Yes, spellcheck, I did mean to write “Spectre” that way for the thirty-seventh time. Thank you for asking me. Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
On the tabletop, Shadow Spectres are your pretty typical aspect warrior unit. They are jump pack infantry and thus a bit faster than most at 12″ movement, but they come with the typical strength and toughness of three and the usual weapon/ballistic skill 3+, making them very solid combatants at range but rather lackluster in melee, especially with only one attack each. 3+ armor provides solid protection, and is probably their standout stat, while leadership eight is likewise quite normal for such a unit. Shadow Spectres can be taken in squads of three to nine models and come in at 28pts each, which is a pretty fair price given their loadout; one member can also be upgraded to an exarch with +1 attack and +1 wound, but unlike other units you have to pay a 4pt premium for this.
Special Rules and Wargear
As Craftworlds units, Spectres come with a couple of rules as standard; they have Battle Focus (and so can advance and shoot normally) as well as Ancient Doom (allowing them to reroll misses against Slaanesh in combat.) Both of these are useful, although obviously Battle Focus will generally get a lot more mileage in battles, as it has more applicability- especially given their weapons are relatively short-ranged.
Beyond that, Spectres benefit from Spectre Holo-Fields, which force all enemies attacking them to subtract one from hit rolls in both shooting and melee. This pairs very well with their other attributes increasing survivability and is one of the main things to recommend them. If you include an exarch in the squad, any enemy units within 6″ of the exarch must roll two dice for morale and take the highest.
For equipment, each member of the squad comes with Prism Grenades (6″ S4 AP-1 Grenade d6) as well as a Prism Rifle. The Rifle has two fire modes- Dispersed works like a Heavy Flamer (8″ S5 AP-1 Assault d6 hits automatically) for short-range fighting, while Focused (18″ S6 AP-3 Assault 1) has longer reach and better stats; it also gets a bonus attack for each successful hit it makes, up to a maximum of three hits per weapon- so it functionally is sorta like having three shots, but not quite.
The exarch in the squad can also trade their Prism Rifle out for either of two options. The Haywire Launcher is the cheaper of the two (at a 3pt discount over the regular gun), but is a bit trashy with 24″ S4 AP-1 Heavy d3 and causing mortal wounds to vehicles on 4+/6+. There’s no obvious reason why it’s Heavy when all of the other haywire weapons are Assault, but there you have it. For a 5pt premium, you can instead switch to the Prism Blaster, which sounds good but is actually rather weirdly lackluster. It has a much shorter range (12″) than the basic weapon and worse AP (only -2), but does get a boost to d3 damage; if it were a free swap you might consider it, but since you’re paying points I see very little reason to bother.
Shadow Spectres, unlike a lot of the aspect warrior squads, actually have a very distinct purpose, though you have to peer through the veil of their slightly-weird fluff in order to see it. Their guns are extremely efficient at killing infantry of all sorts and even light/medium vehicles, especially when properly buffed, but they do so mostly at ranges that are closer than you really want to be at; in other words, a perfect point-defense unit that serves to ward off the type of aggressive melee units that Eldar sometimes struggle with.
Assisting them in this regard is the fact that they are also extremely durable- as infantry they can easily get cover (bringing them to a 2+ armor save) and with an innate -1 and the Alaitoc trait, plus potentially Conceal and/or Lightning Fast Reflexes, it’s not at all unlikely to see them at a -2, -3, or even -4. Combined together, these make Spectres all but impossible to get rid of at a distance, and even in melee they are surprisingly tough (and if they aren’t wiped out can simply Fly away and immediately begin shooting again.)
Moreover, with a unit full of Heavy Flamer equivalents, most armies will be hard-pressed to charge into a unit of Shadow Spectres without taking pretty horrific casualties; of course, you can always move back outside of that 8″ range to avoid the autohits, but without rerolls to charge or +1s to charge distance, that can be a pretty risky proposition, and even with them it still is far from a guarantee.
However, Shadow Spectres do necessitate some help in order to do their real work. Although the flamers are powerful, they necessitate getting very, very close to the enemy, which isn’t always good for your survival- and for a unit that clocks in at nearly 300pts for a full squad, you don’t want to be tossing them away on a whim. Thus, You need to be able to hang back at a longer distance and use your laser fire mode, which really wants to be getting the maximum number of hits. This is where psychic powers come into the mix- Guide is the perfect tool for enhancing Shadow Spectres, as it guarantees that nearly all of your shots will land, allowing you to continue getting more attacks. This added synergy compared to other Craftworld units means that the squad will be monopolizing a lot of your Farseer’s time over the course of a game.
This is doubly true because the unit benefits a ton from Doom as well (though of course all Craftworld units do.) S5 AP-1 makes for the perfect profile to be getting maximum Doom mileage- against infantry it wounds on 3s and has the pip of AP to cut through armor while still forcing huge numbers of wounds, whereas against heavier targets wounding on 5s means that with the reroll it can chip away at even really large targets like Knights- and the autohits are also very valuable against targets like aircraft which would normally be difficult to deal with.
I’ve largely talked about Shadow Spectres in the context of taking a large (six to nine models) unit of them so far, but that isn’t necessarily the only way to do it; it’s also very possible to take minimum-sized units and have them skulk about, threatening to cause havoc- three Heavy Flamers is nothing to sneeze at for most opponents and at only 84pts the unit is actually pretty cheap overall while filling those often-awkward Elites slots. In cases like this I think you also probably want an Autarch in the area to help give them some rerolls when using their lasers, but it’s not absolutely necessary.
The thing to remember about Shadow Spectres is that, while they are tough, they are tough for an Eldar unit. At 28pt one-wound models with no invuln, Spectres can quite easily be cleaned off the table without an excessive amount of effort if you have good rerolls, a good ballistic skill and/or the ability to get past their penalties. Getting within 12″ of them obviously helps, and using autohit weapons of your own certain can as well, but if you’re only shooting at a -1 and they’re not in cover, it isn’t actually that hard to kill them off. Plasma and similar weapons (not overcharged! you don’t even need to) also go a long way, as every hit is likely a dead model.
Shadow Spectres, now that they’ve gotten the price break from Chapter Approved, are a lot more valuable as a unit and are well worth considering as an option for your Craftworlds army (especially if you’re looking at a Brigade.) Of course, that’s assuming that you have access to the models, which is certainly not a trivial factor and is probably the main reason most players have never used them or even seen them on the table. Still, if you’ve bought or converted a set, I think you’ll find they are well worth your while in the right army.
As always, remember that you can get your wargaming supplies at great discounts every day from the Frontline Gaming store, whether you’re looking to expand your army or start a new one.