Friday, November 21, 2014

Haemonculus Coven Book

Well I have a few thoughts about how to use this book.

First Impressions

My first impression was a little luke warm.  I wasn't really negative so much as wondering about Whether the Coven being so much different was going to play well without the help of certain fairly iconic units in the Dark Eldar Codex.  So let's start there.

Big Differences

The biggest difference Dark Eldar players will feel in my estimation is the Power From Pain chart. 

The Covens book uses an entirely different chart.  For the uninitiated, the Power From Pain rule is essentially a clock.  On X Round, you get Y benefit for all models in the army that have the Power From Pain Special Rule.  Unlike before, there's no need to kill a darn thing.  You just become progressively more frenzied by the blood orgy you're perpetrating (more or less).  The Power From Pain chart for Dark Eldar grants (eventually) Feel No Pain, Furious Charge, and Fearless (and even Rage if the game goes that long, which IS new to the new Codex:Dark Eldar) to the models with the rule, just as before only on a clock.

In the Coven book, it's totally different.  The Power From Pain list includes Eternal Warrior, Fear, It Will not Die, Fearless, and Zealot (not necessarily in that order).  Since the Coven lists only allow you to take units that already have Feel No Pain, the Coven chart had to change.  This Coven chart really makes the units allowed in the list truly frightening.  Fearless makes the Grotesques impossible to break; and once they attain the Fear rule, as I will explain, there is a real chance that the enemy WS could be reduced to 1!  IMagine a unit of Grotesques that, when it chargers in round 2, has It Will not Die and it's natural Feel No Pain?  Hoboy.

Fear is the Mind Killer...

The thing that makes the Fear rule work better in a Coven list is that pretty much everything in this Codex Supplement has a rule called Freakish Spectacle which is a 12" bubble of -1 Leadership. 

This coupled with Fear makes the units in the force have a real chance of actually affecting the enemy.  This could be the difference in an assault at a critical time against an excellent melee unit. .  Units that have And They Shall Know No Fear (ATSKNF) or the Fearless special rule won't care.  However there's a lot of units that will be affected. 

Aside from that, normal morale checks will be affected in any event.  This ability dove tails nicely with any Dark Eldar who ally with the Coven with their Armour of Misery and its aura of -2 Leadership.  The combination of the two could make the Soul Fright ability of Torment Grenade Launchers extremely valuable (albeit again, not to Fearless units or those with ATSKNF).  The Torment Grenade Launcher act like a Psychic Shriek type of attack that is done on normal 2D6 and of course isn't psychic.  Even without normal Dark Eldar allies, one must admit that Fear can be a real X factor for this army to wield.

Building your Coven

The only units allowed in the normal Coven lists are Haemonculi, Wracks, Grotesques, Talos, the Cronos and their dedicated transports.  That leaves you with a lot of holes in your list you don't normally see.  The Force Organization chart allows up to 4 Heavy Support, 6 HQ's and 8 Elites, and requires two HQ's and two elites minimum but only those units I mentioned can fill the slots.  

The six Formations you can use from this book all include the same units, only in various combinations.  Each Formation, predictably, has it's own special benefits.  One really interesting thing here is a 7th Formation.  The 7th Formation, called the Carnival of Pain, is literally all six Formations combined.  If you have the models to pull this off, then the entire army gains the Carnival of Pain special Rules:  While Urien's alive, his clock spinning ability called Master of Pain affects all non vehicles, plus the Carnival of Pain will then re-roll 1's to wound in close combat!  To be fair the Carnival of Pain takes about 2500 points to play, BUT it can technically be built with about 2K.

The Most Interesting Formation

The most interesting Formation is perhaps the most deceptively uninteresting.  The Formation is called the Scalpel Squadron and is simply a pair of Wrack units and their Venoms.  That's it.  If a member of this squadron gets first Blood, it gains D3 Victory Points instead of just 1!  but that's not the interesting thing (although it would seem to be).  What is different is that they must be placed in reserve and Deep Struck round 1 in their transport.  Why does it matter?  Well anyone who has read my articles knows I am a very big proponent of the Null Deployment concept and with the Scalpel Squadron, you can literally deploy the beginning of the game.

Why do it?

Well because if you choose to go second, the enemy cannot hurt you for two entire rounds while the clock winds on your Power From Pain chart.  Not only that but the enemy MUST start thinking about objective on the top of round 3, and will be fragmenting his force for you.  Care must be taken to keep the Scalpel Squadron safe until the Cavalry arrive so don’t be overly in a hurry to get First Blood with them.  It can wait.  Keep them safe and use the time to draw the enemy into bad decisions, or indecision.  This isn't going to be advisable every game, but the ability to do it is priceless against Drop pod forces, and you WILL see those at tournaments.

Beware the Dark Holes...

I mentioned that there were holes in the Coven.  Anti-air is one and really only an Aegis is available to fix that problem.  This presents a danger for sure and means that the army must come to grips with its enemies quickly and without hesitation.  There is normally going to be nothing fancy about this army because once the gloves are off, they better come off fast, faster than Dave Semenko when anyone got cheeky with Gretzky.

Another hole is ranged anti-tank workers.  Like Orks, the Coven prefers a slug fest and it shows in every rule.  If your plan is to use the Coven to load up on Transports that shoot, it's probably a very terrible idea.  You could have done that without the Coven book and better.  So the army HAS to embrace SPEED as its weapon of choice.  Not long range shooting.  Which means the army should by and large prefer Raiders because of the advantages of having another Hull Point.  The army should also use Aethersails, another reason the Venom isn't probably the tool of choice.  The Raider allows the army to set up 43" away and then on their turn, move 36" plus the distance of turning in place (the age old trick in 40k).  This puts you squarely nose to nose even when you go second and keeps you out of the range of 36" weapons to start the game.  Once you're up their nose, they will kill two or three transports.  Accept this fate before you play a Coven list or don't play it.  However, once you're nose to nose, its time to start punching it.  Often.  Your fists need to be your anti-tank in a Coven list.  You won't have many grenades and Raider Lances are never going to get it done in the numbers you'll have them, especially if you're utilizing their speed.  Getting stranded is a fate worse than death for this force so don't waste time getting into a shooting match.

Please feel free to ask questions, since I have not covered everything here.  I'd also like your thoughts on the article and anything in it or even requests.  Share it if you liked it.


  1. Hi, Good review, what are you thoughts on using the formations along side a Dark Eldar detachment ? As well as the Scalpel formation, I was considering swapping a court & grot unit for the formation with 2 grot units and an haemy.


  2. Well I addressed that a little bit here, but I think it would be 100% effective. I have used the Court of the Archon EXTENSIVELY and love it. But the Grotesques and Haemonculus combination with the chart the coven gives you is also very intriguing. I think in the end now that they nerfed the STR on the Grotesques and they don't guarantee you'll get it back in that detachment, you'll end up loving both units for different reasons but doubt seriously you can go wrong with either one. Sslyth strength is equal to that of Grotesques, albeit not as survivable but then the Court offers a much more reliable shooting attack with the Medusae flamers. Flesh Gauntlets make the Grotesques potent multi-wound model killers with a little bit of luck (Riptides for example have a 2+ save but it only takes one failure!!!) On the other hand, against lesser units you'll like the enormous number of attacks you get from the additional Sslyth. The battle rages. That choices like this are causing a conundrum is a good sign for Codex design.

  3. In your opinion, what is the best anti tank unit for DE using Haemunculus covens as main or allied detachment?

    1. The best anti-tank weapon is Speed. As back up you have the Talos TL Haywires and Raider lances but your Grotesque/Talos fists/claws are A#1. Rear armor is only 10 on 90% of 40K vehicles. Enough pounding does them in. With the Coven, you need to race yourself right to their door step and give them all of one round to defy you before the hull crumping starts. Haemonculus Coven is not a subtle list. It is all about brutality. Even the TL Haywires on the Talos, while very good, aren't AS accurate as you'd like (TL hitting on 4's aint bad but it leaves the door open for dice Gawds to play, and the Lances are even less reliable against some things, especially when they are speeding dead smack into the enemy round one). What I did in the end was gave in to putting lances on the Raiders, and that has worked well, as well as the TL Haywire on the Talos. Those two steps have at least given me a chance at the armor. Speed is the true weapon. Get there and Pound the living snot out of those vehicles with Grotesques and scouting Talos, then zoom hither and yon and do it again.

  4. Love the Dave Semenko reference! Have you had any luck spamming Hemoc with WWP?

    Thought was a Coven Hemoc gets Fearless earlier than DE units & it confers to the unit, so Turn 2 I have Fearless units with FnP

    1. The Webway Portal is a fantastic tool, like the Scalpel Squadron. I think that the Dark Eldar must needs saturate the opponent to the fore and anything at all that helps make that happen is absolutely desirable. However, you have to really keep in mind that the deep strike is best done in the same turn as the Raider Rush. So if you decide to do this, make certain you bring reserve manipulation ability into the army.


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