Friday, July 12, 2013

Ode to Warp Spiders

Okay, here's the deal-
I hate Warp Spiders!

Or at least I kinda do.  I am on my third Eldar army.  And only now do I have Warp Spiders.  And it's funny how that happened.
First I painted up a small army of Ulthwe with Wraithey stuff.  This was back in 3rd edition and that army last one game.  I figured that since Warp Spiders were not common in Ulthwe, that wouldn't be a unit I have to include.
Then I traded and got a BEAUTIFULLY painted Saim Hann army, sorta.  The army had two Falcons, a Viper, 6 bikes, some Reapers, some Banshees, and TONS of Guardians.  It was 'codex'.  Again, no desire to add Warp Spiders to this force.  That was back in 4th edition.
Then I made my own army.  I got everything except War Walkers, Warp Spiders, Fire Prisms, and bikes.  And I mean EVERYTHING else.  Alot.  Sadly, as you see, my army didn't have any of the good stuff.  I liked the idea of 'codex' and I wanted only stuff that looked Eldar.  War Walkers, Warp Spiders, side-heavy Fire Prisms- they all just looked wrong (or were horribly-weighted models).  Nothing against them, I just wanted my army to appear a certain way.  

Then it happened.  It happened in a twist of fate that I never saw coming.
One of my customers/hobby buddies challenged me to a mano-e-mano paint contest  We were each to paint a unit of Fire Dragons and have the hobby community judge it in the shop.  Another buddy of mine then bet me that I wouldn't win, and we wagered that I would have to buy a unit that I absolutely HATE, and paint it up.  I took that wager because, well, I didn't lose at paint contests.  It's nice to be underestimated.

I lost, by one vote.  40-something people voted, and my first buddy had a much brighter squad of Fire Dragons.  Mine were 'technically' better, but that didn't mean better.  His were faded from orange to white in a very striking and convincing way.  One.  Vote.

Before I'd even fully registered that I lost the paint contest, by second buddy was holding the box of Warp Spiders at me.  Being a man of honour, I begrudgingly took the box to the till and bought it.  I wasn't happy. I wasn't upset because I lost the paint contest (I figured it was bound to happen sooner or later, and those Fire Dragons were striking!), I was upset completely because I now owned a unit that I would rather not.  Why, you ask?

The Eldar are a graceful, lithe race.  Their warriors are clad in very tight and efficient uniforms, plated sparingly in simple armour-plates.  They have ornamentation on their heads, and carry small, elegant weapons.  Then there's the Warp Spiders.  They're BIG, bulky, carrying oddly-shaped guns, have bald heads, and are posed dumb.  That's right, every reason I like the aesthetic of the Eldar is the reason I don't like the Warp Spiders.

I failed to get that unit painted for years after (still to this day, in fact).  I refused to even include them in my army.  But then I had to fight the new Daemons back in 5th edition.  A third customer suggested an army list out of my stuff to use, and this guy isn't bad at all.  Of course he included Warp Spiders.  I begrudgingly deployed them.  The game raged, my Guardians were problematic for my opponent, and the Warp Spiders single-handedly killed a Greater Unclean One.  I was blown away.  I was befuddled.  I was disappointed in my own underestimation of the unit.

Now I use them almost all the time.  The new 6th edition book gave them a little more love with the 'Monofilament' rule, and the speed and resilience of the squad (even at small size) is refreshing in the army.  I have seen them cause more damage as a 5-man squad than an entire Dire Avenger squad for every turn of a game, it seemed.  They are almost an 'auto-include' to me now.

Now let me be straight and specific here:
I hate the way Warp Spiders look!
but I do love THIS image- credit to the creator!

But that's just me.  The way that unit performs is outstanding!  They are a great unit, worth their points-cost (almost, anyway), and do things for my army that are needed (like be able to hurt big stuff more than once).  My enemies have found that unit surprisingly dangerous, and I've found myself pretty happily impressed with them so far.  So impressed, in fact, that I bought a second unit.

That's right, I bought another box of five.  For 140  points, why wouldn't I?  It's a deal.

Do you have any?  If not, why not?  Besides not playing Eldar, of course.  If so, on the other hand, how've they been for you?  Let me know.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Full Frontal

Back to the series where I compare multiple versions of similar pieces of wargear.  This time, it's going to be about Eldar, as I'm focused on them.  Let's get started...

The Imperial armies all have multiple versions of multiple tanks and therefore make this article nearly unending.  But the oldest of the races in the galaxy don't have that particular benefit.  In fact, it seems that the Xenos only have one or two vehicle platforms to take to war.  Of all the xenos, the Eldar come away the best.  Tau only have two versions of a single tank, Orks only have one tank at all, and the Necrons have one real tank period (and a couple of fake ones).  The Eldar, on the other hand, have three tanks to choose from.

I do have to note that I was hoping the Hornet would translate from Forgeworld to 40k.  But it wasn't meant to be.  Oh well, it is what it is.

Instead, the Eldar kept the Falcon and Fire Prism grav-tanks, and added the Night Spinner.  As if the Heavy Support slot wasn't already filled to the brim with legitimate options, now it's even more full.  Which makes this article almost necessary.  So what are the differences?  Which tank is better overall?  What vehicle should an Autarch include if he gets the choice?

Well, there's some similarities to start with:  All three tanks have an armour value range of Front 12, Side 12, and Rear 10.  All three are Fast, Skimmer, Tanks, meaning they can move up to 6" in the movement phase and fire all weapons at full Ballistic Skill.  Or they can move up to 12" and fire two weapons at full BS and the rest as 'Snap Shots'.  During movement, they can ignore all intervening terrain and even friendly and enemy troops.  Furthermore, they can move 'Flat Out' in the shooting phase up to 18", allowing them to cover ALOT of ground in a hurry if needed.

Upgrades can really make these monsters a beast, as well.  The Crystal Targeting Matrix allows the vehicles to fire a single weapon after moving Flat Out at full BS.  The Star Engines allow the vehicles to move Flat Out up to 24".  The Vectored Engines allow the vehicle to turn to a new facing after firing its weapons, thereby keeping less vulnerable to fire from the rear.  Add the cover save-boost by the Holo Fields and you can see how the upgrades really work to make the tanks more threatening.  Admittedly, these upgrades aren't cheap and will increase the cost of the tanks by quite a bit.

Now we can talk about each tank on its own:

This is the go-to tank for the Eldar.  Long has it been the 'main' battle tank and supported the advance of the ancient race as they go to war.  Mounting a fearsome array of weapons and with tons of options, it can pretty much handle any situation.  Then, to make it that much more effective, it has a transport capacity!  Carrying a squad of up to six models, it can lay down a punishing amount of firepower and then drop off some very powerful specialists to deal with threats of any type.

The 'common' version of the Falcon mounts a Pulse Laser (two Str 8, AP 2 shots) to kill tanks, a Scatter Laser (4 Str 6 shots with Laser Lock), and a Shuriken Cannon (3 Str 6, AP 5, basically Rending shots).  This load-out allows the vehicle to engage any target- from the heavily armoured (Pulse Laser) to the horde infantry (Shuriken Cannon).  The advantage added from the Scatter Laser is that it twin-links all other weapons on the tank as long as it hits the intended target.  Against vehicles this can guarantee the Pulse Laser hits and has a chance of causing some damage, while against infantry this becomes four more shots to add to the now-twin-linked battery of five already.

Not being terribly good at killing vehicles, it might be worth taking a Bright Lance (a single Str 8, AP 2, Lance shot) rather than the Scatter Laser.  But against infantry, the 'common' version is perfect.  Including the transport capacity, this vehicle may be considered one of the best 'all-around' vehicles in the game.  And the common version is only 145 points- not bad!  It's till a tad too expensive, but what in the Eldar army isn't?

Fire Prism
Long considered the 'ugly duckling' of the Eldar tanks, this one mounts a massive crystal weapon that can fire a beam of focused energy designed to slag enemy tanks.  In previous editions, this vehicle could either change the firing mode or combine fire with other Fire Prisms to create an even more powerful shot.  Unfortunately, this meant that owning only a single Fire Prism could really reduce the effectiveness.  Luckily, the new version of the tank brought back the differing fire modes and turned the vehicle into a singular threat again.

The Fire Prism weapon has three firing modes- a big boom (a Str 5, AP 3, large blast shot), a regular boom (a Str 7, AP 2, blast shot), or a surgical strike (a single Str 9, AP 1, Lance shot).  This allows the tank to engage mass infantry or heavy vehicles with ease.  Unfortunately, the Fire Prism only mounts a Fire Prism (see what I did there?) and could upgrade the twin-linked Shuriken Catapults to a Shuriken Cannon.  That's not alot of firepower.  However, it makes up for it with a single gun of epic destruction and mayhem.

This tank is very simply that- a tank!  It's not armed with a ton of weapons, nor does it have the ability to carry troops.  Upgraded with the Shuriken Cannon, this vehicle weighs in at 135 points, which isn't horrible considering what it can do.  However, it is also a prime target to the enemies of the Eldar, as it LOOKS threatening enough to warrant the attention.

Night Spinner
This is the newest edition to the order of battle for the Eldar warhosts.  It's not pretty either, but certainly better-looking than the original Forgeworld version.  The Night Spinner is easily overlooked as it's not the 'normal' thing that people are used to, but that may be a gross underestimation on the part of Autarchs everywhere.

This is the only artillery tank in the entire arsenal.  It mounts a fantastic weapon that enemies everywhere don't understand.  You see, it launches monofilament netting high into the air and allows it to drop on the mass of troops, slicing them apart with contempt.  And the tank need never be seen to do this!  If the Night Spinner is facing the enemy, then it can launch the monofilament right into their faces, ignoring cover and causing great mayhem overall.  It's gun has two modes-  the artillery (a Str 7, AP 6, barrage, large blast, Monofilament (basically Rending) shot) and the direct version (a Str 7, AP 6, template, Torrent, Monofilament (did I mention basically Rending?) shot).  Space Marine armour might be enough to stop the damage, but it's a risk the enemy doesn't want to take.  Better, this weapon can even kill tanks as easily as a Pulse Laser-wielding Falcon!

Having artillery is always a plus on the post-modern battlefields of the 41st milennium, and this tank fills that role all-too well.  Having a twin-linked Shuriken Catapult as the secondary weapon is irrelevant as, again, it's the main gun that counts.  Accounting for only 115 points, this tank is a bargain in the Eldar army.  It's even more of a bargain since the enemy will rarely be scared of it, but can often develop respect after gobs of troops die.

So what is my overall ranking?  Just as normal, I'll post my list below in order of best to worst.  Funny enough, this list is difficult to make as all three of these vehicles are valuable, and the points reduction in the new book makes a huge difference.  But I have to have my opinion nonetheless, so let's see:

1.  Night Spinner- having nearly the killing power of the Fire Prism and the cheapness to beat all three, this tank certainly seems like the winner.  But it's arguable.
2.  Fire Prism- when it comes to having a tank, having a tank is actually the key.  There is no substitute for a gun that can be a Battle Cannon or a Bright Lance at a moment's whim.
3.  Falcon- this is more of a heavy transport than a true tank, but that doesn't mean it fails at its role.  In fact, this tank is still the obvious choice for the typical warhost of Eldar.  But it's more 'general' than 'specific', and that can really bring it down compared to the other two.

Do you agree with my estimation?  Let me know what you think.  As I said, it's difficult to rank these as all three tanks have their role to play and fulfill them perfectly.  All of them are still expensive (just as all Eldar are), but they aren't terrible.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

War of Escalation, game 2

It's been a week, and the forces found themselves at battle again.  This time, my buddy was itching to try out his new list and I was feeling less-than-confident.  At 1000 points, luck plays a role.  And I'm not known for luck.  But the battle had to happen, so let's see how it went:

Just as before, I'm not going to go into this battle report with my normal sense of 'fluff' and background story.  We played the game, it happened, and I'm going to present it in a very simple process.  I just wanted to toss this out there...

This battle is a 1000 point battle- our second, in fact.  For the mission, we rolled up 'The Scouring' (randomly-pointed objectives and Fast Attack focus) with 'Hammer and Anvil' deployment.  Since this was only a 4'x4' table, we played more 'Dawn of War' style as it makes no difference.  I won the roll-off for first deployment and first turn, choosing the 'south' side.  To finish off, it turns out that our battle started pre-dawn, so Night Fight was in effect for the first turn.

Knowing that I'm facing Tau, I chose to take First Turn again.  I believe I need to close range quickly and cause a little bit of damage before it smacks me hard.  And with that, here's the armies:

My Eldar
Spiritseer with Protect and Psychic Shriek powers
10 Striking Scorpions with Exarch wielding Biting Blade
10 Dire Avengers with Exarch wielding Shimmershield and Power Sword
10 Dire Avengers with Exarch wielding Shimmershield and Power Sword
5 Warp Spiders with Exarch wielding Powerblades, Twin-linked Death Spinner, and Fast Shot
2 Vipers with Scatter Lasers and Shuriken Cannons
Falcon with Scatter Laser and Shuriken Cannon

His Tau (remember that I could be off on this as it's not my army)
Crisis Commander with Iridium Armour, Cyclic Ion Blaster, Airburst Frag Launcher, Shield Generator, Stimm Injectors, and Neuroweb System Jammer
Crisis Suit wielding Plasma Rifle, Missile Pod, and Flamer
Crisis Suit wielding Plasma Rifle, Missile Pod, and Flamer
12 Fire Warriors with Shas'ui
12 Fire Warriors with Shas'ui and wielding Pulse Carbines mounted in Devilfish
12 Kroot with Shaper and Sniper rounds
4 Gun Drones
Broadside with Railguns and Smart Missile System
Hammerhead with Railgun, submunitions, Blacksun Filter, and Decoy Launcher

Deployment was almost too simple.  It didn't matter which way we deployed and which table edge was chosen, we each had a woods and a ruin on our side and a big hill in the middle.  Talk about balanced terrain!  Notice the six objective markers set up near the ruins, in the woods, and two on the center hill.  We wouldn't flip the objectives over until the end of the game just to add that bit of 'spice' to the battle.

So I set up in a very predictable way.  My first unit of Dire Avengers set up in the woods just behind the objective marker, with the Vipers deployed behind them for support.  My other unit of Avengers took the center of the battlefield with the plan of rushing up and moving to where ever they were needed.  The Falcon deployed behind the ruins to take advantage of cover (and Night Fight, not that it matters much against the Tau), and the Warp Spiders deployed behind the tank with the hopes of taking advantage of the advancing armoured monster for cover.  The Striking Scorpions were held in reserve with the plan to Outflank.
Meanwhile, my buddy deployed his Tau in a just-as-predictable fashion.  The long-range Fire Warriors took up position in the ruins to the east, and crowded around the Broadside.  Behind them was stationed a single Crisis suit Commander waiting to order his troops forward (or at least tell them which target to fire at).  The Devilfish deployed in the center, ready to react, followed by the Drone squadron hugging the woods in the west.  And right behind them was a Crisis suit, adding some firepower to the group.  Crawling around under the canopy of trees was a unit of Kroot, backed up by a Hammerhead.  Finally, the last Crisis suit was held in reserve and waiting to Deep Strike.

Turn 1
Under cover of darkness, the Eldar advanced quickly.  The Vipers dashed out from behind the woods and shot the Fire Warriors hiding in the ruins on the east, but to no avail.  The Dire Avengers in those same woods found out the hard way that the trees were carnivorous, losing one of their number.  The Dire Avengers and accompanying Seer advanced behind the hill, taking cover from the onslaught of firepower sure to come their way.  Meanwhile, the Falcon silently drifted to the west to take a shot at the Hammerhead hiding behind the woods to the west, but failed to penetrate the armour.  Seeing no other option, the Warp Spiders hunkered down in the western ruins to take cover.
Both the Hammerhead and the Devilfish scoot and activate their Decoy Launchers, hoping to protect themselves against the Eldar tank.  After the change of position, the Hammerhead launched a Submunition round at the Vipers, but their speed saved them.  The Devilfish detached its Drones to add some threat and provide cover for the Crisis Commander.  The Kroot investigated their forest and found it populated with Ironbark trees, much to the celebration of the brutes.  Seeming offended by this celebration, the Drone squadron skimmed eastward toward the ruins, looking to add their support to that flank.  The Broadside turned and shot at the Falcon, but also missed due to the speed of the vehicle.  The Fire Warriors in the ruins creep up and shoot at the Vipers, yet fail to cause any damage themselves.  Taking a last desperate shot, the Crisis suit near the woods shot across the battlefield at the Vipers and is foiled again by the small crafts' speed.  As the sun rises, it is found that the only casualty is caused by a terribly hungry tree.

Turn 2
The sun rises to find the Eldar scrambling to close ranks as fast as they can.  The Vipers dash up and unleash their firepower at the moving Drones, felling only two of the small targets.  Meanwhile, the Dire Avengers run from the carnivorous trees and use the Vipers as cover.  The Avengers behind the hill come around and fire at the newly-detached Drone squadron, killing them both.  First Blood goes to the Eldar.  The Falcon takes advantage of this as it advances forward and shoots the Crisis Commander, but find the hero plated in Iridium Armor, causing only a single wound.  Meanwhile, the Warp Spiders continue to lay in waiting in the eastern ruins, watching for sneaky Tau.
As the Tau battle-plan unfolds, the remaining Crisis suit drops from the sky right in front of the Dire Avengers in the east, unleashes its Flamer and Plasma Gun, and kills two.  The Crisis Commander adds his Airburst Frag Launcher and Cyclic Ion Blaster and kills another 2.  The Fire Warriors in the ruins shoot at the Vipers shielding the Avengers, easily destroying the craft.  One explodes and kills two more Avengers!  The Broadside confidently takes a shot at the Falcon, but misses.  The Hammerhead moves west and takes the shot of opportunity, but the Falcon's speed saves it again as the Hammerhead misses.  The Crisis suit hiding behind the woods jumps out and shoots at the Falcon, hoping to do what the two anti-armour units can't, only to find the the medium armour is just too much for it.  Finally, the Kroot fire at the Avengers appearing from the hill, killing one and pinning the unit with fear.  The Tau are elated at such a glorious turn against the pompous Eldar.

Turn 3
Silently creeping around the battlelines, the Striking Scorpions show up on the eastern flank and shoot at the Fire Warriors in the ruins, killing two.  Taking advantage of combined arms, the Falcon also shoots at the ruins and kills another Fire Warrior.  Seeing a trap closing on them from both sides, the Fire Warriors flee from the ruins and dash back to the rear.  The remaining Avengers in the east advance on the recently-added Crisis suit and shoot it, causing no damage.  They then charge into combat and hack at it with their blades, causing a wound and forcing it to flee.  As it tries, the Avengers catch it and cut it down.  The Dire Avengers, now pinned behind the hill, shoot at the Crisis Commander proudly standing in the middle of the battlefield, but to no avail.  The Seer takes the chance and casts Psychic Shriek at him, but the hero's Shield Generator saves all but a wound out of potentially five!  Tau technology is certainly a match for the ancient ways of the Eldar.  The Warp Spiders, now too wise to advance into the open, continue to hold position in the ruins.
The Tau have no such fears and continue their vicious assault.  The Devilfish disembarks another Fire Warrior unit armed with Pulse Carbines behind the eastern ruins, which gives the fleeing Fire Warriors the nerve to return to the fight.  The Broadside advances to a higher position within the ruins, and then all three units unleash on the Scorpions.  Combined with the Drones, originally hidden, seven of the Eldar weapon-specialists are annihilated.  The Crisis suit near the Kroot fires across the battlefield at the remaining Avengers in the east and kill one.  The Crisis Commander follows suit, but the Exarch activated his Shimmershield just in time to protect himself and his buddy.  Both these units, depleted nearly beyond effectiveness, keep their courage and continue to fight on.  The Dire Avengers pinned behind the hill are shot at by the Kroot hiding in the Ironbark forest and lose another, but they aren't worried now.  The Seer has demanded retribution!  The Hammerhead, again skimming westward, takes a shot at the Falcon and misses. It seems the gunner is not comfortable with his targeting systems yet.

Turn 4
The Striking Scorpions advance on the recovered Fire Warriors and kill one with pistol fire, charging into combat against them.  Swinging their trademark chainswords and firing their Mandiblasters, they fell one of the Tau.  In return, the Fire Warriors rifle-butt two of the aspect warriors to death, forcing the survivor to flee in utter disbelief.  The Fire Warriors shoot the survivor down a short time later.  The Dire Avengers in the center advance up the hill and fire at the Kroot in the woods, killing two-despite the Ironbark protection!  The Falcon slowly drifts forward and adds its firepower, killing another two.  Nearly afraid, the Kroot stand their ground, barely.  The last two Dire Avengers standing by the eastern woods fire at the Crisis Commander, but fail to cause any damage.  Hope has left the battlefield for the Eldar.
The Tau Commander decides to enjoy their victory a little early by ordering the Devilfish to ram the Falcon, finally causing a bit of glancing damage.  Mocking laughter rises up from the Tau lines.  That laughter dies as the Broadside and Hammerhead again take aim at the Falcon but again fail to cause any damage.  The Hammerhead is noted for Gunnery Class by the Commander.  Unacceptable.  After grumbling to himself about this, the Crisis Commander fires at the Dire Avengers atop the hill and kills three.  The Kroot follow with their shots and kill another one.  Finally, the Carbine-wielding Fire Warriors fire at them and wipe out the rest of the unit, even wounding the Seer and forcing him to flee.  The final Crisis suit shoots at the two Avengers in the east and kills one, leaving the Exarch alive.  Both the Exarch and Warp Spiders simultaneously notice the Seer fleeing for his life (while bleeding all over the ground) and decided it was wise to quit the battlefield.  Tau victory.  

Tau win:  Eldar 1 (First Blood), Tau 8 (Slay the Warlord, Fast Attack unit, 6 objective points)

Unlike the last battle, this one was not bloody at all.  The Eldar had successfully killed a unit of two Drones and a single Crisis suit, and managed to add four Kroot and six Fire Warriors to the mix.  Yet they lost two Vipers, 19 Dire Avengers, a Spiritseer, and 10 Scorpions.  The Warp Spiders were effectively pinned in place by the threat of the Kroot, and so could be considered a casualty as well.  Only the Falcon truly survived, and that was a matter of terribly good luck (and horrific shooting by the Tau).  THIS is more what I expect when fighting Eldar against Tau.  Eldar are outmatched- range, weapon strength, armour saves, armoured vehicles, and point costs.  Only in speed and psychic powers do the Eldar have the upper hand.  Expected, but certainly not an enjoyable realization.  Hmmm...

Now we move up to 1500 points.  Sadly, I don't feel quite so confident at that level either.  I think it'll be a bit more of an even match, but my normally 'cheezy' units in the Eldar aren't so 'cheezy' in this matchup.  Time to get creative.  Or lucky.  Since I'm not known for luck, let's see how creative I can get.

As always, I'm open to feedback and just general impressions.  Let me know what you think.  And, of course, Happy Gaming!