I don’t want to break any hearts, but there are some things that xenos are better at than Space Marines- like being an elusive, shadowy sniper. Click to read the article with its CA2018 updates, or check out the Tactics Corner for more great reviews and strategies.
Illic Nightspear is the foremost pathfinder of Craftworld Alaitoc and its best guide to the myriad battlegrounds it finds itself on. More than that, however, he is a sniper par excellence and powerful proponent of the continuation of the Eldar’s ages-old war against the Necron race; once captured by Imhotek the Stormlord and tortured, he now bears a powerful grudge and works tirelessly to undermine their ancient foe wherever possible.
On the tabletop Illic is something of an oddity, as he is one of the few named characters that does not originate from an obvious template of one of the “generic” HQs. His statline is relatively unsurprising- a 7″ movement and strength/toughness 3 are both common to most Eldar of all types, while weapon skill and ballistic skill 2+ are to be expected from the majority of character models. Five wounds and four attacks put him distinctly in the midrange, though his 5+ save is notable for being quite weak overall. At only 80pts total with all wargear included, Illic is cheaper than most HQs available in the game, though not at the very bottom of the range.
Special Rules and Wargear
As with all Craftworld models, Illic has the Ancient Doom and Battle Focus rules, providing him with some minor benefits- however, since his main weapon is Heavy, he won’t often be able to take advantage of the latter of the two. He comes with a Power Sword (making him reasonably functional, if not particularly good, in close combat) and Shuriken Pistol to use in emergencies, but his weapon of choice is his sniper rifle, Voidbringer. With a 48″ range it can shoot further than most other weapons of its type, and S4 AP-3 Dmg3 makes it hit pretty hard- especially since it shares the ability to target characters and mortal wounds on 6s that all sniper weapons have. The best part about Voidbringer, however, is that it always wounds on a 2+ on anything that isn’t a vehicle- so Illic will be both hitting and wounding on 2s, ignoring most armor, and dealing a whopping three damage per shot.
Beyond that, Illic has the same rule (Appear Unbidden) that normal Rangers possess, allowing him to deploy into reserve if he so pleases, showing up on any of the later turns more than 9″ away from all enemies. Also, just like with Rangers, enemies must subtract one from shooting attacks that target Illic and he adds +2 to his save when in cover, rather than +1, which are both pretty potent defensive bonuses.
Finally, Illic can reroll 1s to hit and to wound when targeting Necron units, which all but guarantees that he will land his shots and makes even his melee attacks a bit more reliable against them, though I wouldn’t count on him winning any fights by himself.
Although he has a fairly large number of unique rules and an unusual weapon, Illic Nightspear is actually a really simple guy: he just wants to sit somewhere safe and blast away at enemy characters. With his 2+ to hit, 2+ to wound, and a fixed three damage on his gun, Illic can put the fear of god into any character he can draw line of sight to, especially if you’ve got a squad or three of Rangers to back him up in that regard. While many characters have 4+ or even 3+ invulnerable saves protecting them, with every failed roll costing them half (or more!) of their hit points, they really can’t afford to be complacent. And for those that don’t, like Librarians and their ilk, Illic is an absolute nightmare to have across the table from them- with judicious use of command points he can expect to wipe out two or even three such characters in the course of a game by his lonesome. For a mere 80pts total, Illic is quite a steal in this role.
Of course, not all armies have characters that you desperately need to get rid of- and even when he’s not sniping for HQs Illic can still do some significant work. Though he struggles a bit to wound vehicles (generally needing 5s), should a hit go through it can strip quite a few wounds off the target- and most vehicles don’t come with an invulnerable save. More preferably, however, you’ll want to aim him at monsters or other multiwound models where he can still benefit from wounding on 2s; it doesn’t take a lot of dead Terminators for him to become a real problem for your opponent, and if he’s chipping wounds off a Hive Tyrant that can get frustrating pretty quickly.
Some people might be quick to point out that Rangers have a better points-per-wound ratio if you’re trying to take out characters, but that misses a number of important factors. While Rangers are inarguably a great troop choice, unlike Illic they can be targeted by enemy firepower anytime they are in range- and while they are tough, it doesn’t take a lot of failed saves for them to go down, not to mention being exceptionally vulnerable to weapons that ignore cover bonuses or ignore to-hit penalties. Illic, as a character, can’t generally be shot at by enemy units until they clear out most of the rest of your army, and that lends him a lot more survivability than his counterparts might have. Though he can still potentially be shot and assaulted, the odds are a lot lower, so if you really want to ensure you get to take your shots at those enemy characters, Illic is arguably the way to go.
We haven’t talked much about the fact that Illic is an Alaitoc model yet, but it is worth pointing out- it means that even those enemies who can shoot him are likely doing so at a -2 penalty, which is pretty stiff. It also means that if you make him your warlord, he is forced to take the Puritanical Leader warlord trait; while it’s a pretty nice trait (letting you ignore morale within 6″ of him, as long as there are no non-Alaitoc units), being locked into it isn’t a thrilling prospect, so you’ll usually want to pick someone else for that role.
At the end of the day, the biggest strength of Illic is that he comes with a weapon that always wounds on 2s and deals 3dmg per shot; if you can take good advantage of that, you’re going to find him to be very useful. If that isn’t helpful to you, he’s simply not going to be worth it, as unlike most other Eldar HQs he doesn’t have any way to buff other models. If you’re facing down characters with very strong (3++ or better) invulns, or you’re facing an army that can effectively hide its characters in places where they aren’t going to be exposed to your fire, leave Illic at home.
As a final note, unless the Necron codex radically changes things for them, Illic is actually almost perfect for dealing with a Necron army- which seems very appropriate, given his fluff. Since he will both hit and wound on 2s with rerolls his shots will be incredibly reliable and as Necrons are heavily dependent on their characters to provide buffs such as Rez Orb, My Will Be Done, and Chronomancer to keep their units going he can put a serious crimp in their plans. This isn’t really a strategic insight so much as an amusing observation; in previous editions it was rare for a model’s fluff and rules to match up well, but this seems to be occurring a lot more often in 8E, which is nice to see.
So you’re staring down the barrel of Illic’s super-fancy sniper rifle and wondering what to do to keep your characters alive; fear not, there are a number of tricks you can use. Illic, though he is a potent anti-character tool, can only be in one place at a time and can only get one shot per turn- if you can spread your characters out so that he has to make choices about where to put his shots, you can put a real strain on him. Terrain is very key here, as even though he can show up anywhere he wants to on that first turn of the game, once he chooses a spot he is basically stuck there and if you’ve built your table right, there shouldn’t be very many spots on the table that both give a board-wide view of things and also are safe from being attacked by the enemy.
On that point: Illic is relatively well protected by his character status and to-hit penalties, but not a lot more so than most HQs, and if you can catch him outside of terrain (or in close combat) his armor save is absolutely pathetic. A fast assault unit like Celestine or Jump Pack Captain should easily wipe him out in a round of combat and even lesser threats will generally drag him down without too much trouble- though you should be somewhat cautious of his Power Sword, unreliable as it may be.
Whenever possible, utilize ruins and other LOS-blocking terrain to keep your characters out of Illic’s sights; he is not a large model and it doesn’t take a whole lot to hide something from him. Even just a humble Rhino can conceal most standard characters behind its hull, as can most other transports. If you deny Illic any good multiwound models to shoot at he can be quite useless- he’s not great against vehicles and if he’s picking off a single Space Marine per turn, he isn’t really carrying his weight at all. Take advantage of his relatively-static nature and the necessities of where he can be positioned to give him bad choices for who to shoot at, especially if you have characters with strong invulnerable saves. Also, be prepared to dedicate a couple command points to rerolling those invulns if things go badly- there is probably going to come a time when you have to expose yourself to his shots, but it’s quite possible to simply stave off the damage for 1-3 turns by making liberal use of rerolls, presuming that your characters are sufficiently-important to your plan for that to be worthwhile.
Although Illic Nightspear isn’t a particular standout unit from the Craftworlds book, he is still very good at what he does- and if that job is useful to you, he can be a very solid inclusion in a list. If you’re planning on going after multiwound targets that aren’t vehicles, his cheap price point and high fixed damage make him a real murder machine- give him a spin, and I think perhaps you’ll be impressed.
As always, remember that you can purchase wargaming products at great discounts every day from the Frontline Gaming store, whether you’re looking to start a new army or expand an existing one.