Goatboy’s 40k: Harlequins – Revenge of the Clowns?


Goatboy here again and today I want to talk a bit about the newest codex on the block – the Harlequins.

The biggest take away from the book is that the initial stages of the game – going first, warlord traits, psychics, etc – will determine the sheer amount of nonsense you can pull during any game.  I love the sheer amount of warlord traits and the plethora of options you get from them.  It is a shame you don’t have any named characters with locked in traits as it would really allow for some interesting builds if a few of the options were locked in a choice.

I won’t review the entire batch of rules that have come out.  My play style and army building style is not how a lot of people play.  So things I think are meh might be really awesome to others.  I just want to go over the stuff that has my mind grinding away at ideas and other options.  I think that is the biggest thing as this is one of the first “good” guy armies I am interesting in building and painting in a good guy way.  Now don’t get me wrong – the idea of a fully converted Worshipers of Slaanesh DE/Harlie army might be a much better option for me to build.  Dangit that sounds awesome…

Enough of that – let’s go through the things I like from the new book.

The Rules

The Psychic Discipline is just neat.  It is different enough from Telepathy that it has you seriously thinking about taking it or at least just grabbing the Primarus power.  The default power is the old Veil of Tears and I expect most Shadowseers to at least take that and then maybe the Primarus for Telepathy to push the power of Psychic Shriek.  I think most Seers will just be ML 2 by default and I am very happy GW didn’t allow them to summon Daemons.  I think if we get another Eldar book I expect them to lose the Daemon summon ability as well.  Just my two cents as it makes no sense for that army to summon their most hated enemy.   The Shadowseer is pretty cheap and being an Elite choice you can quickly have them running each of your expensive troop choices.  I am very glad GW made this a plastic clam kit as it should allow them to have plenty in stock.  I just wish we had more poses.

I talked a little bit about Veil of Shadows but I think this power will allow the army to work.  The initial local chatter was that an assault army without any type of “shooting” protection will just not work.  Especially on 23 point models.  The dreaded biker bolter seems to be an always in season flavor so trying to survive the rain of twin linked bullets is just not feasible.  The new power allows you to limit ranges and if you get lucky with an opponent rolling low on visibility you can all of sudden assault without any fear of retaliation.

From there the other powers are ok – with only 2 really kind of meh abilities in my opinion.  The 2 witch fires seems kind of weak in comparison to the other powers. The targeted Invisibility looks to be strong to keep a unit in the real of sucky mode and the old school Invisibility blessing both feel good.  I think mixed with some Leadership modifiers (Dark Eldar and Harlies and even Eldar) could be good – but Psychic Shriek just seems a better choice for this style of list.  The odd Mind War is also neat at killing those big old MC’s that you sometimes see.  It seems to need a lot of work to get working so again – I think you will “roll once” on the Harlie powers and take Veil of Tears and then just “roll” again on Telepathy and take Psychic Shriek of Shrouding if you get lucky.

I think the Death Jester has some interesting potential as a means for causing opponents issues.  I think causing the army to “flee” in the direction you want could make for some rough assault phases if you are not marines.  You could break the unit forward and then within range of leadership modifiers cause them to instantly die if you charge them with a unit.  I think this guy will make for more units to find ways to have fearless options or ways to “auto” pass leadership checks. It doesn’t hurt the Marine armies but again I think ATSKNF might be hurting GW’s designs. But then what would Marines need to mitigate the loss of it?

I like most of the war gear as they are not extremely powerful but mostly useful.  Are the Enigmas of the library limited to one per army?  Nothing I have read seem to indicate that so if anyone can take it – you could really cause some issues. The fearless helm/mask seems to be built for making Psychic Shriek useful.  Heck this is the start of the super combo with Dark Eldar and their Torment launchers.  I haven’t looked at the points – but this might be a viable combo.

The Warlord traits just sound so awesome.  They almost all sound great.  There seems to be 3 of them and depending on who you choose is your warlord – they can either just make the Character better or really cause some butt clenching during the end of the game for your opponent.  So far I like the 4+ to seize the initiative roll and the ability for the warlord and is unit to do an extra turn of action at the end of the game.  I think this why the army isn’t Objective Secured as there would be a ton of games ending on the crazy flips and shenanigans by the Warlord.  Heck this is most likely why the Troup master is never an IC and can’t join a unit to give these crazy traits.  Hrm… maybe some actual design went into this army?

The Units

Troop wise I am not the biggest fan of the troupes.  I do like you get a basic mini HQ choice with each unit but they get expensive quick.  I understand why they didn’t make them auto rending as that could have made them cost to much if they take each set of rules they have into account.  I don’t know if you will end up with the minimum number of troops in the army or if you start to expand the amount your choose.  They are not obj secured so that is kind of a bummer.  Still you could make a neat suicide unit with massed fusion blasters that comes down via Deepstrike and their wider venom.

Speaking of the Venom lite – the Starweaver and Voidweaver seem nice enough.  They have decent weapons but being opened top just screams to put in more flamers for your army.  Dreadknights are the bane of Venoms and while the Harlies get a 5+ save I still think it will hurt when they get covered in sacred promethium. The Voidweaver’s guns just seem at odds.  If the lance profile on the Prismatic cannon was strength 8 we might have a winner choice – but at Strength 7 it just feels lackluster.  I like the idea of the Haywire launcher but as we all know – haywire starts to get good when you have 4-5 chances at hitting with it instead of just one shot.  I think if we are looking at Deep striking potential most armies will use the Raiders from the Dark Eldar as they give you more room to add in suicide units with the Archon etc.

The Skyweavers are an interesting option too – but I feel they just don’t do enough for you.  I like the Haywire option as again they can get a large enough unit to make the chances for blowing a vehicle pretty dang guaranteed if the unit all shoots them at one thing.  I don’t know if that is worth it too – as the unit itself is somewhat fragile.  I don’t understand how Eldar Jetbikes get a 3+ armor but none of the other Eldar like bikes can barely get a 4+.  You would think every bike would just add more armor but hey – I am not an Eldar Bike Salesmen.

The formations start to shine when you look at their extra rules.  I think if we were just using them as a side ally the non detachment but acts like a detachment formation of one Solitare, 3 Shadow Seers, 3 Death Jesters, 3 Troupes, 2 units of Skyweavers, and 1 unit of Voidweavers seems prefect.  The extra rule of allow an assault after a run starting on turn 2 as well as letting your reroll failed saves of 1 might be super good.  Now if only GW were smart and would sell this as a starter army with a nice discount.  Heck they should do this with all their armies to match the boxed deals.  But again I am not a CEO of a big company.

Send In the Clowns

Overall I like how this book is looking.  It seems to have a lot of design thought in it with its interactions and combos.  The formations have enough “unit” taxes that I think they won’t be too abusable.  The rules are decent and while I think the Harlies themselves cost to much they still can make up a decent army.  I know a lot of older players are excited about this release as it brings back memories of the old days with crazy checkered jerk faces throwing them the finger as they cartwheel by.

Next week look for actual lists as this was written before shoveling off to the LVO where I will do my normal thing of losing one game and having a blast in Las Vegas.

  • crevab

    Best thing for you, it’s an army that there’s no way to NOT spam choices


    • Benjamin Tull

      Just wait for the x7 Shadowseer list.

  • Cerri Love

    Why would ATSKNF affect the Death Jester? Did Marines become immune to all Ld tests without me noticing?

    • Chris Maile

      Surprisingly there seems to be alot who play it that way

    • Inian

      He means that units that are fleeing instanty die when they are assaulted if they fail a LD test. But with ATSKNF they just rally and fight without any dice roll.

      • Ahriman

        Curse of the veteran Player 😉

      • Juravial

        The test is a “regroup” test per pp. 59 of mini rulebook. ATSKNF specifies that models with this rule automatically pass regroup tests, so your marines are safe! 🙂

        • A.P.

          ATSKNF is super broken. The only army in the game that doesn’t care about losing combat,regrouping or any real LD shenanigans. I agree with Goatboy when he says that this bad rule is getting in the way of some of their prescribed in game affects. It just is not balanced to the games Mechanics whole armies that cause fear or what have you and 70% of the Armies you face ignore the effect.

          • Juravial

            I thought really hard about what you said and I can only really think of one way of altering the rule so that fear (and morale in general) has a real effect on marine armies without directly contradicting the back story and background. That would be if they didn’t ignore fear, but always tested at a +2 to their leadership (similar to Tzeentch daemons casting in 6th edition with a bonus to their ld). And perhaps, take out the auto-rally and no-sweep in close combat and give them leadership 9 and stubborn (10 for vet sergeants and hq units). This way, it is unlikely that they are swept as they are tough as nails marines, but they can still be caught in crossfires and traps that should kill them.

          • A.P.

            I could get on board with that, it definitely fits the fluff. Once again however, they should have the cost added in to them. At least more than a single point for AtSKnF and Ct’s.

          • A.P.

            I could get on board with that, it definitely fits the fluff. Once again however, they should have the cost added in to them. At least more than a single point for AtSKnF and Ct’s.

          • An_Enemy

            The thing about fluff is that, according to fluff, the Tau and Guard would be the only ones fleeing in this game.(even the Tau might get a pass at times) Everyone else is either insane, suicidal, completely alien, or just as brave as marines.

            The only difference between Astartes and Aspect Warriors is that the Aspect Warriors don’t have a catchphrase that breaks the game.

          • deris87

            Yeah, I’ve never quite gotten how being completely incapable of feeling fear from being in a dissociative state was supposed to be not as good as good as completely being incapable of feeling fear from being lobotomized.

          • deris87

            Yeah, ATSKNF is my bugaboo rule for 7th. It makes Fear a useless rule, and has pretty huge advantages besides. It gained a lot of utility for no additional cost once Fear became a thing.

            My thought is grant a re-roll or always count as Ld10 for Fear, but making it just auto-pass for half the factions in the game makes a lot of units and wargear items way overpriced considering how frequently they won’t even be able to work.

        • Matthew

          It is an interesting conundrum. I think marines should get a benefit to show their bravado. I do agree it makes certain builds just not appealing.

          Like using a Hemlock Wraithfighter seems like a bad choice +60% of the time.

      • Are they making a Morale check or a Pinning check?

        • Inian

          Regroup check, which is covered by ATSKNF and gives them an auto-pass.

    • Benjamin Tull

      It still affects them, you just can’t auto-kill them if they fail the regroup roll. You can still use the Death Jester’s ability to make Marines run off the board or run into the arms of your waiting Harlequins.

    • Mr_Pickles

      Orks new Mob Rule also gives some counter to the Death Jester. As 1 of three outcomes from the table would be the feared result.

    • Mr_Pickles

      Orks new Mob Rule also gives some counter to the Death Jester. As 1 of three outcomes from the table would be the feared result.

  • Spacefrisian

    I thought this dex to be a nice addition as an allied force to Eldar, than i noticed that it doesnt have a HQ so i cant make it bound if i use it as allied detachment.

    • Rob Godin

      You have to use it with the official formation to make it bound

    • Plenty of formations to choose from as well that will be close enough to what you want to take anyway.

      • Gabor Fazekas

        i see no 1 troupe 1 solitaire 1 jester and shadowseer formation without limitating where i can send the ICs

    • Cylux

      Just use the codex detachment, or one of the formations, job done.

      Though you ain’t getting ObSec with them at all.

  • cavalier ava

    Nice article Goatboy! Nice to see someone recognizing the potential in units and combinations that are not auto-kill-everything.

  • foulestfeesh13 .

    Harlequins are not clowns!

    • D.a. Pizzey

      Glad I’m not the only one who says that…

    • Jason Brown

      Right, they are space elf NINJA clowns.

      • foulestfeesh13 .

        They aren’t clowns in any way.

    • Matthew

      But I like calling them clowns because it makes me laugh…

      Have you ever seen that show killer klowns from outer space? I picture the harlequins kiss weapon shooting out cotton candy instead of monofiliment.

    • greenskin

      wow. you’re right. I looked it up. they are two distinct characters from traditional pantomime.

  • Some one forgot to mention the run and then charge from turn 2 forward…..just saying

  • Majere613

    I think people are rather underestimating the Skyweavers. The Haywire cannon is a S4 AP4 blast, so it’s actually pretty decent against light infantry units as well as tanks, as anyone who’s fired Bullgryns at a horde will probably attest. True, you’ll only hit directly on a tank 1/3 of the time, but an average 3″ scatter should still hit most tanks unless you’re really unlucky. With Furious Charge, the Zepherglaives hit at S5 AP2 on the charge with 4 WS5 attacks, so they’re a pretty serious threat so long as you avoid charging into unengaged models in cover. Add in a turn of ‘free’ Jinking and re-rolling 1s on the save due to the Formation benefit, and it’s a pretty tasty little package.

    • Charon

      Too much points.
      They have the same porblems like any other eldar melee unit with AP2. They are expensive, squishy and the unit they are designed against does not exist.
      You will mostly use them to target units with a 3+ save (which makes the AP2 melee weapon overcosted) AND you will need another fast and cheap unit to bind the target first. While this might work with Windrider jetbikes (all other units are either not fast enough, would need another unit to engae for them too or just deal with the target themselves), they do not work in a pure Harlie force and neither as DE allies.
      Same problems as Incubi. In theory 3 S5 AP2 WS5 attacks on charge for only 20 points with a 3+ armor and FnP.
      In reality they are either killing 3+ armor non-melee units or need another expensive melee unit to work… in which case you are better off thaking a the other unit just 2 times and shelf the Incubi. Skyweavers are not really different. 2 of them with Zephyr are 120 points… thats a whole lot for squishy 4hp which can be ID easily.

      • Majere613

        I’d have to say you’re wrong on most levels there. A four-strong unit of Skyweavers with Haywire and Zephyrglaives comes in just under the points of a Land Raider, which they will kill fairly reliably in one turn of shooting. As Eldar Jetbikes, they get the massive Turbo Boost move to get into position as well as the 2D6 Assault move so they can JSJ. A unit that can do that as well as performing excellently in Assault is very useful. As for the potential targets in Assault, Centurions spring immediately to mind, along with Obliterators and Meganobz. Regardless, if the unit you take out happens to be a 3+ non-melee unit, who cares? If it was doing something useful and now it’s dead, your opponent isn’t going to be celebrating.

        Finally, of course, you need the things anyway to use probably the best Formation in the book which also gives them a very useful buff, so the fact that you might think something else does the job better for the points is basically irrelevant.

        • Charon

          A 4 strong unit of Skyweavers is basically suicide. ANY shooty unit out there will kill them reliably.
          Even if we would accept centurions as posible targets: that makes ONE unit in ONE matchup. That is (of course) if this is not some kind of CentStar with invis.
          Not to speak of the possibility that said centurions (point for point) will probably obliterate them in one round of shooting.

          • Majere613

            Fair enough. Clearly you’re working on the depressingly common idea that every unit on the table will always have LOS to every other at all times. If you seriously think that a unit with a potential 48″ move that ignores terrain, as well as a 12″ move ignoring terrain followed by a 2D6″ JSJ move is just going to be sitting there being shot, you must be playing on some seriously barren tables. Not to mention that the first time it does somehow happen the Skyweavers will have a 4++, re-rolling 1s, before we take into account potential Stealth+Shrouding for a 2+ Jink from Dance of Shadows or the shooting unit having to Snap Fire from Fog of Dreams. Personally, I’d say you may well be in for a rude awakening on that one.

          • Charon

            You have so much MAY in your post that I don’t really think I will be the one with a rude awakining seeing 260 points going down the drain.
            I did the calculation with the saves. What about you?
            You do not have to play on flat and barren tables to get LOS. Also all harlequins are quit point heavy… you wont have much “distraction” for them… just that squishy 65 points models…

          • Majere613

            Don’t be daft. If fielded as part of a Cegorach’s Wrath formation, you’ll have at minimum 3 Troupes, 2 units of Skyweavers, a unit of Voidweavers, a solitaire, and 6 other ICs which comes in between 1k and 1.5k depending on options. Of those, the 3 Deathjesters can drag units out of cover (and ruin their shooting by breaking them) and the 3 Shadowseers can hand out the buffs. With their shooting, Skyweavers have an effective 36″ range including their move, and can JSJ after that, so you can use both LOS, and range to control whether or not they get shot at.

            Honestly, given that Skyweavers are probably one of the very easiest units in the entire game to get to where you need them to be, you must have great difficulty keeping anything alive past turn 2.

          • Charon

            Which is not a very high model count.

            So you are predicting a lot of harlequin armies on the top tournament tables?
            And to be honest, yes as most of my opponents are either Grey Knights with Imperial Knights and 3 Dreadknights or imperials with multiple wyvern batteries its darn hard to keep squishy stuff alive, no matter what the table looks like.

            But I do guess we are not playing at the same level, thus your quite naive comments.

          • Majere613

            No we aren’t, for which I am profoundly grateful. I consider the tournament scene to be practically radioactive for the way it encourages this sort of thinking.
            It looks to me like Harlequins, with their speed and access to large amounts of Haywire (including grenades on all the ICs), would do pretty well against Knights, but I’d actually agree that Wyverns are a problem for them. Even then, Veil of Tears reduces the threat from Wyverns to Troupes, and spaced Skyweavers with their Mirage launchers up would be unlikely to take heavy casualties from them and can be in position to take them out pretty fast.
            Dreadknights, on the other hand, are pretty much cake for Harlequins to kill given that you can have entire squads with Ap2 Fleshbane pistols, though I’d expect them to be dangerous if they shunt and then use Incinerators.

          • PinkyandtheBrain

            Let me get this straight you think it is radioactive for players to think about their strategy to win the game. To actually use their brains and maths skills whilst list writing is “radioactive”? Seriously?

            It is a game, a game that starts when you start writing your list. Using strategy during list writing is no more radioactive than using it during deployment or any other phase of the game. If you do not want to engage in the mental challenge of out thinking your opponent when playing a game and just want to push models around throw some dice and see some crazy events that is fine. The game is there to be enjoyed, some people want to play the game as a competition between minds that is also fine. If you don’t want that tell your opponent and ensure you both have the same goals from a game. But trying to paint someone as radioactive just because they want something different from the game is a terrible attitude. The caste majority of actual competitive players don’t do that as what we are after is a test of our ability something we don’t get if we cheat.

            The actual worst people in the game are the players that want to be good but aren’t, they write a list as good as they can come up with challenge someone who actually knows the game lose and then slag their opponent of for using cheese. It is also this group of people in my experience that are most likely to demonstrate actual WAAC behaviour, claiming RaI whenit is beneficial to them and crying RaW when its not. Moving 7″-8″ in each movement phase and picking dice up quickly to hide the results.

          • Majere613

            “Let me get this straight you think it is radioactive for players to
            think about their strategy to win the game. To actually use their brains
            and maths skills whilst list writing is “radioactive”? Seriously?”

            Hardly. It’s the line of thinking- espoused time and again- that if a unit can’t be made basically invulnerable by means of a simple combo or rule exploit, it is worthless. I constantly see these arguments made, and when you point out that there are tactics and strategies that can be used to mitigate the problem, they just go straight back to the ‘but it dies if you shoot it’ argument.

            Personally, I have no problem with people who want to just build min-maxed lists to win tournaments, so long as they keep it in the right company. But outright dismissing two-thirds of the models in the game because they aren’t Wave Serpents or Wyverns is outright toxic. I’ve seen kids barely into their teens put off buying models they like because they read on ‘the internet’ that those units were ‘rubbish’.

            Anyway, since this discussion has once again spun into the usual ‘tournament vs casual’ baloney, I’m out. Have fun.

          • Sh4d0wProph3t

            It’s a shame I can only +1 your comments Majere.

          • PinkyandtheBrain

            My personal issue with the Jet bikes isn’t that they are easy to kill it is that they have no more attacks than a normal Harlequin. Being a glass hammer is kind of the Harlies entire schtick, but the weavers are just lacking in the hammer department.

            Stating a fact about the effectiveness of a model is also hardly a toxic attitude. It would be great if all codexes were like the Necron one with great internal balance. But with Matt Ward gone that seems hugely unlikely. If a kid wasn’t interested in learning to play the game competitively then he wouldn’t read or care what the internet said was effective.

            It is an outright fact that the Harlequin codex is by a large distance the weakest codex of 7th Ed. However given it is a brand new dex with hugely limited options that is hardly surprising. It also doesn’t stop them from being cool nor will it stop me from getting an army. The only really disappointing thing about the codex as a whole is how restrictive the detachment is (you have effectively no choice except how many characters to add) and how restricted the formations are. I’m struggling to write a list at low points or as an allied contingent that has any Troupes in as all the formations that include troupes either force me to take 3, don’t fit in a transport, or only give benefit to 1 of 3 units.

  • ctFallen

    The save makes sense IMO when you look at the armour the models have on. Guardian jetbikes have a 3+ because the guardian has his armour plus the bike, the Harlequin doesn’t have any armour so just gets the save from the bike, he shouldn’t have the same armour save as a guardian jetbike as nice as that would be. Reavers are a little dif IMO they should have a 4+ like the Harlequins as they have the wychsuite and the bike but I imgine GWs thinking is their bikes are more about speed and maneuverability and not armour, tho they are a point cheaper than gaurdians jetbikes so there is that.

    • John Kerrigan

      it is the Harlie bike that is the odd one. Bikes improved the riders armor by one. so gardians 4+ to 3+, DE 6+ wychesuit to 5+. The Harlies have no armor so instead of increasing it they just assigned a value.

      • ctFallen

        Gaurdians save is 5+ not 4+. Shinning spears have Heavy aspect armour (3+) and a jetbike and still only have a 3+.
        Alot of people are complaining that they don’t have a 3+ like Gaurdians, I’m just trying to explain why it makes sense that they don’t have a save equal to a gaurdian jetbike. IMO reavers should be a 4+ also but whatever.

    • deris87

      Maybe it makes sense fluffwise, but it doesn’t make them not overpriced.

      • PinkyandtheBrain

        The armour save for me is not the issue. If you don’t want expensive units that die to a stiff breeze then don’t play Harlequins. The fact the save is halfway between DE & Eldar jet bikes also makes perfect sense to me. What doesn’t is that 2 Harlequins on a jet bike have the same number of attacks as 1 on foot. They should be 4 attacks base or have 2 CCWs, either of those would just shift them from mediocre to quite good, both would have made them good enough to be a Necron unit.

  • Thunderchild

    RE: the Enigmas allowance, pg 70 says only one of each per army.

  • Goatboy, in case you do that Harlequin army, could you perhaps post a video painting tutorial? 🙂

  • commyjosh

    the warlord trait is actually a +4 to a seize roll not a 4+ to seize.
    Dunno if you typo’d?

  • Van Schnitzelhouven

    Nobody messes with Adam We!