This is the army I was probably looking forward to the most in terms a strategic overview. The entire inspiration behind this particular blog tangent was a discussion with someone about Dark Eldar tactics, so I’m glad I left them until after I had some critique on my previous attempts. Ultimately I thought the criticisms boiled down to lack of detail on some key units (Death Company, who I didn’t even name in the Blood Angels section, and the Psychic Powers of Chaos Sorcerers being the big ones) so what I’ve decided to do is take each army and look at each character or unit individually.
The Dark Eldar were once regarded as the army that only the most die-hard veterans of their rules could play. Their codex was old, they had some completely defunct units, and they had very little tactical choice. Now they are considered to be one of the best examples of what can be done in the fifth editions of rules. Phil Kelly has always been held in high regard amongst fans for his codexes. He has given them a revamp that provides them with both character and balance, a difficult thing to pull off. As a result the Dark Eldar codex is probably one of the best, if not the best codex, in Warhammer 40,000. They combine lightning fast attack power with an equally dangerous fragility, traits that have since earned them the the term “Glass Cannon”. They are not built for long drawn out fights, instead they require their commander to force the enemy to play on their terms, striking before they can react. Power From Pain rewards the player for this way of thinking by giving your troops special abilities each time their unit destroys an opponents unit. With the first result being Feel No Pain, no Dark Eldar player should ignore this vital rule. This makes building a good list, as well as having superior tactical acumen, a very important part of play Dark Eldar, particularly when you compare them to Space Marine variants (where a lack of tactical acumen is often offset by the lack of general weakness). So, on to the first part of the army organisation chart, the HQ choices of the Dark Eldar.
Choice 1: The Archon
Archons are the standard leaders of the Dark Eldar, with highly customisable war-gear and a proficiency for both assaulting the enemy and acting as a support choice. They also have an honour guard in the form of the Court of the Archon, though it’s usefulness is somewhat distorted as you have to take one of each (the unit entry states that you must take 1-2 Lhameaeans for example, rather than 0-2). In my opinion that should be corrected, since it greatly restricts the Archon when he takes them (he can’t take 3 Sslyth and still fit in a Venom, for instance). Having said that the Archon himself is one of the most deadly HQ choices in the game. With one of the highest Initiative, Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill values, he has the potential to happily take down a unit of Space Marines on his lonesome, even with relatively little investment in war-gear. A Power Weapon or Agoniser equipped Archon with two Pain Tokens is not something any opponent wants to have to deal with in close combat. Upgrade him further to give him a Husk Blade and he becomes a character killer to boot.
However, he still suffers from the crippling fragility of the Eldar race. With a Strength and Toughness of 3 he’ll find taking on his first unit a bit more of a challenge than most commanders would like. The war-gear he can take to keep himself alive is typical of the advanced Eldar, however, with a 2+ Invulnerable save from a Shadowfield a popular option. Even though he could lose this valuable commodity should the 2+ save ever fail him, it should provide him enough time in close combat to gain Feel No Pain before he loses it, offsetting the 30 point cost. Simply taking Ghostplate Armour, though cheaper, will not allow an Archon to survive the full force of an elite squad of Nobz, for example.
Choice 2: The Succubus
Succubi are close combat specialists, with an even higher Initiative and Weapon Skill then their Archon counterparts. Their war-gear is also geared towards the same level of damage that small unit of Wyches can do. She also has the 4+ Invulnerable save in close combat and starts the game with Combat Drugs making her an ideal addition to a unit of charging Bloodbrides. In exchange they sacrifice a point of Leadership and Ballistic skill, making them poor support choices.
Compared to the Archon, the Succubus isn’t as flexible. If you’re concentrating on getting stuck in with plenty of Wyches then taking a Succubus makes sense, but otherwise a Haemonculus or Archon will do a better job. One thing I think the Succubus should have available in her arsenal is the Huskblade but she misses out on on arguably one of the best close combat weapons in the game, despite being the Dark Eldar’s close combat specialist. She is a good investment in a Raider Rush Wych cult army, but in most other situations an Archon will do better, if only because he can take a Webway Portal, increasing the speed of any slower units by getting them into the fray quicker.
Choice 3: The Haemonculus and Haemonculus Ancient
With access to some of the most deadly war-gear in the game, Haemonculi are a support choice without equal. Since they start with a pain token they can give many Dark Eldar units a massive head start (Mandrakes can use Balefire from the off if they start with a Haemonculi, as well as gaining Feel No Pain) not to mention improving the potency of their own creations by starting with Wracks or Grotesques. Taking dangerous combinations of both normal and Arcane war-gear can make a Haemonculus extremely dangerous.
Arcane war-gear is crazy, not only character wise but also in gameplay terms. Many of the options force the enemy to take unusual characteristic tests and they often ignore invulnerable saves as well. Possibly the most dangerous of these weapons is the Casket of Flensing, since it can potentially throw out twelve Strength 6 AP1 hits on a unit. More reliably damaging weapons include the Shattershard (which can cut through multi-wound models like a knife through butter with a bit of luck) and the Orb of Despair, which will typically kill on a 2+ since most enemies have a Leadership of 8 or less. This choice makes Haemonculi extremely dangerous opponents before the game has even begun, and once they start they add Feel No Pain automatically to the unit they begin with (and Furious Charge if their with Grotesques or Wracks).
However, they are easily the weakest of the HQ choices, with a lower stat line across the board. Their relatively low Initiative is possibly the most dangerous weakness, since opposing characters will often get to strike simultaneously, if not before, the Haemonculus removing his lovely damage potential before he even gets started. Trouble is keeping him out of combat isn’t really an option unless you give him a Hexrifle and keep him with some Warriors which, despite being quite powerful (especially since it can be difficult to get Warriors pain tokens as quickly as Wyches or Jetbikes), isn’t nearly as dangerous as some close range Arcane war-gear. As a general rule Haemonculi are best played with their own creations, Wracks and Grotesques, since they give them formidable damage potential while also providing the powerful flesh-sculpter with a barrier of wounds and Feel no Pain rolls before getting him stuck in.
Choice 1: Warriors
Warriors are the stable backbone of a Dark Eldar army, providing consistent fire support from behind cover or the tops of Raiders. Their main strength lies in the power of their Splinter weaponry, which always wounds on a 4+. This means that, although they will never have the sheer damage potential of Space Marines or Tau at range, they will always damage enemies consistently and effectively.
Since a unit of twenty Warriors costs the same as unit of ten Space Marines, they are very cheap given their reliability. At only nine points per model, they can fire 40 shots that will always hit on 3′s and wound on 4′s, regardless of the opponent. It’s probably best to resist the temptation to try to overrun your opponent, however, and stick them in a Raider. This allows you avoid having to move them from cover to cover early on, losing valuable turns of shooting while you position them in the best possible location. In terms of war-gear options, a Splinter Cannon is a must, since it can effectively quadruple a Warriors damage potential when out of Rapid Fire range, as well as allowing one member of the squad to get a few long range shots in on the move. The Dark Lance, while a fantastic weapon in and of itself, is probably best left either with vehicles or with a 20 man squad that starts on your home objective, since it restricts a Warriors manoeuvrability. Giving a Sybarite a Blast Pistol and Power Weapon can make the squad a dangerous foe to charge or Tank Shock as well.
The Warriors biggest weakness is their low Toughness and armour save. Being killed by Space Marines on two sets of 3+ rolls means they need to hug cover like a kid hugs a beloved teddy bear (Can you imagine Dark Eldar teddy bears…..). Since a Tactical Squad can mathematically completely annihilate even the largest unit of Warriors without giving them a hope of defending themselves, they need a Raider to get them into cover early on. This allows them to avoid taking casualties, while also giving them the maximum number of turns of shooting. Taking small units is a very dangerous and ultimately futile effort since their leadership is only eight. They will take more morale tests the smaller the unit is as well as losing firing potential very quickly. This will not only make getting those all important Pain Tokens difficult but will also give your opponent easy kill points. Taking them in squads of ten is a must, otherwise they could fall like suicidal green bottles on a brick wall…..
This entry also applies to the elite choice “Kabalite Trueborn” since the strategies for using them are virtually identical.
Choice 2: Wyches
Wyches are close combat monsters, with the highest initiative value of any troop choice in the game. Fifteen of them in a squad can lay down forty-five attacks without the opponent having an opportunity to strike back. Their war-gear is also one of their greatest assets. They can even make tank killers, with Haywire Grenades being the games best and most dangerous grenades.
Since their so dangerous in close combat they need to be there quickly and effectively. Once again taking a unit of ten in a Raider is a great stable choice. This will reliably get them into combat in either the second or third turn, at which stage they can tear into the enemy with deadly efficiency. A unit of 10 can also take two sets of Hydra Gauntlets, potentially giving them a total of 36 attacks on the charge with only 10 models, which is simply staggering. And they are only ten points per model you can take plenty of them in any army, with a unit of 10 in a raider costing 210 points. With their flexibility once they get up close (the above Haywire Grenades making them the bane of both vehicles and troops alike) Wyches are often a must for most players, since they follow the tenant of “strike hard, strike fast” in a much better way than Warriors. Provided they can kill a unit quickly, Wyches can stay alive long enough to cause a huge amount of damage.
That is provided they get there. At range Wyches will get absolutely torn apart. Without the ranged capabilities of Warriors, if they’re stuck at the back of the board you can guarantee they will never get a hit anywhere. This makes taking an entire force of Wyches, despite a powerful proposition, very risky, since the wrong opponent will tear that kind of army apart. Space Wolf Long Fangs have the potential to take out four raiders in one turn with a bit of luck, so having some Warriors to back them up is probably essential.
This entry also applies to the elite choice “Hekatrix Bloodbrides” since the strategies for using them are virtually identical.
Choice 1: Incubi
Incubi have the advantage of starting with power weapons, making them more dangerous in smaller numbers than Wyches or Wracks. Their main uses are as a small bodyguard unit for a character (their high armour save makes them the perfect accompaniment to an Archon or Haemonculus) or as a devastating shock attack unit. The latter option is expensive but will often pay it’s points cost back within 3 turns, provided that they are given transport or assistance (through a Webway Portal for example) to the front lines.
The 3+ Armour save and Power Weapon makes Incubi a very tempting Elite choice. Their strengths revolve around everything the Dark Eldar love, kill quickly and effectively. With an above average Weapon Skill, Initiative of 5 and a Strength of 4 with their Klaives they can deal some serious damage very quickly. Their leader, called a Klaivex, can take some pretty damaging war-gear too, in particular the Bloodstone, which will severely damage a unit before the Incubi charge in. The Onslaught power makes the unit a killing machine, capable of taking out Tactical Squads before they even have a chance to respond. They are, quite possibly, one of the most damaging close combat units in the whole of Warhammer 40,000, second only to Howling Banshees.
However, in a similar vein to the trouble with Wyches, Incubi have no ranged power at all. If they get bogged down, or the opponent can isolate them far from combat, they will be easily picked off without the opportunity to do some decent damage. The 3+ Armour save will give them some time, but they need a pain token quickly to give them that extra bit of lasting power that can tip the balance in a fight. Provided they start in a Venom, perhaps with an Archon, or if it’s a large unit, in a Raider they are excellent shock attack choice.
Choice 2: Grotesques
Grotesques are one of the more fun elite choices in a Dark Eldar army. Potentially unpredictable, dangerous in numbers and just plain crazy they go against the traditional speedy sleek look of the Dark Eldar in exchange for raw power. With a Strength and Toughness of 5 they can provide cover for weaker units or act as an excellent bodyguard for Haemonculi. With two pain tokens from the start of this game, this combination will make your opponent think very carefully before firing weapons. Does he take out the Grotesques before they reach his lines, or hit the units that hide behind them?
First and foremost they act as a big bulky covering unit, in a similar vein to Ogryns. Their high wound count, and Feel No Pain allows them to last the whole match without worrying too much about the amount of Firepower coming their way. Very few units are capable of taking out a whole unit of Grotesques alone, even fewer can do that in close combat. Their Aberration can also take the powerful Flesh Gauntlet, making them character killers as well.Because they have Feel No Pain from the beginning their low armour save from Gnarlskin isn’t a problem. Since it seems fairly obvious to put them with an independant character to offset the possibility of losing an entire unit to Berserk Rampage, that really shouldn’t be a problem. If you’re fighting Grey Knights, and a Vindicator takes the IC out, then you’re in trouble but thats a one off problem.
The Grotesques main problem is their speed compared to other units. They can’t keep up with Wyches or Incubi due to their lack of Fleet rule, nor can they be taken in large units and still go in transports thanks to the “Bulky” rule. Having said that, they can tip the balance at the end of game, acting as an excellent strategic reserve. They also act as excellent bullet magnets when they do start getting close, potentially saving worn out units from heavy fire. They do cost a lot of points however, so be sure to know what you want to do with them before you start.
Choice 3: Wracks
Wracks are mini Grotesques. Tough and relatively slow, they can also make an excellent bodyguard for Haemonculi. They are also consistent and dependable close combat fighters, always wounding on a 4+ regardless of the enemies toughness. Combine this with Furious Charge from two pain tokens and they’ll hit before most enemies as well, making them dangerous opponents. Haemonculi also make them Troop choices, allowing you to take lots of nasty poisonous horrors into battle.
Their main strength compared to Grotesques is their ability to be taken in large numbers in transports without Independent Characters babysitting them. Their Poisoned weapons allow them to find the enemies most powerful unit and take it on without fear of losing a more valuable unit, such as Incubi, if the rolls don’t go your way. The addition of an Acothyst to the unit gives you access to some really nasty war-gear as well. Not only can you take an Agoniser, perhaps one of the best power weapons avaliable, but you can also take the above mentioned Flesh Gauntlet. This can make the unit more dangerous than your opponent might initially think, particularly if you send them charging against something like a Demon Prince of a unit of ThunderWolves.
However they still suffer from a lack of comparative speed. They will die a horrible painful death if they get bogged down, since they don’t have the wounds to take large amounts of damage. Because of this, morale checks are a big worry, so don’t take them in units of less than five and give them transportation if possible. Feel No Pain from the start offsets the low Armour save but they only need a few models to die and they could be running back to Commorragh before you get them into combat.
Choice 4: Mandrakes
Mandrakes are probably summed up by the name of their close combat weapon in their army entry, it being described as an “Evil Looking Blade”. They strike hard and fast, causing heavy damage before slinking back to the shadows. With the Infiltrate special rule they can potentially get into combat on the first turn with a lucky run roll, and once they get Balefire (which if you get into combat quickly has a high possibility of being available early on) they become a good support unit in latter parts of the game, pinning units and then jumping back into cover
With one of the highest Strength values in the Dark Eldar Codex, Mandrakes can hit hard and fast. Their 5+ Invulnerable save allows them to survive in more dangerous situations than other units and they can bog down powerful ranged attackers like Devastators and Broadsides in the first turn, allowing other units to move up behind them. They might die quickly, but it’s highly unlikely they’ll die in vein. Taking a Nightfiend is a good idea because it adds that all important Leadership of 9 to the unit, reducing the likelihood a morale check that will utterly ruin any strategy they might be involved in.
This is really the main problem with Mandrakes. They could well start the game infiltrating and yet do absolutely nothing. A 5+ Invulnerable save won’t protect them enough from Rapid Fire weapons that will be in range of them on the first turn, so they have to be in cover, which could potentially reduce their movement speed, making it a double edged sword. Baleblast, while a fantastic weapon, is only available once they gain a pain toke which requires them to be able take a unit on quickly and for them to be better in close combat then their opponents. If the enemy gets first turn and cripples your unit, they simply won’t get Baleblast. A way of countering this is to put a Haemonculus in the unit and have them come in through a Webway Portal. This allows them to Baleblast straight away and hit any units still close to the portal with plenty of Pinning shots.
Choice 5: Harlequins
Harlequins are a flexible, dangerous unit, capable of acting as both a tank hunter and an elite unit killer. They can also take up a support role, coming through a Webway portal and hitting weakened units with their dangerous Harlequins Kiss. With a very high Initiative, they will generally hit first and their 5+ Invulnerable save gives them a measure of protection against even the most powerful opponents
The Harlequins main strength is their flexibility. I would highly recommend giving them all the war-gear available, that is two Fusion Pistols and all the Harlequin Kisses they can lay their hands on. This allows them to act not only as excellent elite killers but also as tank hunters. They can launch an attack out of a Webway Portal and hit anything effectively, regardless of it’s armour. They can also take on units in cover without worry about difficult terrain, an ability that Mandrakes can only ever dream of having. Though they are one of the few units to lack Power From Pain, they start with Furious Charge, giving them an additional point of Strength on the charge anyway. Giving them the Death Jester and Shadowseer upgrades give them even better support and defensive capabilities, with them being able to pin down units while avoiding being shot at themselves.
Their main weakness is the inability to take a dedicated transport. Although the Shadowseer can protect them as they move forward they, rather ironically, lack speed at the start of the game compared to other Dark Eldar units. They are best used coming out of a Webway portal, provided you can get it down in the second turn. Having a Toughness of 3 also means that they can be taken out in the shooting phase with Rapid Fire weapons (which have the best chance of hitting due to their short range requirement). Otherwise Harlequins don’t suffer from many weaknesses. They can protect themselves from damage while hurting anything their opponents can throw at them.
Choice 1: Hellions
Hellions are what all Jump Infantry dream of being. Not only can they potentially charge a unit 24″ away they can hit them with a horrible array of weaponry. They can also be taken in staggering large units, something that will scare both Tau and Space Marine players alike. Combine this with Hit and Run and Combat Drugs and they are a scary unit to fight in close combat.
Hellions biggest strength is their speed. No other unit in the whole game can charge a unit 24″ inches away, provided you get a good run roll of course. Their Hellglaives give them the extra power they need to really hurt the enemy, providing them with 3 attacks each on the charge and a potential Strength of 5 if they have two Pain tokens. A unit of 20 Hellions can lay down 60 Strength 5 attacks, a truly horrifying amount of potential damage. Give them a Stunclaw and they can become not only character killers, but character isolators as well, giving you an easy kill point opportunity as well as eliminating a major threat. Their Splinter Pods provide them with some powerful ranged support options as well; no one likes a potential 40 poisoned AP5 shots coming their way.
However, if they aren’t in combat, Hellions will get murdered at range. With only Feel No Pain to protect them against what will be a huge amount of firepower coming their way (provided the opponent doesn’t want vast amounts of damage being done to their front lines) they will be shredded by Bolters and Pulse Rifles in equal measure. If the opponent gets the first turn, Heavy Bolters could well turn this unit into a screaming pile of mush, with their Leadership of 8 being a potential weakness should large numbers of them fall. They have to take difficult terrain tests in cover, so moving them from place to place won’t return your investment in them.
Choice 2: Scourges
Scourges are the elite, heavy jump infantry of the Dark Eldar. If “heavy jump infantry” seems like a little of an oxymoron it’s because in any army other than the Dark Eldar it would be. But Scourges fill a very nice gap that the Dark Eldar have with regards to powerful anti-infantry ranged support.
The Scourges main strength is their manoeuvrability. They can move quickly from cover to cover and blast enemies with their powerful Shardcarbines, potentially laying down as much firepower as a good sized unit of rapid firing Warriors. Interestingly they are the only unit in the whole Dark Eldar force that fills this role. Most other units are stronger in close combat, with very few concentrating almost solely on damage at range. Warriors are the backbone of an army, but they can only move relatively slowly outside of transportation and Scourges can provide them a large amount of covering fire before they reach an objective for example. Scourges can also take the extremely valuable Heat Lance, a weapon that is just obscene when it’s hitting the back armour of a vehicle at short range. Their 4+ Ghostplate Armour save also allows them survive outside of cover against shots that would kill other Dark Eldar, and the 6+ Invulnerable save makes them even more survivable.
Scourges are bizarre in that their main weakness is their lack of range. Shardcarbines have to be in Rapid Fire range (6 inches of Movement before 12″ of shooting) before they can hit, rendering them weak to large amounts of firepower. This also means that other units with Fleet can hit them in close combat, which they are competent in but hardly excellent at. Having said that, their armour save more than offsets this problem, and if they kill a unit early on, Feel No Pain will make them scarily durable and nightmare to deal with. However, should a few die, they can suffer from morale problems, particularly if the unit is small.
Choice 3: Beastmasters
Beastmasters can take a wide variety of different monsters into battle, the huge Clawed Fiend, the nasty Razorwing Flock or the strange Khymera. This makes them not only flexible but also durable, since most of the choices have a high wound count and high damage to model ratio.
Each beast has different strengths. The Clawed Fiend is great for taking on weaker infantry as it can tear straight through them before they have a chance to react. The Razorwing Flock makes the unit more durable, due to its high wound count, as well as providing it with the potential to damage elite infantry with high armour saves. The Khymera are good beasts to apply early wounds to, since they can save against them half the time and can be sacrificed to save the better of the other two options. The Beastmaster himself isn’t a great close combat fighter but if upgraded with an Agoniser he can take on any opponent his beasts can take on with equal ferocity.
Perhaps the biggest weakness of the whole unit is it’s low armour saves. Although you can take plenty Khymera to apply wounds to early on, once their gone the whole unit will fall soon after. This makes it very difficult to take Beastmasters effectively, since they can become a very expensive unit for relatively low damage potential. Although you can take more Beastmasters to improve this somewhat, there are perhaps better units more suited to the jobs they are trying to fill. Grotesques are better (and cheaper) than Clawed Fiends thanks to Power From Pain and Razorwing Flocks are only slightly cheaper than Harlequins. Although they can move fast, they aren’t as fast as Reaver Jetbikes or Hellions. They also lack any real ranged weaponry, though the Splinter Pods on the Beastmasters Skyboard prevents them from being completely devoid of shooting.
Choice 4: Reaver Jetbikes
Reaver Jetbikes are the fastest unit in the game. Period. They can move 36″ across the board when they turbo-boost, often allowing them to be the first unit on your opponents side of the table. They may even be able to do close range damage in the first turn, cutting the enemy apart as they slice through their ranks with their Bladevanes. No other bike unit can match the speed of Reavers and they know it.
Although they can get to enemy quicker than any other unit, the Reavers main strengths lie in staying out of direct combat. Their Bladevanes can hit units harder than they can in close combat, so flying over the flank of an enemy and disrupting small units is easy and often free of causalities. Cluster Caltrops can make this even more damaging and since they’ll have turbo-boosted they’ll have a 3+ cover save, giving them an extra level of durability provided they got out of assault range. Their ranged weaponry also appeals to the quick mover, with the rare Heat Lance being available. They also have access to combat drugs, so with a bit of luck they could also end up with a pain token from the offset, increasing their durability and removing one of their biggest weakness.
This weakness is their durability on the first turn or any turn in which they can’t or don’t turbo-boost. Since they only have a 5+ armour save, standard arms fire will rip through them like putty. You’ll need to take a large unit to offset this potential weakness, otherwise you’ll find they are just an easy kill point if you don’t gain the initiative. They are also relatively weak in close combat, with only their Arena Champion capable of taking any effective equipment. This can make them a very obvious target for Assault Squads or other Bikes who tend to have more choice in this regard, or have a higher Strength as standard.
Choice 1: The Ravager
The Ravager is a quick and deadly anti-tank machine. With the ability to fire three Dark Lances at cruising speed it can keep moving to the best place to hit the side of a vehicle. Combined with some great wargear options the Ravager is a dangerous beast in any situation.
While it’s greatest strength from the off is it’s Dark Lances, you can make the Ravager an anti-infantry machine as well by giving it Disintegrator Cannons instead. Because you can take any combination of each, a perfectly reasonable strategy is to take two of one kind and one of the other depending on the enemy you’re facing. With the ability to Deep Strike if you take Retrofire Jets (as well as fire all it’s weapons) it can also get behind lumbering short range vehicles such as Leman Russ Punishers and Vindicators and hit them in back.
As with all Dark Eldar vehicles, however, a Flickerfield is a must. The lightweight construction of the Dark Eldar vehicles may make them fast as lightning but it also makes them as flimsy as sugar-craft. The 5+ Invulnerable save from the Flickerfield is enough to give you a chance against heavy weaponry such as Lascannons who will do damage on all but a 1. This is always the big weakness in Dark Eldar vehicles, and it’s what makes them as potentially damaging to yourself as well as the opponent. Spending a lot of points on Raiders and Ravagers can backfire catastrophically if rolls go your opponents way. But they can also deal horrifying amounts of damage if luck is on your side.
Choices 2 and 3: The Talos Pain Engine and the Chronos Parasite Engine
I’ve included these two together for simplicities sake, since many of their strengths and weakness are similar yet they perform different roles on the battlefield. The Talos is the biggest, meanest close combat monster the Dark Eldar can bring to the fight, whereas the Chronos, whilst also big and tough, is less mean and more devious, acting as a support choice for other units in the army.
The Talos is capable of doing some serious damage to any unit it comes into contact with. With a Strength and Toughness of 7, it can rip through most enemies without them even being able to hurt it in close combat. Though it lacks a huge amount of ranged power it can still fire six poisoned shots from its Splinter Cannon before moving in for the kill. The option to give it a twin-linked Heat Lance can make it a horrible tank killer, both at range and in close combat. The Chronos is the anti-thesis to this. It’s still strong in close combat but it’s biggest strength is it’s avaliable upgrades. Taking both the Spirit Probe and Vortex allows you to fire two different weapons (It’s a monstrous creature after all) and then charge into combat. Not only that, if you kill a model with any of these upgrades you can give a pain token to unit within 12″ of the Chronos – thats a potential 3 pain tokens per turn. You might suddenly find that a large number of your units have Furious charge after a couple of turns of shooting should your Chronos be hitting it’s mark.
The obvious weakness to both choices is their speed. The Talos in particular suffers from being crushingly slow when it needs to be in close combat as quickly as possible. The Chronos can keep up with other units to some extent since it can fire it’s Spirit Probe at something 18″ away and then give any unit within 12″ the pain token, giving it some reach. A Webway portal is very good way of getting both these models into contact with the enemy as quickly as possible. In the case of the Talos the random attacks characteristic is obviously a double edged sword. Should the rolls not go your way, you could argue that other choices are more cost effective, but with luck on your side, the Talos can deal huge amounts of damage.
Choices 4+5: The Razorwing Jetfighter and the Voidraven Bomber
As with the Talos and Chronos, both the Razorwing and the Voidraven have similar stat lines and tactical uses. The Razorwing is a fast and flexible skimmer, capable of wiping out whole units with its powerful missile payloads. The Voidraven can take the same missiles (as well as some more powerful ones) but is also the only unit capable of taking the Void Lance and Void Mines, Strength 9 Lance weapons.
The biggest strength of both these units is their speed and flexibility. Both can take on infantry and vehicles in equal measure with the right upgrades, though the Razorwing is better at anti-infantry firepower, while the Voidraven is the better at tank-hunting. The missiles themselves are nasty, with the standard Monoscythe missile having a Strength 6 AP5 large blast payload. Necrotoxin missiles provide an easy method of dealing lots of wounds to high toughness enemies while the Voidravens Shatterfield missile will most likely wound a 2+ and then re-roll, almost certainly wounding everything it hits. But the big one is the Implosion missile available to the Voidraven. Although it has a smaller blast radius, it will wound most enemies on a 2+ (since it uses a Wound characteristic test) and any more powerful enemies will suffer instant death if they fail.
But both of these jets are made of the same paper as the Ravager. They suffer from being very easily damaged (you can theoretically destroy a Voidraven with a Bolter) despite their high points cost, making them a risky option against opposition with powerful anti-tank capabilities. Upgrading them can be expensive, especially as the missiles could go way off target and can only be fired a certain number of times. Having said that, both are very flexible choices, capable of outmanoeuvring and heavily damaging most opponents before they either crash and burn or run out of ammo.
The Venom and the Raider
Both of the dedicated transport options for the Dark Eldar are fast, but fragile, excellent for protecting the units inside but are almost bound to be destroyed at some stage during the game. Raiders can carry the essential units, Warriors, Wyches or Wracks, into battle extremely quickly, exactly what the Dark Eldar need at the start of the game. The Venom is great for transporting small elite units, such as a Court of the Archon or Incubi into the fray for relatively few points.
While the Venom starts with a Flickerfield, the Raider will need to be upgraded with one if you want it to survive for more than a turn. Whether or not it needs to is an important question, since if its only job is to get your troops into battle as soon as possible you don’t need to spend the extra points to increase it’s long term survivability. Instead it would be better to equip Enhanced Aethersails in order to get it even closer to the enemy before its ultimate demise. While both are equipped with a powerful weapon (Dark Lance on the Raider, Splinter Cannon and Rifle on the Venom) this almost a moot point, since they may never get a turn of shooting (they will need to be moving flat out to get to the enemy as quickly as possible, negating the use of their weapons). While Raiders can make good anti-tank units at the end of a game, they should not be relied upon as an anti-tank option in a list.
The Dark Eldar have access to some of the strongest, and yet at the same time weakest, troops in the games. Their vehicles are flimsy but capable of some astonishing damage, while their troops have an average stat-line boosted by excellent war-gear, special rules and HQ choices. A few essential tips for any player of a Dark Eldar army include:
- Taking Transports where possible, and upgrading them with Aethersails at the very least
- Use Webway Portals to get slower units that either can’t use transports or don’t have fleet into battle quickly.
- Don’t take small units of 5-8 Wyches or Warriors, since these will be ripped apart by even the smallest of small arms fire. Due to the leadership of a standard Dark Eldar being 8 it’s risky to take small units as they could take morale tests before reaching the front lines, possibly throwing them straight back to Commorragh
- Elite units, by contrast, work better in smaller units of 5 as they can be taken in a Venom to guard an HQ choice. If taken in larger units they can sometimes cost too much. Fast Attack choices should be taken in larger units (5 or more Jetbikes, 10 or more Hellions) to prevent them from being wiped out early.
- Take Haywire Grenades where possible, they are excellent tank killers and prevent your vehicles from being your only anti-tank options
- Don’t hang around, throw your units forward even if it means missing out on a turn of shooting. Once you’ve reached the enemies front lines you can concentrate on laying down support fire with any remaining transports and any fast moving infantry, such as Scourges or Hellions
- Use cover effectively, that 5+ Armour save may as well not exist against half the standard troop choices the game will throw at you
- Isolate enemy units, this will give you the best chance of getting Pain Tokens, as well as enabling you to pick off units one at a time
- Do not get drawn into infantry firefights against anything with a 4+ or higher Armour save, you won’t win without some kind of close combat support.
- Pursue the enemy relentlessly, not only will this keep your units out of firefights it will also get you Pain Tokens, since a falling back unit that leaves the board does not give you a Pain token.
So there we are, this turned to be far longer than I anticipated, but it’s thorough and should provide anyone playing Dark Eldar with a good bearing on where to start with each unit. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.
I need a long break now before I start on the Eldar…….