Friday, 12 December 2008

Eldar War Walkers

Although I haven't finished painting my 500 points list yet, I've already started thinking on its evolution to a 1.000 points list, and the units that will be added to my army to achieve this goal. I have several things in mind, but today I feel like writing about my reflections on one of the units I like most of the eldar army: the war walkers.

Eldar war walkers have for me the strongest point to consider when choosing a unit: really cool models!! And also one of the most important secondary points: they're plastic!! The combination of these factors made them a must in my army, and when I started considering their colour scheme and pre-viewed in my mind the results, it was totally clear that I had to use them no matter the cost.

In terms of rules, eldar war walkers have some obvious strong and weak points that can be summarised basically in that they are super-shooters made of crystal. They are a nimble and versatile heavy weapons platform, being able to move like infantry and so benefiting of a safer movement through difficult terrain and the running special rule if they need so; but are also extremely fragile with an all-round AV10 which offers a reliable protection from lasguns only. The squadron rule saves you some points in spirit stones, but destroys them if immobilized, so it's neither an advantage nor a disadvantage. They pack an extra trick too, with their scouts special rule, which allows them to perform an additional move before the battle starts (which can be of some aid in certain cases as a small redeployment tactic) or make a flank attack if they are hold in reserve (this new tactic among my favourites for its inherent "Surprise!" factor). Their BS is average, scoring hits in a 4+ roll, but their basic cost is ridiculous (30 points plus weapons). All in all, an interesting unit that should be used wisely.

When choosing weaponry for your walkers, you must have into account three things:

A. They're BS3, so hitting percentage is 50%
B. They're extremely fragile, and most of the time they need to stay out of enemy range or receive cover saves for their survival
C. Their cost in point depends a lot on the weapons their carry

You can use different combinations of weapons on your walkers to fulfil different roles on the battlefield, but I've seen them more commonly equipped with a common weapon and thus becoming a specialized unit. I'll be using them in this way too, because in terms of eldar fluff I favour the idea of specialized units (it's their way, so I better won't change it). And when it comes the time for arming them, these are the options:

Brightlances: very good tank hunting weapons, with a medium-long range. On the paper it sounds very good to have a unit of tank hunters on legs, but let's admit it, these guys are not snipers (A) and cost a lot of points if equipped with these weapons (C), and it's not pleasant to see a 90 points model disabled by bolter shots (B). I consider this option too expensive and not very reliable; eldars have better tank hunters than those and with a lower prize. Not in my list unless I'm facing an Armoured Fist of the imperial guard.

Starcannons: the bane of heavy infantry, two shots per weapon, medium-long range. This option packs an average of two S6 AP2 hits per walker in the unit, which will terrify any space marine/necron/tyranid nidzilla player. But power doesn't come without cost, and at 80 points per model it's still an expensive option, though I'll seriously consider it when facing some armies such as Ravenwing or Plague Marines armies. In the last Eldar Codex, starcannons were downgraded to two shots per round (instead of three), and the new WH40K rules have nerfed them a bit more with the improvement of cover saves, so they're not the weapons they used to be; but can be devastating if used properly (just read the posts of Fritz in his The Way of Saim-Hann blog). In a tournament with fixed lists this may not be the best of the options, but can save you the day when facing one of those heavily-armoured-infantry armies, and will provide good support against most other foes, excluding imperial guard and the kind.

Eldar Missile Launchers: versatile weapons with long range. Eldar missile launchers are some of the less used eldar weapons, maybe lacking some of the eldar glamour, but nevertheless are very effective. S8 AP3 shots can deal with most armoured targets but those with AV14, but again their average accuracy (A) does not make them the best unit for tank hunting; and their S4 AP4 template is quite good when dealing with medium and light infantry. This versatility is at the same time their main handicap, not being excessively efficient in neither those roles; but when combined with the scouts special rule and the flank deployment it allows it gives you the advantage of being able to surprise a tank from its back (or rear, if you're lucky) and catching infantry hiding behind rubble in the open (and thus negating cover saves). All in all, probably the most versatile option, with a medium-high cost of 70 points, which outstands against an army in particular… can you guess which?

Eldar Scatter Laser: medium-long range weapons with an insane rate of fire. Each of these weapons packs four (yes, FOUR) S6 AP6 shots, so a unit of three war walkers with scatter laser means… 24 shots!! This is translated in 12 hits on average, or 18 if you guide the unit. Who is scared of orks now? This option is the most praised by everybody: it combines good anti-infantry firepower, specially against poorly armoured foes, but being also a threat for heavily armoured enemies due to the sheer amount of wounds they can cause (after all, 3+ saving throws are also failed); and also some anti-tank ability, specially against light vehicles such as transports or light walkers but also against heavier vehicles if you manage to surprise them with a brilliant flank deployment (this scouts rule is truly amazing). Moreover, when facing S4+ or better armies, you can place the walkers in cover or behind scenery without fear of having obscured line of sight to the enemy; their armour save will always be equal or better than the cover save you granted them in this way, and in return you get a cover save yourself, something very good for the survival of the walkers (B). With a medium cost of 60 points per model, I understand why this is the most popular option of all.

Shuriken Cannon: medium range weapon with high rate of fire. The lightest of all the eldar heavy weapons packs three S6 AP5 shots, and can be considered as the younger brother of the scatter laser, with less range and rate of fire, and a slightly better AP. This weapon option is often dropped by most players, who don't even consider it a "heavy" weapon; but as it happens with the scatter laser it allows you to use cover in your favour, and is lethal when used against orks, imperial guard, small tyranids and other eldars in the open. For the ridiculous cost of 40 points per model (what can be called a sale), you can get a unit that will surely surprise your opponent, and ruining his/her plans with such a simple unit makes your victory count as double!

After these thoughts, I guess I'll be using the scatter laser or shuriken cannon settings most of the time, depending on how tight on points I am. But I wont discard starcannons and missile launchers against certain armies… by the way, have you guessed which army is really afraid of eldar missile launchers? Of course, the Tau! F8 AP3 ammo means instant death to Crisis Battlesuits, and S4 AP4 templates can decimate fire warriors in the open. You see, every weapon has its strong point...

Edit: I forgot to mention the pinning special rule the EMS has... another good point when facing armies with average or low leadership... I definitely should try them sometime.


Old Shatter Hands said...

War walkers are awesome but they sport paper thin armor. I've found the best way to protect them is by giving them long range weaponry and keeping them as far from the enemy as possible. Like all walkers, they absolutely excel at city-fight games as they can enter terrain with no risk and benefit from cover saves.

The best way to equip them is by giving them both a scatter laser and star cannon. You need to give them 36" range and a high rate of fire to compensate for their low BS. Save the tank-hunting for firedragons or wave serpents with twin-linked weapons.

Deploy them on a far flank to protect them from enemy fire. Target units of infantry. The key to their survival is keeping them out of range of rapid-fire weapons and other small-arms fire. Opponents normally use their anti-tank weapons for all those eldar skimmers, so War Walkers will be targeted mostly by what he has left so just keep them out of range of what he has left!

That's my two cents.

Juahn F'rann said...

Interesting. I have to admit that I've thinking about that configuration recently. It gives you six S6 shots per walker, two of them with AP2 - excellent for taking down heavy infantry in the open or miniatures with the "Feel no Pain" rule. And 70 points per model is not excessively high... mmm...

Sidestreaker said...

I too intend to start off some warwalkers soon have do have scatter laser and starcannon in mind as well. Although your points in the missle launcher against tau is indeed a very good point. Perhaps a good mix of them all!