Codex Craftworlds – A Review

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Another year another Eldar Codex.

At least it seems that way. Eldar have been a headache for the design team ever since the first Codex that came out for second edition 40k. They’re a fascinating army in terms of background, army composition and game play. Not even the Tau can match the Eldar for how well all the various units work in concert. Granted it’s very much the case of easy to learn, difficult to master but that’s true of armies like Space Marines. No really. No really. Shut up.

I’ve been frustrated with Eldar for a long time because the books are always brilliant until you get to the army organisation and then it all comes unstuck for one reason or another so I wasn’t surprised that another Codex was released so soon after the previous one despite the fact that the previous version was actually pretty strong.

But onto the current version. Which could have been superseded in to the time it took me to read it and write this review for al I know…

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Like the previous version the cover art is splendid. Not quite as dynamic but has veiled menace which I dig. It’s interesting that the Space Marine and Craftworlds codices both have junior officers on the covers rather than cool and groovy leader types. Not that they’re any less cool of course.

The production value has increased just as it did with the latest Codex Space Marines and there is lots of splendid new artwork. Not as much as I expected in light of Codex Space Marines but still plenty to make you boy parts and your girl parts (delete where appropriate) feel all warm and tingly. But like Codex Space Marines the artwork dominates double page spreads making the book incredibly thin in terms of actual content. Throw in 36 pages of photos and hobby section and the 160 page Codex Craftworlds doesn’t feel like…well a book. The artwork is beautiful, especially the newer stuff, but there’s just so much of it.

What content there is, however, is broadly well written. There’s still typos of course, but I’ve all but given up pointing those out because all it’s going to result in is an ulcer. There’s been a very well paced step forward in terms of the background for Codex Craftworlds. As with the previous version, this version seems to understand further still what it means to be an Eldar be it the path of the warrior, the outcast or balloon animal maker. Wait, what?

However some areas have been neglected either through space or the assumption that they won’t hold people’s attention. The biggest victim being the timeline. There’s fewer events and they just don’t feel as tightly written. The nice thing though is, overall, Codex Craftworlds does feel quite well written. I still feel at risk from hyperbolic overdose but nothing to the extent of Codex Space Marines. Although that was just poorly written rather than repetitive. Although it was that too.

There are some parts of the book that do feel rehashed and slightly lack lustre but overall all the Craftworlds have been given a vibrant lick of paint. Even Ulthwe has more going for it now than being stuck at the very edge of the Eye of Terror. Which is nice. I guess, more than anything, there feels like there’s a point to it all. The previous Codex did an awful lot in making the Eldar feel more tangible but this Codex builds on it and makes the Eldar feel like a people. More to the point a people that does actually interact with one another.

Weirdly that was always the thing with the Eldar: you never really got the impression that the various Craftworlds would have much to do with one another seeing as they have pretty different outlooks, ideologies, fighting styles and even agendas. This book does a lot to clarify that and to its very great credit. The Craftworlds feel more like nations now. Similar but yet different. Working towards common goals in very different ways that can cause friction, resentment and mistrust.

There’s also a general easing off the gas on the matter of the species dying out. Yes the race is the cusp but the emphasis is on that fact, not that they’re beyond saving. It’s an important distinction as one of the common grumbles was the point of playing as a species that was already doomed. Although if you really read into the background that can very much be argued for the Imperium. But I digress.

Broadly speaking the background in the Codex is great to read. Maybe it’s just me not remembering it much from the previous book but there seems to have been a lot of work done around the Wraith constructs and how Wraithguard, Wraithlords and Wraithknights fit into the grand scheme. I particularly like how unsavoury, yet necessary the entire situation is and that Spiritseers are treated with the same disgust as necrophiliacs.

The rules don’t seem to have changed…at all. A few things have gotten cheaper – like Howling Banshees. Presumably because everyone moaned that they were expensive die all the time. Now they’re less expensive and die all the time. So yay… That said the way Howling Banshees perform in this and the previous edition is a huge improvement on how they use to be.

The other tweak is that Dark Reapers get skyfire now which was badly needed.

The big deal in this Codex is, as with some of the others, the formations. Which are fucking mad. If it’s not free weapons platforms, it’s special rules or adding +1 to ballistic skill or weapons skill. Fire Dragons and Dark Reapers with a BS of 5 is just horrid. And wraith hosts make me want to vomit in terror. They get to re-roll failed hits against any enemy within 18 inches of the Spiritseer. I mean really?

Broadly speaking there wasn’t huge cause to redo the Codex. The points changes are convenient but I very much doubt they kept many Eldar players up at night. They will however be kept up masturbating furiously over the formations. There’s literally not a one I wouldn’t take. They’re all amazing. Dire Avengers get 3 shots. What the hell?

Of course the cynic in me would argue this entirely to sell all the models. But you know what? Who cares? Eldar range is gorgeous. Even the Eldar Guardians which must be around 17 years old now, are still awesome. And the bottom line is this:

The Eldar army has had significant weaknesses since 3rd Edition. Weaknesses that made the Eldar a real challenge to use. I’d go so far as to say that they’re one of the hardest armies to use. I’m certainly not the best gamer in the world but I’m certainly not the worst and I found them a challenge. I good challenge but I found strategy and tactics were tempered with faith far more than with other armies. And I’ve played with them all.

The formations in Codex Craftworlds give all the various units a buff that dramatically improves their combat effectiveness. It broadly doesn’t tackle their biggest issues – poor toughness and poor armour – but by increasing the odds of hitting or beefing up the fire power it goes some way to mitegating those weaknesses. Because, if you’re doing your job right, there will be fewer things alive to shoot back. The big revelation is this – it’s going to make the Eldar a challenge to play against.

You’re not going to save killer levels of points with the free support weapons and free upgrades but free guns are free guns. But it’s the special rules and stat buffs that you’re after anyway.

Is Codex Craftworlds going to set your world ablaze? Actually it might just. The formations are so good that no self respecting Eldar player should be without…any of them. The minor rule tweaks and points reductions are an added bonus. The flyers and wraith constructs are still sick and be crammed into your armies wherever possible.

Codex Craftworlds is available from Firestorm Games priced £31.50.

A Ghostly Apparition

 

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Guess who’s started a new army for 40k? It’s not my fault.  Honestly, blame Mat and Phil, they’re the ones who got me feeling all jealous and left out and stuff.  Once Phil followed Mat down the Xenos path it was only a matter of time before I caved and followed suit, which I duly did once I finally settled on an army to collect. In our gaming group Marine players feature heavily, 4 out of 7 to be exact, so when Mat decided to actually get a 40k army to play with (after selling his Tau) he figured collecting another Xenos force would be a good idea to help break up the monopoly – such a good idea in fact, that Phil and then I decided we would start new armies also of the non-good guy persuasion to add a bit of variety and eliminate those sometimes drab Blue on Blue games. Phil has now succumbed to the Green Menace to go alongside his near 10,000 points of Ultramarines, whereas I needed something to offer an alternative to the 3000+ point Marines, Guard and Grey Knights armies I already have – but I wasn’t sure what…

The new army feeling was building as I started to consider all the various races, but I found my choice somewhat more limited than I expected.  There are some I just won’t entertain – like Chaos for example. I know the whole Xenos army idea is supposed to move me out of my comfort zone but Marines with spikes stuck on them has never, ever, worked for me. Daemons lacked the things I like most in 40k – guns and vehicles, which also largely eliminates Tyranids for the same reasons.  Orks didn’t appeal to me and although Necrons may have, both were already taken.  The Tau were still good guys really and I’d already had an army of them in the past before selling them on, so I passed on taking them a second time.  The Dark Eldar were a strong option as there were a number of units/models I really liked but in the end not enough to build an army around, so that left just one non Imperial army to choose from – the Eldar. I’ve thought about collecting an Eldar army in the past, a few times in fact, as they suit my style of play and have some fantastic models, but their unit focus and squishiness always did enough to put me off.  However, the Iyanden Codex has offered me a way around this: a Ghost Warrior army! The new army feeling was well and truly buzzing now.

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An all Wraith Ghost Warrior army – 2000 points in 27 models!

‘Wraith’ type units really do have some cool looking models and nothing’s better than an army that can smash faces and look good whilst doing it. To go with that, one thing a Ghost Warrior army can never be accused of being is squishy, seeing as your standard Wraithguard troops have an impressive Toughness of 6! Add in your Wraithlords and Wraithknights with their Toughness 8 and things are looking pretty solid. However, with the sheer abundance of high strength and low AP weaponry floating around nowadays, Toughness 6 is not what it used to be and a 3+ Armour Save only takes you so far.  It was clear this army was not going to be a simple point and kill type outfit despite the tasty stat lines. Support would be essential but with the point costs being so very high it would be a hard balance to strike. Wraithguard are a costly 32 points each for something that’s still only 1 wound – plus another 10 if you want to give it a D-Scythe, meaning the army is going to be tiny. Like crazy tiny.  Like less than 20 models in a 1k army tiny. This is great news on the painting front as even I could get a whole army finished with that few models to paint in it, but it does concern me on the tactical side of things.  Phil recently stuffed almost 70 Orks into a 1k list and against a few handfuls of Wraithguard packing single shot (albeit mega powerful) guns with only a 12” range, getting overwhelmed is not only a possibility, it’s almost a certainty. They are going to need some serious rapid-firing back up, which is achievable, but breaks away a little from the pure Wraith army ideal.

The reasoning behind fielding a Wraith army in the first place is lack of manpower, so using vehicles which are piloted by just one or two Eldar to act as force multipliers makes perfect sense and opens up the tactical potential of the army – whilst still retaining its character. Including Wave Serpents is unavoidable as they’re the only transports Wraithguard can take and Warwalkers suit the aesthetic of the army as well providing the extra firepower so sorely needed – but with the Heavy Support section already looking crowded with the Wraithlords and Wraithknights taking up the slots there’s a strong possibility I’ll have to go unbound to make it work.  It’s disappointing they didn’t do a bit more for the Iyanden Codex, and something as simple as bumping Wraithlords into Elites would have made a true Wraith army more achievable with a choice in each force organisation slot (If you include Forgeworlds Wraithseer HQ – want!) – Marines get to do it with Dread’s so why not Eldar?  I’ll steer clear of everything else in the codex aside from the compulsory Seers – but there are a few things from Forgeworld which are really catching my eye. Wasps and Hornets look like they can provide all the extra firepower I need and both come under Fast Attack which would solve the overcrowded Heavy Support problem – letting me stay bound and qualifying for the all-important ‘Objective Secured’ rule.  The trade of a 5+ invulnerable for jump packs makes the Wasps even more fragile than the Warwalkers, but it’ll be fun bouncing them around the table shooting shit up while they last – especially if there’s a Wraithknight or two doing the same. I’m still worried about get swamped by horde armies, as is always the case with small elite armies, but it’ll be interesting getting the balance of the army right between guns and bodies.

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Wasp Assault Walker from Forgeworld

Painting wise, I’m undecided about whether to do the army in the yellow and blue of Iyanden as a few other colour schemes have also caught my eye. I was initially quite taken with the grey and orange of Yme Loc and as they have a rep for building titans, I thought this could translate onto my Adeptus Titanicus Eldar force.  But I have since realised the colours look far better on vehicles than they do on infantry, so I’m unsure how it will look on the abundance of long limbed walking units in the army. I could always do my own thing but that might slow things down and I’m promising to get the first 1000 points painted before I go any further.  Aaaahhh decisions. We moan, we wrangle, but we love ‘em really, it’s all part of that new army feeling.  Expect to hear of mighty Wraith constructs stomping on stuff real soon.

-Lee