Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Path? More Like Corridor of the Seer

Back in the day – 2006 to be precise – I had a bit of a flirtation with Craftworld Eldar. I had played a bit of Iyanden previously (and I think I was responsible for the death of more Wraithlords than Hivefleet Kraken) but for me 2006 was the Year of Ulthwe.

I put together and painted a list which I used at one tournament, Liber Animus. There, I was lucky enough to win the “Bloodthirster” award for Best General and I fell half a point short of the “Warmaster” (Best Overall) – I was pipped by White dwarf Editor Brian Cook and his beautiful Vostroyan army.

The list I used had a Seer Council in it and over time this unit has received more notoriety than just about any unit I’ve seen. I have had people swear to me that the unit was 24 strong and local hyperbole has had it breaching the 100 mark when people want to wind me up. In reality the unit was 14 strong – 3 Farseers and 11 Warlocks. The unit grew from my experience facing John Tailby’s eight man Wave Sepent-riding Council. Mine was all on foot and I loved the way they could get across the table and deal with both Mech and infantry.

However, this unit was part of an Ulthwe army. An integral part was the 60 Guardian Defenders (36 BS4 Black Guardians) that filled out my Troop choices along with two units of Pathfinders.

This is a roundabout way of me getting to my point. Bear with me I am ancient like my Farseers!

The other night I started mucking about on Army Builder building an Eldar list. I wanted to run the Seer Council again as I really like the unit and love my painted models. The interesting thing was when I got to my Troop choices. In 5th Edition the landscape has changed markedly compared to that when my Seer council last roamed free. Now the onus is on efficiency and your Troop choices are less frontline troops and more “sofa” units sitting on an objective near the back of the board or very fast units that can jump to contest/control objective on the last turn. From what I’ve seen/read/heard the 60 Guardian Defender army has gone the way of the Dodo.
When I put together my Troop choices – and remember I’m looking at making a competitive build – my choices were three units of three Eldar jetbikes (Shuriken Cannon on one) @ 76 points each and 5 Dire Avengers @ 60 points. Four Troop choices – none designed to fight – taking up the grand total of 288 points.

Paint me an old romantic but this just doesn’t feel right to me. There is no feeling of an army just a cynical exercise in rules exploitation.
And that to me is the point. I hope that when 6th Edition comes around that the rules mechanisms they include make such armies an anachronism. I think Troops should be the bedrock of any army and while I appreciate that Eldar are a dying race, I’m hoping things are so bad that the total number of Troops is most efficient at 14.

One of the things I like about 8th Edition Fantasy is that armies look like armies. There is a solid block of core and quantity is its own quality. I would love to see something that rewarded you for taking solid numbers of core in any 6th Edn 40k list.

Burn notice issued.


  1. Blackmoor over on Dakka had some decent success last year with an avatar-foot guardian heavy list. Essentially he had so many fearless girlymen in cover that he had a rock solid core, with huge amounts of supporting firepower backing them up.

    While you can build an eldar list to be light on troops, I don't believe you absolutely have to build one that way.

    Meanwhile, a good portion of the codicies do use a heavy troops contingent. My orks run almost 1200 points of troops, spacewolves rocking large amounts of grey hunters, blood angels with a big contingent of assault squads, some of the more mech guard often only run ~40 veterans, though a blob army can rock as many as 150, a lot of dark eldar squads are spitting out many squads of whyches, or wracks, I've even seen warrior heavy armies, GK crowe armies spitting out 6 units of purifiers, or coteaz armies with 6 squads of henchmen, the list goes on.

    If anything, I think its more a telling sign that Codex Eldar is a very tired codex, than it is a statement about army construction in general under 5th edition.

  2. I run a Mech Eldar with 2 squads of DA in Waveserpents and some jet bikes and a unit of Pathfinders... So only about 30 troops and it is not a competitive build, BUT, I enjoy playing a themed (Altanasar) army with Dark Reapers, Maugan Ra and Eldrad teamed up.. It is mobile, shooty and fun to play.. (actually roll 3 dice for that Pscychic test.. I think I will DOOM that unit, guide these 2 units of DA ... and now I will bladestorm Abaddon's unit with the two units of DA,and the waveserpents, and the pathfinders will also have ago... lets see how ones you can NOT roll...)

    I guess what I am saying is you can have the competitive build, but I think you need to enjoy the army you play... I like the story behind Maugan Ra, I like turning up with a frail eldar tanks and surprising a few players every now and then... but go into it knowing that against some armies you have little chance so trying manage to get the most out of it is the challenge...

  3. It comes down to the fact that unless your Troops are points efficient, then they are just role-fillers to score with.

    How about taking Black Guardians as Dire Avengers Pete? Dire Avengers are fantastically good, and work well at making the basis of a Footdar army.

    Ideally, you want your Seer Council + Avatar to make them all Fearless, but still, DA's might solve your problem.

    At the moment, putting 60 Guardians on the table is not going to be anywhere close to competitive.

  4. Dire Avengers are definitely strong, especially with Exarch with 2 guns and bladestorm.... 27 shots at BS 4 and 5 shots at BS 5, a friendly guide plus doom the target unit = re-roll to hit and to wound...

  5. I really disagree on bladestorm. Bladestorm is a BAD ability.
    "So what you're saying, is I can get 3 shots in 2 turns if I bladestorm, but 4 shots in 2 turns if I don't - and pay points for the privelidge?"
    I'll give that one a miss, and instead aim to protect my avengers better so that they're alive the next turn to shoot again.

    The only time I'd consider taking and using it was if I was relying on pushing them off objectives with weight of fire in the 5th turn, at which point I think I've already played the game wrong to be relying on s4 firepower for that task.

  6. Yeah Bladestorm is a bit of a 'wow' trap. I dont think its worth not shooting the next turn. If you are running under an Avatar bubble, then the Exarch isnt worth taking for the Ld Buff. If you have no Avatar bubble, then run an Exarch, and if anything, give the guy Defend. This is a power that is unbelievable strong defensively. Also, if you are going the Exarch, for 5 points, go the Twin Catapaults, you may as well.

  7. Give you a clue there are no Guardians in my list. No Avatar - hate the silly blue things - either.

    My Troop choices are as stated.

    My concern with the rules as they stand is that GW knows that the victory conditions don't necessarily work. That's why there are so many "Counts as Troops". They realise you need scoring units and the FO charts are necessarily providing them without exceptions.

    Yes, the Eldar book is old, so Charlie's point is valid, but I suspect that an updated book would just give you a special character that makes some other choice scoring. You'd still have the 5 man DA and jetbikes instead of the Guardian units which should be the backbone.

    Still you cut your cloth to fit your needs. All I'm hoping is that they give some thought to the effect Victory Conditions have when they finalise 6th. At the moment is skewed to the cynical.

  8. I use twin catapaults ("2 guns"). What I tend to do is pop them out of the Wave Serpent, shoot the crap out of something then put them back in next turn and move on or maybe assault if conditions are right (generally not)..

    I do play defensively though :)

    18 inch range means that if I want to avoid close combat (which against most units hitting my line, I do) then shoot, put them away next turn (so can't shoot anyway) and get them out of range is valid I think... especially when I have another unit near by to repeat the tactic, or if the opportunity arises use both in one turn.

  9. Mind you I have been known to put down 10 Wraithguard as troops, now that is definitely not optimal but it is fun!

  10. Yes, lets hope 6th goes back to Landspeeders jumping on Objectives and claiming them in the last turn ;) At least they can only contest in this edition.

    Still agree, that Victory Conditions have screwed some old Codex's... but at least Eldar have a few semi viable choices, unlike say ... Necrons or Tau.

  11. Not much different from unit of jetbikes (turbo-fortuned), hellions, reavers etc

    Make it open slather

  12. Imo one of the biggest factors that makes the 5th edition codices a step above the older books is the strength they have in their troops. I actually think things were the opposite from what you said, you could take Troops as your frontline units in 4th, but most of the time you had basically no reason to take more than a couple of troop units because you could get better units in Elites/Fast/Heavy. Troops are more important now, not less, if they can't do some damage as well as grab an objective then you have one hand tied behind your back. As Charlie mentioned Eldar are stuck with troop units which can't kill much, so you are forced into this situation where you just minimise the points you spend on them (I'm trying a 2000pt Eldar list with 180pts of Troops as soon as I get some more Vypers painted up, they are all in Falcons though which takes care of the survivability aspect a bit).

    I'm surprised you think that the victory conditions don't work, because this is easily the best edition in that regard (certainly the objective side of things is great, KPs aren't perfect but that's another can of worms), or that counts as troops is an issue, because their aren't really that many of them (1-2 per codex) and none of them are unbalanced or particularly unfluffy for that matter. You either pay a big 'tax' to get them if they are fairly killy (Purifers/Crowe, Paladins/Draigo, Wolf Guard/Logan, Sanguinary Guard/Dante) and often still pay through the nose to end up with a low model count army or it just shuffles smaller/support units around to unlock other possible builds i.e Hellions, Wracks, Inquisitor Henchmen etc.

    I can't see Eldar being allowed to unlock other Aspects as troops though, at least not more than 1 of each Aspect per army. Even if they nerf Dragons to have Heat Lance type weapons, 6 units of them in skimmers would pretty much break the game (so would 6 units of the assault aspect as well assuming they get the kind of buffs they need to actually get back into the assault specialist category). Avengers are supposed to be the most common Aspect (and thus the most common unit in the army) with backup from Guardians, so the main focus should be giving Avengers a major buff so people actually have a reason to take them in units of more than 5.

  13. Thanks for the considered replies guys.

    @powerguy - I guess my view is that in the past your Troop choices were fighty and now they are typically minimum sized. That to me is driven by the victory conditions.

    Why would you take a unit of ten Dire Avengers when you can take two of five. Yes, I know these are older codexes but my thoughts are that GW has recognised this problem and that's why the fighty units in new codexes all have something to unlock them so they "Counts as Troops".

  14. Well yes it is driven by the victory conditions, but more specifically its driven by the codex(s) being written for the old victory conditions (really the old old victory conditions in this case because nothing really changed in the 4th edition Eldar codex) and the codex not being able to adapt properly to the new ones.

    The thing is that even ignoring the options you can get from characters altering the FOC (counts as troops/scoring), every single troop unit in every 5th edition codex outclasses basically every troop unit from the 4th edition books. Even in 4th Eldar (not CWE, Black Guardians/Ranger spam was silly/good), Tau and Necron troops weren't great (notice that this is a Xeno codex issue for the most part, at the end of the day Marines are still Marines), at best they were passable given the ruleset at the time, but you didn't need to take them in large numbers to capture objectives so it was fine. In general GW have been making troops (as in actual troops) worth taking, the ability to unlock elites etc just adds more options, its certainly not their way of sidestepping the problem.

    I'll happily take units of 10 Avengers when a) their damage output gets pushed above that of a rapid firing Tactical Squad to balance out the fact that they are orders of magnitude more squishy b) which means probably they get access to (hopefully buffed) Shuriken Cannons so they have a bigger ranged threat and can deal with vehicles and c) get a few more assault upgrades (even if only defensive/avoidance based). This turns them into a decent all round unit rather than the sub par anti horde unit they are at the moment. Until that happens I'll be sticking to 5 man units to put in skimmers which can survive more than one shooting phase, are mobile and can threaten just about everything thanks to multi shot S6 weapons.

  15. I think you are suffering from a 4th Ed Comp hangover too and maybe the Rogue Trader system Pete?

    Even if your Troops were bad, you had to usually have 40% Troops to meet Comp requirements, so everyone was forced to go Troop heavy, even if there Troops were not the most optimal units in the army... so Troop heavy forces were common, even when being Troops was not a victory requirement.

    Now, Comp is more fluid, and not only that, but I think armies are simply harder/more efficient for points the more the codex's come out, so as said above, 4th Ed Codex's just have to look for there best options all the time to keep up.

  16. No,no,no,no,no....sorry Tom but 40% Troops was never a requirement in 4th Ed Comp systems in NZ...maybe in parts of Oz but not here.

    It seems for the rest you're basically agreeing with me. You need to employ a degree of cynicism to be competitive - with the older codexes, or look for an exemption for most of the newer.