Not the Batman character, the other one. You know, the air superiority fighter that no one has ever heard of? Hangs out with the Phoenix a lot? No, also not that character, the other flyer no one has heard of. Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
Prior to 6th edition, the Nightwing was the dedicated air superiority vehicle of the Craftworlds… and then Games Workshop went and ate its own lunch, creating the Nightshade (better known as the vehicle of the Crimson Hunter aspect) to replace it with a plastic kit. Still, the Nightwing nominally has a place in the Eldar arsenals, especially among Corsairs and other “outcast” types who do not easily fit into the requirements of the strict tenures of an aspect warrior path.
On the tabletop the Nightwing has a very standard profile for an airplane, coming in at toughness six with twelve wounds and a 3+ armor save. Like most all vehicles it is complete trash in combat (and can’t normally enter combat itself), a feature that can safely be ignored along with its meaningless leadership value of eight. Offensively it is a bit weaker than other aircraft due to only having ballistic skill 3+; this would normally be fine, but being required to move every turn combined with heavy weapons means that it realistically is going to be a pip below most other Eldar units. However, it does come in a bit cheaper than the other airframes, being 138pts with all equipment.
Special Abilities and Wargear
Many of the Nightwing’s rules are those that you would expect from any other flyer- Wings of Khaine gives it the standard turn-move-turn sequence that all of the Craftworld aircraft can perform, while Airborne and Hard to Hit make it difficult to attack with both shooting and melee. Crash and Burn will occasionally inflict mortal wounds to nearby units when it is destroyed with the standard 6″ range and d3 damage; none of these things are surprising in the least.
The unusual feature of the chassis is its Vector Shift rule, which represents the vehicle’s variable-geometry wings (which some readers may be familiar with from the real-world F-14 Tomcat and other airframes.) At the start of each movement phase you can choose to operate it in one of two modes- either Extended Wings or Retracted Wings. Retracted Wings is “high speed” mode and makes it so that you can advance a ridiculous distance if you decide you need to do so; more importantly, it also gives you a 5++ save because of… I dunno, goesfast or something? Extended Wings is a bit weirder- it allows you to alter your normal pre-movement pivot to face you directly towards one enemy unit (rather than the normal ninety degree turn) and gives you +1 to hit against that target, which is very nice. However, it also removes the Hard to Hit rule while you are in that mode, meaning you lose the -1 penalty for shooting- a very dangerous gamble if there is any significant enemy firepower on the table still.
Nightwings come with a fixed equipment loadout, which can’t be altered in any way. A Twin Shuriken Cannon (24″ S6 AP0 Assault 6 wounds of 6 are AP-3) in the nose gives it a pretty decent rate of fire for blasting away at lighter targets while not being wholly useless against tougher things. A Twin Bright Lance (36″ S8 AP-4 DmgD6 Heavy 2) in the wings provides the majority of the anti-vehicle firepower, however, and is complemented by the Crystal Targeting Matrix (which allows the Nightwing to ignore the heavy weapon penalty when shooting the closest target.)
The Nightwing provides an interesting contrast to the other Craftworld flyers, being cheaper than they are but also lacking many of their special rules and advantages. While it does still have the same maneuverability that is so incredibly useful, it isn’t even close to as accurate as a Crimson Hunter Exarch. Of course, the innate 5++ save certainly counts for something, but in the balance it’s probably not enough to tip most generals away from the slightly-more-expensive alternative unit, at least for their first choice.
There are some subtler advantages to the Nightwing, however. While its rate of fight isn’t exceptional, it does do a bit better than a Crimson Hunter at mowing down hordes of infantry- something that Craftworlds can struggle with, and it’s not impossible to see a Crimson Hunter putting out eight shots that hit on 2s if there isn’t enough enemy shooting to warrant staying in Retracted mode. Combined with its lower price tag (at least points-wise), the Nightwing can be a fairly attractive option to field alongside some Crimson Hunters or Hemlocks if a player is looking to diversify their air force a bit, since it presents an additional option for weapon profiles and costs that can be very helpful to have. There have been a handful of instances of players ranking quite high with the Nightwing in these roles, especially for lists that want to remain pure Craftworlds (and thus don’t have access to the Razorwing as an option, which otherwise competes for a somewhat similar role.)
The Nightwing also can stand in as a somewhat-cheaper option for hunting tanks, since it has a fixed loadout of two Bright Lances; Crimson Hunters can, of course, take Bright Lances as well and are a bit more accurate with them, but the Nightwing ends up ~35pts less for the same loadout and if you can maneuver correctly such that your target is the nearest enemy unit, they actually have the same overall accuracy. Since a lot of the value of a flyer comes from its ability to move-block and otherwise control the field, a cheaper price for a slightly less weapons-effective platform is actually quite fine- you’re more than happy to pay the points just to get the chassis and its ability to occupy space on the ground, in many cases.
We also shouldn’t underestimate the value of that 5+ invulnerable save, something that the other Craftworld flyers lack. While Lascannons and Melta may not be the most common weapons out there, they certainly still exist in many forms and you’ll pretty regularly see people shooting big guns at your flyers, so the extra survivability on that front is very nice to have in order to keep the model active as long as possible.
Like the other Craftworld flyers, the real key to beating the Nightwing is to control the ground game for the list that it’s in, especially if the enemy is running 4+ flyers in their army. And unlike the other flyers, the Nightwing taken in multiples really isn’t that scary of a shooting unit, so if you’re seeing it instead of something else then that’s probably pretty fine with you. It can, of course, still do all of the usual move-blocking tricks and whatnot, but that’s really just a feature that comes with the chassis. Also, when taken as part of a more “traditional” army (i.e. not fielding large numbers of flyers), the Nightwing is really not much of a threat at all- its pair of Lances and Cannons simply aren’t going to be enough to ruin the day of almost any kind of army, so focus on the more immediately relevant things the Eldar player is bringing to the table and drop some potshots on the Nightwing once it maneuvers into range to be hit at only -1.
The Nightwing isn’t an exceptional unit by most standards, but it does a pretty reasonable job of flying around the field and getting in the way of things while putting out enough firepower to not be completely ignored. I certainly wouldn’t recommend running out and buying a trio right now, but if you happen to have one or are looking for an interesting conversion project for yourself, you could do a lot worse than adding a Nightwing to your flyer arsenal.
As always, remember that you can get your wargaming supplies from the Frontline Gaming store, whether you’re looking to start a new army or expand an existing one.