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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dark eldar: now and then

We saw the signs, yet no one believed them.
Space wolves, blood angels, dark angels, and grey knights were all rumored to be in the works. Forums shot these claims down rapidly - simple rumors, spread by a fevered mind. Games workshop would never spend time on these ancient, outdated, horrible armies.
Then came the day dark angels were updated.
We all know how horrible the codex is now, but back then, their update was a massive step forward.
No longer did you have bizarre stubborn everywhere, overpriced bling, overpriced, very limited terminators, horrible ravenwing, or fantasy'esque stand and shoot flags. Yes, dark angels had a special flag that granted one unit stand and shoot.
In an attempt to further characterize the nerf angels, some new units were even thrown in, and general changes to the force organization chart were implemented here and there. Scouts became elites, but in return for this, one 'special character' made terminators troops, and another turned ravenwing squads the same.

That's all great and expected, right? Wrong.
It's great and expected now, but back in the stone age of late 4th edition, this combination was new and exciting, and many were completely against it.
If you spend a few minutes searching through warseer's ancient records, you'll find long, long ranting threads and posts about the futility of removing opponent's consent for special character usage, force organization changes, and so on, so forth.

Basically, dark angels have always whined, and always will whine, no matter if their terminators drop from 54 points per model, and the codex is rendered completely self-contained in the process. The last one's the big thing, really.
3rd edition forced a silly module-system on the books. For instance, if you were playing dark angels, you needed the big rule book, codex: dark angels, and the 'parent' space marine codex for all the non-dark angels units and bling (hint: it was a huge mess, with C:DA offering access to special terminators, special bikes, special characters, actual special characters, and some minor bling).

"Alright," the internet said. "Dark angels got updated for real, but it's just a fluke. No way are they gonna update the other horrible books from the early Paleozoic era."

Wrong again.
Imperial guard, blood angels, space wolves, and tyranids all got quality books. Basically, this was GW's way of saying 'sorry we screwed you over for so long. Have some 5th edition.'

November 2010, the unthinkable happens: dark eldar are re-released. This isn't a mere update, or a simple face-lift, but a complete reboot of all facets. Even the GW color scheme's been changed to better suit the new faction.
That's what they are, really - a new faction. Very little of the original remains, which is a very good thing.

Maybe you've been playing for ten years - possibly twenty - but you've never faced off against this army. *recalls when he first started playing* I played against DE at least twice a week :P lol. My main opponent for the first two years of 3rd was old DE, and I spent two more with DE as main opponent during 4th.
Certain things are gonna give you massive culture shock. "My god! Anti-infantry and anti-tank in the same units! Transports for everybody! It's like a space marine army with toughness 3, and no power armor! Oh, wait."

Yes, you can make that claim, and it will hold water. Dark eldar are very flexible; their book's filled with quality units, quality gear, quality vehicles, flavor, and lots of character. 'But they're eldar! I feel so dirtied by this! They need to be specialists like the craftworlders!' Eldar are fail largely thanks to their design, and it's something you should expect to see changed in the future.
Even if such things were wanted, the old design isn't possible anymore, because the people responsible for it were all fired over the last two years. Yeah, constant failure and loss of revenue does that.

Obviously, dark eldar don't actually 'play' like marines, but the 'feel' is still there in the background.
Everybody who's not moving faster than bog standard infantry's got access to transports. Powerful, useful, utility transports, that are fairly priced, and ubiquitous across the army.
Most units can be geared for anti-infantry, anti-armor, and sometimes a mix - all as you see fit. Transports further add to this flexibility.
Combat units kill things now. They don't hold all the marines, orks, imperial guard, and their moms up for ninety turns anymore. They kill them. If you want to tie people up, take smaller squads.
Characters are generally extremely flexible, with assault lances, powerful poisoned weapons, tanking abilities, lovely horde-slaying potential, and even actual character assassination as realistic choices. New to the game is the option to combine all of these at the same time - at a price. While ultra-badass anti-everything characters aren't all that great, the option's there, and options are always good to have.

Essentially, the horrible, much lamented MSU build's fully encouraged, but if you want 120 warriors on foot - hey, you can have that. Large squads of feel no pain infantry? Check. 100% combat units? That's doable. Full mechanization? Very yes. Options, options, options.
It's all about the options, isn't it? Why yes, it is. Dark eldar now embody options, and have a more flexible codex than anybody else.

"MORE FLEXIBLE THAN THE SPACE MARINES!?" Big yes. You get a choice of *four* different troops, all completely different from each other, yet competent in their own ways, plus packed with options.

I could waffle more on the potatoes, but you're here for the meat, so let's get to it.
  • Poisoned small-arms, large blasts, blasts, templates, re-rolls for small-arms, and moar dakka, all mean dark eldar now have an actual response to infantry. This is a serious shock for old players, and completely negates the time-tested 'rush them with ork boyz and tactical marines on foot until they're dead'-strategy.
  • Lances still feature heavily, but players who mass them will find themselves limited to a range of 18 inches. This is because acual dark lances are properly costed, so it's blasters all the way.
  • Against dark eldar vehicles, your meltaguns are range 6. Same with guns that want to rapid fire.
  • Vehicles have 5++.
  • Dark eldar gets melta.
  • Cheap and powerful disruption, that happens to be fast attack and troops.
  • If they feel like it, they can spam large blasts and flamer templates all over the place.
  • Flank rape is a serious concern for the opponent now. You don't want 8+ skimmer hulls moving onto your flank, chewing your army up in turns 2 and 3.
  • Actual combat units. Wyches, grotesques, hellions, and reavers all cut infantry to shreds. Incubi threaten heavy- and most elite infantry. For some reason, they're cheaper than they used to be, and fleet.
  • Durability. Lots of dark eldar infantry have feel no pain, and EVERY actual dark eldar unit has the ability to gain it, furious charge, and fearless over the course of the game.
  • Speed. Dark eldar make regular eldar look crippled and sluggish.
  • Leadership. Squad bosses no longer cost peanuts, and few people are gonna splash points on them outside some combat units.
  • Plenty instant kills. No, this isn't a reference to all the strength 8, but the strength 10 and actual instant-death weapons dark eldar can bring. They even get gear that REMOVES YOU FROM PLAY, with no save or ability bail-out allowed. Yeah, just like the much feared and whined on jaws of the world wolf.
  • Characters can be support, killers, snipers, or all at the same time. Archons with blasters? Eat your heart out, shas'el.
  • MSU. MSU everywhere.
  • Classic foot lists are very likely to go extinct shortly after this release.
  • Massive conversion possibilities.
  • The models are so good, they could be considered masterpieces.
Dark eldar are the ultimate proof that GW's cleaned its hands of the old, fail designs from 3rd- and 4th edition, yet isn't afraid of taking chances, or trying new things.
Saying they're the kings of xenos isn't fair. A better allegory is 'xeno space marines.' Multi-part, interchangeable plastic kits. Flexible book. Great models and support. Jes Goodwin and Juan Diaz tag-teaming once more.

Those who don't own a second amy just got something to think about.

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