A little later than planned thanks to Royal Mail robbing no less than two parcels, it’s time to take a look at the new Codex Eldar.
Let’s get two things out-of-the-way off the bat. 1. The cover is stunning. With each new codex the artwork just gets better and better. I can only imagine the underwear moistening loveliness of the Space Marine codex when it’s released. 2. There are still typos cropping up in £30 publications. Come on Games Workshop, get your act together!
So the Eldar have had the 6th edition make over and that means lots of lovely fluff. As with the, and especially, the Tau codex, the Eldar feel more coherent and complete than they have in a long time. There’s a much greater emphasis on Eldar culture rather than the Eldar at war. Although there is some confusion as it states the Eldar are constantly at war but do everything they can to avoid it. Which doesn’t seem entirely possible. But anyway, it’s an interesting and nicely expanded read. Although it’s really struck just much like Vulcans they’ve made the Eldar. I’d never really noticed it before but I rewatched the 2011 Star Trek reboot the other day and I was struck by the similarities between the Eldar and Vulcans particularly when it comes to self-control and the resulting carnage that can ensue if that control is ever lost.
That aside the background finally reflects the fact that the Eldar are actually nails. Dying out because they were caught touching themselves, but still nails. More nails than anything else in the galaxy especially seeing as they made the Necrons their bitches a few thousand years ago.
The problem is that none of that galaxy altering, Necron smashing, pointy eared zappiness really makes it into the army. That’s not to say that the army isn’t without its charms but by rights the Eldar should be able to out fight, out pace and out maneouvre even the mighty Space Marines and the fact is that they just can’t. Granted, the mechanic is fairly inflexible these days, creaking as it is beneath the tremendous and expanding compendium of special rules but still. It doesn’t change the fact that Eldar armies should be 5 blokes and a statline that would give a Titan performance issues.
But it’s not to be. And as I say, the list isn’t without appeal, or it’s teeth. The Battle Focus special rule that just about everyone gets, except the dead stuff, means that units can shoot and run or run and shoot in the same phase rather than one or the other. This gives the Eldar a huge boost to their manoeuvrability whilst, simultaneously beating gamers over the head with the Eldar’s most fundamental weakness – their squishiness. I’ve collected Eldar a couple of times over the years and I found that the best way of winning was not to run headlong at my opponent. Which this rule rather encourages. If used wisely you can set up some pretty brutal kill boxes that will simply tear enemies apart – unless they’re Space Marines – but it’s dependent on (a) the board set up and (b) your opponent falling for it.
Farseers are now level 3 psykers as standard, which is horrid and have psychic powers to match. It’s an act on contrition as the last codex pretty much rendered them irrelevant in favour of Autarchs. Truth be told you’d be mental not to take one each and as many Warlocks as possible because they all work in concert with each other. And a 4+ invulnerable save for rune armour isn’t to be sniffed at, although the standard toughness 3 means if you’re reckless with them, your seer council won’t see the end of a game.
Anything with a shuriken catapult is instantly worth taking now thanks to the bladestorm special rule which means that any wound rolls of a 6 wound automatically – including shots fired against something the firer wouldn’t normally be able to hurt – and they count as AP2. I mean shit a brick that’s handy. And could explain why GW have downsized the box to 5 models for £20 instead of 10. But think about it: unit of 10 Dire Avengers fire 20 shots. Let’s say 12 shots a turn hit. Statistically two will be a result of a 6. That’s two or just about anything dead. Plus another minimum 5 saves. That kind of effectiveness could cripple a Space Marine tactical squad. Providing the Dire Avengers can get in range without getting torn to pieces. It gets even more unpleasant if you’re fielding units of 20 Guardians or 10 Jetbikes as they’re now ballistic skill 4. Of course everything in the Eldar army is still a very weedy toughness 3 but as all the Aspect Warriors universally have decent armour at last it does make them slightly more worth it.
Although point for point, Howling Banshees aren’t as convincing a choice as they use to be compared to the sheer amount of coolness that Striking Scorpions can give you. Granted they don’t have power weapons but their ability to infiltrate, move through cover and have stealth means that they’ll be a colossal pain in the arse. And the Scorpion’s Claw is a power fist that strikes in initiative order so the Exarch alone will do as much damage, statistically, as a squad of 5 banshees anyway.
And bad news for anyone who owns Harlequins. There’s no chance of fielding an army of them, back to being expensive, they’re squishy and only really any good on a board with lots of cover. But they do get a lot of toys. Which is nice.
One of the big dilemmas of the Eldar army that’s never been addressed which is how best to play the army. It’s either (a) take lots of cheap Guardians who will get mown down in droves but allowing small Aspect teams to do the business. (b) You attempt the same tactic as above but with Aspect warriors and deliver the killing blow with wraith constructs or vice vera. (c) Mount everything in vehicles thus utterly negating all the handy agility/speed related special rules. With the added headache that Eldar vehicles don’t last very long and the hatch is at the back which is just stupid.
Or secret option (d) which is take loads of the new stuff, specifically the juiced Wraithguard/Wraithblades – which are so worth taking now it’s untrue – the all new and meaty Wraithknight and the flyers. The Wraithguard, Wraithblades and Wraithknight are obvious choices because they’re tough nuts to crack and it wouldn’t surprise me if every Eldar army I see has one or both in it. Although the Wraithknight isn’t any harder to harm than an Eldar vehicle but it does benefit from not crashing, having 6 wounds and the option of a 5+ invulnerable. Although the Scattershield is somewhat risky for anyone stood nearby as the shot can rebound and hit them. And actually will make the Wraithknight an even bigger bullet magnet than before. Although give it a scatter laser and you can use laser lock to make its weapons twinlinked, which is an awesome special rule.
The funny thing about the flyers is that it both require them to get in the faces of their intended targets and they’re only armour 10 all round. The Vector Dancer special makes them a very real and potent threat but I’d be wary of anything akin to an air superiority fighter because it wouldn’t end well. Although the Crimson Hunter’s armament of two bright lances and a pulse laser, couple with Skyhunter and Perfect strike that gives it re-rolls and Precision Shot means if it gets the first shot off then it will most likely kill what it points at. The Hemlock is as nasty but it’s short-range and obvious anti-personnel role makes it very vulnerable.
The Eldar Codex is, on the surface a little bit meh. The background is ace but the army list is nothing terribly ground breaking, however, it’s absolutely crammed full of little gems like the scatter laser and the scorpions claw. Coupled with some very intuitive unit special rules and Eldar go from being the bunch of space hippies I always thought they were to something far meatier. And where Eldar will win games and, unfortunately, encourage power gaming because there will be no other way of doing it because of the Eldar’s innate and unavoidable vulnerability to, well, everything.
There’s an obvious leaning towards the new units but feels far less blatantly commercial than the Tau codex. For the first time ever gamers will actually have to agonise over their units choices but because they all, generally, have a use at long last. Except for Warp Spiders, they haven’t been good since second edition. There’s also enough flexibility to have heavily themed armies, especially thanks to the Spiritseer.
They’re still not tough, you’ll still be forced to make some unpleasant tactical decisions which will rankle when compared to the fluff – because the two just don’t tally up – and they will still die in droves but you know what? Who cares. Apart from the Farseers, they get terribly cross. It’s not an army for novices. It’s an army for seasoned gamers who want to feel challenged both in games and at the hobby station. They’re for veterans who have set their Space Marine armies on fire because they’re sick of squeaky voiced 12 year olds coming up to them in hobby stores and telling them all about their Blues Ones or their Reds Ones that they collect, when all the seasoned gamer popped in for was a copy of White Dwarf.
And even if all that is bollocks, it’s a bloody pretty book.