Monday, 19 January 2015
The Mathematics Of Cowardice
Since Fliss the Long Suffering was kind enough to buy me the latest Blood Angels Codex for my birthday, I spent the weekend poring through its pages to see whether Games Workshop has continued to insist that the IX Legion are a troupe of quivering scaredy-pants.
And alas, they remain as terrified of getting their vambraces dented as ever they were. One of the most noble Legions in Imperial history, reduced to skulking around the backwaters of the galaxy hoping to avoid stubbing their toes.
Perhaps it sounds implausible to you that Sanguinius' sons could be so unwilling to face the foes of humankind. If so, then I would respectfully ask you to FACE THE MATHS.
The gladiatorial games that provide the Blood Angels with their recruits take place in the Baal system only once every generation. Let's say for the sake of argument that generations tend to come around more quickly in a rad-strewn wasteland like that of Baal and its moons, there's no real way these games can be held any more frequently than once every fifteen years. During these games, just fifty youths are chosen to become Astartes. That's already capped the speed of replacement marines at fewer than 350 a century. But then things get worse. Of the fifty initiates chosen every decade and a half, "many" do not survive their internment in the Golden Sarcophagi. Obviously "many" is a word open to interpretation, but it's hard to believe it could mean fewer than, say, twenty out of the bunch. That reduces the chapter to fewer than 175 new marines every century. On average, the Blood Angels are doing well to gain seven new Astartes every four years.
That in itself would be fairly anaemic growth: if the Blood Angels had done literally nothing but play Twister on Baal following their near-extermination in 996M40 (only fifty of their marines survived a horrifically ill-timed picnic aboard a spaceship of special historical interest), it would have taken almost five and a half centuries to recover. But there's still more. According to the Codex, each Blood Angels force loses "a handful" of Astartes to the Black Rage, a fate which means even if they somehow survive the comic battle, they'll be executed at the end of it. "Handful" isn't much more precise than "many", of course, but let's say it's at least three. Three Space Marines, at the very least, die during or even immediately after every single battle the Chapter's forces take part in.
All of which means that, just to remain at strength, the Chapter can't be fighting more than three battles every four years. One battle every sixteen months, that's all Dante can afford, and that's is literally no other Blood Angel gets himself killed. Which I suppose might be true a lot of the time, what with them cowering in Land Raiders whilst they send in the flying wizard-tanks, but sooner or later someone's gotta zig when they were supposed to zag and BAM: nartheciums on full, clean-up on aisle three. An attack bike accidentally drives down a Malefactor's gullet? No more warfare for the next three seasons. Tactical squad wander into axe-range of an ill-tempered Bloodthirster? That's us at quota for the next five years. Better get back to tarting up your guns, lads!
And that's just to stay static. To have rebuilt the Chapter after Space Hulk: Round One, there would have to have been even less in the way of interstellar punch-ups. Let's say Dante and his predecessor let the Blood Angels out to play just once every two years, and each time they were miraculously free of casualties (in fairness I imagine losing 95% of your troops is the kind of event that will prompt you to start following the British approach to war so memorably explained by Captain E. Blackadder), that's still an aggregate gain of only twenty-five marines a century; the whole damn operation would still be below one-third strength a millennium after the massacre.
The end result is inescapable. The Blood Angels can stir themselves to battle only a dew times a decade, and only in situations so overwhelmingly favourable they need fear nothing but the grip of insanity. The entire Chapter is a nest of craven cowards, as proved by maths. Chapter Master Dante must be tracked down and brought to account for this abject failure to do his duty.
Only, erm... can someone else do it?