The Hope of a Harlequin Player

Revan is here with thoughts on Harlequins, and the ups and downs of starting an exotic new army in 40k. 

Guest Editorial by Revan 

Revan is back with more thoughts on Harlequins.

With their checkered regalia and 5+ invulnerable save, a Harlequin army boasts skill equivalent to that of a player with a mountain of experience. While the grinning Joker leaping precariously amid a swarm of enemies on the cover of the Harlequins codex was my literal Kiss of Death, there were multiple times Harlequins failed to engage my adversary, and instead danced off the board. The Fog of War has caused me to lose recollection of all the scenarios and circumstances with which I have lost while playing my Harlequins, but I do recall an abnormally high amount of vaporized Harlequins turn 1, while sitting in an armored transport.

Into the Webway

As a new player, I had bounded into 40k with the eagerness of a Harlequin herself, except I had lacked her grace. Ignoring my friend’s pleas to start with a simpler army, an Imperium army, with helmets and rounded shoulders, I built my Harlequin army, determined to have them look as beautiful as the lethal creature on the cover of my codex. But I didn’t expect the long flowing ribbons behind every infantry unit, as fragile as the satin they were supposed to replicate, to snap before I had fully attached them.

Undeterred, and fully convincing myself a Harlequin didn’t need ribbons to be graceful, simply to look graceful; I began the task of painting my units. I could imagine them in my mind’s eye, wiping my opponent off the table, their checkers glinting in the yellow light of the local game store. Everyone would bow down in fear as my Harlequins prepared to charge!  Sitting down in anticipation, I began to freehand the checkers. Slowly, the tip of my brush inched down the delicate leg of my favorite Harlequin. Gently, I curved the dark paint closer to her knee, the line was perfect! But alas, the joke was on me.

In a cruel twist of fate my hand cramped, due to lack of experience, poor posturing, or a combination of both I’ll never know, but my favorite model, with her Mohawk and single, perfect ribbon, was blotched.

I wish I could have convinced myself my Harlequins didn’t need the checkers, but that would be a huge lie, which could lead me to embrace the deceitful Dark Eldar, and it didn’t form my experience as a Harlequin player.

My vision of checkered Harlequins chasing tattered Space Marines off the board were often interrupted by long periods of time perfecting the Harlequin checker, stripping the model, touching up new troupes, reattaching delicate bits, and trying again.

When my Harlequins were on the board, they tasted defeat—constantly. After every game, I’d take my battered Harlequins, place them gently back into their cardboard box, and look at the menacing Harlequin on the cover of my codex. I was determined to make Harlequins as intimidating as their cover art.

The Dance Without End

It took 4 months before I created a list that had won a game. For the first time, my models were returned to their box without the bitter taste of disappointment. I was cautious and hopeful. Eventually, I took a modified version of the list to the LVO, assuring my Harlequins had a place in the 40k universe. Not only did my Harlequins do better than I had expected, but in traditional Harlequin fashion, many Webways of laughter and friendship had opened.

However, I couldn’t recommend Harlequins as a beginner army. My recollection of delicate models, the need for playing with surgical precision, paired with the struggle to meet the artistic vision of fellow Harlequin players was a lot to handle as a new player. Allying in the Eldar or Dark Eldar have always been an option, but not only does it add another layer to creating an army list, it changes the Harlequin dynamic. For the new player, memorizing one army, let alone two or more, is challenging. Harlequins are an army that transcends the definition of “Competitive Eldar” and attempt to give it a new scope, but for the new player, it’s not only potentially overwhelming, it could discourage them from the hobby.

~ The Dance Without End goes ever on…

  • Rajak

    I have never been a fan of the checkering. But I am in a similar boat. The painting is taking forever to make my Troupe come alive…

  • ZeeLobby

    Shoot. As an older player it would discourage me from the hobby, lol.

    Do love the models though

  • AEZ

    Nearly got me into 40k. GW should’ve made some sort of dual kit with Wardancers (instead of making Wardancers compendium, yes I know that isn’t lining up up the time line…But still.)

  • Senexis

    Love that art at the beginning of the article. Is it Chris Bachalo?

  • Kinsman

    Wait you can make them an army? Aren’t they rare and dying? Low in numbers and scarce?

    • BassTremble

      in their book they have been collecting eldar that retreat to the webway and preparing them for one last trick against slaanesh. So, there is alot of them just hiding.

    • Karru

      They were, but now are almost as common as Space Marines. GW wanted to make them into an army, so they came up with a story on the spot.

    • Harlequins weren’t dying. Craftworlders were. Low in numbers… yea, probably less than Craftworlders, but still quite a big cult inside Eldar society as a whole.

  • J Mad

    As a Harlequin player. They are pretty good right now. Idk why they get so much hate I’m doing really well with them.

    • Any hints on how to get them to work?

      • J Mad

        Sure, outside of list building you really need to practice target priority and timing.

        Timing is the hardest part, when to stay in vehicles, whent o get out, when to use your shadowseer etc..

        The Shadowseer (having 2-3 is good) is important due to its Veil of Darkness you can set up a next turn charge with it, once you get 2-3 units in melee the rest of your army will be able to.

        Also when to time your 4++ saves on your vehicles, use these early and fast, but if you see they are setting up a large scale shooting once you get closer maybe wait, but as soon as your vehicles die its harder.

        Harlequins is all about take a turn or 2 to kill key units and time your charges, the Skyweavers (always take the Re-roll Jinks) are MUCH hitters, you can easily get 2+ re-rolling at times.

        Caress and maybe a kiss here and there with HWGs everywhere, I normally take 3 Caress and 1 kiss with 2 cheap dudes. I try to always have 2 Troupes, 2 units of Starweavers, 1-2 Voidweavers and 2 Shadowseers at all times. I prefer 5 Troupes and 4 Shadowseers. You can mix and Match formations easily. 3 units that RUna nd Charge are the important ones, they can at times get turn 2 charges, but I normally dont win the game with Turn 2 charges, turn 3 will be average.

    • Dennis J. Pechavar

      It’s because they aren’t an easy win army. Sadly too many people need an autowin button. Harlies are fragile and tough to play, so fun to play however.

      • Karru

        Or people don’t prefer their playstyle. Harlequins are very unique, they lack good saves and rely a lot on positioning, speed and the ability to catch the enemy out of position. They are one of the hardest armies in the game right now and will most likely remain as such.

        I know for a fact that I wouldn’t do good with them because I don’t prefer their playstyle. I enjoy using a mixed selection of units ranging from hard hitting assault units to long range firepower.

        My Orks for example has lots of Trukks and Bikes, as well as Killa Kans and Deff Dreads. In support I have Lootas. I do very well with this army. Then I have my Ultramarines where I use Drop Pods and Flyers to win the day. With my Guard, I prefer sustained fire from many Infantry Squads supported by fast moving Armoured Sentinels and Bane Wolfs. My Eldar rely on Guardians and Dark Reapers for supporting fire while my Wraithguard and Dire Avengers wreak havoc behind the enemy lines, using their Wave Serpents to get there.

        This is my preferred playstyle. A mix of different units, all of which have their purpose. Harlequins are a “tricky” army in my opinion. Something that I do not personally prefer.

        • Dennis J. Pechavar

          This is true. I can’t stand the shootiness of Tau but I know others do. I am just annoyed that Harlies are a pretty balanced book in a sea of unbalance. They are completely unforgiving of mistakes and knowledge of rules and forethought is essential to winning with them. In a friendly environment they are a ton of fun to play. In high level competitive games they tend to die rather quickly.