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Just in Time for Halloween: the new Dark Eldar Codex by Kenton Kilgore
Games Workshop continues its accelerated release of new codices for its armies, and now that it's October, we go trick-or-treating with the Dark Eldar in the spotlight (or should that be "blacklight?").  This is the third version of the book: the first was released in 1998 (at the start of 3rd Edition 40K), with a minor update in 2003; the second was published in 2010 (and still holds up okay under the current rules).  As I've done in the past, I'll tell you some of what I liked about the new book (a lot of it), what I didn't (not much), and what I was on the fence about (again, not much). 

Ready to get twisted?  


What I Like, And Why
The Presentation.  We are spoiled--spoiled, I tell you--by how nice the new army books are (yes, I buy actual tangible copies instead of downloaded e-versions.  Don't judge).  Like the other recent releases, this one is hardcover, full-color, with 100+ pages of wickedness.  Interior drawings are darkly gorgeous, including big images on pages 14-19 of armored Warriors from various Kabals.  

Wyches get similar treatment on pages 30-31, immediately followed by a striking double-page spread of more Wyches getting up-close and stabby with Tyranids.  The photo section "Commorrite Raiders" has riveting images of the latest models, my favorite of which are the Kabal of the Flayed Skull with their very dark red scheme, a welcome break from the black, black, and more black that you see Death Twinkies painted in.

Cheaper and/or deadlier.  Pretty pictures are nice, but I shell out my money for the latest rules, and for the most part, they do not disappoint.  Many units became less expensive, pointwise, and more effective.  Example: Kabalite Warriors are one point less, and squads of 20 may have two special weapons--shredder or blaster, neither of which suck--instead of just one (they also may have two heavy weapons--splinter cannon or dark lance--like they did before).

More examples: Incubi are 2 points cheaper, still just as choppy.  Mandrakes are 3 points cheaper and don't have to "power up" with pain tokens (more about Power From Pain in a minute) before using baleblast.  Wracks stay at 10 points, but now have access to an oogie gun called the ossefactor, a 24" S1 AP2 Assault 1 Fleshbane that can easily inflict d6 additional hits on a unit after it takes out someone (with Strength of the additional hits = the Toughness of the first casualty...oh, and it Ignores Cover.  Tee hee!).    

Hellions, 3 points less.  Raiders, 5 points less, and can Deep Strike for no additional cost; Venoms Deep Strike, too, and stayed the same price.  Reavers, 6 points less, and my friend Patrick Eibel might be glad to learn that their tres-annoying bladevanes, which hack-n-slashed enemy units the Reavers flew through in the Movement Phase, has been changed. That's the good news for him: the bad news is that now, bladevanes are a S4 Hammer of Wrath attack, and they Rend as well.  And those cluster caltrops I used in conjunction with the bladevanes?  They do d6 S6 HoW attacks, and they Rend, too.  And Reavers, btw, now Hit and Run.  Chortle!  

Scourges, 6 points less.  Razorwing Jetfighters, 15 points less, and now they're Fast Attack (and still Flyers, of course).  My favorite Heavy Support choice, the Talos, has gone up 20 points a pop and lost its d6 Attacks, settling at 3, but it does comes standard-equipped with Feel No Pain, and you can take three in a slot, for those of us dinosaurs still following the Force Organization Chart.  Same thing with the Cronos, the Talos' soul-sucking cousin.  Squeee like a frenzied tween!

Power From Pain.  The previous codex introduced the idea of the Dark Eldar getting stronger (in the form of gaining Feel No Pain, Furious Charge, and Fearlessness) with each enemy unit killed, which required some recordkeeping to keep track of which units had what power when.  The new version of this rule simply grants the all the eligible Death Twinkie units (pretty much all of them except for vehicles and Monstrous Creatures) abilities depending on what turn in the game it is.  On Turn 1, there's no benefit; Turn 2 gives FNP with a roll of "6"; Turn 3 is regular FNP (5+); Turn 4 is FNP + Furious Charge; all the way up to Turns 6 and 7, when it's FNP, FC, Fearless, + Rage.  And there are a few ways that the DE can gain these powers more quickly, as if the turn was counted as being one or more higher than it actually is.  

Formation and Detachment bonuses.  One such way to jack up the Power From Pain is with the Architect of Agony rule, granted by taking the Kabalite Raiding Party formation, found on pages 96-97.  This formation is well-suited for the more traditional DE army, requiring an Archon and Court; one unit each of Incubi, Scourges, and Hellions; 6 units of Kabalite Warriors; one Ravager; and Venoms or Raiders for all (except the Archon) other footsloggers.  In addition to Architect, the formation grants Hunt From the Shadows, which grants 5+ cover to Warriors and 6+ cover to others while Night Fighting; and you can re-roll the Warlord Traits (none of which are bad).  



I remember when these guys were Heavy Support and the models were ugly

I don't currently own Incubi, Scourges, or Ravagers for my Kabal of the Ozone Scorpions, so I'm unlikely to ever use the KRP formation.  I could, however, use the Realspace Raiders Detachment on page 110, which requires 1 HQ, 2 Troops, and 1 Fast Attack; and allows 5 more FA in addition to the expected slots of +1 HQ, +4 Troops, +3 Elites, and +3 HS. Realspace Raiders also grants Hunt From the Shadows and re-rolls for Warlord Traits.

Warlord Traits.  Speaking of which, they are:

  1. Warlord + all friendly DE within 12" have Fear
  2. DE can re-roll dice when attempting to Seize the Initiative, determine if Night Fighting is used (DE have Night Vision, btw), and when making Reserve rolls 
  3. Warlord has Rage
  4. Warlord has Hatred
  5. +1 WS for the Warlord
  6. Warlord + all friendly DE within 12" are Fearless

My favorite would be #2, especially when paired with the new and improved...

Webway Portals.  I was a big fan of WWPs for a long time: basically, they allowed one to come on the table from Reserve at the point where it was placed, not from one's board edge. Getting one where you wanted it wasn't always easy, and there were ways to negate it, but when it worked, it did so mojo big-time.  WWPs are easier to use now: the model using it, "and any unit it has joined or is embarked upon (emphasis mine, and significant because the prior codex did not allow vehicles to use them) has the Deep Strike special rule" and "will not scatter if arriving from Deep Strike Reserve."

Anyone thinking what I'm thinking?  Deep Striking Raiders + An Archon and/or Haemonculus with WWP on Raider or Venom + Warlord Trait #2 = a Potentially Good Time for the Bad Guys.


Speaking of Archons, is this one actually Yul Brynner?

More choices for Courts and Beastmasters.  Previously, if you wanted to have a Court of the Archon and/or Beastmaster packs, there were mandatory figures you had to include (in the case of the former) and limitations on how of certain figures you could bring (in both cases).  That's pretty much gone now: you can take up to 12 Courtiers or up to 12 pack members of whatever type you want.  And for the most part, they're less expensive and/or more effective, in keeping with many of the other DE units.    

            

What I Don't Like, And Why
Special Characters--or lack thereof.  Long-time Jungle visitors probably know that I have a dim view of Special Characters: in my experience, they're almost always used for what they can do in the game rather than who they are, and while most people are fine with that, it rubs me the wrong way.  It's just an idiosyncrasy of mine.  So it might surprise you that I am actually rather put out that Asdrubael Vect, Lady Malys, and Kheradruakh the Decapitator are missing in action, despite the fact that Vect is discussed in depth in the fluff, and Malys and Kheradruakh are also mentioned.  Nor are there any new Special Characters, such as Archon Vraesque Malidrach, even though his Kabal of the Flayed Skull is featured in the book.

To be fair, old favorites Lelith Hesperax, Urien Rakarth, and Drazhar are still here, all of them MUCH less expensive (-25 points, -50 points, and -40 points, respectivelyy).  But gone are more recent favorites Duke Sliscus, and Baron Sathonyx.  Not that I'll miss them, but I know a lot of folks will.    





Long-time Jungle visitors know I have a thing for redheads...



No new units.  When their latest book was released, Chaos Space Marines received Forge- and Maulerfiends, Mutilators, Warp Talons and Warpsmiths, and the now nigh-obligatory Heldrake.  Tau got the Cadre Fireblade and the Riptide; Eldar gained the Crimson Hunter, the Hemlock Wraithfighter, and the Wraithknight.  Space Marines were gifted the Hunter, the Stalker, the Stormtalon and -raven, and two varieties of Centurions.  Tyranids brought with them the Haruspex, Exocrine, and Hive Crone.  The new Ork codex featured three kinds of Flyers, the Stompa, and the Gorka- and Morkanauts.  

So what new horrors do the devious Dark Eldar have to bedevil the galaxy?  Nothing, nada, zilch, bupkis.  Yes, as I mentioned, that many of their units improved, and all the models in the book look great (as opposed to when the Death Twinkies debuted back in 3rd Edition: raise your hand and shudder if you remember how f'ugly the original Mandrakes were). But whom at Games Workshop do the Dark Eldar have to slowly, painfully, inefficiently kill to get some new units?




Batman wishes he had something this cool 


  

What I'm "Meh" About 
The Fluff.  In the past, the GW writers would tend to be either repetitive or too Mary Sue with fluff--or both ("Oh, what a surprise: the army I'm reading about just happens to win yet another impossible victory against overwhelming odds to save the galaxy...again.").  The last few books have been much better in this regard, with Codex: Space Marines probably the best, but with the DE book, they seem to have partially fallen into their old bad habits.  There is plenty of good stuff, with more on Commorragh, the Wych Cults, and the Haemonculi Covens, and I found "The Raid on Bolgrog's World" to be very interesting.  But much of the stuff on Vect and "The Three Ages of the Dark City" gets tiresome fast, with the sterling exception of the recurring mentions of whatever is attempting to claw its way out of the Warp through the sealed and heavily-guarded Khaine's Gate deep within Commorragh....  

Rides for HQ.  Perhaps I'm quibbling, perhaps I'm just showing my age, perhaps I'm just grousing.  While I do appreciate that an Archon may now take a Venom--his own, personal mini-jet--without having to bring a Court along, I still pine for the days when one could put an Archon on a Jetbike and blast him or her up the field with some of his Reaver banditos. Because that, ladies and gentlemen, ROCKED.  And shall I remind you again that Sathonyx--the one HQ in the previous book who came standard-equipped with a skyboard--is no more, and that you can't give a skyboard to any HQ in the new book?  




That is a pretty sweet ride, though...



That's  All Well and Good, But...
...how will the new Dark Eldar fare on the table?  To quote the Ork Mek who first contemplated how to build what would become the Deffkopta: "I got no bleedin' idea."  Yeah, lots of units are better.  Yeah, lots of units are cheaper.  Will that be enough against the Eldar, whom I consider to be back to their badass 2nd Edition form?  Or the Orks, who have wrested away (IMHO) the title of Best Assault Army from the Tyranids?  Or the sure-to-be-nerfed-with-the-next-codex Necron Flying Circus of Night Scythes + Doom Scythes on repeat? 

As that Ork said, "I got no bleedin' idea.  But I'm gonna find out!"  I'm itching to go trick-or-treating with the new Codex: Dark Eldar.  Come back soon and see what candy I brought home....     

Posted October 2014. All images are copyright 2014 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