It’s been out for a while now, but I’ve been wanting to talk about the new Psychic Awakening series of books for Warhammer 40k since the event kicked off a couple of weeks ago, so what better time to start than now?! The series is meant to have massive ramifications for the 40k universe as a whole, and back when it was initially announced, we were promised something new for every faction. I’m sure we’ve had such promises before, but so far, we’re three books in at the time I’m writing this, with a fourth on the way, and it looks like they are actually looking to deliver on this!
Book One, Phoenix Rising, deals with all things Aeldari, and the book is actually really quite interesting to delve into. The first thing that you notice about it is that it isn’t anywhere near as weighty a tome as the Vigilus campaign books from last Christmas. That is probably because the book functions more like a mini Codex, than a true campaign book, and there is correspondingly less in the way of lore.
It’s still there, for sure – I read somewhere that this series is meant to bring the Imperium as a whole up to the same point in time as the Vigilus stuff, which sort of functions as the “current” timeframe. That would seem to be correct, as the fluff here goes right back to the Gathering Storm in places, chronicling the rise of the Ynnari and putting that into the wider context of the Aeldari races as a whole. That does sort of make sense, as that earlier series was a 7th edition thing, so it’s good for new fans to have the same sort of context as the rest of us.
The fluff is followed then by a series of narrative missions to play, three Echoes of War missions that recreate some of the storyline in the fluff section, such as the Drukhari attack on the Ynnari, using manipulated forces of the Astra Militarum. Each of these missions has its own suite of stratagems that can be used, and there are also a couple of additional rules for Theatres of War, giving ongoing effects for the whole battle. Theatres of War is something that I don’t see used a great deal, but could be fun to play with if you wanted a really intense game of 40k!
This first book in the series was released alongside a box set, Blood of the Phoenix, which repacked several Craftworld and Dark Eldar kits, as well as providing plastic miniatures for Jain Zar, Howling Banshees, Drazhar and the Incubi. I’m not a Craftworld expert, but the Drazhar model went all the way back to 1992, I believe, and so was really quite desperately in need of an update. I’d been hoping for plastic Incubi for almost as long as I’ve been a Dark Eldar player, so this box was highly anticipated! I mean, look at a comparison with their older models:
Unfortunately, the box set was really quite overpriced – I think it was something like £150 retail, which is fine when you think the characters will probably be £25 each when released separately, and the new units will be around £30 or maybe £35, if the Chaos Marines release is anything to go by; it means you’re getting a whole bunch of the older stuff for about £30, which is a big saving. A lot of people weren’t too impressed, though, as the older stuff it was packed alongside has been out for years now, and people tend not to want that stuff. It was the sort of box that might be great for new folks getting into the hobby or wanting to start these armies, but for those of us who have been waiting for these plastics, it was a hard pass. As it stands, I picked up Drazhar on a bits site, and would be fine to wait for the plastic Incubi kit to hit retail, having already bought and painted up the finecast models if I wanted to use them in a battle before then.
New Drazhar is an incredible model though, I really liked him a lot!
Anyway, following the missions, the book sort of splits into three, as we get the new rules sections. First up are the Craftworld lot, which have the rules for Jain Zar and the Howling Banshees, as well as three pages of additional rules for other aspect warriors such as Dire Avengers and Striking Scorpions. It’s really quite an interesting little rules update in this respect, although I’m no Craftworld expert to know whether they’d be of any use!
The Drukhari section is a little smaller, having new rules just for Drazhar and the Incubi – I say new rules, they’re more like tweaks, really. Drazhar gets a bit beefier and now has the Lethal Precision rule the Incubi had, and the Klaivex can take demi klaives like Drazhar.
Both flavours of Eldar get new ways to create their own brand of chapter tactics with new Obsessions and Attributes. From a list of different abilities and effects, you get to choose two (unless otherwise stated) which give you your own custom rules for your chosen army type. I suppose it compensates for not having your own Stratagems and Warlord Traits by getting to pick two. There are four pages of Craftworld Attributes, while the Drukhari get a page of Obsessions for each of Kabal, Cult and Coven. Some of them are quite decent, as it happens, and I’ll talk about them a bit more shortly.
Finally, the book closes out with a reprinting of the Ynnari “Codex” that was featured back in a White Dwarf earlier this year. There is all of the lore, the rules, stratagems, psychic powers and warlord traits, so it’s nice to have that reproduced again here for convenience, and to ensure that Ynnari players can have those rules without resorting to trying to find the White Dwarf on ebay, or something.
All in all, it’s a pretty nice book, with a lot of different parts that you can pick and choose from. Obviously, Eldar players are the demographic for this, as Space Marines players will find nothing of interest here. But I do like these sort of books, which have a bit of story/background to them, some new rules, and then some missions and stuff to choose from, as well.
Yesterday, I played my final game of 40k for the year, a three-player game against Chaos and Necrons, for which I brought my own Drukhari – the first time they have had an outing since about May, I think!
It was a pretty casual game, with armies floating around the 1000 points mark. My buddy JP had had the Start Collecting Chaos Marines for Christmas, as well as more Havocs, so was keen to get those out. Matt was playing Necrons, in what was I think his second game of 40k (certainly his second game of 8th edition). We were using the multiplayer rules from the core rule book, so nothing too fancy, but I think it definitely helped that we were all very much into it not being a case of ganging-up on one player, but we were all trying to achieve our own objectives while attacking everybody else.
It was also really nice to finally get all of my terrain out and on the table!
I’ve been thinking a lot about doing away with Obsessions entirely, and playing lists more like I used to in the Index days, but instead decided to try out the new build-your-own with a Raiding Party force. Pretty much everything about the Drukhari army caused raised eyebrows from my opponents, and with good reason – they’re the sort of army where so many things just shouldn’t be the case, and yet they are. I’m particularly fond of the Hexrifle on my Wracks here, because nobody expects a fairly-dedicated close combat unit to include a sniper rifle, after all!
Wracks were possibly the star players here, taking out the Daemon Prince warlord for 1VP, followed closely by the Ravager which, over the course of my turn, finished off the Havocs unit before it could do anything.
However, I was very often forgetting a lot of rules – standard operating procedure, for sure, but I think the sheer number of moving parts to this army when you have all three subfactions present is just bonkers.
So for my Kabal, I took Disdain for Lesser Beings, which allows me to only ever lose one model to Morale (forgot about that, and lost two of my Warriors this way), and Toxin Crafters, which adds one to the damage characteristic of a poisoned weapon on a natural 6 to wound. I don’t honestly know if this would have made a difference (I forgot about the open topped rule for my Raiders for at least one turn), but there you have it. I normally use Kabal of the Obsidian Rose, giving me +6 to the maximum range of weapons, and I think I would usually prefer this to anything else, as I want to keep my Kabal gunline as far away from anybody as possible.
The Kabal rules in Phoenix Rising aren’t particularly game-changing, they are just some interesting alternatives if you don’t want to use those from the Codex.
Wych Cults are still a subfaction that I don’t know enough about, having only used them once previously. I mean, I use Reavers a lot, but the rest of them… I’d gone with Precise Killers, which improves the AP of a weapon on a natural 6 to wound, as well as Slashing Impact, which allows me to inflict 1 mortal wound on a 5+ when I finish a charge move. These are nice bonuses, and there are some interesting things in the book that I think could do with further investigation. I probably need to play more Wych Cults to get the gist of things, though.
I will say, as well, that I had an incredibly lucky roll on my Hekatrix’s blast pistol, and one-shot killed the Master of Executions! Given that the last time JP and I played, his Master of Executions took out my entire Grey Knights Purifier Squad in a single swing, I feel that has given me justice!
Combat Drugs are still a mystery to me, however…
Finally, for my Haemonculus Coven, I went with Experimental Creations, which increases the Strength of everyone in the unit, as well as giving a +1 to wound rolls when attacking units with lower toughness. That didn’t really come into it as much as I thought, but the +1 Strength was very handy! With Wracks being S3 but T4, you want them in combat, but their effective power is quite limited with just basic weapons. Anyway! My second Obsession for them was Masters of Mutagens, which means a natural 6 to hit against anything other than vehicles or titanic units is an auto-wound. That did come up quite a bit, which helped me to get rid of the Chaos Sorcerer, at which point there were no more Psychic shenanigans to endure.
It was a good game, and didn’t feel too much like a 1v1 with a bystander, though the Necrons just kept reanimating while Chaos and Dark Eldar were dying all around, meaning the final round was a bit one-sided. But we got to 5 rounds, so all was well!
I feel like Phoenix Rising is definitely going to be worth getting for Craftworlds players, and Ynnari too, but if you’re a Dark Eldar player looking for new ways to play the army, I think there is limited good stuff here. Possibly not worth it to the more competitive players, as nothing in there seems particularly game-destroying – and I’m guessing the more competitive dark kin won’t want to give up Agents of Vect so easily, anyway!