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Tactica Webway Portal

Submitted By: Date: August 8, 2005, 06:43:25 PM Views: 5261


I think the best way to describe the changes made to the Dark Eldar with the advent of the new 4th ed. Ruleset is that they’ve become more extreme. The new rapid fire and initiative-based sweeping advance rules enable us to hit far harder in both shooting and combat. Being able to assault straight out of our raiders has also made us one of the fastest assault armies in the game (the only other armies that come close are 13th company and Ork speed freaks). On the other hand, the leadership-based shooting rules and skimmers no longer blocking line of sight make it a lot harder for us to screen our more vulnerable units. The new entanglement rules for destroyed transports has also turned our raiders into flying coffins – shoot one down and you can kiss the squad inside that raider goodbye.

The new rules call for a change in tactics for the Dark Eldar. The time-honoured raider rush is now much harder to pull off and far more dependent on getting first turn. Fortunately, what was originally an obscure and interesting alternative to the raider rush has come forward as what is now probably the most viable and effective way of fielding a Dark Eldar army. Introducing the Webway Army.

How does a Webway Army work?

Put simply, a webway army utilises Dark Eldar webway portals (WWP’s) to deploy most of your army halfway through the game, completely unharmed and usually within assault distance. With a webway army, you don’t need to rely on getting the first turn or having enough terrain to conceal your raiders. You can instead ensure that your more vulnerable units, like wych squads and incubi, can move straight into assault without giving the enemy an opportunity to shoot them up.

In the rest of this article, I intend to give an idea of how to effectively use a webway army, based on my own experiences with them.

But first, some rules clarifications…

Although the release of the Dark Eldar 4th ed. FAQ has clarified things somewhat, the rules for using the WWP can still be confusing to someone unfamiliar with their use. As a result, I’ve outlined the basics of how I use them below;

- First off, you can have more than one portal in an army (I don’t know how many times people have asked me this!).

- They can be deployed by a model carrying a WWP during the shooting phase, so long as that model doesn’t shoot, and the model and squad he’s with doesn’t move. This means that the squad he’s with can shoot their guns while their leader deploys that portal, so long as none of them moved.

- You can deploy a portal if it’s carried by a model in a raider – just place the portal in contact with the raider itself. However, keep in mind that if a raider moves, the models inside also count as moving and thus cannot deploy a portal.

- You can’t deploy a WWP if the model carrying it is fleeing, pinned, entangled, or in assault.

- You cannot assault the same turn you deployed the portal, since that would count as movement.

- Before the game, you choose what units you wish to hold back in the WWP (this is in addition to, but can include any reserves you normally keep back as per mission rules). Once the portal is deployed, both the WWP reserves and regular reserves may enter the table via the portal. WWP reserves must enter from the portal in this fashion, but ‘regular’ reserves may choose to enter play normally, or via the portal.

- Entering play via the WWP is done just like moving off a board edge, measuring from the edge of the template. As such, units can move, shoot and assault normally on the turn they emerge from the portal.

- WWP templates do not block line of sight, count as difficult terrain, or obstruct movement and shooting in any way.

- If an enemy unit covers the portal in such a way that you cannot move out of the portal without coming within 1” of the enemy, then any of your units trying to exit the portal must be held back, until the portal becomes clear. The exception to this is any unit mounted on a skimmer or troops with jump packs, as both are able to fly over enemy units. The Talos does not count in this case, since it only moves like a skimmer for the purposes of difficult terrain.

Army Composition: What units should carry the Webway Portal?

I’m going to divide army composition into 3 sections: Units carrying the portal, units used as reserves, and the rest of the army. In case you haven’t guessed, this is the first section.

The first Golden Rule to using  a webway army is as follows; You should always be sure to take at least two WWPs. NEVER less. There are two reasons for this: Firstly, having two portals in your army ensures that if one does not get deployed for whatever reason, reserves can still emerge from the other portal. A lot of more shooty armies will try and target your WWP-carriers before you deploy them. Taking one of them out is quite possible, but eliminating both WWP-carriers is anything but.

Having two portals also ensures that you can stick one on each flank, ensuring your  opponent won’t know where your reserves will emerge from. You’ll also be able to decide where you can focus your reserves at the last minute, rather than being forced to commit early on in the game. One portal makes the army predictable, but two portals makes it anything but.

As a general rule of thumb, I find it’s best to take one WWP for every 1000 points in your army, ensuring you have a minimum of two.

Generally, there are two units you should give your WWPs to: Haemonculi on foot and Sybarites in warrior squads. Both models are relatively cheap and it’s no big loss if they don’t get into combat (as opposed to a Dark Eldar lord, for instance). Generally, the haemonculus is the best choice for carrying a WWP. Aside from the cheap cost, he is also an independent character, meaning he can hide next to another squad and not get fired upon. The toughness 4 is also helpful, if only because he won’t get insta-killed by S6 weapons.
Of course, there are always some missions that only allow you to deploy 1 or more troop choices on the board. This is leads us to the second Golden Rule to using webway armies – Always ensure you can have at least one WWP-carrier deployed on the board at the beginning of the game. If you start the game with no WWP-carriers, you need to wait until one does arrive from reserve, move him for a turn, deploy the portal, and THEN move your WWP reserves on the portal – that’s 3 turns without any of your WWP reserves, minimum. Taking a sybarite with a WWP helps ensure that you’ll be able to deploy the portal within a more reasonable time and further in from the board edge. Obviously, the sybarites warrior squad must be able to handle a bit of punishment, so I’d recommend making the unit as large as feasibly possible.

In 3rd ed., WWP’s were best carried by sybarites in raider squads. This is no longer the case thanks to entanglement rules – if your raider squad gets shot down, they’ll be pinned for a turn, delaying the deployment of your portal (if they’re still alive that is). The only exception I would consider is if you do it in a much larger game, and with several other portals carried by models on foot. The extra speed of the Raider would be useful, and if the gamble doesn’t pay off, you at least have other portals you can deploy.

I think I should make it clear that one should NEVER give WWPs to scourges, or raider squads with screaming jets. Yes, it sounds like a cool idea, with the Scourges/raider sweeping down to deploy the portal anywhere on the board, but you would have to be stupidly fortunate to pull off such a maneuver AND win the game in doing so.

The scourges or raider squad will be able to deploy a portal by turn 3 if they’re lucky, but that’s assuming they deep strike in on turn 2 (50% chance there), don’t get killed by deep striking, and don’t get shot at or assaulted before they have the chance to deploy the WWP.

In the same way I was suggesting with the raider squad above, I suppose you could deploy a unit of WWP-carrying scourges normally in addition to other WWP-carrying units. They would be slower, yet easier to hide than a normal raider squad. Unfortunately they are still fragile, expensive, and unless you give them heavy weapons (making them even more costly) won’t really be able to do anything else but deploy the portal (unlike a raider squad).
In short: The deep-striking units available to the Dark Eldar are far too expensive, fragile and unreliable to carry a portal effectively. Don’t try it unless you’re up for a real challenge.


Army Composition: What units should be kept in reserve?

There is a very simple answer to this question – generally you should hold in reserve anything you don’t want your opponent to shoot at. This potentially includes anything in the Dark Eldar codex. If you don’t want it to get shot at, stick it in the Webway.

For your assault units, you need to remember that once they’ve emerged from the portal, they’ll still need to be able to move far enough to actually get into combat, and against a shooty army your opponent will probably have kept as far back a possible. So unless you know you’ll be fighting against a more offensive army (where the speed of your assault units not at all an issue), try to ensure that most of your assault units are as fast as possible. Failing that, include enough fast units to distract most of the enemy enough to ensure the slower assault units won’t be shot up while they cross those final few inches.

Below is a summary of units that may (or may not) work well in a WWP;

- Talos: While they could be used to distract fire from your WWP-carriers, a smart opponent will ignore him for the more immediate threat of the portals. Personally, I find they’re a lot better coming out of the portal fresh and (hopefully) straight into combat, where they’ll maul almost any unit you throw them at. Against more shooty opponents, they are less likely to get into HTH the turn they emerge, but this is not so much an issue for the talos, given that they can easily withstand a bit of shooting if they have to.


- Wyches: Big squads of 15+ are quite scary, especially when your opponent doesn’t get the chance to shoot at them! The only problem with such a unit is that they’re on foot and unless you get the 12” assault ability for their combat drugs, it is possible that they’ll find themselves out of assault range. The obvious solution to this is to mount your wyches in a raider. But if you’re sufficiently daring/cunning enough, you can assault enough units and present enough targets of opportunity that your opponent will either be unable to shoot your wyches, or would prefer to target other threats (like a dirty great talos, or that dark lance squad about to blow up his hammerhead).

- Dark Eldar Lord: Whether he’s on foot with combat drugs or straddling a jetbike, this guy can do a lot of damage coming out of a WWP, and has the speed to get straight into assault. Always an excellent choice.

- Dark Eldar Lord with Incubi: This is a good (if expensive) choice, but only if you stick them in a Raider. Incubi are as slow as a Talos, but not nearly as durable. So if the enemy is just out of 12” range of your WWP, then your Incubi are going to be in trouble. Adding a raider solves this problem nicely.

-Haemonculi: A haemonculus with a destructor can do a lot of damage to enemy infantry. Normally, their independent character status is enough to protect them from enemy fire, but there’s certainly no harm in giving one a hellion skyboard or reaver jetbike, and having him emerge from a webway portal to dish out some pain. This can actually work quite well, especially when the enemy is to preoccupied with other nasties to realize you can get a flame template-wielding haemonculus right next to his infantry.

- Warp Beasts: Their speed alone makes them a great unit to include. While they rarely have the resilience kill off a unit on their own, they should be able to hold up the enemy long enough to get your slower units into combat.

- Grotesques: Put them on a raider, and you have a unit that will work extremely well in support of your other assault units – auto-breaking an enemy unit can be a powerful thing. Just remember that these guys aren’t that great at winning assaults on their own, so you need to make sure they are accompanied by other assault units. Taking grotesques without a raider can work just as  well - they aren’t exactly vulnerable to shooting and would work wonders in conjunction with the equally slow talos.

- Raider Squads: As I said in the introduction, raiders are now more akin to flying coffins. If a Raider squad is emerging from webway portals however, you can move up and either shoot or assault the enemy quite safely. Considering their speed and flexibility, I’d strongly recommend that you take at least one raider squad in your WWP army. I’ve found them to be very good value in my own games.

- Warrior squads: A big warrior squad with splinter cannons and blasters can dish out a lot of firepower at close range, and can easily swarm smaller units in HTH while other units are occupied with the big fish. Personally, I’d prefer the speed and flexibility of a raider squad over using warrior squads in a WWP. I also feel that any warrior squads in my webway army are better utilised on the table at the beginning of the game, where they help protect the WWP-carriers. So while warrior squads are certainly a possibility, I believe there are other units better suited as webway reserves.

-Reaver Jetbikes: Personally, I’d prefer other units for WWP reserves than a reaver jetbike unit. It’s true that they make decent tank hunters and can be quite nasty in assault, but IMO, they are better utilised starting on the board, where they would work nicely as a distraction in a similar way to dark lance warrior squads (see below), only faster and more resilient to heavy weapons fire.

One potential issue to keep in mind when selecting an army is the possibility of overcrowding your webway portal with reserves. If you only manbage to deploy one portal (not uncommon), and have 3 taloi,, 20 wyches and a warrior squad to deploy at once, chances are they’ll get in each others way and you’re going to have real trouble getting them all into combat at once. This isn’t so much of an issue for your raider-mounted reserves, but when taking infantry on foot, be sure to keep this in mind.

Army Composition: The rest of the army

Generally the rest of the army should be focused first on ensuring the WWPs get deployed. You can do this by ensuring your force is sufficiently resilient to stand up to two turns worth of shooting, by keeping the enemy at arms length from the WWP-carrier, and by providing enough distractions and threats to make sure your opponent is less likely to focus on the WWP-carriers. I’ll give a quick outline of some of the units that can be useful for a starting force:


- Warrior squads: A big unit of 20 warriors is hard to ignore, and can put out a lot of firepower against any unit that strays too close. Their resilience also makes them an ideal unit to hide a WWP-carrying haemonculus behind – very few armies will be able to wipe out an entire squad of warriors to target the haemonculus hiding behind them in a single round of shooting.


- Dark Lance warrior squads: We all know these units are great, and they certainly aren’t any worse in a WWP army. Killing the enemies mobility (ie. transports), makes it harder for them to deal with your WWP-touting units and/or escape from your reserves. As always, they are also a cheap tank-hunters enabling them to either blow up an always scary ordnance weapon and/or distract your opponent from your units carrying the WWP.

- Mandrakes: Pure. Gold. Mandrakes have always been a specialist unit, with their value being not what they can kill but how much they can mess with your opponents plans. This is especially true in WWP armies. Why? Well they are an excellent way of keeping units away from your WWP before or even while it’s being deployed. By deploying a unit of mandrakes in front of a squad about to assault your WWP-carrier, you can block off that assault, instead forcing the unit to attack your mandrakes instead. Even if they get annihilated in the next turn, the mandrakes will still have prevented that unit from dealing with your WWP. Take them.

- Ravagers: I don’t use them out of personal preference, but for the enemy, the firepower they can put out often puts them at a priority at least an equal to the WWP-touting units. Every gun fired at a Ravager is a gun not aimed at your WWP-touting units. If I actually liked them, I’d probably take at least one.

As I said above, your starting force has to be resilient enough to ensure you won’t get annihilated by a larger force in the opening turns. With that in mind, try to avoid units which are expensive, yet either not very resilient or not much of a threat, such as Hellions and Scourges.


Using a Webway Army vs. Defensive armies

Defensive armies are those forces that prefer to remain in their deployment zone (yawn), shooting at you as you come. These are the armies you’ll probably have the most trouble against, as they have the best chance of killing your WWP-carriers or failing that, keeping far enough away so that you won’t be able to assault straight from the WWP.

Your highest priority against such armies is to ensure that the WWPs get deployed as close to the enemy as possible, without endangering your chances of it actually getting deployed. Ideally, this means a second turn deployment, giving your opponent one or two turns of shooting depending on who went first. If you can deploy your WWP in the second turn, you have a very good chance of assaulting the enemy straight from the portal. In a game where you deploy 24” apart, you should be able to move 7-12” in the first turn, and deploy the portal in front of you second turn (2.5” wide), meaning that your forces have to cover 14.5”- 9.5” before hitting your opponents deployment zone. Even if your opponent has deployed further back, you should be able to reach him with your raider-mounted units. Another advantage of deploying your WWPs in turn two is that something like 83% of your reserves will arrive in turn 3 , allowing most of your force to strike the enemy as one.

Of course, there are those occasions where you have no choice but to deploy the portal on the first turn, usually if you didn’t get the first turn and the enemy battered you with shooting. In such a case, you’re reserves are going to need to cover 22.5” to hit your opponents deployment zone – not an easy proposition even for Raider squads. Of course, it will be very rare for something like this to happen. If you’re smart with your deployment and use the terrain to your advantage, you should be able to avoid most of the enemies shooting.

A quick word of warning when facing defensive armies – many smart opponents will be sure to include at least some sort of fast assault element to act either as a distraction or for counterattacks. Always keep an eye on these units, making sure you either neutralise them or keep them at arms length from your WWP-carriers (as I said above, mandrakes are great for this).

Using a Webway Army vs, Assault armies

I think you all know what an assault army is – they generally try to close the gap between you as quickly as possible and engage you in HTH (although sometimes they’ll just rapid-fire you to death, like the Sisters of Battle). Against such armies, the best idea is to use the “counter-attack” tactic shown on p21 of the Dark Eldar codex. With this tactic, you wait for your opponent to commit themselves, before striking where you see fit. The portals can be deployed on either flank, and once the reserves arrive, you will be able to position them on the flank they’d be most useful.

The trickiest thing with using a Webway army verses an assault army is making sure your opponent doesn’t get too close to your portals. Generally you do not want your opponent to assault your WWP-carriers before they deploy the portal, or surround the portals with troops (preventing your non-skimmer reserves from entering). As a result you need to keep your WWP-carriers back a little, keeping a squad or two in the way (once again, mandrakes are great for this).

A word on using small Webway Armies

Now when I say “small” armies, I’m talking about 1000 points or less. In such small games, taking two WWPs really takes up a considerable chunk of your points allotment. Now if you’re really set on using a Webway army at this size, you’ll have little choice but to break the first Golden Rule of webway armies and take only one webway portal. I’ve never tried this myself, but in such a small game you may be able to get away with it, as there will be less enemy firepower to deal with. If you do try this, give the WWP to an independent character and possibly even give him the shadowfield – you need him to be as protected as possible. To save points, you could even skip the haemonculus and give the portal to a DE Lord. At the very least, you’ll feel a lot better giving a shadow field to him rather than ‘wasting’ it on a haemonculus!

Aside from the risk of  getting your single WWP-carrier blown away before he even moves, one of the main issues with taking only one portal is that it makes your army a great deal more predictable – your opponent will know from the beginning of the game exactly where your reserves will be arriving from. Still, if your reserves are fast enough it might not make much of a difference. Like I said, I’ve never tried it myself, so do so at your own risk!

That’s all folks…
Thanks for taking the time to read my article. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to PM me (Rathnard), or start a topic in the Dark Eldar Tactics forum. I’m certainly not the only person to use Webway Armies, and you should be able to get a lot of excellent advice there.


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