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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dark Eldar - Aggressive to Defensive


The other half of this series sees the Dark Eldar 2000 point list pitted against a Thunderbubble Marine Mech army (take my Mech Marines 1750 list, drop a Rifle and add 10x TH/SS Terminators). This is a list which is always going to out range the Dark Eldar list and where being defensive isn't really going to be useful. By being aggressive you can therefore hem the Marine list in and bring all of your firepower to bear on Turn 1 and potentially knock out a large proportion of the Marine army.

Once again we've used the same map, deployment and mission from before. We can see our previous example here and the tactical discussion here.


Both Trueborn squads are ensuring maximum field coverage with only minimal arcs of limited fire whilst not taking themselves out of the fight - the Space Marines deploy in these arcs to minimise targets. The rest of the Dark Eldar army splits roughly evenly with the aggressive units (Venoms, Reavers, Beastmasters, Hellions) to the fore and the Ravagers to the rear. Wherever the Space Marine player deploys, the Dark Eldar army will be able to reach.

The Space Marine player deploys in a castle in the back right to limit incoming firepower diagonally across the board and sets up a lot of firepower into the midfield areas where the Dark Eldar list wants to go. TH/SS protect the majoirty of the vehicles from shooting (provide cover) and mass assaults from Hellions/Beastmasters which could cast a number on a parking lot.

The Dark Eldar army is looking to hem the Space Marine army in and maximise early damage by pushing into midfield (the red boxes). By doing this, they have the best alpha strike possible whilst forcing the Space Marines to fight through them to get to the objectives. Rearguard units such as Wracks in Raiders and Ravagers move around the backfield providing fire support and holding rear objectives (yellow box). The Space Marines will look to smash through the Dark Eldar army with mass MEQ bodies and shooting to move into midfield themselves and have access to all of the objectives.

Dark Eldar Turn 1

Here we see everything of the Dark Eldar moving into range (except the Reavers which cannot shoot until next turn). This gives us an extra bunch of Blaster shots from the Warriors or Trueborn if we had them and also brings the Hellions and Beastmasters into play quickly. A hail of poison shots sees multiple Terminators die but every infantry unit is still out of range of their assault range (I did make a mistake though and have the Venoms move just inside their assault bubble). The darklight weapons drop two of the Marine vehicles but also knock several Heavy Flamers off the Land Speeders (which could really hurt the Dark Eldar infantry) and suppress a Razorback.

The Marine player now has a large portion of their Mech damaged in some way and has limited mobility away from their table quarter with 19 targets to deal with...that's a lot. If the Dark Eldar player had been more defensive, the Space Marine player would have less of their mech damaged and have the ability to move into midfield themselves.

Space Marine Turn 1

Because I made a mistake on the Dark Eldar's part, the Terminators are able to get into combat with some Venoms and explode them. I kept it this way because it shows what a couple inches of a mistake can do and it overcomes the poor shooting of the Marines anyway (which saw only a Ravager and Venom die). There was little movement possible for the Marines if they wanted to respond to the Dark Eldar threat and shoot as many targets as possible and this reinforces the hemmed in approach of an aggressive turn. Mass firepower drops a lot of the Reavers which saves the Marines from the threat of AP1 heat lances and the TH/SS are able to overcome the poor shooting and drop a two extra Venoms in combat. The chained explosions hurt the Warriors there a lot.

Despite the heavy losses inflicted on the Venoms and Reavers, the Dark Eldar army still has multiple units capable of hurting the Space Marine army next turn due to their aggressiveness. If the army had been more passive the Space Marine's target priority would have been easier and their mobility would have been less compromised. 

Dark Eldar Turn 2

The Dark Eldar army maintains the aggressive pressure (red boxes) but due to Space Marine mech still being in play, doesn't go all in and leaves some units in 'reserve' (the yellow box). The blue boxes indicate the backfield units again which provide more flexibility for the Dark Eldar army.

The aggressive Dark Eldar push sees more of the Space Marine mech heavily damaged (two more vehicles destroyed, five damaged) and clears the current midfield of Terminators - this gives the Dark Eldar a lot more confidence in close combat with both Hellions and Beastmasters left against only Space Marine Tacticals. The Space Marine army is still pushed back into their corner, particularly with the damage to their mech, whilst the Dark Eldar back- and midfield is solid.

Space Marine Turn 2

The Space Marine army is still tucked up in their corner though foot units try to move out towards the Dark Eldar units. Some lucky rolling helps mass Tacticals see the Hellions off in combat though they will rally later. With the aggressive Dark Eldar units largely accounted for, the Space Marine firepower can start turning towards the Dark Eldar backfield - however, it does so at a greatly reduced rate compared to what it could have been and the Dark Eldar army still has units which can push into the Space Marine's army and pin them in place.


Playing out the game we again get a 2-2 draw though this time after a full seven rounds. This time though based on the NOVA format Dark Eldar would have won based on Table Quarters (3-1 in their favor) with a 8-12 Kill Point advantage to Space Marines. Victory Points was 1340-1442 also in the Space Marine's favor. Once again a very close game despite the Dark Eldar's alpha strike failing rather terribly.

What we see, particularly in the early turns, is the aggressive push from the Dark Eldar puts a lot of pressure on the opposing army early. The Dark Eldar can maximise their firepower by getting everything in range ASAP and overwhelm the opposing army's ability to deal with the number of units. This limits the opposing army's ability to move and gives free reign to Dark Eldar units in the backfield giving the Dark Eldar army a massive advantage in terms of board control.

The downside is of course if the counter-punch is still very powerful (as was the case here with the overextended Venoms) - the attrition rate for the Dark Eldar army is often going to be higher as enemy units are always going to be able to engage something. When the enemy can generally do this anyway...well the aggressive tactic is obviously important as you're not going to win a straight up shooting warfare, Dark Eldar simply aren't designed to handle this.

Because of this, as the game wears on, the Dark Eldar army becomes more defensive as the attrition rate sees all their aggressive units removed but the Space Marine army is so damaged from this encounter and their mobility compromised, shooting is minimal and often sacrificed for greater mobility (i.e. running). If the Dark Eldar player had maintained the offensive pressure, the Space Marine army might have dealt with all the aggressive units earlier or simply tabled the army as everything was within reach.

What this and the other post are trying to show is by using both broad tactical concepts of aggressive and defensive playstyles, the Dark Eldar army is able to adapt on the fly. Most other armies cannot do this as readily as Dark Eldar due to their speed and firepower available - you must use these to your advantage to do well with the army and each game is going to bring a different combination of these if you wish to do well regularly.

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