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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Eldar Codex Review Part 20: Pathfinders & Rangers


It's been a while since I've touched this I'm back to finish it off ^^. We've got mostly the Fast Attack and Heavy Support choices and then anything people want reviewed from Forgeworld books (which have not already been done) I'll lend a post to as well. Before we get to that though, let's finish off the Troops with the last choice not covered - Rangers.

The Review -

Rangers, and Pathfinders, are essentially the Scouts of the Eldar army. They have the usual assortment of infiltrate, stealth, move through cover and scout special rules which makes them great at finding locations outside of your usual deployment zone, sitting in cover and being hard to remove. Because they are Troops this also means they are scoring and with the ability to go to ground for an effective 2+ cover save, they aren't exactly easy to remove considering their points cost. Beware of flamers though!

Beyond this, the application of Rangers are limited however. They do have BS4 thankfully, so they are actually capable of reliably putting some hits down unlike Space Marine Scouts but they cannot carry any other weapon choices and aren't exactly super cheap and if anything can bypass their cover save, Rangers are very fragile. Their gun is quite nice though - the usual Sniper Rifle but with AP1 options. This makes them decently usable against anything - they can potentially pin infantry, hurt tougher targets and Rend against tanks (where the AP1 can come in quite handy). They aren't going to do any of this super reliably though, particularly for their cost. In this regard Rangers are basically a scoring paperweight which are quite durable for their points unless the right weapon type is brought against them. They can contribute to the game but shouldn't be relied upon.

The Pathfinder upgrade is certainly a useful option. At five points a model it makes them quite a bit more expensive but allows the unit to have a 2+ cover save without going to ground - useful as you will continually have movement and shooting options. Furthermore, they get the AP1 bonus twice as often as your regular Rangers (i.e. 50% of their hits) - nice but not a deal breaker.

Potential Uses -

Rangers really have two uses - cheap scoring unit and disruption. With their ability to infiltrate and gain an excellent cover save, Rangers/Pathfinders make an effective backfield scoring unit which your opponent has to dedicate an inordinate amount of firepower to take down (unless he can bring the right weapons to bear). Infiltrate allows them to deploy outside of the deployment zone and take objectives earlier in the game and force the opponent to deal with them in some way or allow the Eldar army a free objective. In non-objective games the ability to infiltrate+scout a speed bump/bubble-wrap unit further up the board or in a flanking position holds a lot of tactical advantages.

Remember, their damage output is not something to be relied upon but it can be useful - they can shoot at nearly anything and have a potential effect. If the enemy gets close to them though, expect to die. They are terrible in combat and short-ranged firepower can overcome their 2+ cover save pretty easily due to T3.

Their main source of competition here is the Guardian Defenders as backfield scorers. Guardians do have access to a heavy weapon, more reliable Leadership with an Embolden Warlock, more bodies and a lot more firepower if the enemy gets close but are only getting the bog standard 4+ cover save (3+ when going to ground). Both of these options have their strengths and weaknesses though with 2+ cover save potential and the ability to Infiltrate into more advantageous positions, I would generally give the slight nod to Rangers if looking to take such a unit.

Potential Changes -

Either a price drop or increase in abilities - perhaps both. Rangers being able to pick where their wounds go would be excellent but I'd be capping this unit at a maximum of five if this were the case. The ability to take a lot of models with this ability would just be silly but as a bit of utility and added bonus against infantry for small squads, it would work wonders to increasing their damage and disruption output. Improving the Pathfinder statline as well wouldn't be a bad thing, BS5 would make perfect sense.

A case could also be made for simply removing the two distinct unit concepts and mesh them together - higher overall cost but the unit is always going to be X good. Making their guns always AP1 could help remove the randomness from the unit as well (but still keep the Rending so they aren't super reliable at dropping tanks).

Conclusion -

Rangers & Pathfinders don't offer much offensively - they can and will do some damage to nearly any unit the game over six turns but aren't going to be relied upon to destroy things left right and centre. They have too many dice rolls to get through to punch through tanks reliably and not enough shots to drop infantry units in a timely manner. They are however quite durable for their points which makes them great at sitting on objectives or disrupting the opponent with non-normal deployment options where they can pepper the enemy with their paltry firepower but help the Eldar army achieve mission objectives.

Improving their firepower or abilities to impact the enemy are ways to make Rangers see more use outside of a pretty paperweight. Improving their reliability against infantry & tanks with improvements to ballistic skill and continuous AP1 are steps in the right direction but further changes wouldn't be amiss. These could move them more into mainstream units rather than a cheap tag-along as an extra scoring option.

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