“Welcome to Commorragh. I hope your travel here was to your satisfaction? Bringing you to Commorragh undetected was no easy task. Shall we begin?”
Honor and respect to you, the Bell of Lost Soul community. This is BuFFo, and I wanted to take this opportunity, in light of the Dark Eldar rumors and release sometime this year (hopefully), to give would-be Archons out there a little insight into the world of the unique and deadly Dark Eldar Army from the perspective of a Dark Eldar player of 12 years.
This will be a multi part article, and I will just delve into the generalities of the army and its rich (yeah right) fluff and history. If you didn’t get into the Army in the past 12 years, I don’t expect you to until the new Codex is released, and if you have been playing all this time, then well, all this is old hat. This is the reason I won’t be going into detail with the army lists builds or any of that. In later parts of this Article I will give sample builds of the three flavors of Dark Eldar; Kabals, Cults and Covens.
The Dark Eldar and their Fragility
The Dark Eldar army plays like no other army in the game. True to it the gamer cliché, the Dark Eldar army is a glass cannon, a paper tiger, a horseless walrus. Dark Eldar is all about offense, offense, offense.
So let me talk to you about our general ‘weaknesses’ in this Article. I don’t really feel these are ‘weaknesses’, but rather, the other side of a magnificent coin that reflects the genius of this Army’s play style. I will also talk about an abridged history of the Dark Eldar’s low popularity.
Armor Saves – Our Armor Save is the game’s “average” armor save of 5+. Even our HQ’s come with this save as standard! Some units do not even get a save! Where Orks (arguably the army with the worst all around Armor Saves in the game) can offset their 6+ saves with mass bodies and Fearless, Dark Eldar cannot.
Leadership – The Dark Eldar army is probably the only Army in the entire game without ANY meaningful Leadership tricks. Our average Leadership is 8, and that is it. Even our HQ’s are not respected enough by their battlefield, back stabbing True Kin for a Leadership of 10, so they only merit a 9! We do not have any Fearless multi model unit, we have no way of ‘buying’ a higher leadership. We have no way of rerolling any kind of Leadership, Morale or Pinning Tests at all. Even the Sybarite, upgrades to most of our squads, keeps the Leadership of said squad an 8.
We are Leadership 8, and that is it. Oddly enough, Dark Eldar feel like the ‘best’ army in this respect because we are affected by other army’s Leadership messing ways.
So when you couple horrible armor and arguably the worst Leadership in the entire game, you actually get an army that can be shot at and forced to run, or worse yet, Pinned!
Vehicle Armor Value – Dark Eldar have two flavors of vehicles; Raiders and Ravagers. Raiders are the flimsiest vehicles in the entire game, with Armor Value of 10 coupled with Open-Topped. Yes, this means that even a humble Bolter can destroy our Transports. Tau Pulse Rifles? Forget it. I hate those things!
Ravagers are our Heavy Support, and get this…. Our Heavy Support comes with Rhino Armor Value and is also Open-Topped! That means any Penetrating hit has a 50% chance of downing the Ravager! Melta weapons have a field day with Ravagers and Raiders!
The only army which has this weakness is the Ork Army, but their Transports avoid getting Destroyed (as far as I remember), and sometimes even deliver their payload deep into enemy lines when blown up! Dark Eldar Raiders are just engines strapped onto the weakest materials known in the Galaxy, and the slightest wind blows them over into nearby shrubbery, turning them into flaming wrecks!
Unforgiving – The Dark Eldar Army does not allow for mistakes during the game. Dark Eldar simply cannot Drop Pod themselves in the middle of enemy lines, and survive rounds of shooting due to a 3+ armor save. We get shot at, we die. We get assaulted, we die. Our opponent looks at our army, and our models melt, they are so fragile.
A Dark Eldar General needs to make sure he understands every aspect of the opponent’s army to be successful. You need to know what unit has what weapons, their ranges – I mean you need to know everything! You need to know what is in Reserves, what those units can do, etc… Nothing against other armies, but other armies can afford to not give a crap about what the opponent has, and just play the game. Not Dark Eldar. If you make the mistake of not caring about what an opponent’s units can do, you will find yourself shot to death turn 1 if you deploy wrong.
The Dark Eldar is truly an army suited for expert players. Do not get me wrong, ‘expert’ has no connection with WAAC. Expert simply means you have a near perfect understanding of the three aspects it takes to be a winning general in 40k; Knowledge of your army’s capabilities, Knowledge of your opponent’s army’s capabilities, and intimate knowledge of the basic rules. Other armies can forgive you if you do not know the basic rules too well, or do not know your own army, or your opponent’s army. The Dark Eldar army does not forgive any mistakes.
True to the ruthless, cut throat nature of the True Kin, the Dark Eldar army will punish you mercilessly if you do not know what you are doing. It doesn’t matter if you are playing for fun, or competitively. You will get flattened if you do not keep your wits about you during the game.
Why no one got into Dark Eldar (abridged)
Why do I say this is all part of the Dark Eldar play style, and why would you want to play this army?
Ever hear of the saying, “the Dark Eldar army is an expert’s army”? Well, it isn’t something Dark Eldar players made up to make ourselves feel better. It is the truth.
When the Dark Eldar first was released back in the start of 3rd edition, right out of the gate we were branded as a craptastic army. The box contained 32 Dark Eldar warriors with our Splinter Rifles and Splinter Cannons, and the Marines had 20 bodies and a Landspeeder. Really? You know how every game ever demonstrated with that set turned out? The Dark Eldar would fire at the Marines, and kill not a single one. The Landspeeder couldn’t even be touched realistically. The Marines would fire their Bolters, massacre the Dark Eldar, and the Landspeeder would run up to the Dark Eldar lines and shoot them to death without recourse.
Right from the beginning, the Dark Eldar Army was branded as a weak army, and most gamers never gave them a chance beyond 3 games. I mean, the Dark Eldar codex didn’t even have vehicle upgrades!!
These gamers missed the update Dark Eldar received, what, around 2000/2001, in which Wyches became one of the most feared units in the game, even to this day. We also got our much needed vehicle upgrades and powerful Arcane wargear. Finally, we got a way to build a Wych Cult through arguably the most powerful non Special Character model in the game; the Archite.
Oh, and I won’t even get into the model range. I think we all know how they look, and this is the SINGLE biggest reason players have not got into the Dark Eldar army. The model range is a mix of pure genius and some of the worst atrocities committed to our Hobby. How could anyone but a pure Masochist
It really isn’t the Hobbyist’s fault for not giving the Dark Eldar a chance. GW just crapped them out post haste for a new edition, and the Army suffered for it, which is a shame, because as older Codices got weaker each new Edition, the Dark Eldar Codex actually got STRONGER!
Well, that covers it for now. In the next Article, I will go over the positives of the Dark Eldar play style, and how the Dark Eldar truly are the masters of 40k with a unique play style like no other.
“For today, my dear honored guest, we are done. My trusted and beloved Incubi will show you to your quarters and will stand guard outside your doors and window. Make no mistake, Commorragh is a dangerous place and even within the walls of my very own palace you are not safe when not in my presence. I bid you a good evening, and look forward to our conversations”