Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Dark Eldar in 6th: Voidwings and Razor-Ravens

Well, that was worth waiting for, wasn’t it?  I’ve had a brief look through and I can’t see a single sodding difference between the Void Raven and Razorwing entries in the Death from the Skies book and those in the codex.  Bugger all nothing other than the standard redefinition of special rules and hull points.  I was hoping for increased manoeuvrability: nope.  More speed to set them apart from every other bloody flyer in the game?  Uh-uh.  To know that not only can’t they outrun a Stromraven as they could in 5th, but now (thanks to lacking a hover function) they can actually be outmanoeuvred by one is just flat out galling.  I do have to wonder why all these flyer entries are in the book is most of them are pretty much identical.  I suppose it’s in case you just want to play pure flyer games with dogfighting rules and such, which I can see the appeal of certainly, but it seems like a very strange choice of have this whole book produced with so little in it that isn’t just pre-chewed meat.  As I already own Crusade of Fire, which has all the funky dogfighting rules in it anyway, the only reason for me to get this book is for the flyer missions, and that’s not enough to justify purchase for me.  I’m glad I just borrowed it from a friend.  Anyway, enough of me bellyaching, on with the Dark Eldar flyer review!
Unfortunately there’s not too much to say to round off this review of the Dark Eldar in 6th edition, as the Flyer section only has two entries and I’ve already addressed a lot of the flyer-based changes way back in the early posts in this series.  The rules change for flyers in the new edition has hurt and helped these two units, sacrificing weaponry effectiveness for survivability of the new flying rules.  Overall, I would say that the Void Raven has probably benefited more than the Razorwing mainly because of the Armour Value of 11 that it’s packing.  Just the one additional point of armour is a major plus for the vehicle, as the flyer armour range is only from 10 to 12 and an armour value of 11 protects it from bolter-grade sidearms; which is one of the main threats to face AV10 flying units.  That said, it is still vulnerable in the rear (no jokes, please), but with decent positioning and manoeuvring this shouldn’t really pose much of a problem.  The Razorwing doesn’t have such an advantage though, which still makes it fairly easy to shoot down, even without Skyfire enabled weapons.
Another strike against the DE flyers is the weapon firing limits.  I know from when I used Razorwing Jetfighters in 5th, my preferred move was to have them turn up from reserve and then just absolutely lay waste to an enemy unit with it.  It could move on 12” and pile out six splinter shots, 2 dark lances and then 4 S6 large blasts at whatever it chose.  I would tend to use it to rid myself of a backfield infantry unit that could get annoying.  Lootas were a speciality for that one.  Now, however, it’s not to be.  A hard limit of 4 weapons fired a turn and an additional encumbrance of only being able to fire 2 missiles at once really hurts the Razorwing’s effectiveness in this regard, and the chances of it surviving long enough to get the second lot of missiles off are iffy to say the least.  Not to mention the standard positioning problems of flyer movement.  Which brings me to a small complaint about both the Dark Eldar fighters: They’re no faster or manoeuvrable than anyone else’s planes.  Back in 5th they were exceptionally nippy, outspeeding pretty much everything else in the game, but then every flyer moved as fast under the new rules, and the units that were, in description anyway, ultra-fast and hyper-manoeuvrable became the same as the unwieldy crates of Imperial Guard.  Oh well.  Maybe that will change in potentially forthcoming update. EDIT: Guess not!
The main debate going on in my head when it comes to the question of which flyer is better used to be decided by one thing: missiles.  The two flyers on offer were the same cost, with the Void Raven packing more armour and a heavier anti-vehicle loadout of S9 Void Lances and the S9 Void Mine.  The Razorwing would tout a lighter but still effective arsenal of two Dark Lances and a twin-linked Splinter Rifle, but would also carry a full complement of missiles as part of its basic cost.  It was always the missiles that swung it for me.  I never upgraded them either.  The plane was already expensive enough after the Splinter Cannon upgrade and some Flickerfields.  The basic Monoscythe was a comfortable middle ground for troop killing; enough to wound Marines on a 2+, so the additional points to make it poisoned 2+ or S7, just weren’t worth it as far as I saw.  It couldn’t get Implosion missiles, but those missiles always seemed scarier in theory than in practice.  Admittedly, 50/50 chance to instantly kill a Wraithlord is fun, but when you pack as many poisoned weapons as the DE do, it just costs too much when a handful of basic troops could do the same job.
However, with some of the chances in the new edition, the missiles deserve a new look.  One missile in particular warrants reappraisal: the Shatterfield.  S7, AP- with rerolls of any failed wounds.  This makes it (by and large) a bit better at killing heavy infantry, although against lightly-armoured horde, the lack of and AP value could cancel out the wound reroll, which is going to wound on 2+ most of the time anyway.  Where this option does get a lot better is with vehicles.  With blasts striking at full strength all the time and AP- not negatively affecting the damage chart, these missiles really add a bonus to light anti-armour, even en masse.  You’ve got lances for the heavier stuff anyway.  I think if I were to run a Razorwing or two, I’d not bother with the cannon upgrade and spend the points upgrading some, if not all of the missiles to Shatterfield for the versatility.  Night shields might be a better choice for defensive wargear to cut out some of that pesky bolter-fire. 
That said; my view now is that a Void Raven might be a better call.  AV11 will render it immune to most small arms, the lack of a rifle or cannon in the nose isn’t much of a detriment and the void mine is a very nice anti-armour punch on a bombing run.  Spend the points to give it a couple of Shattershields and you might be in business.  Neither option is cheap though, and if your opponent is packing any interceptors worth a damn, then it might be a few points too many. Both the defensive options are useful, and the 5+ Invulnerable from the Flickerfields means that you never have to sacrifice firing effectiveness by Evading for the cover.
So, that’s that.  End of the Dark Eldar run-though.  I hope you enjoyed it and thanks for your patience with some of the delays.  I enjoyed writing it and was nicely surprised with how much I could churn out about the subject. As always, if you disagree with some of the points or have anything else to add, the comments section is below, so feel free!  Next up, I think I’ll unwind with something non-40k just to cleanse my palette a little.  I think I’ll talk about some old computer games that I really enjoyed from years back.  May seem like an odd choice, but humour me on this one!
So long, guys.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Well, er... Whoops

It seems a shame that the longest delay in the Dark Eldar in 6th series has had to come right at the very end, on the last post.  I had most of the post written out and just needed to finish it off, but with one thing or another, that didn't happen.  And now Death From the Skies is due out.  Arse.  I'm afraid there will be a bit more of a delay while I get that books and see what changes have been made to the DE flyer section.  Soon the coup de grace will be delivered on this accursed series!


Monday, 4 February 2013

Dark Eldar in 6th: Taking On The Big Guys

And so we reach the penultimate step on this stroll through the Dysjunction of the Dark Eldar codex.  Here live monsters.  The Talos and Cronos have always been a bit of an odd fit for the army, being slow lumbering hillocks of mutated flesh and metal.  For an army characterised by speed and brittleness, it’s strange that the Heavy Support sections would have creatures that can go toe-to-toe with Tyranid monstrosities.  The down side with these choices is their lack of manoeuvrability.  Even the Grotesques and Wracks can be given transports to help them get where they want to go, but their Monstrous creatures just have to wander in the vague direction of the enemy and hope they aren’t shot to death before they get there.  They have ranged weapons so they’re not totally useless before they reach assault, but their ballistic skill is only middling (3) and it’s a bit of a toss-up as to whether you want to let rip with the guns or if your shooting phase would be better spent on a run move.
The access to Smash attacks is very handy, negating the 2+ saves of elite troops and characters, although Monstrous Creatures could always do that, the comparative rarity of non-I1 AP2 close combat attacks is a plus point in favour of the Monstrous Creature.  The ability to double up you strength to 10 also comes in very handy against a lot of multiwound units and characters, which is another advantage to be considered.  Speaking of plus points, this is another of those few units, like Grotesques that benefit from the changes to Feel No Pain, so they now have a chance against melta guns and plasma along with power weapons and the like.  This increased survivability is very useful. Hammer of Wrath is a nice little bonus, especially for the Talos who can hit things with the strength of an autocannon.  The change in Fearless now not causing extra wounds if you lose a combat is a big plus, seeing as you have so few wounds to start with.
However, it’s not all good news.  They are less effective against many vehicles due to combat changes and the Armour Penetration rolls.  This could be counteracted by vehicles being easier to hit and destroy (remember that as smash is an AP2 attack, you get to add +1 to the table).  The Cronos, rocking a relatively poor Strength of 5 is hit the least by this change, arguably becoming better than it was, with S10 + D6 rather than S5 + 2D6.  The Talos is the one who is hit harder by this change, trading half of its already random number of attacks for a slightly worse Pen chance against tougher vehicles.  Nevertheless, the Dark Eldar are far from short on vehicle takedown, so it’s not too big of a deal.
The inability to assault straight from reserve is a gut-punch to some list builds though, as the main delivery method for these lumbering beasties was usually a Webway portal which, although it can still be used, lacks the shock factor of the monstrous assault and allows for the opponent to bring the big guns to bear on the threat.  The increased charge range is a dodgy proposition but I would say that on the whole it works to the benefit of the MCs in this edition, especially as they lack Fleet.  Overwatch can be problem, naturally, because although these guys have a good high toughness and decent armour, they don’t have many wounds and it will only a take a couple of plasma or melta hits to change combat into a very dicey (sorry) affair.  The Toughness of 7 does help cut down the bog-standard shooting ranks though, as S3 or lower cannot hurt them.
Now onto the specifics.  The Cronos was always a bit of a niche player, with the main focus of the thing being to cull some Pain Tokens from enemies and distribute them to other units.  This is still handy, but with the overall reduction in effectiveness of many of the Pain Token effects, this could serve to limit the use of the Cronos even more.  The access to a nice range of AP3 ranged weaponry is still nice though, as I don’t think you’ll be seeing any fewer power armoured armies this time round.  In fact with the slow shift towards foot-based lists, this could prove to be an advantage.  Also, this is the monster that is damaged the least by the assault restriction of the new edition.  It was never an assaulting powerhouse, but the Smash attack allows it to stand up to bigger targets and punch back reasonably effectively.  One of the key uses for the Cronos in 5th and I think still remains in 6th, is to buff your troops.  Most of the time, you can do the same job with Haemonculi automatically, but juggling your ICs can only get you so far.  If you ca get the Cronos within shooting range of an enemy unit, then it can do far more.  It is also useful for giving Pain token to other units who need them, but may find them hard to come across early on.  Mandrakes, for example.  And of course it can give pain tokens to its more stab-happy cousin, the Talos.  This is an ideal use for it, as a buffing unit to a couple of Taloses in MC-heavy style of Dark Eldar list, especially as they can’t play games with Haemonculi shuffling like the rest of the army.  Speaking of Taloses
The Talos could be seen as being on the wrong end of the beating-stick in this edition.  Being very heavily assault focussed, there are several rules changes that work in tandem (is it still tandem if there are more than two?) to nibble away at the effectiveness of the big guy.  I think I’ve addressed most of them already.  However, as a big, nasty, high strength powerhouse, he is unmatched in the Codex (at least until your Archon traps a couple of souls).  Overall, the shifts in the new edition are a bit of a mixed bag for the Talos, so I am loath to say whether he’s get better or worse.  It’s hard to call.  The main piece of advice I would offer though is the same as for a lot of other big buggers in the game: Never take just one.  A Talos on its own will be the target of every line gunner with an autocannon wanting a trophy kill.  You need an equal level threat to split as much fire as possible.  Another piece of advice would probably be not to half-arse it.  The Talos is built for close assaults, so unless you have a chance to earn a quick pain token by finishing off a unit or your target is already within comfortable charging range; don’t bother shooting when you could be running forward with him instead.  For that reason, I would normally stick with the Splinter Cannon rather than pay extra for the different tail-guns.  The Liquifier Gun is a nice additional bit of kit for when you do get close and can help if someone gets the charge on you first.  Chain flails are probably more useful than the additional close combat weapon, but if you want to go the whole hog, by all means.  I tend to resist that urge purely because of the uncertainty that he’ll actually get into an assault to use all the shiny toys.
So that’s all for the big guys.  The last step is before us, and at an altitude of about 8,000 feet…