New and improved, no longer confusingly sharing a name with a completely unrelated Tau unit! Rangers- ask for them at your local Eldar Outlet Store! Availabilitymayvaryinsomeregionsconsultyourdoctorbeforeenrollinganynew
Rangers, though a long-standing feature of the Eldar codex in previous years, have typically been ignored for a variety of reasons (except for a brief spate back in 3rd Edition when a specific build could use them to incredibly annoying effect.) The scouts, pathfinders, and forward operatives of a Craftworld army, Rangers are those members of the worldship that have chosen to abandon the normal strictures of the Path system and instead search for meaning in the galaxy at large.
As basic Eldar troops, the statline on Rangers is pretty simple. We get the usual strength and toughness three, weapon and ballistic skill 3+, and 7″ movement. Leadership 7 and a 5+ save put them on par with Guardians and other basic models but below specialized troops like the various aspect warriors- however, at twelve points each (half again what a Guardian costs), Rangers will rarely have the bodies to just soak up damage the way many other infantry units with similar statlines can.
Special Rules and Wargear
As Craftworld units Rangers come with the usual complement of special rules to match- Battle Focus isn’t much good to them due to not working on heavy weapons (though it will occasionally see use), while Ancient Doom mostly acts as a disadvantage due to their mediocre close combat performance. Each Ranger comes with a Shuriken Pistol (useful in a pinch, but usually not seeing much action) and a Ranger Long Rifle, which has the usual S4, 36″ range, and mortal wounds on 6s that most all sniper weapons in the game have (plus being able to target characters, of course.) However, they also come with a surprising number of other features that more than make their relatively-high price point much more acceptable.
Appear Unbidden is their special deployment method- they are placed in reserve during the normal deployment step (which will count towards your usual 50% limit, so be careful) and on the first battle round but before the first turn starts they can be placed anywhere on the field more than 9″ from enemy models. Functionally identical to abilities like that of the Alpha Legion or Raven Guard, this allows an Eldar player to block off huge sections of the battlefield against enemy reserves unless they have a way to preempt it- not always an easy task.
Cameleoline Cloaks is also very powerful, giving all enemies a flat -1 to hit them with shooting attacks and giving them +2 to armor saves (rather than +1) when in cover. This can make Rangers incredibly difficult to shift when they find themselves a good piece of terrain to hide in, as they would be rocking a 3+ save and thus can easily shrug off most basic weapons.
Although other, flashier-looking units in the Craftworlds codex tend to get all of the attention (either positive or negative), Rangers are a critical part of a Craftworld army because they allow those other units to do their job unimpeded in the face of reserve and melee strategies. Dark Reapers are certainly powerful, but who cares how well they shoot when they’re locked in combat on turn 1? With Rangers, this largely isn’t a problem at all, as they can push back enemy reserves almost to the point of uselessness.
It is this utility- plus their presence in the troop slot in order to help maximize command points- that makes Rangers so valuable to the army. Guardian Defenders are a great unit for tearing up enemy infantry, to be sure, but Rangers bring enormous amounts of general usefulness to the army that other units simply can’t cover. Blocking off enemy reserves is extremely important, as we’ve already mentioned- it stops units arriving from reserves from ruining your carefully-laid plans, especially in combination with the Forewarning stratagem. But not every enemy army has major reserve elements in it- even so, Rangers have so many other jobs they can do that rarely will they fail to make a major impact on the match. Their ability to deploy forward onto objectives means that a Craftworlds player can be holding objectives from the early turns of the game quite easily, potentially giving an early lead on points for the primary mission or accumulating points for secondary missions (Recon, Behind Enemy Lines) in the opening turns. Rangers can also be used- albeit in a somewhat more sacrificial capacity- to block off enemy movement early in the game. Against anything without the Fly keyword, they can form an impassible wall that can limit the enemy’s ability to maneuver in those critical first one or two turns. In short, though Rangers may not look like an exciting unit most of the time, they can perform a variety of utilitarian roles that can make or break an army. The Craftworlds book without Rangers in it (or at the old price of 20pts/model) is a completely different type of animal.
However, Rangers are good for more than just marking off points on the battlefield- they come with a very versatile gun in the form of the Eldar Long Rifle (plus that backup Shuriken Pistol for emergencies.) The most obvious use for such a weapon is, of course, to try and snipe off enemy utility characters, and this is hardly a bad role to put them in; although Commissars may not be as prevalent as they once were, there are plenty of T3 models around in the form of other Eldar to pick on and even T4/3+ stuff like Librarians will drop to concentrated shooting from several squads of Rangers. Picking off the last wound from something tougher like Celestine or Ghillieman is also quite possible, which can be a big weight off your shoulders if you can get lucky with it.
However, most games your snipers actually aren’t going to be aiming at characters in my experience. Rather, they will be getting some unusual work done in putting wounds on tough targets like vehicles, monsters, and superheavy targets. It might seem a bit counterintuitive, but the ability to stack mortal wounds onto big units like Magnus or Fire Raptors can add up very quickly- and the mortal wound caused is in addition to the normal wound inflicted by the weapon, so you can actually kill more models than you shot with in a lucky situation. Doom, from the Runes of Fate discipline, is exceptionally useful here- if you can put it down on something dangerous before focusing a bunch of sniper fire on your target, you are likely to be pushing through 1-2 wounds per volley of fire, which adds up quick on expensive models like that. Even T8+ targets will have a really bad time of it when you start throwing piles of snipers at them with rerolls, especially those that only have 3+ armor saves.
Of course, as with a lot of units in the Craftworlds codex, Rangers really start to shine when you can stack their abilities with other, similar bonuses. In this respect, Alaitoc is (rightfully in this case, at least) the indisputable best choice for Rangers. The innate -1 against all shooting Rangers possess stacks nicely with the Alaitoc bonus of -1 to hit beyond 12″, which puts a lot of armies to hitting on 5s and armies like Guard or Tau to hitting on 6s. (Orks can’t even make the shot at that distance, though you don’t tend to see a lot of long-range Ork shooting anyways.) The Pathfinder stratagem forces the enemy to only hit on 6s regardless of their ballistic skill or modifiers, though unlike many of the other defensive stratagems you have to activate it at the beginning of the enemy shooting phase rather than when they pick you as a target- still, hitting a unit of Rangers on a key position (an objective, a prime deep strike location, etc) can make the job of removing them incredibly hard and buy you a turn or two longer.
An important thing to remember when deploying your Rangers is that while the “pushback” distance that limits where enemies can deploy their reserve units is measured in a straight line out from them in all directions, any attempts to charge them by units that don’t Fly or otherwise ignore terrain may very well have to follow a longer path, potentially resulting in more difficult (or impossible) charges as a simple consequence of Pythagoras’s Law. Thus, placing yourself in the upper levels of terrain (especially ruins) can not only deny the enemy access to those buildings and give you improved line of sight across the battlefield, but also makes it significantly more difficult to get into assault with you; a unit placed 9″ away may well need an 11″ or 12″ charge roll in order to get up to your position in a ruin. Be wary of putting yourself too high up, though, as this can limit your ability to maneuver later in the game- the two factors need to be balanced against each other when choosing your deployment spots.
Though Rangers are typically a fairly durable troop in an Alaitoc detachment, you shouldn’t be afraid to use them sacrificially; models are in your army to be used, and if they spend the whole game trying to avoid the enemy while the other player racks up points, you’re not doing yourself or your army any favors. Rangers often end up being a first line of defense against enemy reserve units and can push them back an immense distance, enough that the enemy can’t feasibly bring in their reserves until the Rangers are eliminated- with other units stationed along the edge of your deployment zone, you can potentially push the enemy back 28″ from you (9″ from your zone, 1″ for the Ranger’s base, and an 18″ diameter circle around them), which puts them well outside the ranges of most weapons. As a result, in the early turns of the game any reserve-heavy army must target your Rangers in order to enable the rest of their strategy to even have a chance of working- and while they are doing so, the rest of your army is generally free to wreak havoc on them. Your Rangers may die, but in giving you control of the board (and usually control of the game) from the very start, they have more than done their job even if they don’t kill a single model.
So it’s pretty obvious that Rangers are critical to an Eldar army’s functioning effectively against reserves. If you have a reserve army, what do you do against them? The first and easiest strategy is simply not to give them a chance to set up where they want. Nurglings and Scouts both get to place themselves on the battlefield during the normal deployment phase, rather than immediately before the game starts, and like Rangers they can be placed nearly anywhere on the board. By placing units like these early you can “counter-block” the Eldar player’s attempts to hold you out of sections of the battlefield. Many other armies also have units that set up or take free movements at the same time as Rangers would be deployed- while these are dependent on winning the roll-off in order to be effective in this way, just the threat of losing that roll-off will force the Eldar player to be a bit more conservative with their placement of units and assumptions about where their Rangers can go- otherwise, they are potentially setting themselves up to have their whole strategy collapse from the result of a coin flip, which is bad play. (Remember, the player who wins the roll-off places/moves all of their pregame units, then the losing player does so- you do not alternate, as in normal deployment.)
Secondly, while Rangers are immensely durable against shooting, they are not nearly so well-protected against melee. With T3 and 5+ armor (not to mention middling morale), Rangers can easily be wiped out in a round or two of combat should anything resembling a competent unit make contact with them. Even just simple Tactical Marines should drag them down in relatively short order; if at all possible, don’t try to eliminate them with shooting (though you may as well shoot if you have nothing better to do)- focus on getting into melee with them, where almost none of their protections, not even their improved armor save, will wor
Armies that are less concerned with reserves can also do a lot to protect themselves; ensure that your more vulnerable characters (such as psykers and other models mostly intended to hand out auras and whatnot) stay out of easy line of sight. One squad of Rangers is pretty unlikely to take out a character in a single turn, but coming under sustained fire or fire from many squads simultaneously can be hazardous even to tough models like Celestine and Ghillieman. Use terrain, your own models, and anything else you can find to ensure that the Rangers don’t have easy shots on your important characters and they’ll last a lot longer.
Last but not least- and this is good advice in general but is especially relevant if you see a lot of Rangers across the table- don’t let the Craftworlds player put Doom onto something important. Doom can be an absolutely backbreaking spell, and it should be one of your highest priorities to ensure that it doesn’t go off. Although there certainly are other dangerous spells that you need to watch out for as well (Word of the Phoenix, Jinx, and Quicken being among the top contenders), allowing the enemy to put Doom on a unit will virtually guarantee that it dies. Do not let them drop it on one of your tanks or big units every turn, because you will very shortly not have an army left if you do.
Since the release of the Craftworlds codex and their huge price drop, Rangers have become the premiere troop choice for Eldar armies; though Guardians may put out more damage and some of the other Aeldari units may compete for space in Ynnari forces, Rangers are an easy pick for the most competitive option in the troop slot in general. They have enough firepower to be relevant on the battlefield while being durable enough and flexible enough to get out onto those objectives and start getting you victory points right away- and that’s exactly what you want your troops to be doing. They may never come across as all-stars, but I think you’ll find that a shocking number of games can be won just off of the backs of the humble Ranger, anchoring your position on the field and slowing the enemy down to let the rest of your army do their jobs.
As always, remember that you can buy Games Workshop products at great discounts from the Frontline Gaming webstore every day, no matter whether you’re looking to start a new army or expand an existing one.