I’ve been reading over Codex: Eldar the last few days and trying to write a couple of different lists so I have some vague plan behind what I end up buying.
It got me thinking – how important is the army/faction fluff to the list you play? Phil’s feelings on this is well documented but let’s look at it from another point of view.
With my Space Wolves, I have kept it relatively fluffy – everything is painted in Harald Deathwolf’s Great Company colours, and I’ve made sure to include a few squads of Thunderwolf Cavalry to fit in with that Great Company (or did I like Thunderwolves so chose that Great Company? Hmmmm…)
When it comes to the Eldar, there’s a wide range of Craftworlds to choose from, and each (of the main Codex 5 at least) is distinctly different from the others. Ulthwé for example, is, according to the fluff, heavy on Seers and Guardians, and light on Aspect Warriors. Saim-Hann favours Jetbikes, and Iyanden have a large Wraith contingent and Biel Tan has aspect warriors up the wazoo.
So when it comes to putting together a list and starting to buy models, where do I begin? I’ve currently got 3 lists that I’m toying with, each one suited to a different Craftworld.
However, what if I prefer the fluff behind Ulthwé for example, but don’t fancy painting everything black, or just prefer the Iyanden colour-scheme? Should I limit myself to Ulthwé black, or should I force myself to do a Iyanden Wraithguard list just to fit the fluff?
At the moment I’m leaning towards Saim-Hann in terms of colour-scheme, as I think the red will be a nice contrast to the grey of my Space Wolves. While I could easily build a jetbike list (bank balance permitting), I’d rather go for something a little more balanced and throw in some Aspect Warriors and Wraithguard. Does this mean I should choose a different Craftworld? Or even consider rolling my own? I don’t believe so, because we shouldn’t necessarily feel beholden to an faction’s fluff. That said, I’m also of the opinion that creating a brutal list specifically to exploit rules loopholes, while completely ignoring the fluff of your chosen army isn’t the right way to go either. It’s all about finding the right balance.
It’s also dangerous to assume that Saim-Hann only use jetbikes. In reality they would lose 9 engagements out of 10 fighting against the Imperium in such a way simply because they would lack the mobile fire support to deal with the heavy hitters. There is a fine balance to be struck between fluff and playability.
For example Phil, a while back, had a Space Wolves army that consisted of Logan Grimnar and his bodyguard of Wolf Guard. There were some land raiders involved and a dreadnought but all in there was 56 infantry in a 3,000 point army. He had tried to find the balance between fluff and playability but ultimately acknowledging that it was going to be an all or nothing kind of army.
The point is that just because Ulthwe don’t have many aspect warriors, doesn’t mean you can’t use them. And there’s nothing to stop you fielding an all aspect Ulthwe army if you really felt the need as the narrative can come from you, the gamer from your understanding of the fluff and novels as well as the fluff and novels themselves. Remember, just because someone at your local games club has gone heavy with the aspect warriors in their Ulthwe army doesn’t mean there won’t be enough on Craftworld for you.
Granted this doesn’t sit well with everyone and sometimes it will completely fly in the face of the existing background but the codices exist to permit you a varied and interesting force. Not taking an all jetbike Saim-Hann army doesn’t mean you’re not being loyal to the fluff, the Craftworld or the Codex, you’re just not taking the obvious route or perhaps taking advantage of their obvious strengths.
Ultimately, fluff is what makes the game more than a series of profiles and dice rolling. But you, the gamer makes that fluff real and the games fun so as long as you’re happy and you can play fun games with your mates then that’s all that really matters.