Saturday, May 18, 2013

Webway Woes

One of the favorite themes of the Dark Eldar army has always been the strike from the shadows type raiding mentality.  Nothing embodied that more for me than the WebWay Portal.
Shortening the commute to the battlefield
Even back in the days of late 3rd edition when I started to play with the idea of the Dark Eldar, one of the biggest complaints that people had with the army was that they were so fragile.  It was an obvious flaw, but I quickly realized that they were only fragile if you got a chance to hit them.  This was incredibly obvious in close combat, where the high initiative value often meant there were less enemies when it came time for them to swing back.  So what if we could do the same thing in the shooting phase?  Behold the WebWayPortal.  This allowed you to keep units in reserve, and then deploy them when the portal became active, preventing units that you wanted to get into assault from being shot.  At that time it was a much bigger gamble, as you had to declare what units were coming in from the portal, and they could only come in once the portal was active; if the portal carrier died, those units were lost.  It was why you almost always had to take 2 portals, but with a late deploy you take advantage of the reserve rolls and make a focused late push.

When the new book came out it changed up the portal strategy a bit.  Now you couldn't hold units for a late portal deployment, they made normal reserve rolls and the portal merely acted as a table edge.  The plus side to this, is you gained a bit more flexibility in putting units where they needed to be.  Infamously, this lead to bait and switch tactics where opponents would avoid the portal and push towards objectives in my backfield, only to have a unit come on from the board edge and take them out.

Now with 6th edition, I'm left wondering if someone really got mad at our portals.  Reserves come much faster and more consistent so that portal has to be down turn 1, we can't get quite as deep into the opponents backfield with the new movement and disembark rules, and even if we do get the portal setup there is no more assaulting the turn we come in from reserves, and only half the army could be in reserve.  On top of all those nerfs, the addition of Interceptor weapons mean even if we do manage to come in from the portal and expect to shoot, the major advantage is gone, we cannot avoid being shot at.

We are at that point now in 6th edition where people have begun to accept that the ally rules add such a great dimension to armies that there are any number of combinations that could produce unexpected results.  As such I've seen more talk about trying to incorporate the webway portal in again.  While I believe that I could work the portals in to have units of warriors, wracks, or jetbikes come out of the portal to shoot/turbo boost, the only real benefit I see to using the portal over putting them all in a Raider is that you could have more than 10 guys; i.e. 10 wracks and 3 haemonculi for 5 liquifiers.  The only tactical option that comes to mind is to use the webway portals for board control, try and drop 2 or 3 of them at the mid-table range to cut the table in half.  The problem being, how much will you have coming from reserve that will need 3 portals.

I really enjoy the webway portal, and will continue to see if I can work it into my army, but I think it has slowly lost all of it's benefits over time.

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