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The Haemonculi are the masters of the Covens of Commorragh; flesh-sculptors extraordinaire, they practice their grisly arts on friend and for alike, for most among their kind have lived for untold millennia and have discarded all mortal feeling as fleeting and worthless. Feeding upon the agonies they inflict (as well as complex bio-alchemical elixirs running through their systems), a Haemonculous knows more ways to bring out endless agony than most civilizations can even conceive of, and they delight in discovering new ones- their “art,” if it can be called that, is their only true passion project and one of the few things that sparks joy in their strange hearts.
In terms of its statline, the Haemonculous represents our first look at the ways that the Covens diverge from the rest of the book. With a 7″ move, is only slightly slower than other Drukhari, though easily on par or better with most other factions (including most Aeldari), and weapon and ballistic skill 2+ they share the accuracy of most other books as well. Strength three is fairly standard for an elf, but toughness four is definitely above average- and this rises further once you take abilities into account, making the Haemo a pretty tough customer. Five wounds is pretty standard and shouldn’t surprise anyone, though having five attacks as well is definitely a nice little perk. Coming in at 70pts with the most basic version of the loadout, the Haemonculous is unfortunately a bit more expensive than we’d like- however, they are a pretty integral part of the Covens army, so in the end we can’t feel too bad about it.
Wargear and Special Rules
The Haemonculous comes with several relevant special rules to its name, not the least of which being Power From Pain (which provides escalating benefits as the game goes on, starting with 6+ chance to ignore wounds.) Insensible to Pain reinforces the major theme of the Covens, namely survivability, by giving us a 5+ invulnerable save; this inevitably is improved to 4+ by the Prophets of Flesh bonus, giving us an excellent ability to shrug off damage. Finally, Master of Pain gives +1 toughness to all Coven units within 6″ of the Haemonculous (including themselves), which can make them significantly harder to hurt in a lot of cases.
The armament starts out rather weakly- our most “basic” setup is the Stinger Pistol (12″ AP0 Dmg1 Pistol 1, Poisoned 2+) and Haemonculous Tools (which are just a poisoned melee weapon.) The Index allows us to switch the 5pt Stinger Pistol, which is rather absurdly overpriced, for a free Splinter Pistol with identical stats that wounds on a 4+ rather than a 2+, though it remains to be seen how much longer this will be allowed. The pistol can also be traded for a Hexrifle (36″ S4 AP-1 Heavy 1, can target characters, mortals on 6s) for the same price, which is actually a pretty nice little weapon- you won’t be shocking anyone with it, but getting to have a decent shooting gun on an HQ is always nice. You can also pay 6pts to go to a Liquifier Gun (8″ S3 AP-d3, Assault d6), which unfortunately is just not a good weapon; the high price tag, low strength, and random AP all combine to make it pretty lackluster overall.
On the melee side of things, you can swap for a number of odd little weapons. The standard Agonizer (melee poisoned AP-2) is there, of course, like it is for all of the other HQs- and at 4pts it’s never an awful buy, though neither is it a particularly good one. The Venom Blade (melee poison 2+) is also available for a mere 2pts, and like on the Archon it’s often a reasonable choice due to the combination of price and utility- it isn’t going to make you into a melee powerhouse, but realistically you won’t be regardless. The Electrocorrosive Whip is identical to the Agonizer except that it also comes with Dmg2 on it, which you pay a 2pt premium for- if you’re looking to get some actual melee combat in, this is probably the best bet as it comes reasonable stats on all fronts with a low price tag. The Flesh Gauntlet (3pts) gives no stats or abilities but makes 6s do mortal wounds to nonvehicle targets, which is… well, it’s okay, I guess? The Mindphase Gauntlet, meanwhile, gives you Dmg2 (but also no other stats), which considering it’s a point more expensive doesn’t look very impressive overall. Finally, the Scissorhand (melee AP-1 poison) is basically just another take on the standard weapon, although it does have the pip of AP as well as granting you one bonus attack; however, at 8pts it costs more than a Power Fist, which is not very attractive at all. The Whip is the only melee weapon I think is really worth recommending over the free Haemonculous Tools if you’re looking to build for combat a bit, but don’t take that as a sign that a Haemonculous is likely to prevail in most fights.
Separate from its other options, the Haemo can also take an Ichor Injector, which is another melee weapon, for 5pts; you can only ever make one attack with the Injector, but it is poisoned, AP-1, rerolls failed wounds, and should you get a 6+ to wound it causes d3 mortals in addition to the other damage. It’s far, far to unreliable to really be worth it in my opinion, especially with the single attack, and having to pay 5pts for the privilege does not make it any more attractive at all.
So, if you’ve powered through all of the above, you may be feeling a bit hesitant about the Haemonculous- their statline isn’t great, their gear is fairly lackluster, and they don’t hand out rerolls or themselves do a lot of work in melee like the other Drukhari HQs can. But make no mistake: Haemonculi are not only a very good choice in Drukhari armies, you will often wish you had more of them due to what they bring.
The vast majority of this comes down to their aura; adding one to the toughness of nearby units is enormous, if you hadn’t already realized that for yourself. Taking Grotesques up to T6 and Talos to T7 drastically shifts the math on them for many weapons (such as the omnipresent Avenger Gattling Cannon or even just basic Lasguns), and even “just” benefiting a squad or three or Wracks can make them annoyingly difficult to shift off of objectives. It’s all a matter of stacking benefits- certainly, the high toughness values on their own aren’t enough to be exceptionally problematic, but combined with the ability to ignore wounds, a good invulnerable save, and (often) infantry status to hide out of sight there aren’t a lot of armies that can bully such a unit, and being able to claim multiple objectives cheaply with tough units provides a very strong board control element to the army. This is especially true because the usual solutions to such a problem- namely, beefy melee units of one’s own- will struggle with the various Coven beatsticks due to their universal invuln saves and high wound counts.
The other reason that the Haemonculous can be a critical element is actually a little more esoteric- the Vexator Mask. Available to the Prophets of Flesh (i.e. yet another reason they are the only worthwhile choice), it lets you ignore all overwatch against the bearer (a nice trick to have when trying to get in on the various gunlines out there), but also allows you to choose one unit within 6″ of the bearer and force them to fight last in the fight phase. More recent errata has clarified that “interrupt” stratagems can override this, but even so it guarantees you’ll be able to swing with at least one unit before them and many players won’t commit the CP at all, letting you get in with all your units against them before they get to go. Unlike many other, similar effects this has no targeting restrictions at all, so even Knights or other big targets can be shut down, which is amazingly valuable. A Haemonculous hiding near a powerful melee unit (be it Drukhari or other Aeldari) can absolutely shut down any attempts to charge, as few units will want to walk into the blending power of a full squad of Wraithguard, Grotesques, or your other bully unit of choice. This is especially powerful against armies that rely on melee to get their work done (e.g. Orks, Daemons, etc), but since it is a rare force that doesn’t include at least some melee components in it you’ll almost always be able to get some mileage from it. There are, of course, some other useful relics you can take as well, but the Vexator Mask is easily the standout and you’ll almost always see it included in a list first, then other consideration given to other choices.
The Haemonculous can also bring some additional utility in other ways as well; being relatively tough to bring down, they can make ideal choices to tie up a key enemy unit in order to buy the rest of your army more time or to prevent them from shooting. However, do be careful with this, as a 4+ save and relatively low wound count mean that things can go south very quickly if the dice are against you, so be careful what you throw in against. It’s not a problem with something like a tank, but it can be an issue if you’re trying to hold down some Space Marines or the like.
On the other hand, coming in at a minimum of 70pts (or 75 if the Index goes away completely), the Haemonculous is one of the more expensive HQ options around and doesn’t add anything to the offensive prowess of a list at all; that’s not a crippling sin, but it does mean that until your +1 to hit in melee kicks in on the various units your Coven armies are a lot less reliable than other varieties when it comes to dealing damage, which gets even worse when you factor in potential penalties to hit. The Haemo also struggles heavily to contribute anything to the army directly, even in comparison with their compatriots- a Succubus can mix it up in melee reasonably well and an Archon can fire off some Blaster shots, but a Haemonculous mostly just stands around and tries to ensure their friends do work. Given the price tag this can be somewhat disheartening, but it’s worth remembering that a lot of the value of the unit comes from its aura and is largely “invisible” in that it changes the numbers on how a lot of guns work. This isn’t direct or easily seen but is certainly relevant; it’s just that when you’re staring down a bunch of enemy units and running out of resources yourself, it can be frustrating to see a 70pt model that isn’t contributing anything specific and wish for something else.
As we noted above, a Haemonculous doesn’t tend to do a lot on their own, so it’s not often that you’ll need to deal with them directly, but their influence can still be felt many times, so it’s still worth looking at ways to mitigate them. The first, and most obvious, is the strategy we can use against any aura-dependent character- make them spread their units out. Although it’s possible to “chain” back auras a decent distance by using the large bases and unit sizes of some of the Coven units, this can only carry them so far, and especially if they’re trying to maximize attacks in combat it can be very limiting. So force them to make choices and draw their units apart where possible, as it will make the job of killing them a lot easier.
In terms of fighting the Vexator Mask, remember that it is a 6″ radius around the Haemonculous, but that it checks only at the beginning of the fight phase and that you have some flexibility in moving your units. You can be up to 1″ back from the target of your charge, and by careful use of your charge movements it is entirely possible to remain out of range (but close to the enemy) such that your pile-in will get you in close with them to swing with everything. Of course, a canny opponent can make sure that this isn’t possible if they make sure to measure everything correctly, but this takes time and mental effort and limits the placement of the unit, all of which can affect your opponent’s other play.
We should also point out, due to is ubiquity, that the Vindicare Assassin is just as brutally effective against a Haemonculous as it is the other Drukhari characters- and since Coven armies are usually built assuming the bonuses for the Haemo, eliminating it puts a major crimp in their gimmick of being unkillable.
The Haemonculous is a very functional HQ and though it will rarely wow you with its own performance, it contributes extremely effectively to the rest of the army with its auras, which is most often what we want out of our characters. They in particular and the Covens in general are a big part of why Drukhari are so good and if you’re looking to build the army you’re almost certainly going to want to include a pair in your force. In a lot of ways they epitomize the good design of the book- they have a specific niche within which they are powerful and serve the army as a whole very effectively without being overpowered and also being distinct from other options.
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 start a new army or expand an existing one.