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Analysis: Astra Militarum in 8th Ed, HQ Units

Let's analyse the HQ options available to Astra Militarum . Like all my reviews, this will be from a competitive play perspective, ...

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Analysis: Eldar Harlequins First Wave


Wow, the new Harlequin models are amazing! I will definitely be adding some to my Eldar army—but will they be competitive, or reserved for social games only?

It is too early to answer that question definitively, since so far we have only seen the rules for the Solitaire, the basic Harlequin squad and their wargear options—but not their relics ("Enigmas of the Black Library") so we don't have the complete picture yet. Even more significantly, we have not seen the rules for their dedicated transport option, and I really think that is what will make or break the new Harlequins as a competitive choice. After all, Eldar are already so strong that these new guys are really going to have to earn their spot in a tournament army.

Solitaire

Right now this guy looks like the ultimate glass cannon. He has six attacks base, plus one for two weapons, and you would expect him to have the charge bonus attack most of the time too for a total of eight. One of those is resolved at S6 AP2 (thanks to the Harlequin's Kiss) and the other seven are resolved at S4 AP- (again assuming the charge bonus from Furious Charge) and have 'old-school rending', where to-hit rolls of 6 auto-wound at AP2 (thanks to Harlequin's Embrace).

Once per game, the Solitaire can Blitz to move XD6" (X equals the turn number) and his base six attacks improves to ten attacks. The two weapon and charge bonuses still apply, so that's twelve attacks on the Blitz. Now that random movement is a bit of a liability in my opinion, and I'd rather use the Solitaire base movement speed of 12" which is damn good anyway. Sure you could get a massive move in the late game—if your glass cannon lasts that long—but big gambles in the late game tend to indicate that you're losing... I think Blitz will counter-intuitively be best used when you're already very close to the enemy, just so you can throw a bucket of 'old-school rending' dice.

Note that unlike the new Codex Necrons change to Tesla, the Harlequin's Caress will trigger even when 6 to-hit is required—so Invisible units beware, if you get hit by a Solitaire you are getting auto-wounded at AP2. If the Solitaire has rerolls to-hit in melee this will be beastly; we will have to wait and see what Faction is given to Harlequins, and if it is Eldar or a Battle-Brother to Eldar then Prescience on a Solitaire will be something to look out for.

So that's all the good stuff—unfortunately this 145 pts model is bolter-bait. If there is a relic that functions like Invisibility or provides some other shooting protection then the Solitaire will be a competitive choice; if not then he will probably just be what you use to scare your friends in social games. We also have to wait and see what kind of transport the Starweaver is like; if it is open-topped or an assault vehicle, and reasonably resilient (I'm expecting only AV10 but 2++ through Jink and Shrouded), and the new Codex follows the 7th Ed trend of allowing transports to be taken as a stand-alone Fast Attack choice, then maybe the Solitaire can ride one into melee and be competitive. But that is a very conditional statement.

I guess we'll also have to wait and see if the Shadowseer is in the Codex and if the new Veil of Tears provides any good shooting protection. Otherwise you're relying on Farseers casting Invisibility on the scariest legendary killers of the 41st millennium to avoid an ignominious death to small-arms fire—and the subsequent soul munching by She Who Thirsts. OM-NOM-NOM!

One last thing: I probably wouldn't bother buying Haywire Grenades for the Solitaire, since with eight or more attacks auto-Glancing on a to-hit roll of 6 you are mathematically better off punching than grenading. But if you think tossing a Haywire Grenade in the shooting phase is worth 5 pts then the option is there.

Troupe


Expensive bolter-bait is my first impression. While the single-model Solitaire can hide on a table with decent terrain coverage, a squad does not have the same luxury.

The nature of the Starweaver is really going to define how to configure your Troupes, and if they can be a competitive choice or not. I think it's a fairly safe assumption that the Starweaver will be an open-topped or assault vehicle—if not then it may go down in history as one of GW's greatest design fails—but capacity will be a big deal. Artwork seen so far seems to indicate that the Starweaver is based on the Vyper/Venom chassis, which would suggest a capacity of 5-6 models. If that is the case then I don't think Troupes will be a competitive choice, since they work on volume of attacks and would need to be fielded in big squads for success.

So at this stage the only thing really worth analysing for the Troupe are its weapon options. Firstly, paying 15 pts for a power sword for the Master is absolutely terrible, just don't do it. Secondly, both the pistol options are similarly over-costed, avoid them too. If you're playing a Kill Team or really low points-level game, or are playing a crazy pure Harlequins list, then you might need a couple of Fusion Pistols to pop transports—but in the normal scenario of Harlequins allied to Craftworld or Dark Eldar, you have much better anti-armour options in those other Codexes.

The three 'Harlequin's X' weapons are interesting, but expensive if bought for a big squad:

  • Harlequin's Embrace – For 5 pts you get D3 S6 Hammer of Wrath hits. This is great since you are getting free hits on top of your normal attacks; given that WS5 Harlequins will hit most things on a 3+ these extra hits are mathematically worth having 1.5 to 4.5 extra attacks. Against Invisible targets these extra hits are worth having 6 to 18 extra attacks! Plus they are resolved at S6 instead of S4 (assuming Furious Charge bonus) so overall a great option.
  • Harlequin's Kiss – For 5 pts one of your attacks becomes S6 AP2. Meh. Scrubs everywhere will wet themselves over AP2 and think this is the best option. The cynic in me sees this as the sadly typical GW sales strategy of "make the existing weapons crap so people have to replace their models". If the Kiss gave a model an extra attack at S6 AP2 it would be worthwhile, but converting an existing attack is not worth 5 pts per basic squaddie.
  • Harlequin's Caress – For 8 pts you get 'old-school rending' as described above for the Solitaire. What is great on a model with mass attacks is correspondingly less scary on a model with fewer attacks, and upgrading a big Troupe to all have Caresses is just too expensive.
My weapons of choice would be a Caress for the Master and Embraces for all the Players. I think that giving every model a special weapon is the way to go, rather than just hiding a few in the squad, since glass cannons need to hit hard or all you have is a wet noodle.

That said, it could be worthwhile taking fewer special weapons for the sake of 'pulling your punches' and not wiping out your target on the charge, so you can stay locked and un-shootable in your opponent's turn, before Hit and Running away at the end of their assault phase. But is getting punched back for two turns better than being shot at for one turn? It depends, and time and experience will tell how many points its worth investing in special weapons for Troupes.

Conclusion

I am eagerly waiting to see the rules for the Starweaver, the relics, and Shadowseers / Veil of Tears if they are included in the new Codex. Those force multipliers are going to be key to the competitiveness of the Solitaire and Troupes we've seen so far. But even if Harlequins don't end up being the new hotness, I will still be getting some of these sweet models for my Eldar army.


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