Saturday, February 28, 2015

New 7th Edition Harlequins Codex Review - Part 3 of 4 - Elites

In this penultimate part of the Harlequin codex review I'm going to cover the Elites section of the book. As I've already mentioned there aren't tons of options here, in fact, this is the only section where you really need to make any decisions on what units to take. Fortunately you can take up to seven Elites choices in the Masque detachment. This section really feels more like an HQ section in any other codex but I can understand why GW has done it this way as it prevents the use of CADs and Allied Detachments. I can't say I like it but I at least see why.

Death Jester
These guys have seen effectively a massive increase in points. They used to be a 10pt upgrade for a Harlequin but now cost more than double that. For that extra cost you now get extra BS, initiative, leadership plus an extra wound and attack. Throw in Independent Character and Precision Shots and you're starting to see why they're more expensive. They've always been a weird unit really. They're effectively a heavy weapons upgrade for a squad but since the shrieker is an Assault weapon they don't hamper the combat abilities of the unit.

Speaking of the shrieker cannon it now has two fire modes. The first is identical to a shuriken cannon whilst the second is a single 2+ poisoned shot that had the potential to cause further wounds. Unless the enemy unit is particularly bunched together you're probably going to go for the normal shuriken cannon option but the shrieker version could be great against cheap units like guardsmen. Having Precision shots is great for sniping models too.

Finally, the Death is Not Enough rule is what is really exciting. You only have to cause a single casualty to force a morale check at -2 leadership. It's not clear if this modifier is cumulative with other effects but the Mask of Secrets is tempting as it would make Ld10 into Ld6 if they do stack. Let's not forget the Armour of Misery in the DE book too for a further -2 to Ld. That would mean anything Ld8 would flee on anything but a snake eyes. Not only that but you choose the direction of the first fall back move. Obviously this is situational but if you're on your own table edge it would be fun to make an enemy unit flee the board! Bear in mind that the Mask can only be taken by a Shadowseer though so you'd need one in the same unit or nearby.

Shadowseer
On the face of it he seems pricey for a T3 5++ save psyker, when compared to the SW rune priest, who costs the same. He does have WS6 though and I7 with an extra attack over the space wolf so would do pretty well against said rune priest in a challenge. Like the Death Jester his stats are much improved over the old ones in line with him becoming an IC.

That comparison is perhaps unfair though because the main reason you need a Shadowseer is for the excellent Phanstasmancy (bit of a mouthful) discipline. The main reason for this is that the old Veil of Tears power is the Primaris. That power alone makes up for the frailty of the other units and justifies the cost of the Shadowseer. Although remember this doesn't work from a transport unfortunately. Since you've got seven Elites slots I don't think it's unreasonable to take 3 or more Shadowseers so that each of your Troupes (and possibly an allied unit) has the benefit of the Veil. Let's take a look at the rest of the powers too:

Dance of Shadows - combine this with Veil and a unit could be incredibly durable. Nothing to stop you using it to boost a nearby vehicle's Jink save either.
Peal of Discord - reasonably effective Nova power but the main bonus is Concussive which helps reduce the initiative of an MC or similar before combat. Of course that's assuming it matters since your Harlies are I6+.
Shards of Light - Blind can be useful at times and there's the potential to seriously deplete a GEQ unit.
Fog of Dreams - sort of an inverse Invisibility. Difficult to say which is better. Invisibility makes one unit very durable but doesn't stop your enemy shooting something else. WC2 though which could be tricky if you roll low on your warp charge generation.
Laugh of Sorrows - potentially extremely devastating particularly for single model units and works on Fearless units too.
Mirror of Minds - kind of a buffed Mind War but with potentially limited warp charge it might be tough to make it Focussed.

You're going to want to cast Veil with all of your seers a lot of the time though so I think ML2 is a necessary upgrade if you want to cast anything else with any of them. With access to Telepathy I think the best option is to simply take the primaris from each giving you Veil and Psychic Shriek. That's a pretty awesome combo and without many warp charge dice it will mean your seers are likely to be able to cast two powers each as both are WC1. Of course Psy Shriek is best on the Seer with the Mask since he'll reduce enemy Ld by 2. So you could happily roll on Phantasmancy for your other Seers but having several Psy Shrieks can be devastating. Don't forget that two Seers in the same unit can't both cast it though.

Let's look at the Shadowseer himself some more though. His grenade launcher is fairly pointless against most targets. It can't hurt anything above T4 and at best will cause a couple of wounds. Interesting that the Pinning test is automatic rather than needing to wound though. The staff on the other hand is much better as it will be S6 on the charge giving him a chance of damaging some vehicles although wasted against anything else since it's Fleshbane. Concussive is again of debatable use since your army is likely striking first anyway. I'd consider a neuro disruptor to give him a bit of punch on the way into combat but again if you're running to get there it's a waste. I'd say keep him cheaper as you'll want more than one.

Solitaire
I'm in two minds about the new model (it's the horns I think) but the guy himself is pretty impressive; WS9, BS9 and 8 attacks at I10 on the charge is an insane statline. He may seem pricey for T3 but Eternal Warrior and 3++ helps. He'll need it though because, as his name suggests, he doesn't play well with others. To me that means you need to Deep Strike him in every game (that or put him in a Starweaver I suppose). It shouldn't be too difficult to get him behind some terrain so he can pop out and charge something the turn after he arrives though especially with his 12" movement and re-rollable run and charge moves.

As I've mentioned, that statline makes him a bit of an animal in close combat. The combination of Embrace and Kiss is good too giving him a meaty Hammer of Wrath attack and the potential to insta-kill something hefty. Precision Strikes is of debatable use since he'll often be in a challenge but it's nice to have when he isn't. I'd be very tempted by the Rose for truly awesome combat feats but I wouldn't bother with anything else.

I'd personally never make him my Warlord as although he's probably the easiest to keep safe you'd be wasting him and losing the opportunity for an excellent Warlord Trait. They may as well have just said he can't be your Warlord.

Finally, his Blitz move has potential to be a game winner. Assuming you use it on turn 5 you'd move an average of around 18"and still run and charge. Potentially he could move a huge distance but I wouldn't rely on it as he might end up moving less than he normally could. Still, the big thing is having 10 attacks (well 12 on the charge). That's enough to wipe out an enemy unit if he's even a little bit lucky.

Conclusion
If I wasn't excited about this book before, the Elites section has certainly got my mind racing. All three of the characters here have something to offer. The Death Jester is probably the weakest of the three but he could still be awesome with his Death Is Not Enough ability. Shadowseers are practically essential for the army and I use the plural deliberately. I can imagine the Solitaire being incredibly good but equally he could get shot down before doing anything at all. Even with EW he's still just 3 T3 wounds so he won't last long in the open. He just seems too much fun not to take though, if nothing else just for the look on your opponent's face when you explain his statline and rules.

It's funny really that the only optional bits of the book are the most exciting. As I say though, they've got my mind racing with the possibilities when combined with my Dark Eldar though. I really didn't want to buy any more models for a while but I might struggle to resist next time I'm at my FLGS.

Anyway, deep breath. The next post will be the last of this review where I'll talk about the formations in the book.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

New 7th Edition Harlequins Codex Review - Part 2 of 4 - Troops, Fast Attack and Heavy Support

As I've already covered, this is more of a cross between a supplement and a codex than a true codex in its own right. That means there aren't the same number of options to cover in these reviews as there normally would be. Today I'll cover Troops, Fast Attack and Heavy Support in one chunk with the Elites in the next post.

Troops - Troupe
Not difficult to figure out that "Troupes" are "Troops"! What we once simply called "Harlequins" are now "Players" and they've kept the same stats as before whilst dropping in points. Although nothing's changed on the statline it's worth reminding ourselves of it. WS5, I6, A2 and Ld9 is a formidable combination in combat. Coupled with Furious Charge that's 4 S4 attacks on the charge that will strike before pretty much everything. Crucially they've now been given grenades, not that it matters since the Flip Belt now ignores the penalties for charging through terrain.

You can now take up to 12 in a unit (well 11 players and a Troupe Master) which is handy when they come in packs of 6! As I just mentioned the Troupe Master is now rolled into the unit. This is both a blessing and a curse. It's great to have an Ld10 character in there, especially one with an impressive statline, but it's a shame to be forced to take one. The Players themselves can function perfectly well without a Master and they're a pretty pricey upgrade. The reduction in cost for the Players is almost irrelevant because or this. The codex is also geared to you taking these guys as Warlord. Not totally awful but a T3 W2 5++ save model wouldn't be my first choice as Warlord in any other codex. When Slay the Warlord is sometimes a game winner having a comparatively flimsy one seems risky. You could give him the Raiment to make him that bit more durable but it won't help him turn one. If you're going down the line of Troupe Master as Warlord, (and I still think you should) go for an allied DE character with a webway to keep him safe until he's needed. Anyway, I think a Kiss is a must for the Troupe Master for those challenges and perhaps even give them to a handful of Players too.

The Kiss is an excellent weapon. It may have lost Rending but what it gains instead is an S6 AP2 attack with the potential for Instant Death. Of course this attack might miss but that chance of killing something like a wraithknight outright is too tempting to pass up. The Caress is handy for anti-tank possibilities but I think the Kiss is better generally. The Embrace is interesting but since it has no AP value it's again difficult to chose it over the Kiss.

You can now have an unlimited number of fusion pistols and the new neuro disruptor but the former has increased in cost by 50% making it a pricey upgrade. Since you're likely to be running a lot I'd probably keep costs to a minimum and get your anti-tank elsewhere. Mind you, in the aforementioned webway set up, a couple of fusions could help you break open those steel boxes.

The problem is going to be getting your Troupe into combat safely but that's where the Starweaver comes in.

Fast Attack - Starweaver


It's difficult not to draw parallels with the DE Venom and the Starweaver. Both are AV10 with 2 HP and both have a 5++ save. Firepower wise the Starweaver is probably more flexible as it can be used to take on infantry and light vehicles alike but against high toughness targets the Venom obviously shines through. The Mirage Launchers are interesting though as they allow you to effectively Jink but without the Snap Shot penalty. They'll also help keep you alive turn one against those pesky Ignores Cover shots that are becoming more plentiful.

The Starweaver also boasts an extra space in its transport capacity. This is what I wish the Venom had as it's great for attaching a character. The transport capacity is an issue though. For starters you'll be torn between staying at range and shooting and blasting forward to get into combat. The cannons will come in handy for softening up assault targets though. That's assuming you make it there in one piece though. Turn one you blast forward so that you can move 6" turn two and charge. If you blow up it doesn't matter as, being open topped, you can still assault and having Run and Charge still makes that a possibility. Hang on though, if you get blown up (and you're more than likely to even with a Jink save) that's an S4 hit per model which will wound on a 3 and you've got to save it on a 5+. Realistically that's two models (or even three) down before you charge and then you've got to weather Overwatch which might claim another life. You're going to need more bodies I reckon. We're gonna need a bigger boat.

Perhaps then the better option is the DE Raider. The Wave Serpent hampers your charges too much so we'll forget that. The Raider doesn't pack the same firepower but is 15pts cheaper, can Deep Strike and could be given Night Shields to make it the same cost as the Starweaver. You're now taking 10 models into the fight and therefore more into combat should the raider explode. To me, at least, it seems that the Starweaver should be a gunship rather than a transport. Use it like you would a Venom but remember you'll need to be closer than a Venom would. Of course you could put a small unit in there to make it a dual threat but I think it's safer not to.

Fast Attack - Skyweavers
Similar in concept to a Vyper but with a better execution I reckon. They play more like an attack bike than a Vyper too. They fit in well with the "fast but deadly" aesthetic that Harlequins share with DE. By default each one comes with a Star bolas which are a one shot S6 AP2 blast. It's frustrating that they don't get a 3+ save like Windriders but perhaps that's a sign of things to come for Eldar (like Holo-fields too perhaps). Still 4+ and a shuriken cannon isn't bad at all. They're probably more durable than a Starweaver and put out a similar amount of damage for slightly higher cost.

Upgrades-wise the zephyrglaiver is pricey but makes them into a nasty prospect in combat with 4 S5 AP2 attacks on the charge (plus Hammer of Wrath). Like for everything in the book, Hit & Run will be a godsend at times. I can't decide about the haywire cannon. It can't one-shot a vehicle so you'd need the squad to have them and that takes away some of the flexibility a shuriken cannon offers. I reckon DE Scourges are a better source of haywire but Harlequins aren't exactly spoilt for ranged anti-tank so don't necessarily ignore them altogether.

Heavy Support - Voidweaver
Speaking of anti-tank the Voidweaver is the Harlequins' answer for a pretty reasonable cost. I definitely think the prismatic cannon is worth the points. You can use it for killing off cheap objective grabbers, whittling down marines that are bunched up or perhaps even a cheeky vehicle kill if you're lucky. It shares the same frailties as the other Harlequin vehicles and 24" range doesn't help but hopefully the speed of the army will keep your opponent distracted. The rear mounted gun is an interesting idea and having two targets is nice but I think it won't get fired much.

There isn't much else to say about the Voidweaver. They're decent but not awesome. Mind you, for the points you can't really complain.

Conclusion
The biggest factor here will be the Masque detachment. Having only two fast attack slots means that if you want Starweavers you're going to need to take them as Dedicated Transports. That's assuming you're taking Skyweavers as your compulsory Fast Attack choices of course. If you don't fancy them, or are keeping points to a minimum then take a couple of Starweavers in Fast. It's debatable which is better mind you. Voidweavers are even more limited by the Masque. You can only take a single squadron of them so if you want more than one they'll all be firing at the same target. That's not so bad if you're hitting a vehicle as S7 or Haywire isn't awesome in a single shot but it's a shame you can't hit several infantry units with blasts. It's debatable how the aft cannon will function too. Does the whole squadron have to shoot the same rear target?

Reading back through my comments you might think I'm being negative but I actually like the units I've talked about here. Clearly though the Harlequins will need support from another race to be truly devastating. The Masque might prove to be a limitation there too as you have to spend a minimum of 500pts to fulfil the compulsory requirements. That's a fair chunk when you haven't even added upgrades yet. The formations will help here though.

As I said, tomorrow I'll look at the Elites section which is where this book gets really interesting....

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

New 7th Edition Harlequins Codex Review - Part 1 of 4 - Overview

Firstly, let me apologise for the lack of Necron codex review. Not having played Necrons I feel that I'd struggle to write the reviews and they'd probably take me a long time. I'm trying to focus more on my hobby stuff at the moment so blogging is taking a back seat for a change. Usually it's blogging that stops me hobbying so I think it makes sense to have it the other way around. Matt is more familiar with Necrons but also lacks the time at the moment for a review. Perhaps in future he'll find the time.

All that being said, I picked up the Harlequins book yesterday as I figured they'd make a great companions for my Dark Eldar and they have some beautiful new models. Some of which are a little to similar to the old ones for my liking but that's a debate for another day. Anyway, since the new book is a pretty short one I thought it wouldn't be too much hassle to write a review and it'd help me decide what, if anything, I want to buy to run with my DE.

First Impressions
The book is stunning. There's tons of artwork that I haven't seen before and all in lavish full colour. I think the fact that they've made it 96 pages means they've needed to find something to fill what would normally be taken up by numerous datasheets at the back. The solution seems to be a mixture of jaw-dropping artwork and multiple formations. It feels like a cross between a full codex and a supplement really. There's the formations you'd expect from a supplement but the new units that you wouldn't normally find in one. Clearly GW is branding it as a new codex but it's not quite bulky enough to really be one. I suppose it's got significantly more options than the Imperial Knights book though.

They seem to have gone down the line of buffing the rules to make the models sell. There's some very good stuff in this book. The general feel is more like Dark Eldar than Craftworld Eldar with AV10 vehicles and flimsy units. That being said there's a decent mix of units in here that tie in quite well with both of their Eldar brethren.

The codex also details the levels of alliance for Harlequins which, as you'd expect, has them as Battle Brothers with DE and Eldar. Curiously they're Convenience with both Tau and the Imperium and Desperate with Orks. Everything else is Come the Apocalypse.

Harlequin Masque Detachment
I was initially confused as to why people were saying you could only use this detachment if you wanted to field Harlequins. That's until I realised that there are no HQs in this book which means you can't meet the compulsory requirements for a CAD or Allied Detachment. That's a bit of a shame but I can understand the logic. Even so, there are plenty of formations that you could add to an army (such as your Blog Wars army).

The detachment is a strange one. You must have 3 Troops, 2 Fast and 1 Heavy and have the option for a further 7 Elites. That's not so restrictive in a GW style army with several detachments but in tournament play it might be difficult to field them. It's actually going to be pretty hard to find enough stuff to run them as a standalone army at 1,750pts or above. That means it's likely that they'll be seen alongside DE or Eldar.

Anyway, the detachment gives you a re-roll to your trait (only on the codex traits and only for Troupe Masters) and, more importantly, the Rising Crescendo special rule. This allows models with Fleet to both Run and Charge. That's a big deal. It's bringing things back to 5th edition and making me wish they'd given this to wyches. It's not unreasonable to be getting second turn charges or even first turn if your opponent goes before you. Remember Fleet allows you to re-roll both run and charge range dice so you've got a good chance of covering some serious ground.

Warlord Traits
Unlike other armies the Harlequins can choose from three different trait tables. These are Light , Twilight and Dark. The first three traits are the same on each table with re-rolls of 1s To Hit and saving throws, a 4++ save for your warlord and an extra inch on every move they make e.g. run, charge and consolidate. The last one is awesome as, over the course of the game, this can make a massive difference. How often have you failed a charge by an inch or not quite made it into cover?

Here's a quick summary of the rest.

Light
4 - add 4 to Seize which makes it a 2+! That's awesome. Let your opponent go first and watch them squirm trying to decide if they should gamble or not.
5 - allows some units to Deep Strike, Infiltrate or Scout - again good for covering the ground with your paper units.
6 - redeploy or reserve D3 units - also good for making it difficult for your opponent.

Twilight 
4 - add or subtract 2 from variable game length - again awesome. How often do you really want a turn 6 or really hope it stops at 5?
5 - Instant Death on 6s - great when combined with a Kiss for 5+ but obviously a little situational.
6 - single 24" move for warlord and his unit - good for grabbing objectives, particularly in Maelstrom games. That or repositioning if you find yourself out of the fight.

Dark 
4 - not great as most of your opponents will ignore Fear anyway.
5 - warlord and his unit play an extra turn - slightly situational but could prove awesome and game winning.
6 - like Lukas' Last Laugh ability. Can be devastating if it's an awesome character you remove but not as great if it's just a guardsman.

Tricky to call as there are some great traits in here but I think Light is probably the way to go most of the time as it really messes with your opponent. There's some really interesting and unusual mechanics in use here and it's refreshing to see a set of traits that don't feel like the same old stuff with a new name.

Enigmas of the Black Library
As ever I'll talk about these more when I come to the units that I think will use them best but here's a rundown for now:

Storied Sword (Troupe Masters only) - a +1S Master Crafted power weapon. It's unlikely to tempt me for the points but obviously good in a challenge against a 3+ save character.
Crescendo (Troupe Masters and Shadowseers only) - Not much better than their standard pistol but worth it if you've got 5 points spare though.
Mask of Secrets (Shadowseers only) - Fearless is always good (although Ld10 isn't much worse) but interesting if you can combine it with the Death Jester's abilities. It's a shame he can't take it himself but you'll want a Shadowseer anyway - more on that later.
Cegorach's Rose (Troupe Masters and Solitaires only) - Master Crafted and Shred for a Kiss. I'd say this stands out as in a challenge it gives you a great chance of Instant Death.
Starmist Raiment (Any Character) - since you're going to be using Run a lot this can make your character more durable for a combat phase but expensive for something that only works some of the time. Might be worth a pop for your Warlord though.
Laughing God's Eye (Any Character) - very expensive for something you won't use a lot since a lot of Psychic powers don't target anyone.

Conclusion
That'll do for the first post. I'm pretty impressed with what I've seen so far. There's a lot to love about this book. I'll probably cover Troops, Fast and Heavy in a single post, Elites in another and the formations in the final post. I'll then start to look at how I can combine these guys with my Dark Eldar for a tournament at some point.

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