Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Let's Be Friends! - Dark Eldar (And Other Thoughts)

Hey there everyone! I'm back after over a two week long hiatus (courtesy of an anniversary, nerf guns, and zombies), bringing with me our shortest article in the LBF series of articles, an examination of the Dark Eldar and what they can achieve when allied with their less malicious space elf brethren. Also, while I've got the page space, I thought I'd take a moment or two to post some of my musings on the nature of this series, and on Allies in general. That said, let's get down to it.

So, when we look to ally our two pointy eared freaks, the first thing we'll pick up on from a mechanical standpoint is the massive disparity in philosophy, at least so far as transports are concerned. Both codices are renown for the speed and firepower of their transports. However, their durability differs vastly. That's part of what makes utilizing these two armies in tandem so awkward, any Eldar you bring will almost certainly not be fired upon, simply because your primary force, which contains your warlord, is so much less durable. This comes to the front of the problem. Why do you need these two armies to be battle brothers? They're even less cooperative than CSM and Daemons. Marines and Daemons might not be able to join each other's squads, but they can share rules. Which pretty much end at psychic powers. And much like that duo, these two don't really get too much from sharing those psychic powers, only these two have the problem even worse because of their reliance on, or at least strong synergy with, their respective transports. And remember, no matter how much I may love my half brother, my car is for immediate family only.

So, what does that leave us with? Nothing that Eldar don't like to do with any other army. Bikes. Yes, I can hear some of you ranting and raving about things like harlistar and other builds, but those haven't been seen in months. They were barely a thing when 6th dropped and they've only dropped off more so since then. So, we're left with concluding that being battle brothers does not make you the best of allies. Dark Eldar's points may be better spent going it alone.

This helps us segue into some of my general thoughts on allies at present. Quite frankly, I'm a fan, at least of the idea. Coming from a background of a multitude of other games, I've seen radically different stances on who your army should be composed of and what rewards you reap for that. Some games, not unlike 5th edition, have demanded that you play a single force. Others have encouraged using a single faction through additional special rules that can be bought. Other still have allowed you to use differing factions and armies under certain circumstances, or by "buying" the right via points costs. And in almost every circumstance, it has been an interesting addition to the gameplay dynamic. Yes, yes, there's the obvious financial motivations for including the option, in that it allows players to buy more product slowly and build into another army incrementally, but most of my experience with allies has been much more positive than the most recent FoB debacle should suggest. While there are some quibbles with the allies matrix, largely revolving around Grey Knights and Tau, most of the time that I've seen allies used, though it presented a very strong list, I didn't necessarily feel that it was anything overpowering or damaging to the game on the whole. With this comes the admission that I haven't played against TauDar, but nevertheless, I don't know that the specific combination offers anything more damaging to the game than 3+ riptides or 6+ wave serpents do on their own.

Taking all of that into account, it's still worth examining what allies have given and taken away from codex design. First and foremost, it seems that in some ways, the designers have gotten lazy, or have become more willing to exaggerate the weaknesses of a single codex. For example, Tau don't just suck at assault, they really suck at assault. Their speedbump unit lost a point of strength, and they got defensive grenades forced on their fire warriors, meaning that some careful planning can help you stick into close combat and avoid a round of dreaded Tau shooting. Tau might be a poor example of the exaggeration of weakness, due to how much their shooting improved, but I feel the point still exists. Likewise, the devs have frontloaded certain codices to tell us "This is a primary codex" or "This is an ally codex." The biggest example of this are both of the Chaos books and Dark Angels. Chaos Marines and the Angels only get their FoC play if they're the primary force, and Daemons get their silliness with 4 heralds when you take them as primary.

Past that, we're only left to wonder what they do to keep us from outsourcing our points to the 4 or 5 codices which offer cheap as chips troops, especially those which have extremely forgiving allies matrices. Here unfortunately is where allies seem to fall apart and do more harm than good. For some codices, their internal balance was having cheap toys but expensive troops. The biggest example of all this is Marine armies, forbidding Chaos (they have cultists now). Marines get expensive troops, especially if they're using troop swaps. This usually means they'll either be shorthanded on troops, or miss out on some of their very potent non-troop selections. This really isn't a problem anymore though, given that these sorts of armies can now easily ally with either Coteaz led Grey Knights, Imperial Guard, or Tau, each of which offers various options for troops which are significantly cheaper than tactical marines. There's also the matter of considering allies working the other direction and those books utilizing marine-style non-troops to bulk out their killing potential.

On the whole, the most of the work that has been done to keep people in a single book has been to offer "banner-style" effects which apply only to units selected from the same codex. To me though, this seems to be a poor execution of a reward system for running out of a single codex. These banners are usually limited in the scope of their impact, and are often expensive. Dark Angels feature 5 banners, most of which are situational. This is hardly an enticing offer. Certainly, one of these banners sees play, but unfortunately they leave me with a pretty bad taste in my mouth. My army is elite, and puts few models on the table. When the edition changes to encourage me to field more models, my options are to either sacrifice my lists potency by fielding more troops, or utilize allies. And the best thing you can offer me to recoup the loss of my list's potency is the option to spend even more points on an item which only helps some models before the single model carrying it dies. This is not an acceptable solution.

So, I'll close with a question for us. Without making allies less interesting, how do we make the option to play out of a single codex more relevant or appealing?


  1. ... you don't play either of these armies, do you?

  2. Can't say that I do, but every list I've played against for either of them has left me wondering why you'd bother allying them. All infantry available to be deployed in a transport, was.

  3. I feel like I'm missing something, to start... should Eldar (combined) not be using their transports? To my mind, all that does is ensure that your whole army has the speed/maneuverability that it is known for.

    Being battle brothers in general allows for a lot of funsies. You seem to utterly discount the force multiplier that is the Farseer. I don't see a reason why twin-linking 9 S5 AP2 shots is a bad idea. Or even 3 Lances. While the volume isn't that impressive, all things considered, it makes for an extremely reliable anti-armor platform. And if that's what you need, then that's what you get. What about Guiding a Razorwing (something I often do)? Re-rolling to hit with those large blasts has never let me down.
    And just because you can take Eldar as allies doesn't mean you get their troops as scoring. Knowing you have a unit that can move 48" on the last turn forces the enemy to cover *every* objective, or just give one to you. Or plan to lose one. Or... well... something else that's terrible. How differently would you play if you knew that one random objective at the end would be worthless to you?

    And army builds are always of massive concern. I've been toying with the Duke lately, making heavy use of his Low Orbit rule. A couple of choice DE units will start on the board, hidden behind terrain (completely, as much as possible). Then I have a Mantle-Seer on a bike, Rangers, and the Serpent full of Guardians. So basically, everything that can take a hit (and laugh about it) is on the board. Shoot them, have fun. The rest of my army can drop down wherever I need it to unload with impunity (or turbo for a better save into perfect position for later).
    Even if you don't like the Duke, or mass DS, why not turbo a Serpent in front of a Ravager after it (the Ravager) has shot? You can pretty much block it completely from what you need to, offering instead a laughably hard to damage tank. And then tank shock something turn 4, unload turn 5, and win games.

    Plus, there's the massive availability of high volume S6/7, something the DE codex has literally *zero* of. Having less DE on the board can actually make Pain Token management easier. There's less that has to fight over those lovely tokens, so those that can get them have an easier time doing so.

    Shrug... I started using Eldar allies pretty much immediately, and I haven't looked back.

  4. You use your trasnports for speed, manuverability, durability, and firepower. Dark Eldar less so the durability, but AV 10 is certainly no worse than T3.

    I know that the Farseer can twin link two units' shooting, but he's going to have to sit with either guardians or rangers, neither of which save you many points. Sure, the rangers can do something when they sit at home but I guess I don't think they'll be worth their tax. Past that we have to look at what you're twin linking, and that forces us to realize what you've brought up. The only real way to justify bringing the Farseer is if you can get a lot out of twin linked. Volume is the name of the game here, and given that you're already fairly accurate (thanks BS4!) you'll be at the point of diminishing returns for your trouble.

    If you brought them in to zip on and take or steal an objective, why not just bring reavers or some similar unit?

  5. My farseer rides a bike solo. He also soaks more fire (if the enemy wastes it) than any other unit I can bring (who else in the game has a re-rollable 2+ save?). While most of his powers got a range boost, I don't see much of a point to leaving the 'Seer on foot, when a bike basically means you can put him exactly where you need to each turn to buff whatever needs it (or debuff, depending on what powers you like to use).

    I don't care for rangers as much as the old Pathfinders I used to use, but they're a unit that's less than 100 points, is durable in moderate cover, a small enough threat to be often ignored, but a precise enough threat to deal with what you need to put wounds on (this is for 7 bodies - a "guaranteed" precision shot, and at least a few wounds from the unit).

    And sure, BS4 is netting more hits than misses, but that's now true of Eldar in general. Yes, on a Ravager with 3 Lances it's effectively only 1 more hit (although I've had enough times where I whiff all 3 and praise everything for the TL that turn). But in for a dime, in for a dollar. That mass S6 I mentioned? Try a unit of War Walkers. 3 with double scatters is not expensive, and pumps out 24 shots. That's a lot of dice you get to alter. And the Dissie Ravager is great thanks to AP2 and more things walking these days. Or Warp Spiders, if you like them. They pump out serious fire power.
    But, I already hear it, "why not just run Eldar?"... okay, so what else loves to be twin linked? How about my arcon/wych unit in combat (thanks, prescience)? Or 4 blasterborn. Or a unit of warriors pumping out splinter fire to take down that MC? DE have mass fire, it's just all in the form of poison. If you're looking at a fleshy target, Guides and the like have plenty of options. We don't do mass anti-tank, but that's almost just as much reason in and of itself... think about it. Your standard Ravager should hit twice. A TL Ravager should hit all 3 (or something like 2.7). Twin Linking the Ravager is the same as adding a 4th lance... a 33% increase. Given the relative potency (between not caring about high values, and an effective AP), that extra % can really mean a lot. So it's there if you need it.

    Why are Tau so scary? Markerlights choose which unit dies, and you can't really defend against it. Well, you can't stop me from Guiding. You have a Land Raider with a massive combat unit? Best bet I'll drop that turn 1 with a couple of TL Ravagers. Got a momma-bug surrounded by gribblies? My poison is hitting hard and dropping that before you can take over the board.

    Farseers are so cheap for what they do. Even if I just guided once a turn on a Ravager (call it 6 turns), that's one extra lance. That's 25 points a turn... the 'seer just about paid for himself, using one of his 3 warp charges. Wonder what I'll do with the other two...

  6. So is it a fair guess that the primary reason for allying the two is to give either:

    Dark Eldar Access to: Psychic Powers, Mass S6 or S7 shots, and Scoring Bikes.


    Eldar Access to: Scoring Melee units, Cheap Mobile Troop Options, and Unique Tricks (ie Duke DS Army).

    I can't say I think these are bad in general. While Eldar don't seem to need the help as much as the Dark Eldar in their alliances, I can see both benefiting for the others awkward company.

  7. The 2+ rerollable is a cover save and we're seeing the proliferation of Ignores Cover wepons. Kudos for him tanking for you, but I feel that long term he won't prove to be quite so successful.

    Paying just under 100 points for 7 models which will sit on a point in cover feels expensive for Dark Eldar. I don't know if they have the points to spare, even if the far seer is cheap and potent.

    A disintegrator Ravager is about the only thing, short of venoms, which seems to have a high enough volume of desirable shots to consider twin-linking and even then, the ravage isn't necessarily not doing anything the venoms aren't, and is contesting a slot that could be used for a flyer or a lance ravager. Past that, everything will be in a transport, which makes it ineligible to receive your magic boon.

    You and i might have different perceptions of what makes Tau scary. :P

    They are cheap for what they do, but again, short of the cheap bike seer with some cheap bike troops for late game shenanigans, it doesn't feel like you're benefiting more radically than other codices do from Eldar battle brothers.

  8. For 99% of things, the 'seer gets a save that makes a mockery of any attempt to hurt him. Outside of that, he still has a 3+/4++ - he's hardly a slouch even if he doesn't get the benefit of cover.

    And as for twin linking... okay, even if Ravagers and Venoms were the only thing worth psykering... well... most DE have those in spades. And let's *still* not forget that Prescience also works in combat, something that DE tend to flow with better.
    As for a ravager not necessarily not doing anything the venoms aren't... I think what you mean is that they're basically the same in damage output? Because... well... that's inaccurate to say the least. A Venom will put 4 wounds on something. So that's 4 Guardsmen, Orks, Gaunts, etc dead. That's just over 50/50 of dropping a terminator.
    The Ravager, on the other hand, will score 4 dead marines, or 3 Terminators.
    Adjust for cover as necessary, but a Dissie Ravager is the perfect platform for hitting high-armor targets... that's what it's designed to do. And thanks to a decent strength, it still out-performs the Venom against most (if not all, I just pulled an overnight shift and can't think straight) basic infantry. I really should consider running some... my current meta has next to no vehicles...

    And all that aside... Guide is only the fall-back power. I like to use TL'ing because that way my games are set - I know what's in my arsenal and can plan accordingly. But, if you prefer, roll for powers. Doom is amazing. So is hallucinate. Even Mind War can be catastrophic. The only buzzkill is Death Mission, and he has enough dos-charge powers that it can largely be ignored even if you're forced into having it.

    To benefiting more than other BB's... well... I know Tau can bro it up with Eldar... is there anyone else? So do Tau get more than Dark Eldar, is the real question. With D/Eldar, you get a more cohesive force, I think. The whole package works on the same mobility principle, and adding Eldar allows you to actually splash durable units. Yes, if you just take one, that's where the big guns go (but that doesn't even always work). So take 3 or 4. A lot of my lists lately have been probably at least a third Eldar... it's a significant investment, but they play nice together in terms of overall strategy

  9. He's no slouch, no. I'll grant you that.

    Congratulations on a low vehicle meta, but that's not necessarily proven to be the case in my experience. Likewise, adjusting for cover (or storm shields on termis) yields 2 dead marines or 1 dead terminator (ruins aren't exactly uncommon). You would rather kill these units with your impressive volume of poison.

    This segues nicely into the understanding that yes, you'd like to get doom/misfortune, given that they combo out better with the rest of the army, but, as you've stated, they can't be banked on, leaving us to go in with only the ability to bank on TL.

    I'd argue that TauDar is more cohesive. Your vehicles are more similar in durability, making target priority a harder call for your opponent. Past that, both armies are more unified in their shooting focus, meaning that you won't have a few units closing the gap while others hang back, further simplifying target priority for your foe.