One of the unique aspects to the Dark Eldar was the Pain Token mechanic and with all three of the special rules it can grant being tweaked, this has obviously undergone a bit of a change. First up: Feel No Pain. Simultaneously better and worse, as it can be used against power weapons now (its effects are only nullified by Instant Death wounds), but only provides a 1 in 3 chance of survival rather than 1 in 2. Hey-ho. It’s actually a net boost for the Marine Equivalents out there who can now have a chance of survival versus plasma weapons and power weapon attacks for a relatively low reduction in general effectiveness versus small arms. For the Dark Eldar, not so much. For a lot of the army, durability relied on a combination of cover saves and Feel No Pain. A focus in army construction and actual play was the creation and shuffling of pain token to grant FNP to as much of your army as possible. When you moved to Blaster spam and mechanised this focus was much reduced, but speaking from the perspective of how I used to play, this was a key mechanic. But now, FNP is reduced in its effectiveness for the army. The main buff the rule received was that it can be taken against AP2 and AP1 hits, but most AP2 and AP1 ranged weapons go past the instant death threshold for Toughness 3 models, meaning that the trade-off for general reduced effectiveness is not good enough for them. You can use it against some power weapons, sure, but it’s not hard for a lot of armies to pack high-strength power weapon that will ignore it anyway. Combined with the fact that cover is hard to use and exploit (not 50% of a unit, just a model-by-model basis) and often provides less of a save; you see why this is detrimental. My poor Hellions used to ignore 75% of all bolter wounds in cover. Now it’s only 5 in 9. Big reduction.
Furious charge, the prize for two pain tokens has been reduced in effect a little, no longer providing an Initiative boost. Overall, this doesn’t make a difference to us, the DE rock an impressive I5 or I6 in most cases. The only real contender for first strike in an assault was Genestealers, who could be upgraded with Furious charge anyway. So, slight reduction, but I’m not weeping blood over it. When you hit three pain tokens though is when we see a boost to the table. Fearless has received a massive upgrade with the abolition of Fearless wounds in close combat and Dark Eldar assault units are well placed to take advantage of this. A definite gain in my opinion, but one that’s hard to take advantage of without some serious work being put in.
Challenges work in our favour for most of the time, what with pain tokens and the Soul Trap being in effect and most DE characters being in a prime position to strike first to take out the sergeants in other squads, or at least limit how much damage that Ork Warboss will deal to your Wyches. The abolition of most of the restrictions on fleeing units rallying is another huge advantage for the assault DE, as (speaking from experience), having a 7-man squad of Hellions or Wyches irrevocably break and flee just because their starting squad size was 15 was a major pain in the arse. On the flip side, the reduction in general power weapon effectiveness can hurt, but a lot of the specialised close combat weapons the dark elder can bring either didn’t wipe out armour saves anyway or, in the case of Husk Blades and Incubus Klaives, can still do that job just as well as they ever could. The changes to the Fleet rule can hurt a bit, but in reality, average charge distance from movement to assault is about the same (15-16” in both cases). Assault from vehicles is a couple of inches less effective, but that’s it really. Nothing that major. It also means that if your get that feckin’ useless running combat drug (God, I hate Hypex) then you are almost guaranteed a 6” run. Woot, etc.
Finally, we have flyers. I feel that a ball may have been dropped on behalf of the Dark Eldar here, as their vehicles are no faster or any more agile than any other, which is obviously counter to pretty much everything established by the army. Razorwings and Void Ravens are okay at taking down other flyers, but are usually best positioned to take on ground forces, certainly if you gave them missiles. That said, they’re one of the only anti-air defences you’ve got. Unless you’re going for a more static style of army and have brought some Fortifications with you. Nothing wrong with that, but the Dark Eldar are meant to be swift piratical raiders and Fortifications just don’t feel right to me in that aspect. But to each his own. There’s no reason they wouldn’t commandeer buildings as a base of operations for raids planetside or anything. I just would tend not to use them. Your only other anti-air choice are Ravagers and with anti-air shooting being what it is, these guys are far better placed to deal with ground targets. Man, they should have Skyfire. The have (had, anyway) a rule called aerial assault; they should be able to shot at planes with more accuracy than a blind Jokaero with a lasgun up its arse.
Anyway, that’s the general overview I have for the army in sixth. Next time, let’s go through the codex, as there’s a lot more still to talk about!