Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Harlequins: Death Jesters

The Death Jester is one of the more unique members of a harlequin troupe. In my opinion, they are also the coolest models in the range. I've always loved the death jesters, even just looking at pictures of ancient harlequin armies from back in the day. No harlequin army was complete without at least a few of these guys.

It makes me a little sad that no one uses them anymore. Not that I blame you all. taking a spare shuriken cannon isn't that impressive, and paying points for it in a dedicated close combat unit is just stupid. so now one of the coolest eldar models made by GW never even saw the tabletop.

So when making a new harlequin army, I knew death jesters had to go in! In this article, we'll take a look at the Death Jester. we'll look at the fluff, the models, and the rules for the death jester.

In a harlequin troupe, the death jesters stand apart from the rest of the troupe. In battle and in their everyday routines, the death jesters are solitary, often speaking only to other death jesters (and even that is a rare thing for many jesters). Death Jesters are known for their cruel tempers and morbid sense of humor.

In the dances of the harlequin troupe, the Death Jesters play the part of Death. their costumes feature many skulls and bones. some of these bones are holograms like the changing patterns on most harlequin suits. but many Death Jesters adorn themselves with real bones taken from their foes, making a horrible rattling and scraping noise as they dance through the air. their faces are almost always hidden behind skull masks.

Their most notable roll is in the Dance Without End, where they (death) claim the lives of the gods of the Eldar pantheon as Slaanesh defeats them in combat. But they also feature in lesser dances when important characters are claimed by death.

On the battlefield, they fill a similar role, raining Death down on their enemies. they are the heavy weapons specialists of the harlequins, carrying an array of anti-tank or anti-infantry weaponry. they often carry the eldar brightlance into battle, or replace it with the shrieker cannon, a weapon that can make even the most courageous soldiers think twice about engaging.

old school force org chart shows how the jesters fit into the full picture

On the tabletop, the current Death jesters are not great. they are an upgrade tot he harlequin troupe that is given a 3 shot S6 weapon that causes pinning. since the rest of the unit is usually spending its shooting phase running, this is kind of a waste. in every other way, the death jester is the same as the rest of the troupe.

The old rules for the death jester were much cooler. you could take up to 3 jesters for each elites slot, and each of them worked autonomously. That wouldn't be so great in 5th edition with the kill point missions, but it was great when things were done by victory points alone. each one could carry its choice of heavy weapons - missile launchers, bright lances, shrieker cannons. the shrieker cannon was a single shot gun that always wounded on a 2+. if it killed a guy, the target model exploded in a small blast template, with an AP equal to the dead model's save. it was also pinning.

a death jester in all his glory

Looking at our choices from the new dark eldar codex, how can we best use the death jester? in my previous article, I discuss my use of the harlequin troupe. in the role of a webway delivery vehicle, a death jester brings nothing to the unit. this unit should be lean, they are there to get the portal in place and then run as fast as possible into some combats. so we won't be using the death jester the way GW intends in the current dex.

So how can we get a death jester that acts more like the old harlequin dex? we want something small, mobile and able to damage big things (read: tanks). the harlequin army is generally focused on CC, so we need some support to give us some anti-tank. to fill this role, I use a unit of 4 trueborn with blasters (representing 4 death jesters with bright lances, which are functionally equal). I have also considered having one of them use a splinter cannon as a shrieker cannon, but then the unit loses some punch and has a split purpose (which I try to avoid in general).

So we will use 4 trueborn with blasters, and they will of course be mounted in a venom. I will be writing an article later dedicated to the venom, so I will not go into details right now.

the four death jesters ready for battle

in the game, the death jesters are deployed in the venom with one of the webway portal characters (usually a heamonculus/bonesinger). depending on deployment and the opponent's army, the jesters will either hop into cover outside the venom on turn 1, or will hang out inside the transport all game. in either case, they will be hanging on the the pain token that the WWP character started the game with, which greatly helps their lifespan.

Like most DE players, I generally take no upgrades other than the blasters. no unit leader, no other weapons, and definitely no grenades. if these guys get in combat they will die, don't send them into assault with a vehicle. I don't know why they even have the option to take haywires... oh well. in any case, the dracon is not worth it IMO, as the extra point of ld isn't worth the cost. it could be useful, but I find those points better spent on other upgrades.

That wraps up my thoughts on the death jester. I have been seeing great results from these guys so far. and as an added bonus, I get to see these all but extinct models back on the tabletop! hopefully others enjoy seeing these awesome models getting some exposure outside of the mini painting competitions and sites like CMON.

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