So, yesterday morning I woke up and checked the interwebz to see what was going on in the miniature world. What I got was a big bucket of announcements on Games Workshop’s official news feed…starting with an announcement of their next three codexes after Thousand Sons.
Now, I personally know a T’au player and a person who is enthusiastic about Necrons, so both will be very happy with this news. But me…I only care about the fact that the Dark Eldar are next.
Or…the Drukhari, sorry. I’m never going to get used to this name change.
Along with the Space Marines, the Drukhari were one of my very first armies from the 3rd edition 40k starter box, and I still have a lot of their original models (the ones for whom “spikes on everything at all times” was the dominant aesthetic). I always loved their background– cruel space pirates who would arrive from out of nowhere and drag you back to the twilight dimension they inhabit, to the point where people began associating them with ghosts and demons. In my mind they had a highborn suaveness to them struck a nice contrast with the other “evil” armies of 40k– they weren’t driven by some biological imperative like the Tyranids or raging fanaticism like the Chaos Space Marines, but simply by their own twisted, selfish nature. While a Chaos Lord would be yelling about blood and skulls, a Dark Eldar Archon would be sipping a nice wine while plotting the assassination of his rivals and telling Mr. Bond how he was going to die. They are evil, and they love it.
Being a Dark Eldar/Drukhari/ player has often been an experience of frustration or neglect, though: the Dark Eldar languished for more than ten years without a new model line or codex, while all of the armies around them enjoyed regular updates, model releases and support (especially if your army involved Space Marines in any fashion). Fast forward to the last eight odd years, however, where the Dark Eldar enjoyed a renaissance in 5th edition with an amazingly revamped model line, and a codex that was not only competitive, but was also fun– I fondly remember the plethora of wargear and options in that codex, as well as the long list of named characters, and the fun new Power from Pain rule that made the Dark Kin more deadly the more units they destroyed.
It was because the 5th ed codex was so enjoyable that I found the 7th ed one to be so lacklustre, with most of its more interesting rules streamlined, a lot of its competitive units nerfed, and almost all of its unique wargear and special characters removed. It became a dull, weak book, especially since it was released at the start of 7th ed, before broken things like formations (which DE didn’t have) really took off. To make matters worse, the shooting-centric nature of that edition meant that the DE’s frail assault units became little more than pricey cannon fodder. For fun games, it was a passable if mediocre book, but to do well in a competitive setting it was usable only when allied with more powerful battle brothers like the goody two-shoe Craftworlders, which to me seemed like a final slap in the face.
Now, in the grand experiment that is 8th edition, the Index list for the Drukari has done a lot to fix what was wrong with the 7th ed codex, in my opinion: previously uncompetitive units like Mandrakes are suddenly worth taking again; the Troops slot has been expanded once more to include Wyches and Wracks; and the Power from Pain rule has been not only streamlined, but also been made flat out better, with successive results making the Drukhari harder, better faster and stronger over successive turns. As for the combat drugs…I just enjoy being able to choose the result for each squad, and the fact that you can have a different drug result per squad, rather than having to roll once on a random table for the entire army.
That being said, the army still has the same fluffy weaknesses it always had: they are still a universally fragile force (with the exception of the Coven stuff) that needs to do heavy damage in order to avoid taking too many losses of their own– in all respects they are the quintessential “glass cannon” force of 40k. At the moment, however, like every other Index force, the Drukhari are being overshadowed by the established Codex armies, lacking as they do nice things like relics, stratagems, etc.
So, here’s what I’m hoping to see with the new Drukhari codex (and what I know they won’t do):
WHAT WE’RE BOUND TO GET:
Stratagems, relics and warlord traits (obviously)- I say “obviously” because it has been a staple of every recent codex to include a sizeable list of these, even when (or rather, especially when) there are no new models to go with the army release. At the moment, the Drukhari have one decent stratagem, one okay relic, and three warlord traits (two of which are good, one of which is merely okay) all courtesy of Chapter Approved 2017. I would like to see this list expanded, especially since stratagems are proving to be one of the competitive factors of 8th edition. For stratagems, I could see a return of the old “flyby” ability of the Reavers by letting them inflict mortal wounds if they move over an enemy unit, or a stratagem that lets you choose more than one combat drug result for a unit, or even something that lets your units jump up further on the Power from Pain table. For relics, I’ve noticed with some of the more recent codexes a trend of making terrible old relics useful, and so I anticipate this trend continuing for the Drukhari (Yes, even for the infamously bad Djinn Blade, which was a mediocre weapon that had a minor chance of killing its wielder outright).
As for warlord traits…well, all I can say is they can’t be much more underwhelming than their 7th ed incarnation. Moving on.
A Continuation of the Story- the last Dark Eldar codex teased at some interesting plot developments, hinting at a civil war in Commorragh that was about to erupt between Asdrubael Vect and Lady Malys, and a giant daemon-gate that was threatening to open and engulf the whole Dark City. The old Cult Mechanicus book, in turn, established that the Mechanicus had struck a devil’s pact with the Haemonculi to obtain their life-preserving technology, possibly in a desperate effort to keep the Golden Throne functioning. Unfortunately, from what I heard, while the Daemon invasion actually begins in the Fracture of Biel-Tan book, it is a glossed-over event, a minor detail set against the story of Yvraine. I want to see this explored a lot more in the next Drukhari book, to see what, if anything, has changed in the Dark City with the coming of the Great Rift.
WHAT I’D LIKE TO SEE:
Updated rules, especially for some lackluster units- Although the Index is definitely a step above the old 7th ed codex in terms of playability and enjoyment, there are still units — Hellions and Taloi, I’m looking at you– that I would be reluctant to field without a Webway Portal stratagem, either because they are too fragile to make it into combat, or too ponderous and slow. Which sucks, because they have wonderful models and deserve to be tried out. Updated rules for these units would definitely be a good thing, in my opinion.
Speaking of which, Archons- As far back as even 3rd/4th ed, Archons were an absolute terror on the battlefield, their great statline, unique wargear and deadly weapons enabling them to go toe to toe with even monsters like Greater Daemons and Hive Tyrants and still come out on top. The same held true for their 5th ed incarnation, but in 7th ed…while they retained their shadow fields, they ended up losing soul traps and combat drugs, not to mention weapons that could reliably pierce the 2+ armour save you found on so many enemy characters. While they did gain access to blasters as a unique ranged option, they nonetheless found themselves being woefully outclassed by Space Marine Captains, Wolf Lords and Warbosses, whereas before they had been reliably able to take on and beat these characters. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the Archon was considered to be so overcosted, that a lot of competetive Dark Elder players skipped him/her outright and used a cheap Lhamaean as their HQ choice instead.
Right now, in their Index incarnation, they have less of an issue with armour, but they are still lacklustre in the fight phase. With their only weapons at the moment being the agonizer (which always wounds on 4s, but has mediocre AP and is only damage 1) the huskblade (which has decent AP and does d3 wounds, but relies on the Archon’s crappy strength of 3) and regular power weapons, the Archon is mediocre in the fight phase and seems better suited to ranged combat– something that seems contradictory, given how often in fluff Archons relish humbling their foes in close combat. The free shadowfield is nice, at least, until it’s hit by something that does mortal wounds.
Here’s hoping that in the next book Dark Eldar leaders (not just Archons, but hopefully Succubi and Haemonculi as well) get access to a wider range of weapon options, including relics. Really, I just want my army’s leader to feel like the all powerful villain he/she should be, and not like some pointy eared twit who gets steamrolled by the next Space Marine Captain they meet.
And on that note: Wyches- as much as I think Wyches are improved by the new combat drug rules and by the bubble effect of the Succubus, they still have one major weakness: overwatch. In 6th and 7th ed, Wyches almost never saw action precisely because they would die like ants when charging anything even remotely shooty– which sucks, because I have often seen them depicted in fluff as dancing through enemy fire as they charge. A simple solution would be to give them a permanent invulnerable save as opposed to a close combat-only one, or even a reduced invulnerable save against shooting. Really, if GW wants people to play Wych Cults, then they need to fix Wyches first.
WHAT I’D LIKE TO SEE, BUT ISN’T GOING TO HAPPEN:
New plastic kits- Incubi, Grotesques, Mandrakes and Beast Packs could all use plastic kits. Just saying. Given that there is the faint rumour that Kabals, Wych Cults and Haemonculous Covens will all be getting their own special rules, more plastic kits would only make sense to me. Unfortunately, GW seems to be of the mindset of wanting to avoid making new minis for existing armies if they can help it (other than for Space Marines, obviously), so I doubt this will happen.
Bring back ye old special characters, darnit- As I mentioned previously, the old 5th edition Dark Eldar codex had a plethora of named characters, from the Hellion Baron Sathonyx, to David Bow– er, Duke Sliscus, a charmingly mad space pirate, and above all else, the big bad of the Dark Eldar, Asdrubael Vect– the Machiavellian genius running the Dark City. While some of these characters were, obviously, more powerful or useful than others, they all served to add to the flavour and fun factor of that codex.
Fast forward to 7th ed, however, and almost all of those characters were removed, save for Lelith Hesperax, Urien Rakarth and Drazhar– in other words, the only characters that GW bothered making models for. While Dark Eldar weren’t the only victims of this shortsighted policy (Grey Knight and Imperial Guard characters without models were similarly axed), what made this infuriating was that Asdrubael Vect (and to a lesser extent, Lady Malys) still featured heavily in the background of the book, despite having neither models nor rules!
I am hoping that in the next codex, GW sees sense and makes models and rules for these fun old characters (or at the very least, for Vect). Unfortunately, given GW’s seeming reluctance to make new characters for existing armies, I doubt this will happen, and these characters will remain unusable in game.
That’s what I’d like to see at least. Please feel free to comment on what you want, or expect, from the new book.