches the model to the fluff!). It's been much easier now to compare army lists and units in this way, and with the removal of units like Honour Guard and no more Force Organisation Chart manipulation with Special Characters I enjoy mixing and matching units based on their merits rather than being "auto include" to make X troops and so on. Everything now scores, even Death Company! (I still remember running those guys in 5th Edition and having them charge headlong through dangerous terrain and die with no saving throw. Progress!).
WYSIWYG and GW's new "Detachments" army building model.
The new balance?
I was quite underwhelmed when Codex Orks was released, there seemed little to be excited about now the game has moved on from the "every codex is better than the last" release schedule which changed the game drastically every six months. I may have had my misgivings regarding the increased release pacing (and sold one of my four armies to pay for rules and new models for the others), but I am now excited to work with what feel like much more balanced rules set. 7th Edition tidied up a whole lot of loose ends, things like battle brothers embarking on transports combines nicely with the move of transports to fast attack, and the removal of Corbulo's 2+ FNP and Mephiston's 12" move-then-charge options don't seem such a loss when army/detachment wide buffs inspire the return to mass troops and elites of editions past. I always felt a bit awkward with the "hero hammer" side of things, and love the artwork where hundreds of models and tanks do battle with each other, rather than one model absolutely dominating. Eldar/Tau aside I really feel the new Codex releases are keeping the long term health of the game alive, as no longer will the most junior gamer at the store be hampered in buying a few boxes of troops to start painting and gaming with only to have one model steamroll through the whole lot. He/she can always get a Lord of War for Christmas as payback ;)
Forcing my hand.
The first and last things which really jumped out at me with the new Codex Blood Angels are the new Psychic Powers and Tactical Objective cards. First because they seem amazingly useful compared to recent releases, with Tactical Objectives rewarding fast assault based army selection at the Victory Point level of the game (there is even a Noble Sacrifice card which gives you a victory point if your Warlord dies in combat!), and the return of awesome Blood Angel Psychic Powers like Blood Lance (S8 AP1 Lance) and Unleash Rage which adds attacks and stacks with the Rage Special Rule! Lastly because I had a quick glance at the Librarian page today only to find these powers replace my beloved Telepathy options. No more Invisible Land Raider unfortunately, though Shield of Sanguinius is now an invulnerable save, rather than cover save, and can be cast before the Assault Phase once disembarked which is useful. It's also worth noting the new Blood Angel specific Tactical Objectives replace six Secure Objective cards, so if you like to zoom around the board with fast bikes and rhinos seizing objectives you may be better off trying for a non Blood Angel Warlord as these are now mandatory if you plan on using Dante or similar to lead your forces.
So I've laid all my fan-boy cards on the table as you can probably tell, though the new Codex price really hurt to the point of dropping one of my armies given the shorter release window and limited hobby time. I am enjoying building army lists using the adjusted prices and newer wargear (hello Graviton!) and will be relying less on heroic models and more on Troops and Elites to do the heavy lifting. With bonuses to Strength, Initiative, Weapon Skill, Attacks, and the usual Feel No Pain and Fleet options all available, I am looking forward to combining units on Jump Pack and in transports to keep the flexibility and mobility of previous Blood Angels armies. A squad of Scouts have been objective sitting for me since 7th Edition was launched, and if Tactical Marines in Razorbacks is the new way of running a Combined Arms Detachment then I don't have a problem dusting off my Jump Pack infantry now the points are more reasonable and I can model the chainsword models on foot as a Command Squad. Everything does a bit of a shuffle, and you can always run Unbound for a full Jump Pack army! Definitely once of the better 7th Edition releases, can't wait to have a game or two.