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I've been thinking a fair bit about the problems with the current DE codex, and I think they can be resolved without a complete redesign. I'll try to explain my points in such a fashion that folks who don't have the codex understand both the problem and solution. The majority of these problems involve units that were poorly thought out, or became less effective after the release of 4th edition rules. Given the rather limited number of units available to DE, this leads to many lists looking very similar, and one of my goals here is to change that.
Problem 1: Scourges
Scourges are essentially the DE equivalent of a devastator squad, but they come with jump packs that double the cost of each model and can deep strike. They have two weapon choices, dark lances and splinter cannons. Splinter cannons are high rate of fire assault weapons, and work well as is. However, dark lances are heavy anti-vehicle weapons that do not work well with jump packs and the deep strike rule. You end up with a very expensive and very fragile unit which can only be used effectively in an anti-infantry role. The problem is compounded when you consider that using two troops choices instead nets you the same number of heavy weapons with double the model count for about the same point cost.
My solution is twofold. First, make the jump packs optional, without them each model is identical in price to a dark eldar warrior. This allows the use of cost-effective four dark lance anti-vehicle units. Second, give blasters as a weapon choice at double the cost paid by our troops. Blasters are short-range assault anti-vehicle weapons, which would work well with a jump pack unit. These changes give scourges triple the number of roles scourges can fill: anti-infantry jump infantry, short-range anti-vehicle jump infantry, and long range static anti-vehicle unit.
Problem 2: Hellions
Hellions are one of our most gorgeous models, which is really a shame since they are almost never used. They superficially resemble assault marines, though to keep in line with the DE concept, they do a significantly more damage when charging but are too fragile for prolonged assaults. The primary problem here is that their armament, the hellglaive, is a rapid fire weapon. In third edition, this meant a hellion would take a free shot at a unit it was about to charge, but with changes to rapid fire rules the loss of that shot has significantly reduced the unit's ability to do damage when charging.
The solution here is simple: make the hellglaive assault 1 and make its range 12". This makes the unit perform as it did under 3rd edition rules when Hellions were more often used.
Problem 3: Incubi
Incubi are heavily armoured elite warriors. If you imagine a more costly combination of a striking scorpion and howling banshee, you wouldn't be far off. The issue here is that they are only available as a retinue choice for an HQ model. Given that our HQ is, by and large, a horrifying CC monster in their own right, they rarely have any use for an incubi retinue. In addition, incubi have an upgrade character option that I have never seen used; the HQ leading the retinue is more than sufficient.
I would resolve this by making incubi into a standalone Elites choice, while leaving the option of using them in a retinue.
Problem 4: Mandrakes
Mandrakes are a unique unit with special deployment rules. As a result, they are significantly more expensive than equivalent models. Most DE generals do not consider them to be worth their cost, and I tend to agree. Another problem with Mandrakes is that they do not have a character upgrade, and thus cannot have a weapon which ignores armour saves, a significant disadvantage in a unit purely intended for an assault role.
Rather than having an unusual deployment rule, I would reduce the cost of mandrake squads and give them the Infiltrate skill instead. I would also add a character upgrade to them, but with the restriction that Webway Portals may not be deployed by mandrakes as this would be unbalancing.
The last two problems apply to HQ wargear, and limit the DE general's ability to field consistently survivable HQ units.
Problem 5: Shadow Fields
DE suffer from miserable saves almost across the board, and this is true of their HQs as well. There is a piece of wargear to address this, but it is only available to a single model in each army. I also find it overly complex, as the current rules grant an extremely potent save that ceases to function when a save is failed. As a result, a second HQ added to a DE army is frequently extrordinarily fragile, more so than is typical.
I would remove the "1 per army" restriction on shadow fields, and would reduce have them grant a 4+ inv save like similar pieces of wargear from other armies rather than using the current rules.
Problem 6: Jetbikes and Saving Throws
Both Eldar and DE armies have access to jetbikes as wargear, and the two are comparable in many ways. There are three differences, however: DE jetbikes are more expensive, grant a strength bonus, and do not confer an armour save bonus as eldar jetbikes do. This is likely an oversight, as a DE HQ mounted on a jetbike currently has a worse saving throw than a jetbike squad.
A reaver jetbike should improve its rider's saving throw by 2, to mirror the difference in armour between a kabal HQ and a wych HQ (which is already mirrored by other wargear, specifically the hellion skyboard).
So, what do you good folks think?
These are all good points.
And could help a lot.
This is the oldest codex still in use. And it really shows.
The whole thing needs a redo, and soon.
Along with a whole line of new models.
They might lose some of their character in line of the dumbing down/streamlining of the current rules compared with older ones. But then again, that might not be the worst thing ever.
We can only hope a new codex is not too far in the distance
Arch Overfiend & Grand Despot
I currently play:
Doom Eagle Space Marines
Hive Fleet Omega Tyranids
Goff Ork Boyz(dead)
Tau of O'me
Inquisitorial Xeno Hunters
and my attempted foray into fantasy
'Dark Angel Green' Dark Elves in need of fluff
I like all of your idea except for a couple.
The reducing of the shadowfeild to a 4+ would really hurt our HQ's. I would leave it as is, it really makes DE unique (and our HQ's monsters)
And I agree with the Mandrakes, except leave thier deployment and ditch the infiltrate. Again, this special rule makes them cool... if they were just a tad cheaper, and had a character upgrade, people would use them.
Fixing reaver jetbikes would make the 1 per army restriction on shadowfields less important anyway. You'd put one HQ on foot with a shadowfield and another on a jetbike.
Heck, if Mandrakes stayed at the same price and were able to take a punisher or agoniser I bet more people would take them. I just see a trend in GW to simplify the rules, so making them infiltrate would be more likely from a GW standpoint.
I like most of the DE model line. All I really want are plastic wyches.
I really like the Dark Elf Witch Elf models. Hopefully there'll be more of a similarity if new wyches are released. I'm not at all a fan of the wyches we have now.
Model-wise, of course. They're great units.
I also think that the Wych Cults are going out with an update. It'll probably be more like Eldar, where you can take Wraithguard as troops (normally elites) but it has to be a large unit with a Spiritseer.
So I'm thinking that we're going to have to field large (footslogging) wych units for a 'new' version of the wych cult.
This is purely speculation, stemming from a comparison to other codicies. But isn't that all we have had for a while now anyway?