Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Iyanden Supplement

I'm a recent addition to the Eldar fanbase, with my purchase of the new Codex and a handful of models. Slow beginnings but with my burgeoning collection of Blood Angels still needing paint on them, it's a case of one thing at a time for me right now. But I digress. The leaked rumors of an Iyanden supplement prior to the Codex being released really piqued my interest in the craftworld. The flavour of their armies didn't really need anything extra to get me onboard - space robots possessed by the souls of a dying alien race? Wait that sounds like Necrons...



Anyhow I bought the supplement as soon as it went up for sale on the GW site, resisting the temptation to download an illicit .pdf of the iPad version. And for the most part I'm glad I have bought it.

I'll get onto to cost vs value in a moment. But as an object, this book elevates itself slightly above the already high standard of release that GW has been putting out for the hardback Codexes. The now expectedly excellent coverart is present, although it's not the high contrast style of art seen on the Codexes but a much paler but no less impressive rendition of the Spiritseer casting his/her (can you really tell with Eldar?) xenos magicks. The difference this time is the luxuriously thick dust cover that covers the hardback, minus the supplements title or logos the impression is of a niche product with a sense of occasion that I think the digital version must certainly lack.

Content is predominantly Matt Ward fluff that spans the first 35 pages, with drawings of some the more notable Wraith Houses of Iyanden and their heraldry and colourings. Even as a returning player who missed the Matt Ward epoch of Codex writing, I cannot stand his style of narrative writing and over use of high fantasy style vocabulary - I always imagine that his writing demands to be read aloud in the style of the narrator at the beginning of the first LoTR movie. Poe faced and without humour. I must admit however in this supplement the writing is far less fussy and overly dramatic, than say the cringeworthy fluff in the Blood Angels Codex, with only a few moments that require a mental rolling of the eyes and a silent tutt.

Fluff aside, the real juice of this supplement for the Eldar gamer lies in the excellent additions to the rules found in the full Codex. How much of this is down to Ward, and how much was simply left overs from the full Codex I don't know, but I'd say it's almost exclusively essential stuff for any Iyanden or Wraith-heavy player.

I think a central aspect of this enhancement lies with the Spiritseers. Already a fundamental part of how to play a Wraith army with their Spirit Mark ability to give To Hit re-rolls on 1's, their limiting factor was their position as simply another HQ choice thereby limiting how many you could realistically fit in your army. Here they assume the position of the Warlock with the ability to field up to five of them in one slot in the same way the Warlocks work in the standard Eldar lists. Coupled with the new Primaris power for Spiritseers only, of Voice of Twilight (Battle Focus and Furious Charge to Wraith units with 12"); this transforms a Wraith army from a Wave Serpent dependent, slow moving army to one that can close frighteningly quickly on your foe to get those short range MEQ-killing weapons into effect. On the Wraithknight, that makes a Montrous Creature with the Jump USR capable of moving and shooting and running in one turn, with weapons already capable of killing anything else in the 40k universe. A scary unit just got one hell of a buff. Nevermind the fact those bullet magnet Wraithlords could also be popping in and out of cover with dual heavy weapons at your command!

The Spiritseer improvements keep coming, as you can now also tool one of them up with a Gift of Asuryan (optional wargear) called the Wraithforge Stone. Roll a 3+ and your chosen Wraithlord or Wraithknight regains a wound. Eeek! I'd say the remaining wargear choices aren't quite as astonishingly good or provide as much of a draw, with mainly alternate weapons to pick from. The Mantel of the Laughing God has no rival for your Farseer to pick from - thankfully for your opponent! A favourite of mine however is the Spear of Teuthlas, an artifact weapon that effectively turns your chose Spiritseer or Farseer into a proxy of Iyanna Arienal with an Avatar-esque dual statline of ranged and close combat weapon goodness. This is certainly something I will be using on a converted Spiritseer model in my own army - only 15pts, and far more effective than a comparitively priced Imperial powerweapon.

Warlord Traits are also must haves, with such pearls as gifting D3 re-rolls per game to the Warlord, FNP on a 6+ to the Warlord and all friendly units within 12", and an extra Spirit Mark-er. I honestly don't see a time when I'd not use this table over the Codex or BRB.

Aside from these list building additions, the other main rule section provides a pretty decent selection of narrative based missions and more general BRB replacement missions; and some Planetstrike and Cities of Death extras. A nice extra, but nothing earth shattering.

For me the only disappointment lies with the artwork and photos. The artwork is fairly sparse and generally quite familiar, although the Craftwrold infographic is rather nice. Photos of models seem little more than filler, with many of them simply having been duplicated from the main Codex or White Dwarf -  very poor in my opinion.

I'd mentioned price earlier. £30 for the book, or £25 for the download. I'd say both are too much for most people, and it certainly isn't priced for the casual gamer. This feels very much like a boutique, niche product for the collector or obsessive. And the price and presentation of the book reflects that. For me, considering the filler content, I think £20-25 would have seemed fairer for the physical book version. £30 is Codex money and this really doesn't do much more than give some fluff which many people might read through once, and a couple of pages of absolutely essential rules.

Do I regret purchasing it? No. Would I buy more of these in the future? Without a doubt, yes. However if the extra rules and additional gear proved less useful than this supplements, I would feel far less inclined.