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!

Batrep #3: Raid on the Black Mountain

(Original art by Games Workshop, colourist unknown)

 

Zhirae, Succubus of the Cult of Spite, exalted in the feeling of the wind whipping through her red braids as her Raider screamed across the flatlands, followed closely by flocks of Venoms, Reavers and Ravagers and other skycraft. Her raiding host was in motion, a fleet of flinty grey dagger-shapes speeding above the surface of this world like loosed arrows homing in on the soft flesh of a target. The world itself was a flat, ugly black rock, with a landscape of dry canyons, plains of barren earth and rising outcroppings of sandstone and basalt. There seemed to be nothing alive here– nothing that she could hunt, nothing that she could kill. It was oddly peaceful and tranquil– which made Zhirae hate it all the more.

Normally, she would never have even bothered leading a raid here, out into the middle of nowhere, but her patron, Lord Scyrex of the Revenant Shroud, had personally sent her on this mission. And in the distance, she could see their target approaching, closer and closer– a steep, slope-sided mountain, seemingly formed from black marble, its sides smooth and unblemished. At a cursory glance, the black mountain might have seemed to be a wondrous, if wholly natural, phenomenon. Zhirae knew better.

Soon, there would be battle. Her fingers closed against the handles of her blades in anticipation  of the slaughter to come. She could feel the palpable excitement of her Wych sisters alongside her in the Raider…but one other passenger was less than enthusiastic.

“Try not to cause too much collateral damage in your enthusiasm, Zhirae,” her sister by blood, Zhael, said with her usual icy aloofness as she absent-mindedly checked her nails. “Lord Scyrex will be disappointed if you accidentally break what he asked us to retrieve.”

Zhirae’s perfect lips twisted in an annoyed frown as she turned to her sister. “If you’re afraid of things getting rough, then why are you sharing a berth on my Raider, with my Cult?” she retorted. “Go on one of the other transports and sip wine with your Kabalite friends if you’d rather not get dirt all over that fancy dress of yours.” At this, her Wyches cackled in approval at their leader’s remark.

As usual, Zhael didn’t rise to the bait. She was, as ever, ice to Zhirae’s fire. “Lord Scyrex may have given you command of this raid,” she said, barely keeping her disapproval of this fact hidden, “but he appointed me to keep you in line, and to remind you of your objectives.” The ghost of a smirk could be seen on her alabaster face. “Of course, if it were down to me, I’d leave you to your own devices and watch  you explain your failure to him in person.”

For what felt like the millionth time, Zhirae suppressed the urge to stab her sister– not that the two hadn’t crossed blades hundreds of times before. Unlike Zhirae, Zhael had never joined the Wych Cult, choosing instead a path of subtlety and political machinations over  that of the blade. At this time, she was a high ranking Archon in the Kabal of the Revenant Shroud, and didn’t hide the fact that she was aiming for the position of Hierarch, the second-hand woman to Lord Scyrex himself– a title that Zhirae herself coveted.

A prominent Archon and the leader of an allied Wych Cult, both on the same Raider, both on the same realspace raid, both vying for power. Even an idiot could see that Lord Scyrex was testing them to see which of them would be worthy of being his right hand. Perhaps he even expected only one of them to return.

“You know I’m going to kill you one day, sister,” Zhirae muttered.

Zhael’s smirk widened. “You keep saying that, dear sister,” she said, “but you never succeed.”

Zhirae smirked back at her. “And neither do you.”

Whatever retort Zhael was going to issue was lost, as at that moment, the horizon was lit up with green radiance.

Shouts and cries of alarm went up as the raiding craft all took evasive maneuvers. Running to the prow of her Raider, Zhirae brought bone-carved telescope to her eye and stared down its length. She was greeted by a sight that sent involuntary chills down her spine. Skeletal, metallic figures were suddenly appearing before the mountain, winking into existence in flashes of sickly green light. As she watched, dozens of the figures were soon standing in rank after rank in front of the mountain, wielding rifles that crackled with viridian power. Around them buzzed dark, insectoid shapes, the occasional glint of nature betraying their artificial nature.

But that was nothing compared to the thing that appeared at the heart of this force. Hovering in the middle of the metallic warriors was a swirling mass of darkness, a writhing pulsar of shadow that seemed to suck in the sparse light of the grey world. As the raiding host drew closer, Zhirae could see other details in that mass of shadow– an umbral robe that writhed as though alive, a towering, emaciated body like that of a victim of famine, and a great scythe, the sight of which sent ripple of unspeakable terror through her soul.

Lord Scyrex had warned them that they would face resistance, but this…this was Death itself.

Zhael strode up next to her on the prow of the Raider. “Having second thoughts, sister?” she purred with a smile.

Zhirae flashed an angry look at her sister. “Hardly,” she snarled, before turning drawing her glaive. “All craft, attack! Let’s show these soulless things the true meaning of death!”

 

I while back, I broke my Dark Eldar (or Drukhari, or however you want to call them now) out of stasis and took them down to my LGS. I had arranged to meet another new-ish player for a game, and had agreed to a 1500 point battle between my Drukhari and his Necrons. We figured that this would be a decent matchup, given that we were both fielding Index armies and were both still learning the wonders and intricacies of 8th edition.

The scenario was No Mercy, Dawn of War deployment, and I had brought the following:

 

DRUKHARI BATTALION DETACHMENT:

Succubus- Parasite’s Kiss, Archite glaive, Blade Dancer

Archon- blast pistol, agonizer, phantasm grenade launcher

5 Kabalite Warriors- blaster

-Venom- dual splinter cannons

5 Kabalite Warriors- blaster

-Venom- dual splinter cannons

5 Kabalite Warriors- blaster

-Venom- dual splinter cannons

8 Wyches- hydra gauntlet, Hekatrix w. agonizer

-Raider- dark lance

10 Mandrakes

6 Reaver Jetbikes- 2 grav talons

Ravager- 3 dark lances

Razorwing Jetfighter- 2 disintegrators

 

This list is fairly similar to what I ran back in 6th and 7th edition, with two new additions in the form of the Mandrakes and the Reavers, both of which I wanted to test out. Please note that I am in the process of painting over a lot of new minis for this army, so I apologize in advance for some of the unpainted or partly-painted models you’ll see in this game.

 

My opponent, meanwhile, brought:

 

NECRON BATTALION DETACHMENT:

Overlord- Staff of Light, resurrection orb, Enduring Will

Lord- Staff of Light

Cryptek

20 Necron Warriors

20 Necron Warriors

10 Immortals- gauss blasters

Shard of the Nightbringer- Antimatter Meteor

6 Canoptek Scarabs Swarms

6 Canoptek Scarabs Swarms

3 Canoptek Wraiths

 

DEPLOYMENT:

I set up my army with my Wyches, Succubus and Archon deploying together in a Raider on the right flank, along with the Reavers. My aim at the time was to use the two units as a hard flanking punch. In the centre I put two Venoms and the Ravager so that I could get some shooting done as soon as possible.

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Meanwhile, on the left flank, I placed another Venom and the Razorwing. (Note, all of the infantry models you see there are either in reserve or mounted on vehicles) The Mandrakes, meanwhile, went into reserve, waiting quietly in their shadow-dimension.

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The Necrons, meanwhile, deployed with their Warriors and forming a semicircle around their Overlord and Cryptek. The Immortals and Lord went on the left flank, the Wraiths on the right, and the Scarabs occupied a flank each.

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Going into this battle, my plan was to isolate and destroy his units one by one with overwhelming firepower and assault. I figured that the only way to counteract his Resurrection Protocols was to wipe his units out before they had a chance to resurrect.

I won the roll off…and for some reason chose to go second. I think at the time I wanted him to get closer before I sprang my assault units on him.

 

TURN 1

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The Necrons began their turn with everything advancing. The Wraiths zoomed up ahead of the Necron phalanx, while the Scarab Swarms skirted up the flanks. The only unit that did not advance was the leftmost blob of Warriors, which levelled their gauss rifles and zapped a wound off of one of my Venoms at extreme range.

In response, I was left with a conundrum. My original plan had been to zoom aggressively down the right flank with my Wyches and Reavers, but now he had his Warriors on that flank nicely screened by Scarabs. At best, I would wipe the Scarabs out only for the Warriors to shoot me up in the following turn, at worst the Scarabs would survive and retreat, and my Wyches would be shot up anyway.

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Instead I moved my Wych Raider and Reavers up towards the centre, biding my time and keeping them there for when the Necrons inevitably crept closer. The rest of my forces angled around a little as I brought every gun I could to bear on the Wraiths– I needed to destroy those things quickly, or they would tear apart whatever they charged.

In the shooting phase, almost my entire army unloaded into the Wraiths– save for my Razorwing, that was, which split its fire between the Wraiths and the leftmost Scarabs. A storm of splinter and darklight fire lashed out at the insubstantial killers, but when it cleared, one Wraith was still standing (floating?) on two wounds. My Razorwing’s missiles had also managed to kill two Scarab bases and put a wound on another, but I had really been hoping to kill off those Wraiths early on– even a single, wounded Wraith could cause me problems if left alone.

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SCORE:

Drukhari- 0

Necrons- 0

 

TURN 2

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Once again, the Necrons marched onwards, with the Scarabs advancing up to hopefully threaten my skimmers next turn and the lone Wraith diving headlong towards my massed vehicles. The Necron infantry, in turn, edged up, many now getting into long range of my nimble skimmers. Ahead of them, the Shard of the Nightbringer floated, gazing ominously at the assembled Drukhari.

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A nearby Primaris Marine spectates, often quipping about the superiority of Mankind and how cheesy the Necrons are.

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In the shooting phase, the central block of Warriors, hitting on 2’s thanks to their nearby Overlord, unloaded on my wounded Venom and stripped it of all 5 remaining wounds, wrecking it for First Blood! One Kabalite was wounded in the destruction, but thankfully, he passed his 6+ save from Power from Pain. The rightmost Warriors, thankfully, were out of range, but the Nightbringer unleashed an Antimatter Meteor at another Venom, blasting a wound off of it. It also unleashed its Gaze of Death at it, but scored no damage. Finally, the Immortals fired their gauss blasters up at my Razorwing, blasting 2 wounds off of it despite the -1 to hit modifier.

In the charge phase, the last Wraith lunged at the recently disembarked Warriors, who stood and shot in overwatch. By some miracle, the blaster hit and wounded…and then the Wraith failed its invulnerable save, even with a command point reroll! I proceeded to roll a 2 on the blaster’s damage, and the Wraith was vaporized as it tried to charge in. Needless to say, both my opponent and I were quite stunned by this.

In my turn, I realized that I had to go on the offensive now, especially since the Necrons would be getting into rapid fire range soon. With this in mind, I summoned the Mandrakes over from Aelindrach, and, after much deliberation, brought them in near the Immortals.

No, that’s not an empty base. That particular Mandrake is just really well camouflaged.

The Razorwing also flew over towards the Immortals that had so rudely shot at it at turn before, while the Wyches and characters disembarked and headed towards the Nightbringer. I really wanted to charge the Warriors behind the C’tan, but with it blocking the way, I knew the best I could do would be a multi-charge. I was hoping that my agonizers, sheer number of attacks and invulnerable saves would be enough to deal with the Nightbringer.

To the right of the Wyches, the Reavers flew up to go after the Warriors as well, while the Raider flew up to charge in and absorb overwatch. Finally, my Kabalites, Venoms, and Ravager all circled to bring their firepower to bear on those pesky Scarabs.

In the shooting phase, the Mandrakes began the festivities by unleashing 20 baleblast shots into the Immortals…and proceeded to roll an inordinate amount of 6s to wound, killing 5 of the Immortals with mortal wounds!

Not one to be outdone, the Razorwing unloaded all of its weapons on the Immortals as well. After a blistering squall of firepower, the remaining Immortals were annihilated, leaving the Necron Lord standing on his own.

In the rest of the shooting phase, my Venoms, the Warriors on board, the Ravager and even the Reavers all fired into the Scarabs. Just as in my last shooting phase, my Venoms rolled poorly, while the Warriors on board were unerringly accurate. Still, after all was said and done, both units of Scarabs were wiped out. As an encore, the Wyches fired their pistols at the Nightbringer and managed to plink a wound off of it as well.

In the charge phase, the Raider went into the Necron Warriors to soak up overwatch…and proceeded to take 7 unsaved wounds from massed gauss fire! The Reavers went into the Warriors as well, while the Wyches and both of my characters multicharged both the Nightbringer and the Warriors. Finally, the Mandrakes made their long charge into the lone Necron Lord.

In the fight phase, the Mandrakes unleashed 30 attacks and managed to hack 3 wounds off of the Necron Lord, who whiffed his return attacks thanks to the Mandrakes’ -1 to hit rule.

In the big central fight, the Succubus focused all of her attacks on the Nightbringer, scoring 7 hits on it thanks to her Blade Dancer trait but only doing one wound. In retrospect, I should have sent her against the Warriors rather than attacking a tough target like the Nightbringer. In exchange, my opponent used two command points to interrupt with the Nightbringer, who focused its attacks on my Succubus, did something like 12 wounds to her and killed her outright. This hurt, because not only had I just lost my warlord, but also the Succubus’ reroll 1s aura for the Wyches and Reavers.
In the rest of the fight, the Archon and Hekatrix did a wound each to the Nightbringer with their agonizers, while the rest of the Wyches and the Reavers combined to kill an impressive 10 Necrons. The Warriors swung back though, and clubbed down two Wyches. The Necrons had sustained massive losses, but my opponent then spent two more command points to have them auto-pass morale, keeping them from evaporating in the morale phase. That hurt, as I had been hoping to wipe out that squad in one fell swoop, and now I would have to deal with their Resurrection Protocols next round.

SCORE:
Drukhari: 4
Necrons: 4

TURN 3

At the start of the Necron turn, the Necron Lord regained a wound, and five Necron Warriors rose again…before the Overlord used his resurrection orb, raising back another three. In an instant, almost all of the damage I had done to that squad was gone. At least he didn’t also have the Veil of Darkness to teleport them out of combat– THAT would have been annoying.
With only one unit unengaged aside from his characters, the Necron player edged his rightmost Warriors into rapid fire range of the Razorwing. They proceeded to then freem 5 wounds off the plane, leaving it teetering on 3 and its last level of damage. Then, in close combat, the Nightbringer scythed down two Wyches, while the Wyches did a wound to the Nightbringer and killed a Warrior. In reply, the Warriors, hitting on 2s thanks to the nearby Overlord, clobbered down all four remaining Wyches and did two wounds to the Raider, leaving it hanging on one. The Archon, in turn, whiffed, while the Reavers sliced down another three Warriors.

Elsewhere, the Necron Lord again swung and missed at the Mandrakes, before being torn limb from limb. Victorious, the Mandrakes consolidated towards the unengaged Warriors.

In my turn, the Razorwing used it’s full move to flee back to my deployment zone, while the Raider limped out of combat. The Mandrakes moved towards the unengaged Warriors, and everything else angled to get line of sight on said Warriors.

In the shooting phase, almost everything in my army shot at the unengaged Warriors, with the Mandrakes doing the lion’s share of the damage once again with their superbly effective baleblasts. When the dust cleared, a massive fifteen Warriors had been brought down, leaving five. Meanwhile, the Archon fired her blast pistol at the Nightbringer, but failed to hurt the C’tan.

In the charge phase, the Mandrakes charged the surviving Warriors, shrugging off overwatch and, now hitting on 2s thanks to Power from Pain, wiping the Necrons out in a hurricane of rusty blades, before consolidating into the nearby Overlord and Cryptek. In turn, the Overlord and Cryptek swung back at their shadowy foes, the Overlord managing to cut down one of them.

Meanwhile, the Nightbringer turned its attention to the Reavers, cutting down one of the nimble Jetbikes, though the Warriors did no damage. For their part the Reavers sliced apart another four Warriors, while the Archon tried and failed to hurt the Nightrbringer.

SCORE:
Drukhari- 5
Necrons- 5

TURN 4
At the start of the Necron turn, six Warriors once again stood up. The Nightbringer, meanwhile, unexpectedly flew out of combat to go after the retreating Razorwing, ditching my poor Archon on the dance floor. My opponent later told me he had done so because he didn’t want the Nightbringer stuck fighting the Archon all game.

In the shooting phase, the Nightbringer unleashed an Antimatter Meteor at said Razorwing, doing three wounds and instantly causing it to crash and burn, killing one of the disembarked Kabalites in the explosion! As an encore it tried to freem a nearby Venom with its Gaze of Death, but failed to wound.

In close combat, the Reavers scythed down another five Necron Warriors, though the Necrons scored a wound on the Reavers in return and took no further damage from morale. Meanwhile, the Mandrakes scored a wound each on the Overlord and Cryptek, though the Overlord swatted down another of the shadow-things in reply.

In my turn, I had a big, Grim Reaper-shaped problem in my deployment zone, and one that I needed to deal with immediately. To this end, I had all of my vehicles circle the Nightbringer in an effort to finally bring it down.

With everything else in combat, I went straight to the shooting phase and fired everything I had at the Nightbringer, unleashing lances and splinters into it from every angle. My opponent made an absurd number of invulnerable saves, but in the end, one last splinter shot from one of the Venom-mounted Kabalites took the C’tan’s last wound, sending the Nightbringer shrieking back into the abyss from whence it came.

In the charge phase, the Archon, who had been separated from the main fight by placement and consolidation weirdness, charged back into the fray against the Necron Warriors and proceeded to hack down two deathbots, while the Reavers sliced down another four. It was at this point that I looked back at the Index and discovered that, contrary to my initial belief, the shadow field COULD NOT be rerolled by a Command Point– a supposed fact that had kept my opponent from allocating any attacks to her all game. The last few Warriors directed their attacks at the Archon, did a handful of wounds…and sure enough, a 1 came up, causing the shadow field to short out. My Archon was now wounded and bereft of her fancy force field…and to make matters worse, the Necrons passed their morale test! Uh oh…

Elsewhere, the combat between the Mandrakes and the Necron characters dragged on, with the shadow-things hacking two wounds off of the Cryptek. In reply, though, the Overlord hacked down another two Mandrakes, and the fight dragged on…

SCORE:

Drukhari- 6

Necrons- 6

 

TURN 5

At the start of my turn…yes, you guessed it, Reanimation Protocols kicked in, and 9 Necron Warriors clambered back to unlife. Oh joy. And, as usual, both Necron characters healed a wound each.

With nothing able to shoot, we went straight to close combat. The Necrons managed to hack down the wounded Reaver, before wailing on my defenceless Archon. I fully expected to lose her then and there…but to my surprise, she managed to cling to life on one wound remaining! In exchange, though, the Archon only managed to kill one Warrior, while the Reavers only slice down two more. This time, though, in part thanks to the -1 LD inflicted on them by the Power from Pain table, the Necrons actually failed morale, and one Necron settled into the peaceful abyss of perma-death.

Meanwhile, the Mandrakes again only did one wound to the Cryptek and bounced off of the Overlord, who killed another of them in return. And so the endless combat dragged on…

In my turn, I finally realized that (1) I needed to get Linebreaker, and (2) my Mandrakes were fighting a losing battle. I had my Mandrakes fall back out of combat, while my vehicles all zoomed up, with one Venom advancing into the enemy deployment zone as they all circled the two Necron characters. I was tempted to have the Reavers fall back as well, but I figured that they were better off slicing Necron Warriors into chunks.

In the shooting phase, the Archon fired her blaster pistol and failed to wound with it. Meanwhile, everything else that could opened fire on the Overlord and Cryptek. The Cryptek was the first to die, shredded from one poisoned hit too many. The Overlord, on the other hand, kept making save after save, but eventually, one last blaster shot vaporized him, killing him off and earning me Slay the Warlord.

No sooner had the Overlord been vaporized, though, when we went to close combat. The Archon managed to kill one more Warrior before being unceremoniously hacked to ribbons by the Warriors. The Reavers, in turn, managed to kill another two or three Warriors, but again, the Necrons held their ground.

At this point, we had to roll for random game length. The dice roll came up as a 1, and the game ended.

 

FINAL SCORE:

Drukhari- 10

Necrons- 8

DRUKHARI VICTORY!

Thoughts: That was a fun, close battle, with the score being tied all the way until the end. Despite the score being so close, though, I actually felt like I was fairly in control all throughout the game. Thanks to my army’s superior mobility, I was able to strike when and where I wanted, dictating the flow of the battle and forcing my opponent to react to me. The fact that I was able to destroy his most mobile units early on helped a great deal as well, as it meant I was pretty much able to run rings around his army at leisure. My strategy of isolating and destroying his units worked well…sort of. While I was able to effectively wipe out several of his units with combined shooting and assault, his big block of Warriors proved almost unkillable thanks to the buffs of the nearby Overlord and Cryptek, absolutely refusing to die and killing off my Wyches and Archon in that big never-ending melee. While the Necrons weren’t able to outmatch me in the shooting department, the sheer resilience of their units made this a fairly close game.

After my first outing with the Drukhari (before their new codex release, that is), I’m happy to see that they are still as lightning fast as they were in previous editions, but there are a lot of changes that I will have to get used to. The change of splinter cannons to rapid-fire weapons meant that I was forced to become much more aggressive with Venoms, and the fact that the Razorwing could actually be hit more easily by enemy fire (albeit with negative modifiers) meant that I was forced to be more cautious with the fragile plane when it started to take damage. On the other hand, I love how reliable combat drugs have become, how much more resilient Reavers are (even if Wyches, sadly, still die with ease), and just how amazing Mandrakes have become– my one unit of Mandrakes almost single-handedly steamrolled the back half of the Necron army. And if nothing else, I’m happy to see that Drukhari are still as effective at mobile firepower as they have always been– my vehicles and vehicle mounted squads, as before, were able to inflict a lot of damage with their massed firepower.

Overall, this was a satisfying first game of 8th ed with my Drukhari. I have no idea how many games with them I’ll be able to get in with the new codex, however, so it may be the next game with them may be with a completely new set of rules.

Drukhari MVP: The Mandrakes were on fire in this game, annihilating the Necron Lord, half a unit of Immortals, and a unit of Warriors, and they also came quite close to killing off the Cryptek as well. Honourable nods also go to the Warriors and Venoms, for just generally providing me a reliable and effective firebase all game.

Necron MVP: The big unit of Warriors gets my vote, as they took pretty much everything I could throw at them and still came out of the battle above half strength, having killed off the Wyches and my Archon in the bargain. My opponent, however, felt that the Warriors were awesome only because of the Cryptek boosting him, and so personally gave his MVP to the Cryptek.

 

Zhael felt one eyelid stutter open as weak sensation filled her frame. She could taste blood in the back of her mouth, and her body was wracked with sharp, biting pain, raw with the memory of Necron blades splitting her flesh. It took a few seconds for her to realize that she had been momentarily dead, before the parasites injected into her by the Haemonculi did their grisly work, regenerating her wounds and bringing her back to life. The pain would linger until her body, now whole and unblemished once more, grew used to its latest resurrection, But then, she and pain were old friends, and it had few surprises remaining for her.

“Ah, you’re awake,” a sibilant voice spoke. “I was wondering when the regenerative cultures would do their work.”

Not suppressing her annoyance, Zhael slowly sat upright, opening her eyes fully to the sight of Vakkan, one of the Kabal’s allied Haemonculi, hovering over her, elevated by the prehensile spinal column jutting, serpent-like, from his back. No doubt, he had arrived on the scene from the webway after the fighting was done, as usual.

She also realized that he was holding something tightly in his three arms: a smooth orb, its glossy black surface shimmering with faint traceries of green light. It was the orb that had been carried by the Necrontyr Lord: the same orb, she realized, that they had been sent to retrieve in the first place.

She did nothing to hide her annoyance as she stood back up, seeing now that her dress was torn and stained with blood and soot from her most recent “death”. This just would not do, she thought bitterly as she took a look around her surroundings. Her raiding party was busy recovering the damage, dragging away the bodies of their comrades, and, where possible, looting what they could. But of the Necrontyr, there was no sign– no bodies, no wreckage. Nothing but the grave-like stillness of the air as the the day slowly turned to night.

“The raiding host suffered minor personnel and material losses,” Vakkan stated matter of factly, pre-empting her question as always, before holding up the orb. “But thanks to your efforts, we have Lord Scyrex’s prize. We should be able to make our transition through the Webway without further incident.”

“Then let us be on our way,” Zhael replied, adopting her aloof demeanour againdespite her battered state. “If you haven’t resurrected my sister yet, do so. This world no longer retains my interest.”

Vakkan said nothing. The pale skin around his shrivelled skull tightened involuntarily in what could pass for a frown.

“What?” Zhael asked.

The Haemonculous’ body dipped low, giving an obeisant bow. “About your sister…there were…complications.”

Zhael felt her blood run cold. “What do you mean complications?”

Bowing again, the Haemonculous turned and gestured across the field. Numbly, Zhael followed his gaze to the middle of the battle site, where the bodies of the Wyches were being dragged off for resurrection, in some cases after being shamelessly looted. All of the bodies, that was, save for one. There, Zhirae lay spread eagled on the ground, her usually pale skin now a bloodless shade of white and a massive gouge opened in her chest. The Succubus’ weapons lay scattered beside her, and her eyes were open, staring up sightlessly at the sky as though silently asking it for some answer.

Slowly, Zhael walked over to her sister’s body, her movement somewhat staggered as sensation returned to her limbs. “Why have you not brought her back?” she asked Vakkan.

Floating up next to her, Vakkan tented his syringe-clawed fingers together with a metallic clack. “I have tried, Mistress,” he replied. “But unfortunately…there is nothing for me to resurrect. Her soul is gone.”

Zhael felt her pulse drop. She turned to face Vakkan. “What do you mean gone?”

“I mean, the soul-prism she carried with her is empty,” Vakkan replied. “She was slain by a shard of…Kaelis Ra, yes? The Nightbringer. A creature that is the embodiment of death itself. When it killed her, I fear it took her soul in the process, and quite possibly, obliterated it.”

For a moment, Zhael was silent. Then, slowly, she took a step towards Vakkan, her movements stiff and deliberate. “Impossible. Bring her back,” she ordered. “Now.”

Vakkan shook his head. “There is nothing to bring back, Mistress, she is gone,” he replied. His mouth soon twisted into a horrible, rictus grin. “Which means that the credit of this victory will be yours, and yours alone. No doubt Lord Scyrex will recognize you well for this success. Congratulations, Hierar–“

There was a flash of silver, and Vakkan’s head flew from his shoulders. The Haemonculous’ body remained suspended upright for a few seconds, as though surprised by its sudden decapitation, before flopping lifelessly to the ground.

Dropping her blade, Zhael knelt over her sister’s body, and screamed up at the uncaring sky.

Acquisitions: the Pillar of Faith and the Huntress

So a while back, I was feeling adventurous and placed an order through Raging Heroes, a French third-party miniature company that almost exclusively does female models that are compatible with most 40k armies. While their model line is kind of renowned (if not infamous) for their overly sexualized female models– I’ve seen one person on Facebook deride them as “Raging Hormones”– I have been able to find a few models in their catalogue that in my opinion are more badass than sexy. I went ahead and ordered two such models– Sister Ardanna, the Pillar of Faith, and Silkeeriss the Huntress.

And lo and behold, tonight they arrived:

Both are resin minis, which I’ve had mixed results with in the past due to its troublesome interaction with most glues (please don’t ask me about my Avenger Strike Fighter). No matter how much I try to rinse resin in soap, on some models it absolutely refuses to stick. It is for this reason that I know that both models will be tricky to assemble. Which is just as well, since the last thing I want to do is damage either of these finely detailed models with hasty clipping or some sort of gluing disaster.

Speaking of details…

Ardanna looks like she will be fairly straightforward to assemble, with the only tricky bits being her sword and the arms holding it. I plan on using her as one of the Canonesses of my Sisters of Battle Order, specifically one wielding the Blade of Admonition (Because come on, look at that sword, it has to be Damage 3). I know I’m going to paint her in my order’s scheme of white armour, blue tabard (yes, I know, white is hellishly difficult to paint), and I am eagerly looking forward to the end result.

Silkeeriss, meanwhile, will be trickier. Her left leg is in two pieces, her head looks like it will be hard to clip free without damaging the horns on her helm, and her fun arm looks like it will have to balance against her helm and shoulder. She will definitely be a trickier assembly job, and one that will be attempted second.

I plan on using her as a blaster-armed Archon for my Drukhari (not the only one, mind you, but a prominent one). At first I was torn between her gun-toting sci fi version and her sword wielding fantasy version, which looks equally badass. In the end I figured that a blaster would serve me better than what looked like an overly elaborate huskblade…although this purchase was made well before the new Drukhari codex was announced, so knowing my luck, they will probably get an awesome melee relic that the sword-toting version could have represented.

I am still uncertain of how I’m going to paint her, especially since I’m currently re-evaluating my army’s colour scheme, though her mask practically screams to be done in ivory, silver or porcelain.

I’ll try to post progress pics of these lovely ladies as I work on them. Merci beaucoup to Raging Heroes, you guys are awesome!

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.