Today's epic artwork spearheads another of Shawn Abreu contributions to the fluid world of game design - the Dark Eldar Avatar. An interesting and succint piece of 'fluff' preludes some Mr. Abreu's rules entry. The image of Dark Eldar cultists sacrificing their more docile kin to mocking mirror image of the true avatar is a chilling which naturally fits right in with 40k's grim aesthetic. As I read through the few sentences I was reminded of Bryss' work on the Dark Eldar what seems like forever ago.
I am excited about the sharing of rules across non-MEQ codices. It gives me confidence in the rules design potential of the non-imperial codices. This entry is a reminder that, even though Mr. Kelly's Dark Eldar codex is probably the best ever released, there is yet more that could be done with it.
That said I was not wholly satisfied with this entry. It is more or less exactly the same as the regular Avatar but deviates in that units within 12" gain the Furious Charge and Rage Universal Special Rules. The benefits of these rules are dubious to say the least. Furious Charge is already available through the 'Power from Pain' special rule and the 'Rage' special rule is a massive handicap even on uber-units such as the Death Company.
The addition of a (another) strong, aura-generating Monstrous Creature in the Dark Eldar force org. chart has great potential. It makes all-foot lists more interesting and more viable just as it has done for regular Eldar these past few years. It gives the army a solid "hammer" unit at a bargain price and draws fire away from those flimsy transports. It does lack the ultimate power of the 'invulnerable save+Fortune' combo but I think a very minor adjustment to the rules could amend that.
What I would like to see added to this beast is the 'Power from Pain' special rule. This helps transmit this Avatar's darker nature and would make it more believable as a Dark Eldar construct. Secondly I would change the 'Hatred' rule so that rather than spreading Furious Charge and Rage it simply granted all units an extra 'Pain Token' as long as they were within 12 inches. ("All units with the 'Power from Pain' special rule with at least one model within 12" of the Dark Avatar count as having one more Pain Token than they normally would have. The effects of the extra token are immediately lost if the distance to the unit exceeds 12" for any reason.") That final clarification is to help with situations such as charges wherein one unit might begin the phase within 12" but end further away.
I do not feel a points adjustment is really necessary even with this amendment. The regular Avatar's access to the Fortune psychic power is an opportunity cost that weighs down heavily on the Dark Avatar. Likewise the presence of the Webway portal as a means of deployment adds flexibility to the Avatar slow maneuvers.
Thanks to Shawn for his contribution and I look forward to reviewing his next one.