Tactica- Eldar Harlequins

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Yriel of Iyanden

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So what's the deal with Harlequins?

Eldar Harlequins. It's hard NOT to have an opinion of them, and understandably so. Some people have heard the horror stories (or read the battle reports) of how a handful of harlies ripped through entire armies, others hate the models, the rules, the anything that has anything to do with clowns. And some people have other stories about how scared they were of harlequins until they played one guy who walked up and was subsequently fried.

The truth of the matter is- yes Harlequins are an absolutely brilliant unit, that if used correctly, can really open up the field for your Eldar army and shred opponents like paper. They are also notoriously fragile, so one false move (or non-move!) with the clowns will result in you handing over a lot of points (and psychological) advantage over to your opponent in a single turn. In the simplest terms, Harlequins are like genestealers, only harder to shoot, transportable, and have hit 'n run! In Eldar terms- harlequins are better WS than any other assault unit available to us, have the same number of attacks as your Striking Scorpion, nearly the same initiative bonuses as Banshees, and have the Withdraw power from Warp Spiders and Shining Spears all rolled into one. Let's not mention the nearly mandatory rending upgrades, and the powerful delivery system afforded by the Shadowseer's Veil of Tears, both "must have's" when configuring a Harlequin unit. Let's take a closer look:

Unit Statistics

The raw statline for a Harlequin is only mildly inspiring. The base cost isn't anything to write home about- just 2 more points than the other assault elites choices. From the statline you see that you get the same number of attacks a Striking Scorpion gets, one better I, one better WS, fleet like a banshee, and a worse (yet invulnerable) armor save. Not so good…but not so bad either.

Then you read the Dance of Death Special rule, which is just a clown's way of saying Hit 'N Run and Furious Charge. Now those points are starting to mean something. Not only do these clowns have better stats than the aspects- they come with warrior powers built in- BOTH of which are relevant and useful! Plus- you completely ignore difficuylt terrain. Nice.

How many do I take? 5, 6, 8, 10? How many units?

I normally take either 5, 6, or 8 harlequins, depending on their combat role:

5 Harlequins- Bodyguard- Where space is tight on my list and I'm running with a footslogging HQ not in a wraith-wall, I'll run a unit of 5 harlequins, to serve as my Farseer/Autarch's bodyguard. It's more of a space saving initiative that I can fit in a Falcon with the character, and they're job is to pick something juicy and charge for it.

6 Harlequins- Option- 6 is my most commonly employed size these days, due to Falcon's capacity, plus they're better for "chipping"- a technique I'll explain shortly. 6 in a Falcon is good enough to blitz or to counter, and the best part is this unit is strong enough to go in alone, and should still make its points back.

8 Harlequins- Counter- Now if I'm not committed to using a Falcon, and I'd rather beef my countercharge (like if I'm playing against 'Nids or Orks), I may go with a footslogging 8, because 8 has good size without hurting you too much in points or geometry (you want lean and precise versus overpowering here). 8 is a perfect size unit to counter anything that threatens an Eldar frontline, and you've got good enough mileage to keep your fire lines pretty clean all battle.

As to how many units to take…that depends on you, though I'm a big fan of one and one alone, regardless of the game size. One unit of properly configured harlies is just enough provided your army gets some sort of output from other units, and often 2 units results in redundancy, leaving one unit just hanging around, waiting to be shot at. Stick with one unit especially while you're learning the nuances, and then consider another unit.

How do I configure the unit?

Harlequins have several unit upgrades available, and they fall into three categories: critical, desirable, and optional.

There are two critical upgrades- the Harlequin's Kiss and the Shadowseer. Always take these upgrades. Harlequin's Kisses give the Harlequins therending special rule, which is one of the main reasons why these guys will work so well in unit sizes traditionally considered anemic for a dedicated assault unit. They can rend- and rending can do just about anything. The Harlequin's Kiss is a very cheap upgrade too, so it doesn't make much sense to not take them on any models. Take them on all models.

The other critical upgrade is the Shadowseer. The shadowseer is a bit expensive, but she's a bargain once you realize what she does for the unit. The first isVeil of Tears. This is like a nightfight or a stealth shield on steroids- it makes the unit ridiculously hard to target. An average spotting distance to a harlequin unit with Veil of Tears pretty much guarantees a next turn charge, while rendering the real dangers of weapons like Heavy Bolters tineffective because they can't get into good ranges. The other brilliant rule the Shadowseer brings to the table is plasma grenades for the whole unit, which is also really good. So don't feel like you've wasted points by taking a Shadowseer in a mounted harlie unit, he's the source for plasma grenades and quite possibly the reason they'll live if you make a mistake.

There are also two desirable upgrades- the Troupe Master and Fusion Pistols. These upgrades are desirable because you'll probably want them- but you'll be alright if you don't include them in the unit.

The Troupe Master is good for an added attack, an optional power weapon, and better ld. He's great in a 5 man unit because he keeps their ld up with the chips are down and has that added attack, so I normally just throw a Harlequin's Kiss on him and call it a day. The fusion pistols are an attempt to lend bonus anti-tank to the unit, which can also be useful if points allow you to take some.

Finally- the optional upgrade is a Death Jester. A few people enjoy using them, but in most cases- if you're just looking for a rip-roaring unit in assault I'd leave him at home. He can do a few cool things like keep a unit pinned, or shoot down a low armored transport, but in the strictest sense of an assault unit- this probably isn't what you really want the unit to do.

So- how do I make this work?

In order to show you the full interaction- I'm going to go with this unit:

6 Harlequins 162pts
Shadowseer, 6x Harlequin's Kiss

Assaulting this unit:

10 Assault Marines
Veteran Sgt, has powerfist
2x Plasma pistols

Your best bet is to assault from a skimmer, and (thankfully) the only skimmer transport available to harlies is a falcon. The critical upgrades for your Falcon are the big 3- Spirit Stone, Holofield, Vectored Engines. This means that if you kept your skimmer moving over 6" every turn, you're likely to only be shaken on the turn you charge. If this Assault Marine unit was running alone, you may even let them charge the front of your Falcon- they have an incredibly low chance to hit and damage your vehicle beyond anything worse than a weapon destroyed, and even if they immobilize it (only 1 in 12 chance after a hit), your cargo is safe. Once their charge is resolved, they are stuck on the lip of your Falcon.

On your next turn you disembark the Harlequinsbefore moving your Falcon. This is CRITICAL. One swivel, jerk, or motion will totally invalidate your charge, so make sure you disembark immediately. You now have full moves this turn- you can move, fleet, and assault normally, and you can run full speed through that difficult terrain and know you're still going first, thanks to your flip belts and Shadowseer.

Now- it's important for you to check the geometry and size of your target. This is because you DON'T want to wipe them out on your charge, unless they are hopelessly alone on the field! Seriously- don't try to kill them all! The best way you can manage this is to try and shrink your actual kill zone to account for a specific number of kills. In the case of my six man unit- I want about 4 models in my kill zone. Have a look:

o o o o o
 o o V o oh h h
          h h h

Note my harlequins (h) versus the space marines (o). Rather than using my fleet move to get the whole unit closer, I use it to ball myself up, such that all models can attack, but I have a narrow kill zone(about 4 models in this example).

I swing first at a nasty I7, hitting on 3's, wounding on 4's (furious charge), and rending on 6's.

I should get 3.984 kills from rending hits.
Another 1.65 marines may die to the rest of the attacks.

I'm a pessimist, so I allow myself the maximum of 4. The way I roll, I generally kill 2 from rending and 2 from failed armor saves, so I guess it evens up. Either way- my kill zone is clear. Now- the risk I'm taking here is that if my opponent fails his ld check- he will fall back and I'll be left to get shot up by anything else in the area. This happens occasionally with me, but again, I'm notoriously bad luck- it shouldn't happen often to you.

Note that if he passes, we pile in. Note that position doesn't matter much from here- all models will be swinging at all models.

Next turn, I still swing first, killing about 3 from rending, and another 1 from regular attacks, leaving 2 marines, who swing back, causing 1.089 casualties (assuming he left the vet sgt. alive). Now it doesn't matter if he passes or fails his leadership- it's now his turn and mine is coming up, so regardless of what he does, I use Hit N' Run to gear up to charge something else next turn.

I call this technique "chipping" and it's designed more as a defensive technique to give you more mileage out of fewer harlies. Note that in 2 rounds of combat my unit has easily made its points back, and has enough mileage to kill another unit. The idea is not to wipe out a unit on the charge- which is why I don't like units bigger than 8, and 6 just seems ideal when running this strategy.

So that's the basics of how I use my harlies. I hope this helps!

- Yriel




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