Bringing Back the Bad Guys, Part 2: Drukhari

by Kenton Kilgore

Time for a long-overdue look at the latest codex for one of my favorite armies, the Dark Eldar….errr, Dark Aeldari….errrr, the “Drukhari.”  I’ve been collecting them ever since the 3rd Edition boxed set came out more than 20 years ago (!), and I’m pleased to see them going strong.  So, if you haven’t already explored the Book of the Death Twinkies, let’s see what they have going for them.

I won’t discuss everything in the new codex, only stuff that jumped out at me and went “Boo!”  Mostly, I’ll be comparing the codex with the Index version that came out at the beginning of 8th (has it really been almost two years?), but sometimes I’ll mention codices from previous editions.  I’ll talk about what I like, what I dislike, and what I’m ambivalent about.  Off we go!

WHAT I LIKE, AND WHY

Lower Power Ratings.  If you use Power Ratings in your games, you’re going to love the fact that almost every Drukhari unit has gone down, usually by 1 point, sometimes by 2 (for more costly units like Reavers and Hellions).  Even heavy hitters like the Talos and the Ravager are ranked 1 less.  What’s not to like?

Lower point costs.  Hand-in-hand with the lower Power Ratings, almost everything’s cheaper in the codex than it was in the Index.  If, as I do, you like to field a lot of units, there are considerable savings to be had.

For example, Kabalite Warriors, previously 7 points each, are now 6 points each, so a maxed-out squad is 20 points cheaper.  Multiply that by four or five squads, and you don’t have to be a math major to realize how good that is.

Wracks and Wyches, your other Troop choices, are also 1 point cheaper per dude.  Some of the pricier Elites and Fast Attack choices have had deeper cuts: Incubi are 2 points cheaper, as are Scourges; Hellions are 7 points less.

Some units have had huge drops in points.  A Succubus is 22 points cheaper; Sslyths and Ur-Ghuls 17 and 15 points less, respectively; Beastmasters down 20 points; Reavers a whopping 11 less each.  Heavy Support choices, always costly, have been cut, too.  The Cronos is 37 points less expensive; the Ravager is 15 cheaper; the Talos -13.

And huzzah!  Raiders, the backbone of many an army, are 30 points cheaper with no dropoff in performance. Venoms, 10 points cheaper, as are Razorwing Jetfighters; Voidravens down 14 from what they were in the Index.

I’m not a fan of special characters—what’s that? We’re calling them “Named Characters” now?  Whatever.  If you like them, then you’ll be happy to know that they’re all less expensive: Drazhar by 20 points, Lelith by a whopping 45 points, and Urien by 22.

True, Archons have gone up, from 54 to 70.  I can handle that.

Weapons for Warriors.  The Index said that Kabalite Warriors could have either a dark lance or a splinter cannon for every 10 dudes, and a shredder or blaster in any group, or up to two in a squad of 20.

Under the codex, Warriors still can have up to two heavy weapons, but now, every 5 of them can have a special weapon.  So, a squad of 20 can have, say, two splinter cannons, and four shredders.  Did I mention that splinter cannons are 5 points cheaper, while dark lances and shredders stayed the same points cost?

True, blasters have gone up two points, but now they’re Damage d6 instead of d3—as are blast pistols (which still cost 10 points, btw).  Two points more for more damage?  An enthusiastic “Yes, please!”

Wyches.  Longtime Dark Eldar players like me remember very well when Wyches were just garbage.  I still prefer Warriors, but now, Wyches no longer suck.

In addition to being 1 point cheaper than the Index, as I mentioned, they have an extra Attack, a 6+ invulnerable save even when they’re standing around in the open (still 4+ in the Fight Phase), and their happy Wych Cult weapons (razorflails, shardnet/impaler, and hydra gauntlets) are as good as or better than they were before.  Add some Obsessions, and they make me all tingly.

 

Obsessions.  So, what are those?  If you have a detachment made up of only units from the same <Kabal>, <Wych Cult>, or <Haemonculus Coven> keyword*, you can give your guys nifty bonuses to reflect certain fighting styles.

*Drukhari Beasts and Incubi don’t count against this, as they’re “Blades for Hire.”  So, yeah, feel free to throw in a Beastmaster.

My favorite Obsessions, which I’ll use for my Drukhari army, are:

  • Kabal Obsession: The Serpent’s Kiss.  Re-roll wound rolls of “1” made for melee weapons and Poisoned Weapons used by models with this Obsession.
  • Wych Cult Obsession: Only The Strong Will Survive.  Increase the Strength characteristic of models with this Obsession by 1.  In addition, when a unit with this Obsession fails a Morale test, only one model from that unit must flee.
  • Haemonculus Coven Obsession: Connoisseurs of Pain.  If a model has this Obsession, the invulnerable save conferred by its Insensible to Pain ability is increased to 4+.

Why, no, these don’t cost any extra points, and yes, they stack with Power From Pain and combat drugs. So, Wyches with Only The Strong Will Survive and the drug Grave Lotus would have Strength 5.  Yeah, pointy-eared, spindly Death Twinkies with Strength 5.  Whodathunk?

The Raiding Force rule.  You might ask, “I want to use the Obsessions, but how viable is it to field a whole detachment of say, only <Kabal> units?”  Or you may wonder, “How am I supposed to take advantage of Obsessions when my existing army has a mix of <Kabal>, <Wych>, and <Haem> units?”

Fret not, Froggy: Wicked Uncle Kenton will explain.  The Raiding Force rule encourages you to take lots of Patrol Detachments in your Battle-forged army.  As we know, Patrols tend to be on the small side:

  • 1-2 HQ
  • 1-3 Troops
  • 0-2 Elites
  • 0-2 Fast Attack
  • 0-2 Heavy Support
  • 0-2 Flyers

Depending on the point value or Power Rating of your game, it’s usually fairly easy to have two, three, or even more Patrol Detachments, each dedicated to a particular <Kabal>, <Cult>, or <Coven>.

“Yes, but what does that get me?”  Thanks to Raiding Force, you get +4 Command Points for having at least three Patrol Detachments, or +8 Command Points if you have six or more Patrols.  How ‘bout that?

Stratagems.  With those extra Command Points, you can purchase lots of dirty tricks that Drukhari have been known for no matter what they’ve been called.  If you’ve enjoyed using webway portals in the past, they’re now a Stratagem, as is Screaming Jets to deep strike vehicles (you can’t use both Stratagems in the same game, though).

Other Stratagems include Enhanced Aethersails so your Raider or Ravager can add 8″ to its Move when it Advances; and Crucible of Malediction for dropping mortal wounds on pesky psykers near your Haemonculus.

There are a bunch Stratagems usable only by particular Kabals/ Cults/ Covens.  For example, the Kabal of the Black Heart has Agents of Vect, which allows them a 5 in 6 chance to negate whatever Stratagem your opponent decides to play.

Speaking of Supreme Overlord Asdrubael Vect….

WHAT I DON’T LIKE, AND WHY

Fluff.  This codex kisses Vect’s ass more than American sportscaster Jim Nantz kisses Tom Brady’s.  As depicted in the latest version of the background material, Vect is the ultimate Evil Mary Sue, able to outwit, outfight, out-backstab, and out-everything his enemies, Drukhari or otherwise.

Why, even when it looks like he’s dead, it’s just a trick so he can get all of his rivals and supporters in one room, then kill them all!  Ooooh, he’s awesome!  Like Legolas in the LOTR and Hobbit movies, but even super cooler, cuz he’s EEEEEEEVIL!

 

Oh, FFS.  Gimme a break.

Artwork. Ordinarily, I’m a big fan of the artwork in the codices, but there’s just something…off about a lot of what’s in this book, especially the depictions of individual Drukhari characters on pages 18-39.

If they were photos, I’d say they had some sort of Instagram filter applied to make them blurry, slightly out of focus, and fuzzy around the edges.  YMMV, but I just don’t care for them.  Like so:

…and so:

See what I mean?

No Reaver jetbike for HQ.  You can put an Aeldari Autarch, Farseer, or Warlock on a jetbike, but you can’t mount up an Archon or a Succubus.  Because, you know, that might make them awesome, and apparently, only the Goody Two-Shoes Pointy-ears are allowed that.

No new units. When was the last time the Drukhari received any new toys?  2010, IIRC, back in the 5th Edition days, when the Razorwing Jetfighter and the Voidraven Bomber debuted.  Yes, Forge World has the Tantalus and the Reaper.  No, I don’t care.

WHAT I’M “MEH” ABOUT

No more Trueborn or Bloodbrides.  Under the previous codex and the Index, Dark Eldar had elite Warriors who could bring additional shredders and/or blasters.  The Drukhari also had elite Wyches, each with +1 Attack and Leadership.

Am I sad to see them go?  Sure.  I used to load the former into a Venom or Raider, and really put a hurt on the enemy.  The latter nicely made up for Wyches’ inadequacies.  Can I live without them?  Sure, because Warriors and Wyches have improved.

CONCLUSION

Like the other codices I’ve read and acquired, it’s mostly about the Stratagems and point cost reductions.  In the case of this codex, however, the Obsessions alone make the book worth buying.  I’m itching to write up some lists and get my Death Twinkies Dark Eldar Drukhari back to the battlefield.

All images copyright Games Workshop 2018

When he isn’t playing or blogging about 40K, Kenton Kilgore writes kickass SF/F for young adults, and adults who are still young.  This Wasted Land, his latest novel, is not your typical teenage love story.  It’s more like:

  • Boy meets Girl;
  • Evil Witch takes Boy;
  • Girl goes to get Boy back.

He is also the author of Lost Dogs, the story of the end of the world as seen, heard–and smelled–by a dog.  His first novel was Dragontamer’s Daughters, like Little House on the Prairie…with dragons.  With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature.  

Visit kentonkilgore.com, and follow Kenton on Facebook for frequent posts on sci-fi, fantasy, and other speculative fiction.  You can also catch him on Instagram.

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