Part 1 Can Be Found Here
As we're done with the rules it's time to delve into the fluff. You can probably guess what this is going to be like if you have any knowledge of the author. As noted in the last part Ward's been known to do one of two things when it comes to the fluff of armies: Completely rewrite them into a new race, ignoring all previous works, or writing them in horrendously out of character moments. Usually both involve such high degrees of stupidity and bad writing it's hard to tell which is worse.
Before we get going however, we need to briefly talk about something else.
One of the few things which the codex seemed to be getting right was the artwork. A few of the examples in the first part were taken from the pages of the book and they looked genuinely decent. Far better than the coloured in drawings which had been lifted from previous codices we've seen in things like Codex: Tau Empire, one of the few major flaws of that book. One feeling that couldn't be shaken though was how many of the images felt oddly familiar. It didn't take long to find out why.
Here's one image from the Iyanden supplement:
And here's a promotional wallpaper from Dawn of War II:
Let's ignore any potential questions of if they had the right to do this, as Dawn of War was a Warhammer adaptation they probably did.
Let's ignore the quality of the photoshop editing in the image itself and the deeper shadows used to make said edits less noticeable.
Let's just focus upon one fact: This is an international company, one with multiple recognised brands and millions of pounds to its name. It's effectively the gateway into tabletop wargaming as a whole and has one of the oldest established named names in this hobby. Despite this, despite how much they can easily afford to spend on new art, they have resorted to recycling things from projects outside of the company. That's not just shameful, that's outright sloppy.
Still, you didn't come here to hear how a company was being stingy on cash, you can here to hear how the lore is. As the subject which made up the majority of this supplement it's clearly what was intended to be the book's selling point. It's also the worst written part in this whole thing.
That stuff from last time? Yeah, those were the good bits.
There's no easy way to structure this, so let's just go through each problem one at a time:
Iyanden is no longer Iyanden, it's now Biel-Tan lite.
Despite having little details beyond the one event which defined their current diminished state, Crimson Fist syndrome as it's been nicknamed, Iyanden was suggested to be a unique force. Like all the craftworlds it had its own customs, culture and society unique to itself but was supposedly one of the largest of their kind.
Rather than trying to emphasise that, Ward made them obsessed with retaking their old empire and reclaiming the galaxy for their kind. You know, the thing Biel-Tan is best known for. Apparently he was so aware of this that the two craftworlds have now always been in a millennia old super-special-awesome-friends-forever alliance to do this. Every other craftworld having ignored their suggestions to retake the galaxy or even fight to protect the worlds with their ruins. It goes so far as to suggest that every other craftworld was inwardly focused upon its own survival or "higher priorities" for such a grandiose plan.
So yes, this means that every instance of the eldar coming to protect their old secrets, ruins, or even exodites is something only Iyanden or Biel-Tan would do. Ward goes so far as to list Ulthwé and Alaitoc as very specific craftworlds who denied any plan to help others. The latter no doubt in an effort to shoehorn Ward's own retcon about Alaitoc being hell-bent upon fighting the necrons. Meaning that, yes, like Graham McNeill's Ultramarines saga Ward is apparently trying to render Gav Thorpe's Path of the Eldar series completely non-canon.
This section does at least knowledge that Biel-Tan and Iyanden are opposite ends of the bloody galaxy, yet still has the gall to somehow state that the two could patrol its entirety between them. Yes, they were so brilliant that they were single-handedly protecting the eastern and western rims on their own.
Unfortunately for us there are no breaks on this train, and the stupidity only gets worse with every word.
Despite it as having been a crucial part of each craftworld's design and the core of eldar society, Iyanden are now the first to have learned the use of the Infinity Circuit. Yes, that thing which has been described as the "wraithbone skeleton of the craftworld itself" which stops spirits being gobbled by Slaanesh? All adapted from Iyanden and a feature added after the fall. How did Iyanden's spiritseers know how to do this? Why didn't the eldar originally have some plan to protect themselves against the obvious growing corruption? None are answered. Apparently Iyanden was just so good at what they did they learned of this first. It adds nothing to their overall story and is barely commented upon for the rest of the book beyond simple bragging.
At every point tries to emphasise upon their arrogance, pride and does everything short of calling them outright overconfident. No dobut that is to somehow excuse what happens next.
Skimming over a good ten thousand years or so of events, the codex suddenly jumps to the arrival of the tyranids. It then proceeds to make a complete mockery of the army it is trying to show as a competent force.
Let's compare what follows with the fifth edition Codex: Tyranids. While that edition might have had many, many problems the build-up to the Battle of Iyanden is easily one of its best parts. Why? Because it showed the eldar to be competent.
Having been blinded by the Shadow in the Warp which was the tyranid Hive Mind, with only their rangers alerting them to its advance, the eldar spent what little time they had preparing. They knew this was the greatest battle of their lives against a foe of vast power and the book emphasises upon this fact. Fortifying the entire craftworld, they summoned the Avatar, awakened all of their wraith units and prepared effectively the world's entire populace for war. For the twenty days they had prior to its arrival they prepared for a vast conflict, gathering every ship and soldier they could to press into the world's defence. This was also plan B after realising they could not outrun or simply avoid the tyranid forces.
How does this book handle it?
First Ward removes any excuse of unfamiliarity by claiming that Iyanden had fought the tyranids before that point. Battling them on multiple occasions over the years. Only that they were instead "tendrils of the Hive Mind's awareness, groping blindly through space" and not an entire Hive Fleet. Again more than once, this is not simply referring to the defense of Halathel. This means one of two things: Either that the second wave of tyranids somehow arrived before the Imperium realised yet Iyanden didn't bother to warn anyone. Or worse, that they had seen the Hive Mind in psychic projections prior to the Hive Fleet Kraken's arrival and did not bother to tell even the other eldar craftworlds. Take your pick.
Continuing with his theme of arrogance and stupidity, Ward then writes the leaders of Iyanden as believing that they could weather this storm like any other and grossly underestimated the threat they faced. No mention is given to any efforts to outrun or even avoid the Hive Fleet, none to any major efforts to fortify the craftworld or even preparations such as amassing the world's entire population into a huge army as before. Instead the codex states that they believed "their armies and fleet could vanquish the Great Devourer."
This goes about as well as you would expect.
By the time the battle was over "Iyanden Craftworld was reduced to ruin. The craftworld's armies and fleet were all but gone, destroyed in the relentless Tyranid advance. Countless billions were slain, whole bloodlines and families lost forever; the living were outnumbered many times over by the dead."
... I'm sorry, billions? Yes, apparently Ward decided that the eldar required a considerable population boost. Rather than having a few hundred million of their kind in total, apparently the more prominent craftworlds now have a bigger populace than the average Imperial planet. Now, this might not be so big a problem if the eldar's entire theme and background wasn't based upon the fact they're a dying race! As with the last headscratching moment, this has been done for little reason and will ultimately add nothing to the book nor mythos as a whole.
As if Ward was desperate for his army to garner sympathy despite his efforts to present them as arrogantly stupid, Biel-Tan abandons them. With their thousands of year old oh-so-strong alliance suddenly meaning nothing, the other craftworld cuts all ties with them. Why? Because Iyanden is unwilling - and now unable - to maintain an aggressive relentless war against the enemies of the eldar. Despite the fact this book's very existence and rules for them going to war outright contradicts this fact.
Now all of that up there? This is just how the book starts. Yeah, pages five and six; the introduction to the army. Things only get worse from here, usually every time Ward tries to actually expand upon things mentioned on these pages. Any time he opts to try and flesh out any aspect of the craftworld he only succeeds in dumbing down its mythos and ruining any complex or interesting concepts. Assuming he even manages to get any basic part of what he's writing right.
Let's take the presence of Iyanna Arienal for example. Fans were fairly excited to learn that she was going to be in this when her weapon was leaked, which promptly turned to dread once they learned Ward was handling this. On the one hand she thankfully escaped the fate he keeps inflicting upon the Sisters of Battle; meaning she wasn't disemboweled and had "pure" astartes wallowing in her guts or most of her actions retconed from history. On the other hand she's barely focused upon at all in the section devoted to her. Instead the text is used to make Iyanden's leaders look more incompetent while Ward continued to bugger established canon with his pen.
Along with noting that her entire family was killed in a Chaos attack on the craftworld (Read: Exterminatus via cyclonic torpedoes. No, it doesn't say how the craftworld survived that.) she embraced the Path of the Seer rather than going mad with grief. Her past would cause her to follow the role of a spiritseer, constantly communing with the spirits lurking within the craftworld's Infinity Circuit. This is more or less all we get as what follows effectively reduces her character to that of a "true believer" and tries to portray her as the only sane person on Iyanden.
Apparently Eldrad God-Damned Ulthran himself showed up weeks prior to Hive Fleet Kraken's attack to deliver the following message:
Naturally upon being greeted by the greatest farseer of their kind, half mad with fear and desperate to try and get them to take the tyranids seriously as a threat; they laugh him off. Ignoring all of his warnings and they do nothing to prepare for the tyranid assault. So not only did their own scouts or leaders fail to notice the Hive Fleet, but ignored a respected psychic when he tried to warn them something bad is heading their way.
Things then take a turn for the worse as Ward manages to get his filthy hands on Ynnead and decides to screw with it in every way imaginable. Ynnead, for those who do not know, is something long established as the last hope of the eldar race. Combining the spirits of their kind from all remaining stones and Infinity Circuits, they hope to merge their kind and create a god capable of slaying Slaanesh. Sacrificing all of their craftworld kin but leaving the likes of the Harlequins and Exodites alive to rebuild their empire.
This detail is an aspect of the universe which was well thought out when it was first introduced back in the first edition with Codex Titanicus and has remained consistent since. The only major change was added by Phil Kelly in the fourth edition Codex: Eldar. In it he noted that it was supposedly growing in the collective Infinity Circuits of each craftworld but was not yet strong enough to emerge and fight Slaanesh.
What does Ward do to it? He completely ignores all this and turns it into effectively a glorified eldar urban myth. When Eldrad also tries to convince the leaders of Iyanden that their only chance of atonement lay with Ynnead's birth, they dismiss this as "morbid fantasy." A thought apparently shared by many other eldar who do not believe in the possibility of creating a god or that the eldar could accomplish this. To do this Ward has outright ignored all of eldar history and the single biggest event in their long existence.
They already created a god, a Chaos god, She Who Thirsts! They understand the Warp as a science and know that it resonates with the actions of psychics! They know the presence of sentient life acting en-mass can influence the Warp in dramatic ways and how millions of souls can cause change!
Or to put this in simpler terms: Ward acknowledges that the eldar created a god known as Slaanesh, has the eldar know they created it, but then writes them to simultaneously believe that they cannot create gods!
So Ward screws up some of the biggest ideas and concepts surrounding the race and its possible future. How does he deal with their society as a whole? Badly. You might remember at the end of last time that he seemed to be using Eldar Prophecy as a guideline as to how eldar society worked. Allow me to expand upon that.
Along with repeated violations of basic canon and common sense, a trait both authors share, C.S. Goto wrote the eldar as ineffective. Normally with them on the verge of killing one another. Each and every house among the eldar was politically poised to strike down at one another and were constantly ready to fight if need be. They were less concerned with how their race was dying than the fact that one rival house might be getting the upper hand over them. Furthermore he kept writing each one with having its own personal military force and giving them extremely bland, ultimately generic titles. Ones which didn't feel alien so much as badly altered human ones.
While he admittedly avoids some of the greater issues of that book, Ward matches each of Prophecy's societal problems almost detail for detail.
Along with giving the eldar houses based upon their surnames (House of Arienal etc) he lists many with some of the most generic fantasy terms possible such as the House of Valor or similar things. The wraithguard of each are apparently bound to their house and have, barring a handful of exceptions, loyalty for their kin first and craftworld second. One specific section of the book notes how exceedingly rare it is for the wraithguard and "ghost warriors" of each house to fight along side one another. Their only surviving personality aspects which endured past death being their obsessions and personal desires. Another, less direct, adaptation of this idea is with the craftworld being split following the war and the survivors in a constant political battle with one another. With half wanting to burn out and utterly destroy themselves fighting Chaos, the others wanting to actually rebuild the craftworld. It's as forced as it sounds, even taking into account that they're now Biel-Tan 2.0.
So yes, not only has Ward failed to look at what previous authors wrote about the army he is supposed to be covering; he apparently took tips from a guy infamous for doing no research and getting everything wrong. You'd swear by this point he was just trolling the fandom.
Any apparent lack of communication with writers and the company itself is only made more evident when you look at a timeline of recent events he had written. We've already bought up how he's ignored everything Gav Thrope wrote for the eldar in recent years. As such it's only right we bring up how he completely ignored Games Workshop's rare moment of humility. Actually recognising that they had been screwing over a portion of their playerbase, while taking the time to advertise a new novel, Black Library apologised to Imperial Fist fans. Bringing up the repeated occasions where the army had been slaughtered en mass, betrayed or generally murdered to make the villain/heroes look more impressive; they admitted things had gone too far. Ever the Ultrasmurf fan, Ward ignored this and wrote in several humiliating defeats, mass slaughters and moments where they just get in the way of the actual heroes.
The first of these two instances involves the Imperial Fists. Managing to capture a powerful Iyanden ship known as the Blood of Khaine, the chapter's second company tow it back to the forge world of Hypnoth for Mechanicus study. Iyanden, not liking this one bit, promptly goes after it and in a very one sided beat down of a fight boards and scuttles two strike cruisers before freeing the ship and leaving. Specifically sending in their "ghost warriors" to do the job for them and slaughter all resistance. Personally, I don't have the problem with the fact that space marines are taking a loss. What does need to be commented upon is the exact timing of this, mere months after the above apology, the sheer one sided nature of the fight and how easily several major capital ships were destroyed. This is only made worse when you consider, due to the operation, each likely had a company of Fists on-board. Meaning Mat Ward wiped out the fifth of an already badly abused chapter, just because he could.
The Crimson Fists suffer a similar humiliating incident on the same damn page. As they don't have enough numbers to just murder, Ward resorted to make them even more incompetent than the eldar. First not recognising any corruption on the planet of Hellabore and requiring Iyanden to intervene, killing the tainted planetary council, and then showing up only to fight the eldar. The eldar themselves are forced to sacrifice a number of wraithguard led by the wraithlord Toralven Gravesong to escape back to the webway. Yes, apparently despite only having the most basic personality traits survive physical death, this particular wraithlord was still lucid enough to give commands. Is anyone else getting the feeling Ward was making things up as he went along?
The final major strike against this book comes in the form of that last image, mentioning the craftworld of Malan'tai.
That specific craftworld in question has been on the receiving end of multiple outright massacres, but more infamously several continuity goofs due to an apparent lack of research on Ward's part. First used by Cruddance in Codex: Tyranids, the craftworld was brought low and killed from within by a single zoanthrope. That's a subject for another day, we've got enough bitching to do about this book at the moment. This took place somewhere between 808.M41. Ward then featured the ruins of the craftworld in a story for Codex: Grey Knights, he managed to screw up the dates claiming it had been ruined almost a decade before the tyranids managed to kill everyone. This latest book has him screwing up the timeline again, claiming the events which led to the craftworld's demise years after both books state it should have been dead!
Some people claim that the more work Ward is given the better things will get. Mostly under some argument that without other authors things will become consistent between books and the canon will become better as a result. This suggests otherwise. The man's not only so lazy he can't be bothered to keep things consistent with other people's work, he can't keep things consistent with his own bullshit!
There are countless further acts of insanity, self contradiction and occasional depravity within this book's pages, but the above should make its quality clear. It's horrendously badly written. There are only a handful of bland rules to build an army from, all of which will not work without the actual Codex: Eldar. Many of its pages are taken up by missions few people will be interested in looking at and fewer still will be able to use. Then finally a sizable chunk of its pages are given over to background fluff so far up its own arse, you'd think it had been written to try and make Codex: Grey Knights look good by comparison.
This isn't a supplement codex. This isn't even something i'd call professional work, paling as much in comparison to many fan made codices as official ones by competent authors. It's the overpriced product of a hack writer trying to gouge cash from a dwindling fanbase. For such low quality work I wouldn't have given this £5 much less £30. It doesn't matter if you're after good rules or good lore, you'll find neither in this. Avoid it and don't waste money on this joke.
So that's the codex covered. Now onto the BONUS ROUND!
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