Haemonculus Covens Supplement Review

Friday, November 14, 2014


Let's take a look at the first Dark Eldar supplement, the Haemonculus Covens, and what they bring to the tabletop from the underbelly of Commorragh.

Releasing a supplement book a week after a parent codex comes out (or the same day if you ponied up for Archon edition) may seem like a money grab, but having spent some time with the Coven book I'm really glad they did it this way. It would have been better received if they didn't charge as much as the main codex (even $10 cheaper would be reasonable), but there's no way they could have crammed an additional 80 pages into the parent dex without trimming a lot of stuff out. They could release just the rules portion as a dataslate down the road, but for Dark Eldar fans this book is totally worth it. Like the new DE codex, this book is fantastic! Lots of awesome new artwork, deeper background/fluff... it's a great read! I especially like the material on the conflict with the Raven Guard (my first 40k army) and will definitely try out the mission Raven's Fall to play out some of that background.


On to the Coven special rules. I know I didn't really cover Power From Pain (PfP), Warlord Traits, or most of the Artefacts of Cruelty from the main DE codex as that information is already readily available; likewise, I won't go into all of those from this book either, just the things that stood out to me.

If you plan on running Coven units in your DE army they are almost always going to be better when selected from the Covens supplement versus the parent codex. Primarily because Coven PfP is much more beneficial to these units than the other table. The parent table doesn't even factor in for these units until turn 4+ as they all come standard with Feel No Pain anyway. Furious Charge can definitely be useful for these guys, but in terms of battlefield roles and how I plan to use Coven units, I mainly take them to have some survivability in my otherwise fragile list and Coven PfP grants Fearless on turn 2 (turn 1 with attached Heamy). That plus It Will Not Die and eventually Eternal Warrior Grotesques... that's some serious staying power! If you want all out offensive Coven units, the parent PfP may be the way to go... does Rage stack with Rampage?? if so, S6 Grots with 6+D3 attacks each on the charge would be insane!! However, I'm still drawn more to Coven units for their high toughness / durability and Coven PfP plays to those strengths better.


Because of how random they are, I've never been one to plan my list or strategy around any particular Warlord Trait despite how powerful some of them can be. It's really just a bonus (if I actually remember to apply them during the game... outside of the infiltrate one which is used right away, I always seem to forget about them once the game is underway). The Coven Traits aren't bad and from what I can tell, there are more useful ones here than in the parent book. Yay for book-keeping :p

Moving on, Diabolical Playthings are the unique wargear options available to any units from a Coven Detachment or Formation who otherwise would have had access to the Artefacts of Cruelty. There are a couple that seem really useful. I really like The Panacea Perverted: for 20pts the bearer gains It Will Not Die but passes rolls on a 4+, AND they are only wounded by Poisoned attacks on rolls of 6! Not too shabby. The Nightmare Doll, the most expensive option at 35pts, is also worth consideration as the bearer adds 1 to any Feel No Pain rolls, and they ignore the first unsaved wound with the Instant Death special rule, however in doing so, the Doll will immediately cease to work for the rest of the battle. The interesting thing to note here is the interaction with the Cronos' Spirit Probe, which grants a +1 bonus to Feel No Pain for friendly units within 6", and is cumulative with any other modifiers but cannot improve Feel No Pain beyond 4+. The wording on the Nightmare Doll means that you would effectively pass Feel No Pain on a 3+ because you are adding 1 to the roll making it a 4, not modifying Feel No Pain itself beyond 4+ as stipulated with a Spirit Probe. Expensive but super survivable!


Covenite Coterie Detachment


This is the Coven unique Detachment that offers a rather sizeable Force Organization Chart (up to 6 HQ, 8 Elites, and 4 Heavy Support) but restricted to the following selections: Urien Rakarth, Haemonculus, Raider (Dedicated Transport), Venom (Dedicated Transport), Wracks, Grotesques, Talos, and Cronos.

Command Benefits / Special Rules

Seeker of Torment: Re-roll Warlord Trait if this is your Primary Detachment
Freakish Spectacle: Enemy units within 12" of one or more models from this Detachment suffer a -1 penalty to their Leadership value

I have mixed feelings about this detachment and while I think you can make some really fun army lists from it, I think it will struggle to stand on its own. The 2 big things holding it back are no Objective Secured units (I was expecting Wracks to move to Troops or explicitly gain ObSec when taken from this book) and the even bigger disappointment, no access to Scourges :(
This is a huge missed opportunity or possibly an oversight as Scourges are in fact creations of the Haemonculi -- they start out as wealthy warriors who pay a high price to have their bones hollowed out by the drills of a Talos, then a Haemonculus grafts new muscle and wings to their torso's, enabling them to fly. Fluff aside, Scourges provide some much needed ranged anti-armor which this Detachment is all but devoid of outside of the slow moving Talos. It would have made sense on all levels and it's unfortunate that the Scourges have been left out of the Coven supplement.

Despite all of that, this Detachment (and all of the following Formations) really starts to shine when used in conjunction with the main DE codex. Even a minimum sized Detachment (2 Haemy's and 2 5-man Wracks in Raiders) provides any standard DE army with a couple fearless units that can zoom around in their transports contesting objectives, picking off weaker backfield units, or tying up big nasty stuff the rest of your army doesn't want to deal with. All for a reasonably affordable points cost. Against armies that aren't all Fearless or have And They Shall Know No Fear, this little detachment becomes even scarier to your opponents as they can easily maneuver into range for their -1 LD to affect vulnerable enemy units. Pair this with a character dropping in sporting the Armour of Misery (for an additional -2LD), maybe the Archangel of Pain (another -2LD Soulfright test), and Phantasm Grenade / Torment Grenade Launchers and you have a very good chance of erasing a unit, either through Soulfright casualties or the unit simply running off the board. This tactic is very situational as it may not even affect most armies you face at a tournament, the timing has to work out between the units to maximize the negative LD modifier so it's not something I'd base your entire list around. I view it more as an option if the right circumstances present themselves. The Dark Eldar are all about having options so the more tricks you have in your bag the better your chances of success. This will also keep your opponent guessing at what your next move could possibly be. The Dark Eldar have always been a challenging army to play, requiring a great deal of cunning from an experienced general in order to be successful, and that remains true with this latest update. However, I think we've gained a few new options this time around that should allow for more varied lists and more tactics than previous iterations.

Formations


Speaking of more options, the Coven supplement offers us 7 new formations ranging from OK to really awesome, but none are OP or game breaking. Let's take a look at each.

Grotesquerie

  • Urien Rakarth or 1 Haemonculus
  • 2 units of Grotesques

Special Rules

Freakish Spectacle: (see above)
Latest Experiments: After rolling Warlord Traits, but before deployment, roll a D6; all units of Grotesques in this Formation gain the following bonus for the rest of the game:
  1. +1 Strength
  2. +1 Toughness
  3. Fleet
  4. Shred
  5. Rage
  6. Feel No Pain (4+)
Very nice! Bog standard grots are good in their own right, so a couple units of super grots is even better. If you were planning on running a couple units anyway, there's no reason not to go with this Formation.

Scarlet Epicureans

  • 1 Haemonculus
  • 1 Cronos
  • 2 units of Wracks

Special Rules

Freakish Spectacle: (see above)
Macabre Collectors: All units of Wracks from this Formation within 12" of the Haemonculus have the Precision Strikes special rule.
Master of Epicureans: The units of Wracks from this Formation treat the current turn as being one higher when determining PfP benefits. If this Formation's Haemonculus is your warlord, he automatically has the Master Epicurean Trait (gains extra VPs for dying from AP1, 2 or ID).

This one is alright if you are into Wracks and plan on using them in an offensive / close combat role. I'm not sure why the Cronos was thrown in there but no matter. When taking this Formation I think it makes sense to take larger units of Wracks to get the most out of the special rules. I only have 10 Wracks so I doubt I'll be trying this one any time soon.

Scalpel Squadron

  • 2 units of Wracks
  • 2 Venoms
Restrictions: Each unit of Wracks in the Formation must be given one of the Venoms as a Dedicated Transport.

Special Rules

Freakish Spectacle: (see above)
First Pickings: If a unit from this Formation earns First Blood, the controlling player scores D3 Victory Points instead of 1.
Surgical Excision: All of the Wrack units in this Formation begin embarked upon their Venoms and in Reserve. All units in this Formation arrive automatically in the controlling player's first turn, and must deploy by Deep Strike.

This one is awesome! Depending on the game/event house rules, the First Blood affect may not apply, but the real strength of this Formation comes from auto deep striking turn 1. It keeps them save if going second, guarantees board presence turn 1, and is just all around a cool ability. I expect this will be one of the more popular selections from the Coven book.

Corpsethief Claw

  • 1 unit of Talos
Restrictions: The unit of Talos must include 5 models, even though this is not normally allowed.

Special Rules

Scout !!
Freakish Spectacle: (see above)
Let the Harvest Begin: You score 1 Victory Point each time this unit destroys an enemy non-vehicle unit in close combat, and 1 additional VP in missions that already award a VP for completely destroying an enemy non-vehicle unit.

5 Scouting Talos sounds like a lot of fun! I also think this Formation would be very effective on the tabletop. Scout really helps the slow moving Talos get a jump start in closing with the enemy, and having 5 of them would amount to some serious board control. I only have 3 models at the moment but will proxy the other 2 to give this a try at some point.

Dark Artisan

  • 1 Haemonculus
  • 1 Talos
  • 1 Cronos

Special Rules

Freakish Spectacle: (see above)
Follow Me, My Children!: All units in this Formation must be fielded as a single unit, even though this is not normally allowed. Other Independent Characters cannot join this unit.
Master of Diabolical Machines: This Formation's Talos and Cronos add 1 to thier Weapon Skill and Initiative. If the Haemy is your warlord, he automatically has the Master Artisan Trait (all friendly Talos & Cronos within 12" re-roll failed Feel No Pain rolls of 1).

This one is my personal favorite and the best of the bunch in my opinion. Give the Haemonculus a Webway Portal, the Cronos a Spirit Probe, and outfit the Talos to your liking and have fun! Being able to drop them anywhere you want, no scatter, removes the biggest downside to the 2 monstrous creatures (being slow and footslogging) plus they all can have template weapons to melt whatever enemy they choose to appear next to. I plan on running this Formation in my list for a tournament next month and can't wait to try it out!

Covenite Fleshcorps

  • 1 Haemonculus
  • 3 units of Wracks
  • 3 Raiders
Restrictions: Each unit of Wracks in the Formation must be given one of the Raiders as a Dedicated Transport.

Special Rules

Freakish Spectacle: (see above)
Master of Flesh: As long as the Haemonculus is alive, his Master of Pain special rule affects all units of Wracks in this Formation within 12". If he is your Warlord he automatically has the Master of Apotheosis Trait (Warlord and any Wrack unit he is part of have Feel No Pain (4+)).

If you like Wracks and were planning to take a bunch of them, this one isn't bad. I feel the same way about this one as the Scarlet Epicureans Formation. It requires a lot of Wracks, which I don't currently have or plan to purchase more of, so I doubt I'll be trying this one.

Carnival of Pain

  • Each of the 6 Formations above
Restrictions: The units in this Formation must adhere to all of the restrictions detailed in each of the corresponding Formation datasheets.

Special Rules

The units in this Formation retain all of the special rules specified in the corresponding Formation datasheet, plus the following:

Lord of Pain: As long as Urien or the Haemonculus from the Grotesquerie Formation is alive, his Father/Master of Pain special rule affects all non-vehicle units in this Formation.
The Torturer's Art: All non-vehicle models from the Carnival of Pain re-roll failed To Wound rolls of a 1 in close combat.

Lots of points and lots of rules to keep track of! Like the DE Kabalite Raiding Party Formation, I have no desire to even attempt adding up the points for this monstrosity. Not saying it isn't good, but who on earth has all the models to run this? I'm not even sure GW has enough models painted and assembled to run this... they are short a couple Talos on the Corpsethief Formation, haha.

Anyway, that's all of them! I'm interested in trying more than half of them so that's a lot of playtesting in my future. I really do like the Coven supplement and think it adds a lot of fun options to the Dark Eldar, even where the Coven playstyle seems to contrast with the parent codex, I think there are a lot of great combinations to be found. What are your thoughts / experiences with the Coven supplement?