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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Guest Article: Dark Eldar Arcane Weapons of Choice

Christopher Walken, Space Marine goo and The Template of Doooooooom!

General Smooth here, it’s been a week now and I haven’t wet my bed yet so I think it’s safe to write again.

I want to talk about three arcane weapons available to Dark Eldar coven forces. The 36 inch insta-removing-from-play hexrifle, the insta-remove-from-play-template shattershard and the d6-for-ap template liquifier gun.  I’ve got to say I cackled a little when I first read the rule for these bad boys and yes sooner or later, they ARE gonna come for you.

Hex Rifle

So let’s get stuck straight in the Hex Rifle. It is a standard sniper rifle which wounds on 4+ and rends on a 6, except it’s an assault 1 weapon and is fired by someone who can actually aim (i.e. BS4). Sniper rifles aren’t the best weapon in the world but they can rend and damage vehicles right? It’s true – I’ve blown up rhino’s with scout snipers, really!  Where this baby gets interesting is once you have inflicted an unsaved wound you roll a characteristic test against their wounds characteristic. If they fail they go mad and are removed from play. So yes – you, 4 wound Mr Lysander on a 5+ are history, ditto Mr. Demon Princes. Nice eh?


Two key questions about any weapon. Who do you give it to and whom do you target?

Let’s look at this weapon’s ideal target. To gain the most advantage from the Hexrifle remove-from-play ability we want to be targeting models with lots of wounds, n’est pas? Remember a roll of 6 always fails so even W6 monsters such as Tyranid beasties can fail. However this isn’t very likely so let’s look at some models with 4 wounds. On average it will pass 2 out of every 3 tests. So on average we have to wound it 3 times to remove it.  So this means….Oh! it already has 3 wounds gone (on average) before I remove it from play so all I did was -eh -  remove an extra wound. The maths keeps going this way. On average, 3 wound characters they will fail 1 out of 2 tests, meaning that (on average) we need to  wound them (on average) twice to get a remove-from-play result. OH they only had one wound left anyway. This facet of the weapon stops me in my tracks and is why the initial two week popularity of the weapon in back field wrack units died away very quickly. That and the fact it doesn’t easily wound against most of the multi-wound models I face in tournaments: obliterators (2+ save, 4+ cover save), Daemon Princes (3+ and 5++), Space marine HQs  or characters (3+/2+, 4++/3++  hidden in a squad). It’s not a cheap option in the dark elder armoury with the hidden cost of having to take an acothyst or monc to gain access to it. Had it rended on a 5 rather than a 6 or was 1/3 of the cost and available to wracks rather than having to buy an acothyst then maybe it might see more action. Alas it is the way with many of the more interesting DE weaponry, too expensive just to stick on a squad or character for what it does. You could try and make it effective by building an army around spammed 3 man wrack units and maybe the hellion stun claw ability, but why would you when Splinter cannons do the job much more effectively, efficiently and are useful against a wider range of targets.


Some opponents call it “the template of doom”. It’s a template weapon so you auto hit and probably hit several models. Good start. Then the “models hit” by this have to take a toughness characteristic test. If they fail…..”poof”….. off they go into another dimension.

HOLD ON” I hear you cry.
“Is there no to wound roll?”   No!
“Is there no armour save?”      No!
“Is there no invulnerable save?”     No!
“Is there no cover save?” Template weapon remember? so NO!!!

Yeah…Template of Doom! Feelin’ it yet?

Ok let’s go one step further. You may have noticed that I put models in inverted commas earlier. Not unit or models allocated wounds. The models hit by this take the test. I have heard arguments that this is not how it should be interpreted but I think it is – how many times did phil Kelly say dark elder cheat in the release interviews on the GW site? In the end there is no way of telling. However the rule as written is clear. And this means you can hit characters hidden in squads i.e. snipe! Whatya ya gonna do?

Let’s look at the ideal targets for this. Couple of things to look at here – it’s instakill but avoids eternal warrior so multiple wounds are great. It avoids all saves so those models with good saves are good fodder. It rolls against toughness though so high T models are unlikely to be wounded (though maybe worth a go if you can get several hits). Ok so (on average) half the T3 opponents hit and one in three T4 opponents will disappear. It’s only got 1 shot for the entire game though so you need to make it count.  For me high points targets with either multiple wounds or tough armour save and often assault troops as they will be rushing towards you so will get into range easily. Assault terminators are a great example, forget their 2+, 3++ save.  Throw a template on their heads and on a 5+ their gone. The players I play against aren’t (or rather weren’t) in the habit of spacing out their terminators in case of flamer weapons so 4 or more hits is usually easy to achieve giving you a good chance of one or two kills from one shot. Other examples are those mega-armored nob thingy’s and sounds like grey knights might not like this weapon either. Seer councils would also be good. Anything with particularly resistant saves and t4 or less or relies on their invulnerable save are good targets really.

However, there are problems. The problem with this weapon is really it’s only one shot and requires manouvering to get into range and maximise the effect that single shot can have. Whilst this weapon can still be effective against units such as Space Marines, due to its cost and single shot there are often more efficient ways of dealing with squads.

Liquifier Gun

I love the idea of staring down an 8 foot power armoured chunk of genetically designed warrior one minute and then try like hell to wipe the gunk that is his remains off my shoe. Guess what the liquefier gun can do???

Template so no cover saves, S4 so wounds your bog standard meq half the time. Now here’s the dinky bit. Roll a d6 for the AP. Yup on average half the time you will be getting an AP3 weapon or better and at strength 4 you have a better chance of wounding than the shattershard. OK that’s only half the time, the other half it is a heavy flamer or even worse (which isn’t a bad thing...). One in three times it will give terminators a nervous moment too Terminators without Stormshields. It has four things going for it over the shattershard though.

1)     It cost 2/3 the price
2)     It can be fired as many times as you like
3)     Troops can have it and you don’t even need an upgrade character
4)     You can fire it as many times in a game as you like

That’s why the liquefier gun is my preferred weapon of choice. Being able to take them on bog standard guys as well as HQ characters opens more availability (obviously) which increases their usefulness and viability. Also being cheaper and continusouly useful against a wide variety of opponents makes these guns an excellent all-round. Whilst the Hex Rifle and Shattershard do have some use as utility weapons (as unlikely as it is to down an W6 MC, no Tyranid player wants to see a couple of Haemons with Hex Rifles), the Liquifier is going to find a lot more use due to its accessibility and flexibility. This last bit was by me as Smooth didn't finish the article (or thought it was self-explanatory)! Maybe he'll provide his final comments in the comments section... Hope you all enjoyed.

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