Dark Eldar Tactics – Webway Portal


Over the weekend the floating citadel played host to yet another mega-gribble. At the behest of Space Marine Commander supremo Servitob we strong-armed Gribblin into bringing more Tyranids than meets WHO safety guidelines (that’s 5000pts in old money) to fend off the amalgamated forces of the rest of us.

The side of “good” had 1000pts per player and consisted of me and my Dark Eldar, nBreaker and his fancy new Orks, Carabus and his fancy new Grey Knights and Servitob with a decidedly more twin-linked Space Marine force. Rather than play the same kind of scenario game we did the last time this was going to be a much more simple throw down. While last time out the scales tipped ever so slightly in favour of the sex-legged ones by the time the smoke settled on this one the Tyranids had been resoundingly beaten. The heaviest losses were suffered by nBreaker and his Orks, I lost 14 models total and Servitob had Marines on the board at the end of the game, in fact, more of his army survived all the way through, a first for him and well worthy of some kind of trophy, if we could be bothered or had one on hand (we couldn’t and didn’t).

One of our other friends came along with 1000pts of Raven Guard as mathematically minded readers may have totted up that 4 people and 1000pts a piece doesn’t quite equate to the 5000pts of extra-galactic Xenos filth we were up against.

This large scale battle allowed me to experiment with my list a little, here’s what I crammed into my 1000pts;

Archon with Agoniser, Shadowfield, Phantasm Grenade Launcher and Webway Portal

5 Incubi in a Raider

8 Hekatrix Bloodbrides with Syren, Agoniser and 2 Shardnets

10 Kabalite Warriors with Splinter Cannon

8 Wyches with Hekatrix, Agoniser and Shardnet

6 Reavers with two Blasters

Ravager with Nightshields, Flickerfield and Disintegrators

Everything bar the Ravager and the Archon with his Incubi were deployed in reserve. This was a risk, I knew, but as this was a game with more than two players I thought that would balance out OK. I was right!

Turn 1 the Archon’s Raider zipped over the halfway line, hopped off and deployed the portal. Turn 2 and the Bloodbrides arrived followed by everything else on turn 3. My army held and won our right flank pretty much on their own, the amount of wounds my combat troops inflicted was ridiculous with my Archon seeing off a Tervigon, unit of Termagants, unit of Rippers (although he had some help on this one) and finally killing off a Tyrannofex. I had two unit at full pain tokens at the end of the game and my combat drugs roll of 6 helped out all the Wych units.

The portal worked quite well although I did worry about putting the Warriors in it, in the end my concerns were justified as the sole remaining Biovore shot them, didn’t scatter and killed 7 of the 10 after I had failed to move my unit correctly out the portal which left everything bar the Splinter cannon out of range. Amusingly even though they ran off, the Bloodbrides shot it down with their Splinter Pistols before they could assault.

Due to the other armies on the field shooting up the Tyranid lines I think I got away with things. Historically when you played with a webway portal you’d take two of them and put them on Sybarites in your warrior units so you would have one on each flank, of course you could fly vehicles out of them then too. Now you get cheaper portals but there are far fewer models who are capable of taking one. This serves to generally make them a more expensive option to start with.

From using this one as a test I can see that if I were playing a normal game I’d still want two of them. Ideally you want that portal down on turn one as waiting for another turn could rob you of the advantage of using the portal to bring your units on which is the whole reason behind taking the portal in the first place! Sticking with one portal makes your army predictable, after all you can’t bring vehicle units through it so your reach isn’t huge, the piecemeal nature of Reserves can also mess up your plan of course. Two portals would give you a choice of where to concentrate your force and means your enemy cannot just gun for one portal and know where you will be.

You could of course us the portal as a distraction, drop it hoping your opponent will focus around it and then bring on troops in Raiders of Venoms from your own table edge, sure it’ll be another turn before you can disembark and get somewhere (going flat-out) but hopefully you’ll have duped the opposition and then you can capitalise on that. Seems like a suitably Dark Eldar like ploy but you are spending a chunk of points on Wargear you’re not going to use.

My own 1500pts army is based a lot on being mobile and has a lot of vehicles in it, once the webway portal is deployed you are stuck to it, especially with foot infantry. Redeploying or shifting your forces will be much slower than if you can re-embark onto transports. Sure the average Dark Eldar player is expecting to lose most of those transports in turn two but just one that survives can get a unit to the otherwise of the battlefield pretty quickly.

While the webway portal does have its advantages I think it can also be a massive liability. In multi-player games like the one we had those disadvantages are minimised. The problem for Gribblin is that the collection of armies we have means that each individuals weaknesses are covered by the strengths of another army. Especially so now that we are all playing with our own forces, ones we’ve studied and worked out ourselves. I doubt I’ll use the portal in many games myself, mainly due to the limits it places on you. Sitting down the portal unit and your heavy support against an entire army’s worth of deployment on the opposite side of the table isn’t a sure-fire way of getting your guys safely where they need to be and terrain placement could screw with your carefully orchestrated plans.

Putting your assets in transports provides much greater mobility and the chance to react more quickly and while I would never recommend a reactive strategy when playing an opponent sometimes you need to do that to maintain the initiative.

These are just my thoughts from using it in a single game, but these big battles do give us the option to try new things that may cause catastrophic losses should they be tried in a normal 1 v 1. While these big games are fun I think we might rein it in back to the normal format for now so that we each can see our armies in the spotlight a bit and give Gribblin a shot at each of us individually.

We are thinking of running a little friendly league among us. Nothing overly competitive just a fun way of organising who plays against who and seeing who is coming out on top. While we’ve now all beaten the Tyranids collectively it’ll be interesting to see how my Dark Eldar fare against the guys that I have been fighting with. Those Grey Knights seem quite nasty and Servitob’s new pimped out Marines are also more of a worry.

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