Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Harlequins: A Harlequin Troupe

Harlequins generally travel and live together in groups known as harlequin masques. these masques are very similar to our current-day gypsy camps, where member live and work together as they travel from place to place performing their arts. Harlequins form these tight-knit troupes and travel freely between Eldar communities to perform their ritual dances.

On the battlefield, a harlequin Troupe refers to the basic fighting unit, which consists of a harlequin avatar and his/her entourage. A Troupe is often accompanied by various support elements, such as scouts, heavy weapons teams, etc. All of these support elements and Troupes are part of the Masque and always work together during performances and day-to-day life, but they are not always involved in battles. a single Troupe of harlequins is often more than enough to handle an entire enemy force.

In this article, we will be looking at the Troupe as a battlefield unit. We will examine the roles of the Troupers on the field and in their art, as well as looking at the models used to represent this cornerstone of a Harlequin force.

The harlequin troupe is the simplest element of the harlequin force. It consists of an avatar and a number of Troupers, sometimes accompanied by a shadowseer/warlock (Note: in the older fluff from rogue trader supplements, these guys were called warlocks which matches the unit upgrades from craftworld units. however in the newer eldar codex the term seems to have been replaced with "shadowseer". I think shadowseer sounds much cooler, so that is the term I will use for my army and for fluff articles...)

Above you can see the force org chart for a Harlequin masque as presented in the Rogue Trader Compendium in 1989. a masque is roughly equivalent to a standard 40k army by today's standards. you have 1-6 troupes supported by various elements that would fill the rest of your force org.

although the Masque is made up of several troupes, a single troupe may be used for a mission or even for a performance without support from the greater Masque. in a battle this represents a small scouting force of Harlequins, possibly on the field as support for an Eldar or Dark Eldar army. in a performance, a troupe contains all of the required actors to perform many of the simpler dances that may be shown to a smaller community of Eldar. often these smaller troupes perform for the smaller and more nomadic Exodites.

Let's move on and look at the role of the Troupe on our miniature battlefield. as you might have already gathered, a harlequin troupe is roughly represented by the harlequin unit in the newer Eldar/dark Eldar codexes. The Troupe Master takes on the spot formerly taken by the avatar, possibly in order to avoid confusion between a harlequin avatar and the avatar of the bloody-handed god.

The avatar performs the role of the laughing god during ritual dances, and on the battlefield is one of the most dangerous harlequin combatants. avatars often wear a long cape denoting their rank, and almost always wear a mask that depicts a grinning face to represent the laughing god himself. below you can see a comparison of the old avatar model and the new troupe master

Because any army of crazy clowns needs at least one Joker...

The second special upgrade in a harlequin troupe is the shadowseer. in the original force organization chart above, these warlocks take up a different slot in the masque, but as there is no close approximation of a warlock unit in Codex:DE I follow the newer Troupe structure and include the warlock in the Troupe.

in a performance, the shadowseer plays the role of the storyteller. he narrates the actions of the dancers and enhances their intense performances with various narcotics and illusions using a combination of gases launched from tubes on his back and psychic impulses that resonate with the psychic Eldar race. in battle, the shadowseer uses the same chemicals and psychic abilities to confuse and disorient his enemies. he can hide his troupe from enemy eyes or use his grenade launchers to cower a group of enemies entrenched in cover.

below you can see another comparison between the old shadowseer model and then new model used in the harlequin unit

the old shadowseer model is actually not bad. one of my favorites from the old set

finally, we will look at the basic harlequins. Trouper make up the fighting backbone of a harlequin force, and are the rank and file of a traditional masque. the Troupers tend to favor close combat and are equipped with nasty weapons known as harlequins' kisses which punch a thin spool of wire into an enemies armor which expands and turns an enemy's insides into mush. Troupers have not changed much between rogue trader and the current system. they fulfill the same battlefield role and have similar weapons. they are not nearly as sturdy as they used to be and almost require a shadowseer just to survive turn 1. in the old days a single Troupe of these guys could wreck entire armies. now they fill more of a support/utility role.

below is a comparison between an old harlequin and the new Trouper models

Now even a basic trouper can have the harlequin's kiss...

in my current harlequin army, the Troupe fills a support role. they are too fragile to be true front-line troops, and as an elites choice they cannot hold an objective. on the other hand, the shadowseer's veil of tears is amazing and can really make a harlequin troupe into an effective unit. it is not fool-proof and often I have had an enemy take a gamble and see these guys from 20+ inches away, destroying the entire squad.

The Troupe unfortunately can no longer hold the title of the core fighting force of the masque, but they have their own role to serve. my basic troops are now filled with aspirant ensembles (which I will talk about more in the future) while the true troupers act as a bodyguard for my webways.

The whole gang

generally, I start the game with only this squad (a proper 5 troupers, an avatar and shadowseer) and a venom on the table, each with a character carrying a webway portal. the shadowseer keeps the webway delivery safe for a turn or two, to be delivered to midfield and allowing the rest of my army to enter where I want them. if my harlequins can perform this role I am happy. I treat their point cost as a transport option for my entire army. I can't expect them to get into combat and wreck units, as they don't always do so well at getting into range before losing too many members. that way if they do make it into combat or absorb a lot of fire, they have done more than I asked them to do. sometimes it works out great. just yesterday this one small unit destroyed a unit of killa kans, and in the past they have taken down entire wolf guard units. sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. I always go into a game knowing the risks. I aim for a realistic goal (drop a portal, annoy the enemy flanks) and when they perform above and beyond I am a happy camper.

So what do you think? are there better uses for the Harlequin troupe in a Dark eldar or Craftworld eldar army? what do you use your harlequins for?

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