Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Gathering Storm: Fracture of Biel-Tan Part 3 - Formations, Detachments, Psychic Powers (Warhammer 40,000 Supplement Review)

So, welcome to the second half of the rules now we're done with the units. Unlike Cadia, there is actually a great deal more to work with here this time. What we have isn't so much a single jumbled combination of almost everything, and is instead a proper blend of various different choices. Even as someone who has repeatedly confessed to having a personal dislike over these aspects, I won't deny that this is definitely the better choice to go with on the whole. Sure, it's still effectively rewarding people bonus powers for using pre-designed lists, but at least this time it's something which doesn't cover whole armies at a time.

So, with that over and done with, let's finish off the rules starting with its formations.


Now, this is just going to focus upon those newly introduced into this book. While the armybook does recycle and mix together a vast number of other choices from each codex from this race, the new ones are the most interesting options. Plus, barring rare exceptions, new books are judged by new content, not the stuff they've picked out from past works.

Triumvirate of Ynnead

This is more or less the mirror image of the Triumvirate of the Imperium from the last book, mashing together the three big heroes, at least in terms of general role. The idea is that each of them once again combines their abilities into a single near-unstoppable advancing force, with each covering their blind spots. Their abilities and beneficial extra rules differ, but the idea is very much the same despite this.

The big special rule present here this time serves both to make them a linchpin for an army and buff their durability to new heights. In particular, the various models gain +1 to their Champion/Herald/Avatar roles, at least when all three are on the tabletop. This, unfortunately, makes sense but also makes them damn near unstoppable as the Yncarne can now re-roll wounds on a 2+ while the others can do the same on a 3+. As a brief aside, the test games against this army proved that massed high Strength firepower was effectively the only way to take them down at this point, and required enough lascannons to level a city. The second rules, which are admittedly much closer to the Imperium option, is that everyone within 12" of two of these foes gains Fearless, or all allied Eldar units if all three are on here at once.

It's definitely a juggernaut option, but it's also the point when these rules step over the line from "extremely tough and borderline easy mode" or "okay, now you're just mocking us".

Aeldari Bladehost

This is the first of several choices on here which effectively just takes the gimmick of having Craftworld and Dark Eldar along with Harlequins in the same army and runs with it. In this case, we have two units of Wyches, two units of Troupes, and two squads of Guardians from either variety.

If you've not guessed, this is basically a force with some basic fodder to distract them from the more fragile forces which back them up. It also has a very big close combat focus, requiring several units to team up and mob into combat. If you have two units at once in melee they gain Hatred, and with three  they gain Preferred Enemy.

Honestly, this is pretty dull on the whole as it's a very basic upgrade which is almost standard for every last book. There's nothing especially wrong with it of course, but when you see these two rules showing up as a basic upgrade in just about every single book, it stops becoming special and starts becoming a creative crutch after a while. The much bigger bonus here seems to be the fact that all units here can use Soulburst as a single force, which is insanely beneficial thanks to the Wytches' fragility and the Guardians' short range. The problem is that it's not entirely clear if this refers to the unit itself though, so you could potentially have one unit from this formation die and everyone else in it gain Soulburst. Normally this is something which would be brushed off as insane, but after Codex: Eldar Craftworlds damn near anything is possible.

So, either this is very basic with a few almost basic bonuses by today's standards, or horribly, insanely broken. It all depends on what the Errata might say in the future.

Soulbound Vanguard

This is surprisingly very similar to the Bladehost, albeit with something of an upgrade in terms of unit choices. So, rather than two squads of Guardians we have Dire Avengers, and rather than two units of Harlequins we have one squad of Incubi, with one squad of Wyches to back them up. If two squads are within 7" of one another they gain Furious Charge, and each unit is now capable of Soulbursting within 14" of another destroyed unit. Unfortunately, this is still somewhat ambiguous as to whether or not this counts for units from the same formation, but even without that it's a major benefit and makes for a very effective core to your army.

There is also a big emphasis on throwing the Visarch or Yvraine into the formation as well, as the squad with them immediately gains +1 to their Balliastic and Weapons Skills. So, yeah, this makes the Incubi incredibly tough and exceptionally effective shock troops. If you're after this army, this is probably the formation you'd do well to pick above all others.

Ynnead's Net

This is the high speed assault option, and the choice which will leave Saim Hann players screaming in sheer ecstasy. What you have here this time combined together four Warlocks on bikes, a unit of Skyweavers, a squad of Reavers, and one unit of Jetbikes Windriders. This is also, somewhat uniquely, also the psychic heavy choice this time around, as the big bonus rules here allow it to act as a kind of life force vampire. If the formation (any one of it) kills off an enemy squad, the Warlocks instantly gain an extra psychic dice for the next turn.

The squads start in reserve, so this makes for some very, very nasty flanking attacks if a player knows what they're doing. Especially as, what many took note of, they can all arrive and show up at once with a single reserve role. However, the one very odd and extremely irksome element which will make some people hesitant to pick this up, will be its reserve limitations. Rather than having everyone come on from one table edge, each one comes on from a different one. On the one hand, this arguably makes them better at exploiting certain opportunities and making kills to buff the Warlocks. On the other, this makes it much easier to pick off the squads and will likely leave one stuck away from the battle for the first couple of turns.

Ultimately, this could be a very effective choice in the right hands, but it's very much left to the whims of the dice at many points.

Whispering Ghost Hall

So, with the psychic and fast choices rolled into a single option, it shouldn't surprise you to learn that the big one is next. You know the exact kind, the one which throws almost everything together into a single army, permitting them to all benefit from special rules and hit that much harder. In this case, what we have is almost Iyanden Mk. 2, as it relies extremely heavily upon Wraith units and is dominated almost entirely by Craftworld choices. You have a Farseer, a Spiritseer, one Shadowseer, two Wraithlords, and three units of either Wraithguard or Wraithblades depending upon what you feel like taking.

While there are no Soulburst bonuses with this one (thankfully, given the Wraithguard options) it does still come with a few eyebrow raising options here. The big one is the fact that anything and everything within this formation is permitted to re-roll ones when attacking a foe within 12". This would be bad enough given the Strength D weapons the Wraithguard now wield, but the wording also doesn't specify that this needs to be for shooting. So, you also have Wraithlords re-rolling ones in melee, which is a wince-worthy bonus if ever there was one.

What's a lesser bonus here, albeit a very helpful one against certain fodder units, is the fact it upgrades each unit within the formation with Fear. This makes it useful as a line-breaker against the Tau Empire (if you can get them close enough at least) given it forces a -2 penalty to their Leadership tests, but it can be somewhat situational. So, in the end you're left with one extremely hard hitting rule and one somewhat useful one.

On the whole, the new choices here are certainly quite mixed. We have seen far, far worse but none are what I would personally call "good" as each seems to take one step back for every one forwards. Few really add anything of real tactical note for the armies, and while a few are interesting, they seem extremely gimmicky in terms of their design. All in all, it's not great but it could be far, far worse. Which is exactly what we're going to see next.


Reborn Warhost

Oh sweet merciful Khorne. If there was one thing to say about Codex: Eldar Craftworlds, it was that the core detachment wasn't that bad in the grand scheme of things. While the rest of the units might have been powerful bordering upon sheer insanity, there was some restraint shown there. With this one, not so much.

While the force is limited to the expected HQ and two Troops choices, it starts to quickly go off of the rails either due to poor wording or just generally odd choices. For example, a big one many previous reviewers have cited is how the detachment can accept any number of formations, as it states "one of the following" when it comes to the table, only to quickly follow it up with "any number" of formations when it cites restrictions. So, welcome to the formation spam list from hell.

Things only get worse when you get to the actual special rules, all of which delve deep into the realms of near Grey Knights level madness. For starters, everyone gains Stubborn. Everyone. If they're in this detachment, they have it no matter what. This already mitigates one big potential way to combat their corpse supercharging special rules, but the follow-up takes things several steps further. Any model within 7" of a friendly unit will not flee thanks to wounds inflicted by ranged attacks, and completely ignore morale tests entirely shot of melee combat. Oh, and then the spectral steroids can be spread among the masses if you have more than seven units in this detachment. If you do, well, a single Soulburst can now be spread to two units at a time.

So, not only does this overwhelm the immediate counter for Soulburst - forcing units to fall back and flee to prevent squads repeatedly leapfrogging forwards - but they can both offer fire support and lead their advantages to multiple units at a time.

Gentlemen, we have cheese levels the likes of which God has never seen.

Ulthwe Strike Force Detachment

This is an odd one, more akin to something you would find in Codex: Imperial Agents more than a full armybook. It consists of one Elites choice backed by up to four more Elites choices and not much else. The units present consist of the usual Black versions of standard Troops and Fast Attack choices, and a few bonus rules.

This stuff isn't the sheer raging tide of Cheddar which the past detachment was, but neither is it really outstanding. You have Stubborn again, albeit this isn't quite so bad as it doesn't line up with Soulburst rules, but also Preferred Enemy against all forces of Chaos. Really, any of them, if someone has a love of the Ruinous Powers these guys have a bonus against them. It's not the biggest buff with the normal Storm Guardians and the like, but it's a nice bonus with the heavier hitting options on bikes. It's not bad for flavour and an auxiliary force, but it doesn't really justify the book's purchase on its own.

Psychic Powers

The psychic powers here are unique to this faction, and to give credit where it is due there does seem to have been a push to really make use of the lore. This is supposed to be a very weird, very new combo of thematic elements, and the powers push to at least reflect that in some way.

Primaris - Spirit Hook: With an 18" range and costing a single Warp Charge, this one is based heavily upon Leadership for its damage. If your Leadership stat is equal to that of a foe or more, it hits at Strength 6, but if not it's only at Strength 3, but blocks Armour or Cover saves in either way. This is actually a good choice on the whole, and it's almost something you can use like a psychic melta gun (well, save for the fact it doesn't work on vehicles at all). 

Shield of Ynnead: This is an odd choice to try and supplant another psychic power by offering a weaker version. While it costs only a single Warp Charge, and has a 7" range, it grants only a 6++ Invulnerable save for anything nearby. Compared with Sanctuary's 5++ Invulnerable, it doesn't do much to stand out really. It's better than nothing, bit not one you'd want to take up very often.

Storm of Whispers: This is the shorter range "shotgun" version of the Spirit Hook, which unleashes 2D6 worth of Strength 3 AP2 hits onto an enemy target, which both ignores cover and pinning tests. At the cost of a single Warp Charge there's little to really complain about, but the 9" range means you'll likely only use it once to weaken a target.

Word of the Phoenix: Well, we had to get at least one Soulburst option in here, didn't we. This is fairly basic, allowing you to pick out a unit with Strength of Death within 24", and allows them to instantly take a Soulburst action. Useful in the right circumstances to be sure and it can lead to some fun ideas tactically, and two Warp Charges isn't too much for its capabilities.

Ancestor's Grace: While the Shield might have been a weaker version of another power, this one does the reverse. At the cost of two Warp Charges, you can pick out a single subject, to improve the Weapons Skill, Ballistic Skill, Initiative, Attacks and Leadership, while also offering them Adamantium Will. Having used this a few times personally, this is a very fun and very useful one, permitting units to abruptly Hulk out at will. Really, you can suddenly have melees turn into complete routs within seconds if you can get it off.

Unbind Souls: This is another Witchfire choice here, though only hitting at Strength 4. It's an odd one, as it permits you to get off one shot at the target unit for every model it has. For every casualty removed from them, it offers a nearby unit a single Soulburst action. So, yes, this could be utterly insane if you can manage to set this up properly. That is, however, an exceptionally big if when all things are considered.

Gaze of Ynnead: Well, this isn't one we've seen in a while: The psychic railgun. You know the kind, short ranged (12" in this case), costs three Warp Charges and hits like a train. In this case it's not Strength D at least but Strength 10 AP1 Assault 1, but it comes with the bonuses of Ignores Cover and blocks Invulnerable Saves. This would be horrendous, but it can't be used in melee and you can still miss with your one shot. Even if you get it off as well, that's still three Warp Charges you've lost.


Largely the same as the lore really. There are a couple of halfway decent ideas present at points, but for the most part this is fairly unremarkable or veers right into cheese country. This is likely going to be used more for the detachment and army special rules more than anything else, and it's certainly not going to help even things out at the Eldar end of the meta spectrum any time soon.

With that done, join us for the final part where we look into the potential fixes for the core story.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe the writers got the memo to buff the Tyranids and nerf the Eldar mixed up? That's the only explanation that I can think of for why they have such ridiculous benefits now. Soulburst's pretty powerful, but having a psychic abilities to trigger Soulburst automatically is too much, especially when you have combinations that let it affect 2-6 units per Soulburst.

    To make matters worse is that somebody pointed out to me the new rules stack ridiculously with the old formations, which means the formation that gives Wraiths Strength from Death still gives them Battle Focus for a ridiculously mobile Wraith force, one that's now so much faster than the regular units.

    At this point the Reborn Warhost is more of a "Sure, why not?" Sort of thing. They've already buffed them so much why not just add in a detachment that can also consist of Formations? I shouldn't be surprised to find that they forgot to add a bit that says the second unit that can Soulburst must also be within 7" of the destroyed unit, so if you have something like two Aeldari Bladehosts then both formations can Soulburst at the same time so long as only one of them is eligible, allowing you to get a free extra turn for 12 units!

    Aside from the Word of the Pheonix and Unbind Souls I'm actually kind of surprised that the Psychic Powers are so restrained. Gaze of Ynnead lacks the Instant Death rule so everything that it can work on should be in a unit (and so it'll get deflected to another model) while all the monstrous creatures you might want to use it on will be T6, on average anyway. Maybe it'll be useful against armies that like to spam ridiculous invuln saves, but one shot only and WC3 makes that kind of a hard sell.