The latest 6th Edition Codex for Warhammer 40K – the Eldar – continues the pattern of introducing two flyers per army. For the Eldar, it is the Crimson Hunter Aspect Warrior in the Nightshade Interceptor and the more arcane Hemlock Wraithfighters, piloted by an Eldar Spiritseer.
I do love the new models for the Eldar flyers.
While I think all Flyers for Warhammer 40K releases so far have been excellent models (yes, including the Heldrake), the Eldar flyers truly get my inner 6-year-old going. Perhaps because they resemble actual jetfighters to some extend, my mind’s eye immediately jumps into day-dreams of dog-fighting sci-fi fighters, diving, rolling and zooming by with a Star-Wars-style sound effect.
Rules-wise, there is no challenger to the Heldrake’s rule of the 40K skies in the Eldar Codex. That said, both Eldar flyers do bring some interesting options to the table that – in my humble opinion – make them more interesting than the Dark Angels Flyers or Tau Flyers were.
#1 – The Crimson Hunter
The Crimson Hunter is the air-to-air superiority fighter of the Eldar.
Unlike the Tau’s Razorshark Strike Fighter or the Dark Angels’ Nephilim Jetfighter – who share the same broad job-description – the Crimson Hunter’s rules have a laser-sharp focus on doing that, and doing it well. By default, the Crimson Hunter has
- Ballistic Skill 4
- Up to 4 Str. 8 shots with good range, half of them with the Lance special rule
- Re-roll to glance or penetrate vs. other Flyers
If the Crimson Hunter has a flyer in the cross-hairs, you have to be very unlucky not to mess it up.
The downside is the Crimson Hunter’s fragility. The Eldar Flyers are only AV10 all around! Strangely, the Eldar flyers cannot even take vehicle equipment (holo-fields!) to add a bit more survivability.
The obvious way to mitigate this weakness would be to reserve the Crimson Hunter (and/or go second). The downside, of course, is that your opponents flyers may well have done their job before the Crimson Hunter gets a chance to shoot them. This strategy may also be somewhat at odds with the Eldar play-style of “hitting-the-enemy-before-they-hit-you”, which this relatively fragile army needs to rely on.
Overall, I like the Crimson Hunter, even if it won’t be the first choice for most people.
It will not be easy to make the Crimson Hunter work to its full potential, but it is an interesting challenge. The rules for the Crimson Hunter really seems to bring out the spirit of ‘Aspect Warriors’ of being very good at one thing, but very vulnerable outside of their particular specialization.
#2 – The Crimson Hunter Exarch
The Crimson Hunter can also be upgraded on an Exarch. Technically, it is still the same entry in the Codex. However, the Crimson Hunter Exarch seems to be excel at something slightly different from the regular Crimson Hunter, and not being even better at the air-to-air intercept job.
The Crimson Hunter Exarch’s target of choice seem to be Elite infantry and characters, as much if not more so than other flyers.
Upgrading the Crimson Hunter to an Exarch adds the following:
- Ballistic Skill 5
- Precision Shots on rolls of a 6 (and upgradable for rolls of a 5+ if you choose to)
- The option to swap bright lances for starcannons for more, lower strength AP2 shots
What do you do with buckets of AP2 shots that will hit on 2+, as Precision Shots on a 6 or even 5+? You hunt TEQ and second-tier characters!
The Exarch is still just as fragile as the regular Crimson Hunter though, and just shy of 200 pts. I’d likely just stick with the bare-bones, non-Exarch Crimson Hunter.
#3 – The Hemlock Wraithfighter
The Hemlock Wraithfighter is the air-to-ground flyer of the Eldar. It’s strangely similar to the Dark Talon as far as the basic concept goes: an arcane weapon-system on a flyer designed to mess with the enemy, and not outright kill it. Like the Dark Talon, I feel it doesn’t add up to the punch I would’ve wanted for the points it costs (and the grand hype the background builds for both, with the Wraithfighter allegedly being as the ultimate “war-crime” by the Eldar).
For one, the Hemlock Wraithfighter has two Heavy D-scythes, giving you two Str. 4 AP 2 blasts with the Distort special rule. Pretty neat if you’re hunting Terminators. Less impressive if you’re going up against Tyranids or Orks.
For another, the “main weapon” of the Hemlock is the default Terrify psychic ability (which negates Fearless but not similar abilities such as ATSKNF), combined with the Mindshock Pod that forces your opponent to re-roll Morale and Pinning tests of nearby units. Pretty neat if you’re hunting Tyranids or Orks. Less impressive if you’re up against (ATSKNF) Terminators.
There are likely ways to make the Hemlock work, though I suspect it’ll require finding more synergies between the Mindshock Pod and other units in the Eldar army (Serpent Shield being, arguably, the most obvious one). In turn, you wouldn’t ever really want to rely on the Mindshock Pod however, as it is still sitting on an AV10 flyer.
I think the Hemlock is a great concept. I wish it would do just a little more for its points to be worthwhile playing around with its abilities in an Eldar army without having to design a list from the ground-up to make the Hemlock work.
#4 – Your Thoughts?
What do you think of the new Eldar flyers? More of the same of what we’ve seen in recent (post-CSM) Codex releases, or something more interesting for a change?
Would you use one (or more) in your list? If so, which one would be your first choice?
Let me know!