Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Dark Eldar codex (2014) review part 3 - Elites

So here's the delayed part 3 of my codex review - Elites. This post is split into two parts, starting with Incubi, Mandrakes and Wracks and finishing with Grotesques, Trueborn and Bloodbrides later.


As ever, let's start by having a look at the profile for the unit. There's the characteristic Eldar strength and toughness to deal with, the normal 1 wound for infantry models and BS equivalent to a space marine. Then everything else gets different. For starters, it's apparent from their profile that Incubi are intended for hand to hand combat. They have an extra point of WS and I over marines, with an extra attack and leadership that means you should only fail an unmodified Ld test once in every six attempts. Unlike any other Dark Eldar, they have a save equivalent to power armour.

The profile lends itself towards combat therefore, and the wargear options don’t give the lie to that conclusion – no ranged weapons. Again, as with most DE units, they have fleet, night vision and power from pain whilst the squad sergeant upgrade gets rampage. Interestingly, the minimum unit size for these guys is 3, so you can quite easily fit them into a venom with two HQ choices if you want an uber unit. Klaives are a brute of a weapon though, granting an extra point of strength to the Incubus, able to cut through even terminator armour without blinking, and more importantly – striking in such a fashion at the model’s natural initiative characteristic. The Klaive is two-handed though so the Incubi are never going to have a bundle of attacks. The Klaivex has the option to take demi-klaives instead which do allow the extra attack, but at the cost of a point of armour penetration.

There is one glaring gap in their wargear however – they have no grenades. This is an interesting debate and I’ve seen it argued both ways that allowing them grenades would make them overpowered, and that a dedicated assault unit without assault grenades is pointless. As ever, being able to see both points of view leaves me sitting somewhat on the fence, and in essence it becomes a question of the style of force you want to put together. If you want a list with a string of units that each specialises in narrow areas of expertise, then the Incubi fit into that mould – they’re ideal for taking down heavily armoured units of expensive elite troops in the open – they vary from average to a waste of points against anything else. If you want a generalised take all comers list where each unit is able to provide at least some level of threat to opponents, then Incubi aren’t for you.

Conclusions: Incubi are a great unit that operates within a very narrow set of targets, they don’t really have much in the way of upgrade options, but then as they’re so good against their ideal opponents they don’t need them. The most obvious issue is the lack of grenades, however I think that to provide them with that option would see them taken in large numbers in all lists, and that’s not something that’s healthy for game balance to my mind (I get very annoyed when I see spam lists, and have a personal rule that I never take more than two multiples of any unit, except troops where my limit is three). They do have one serious bonus, which is that the models, as with most of the Dark Eldar range, are gorgeous and I’m currently converting up a Klaivex with demiklaives as an option for my unit.


Well, never was there another unit that so desperately needed an update as this one. I fielded Mandrakes once – as it happens they managed to take down a Tau battlesuit commander and his bodyguard, though that was more an issue of my opponent making a mistake than because they were good.

So the Mandrake profile. Uninspiring quite frankly – an extra point of strength and an extra attack over a kabalite warrior, though with no armour save of any kind and only a single close combat weapon. The nightfiend sergeant upgrade has the usual extra attack and extra point of leadership. So as fragile as we’ve come to expect (if not more so) albeit stronger, and with more attacks. As for special rules, the Mandrakes cause fear, are fleet, can infiltrate, move through cover, ignore stealth from night fighting, take advantage of the power from pain table, and crucially, have both the stealth and shrouded special rules. What that means is that even in the open, they have a 4+ Cover save, and behind just about anything that provides cover that improves to 2+. Their main basic weapon however is now the baleblast, which was previously only available once the mandrakes had gained a pain token. To be honest, this is a pretty good weapon, it’s medium/short range at 18” but the same strength as a bolter and with an AP 1 point better than that staple of the 40k universe, and it also comes stock with 2 shots at full range and the soul blaze rule for minor niggly fun.

The Mandrakes are completely without upgrades for the unit however, with extra models and the nightfiend being the only options available.

Conclusions: Similar to the Incubi, the Mandrakes work on a very specific type of target, with Fire Warriors being the first option that springs to mind (along with Imperial Guard veterans etc, basically anything T3 with a save no better than 4+). This leaves a full unit of Mandrakes giving a particularly decent performance against such targets, whilst being particularly difficult to shift against anything that doesn’t ignore cover. The Mandrakes are unlikely to win you the game, but against the right target and with the right protection and used correctly they will make themselves into a real pain for your opponent so that they over concentrate on them. They’re also a pretty good counter unit to enemy infiltrators, which are rarely better armoured than that.


Ok so in statline terms, the Wracks are a point tougher than Kabalites, with a point less Initiative and a worse save. Basic unit size is five, and can be up to ten, though at a greater cost than the warriors (by two points per model). Of course, the big bonus is that they come with feel no pain from turn 1, and two poisoned close combat weapons. So they’re slightly tougher than most kabalite warriors, though not significantly so given the unit sizes.

In terms of wargear those poisoned weapons are their main equipment, as they have no stock ranged weapons. They can take either dedicated transport, and as ever one model can be upgraded to a sergeant with the usual extra attack and leadership. For every five models, one can be equipped with a special weapon, in the form of either a flame template weapon with the strength of a lasgun and random AP, or the brand new ossefactor – a 1 shot AP2 weapon with fleshbane and a neat little special rule that means that any unit that takes casualties from the gun, suffers an additional D6 hits that wound on a 4+. Neither weapon is really reliable, though both have their advantages. The acothyst (sergeant) can also take the liquifier (template), a fleshbane pistol or a sniper rifle.


The irony of the wrack units is that the biggest threat they pose an enemy, is from those gun upgrades, not their basic weapons. Sure, with paired poisoned close combat weapons they pose a decent threat to tougher units without good saves, and Monstrous Creatures where they’re not used in multiples, but in terms of sheer number of attacks and damage potential, they’re not really up there with the best assault units.