Join the Black Parade: Reviewing Gathering Storm II – the Fracture of Biel-tan

There are some serious changes afoot in the 40K setting – Cadia has fallen, the Damocles Gulf is literally on fire, and the Space Wolf vs. Thousand Sons slugfest is back after 10,000 years.

Enter, as always, the Eldar.

First off, a disclaimer: This book speaks to my soul. My Eldar army is themed around a group of Corsairs who are former Craftworlders, who got tired of running and have turned around to fight in the last moments of their dying race. Way back when WHFB End Times was a thing, the Preferred Enemies podcast asked what we wanted out of a hypothetical 40K End Times and this is the last two lines of what I wrote to them on Oct. 5, 2014:

And now is the time for the Eldar counter-attack, a final thrust to try and end She Who Thirsts before their race is gone from the galaxy completely.

The Eldar deciding not to go out with a whimper, but a bang.

GW has basically just given me my fluff dream, all gift-wrapped in a nice little bow. I am going to do my level best not to let that color my review of the book as a whole, but I thought it best to lay that out there.

The Fluff:

I’m not going to do a blow-by-blow accounting of the fluff, but I will touch on some of the highlights and my thoughts on it. As with previous reviews…spoilers follow.

Eldar Permeability: As I suggested in a post , a while back the divisions between the Eldar are not as rigid as some think they are, and Yvraine’s backstory helps cement that – while she may be somewhat exceptional as an individual, she was sliding between Eldar, Corsair, and Dark Eldar societies well before her ascension. Similarly, given compelling enough cause, all can unite beneath a single banner. They are, after all, all facets of the Eldar of old.

Similarly, the story not only touches on nearly every aspect of Eldar life, but one three Craftworlds, Commorragh, a Maiden World, a Croneworld, the Webway…and includes nearly every named Eldar character. I said above that this is almost the fluff I’d write if I dreamed to write it – but if I had, I wouldn’t have dared use this many special characters. Jain Zar, Eldrad, Lelith Hesperax, Iyanna Arienal, Yriel – and in what’s arguably the crescendo of the story, the full force of the Phoenix Lords.

And I’ll admit it, when the Farseers of Ulthwe finally called Eldrad on his shit, I was more than a little amused.

Mass Casualties: There’s a scene in the opening section of the book where Yvraine sacrifices the better part of a corsair fleet to make her escape from Commorragh – leaving them to a rather horrible fate. The Dark City itself is swamped with Daemons and Tyranids. A Craftworld’s infinity matrix is corrupted by The Masque. An ambush by Ahriman and his allies ends up costing thousands of Eldar lives. Beyond just the imagery used in the book, there’s an aura of death and cost that pervades the narrative in a way that conveys the stakes of things way more than the casual mentioning of the destruction of an entire Space Marine company or regiment of guard from Fall of Cadia do not.

More Setup: Beyond the ending, which leads directly to Gathering Storm III – Roboute’s Big Adventure, there are a ton of little plot seeds here that give plenty of room for future developments. Lady Malys is moved into a position where she can more directly make a run at Vect. A massive snake-bodied something is off slaughtering Guardsmen with Lucius the Eternal – a tantalizing reference in the era of Daemon Primarchs.

Ahriman has been given a taste of his redemption. And the Eldar are far from united behind the Ynnari. Unlike some of the End Times fiction, I’d assert that the Fracture of Biel-tan is giving GW more room to craft compelling narratives, rather than narrowing them.

A Heroine’s Journey: I have to say I found the arc of the Fracture of Biel-tan more compelling than most GW campaign books, because rather than following a single massive battle that goes from bad to worse, it genuinely follows an arc. We start with a single, intensely violent woman in an arena. And then a small band. An ambush in the Webway, and a Maiden World defiled. We visit Biel-tan, and then Ulthwe, and then the Webway again. It isn’t a battle, it’s a journey, beset by foes – mostly The Masque, but not exclusively.

Another pleasant surprise in this category is that no one is carrying the idiot ball. One of my complaints about the recent Tau campaigns, as well as Warzone: Fenris was that they were somewhat predicated on one faction acting with sheer, blind stupidity. That’s not the case here – the Masque’s plan seem suitably manipulative, the Eldar neither infallible nor dupes, and at the long last, the Imperials neither overly trusting nor blindly antagonistic. It’s a nice change of pace.

 The fluff…was not a letdown. There are some places where it drags a bit, but overall, it’s nearly everything I looked for in a campaign book, and I found it far easier reading than some others.

The Rules:

As with the Fall of Cadia there are some substantial new rules here – I’d argue potentially more influential for players of the various Eldar factions (I’m not going to type Aeldari more than once…) than the Fall of Cadia changes were for the Imperium.

Missions

Like all recent campaign books, there’s a number of Echoes of War missions. They’re all characterful, and most of them are adaptable to other settings if you remove the fixed army composition requirements, but they are not, necessarily, in any way balanced. I find the Echoes of War missions fun, and I’m particularly interested in two of the missions: one about breaching an ancient webway portal, which seems like a great way to kick off a narrative campaign, and one focusing on a series of linked skirmishes in capillaries of the Webway, where your forces are split among three battlefields and must secure and move between them.

 New Psychic Discipline

Fracture of Biel-tan introduces a new psychic power for the Eldar, the Revenant discipline:

  • “Spirit Hook”: The Warp Charge 1 Primaris power provides an 18″ focused witchfire power at Strength 6 if the caster’s leadership is higher and Strength 3 if not, with no armor or cover saves allowed. Due to that, it doesn’t work on vehicles. Given that the two major characters who might be expected to run Revenant are Ld 10 and can be expected to be close-in with the enemy, it’s a decent power for reliability.
  • “Shield of Ynnead”: Another Warp Charge 1 power, this is a blessing that targets the Psycher, and which grants a 6+ Invulnerable save in a 7″ bubble. Notably, this doesn’t stack, and almost all Eldar psykers already have an invulnerable save (I can’t think of one that doesn’t…), so this is primarily to boost a unit up to having a 6++. Handy enough in a pinch, but I have the feeling it’ll be a fairly low priority.
  • “Storm of Whispers”: A Warp Charge 1 nova power with a 9″ range at S3, AP2, Assault 2d6 with Pinning and Ignores Cover. An interesting option that will do a number on nearby infantry units before a Revenant-powered psyker and their unit close.
  • “Word of the Phoenix”: Heading into Warp Charge 2, this power simply targets a unit with the Strength from Death special rule within 24″ (we’ll get to that rule later) and lets them take a Soulburst action (we’ll get to that too…). If you’re running the combined Ynnari faction this is potentially an immensely useful power, and if you’re not (as you can field the special Triumverate characters in a standard Eldar, Dark Eldar, or Harlequin army) it’s a touch useless. But in those cases, you can trade this in for the Primaris and take a power from another discipline.
  • “Ancestor’s Grace”: A Warp Charge 2 blessing that can target a non-vehicle unit within 14″ and boost it’s WS, BS, Initiative, Attacks and Ld, as well as granting Adamantium Will. That is, to be frank, one hell of a buff if it’s applied to the right unit. Some Dire Avengers expecting to be charged next turn could have a field day with this, as could a number of dedicated close combat units.
  • “Unbind Souls”: A Warp Charge 2 witchfire with 12″ range, this one is interesting. It’s S4, AP -, Assault* and has Soulreap. The * is there intentionally – unbind souls does a number of shots equal to the number of models in the enemy unit. Fire this into a Green Tide, a Guard Blob, etc. and giggle. Soulreap lets you do a Soulburst action on a friendly unit within 7″ of the target unit if any models in the target unit are slain. That’s a lot of conditions, but if you line it up right on a big unit, this could potentially be a really crippling blow – and again, is only useful if you’re planing Ynnari.
  • “Gaze of Ynnead”: At an expensive Warp Charge 3, this witchfire power has a 12″ range and is S10, AP1, Assault 1, Ignores Cover and has Inescapable, which disallows invulnerable saves. It’s a big hit, but a single one and fairly expensive, though if someone is lone-rangering a T5 MC or character and relying on their invulnerable save, it could be hilarious.

All told – a pretty decent discipline if you’re looking for something Eldar flavored casting that’s more aggressive and less subtle than the traditional powers. It’s most useful using the new faction rules, but if you toss in one of the Triumverate characters, who are restricted to this discipline or Sanctic Daemonology, it’s hardly a drag on them, especially as both caster characters are designed for close-in aggression.

Special Characters

There are three special characters who, like their Fall of Cadia brethren, can either be part of the new combined Eldar faction, or can be taken in Eldar, Dark Eldar and Harlequin armies. Importantly, this means there is now an HQ for the Harlequins, which allows them to be taken in a CAD or Allied Detachment. This is something I’ve been waiting for a long time – it’s relatively hard to “splash in” a small number of Harlequins using the main codex while keeping Battle Forged. I’ve often wanted to use a unit of Skyweavers to escort my Autarch around, but that’s always been a very hefty point investment in random other Harlequin units to fulfill formation requirements. Not so much anymore.

Yvraine: Coming in at 200 points, Yvraine is an interesting creature. She’s built with the statline similar to that of a Succubus, with WS and BS 8, three wounds and four attacks at Initiative 8 but with paper-thin 6+ armor (though she has a 4++) and S and T 3. She pairs this with a decent sword that has her hitting at S4, AP3 and with Instant Death, a fair threat to characters not in 2+ armor. She has Eternal Warrior, which should help with the T3.

But more interestingly, her combat stats are supplemented by being a modest caster. She starts at Mastery Level 2, and her Gyrinx allows her to generate an extra d3 warp charges that can only be used by her, so she may be able to use some of the spendy Revenant powers that would otherwise be beyond her reach. She’s also got the Herald of Ynnead special rule, which means whenever an Aeldari model (which is a fancy name for “any Eldar-type”) dies within 7″ of her, she regains a lost wound on a 4+, and if it was a Psyker, she gains 1 Mastery Level and generates a new power (up to ML 4). The Eldar don’t have that many cheap psykers, but a Warlock or two dying nearby means she gets a nice boost, and the overall wound regen makes her more durable than she might first appear. Having only three wounds, I imagine in practice this means she’ll always be topped up, but is in danger of being cut down in a single turn.

The Visarch: At a lighter 150 points, the Visarch remains a dangerous combat character (by Eldar standards) with WS/BS/I 7, 4 attacks, 3 wounds and a 3+ save. He’s also carrying a significantly more dangerous sword, the Sword of Silent Screams, which has him hitting at S5, AP2, and within 3″ of the Visarch enemy units use the lowest Ld in the unit, not the highest. He’s also got a host of special rules, including Eternal Warrior, Precision Strikes, Rampage, and the ability to auto-pass Look Out, Sir! rolls to protect Yvraine.

He also generates a Warlord trait off the faction-specific table (discussed below), but doesn’t count as your warlord. His special “Eldar are dying around me” rule has the same 7″ bubble, and on a 4+, he regains a lost wound, and if that model was a character, his attacks are boosted by one (to a max of 7). I think he’s unlikely to get there in a setting where you’re seeing him at seven attacks but aren’t otherwise losing, but it could be fun. You’ll note I haven’t mentioned an invulnerable save…he doesn’t have one. And to my mind, that’s his biggest problem. He’s a character whose supposed to be deep in combat, but there’s way too much AP3 weaponry out there. Eternal Warrior helps soften the blow of that a little bit (a lucky powerfist isn’t going to end him) but he feels like a beefed up, expensive Sergeant more than a proper character. Using him in that context may be fun.

The Yncarne: The new death-obsessed Eldar get their very own Avatar. At an expensive 275 points, it’s got a serious stat line – WS9, BS7, S/T6, W5, I10,A6 with a 3+ save (and a 5++ for being a…Daemon). It’s also a ML3 psyker that can generate powers from the Revenant or Sanctic Daemonology disciplines, and is carrying a sword that grants it AP2, Fleshbane, Armorbane and Soul Blaze, making the Yncarne pretty dangerous to anything on the field. It also dishes out a bubble around it of Fearless and Feel No Pain in a 12″ bubble.

But where the Yncarne really gets interesting is the Inevitable Death rule. Essentially, the Yncarne must be placed in Deep Strike Reserve, but every time a unit is destroyed, the Yncarne can appear as close as possible to that unit’s position (keeping the usual 1″ bubble away from enemy models). It can’t charge the turn it does this, but that’s a ludicrously fast redeployment. It too gains wounds from dying Aeldari, but on a 3+, albeit with no other interesting effects. But keeping a large unit nearby to act as a battery may keep it alive when, like the Avatar of Khaine, it’s somewhat vulnerable to being shot down by volume of fire. I think the biggest power of the Yncarne it to be the world’s fanciest “distraction Carnifex”. It’s not necessarily hyper-dangerous on it’s own, but Inevitable Death means you can push right up into someone’s face, and if they don’t deal with you, there is a serious combat threat that’s now in position to do some harm. Making your opponent make choices they otherwise wouldn’t make is a powerful ability all on its own. The biggest stumbling block to this though is that, like the Avatar, the Yncarne is a Lord of War choice, which means for most folks they’re looking at the choice between it and a Wraithknight, and the Wraithknight is too good to easily pass up.

The Triumvirate: And what if you took a look at these characters, all of whom have spectacular models dripping with character and a mix of Dark and Craftworld elements, and said “I’ll take them all”?

Fielding them as a formation gives all Ynnari units (we’ll discuss what that means below – this book is a little complex) Fearless if they’re within 12″ of two models, and if all three are alive, everyone gets Fearless. Additionally, they can now add one to their rolls, meaning the Yncarne is regenerating wounds on a 2+ and the others on a 3+. A pretty classic formation ruleset: take the schtick of the units involved and make them better.

Overall? I think they’re interesting units, though considerably less “Point and Click” than their Imperial analogs. Celestine is clearly a self-healing combat character, Caul a monster-tank, and the entire decision tree for Greyfax is “Did you want to take an Inquisitor and like her powers? If yes, take her. If no, don’t.” With the various members of the Triumvirate of Ynnead, there’s somewhat more finesse and subtly to how they’re used. And while that is…in character…for the Eldar, it’s a mark against them as war game pieces. The only real letdown though, in my mind is the Visarch. Without an invulnerable save, I’m worried he’s a character who will really want to be in close combat, but die when he gets there.

The Ynnari Faction

We’ve now covered what “everyone” can take – dropping Yvraine into your Craftworld Eldar CAD for some more aggressive casting, etc. To go beyond that, we have to look at the new combined faction, the accompanying detachment, and all the rules that go with it.

First, a disclaimer: This gets complicated. There’s already an FAQ for this book, and it’s needed. The rules here are cool, but they’re also a mess. I foresee many a TO giving this book serious side-eye.

Fracture of Biel-tan creates a new faction, the Ynnari, which are Battle Brothers with the various existing Eldar groups, and Allies of Convenience with the Tau and Imperium, Desperate Allies with the Orks, and pretty much hate everyone else. Basically, Ynnari units are created by Eldar-type units that leave to join Yvraine’s madcap quest to raise a god and kill another. They lose Ancient Doom, Battle Focus and Power from Pain, if they have them. How much this hurts likely depends on your army. For example, I have a Guardian and Aspect Warrior heavy Eldar force, so losing Battle Focus stings a lot, whereas a Windrider heavy force doesn’t care. Similarly, my fragile, Kabalite-heavy Dark Eldar don’t benefit from Power from Pain all that much, so losing it doesn’t really carry much weight.

What they get in exchange is the Strength from Death special rule. Essentially, whenever a unit is destroyed within 7″ of a unit or units with models with only this special rule (so no, you don’t pick it up just for dropping the Visarch into something for example), you pick one unit that’s not locked in combat, fleeing or Gone to Ground and they can take a Soulburst action. Your options for Soulburst actions are all “Do an extra something” – so you can move as if its the movement phase, shoot (or Run or Turbo-boost) as if it’s the shooting phase, or make a charge move that begins at the current initiative step.

That’s powerful. Really quite powerful. But it requires setup, and isn’t reliable – adding variability is always risky. The internet is aflame with the imagined power this holds, but keep in mind some caveats, especially the range – 7″. One of the first things I hear from people discussing this is “You could blow up a Rhino and then the squad inside it!” And while this is true, consider how many Eldar units want to be within 7″ when they blow up a Rhino. There are some, to be sure, but getting into 7″ of your opponents is pretty much the opposite of what a lot of Eldar want to be.

Consider also that the unit needs to be destroyed, not merely badly mangled. Below is the likelihood that a unit of Scatter Laser armed Windriders of various sizes destroys two fairly common units: a Rhino, and a combat squad of Space Marines.

Killing a Rhino is a chancy proposition with the classic MSU three-jetbike squad, and doesn’t hit genuine reliability until the unit size hits five, and even then the probability of not popping the Rhino is a little higher than failing a single 2+ save – something everyone is familiar with.

The odds are even worse for a combat squad – they’re wounded more easily, but the 3+ save they get from Powered Armor is a problem. Even a seven-bike squad is looking at an only marginally better than 50/50 chance of wiping them off the map in a single go. And there’s the fundamental problem with Soulburst – coming up just short means you don’t get anything at all, and for units with any sort of durability,  it’s very hard to ensure they’re completely wiped out. Not impossible of course, and it’s likely that a second squad could mop up and then use Soulburst to still do what you planned them to do, but Strength from Death is hardly “All Eldar get their actions/turn doubled.”

This too adds variability. I spoke briefly about how the meta adapts on a theoretical basis here, and if Ynnari armies become popular I could see this adding pressure on the part of other players away from MSU to prevent easy Soulbursts, and on the part of the Eldar player towards multiple medium-sized units (MMU I suppose…) in order to balance getting the most out of Soulbursts while not having so few units that they’ll be wasted.

And like any faction, they get their own Warlord Traits and Artifacts…

Warlord Traits:

Keep in mind for these that, in addition to your Warlord, if you take the Visarch he gets one as well.

  • “Lord of Rebirth”: Your Warlord gets It Will Not Die
  • “Warden of Forgotten Wisdom”: If your Warlord is a Psyker, you can select your powers. It’s a handy power to have, especially if dabbling outside the Revenant discipline, to make sure you get the power you want. Kindly, if not you can re-roll this power, which is a nice change from the occasional useless Warlord Trait that comes with other tables.
  • “Walker of Many Paths”:  Each turn your warlord can choose from Furious Charge, Hit and Run and Move Through Cover.
  • “Master of Death”: To Wound rolls of 6 from the Warlord’s attacks become Instant Death.
  • “Ruthless Commander”: The warlord grants a 7″ bubble of Fearless to Ynnari units.
  • “Favored of Ynnead”: The Warlord and their unit’s radius for being eligible for Soulburst actions is doubled to 14″.

There’s some profoundly powerful abilities in there – and as usual some which are a little redundant, either with formation bonuses (discussed below), wargear, etc. And how might your warlord be equipped? The artifact options are discussed below:

  • “Corag Hai’s Locket”: For 15 points, the Warlord gets a 4+ roll to regain a lost wound when they kill one or more enemy models in the Fight subphase.  A low-rent version of the various special character abilities.
  • “Hungering Blade”: Another 15 point artifact, this one is a melee weapon that’s fairly dull…S User, AP -, Fleshbane, and Blessing of Yvraine, which restores any lost wounds if it slays an Aeldari model. A specialized weapon to say the least, I can’t see this being used outside fixed narrative games.
  • “The Lost Shroud”: A dark version of the old Mantle of the Laughing God, this artifact removes Independent Character, and grants Eternal Warrior, Feel No Pain, and It Will Not Die. For 35 points, that’s an interesting addition to a dedicated character who won’t need to be hopping between units.
  • “Mirrorgaze”: For 30 points, the Warlord has Blind, Counter-attack and Night Vision. Of the artifacts, this one seems the most straightforward – if these appeal, buy the artifact. If not, don’t.
  • “Song of Ynnead”: A cheap artifact at 10 points, it’s an 18″ pistol at S1, AP5, Bladestorm, Poison(2+), and Deathsong, which makes a unit that has suffered a casualty from this weapon take a Morale check. A fairly cheap option to the standard Shuriken Pistol, with no real downside if you have the points and nothing better for them.
  • “Soulsnare”:  Basically a 25 point, one-use bomb. Toss it up to 8″, and get a S3, AP2, Assault Blast with Instant Death.

Nothing here really set me on fire and strikes me as a “must have” – but the only true dud is the Hungering Blade, at least in most circumstances. But the Eldar have never relied on artifacts for most of their builds, and that remains the case.

Tactical Objectives:

Maelstrom is my favorite way to play 40K, and I think the army specific Maelstrom missions add a lot to things, and definitely end up with my Eldar playing differently than my Space Wolves. The Ynnari have their own set that, as usual, replace the 11-16 results:

  • Spirit Sanctuary: Roll a d6. Score 1 VP at the end of your turn if no enemy units control that objective marker.
  • Harness the Spirits: Score 1 VP at the end of your turn if you manifested a psychic power from the Revenant discipline.
  • For Ynnead’s Glory: Score 1 VP at the end of your turn if three or more units were completely destroyed during your turn (note it does not say enemy units…melee combats going bad, Peril’s of the Warp, etc. look to count).
  • Surety of Purpose: Score d3 VP at the end of your turn if you have achieved at least two other Tactical Objectives this turn. This is one of those missions that I refer to as “If you’re already winning, win harder”. But it may take out some of the sting of feeding a unit into a doomed combat to get Ynnead’s Glory or the like.
  • Death’s Every Visage: Similar to one of the Eldar objectives, you get 1 VP for destroying a unit in the Pychic, Shooting or Assault phase, and d3 if you take out a unit in all three.
  • Soulsurge: Score 1 VP at the end of your turn for each of your units that performed a Soulburst action, up to a maximum of 6. This, combined with the Revenant power and some low-effort enemy units is potentially devastating.

Reborn Warhost:

Who can be in a Reborn Warhost? The short version?

Seriously…the gates have been thrown open. The Reborn Warhost detachment involves: 1-2 HQs, 0-3 Heavy Support, 0-3 Elites, 2-6 Troops, 0-3 Fast Attack, and 0-1 Lords of War, plus a whole mess of formations. It’s easier to say what isn’t there: Coven units. Urien or a generic Haemonculus are nowhere to be seen, and neither are Wracks, Grotesques, or the various Pain Engines. This is an army for “Elf-y” Eldar, and fluffwise, the Covens want absolutely nothing to do with something that can cause them to be for-reals, perma-dead. The Avatar of Khaine is also missing – his followers are still aligned with their Craftworld and haven’t broken out the red and black paint yet.

Also missing, of course, are Forge World units. If there’s interest, I’ll work on an unofficial patch for including them in this list.

In addition to being the world’s biggest Eldar Pick-n-Mix, the detachment comes with some rules: the usual “Your warlord can re-roll if picking from the dedicated Warlord Trait table”, Our Souls We Entrust which gives them universal Stubborn and lets units within 7″ of another unit from this detachment ignore the Morale check from taking 25% losses, and Warhost of Ynnead, which lets you select one additional unit to take a Soulburst action each time a unit is destroyed if the detachment includes 7 or more units. Those are handy, both for keeping your units on the table and for amplifying the results of early Soulburst actions.

Now…the moment everyone read that there was a combined faction, there was immediate rejoicing – the Dark Eldar Taxi Service was back in business! Wraithguard in Raiders for Everyone!

Games Workshop has been quick to shut this down in the FAQ:

Ynnari models have two Factions (except in the
case of Yvraine, the Visarch and the Yncarne, who only have one). You must consider both of their Factions to determine their levels of Alliance and which Transports they may be embarked on at the beginning of the
game. For example, an Eldar/Ynnari unit shares the same Factions as other Eldar/Ynnari, but is of different Factions from (though Battle Brothers with) Dark Eldar/Ynnari and Harlequins/Ynnari. An Eldar/Ynnari unit can therefore only begin the game embarked if it is embarked on an Eldar/Ynnari vehicle.

This is…a horrible ruling. Not for the effect, but for the logic behind it. Is a Dark Eldar/Ynnari unit Desperate Allies or Allies of Convenience with a Tau force? Can my army now seriously have different units that are different levels of friendly with an allied force?

I feel like this was pretty clearly “Start at the answer we want and then back into the rules”, and I think that’s a bad idea. It also kills a number of potentially interesting builds (like Harlequins or Banshees in Raiders) in order to hold off a combo that, when it could be used, was certainly dangerous, but not game-breakingly so. That’s disappointing, especially for a book that’s otherwise been pushing the Eldar to get closer in.

Formations:

Along with the mega-detachment, there are now some formations, with for adding a splash of Death Elves to your army or to tack onto the main detachment. Each is pretty much themed around a “type” of unit and then mixing from all three source codexes, with…mixed effect.

  • Soulblade Vanguard: Two units of Dire Avengers, 1 unit of Incubi and 1 unit of Wyches. Units in this formation get +1 to WS and BS while joined by the Visarch and/or Yvraine, have Furious Charge if they’re within 7″ of a fellow unit, and get Soulburst in a 14″ bubble rather than 7″. My usual disappointment with Wyches notwithstanding, one can see how, if everyone’s mounted, the Dire Avengers and their Wave Serpents could shield the more fragile Raider/Venoms, and then lay down fire for the Dark Eldar units to charge, all while boosting their Strength via Furious Charge. It’s a lot of moving parts to get to work though.
  • Aeldari Bladehost: Two units of Wyches (tax hike!), 2 units of Storm Guardians or Black Guardians (to be discussed below), and 2 Troupes. They have two special rules. United in Life which gives them Hatred if two units are locked in combat with the same foe, and Hatred & Preferred Enemy if three of them are. United in Death – before you nominate a unit in this formation to take a Soulburst action, you can declare they’re “United in Death” and the action then applies to all units in the Formation. This only works one per turn, and only if no unit in the formation has used Soulburst already. This is an interesting way to close – move during your movement phase, try to thin the field by shooting and then hoping for another Soulburst to let you move again before launching everyone into a charge. Or, I suppose if you’ve successfully blended a unit down to little bits of red goo, eeking out some extra shooting. My primary concern, as always, is these units surviving long enough to arrive.
  • Ynnead’s Net: All the Jetbikes. 1 Warlock Conclave (all on jetbikes), 1 unit of Windriders, 1 unit of Reavers, and 1 unit of Skyweavers. The rest of the units act as a battery for the Warlocks – when a unit is destroyed from this formation, or destroys a unit, the Warlocks generate an additional warp charge the next psychic phase. They also arrive as one, coming in on  single reserve roll, which you can reroll. When they do, they each come in on a different table edge. That’s certainly an interesting idea – deploying into the flanks and rear with more aggressive units while firebase squads like Scatterpacks move into safer positions. The Warlocks have the chance to be used somewhat more aggressively here with the Revenant discipline, and some careful targeting and good rolls for powers could mean using the Warlocks and Scatterpack being able to feed Soulburst points to more forward units. It also has the bonus of really disrupting the notion that there’s a “front” when battling Eldar, which is always fun. My one lament is that I can’t join an Autarch to this unit.
  • Whispering Ghost Hall: A super-Psyker + Wraith combination. One each of Farseers, Shadowseers and Spiritseers, 2 Wraithlords, plus 3 units of Wraithguard or Wraithblades. Another way for the Iyanden fans to get their mostly pure Wraith armies on, they get Fear (meh), Reborn Souls which lets them re-roll To Hit rolls of 1 within 12″ of a character, and Spirit Whispers, which puts enemy units locked in combat with units from this formation at -2 Ld to their Fear tests. To those susceptible to fear this is pretty dangerous, but if you look at it from a competitive sense, between just Chaos Daemons, KDK, Knights and the various armies with And They Shall Know No Fear, roughly 40% of the field at the LVO ignored fear entirely.

Forces of Ulthwe

Last up is the reappearance of the Ulthwe army that was also in the Eye of Terror campaign book back in the day, representing a deployment of the Craftworld’s “Black Guardians”. It’s kind of an odd duck, being an Eldar faction army that can only be taken in a very specific formation or the new Reborn Warhost.

Basic Rules:

Because they are, at the core, Eldar units, they come with Ancient Doom and Battle Focus (though they’ll lose it if they become part of a Roborn Warhost). They also have the Webway Assault special rule, which makes units composed entirely of models with that special rule capable of arriving via Deep Strike, and when they do so they don’t scatter but cannot be placed within 9″ of an enemy model. There are three types of units, all of them variants of the standard Guardian types:

  • Black Guardians. An Elite choice that comes in at 11 points/model, so slightly more expensive than either Storm Guardians or Guardian Defenders, but with identical stat lines. They lose the ability to take a Warlock, but as I read it, gain the ability to be a little bit mixed in their composition – they can swap out their Shuriken Catapults for pistols and swords for free, and then take the usual power sword and/or flamer/fusion gun upgrades Storm Guardians get. Additionally, for every 10 Black Guardians with shuriken catapults, you can take the usual Heavy Weapon platform upgrade. As I read it that “may” means you could take a squad of mixed Catapult and Pistol/CC Guardians, which would mean large squads of these guys could pack a pretty mean punch at short range. Note that there’s some debate whether this is possible, or the mechanism is purely for switching between Storm and Defender pattern Guardians. If it’s the latter, they’re somewhat less compelling, but still a decent delivery system for large blobs of units with Bladestorm.
  • Black Guardian Windriders. Elite Windriders who again are missing their Warlock, but three points more expensive per model. These guys are basically identical, save for the ability to Deep Strike. Unless you really want Shuriken Cannon jetbikes, I don’t know that I’d bother.
  • Black Guardian Vyper Squadron. Vypers make me sad – I want to love them, but they’re so fragile. These guys are just as fragile, and pay an extra 5 points/Vyper for Deep Striking. Again, unless you want to play with some vicious volume of fire concepts involving shuriken weaponry, I don’t know that you get much from this.
  • Black Guardian War Walkers. War Walkers, but more exp…you get the idea. Five more points for Deep Strike – though unlike Vypers, I can see the appeal as I’ve occasionally had remarkable luck using War Walkers to foul up standard infantry units by getting into close combat with them.

All of that being said – I think the ability to Deep Strike guardians is pretty cool – Guardians are really pretty dangerous at 12″ or less, but suffer from difficulty getting there – problem solved. I don’t know that I’d use this detachment much, but inside the Reborn Warhost I could see deepstriking a big group of them and then trying to use a Soulburst action to feed them another round of shooting – that’s potentially deadly to any unit in the game, including the big scary units who can still get taken down with Bladestorm. And then, of course, they’ll die, like Guardians do.

The other side of this is to ignore the Ulthwe aspect of things entirely. One of my interests is trying to represent Corsair forces without using the Forge World books (as they go out of date with some regularity). “My dudes just appear out of nowhere and start shooting” is pretty Corsair-y, and for friendly games, I might be willing to pay the extra points for it.

Ulthwe Strike Force: Everything in the limited Ulthwe list are Elite choices, and the Ulthwe Strike Force detachment is…1-4 Elite choices. They get Stubborn and Preferred Enemy against…well…Chaos generally, and if you take four units, you can start rolling for Deep Strike Reserves on Turn 1. A nice little bonus, and I think for narrative gaming, a pretty cool formation.

Overall Impressions

Fluff wise, I love this book. It’s basically everything I wanted from the Eldar’s contribution to the looming crisis that is the 40K universe. I found it readable, less apt to bog down than some older books, and while not to “Forge World Campaign Book” standards, definitely enjoyable. I thought the path toward building a faction as a narrative approach, rather than just “BAM! Planet-wide battle!” was a fun one.

In terms of rules, my feelings are more mixed. I love the feeling of the rules, and the concept, and the ability to mix the formations freely. I’m almost certainly going to field a Ynnari army regularly, which is a good indication of them. But I don’t think the internet’s freakout over Soulburst is quite justified – I think the range limit is a bigger deal than people think it is. I think people are imagining the best case scenario for these things – where you blow up a Rhino and then all of a sudden your opponent’s entire flank is just dead – without figuring out how likely that actually is. But if I was playing a very MSU reliant force – Venom Spam, Drop Scions, Gladius, etc. I might be a little worried.

What I suspect will happen actually is that the Ynnari will fall into two entirely discrete groups. For narrative gaming, this is awesome and you should use it and have fun. For competitive gaming, my guess is in the hands of a very skilled player, who can actually like up some of those nightmare combos, these guys will be extremely powerful. For folks in the middle – my guess is they’re better served by the standard, point-and-click Craftworld Eldar-based builds. And I’d expect to see Triumvirate characters less than say Celestine or Caul, because their applications are much less straightforward and much more specialized.

And what I really don’t want to see? The day two of these armies meet each other, thus both getting Soulburst actions when anyone dies, and the turn system just dissolving into madness. That way lies 40K Calvinball.

Overall Score:

Fluff: 9.5/10, would fracture Craftworld again

Rules: 8/10, solid concept, but tricky and somewhat cumbersome implementation.

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5 Comments


  1. There’s something Nurgle-y about all those 7″ ranges…

    Reply

  2. “This is an interesting way to close – move and run during your movement phase, then hope for a Soulburst action to launch everyone into a charge.”

    Not quite as of the faq- they made a point of mentioning all the normal restrictions on what actions you can take are still in place, meaning no charging after you run. You -could-, however, move in the movement phase, optionally shoot, try to get them a
    soulburst in the shooting phase to then move again, then charge (if you do shoot though you still need to charge the target of the shooting attack- though the extra movement can help close the distance and ensure a successful charge).

    Also, I’d need to take a second look for the exact wording, but regarding the black guardians, I don’t think you can mix and match melee with shooting like you state. I recall thinking you could on first brush, then taking a closer read and determining you can’t the way it’s phrased- though that was a while ago so maybe I need another look.

    Reply

    1. Sara –

      Good catch on the running. I missed that in that they’ve otherwise been fairly permissive in the FAQ – for example, you can run and shoot. I’ll edit that sentence.

      I’ve gone back and forth on the Black Guardians thing – I seriously spent the better part of half an hour debating it. My evidence for it is…tenuous. The “may” in the wording suggests they could opt not to, but the “all” (vs. say “any” as in the Wolf Scouts) suggests that it’s a thing that applies to the whole unit. And the picture above shows a mixed squad, but it also shows an illegal squad. I’ll also add a note saying I think this is unclear.

      Reply

      1. Yeah, it’s tough to say whether they mean “they all have the option to switch” or “they have the option to all switch,” I see where you’re coming from. I think what finally sold me on the idea that they have to do one or the other is the way they handled weapon platforms and special weapons in particular- if they just could permissively swap out only a few for CC weapons and pistols, then it’d be odd to bother setting up that they must specifically trade that load out for a special weapon of you could just swap like, one guy and then swap him again for a special weapon. Which, admittedly, is how I wish they’d done it- allowing more flexibility in guardian loadouts is hardly game-breaking, especially with the amount of flexibility plenty of troops have in that regard (even Tyranids can mix-and-match these days, and they’re effectively divided up into units by which ones they hatched with!)

        The only remotely satisfying thing I can really figure for why they set it up the way they did is to go to the fluff- the eldar culture and path system must not let them mix up the guardian types because they’d mess up each other’s masks or something.

        That all aside, I’m hyped as you about the fluff and it’s ramifications. Heck, back in the run-up to the 6th Ed eldar codex I was contemplating converting up a custom female farseer and do a force themed as like a ynnead-worshipping death cult and basically ended up not doing it because it felt like too much of a fluff push, now they basically made what I wanted to do canon, haha!

        Reply

        1. I went back and forth on it – the super-awkward way they phrased getting heavy and special weapons made me think that it was possible for there to be a mix and them covering their bases on that. But yeah, it’s really awkward, and I don’t know that we’re going to get another FAQ.

          Reply

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