Revan is back with more thoughts on Harlequins.
With their checkered regalia and 5+ invulnerable save, a Harlequin army boasts skill equivalent to that of a player with a mountain of experience. While the grinning Joker leaping precariously amid a swarm of enemies on the cover of the Harlequins codex was my literal Kiss of Death, there were multiple times Harlequins failed to engage my adversary, and instead danced off the board. The Fog of War has caused me to lose recollection of all the scenarios and circumstances with which I have lost while playing my Harlequins, but I do recall an abnormally high amount of vaporized Harlequins turn 1, while sitting in an armored transport.
As a new player, I had bounded into 40k with the eagerness of a Harlequin herself, except I had lacked her grace. Ignoring my friend’s pleas to start with a simpler army, an Imperium army, with helmets and rounded shoulders, I built my Harlequin army, determined to have them look as beautiful as the lethal creature on the cover of my codex. But I didn’t expect the long flowing ribbons behind every infantry unit, as fragile as the satin they were supposed to replicate, to snap before I had fully attached them.
Undeterred, and fully convincing myself a Harlequin didn’t need ribbons to be graceful, simply to look graceful; I began the task of painting my units. I could imagine them in my mind’s eye, wiping my opponent off the table, their checkers glinting in the yellow light of the local game store. Everyone would bow down in fear as my Harlequins prepared to charge! Sitting down in anticipation, I began to freehand the checkers. Slowly, the tip of my brush inched down the delicate leg of my favorite Harlequin. Gently, I curved the dark paint closer to her knee, the line was perfect! But alas, the joke was on me.
In a cruel twist of fate my hand cramped, due to lack of experience, poor posturing, or a combination of both I’ll never know, but my favorite model, with her Mohawk and single, perfect ribbon, was blotched.
I wish I could have convinced myself my Harlequins didn’t need the checkers, but that would be a huge lie, which could lead me to embrace the deceitful Dark Eldar, and it didn’t form my experience as a Harlequin player.
My vision of checkered Harlequins chasing tattered Space Marines off the board were often interrupted by long periods of time perfecting the Harlequin checker, stripping the model, touching up new troupes, reattaching delicate bits, and trying again.
When my Harlequins were on the board, they tasted defeat—constantly. After every game, I’d take my battered Harlequins, place them gently back into their cardboard box, and look at the menacing Harlequin on the cover of my codex. I was determined to make Harlequins as intimidating as their cover art.
It took 4 months before I created a list that had won a game. For the first time, my models were returned to their box without the bitter taste of disappointment. I was cautious and hopeful. Eventually, I took a modified version of the list to the LVO, assuring my Harlequins had a place in the 40k universe. Not only did my Harlequins do better than I had expected, but in traditional Harlequin fashion, many Webways of laughter and friendship had opened.
However, I couldn’t recommend Harlequins as a beginner army. My recollection of delicate models, the need for playing with surgical precision, paired with the struggle to meet the artistic vision of fellow Harlequin players was a lot to handle as a new player. Allying in the Eldar or Dark Eldar have always been an option, but not only does it add another layer to creating an army list, it changes the Harlequin dynamic. For the new player, memorizing one army, let alone two or more, is challenging. Harlequins are an army that transcends the definition of “Competitive Eldar” and attempt to give it a new scope, but for the new player, it’s not only potentially overwhelming, it could discourage them from the hobby.