As before this book follows the new datacard layout with a huge chunk of fluff at the start of the book and the unit entries/army list now somewhat condensed. Whereas with the wolves codex I was lamenting the loss of a lot of wonderful artwork the thought barely crosses my mind here as there's some stunning new (or at least re-coloured) stuff. The two-page spread on pages 4-5 is a particularly jaw-dropping example. I'm starting to get used to the rules layout with pretty much everything in the appendix at the back. It's still a bit frustrating at times but will end up being quicker once you've figured out what's changed and simply need to use it as reference every once in a while.
The 'Eavy Metal section (or whatever you want to call it now) is nice and varied with several different Kabal colour schemes on show. The spread on pages 56-57 (roughly) is a little disappointing though with the flyers in particular looking a little rushed. Assuming it's the same ones on the next pages though it might just be poor lighting though.
Once again there's clear evidence of GW's desire to ensure maximum protection for their intellectual property. For example, trueborn and bloodbrides are somewhat awkwardly merged onto the same page as warriors and wyches respectively to avoid having to show models which strictly speaking don't exist. There's been one hell of a cull in the HQ section too (more on that later) with several named characters vanishing into the night. The most notable of course is Vect and I'm sure you've read plenty of comments about his absence. Frankly I never used him but I was still hoping to with a new book and a lovely new model for him and his dais.
This is the first, and likely only, book that doesn't feature a Lord of War choice. There's been much talk about this already so I don't want to go over it again but suffice to say it's frustrating for most DE players.
Army Wide Rules
Pretty much everything has retained Night Vision which means you'll be wanting to roll for Night Fighting as much as possible and probably still rolling on the Strategic warlord traits for an extra chance too. Combat Drugs are still present but they now offer slightly different bonuses. Gone are the re-rolls with every type of drug offering +1 to a different stat. They only apply to Wyches, Hellions and Reavers though unless I'm missing something. Your Archon can no longer take them and with Duke gone there's no way of manipulating this roll. It ultimately depends on whether those units are worth taking as to whether drugs will be any use but I'll get to that in good time.
Power from Pain in the old codex was crucial for helping your units survive the first couple of turns. Now all units that benefit get the same bonus whether they've killed anything or not. It doesn't really become much use until turn 3 onwards though when a lot of your stuff has probably already died. Not much of a difference from before in some ways (as you'd often not killed any infantry etc. yet) but for those units that relied on it like Wracks and those that used a Haemo for a free token it's a big deal. On the plus side towards the end of the game your units will be getting Furious Charge (which was often difficult with the old rules) and Turn 5 onwards you're Fearless which is huge. That, as far as I'm concerned at least, will even rally units that were running at the end of turn 4. Should you make it to turn 6, Rage might help an otherwise average combat unit like Kabalites become that bit better at shifting hordes of guard, guants, etc. There is one definite benefit though, no pain token tracking and no need for me to finally get round to making some markers!
Whilst in the old book vehicles had the option to Deep Strike in the form of Retrofire Jets, in the new book they get it for free. Couple that with the webway and you can start to come up with some pretty disgusting combos. Those of you who like allies (I personally don't) will be salivating at the prospect of deep striking Eldar units too. This gives you the option for a null deployment army (i.e. one that doesn't deploy anything at the start of the game) but I'm not 100% sure that's a good idea with Dark Eldar. Having flimsy vehicles arriving by Deep Strike in dribs and drabs seems dangerous to me. At least with the changes to Deep Striking vehicles (in that they count as moving Combat Speed) you can fire all your weapons from a transport. It's a mechanic that's worth exploring though.
Before talking about the traits themselves I wanted to mention one unexpect disadvantage of losing some named HQs. In other books sometimes an SC is good simply because he gives you a guarantee of a particular trait. In DE's case that's just Lelith getting +1WS and Urien getting a 12" Fear bubble. Drazhar doesn't even have one! The traits that you'd want must be rolled for instead. Anyway here's what we're offered:
- Ancient Evil - Fear is next to useless with most things either being Fearless or having ATSKNF.
- Labyrinthine Cunning - by far the best trait and almost worth ignoring Strategic for and with the re-roll you've got a 1 in 3 chance of getting it (roughly).
- Soulthirst - again not much use and only your warlord benefits, re-roll!
- Hatred Eternal - bit better than rolling a 3 but still meh, re-roll!
- Blood Dancer - likely to be pretty useless (and is for Lelith 99% of the time), re-roll!
- Towering Arrogance - Fearless bubbles are nearly always awesome these days.
That to me makes it 50:50 between good and useless which with a re-roll is 75% chance of getting something worthwhile. Most people have come straight out and said, "roll strategic instead" but I think it's worth considering on a game-by-game basis rather than assuming strategic will always be better. I'll cover the supplement traits when I get to the book itself at the end of the codex review.
Artefacts of Cruelty
There may have been debate with the Space Wolves relics but these are almost certainly one per model and one of each per army.
- Animus Vitae - used to give a pain token but now gives +1 to turn number for PfP if it causes a wound. Couple this with a haemonculus' Master of Pain ability and that's FNP 5+ and Furious Charge on turn 2 potentially (if unlikely). Pricey though.
- Archangel of Pain - shorter range than it used to be but now Ld test at -2 that works like Psychic Shriek. Sadly doesn't work on ATSKNF or Fearless though making it situational at best and therefore too expensive.
- Armour of Misery - ghostplate armour that causes Fear and -2 Ld. Not bad for only 5pts more than ghostplate armour used to be and it's no longer available for characters
- Djin Blade - power weapon with +2 attacks. Takes user's strength though so I'd rather have an agoniser for 5pts less and not risk wounding myself.
- Helm of Spite - again expensive but probably the best of the bunch in my opinion. Ad Will can make a massive difference in psychic defense and anything that makes perils more likely is good in my book.
- Parasite's Kiss - hard to resist for the points, shoot a guardsman, get a wound back. Could prove to be very irritating.
That stand outs for me are the Animus, Kiss and the Helm. The Kiss gets a mention because it's a great way to spend those spare 5pts you often have. The Djin blade is a waste of time (I might've been tempted if it were AP2) but Archangel and Armour could be good but suffer against the vast majority of armies which have ATSKNF or Fearless.
Formations & Detachments
The Realspace Raiders detachment uses a pretty standard FOC chart but requires a compulsory Fast Attack choice and allows a total of 6 FA units to be taken. Some people are getting excited about taking empty Venoms or fleets of Razorwings but frankly I want something in my Venoms and don't like the idea of having 6 flyers off the table at the start of the game. The Hunt from the Shadows special rule is nice especially if you successfully roll for Night Fighting or get it as your warlord trait but since I run a lot of vehicles it's only going to be a 5+ cover save at best. I'm not convinced it's worth ditching the benefits of a Combined Arms detachment for to be honest. Objective Secured is great with fast moving transports (even if they are flimsy) and don't forget the trait re-roll is only for DE traits with Realspace Raiders but any trait with a CAD.
The Kabalite Raiding Party is by no means a bad formation but I generally don't like being forced to make particular selections. It gives the same bonuses as the Realspace Raiders detachment but you also get +1 to the turn count for Power from Pain. Combine this with an Animus and Haemonculus (which isn't part of the formation) and you could get +3 to the table. Again I'm not sure it's worth it and you have to pay a Hellion tax for it.
Generally speaking I think you're better with a CAD but some may find a use for these two options. Of course there'll be more choices in the supplement but again I'll cover that after my codex run through.
A similar story to the other 7th edition codices. There's a lot of streamlining here with less bookkeeping and fewer complex special rules. As with the other books there's a loss of soul (pun intended) here but I think the codex is still strong and could be competitive in its own right. Perhaps not as good as their cuddlier cousins but decent nonetheless. I'm certainly excited to get stuck into the rest of the review and start to write some lists. I can already see some interesting combinations emerging and I can't wait to test the book out on Thursday against Matt.
For those of you who haven't read my reviews before I'll be covering each FOC slot in a separate post. This allows me to go into reasonable depth but that of course means pretty wordy posts. By the end of the review (in a week or so) you should hopefully know what's good or not though. Stick with me!