Monday, March 22, 2010

Fear the Darkness - HQ

by Anonymous Foodie

Every army needs a leader, someone to inspire and command the troops on the battlefield. Granted, in the case of the Dark Eldar it's less "inspire" and more "threaten", but hey, whatever gets the job done, right?

For your standard Dark Eldar army there are two different HQ choices. We have the Kabal Lords, and then the mad scientist Heamonculi.

Dark Eldar Lords

Lords come in two flavors; Archons and Dracons. Standard tier 1 and tier 2 schtick, the Archon has better stats and a slightly higher pricetag.

Dark Eldar Lords, rare as they may be, are still known for being relative combat monsters. This doesn't come from having eleventy-billion attacks a la some Chaos beasts, or from having some uber-weapon that wounds on 2's and kills outright, or anything quite that silly. What the Lord gives you is reliability.
Combat Drugs steadily increase this character's killy potential, though at a risk. Unlike Wych drugs, you can choose what option(s) you want for that round, but take too many and you may overdose, losing a wound or even falling flat to delirious convulsions. But what's life without a little risk? I rarely take three drugs at a time (risking complete death-inducing overdose) but almost always tempt fate by risking a wound. When I can add an attack and re-roll my misses each round, it tends to be worth it.
Of course, the Shadow Field is a big part of why the Lord has such a nasty rep. Granted this 2+ invulnerable save shorts out after you fail the first one... but it's still a 2+ invulnerable save. I've had games where it goes down the first time, and I've had games where it never does. Such is luck. In truth, it's not the world's best piece of gear - anyone who's dropped a termi to mass fire should know how to deal with this - but it's reasonably priced and also the only upgrade beyond a 5+ (unless you want the Skyboard).

And what's a warrior without a weapon? There are typically two loadouts for a Lord.

First we have the humble agoniser. Pretty straightforward, it's a power weapon that always wounds on a 4+. Like I said, reliable. 6 attacks on the charge, re-rolled (with the help of drugs), you're looking at 3 reliable wounds on the charge, and 2-3 thereafter.

The next option is the Punisher/Tormentor Helm combo. The Punisher is basically a +1 Strength power weapon (two handed) and the Tormentor Helm (aka Diplomacy Hat) counts as a pistol that, as it's on a hat, works just fine with the giant beat-stick. The kicker with this combo is that you can use Drugs to increase your strength (now wounding on 2's or 3's), and even combine with an Animus Vitae; a nasty bit of Arcane Wargear that increases your already impressive WS and Strength after taking a slave. The potential to wound marines on 2's is enough to draw a number of people to this option.

Of course, you can also opt for a Reaver or Skyboard. I always go for the Agoniser on foot, but my Reaver Lord gets a Punisher (to make use of the enhanced strength from the Reaver) and the trademark Diplomacy Hat.

A relative beast on his own (did I mention initiative 7? Go ahead, try to strike first), or even nastier with a retinue (we'll get there). And cheap. I can kit an Archon on foot for just over 130, or a Reaver Dracon for around 150. When it comes to killy-per-point ratio, Dark Eldar really stacks up well.


Looking for a cheap yet effective HQ for a small game? Or maybe a secondary HQ to help out where needed. When you can kit a Heamonculus with weapons and still be under 50 points, you can just about use them as squad leaders. Add to this that you can take up to 3 as a single HQ slot, and you start to see that this is actually a very good role for them.

Statwise they're slightly better than a standard Warrior. They have a higher toughness, but lower initiative (though still rather good), and an extra wound to shrug off those pesky bolters.

What really makes these guys is their acces to special weaponry. Within the Armory are a few 'Heamonculi Only' weapons. Granted, this is all they can take weapon-wise, but who wouldn't want to? Let's take a gander at what we have to play with...

The Destructor - Who likes flame templates? While it's the only template weapon available to the army, it's a good one. The strength is standard flamer style, but the AP is where it gets interesting. Instead of prometheum it spouts a toxic mix of chemicals and acids, to various effect. The AP is variable, determined by the role of a D6. Yeah, that means 1/3 of the time this lowly guy can wreck a terminator's day. 50/50 to make a squad of marines cry. Not too shabby.

The Stinger - A quirky little gun. Standard pistol range, this weapon fires a dart full of virulent poisons and other toxins. It always wounds on a 2+, but lacks any AP. However, if it kills something, that something then blows up. The short version is that anything caught in the explosion will be wounded on a 4+ with no saves. Generally the Destructor is the weapon of choice, but this one could at least be fun.

Scissorhands - What would any Dark Eldar be without some sort of close combat gear? It's hard to beat Scissorhands as far as cheap weapons go. Similar to Poison Blades in that they give you 2+ poison (though technically it's not classed as a Poison weapon... yay old codex), but unlike Poison Blades which deny the extra attack from another weapon, this piece of kit counts as two weapons in its own right.

Now there are a couple of ways to run Heamonculi to good effect. As I said, you can keep them cheap and go the 'squad leader' route, either for stock Warriors, Grotesques, or whathaveyou, or you can go the extra mile.

What's better than a flamer template with potential AP1? That same template mounted on a Reaver Jetbike. You can even go for the Skyboard if you want to save a few points, and while you lose the option to Turbo Boost, you do get the extra save bonuses. Of course, one of the best parts of being on a bike is the toughness 5, after bonus.

You can even kit out to make a "Master Heamonculus", if you're feeling fluffy. Give him the Shadow field and some Combat Drugs. While he still won't be as killy as a similarly kitted Lord, he's still cheaper and will be able to do some damage. Plus, T5 with that 2+ Inv save is going to cause some frustrated looks on the other side of the table.

Now, I mentioned Retinues earlier. Time to talk about Incubi.


What we have here is essentially a Dark Eldar Aspect Warrior, in both playstyle and fluff. While it's not technically said outright that Arha, the Fallen Pheonix Lord, is the Dark Father, founder of the Incubi, the similarities can hardly be dismissed.

Coming standard with Punishers and the equivalent to Power Armor, these guys are bad news for any heavy infantry you come across. Add in that they're actually a real retinue, and as such an IC joined to them can't be picked out in combat. Some people will use this little advantage to run an Archon on a Reaver with the Shadow Field, and use a Dracon with a squad of Incubi to protect him.

If you're one for maths, these guys each kill a marine on the charge, before they have a chance to so much as blink. Don't think I need to really say more than that.

But wait, there's more... I give to you...

Wych Lords

I didn't mention these before because they're a bit of a specialty. By taking a Wych Lord instead of a Kabal Lord (and sadly you can't do both) you are now running a Wych Cult. Wyches become Troops, Warriors move to Elites, and Heamonculi and their creations are banned.

Basically these guys will do everything the Kabal Lords do except:

Slightly higher cost
Higher Initiative
Lower Armor
Dodge Save, as per Wyches
Wych Weapons, as per Wyches

When you're cutting your opponent's WS in half and yours is up to 6-7, it's nice to be able to actually say "You hit me on 5's, thanks". Add in the Dodge save, and you have a guy that, at least in combat, doesn't actually need a shadow field. A very nice thing since you can only take one per army and this allows a second HQ with some level of survivability.

Of course, a lasgun to the face will still put the hurt on them, but that's beside the point.

Due to some wording issues, it may be possible to run a Drachite (lower level Wych Lord) if you have an Archon (high level Kabal Lord) on the table. But that's probably squeezing things that shouldn't be squeezed. Probably. Not to say I'm not tempted. Leading my Wyches with a Drachite would make an already scary unit that much scarier.


  1. Neat summary, thanks.

    In my limited experience with DE, I've seen the super retinues kinda like any other death star. Sure they're killy, but in 5th they end doing a one-and-done routine, wiping a unit then getting pasted next turn. T3 is T3, after all.

    That said, I like the idea of the retinue. I've been on the receiving end of them and it wasn't pretty.

    If it were me, I'd probably just keep them cheap to take advantage of getting more heavy/special weapons and Raiders in the army. DE fill out the FOC fast, so more paper planes never hurt.

    How would an all Wych army work out? You swap out heavy weapons for blasters and punch people?

  2. I like to keep my retinue down to a moderate size to avoid this... 5 incubi (minimum sized) is good for me. It's another reason I run the lord on a Reaver so often; very killy on his own, able to get support when needed.

    The trick with the Lord + Incubi is generally to pick your target wisely; know how much you can expect to kill of the opponent's squad, and go for one that will actually stand up enough to stick around so that you can finish them off in the next round. Fearless units can actually be a boon.

    As for Wych Cults, while I've never run one myself you're largely right. Lances and Dissies still come on all of your vehicles, and you can pack Lances into the now-Elite Warrior squads, but Wyches run about toting Blasters and punch things in the face. Same trick, though... at least Incubi have a 3+ save, Wyches are stuck with a 6+ so definitely don't let them get stuck out in the open.


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