Friday, 17 February 2017

Gathering Storm: Fracture of Biel-Tan Part 2 - The Special Rules, Units and Relics (Warhammer 40,000 Supplement Review)


Going from the story, it shouldn't be much of a surprise to know that the rules here are relatively light. With only three new - albeit brilliantly designed - units taking to the fore, it's once again a very hero based book with a few new items to help bolster your lines. Once again, a few of these heroes also delve a bit too deep into the power creep end of the game, but given their nature that's to be expected. Trust me, i'm as tried of sheer raw power and special rules dominating the tabletop as the next guy, but if a living incarnation of a god and a literal god can't pimp slap units en mass, who can?

So, with that done let's delve into the crunch side of things with the new general rules.


Special Rules

Thankfully, rather than just asking players to mash two different codices together to run the army (well, not entirely) we do get a new special rule to help vary things up. While this hardly re-writes the entire army overnight, it does at least change a few essential pillars of the Codex: Eldar and Codex: Dark Eldar forces which have existed up to now, and there's no denying the interesting meta shifts which can be brought about from this.

That said, if you were hoping this would tone down some of the sheer obscene firepower of the Craftworld Eldar, you're all out of luck.


Strength from Death is the big one here, which completely replaces Ancient Doom, Battle Focus and Power from Pain in any and all units. Initially this looks as if it actively depowers the units as this does remove the core buffs which seriously help them in the midst of battle. However, in exchange for some of that fire, they have gained a rather alarming level of rapid response which might catch a few players unawares. If a unit (non-vehicle to be specific) is completely destroyed while another is within 7" of something with this special rule, the nearby unit can immediately "Soulburst" in reaction to a foe. "Soulburst" in this case refers to being able to move, shoot and assault even out of phase.

If you don't quite get how nasty this could be, consider for a moment what could happen if a unit of Guardians happens to get mowed down by concentrated lastgun fire. Well, now you've finished them off, the unit of Banshees nearby can leapfrog forwards and get into battle all the sooner. Or, in a similar case, suddenly the Dire Avenger squad next to them can suddenly open up with Bladestorm out of turn, cutting down a major unit in your front line.

While this does always come at the cost of more and more eldar units, this potentially permits players to pull a few chess style gambits. Sacrificing their pawns so they can annihilate their foes wholesale, you could see anything from Dark Reapers shooting multiple times in an enemy turn to seeing massed assault forces abruptly jump halfway across the board in an instant.

It's too early to tell if this is actually broken (at least beyond the likes of Wraithguard - which will utterly annihilate anything they come across with these bonuses) as while it offers a few big buffs there are obvious shortcomings. Massing infantry heavy armies together means Guard armies will be able to enjoy the biggest turkey shoot in the galaxy, and it would leave them with a few obvious blind spots. Whatever the case, it's definitely an interesting change for a top tier force.


Units



The choices here on the whole are actually a nice balance between various choices. Just as Celestine, Cawl, and Greyfax played off of one another's strengths, the trio of alien figures here each focus upon a different aspect of their world. You have the duelist, the "big gun" and the support choice, with little direct crossover between their skills. While they're not ultra-focused until one cannot still oppose most units in some way, they have their own unique way of doing things, until they can work beautifully alongside one another or standard troops choices.

While the whole "one unit per style" idea might seem cliched or overplayed to some people, it is nevertheless a cornerstone of tabletop wargames of all kinds. It's also something which Codex: Eldar has always taken to absolute extremes, even turning it into an aspect of their culture, so it's hard to really object to this one. Even if it does follow the same overall format as the heroes of Fall of Cadia, it's at least fresh and flexible enough of a blueprint to still churn out a few fun and vastly different ideas one by one.

Yvraine, Herald of Ynnead

As the first choice on this list, Yvraine fits into the "Greyfax" slot for this trio. As the somewhat more fragile psyker, she comes with the big notable bonus of generating D3 Warp charges per turn (thanks primarily to the Gyrinx Familiar following her about) but also hits at Master Level 2 to allow for a bit extra power. Better yet, while she is sadly stuck with the 6+ standard save, this is somewhat mitigated by a 4++ invulnerable save and a few very nice stats bonuses. In effect, she's a standard Farseer stats line, save for the fact she has a Weapons Skill, Ballistic Skill and Initiative of 8, and a weapon which grants +1 Strength in melee.

The more interesting special rules stem more from her relationship with the new than anything else, as Herald of Ynnead takes Strength from Death to a whole new level. Should an allied model - yes, just the one - die while she's within 7" of them, she's consume their soul and regain a would on a 4+. This would usually be enough to swing the odds in her favour, but atop of this she also gains an extra Mastery Level (to a maximum of four, naturally) and can instantly generate an extra psychic power on the spot.

This is somewhat akin to what we saw with the Thousand Sons back in Wrath of Magnus, using other troops to buff the big hard hitting psykers. Rather than just serving as batteries though, in this case it's more a benefit from abrupt losses. You're not directly draining their lives, you're just having someone soaking up their energy and becoming superpowered if they happen to kill off a few too many of them. What obviously offsets this is her relative fragility, as lasgun spamming or a few lucky shots can still overcome her Invulnerable save and overcome her relatively low Toughness.

This makes her, again like Greyfax, something of a risky choice to employ. She's powerful, has definite bonuses which give her a major edge against many foes, and she can dish out enough punishment in melee to win most duels. Yet, her biggest advantages always rely upon you keeping her where she can be most easily killed in one way or another. Thanks to the high risk nature of her design, it means she's a potentially powerful foe but one you can only truly take advantage of with careful planning and good lists.

Plus, hey, any army with Aspect Warriors in it needs a good psyker.

The Visarch, Sword of Ynnead

As the "duelist" of the group, as the sort of figure you would need to throw against heroes and champions alike, the Visarch is understandably melee focused. The Ying to Yvraine's Yang, he is more durable and better made for close combat. Despite having a Weapons Skill, Ballistic Skill and Initiative of 7 compared to her 8, he retains a standard 3+ armour save and comes with no end of special rules to give him an edge in battle, namely Stubborn, Eternal Warrior, Rampage, and Precision Strikes besides the expected rules for an eldar character. The notable aspect, especially for a character of his type, stems more from his blade than anything else, as it permits +2 Strength AP 2 but also the Silence special rule, where all enemy units within close range (of 3") must use their lowest Leadership value while in combat. So, people run from him pretty quickly.

Interestingly however, he's clearly not meant to work on his own as a character. Fitting in with the lore, he serves largely as Yvraine's bodyguard and defender, and his special abilities permit him to always perform and pass Glorious Interventions for her and automatically overcome line of sight issues for her if they're in the same unit. Oh, and if you thought the lack of an Invulnerable save was going to let him down, Champion of Ynnead permits him to regenerate one wound if a friendly model dies within 7" and also an extra attack if he's consuming the soul of a character.

On the whole the Visarch is a very reliable if combat related choice and a solid option for a more militant leader for the army. While he is obviously intended to work with Yvraine and the fact their respective skills work so well off of one another is apparent for all to see, he nevertheless can take on most general purpose HQ choices without much trouble. He's not so much the Celestine you might expect and more of a Vargard Obyron choice on the whole, and certainly fairly well rounded for his cost.

Yncarne, Avatar of Ynnead

Imperial players, daemons and foes of the eldar, welcome to your clown faced nightmare for the next Edition. While Yncarne might not be able to solo Warlord Titans as some might have hoed, the sheer variety of special rules and a stats line on part with an Avatar means she will butcher anything she comes across. a 3+ standard and 5++ Invulnerable save atop of this would usually be enough on its own of course, but then you have Eternal Warrior, Fleet, Deep Strike(!!!), and Preferred Enemy: Daemons of Slaanesh; not to mention a weapon which retains AP2 with Fleshbane, Armorbane, and Soulblaze.

I take back what I said, this one probably could solo a Warlord Titan if given a decent chance.

While many of you are likely gleefully rubbing your hands at the thought of Deep Striking this mean monster behind enemy lines, you're out of luck unfortunately. Yncarne's Inevitable Death rule prevents them doing anything more than arriving out of deployment within 1" of the first friendly unit killed. This is the one downside as the first Guardian squad to fall is going to pop this guy into existence, but if you're lucky you might be able to suicide rush them far enough forwards to give them hell.

This one is difficult to pick out, but on the whole she'll probably end up being deployed as a more directly offensive version of Magnus. Rather than being used as a keystone holding together your lines, eldar players will probably send her hurtling at the tip of a spear into opposing forces. There's not much which can really stop her either, and while the model is expensive, we'll have to wait and see what can really be introduced to try and directly counter this model short of some of the extremely high grade characters on a few sides.


Relics



Corag-Hai's Locket: Welcome to something which can turn your HQ choice into a vampire. Kill one man and on the role of a 4+ they'll regain one wound. It's a fairly nice bonus to have for sure and gives a bit of added survival potential to Autarchs or the like. Definitely consider this one if you're aiming for more melee madness.

Hungering Blade: This one is a fodder felling weapon if ever there was one, as it works well against certain forces but it's almost useless against others. On the one hand, if you kill an eldar model with it, you regain all lost wounds, but on the other even with Fleshbane you can be bogged down doing little damage, or even be stuck with an overpriced chainsword. Skip this one unless you can think of a very good use for it somewhere.

The Lost Shroud: One of the more interesting choices of late, this one gives every possible damn defensive upgrade the writers could think of to a character. Eternal Warrior, Feel No Pain and It Will Not Die are all bundled in here, and it will turn your HQ choices into a one-man roadblock against your foes. The only real problem is you lose Independent Character when you add this to the figure. So, while it's well worth taking, reserve it only for lists where you definitely plan on locking someone down with a single squad of Warriors.

Mirrorgaze: This item grants Blind, Counter Attack and Night Vision to the wearer, all of which are nice, but the item is somewhat overpriced for its value. While it is worth giving it to a few select HQ choices with a rapid melee focus, those piled in with Scorpions, Banshees or Spears, leave picking this one until last.

The Song of Ynnead: This is just a Shuriken Pistol with the Poisoned (2+) rule at 18", the sort of thing we've seen quite a few times over the years. Situational, brief in use, but players will still find a place for it in the right list.


Soulsnare: As one of the one-shot weapons this is another crowd control choice. You lob it like a grenade within 8", and it hits with Strength 3 AP2 with Instant Death. While useful against a few massed troops choices, this is one you should probably just skip this one entirely as it's rare to see it have a substantial impact on an opposing army.


Verdict



As rules go, this one is competently written. While it sadly doesn't have much to really make it stand out short of sheer firepower, there's no serious weaknesses to be found nor a notable waste of points. At worst, you have a couple of items which you should probably skip, but the rest of it does hold up fairly well against most armies, even the high tier stuff when needed.

If you're after a few bonus characters to help add more variety to your army, you'll likely be fairly happy with this one.

2 comments:

  1. So I've got a number of questions about this, first and foremost is how is it possible to win against them thanks to Strength from Death?
    Let's say some Dark Reapers climb into a fortification and have another unit fairly close to it (bubble wrapping the base), or you have a unit that deep-strikes within range. Allowing the Exarch to fire the fortification's weapon twice is already ridiculous (regardless of what weapon it is) but allowing him to fire the fortifications guns four times is ridiculous. Put him in something like a plasma obliterator and you could very well wipe out a third of the enemy army with him alone.

    This is before we get to the Wraithguard. They were bad before, but now that they've got access to fast, cheap transports that are also open-topped I see no reason not to have several squads of the bastards running around, shooting their Strength D weapons from the armour and climbing out without a scratch or care when it's finally destroyed. This also gives the Wraithblades a great assault vehicle, if one that's lacking in survivability. When either squad makes it to the enemy's lines they'll carve right through at least two units in one phase.

    It does seem odd as I can see this gameplay style encouraging you to throw units into fights they have no hope of winning just so that it buffs other units in a ridiculous way. It also brings back the ability to assault from combat into another combat, which looks like it could really screw over gunlines (though I'm actually in favour of that one a little).

    As for the new units, I'll need to play against them but I'm honestly not sure how you'd kill Yvraine or the Visarch either, all they'd have to do would be to pass Look Out Sir rolls and they'd regain lost Wounds in the process. It's not like it's all that easy to get them in close combat either since by the looks of it you don't want to be in combat with the Visarch and Yvraine should have no problems avoiding challenges entirely (just accept them with an Exarch or somebody else).

    ReplyDelete
  2. As for how you'd handle the Yncarne, I don't know what to do there either. It's technically a Daemon, and how I'd normally suggest dealing with those is to get an Ordo Malleus Inquisitor to club it to death with his hammer (and given that Ordo Malleus Inquisitors can get into one-on-one matches against Blood Thirsters of all things and end up winning you'd think they'd be up to the occasion) but it's Initiative 10 and has Eternal Warrior, which really screws them over. The best the Imperium could do I'd say is to get a Culexus assassin so that the Yncarne would get stuck in combat (with the penalty to its leadership helping in case it fails to land a Wound and the Assassin actually hurts it, which isn't out of the question) or get the two Malleus one Hereticus Inquisitor combo since then the Yncarne would lose the fight and get killed 30% of the time, but those still aren't good odds (even though that combo can easily kill Daemon Primarch Magnus).

    For other armies the results are a lot worse, except for Daemons and Daemonkin. At least with those two you could use Bloodthirsters to nuke it or Horrors to tie it up for the entire game, and maybe Necrons could catch it in close combat with a C'tan (depending on the rolls, a C'tan should be able to kill it).

    None of these strategies take into account the Yncarne's psychic powers and they don't factor in Avatar of Ynnead or Inevitable Death however. Inevitable Death I've noticed doesn't only work when the Yncarne's in Reserve. To use a 30k example, since that's the power level this army seems to be at, let's say it's fighting Mortarion and it's losing (the Yncarne actually stands a really good chance at taking on the Primarchs, but Mortarion's one of the few it doesn't have any hope of winning against no matter how many Wounds it regains. The fight will end with it dying or it won't end). All the controlling player has to do is wait for a friendly or enemy unit to die and then the Yncarne can immediately leave the fight and appear across the table.

    Considering that one of the new Psychic abilities the Ynnari get is an AP2 Nova, I get the feeling that this will be used to ridiculous effect. Let's say you're up against an enemy army that kills something/somebody in the Psychic phase, the Yncarne can immediately appear, but more importantly you can use the opportunity to shoot and wipe out an enemy squad. The Yncarne can immediately teleport over there, use the Nova or that other ability that allows it to instantly Soulburst, and then charge straight into combat, all during the enemy's turn (you could also do most of this in your turn too).

    The only kind of funny thing that I'm imagining is an Ynnari mirror-match, as at least that fight could have a hilarious domino effect going, to the point that some players I know would even forget what phase it is (that sometimes happens in normal games so they'd be screwed there).
    Maybe it would be more fun to play that like a game of checkers. Screw the turn order, you select one unit, then move or shoot or assault, and then your opponent does the same thing. If you completely destroy an enemy unit then you can immediately move/shoot/assault again (get to the other side of the board to turn that unit into the Yncarne).

    ReplyDelete