Monday, 2 December 2013

Hands Over Fists: Techmarines 1

So, how has the new edition treated my beloved Techmarines and Master of the Forge?  Not great, by all accounts.  Not great.  They’re not unusable, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not what I wanted out of the unit.  My problem is that I just keep comparing them to the guys in the old codex.  No, not the 5th edition one, the one before that.  A regular Techmarine was a proper veteran, with a minor character statline, and had access to a vast array of technology and other doodads to really kit him out.  Sadly, that version has long since departed, replaced with the relatively watered-down creation we got in 5th ed, without any option of an invulnerable save.  The Master of the Forge was a new character, although he was basically the old school Techmarine with servo-harness standard and slightly better leadership, and the regular Techmarines were just weak.  Yeah, you could give them a servo harness that allowed them to act as short-range weapon platforms and help out a bit with vehicle repairs.  However, with the way vehicles and vehicle damage worked in that edition, you barely ever needed to repair and they took up an entire Elite slot for a single one wound model, which was hardly an enticing prospect for a guy that was weight in at 75 points.  Bolstering terrain was cool, but a Thunderfire Gunner can do that, and you get an awesome gun in the process, so really, why would you, unless you were full on Heavy Supports.  Which I guess was a possibility.
But now, how have things changed.  On the combat side (in my opinion) they’ve got even worse.  This is due to one factor.  The servo-arms no longer provide additional attacks like they used to.  What used to happen is that the Techmarine would get his regular batch of attacks at usual initiative and would get an extra one or two (depending on whether it was an arm or a harness) at Strength 8 and (effectively) AP2.  Now, they are just an AP1 Power Fist.  That’s all.  I was a bit annoyed at that to be honest.  Not only does it have the effect of massively reducing the number of attacks you can get out of them (a bog standard techie would get 2 regular with bolt pistol/close combat weapon and then 1 with the arm, now they only get one total if you want to use the damn thing), but it’s also made servitors less of a threat as they are only hitting at S6.  Not that anyone used servitors, but that’s not the point.  At least servitors are cheap now.
In a straight fight, they’re worse than before.  AP 1 close combat is nice if you need to dismantle vehicles fast I suppose, and now at least it’s theoretically possible to give you Master an Invulnerable save if you go for a hideously expensive Relic to do so.  Also, as a side note, you strangely get the option to purchase a power axe for fifteen points as one of the standard option for the techmarine or master.  This is odd to me, as they can access the melee weapons list, which grants them access to a tonne of weapons including the power axe, at exactly the same points value as listed on the entry.  This baffles me slightly, not only because it seems redundant, but also because the power axe is worse in nigh on every single regard to the servo arm.  It strikes at the same time as the arm, but for less strength and worse AP.  You can get an extra attack by pairing it with the bolt pistol, but if you’re springing for that axe, why not pay the extra 10 points to get the full harness? You get the same number of attacks but with a better weapon plus a flamer and plasma cutter.  Anyway, that’s my bitching out of the way.  I don’t want to be negative all the time, but I really like Techmarines and Masters of the Forge and it’s annoyingly to have them constantly diluted down in combat.
But it’s not all bad news.  Next up, the good things…

Monday, 25 November 2013

Raukaan Roll!

So, the Iron Hands Supplement.  Yeah, yeah, I know it’s technically Clan Raukaan, but for me it’s the Iron Hands book.  Sadly, the dreams of a bona fide Iron Hands Special Character remain but the half formed imaginations of a madman, but at least we get something out of it.  I’ve had a brief look over it over the weekend and I’ll give you guys some impressions.  First things first, it follows a similar format to the other supplements.  A lot of fluff (60+ pages of iPad screens), some army list tweaks (but no new units) and some items to mess around with.

I’m not going to go the whole hog and go through every single item and new rule, for a couple of reasons, but I’ll mention a couple of interesting snippets.  I also (by way of further disclaimer) haven’t been through all the fluff yet, so don’t expect much from me on that score yet.  The inevitable question when dealing with these kinds of things is always the same: ‘Is it worth the money?’  I’m going to be honest and say no.  That’s not to say I regretted my purchase or that I’m not glad I got it, but on an objective scale, it’s not enough stuff to justify itself to the average buyer.  If you’re really into the Iron Hands or Clan Raukaan specifically, then you’ll probably enjoy the background and the rules tweaks and scenarios are nice and flavourful.  Unfortunately, the scenarios are probably going to be the part of the book I’ll get the least out of, as with pickup games and tournaments and the like, I'm probably just going to stick to the basic missions and leave it at that.  I might try to get someone in on them to try them out though, so you never know.
Right, let’s get into some rules chatter.  The army itself has to be chosen from the core Codex Space Marines and the Iron Hands Chapter Tactics (like you’d use anything else, really) and give a couple of unit tweaks.  With Raukaan rules Dreadnoughts (of all ilks) can be chosen as either Elites or Heavy Support, so you no longer need a Master of the Forge to unlock that option.  The other addition is that for each HQ choice, you can have two Techmarines instead of one.  Increase that to three if that HQ choice is a Master of the Forge.  I really like both of these rules, although the tactical benefit they’ll give you is somewhat limited.  Techmarines are expensive for one wound models, man.  The multi-Dread option without needing the Master-tax is nice though.  I’ll probably mess around with a couple of my lists to fit some more Techmarines in there though, because it’s such a thematic possibility, and it’ll look awesome!  The problem I’m finding is that there is always the temptation to load them down with more stuff.  You have your basic Techie for 50 points.  He packs a S8 AP1 power fist attack and a 2+ save, plus his ability to get your transports running again, making him a nice addition to many squads.  But them for another 25 points, you can give him an extra servo-arm attack, a twin-linked plasma pistol and a flamer, plus make him even more reliable in vehicle repair, which (let’s be honest) is a fairly good deal.  But by that point you’ve spent 75 points on a 1 wound character.  Well, at least servitors are cheap, if you want to run that way.  Nevertheless, for theme, there’s nothing better!  I really want to bodge together a hyper Command Squad by attaching a bunch of Techmarines to it.  How awesome would that look?  Ignore the points.  Please.
We get a new Warlords table, and I have to say I really like it.  It runs a nice gamut of abilities, but they are all useful.  A couple of particular note are the result that lets your Warlord repair vehicles even if he’s not a Techmarine (if they can already repair, they get a reroll), and one result that allows you to use the old Chapter tactics rule from 5th and automatically fail Morale tests.  Given the way ATKNF and rallying works now, this is tactically very tasty indeed, allowing you to fall back from approaching assaults and disengage from disadvantageous close combats at next to zero risk to the unit (unless you’re a few inches from the table edge, that is).  A big thumbs up for this table from me!
Special items are interesting.  All of them are Relics recast.  If a character can chose from the Marine Relics, then they have to select from the Gifts of the Gorgon list instead.  You have some very nice items and some ‘eh’ fairly average options, but they all feel good.  There’s a librarian weapon that is essentially a Force Power Fist, a boosted power axe that becomes a power fist on rolls of a 6 to hit and even a helmet that houses a powerful comms system that allows your nearby units to use the HQ’s leadership and even reroll 1s to hit with shooting.  They specify that this item can be used even inside vehicles and building (which seems like an odd distinction to make, as that’s how everyone seems to play aura-effect items anyway).  But unlike the magic banners that become more inspirational when locked up inside a vehicle where no-one can see them, this helmet actually make sense in those terms.  It’s a comms network.  LoS isn’t a problem.  One odd thing about the Gifts list is that there are no restriction as to what you can take other than 'only 1 per army'.  No wepaon replacement, or distinctions as made as to which replace weapons and which do not.  I'll use my common sense on this one, but basically follow the same selection rules as the mainstream codex just to be on the safe side.
My favourite item is probably the Chains of the Gorgon, which provide defensive benefits based on how many time the character is wounded.  The trick is that it become less effective, the more wounded the bearer is, which is not what I would have expected.  It never gets worse than a 4+ invulnerable though.  It does mean that if your character is tooling around with a Command Squad , is wearing this and rolls the right result on the Warlord Table, you can be dealing with 3+ Feel No Pain roll.  Brutal!  I made a character using the regular Space Marines codex and built him for durability and tarpitting.  His name is Leythan Korduskaya, ‘The Wall’.  I think he may be getting an upgrade!  I really want this Mega Iron Council now!
So that’s my initial review of the release.  If you aren’t hardcore about the Xth, then it’s a definite miss for you, but that’s the way of these supplements from what I can tell.  Just know what you’re buying before you buy it.  If it’s just for the rules, I don’t think I can justify it to you.  I’m enjoying it though.
End Of Line.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Hands Over Fists: Ironclad Dreadnoughts

It’s fair to say that in 6th Ed, walkers have taken a bit of a hit with a confluence of the new rules working steadily against them.  Vehicles have got significantly less resilient with the Hull point and with the relative ease with which grenades and bombs can be slapped on them.  Combine that with Smash attacks and the walker situation can start to look very sad.  You may also notice that most of these new vulnerabilities in walkers are confined to assault.  Gunboat walkers are pretty much as viable as they always were.

Given that they are pretty integral to the Iron Hands chapter character and that they’re frickin’ awesome, it was never going to be in question that I would include some Dreads in my new Marine list.  The question was which type of dread.  Your standard one can pack a multitude of weapons and is fairly cheap, with the Venerable upgrade being massively reduced in price (presumably due to the lack of reliance on the Vehicle Damage Table to kill them now).  The Ironclads are back, relatively unchanged in cost and stats from last edition.  In the end (as evidenced by my previous post) I plumped for them instead of the more versatile regular Dreadnoughts.  There are a few reasons for this.

First is that I like assault and think it still has merit and importance in 6th edition, regardless of all the naysayers and the Iron Hands list I arrived at didn’t pack too much of that, so I felt I needed a presence there.  Second, the armour boost on all fronts does a great deal to boost survivability.  It’s now impossible to kill with bolters and shurikens, even from behind and is nigh-on krak-proof in close combat.  Third, is the look of the thing.  I really like the bulked out and armour-plated heft of the Ironclad, and I wouldn’t feel right using a gunboat dreadnought in an Iron Hands list as it notably lacks one key physical asset. A hand. With tanks you can overlook that kind of thing, but ‘Noughts?  Couldn’t justify it to myself.

Right, so that’s the choice of dreadnought, but what about the loadout?  In the end, I ran with dual heavy flamer for the integrated weapons.  I could have gone for a meltagun there I suppose; try for some drop-pod tank killing (now made even easier with 6” disembark!), and ranged tank-killing is one thing may army distinctly lacks.  But I know the curse of the drop pod melta all too well.  I decided to focus on killing infantry and causing more widespread havoc in the backfield.  Also, I like the security of a weapon that doesn’t require a BS roll to hit anything.  They can also be used to blunt horde assaults before they start and clear out heavy weapons teams and firebases from even reinforced cover.  Seismic hammer or chainfist?  Much of a muchness for me really.  I’ve got one of each, although I think the Chainfist is a better performer for killing vehicles.  It certainly looks cooler.  It’s not a hand though, is it?  Everything else is pretty much barebones to cut down on points.

I’ve found them very useful as an intimidation tactic and a way to force my opponents hand.  Even if they fail to cause a single casualty when they turn up, they force a reaction.  Mobile vehicles have to get out of the way, assault troops or point holders have to assault or blockade it to prevent it getting to the firepower units at the back.  At the very least, they need to use firepower to bring the Dreads down that could otherwise be levelled at my scoring units and transports.  Using this, I can force the opponent into a reactive posture from the off and use the free time to manoeuvre my troops to better positions further up the field.  If possible, I can also rid Interceptors and Anti-air units of their crews, limiting the risk to my incoming Stormtalons.  If the Ironclads survive (and are mobile) into turn 2, that’s a bonus.  They’ve normally done their jobs by Turn 1…

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Hands Over Fists 2

So here’s my general game plan for this army.  When it comes to set up, the Master of the Forge goes in with the Sternguard in their Drop Pod and the tactical squads split, the heavy bolters manning some reinforced scenery along with the Thunderfire Cannon and the Centurions. The forward combat squads with Meltaguns and Sergeants start inside the Razorbacks and either hid behind reinforced scenery or ready themselves to gun the engines and head upfield.  The Scouts in their storms normally start on the board, infiltrated far forward.  If I can Scout closer, I do (depending on quantity and disposition of enemy units in their area).  The Ironclads are prepped to go in on Turn 1.  Basically, I start aggressive from the off.  It’s one of the many advantages of Drop Pods.  I try to get as much stuff as I can into the face of the opponent from turn one.  This usually means a combo of combat scouts and Ironclads.  Although they can’t get into combat in the first turn, the wealth of heavy flamers in close is there to target backfield guns and objective holding troops, plus anyone arming gun emplacements.  The Drop Pods are also handy for obstructing fire lines and hampering movement, especially as you can disembark so much further from them now.  Supporting fire is obviously provided by the Thunderfire and Razorbacks primarily and sometimes the tacticals may get lucky with the heavy bolters.

What are the Centurions doing though?  Probably not much in the first turn; the Cannons are woefully short range for that kind of thing.  The guy I bought them from found that they couldn’t accomplish much as they were massive fire magnets and tended to get killed by anti-tank fire before reaching decent weapon range.  So I’m trying a different tactic with them and using them primarily as board control.  Having gone against them a couple of times, I was always anxious about getting anywhere within that 24” firing range and so they seem like an ideal deterrent for anyone thinking about getting rid of my objective scorers.  Plus, the lack of an Invulnerable save seems less of a big deal when you’re tanking with 3+ Cover.  However, I may want to take a more aggressive stance with them and rely on the Ironclads to take most of the high Strength low AP shooting for a turn or two and buy the Centurions time to advance.  Time will tell as to which tactic seems the best use for the big guys.

The big down side with turn one is that most of the time I will probably be giving away first blood.  However, as I see it, it’s a sacrifice that’s worth making if I can strip objectives from an opponent.  Nevertheless, most of the time, I’ve just got to weather the return fire.  The Ironclads will probably die and if I position them wrong, the scout will take quite a few casualties as well.  They’re really not meant to be encountering massed firepower, aiming instead for backfield or outlying units to harry and distract.  The other downside with this initial rush attack is that I have woefully little decent anti-tank in it.  Make no mistake, the Dreads and Scouts can definitely deal with vehicles, but they need to be in assault in order to do so.  My first turn has to be about putting the opponent on the defensive, but also bearing in mind that I need to assault stuff a keeping targets in mind for that next turn.  This has worked fairly well versus more manoeuvrable opponents, as I have enough stuff with enough freedom of movement (or at least a free choice of where they drop) to cover most of the board with threat.

The second turn is when some more punching arrives (hopefully) as I have two Talons and my Sternguard in reserve to turn up and they can provide some effective shooting.  The Talons in particular have managed to achieve a great deal with their relatively cheap loadouts and BS 5 (versus most targets).  Never underestimate Strafing Run!  They are primarily for dealing with light-medium armour that I can’t get to normally, or for deshelling troops inside a transport.  In my last game against the Eldar, the were to blame for three dead Wave Serpents, so they definitely paid for themselves in terms of effect rather than raw points.  Once the Guardians and Aspect Warriors are out of their cans, they are very easy to remove…  The Sternguard are pretty much just as good as they ever were, but a few points cheaper, which is not something I’m going to complain about!  I have different views on the Master, unfortunately, but I’ll save that for a different post.  He can definitely work well, but I feel they’ve taken quite a few downgrades in this new book.  He in there for the fluff and feel of it more than anything.  Plus I really like the conversion I’ve done for him!

I don’t really have much else to write about my tactics beyond turn 2 though mainly because from that point onwards for me, the game becomes about adapting to the battle and the opponent more than any set plan.  Plans 1 & 2 don’t always go to plan either.  Regardless, I am trying to  train myself to play to the objectives, or at least keep one eye on them throughout the game, as ages of DE play made me too complacent in grabbing stuff at the last second and not all armies can keep up with that lack of planning!

I’ll go more in depth into a couple of things from the SM Codex later, mainly focusing on a few rules queries I’ve noticed and the strengths and weaknesses of some of the units I use.

So long!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Hands over Fists!

Right, in the long break between posts, something interesting appears to have happened in the hobby world.  Namely, the new Space Marines Codex.  My general thoughts on this are quite positive by and large, but then again, that’s been a familiar enough tune from me over the last few releases.  I feel the new Marines have not drastically changed, more than been brought into line.  Very few new units; just the Centurions at last count.  I’m not counting the Raven and Talon for that as they were both usable beforehand, but not in the codex proper.

A lot of the changes have been more tweaks than anything.  The biggest of these is definitely the Chapter Traits system which, although not the return to the broad customisability of the fourth ed dex is still very characterful and will encourage each player down a certain route depending on their chosen progenitor chapter.  I initially wrote ‘force’ instead of ‘guide’ in that sentence.  That’s one of the good things about this new system is that it doesn’t feel like it is forcing you to do certain things or create certain armies.  They all have broad advantages that benefit the majority of your army, just are in starker relief and greater effect in certain areas.  That said, let’s go onto my particular (possibly predictable) key focus in this area.  The Iron Hands.  The cold bastards of the Legiones Astartes.

The focus for their Chapter Traits appears to be sheer bloody-minded durability, although in only minor degrees.  I quite like it, but when comparing it to the more offensively aligned chapter tactics it can be easy to think that they’re hard done by.  This isn’t a ramp up to a complaint or anything though.  The Iron Hands traits are very useful, although they are unlikely to come into effect on individual occasions.  The unique thing for the Tenth is that their rules pretty much affect everything you have on the board.  However, the down side is that you need to be lucky for those things to have an effect.  You cannot actually rely on them.  You just have to hope that the dice come up in your favour.  An extra Strength on Hammer of Wrath is inviolable.  Once you charge, it’s there.  Same with Hit and Run, or Relentless.  You can go through an entire game with any of the Iron Hands doctrines helping you at all if you just don’t roll right.  Or you can be borderline indestructible.  Either way, it’s all just rolls on the dice, a fact that will turn many people off using them.

Nevertheless, they are my Legion/Chapter and I’ve naturally devised a list for them, trying to make the most of what they can bring and adding a couple of new things.  May as well let you in on it, as it seems pretty solid.  That said, like untempered iron, I might find them a touch brittle as well.

2,000 points incoming!


Master of the Forge: Xandrei Kimmel – Combi grav, Auspex


Ironclad Dreadnought – Twin heavy flamers, Seismic hammer, Drop pod

Ironclad Dreadnought – Twin heavy flamers, Chainfist, Drop pod

7 x Sternguard – two heavy flamers, Drop pod


10 x Tactical Marines – Meltagun, Heavy bolter, Meltabombs, Razorback with Assault cannons

10 x Tactical Marines – Meltagun, Heavy bolter, Meltabombs, Razorback with Assault cannons

5 x Scouts – Bolt pistols, Combat blades, Meltabombs, Landspeeder Storm with Heavy flamer

5 x Scouts – Bolt pistols, Combat blades, Meltabombs, Landspeeder Storm with Heavy flamer

Fast Attack

Stormtalon – Skyhammer missiles

Stormtalon – Skyhammer missiles

Heavy Support

3 x Centurions – Grav cannons & amps

Thunderfire Cannon

And that brings me up to about 2,000.  It’s not my typical list, certainly not for marines.  I’ve normal been a footslogging guy for them, but this time round I’m experimenting with mechanised.  Let’s see how that goes!  I’ll talk a bit more about my thoughts behind this list and some of my practical experience with it next time.

Good to see you’re still here!

Monday, 9 September 2013

IntrAspection - Maugan Ra

And now we have Maugan Ra, in all his 80s glory. Just look at those shoulder pads! Fethin’ ridiculous, but utterly glorious.

Back in 5th, he held the joint top spot for Phoenix Lords in my mind and also held a rarefied distinction of being a decent ranged special character.  Seriously, there are so few of these around, which is strange given that that it’s the bloody future and all, but nearly all special characters come in the ‘force modifier’ or ‘assault monster’ categories.  There are so few that focus extensively on shooting beyond, y’know, just owning a pistol.  We’ve got this guy, Telion, Illic Nightspear, and a smattering of Tau characters.  No, I’m not counting ‘Tank upgrade guys’.  Just because, that’s why.

Anyway, Maugan Ra has the usual Phoenix Lord stats and rules, so it’s a quality statline to build on.  He pack the typical 2+ armour save of his ilk, but wields one of the coolest weapons in the game (as far as I’m concerned), the Maugetar.  This is an upgrade shuriken cannon with a big damn blade attached to the end.  The upshot is that it fires four shots a turn at 36” range at S6, AP 5 and not only Rends, but Pins as well.  In close combat, it allows Maugan to strike at S6, AP3 which makes him a worthy assault opponent was well.

What special rule have we got going for him then?  He has the usual barrage of Phoenix rules (Eternal Warrior, Fleet, Ancient Doom, etc) but also packs Relentless (pointless as his weapon is an Assault one) and Hatred (Chaos Daemons), which kind of renders Ancient Doom pointless as well.  Yay redundancy!  Joking aside, it’s nice when the special rules tie into a characters back story nicely, and Maugan Ra having rescued his home craftworld from the warp is nice justification for that bit of flavour.  I approve.  His compulsory warlord trait give him split fire if he’s your warlord, which is definitely good for a primarily ranged character.

His Exarch powers are where things get synergistic though.  Night Vision is cool, but unremarkable otherwise.  Just a basic utility power in the right place.  The next two are the fun ones.  We have Fast Shot, increasing the Maugetar to five shots a turn and Marksman’s Eye, allowing him to snipe on 5s instead of 6s.  You are quite likely to get two precision hits a turn with this guy and it is here where he shines.  Try not to try to snipe Independent Characters, but aim for upgrade guys in the squad.  Special Weapons, Heavy Weapons, banner bearers, that kind of thing.  Even his overflow shots can be quite effective in suppressing a squad, although it works better against the non-power armour types.

He helps out other dark reapers (obviously) but will bring more benefits to other ranged squads.  His gun is slightly shorter ranged than the DR standard and will probably want to hunt for different targets as (without the heavy shot upgrade) he’s better at dealing with medium vehicles that his disciples.  That said, he can split fire, so that’s not necessarily going to pose much of a problem.  He could also be a bit of an assault deterrent for backfield harrying forces.  I think he is at his best when accompanying a big old Defender squad.  They benefit greatly from his Fearless rule and he’ll benefit from the ablative bodies in the squad whilst firing at whatever is out of range for the rest of the squad.  He will also get a boost from the Warlock powers, if one of them makes it into the squad as well, so I’d say that would be a good fit.  For a laugh you could always stick him in a ranger squad though!  He’ll get benefits from the Stealth rule and he looks for similar targets, so that’s an interesting little combo.

And that’s pretty much it for him.  He’s a simple guy really, but what he does he can do well.  He’s a hyper-accurate assault cannon on legs and I love him for it!

Monday, 2 September 2013

IntrAspection - Dark Reapers

And on with the next target.  Back when I used to play Eldar, Dark Reapers were a common choice for me.  I would usually take a small squad of them and an Exarch.  The regular Reapers were okay for the odd bit of marine hunting and duelling with devastator squads, but the main reason I took them was for the Exarch.  Tempest Launder and Crack Shot was a winning combo against many armies.  The Tempest Launcher wiped out marine armour (two blasts at S4 AP3) and the Crack Shot allowed a reroll on the blast (and with a BS of 5, it wasn’t often needed) and most importantly denied cover saves.  This was fairly brutal, but it often felt like I had to spend too much on regular aspect warriors to gain the benefit of that one combo.  So, have the Dark reapers shifted for the better in the new Codex?

Well, the first thing that jumps out is the pricing, as with so many of these units.  The Reapers have taken a significant 5 point downgrade in price; undeniably useful for such an expensive unit.  They haven’t suffered for their reduction either.  Much of the equipment remains the same, at least in stat line.  The armour is the same.  The special weapons (missile launcher, Tempest Launcher, Shuriken Cannon) are all the same, with the obvious Bladestorm upgrade to the shuriken. The Reaper Launcher is the same, granting you two shots at S5 and AP3 for your marine hunting.  All good.  However, the launchers have an upgrade option.  For +8pts per model, you can give them a S8 AP3 pinning Heavy 1 shot option, allowing them to far more efficiently deal with vehicles.  What also can help in that regard is a new piece of wargear that the squad get gratis: the Reaper Rangefinder.  With this doohickey, Jink saves can no longer be taken against your shots.  True; a lot of the time, that’s not going to amount to a hillock of legumes, but against other Eldar, bike armies or (best of all), the Dark Eldar, this could be an invaluable asset.

When we approach special rules, we find another nice addition.  The Dark Reapers now have Slow and Purposeful.  The bad news is that this cancels out the tactically flexible Battle Focus and eliminates the chance to fire overwatch, but on the plus side, being able to move and shoot at full effect is a great boon to this unit, for those times when the enemy are hanging around just outside that 48” range.  Other than that, they’re about the same in the special rules department.

But what of the old Exarch?  He still exists, naturally, and follows the standard +10pts upgrade pattern.  Weapon wise you can give him a Shuriken Cannon, a Missile Launcher and the Tempest Launcher (the latter two for a few more points).  However, the skills have shifted a little, as in common for all Exarchs.  Night Vision is available for 5pts.  Very useful for the occasional night fighting scenario, especially as it comes cheap at 5pts and (if memory serves) convey on to the rest of the squad as well.  Fast Shot is here as well and at 10pts is also hard to argue with, considering the ordnance at play in the unit.  There’s not really any weapon option that this doesn’t fit nicely with, although it probably ties in nicest with the Tempest Launcher.  And we also have Marksman’s Eye, which allows precision shots on a 5+.  This has its charms to be sure.  The idea of wiping out sergeants and captains with precision S8 will always be appealing.  To me though, the first two have the edge over Marksman’s Eye for general utility, although you could easily argue that Night Vision won’t come into play as often as Marksman.  Still, it’s a very good line-up of power choices and certainly one of the most easily matched out of the Exarch powers in the codex.

So, in all, they’re a touch cheaper and are capable of taking on many different targets, with the exception of the heaviest armour.  They have more mobility than before and, given the number of bike and skimmer armies hanging around, their ability to ignore jinking is hard to argue with.  On the downside, they are still quite expensive, and still quite brittle, even with the 3+ save.  If you’re going to field them (and there are many good arguments to do just that), you’ll need to position something else threatening to take some of the heat off them.  They should be able to stay out of range of the small arms, but will fall as easily to anything else with the big guns.  And my favourite combo is gone.

Final thought: I like ‘em.  Could have just said that and save myself 800 words, really.  Oh well…

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

IntrAspection: Warp Spiders

Back in the dark days of fifth edition, there were precious few aspect warriors about with exception of the near ubiquitous Dire Avenger Vehicle upgrade.  Not quite as cheap as the Gretchin upgrade, but close.  However, one aspect was eking out a few showings and growing a bit in popularity in my local area, and that was the Warp Spiders.  The Fast Attack section of the old Eldar codex was not tremendously popular, with most things being less than entirely worth the points, especially as Jetbikes and Wave Serpents were as manoeuvrable as anything else you could find there.

Nevertheless, I would quite often see small Warp Spider strike squads.  They were mainly tasked with cracking light vehicles and taking on small isolated squads on foot.  With the speed and trickery of the jump generators and a wealth of S6 weaponry, they had a fairly versatile tool set, but a significant price tag.  In the new codex, one of those things has now been got rid of.  And it’s not the equipment…

Okay, let’s start with the big obvious point.  Much like with the Swooping hawks, the price of the Spiders has gone down by a bit, although not as much the Hawks.  However, this is counterbalanced by the tweaks to their equipment.  They’re packing the normal 3+ Aspect Warrior armour now, although Fleet of Foot is now an option for them. Yes I know it’s a special rule rather than a piece of equipment, but their lacking of Fleet was so often attributed to their heavy armour, I feel the two are close enough linked to one another to warrant mention.  The Warp Jump Generator has been changed as well.  It used to be just another name for a jump pack with a bonus move in the assault phase (which could result in a squad casualty if a double was rolled).  Now however, it’s just another name for a jet pack with a bonus move in the Movement Phase (which could result in a squad casualty if a double was rolled).  See the difference?

All snark aside, this is actually a major change in movement style, resulting in almost unparalleled movement for infantry.  The jet pack ruling reduces the distance in the movement phase to only 6”, but as a payoff allows a 2D6” free move during the assault.  This assault move is now risk free for the Spiders and combined with the ever-useful and tricksy Battle Focus allows for a lot of hit and run style to the unit.  The big jump in the movement phase allows the squad to shift itself 6+2D6” instead, with the usual risk of losing a random squad member.  Using this you average slightly faster movement speeds when you need to book it and if you pack all the speed tricks together, you get a unit that has the potential to get itself 3 feet down the board in a single turn.  Admittedly, as often as that can happen, you could find yourself only moving 11”, but that’s still not exactly slow compared to most of the other units in the game.  Whether or not you want to risk that guy for the burst of speed is entirely up to you, as that casualty could be your exarch, and that could be a bit of a nad-punch.  But that’s really unlikely to happen, right?

The weaponry, at least in stat line, is pretty much the same, but now we have the Monofilament rule, which is kind of like Bladestorm, but has an AP1 on a 6 to wound instead of AP2 (why?).  At least this adds a point of Strength to the weapon if the target has an Initiative less than 4.  Luckily, this includes vehicles, further ramping up the ability of the Spider to take on the light vehicles, especially as AP- doesn’t negatively inflict on rolls on the vehicle damage table now.  In fact, land behind a heavy Russ, and you’ll probably still bring it down with a decent size squad of guys.  This rule makes them excellent for handling most vehicles (given proper positioning) and elites high armour infantry, also kitting out nicely for a bit of monster hunting.  A lot of versatility and manoeuvrability here.

The exarch gets the usual Spider toys, although the twin spinner is now just twin-linked.  It used to be Assault 4 instead.  Shame.  The Spinneret Rifle has taken a bit of an upgrade, benefitting from the Monofilament rule, but changing from Assault 1 to Rapid Fire.  It’s definitely useful to have a long as you’re guaranteed to bust Terminator armour and get a +2 on vehicle damage, but as to whether you want to pay 15 points for that guarantee, I can’t say.  Powerblades are still there, giving the Exarch some AP3 melee strikes and an extra weapon.  20 points is quite expensive though.  If nothing else, I’d be tempted to get another Spider and hope to ride out the combat better until Hit & Running away at the end of the phase, but I can see the benefit of the extra AP3 punch, certainly.

We have couple of new special rules to bear in mind as well.  For a start, Hit & Run is standard now, rather than an Exarch upgrade.  As even a couple of spiders can cause major problems for vehicles, this is a great rule to bear in mind if the opponent tries to bog them down in assault.  Everything else for them is the usual stuff that nigh on all Eldar have now (Ancient Doom, Battle Focus and Fleet).  Now we get to exarch powers, all of which are ten points apiece.  Fast shot certainly has its place, working to its best when combed with a Spinneret Rifle and making the most of that AP1, but is still nice to have for the regular spinner.  Marksman’s Eye is another useful one (again, best with the spinner) as sniping out sergeants and special weapons is a highly useful trait when used smartly.  Combined with fast shot, you are highly likely to get a precision shot every round of firing.  Handy.  Finally, we have Stalker (the reroll to wound on a successful opposed Initiative test).  Personally, I wouldn’t bother with this one.  You don’t want to be in combat and are ideally equipped to either avoid it or escape it.  I’d think about better spends for those points (like either of the other exarch powers).

So that’s the brief run down.  Again, they are very strong contenders for the Fast Attack slot and the only thing stopping them from seeing more play time is the competition they have in that Force Org slot.

Monday, 29 July 2013

IntrAspection: Shining Spears

Now these guys are a bit of an oddity.  They have definitely (bar one particular area) improved significantly from 5th edition, but most of that is down to the edition change rather than the new codex.  Should I just restrict this appraisal to the changes specifically brought by the new dex?  Probably not.  I think it'd be best to address them as a whole and do quick overview on how the new edition and newer codex have dovetailed quite nicely.

Now, I said that they had improved bar one area, and that area combat versus 2+ saves.  In 5th, they could deal with Terminators and the like swiftly and efficiently.  Usually in one charge.  Hitting on fours, wounding on 2s, a smattering of Inv saves and then done.  Sure, the storm shield guys were a pain, but they always are, regardless of what you use to take them down.  But with the new edition changes to power weapons bringing laser lances to AP3 on the charge, that target was denied them and, frankly, it was one of the few targets gave the squad a chance to get their exorbitantly high points back.  At 35 points apiece, Shining Spears were exceptionally pricey.

However, before I go down this road too far, let's quickly go over other things that the new edition changed for them.  The Jetbike rules made it easy to get cover saves and increased speed available with the Eldar Jetbikes could take them pretty much anywhere on the board in a turn.  Difficult terrain tests were far more forgiving as well and the bonus Hammer of Wrath hit was a nice plus.

Now we not only have these improvements to the unit, but also the tweaks given in the codex.  The most noticeable of these is a pretty hefty price drop to only 25 points per model, making them much more affordable.  Definitely still expensive, but able to easier get their points back, having unrivalled manoeuvrability about the field and the ability to take regular power armour to town.  The improved Shuriken weaponry is nice, but if that's all you're after, take guardians.  The lances don't seem to have changed at all, but for one thing, if you look closely enough.  They now have the lance rule in close combat.  This means that no vehicle is beyond their ability to damage (apart from Black Templar Land Raiders, of course).  Now, this is admittedly, unlikely to turn them into a wrecking ball of destruction, but the ability to scratch off the odd hull point here and there really is another feather in their cap, especially as you can shoot the lances before the charge as well.  Let's face it, you don't need to deal many glances to bring a vehicle down these days.

Aside from that, the equipment is pretty much as it was, although the laser lances have lost their Initiative bonus on the charge.  Oh well.  We'll just have to rely on our natural I5 to see us through.  We'll manage somehow...  We do have some new skills to mess about with though.  We've been through Ancient Doom before and Battle Focus is useless to a jetbike (why is it there?  My money's on misprint.), so we'll skip them and move on.  The two new skill that they have now are Outflank and Skilled Rider.  Outflank isn't tremendously useful in my opinion given the speed a jetbike can reach regardless, but I suppose it's nice to have that as an option in case you need it.  Skilled Rider is the big one though.  Previously a fully paid-up Exarch power, you now get this as standard and with the new version of the rule in 6th, it's phenomenal with this unit.  Where it used to give you a reroll on Dangerous terrain tests, it now renders you immune to dangerous terrain and also nets a very neat +1 to the Jink save.  This means that not only can you move the unit anywhere (or thereabouts), they also get a 4+ Cover save provided they moved.  That increases to 3+ when Turbo-Boosting, so stay nimble!

I see the unit very much as a bit of a Dark Eldar unit in practice.  Now, hear me out.  Their modus operandi is about the same.  They use their speed to stay out of trouble and harass enemy forces before leaping in on a weakened enemy unit and finishing them off.  Seriously, given them Power From Pain or maybe a decent brand of amphetamine, and they'll be right at home in Commorragh!  Ignore their name.  They're not a spear, they're a punch-dagger.

We also have the traditional Exarch option for 10 points.  This nets the usual stat improvements and access to skill and equipment.  Equipment wse, you can get a power weapon (eh...) or a Star Lance (oooh...).  We all know what a power weapon does, so let's move onto the fun stuff.  A star lance is like a laser lance, except that instead of dealing S6 AP3 hits, it packs a nastier punch at S8 and AP2.  Glorious!  It keeps the lance ability, making it a very viable omni-killer.  A useful challenger in assaults, seeing as it causes Instant Death for your standard Marine type.  Very nice.  You'd be hard pressed not to take a star lance if you're taking the exarch, especially as its only 10 points.

The exarch powers are also worth a look.  Monster Hunter is there for 5 points, which with the increase of MCs in the game, it could well be a sound investment, although with a star lance, you'd barely need it.  Still, you don't want that monstrous creature alive to hit you back.  We also have Disarming Strike for 10 points, tying in very nicely with his role as a challenge killer.  I've gushed about that skill enough, so let's move on.  The third skill is the best though.  Hit & Run.  I've been a great exponent of Hit & Run since I was running Hellions in 5th, and there's no way I'm changing that stance now!  It becomes even more useful for the Spear given the fact that they can only really deal decent damage on the charge.  Most of the tactics you can use with Hellions, you can use with Spears, so enjoy the ability to escape any fight you want and punch back at your leisure!

The big question here is not whether the Shining Spears have improved.  They have, undoubtedly.  But have they improved enough to oust the Hawks, the Hunters and Spiders from the Fast Attack slot?  The answer, as ever, is really up to you.  I'm definitely curious to test them out though!

Monday, 22 July 2013

IntrAspection: Baharroth

Aaand.. we’re back.  Next up to the plate is Baharroth.

Baharroth is the Phoenix Lord of the Swooping Hawks and has always been a bit hard-done-by as a special character.  In the previous edition of the Eldar dex, he didn’t actually have any equipment (bar the armour if you’re being pedantic) that a regular SH exarch couldn’t get his hands on.  Stat-wise, he’s not any worse, but her wasn’t particularly great at fighting (great statline, but no Inv save and only a regular power sword) and his shooting wasn’t anything in particular to write home about.  I mean 3 S5 shots at BS7 is cool and all, but you could afford an entire squad of Hawks plus an exarch for the cost of the Cry of the Wind.  It’s a shame.  I quite like him in the background, with his oddly ‘buddy-cop’-esque relationship with Maugan-Ra and his accompanying his friend to save his craftworld.  It was neat, but the rules made him unviable unless you were determined to put him in there or wanted to run a Phoenix Court.

Has that changed in 6th?  A bit.  But regrettably, probably not enough.  He’s the joint-cheapest of the Lords (at a pretty hefty 195 points) and comes with a raft of special rules, just like all the other Phoenix Lords.  Ancient Doom, Eternal Warrior, it’s all there.  I checked.  He (unsurprisingly) also comes with the normal Swooping Hawk rules, allowing pinpoint precision on his deep strikes, which is very useful with one of his character-specific rules; Sun’s Brilliance.  When he deep strikes he inflicts a blind test on all enemy units within 6”, which is very nice, although highly situational depending on your opponent’s army.  Nevertheless, if you’re trying to take down some shooty Orks, or the Tau, the one-two punch of Deep Striking and blinding could be used to great effect, cementing a role for the guy at last: that of backfield disruptor.  Best deployed mid-early in the game, when the opponent’s assault elements have advanced and his firebases are relatively undefended.  Drop in, grenade stuff, blind some guys, skyleap away before they’ve recovered.  Similarly in this role, assaulting can be viable option, especially as Hit & Run is part of Baharroth’s repertoire now.

Equipment wise, you’re packing grenades (haywire & plasma), the hawk grenade packs, the 2+ save, the wings and the Hawk’s Talon (Assault 3 S5).  You also have a special melee weapon: The Shining Blade.  It’s not spectacular, as it’s really just a power sword that inflicts Blind.  Again, quite situational, but deployed against the right enemy, very useful, especially when against low I enemy units, as I think the Blind effect will take place before the return blow can be struck.  This will help them tarpit otherwise massively superior assault-based forces and is really handy on occasion.  Even when you’re against Marines, hey, you could get lucky.

Another new thing Baharroth has is Battle Fortune, which means he finally has an Invulnerable Save! Yay! Obviously, you can’t really rely on a 4+ save, but it sure as hell is better than the nothing he had previously.  Overall, Baharroth has definitely taken a step up in usefulness, although I have my doubts he can bring enough whoop with him to account for his hefty price tag.  Nevertheless, he has a viable battlefield role that doesn’t rely on him being absent for half the game, and that’s got to be worth something!

Also, while I’m going through the aspects, I should probably point you in the direction of Rampage’s blog (see the Underlings list on the right).  He’s been going through the Eldar Codex as well, and seems to be covering a broader scope of units, so give him a read if you want a different viewpoint on the same units, or to read an analysis of some of the other Eldar units available.  He’s been known to talk sense (on occasion)!

Monday, 8 July 2013

IntrAspection: Swooping Hawks

The prize for the ‘Most Improved Aspect’ definitely goes to the Hawks in this Codex.  Whereas, my wittering about the Dragons and the Scorpions have been fairly close and guarded, the Hawks’ analysis is going to be positively effervescent.  Just an FYI.

Back in 5th, the Hawks were relatively unused for a couple of reasons.  Skyleap was expensive to attach to a unit and with reserve rules being what they were, the Skyleap/Grenade Pack combo was not reliable enough for cost, and didn’t pack much noticeable punch against a lot of armies given the prevalence of mechanised infantry.  They had haywire grenades, sure, which gave them a valid role of vehicle takedown, for whoever wanted an alternative to the Dragons.  Unfortunately, that was one of their only real roles, as their anti-troop weaponry was lacklustre and they were too brittle for their points cost.  22 points a model was crippling, and even then you needed to pour points into the unit to get an Exarch with Skyleap and maybe a decent gun.  The third reason (for me at least) was the models.  Not particularly bad looking models, but models that were spectacularly annoying to put together and transport.  We’re talking metal models with two individual wings apiece which had to be attached with poor contact points.  It was nearly impossible to transport them without the wings falling off and was very frustrating.  So I never used them in my games, which was a shame.
Thankfully, all of these points have been addressed in one way or another, which is glorious.  There’s a lot of trash talk about finecast, but it is so much better or these models than metal ever was.  The lightness of the material and the ease with which it adheres to superglue are major benefits and they can now transport well unless you’re really careless about it.  Also, as I’ve gone for a piratical/raider theme with my craftworlders, the Scourge models fit in very well as alternatives.  Scourges look freakin’ amazing, so I’m very happy that I have a ready-made excuse to use them in my Eldar lists!
The first change you’ll notice skimming through the book is that they are now noticeably cheaper, at only 16 points apiece, a significant reduction.  All to the good.  The next change is the weaponry.  The Lasblasters have been improved, their strength and AP remaining the same, but being improved from Assault 2 to Assault 3.  They’re probably not going to obliterate units with that, but it’s very nice to use to peck away at infantry from a respectable distance.  The Grenade pack has been improved as well, giving an extra AP (down to 4 now) and also rocking some Ignores Cover, which is spectacular.  Perfect for their ant-infantry duties and excellent counters for Nids, Tau and Guard.  The size of the blast depends on the number of models in the unit, so you’ll want to have a minimum of 6 in there to get the large blast.  Thankfully, the Hawks still have their Haywire grenades and with the confluence of vehicle combat rules and Hull Points are far more dangerous than they were in 5th.  This is going to really put pressure on a lot of opponents to put down the Hawks as a priority, as even one or two surviving Hawks can deal significant damage to vehicles and have the manoeuvrability to strike almost where they please.
So that’s equipment.  What about the special rules?  Well there are two big ones (over and above the army-wide race rules).  The first is they all have Skyleap as standard, although that rule has been altered a bit, both for the good and the bad.  The bad is that you can no longer use it to escape from combat.  Technically bad, but if your Hawks are in a non-vehicle assault, then things are going poorly for them anyway.  Besides, you’ve got an exarch power for that problem should you be concerned about it.  The good part is that Skyleaping now puts you into Ongoing Reserves, meaning that they will automatically turn up again next turn, taking a lot of the uncertainty out of the power.  Speaking of the lack of uncertainty, the second ability is the Herald of Victory (rather presumptuous, isn’t it?) meaning that, if the entire unit has that rule, then they don’t scatter.  Boom.  You can use these special rules to nasty effect in the game, contesting objectives in the late game, repeatedly bombarding enemy holding units or stealth troops, putting pressure on backfield vehicles, all manner of things.  Not to mention that when you Deep Strike in, not only do you get the Grenades, you also get a ton of shots and with battle Focus, you can retreat into cover afterwards, or at least spread out to mitigate templates.  Bear in mind you have Fleet as well to reroll that run move if you don’t like it.  A very aggressive playstyle presents itself for this unit.  Almost Dark Eldar-style…  One more tactic to remember is that Ongoing reserves are automatic, so you can deploy the Swooping Hawks and then Skyleap them on turn 1 for an automatic turn 2 Deep Strike rather than relying on the vagaries of the dice.
The Exarch is useful, but nowhere near as necessary as he once was.  The usual characteristic upgrades present themselves and you have three powers to pick from.  Night Vision, which is occasionally useful, given the propensity of the Hawks to stay at range.  Not critical by any means, but at 5 points it doesn’t have to be.  Marksman’s Eye (allowing precision shots at 5+) is cool, but I don’t think the Exarch really has the ranged weaponry for this to be worthwhile.  Hit & Run is probably the most worthwhile power for him I think.  Combat is really not where the hawks are meant to be and if you can escape it, then do so.  Expensive though.
Finally, we have equipment.  You can give the Exarch a power sword, but see my previous comments about Hawks and assault.  I think there are better uses for those 10 point.  You have two guns, one of them is a S5 Lasblaster and the other is a Lasbalster with Blind and AP3.  I’m not sure on these.  Marksman’s Eye will stack fairly well with these, allowing you to snipe out sergeants and special weapons guys, but I would really think about where else those points could be spent before purchasing any of these.
So that’s my view on the Swooping Hawks.  Holy hell, they’re awesome now!
But does their Phoenix Lord follow suit?  Baharroth will be next in the firing line.

Friday, 5 July 2013

IntrAspection: Karandras

Karandras is the Phoenix Lord of the Striking Scorpions, although not the founder of the Aspect.  That’s a fairly long-standing and well-enough know piece of the fluff and one that I like, especially as it is expanded on in a nudge-and-wink way in the Dark Eldar codex and in The Dark Eldar novels, particularly Path of the Incubus.  The founder of the scorpions and, later (allegedly) the Incubi, was Arhra Father of Scorpions, also known as Drazhar, the Master of Blades (allegedly) although according to legend Arhra is dead now (allegedly).  I bring this up apropos of nothing by the way; I just enjoy all the maybe/maybe not messing around that happens with these characters.  Yet another of the reasons why I like the game and the universe in general.
The fact that he’s only second fiddle in the history of the Scorpions has no effect on his ability to do his job however:  Karandras is an absolute damn murderer on the battlefield.  Amongst the Phoenix Lords in 5th, he was highly ranked despite his price tag as he could pack a massive punch and probably survive long enough to deliver it.  Now in 6th, such a declaration is beyond any doubt.  With the Scorpion’s claw being altered in the new codex, this guy has taken a distinct upgrade in sheer killitude.  Its lack of the Specialist and Unwieldy special rule means that he can get about breaking necks at a highly respectable I7 and all the while at S8 and 5 attacks flat footed.  That weapon attached to that statline is almost cruel.
His unique piece of wargear this edition is the Scorpion’s Bite (‘cos scorpions are renowned for their bites, aren’t they?) and operates exactly the same as the run-of-the-mill Mandiblaster, but resolved at S6 rather than S3, which is nice, but not amazing.  Nevertheless, it’s funny to imagine this guy blowing up a tank using his face-mounted lasers!  It’s also always fun to get a cheap shot in during a challenge and it helps to thin the ranks during a brawl-style melee.  Also, while we’re on wargear, note that Karandras has a clutch of plasma grenades, so charging through cover is not a problem.  Suck it, Jain Zar!
Skills wise, if he is the warlord, then for one phase per game he and any friends with 12” get to reroll failed wounds.  Not earth-shattering, but could turn the tide in a pinch and assert a strong charge.  He comes with the usual Phoenix Lord goodies, most importantly Eternal Warrior and Fearless.  He also brings the gamut of Scorpion rules to the fore, packing Night Vision, Infiltrate, Move Through Cover and Stealth.  Most of these skills are transferable to his unit, so much like Fuegan, he may well be of greater use accompanying a non-Scorpion unit.  It would be hard to break theme though…  Unlike Fuegan however, he does not dual class very well and his shooting is limited to a Shuriken catapult.  I would very much stick him in an assault unit.  I’m think Storm Guardians again, oddly enough.  His Fearless will rub off on them and the mass of them approaching, all stealthed up, could prove a significant threat.
His Exarch powers are not what I would have chosen, as there is a fair amount of overlap between the two.  He has Monster Hunter (granting him rerolls to wound against Monstrous Creatures and a law suit by Capcom) and Stalker (allowing him rerolls to wound with a successful Initiative roll-off in a challenge).  I can see their relevance to him, no doubt, but all I’m saying is: no Crushing Blow?  Really?  Anyway, that’s really a minor gripe.  The major gripe may come for many at his cost.  He comes with a Land Raider price tag.  Oh, all right, he’s a few points under, but in a 1,500 point game he’s still accounting for about a sixth of your army, so if you take him, you’d better have a plan to get into combat.  Not only that, but a combat that is worth his while.  Again, challenges add a dimension of deadliness to the character that’s hard to overlook, but a lot of the time he would be better off dealing with the bulk of the enemy unit, so whichever unit accompanies him into the fray, make sure they have a character in them to soak up any chancers who want to challenge to deny some wound allocation.
Nevertheless, having said that, blunting his impact on the charge by having a squad sergeant as a wound soak for resolution will increase your chances of breaking the assault in the opponents turn, always a good thing for an assault unit.  So what I’m saying is that you need to judge these things carefully and plan ahead.  He’s a lot of points bound up in one small character, so much like the Scorpions, you must be patient and only strike when the time is right and when the appropriate target presents itself.
I so want to play a Court of the Young King now…

Monday, 1 July 2013

IntrAspection: Striking Scorpions

It’s difficult to review the Scorpions without comparing them to the other Assault aspect competing for the Elites slot: The Howling Banshees.  Back in 5th, they definitely came off as the weaker choice.  They were the same cost, more heavily armoured (at the cost of Fleet) and struck at a higher strength but lacked the power weapon angle to deny armour saves.  Given the near-ubiquity of power armoured armies, that particular foible cost them dearly.  The only enemy they were better at were lightly armoured ones, but they lacked the numbers to effectively deal with horde.  They could infiltrate and gain stealth, but these were expensive, as they were only available as Exarch upgrades.  Has the balance of power shifted here?  I can’t say.  I’m just going to limit the comparison to a simple before and after.

One thing to notice is that these guys are a now a point more expensive than they used to be, which may not seem like much, but so much is cheaper throughout the new dex that it’s worth noticing.  As they’re more expensive are they better though?  I would say yes here.  A brief rundown of the changes and improvements will duly follow.

The mandiblasters have now changed a little.  I can’t say whether that’s for better or for worse though.  Instead of just giving them a bonus attack, they now give an I10 S3 bonus attack.  So you lose a point of strength for the additional attack but get that hit in first.  Against enemies like Genestealers and dark Eldar, this is definitely a good thing, certainly given that a lot of DE assault units would have been striking first normally, and they’re still brittle enough that the pre-punch could have a significant impact.  Against marines and such, it’s a bit of a let-down, but no-one wants to field scorpions against marines anyway do they?

A new big deal is that they now have fleet, although fleet has been reduced from what it once was, it’s still nice to have as an option certainly whilst twinned with Battle Focus, although you’re still just firing shuriken pistols.  Another plus is that they have Infiltrate and Stealth as standard, rather than paying the exorbitant amounts for the Exarch upgrades.  This ties in perfectly with what the aspect was meant to be and more than justifies the minimal price increase on its own.  Packing in Move Through Cover is also really handy, helping you get the most out of the Scorpion’s movement.

Equipment wise, they are the same as they were (bar the mandiblaster alterations, of course).  Their armour is basically power armour and the close combat weapon still adds an extra strength and also a little AP bump to get through 6+ saves.  Nothing to write home about.  Plasma grenades are also present, and the same they ever were.  The upgrades to the Shuriken pistols should go without saying for now.

The Exarch, as ever, is where things get interesting.  Your three powers are Monster Hunter (rerolls to wound vs MCs, useful every now and again), Crushing Blow (+1 strength) and Stalker.  Stalker is an odd one.  It only works during a challenge, but allows an Initiative roll-off with the challenger/challenge.  The Scorpion stands well placed to win this and if he does, he gets to reroll all failed wounds versus his opponent which again is very nice.  Not sure if I’d invest a whole 10 points in though.

The three specialist Exarch weapons are back again.  The biting blade is the cheapest and has taken a major streamlining from its somewhat complicated earlier incarnation (+1 strength per hit you score) to a straight +2 S bonus and an AP of 4, but takes up both hands to wield.  Good thing it’s cheap.  It should be decent for cutting through lighter vehicles as (combined with Crushing Blow) allows the exarch to strike at S6 with 3 attacks flat-footed.  It wouldn’t be my go-to weapon by any means, but I can see uses for it, especially if you’re on a budget or want to fight some Spawn or Grotesques.

The next option are the chainsabres, which are cool.  They basically give the exarch  a full shuriken catapult and a pair of Rending +1S close combat weapons. Combined with some wound rerolls, the rending can be very nasty and with Crushing Blow they will also be handy for vehicle disposal.  Also, they are only 5 points more expensive than the Biting Blade.  Frankly, if you’re on that kind of budget, I would really go for the sabres instead of the blade.  They are so much better and less restrictive.  The last weapon is the Scorpions Claw and, yeesh, this has taken an upgrade.  It used to be a power fist with a built-in catapult.  Now, it’s a power fist with a built-in catapult, but with all the penalties of a power removed.  It’s not unwieldy, it’s not even a Specialist weapon so you can squeeze the most out your Exarchs attacks.  Kitted out with one of these and a power or two, this guy’s challenge machine.  Very scary, but you certainly pay for that, as the weapon costs more than the Exarch wielding it.  The Claw is a whopping 30 points, so you’ll definitely want to plan to get the most out of the purchase.  Given the choice between the claw and the sabre, I’m genuinely unsure of what I’d pick.  The claw is objectively better, but the cost may well be a touch prohibitive in a lot of lists.

Well, that was a lot to get through!  I think I’ll do an extra bit of chat about the role of these guys in the battle field later.  Just listing all the changes took a thousand words!  I probably should have just drawn a picture…