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…