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Friday, 27 February 2015

Analysis: Codex Eldar Harlequins


Over the last month we have seen the rules for the new Eldar Harlequins trickle out in four waves alongside a stunning new model range. Right back at the start of this month-long release, I started assessing the competitive viability of the newest 40k mini-Faction, and at first the verdict did not look positive. However, as more and more pieces of the puzzle were revealed, we have seen a subtly powerful new addition to the game emerge. With the Codex now in-hand, the time has finally come for a full, in-depth analysis of the new book.

Detachment: Harlequin Masque

The rules begin with a new Detachment restricted to the Harlequins Faction, the Harlequin Masque. This Detachment has a very restrictive FOC, comprising:
  • 0 HQ
  • 0-7 Elites
  • 3 Troops
  • 2 Fast Attack
  • 1 Heavy Support
This FOC notably lacks HQ slots, and the Faction does not include any HQ units at this time. Perhaps we will see a Dataslate release of a Great Harlequin or High Avatar at some point, but for now the Faction is disqualified from using the Combined Arms Detachment or Allied Detachment since it cannot fill the mandatory HQ slot common to those two Detachments. This consequently means that the Harlequins Faction has no access to Objective Secured—something to keep in mind when evaluating the value of their Troops.

What makes the Harlequin Masque Detachment even more restrictive is the fact that the Harlequin Faction only has one Troops, two Fast Attack and one Heavy Support unit(s), so this FOC really only offers flexibility in its Elites slots. Harlequins have three Elites units, but one of them—the Solitaire—is Unique, so you only have two generic choices in filling those slots, the Death Jester and Shadowseer.

The Command Benefits of this Detachment do not include Objective Secured, but are still very good:
  • Emissary of Cegorach is the name given to the typical reroll Warlord Trait rule; this is significant since Harlequins have not one but three Trait tables, and two of those include some very strong options that you will want to go fishing for
  • Rising Crescendo enables Run and Charge in the same turn—massive! It doesn't work on turn one, but after that you have a very fast assault army, considering that all your infantry ignore terrain and reroll both Run and Charge distances with Fleet
The power of Rising Crescendo is immense and should be taken into account when evaluating the value of Harlequin infantry, and the Formations that trade-off this rule for something else.

Datasheets

Codex Eldar Harlequins contains seven Datasheets for Elites, Troops, Fast Attack and Heavy Support units. We will next examine each one in detail.

Troupe


The Troupe is the single Troops unit available to the Harlequins Faction. However, it is probably worthwhile thinking of the Troupe as more of a mini-HQ unit, since it contains a mid-strength character that the rules incentivise using as your Warlord over a Solitaire, Death Jester or Shadowseer. The Troupe Master has the improved stat-line typical a squad leader, plus an atypical extra wound and access to the Codex Relic list ("Enigmas of the Black Library"). He also adds a hefty 20 pts 'squad leader tax' to the Troupe, so bigger squads are definitely more efficient than smaller ones.

Firepower

Shooting is definitely not the forte of the Troupe; Shuriken Pistols are by no means a bad weapon, but you will be doing a lot more damage once you're in melee than on the run in. Also remember that Rising Crescendo enables Run and Charge, so most of the time you will probably not be shooting your pistols.


I strongly recommend against wasting points on either of the overcosted pistol upgrade options: the Neuro Disruptor or Fusion Pistol. There are more efficient ways to shoot dead MCs and vehicles in your other FOC slots—and Eldar or Dark Eldar allies are even better when it comes to firepower.

Assault

Melee is where the Troupe shines: high WS, I and A, Furious Charge, Hit & Run and a trio of close combat weapon upgrade options put this Troops unit on-par with—or better than—the Elites units of most other Factions.


Here is a summary of the three close combat weapon upgrade options:
  • The Harlequin's Embrace grants a model D3 S6 Hammer of Wrath hits when charging
  • The Harlequin's Kiss converts one of a model's attacks into a S6 AP2 attack that has Instant Death on a 6 To Wound
  • The Harlequin's Caress inflicts an auto-wound at AP2 when a 6 To Hit is rolled
The Caress is the most expensive upgrade option for Players, but I assess the Embrace to be the best. A charging Player normally has four S4 attacks; this is a respectable number of attacks-per-model, but not enough to make the Caress worth its cost. When comparing the Kiss against the Embrace, take note that the Kiss exchanges a S4 attack for a S6 AP2 attack, while the Embrace adds D3 S6 hits to those S4 attacks. Bypassing the To Hit roll adds reliability—especially against Invisible targets—and more hits equals more wounds equals more failed saves; much better than a single chance to inflict an AP2 wound. Dealing damage at the I10 step also helps to reduce the damage coming back towards your fragile clowns.

Note that you will need to get the maximum number of models into base contact to optimise damage from the Embrace; Rising Crescendo will help a lot in this regard.


I think the standard weapons configuration for Troupes will be a Caress on the Troupe Master and Embraces on all the Players.

You can pull some multi-assault shenanigans with Embrace-Troupes, taking advantage of the fact that you can deal significant damage at both the I10 and I6 steps. Charge most of your models into one target, and just one or two into the other; your aim is to kill the former target with an avalanche of S6 hits at I10, then pile-in to the latter target and S4 punch them at I6.

Resilience

This is where the Troupe falls over—literally. With only T3 and 5++ these guys are simply just bolter-bait. Getting them across the table and into melee will be a challenge, and Overwatch becomes a non-trivial barrier to success.


Covering this weakness requires looking outside the Troupe itself; the addition of a Shadowseer—and specifically his psychic buffs—is arguably essential to the success of Troupes in a competitive environment. The Primaris power from the new Phantasmancy Discipline, Veil of Tears, greatly improves the resilience of Troupes and really is a must-have. Dance of Shadows, plus Invisibility and Shrouding from Telepathy, are also great buffs for Troupes.

A transport can help to get your Troupe into melee safely, but be mindful that the Open-Topped transports you want for your Troupes are also prone to exploding and killing half your squad.

Mobility

Troupes are only infantry, but they ignore terrain and have Fleet, which makes them reasonably mobile. If you field your Troupe within a Detachment with Rising Cresendo then their mobility improves again.

A transport helps even more, but sadly the only transport directly available to Troupes—the Harlequin Starweaver—only carries a meagre six models. If you want to attach a Shadowseer to your Troupe then you're already at capacity with a minimum-sized squad—not good for a fragile unit that relies on quantity of attacks to deal damage.

If you're going to run multiple big Troupes then you seriously need to consider including a Dark Eldar Detachment in your army list for access to Raiders; the Realspace Raiders Detachment has six Fast Attack slots in its FOC and makes a Mechanised Harlequin army far more viable. Conversely, if you are running Dark Eldar as your primary, then it is very easy and beneficial to add a Troupe or two to your army list to fill the assault gap in the current Codex left by the heavily-nerfed Wyches.

Summary

Big Troupes are probably going to be a lot better than MSU Troupes, because of their dependence on psychic buffs and their 'bucket of dice' approach to dealing damage. Invest in Embraces for the entire squad, and maybe a Caress for the squad leader, and attach a Shadowseer for maximum effect.

Adding Eldar or Dark Eldar characters is probably not going to add much benefit for the cost of slowing them down; although Eldar characters on Jetbikes are less of a liability in that regard.

Death Jester


The first of two Elites Independent Character units is the Death Jester—a shooty character with an interesting unique special rule. For Eldar and Dark Eldar, the Death Jester is also a very cheap way to add Hit & Run to another squad, and a Haywire Grenade too for good measure.

Firepower

The massive gun carried by this model is a pretty clear declaration of its battlefield role—firepower. The Shuriken Cannon is a good, versatile 'heavy' weapon that is actually an Assault weapon and can therefore be freely fired on the move. The Death Jester has an alternative weapon profile available—a single Poisoned 2+ shot that retains the normal Bladestorm psuedo-Rending rule of all Shuriken weapons. Save this alternative profile for T8+ targets; against T7 and below, you are better off firing three shots and fishing for Rends.

The single shot alternative weapon profile also has an 'explosion' effect when you kill a model, which could be situationally good. If you happen to roll a 6 To Hit with that single shot then remember that you can use Precision Shot to allocate the wound to the model that would cause the most damage when it explodes.


The Death Jester has a very interesting unique special rule: Death Is Not Enough. If you kill at least one model with a Death Jester's shooting then you force a Morale check, even if you do not inflict the normal 25% casualties required, and that test is resolved with a -2 Ld penalty. Now a -2 Ld penalty is very significant against non-Stubborn/Fearless targets, since even naturally Ld 10 units are quite likely to flee when testing at a reduced Ld 8. If you combo your Death Jester(s) with a Shadowseer with the Mask of Secrets Relic then you can stack an extra -2 Ld onto your target, and really make them likely to flee.

But the most interesting part of the Death Is Not Enough rule is that you choose the direction your target flees in—now just think of some of the applications of this rule:
  • If a squad strays too close to a flank (or is just camping in backfield), then you can try and push them off the table edge
  • You can pull a squad into easier assault range
  • You can push a scoring squad off an Objective
Skilled 40k players know that most games are actually won in the Movement phase, not with shooting or assault. Being able to override your opponent's movement choices to a degree makes the Death Jester very powerful, and a great utility addition to a Troupe, and most Eldar and Dark Eldar squads too.

Assault

The Death Jester is nothing special in melee—a Player with a weapon upgrade is far more effective. However, the Death Jester is a character so he can fight in Challenges; you can sacrifice him to enemy close combat monsters that would otherwise roflstomp a far more valuable Troupe Master or Shadowseer. Plus he can Haywire grenade something to strip a HP fairly reliably.

Summary

A Death Jester is a nice addition to a Troupe, or to many Eldar and Dark Eldar squads, but is by no means an essential addition.

Shadowseer


The second Elites Independent Character unit is the Shadowseer—a psyker with access to the excellent Phantasmancy and Telepathy Disciplines, and Sanctic Daemonology too. He costs the same as a Death Jester, and is a much better option for adding Hit & Run and Haywire to any Eldar or Dark Eldar squad, given he also buffs Deny the Witch, generates Warp Charge, and has access to some fantastic Blessings, Maledictions and Witchfires!

Firepower

While his Shuriken Pistol is nothing exciting—and the Neuro Disruptor is probably not worth the cost—the Shadowseer can Psychic Shriek and has the potential to do a lot of damage through Mirror of Minds or Vortex of Doom if you generate those powers. The Mask of Secrets Relic also synergises very nicely with both Psychic Shriek and Mirror of Minds.


Since he can 'shoot' a Witchfire in the Psychic phase and then Run in the Shooting phase (and Charge too if in a Detachment with Rising Crescendo), the Starmist Raiment is another good Relic choice, granting a 3++ after you Run.

I wouldn't expect to ever do much with the Hallucinogen Grenade Launcher—but you never know in a game of dice!

Assault

Like the Death Jester, the Shadowseer is nothing special in melee, but he is S7 on the charge and does always wound on a 2+ with Fleshbane, which is not too shabby. He can also bring Haywire grenades.

Summary

I'll cover the Phantasmancy Discipline later in this review, but we all already know how good Telepathy is, and a cheap(ish) Independent Character ML 1/2 psyker is a nice addition to any Harlequin, Eldar or Dark Eldar squad—and Hit & Run is a sweet, sweet bonus. Given how dependent Troupes are on Shadowseer buffs, and the potential to field up to seven in a Harlequin Masque, I would expect to see a lot of these guys on the table.

Allow me to just emphasise the point once more: Shadowseer buffs are what will make-or-break your Troupes.

Solitaire


Enter the Paper Tiger. Rawr.

The third and final Elites unit available to Harlequins is the Solitaire, a Unique character option. This guy is pure beatstick—but while he can eat whole squads solo, he is not built to take a beating in return.

Firepower

Nothing to see here, move on. The Solitaire can throw a very accurate Haywire Grenade, but he prefers to charge infantry so don't expect to be shooting vehicles regularly.

Assault

This is most definitely where the Solitaire shines. He has eight WS9 I10 attacks on the charge, with one resolved at S6 AP2 and the rest at S4. His Harlequin's Caress makes all those attack auto-wound at AP2 on a 6 To Hit too.

Note that the Caress of Death rule applies to both his 'normal' attacks and his single Kiss of Death attack too. The Caress is worded in terms of, "...attacks with a weapon with this special rule..." while the Kiss is worded in terms of, "...attacks by a model equipped with a weapon with this special rule...". The rulebook forces models with multiple different weapons choose only one of them to use for all its attacks each turn, but the Solitaire can legitimately choose to attack with his Caress and add the Kiss of Death rule to one of those Caress of Death attacks.

The Solitaire also has a very nice once-per-game ability called Blitz, that randomises his movement distance (risky) but boosts his base attacks to ten, for a mighty twelve swings on the charge! RAWR!

Resilience

The Solitaire is sadly just expensive bolter-bait. While Eternal Warrior ensures that your opponent will always have to wound him at least three times to drop him, with only T3 and 3++ that is not a hard task.


Shadowseer buffs are essential on a Solitaire, specifically Dance of Shadows and Invisibility. A Farseer casting Fortune in his direction would not be unwelcome, either.

Mobility

An inherent 12" move, ignoring terrain, with Fleet, makes the Solitaire a very fast model. Mounting him in an assault transport is basically redundant—at least in mobility terms. It is possible, albeit unlikely, to pull off a first turn assault with a Solitaire, remembering that Rising Crescendo does not kick in until turn two.

Summary

Getting a Solitaire into close combat is going to be challenging, but the pay-off for getting him there will be massive. While fairly expensive, I would expect to nearly always see a Solitaire in a Harlequin force, especially considering how easy it is to add The Heroes' Path Formation to an existing army.

Skyweavers


The first Fast Attack unit available to Harlequins is the Skyweavers Jetbike squad. These guys are a hybrid shooting/assault unit, and you sadly pay a big points premium for this redundancy.

Firepower

Every single Jetbike brings a Shuriken Cannon, which makes them a respectable addition to the arsenal. Being able to move 12" and fire at full BS helps to mitigate the relatively short range of this weapon. However, at a base cost of 50 pts per model, a single Shuriken Cannon is not really very efficient.

Skyweavers can cheaply upgrade their Shuriken Cannons to Haywire Cannons, and this is not a bad option at all. I prefer Haywire on Skyweavers rather than Voidweavers (see below).

In the unlikely case that you see a pure Harlequins force in a competitive environment, expect it to rely very heavily on its Skyweavers for cracking open transports.

Both Eldar and Dark Eldar can benefit a lot from a unit of allied Skyweavers; Eldar get valuable access to Haywire for killing heavy armour, while Dark Eldar get valuable access to multi-shot S6 for killing light armou. I expect to see Skyweavers used a lot as a 'gap-filler' unit in multi-Faction army lists.

Skyweavers also get a once-per-game, extra shot at 12" S6 AP2 small blast. This extra firepower could be situationally useful, but I expect to see most Skyweavers replace their Star Bolas with the Zephyrglaive melee weapon. This upgrade is essential if you want to maximise the versatility of a Skyweavers unit—and if you don't maximise their versatility, you are paying a lot of points for an inefficient shooting unit.

Assault

Without the Zephyrglaive, these guys have no business being in close combat. With their melee weapon upgrade, Skyweavers become very comparable to Eldar Shining Spears in their assault capability.

While a healthy quantity of S5 AP2 attacks on the charge is respectable, Skyweavers are not a frontline assault unit in the same class as Solitaires and larger Troupes. Skyweavers will be good for supporting Troupes or Solitaires in close combat, or for harassing small, soft backfield units.

Resilience

A 3+ save would have made Skyweavers fantastic, as would have Skilled Rider for 3+ Jinks. However, these guys have neither, and are too squishy for my liking to stand alone. Dance of Shadows and Invisibility from a Shadowseer are options for improving resilience, but Troupes and Solitaires need them more and psychic buffs are very much a limited resource in most competitive games. This lack of independent resilience is a serious limitation on Skyweavers.

One option for improving the resilience of Skyweavers is to add an Eldar character on Jetbike to the squad. An Autarch or Farseer can add an extra three wounds, with 3+/4++ saves, to sit at the front of the squad and 'tank' damage. The improved Ld 10 of an Eldar character is also a nice addition, and so are Relic weapons like the Shard of Anaris and Celestial Lance.

A note on Mirage Launchers: try to save them until you're going to charge your Skyweavers into assault, then  pop them against Overwatch instead of Jinking. Now you have a 4++ for the next two rounds of close combat!

Summary

Skyweavers have the potential to be a good and versatile unit, but they are unlikely to ever be truly efficient due to their very high cost-per-model thanks to being priced as both a shooting and assault unit. I think they will work best when used to complement Eldar or Dark Eldar allies.

Starweaver


The other Harlequin Fast Attack unit is the Starweaver, which may also be taken as a Dedicated Transport for Troupes. It looks like a Dark Eldar Venom and the two are comparable in battlefield role and performance. Sadly, it only carries six models, so it is not really a very good transport option for Troupes, which need to be fielded in larger squads to have real impact.

Firepower

The Starweaver brings a respectable two Shuriken Cannon to the table for 70 pts. This is vastly more efficient than Skyweavers, which goes to show how much you pay for the limited assault capabilities of the Jetbike squad.


The Dark Eldar Venom has proven itself to be a very good little gunboat over multiple editions now, and I think the Starweaver will likewise perform quite well and be a common sight on the battlefield. Shuriken is not strictly better or worse than Splinter, they are two different types of firepower, and are actually very complimentary if you can field both. I think Dark Eldar armies will enjoy taking Fast Attack (non-Dedicated) Starweavers as an alternative transport/gunboat option.

Resilience

The Starweaver comes with Holo-Fields, but while the name and fluff descriptions matches that in Codex Eldar, the Codex Eldar Harlequins version has very different rules. Instead of improving cover saves, the new Holo-Fields give the vehicle a 5++ invulnerable save, not unlike the Dark Eldar Flickerfield. This is actually better than the Codex Eldar version, since you should be able to access Stealth and Shrouding from Shadowseer buffs and having an invulnerable save gives these vehicles some much-needed protection in assault.

There are no shenanigans to be played with Mirage Launchers on the Starweaver; just pop them instead of Jinking if you expect you'll really need to shoot at full BS the following turn.

Summary

The Starweaver is a good little gunboat, but is not a great transport option for Harlequins. However, expect to see them in Eldar armies as an alternative transport for Fire Dragons, who love being able to do drive-by shootings, Commorrite-style. I've previously written about the benefits of transport-swapping between Eldar and Dark Eldar, and the Harlequin Starweaver adds more options to multi-Faction army lists.

Voidweaver


At last, the final Datasheet in the new Codex Eldar Harlequins! The Voidweaver is the only Heavy Support option in the new book, and it is sadly mediocre. It is a slightly more expensive, slightly up-gunned Starweaver with no transport capacity—not very exciting.

Firepower

The Voidweaver replaces one of the Starweaver's Shuriken Cannon with either a Haywire Blaster or Prismatic Cannon. The Haywire Blaster is not a bad weapon, but it doesn't synergise that well with the remaining Shuriken Cannon; I would use Skyweavers to bring Haywire instead.

The Prismatic Cannon hits like a limp noodle, and is not worth paying extra points for. It is basically a shorter-ranged, lower-strength version of a Bright/Dark Lance, and you are much better off turning to Eldar or Dark Eldar allies for that kind of firepower. It also has a couple of blast modes, but neither are particularly good—you would be better off with the direct fire of a couple of Shuriken Cannon if you want to kill infantry. But when the rest of your Faction is already so good at slaughtering infantry, do you really need to do more of the same with the Voidweaver?


For some bizarre reason, the Voidweaver also has a second Shuriken Cannon that only fires rearwards. It has a special rule that enables it to split fire, but no rule to allow it to fire its third weapon at full BS when moving at Cruising Speed.

Summary

The Voidweaver really disappoints me, as it represents a big missed design opportunity in a Codex otherwise filled with units that are actually good at their intended roles. It sadly appears that the Voidweaver rules were just an afterthought when GW realised how easy it would be to make the Starweaver a dual-build kit. You will still see them fielded, but only because GW were wily enough to make it a mandatory choice in the Harlequin Masque and several of the Formations.

Formations

There are six Formations in the new book, and some of them can significantly change the value of the units we've just assessed—for better or worse. Keep in mind that I have assessed the Harlequins units with Rising Cresendo in mind, and the benefit of specific Formation rules have to be measured in comparison to the power of Run and Charge.

Cegorach's Revenge


This Formation is basically the Harlequin Masque Detachment with all its slots filled by the fluff-appropriate units:

  • Solitaire
  • 3 Death Jesters
  • 3 Shadowseers
  • 3 Troupes
  • 2 Skyweavers
  • 1 Voidweaver
It retains the Rising Crescendo rule, and gains Consummate Performance: reroll 1 on all invulnerable saves. Now that certainly is a nice bonus, especially for the Solitaire or another character with the Starmist Raiment. However, is that resilience boost worth the inflexibility of the Formation compared to the normal Detachment?

The key difference is that the Formation requires three Death Jesters alongside only three Shadowseers, while I would build a Detachment with six Shadowseers instead. The question is then, "do three extra Shadowseers add more resilience than Consummate Performance?" I would think "yes" in most cases; psychic powers tend to scale up non-linearly with Warp Charge, and bringing 12+ Mastery Levels gives you a lot of flexibility and reliability in the psychic phase to pass out good buffs to wherever they are needed most that turn. I therefore think that a Harlequin Masque with maximum Shadowseers will be a more competitive choice than this Formation.

The Serpent's Brood

This Formation comprises:

  • 3 Troupes in Starweavers
  • 2 Skyweavers
  • 1 Voidweaver
The lack of Elites characters makes this Formation unattractive, since it should be clear by now that Shadowseer buffs are essential to make Troupes work, and are very nice to have on other units too.

This Formation trades Rising Crescendo for The Skystride: Troupes can Hit & Run and Consolidate into empty Starweavers—but only ones from within the Formation. This is an interesting and unique rule that could be situationally very powerful, and offers many opportunities for shenanigans; however, I just do not think it is worth the loss of Rising Crescendo.

Cast of Players

This single-unit Formation is a very nice way to add a splash of a different Faction to an existing army; I would like to see GW do more of these:

  • 1 Death Jester
  • 1 Shadowseer
  • 1 Troupe
The two characters cannot leave the squad; but by rules-as-written, they are still Independent Characters and so would count as discrete units for VP purposes, and would be free to join other squads should their original Troupe be wiped out.

This Formation-squad trades Rising Crescendo for a 6" Crusader bubble for themselves and other Eldar and Dark Eldar. Crusader is an uncommon rule: it allows Run moves to be taken from the highest of two dice, and adds D3 to Sweeping Advance rolls. The Run bonus is very good when combined with Fleet, and amazing when also combined with Eldar Battle Focus. The Sweeping Advance bonus is very good too given the already high Initiative of Eldar and Dark Eldar—you still can't sweep those pesky Space Marines, but everyone else had better watch out!

The loss of Rising Crescendo is less significant for just one squad, and is mitigated by the addition of Heralds of the Laughing God. Adding one or more of these Formations to an Eldar or Dark Eldar army could be very useful, and I'd expect to see it in used competitive play.

Cegorach's Jest


This one is a pretty random assortment of units:

  • 1 Troupe
  • 1 Skyweavers
  • 1 Voidweaver
The Voidweaver is a tax, plain and simple, but this Formation is still an easy way to get some Haywire into your army. The Troupe keeps Rising Crescendo too, so it's not a bad Formation at all if you're just looking to add some Harlequins to another army.

The Heroes' Path


Now if you just want to add a Solitaire to another army, this is the Formation you want:

  • Solitaire
  • Death Jester
  • Shadowseer
These three models are forced to act solo, but each gain Infiltrate, Stealth and Shrouded—very nice!

Getting +3 to cover saves is a big deal, especially for models that ignore terrain when moving and should therefore always be in cover. Having a 2+ cover save goes a long way to making these normally fragile models a lot more resilient, and having these buffs for free allows all your Shadowseers to concentrate their buffs on other units.

The Death Jester in this Formation will probably just Infiltrate onto high ground somewhere and snipe away, potentially triggering some Death is Not Enough shenanigans. The Shadowseer in this Formation is a good candidate for the Mask of Secrets, since he will have more positional flexibility than one attached to a squad; however, you're then giving up the opportunity to make a squad Fearless with the Mask.

Note that you are losing Rising Crescendo in this Formation, which is unfortunate for the Solitaire; but I think Stealth and Shrouded are far more valuable for him since he can move 12" anyway, and Infiltrate will get him a 6" or 12" head-start too. This Formation is solid gold.

Faolchu's Blade


When I first looked at this Formation I misread Skyweavers as Starweavers, and thought it was pure awesomesauce—yes, my Eldar Fire Dragons would like to ride in open-topped transports that reroll Jink saves, yes they would. Sadly, that will not be happening, since this Formation actually comprises:

  • 2 Skyweavers
  • 1 Voidweaver
Just like with Cegorach's Jest, this Formation is an opportunity to get some Haywire into another army that might otherwise struggle to kill heavy armour at range.

However, you could also use this Formation to get a fast assault element into your army. Its special rule is The Wings of Faolchu: reroll Jink saves. If you intend to run your Skyweavers as assault units then a rerollable 4+ cover save is a very good way to improve their odds of making it into melee; combined with Dance of Shadows from a nearby Shadowseer or maybe Shrouding from an attached Jetbike Farseer and you now have a rerollable 2+ cover save—very nice!

Warlord Traits

Harlequins have not one but three Trait tables at their disposal, plus the generic tables in the rulebook. Within a Harlequin Masque or Formation, you can choose a Troupe Master, Death Jester or Shadowseer to be your Warlord—you could technically nominate your Solitaire as Warlord, but he is barred from having a Warlord Trait, so that's really a waste.

If you nominate a Death Jester or Shadowseer as your Warlord then they can either roll a D6 on any rulebook table, or only a D3 on any Harlequins table, to generate their Trait. The first three Traits on each of the three Harlequins tables are identical, and not particularly exciting:

  • Luck of the Laughing God lets your Warlord reroll 1 on all To Hit and saving throws
  • Fractal Storm gives your Warlord a 4++ invulnerable save
  • A Foot in the Future gives your Warlord unit +1" to all types of movement; this Trait is not too bad, and enables first turn charges
If you nominate a Troupe Master as your Warlord then he can roll a D6 on a rulebook or Harlequin table to generate his Trait. This unlocks the remaining three Traits on each of the three different Harlequin tables—and this is where the good stuff can be found!

Light

The Light table enables pre-game shenanigans:

  • The Hero's Call lets you Seize the Initiative on 2+(!!!); this is very powerful, since Harlequins will often prefer to go first so they can get those Shadowseer buffs activated before they are shot off the table
  • Webway Walker lets you give Deep Strike, Infiltrate or Scout to D3 Detachment units; Infiltrate and Scout can be useful, and I would love to give Deep Strike to Starweavers carrying allied Eldar Fire Dragons, but building army lists around randomly generated Traits is a bad idea
  • A Trick of the Light lets you redeploy or Reserve your Warlord unit and up to D3 other Harlequins units within 12"; the 'fake' deployment gimmick is typically not that useful in practice against competent opponents
If you were building a primarily Harlequins list, or any other army that really wants to alpha strike, then fishing for The Hero's Call on the Light table is probably your best option.

Twilight

The Twilight table is a mixed bag of tricks that contains quite possibly the best Warlord Trait in the entire game:

  • Narrator of Wars lets you add or subtract 2 from the Variable Game Length roll; this is an amazing strategic bonus that allows you to guarantee a sixth turn, make a seventh highly likely, or hasten the game end to suit yourself. How many games have you won or lost simply because the game ended when it did? Being able to manipulate this will be immensely powerful. Just remember that you'll need to keep your Warlord alive to use Narrator of Wars (as specified in the rulebook in 'Death of the Warlord')
  • The Steps of Mortal Transition makes your Warlord's close combat rolls of 6 To Wound inflict Instant Death, and stacks with Kiss of Death for 5+ To Wound Instant Death; this Trait is situational at best, and I doubt I will be giving any Troupe Masters a Harlequin's Kiss anyway (or its Relic version, Cegorach's Rose)
  • Dance of Infinite Mirrors lets your Warlord unit make a 24" move once per game, after which they cannot charge; this is ok if you want to set up a second turn charge or want to grab an Objective, but it's nothing special
I expect Twilight to be the default table simply to fish for the awesomesauce Narrator of Wars.

Dark

Oh noes, teh Dark Side! Actually, the Dark Side is kinda lame:

  • Dance of Nightmares Made Flesh makes enemy units in base contact with your Warlord unit roll an extra D6 for Fear and Morale checks; ok if you're trying to Sweep non-Fearless/ATSKNF units, but most of the good Ld-based effects are also shooting-based, so the base contact requirement is very limiting
  • Twisted Encore lets your Warlord unit basically have one entire extra turn of action at the end of the game; this could be the difference between victory and defeat in some games, but Narrator of Wars is much better in this regard
  • The Final Joke gives you a 58% chance to kill an enemy that slays your Warlord in a close combat Challenge; super-situational, the best case scenario is really just trading Warlords with your opponent, which is nothing special
Skip this table.

Weapons, Equipment and Relics

These have mostly been covered in the relevant Datasheet reviews, but here is a general review of the Relics.

Enigmas of the Black Library

You'll have to refer all the way back to the Wargear List to cross-reference what Relics are available to what characters, so I've included that information here for ease of use.

Overall, there are a couple of nice ones in the mix, but most are sadly pretty lame... I guess they handed out all the Mantles of the Laughing God to the Craftworlders!

  • Crescendo (Master/Shadowseer) is a Shuriken Pistol that fires three shots and is not terrible for 5 pts, but you'll probably Run most turns and I'd rather spend those 5 pts on Haywire Grenades
  • Cegorach's Rose (Master/Solitaire) is a Master-Crafted Harlequin's Kiss with Shred that is overpriced at 15 pts
  • Mask of Secrets (Shadowseer) is probably the best Relic in the book, conferring Fearless and a 12" bubble of -2 enemy Ld, for a bargain 15 pts. It synergises very well with all the Ld-based attacks and shenanigans available to Harlequins. I expect to see this in every Harlequin force; the only question is if you'll see it on a Heroes' Path Shadowseer or on one hidden in a squad
  • Laughing God's Eye (All) confers a 12" bubble of Adamantium Will for an overpriced 20 pts
  • Starmist Raiment (All) confers a 3++ invulnerable save after you Run, and while expensive at 25 pts, will probably be worthwhile on your Warlord since you'll probably Run most turns with Rising Crescendo
  • Storied Sword (Master) is a +1S Master-Crafted Power Sword for a hilarious 25 pts! Go get fucked, GW, seriously

Psychic Powers

Harlequins have a new and unique Discipline: Phantasmancy. Their Shadowseers also have access to Telepathy and Sanctic Daemonology.

Phantasmancy

The Primaris of this Discipline is very powerful, not just for Harlequins but for any Eldar or Dark Eldar squad that wants to survive on foot. There are only a couple of dud powers in this deck, so I expect it to be the default choice for most Shadowseers:

  • Veil of Tears (Primaris) is a self-targeted Blessing that prevents the unit from being shot at from beyond 2D6x2" and is essential for getting your Troupes into close combat; also expect to see a lot of Shadowseers hanging out with Eldar and Dark Eldar backfield shooting squads
  • Dance of Shadows is an 18" Blessing that confers Stealth and Shrouded; Eldar Warlocks eat your hearts out, your clown-suited cousins have trumped you big-time
  • Peal of Discord and Shards of Light are pretty lame Witchfires, don't waste your Warp Charge here
  • Fog of Dreams is a 24" Malediction that is effectively reverse-Invisibility; while you'll want to use it on deathstars, they'll probably have Deny bonuses so you're better off casting this on Knights, Wraithknights, Super-Heavies, etc. especially if they have big bad D-blasts
  • Laugh of Sorrows is a less reliable version of Psychic Shriek that costs two Warp Charge, not great
  • Mirror of Minds is a 24" Focussed Witchfire that is what Mind War should have been; you roll-off with Ld until the target either wins or dies—it's basically the Game of Thrones of 40k. This power will be great for killing Monstrous Creatures, and synergises very well with Mask of Secrets

Telepathy

Already well-known as a great Discipline, expect to see Shadowseers rolling here too, especially if they've been upgraded to Mastery Level 2. Psychic Shriek synergises very well with Mask of Secrets, and Shrouding and Invisibility are great for buffing fragile Harlequins—an Invisible Solitaire is going to be an absolute nightmare to deal with!

Sanctic Daemonology

A couple of the Sanctic powers can be quite good for Shadowseers, although I doubt you'll see many roll on this table given how many good powers are available in Phantasmancy and Telepathy. I suspect you'll only see Sanctic rolled for squads that are hiding multiple Shadowseers.

Hammerhand and Sanctuary are great buffs for any Troupe, and both Cleansing Flame and Vortex of Doom could be used effectively given the high mobility of Shadowseers.

Note that Harlequins are barred from Malefic powers, but do not get the Grey Knight protection from Sanctic Perils; I predict GW enforcing fluff-based restrictions on Daemonology on all armies in the next update of the rulebook Disciplines!

Conclusion

I must admit that when I first started reading the early waves of Harlequin rules, I just didn't think they could be successful in a competitive environment. Having now seen their entire ruleset, I am very happy to change my initial verdict and declare the Harlequins a relevant new Faction in competitive 40k.

I must caveat this judgement by clearly stating that I don't think Harlequins can stand-alone as a single-Faction army; but neither do I think they were ever designed to do so—they are clearly intended to be an addition to Eldar and Dark Eldar. Harlequins will need firepower support from Eldar or Dark Eldar, and benefit greatly from hijacking Dark Eldar Raiders to get big Troupes into combat quicker.

But more significantly, Harlequins are a great boost to both Eldar and Dark Eldar armies. Eldar don't exactly need the help (for now) but the easy addition of ranged Haywire and good assault units fill two key gaps in most Eldar army lists. Thinking further ahead, when Wave Serpents are inevitably nerfed into oblivion, Shadowseers will be the key to enabling a renaissance of Footdar builds.

Dark Eldar benefit even more from the addition of Harlequins to their forces. Dark Eldar are notorious for being able to blitz hard targets with mass Poison and Lance fire, whilst being much less efficient against high quantity, low quality targets; the mass S6 fire offered by Harlequins fills that gap very nicely. Troupes will fill the assault gap left by the nerfing of Wyches in the new Codex, especially since it will be very easy to mount each Troupe in a Raider. And the numerous Ld-based effects in both the Dark Eldar and Harlequin books will synergise nicely.


Beware the Space Elf Clowns!

20 comments:

  1. Wow, this is a fantastic overview. I've been buying and painting the new models. What's depressing is the fact they aren't viable as a stand alone faction - I don't have an army to add them to and would rather paint Harlequins than try to start Eldar or DE.

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  2. Thanks, I'm glad you like it. I just don't think Harlequins were ever designed to be stand-alone, they are very much like Militarum Tempestus. If you try to run them stand-alone you will probably struggle with the low model-count, low durability combination and lack of efficient anti-tank. But you can probably still make primary Harlequins work if you splash in some Eldar or Dark Eldar to cover their weaknesses.

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  3. Another great article! I reckon Harlequins could be viable as a stand alone but I'll start using them as an add on to my Eldar first. I have to say that the whole Starweaver as a transport dilemma might not be so bad if you factor in all the S6 shuriken hitting the target before the Harlies charge in.

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  4. Thanks! The trouble with that plan is you'll need to use all that S6 to pop transports so you can charge their infantry. Harlequins can bring decent firepower but it's just not efficient. So I really think you'll need big Troupes to kill more infantry in melee.

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  5. It just comes down to (in)efficiency. You pay for Haywire as if it was always hitting AV14, so when you're faced with mass AV11/12 you will probably have more targets than you can deal with.

    Inefficiency can be tolerated when you're filling a gap in your army list—like Haywire for Eldar or S6 for DE—but you will struggle to build a competitive army out of inefficient units.

    I think you need to splash in some Eldar for efficient S6/7 and some DE for efficient Haywire/Lance to make a primary Harlequins army work. Regardless of whether you make the Harlequins/Eldar/DE the primary, you will need to build a multi-Faction list if you want to do well.

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  6. Richard Parkes3 March 2015 at 03:49

    Good article thanks, enjoyed reading it. I disagree on the close combat weapons but I think it depends on what you're going to be facing.

    My concern on the bigger Troupes is you're more likely to wipe the unit on the charge as well. A 6 man unit is quite capable of wiping 5-6 marines on the charge.

    I did some math on it on my blog at http://twotimestwohobbytime.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/harlequin-weapon-math-and-exe-wing.html against MEQ (T4 3+ Save)

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  7. Thanks Richard. I think the Embrace is the best option when you don't have the luxury of tailoring your list to your opponent's list. I had a quick look at your math, and while it looks right to me, I question the relevance of assessing an assault unit based on its ability to kill MEQ.

    Marines are no longer relevant in the competitive game. The Marines you might want to kill will be Bikes or Centurions, and I think you'll find that the extra S6 hits are better against T5. And the most relevant CC target are Invisible [things] and extra S6 hits are so much better since they bypass the 6 To Hit roll.

    I agree that you probably only need to get 5-6 Harlequins into melee to do good damage, but that's exactly why I advocate big squads; when you're squishy you need to bring extra wounds along!

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  8. I have really enjoyed this series as a complete newcomer to seventh edition.



    Keep up the good work.


    PS a little late to save you from your disasters but I have you thought about trying enamel washes with your Taurox.


    Do it over a gloss coat and you can then wipe it back with thinners.

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  9. Welcome to the site! I'm glad this series has helped you, and I encourage you to take an open-minded approach to list-building in 7th Ed, because it really is all about multi-Faction these days.

    Thanks for the tip; I'd considered oil washing but not enamel washing, I'll look into it. Although I think I'll see how a green color scheme goes on a Chimera before I take another crack at that pesky Taurox!

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  10. Richard Parkes3 March 2015 at 22:50

    Thanks for taking the time to look Charlie, I've gone through the math now for charging a unit of invisible Eldar Jetbikes if you'd like to take a look. It seems that the Caress are still the better option on the charge unless there are a lot of invulnerable saves, and in subsequent rounds, as you'd expect they're much better. I'm certain that vs Invisible marine bikes the math would be even more in the Caress favour as it doesn't matter what T or Save they have, you're just fishing for 6's to hit.

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  11. I agree with your math for Caress, but not for Embrace; it looks to me that you've assumed only one Hammer of Wrath hit? Embrace hits D3 times which averages two hits. By my math, Caress and Embrace should do equal damage against Invisible MEQ, with the Embrace getting better as the target's Invulnerable save improves. Add the lower cost and anti-tank utility of the Embrace and this is why I favour it over the other weapons.

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  12. Richard Parkes4 March 2015 at 19:42

    You're right bud, I had the two hits but I had it on a 3+ to wound with the Embrace, whereas it would have been a 2+. I'll amend the post, thanks.


    As you suggest that makes it equal damage on the charge against Invisible MEQ, with the Caress obviously much better in subsequent rounds.


    I can't argue with the lower cost, but in terms of anti-tank utility I'll have to do another post on that, I suspect the Caress would be almost as good vs AV11 and 12, and obviously much better against 13 and 14 as it causes auto glance without caring about the AV.


    I'll get another post up today with a comparison of anti-tank performance then we probably have a full picture.


    Thanks for the correction on the Embrace math.

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  13. No problem. The Caress and the Embrace are actually quite similar in their damage against 'average' targets like MEQ; the Caress is better against 'hard' targets like T6+ MCs or 2+ Sv with no Invulnerable, and the Embrace is better against mass 'soft' targets like GEQ or anything with an Invulnerable save, as it relies on forcing lots of saves rather than bypassing them.


    Against vehicles, the Embrace is better than the Caress against AV10/11, equal against AV12, and worse against AV13/14. But since you have plentiful access to Haywire for killing AV13/14, I would rather equip Troupes against light armour.



    The Kiss is the worst of the lot; the Instant Death potential is good against MCs but I would not equip Troupes specifically to hunt MCs. Shooting MCs with Shuriken Cannons is your best option.

    I think it's very important to consider the role of your Troupes. You should be shooting hard targets and assaulting hordes or Invisible units, since it's much harder to kill those efficiently with Harlequin or DE shooting (and Eldar shooting kills everything!) And the Embrace is the best weapon for that role.

    Also don't underestimate the value of doing significant damage at both I10 and I6 steps. If you can multi-charge one Player into a squad and the rest of the Troupe into a nearby vehicle, then you can kill the vehicle at I10 with mass S6, then Pile-In to the squad and punch it at I6 with mass S4. You probably won't wipe the squad, but that is not always a bad thing when you have Hit & Run.

    The Caress is great on the Solitaire, and good on Troupe Masters too, because their high number of attacks make the On Hit effect better. But for normal Players, I would stick with the cheaper Embrace.

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  14. Richard Parkes4 March 2015 at 21:19

    Agreed on some of that but I like the Kiss for the guaranteed high AP attack and they have more punch after the first round so I'll include a couple at least.


    I make the Caress twice as effective vs AV12 so might be worth double checking the math there? (Could be me that's wrong) I make it 2 hits and .33 glances (6 to glance) whereas with the Caress you have 4 attacks and 6's to glance on the to hit roll so .66 glances.


    Depends what you're facing though I agree, and I take your point about shooting AV 13/14, I just like to have the option to take them out with my troupes if I need to, and I might need the bikes for other things (I don't like the Void Weaver as an option, particularly vs AV13-14 as you're discarding the 3 shuriken cannon shots)

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  15. You are right, the Caress is better against AV12, but that is still not enough to make it an overall better choice. And the Kiss is really just not worth it, because the opportunity cost of not taking an Embrace or Caress is so high. Remember that AP2 is just a trap for players who think you need it to kill 2+ saves, instead of just saturating them with wounds.

    The second round of CC really doesn't matter for Troupes because you're either trying to wipe/sweep your target on the charge, or you just want to get locked for safety so you then can Hit & Run away next turn. If you're trying to win a battle of attrition with Harlequins, grinding your target down over multiple turns, then you're in big trouble...

    If you need more convincing that the Kiss is the worst option, remember that it's the existing model, and GW always make the new models better ;-)

    I don't like Voidweavers either, but GW forces them on you to take the Masque, so you may as well get some use out of that Haywire!

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  16. As far as I am aware, you can only add the new harlequins to eldar/dark eldar in an unbound list. It specifically states that to use an allied detachment you must bring 1HQ and as the new harly codex has no HQ, they can never be taken as an allied detachment.

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  17. You might need to review the rules for Battle-Forged. While Harlequins cannot use the "Allied Detachment" since they have no HQ option, they can still be added to an Eldar, DE or any other Faction army in a Masque or Formation Detachment. Harlequins have an Allies list in their Codex, and are Battle Brothers with Eldar and DE.

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  18. Any recommendations when the meta is heavily armored transports and Eldar D strength weaponry builds? I am desiring to build an 1850 and 2000 point Harlequin/DarkEldar army that will chew up mulitiple tanks, imperial knights, and be holding the objectives at the end while still being able to contest those spammy craftworld players.

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  19. I have written an army list for you, I'll post it shortly :-)

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  20. Here you go:
    http://elite40k.blogspot.com/2015/07/army-list-evil-clowns-1850-pts-counter.html

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