From what I've seen (on the Internet & locally) Mandrakes aren't a very popular unit selection from the new Dark Eldar codex. I think a lot of people disregard them, not due to their stat line or abilities, but because of their opportunity cost. In their place, you could take another squad of Trueborn, Bloodbrides, or Incubi just to name a few. There are a lot of options to choose from in the Elites category of the codex and some are much more specialized and focused than others. If your army lacks shooting, both anti-armour & anti-infantry, it's hard to beat the options a squad of Trueborn can bring to the table. Or if you really need some extra close-combat prowess, a unit of Incubi or properly tooled Bloodbrides can really rip things up in assault. Mandrakes aren't nearly as effective in close-combat as these other units and they don't even gain their shooting attacks until they've acquired a pain token. So what do they actually bring to the table and is that worth taking up one of the beloved Elite force organization slots away from one of the other more specialized units?
Whether or not they are deemed "worth it" depends on a lot of factors such as mission, points level, your opponent's army, your particular play style, amount of terrain on the board, etc. I'd like to reserve any judgments on their overall value until I've tried them out in each of the various missions/objectives and have faced off against a wide variety of armies. Anyone who has played this game for awhile knows that true value can only be assessed by actual in-game performance (results). Even then, results will vary depending on each person's experience -- some people roll 1's while others roll 6's. It's the beauty of the game. But from merely a codex perspective, let's look briefly at what Mandrakes have to offer.
Strength 4, 2 attacks base, 5+ invulnerable save, fleet, power from pain, move through cover, stealth, and the only unit in the codex with the infiltrate special rule. Coming from a scout heavy Raven Guard background, I love having infiltrators in my army. The ability to set up after everything else is on the table or to outflank from reserves ultimately affects your opponent's deployment decisions, and a mistake here can cost them the game. Now Mandrakes can't ride in a transport so they have no options for rapid re-deployment once they are on the table. But the rest of your army can of course be devastatingly fast. I like the scenario this puts my opponent in, just knowing the possibility that a unit could come in and disrupt behind their line. Sure this is more of a "passive" threat, but it's a consideration nonetheless that can throw a wrench in your opponent's deployment and give a boost to your army's overall positioning. Keep the Mandrakes in cover to take advantage of the improved cover save from having stealth. Once they've acquired a pain token, their Baleblast comes into play granting them an 18" ranged attack at S4 AP4, Assualt 2, Pinning (and lets not forget 'Feel no Pain'). Not too shabby.
In conclusion, they're not a "must take all the time" unit selection, but they're also not a bad disruption squad for the points cost. In the end that may be what I like most about them; that they're not some super vicious Incubi squad or Trueborn with maxed blasters in a Venom sporting two splinter cannons... Those types of units have huge red signs over them, flashing "shoot everything at me, I'm priority numero uno!" and your opponent knows it too. Mandrakes have a lot of potential without being a super obvious threat, yet can still cause your opponent to re-think their deployment strategy and as the game goes on and pain tokens start to amass they too can become a much more formidable unit.
On the hobby side of things, the models are awesome and totally wicked looking! Time to go finish painting my first 5 man squad.
Here we have my first Dark Eldar model, the Clawed Fiend. Now let me first say that I was eagerly awaiting the Dark Eldar re-release and am extremely excited about the updated rules and of course the new sculps! They were the brand new army to the 40k universe just as I first got into the hobby many many years ago, and I knew then that I wanted to have an evil fighting force of my own someday. Fast forward to now and I'm finally embarking on my journey through the dark city. As soon as I got the new codex last fall, I was immediately drawn to the entry for Beastmasters. Coming from mostly a Space Marines background, I had never seen anything quite like this. My eyes lit up and the list building portion of my brain started churning with all the possibilities this unit has to offer. I cannot wait to have a massive squad of beasts rushing out of a webway portal from midfield!
Anyway, I originally tried to paint this fiend up to look like a Wampa from Star Wars, mainly because I was watching The Empire Strikes Back at the time of priming this guy and a unit of Mandrakes.
Things were going well at first (I really should have snapped some pics after the first few coats of paint, but alas). Then I thought this scheme wasn't making the best use of all the fine details on the model and I didn't really want to do a snow themed Dark Eldar army. And lets be honest, I'm nowhere near the level of painting required to pull something like this off just yet. But I would certainly like to get a second fiend down the road, so maybe next time.
Then I went back to my painting table and surveyed the paints at my disposal to see what other direction I could take this guy. Oddly enough I tried a little bit of Citadel's Snakebite Leather even as I was telling myself I didn't want him to look TOO natural. So then I highlight over that with some Blazing Orange followed by some healthy doses of washes; Devlan Mud over the fur and Ogryn Flesh over the skin.
I'm a newb when it comes to washes and only recently started to incorporate them into my painting, but they can be a real game changer. I didn't really know what I was doing or how the colors would turn out, but after a little trial and error I started to learn what's what. Gryphonne Sepia works really well over Bleached Bone and I'll certainly be doing more of that for other models with exposed bone.
Well that's it for now. I'm not entirely finished with this guy yet as I still have a couple more details to go over, like the tongue and I'd really like to add the head of a Space Wolf or something being clutched in the right hand with all sorts of nasty dripping down. I'll see what I can come up with this weekend.
There's been some talk (rumors) recently of GW doing away with metal models. The local shop owners around me insist this is pure speculation and despite reorganizing/condensing their blister pack sections of the store, there hasn't been any internal word regarding such a change from the horses mouth. But assuming this is true, I have to admit it leaves me with some mixed feelings. On the one hand, plastic and resin are much easier to work with when you're talking about conversions and making a model unique. Plus, the molds for these materials have come a LONG way since I started the hobby. It's not altogether a bad thing. But on the other hand, I do love me my metal models! The intricate details... the extra weight of the models in your hand. Maybe it's mostly nostalgia for me, but I would be sad if they completely stopped using metal.
All of this and the fact that Dark Eldar had a relatively small representation last weekend at Adepticon has me in the mood to bust out the metal.
I've had hobby ADD in the worst way the past couple of weeks. I'm still assembling a couple of Speeders and a squad of Scout Bikers (all plastic). I've also got my Forge World stuff on the table; Sternguard squad, Captain Korvydae, and another Venerable dreadnought (all resin). And now some of my new Dark Eldar units (all metal). I've got all three material types on the table at the same time, and honestly each has their own place. Like I said, the new plastics are impressive. I'll admit, resin is more of a pain to work with than I thought - it can be brittle and unforgiving when removing the mold lines and cleaning the model. Not like the metal Mandrakes and Beastmaster squads I cleaned this morning. In my experience, metal doesn't have as much clean up required as resin does to get it ready for gluing. That being said, I think we can all agree gluing plastics is a breeze compared to the hand-cramp inducing chore of gluing metal & resin. Ah well, different strokes for different folks.
At the end of the day, I'm all for plastic if that in turn translates to more affordable minis. But I wont discriminate against any of the materials as long as an awesome end result can be achieved.
Time to go recover my latest batch of primed toy soldiers from the back yard ;)