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Sunday, 12 April 2009

Unit overview - Week One

Welcome to the first in hopefully a long series of weekly posts where I provide an overview of a 40k unit, detailing its strengths, weaknesses, combo potential, and relative worth in army lists.

It's entirely likely that I overlook something though, so, please, if you feel I have add a comment, and I will attempt to answer every one and address every point. I would like to point out at this juncture that I am not a Games Workshop employee, nor do I own any of the intellectual property discussed herein. No challenge, either explicit or implicit, is made by the views expressed by myself or others on this site and all views expressed herein are personal opinions held by this site or outside contributors.

Right, now the boring bit's out of the way (can't be too careful!) the first unit I wish to discuss - Eldar Shining Spears. These guys seem quite popular on some of the forums I frequent, and I've often found myself wondering exactly why. As I haven't yet developed a structure for this element of the blog, I think it prudent to simply list the good points I see in Shining Spears first.

1) A power armour save. Few basic Troops have the capacity to bypass an armour save this good, although specialised anti-heavy infantry troops, and especially anti-tank units have little problem. Slightly weaker as a defence in close combat, due to the prevalence of power fists and Rending attacks, this is still a significant point in an Eldar list, where most units are fragile enough that an Autocannon really hurts them.

2) Laser Lances. Having a power weapon on an Eldar model is always nice, due to the nice high I characteristic. Being able to strike first with between 6 and 11 S6 power weapon hits is usually enough to break small units, winning combats where you are likely to run the opponent down if not Fearless.

3) Skilled Rider Exarch ability. Being able to re-roll with impunity helps to to take the most direct route to the foe - and thus strike exactly where you will do the most damage! Lonely KFF Big Mek anyone? Skishkebab time!

4) Withdraw - this gives you a theoretical chance to get multiple charges in - which cancels the main weakness in the Laser Lance.

5) Jetbikes. Plus 1T, incredible mobility, option to generate their own cover save, always moving in the Assualt phase...What's not to love about a Jetbike?

6) Being a FA choice. There's not much competition, so you won't feel like you lose out by picking them.

It all sounds good so far, no? Pity, cos that's fairly outweighed by the next section.


1) Terrible unit size. Having the option of taking even fewer models than a Ravenwing Bike Squad as a MAXIMUM is a grave weakness, especially when the best model in the unit is therefore easy for the opponent to lap wound onto, and his abilities are lost when he dies. Unlike most Aspects, the Exarch's save is no better, so the odds of failing the save are the same, and on a 1wound character, that's not good enough to have staying power. Odds of fleeing are also VASTLY increased.

2) Laser Lances. If you don't charge, or the opponent takes the charge but there's a second round, these are about as useful as a damp cloth against Marines. The fact that they aren't stated as being 2-handed becomes moot, given that they have no pistols, and thus never benefit from having 2 ccws.

3) Power Armour saves on Eldar makes you forget they have only T3. Autocannon rounds may not cancel the save, but they still wound on a 2+ despite the Bike, and Bolters still wound on a 4. More than sufficient to make you cry.

4) The real biggie. COST. Squads likely to be played will generally range between 127 and 262 points - quite a significant chunk of even a 2k list. With guns being t-l, the extra point of BS is largely superflous over regular bikes, whom you could have a better at range unit of, with twice the model count, for 10 points less.

5) Not scoring. Only Troops or units that have a special rule that does it are scoring units in 5th. When the best a unit can do is contest an objective, it needs to be able to survive a turn on the enemy's doorstep in case the game doesn't end after all. Simply not likely for these guys.

6) Fast Attack. Apart from not being a scoring unit, the whole FA section sucks and blows at the same time - quite the achievement for an inanimate concept. Arguably, these guys aren't the worst option here, but picking them for that reason alone would be like saying 'x' fatal disease was better than 'y' fatal disease, because it inflicted less pain. They're still both fatal. Get over it, use the time you have.


Obviously, an all-Jetbike list would have time for these guys, as their lack of survivability per point is helped by being hidden in a swarm. They also counter the Jetbikes' weaknesses in CC, allowing you to help balance the army without breaking the theme.

Adding an Autarch with Lance to the squad can seriously boost their combat ability, helping them to do the jod they're there for before the whole enemy army fires on a unit that, like any other in 5th, can't consolidate into combat and claim immunity. A Farseer on Bike adds to the survivabilty of the squad - Fortune+MEQ save = Fantastic!

Overall though, the list needs to be built around them to work well at accomodating them...and that would suck too much to be real. Building a list around a non-scoring unit is only really viable when the unit does so much, like gives away only 1 KP but averages 3/4 for you. If you want to play fluffy, these guys are fine, but otherwise...if you want a Chaos Terminator, play CSM, don't pay for a Termie w' Power Weapon and Combi-Bolter to get this instead.

To paraphrase Stelek - "Costs like a Chaos Terminator, hits like a Rough Rider" ; hardly an inspiring epitaph.
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