How I Play My Eldar Army (because it’s far from invulnerable, y’all!)

I literally got out of bed this morning with a flash of Warhammer inspiration, so I felt that I would write an article outlining something that has been on my mind. Also, no, it is not a rant, for once. What I wanted to write about was the way that I play using my Eldar. I am sure that a lot of people in the past who have played against me have thought that my army is cheesy and overpowered, or that I play competitively when this is not necessarily the case. Naturally, because I pride myself on not playing competitively, this irks me quite a bit (unless the situation calls for it, then I sell part of my soul to Slaanesh and churn out the pain/pleasure/who knows what Slaanesh gets off on…). In this article, I will go through my mind set when playing my Eldar, as well as the general tactics that I employ to pull off a very mechanised force in a meta that favours infantry waves.


Sun Tzu knows a little more about fighting than you do, pal!


The first thing that I would like to do is to quote Sun Tzu: “if you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself, but not the enemy, for every victory gained, you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” The quote originates from his book, The Art of War, and holds truth in tabletop wargaming as well as reality. I have played Warhammer 40k for years, across which I have played as or against every single army in the setting. I have experienced just about every unit and unit type, barring super-heavies which I just outright refuse to field or play against in non-apocalypse games. What has this left me with, apart from a giant hole in my wallet and huge amounts of time spent at my local Games Workshop? The knowledge of how every army works. The knowledge of which units have what wargear and how said wargear works. This allows me to look at my opponent’s army and instantly know exactly what each unit is capable of. This also allows me an insight into what my opponent is trying to achieve with their army as I can see the synergy between the units that they have taken and start to derive what kind of tactics they may employ.

However, knowing one’s opponent is only one aspect of how I play, at least; I also know a lot about my own army. I know what unit does which job, I know what weapons to use against what targets, I know how durable each unit is, I know how far everything can fire. Knowing this allows me to plan where to place my units, what units to hide from, which units to expose to the opponent and how much I should commit to certain tasks. Combine this with a knowledge of the opponent’s army and I can make sure that I weigh the encounters in my favour. Playing the game your way is always preferable to answering to your opponent.

Knowledge is indeed power, the Blood Ravens got at least one thing right, however you cannot rely on a single pillar to hold up your game. One thing that most people do not consider is that the game starts as soon as you start rolling dice. This does not mean for the game, it means when you are standing at the table and rolling for mission, deployment, warlord traits etc. I tend to deploy and go second as it allows me to counter my opponent’s deployment and gives me that last turn capturing power for any objective based game, which accounts for five of the six scenarios in the rulebook. It means that I can place units in positions where my opponent has to spend game turns re-organising their army to counter mine, as I have positioned units to fight the enemy where they are ill equipped to deal with me. An example is if my opponent places a lot of monstrous creatures down one flank, I will position my Rangers where they are going to be able to fire at them with their sniper rifles all game and place them away from the horde of troops on the other side. There are individual tactics for different armies, but that is not what this article is about, this is an over-arching view on how I play my Eldar. I will generally deploy all of my vehicles out of line of sight where possible, but when I cannot, then I will deploy cheaper vehicles behind hard cover to get a 4+ or 5+ cover save at the worst. If I have to deploy first, then I will look at my opponent’s army and try to force them to make bad decisions in deployment when they attempt to counter deploy.

This brings me onto my next point of choosing your battles. As an Eldar player, I do not want my opponent choosing when and what is fighting, as my units are not Space Marines. My standard troops choice, the Dire Avenger, is almost the same points cost as a Space Marine tactical squad member, but has a short range gun, a 4+ save and a Toughness of 3. I cannot win straight up slugfests as a tricksy space elf, I have to weight encounters in my favour. Eldar, as a general rule, can put out a lot of pain, but are unable to take any in return. Therefore you have to isolate parts of the opponents army before utterly wiping it out. Luckily, as Eldar, I can use my mobility to force my opponent to spread out. As my army generally contains lots of vehicles with heavy weapons, I can spread my forces across the board, still firing on whatever targets I need to, as I can move twelve inches and fire weapons with a thirty six or higher range across the board, but then if I need to I can then move up to thirty inches should I need to re-deploy to counter something that my opponent does, or drive home a strategy that I had come up with before. The mobility of the Eldar is one of their main strengths and there are very few armies that can out manoeuvre them, so it is something to use to your advantage against the slower, more commonly played, armies.

How I use my troops is I keep them inside their transports. Whilst this may seem like a horrendous waste of points as I generally have large squad sizes, I also have to remember that they are scoring units and therefore need to be preserved. They cannot stand by themselves as they are T3 with a 4+ save, so they stay inside the transports and respond to threats that close the gap, such as deep striking units, jump infantry and jetbikes; as I said before, they can put out a good amount of damage, but are unable to take any in return, so they make excellent response units. I will also keep my Farseer, who is always my warlord if she is deployed, with one of the Dire Avenger squads as I, for fluff purposes, do not like to lose my characters. It is also hinted to in the codex that Dire Avengers are called upon to do any battlefield role, such as guarding seers. It ends up in a lot of potential ‘wasted’ points, though in the end I need units that can capture objectives and Dire Avengers in Wave Serpents are mobile units that can capture objectives.

The general idea when I play is I take the whole board into account when doing anything. Positioning is key, as is consideration of your opponent’s reserves and current forces. Personally, I work on the assumption that all of my opponent’s reserves will come on in the following turn and account for it. I will look for units like Obliterators or Devastator squads, anything with heavy amounts of firepower, and keep my distance. All of my vehicles have holo-fields, so if I can keep them out of line of sight or behind ruins, then I will at least get a 3+ cover save. I have a strict target priority list which, again, varies from army to army and thus I cannot put down here, but in general it starts with heavy fire power units or mobile units, then I work down the lines under the assumption that my opponent will never reach close combat due to my mobility. However, that is an assumption that relies on positioning, thus emphasising the importance of taking everything into account. With my Eldar army, if I am caught in an assault that I do not want, large amounts of my army will begin to collapse. Engagements that I do take, however, will be heavily weighted in my favour with the aid of psychic support and numbers of attacks at high initiative. If I charge into combat, I need to kill the target or my unit will be bogged down in a combat that it is ill-equipped to deal with.

My list is generally built with fluff in mind. There are no special characters of any description, 0 – 1 Farseers, 0 – 1 Autarchs, few, if any, Wraith units (I have fielded a single Wraithlord once. It held up 30 Ork boys for the game), few, if any, Guardian units, lots of Aspect Warrior types and lots of vehicles. Wraithbone constructs are far easier to replace than Eldar lives, after all! If I take Exarchs, they are kitted out and expensive, though most of the time I just take my Aspect Warrior squad with no upgrades. Everything is taken with a lore reason with no exceptions as that is what I find interesting and fun. Fortunately, the Eldar codex facilitates this and makes it viable as I do not seem to have a bad win/loss ratio; it is actually quite the opposite. That being said, there are ways that I could make my army more powerful, though it would throw fluff out of the window. Firstly, more Wave Serpents. Secondly, more Farseers. Thirdly, less troops, more Wave Serpents. Fourth, jetseers of doom as opposed to footseers of fail. Fifth, more Wave Serpents. Sixth, take out that damn Falcon tank. Seventh, more Wave Serpents. Eighth, stop fielding Banshees. Will I do this? No. It would strip me of my Eldar soul and Slaanesh would eat me up in the Warp (though I intend to collect a Slaaneshi Chaos Space Marine + Daemon allies army at some point, so…

That is a brief look into how I run my Eldar and how I play in general. I will not come up with ways to directly counter how I play (unless there is overwhelming want for it and I become mildly famous off the desire to see how to wipe my precious army list from the tabletop!), though I know how to counter my army and style of play quite handily, so I guess I could counter-counter tactic… This is getting meta, so I will stop.

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