Fast and Furious: Eldar Tactics in 40K

June 2nd, 2009 by Doug Mason
The U.S. military will be shipping troops to the front lines in giant foam grids by 2015.

The U.S. military will be shipping troops to the front lines in giant foam grids by 2015.

What happens when psychic elves get their hands on spaceships, battle armor and other high-tech military hardware? Probably some kind of large-scale tabletop miniature battle. Robot Viking contributor Doug Mason is here again with the latest in Eldar table tactics for Warhammer 40K. If the Space Marines have got you down, Doug just might have the cure.

To put it mildly, in my last several outings with the Eldar against my long time opponent’s Cadians, results have been mixed, to put it charitably. A draw has been about the best I have been able to pull, and one game in particular was a two turn pasting of embarrassing proportions. Those ordinance templates are a mother, particularly when you lose the roll off. Eldar excel at movement, with a variety of ways to get across the battlefield, and eating templates before moving is the bane of movement armies. The battle cannons of the Guard are about the worst in the game, and that’s before they got their new codex this month. So I am at a tactical crossroads – let’s see where we can achieve success with the fragile but fast Eldar army.

Reserves. My most recent pounding was the result of putting too much on the table to start the game. Even when winning the first turn, an Eldar player should consider leaving some or all of its Fast Attack, Deep Strike and even Heavy Support off the table, depending on the set-up and game objective. In a large scale Apocalypse game you can bring these units in even closer to the enemy and either shoot the heck out of them or drop your assault troops in for a volley before charging. But the key here is coordination, you need to decide where and when, then pile as much on as possible, considering as many as half of the reserve rolls may go against you if you try it in turn two. In very large games I have Vypers, a couple of Falcons and a pair of Wave Serpents with squads of Fire Dragons (tank hunting melta death) and Striking Scorpions (carve infantry into teeny tiny pieces) as my main reserves. I don’t have Howling Banshees but if you fight Space Marines they would likely be a better choice than the Scorpions.

Lances. Bright Lances suffer from Str 8 but have the nifty “Lance” rule that makes a mockery of a Leman Russ’ front AV14, treating it as AV12. Mind you, this is no substitute for using your superfast units to nip round behind to that paltry AV10 behind on them, but it goes a long way to offset the lack of Str 9 and 10 weapons in the Eldar arsenal. If you are going to face armor, lance up. I have converted both of my Vypers squadrons to all Bright Lance, as my primary opponents are Imperial Guard and ‘Nids. If you fight Space Marines, loyal or not, you might want to get some Star Cannons into the mix. I also toss a couple of cheap Guardian squads into the mix with a Bright Lance platform and a Warlock with Conceal. This ups up the Lance count while hopefully having a few squads my opponent will dismiss as harmless as he targets my tanks and walkers.

Troops. This may be the most frustrating category for Eldar players: Guardians, Dire Avengers and Scouts. Of the three, only the Dire Avengers will not be outclassed, outshot and out armored by… well, by every other basic troop type in the game. Even a lowly termagant, by virtue of the hive mind, will be more than a match for your Troops. Solutions? BIG units. Guardians can be in units up to 20 large, and I would suggest no less than 12. Specialization is also vital. Dire Avengers can put out some serious firepower when combined with the Exarch’s Bladestorm ability, but at 18” range know you will be well inside most other armies range to get it off. And hide! Scouts upgraded to Pathfinders have Terminator like staying power within cover. The caveat being that the more upgrades, the more points spent, so it is up to you to figure out the minimum points to get the maximum effectiveness out of the cannon fodder.

Elites and Heavies. I plump a big expensive unit with a Wraithguard and a Spiritseer Warlock with either Conceal or Destructor right at the front lines. The Wraithcannon scares tank heavy armies, so expect them to be a fire magnet. Still, being fearless, even a handful can get close enough to do serious damage, with a penetrating hit on a 5-6. I mentioned the pair of Falcons before, Holofields and Spirit Stones are a must, with other upgrades only if you have the points to spend. Use at least one Wraithlord, which is devastating in close combat, although it’s another one your opponent will target mercilessly. For really big Apocalypse games I have a pair of Forge World Phoenix bombers, more for coolness factor than combat effectiveness. Sometimes rational tactical thought has to be tossed out the window in favor of fun.

Final Thoughts. I have been playing the Eldar with more success than failure since Rogue Trader days… Ah yes, it was 1990, I remember like it was yesterday, White Dwarf 124 and my nascent Silver Skulls Space Marines beaten up by these elfin upstarts. I quickly began to build my own army. Devastating under 2nd Edition rules, castrated by 3rd, the most recent Codex was a big step up over the previous one, but 5th Edition and Codex creep from the Space Marines and Guard have put a damper on my speedy but admittedly fragile army. The key? Keep moving, pick your fights and above all have fun. I recommend the Eldar to any wildly crazy and optimistic players out there. You might not always (or often) take the prize, but it is an army packed with some of the most unique units in the game and the models are top notch. I have played several different loyalist and traitor armies, the Guard and even the ‘Nids but I always come back to my beloved Eldar.

Photo by jon_a_ross.

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3 Responses to “Fast and Furious: Eldar Tactics in 40K”

  1. Comment by mordicai

    I used to play with borrowed armies; I’m a tyranid’s fan, myself!

    When you said “Eldar tactics” I thought you’d be like: “Crown your most beloved elf-son King of the Wraithbone Harvest! Crown him with Memoryflowers & give to him all adoration! Sit him upon the Throne of Yesterdayskiss & LET THE AVATAR OF THE SMILING GOD ENTER INTO HIM. OH HAIL TERROR FOR THOUGH OUR LOVED ONE DIED THE GOD DANCES IN THE FIELD OF BATTLE ONCE MORE!”

  2. Comment by ggodo

    Speaking as someone who’s played nearly all his games against Eldar armies better prepared than my meager forces, Eldar can really do whatever you want them to, the problem is that each individual piece of the army does one thing. They aren’t like Marines where every guy is pretty good at everything, or the tyranids where you can make anyone into anything, or the Orks where everyone does the same thing at varying levels of proficiency. The Eldar are specialized to the point where you really can say “these are my tank hunters” “these guys handle infantry” because that’s what they do, that’s all they do.

  3. Comment by ggodo

    It seems like you’d have to take some redundancy in case something you need gets destroyed. Having little overlap between unit uses seems risky to me, but there’s no denying that the Eldar look pretty in battle.
    I play Tyranids.

    Also, it appears there is a character limit for comments because it suddenly stopped me from typing mid word