The Invasion of Realspace: Two Drukhari Lists

After a hiatus in gaming brought on my work and life constraints, I finally have some time to get some games in in the next few weeks. I’m looking at this as an opportunity to finally test out the Drukhari book, and so I’ve had plenty of time to fidget between various lists on Battlescribe.

In particular, I’ve been focusing on trying to create a good Alliance of Agony list. Here’s what I initially came up with:

DRUKHARI RAIDING FORCE:

KABAL OF THE FLAYED SKULL PATROL:

Archon- blast pistol, Djin Blade, Famed Savagery- 76
10 Kabalite Warriors- 2 blasters, splinter cannon- 104
-Raider- disintegrator, splinter racks- 90
5 Kabalite Warriors- blaster- 47
-Venom- dual splinter cannons- 75
Sslyth- 27
-Venom- dual splinter cannons- 75
8 Mandrakes- 128
5 Scourges- 4 blasters- 128
Ravager- 3 dark lances- 140
Ravager- 3 dark lances- 140
Razorwing Jetfighter- 2 disintegrators, splinter cannon- 145

PROPHETS OF FLESH PATROL:

Haemonculous- liquefier gun, flesh gauntlet, ichor injector, Diabolic Soothsayer
5 Wracks- ossefactor- 52
-Venom- dual splinter cannons- 75
3 Grotesques- 105
-Raider- dark lance, grisly trophies, phantasm grenade launcher- 90

CULT OF STRIFE PATROL:

Succubus- Archite glaive, Triptych Whip, Blade Dancer- 54
18 Wyches- 2 shardnets & impalers, Hekatrix w. agonizer- 158
9 Reaver Jetbikes- 2 heat lances, 2 grav-talons- 201

Total: 1999

Pre-Game Command Points: Alliance of Agony, Prizes of the Dark City
Total Command Points: 7 (-2, +d3)

This list was based primarily on units i have, and/or ones that I really want to test out. The general idea of this list is to flood the board with maximum threat overload by turn 2. While the Kabal forces are there to provide fire support, everything else in the army is there to provide some close combat punch. Fire priority in this list will first go to killing enemy shooty units, particularly things that can threaten my vehicles and counter my mobility, while secondary targets will be anything with the close combat punch or mobility to pose a serious threat to me. With the Grotesques riding around in a Raider, the Reavers zooming around, the Mandrakes coming in from reserve and the Wyches coming out of the webway, I’m looking at multiple nasty close combat threats swarming the enemy lines by turn 2, with the aim of swarming the opponent, ganging up where possible, and inflicting plenty of damage (particularly with my mean characters). The Scourges either hang around on the board, hopping from cover to cover, deep strike in to kill some vehicles with their blasters. The characters, meanwhile, join the Sslyth in a Venom, and together ride off to provide buffs wherever needed, provide close combat support where needed, aand drink orange mocha frappucinos in the meantime.

A lot like this, only replace WHAM! with the screams of the damned.

I do have a few issues with this list, though. Firstly, given the number of deep striking units that I have, I can’t help but wonder if I’m leaving my main army a little more vulnerable to the enemy’s turn 1 shooting. I’m hoping that the turn 2 assault by everything on the board will more than make up for the diminished turn 1 board presence. This is coupled with the question of whether I have enough firepower on the board on turn 1. I like to think, realistically, that I do, but then again there are always extremes– I may find that I don’t have nearly enough lances if I end up against an IG tank horde, or Imperial Knights, or vice versa, enough decent anti-infantry weapons if I run up against Tyranids, Orks, or Poxwalker-heavy Death Guard (though I am hoping that the Wyches and my other close combat stuff can deal with that– that the best way to deal with a horde is another horde).

I am also wondering whether or not to switch the Cult of Strife for the Red Grief– on the one hand, Strife benefits the big Wych blob quite a lot, especially since, given that they will be arriving on turn 2, they will already have rerolls to charges thanks to Power from Pain, and will be arriving close enough to the enemy that they won’t need Red Grief’s advance-and-charge ability. On the other hand, the same can’t be said for the Reavers, who will most definitely benefit more from Red Grief than Strife, especially given their hefty advance move.

Finally, there’s the issue of command points. Quite simply…a Raiding Force may not cut it competitively any more. If I want more command points, I may need to bite the bullet and switch one of my patrols into a Battalion, though I would have to make severe cuts to the list to do that. Just as an example, though, I’ve tinkered with the above list and made this secondary version:

KABAL OF THE FLAYED SKULL BATTALION:

Archon- blaster, Djin Blade, Famed Savagery- 93
Archon- blaster, huskblade- 93
10 Kabalite Warriors- 2 blasters, splinter cannon- 104
-Raider- dark lance, splinter racks- 95
5 Kabalite Warriors- blaster- 47
-Venom- dual splinter cannons- 75
5 Kabalite Warriors- blaster- 47
-Venom- dual splinter cannons- 75
8 Mandrakes- 128
Sslyth- 27
-Venom- dual splinter cannons- 75
Ravager- 3 disintegrators- 125
Ravager- 3 dark lances- 140
Razorwing Jetfighter- 2 disintegrators- 135

PROPHETS OF FLESH PATROL:

Haemonculous- stinger pistol, ichor injector, electrocorrosive whip, Diabolic Soothsayer- 86
5 Wracks- ossefactor- 52
3 Grotesques- 105
-Raider- dark lance, grisly trophies, phantasm grenade launcher- 90

CULT OF THE RED GRIEF PATROL:

Succubus- splinter pistol, Blood Glaive, Hyper-Swift Reflexes
9 Wyches- shardnet and impaler, Hekatrix w. agonizer- 80
-Raider- dark lance, grisly trophies, phantasm grenade launcher- 90
8 Reaver Jetbikes- 2 heat lances, 2 grav talons- 182

TOTAL: 1994

Pre-Game Command Points: Alliance of Agony, Prizes of the Dark City
Total Command Points: 10 (-2, +d3)

This list gives me way more Command Points to play with, but does so, sadly, at the expense of my Scourges. To cut back on points, I was also forced to downgrade one of my Ravagers to disintegrators (though “downgrade” is a subjective term, as it will still do plenty of damage to multi-wound models, and absolutely murder things like Primaris Marines). If I were to fiddle with this list more, I might consider trading the Razorwing for the Scourges again, if I find that I miss the anti-tank firepower that they provide. At the very least, though, I have more Warriors now, and an extra Archon to join the Party Venom.

I also wound up going Red Grief in this instance, for three reasons: (1) it would improve my Reavers tremendously, (2), it would mean one less Command Point to spend, and (3), the Red Grief’s relic and warlord trait are simply far superior for a Succubus. That being said, I still do want to experiment with the Cult of Strife and their bucketload of attacks at some point, and so the Webway-wandering Wych party is something that may still show up in future lists.

While both are designed as all comers lists, I anticipate my first opponents being Imperial Guard and Space Marines. After my first few games I’ll hopefully have an idea of what’s working and what’s not. More importantly, later down the road I do want to experiment with different obsessions and/or list themes, and see what’s next on my shopping list. Of the two, I’ll probably try the first list first, simply because…well, I have only one Archon model.

Hopefully I’ll have more updates on my Drukhari to come. Until then, happy hunting, Kabalites!

Review- Codex: Drukhari

(Image courtesy of Games Workshop)

 

So, I’ve been meaning to write this review ever since the book came out. Sadly, work and other real life stuff has been incessantly getting in the way, and so this review is a bit late– by now, most of you have already read better, and more concise reviews on the new codex. Regardless, I’m here to give my two cents on the new book, what I like and dislike about it, what I thought the most significant changes are, and what I think it means for the army going forward.

Without further adiue, here’s my take on the new Codex: Drukhari.

The Background

In general, the background section in the codex is quite solid. A lot of the things that have been in the previous two codexes are in there as well- background on individual units, a lengthy and detailed history of the Drukhari, from the Fall to the present day, and a description regions and society of the Dark City. This background, while detailed and well-written, is also largely unchanged from the past two codexes. What’s new, however, is a large section that goes into detail on various Kabals, Wych Cults and Covens within the Dark City– something that the previous books never did. I personally found this to be a significant improvement, as one thing I felt the previous books were lacking were details on individual Kabals, their organizations, cultures and societies: it is nuggets of information like these that are great for helping players develop fluff for their own armies. I found myself particularly liking the descriptions of the Kabal of the Last Hatred (re: Drukharii dabbling in necromancy), and the Cult of the Blade Denied (Wyches who practice unarmed combat). The book even goes into detail on how Kabals, Cults and Covens are organized– I now know for the first time that Kabals are organized into company-like subgroups called “shards,” which in turn are divided into “splinters” (Cults and Covens have Circles and Cells, respectively)

One of my biggest questions prior to the release of the new codex was: what was going to change? The new edition of 40k has pushed the story forward in some massive, sweeping ways, particularly with half of the galaxy now being covered by the Cicatrix Maledictum. Given that the past Dark Eldar codex (and the Gathering Storm books) left the story of the Dark City on a bit of a cliffhanger, with Khaine’s Gate on the verge of opening and unleashing an apocalypse upon Commoragh. It was a dire note to leave the story of the Dark City on, and I was very curious to see how they would resolve it.
Well resolve it they did, in ways I wasn’t expecting. The relevant new plot points include:

-Khaine’s Gate opened, unleashing a massive Daemon invasion on the Dark City. Eventually, the invasion was beaten back to its origin point, but not defeated– instead, the sub-realm containing Khaine’s Gate was isolated, and is now called the Chasm of Woe. Even then, however, daemons are still pouring forth from the Gate, and Vect has now been forced to sacrifice more and more sub-dimensions just to keep them in check. I found this to be an interesting plot point, albeit a somewhat grim one: like the rest of the galaxy, Comorragh hasn’t been unscathed by the opening of the Maledictum and the rise of Chaos. While it hasn’t fallen, it is now slowly but surely being eaten alive from the inside, dying a slow death. It lends a new dimension to the story, as it raises a lot of interesting questions: how will the Drukhari stave off their eventual extinction? Will they band together, or stay their usual, selfish course?
-Speaking of Asdrubael Vect, he pulled a grand ploy by staging his own death, being visibly torn apart by Mandrakes and seemingly having all of his soul-containers annihilated. A wake was held for him, and naturally, all of his enemies came to gloat…and naturally, all of his enemies wound up very dead when Vect revealed he was alive and executed his grand trap. Vect has now consolidated his power even more and has declared himself “the Living Muse” (ie essentially a paragon of Drukhari ideals). Interestingly, Lady Malys had the foresight not to attend, and took her Kabal into the webway outside of Commoragh, where they wait still. Perhaps more of Vect vs Malys looms on the horizon?
-There’s also more mentioned on the Ynnari– namely that Lelith Hesperax and the Cult of Strife have joined the Ynnari’s crusade, despite the fact that Lelith was the one who killed Yvraine in the first place. Lelith’s reasons are that she wants to take on Lucius the Eternal– a prospect that intrigues and terrifies me. On the one hand, if anyone could potentially beat Lucius, it’s Lelith. On the other hand, a proud creature like the Queen of Knives can’t possibly resist Lucius’ curse– ie, feel pride at killing him, and thus get possessed by him. Meanwhile, Vect is plotting to deal with Yvraine, seeing this new prophet as a threat to his power base.
-The Haemonculi have taken an interest in capturing Primaris Marines and Custodes. There’s also a fluff bit the Inquisition briefly discovering a Coven making a blood and guts-covered version of the Golden Throne. Given that there was an earlier bit in the Mechanicus book about the Mechanicus trading with the Haemonculi in order to fix the Golden Throne, perhaps this is a result of that devil’s pact.

 

THE ART

Believe it or not, the artwork is always a big deal for me in a new codex. Whether it be a new release or just an updated one, the artwork has always been key in giving the codex a sense of theme, atmosphere and character– an illustration of a Space Marine resolutely firing his bolter, for instance, or even better, fighting a swarm of Orks or Tyranids while surrounded, gives you a visual idea of what the army is like in battle that the unit descriptions, fluff and painted minis do not. To me, the artwork fills in the gaps and supports the fluff, and a lot of previous books have had some truly fantastic art pieces. The last two Dark Eldar codexes, in particular, have had some very good pieces of artwork, not just of the Dark Eldar in battle, but of the Dark City and life within it.

Sadly, this new Codex falls short in the art department. While there is one good new colour art piece in the book showing the Drukhari murderizing some White Scars, for the most part almost all of the artwork is recycled from previous codexes. There a lot of portrait-style illustrations showing members of the various Kabals, Cults, Covens, etc, and in some cases these are very well done, especially where they do full-body portraits to display that subfaction’s colours and visual themes. For the most part, though, these portraits are pretty hideous– I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but whoever did them just cannot draw faces. All in all, I’m just not impressed.

 

THE ARMY OF THREE

For the most part, there remain a lot of rules similarities between Index and Codex– for instance, the core rules, Power from Pain and Combat Drugs, remain unchanged. The most significant however, come not from the core rules, but from army organization. In the new Drukhari book, Kabals, Wych Cults and Haemonculi Covens are all treated as distinct factions– in many ways, the book is one that covers three armies, rather than one, with each having not just their own separate keywords but also distinct subfactions. This makes mixing and matching units impossible outside of fielding separate detachments– although certain units like Incubi, Scourges and Mandrakes have no factional keywords and are freely usable by all three groups. To compensate for this lack of integration, the book features the “Raiding Force” rule, which means that if the army comprises of at least three Patrol detachments, then the army gains +4 command points instead of the usual +3.

I have to admit that I am personally torn on this rule change. On the one hand, I like the fact that the book is reflecting the fact that the Drukhari are NOT a unified race– that each raiding force is not a single army, but a loose collection of vaguely combined interests that will happily turn on each other once the fighting is finished. It also emphasizes that Kabals, Cults and Covens are all their own unique factions, and need to be treated as such Indeed, the Alliance of Agony stratagem (more on that later) makes it all the more rewarding to field the Drukhari as a tripartite force. At the same time, however, there is a “taxation” element to this that reminds me uncomfortably of the hated formations and detachments of 7th edition, and which makes it difficult to field armies themed around a single faction. In order to field a pair Ravagers in support of a Wych Cult, for example, I would first have to throw in an Archon, and then, depending on which detachment I’m using for said Ravagers, also throw in a squad of Kabalites or one more Ravager than I needed or wanted. In making the Drukhari a tripartite army, they made it a lot more difficult for armies from just a single faction to function competitively, which could be a problem for players who have a specific theme in mind for their army. That being said, how well “mono faction” armies can fare in this edition I think is a topic that needs to be explored further.

It is worth noting, by the way, that while I personally find the Raiding Force option to be a fun one, if you really want lots of CP in your army, you are better off going with Battalions (especially since they yield 5 CP as of the FAQ), and/or going for a CP farming combo of Black Heart/Prophets of Flesh. Ultimately there is only one CP of difference between a Raiding Force and a Battalion, and certainly, Drukhari can make up the difference in various ways, but the Raiding Force is certainly not the only option for the Drukhari when it comes to detachments.

 

OBSESSIONS

It’s also worth going into the subfaction rules for a bit. Like most other Codex armies released up until now, the Drukhari have a list of subfactions (or “obsessions”) in their book, only in this case their obsessions are divided, as is everything else in the book, betweek Kabals, Wych Cults and Haemonculous Covens. Almost all of the obsessions have a general theme in mind: Kabal obsessions tend to be very shooty, Wych obsessions all have assault bonuses, whereas the three Haemonculi Covens revolve around resilience, leadership debuffs and armour-piercing attacks, respectively. What I like about the subfactions in Codex: Drukhari, however, is that there are few “obvious” or “mandatory” choices like you get in the other codexes, where some subfactions (ie Alaitoc, Salamanders, Alpha Legion) have become go-to competitive choices. I can honestly and happily say that I remain torn on which Kabal obsession to use for my army, as they are all equally good: the Flayed Skull and Poisoned Tongue both boost the massed splinter fire of Kabalites, the Obsidian Rose is just generally good with their range bonuses, and the Black Heart lets vehicles ignores wounds on a 6+, and has an amazing relic, warlord trait and signature stratagem to boot. The same goes for the Wych Cults– all three of their obsessions are worth taking, and all three are ones that I want to experiment with in the future. I  would say that the only real “no brainer” subfaction in the army is the Prophets of Flesh Haemonculus Coven, partly because Wracks, Grotesques and Taloi with a 4+ invulnerable save are amazing, and partly because their Diabolic Soothsayer warlord trait is a must-have for any Alliance of Agony list. Overall, though, the obsessions of the Drukhari open up a lot of tactical and list-building options, and I am excited to explore those options in the games to come.

 

 

UNITS- WHAT HAS CHANGED

It will take too long to go through the major changes unit by unit, so just as a quick summary of the standouts for me:

-Just as I had hoped, the Archon has gone from zero to hero (or villain, rather). Firstly, he has received a rules buff, with the Overlord rule now giving them a “reroll 1s to hit” aura instead of simply giving nearby minions his leadership. More importantly, Archons now have access to better melee weapons, with the huskblade having been boosted to a beautiful +1 strength and d3 wounds, and, as will be mentioned later, they also have access to a wide array of relics, warlord traits and stratagems that can make them extra killy. The Archon is a scary model once again, and I couldn’t be happier.
It should be worth adding, by the way, that this has not happened at the expense of the other 2 HQ choices. Both the Wyches and the Haemonculous now have a plethora of great options of their own, and both are still quite good at their respective roles and factions…and now, thanks to the Alliance of Agony stratagem, you’re pretty much encouraged to take all three.

-Although they are single models, the Court of the Archon do not count as characters, and so, thanks to the rules around targeting characters, are now much more useful than they were before as bodyguards. Already, I’ve seen Sslyth show up in a lot more lists because of this.

-Warriors now can take 2 blasters in a unit of 10, making large units of them an even more attractive option. Perhaps fittingly, Raiders now come once again with the option for splinter racks, allowing the passengers on board get exploding 6s with their splinter weapons. This makes them arguably a better (albeit pricier) option than 5-man units in Venoms, but I guess it depends on your points and play style. Two units of 5 riding on a single Raider is definitely an attractive option, however.

-Blasters are much better now, doing d6 damage as opposed to the d3 from the Index. This makes Kabalites, Scourges, Reavers, and any other unit capable of wielding blasters that much more effective.

-I was terrified that Mandrakes would be nerfed in some way, or worse, exiled into the limbo of uncertainty that is the Index. Thankfully, this was not the case: they are still in the book, and are still boasting a decent shooting attack, boatloads of melee attacks and their -1 to hit ability. I can’t wait to use these creepers more in the future.

-Wyches, as I had hoped, got a significant boost as well, now coming with +1 attack base, a choice of either +1 strength, +1 attack on the charge or rerolling charge distances (depending on their obsession), and a slight buff to their dodge save– out of combat, they now get a 6+ invulnerable save, which stacks with Power from Pain. It’s still not great– Wyches are still going to die like ants to shooting– but it’s still much better than what they had before. Besides which, thanks to things like the Webway Portal stratagem, being able to reroll charge distances on turn 2, Cult of the Red Grief, etc, they can get into combat a lot sooner. It’s also worth noting that shardnets and impalers have improved dramatically, bolsterng Wyches’ chances of keeping enemies from falling back.

-Grotesques, incidentally, have been improved somewhat now that their monstrous cleavers are -2 armour instead of -1. Taloi, similarly, have had some of their melee weapons buffed slightly. Combine this with Haemonculous Coven obsessions and suddenly they become amazing.

-A quick note on special characters: Lelith Hesperax has not changed too much, as she can still unleash half a million attacks on her own. Now, however, she can also choose a stat to boost at the start of each turn, in a similar manner to combat drugs (only better, in that she can change it each turn, and that this does not use up a combat drug “slot”). Drazhar, meanwhile, has become downright amazing: not only has he gained the Hatred Eternal warlord trait to reroll failed to wound rolls, but he can now attack twice in the Fight phase after charging. In other words, Drazhar is now officially the Drukhari version of Kharn.

Oh yes, and Urien Rakarth now boots the strength as well as toughness of nearby Coven units, making any nearby Grotesques or Taloi extra tasty.

-Trueborn and Bloodbrides are gone, as are blasters for Archons. They are still available in the Index, though, which means they are still technically usable.

 

RELICS

As expected, the new codex has also brought with it new relics, warlord traits and stratagems for the Drukharii to bring them in line with the current range of codexes. In keeping with the overall theme of the codex, while several of these relics are universal, many others are specific to either Kabals, Cults of Covens (while a select few are even sub-faction specific). Without going into too many details, I will simply say that for the most part, the relics are quite good: there are no relics that immediately stand out as “bad” or underpowered (except maybe the Spirit’s Sting, and I’d say that’s more situational than anything else), and a select few of the relics are downright amazing. Standouts for me include the Helm of Spite (which lets you deny psychic powers and force Perils of the Warp in the process), the new and improved Djin Blade (which still grants +2 attacks and can still mortally wound its bearer on a roll of 1, but grants +1 strength and d3 wounds in the bargain). There are some neat obsession-specific items as well, such as the Kabal of the Black Heart’s Writ of the Living Muse, which grants your Archon an aura of reroll 1s to wound in addition to his/her rerolling 1s to hit aura, and the Cult of Red Grief’s Blood Glaive (an Archite Glaive without the -1 to hit penalty that does d3 damage). A full list of the relics, and the character combos that they open up, may very well be the subject of a future blog post (although HERO, being the hero that he is, has already written a very good article on the subject).

WARLORD TRAITS

Again, the Warlord traits are divided between Kabals, Cults and Covens, and some of them are subfaction-specific. Once again, though, the selection is actually quite good, ranging from competitive to enjoyable, and there are very few traits that aren’t worth taking. The traits range from letting your Archon reroll wounds regain wounds by killing models, to Succubi getting extra combat drug rolls, inflicting mortal wounds or boosting their invulnerable saves to 3+, to Haemonculi regenerating d3 wounds a turn, boosting the invulnerable saves of nearby Coven units and reducing the amount of damage they suffer. Two standouts are the Prophets of Flesh trait Diabolical Soothsayer (which grants d3 command points at the start of the game, which is almost a must-have for an Alliance of Agony) and the Black Heart trait Labyrinthine Cunning, which lets you roll a d6 every time you or your opponent spend a CP and regain one on a 6. While these two traits, for Haemonculi and Archons respectively, are extremely good almost to the point of being must-haves, the other traits are still quite good as well, and the Alliance of Agony will give a player to chance to try multiple multi-faction traits in one list. One combination I am personally keen to try is a Flayed Skull Archon with the Djin Blade and the Famed Savagery trait, as this will give him 8 strength 5 attacks rerolling 1s and doing d3 wounds (with the potential for the attacks and strength going up further if he kills a character and uses the Soul Trap stratagem– more on that in a bit).

 

STRATAGEMS

Probably the second biggest new change advantage to the Drukhari after their Obsessions and Raiding Force rule are their stratagems. Speaking as someone who, up until now, has been fielding Index-only armies and thus has not used stratagems that extensively, they will be a new and interesting experience for me, and, like everything else, one that will bear much experimentation. The sheer number of stratagems that the Drukhari have (33 to be exact) is going to take some getting used to as well, as it will be difficult to remember most of them– I suspect that the stratagem cards that came with my copy of the codex are going to be very handy for this reason.

Numbers aside, what I will say is that the Drukhari stratagems generally seem quite fun and, more importantly, characterful– a lot of them reflect things I had always imagined the Dark Eldar doing in the background, like having lightning-fast reflexes or being masters of terror terror tactics. A lot of old wargear items and unit rules have been recycled as stratagems as well. Some of my favourites include:
-Soul Trap- if your character kills an enemy character, they gain +1 strength and +1 attack for the rest of the game. As far as I can tell, this is cumulative.
-Lightning-Fast Reactions (2 CP)- any unit that isn’t a Coven unit can force -1 to hit in either shooting or melee.
-Fleshcraft (1 CP)- a Coven unit can regain D3 wounds
-Eviscerating Fly-By (1 CP)- a Wych Cult unit with the Fly keyword can fly over an enemy unit and inflict mortal wounds (the old, and long-missed, 6th ed Reaver rule)
-Cruel Deception (2 CP)- a unit can fall back and then charge

Some of the stratagems, though, are potent enough to revolve entire lists or strategies around– I am thinking in particular of the Webway Assault stratagem and, even more importantly, the Alliance of Agony. Speaking of which, I need to devote a paragraph to the wonderful weirdness that is the 1 CP Alliance of Agony. Simply put, if you have an Archon warlord, along with a Succubus and Haemonculous in your army, then you may give the other two characters warlord traits as well. It is practically designed to be used in a Raiding Force, and like the Raiding Force, highlights that the Drukhari are essentially three armies in one. It is, admittedly, a neat stratagem, especially since it makes it clear that you only lose Slay the Warlord if the Archon dies, and it enables you to tool your characters out even further and set some some interesting combos. It also allows you to play the “CP farming” game almost as well as the Imperial Guard if you combine the Black Heart trait Labyrinthine Cunning (recycle/steal CPs on a roll of 6), and the Prophets of Flesh trait Diabolic Soothsayer (+D3 CPs at the start of the game).

While the Alliance of Agony seems fun, it is, in my opinion, by no means a must-have, and it is worth noting that it doesn’t specifically have to be used with a Raiding Force– any combination of detachments will work with it, as long as you have those three characters in your force and an Archon warlord.

I should add in closing on this that the Drukhari do not seem to have any “broken” stratagems by any stretch of the imagination, save one– the much-hyped Agents of Vect stratagem for the Kabal of the Black Heart. For 2 CP, it allows you to effectively negate an opponent’s stratagem, potentially foiling their plans and/or denying the rabbit that they were about to pull out of their hat. It is a really good foil for opponents who may be relying on one or two major stratagems (I’m thinking in particular of Blood Angel Smash Captains), and it certainly is a good reason to field the Black Heart, but I don’t see it as game-breaking as the internet is making it out to be, nor do I see it as something to be relied on or to revolve strategies around. It is good, and annoying for the opponent, but unless my opponent has some truly heinous stratagems, I would prefer to keep my CP for stratagems that let my units do more damage/stay alive.

 

OVERALL THOUGHTS:

Overall, I like the new Drukhari book. It does a lot to add flavour, flexibility and (very) competitive options to the army, and if I’m honest, it has made me enthusiastic about playing the Dark Eldar ever since the dismal 7th ed Codex killed that enthusiasm. I am probably going to do further posts on army lists, individual unit/stratagem reviews, and further tactical thoughts on the army, but overall, I am quite pleased.

Over the next little while, I’m going to be revamping my existing Dark Eldar army to raid the tabletops, and hope to explore this codex further, game by game. Hopefully, I’ll be able to share more posts on my little Alliance of Agony as I add new units, restore old ones, decide whether or not I want to revamp my army’s existing paint scheme at all.

Anyway, there’s my review. Happy hunting, fellow raiders!

Wishlisting: The Drukhari are Coming

(Artist unknown)

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.

Games Workshop’s Announcements at the LVO

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.