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From Idea to Reality
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From Idea to Reality,
Part 11: Final
Once I was finished with the Archon, I went back and started to work on the rest of the Troops. I also started playing more games with my Dark Eldar, including a campaign and two tournaments (which you can read about here and here). These games drove a number of changes to the army, which I’ll elaborate on below.
Haemonculi. I’ve changed my tactics to rely heavily on using at least one—and often, two—webway portals in each game. Usually, one or more Haemonculi and a few Warrior squads (as bodyguards and bulletcatchers) start on the board, always in or behind cover (preferably area terrain). This works well even in games using the Escalation rule. The Haemonculi and the Warriors advance to about the middle of the board, then open the portals, whereupon the rest of the army—and I mean, EVERYTHING ELSE IN THE ARMY—comes out.
Usually, this little “Jack-in-The-Box-From Hell” trick works beautifully, as it denies the enemy at least two turns of shooting or assaulting any meaningful targets, which is always a good thing, as Death Twinkies are about as tough as newborn kittens. I’ve found that opponents often can’t resist the urge to move in closer, usually in an attempt to surround the portal(s): this only makes it even easier to jump them with the rest of my army, which (as you’ll learn), I’ve built up for hand-to-hand combat.
This is not to say that using webway portals makes the army unbeatable: my experiences at Counter Offensive 3 show that not to be the case. But it definitely helps. Once the portals are open, the Haemonculi can lend a hand in assaults or provide some shooting, but their job is basically over. Thus, I don’t give them lots of wargear or weapons: the portals are expensive enough, thanks.
Dracon. There’s a big difference in points cost and combat effectiveness between an Archon and a Haemonculus, and a Dracon nicely fits that middle area. My pal Dwayne Powell was kind enough to paint and send me the Warhammer Fantasy figure below; such a cool model deserved a place of honor in my army, so she became Dr’zzllah, Dracon of the Ozone Scorpions and daughter to Syryx Lynatharr.
Dr’zzlah is equipped with an agonizer (that black sword) and combat drugs (the goblet). Fluff-wise, she was apparently imprisoned (by persons as yet unrevealed) in an alternate dimension before being released (as described at the end of the 01/17/2004 RTT writeup) by Lynatharr. She serves him by keeping the Haemonculi in line, but she has ambitions of her (some of which are mentioned in the batrep Women’s Work) and Lynatharr is careful to keep her from becoming too powerful: at one point he demoted her to a Succubus, but later re-appointed her as Dracon.
First, the Handmaidens. While visiting the Millenium Gate forum, I came across some photos posted by Marc (“Da Pain Train”) Smith, who had used Warhammer fantasy Witch Elves for his Wyches. Duh! Why hadn’t I thought of that before?
I stole—errr—borrowed Marc’s idea, giving a few of them splinter pistols and some funky weapons (nets and a big fork). Combined with the spiky swords the models came with, this unit would count as having wych weapons.
The Succubus (below) sports a huge wrist blade (made from a Raider bit) that acts as an agonizer.
I painted them in Enchanted Blue and Mithril Silver to coordinate with the rest of my army. Fluffwise, they were, at first, Dr’zzlah’s bodyguards, thus the name “Handmaidens.” As Dr’zzlah becomes more powerful and popular (especially after her excellent showing at Counter Offensive 2), Lynatharr seeks to keep her in check: he has recently re-assigned the Handmaidens and now they answer to him.
Next, the Ring of Honor. When I first started putting together the army, I envisioned that Sybarites with poisoned blades, leading Raider Squads, would help assault the enemy. WS 4, three Attacks on the charge, wounding on 2+…what’s not to like? Looked good on paper, but it didn’t work well in real life. So I pulled the Sybarite figures out of their squads and banded them into a third Wych squad. Because my “Wyches” aren’t really “Wyches” (i.e., gladiators-for-hire), they’re exceptional Warriors hopped up on combat drugs, they’re painted like the rest of the army.
The “fluff” behind this unit is that to further tighten his control on the Kabal, Lynatharr “promoted” several prominent Sybarites and put them into one fighting group, led by the overly-ambitious Eklavdrah (below). They help keep the others squads in line and spy on each other. Having them all in one group makes them easier to keep an eye on. Lynatharr may be insane, but he’s not stupid….
As I’ve mentioned, one of the inspirations for this army is the Dallas Cowboys (American) football team. The Ring of Honor Wych squad takes its name from the real “Ring of Honor” at Texas Stadium that lists names of famous Cowboy players. Also in keeping with the Cowboy theme, I’ve nicknamed the Handmaidens “The Callous Drowboy Cheerleaders.”
Warp Beasts. I pulled the bases out from under my Warp Beasts. As you can see in the photos below, the scorpion models I used for my Beasts are pretty large anyway, and the bases just made it that much harder for all of them to get into hand-to-hand combat, where they belong. Not to mention that I didn't do such a good job of securing the Beasts to their bases when I first made them, so they always tended to fall off.
Without the bases, I can get more of my "long-legged beasties" into the fight. They balance just fine of the tips of their legs, despite how front-heavy those claws make them.
Because I don’t intend to get the Raider Squads into close combat, there are few reasons to upgrade any of them to Sybarites, as Sybarites are probably the only squad leaders in 40K who do not have better Leadership than the troops they lead. So, each Raider Squad is just made up of regular guys (albeit one with a splinter cannon—one of my favorite weapons—and one with a blaster). There are only nine in each squad so that a character can join them, if need be.
You'll note that my Raider Squads are "cookie-cutter" units with no variation. I think redundancy is a good thing for Troop units, and especially for Dark Eldar, who can expect to take lots of casualties. I tell the Raider squads apart by little white dots on the back of their bases: one dot means Squad I, two dots mean Squad II, etc. I do something similar for their transports, so I know which squad goes to which Raider.
Speaking of Raiders: originally, I had equipped all my Raider transports with scaling nets, thinking that this would help my maneuverability: they did not. Only twice in about 20 battles did I found it necessary to use the scaling nets. So I stripped them off and saved myself the points.
Warriors. After playing a few games, I discovered that my army had a problem during missions like "Cleanse," where you have to hold a section of the board. My only unit that was suitable for holding table quarters and such was my sole (at the time) Warrior Squad, but they lacked long-range firepower. So my opponent would either shoot them from afar with impunity or stay out of their weedy 24" range and ignore them altogether.
I can't stand any opponent of mine doing anything "with impunity," and if I had wanted portions of my army to be ignored, I wouldn't have painted them in those god-awful Dallas Cowboy colors, now would I? Clearly, I would have to rectify this revolting situation.
I'm not a big fan of the Nigh-Ubiquitous "Dark Eldar Sniper Squad": a smidge of Warriors, two of whom have dark lances. However, sometimes you have to go with what works. I painted up two guys with dark lances, using leftover bits from Raider kits. Each dark lance rests on a post which I imagine is driven into the ground in front of the gunner. It's a handy visual explanation of why the dark lance can't be fired on the move.
The two dark lances also add a smidge more anti-tank firepower, which the army could use. Before I came up with these, I had three dark lances (mounted on Raiders) and a bunch of blasters (carried by Warriors and mounted on Reaver jetbikes); while blasters are nice, their short range can sometimes be a considerable pain in the rear.
Recently, I was going through my bitz box and found enough Warriors to fill out some more squads. The nice thing about Warrior Squads is that you can take two heavy weapons (splinter cannon or dark lance) AND two special weapons (shredder or blaster) in each squad, so I made sure each squad had plenty of good guns. Purists might sneer that doing so is “min/maxxing,” but Dark Eldar need all the dirty tricks they can use.
Rather then throw them out or “retire” them, I split them into three squads. Two squads would have blasters and be dedicated to hunting vehicles (which my army has always had problems with); the other squad would have shredders (to attack infantry) and would accompany Lynatharr.
Going along with the Dallas Cowboy theme I have with this army, I've nicknamed my Taloses "The Triplets," after Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin, the original "triplets" who guided the Boys to three Super Bowl victories in the early '90s. I painted all of my Taloses basically alike, with a few minor variations, such as the Fighting Tiger helmet on the Talos below.
I'd like to thank my friends at the
Millenium Gate forum for their input, enthusiasm, and encouragement,
and I'd especially like to thank Matthew Hunt (known across the
Internet as the fearsome Kurgan the Lurker)
for his invaluable painting tips.
Posted December 2003.
Revised September 2006
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