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 Which could have been superseded in to the time it took me to read it and write this review for al I know…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

Riding the Green Tide

Recently I read and reviewed Codex Orks and something rather strange happened. I liked it. I’ve read Codices and Army Books before and liked them but I’ve liked them in the sense that it’s a good book that contributes something to the canon and offers the player an enjoyable army to use. I liked Codex Ork in the sense that I have put my hand in my pocket and dropped some cash on an army. Nearly 1,000 points worth if I’m honest.

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So what’s made a life long Imperium player suddenly start collecting the green menace? Well a few things but let’s address the most important issue first – I am not abandoning my Ultramarines. Ultramar’s fighting 1st and 5th aren’t going anywhere. Which actually brings me on to one of the main reasons for my decision to collect a new army. I’ve had my Ultramarine army in one form or another since 2004. It went from a small hobby project to pass the time to a 1k army, to a 2k army and then 3k. And then something peculiar happened and I accumulated a further 6,500 points and that was that. But the point is that The Chaps only ever play my Ultramarines. And as 3 of them also play Marines it can get a bit boring. Games are a lot of threes, then fours and then threes. Repeat.

Amusingly the thought to collect a Xenos army to make things a bit more interesting has coincided with Lee and Mat doing the same. Mat has flittered between a few army choices over the last 6 months including a Space Wolves successor, Death Guard and Tau but has settled on the Necrons. So far he’s really enjoying collecting them which is awesome.

Lee has hit on the idea of doing an Eldar Ghost Warriors army. Aside from looking incredibly cool – especially the way Lee’s planning to paint them – it will offer the entire group an interesting tactical challenge. A super elite super durable army that’s very good at killing Space Marines. Yuk. Equally facing an Ork army will cause Lee some headaches so it should be fun and japery all round.

The other reason for collecting Orks is that it’s something a bit different. Not just tactically, which is pretty obvious, but from a hobby stand points as well. Don’t get my wrong, I love the Space Marine models. The tactical squad box is probably my favourite set of models ever. But I’ve always enjoyed their cobbled together approach to war that somehow makes Orks utterly devastating. Some of the best fun I’ve had in the hobby has been helping Neil work on looted wagons. His now illegal Burna Wagon is a personal favourite with its gravity fed burna turret. You just don’t get hobby opportunities like that with the Emperor’s Finest. Not without raising a few eyebrows anyway.

The variety within the army is pretty sweet too. Aside from the piles of units available, Ork kultur allows for some amazingly varied armies. Whilst klan rivalries would be a concern fluff-wise, on the board it doesn’t matter which gives hobbyists the luxury of creating a tribe that really feels like its part of a great Waaagh. And that’s incredibly cool.

I’m opting for a Freebooterz army. This has a lot to do with the Kaptin Badruk model being awesome and my long-term affection with Flash Gitz. And not just because I get to use the word git a lot. Git. I also like the idea that they’re ostentatious and quite commercially minded. They sell their services and ships to the highest bidder and then get first dibs on the spoils. I like that some of them are organised and regimented and it’s only their selfishness that stops them from being a galactic threat. This is also suits my painting style. I don’t really like messy painting. I’m no good at it. Chipped paint work is my limit. I suspect it may be the result of painting two 3,000 point Ogre Kingdoms armies back to back for other people. That’s enough rust to last a life time. Git.

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Best of all it allows me to take all the models I really like completely guilt free. Flash Gitz are mandatory, Gorkanauts and/or Morkanauts are a must and then lots of Battlewagons and the odd Dakka Jet or two. Basically an army that announces its presence from the horizon not just from the noise of its engines but from the size of its constructs.

If it’s possible a Freebooter army lacks even more subtlety that the standard Ork army as ego is allied with wealth so not only does the Kaptin in question have the biggest and best toys but wants to make damn sure that everyone knows it, especially the enemy. This does, of course mean, fairly un-Orky colour schemes. Bright colours with a fairly human approach. My plan is to draw on RPG art work of Rogue Traders and base my colour scheme on them on the basis that Freebooterz will come into contact with them on a regular basis either to trade with or attack. And they’re bound to have fancy clothing and shiny baubles. The image above rather nicely reflects my plan for the Orks, right down to the rather shiny shoes. The only challenge I have is keeping the colour scheme simple for the units as my 1k army has 61 models in it at the moment. Which is the same as Mat’s 3k list. So…yeah. And with a little points jiggery I can either fit in another character or 10 more Boyz.

The most important thing however is that I’m really excited about getting this project underway. The first units have started to arrive and that means I’ll be picking up a paint brush for the first time in far too long…and discovering all my paint has dried up most likely.

However, we’ve all agreed that we’re not allowed to go above 1,000 points until we’ve painted everything…so there’s every chance my army won’t be any bigger than 1,000 points.

More over I’m looking forward to playing some games with a completely new army. New tactical challenges and a different mindset. I’m so use to the precision violence of Space Marines I’m not sure how I’ll handle the brute, bludgeoning, violence of the Orks. I can only hope playing Neil’s army would have taught me a few things. And I’m especially looking forward to playing against his Orks as well.

We’ll be writing articles all through our journey into the realms of the Xenos about our army choices, how we’re painting them and hopefully a couple of battle reports as well.

The Ork range is available from Firestorm Games prices starting from £5.60

– Phil

Orks: Coping with an Outdated Codex

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I first started playing 40k when third edition came out. Phil had convinced my Dad to get into it and I shortly followed. I made a vague attempt to collect Imperial Guard but they weren’t for me, despite the awesome old metal models. They felt too structured. Too…sensible. I fell out of love with 40k for a while after, before a couple of years ago Jeremy gave me the Ork contents of the 5th edition 40k boxset as a birthday present. Phil followed that up with a copy of the Codex. And so began my journey collecting an army with the same level of finesse and sophistication as me…As a collector of Orks I am happy to say, without any prejudice what-so-ever, that it doesn’t matter what army you collect and what species they are: I hate them.

The answer to why this is, quite simple; it is partially because its fun to hate every other army, it makes them easier to kill, but mostly down to jealousy. I’m jealous of your guns, technology, your ballistic skill, reliability and your initiative. So why bother collecting Orks? Well they are just so different. It’s not just their great background and their rules but it is the general character of the whole army. You can guarantee that even if you play the same way every time, no two games will ever play out the same.

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However, considering they are an army with such great variety, for the Orks, nothing has changed in a very long time and this is making it harder and harder for them to remain a competitive force. I know they are not the only army still waiting on a new 6th edition codex, and I know their current book is very well written (which is probably why it has survived all of the games rule changes over the years), but the fact of the matter is the Orks have not had a new codex since the 4th edition of Warhammer 40,000 way back in 2007. For the last 2 editions of the game I have seen other armies getting shiny new guns, units and some brilliantly devastating new rules and this leads me back to the whole jealousy thing.

A week or so ago I agreed to play a new member of our group using Phil’s Ultramarines, using the new Codex: Space Marines and 6th edition rules. As far as the armies in the Warhammer 40K universe go, I have always reserved my most bitter animosity for the Space Marines. I have always felt that as cool as they look and their background is, they are the 40k Universe’s equivalent of that guy we all knew at school who never put any effort in but passes every test, always wins and as well as this, somehow gets the girl… Not that the Space Marines have any desire or need for such things. They are in fact the kind of army that make me want to run full speed across the battlefield towards them, shouting at the top of my lungs, and hit them hard in the face with something quite sharp or heavy (or both). Luckily for me this has always been the most effective way of winning, especially as an Ork will usually find that even in Power Armour, if you hit them hard enough (and enough times), they are just as squishy as anyone else.

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When preparing for the battle it was plain to see that on paper, just as they always have, the two forces look completely unbalanced with the Orks seeming to be completely out matched. The Marines can shoot further and far more accurately and even their base guns will ignore most Ork Armour, so there is no point in getting into a prolonged gun battle with them. The Space Marines are also as strong and as tough as most Orks and most importantly they are far less likely to run away. This of course poses a problem as unlike most other armies, even if you beat them in combat they are not going anywhere. To remedy this I plumbed the extensive green skin archives and consulted with some of the finest Ork tacticians, to come up with an almost fool-proof plan.

The plan was an old one but a classic. Overwhelm your opponent with sheer weight of numbers and grind them down. Then combine this with getting to them fast, or better yet very fast. Revolutionary! Granted it’s not the most elegant of plans but this is Orks not Eldar, and I have always found in the 5th edition of 40K that when in doubt this has proven to be the only way to really go toe-to-toe with and stand a chance of beating Space Marines.

I took large mobs of Boyz, some fast troops like Storm Boyz, Deff Koptas  and some trucks, plus a few special troops to deal with the inevitable well armoured tanks. Killa Kans and Tank Bustas specifically. I then ensured that set up my army in a good Waargh! formation; a wide line mixing fast vehicles in amongst the mobs to make sure I could hit his line in 2 waves. It got off to a good start as I lost fewer casualties than expected to gunfire and got my first units to the Space marine lines within 2 turns, but that is where the 6th edition changes made a difference and it all went wrong.

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(Some of the currently unpainted Waargh!)

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Warbosses and Nobs are now more vulnerable than ever, as instant kills have to be double the target’s toughness, not more than double. This is a game changer, as there are a good number of strength 10 weapons a space marine force can take. When I finally made it into combat I came across the next game changer. Furious charge is no longer as effective as it used to be. And the new overwatch rule means that some of the edge has been blunted from an Ork charge. Granted hitting on 6’s does limit the risk but rapid-firing boltguns will mean on average two Ork boys will drop. Seeing as you take from the front that can make the difference between a charge being successful and not. Which makes deployment, how you move mobs through the space and how you and when you choose to attack your targets more important than ever.

Don’t get me wrong, Orks do still dish out plenty of pain but the rule changes impact noticeably. Overwatch has the potential, given enough fire power and enough luck, to render your charge impotent. Which kinda sucks considering the assault phase is my thing. Between those changes and stuff like initiative being used  to determine whether or not a defeated unit runs, and a new Space Marine Codex, means that I’m going to have to go back to the drawing board.

The new Ork Codex can’t come soon enough and you better believe I’ll be getting it day of release and Believe me when I say I am looking forward to the new codex and I hope to be reviewing some great new rules or stat changes to level up the playing field a bit.

Eldar Striking Scorpion by Angry Hedgehog

So this is all kinds of deep-fried awesome. A figurine sculptor that goes by the name of Angry Hedgehog has done an action figure of an Eldar Striking Scorpion. It’s completely stunning and if ever and action figure range came into being we could only hope that they’d look this good.  I have no idea if GW are aware of the project or whether or not they’d care but I can only hope they see it for what it is which is an incredible tribute by someone of real talent.

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A Diet of Supplements

So far this year, we have seen the release of three of the new Codex Supplements for Warhammer 40,000. Of the three, two (Iyanden and Farsight Enclaves) have been generally well received. On the other hand the Black Legion supplement seems to have had a more mixed reception.

I was initially quite sceptical about the Codex Supplements. This is probably due to my negative memories of the ‘mini-codices’ of 3rd Edition 40k which were deeply uninspiring little pamphlets (though in all fairness the main codices were pretty meagre in those days too). Also, it seemed vaguely unfair that some gamers were having to pay extra in order to get the core codex and the additional mini-‘dex.

In most respects, allowing ‘off-shoot’ armies like Space Wolves or Blood Angels to have their own full codices seems like the ideal solution. That said however the onus then falls upon the folks at the Design Studio to make that army genuinely different enough to justify the separate codex. The fate of Black Templars being reabsorbed into the main Space Marine Codex demonstrates the importance of introducing some genuine distinction that works on the table top and in terms of fluff.

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So I was hostile to the Codex Supplements at first – especially when it became clear that they would be the same price as a real codex. But my feelings mellowed when it became clear that no one needs to buy the supplement in order to do, say, an Iyanden style wraith construct army, the supplement merely allows you the option to further emphasise and deepen the theme and character of your chosen force.  This is really important, as in the past variant lists like Iyanden or White Scars were made possible by artificially limiting the main list – so it was only until 5th edition that Space Marine Chapters other than the White Scars got to deploy their bike companies (which they almost all have) to the table top. So you can still do an Eldar wraith army or a Tau army led by Farsight without the Codex and you only have to buy the supplement if you want to take the theme up to eleven.

Of course, the supplements also bring you scenarios, and extra stuff to enhance your games of Apocalypse and/or Cities of Death. Obviously the appeal of those sections will depend on your own views of those particular game variants. I never had much time for either (though I can imagine a few people being swayed out of the desire to try out something in the supplement).

The question hanging over this issue is whether any current Space Marine armies might be relegated to a mere supplement. Obviously Dark Angels already have a 6th edition codex, and the Space Wolves are probably too distinct for this to work, but one does wonder about the Blood Angels. In some respects this might be a helpful as it would prevent some of the inter-Astartes rules clashes that developed over previous editions (eg what save does a Storm Shield grant?) and reduce the need for FAQs about whether existing books get the latest shiny toys in the core book (eg, can Dark Angels take Hunters?).

So surprisingly, GW seen to have hit the right level here rather than make the supplements a blatant cash grab, allowing the journeyman gamer to stick to the main codex and the more dedicated fluff gamer to choose to upgrade their gaming experience with the supplement. Choose wisely which path to take, as it’s a £30 decision.

Codex Eldar – A Review

eldarcodexA 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.

Codex Eldar is available from Firestorm Games priced £27.

How important is fluff?

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.

ODAM Episode 6 – The Bitterness Show

Another month and another show. This episode we’re all full of bile and bitterness and it’s all about rants.

It seems that we’re all a very grumpy bunch of wargamers. We’re probably over tired and need a nap. Or maybe rum. Anyway, hold onto your fan rage gland and get comfy for a rantapalooza of pissing and moaning about GW, Spartan, Mantic and more.

As usual expect adult language and humour from the start.

ODAM – Episode 6