Today we shall take examine the naval equipment and tactics of that most beguiling of xenos, the Eldar.
Of all the biological races, the Eldar are the oldest still interactive with the younger races such as humans, orks, and tau. As old as their civilization is, their technology is as expected more advanced than these other races. Despite their technological prowess, they have an ancient foe that is even older and more advanced, the Necrons. In BFG, they are a very strong fleet against all but the Necrons. In BFG the Eldar are represented by three lists, Corsair Eldar, Craftworld Eldar and Dark Eldar to represent their current fractured and scattered state. Corsair Eldar is likely the one most likely to be encountered in space by merchants and patrols alike (and equally likely to be the last encounters by these ships as well.) Craftworld Eldar and Dark Eldar will be discussed in the future.
Even before any ships are placed, the Corsair Eldar fleet is at an advantage with leadership values at +1 (maximum of 10). Remember that in BFG higher leadership facilitates special maneuvers and actions in the form of Special Orders.
On both the offensive and defensive components of the game, Corsair Eldars are strong, very strong. Offensively, Eldar batteries, lances, torpedoes, and fighters are superior to the “lesser” races. Eldar batteries always count their target as closing (the most favorable aspect for targets.) Eldar lances can re-roll successful hits, yes successful hits, for up to three hits. Since lances hit on a 4+, each lance will on average inflict 0.875 hits (much higher than the average of 0.5 hits for most lances.) Even so the average can be misleading because a lance can actually inflict three hits each! It is understandable why lances are your friends when playing Eldar. Eldar advantages don’t end there because Corsair Eldar ordnance is extraordinary as well. Torpedoes can only be taken out by enemy turrets on rolls of 6+ rather than 4+, making them three times as likely to survive to attack the hull. Note when facing against combined Eldar torpedo and bomber attacks, save your turrets for the bombers rather than wasting them on the torpedoes. Their fighters are also more resilient in missions against enemy torpedoes, fighters, bombers and assault boats. Instead of being removed after neutralizing enemy ordnance as are most fighters, each Eldar fighter marker remains in play on a 4+.
On the defense Eldar ships are protected by holofields. Holofields provides a 2+ saves against lances, nova cannons, torpedoes, bombers, hit and run attacks, boarding, and even ramming. Against battery weapons a rightward shift on the Battery Gunnery table (less favorable for the shooter.) As if that isn’t enough, once Eldar move in their movement phase to position to shoot, they can then move again in their ordnance phase to minimize becoming target themselves. “Minimize” because while most ships have no weapons in their rear, most ships can also turn to get their side weapon into play against Eldar ships seeking a safe area behind their target. An Eldar player should expect this and consider how to position your ships so that once turned, your Eldar ships are abeam to the enemy’s (side) batteries (further weakening their best weapon against you.)
Shadow Cruiser by Arithon.
The first weakness of the Corsair Eldar are that they are 3 times as likely to suffer a critical hit each time they take damages as most other fleets: suffering a critical on a 4+ for each damage rather than on a 6+. Their second weakness is that all Corsair Eldar ships only have 4+ armor. However, any hits that an enemy might gain from the lower armor must first pass through the Eldar holofields. Overall I believe both of these weaknesses are more than well compensated by the strength of the holofield and enhanced Eldar maneuverability. A third weakness of the Eldar is that their movement rate is affected by where the local star is located. If the star is toward the ship’s front its movement is only 10-15 cm (depending on the ship) and if the star is to its side the movement rate is 25-30 cm. Where the stars shine from must always be considered. (And when facing Corsair Eldar maneuver toward them with the sun to your back). A fourth weakness is that while all Eldar ships, escorts and capital ships, may make a turn to face in any direction at the beginning of its movement, Corsair Eldar cannot turn at all once moved (though it does not have to move at all). Both of these movement issues are easily compensated for by the ability to move in your ships in your own movement phase and again in your own ordnance phase (not the enemy’s ordnance phase.) The fifth weakness of the Eldar is that holofields are not shields, thus when any Eldar ships move through blast markers (once per move whether in its own movement phase or its own ordnance phase) it can suffer a damage on a roll of 6 (their movement is also reduced by 5 cm.) The final weakness of the Eldar is that holofields do not work against Necrons. Against Necrons Eldar thus will do rather poorly.
I do not consider Eldar weapon’s limited range of 30 cm on all ships except the Void Stalker battleship to be a weakness because most fleets engage in the 30 cm range anyway.
Eclipse Cruiser by the Laughing God.
All fleets should be built to maximize its strength and minimize its weaknesses. Strengths of weapons, holofield and double movement are available to all Eldar ships. Weaknesses are vulnerability to critical hits, 4+ armor and movement restrictions. Armor of 4+ and movement restrictions affect all Eldar ships. Since escorts only take one hull hit, vulnerability to critical hits doesn’t affect it at all unlike with capital ships. Such analysis of strengths and weaknesses will likely result in Eldar fleets being a predominantly escorts based fleet.
There are four Corsair Eldar escort options. First up is the Hemlock, essentially a flying lance. Since a lance is the best Eldar weapon, this is a great option for only 40 points each. Second up is the Nightshade, a torpedo (2) ship also armed with a battery. Eldar torpedoes and batteries are both great and for just 40 points this is another great option. Next up is the Aconite, a battery ship. While Eldar batteries are indeed great and 5 of them are even better, for 65 points they are a tad expensive. However, if you might face other Eldar, including Dark Eldar, they could become very handy to overcome enemy’s’ holofield (or shadowfield for Dark Eldar.) Last up is the Hellebore, a great model in my opinion. Unfortunately, while the package of lance, torpedoes, and battery looks impressive, for 75 points it is too pricy. For 5 points more you can get the same weapon layout (1 lance, 2 torpedoes, 1 battery) with a Hemlock and a Nightshade. A Hemlock and Nightshade combo is also substantially more survivable as two targets capable of splitting enemy fire and having twice the damage capacity as one Hellebore.
The cheapest Eldar cruiser is the Solaris, coming with 8 batteries to the front and 4 hits points for 130 points. For the same points you can get 2 Aconites with 10 batteries and 2 hits points splitting fire between two Aconites. While most cruisers can sustain more damage prior to reduction of its offensive capability than a squadron of escorts, Corsair Eldar capital ship vulnerability to critical damage erase this edge in my opinion. The Solaris is likely better replaced by 2 Aconites. The Aurora at 140 points also has 4 hits points but is armed with 4 torpedoes and 2 lances. Similarly priced at 150 points would be 2 Hellebores that are over priced in themselves so I am not sure the Aurora is worth taking either. Both the Solaris and Aurora are Forgeworld models and as an American, this means both will cost more money wise as well. The next cruiser is the Shadow for 210 points with 6 hits points, 4 torpedoes and 12 batteries. For the exact same 210 points you can get 2 Nightshades and 2 Aconites, yielding the exact same weapon layouts with 4 hits points across 4 targets. Thus far all three cruisers are better replaced by escorts. The last cruiser is the Eclipse for 250 points. The Eclipse is the only cruiser with launch bays (4) and this alone makes this cruiser worthy of consideration.
The last ship available in the Corsair Eldar list is the Void Stalker battleship. This ship also has 4 launch bays but what set this ship apart from the Eclipse, and every other Corsair Eldar ship, is its 45 cm ranged lances (4) and 45 cm ranged batteries (8) with the ability to fire to the right, to the left, and not just to the front. The Void Stalker is available once your fleet is 1000 points (minimum actually fielded) or more. This ship should definitely be considered for inclusion once it becomes available.
Void Stalker by Arithon.
While Corsair Eldar have a significant amount of offensive and defensive capability, they should be used with care like a sharp blade rather than a blunt instrument. When on the attack, concentrate your fire on enemy battery ships first, hitting the enemy toward his rear. Such opportunities will not likely present naturally and as an Eldar player you must be both patient and manipulative. Hide among stellar phenomena if possible. When striking hit as hard as you can but if you cannot or were unlucky and did not, never linger. When you move in the ordnance phase, position your ship defensively to be abeam of your opponent batteries. Move in, attack, move out and away before the enemy can respond.
Thus ends the fisrt lesson on facing the dread Eldar in the icy depths of space. Additional info can be found here. Cadets dismissed!