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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, ...

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Analysis: Eldar Harlequins Third Wave


More pieces of the puzzle emerge, and the picture is not looking any better from a competitive perspective... but at least the models are damn sexy!

We now have rules for the Starweaver transport and Voidweaver gunboat, the Harlequin Masque Detachment, and an outline of psychic options. All that's really left unknown are the Relics, specific details of the Shadowseer and Death Jester, and a complete picture of the new Phantasmancy psychic discipline. Will those last few factors be enough to transform these expensive paper pussy cats into a credible new 40k mini-army?

Starweaver

From the very start of the Harlequin rules trickle-release, it was clear that the efficacy of their dedicated transport option would be a significant factor in their overall power level. Troupes can hit hard but are still just bolter-bait if they have to foot-slog it across the table; furthermore, if/when they do get into close combat, they really need numbers if they are to overwhelm their foe and not get punched out in return.


Enter the Starweaver: it looks like a Venom, smells like a Venom, is a bit worse at shooting than a Venom, and delivers a fearsome six Space Elf Clowns into battle. Oh dear.

For 60 70 pts you get a very flimsy vehicle that cannot transport enough Players to make much of an impact in close combat. Also note the new rules for its Holo-Fields—a 5++ save if you're not immobilised—there's your first sneak preview of the impending knee-jerk nerfing to the Eldar Codex! Mark my words, they will nerf Eldar into oblivion to satisfy the cry-babies, instead of just intelligently toning-down the few offending rules that imbalance an otherwise reasonable book. I've seen it happen every other edition for the last twenty years...

On second thought, I actually like the new rules for Holo-Fields. Both Harlequins and Craftworld Eldar can psychically generate Stealth/Shrouding (Dance of Shadows, Shrouding) so having a 5++ in close combat, where Eldar vehicles are most vulnerable, is actually a very good thing!

But I digress. At this stage I really only see two uses for the Starweaver:
  • Cheaply filling the compulsory Fast Attack slots in a Harlequin Masque Detachment
  • Transporting Solitaires or squads of six Shadowseers (Shadowstar, you read it here first!)
And when it comes to transporting Solitaires, I would probably rather have a Venom so you can reserve it when going second and Deep Strike it somewhere useful. Plus twelve Poison shots.

Voidweaver

Take a Starweaver, pay 5 pts extra, and trade its transport capacity for a Haywire Cannon. And by the way, one of your Shuriken Cannons is now pointing backwards! Awesomesauce! While they gave the Voidweaver a special rule to allow its aft Shuriken Cannon to split fire, they didn't do anything about the fact that you would still have to Snap Fire one of its guns when moving at Crusing Speed...


It makes me sad that such a long-awaited and beautiful range of models can be so embarrassingly craptacular in battle.

The Voidweaver can 'upgrade' its Haywire Cannon to a Prismatic Cannon for another 5 pts more. I haven't bothered doing the math-hammer to confirm if this alternative weapon is as bad as it looks at first glance; but really, by now it should be pretty obvious that you'll be relying on your Craftworlder/Commorrite allies to crack enemy armour.

Detachment: Harlequin Masque

The GW webstore description for Codex Eldar Harlequins indicates suggests that the Masque is their singular Detachment option—the book contains no HQ units so the Combined Arms and Allied Detachments are out.

I believe the Masque sets a new 40k record for the highest-taxing Detachment:
  • Three Troupes (see what I did there!)
  • Two Fast Attack
  • One Heavy Support
The total tax amounts to 500 pts with minimised Troupes and empty Starweavers to fill your Fast Attack slots. And all that just to unlock seven Elite slots! And only one of those can be filled by the unique Solitaire! I hope that the Masque has some good Command Benefits too that we have not yet seen...

Now of course, if Shadowseers turn out to be the new hotness then it just might be worthwhile to run six or seven of them—we'll have to wait and see about that.

Note that the webstore description also states that the book will contain six Formations (probably five real Formations plus a composite) so hopefully those will offer lower-tax alternatives.

Phantasmancy

That has to be the hardest-to-pronounce made-up word in the 40k universe. We've only seen a single power so far (not the Primaris) that confers Stealth and Shrouding on a unit within 18". That's a decent buff that Harlequins will probably really need, and that allied Eldar and Dark Eldar would enjoy too. It'll be interesting to see what else this new unique Discipline will bring to the game—and if it's worthwhile taking over Telepathy.

It seems that Shadowseers will have access to Sanctic but not Maelfic Daemonolgy; it will be interesting to see if they get a similar rule to Grey Knights so they only Perils on a double six. Reliable Sanctic casters could be quite useful to Harlequins and allied Eldar:
  • Gate of Infinity is great for short-ranged shooters like Wraithguard and Fire Dragons
  • Hammerhand combined with Furious Charge gives Troupes S6 punches on the charge
  • Sanctuary is useful when you remember that all Harlequins already have a 5++ save—it's effectively Forewarning
  • Cleansing Flame and Vortex are both good powers on a highly mobile psyker
It will be really interesting to see if Shadowseers have been promoted from their Mastery Level 1 status in previous Eldar and Dark Eldar Codexes. It will also be interesting to see their price-point, considering that ML2 Telepaths (Spiritseers) are 70 pts each and ML3 Telepaths (Farseers) are 100 pts each. I'm sure someone will concoct some sort of new deathstar from massed Eldar psykers...

Allies

It's becoming very apparent that Harlequins are really not meant to stand-alone as an army; like Militarum Tempestus (also released around this time last year...) they seem to be designed to augment an existing army, in this case Eldar and Dark Eldar. Now I'm assuming that Harlequins will be Battle Brothers with both—if that does not eventuate then the following points are moot.

Given how strong the Eldar Codex already is on its own, I don't see it benefiting much from the addition of the new Harlequins. Skyweavers and Voidweavers do provide access to ranged Haywire, and Eldar that focus too much on Serpent spamming can struggle against AV 14, so maybe Harlequins have a niche role there? Of course, that weakness to AV 14 can already be covered in other ways, without paying 500+ pts to add Harlequins to your army.

On the other hand, I can see Dark Eldar greatly enjoying the addition of Harlequins to their raiding parties. The Commorrites already have efficient ranged Haywire in Scourges—and plentiful Lances—to deal with heavy armour, but the addition of S6 pseudo-rending could really help to knock out light armour. I can see empty Starweavers being employed alongside empty Venoms in a similar role; a mixture of Poison, Lances, Haywire and S6 pseudo-rending provides really good coverage against most threats in 40k.

Given the small transport capacity of the Starweaver, it's worthwhile considering what transport options are available via allies. I wrote about Eldar / Dark Eldar transport synergy a while ago, and the same concepts apply to the new Harlequins. The Raider is a fast assault transport with a capacity of 10 models—Troupes everywhere are checking out the trade-in price on their Starweavers...

So how do you get Raiders into your army when you're already spending so many points on expensive Harlequins? It's actually not that costly:
Realspace Raiders Detachment
HQ
Lhamaean [10]
Venom [65]
Troops
Kabalite Warriors [40]
Venom [65]
Kabalite Warriors [40]
Venom [65]
Fast Attack
Raider with Dark Lance and Night Shields [75]
Raider with Dark Lance and Night Shields [75]
Raider with Dark Lance and Night Shields [75]
510 pts
That's not a huge investment to enable the three Troupes in a Masque to be run as big squad in a transport. There is minimal fat in this Detachment; only 90 pts are spent on the HQ and Troops taxes to unlock three great gunboats and three useful transports. This Detachment still has three more Fast Attack slots open, and Razorwings would make a great addition to a Harlequin force. Likewise, Ravagers in the three open Heavy Support slots will allow your Harlequins to focus on close combat and leave the shooting to the professionals.

Let's put this together with a partial Masque, and see how many points are left over to spend on Shadowseers, Death Jesters and Relics when we see those rules next week:
Harlequin Masque
Elites
Solitaire [145]
Troops
Troupe: Troupe Master with Caress, nine Players with Embraces [223]
Troupe: Troupe Master with Caress, nine Players with Embraces [223]
Troupe: Troupe Master with Caress, nine Players with Embraces [223]
Fast Attack
Starweaver [70]
Starweaver [70]
Heavy Support
Voidweaver [75]
1029 pts
Wow, those guys get really expensive really fast! But I do think that Harlequins will only be somewhat competitive if a "go big or go home" approach is applied; small squads just aren't that scary.

In an 1850 pts army you would only have 311 pts left to spend on toys; it may be worthwhile dropping a Player or two from each Troupe to replace them with Shadowseers, otherwise I would be adding a couple of the aforementioned Razorwings or Ravagers to give the army a bit of real punch.

Conclusion

Every week I've concluded with remarks along the lines of, "I'm not impressed yet, but maybe next week will change my mind..." We probably only have one more week of new rules reveals, so it's all coming down to the last couple of characters, the Relics, and the psychic powers. Will they be enough to make Harlequins competitive? Or do the Eldar finally have something truly 'casual game appropriate' in their arsenal?

8 comments:

  1. Well a few more glimpses here:

    http://imgur.com/a/Y0n3X



    There's potential for some tricks but really I fear you're right it's all nice to have/fun to have not essential to have. That said it's still the only 40K codex since 4th edition I am actually going to buy!


    Great site by the way I found oit on the HoP feed last week and have been making my way through your back catalogue!

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  2. Another great article! I too was worried, but not surprised about the transport capacity of the Starweaver. How I'm squaring it with myself is that yes, 12 players will bring the pain in melee but 6 and a Starweaver start dealing damage at 24", not just pistol range and melee, so it becomes a different kind of unit.

    The Embraces for the Troupes have never really excited me. It's all about a mix of Caresses and Kisses, with the balance slightly in favour of the Caresses. The Troupe Master will always have a Caress and Neuro Disruptor for me I think. Probably haywire grenades too.

    The Skyweavers are a bit more of a conundrum but I still like them a lot. Just torn between loadouts and battlefield roles.

    I like the Voidweaver a lot too, although I'd model the rear shuriken cannon below and not above the hand rail I think. I'm thinking a squadron of two - one with haywire cannon and one with prismatic cannon, so you can deal with hordes.

    In terms of points cost for the Starweaver (70 by the way) I think it's fair. Bear in mind a Vyper upgrade to have a second shuriken cannon is 60, the Starweaver has that in addition to mirage launchers, transport capacity and other bits and pieces.

    I also think both the Starweaver and Voidweaver are classes as fast skimmers, so can't they fire two weapons at full BS at cruising speed?

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  3. Welcome to the site! I did see those leaked rules for Phantasmancy shortly after I published this post, but I'm waiting until we see the rules for the Shadowseers themselves before I review the Discipline. Veil of Tears could be the key to running Harlequins on foot, and saving yourself the need to bring DE allies; however, if Shadowseers are only ML1 then you'll probably need Eldar allies to generate enough WC to cast VoT on every squad!

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  4. Thanks! I still think Embraces are the way to go since it's the only option that generates extra attacks, and auto-hitting at I10 is great too. The Kisses just improve an existing attack—which can miss—and the Caresses are very expensive for models with only a few attacks each.


    When it comes to Skyweavers, you really just have to ask yourself the question: "can I already kill heavy armour?" If the answer is "no" then you need a big squad with Haywire. If the answer is "yes" then smaller squads with Shuriken are better. I think Zephyrglaives will probably be worthwhile so you can assist Troupes in close combat.


    The trouble with the Voidweaver is that it can fire two weapons at full BS at cruising speed but it has three weapons... As for repositioning the aft Shuriken Cannon model, the unit will still have the 'Aft Weapon' rule. I agree that the Prismatic Cannon may be a good way for Harlequins to kill hordes (if you have no allies to do that for you) but I don't think there is benefit in mixing weapons in a squadron.


    I agree that the Starweaver is costed fairly against the Vyper, but how often do you see Vypers in a competitive army list? That is what limits the competitive value of the Starweaver; paying 70 pts just to get a couple of Shuriken Cannons on quite a flimsy platform is not really very efficient.

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  5. Good points! And lol yes I know about the aft weapin rule. Just meant I'd model it lower as it looks a bit precarious on that rail : P

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  6. Ah fair enough. I think there might be room to mount the weapon in the spot where the rapelling line goes on the Starweaver?

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  7. The problem with all-Embrace approach on Troupes is that only base-to-base contacts grant you HoW attacks. And to be fair how often will you manage to get more than 4-5 guys in base contact when charging?

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  8. With Fleet, good positioning, and potentially the run & charge Command Benefit? Most of the time, I would expect.

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