Batrep #5: From Darkness They Came

(Artist unknown)

Hundreds of miles below the Valkyrie, the surface of planetoid Ixis 37B was a jagged grey tangle of crags, peaks, and canyons, punctuated here and there by the bright orange of a lava flow. It was a low atmosphere rock where little sunlight pierced the perpetual gloom, and little or nothing lived. It wasn’t until you got closer to the surface that you saw stranger sights– rock formations hovering above the ground like strange, floating sculptures, perfectly hemispherical pits stretching for miles across, and strange electromagnetic signals seemingly originating from the planet itself– all of which had attracted the attention of the Adeptus Mechanicus.

Tempestor Stone of the Ironheart Grenadiers pulled his gaze away from the Valkyrie’s viewport to glance at back Alpha Squad. Around him, his Grenadiers were harnessed into their seats, busy doing last-minute weapons checks, saying the odd prayer here and there, and cracking jokes with one another– all standard rituals for a man about to make a drop. 

At least two standard Terran weeks ago, an Adeptus Mechanicus facility in Ixis had unearthed ancient ruins of xenos origin. Only a few days after that, though, the raids had begun: sleek craft, supposedly of Eldar origin, had started to strike at the outpost from the barren wastelands surrounding it, reaping a heavy toll on the Skitarii garrison before disappearing back into the darkness of the moon’s eternal night cycle. The attacks had been incessant, day after day, until the very last Skitarii had been slain. Now the Techpriests were defeneless, and they were calling on the Imperial Guard for help. They were adamant that something that they had found– an artefact of great significance, or so they claimed, though they refused to go into specifics– could not fall into xenos hands.

Task Force D-55’s mission was simple: extract the surviving Techpriests, and more importantly, the whatever-it-was that they had found. Ground assets– in particular, an armoured brigade from the Ironheart 23rd– were already on site, though Marshal Everson had also sent Stone and his Grenadiers in to provide airborne support and extraction if need be, and– as Everson himself had said– “to give those flying pointy-eared whoresons a taste of their own medicine.” Stone smiled at the thought, but it soon disappeared as he recalled the details of the xeno attacks. Whoever these attackers were, they had been capturing Skitarii alive with each raid, mutilating them, and leaving their barely-alive bodies nailed to cliffsides in full view of the Mechanicus outpost. This could only be the grisly handiwork of the Dark Eldar, he knew, which meant that  failure today would mean a fate much worse than death for him and his men.

“Vox reading from the ground, sir!” came an abrupt shout from Bishop, his pilot. “The ground column has sighted and engaged xeno forces at delta nine-five!”

Stone snapped back to reality. “Auspex!” he ordered, bracing himself against the upper walls of the Valkyrie as he strode down the length of the plane towards the cockpit. Looking at the auspex on the main console, he saw returns pinging to life on the circular screen– solid green blocks representing the armoured column sprang up, forming a loose row upon a topographic representation of the valley far below them. A yellow triangle blinked in the middle of the column, representing the asset that the Mechanicus wanted extracted. At the furthest of the valley, meanwhile, multiple white dots of varying size were suddenly appearing. Those dots were converging on the column with alarming speed. 

It was at that moment that the vox crackled to life. The cabin of the Valkyrie was suddenly flooded with a cacophony of screams, shouted orders, and a low, static-laced rumble that could only be the boom of battle cannons. 

“Shut it off,” Stone ordered, “and bring us into drop altitude.” He turned and strode down the other end of the plane to his men. “Weapons ready! We will be dropping in exactly one minute! Our opposition is highly mobile with multiple skimmer assets! Expect intense enemy fire and fierce resistance the moment we hit the ground!”

“So, business as usual?” piped up one Grenadier.

Stone flashed him a rare smile. “Business as usual, Grenadier,” he replied, as he flicked the power cell of his pistol and re-checked his grav-chute, before grabbing a hold of the overhead railing.

In front of him, the side door of the Valkyrie began to rumble open to the endless starlight outside…

 

So, I apologize for the long time it has been since my last batrep: life, as usual, has been fairly busy. A while back, though, I managed to get my first game with the new Dark Eldar in against a friend of mine who had just started on 8th edition himself. For the sake of keeping things simple, we agreed to a 1500 points game, with my Kabal against his Imperial Guard. I brought the following:

 

I took the following:

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A quick note: for those of you who do not like seeing unpainted models…I apologize in advance, but you are going to be seeing a lot of those in this game.

 

KABAL OF THE REVENANT SHROUD RAIDING PARTY:

KABAL OF THE FLAYED SKULL PATROL:

Dracon Khyrus (Archon)- blast pistol, Djin Blade, phantasm grenade launcher, Hatred Eternal
10 Kabalite Warriors- 2 blasters, splinter cannon
-Raider- dark lance, splinter racks
5 Kabalite Warriors- blaster
-Venom- dual splinter cannon
Sslyth
-Venom- dual splinter cannon
8 Mandrakes
Ravager- 3 dark lances
Razorwing Jetfighter- 2 disintegrators

CULT OF THE RED GRIEF PATROL:

Succubus Karath Deathbrand- blast pistol, Blood Glaive, Adrenalight, Hyper-Swift Reflexes
9 Wyches- shardnet and impaler, Grave Lotus, Hekatrix w. agonizer*
-Raider- disintegrator
6 Reaver Jetbikes- 2 heat lances, Painbringer

PROPHETS OF FLESH PATROL:

Haemonculus Vakkan- stinger pistol, electrocorrosive whip, Diabolic Soothsayer
5 Wracks
-Venom- dual splinter cannons

Total Command Points: 7

*Yes, I know the agonizer is technically a bad choice against Imperial Guard, but I made this as an all-comers list.

 

Thoughts: In putting together this list, I wanted to try out the Alliance of Agony stratagem as well as the Raiding Force rules…and to be honest, I also wanted to try a little bit of everything. The general idea of this list was to have a solid core of firepower from my Kabalites and vehicle-mounted weapons, while the Wyches, Reavers, and deep striking Mandrakes would try to force my opponent to deal with multiple close combat threats at once.

 

My Imperial Guard opponent, meanwhile, brought the following:

 

IRONHEART EXPEDITIONARY FORCES:

MILITARUM TEMPESTUS BATTALLION:

Tempestor Prime Stone- hot-shot laspistol, Blade of Conquest, Draconian Disciplinarian
Primaris Psyker- Psychic Barrier, Emperor’s Gaze
7 Scions- 2 meltaguns, Tempestor w. power axe
7 Scions- 2 meltaguns, Tempestor w. power sword
7 Scions- 2 plasma guns, Tempestor w. power sword
Scion Command Squad- flamer, plasma gun, grenade launcher, medi-pack
Techpriest Enginseer
4 Servitors- 2 heavy bolters
-Chimera- hull heavy bolter

CATACHAN SPEARHEAD DETACHMENT:

Lord Commissar- bolt pistol, power sword
10 Veterans- 3 plasma guns, Sergeant w. power fist
-Chimera- hull heavy bolter
Hellhound- hull heavy bolter
Leman Russ- hull lascannon, sponson heavy bolters
Leman Russ- hull lascannon, sponson heavy bolters
Manticore

Total Command Points: 8

I’ll be honest, I was rather intimidated at first by both the sheer number of tanks at his disposal, and by the entire detachment of deep striking Scions that would be pouncing on my army in turn 2. It was at around this point that I began to wonder if I had brought enough blasters or lances for this battle. Still, this game was going to be a test for both of our lists. “Maybe I’m selling myself short,” I thought at the time, “maybe the Imperial Guard’s shooting won’t be so bad.” Ah hah hah hah hah…

 

For the scenario, we settled on The Relic– which we represented with an old pot of paint that my opponent had on hand. We figured that it had to contain some sort of fantastic STC construct, or blackmetal, or maybe the Imperial Guard is just desperately running out of silver paint nowadays.

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DEPLOYMENT:

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From right to left: I placed my Reavers far forward, hoping to advance and then charge on the first turn. Further behind, the Kabalites and Ravager hit behind one rock formation, while my three Venoms (one carrying my other Kabalites, one carrying the Wracks and the third carrying my Archon, Sslyth and Haemonculus) huddled behind the other one, hoping cover would be enough. My Wych Raider and Razorwing saw on the opposite far left flank, and the Mandrakes remained hidden in the shadows.

My opponent, meanwhile, had his tanks and Chimeras strung along in a loose formation, with his Manticore sitting far back on the right while one of his Russes huddled underneath a giant floating rock formation on the left, praying that the weird laws of gravity on this planet didn’t suddenly revert to normal.

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Incidentally I love this particular game board (at Sword and Board in Toronto). My opponent and I both were hazy on how the terrain rules would apply to so many elevated, floating terrain pieces, so we agreed that, because it was obviously a low-gravity world, it would take a full movement phase to get up and down any of the giant floating rocks, no matter how high they were.

I failed to seize the initiative, and so the Guard went first.

 

TURN 1

The Guard began the came with the Techpriest and his attendant Servitors bailing out of their Chimera and going into cover in the rocky outcroppings at the end of his line. The Primaris Psyker also exited his own character, walking on foot behind the tank line. Both Chimeras and the Hellhound both scooted towards the objective, while one of the Russes lumbered forward as well to get better line of sight.

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In the psychic phase, the Primaris cast Psychic Barrier on the advancing Russ, but suffered Perils in the process, losing 3 wounds in the mother of all migraines. In the shooting phase, the Manticore took aim at the Razorwing: I immediately used the Lightning Reflexes stratagem, forcing the Manticore to hit on 6s, but even then, it still hit with a few of its missiles, doing 3 wounds to the Razorwing. The stationary Russ, meanwhile, managed to spot the Ravager and opened fire: once again, I was forced to use Lightning Reflexes, but it availed me little– the sheer number of shots the double-shooting Russ was able to unleash with its battle cannon and secondary weapons did 5 wounds to the Ravager, leaving it teetering just short of its second damage bracket.

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The pain didn’t end there, though. The Russ that had moved managed to draw line of sight to my Archon’s Venom. This time, I opted to conserve command points and not use Lightning Reflexes– which may have turned out to be a bad move.

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The Venom was smashed like an egg by the battle cannon round, sending my Archon, the Sslyth and the Haemonculous all tumbling out in the wreckage, more outraged than hurt.Finally, one of the Chimeras managed to draw line of sight to my Reavers, firing its guns and pinging a wound off of one of them. Overall, that turn could have been worse, but I had just lost First Blood and been given a painful example of how nasty Guard shooting is.

On my turn, my Archon absolutely refused to trek across the battlefield on foot, and ordered the Wracks to vacate their Venom while he and his posse boarded it in turn, before it and most of my other vehicles advanced up onto the ridge. For the rest of the battle, the Wracks would have to make it on foot like the dregs that they were.

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The only exceptions were the Razorwing, which made a long advance around the left flank to be all sneaky and stuff, and the Reavers, who advanced screaming towards the nearest Leman Russ. The Wych Raider also advanced, zooming along the rock formation to hopefully attack the rear of the enemy forces next turn. The Wracks, meanwhile, advanced towards the opening between the two floating rock formations, looking to possibly grab the relic in a few turns.

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In the shooting phase, my force was on an elevated position looking down on the Guard, all packed in their tanks like sardines, and prepared to open them up. I concentrated my fire on the closest Leman Russ…

…and did dismally. Heat lances, dark lances and blasters all fired down at the packed human vehicles, and all either missed or failed to wound. When the dust cleared, despite me firing practically my entire army and spending two command points in the process, I had only done 3 wounds to the foremost Leman Russ, and 2 wounds to the Veterans’ Chimera.

Hm, okay, this was bad.

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In the assault phase, the Reavers tried to redeem themselves by charging the Russ. One of them was battlecannoned out of the sky on the way in, but the rest made their charge, doing one mortal wound to the tank with their grav-talons and another as their bladevanes tore rents into the big tank’s hull. The Russ did nothing back, and the fight dragged on, with the Reavers swarming the Russ and causing sparks to fly as they scraped at it with their bladevanes, jeering at the tank’s crew to come out and play.

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TURN 2

At the start of my opponent’s turn, the Russ, understandably, fell back from combat. At least it would be unable to fire this turn. In the centre, the tanks shuffled somewhat to get better line of sight, while the Veterans and their attendant Lord Commissar disembarked near the relic. At the back, the Techpriest led his Servitors up onto one of the floating rocks to get better line of sight to the Drukharii host.

And then the clouds parted, and it started raining Scions. A plasma toting squad came down right on top of the objective, ready to start freeming some pointy-eared xenos.

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Up on top of the floating ridge, meanwhile, the other two squads, the Stone and his Command Squad all dropped in a cluster in front of my massed vehicles, ready to put the hurt on as well.

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In the psychic phase, the Primaris Psyker casts Psychic Barrier on the Veterans, but failed to cast Smite. In the shooting phase, though, Stone ordered Elimination Protocols on the Wyches’ Raider; two of the melta-toting Scion Squads then combined their fire and exploded it! One Wych was killed in the ensuing blast, while the Succubus took 2 wounds, and the nearby Kabalite Venom took 3.

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The dust from the explosion had hardly even cleared when the Hellhound let loose with its flame cannon, failing to damage the Venom, before the Manticore fired on it as well, wrecking it with several ICBMs worth of overkill! The Kabalites were forced to disembark onto the ridge, shaken by the loss of their transport.

The pain didn’t end there, though. The Veterans, the plasma Scions, Servitors and both Chimeras combined their fire on the nearby Reaver Jetbikes, forcing me to again use Lightning-Fast Reflexes against the Vets. It didn’t help: even though one Veteran fried himself on overheating plasma, my poor Reavers were mercilessly blasted out of the air in a white-hot storm of plasma and laser fire. As an encore, the Leman Russ in the far corner fired on the Kabalite Raider, doing 7 wounds to it and leaving the fragile skycraft teetering.

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That last round of shooting had been brutal, and I’d taken some painful losss, but I wasn’t out of the fight yet. I moved my Wyches and Succubus along the narrow causeway to go after the Scions, looking for get some payback for the loss of their ride.

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Succubus’ paint scheme was still in progress at this time, like so much else of the army.

The Archon’s Venom moved further up on the causeway, looking to disembark its highborn cargo next turn. The various vehicles also angled for better line of sight, with the Razorwing in particular zooming down along the left flank to get a bead on one of the Leman Russes.

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That wasn’t all. A whispered chorus of hisses was heard as the Mandrakes arrived from Aelindrach, crawling out of the shadows near the Manticore, looking to feast on the mortals cowering within.

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In the shooting phase, Raider-mounted squad of Kabalites, eager to put their splinter racks to use, rapid fired down into the Scions holding the relic…and did 4 wounds, all of which were saved. This, by the way, was with them rerolling 1s thanks to their obsession, and getting exploding 6s thanks to splinter racks. Unbelievable. Their blasters, at least, combined to do 6 wounds to the nearby Hellhound, but failed to kill it. Sighing, the Archon, wondering why he had to do everything himself, calmly drew his blast pistol and exploded the Hellhound, killing 3 of the Scions in the blast! As an encore, the Kabalites who had lost their Venom fired into the Scions as well, killing another 2.

Elsewhere, the Archon’s Venom fired across the chasm at the Servitors, mowing down 2. The Kabalite Raider missed a pot shot at the foremost Leman Russ, but the Ravager was more accurate, zapping 4 wounds off of the ugly human tank…

20180506_162214…before the Razorwing raked it with disintegrator bolts and wrecked it! The Wyches fired their pistols at the Scions, but did no damage. Finally, the Mandrakes unleashed their baleblasts at the Manticore…and, despite their volume of shots, only did 1 mortal wound to the missile tank.

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In the charge phase, the Wyches multi-charged into the massed Scions across the bridge, and amazingly, didn’t lose anyone to overwatch! The Succubus followed suit into the leftmost Scion squad, prompting the Tempestor to heroically intervene. The Mandrakes, meanwhile, charged into the Manticore, losing 1 to a heavy bolter round on the way in. In close combat, the Succubus went to work, slicing and dicing apart 5 Scions from the rightmost squad with her Blood Glaive. The Wyches, however, performed less impressively, only killing 3 Scions from the other squad. In response, the Scions failed to hurt the Wyches, but did manage to jab a bayonet into the Succubus, wounding her despite her 3+ dodge save. Then the Tempestor swung at the Succubus, hitting and wounding twice…

…and crucially, the Succubus failed a save, even with a command point reroll! The hit quickly translated into 3 wounds that the Succubus failed to ignore. My jaw hit the floor as my tricked out Succubus was slain by a humble Tempestor!

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Meanwhile, the Mandrakes unleashed 21 attacks on the Manticore…and did no damage whatsoever. Even more embarassingly, the Manticore hit with its one attack and ran one of the shadow-fiends over! In the morale phase, at least, the last two Scions on the relic ran, as did the last two Scions from the squad that the Succubus had mauled.

 

TURN 3

In the Guard turn, the Manticore wisely withdrew from combat. The Veterans, undaunted by the recent demise of the Scions in front of them, moved up, letting the Lord Commissar behind them grab the relic (at the time I wasn’t sure if characters could grab the relic or not). Everything else stayed and took aim.

In the psychic phase, the Primaris Psyker once again cast Psychic Barrier on the Veterans, before Smiting he Kabalite Raider, freeming two wounds off of it and leaving it teetering on one. In the shooting phase, one Chimera tried to finish the Raider off, but its shots bounced off of the night shield. It was down to the Leman Russ, since the Raider was the only thing it could draw line sight to, and the big tanks inflicted half a dozen or so battle cannon hits on the Raider and brought it crashing to the ground, forcing the Kabalites to bail out on top of the causeway.

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Further in the backfield, the Veterans turned their guns on the Mandrakes threatening the Manticore, and managed to gun down three of them despite their shadowy forms. The Servitors, meanwhile, fired across the chasm at the smaller unit of Kabalites and managed to blast down two of them. Last but not least, the other Chimera trained its guns on the incoming Wracks and fired, managing to kill one of the freakish things.

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In close combat, Stone swung out with the Blade of Conquest and killed one Wych. In response, though, the Wyches sliced down the remaining four Scions, leaving Stone fighting them on his own. In the morale phase, the Mandrakes held their nerve, but one of the Kabalites from the smaller squad ran for it.

 

In my turn, the Archon and his posse disembarked, and moon-jumped down to the floor ot the chasm to hopefully assault the Veterans, while the Wracks moved up to hopefully do the same. The Venom also dropped down, aiming to shoot the Veterans up and possibly charge them to absorb overwatch.

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The remaining Mandrakes once again moved after the Manticore, while the Ravager dropped down to the floor of the chasm as well, angling to get line of sight on the Leman Russ while the Razorwing circled around to attack it from behind. All of my Kabalites, however, stayed put, as they were in comfortable firing positions against the hapless mon-keigh squatting beneath them.

In the shooting phase, the Venom shredded three Veterans, while the Kabalites…sigh…did nothing. Again. Combined blaster fire, at least, from both squads of Kabalites and the Archon managed to do 7 wounds to the leftmost Chimera, leaving it sitting on 3. The Mandrakes flung balefire at the Manticore but failed to hurt it. Finally, the Ravager fired on the Leman Russ…and hit and wounded with all three shots! I rolled for damage, and my opponent and I both watched in stunned amazement as the Ravager did 16 wounds, wrecking the Russ in one round of shooting! This, sadly, left the poor Razorwing without anything to shoot at, given that the terrain was severely limiting its line of sight.

In the charge phase, the Mandrakes once again charged the Manticore, the Venom charged the Veterans, and the Archon, Haemonculous, Sslyth and Wracks charged the Chimera, all without taking casualties from overwatch. The Mandrakes, sadly, bounced off of the Manticore.

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The Venom, meanwhile, at least managed to slice down one Veteran with its bladevanes, while avoiding any damage from the Sergeant’s power fist.

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The Archon, meanwhile, swung out at the Chimera with his shiny new Djin Blade, and managed to do something like 6 or 7 wounds of overkill, slicing so deeply into the human tank that he hit a fuel line and caused it to explode! The Archon and Haemonculous were both wounded in the explosion, while the loyal Sslyth was vaporized, as were two Wracks, and the nearby Ravager also took a wound, bringing down into its middile damage bracket.

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Elsewhere, the Wyches managed to do 3 unsaved wounds to Stone, leaving the Tempestor hanging on one. For his part, Stone swung back but was unable to hit his agile foes. And with that, the fight dragged on…

 

TURN 4

In the Guard turn, the Manticore again withdrew from combat, as did Stone– despite the bonus granted by shardnets, the Wyches actually lost the roll-off for No Escape, and failed to keep the Tempestor from escaping! Ruh roh.

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The Lord Commissar began to move away from my lines with the relic in tow, while the surviving Chimera moved up to place itself between the Commissar and my many, many guns.

In the psychic phase, the Primaris Psyker once again cast Psychic Barrier on the Veterans, and then followed up by Smiting the Venom, zapping three wounds off of the fragile skimmer. In the shooting phase, though, the Scion Command Squad opened fire on the Wyches, dousing them with flamer fuel, grenades and plasma blasts, wiping the squad out.

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In the rest of his shooting, the Servitors managed to mow down one of my Mandrakes, while the Chimera’s many guns managed to blast down another, leaving just one of the shadow-things standing.

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In close combat, the Psyker joined the fight against my Venom, swinging with his force staff and smashing one wound off of the skimmer and leaving it on one wound. The Veterans, sadly, despite smashing at it with rifle butts, rocks and even fists, were unable to hurt it (despite their Catachan strength bonus), and the Sergeant critically missed with his power fist. The Venom, for its part, failed to inflict any damage with its bladevanes, and the fight dragged on.

Except, that is, until my turn, at which point it simply flew out of combat. My Archon, Haemonculus and Wracks all moved towards the Veterans, and, more importantly, towards the relic, while the Ravager zoomed up around the protective Chimera so that it was now prow-to-face with the Lord Commissar.

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The last Mandrake, as usual, moved after the Manticore to deny it the ability to fire, while the Razorwing zoomed over the rock formation it had been behind to bring its weapons to bear on the centre of the battlefield.

In the shooting phase, the Venom got some vengeance as it perforated three Veterans, despite their protection. The Kabalites then followed suit with their massed splinter rifles…and, with their twenty-odd shots, killed only a single Veteran. To make it even worse, their blasters missed the Chimera completely! The smaller unit of Kabalites also decided to miss the blocky human tank. I decided that these idiots were going to be made an example of after the battle. Once again, the Archon had to show them how it was done, calmly taking aim with his blast pistol and vaporizing the last, piddly Veteran.

Next, the Ravager fired its dark lances at the Lord Commissar, scored two hits…and the Lord Commissar saved both of them on his refractor field!! The Mandrake, unsurprisingly, did no damage to the Manticore. The Razorwing, at least, showed some competence, unleashing a flurry of missiles and disintegrator bolts at the Manticore and doing 4 wounds to the missile tank.

In the charge phase, the Archon charged the Primaris Psyker…and even with a reroll to charges, fell short. The Haemonculus, however, had no such difficulty, making the charge into the started Psyker and felling him with his electrocorrosive whip, no doubt tying him up for his long trip back to the Dark City. The last Mandrake charged the Manticore again, and once again, survived overwatch, did no damage, but denied the missile tank another turn of shooting. Last but by no means least, the Ravager charged the Lord Commissar…and the two completely failed to hurt one another. Crucially, though, the relic was contested.

At this point, my opponent realized that there was no way he could keep hold of the relic, and threw in the towel. And with that, it was a decisive, albeit costly, win for the Drukhari.

Result: Drukhari Victory!

 

Thoughts: Wow that was an intense game. After those first two turns, I thought it was all over, but then slowly but surely, my dice started to behave themselves: my lances and disintegrators started popping enemy tanks, my Wyches went through his Scions like a blender (before dying to the Command Squad and the world’s luckiest Tempestor, anyway), and my massed splinter fire…um…it, um…well, the important thing is, I won.

Looking back, I see that my use Reavers and Mandrakes to tie up his tanks was really what won me the game: it wound up costing me both units in the end, but it did a lot to mitigate his firepower throughout the battle. And it’s a good thing too, given how amazingly some of my units failed– my Kabalites, in particular, were notable for their seeming failure to shoot down any Imperial Guardsmen, and the Wyches were not nearly as amazing as I expected they would be (though they were still quite good). I think ultimately what sealed the win for me was keeping his Scions isolated from the main game, tying up his tanks with my melee units, and successfully gunning down everything he had on the objective. The man of the match for my army, without a doubt, was the Archon, for managing to explode two enemy tanks in a row.

Some learning points from this game:

-I forgot the +1 attack provided by the Wyches’ blades– had I remembered, then I have no doubt that the Wyches would have chewed through the Scions (and Stone!) a lot more quickly.

-Heat lances SUCK! They might be decent against low-toughness vehicles, but against toughness 8 Leman Russes, they actually struggle to wound. In future, I will probably ditch them in favour of more blasters.

-I keep forgetting that I can use consolidate moves to move within 1″ of fresh enemy units and lock them in close combat too. Had I remembered that, I would have done so against the Scion Command Squad, thus denying them the ability to shoot up my poor Wyches.

Overall, though, I think this was a great test run for my Dark Eldar. For future games, I definitely want to try out Scourges as a possible dedicated anti-tank unit, as well as possibly toy with other Obsessions– I honestly found the Flayed Skull obsession more useful for denying cover in this game than for the rerolls to hit with splinter weapons (although that may have just been my atrocious rolling).

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more batreps, and more articles on my Dark Eldar army, in the future!

 

Lord Commissar Brok released his handhold on the Mechanicus container and threw himself to the dust as the Ravager came screaming down at him, the xeno vehicle almost black against the night sky. He narrowly avoided being skewered on the skimmer’s bladed prow, its sharp vanes narrowly slashing over him and lacerating his cloak. He felt the compression wave of the skimmer’s passing press over him, and heard the shriek of its engines as the damnable thing soared past. Spinning around, Brok raised his bolt pistol and fired shot after shot at the Ravager as it flew away; in the gloom, he couldn’t tell if any of his shots hit their mark as the Aeldari craft banked upwards away from him, its engines glowing a malevolent violet in the twilight. It would be coming down for another pass soon.

His vox bead crackled to life. “All forces, pull back!” came Stone’s voice. “We can’t win here! Withdraw to extraction points!”

Brok felt his teeth grind. “Belay that order!” he snapped into the vox as he stood back up, making sure that he was visible to the remaining Ironheart forces. “Stand and fight! You are soldiers of the Imperium, and you will triumph or you will die on your feet!” Swearing that he would execute Stone personally when this battle was over, he turned…

…and realized, for the first time, that he was alone.  Aside from the bodies littering the floor of the canyon and the smoking carcasses of the armoured battalion, he could see no living Guardsmen in the area. Even the Manticore had stopped moving, its missile racks pointing silently to the night sky. He was the last one standing.

He heard movement behind him. He immediately spun, power sword raised for a backhanded slash…

…and stopped when he felt something sharp and cold enter his chest. Opposite him was an eerily beautiful alabaster face, with features that were smooth and pointed, and golden eyes that glinted with amused malice. The Eldar was smiling, perfect teeth gleaming in the moonlight, and as Brok glanced down, he could see that the alien was holding a sword with a hilt embossed with a leering, daemonic visage, and a jagged blade that was lodged halfway through his chest. Brok felt nothing from the wound– nothing, that was, except for a strange, aching cold that was now spreading through his body.

“As you wish, mon-keigh,” the Drukhari sneered. The Commissar didn’t even realize that his own sword had dropped from his numb fingers– fingers that were starting to crack, and crumble into powder like dried parchment. “You get to die on your feet.”

Brok tried to say something, but his throat had become very dry, and nothing came out except a hoarse rattle as his mouth filled with dust. A second later, his skin cracked and sloughed off, crumbling, before his entire body collapsed in a rapidly disintegrating pile of gravedust. 

Sighing, Khyrus flicked the dust away from the blade and sheathed it, before turning to the container that the Commissar had been determinedly trying to drag away. “So, is this the little box that you wanted?” he grumbled, not bothering to hide the irritation from his voice.

“Indeed,” hissed a sibilant voice next to him. The Haemonculus Vakkan slithered up next to him, his multiple finger joints tenting as the freakish thing looked greedily at the container. “The Coven is most grateful for this gift, Dracon Khyrus. We shall do…wondrous things with its contents.”

Khyrus raised an eyebrow. “Not that I care, but…what is in this little container that you needed an entire raiding force to retrieve?”

Vakkan smiled– a ghastly, needle-edged sight. “A bygone relic, from a bygone civilization,” he replied. “A relic from which we will glean many, many secrets.” At the Haemonculus’ motion, the attendant wracks silently broke open the lid of the container and threw it open. Inside, Khyrus could see a mass of silver liquid, shimmering under the starlight in such a way that it seemed to glow with an inner light.

Reaching in, Vakkan dipped a hand into the liquid and pulled it back– the silver liquid now coated Vakkan’s hand, and, as Khyrus watched, seemed to writhe and twist like some living second skin.

“Tell me…what do you know of living metal?”

 

Think of the Children! A response to Warhammer Adventures and the ensuing panic

 

So, as usual, it feels like I’m late in responding to an issue that hundreds of others have already given their two cents on. Life, and horrible writer’s block, prevail again it seems. Anyway, for anyone who hasn’t noticed the latest “controversy” in the world of Warhammer 40,000, Games Workshop has recently unveiled Warhammer Adventures, a pair of book series aimed at “boys and girls aged 8-12,” with what looks like a series each for Warhammer 40,000 and Age of Sigmar. The 40k book, Attack of the Necron,  focuses on three children (a “ganger,” an “explorer” and a “Martian”) going off on an adventure together, while the AoS story, City of Lifestone, focuses on an escaped slave, a young clockmaker (I…think) and a young mage…also off on an adventure. In the latter half, it’s pretty standard high fantasy fare. In the case of the former story…I will admit, all I could do was sit back and laugh at some of the character descriptions. The “ganger” child is in fact a deserter from the Imperial Guard, and the “explorer” girl, despite being the child of a Rogue Trader, is also apparently an avowed pacifist. In other words, two characters that really couldn’t survive for long in the 40kverse.

But after my laughter calmed down, I looked and saw the internet collectively losing its minds over these books. I saw some people screaming that GW was trying to indoctrinate kids, that they were introducing them into a universe that is waaaaaay too violent for them to be ready for. Others have been reacting with laughter, wondering aloud how one is going to make a universe full of blood, filth, mass genocide, religious intolerance, and Slaanesh and all things Slaaneshi, kid-friendly. Others still have been terrified that it will be made kid-friendly, that the entire universe is going to be effectively neutered, that a lot of the violence will be downgraded to make it more kid-compatible. And of course, this being the internet, naturally there have also been the usual people declaring this to be all part of the nefarious SJW agenda, because what else could it be?

I’m going to say now: some of the concern I am seeing over this new book line is not unwarranted or unreasonable.  Because of this, as much as I believe in encouraging kids to read, and getting them involved in the hobby, I understand why some people are reticent to do so with Warhammer 40,000. With other IPs such as Star Wars, the violence is fairly diluted, limited to a lot of colourful explosions and fantastic action. But 40k not only depicts grim, horrible violence, it at times revels in it– after all, the “protagonists” of the setting are a xenocidal theocracy engaged in a constant state of total war with everyone and everything, a place where personal freedoms are nil and the lives of its citizens are nasty, brutish and short. The literary arm of 40k has, for the most part, almost always been aimed at adults, with most of the novels (and particularly the more noteworthy titles like the Horus Heresy series) not only diving headfirst into the violence, but also dealing with meaty political/social/religious issues and complex (or sometimes just attempts at complex) character development that might be lost on a reader from the 8-12 age group.

At the same time, however, I firmly believe that kids should be encouraged to read as early as possible, that their ability to handle difficult subjects should be gradually challenged to help prepare them for eventual adulthood, and that literacy, regardless of what form it takes, is something to be promoted. How ready children are for certain subject matter, however, I think varies, depending on the child, on their level of development/education, and most of all, what their parents think. I, for one, were I dad, would hesitate to give my child something from the Horus Heresy series to read, though I might not have these reservations with the Felix and Gotrek series, or, if I thought they were ready for them, maybe the Ciaphas Cain or Gaunt’s Ghosts novels.

In looking through the internet for various thoughts and responses to this new novel line, I found one YouTuber who has had, in my opinion, the most reasonable response to Warhammer Adventures so far. Long story short, he doesn’t think it’s as terrible as the internet is making it out to be. He even cites a Twitter post from Attack of the Necron author Cavan Scott, who, in his Twitter feed, has admitted that he is trying to balance kid-friendly content with the dark themes of 40k– that, even in a kid’s novel, he is trying to do the setting justice.

My own thoughts: a lot of the flak these books are getting are either that you’ll end up introducing kids to the sheer brutality of 40k at too early an age, or, on the flip side, that you’ll be neutering the violence of the universe to make it more kid friendly. I wish to point out that a lot of kids’ literature dives right into mature and often violent themes already, but handles it in a fairly measured, tasteful manner. Harry Potter comes to mind, as does His Dark Materials, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Redwall…hell, even Saturday morning cartoons, past and present, can be surprisingly adult. Batman: The Animated Series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Star Wars: Clone Wars and Rebels all come to mind as shows that are either secretly made for the adults, or are giving their kid audiences a lot more credit than their parents.

In all of the above examples I’ve named, themes of war, oppression, violence, loss, heartbreak, religious/racial intolerance and even politics are all addressed in a surprisingly mature way, but not gratuitously so. They soften the blow of a lot of these topics, but at the same time, not to the degree that they end up treating their readers/audiences like idiots. Personally, I don’t think GW will be so dumb as to, say, throw horrendous decapitations or mutilations into the book, or introduce them to Slaanesh/the Dark Eldar. If they play their cards right, they will hopefully be able to make something kid friendly while still retaining a lot of the dark themes of the universe.

There is, of course, the fear that once these kids grow older and “graduate” into more mainstream 40k, it may come as a shock to them just how much more bleak and pitiless the setting is compared to the children’s books. This is a dilemma for which I see no easy answer: I honestly think a lot of that will depend on, again, how the children’s books themselves are written: otherwise, this is a change that may have to be explained by the parents and/or the managers at hobby centres.

Some people have also been afraid that this will lead to making the entire universe more kid-friendly, dwelling particularly over the fact that very premise of Attack of the Necron breaks away from fluff, since one of the children is essentially an Imperial Guard deserter, and another is a pacifist.  I personally feel, though, that these fears are unwarranted, primarily because GW knows that it’s adults that drive the majority of its sales and constitute it’s longest-running consumer base. I strongly suspect that Warhammer Adventures will remain its own small, isolated little alternate universe that won’t affect the main story whatsoever.

And as mentioned above, I’ve also seen some detractors declare this to be part of an attempt by the “social justice crowd” to diversify WH40k and impose a PC agenda, to ruin Warhammer “just like they did with Marvel and Magic the Gathering, etc etc”…to which I can only scratch my head in puzzlement. Are these complaints over the fact that there are female, and non-white characters in the casts of these two books? Is there some contract, somewhere, that I’m missing that states that all characters in WH40k/AoS have to be white and male (despite 40k being set in a universe with billions upon billions of people and potentially thousands of ethnic groupings, and AoS being…well, a fantasy universe)? While I can agree somewhat with the arguments that this seems like an attempt at PC tokenism, at the same time I fail to see how the inclusion of a few nonwhite/nonmale characters is hurting anyone. Call me naive, but I do not see this as a slippery slope towards degrading or eliminating all characters in the universe who happen to be male and white (just look at half of the new special characters in 40k if you don’t believe me). I see this, quite frankly, as an overreaction, no more, no less, and one that I hope will calm down over time.

The bottom line is, I am all for anything that gets kids reading or interested in reading: I think literacy is an essential thing to foster at a young age. I also happen to know quite a few gamers who are parents, and in almost all cases that I’ve seen, their kids have expressed an interest in their dads’ wargames (sons AND daughters, I should add). So no, I really don’t see the harm in Warhammer Adventures, nor do I think it is going to negatively impact the hobby in any way. Of course, this is all speculation at this point: we may never know until the novels hit the shelves and become available. But even when we do, we should not fret over them, because we are not the target audience. At the end of the day, freaking out that a bunch of children’s books will ruin our hobby comes across as…dare I say it, immature.

Naturally, of course, you may not agree with me, and that is fine: you are welcome to deconstruct my arguments and/or type abuse at me in comments. I’m always happy to hear what any readers of this little blog think.

*P.S. You’ll note that I have been talking mainly about 40k in this article, and not so much about Age of Sigmar. This is because, in my view, the high fantasy setting of Age of Sigmar is a lot less grim and brooding than 40k, and thus, by it’s very nature, is a lot more palatable for the child audience. True, things like the Khorne Bloodbound and Daughters of Khaine still exist, but in my view, Age of Sigmar does not revel in its own grimdarkness to the same extent as 40k. Besides which, high fantasy has been a favoured stomping ground of children’s literature since time immemorial, and honestly, I think Age of Sigmar will have fewer complications as a background setting for a children’s book than 40k will.

Your Army, Your Story: Naming Your Astra Militarum Regiment

(All artwork property of Games Workshop, used without permission on a non-profit basis)
This is one part of a series I hope to make on creating background for one’s army in 40k. I might not restrict myself to 40k, by the way, though I confess I have yet to explore Age of Sigmar that closely, nor do other games, like Infinity or the various Star Wars games, seem to lend themselves to creating individual army backgrounds. Regardless, I hope this is the first article of many.

 

In this article, I’m going to be looking specifically at the Imperial Guard/Astra Militarum/whatever you prefer to call them. When coming up with a backstory for your IG regiment (assuming you are making your own homegrown regiment instead of using one of GW’s existing units, like the Cadians), obviously you will need to come up with fluff for things like the planet they come from and its society, the regiment’s structure and doctrine, the major characters, etc etc. One essential aspect that binds all of these factors together, however, and can help inform you when writing them, is the name of the regiment. The name is, in many ways, the label on the tin: the first thing that gives clues to  whoever is reading your fluff what the army is about, what they do, what the character of the army is, etc, and in that regard will say a lot about your army.

One thing that I always found interesting about the Guard is their naming structure: while some armies have flashy, dramatic names for their subfactions (ie the various Space Marine chapters and Chaos legions, with names like “Salamanders” or “Night Lords” designed to inspire awe and/or fear), or names that just revolve around the name of a particular planet or family (ie T’au Septs, Eldar Craftworlds, Necron Dynasties), the Imperial Guard have a much more formalized, approach. A regiment’s name is usually the number of the regiment, followed by the name of the world they are from, and the particular name of their fighting force. Hence, you get names like the “12th Cadian Shock Troopers,” the “572nd Krieg Siege Regiment,” etc etc. When coming up with a name for your home-grown Imperial Guard army, it’s not enough to simply come up with a name for their homeworld and call it a day (although naming their planet is always a very important step): you may in fact need to come up with a formal name for the regiment itself. Hopefully, this article will help with that. And as you will hopefully see, the name of your regiment will do a lot to help you fill in the gaps of their background– what kind of world they come from, what their combat doctrine/culture is, etc.

Note: throughout this article I will be referencing actual regiments found on Lexicanum, and providing links where applicable. However, every once in a while I will throw up an example made up by me as well, which I will denote with an asterisk. (*)

Elysian_Drop_Troops_grav-chute
ROLE
One of the simplest ways to name an Imperial Guard regiment is, quite literally, to describe what they do. Quite simply, what type of regiment are they? Are they an airborne regiment, or an armoured division? Get an idea of what your army’s overall theme is– even taking a cue from your army list or collection if need be– and then apply that to your regiment’s name.
Some examples of what they could be:
-Light Infantry
-Rangers (ie light/mobile infantry)
-Paratroopers/Airborne troops
-Artillery
-Armoured Division
-Heavy Infantry/Shock Troopers
-Conscripts/Volunteers/A hastily assembled militia

Notable examples:

Cadian Shock Troopers
Elysian Drop Troopers
-Minervan Tank Legions
-Kroshin Grenadiers
-Kellersburg Irregulars
-Asgardian Rangers
-Orn’s World Militia
Semtexian Bombardiers
-Sarpoy Mechanized Cavalry

 5a8c58237d75fc7f9ead1fec4fed6e99.jpg
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ENVIRONMENT
One unique facet of the Imperial Guard is that it includes regiments dedicated to fighting in specific environments. This is because the Imperium features a lot of single-biome planets (whether this is due to it being a big galaxy with limitless environmental possibilities, or lazy writing, is a matter of debate). As such, it is not unheard of or uncommon to have entire regiments that specialise in fighting in specific terrain types

Notable examples:
Tallarn Desert Raiders
Catachan Jungle Fighters|
Valhallan Ice Warriors
Drookian Fen Guard
Dieprian Mountain Men

STEAL BORROW FROM HISTORY

The 41st millennium is a universe drenched in anachronistic antiquity, with futuristic technology juxtaposed at every turn with gothic aesthetics and culture. The Imperium is a setting that features spaceships that look like cathedrals, and knights jousting in giant robots, and fashion, architecure and decoration that ranges from the early twentieth century to medieval times. As such, it makes sense to indulge in that antiquity by using a suitably old, or even ancient name for your regiment. As long as there has been human history, there has been a history of warfare, and that history has produced a long list of military formations and roles across dozens of cultures (as any history buff or Total War aficionado will tell you). By the same token, the Imperium is a huge place with a huge variety of cultures, many of which, conveniently enough, are similar to those of ancient Earth (hence why you end up getting things like Space Vikings and Space Mongols). The Imperium is a huge place with seemingly limitless possibilities in terms of cultural or social divergences, or historical allusions, so your imagination really is the limit.

One good source of inspiration is to simply open a history book (or appropriate Wikipedia article) and find a good name from there. The best part is, given the wide and diverse nature of the Astra Militarum, any era of history is open for you to explore, be it the Napoleonic Wars, the battles of ancient Greece and Rome, the various wars of feudal Japan– the history of the world is your oyster. Going down this route really is, not just a great opportunity to come up with a unique name for your regiment, but to get an idea of what kind of wonderfully weird, historically anachronistic planet they come from.

Some examples of historical units whose names you can steal…er, borrow…include:

Fusiliers
-Dragoons
Carabiniers
-Hoplites
-Cataphracts
Arquebusiers
Immortals
-Janissaries
-Huscarls
-Shield-Maidens (if you want to go for an all-girl, Norse-themed regiment)
-Lancers
Voltigeurs
Jagers
-Minutemen
Mamelukes
-Hussars (bonus points if they are Winged Hussars)

Notable examples in lore:

Pyran Dragoons
Scintillan Fusiliers
-Samothrace Hoplites
Volscani Cataphracts
-Finrecht Highlanders
-Maccabean Janissaries/Byzant Janizars
-Khulan Huscarls
-Annwyn Errants*
-Midgardia Shieldbearers*
-Theron Companions*

Some military units have culture-specific names, which you can either use in their entirety, or alter somewhat to reflect how that culture has morphed in 40,000 across the stars:

Knovian Gharkas (which appears to be based on the actual Gurkhas)
-Rudinav Kazaks (made up by me, but based on Russian Cossacks)

 

VentrillianNobles

SOCIAL STATUS/ROLE
Sometimes, Imperial Guard regiments are raised from a particular strata of a world’s society. For instance, in some cases, only the elite and the upper-class of society are inducted into the Guard, and may see such an induction as a privilege of their status. Other times, though, the Guard regiments will be inducted from the lowest of the low, with the poor being drafted up en mass and sent off to foreign battlefields either to pay off their debts, to earn freedom (if their particular world practices slavery), to earn pardons (if they are prisoners, or come from a prison world) or simply because they are deemed expendable by their rulers. In either case, the social status of the regiment would be reflected on their models, with an “aristocratic” regiment getting fancy wargear, uniforms and colours, while a “lower class” regiment would be much more drab in appearance. Either way, in those instances the name of the regiment will indicate their social status.

Notable examples in lore include:

Jantine Patricians
Royal Volpone Bluebloods
-Ventrillian Nobles
Jopall Indentured Squadrons
Zenonian Free Company
-Bar-el Penal Legions

In other cases, social role need not necessarily be dictated by social class. Sometimes, if a particular industry is dominant on a planet (such as mining, or hunting, or logging, etc), then most if not all of a regiment’s Guardsmen may be recruited from said industry– so, for instance, you could have an entire regiment of miners, or huntsmen, or loggers, or fishermen, etc etc, which might be reflected in the name.

Examples:

-Roane Deepers
-Huntsmen of Araloth*

 

KymmeMiasmanRedcowls

UNIFORM OR WEAPON
In some cases, you have Guard regiments literally named after their equipment, gear or weapons. This has a historical context, as “the So-And-So Rifles” was a common regiment name used throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and, given again the antiquarianism of the Imperium, would be an all too suitable name for a quickly-raised, easily deployed regiment of infantry. On the other hand, a regiment could have a distinctive uniform or weapons from which they borrow their name, be it the “RandomPlanet Silver Helms” or the “Nowhereland Axes”, etc. This could also be a great way to tie your regiment name to your army’s appearance, particularly if you have a distinctive paint scheme or modelling theme going on.

Examples:

-Framlingham Rifles
-Miasman Redcowls
Brontian Longknives
-Greygarden Greatcoats*

574_large

BECAUSE IT SOUNDS COOL
In many cases, your regiment’s name doesn’t have to owe anything to its battlefield role, or to military history, or to the society that it came from. Sometimes the simplest way to name your regiment is to answer the question, “What sounds cool?” And that is perfectly acceptable– if it is an awesome sounding name, then don’t worry if no real military unit, past or present, would use it– this is, after all, a big universe, with things that will stretch belief a lot more than an outlandish army name.

Notable examples:

Mordian Iron Guard
Armageddon Steel Legion
Vostroyan Firstborn
Death Korps of Krieg
Harakoni Warhawks
-Molech Firescions
Savlar Chem-Dogs
Tekarn Iron Fists
-Lattari Gundogs

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REGIMENTAL NICKNAME

In some cases, a regiment will have a unique nickname. This nickname can be just about anything, and could come from a wide variety of sources: for instance, the regiment could have an animal that serves as their mascot/totem/etc (ie, “the 23rd Tallarn Desert Tigers”). In other instances, they may be named after a particularly illustrious commander (ie “Mercer’s Marauders”), or after a reputation they have, for better or for worse (ie, “the Ork-Slayers” if they have a high success rate against the Orks, or the “Leadfoots” if they use a lot of tanks…or are just very slow-moving). When in doubt, you could look to real-world examples as well, such as “the Screaming Eagles,” “the Princess Pats,” etc. For further reference, here are some links with examples of famous nicknames in the British,US and Canadian armed forces.

Examples in lore include:

2nd Catachan “Green Vipers”
-101st Mordant “Lucky 13s”
9th Necromundan “Spiders”
Tanith First and Only, “Gaunt’s Ghosts”
-22nd Ketzok “Serpents”
-5th Maccabean “Drusus’ Own”

 

WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS:

In case you’re still struggling to come up with a good name, there is an easy, catch-all solution that can work for any Guard army, no matter what their background, or their composition or role, or homeworld, or any of the other factors we have covered. Ready?

The Guard.

That’s it. When in doubt, simply call you army “the [Homeworld] Guard.” It is short, simple, and to the point, but still looks good on paper. At the end of the day, it identifies the regiment as part of the Imperial Guard, as yet one part of the vast armies of the Imperium, and that alone still says quite a bit about your regiment.

Necromundan Guard
Praetorian Guard

 

 

Ultimately, though, at the end of the day, it’s your army, and you will have the final say in what to call your little plastic dudes/dudettes. Hopefully, though, this article will have given you some ideas on how to pick a good name for your force.

 

EXTRA SOURCES

Some extra sources that may help you come up with a decent historically-based name for your Guard army:

Infinity– Infinity (you know, that other miniature wargame) has actually pulled out all the stops in coming up with interesting unit names for its various factions, including (or rather especially) unit names lifted not just from Western/European history, but also from Asian, African and Middle Eastern lore. Their store or wiki may be worth a browse just to pick up interesting names.

Lexicanum- Regiments of the Imperial Guard

Wikipedia- Military Forces by Type

 

 

Opinion: 8th Edition’s Increasing Lack of Imagination

So recently, GW has been wheeling out previews for the upcoming Deathwatch book. I have to say, I’m interested, especially since I’ve always liked the background of the Deathwatch (ie, why choose which Chapter to play when you can play ALL the Chapters?), and have toyed with the idea of including a Deathwatch detachment to support my other Imperial forces. However, in the aforementioned previews, I couldn’t help but notice one of the Warlord traits the Deathwatch had access to:
40kdeathwatch-may3-hiddenknowledge1r
Now where have I seen this warlord trait before? I must say, it bears an uncanny similarity to:
-Adept of the Codex (Ultramarines)
-Fate Reader (Ulthwe Eldar)
-Monitor Malevolus (Adeptus Mechanicus)
-Grand Strategist/Kurov’s Aquila (Astra Militarum)
-Labyrinthine Cunning (Kabal of the Black Heart)
-Helm of the Third Eye (Thousand Sons)
And the list goes on and on. Though there may be slight differences here and there (such as some of the aforementioned only working on a 6+, and/or having the ability to steal the enemy’s spent command points), but the fact remains that we are now seeing the same basic mechanic being copied and pasted across several codexes, usually as a warlord trait or relic.  And it’s not just this one ability, either: I’ve noticed quite a bit of repetition in a lot of the subfaction abilities of many armies. For those of you who like lists (I know I do), here’s a lengthy one of subfactions that just so happen to have the same ability:
Advance and shoot:
Black Legion, Tallarn Desert Raiders, Metallica, Vior’la Sept, Sautekh Dynasty
 
Advance and charge:
Renegade Marines, Cult of the Red Grief
 
+1 attack on the charge
World Eaters, Cult of Strife
 
+1 strength
Catachan Jungle Fighters, Cult of the Cursed Blade
 
Ignore wounds on a roll of 6:
Iron Hands, Graia, Ulthwe Craftworld, Hive Fleet Leviathan
 
Range increase of guns by 6″
Vostroyan Firstborn, Bork’an Sept, Kabal of the Obsidian Rose
 
Reroll 1’s to shoot if stands still:
Cadian Shock Troopers, Nihilakh Dynasty, Hive Fleet Kronos
 
May charge after falling back:
White Scars, Hive Fleet Kraken
 
Enemy has -1 LD for every unit in 6″
Night Lords, Dark Creed
 
Reroll 1’s to wound in Fight Phase
Ryza, Hive Fleet Gorgon, Kabal of the Poisoned Tongue
 
+1 to cover save if does not move (or does not advance or charge):
Dal’yth Sept, Hive Fleet Jormungandr
 
Enemy has -1 to hit at long range:
Raven Guard, Alpha Legion, Alaitoc Craftworld, Stygies VIII
 
Hit on 5+ in overwatch:
Mordian Iron Guard, Agripinaa, T’au Sept
 
Half damage from morale:
Valhallan Ice Warriors, Iyanden Craftworld
 
Reroll failed charges:
Black Templars, Saim-Hann Craftworld, Hive Fleet Behemoth, Cult of Red Grief
This trend seems, to me at least, to be somewhat counter-intuitive. When 8th ed first came out, one of the things it billed was the end of universal special rules: instead of having to remember about two-dozen universal rules throughout the game, instead every single unit would have its own unique special rules that could easily be found on the datasheet. This was meant to mitigate the endless searching (in theory), and also foster a greater sense of uniqueness between armies and units.
But now it feels like universal special rules are creeping back into the game, now that the same freaking rules mechanics are popping into every single codex. The thing is, in the case of a lot of these repeated rules, I can’t help but wonder if GW could have taken the time and effort of coming up with something new instead of copy-and-pasting a previous rule mechanic (even if that mechanic is particularly useful). In the case of the Lord of Hidden Knowledge trait, for instance, the vast alien-slaying knowledge of the Deathwatch warlord could be represented by “marking” a single enemy unit for rerolling wounds, or conferring a reroll wounds on 1’s bubble in shooting (to represent his knowledge of enemy weakpoints), or even allowing him a free extra CP on top of what is already being generated.
I am not saying, necessarily, that the “recycling CP” trait that Lord of Hidden Knowledge trait, as is, is a bad thing, nor am I necessarily saying that the re-use of this particular mechanic is bad either. And I am fully willing to admit that I am looking for copy-and-paste similarity at the expense of any rules mechanics that genuinely are unique and novel. But I am wondering if this is a pitfall that GW ran into from a games design perspective: whether they set out to eliminate universal special rules…and then, when pressed for time in coming up with good rules mechanics, found themselves slowly but surely gravitating towards them again.
Personally, I hope that GW finds a way out of this pitfall: from my own personal perspective, I always like it when it when Codexes and army rules feel distinct from one another. This recycling CP’s ability, however, is so prolific that you can almost anticipate it being in every upcoming codex in some form or another, especially since it is almost always a go-to option in competitive lists. Beyond just this particular ability, I don’t see the replication of rules as a problem yet, but I do hope that it doesn’t become more and more excessive in future– otherwise, we may as well say that generic universal special rules never left.
That’s my two cents, anyway.

Combat Roster, at a glance

Today, Games Workshop released its new free online army list-generator, Combat Roster. This handy app…

…oh sorry, did I say app? Scratch that, contrary to expectations, Combat Roster is NOT an app: it is, in fact, an application usable only on the Games Workshop website, which already makes it a little less versatile than some of the…well…other army list generators out there. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Combat Roster had been teased for several weeks now, and was heralded as pretty much the 40k version of Age of Sigmar’s Warscroll Builder.

Ostensibly, Combat Roster is there to make army list building easier. So, after I tried to make an army list on Combat Roster, here’s what I’ve determined this generator can do:

-Provide quick power level costs for a variety of units across a variety of armies
-Interchange effortlessly between factions if you’re going for a “soup” style list.
-Export completed lists into a printable PDF format
-Save your list for further tinkering later
-Add or decrease models from units

Aaaaand here’s what Combat Roster doesn’t include:
-Detachments
-Psychic powers
-Relics
-Actual points values as opposed to power levels
-Anything that is actually from a codex- it is all Index and Forge World stuff only
-Unit stats or special rules
-Options for adding wargear or unit upgrades of any kind
-An inbuilt system warning you that your list is illegal
-A phone app feature so that you don’t actually have to be on the net to make a list on the fly

Now, it could be that Combat Roster is still a work in progress, and that some of these features may come later. But until that happens, Combat Roster feels like nothing more than a pale, helplessly flailing imitation of Battlescribe, which does all of the above things that Combat Scribe is missing, is available on phone, is updated regularly and is available for a wide range of games beyond just 40k.

This is to say nothing of Army Builder, which, like Battlescribe, covers things like points costs, abilities, wargear options, detachments, etc– the main difference, however, being that you are limited in your roster size unless you buy the full version. Even then…you’re getting a lot more bang for your buck than you would with Combat Roster as it is now.

Oh, GW, you tried…

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. It isn’t difficult to, say, throw in two Battalions and still have room for a Spearhead, Outrider or Vanguard detachment at 2000 points, though this may come at the cost of taking minimum-sized troop units (which honestly isn’t a bad thing, considering that Raiders can carry two squads potentially). 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 fewer “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, with the Flayed Skull in particular also getting ignore cover on Flying units, and the Obsidian Rose is just generally good with their range bonuses. The Black Heart, though, seems a must-have for a competitive build, even for a small detachment, as they let vehicles ignores wounds on a 6+, and have an amazing relic, warlord trait and signature stratagem to boot. Even then, it still becomes a tough choice between these decent perks and the overall goodness of the other three Kabals.

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, although some Cults favour certain builds more– any Wych force with Reaver Jetbikes, for instance, is going to want to seriously consider the Red Grief and their ability to charge after advancing, while Hellions will benefit more from the +1 strength bonus of the Cursed Blade. 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.

A LOT of these changes are extremely exciting for me, and I’m actually struggling to find a unit in the book that I would consider not worth taking.

 

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 (1 CP)- 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 for the first time 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!

Your Army, Your Story: Representing Other T’au Septs

(Artist unknown)

 

The release of the new T’au Empire codex has heralded one significant change that T’au players are no doubt talking a lot about by now: sub-faction rules. Just as there are unique rules for Space Marine chapters, Tyranid Hive Fleets and even Adeptus Mechanicus Forge Worlds, there are now rules for T’au Septs– specifically for T’au Prime, Vior’la, Sa’cea, Dal’yth, Bork’an and (even though they’re not a sept) the Farsight Enclaves. For a lot of T’au players, this is great news…if you happen to play any of those septs that is.

Though the septs that GW used in its new book are most of the “original” sept worlds from the First Sphere Expansion, there are still dozens of others– by my count, there are some 37 T’au sept worlds, colonies, and other named planets listed on Lexicanum. True, it is impossible for rules to be made for all of those planets (especially since a large chunk of them don’t even have any background attached), but it does raise a valid question: what is a T’au player to do if his/her army, fluffwise, is from one of those worlds not covered by GW’s list?

The answer, obviously, is aside from making house rules (which is generally difficult to get other people to agree to unless you know them personally), you will need to pick one of the rules for the “official” septs to count as your own. Hence the purpose of this (hopefully) helpful little guide, wherein I will be going over the T’au septs and colony worlds not covered by the new codex, and making suggestions on which septs to use to represent them, along with thematic units that you can use and, if you want to go down that route, possible house rules you can use to further represent your unique sept.

Please note: I am not a T’au player, and my knowledge of the lore can hardly be perfect. This article is just a list of suggestions, not recommendations, to help you decide on how to best represent your own T’au sept. At the end of the day, it’s your army, and ultimately it is your decision to choose whichever sept rules you want, for whichever reasons.

 

Other T’au Septs:

Au’taal– a beautiful, verdant resort planet where T’au elder heroes live in retirement under heavily armed guard. That’s right, it’s an army that hails from a what is essentially a planet-wide veteran’s hall or retirement home.

Recommended Sept: T’au- Given that the Fire Warriors on Au’taal serve a primary protective role, it makes sense that their fighting style would match that of T’au Prime, with a heavy emphasis on overwatch.

Recommended Units: Not a unit per se, but any character with the Puretide Engram Neurochip would make hilarious sense in an Au’taal army. I can just imagine Puretide’s AI persona commiserating with the retirees about the “good old days” and about how the current generation is getting everything all wrong, while the Au’taal Fire Warriors maintain the same cheerful persona you see in retirement home workers everywhere.

 

D’yanoia sept world that was isolated for the longest time, D’yanoi’s people have a long history of surviving on their own, whether it be in fending off their planet’s dangerous wildlife, or in defeating repeated Ork invasions. Despite this hardiness, the D’yanoi are nonetheless seen as backwards and rustic by their fellow T’au. Interestingly, their closest neighbouring system is the home of the Vespid.

Recommended Sept: Dal’yth, Sa’cea or T’au– Dal’yth could be an interesting stand-in for D’yanoi, as their boosts to cover can be used to represent the D’yanoi’s survival instincts and ability to use natural terrain and cover to their advantage. The fact that the Dal’yth warlord trait gives the For the Greater Good ability to Vespid and Kroot can also be used to represent the D’yanoi’s close proximity to Vespid.

Alternatively, the D’yanoi are described as having fended off the native beasts of their homeworld with a cadre of “disciplined” Fire Warriors. In that respect, Sa’cea or T’au could work well to represent a tough, disciplined army that is used to fighting and surviving on their own with minimal support.

Recommended Units: Given the description of D’yanoi as a formerly isolated world, I imagine that they would have an experienced corps of Pathfinders on hand. And, again, their close proximity to Vespid means that it would make sense for them to have some of these bug friends around as well.

 

Elys’eir a sept known for its “poetry, artistry and creativeness,” which regularly produces battlesuits for the Fire Caste and house the main production facilities for the Riptide.

Recommended Sept: Bork’an– Bork’an is for all intents and purposes an Earth Caste development world which, like Elys’eir, is innovative in their creation of new technology, and mass produces weapons and arms for the Empire . Thematically, Bork’an’s rules seem like a natural fit for this sept world.

Alternative House Rule: The Elys’eir appear to specialize in battlesuit production, so one rule you could adopt is one similar to that of the Iyandan Eldar and Valhallan Guard, where large suits like Riptides or Ghostkeels count their remaining wounds as double for the purpose of determining if their characteristics are reduced– although this essentially becomes a permanent, army-wide version of the Stimulant Injector stratagem. Alternatively, you could adopt a rule giving all Elys’eir Battlesuits the ability to ignore wounds on a 6+ to represent their superior construction.

Recommended Units: As the sept world that primarily produces them, Elys’eir army obviously should have at least one Riptide. Really, though, any Battlesuits of any kind would be right at home in an Elys’eir list.

 

Fal’shiaA world closely aligned with the Earth Caste, the T’au of Fal’shia are known for their artisans and problem-solvers, and their Fire Warriors quite often are given prototype weapons and armour to field-test (despite occasional malfunctions).

Recommended Sept: Bork’an or Sa’cea- Bork’an is, like Elys’eir, a natural fit to represent Fal’shia. Like Fal’shia, Bork’an is known for its close alignment with the Earth Caste and its fine quality weapons, so the Bork’an rules would do well to represent an army arrayed with sophisticated or even experimental weapons. Alternatively, though, if you want to emphasize the fact that the Fal’shians are craftsmen as opposed to engineers, you could give them the Sa’cea rules, as the reroll each unit gets can be used to represent “masterworked weapons” in the same way that the Salamanders’ (very similar) Chapter trait does.

Alternative House Rule: Instead of using Sa’cea, you could shamelessly steal borrow the Salamanders’ chapter tactic in it’s entirety, allowing one failed to hit roll and to wound roll each turn for each squad.

Recommended Units: While not a unit per se, a Fal’shia army should, ideally, have as many esoteric weapons as possible, whether it be unique weapons for its characters or fancy upgrades for its vehicles and basic squads.

 

Fi’rios -The site of many early victories during the Third Phase of Expansion, and a legitimate T’au success story, having grown over time from a small colony to a major fortress world. The T’au of Fi’rios are known for their tenacity and their stubborn refusal to admit defeat, and a willingness to sacrifice their lives for the Greater Good.

Recommended Sept: Sa’cea- Sa’cea seems to be a perfect fit for Fi’rios, as the army-wide +1 LD and the buff against morale losses given by their Warlord trait seem to adequately represent the Fi’riosans’ refusal to give ground.

 

 

K’si’m’yen  –A former human world with a sizeable population of Gue’vesa, K’si’m’yen is a world that was conquered by stealth and by guile, and its T’au are often associated with ” luck, subtlety, and oppourtunistic subterfuge.” This author can also personally attest that its name is an aggravating one to type.

Recommended Sept: Dal’yth or Sa’cea- Dal’yth is by far the “sneakiest” of the T’au sept rules, given its army-wide cover bonuses, so it seems like a natural fit for Ksi…K’sim….Ksisi….aargh. Alternatively, Sa’cea and its rerolls can be used to represent the Sept world’s emphasis on luck.

Recommended Units: Stealth suits, Ghostkeels and Pathfinders are all units that emphasize K’si’m’yen’s reputation for subtlety and sneakiness. Due to the planet’s large human population, you could also try to represent Gue’vesa in some fashion. One way could just be to use them as regular Fire Warriors, and do a bits swap between Fire Warriors and Guardsmen to model them.

Alternative House Rules: The Gue’vesa, and how to model and use them, have been a subject of long discussion within the T’au player community. Though they at one point had rules in Chapter Approved back in the 2000s and, much later, in Imperial Armour Volume Three, both rule sets are horribly outdated and no longer legal. If you go searching for house rules on them, you may find several versions and attempts, ranging from single squads or even entire army lists for them. A simple yet effective house rule may be to allow you to take Astra Militarum Infantry squads as Troops, and/or Veteran squads as Elites, provided you do not have more of them than you have Fire Warriors. Alternatively, just take an Astra Militarum detachment in your list.

Some existing Gue’vesa house rules, either for you to try, or to get ideas from:

Codex: Tau Auxiliaries (4chan)

Gue’vesa Auxiliaries (DakkaDakka)

 

Kel’shan– it sucks to live on Kel’shan. This sept world has had the misfortune of being subject to numerous alien raids and attacks throughout it’s history, including a major Tyranid invasion that was immediately followed by an Imperial one. Because of this, the Kel’shan are openly suspicious of (if not outright hostile to) all aliens. The background of the Y’vahra Battlesuit also states that being under “near constant attack by alien forces has bred a stubborn pragmatism and siege mentality” among Kel’shan’s people.

Recommended Sept: Sa’cea, Vior’la, T’au, Farsight Enclaves, Bor’kan– Kel’shan is a sept defined by adversity, being in a state of almost constant war against would-be invaders. Based on this, I figure that any of the more “militant” septs (Ie T’au, Vior’la, Sac’ea, the Farsight Enclaves) could be used to represent them, especially since it stands to reason that, after suffering so many attacks, they would have a fairly large and battle-ready Fire Caste force. Given the number of battlesuits invented at Kel’shan, an argument could be made that Bor’kan could represent the world as well.

Recommended units: Interestingly, Ke’lshan is a hotbed of technological innovation because it is in such constant danger. The Y’vahra, R’varna and Tau’nar suits all had their birthplaces on Kel’shan, and all three of these Forge World suits would be right at home in a Kel’shan list. The same goes, obviously, for Kel’shan’s sole special character, the famed Commander R’alai.

 

N’dras – a fairly isolated Sept, the world was, for unknown reasons, voluntarily abandoned by its inhabitants. This may be partly due to something wrong with the world itself, as the local Earth Caste report strange readings emanating from the planet. A small outpost of the Earth Caste remain on the planet, alongside a garrison of Fire Warriors, and this small population of N’dras are regarded as being “untrustworthy and are generally of quick temper and of brooding countenance.” Interestingly, the local Earth Caste’s role may have something to do with battlesuit development and/or stealth technology, as it was on an outpost near N’dras that the Ghostkeel was first tested. Indeed, the first Ghostkeel suits were named “the Ghosts of N’dras.”

Recommended Sept: Vior’la, Farsight Enclaves, Dal’yth- There is, unfortunately, not much to go on about N’dras save for its mysterious nature, the Earth Caste work there and the quick-tempered nature of its people. Based on this quick temper alone, though, one of the more aggressive septs like Vior’la or the Farsight Enclaves might work for an N’dras army. Alternatively, given the history of N’dras Ghostkeels doing covert operations, and given that the sept paint scheme appears to be black armour and blue camouflage, Dal’yth could be used for this secretive sept as well.

Alternative House Rules: You could give army-wide stealth fields to all infantry (but not battlesuits) at something like +5 or +10 points per model, or alternatively a rule similar to Alaitoc where enemies firing at long range suffer -1 to hit them.

Recommended Units: Given the above information about the “Ghosts of N’dras,” Ghostkeels and Stealth suits seem liked a natural fit for an N’dras force.

 

Tash’var– Tash’var is a frontier world that, like Kel’shan, has been subjected to numerous alien raids and attacks, and has repelled each one. Because of this, the people of Tash’var have gained a reputation for “courage, practicality and hardiness.”

Recommended Sept: Sa’cea– Just as with Fi’rious, the Sa’cea rules (and the +1 LD buff they provide) can be used to represent the people of Tash’var’s famed courage and tenacity.

Recommended Units: The article on Tash’var mentions that they have some of the finest Breacher teams and Razorshark pilots in the whole of the T’au Empire. As such, including either such unit would be nice and thematic for a Tash’var army.

 

T’olku– Not much is known about this Sept, save that it is “home to many large Ethereal temples.”

Recommended Sept: T’au or Sa’cea– If, indeed, the above description means that T’olku is an Ethereal-heavy world, then the Fire Warriors of a world like T’olku would most likely be there to guard the resident Ethereals, and would take such a duty with solemn seriousness. As such, they can be represented by the T’au rules (to represent their defensive nature), or the Sa’cea rules represent their high morale, their disicipline and their unwillingness to retreat while the Ethereals are in danger.

Recommended Units: Obviously, at least one Ethereal would be needed in an army from T’olku.

 

Vash’ya  –This world is closely aligned with the Air Caste, with a large number of pilots and starship crews coming from Vash’ya. It also seems to serve as a major dockyard for the Kor’vattra.

Recommended Sept: Vior’la or Farsight Enclaves- Given how their world is closely aligned with the Air Caste, I would imagine that the T’au of Vash’ya rely a lot on airborne deployment and rapid movement. As such, I think that the advance-and-shoot abilities of the Vior’la would be thematic for them, as would the close-ranged abilities of the Farsight Enclaves– in particular, I see the Enclaves warlord trait as being particularly thematic for air-deployed battlesuits.

Recommended Units: Aircraft, obviously– Razorsharks, Sunsharks, and/or possibly even Forge World units. Things like Manta deployed Battlesuits and Devilfish-mounted Fire Warriors would also be thematic. Essentially, as I see it, a Vash’ya army would have as few models actually walking as possible. There is mention in the current codex also of Vash’ya repelling a Hrud invasion with Drones and remote-controlled Battlesuits as well. Finally, given that the planet seems to be a base for the Kor’vattra, I can see Breacher teams being a thematic choice, given that the Fire Caste of Vash’ya would no doubt be trained in boarding actions and ship to ship combat.

 

 

Nem’yar Atoll- The newest addition to the T’au Empire, the Nem’yar Atoll is a fortified region of space settled by the Fourth Sphere Expansion, which sits on a strategic position around the wormhole known as the Startide Nexus. Although the Nem’yar Atoll consists of three Sept worlds, given that their military or culture are barely described, I will be treating the Nem’yar Atoll as a single Sept for the purpose of this entry. Aside from its location near a wormhole, the Nem’yar Atoll is noteworthy for mining dark matter (because apparently you can mine black holes?), having a planet that is worryingly disc-shaped, and currently being under major attack by the Death Guard.

Recommended Sept: Vior’la, Sa’cea, T’au, Farsight Enclaves- What is known about the military of the Nem’yar Atoll is that they are almost under constant assault by aliens, raiders, etc. More worrisome is the back story behind the Fourth Sphere Expanion– of how they were effectively lost in the warp, and of how they escaped with the aid of a “nightmarish entity,”  which could be anything from a Daemon Prince to even one of the Chaos Gods. What’s worse is that the T’au of the Fourth Sphere Expansion have a dark reputation for committing atrocities, massacring their own auxiliaries, and having a xenophobic streak a mile wide. I personally think that, like with Kel’shan, any of the more “militant” septs can represent the Fourth Sphere’s brutal nature, but realistically any of the sept rules would do, I think.

Recommended Units: Any T’au units would work well for a  Nem’yar Atoll army, but it is worth noting that the world of Kor’tal’s dark matter mining operations are essential for the creation of Nova reactors, so a Riptide would be right at home in such an army. Also, because of the Fourth Sphere Expansion’s unpleasant history with non-T’au, there would have to be a thematic exlusion of Kroot or Vespid.

Alternate House Rules: The Nem’yar Atoll and its inhabitants are a recent addition to the background, and I am sure it will be a subject of much storyline treatment and discussion to come. In particular, there is already some discussion as to whether the survivors of the Fourth Sphere Expansion are, in fact, Chaos T’au. How you choose to interpret this is up to you, but this certainly does potentially open the doors to house-ruling T’au with psychic powers or daemonic allies.

 

Bonus: Multi-Sept Force– Some T’au players have, for a while now, been fielding their T’au armies as being drawn from a variety of septs instead of just one. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, and, indeed, the T’au fluff for the longest time has done nothing to discourage that. Now, however, the current T’au codex is more or less expecting T’au players to choose a single sept under whose banner, colours and rules their force will operate.

Recommended Sept: ANY– Honestly, at the end of the day, it’s your choice of which rules you want to use for your army, and for whichever reason. Maybe you will choose a particular sept rule because it fits with your army’s battlefield role in fluff (ie, Dal’yth for a reconnaissance force, T’au for a garrison, Farsight Enclaves for an orbital insertion force, etc). Maybe you will simply choose the sept rule that you find the most competetive. Maybe you will try multiple detachments from multiple septs to represent the multilateral nature of your force. At the end of the day, there really are no limits to what you can choose to do.