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Meet the New Eldar, Same as the Old Eldar—A Review of Codex: Craftworlds  by Kenton Kilgore
The latest Eldar codex has only been out for a few months, but with the breakneck pace that Games Workshop publishes army books, it seems like it was a long time ago.  However, we here at the Equatorial Rainforest refuse to be rushed, so we proudly present our take on Codex: Craftworlds. 

As I’ve done in previous reviews—like here, here, here, and here—I won’t go over everything, just the stuff that made an impression on me.  I’ll tell you what I liked, what I didn’t like, and what I was ambivalent about.  Caveat: I don’t play Eldar, but I’ve played against them many, many times (usually with Space Marines).  And since 1998, I’ve owned and played Dark Eldar—that should be close enough, right? </sarcasm>




GW published this because the previous Eldar book was underpowered.
I almost kept a straight face while I typed that



What I Like, And Why
Artwork
.  Let's start with the thing that Games Workshop almost always gets right: the presentation.  This is a beautiful, beautiful book.  The models are some of the best that GW has; the painting is gorgeous, with varied color schemes (I got AWFULLY tired of red after going through Codex: Khorne Daemonkin); and the layout is terrific.  So while we're on the subject of art...

Color scheme guides.  The artists have provided full-page, full-color illustrations for Warlocks, Guardians, and vehicles of each Craftworlds, as well as for each Aspect Shrines.  While keeping the traditional color schemes and patterns that long-time Eldar players are used to, they have also introduced way-cool variants: my favorite is probably the white-gray-purple camo combination on the Alaitoc Guardian on page 62.  Aspect Warriors have less variation--they maintain their basic colors--but they're still interesting.  

Other Craftworlds.  I'm very happy to see that the minor Craftworlds--Altansar, Yme-Loc, et. al--get some love.  I've actually played against Lugganath Eldar, and it was a refreshing change.  It's nice to see something other than the "Big Five" of Saim-Hann, Biel-Tan, Iyanden, Ulthwe, and Alaitoc.

Illic Nightspear.  Speaking of Alaitoc, I also like the new (or, at least, new to me) Special Character, a super-Ranger.  I don't know if I'll ever see him on the table in place of Eldrad or a Phoenix Lord, but one can only wish.

Almost all the units are awesome.  The Eldar have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to units one can field.  I flipped through the army section, read each one, and almost all of them are excellent and can be made even better (more about that later).  Some are even too good, considering what they cost and what they can do, but Eldar players will certainly not complain about that.  If you put a shuriken pistol to my head and made me pick a single unit to base an army around, I'd go with Windriders (Jetbikers) + Warlock, with shuriken cannons a-plenty. 


These guys don't suck, either

Toned-down Wave Serpents.  Oh, come on, Eldar players: you knew that party wouldn't last.  I'm talking, of course, about the Serpent Shield, which was far, far more useful as a weapon (and a game-breakingly good one, too) than it was a defensive system.  IIRC, it had a 60" range, d6 shots, S6, ignored cover, etc., etc--if I'm foggy on the details, it's because I was too dazed while grabbing handfuls of models off the board each turn.  Similarly annoying was the bit where if the crew hit with the scatter laser (which, OF COURSE they would, given the number of shots and their BS 4), all the other weapons were twin-linked--including the shield.  No one who doesn't play Pointy-Ears of the Goody-Two-Shoe variety is going to shed any tears about Wave Serpents being thwacked with the Nerf bat.

Distortion weapons.  Of course, when one door closes, another opens.  There's nothing quite like multiple units walking around with multiple Destroyer guns.  Because anything with the word "wraith" in its name wasn't quite scary enough.  Which leads me to...

The Wraithknight.  Ye gods and little fishes, is this thing a monster.  Before the 'knight came along, canny players knew that the key to dealing with anything with "wraith" in its name was to simply stay away from it.  That was fairly easy to do against 'guard (provided they didn't have a Serpent).  Against 'lords, one suffered the potshots from their heavy weapons while concentrating one's energy on crushing the low-Toughness, mediocre-to-poor Armor Save portion (a significant one, of course) of the rest of the Eldar army.  

But just as the Dark Knight changed things, so too did the Wraithknight.  Good luck staying out of range of its standard-issue D-weapons, especially when the bad boy can Jump (the only Gargantuan Creature I know of that does so).  In the Rogue Trader days, one could put jump packs on one's Dreadnoughts, and even back then, I thought that was off the chain.  I hadn't seen anything yet.  I don't know how much 'knights are supposed to weigh according to the fluff, but you could probably light up Las Vegas for a century with how much energy it takes to have one repeatedly bound over trees and buildings in a battle.

The Aspect Host Formation.  What?  Were Aspect Warrior models not selling?  Were the game designers high when they came up with this?  Or were both scenarios true? 

Game Designer #1: "Hey, Aspect Warriors are awesome." 

Game Designer #2: "Yeah, but you know what would make them MORE awesome?  Let them add +1 to their Ballistic Skill or Weapon Skill."

Game Designer #1: "Yeah, and let them do it for free!"

Game Designer #2: "But we don't want to unbalance--" [air quotes, wink-wink] "--the game.  Make 'em have to take an Exarch."

Game Designer #1: "Oh! What a hardship!" [dripping with sarcasm as he puts back of hand to forehead]

Game Designer #2: "And you can take up to three units in each Formation!"

Game Designer #1: "Who doesn't like 30 Dark Reapers at WS 5?" [chortle]

Both: [uncontrollable laughter]

The Dire Avenger Shrine.  If I'm playing Biel-Tan, I'm glomming on the Host Formation and this one.  Lest the Dire Avengers miss out on the fun, they may also have +1 BS; may re-roll failed Morale, Pinning, and Fear checks (like the Aspect Host); and once per game, their avenger shuriken catapults may fire 3 shots each instead of 2.  All, of course, for free. 

 

What I Don't Like, and Why
Bladestorm is B.S. 
Speaking of shuriken weapons, I was dismayed to learn that nothing has been done to tone down the best basic weapon in the game: the catapult.  Sure, it only has a 12" range, but that doesn't mean much when you can move 6", run a guaranteed 6" (thanks to the Matchless Agility conferred by the nigh-obligatory Craftworld Warhost detachment), fire two shots (S4 and BS 4; see below), and have them basically Rend on 6's "to wound" (it's even worse when one considers Dire Avengers with their catapults [18" range!] and the Dire Avenger Shrine Formation).  My Dark Eldar Kabalite Warriors would love to have shuricats--and bear in mind, that splinter rifles (24" range, Rapid Fire, 4+ Poisoned), which come standard-issue for Warriors, don't suck at all.

All of which leads into my next point: Guardians are still too good.  Defenders, that is: why the hell would you take Storm Guardians (one of the few poor units in the book)?  For 9 points a pop, you get up to 20 dudes packing shuriken catapults (with all the bennies I listed), buffed by a Warlock, and backed up by a heavy weapon--what's not to like? The best advice for dealing with Eldar is "Shoot the assault ones; charge the shooty ones," but be prepared to lose quite a few to Overwatch from Defenders, especially if you're playing low-armor guys like Nids and Orks.  Even Marines need to be concerned.  Not bad for units described as being made up of farmers and liberal-arts majors.

Banshees are still bad.  It's not all the Land of Sunshine for Team Twinkie: Howling Banshees--the bane of all that walked or crawled in 2nd Edition--are still horribleThe game designers threw them a much-needed bone with Acrobatic (negating the need for assault grenades) and the newly-upgraded masks (which cause Fear and prevent the unit being charged from firing Overwatch), but S3 T3 does not impress any opponent more formidable than a Grot.  Yeah, you can jack them up to WS 5 with the Aspect Host Formation, but Marines Loyal or Twisted shrug and then smash Banshees under their armored boots.  Why did they not get Furious Charge?    

If you're going to go the assault route, go Striking Scorpions, for a mere 4 points more each.  Banshees are the Wyches of the Bright Eldar army: which is to say, wretched.  Which reminds me....

Disparity with the Dark Eldar.  Given how much gravy the game designers have slathered all over Eldar, and given how awesome they are at just about everything, how are Dark Eldar not an endangered species?  I'm not complaining that Death Twinkies suck--I think they're great.  But as I alluded to earlier with shuricats vis-a-vis splinter rifles, just about anything the Space Drow can do, the Goody-Two-Shoes do better.  The Dark Eldar currently have no psykers; no analogues to the Phoenix Lords; no Battle Focus; no Rangers; no Wraithguard, -blades, -lords, or 'knights.  


'
Aww, look at them: they're trying so hard, bless their hearts

Yes, Trueborn, Incubi, and Scourges approximate Fire Dragons, Scorpions, and Swooping Hawks, respectively.  Reavers and Windriders are comparable (but I'd give the edge to the latter).  The Eldar do not have Power From Pain, which makes their evil cousins stronger as the game goes on.  But 40k's Vulcans do have Dark Reapers, Support Batteries, skimmer tanks, and the Avatar, which the 40k Romulans do not.            

Also, the Dark Eldar don't currently have Formations, and iffn your army doesn't have Formations, they are at a significant disadvantage.

No Formations for Craftworlds.  And while I'm not a fan of the plethora of unbalanced Formations that the Necron book started and that this one continues, I nevertheless think it's a shame that there aren't any based on typical fighting forces used by Craftworlds.  You know: ones with lots of Rangers for Alaitoc, Windriders for Saim-Hann, etc.  It seems obvious to me, but at least you can do the equivalent by using some of the Formations (Aspect Host, Windrider Host, Dire Avenger Shrine, Wraith-Constructs) or by going Unbound.



 What I'm "Meh" About
The Craftworld Warhost detachment and Guardian Hosts
.  The previous version of Codex: Craftworld Eldar (which came out in either 3rd or 4th Edition) offered a lot of variety: one could, for example, field an army led by Jain Zar and comprised mostly of Howling Banshees (which my friend Yann did).  The current Craftworld Warhost offers some variation, but at its heart are Guardians, War Walkers, Support Batteries, and/or Windriders.  That the detachment grants Matchless Agility makes this an offer almost too good to pass up, so I think you'll see a lot of them. 

Sure, you could run Yann's army by going Unbound, but who's going to?  Yann himself sold them and swore off 40k after rule changes invalidated his collection.  My friend Paul had an all-Aspect Warrior Biel-Tan force--is anyone going to try that?  Or will everyone go Guardian?

War Walkers.  They're not bad: Fleet, Scout, Battle Focus, BS 4, several upgrade options (though there's nothing sad about having two shuriken cannons included in the MSRP).  But they are pricey (60 points + each), on the delicate side (Armor Value 10, 5+ Save, a meager 2 Hull Points), and only come in squadrons of up to three.  They'd be a decent choice if there weren't so many better Heavy Support units: Reapers, Falcons, Wraithlords--just about all of them, really.



Conclusion
If you're an Eldar player, you're going to love this book (if you haven't bought it already).  What nerfing that has been done is more than offset by the new benefits you get, especially from Formations.  If you're not an Eldar player, you better bring your "A" game against them, because there is absolutely no let-up from them: far from it.  The new Eldar have not lost a step--in fact, they may be even deadlier than before. 



Kenton Kilgore is the author of Lost Dogs, the story of a German Shepherd and a Beagle-mix who survive the end of the human world, only to find that their struggles have just begun. Kenton also wrote Dragontamer's Daughters, a young adult fantasy novel based on Navajo culture and belief.  His latest work (with Jungle Guide Patrick Eibel) is Our Wild Place, a children's book about discovering the fun to found exploring Nature.  Follow Kenton on Facebook for daily posts on sci-fi, fantasy, and other speculative fiction.

Posted July 2015. All images are copyright 2015 by Games Workshop and are used for review purposes. 


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Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle