And so comes the big one. The one that I knew I would eventually have to put into words. I’m sure most of you know what could possibly be in the Fast Attack section that would warrant an entire post on its own. For those who don’t know (and I can’t imagine why anyone who hasn’t listened to the podcast would ever be reading this site), in the last edition, I was a big Dark Eldar player and, after a variety of lists all following a hodgepodge style of construction, I started putting together a tournament list and happened upon one unit that I favoured above nearly all others. It became the core of most of the lists I would run for the rest of my DE playing time. Hellions. I ran a lot of Hellions. I would come across lists that would run a big squad of them led by the Baron, but I was the only guy I knew who would run three. My 2,000pts tournament list centred round running nearly fifty Hellions led by the Baron, and I had a great deal of success with them. They were a very versatile unit, survivable when you knew the right tricks and one the most manoeuvrable units in the game. They could shoot well, fight well, horde-style and get out of any fight they couldn’t win, provided their nerve held. They grew to be my favourite unit in the codex, and probably my favourite unit in the game. I was The Hellion Guy. It was weird.
So, how have they held up in the new edition? Well, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag for them, albeit a bag mainly full of drawing pins and glass shards. Okay, I’m overstating, but the edition switchup has not been kind to my favourite unit. But before the negativity, let’s go over some things that have improved for them. The change to morale and regrouping is a major, major plus for them. Running Hellions in the squad sizes I would favour (I would never go less than 15 in a squad) meant that if they broke at an inopportune moment, a massive chunk of points would go straight down the bog. Not necessarily from them being run down (it’s kind of hard to do that at Initiative 6), but through simply shepherding them off the board or, even worse, reducing them to just under 50% and making them impossible to rally. Really infuriating. Now though, the shepherding mechanic has pretty much been done away with and the 50% restriction has been reduced to 25% (and even then there’s a chance they can get back into the fight). This change has been a real boost. Any other pluses?
Well, one or two, but nowhere in the league of the regrouping. Hammer of Wrath is nice, but as the models are only S3 on their profiles, the resulting attacks are pretty underwhelming, so realistically, it will not make much of a difference. You can take armour saves and Feel No Pain against dangerous terrain tests. That’s very handy, especially if you cover hugged with them like I did. Not that their saves are any good, but it’s something to hold out for when the 1s do eventually come. Their charge move is not slowed down by difficult terrain if they jump pack towards the target, although you still need to test for dangerous. So that’s a nice couple of tweaks. Their ability to use Overwatch combined with the defensive grenades you should be giving them makes them a very intimidating target for the assault, especially due to their cover-hugging nature (when I use them at least). Their shooting is utterly undiminished in the new rules and their shooting is awesome. Unfortunately, as far as I can see they’re the only rules changes that have really worked in favour of the unit. And now; on to the unpleasantness…
Overwatch really hurts the Hellion. You’re dealing with a Toughness 3 model with a 5+ save that costs as much as a Codex Marine. Those one or two Overwatch wounds before joining combat really hurt, especially when the unit relies on seriously outnumbering the opposition. The wound allocation system and more (ahem) realistic cover save system mean that the squad will have to be cramped and close packed in area terrain to protect them as much as possible, rather than the 50% rule. It certainly makes more sense this way and I’m not arguing against it, but it nevertheless hurts the unit significantly. There’s the standard gripe about the changes to FNP so I don’t need to go into that further other than to say it’s not advantageous to them.
We also have a couple of more ambiguous points where things have got different rather than strictly better or worse. On the movement side, it’s hard to say precisely whether they’re faster. What with fleet doing what it does now and the charge ranges changing, the probabilities get a bit more complicated. On average they can move about the same than in fifth, but the 24” high end was much easier to achieve back then and the minimum in 6th is quite a bit shorter. That got complicated. I’ll illustrate. In 5th, it was 12” move, D6” run and 6” assault, so the range was 19-24” with an average of 21-22”. In 6th, you can have a 12” move and 2D6” assault, with rerolls on one or more of the dice, resulting in a 14”-24” range with an average of 21-22”. SO I would say, on balance that this is a minor net loss for unit
Similarly, the challenge rules can get a little strange. Now, you can take what I mentioned about challenges in earlier posts at face value. A naturally high Initiative and ability to target important models in the unit can be very handy when equipped with a power weapon. But anyone who knows of my Hellion Habit knows that I never run the squad leader with a power weapon. I run Stunclaws. The ability to steal enemy independent characters out of a combat and mob them next round is very useful and a relatively easy way to isolate otherwise hard-to-target characters and get a Pain Token from them after the mass beatdown. However, in the Dark Eldar FAQs it states that you cannot steal a character who is in a challenge. This would apply even if the character was in a challenge against the Hellion squad leader. This does not work to our advantage, especially as the squad leaders do not hit especially hard. The stunclaw does not have an AP; they’re unlikely to be able to play the beatdown game on their own with that armament. This could lead to more cunning players issuing challenges to isolate you squad leader and prevent IC theft. It is therefore in your best interest to refuse a challenge whenever one is issued. You don’t fight fair, you’re Dark Eldar! This is especially important as it is your Helliarch who has the Phantasm Grenade Launcher, which means that if you lose him, then the entire squad loses their grenade capacity. This is not a good thing. The downside to refusing the challenge is that your Helliarch can’t contribute his attacks to the combat, and as the unit relies on a veritable rain of blows to get the job done, this does not work out to their advantage, but it’s better than the alternative.
So there you have it. The unit has undeniably got a lot worse in the edition shift. They’re by no means unplayable, and I do mean to get out my Hellion lists and give them a couple of games to see if I can get them to work. I believe they can, but they are not the awesomeness they were in fifth, and that makes me a sad panda.
N.B. Just realised; Hit and Run can carry over to the entire squad. This allows you to have an archon in the squad and still play the hit and run game whilst having a hardcore character killer in the unit, even if he does slow the unit (although nowhere near as much as in the past). Conversely, this also means that the Baron can convey this ability to any squad he joins, which opens up a host of nice combos, especially when combined with his Stealth. So it’s not all bad, it’s just a matter of finding a new way of ruining other people’s day…