Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Archon's first true venture into realspace: Opinions about the evil elves from space

I just came back from my realspace raids and is now quite spirited to talk about my experiences with my evil space elves. First, I will be talking about the two games that I have played with my Dark Eldar (proxied mostly to understand how units worked) and the results. This will then followed by what I think is the fundamental ideas of a Dark Eldar army and finally I will touch upon units that deserve some more detailed mentioning.

The first game I got ever with my Dark Eldar is against their goody two-shoes cousin, the Eldar in a good o' game of Seize Ground. This game is a real setback for me as my opponent managed to seize the initiative and rip apart my army with lots of big nasty weapons. This game serves to prove the point that if your aggression is stopped in its track before it even began, you are gonna die hard. In addition, I can also see that some units got the makings to become extremely destructive if given the chance, as I managed to see how a small squad of Trueborns with 4 blasters with a Venom with two splinter cannons can wreak so much havoc despite its small size, causing much havoc behind enemy lines. It is also here that I noticed that Dark Eldar is better off destroying or denying scoring units than holding objectives.

The second game I played is against Tyranids in a mission of KP, and as usual there are a whole lots of monstrous things running around with lots of units that can chop me apart in seconds if given the opportunity. With the lessons learned from the previous game, I managed to go about forcing my opponent to be confounded by my own actions and walked straight into my trap. With the proper application of pressure at the right areas at the right time, I managed to almost wipe out the Nid army. Even though I lost this game by one KP, but almost all my units (with a big exception of large vehicles) are alive and functional, and if I were given a turn 6, I would have totally annihilated the Nid army. Annihilating a Nid is usually a very hard prospect, but nonetheless the Dark Eldar made it as if they are nothing but little annoyance to their soul.

How I always felt when I face Nids...Crazy Koreans

From these two games, I have learned a lot about some of the things that I already knew as a player who have faced Dark Eldar before, and also what goes on inside the minds of Dark Eldar players.

When I managed to get my hands on the Dark Eldar codex, I realized that Phil Kelly have really kept the core tenets of the army and managed to refine the army into the ultimate vulture. It really needs to circle around your opponent's army and taking opportunistic shots, ever waiting for a chink in the armour of your opponent before you go about breaking the enemy in a decisive move. As for the units themselves, I find that for most reasons, you would not really want to get out from your raider unless your transport is busted or you decided that the opponent's unit deserves your undying attention and you are confident that you can wipe it out or cause it enough wounds to make the difference. And the thing is this; when you come out, you better come out in style and butcher or else you are screwed. This will bring me to another point: this concept tallies with the peculiar style found in all Dark Eldar players I have faced so far.

One of the things I noticed about Dark Eldar is that based upon my experiences playing against Dark Eldar players, almost all of the Dark Eldar players have one thing in common; they always seem to be able to manipulate what you are doing in order for them to do their thing. And indeed, somehow they manage to pull out the right moves at the right time, most of the time. I always wondered why and I went about reading the old book and I managed to find out why; each unit needs a good timing to make it work and they need to support each other to make it work.

With that I managed to make several prototypes to go about testing what I believe is the main tenet of Dark Eldar; the 3 Ps.

What are the three P's you asked? Here they are;

1) Pain: Pain tokens will make your units gain momentum and become more survivable and more destructive. The more efficient you kill the more pain tokens you get spread out throughout your entire army.

2) Poison: The book is filled with poisoned weapons, and it is implied that the book is actually encouraging you to take all these poison weapons to save your skin. Not to mention that they make our jobs easier that everything non-vehicle will suffer the wounds and we do not have to worry if they are too tough for our little boys and girls.

3) Positioning: Dark Eldar needs timing and precision, wherenever and whenever it needs these elements to be. Hence speed is of vital importance to Dark Eldar. This point I can not help but to emphasize as without speed, Dark Eldar will be hard-pressed to even play decently.

With that done, we now shall move on to units that proved themselves to be quite pivotal in the games that I have played.

For infantry units that really deserve to be mentioned with detail, I must mention the Bloodbrides since it is perhaps one of the undiscovered gem in the book. In its most fundamental function, it is nothing more than a souped-up version of wyches, and despite their smaller numbers, they deliver the same punch. With the ability to take a wych special weapon for every three members, you can essentially get a squad that is easily smaller but delivering just as much punch as a large squad of wyches. But nonetheless I realized that upon further inspection, I can potentially pull out a rather interesting combo with my wyches. With that in mind I went about doing some tinkering and I ended up with the configuration below;

Hekatrixs x 9
Shardnet and Impaler x 3
Haywire grenades x 9
Syren with Phantasm Grenade Launcher and Agoniser

Interesting isn't it? The logic is as follow.

1) This squad will have a higher chance of getting any pain tokens and thus become very scary in a short time as a result of their high number of attacks and agonisers from both the Syren and the Archon will make any squad they touch bites the dust and proceed on to do the same to the next unit. However I do not want too much attacks as I might overkill whatever it is I want to kill and thus leave the out in the open to be shot at. The Bloodbrides are safer fighting in close combat in anything, and only coming out from a combat to engage itself in another combat.

2) This squad is meant to hunt down hammer units and to protect my Archon at all cost and with the shardnets and impalers with Phatasm Grenade Launchers, they can essentially make any charging unit feel that their efforts did not pay out as the unit is tougher than it first looked, and they suffered for it.

3) I want to stay in combat longer. The more of my Bloodbrides survive, the more pain I can dish out to my opponents.

4)The Haywire Grenades are there just in case someone decides to drop a walker right up my alley and thought that I wound not be able to bust it open.

With that in mind, I decided to put this idea to the test and my squad of Hekatrix bloodbrides with my Archon ripped the heart out of a squad of Zoanthropes, a squad of Genestealers with Broodlord (I never would have imagined the day I wipe them out in close combat without any casualty of any kind), 2 Broods of Carnifexes, and two Warrior Primes in 2 turns of bloodshed. That one squad alone made my opponent actually wondering how on earth a small and not so strong squad suddenly become the bane of his army in 2 turns.

Another unit that I would have to note is actually a vehicle that I think will find itself into every competitive Dark Eldar list: the Venom.

The Venom is the Dark Eldar version of a Razorback, where its formidable firepower can actually be a real pain in everyone's ass. With two splintercannons, a Venom can always fire 12 shots of poisoned goodness whenever it go about moving 12", doe to the fact that all poisoned weapons on vehicles are counted as defensive weapons. But this shooting power pales to what can be mounted inside it. From close combat goodness of the Incubi to the smallest of warrior squad, its transport can arguably considered to be critical in a game. In addition, with its rather small size, it can hide behind other vehicles or terrain and thus increased its survivability by a significant margin. Add that with the fact that it is an open-topped fast skimmer and you get yourself a small nasty little dagger that no one would really pay attention to until it is too late.

With that, I can conclude that my first impressions of playing Dark Eldar to be a very enjoyable one, for the book really test me to the limits of my creativity and flair as a 40k gamer, and this army is definitely for those who loves a challenge. I will continue on testing several things that I am really interested in and hopefully with every exploration, I will be able to understand what it takes to be a true evil Archon.

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