|How the mediocre have fallen..|
Here it is guys, sorry for the long wait. I just got back from a wedding in SF and I just got my hands on the book today.
Here is the review, starting with the units:
Archon - Strictly worse than it was before. You don't have access to combat drugs anymore to boost your fighting potential, absolutely no source of AP2 to fight Terminator armor, and not even PGL to be a grenade-monkey for Incubi. Speaking of PGL, it no longer gives the unit grenades either. You can still buy a more expensive, but slightly better Shadowfield, but he has nothing else going for him besides from fluff.
Court of the Archon - Got better in most ways, both in price and with the amount of semi-powerful weapons you can take. Is this supposed to make up for the really crappy Archon? I'm not sure. But it does seem like a nice way for players to spend X amount of money to buy static-posed models just so you can have the Medusae's S4 AP3 flamer templates and reduce-priced Sslyths.
Succubus - When I first heard the rumors that the Succubus was relatively unchanged, I was pretty happy. Then I saw that she actually increased by 10 points, kept the same crappy defensive stats otherwise, and is still a T3 model with virtually nothing protecting her from ID in the shooting phase. She one of the only sources of close combat AP2 in the entire book called the Archite Glaive, but it doesn't mean all that much when you consider her price increase. Why was this needed, I ask myself? Was she so overly powerful that they felt the need to increase her points? You will see that I ask myself this repeatedly throughout the entire book.
Lelith Hesperax - Got a points decrease, but suffers from the same weakness that all Succubus have: Which is the fact that you're pretty much naked outside of close combat and instantly die to anything S6+ shooting at you. The Blood Dancer trait is essentially useless on her if she's not by herself, and A League Apart is now changed to re-roll hits and wounds while fighting in a challenge. This only works in a challenge. Why? Does GW really think that S3 ignore armor saves is really that game changing for a pretty expensive character?
Haemonculus - Is basically the Haemonculus Ancient and gives you a slight boost in what round Power From Pain is. That's pretty much thet only thing he's good for, aside from being a Webway Portal beacon. Keep in mind that you can no longer take Wracks as troops.
Urien Rakarth - Might actually be worth it considering he has excellent stats and a built-in Ichor Injector and Clone Field. Tie this in with FNP 4+, It Will Not Die and a bubble 12" Master of Pain (boosts all PfP by +1), he is the only SC worth taking IMO. You will see heavy Haemonculi love throughout this real book, so if you really like that stuff, stay tuned.
Drazhar - You have standard Phoenix Lord stats with mediocre performance for the points. He can't even leap around anymore, but he does have Demiklaives so I guess that makes up for the Archon?
Kabalite Warriors - They got cheaper, and have a cheaper Dark Lance at the expensive of a cost increase for the Splinter Cannon. To put things into perspective, this is only a 5 point decrease from the standard layout of 10x with Blaster and Splinter Cannon. Not a huge change, but any points decrease at this point is very much appreciated, especially when the Splinter Cannon is now Salvo 4/6.
Wyches - These girls have been nerfed severely in many ways. The biggest one is the loss of Haywire Grenades, dramatically decreasing the effectiveness of the unit at being multi-functional. The PGL no longer provides offensive and defensive grenades, Wych weapons are still very mediocre and Venom Blades are no longer an option. Worst of all, they stayed at the same price with only nerfs to be had. I'm very sad that I have 40 of these.
Trueborn - Got cheaper, retained the same weapon options, so overall better. Or is it? Because they no longer have the ability to take Shard Carbines, which kills all hope of making them DS in a Raider with the new Splinter Racks, and have a min squad of 5.
Bloodbrides - They're more expensive Wyches, and without the ability to take Haywires. At least give these gals Haywires right?! Come on man.
Incubi - They still don't have grenades, the points decrease is nice, and since they're the only form of AP2 melee that DE have, this might be alright. The Klaivex is also a regular Sergeant now with Rampage.
Mandrakes - These guys got a lot better, with Stealth and Shrouded and S4 AP4 shots. The Infiltrate helps these guys into range early and they can be a pretty decent harassing unit. More importantly, Mandrakes are a perfect example of under-purchased units receiving buffs.
Wracks - Now elites with no way of making them troops. Liquidifer Gun for some reason is now S3 with the same variable AP, and the Acothyst can be given a Venom Blade. Not much can be said about a unit that used to be commonplace as a reliable troop choice thanks to their T4 and FNP. Now you only have Warriors and Wyches (but not really Wyches), so really just Warriors.
Grotesques - These guys got buffed quite a bit, receiving Rampage and built-in Flesh Gauntlets. They come with FNP, T5 and 3W a piece with decent prices will see these guys delivered to you in a nice DS Raider.
Beastmasters - Points decreases all over for the most part with very little changed. The lack of the Baron to go with these guys will hurt, but otherwise they just received a minor buff because of the better prices.
Raiders - You now have to pay for the Dark Lance so they're literally the same price as before. All Raiders, Venoms and Ravagers can now DS as normal, but the biggest standouts for upgrades is the Night Shield and Aethersails. Night Shields gives you Stealth, allowing you to Jink for a 3+ cover, but this does not stack with Night Fighting. The loss of Flickerfields on these guys means you're now completely vulnerable to Ignore Cover, thus making you more one-dimensional from what you can save from. Aethersails is the only real buff here for me since it costs the same meager amount of points and is now a 24" flat out. That's a huge boon in terms of movement, but otherwise both a buff and a nerf to something that I would already consider overpriced. Oh, and Splinter Racks now affect all Splinter Weapons.
Venom - These guys pretty much stayed the same since Splinter Cannons got a little bit more expensive. Venoms are also the only DE vehicle that have Flickerfields, making them a special little snowflake.
Reavers - While the pricing is competitive for these guys, I hate the fact they lost their signature drive-by damage effect. While they still have Skilled Rider, if you want to do damage with them now you either have to shoot or get in melee. Sure, they have Hit and Run, but I see them more as a harassing AT unit with Heat Lances or Blasters.
Hellions - You cannot take these guys as troops since the Baron is gone, so they are very mediocre. The fact they can no longer do really cool stuff like pull ICs out of units makes them even more subpar. Simplicity at the cost of cool is fine in some cases, but not when it makes a subpar unit even more unattractive.
Razorwing - Got moved to Fast Attack, but now you have to pay for Dark Lances if you want them, which bumps up their cost. Why? They also don't have Vector Dancer like other Eldar fighters, are are pretty much subject to a ground-attack role with cheap Disintegrators. I guess they can also take Night Shields now so they can Jink for a 3+, but the Aegis Defense Line doesn't really care.
Scourges - Received the biggest buff in the book as far as utility is considered. They got cheaper and can now take 4x Special or Heavy Weapons out of a unit of 5. This means that they can take 4x Haywire Blasters if they wanted to, but they're still BS4 and T3 4+ dudes that can get shot at. A lot of people think these guys will replace the Ravager, but I don't think that's true. The vulnerability to small-arms fire really raises an eyebrow from me.
Talos - You can now take units of these guys, and with T7 3W and FNP, it might be enough to piss off some Tyranid players. I'm not sure if I'm happy with their prices, lack of transport and weapon options, but at least you can take a lot of them.
Cronos - Same with the Talos, you can now take multiples of these guys per unit. I'm still not feeling the application of these guys because they're foot-slogging, and I feel they'll be left in the dust now that DS Raiders can load up improved Grotesques.
Ravager - Went up in price by around 20 if you plan on taking Dark Lances, more if you want Night Shields (which you don't because Jink kills this vehicle's purpose). I have seriously no idea why you have to spend points for Dark Lances, it wasn't like it was such a huge deal before. Shooting 3 lances was already mediocre at best when shooting at AV12 3HP (now even worse than before with 7th Ed. VDC), but add in the fact they lost Aerial Assault and you've got tons of Dark Eldar players foaming at the mouth. Why?!
Voidraven Bomber - The newest kit that people won't be buying because of the price. It starts at 160 and is upgraded with a Large Blast S9 AP2 Lance bomb and 2x Void Lances (same as before), but all of its missile options are painfully expensive. Any of the missile options will bump its cost up to 200+, and that's just such a huge turn off for DE players trying to get the best bang for their buck. Honestly, I would keep it as cheap as possible, naked with 2x Dark Scythes (24" blast lances), but that would mean they're vulnerable to enemy AA. With only AV10 now, this might mean you'll have to get closer and thus exposing yourself to small-arms fire.
Power From Pain - This has changed from a token system to something that's more reliable as the game goes on. Take the time to digest this for a second: As the game goes on. I don't know about you guys, but I've been playing the army for about 14 years now. Dark Eldar are at the strongest when they enter the battle without their opponent's knowing what hit them. What the GW design team did here was push the fact that the Dark Eldar get stronger as the carnage ensues and the battle rages. Good for the fantasy, but horrible when it comes down to how games are actually played out on the table-top. DE are an army with very little staying power, and as the battle rages on between two equally-sized armies and well-matched opponents, Dark Eldar will take on more and more casualties. The gist of the matter is; while a Turn 6 DE with stacked effects of alien-adrenaline is nice, it doesn't matter if there's 2 models left trying desperately to hold a point. At least what they had before allowed you put FNP into a unit of choice, and actually rewarded players from killing enemy units. Now, they have some kind of psuedo-attrition that simply does not work with such a fragile army.
Combat Drugs - Random rolls gives you random stat boosts ranging anywhere from WS to S to T to even Leadership. When you compare this to what they had before, this is not really a buff or a nerf. Losing re-roll wounds sucks a lot on low S units, but nothing more can be done at this point. Most units are just getting a free buff so I can't really complain.
Artefacts and Warlord Traits - Very subpar. In fact, the one that irks me the most from the Warlord tree has to be the +1 to WS. WS7 to 8 does virtually nothing, but 8 to 9 does. Or does it, because most of the time, the Succubus will be fighting in a unit, so it's only really useful in a challenge. You're much better taking the default Strategic tree almost every time. Don't even both with the artefacts, since all they do is bump up the price in your already overpriced characters.
Final Verdict: 4/10
While the internal balance of the book is fine for the most part, it really looks to me like a money-grab from GW. In the book, the most apparent thing to me is that most of the tried-and-true options for Dark Eldar has been nerfed for virtually no reason, and most of the unused, unpopular, and thus unsold models have been noticeably buffed. It's really quite clear for me that they're trying to sell off the model boxes that have been gathering dust, but at the same time, this conflicts with the fact that Dark Eldar is a very popular army with a lot of new plastic kits. So if money-grab isn't the problem, what is? There seems to be a lot of shoddy design flaws in the book itself. I can't tell you the amount of times I scratched my head, trying desperately to form some rationale and logic from the decisions that were made. Why was the Power from Pain table designed the way it is? If I was to have a go at it, I would have flipped everything in reverse, that DE are the most powerful when they enter the battlefield and have the jump on their opponents. What they have right now goes against function of the army as a whole, and ultimately proves to me that GW have no idea how the army is intended to work. Who would have guessed that an army of AV10 open-top and T3 models with barely any saves are not designed to fight for 6 game turns?
I'm not really that mad that the army lost 5 of its 8 special characters, but I know a lot of people who are. What I'm really mad about is that on top of losing so many SCs, the army has lost a lot of its flavor for the sake of simplification. Reavers losing their pass-by effect, Implosion Missiles not taking W-tests or suffer ID, Hellions no longer able to pull ICs out of squads, these are just some examples of flavor being lost for simplicity. Then you remove half of the DE artifacts, randomly increase and decrease points (Succubus needed a points increase? Soul Trap was too powerful? Agonizer needed a points increase? Were Huskblades too good?), and you wonder at the end of the day if GW wanted Dark Eldar to be Eldar-cheerleaders for life, or essentially punching bags for all the marine armies out there. We all know anyway that most of Dark Eldar's leadership gimmicks out there is worthless on ATSKNF. By the time I finished the book, I was thinking about more ways how DS Raiders can benefit my Eldar more than how Dark Eldar can function as an army by itself without allies. This is most evident with the WWP, providing a much bigger boon to Eldar Fire Dragons than almost anything else in the DE arsenal. The price to punch ratio for the army is atrocious, especially in an army that's so vulnerable to Ignore Cover are basically running around naked with T3.
It's not like Dark Eldar were a point and click army to begin with, but now they'll suffer even more in the current meta. They were already in the decline since 5th Ed., and they were involuntarily nerfed several times since then. Now in 7th, they're barely holding on as an army and this new book does nothing to improve their current situation. Even before, DE was used primarily as a Baron supplement in the competitive scene, and now that they've lost that, I don't think anyone will think twice about them. For me, points-wise, my army basically stayed the same with barely any buffs. This is hardly a good thing considering they were already hanging on by a thread vs. the likes of Eldar, Tau, SM and the like. It's OK though, we'll always have that Day 1 DLC to make everything better right? Not even. Outside of some gimmicky WWP play, I don't see a very bright future for the Dark Kin at all. Overall, just a very poor showing by the GW design team.