Welcome to part two. If you missed it, click here to see how the book's lore shaped up.
The biggest issue with Codex: Harlequins was really summed up last time: This is pretty much half of a full codex. Despite being priced as a full book, despite standing on its own and with an admittedly decent variety of units for an army which has largely been in the background for three decades, it features very little content. The overall book lacks a lot of the elements you'd hope it would contain, some essential and some just nice bonuses, which doesn't really put it in a good light. In many respects it's something akin to Codex: Imperial Knights from my personal view, it's doing so well on many fronts but it's also only furthering some of Warhammer's worst trends at the same time. Especially when it comes to the characters.
Rather than being made up of a band of varied units, small troops selections and specialist forces, the Harlequins are made up of bands of individuals. Shadowseers, Solitaires, Death Jesters and the like combine together and form a force which is heavily weighted in favour of elites choices. On the one hand this is staying true to their original incarnation, but on the other the big issue, the obvious issue, is that since that time this is no longer unique. We've had so many armies written to emphasise unique elite individual characters or heroes while screwing over the backbone of the army itself, it's become an epidemic. As such, this is just adding more fuel to the fire when it comes to that issue, but at the same time it's actually pretty damn solidly written for what it is.
The only Troupes choice available (and I will not apologise for that pun) is very direct, very straight forwards and sticks to the overall glass cannon archetype all eldar forces follow. Armed with a basic shuriken pistol and close combat weapon, their main advantage stems from their WS5 I6 stats with two attacks standard. Combined with the Troupe Leader, this means that even a basic squad is going to get sixteen attacks on the charge, and they're backed with a 5+ invulnerable save thanks to their Holo-fields. Then, atop of this, they have the added durability of a 2+ Look Out Sir tests against anything and suffer no penalties for difficult terrain.
You still have to be careful about where they're sent in. While they can potentially cut through an army like a knife through butter if used carefully, if you miss that opening blow they will die very quickly against the wrong kind of weapons. This is only backed by the fact they have access to Fleet, cause Fear, have access to Hit & Run, and come with Furious Charge standard, which means they'll be slicing their way through many units at a rate of knots. Well, assuming the other side doesn't choose to send a sizable roadblock against them so they can pull back.
On the one hand I can appreciate this as it does emphasise player skill and it is well balanced, but like so many things it is playing a little too much towards the rock, paper, scissors rut which the game has been falling into over the past few years. The added bonus though is that they are well priced. The initial five models cost 90 points with an additional 15 for another dancer to be thrown into the mob, and the unit does have access to some fairly meaty weapons, such as the infamous Neuro Disruptor and that old favourite the Harlequin's Kiss. Add in the Starweaver as a dedicated transport, and beyond the usual eldar shortcomings of a low Toughness and Strength, they manage to have variety while staying just on the right side of not being broken.
Speaking of the Starweaver, the transport skimmer is really a bigger glass cannon than even everything else in the army. While still equipped with Holo-Fields, having an armour value of ten on all sides means they can all too easily fall to a little concentrated fire. This wouldn't be too bad were it not for the fact that they are one of the few true anti-armour units in the book with their two shuriken cannons, meaning the army as a whole definitely lacks some punch when it comes to taking down tougher vehicles. Combined with the fleet ability of the Harlequins and their capacity to speed through all terrain, it really has only a few proper uses for the force.
The more useful one here is its bigger, tougher brother, the Voidweaver. The vehicle forgoes its carrying capacity in favour of a Haywire Cannon, a 24" range large blast weapon with a strength and AP of 4. Not bad on the whole and useful for breaking up groups of large troops which might bog down any troupes. Atop of this, it still comes equipped with the shuriken cannons meaning it's reasonable for a ambush predator style attack craft and can be grouped in squads of three. Combined with the more versatile Prismatic Cannon (capable of switching modes from a Strength 7 lance beam to a Strength 3 large blast) it can swap out its main gun for, the unit feels as if it has more of a place in the army. It still has that same fragility, but at least with more guns and capable of being grouped together it looks as if it can hit a lot harder.
Skyweavers meanwhile are effectively your Shining Spear substitute for this game. Capable of performing Hit & Run attacks, having the same invulnerable saves and capabilities offered by Mirage Launchers and Holo-fields, they are a faster and much more risky version of the Troupes. While a high cost at 50 points per model, they're quite interesting thanks to the Star Bolas and the ability to switch out their guns for a Haywire Cannon. Really, they're fast moving crowd control, but for such a small army that's to be expected and there's little to really complain about here.
The real fun comes into play with the elites choices. Foremost among these being that skull faced nightmare of giggling annihilation, the Death Jester. Armed with a Shriner Cannon and capable of pulling off Precision Shots, he's definitely a good choice if you know how to use him. Perhaps his most beneficial element however is the Death is Not Enough rule, playing wonderfully into his morbid humour. Everything hit by this monster's gun takes a Leadership test of -2 even if they're at more or less full strength. If failing to make this, the Harlequin player can then choose which direction they fall back in. Normally i'd say this was too tough, but given how he is as fragile as the rest of the army, and will quite likely be off on his own, it more or less balances out.
On the opposite end of the spectrum we have the Solitaire, being the ever perpetual combat monster they're known to be. At a whopping 145 points they really are the closest this game comes to a full blown bullet magnet or a Mephiston grade one man army. Fulfilling Games Workshop's quota for one at least Eternal Warrior model per book, he comes with WS9 BS9 I10, 6 attacks basic and a 3+ invulnerable save. However, being perpetually stuck on his own he can be mobbed and taken down by concentrated fire, with now groups to hide in. even if he does have the Fleet ability.
What does make him truly dangerous though is his notable ability to Deep Strike into enemy forces, and either the Harlequin's Kiss and Harlequin's Embrace. So he can drop into your lines, storm about and use Instant Death or cause automatic wounds on a 6. The Solitaire is definitely veering towards being outright broken and power gaming, and in all honesty it does seem that he should cost a hell of a lot more for his abilities. While there might be only one of him per army, you can only imagine the damage he could do. This is also before getting to the Blitz special ability, allowing for D6 more inches in time with the current turn. This is added after standard movement, which he can move up to 12" before Fleeting, and increases his number of attacks on a charge to 10. Really, is this just here to fit in a unit they couldn't excuse adding to the Grey Knights codex?
Then finally we have the Shadowseer, the
The actual psychic abilities this one can cast are an admittedly varied bunch under the name Phantasmancy. More focused upon building survival and misdirection, it does manage to do just enough to make it stand out from the usual Craftworld Eldar mixture of abilities, while at the same time offering one or two reasonable offensive skills. Chief among the latter are Laugh of Sorrows and Mirror of Minds, which deal damage to a target based upon an Leadership test duel. Standard stuff to be honest but useful to have with this selection to pack a bit more of a punch, the latter Focused Witchfire ability especially.
The more interesting ones are the Dance of Shadows, Shards of Light and Pearl of Discord. These offer, respectively, Stealth and Shrouded to one unit, Witchfire which causes Blind and a Concussive Nova based power. The first one gives suitability while the latter two allow the Harlequins to storm in and get in that vital first blow.Fog of Dreams meanwhile is probably the only irritating one here as it makes your units invisible to one enemy unit. It's okay but it feels as if a little more could have been done with it.
The only last part to cover is the armory, and truth be told there isn't much to it. It's the usual mixture of same items we've seen time and time again in the supplements, made to carry out a few set roles but little else really.
You have the stats boosting melee weapon (The Stories Sword, +1 Strength, AP3, Master-Crafted)
the short range but unremarkable gun (Crescendo, which is pretty much a bolt pistol which just has Bladestorm and Quickfire tacked on)
the two leadership boosting abilities (Mask of Secrets which gives Fearless and -2 to any enemy Leadership tests within 12" - admittedly good for the Shadowseer - and the Laughing God's Eye, which gives Adamantium Will to any allied unit within 12")
then finally we have the supposedly exceptionally kill crazy one (the Cecgorach's Rose, which offers Shred and Kiss of Death in melee, which is really a glorified Harlequin's Kiss).
These are honestly extremely by the numbers and it does leave me personally wondering if - Combined with the lack of any special characters or further troop choices of any kind - the design team were rushed for time. These were Harlequins, so there was nothing to really stop them going nuts and trying something completely ballistic.
The last bits of the book really are just a lot of formations, none of which are really that interesting. They just add some very basic bonuses like Cegorach's Revenge, which allows all units to re-roll invulnerable saves. So that's an entire army of 5+ inv saves in an eldar force. Personally, this could just be bias though as i've never really personally seen the point of formations, they just seem to take half the fun out of building a list.
While personally I won't say that Codex: Harlequins is anything remarkable, it is a big step in the right direction. While it does continue trends i'm not especially fond of, the aforementioned emphasis upon individual units over all else, given they were core to the army's concept in the beginning this can perhaps be let slide. There's not really a bad unit in here save possibly for the transport, but the lack of a dedicated anti-air unit of some kind is a definite oversight and it really seems only about two thirds done. With more work this could have been something truly outstanding, but instead the options here feel a little too limiting. They're good options, but with so few units it lacks the variety a full blown army would truly need. Atop of this, while a few points are definitely broken, at least the army actually requires some skill to play, and wasn't turned into a vehicle to shill some shiny new super heavy.
If you're into this one, perhaps you could give it a look but personally i'd still say they work better as allies for other eldar forces. Then again, given Games Workshop, that was probably the plan from the beginning.