Which of the following is the term for a female gladiator:
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If the Succubi who rule the Wych Cults are the pinnacle of those deadly arts, Lelith Hesperax is the pinnacle to which those already at the pinnacle aspire. Legendary among those who follow the Arenas for her natural talent, Lelith eschews the use of the body-enhancing drugs that other combatants rely on and yet still somehow moves with the same perfect grace and inhuman skill that those enhancements allow them. Having long since passed all of her competitors, Lelith’s hold over the Cult of Strife (the largest of all of the Cults) is effectively unchallenged, a point which has driven home by ending a number of rather sad attempts to duel her in a rather bloody and perfunctory fashion. It’s said by some that her influence over the Dark City rivals even that of Vect himself, although such whispers are made behind only the most secure of defenses, lest either party take offense at the comparison.
Lelith’s statline is identical to that of a standard Succubus, which is actually a bit unusual for a named character; however, she gets a load of bonuses elsewhere in her datasheet, so it’s really not a bad thing. Movement 8″ can get her across the field with reasonable facility, and while strength and toughness three are rather low they’re common to most all Eldar characters and she actually comes with ways to mitigate them built in, which is very nice. Weapon and ballistic skill 2+ is as you as you can ask for, of course, and five wounds and four attacks is standard across most factions for a “basic” character, although she lacks the +1 wound that most named characters get. At a mere 80pts for the model, however, the price doesn’t get much lower than this- especially for a unique character.
Special Rules and Wargear
Lelith comes with the same complement of rules that a basic Succubus comes with, plus a number of additional ones of her own. Power From Pain gives her escalating bonuses as the game goes on, and Brides of Death lets her (and all Cult of Strife units within 6″) reroll hit rolls of 1 in close combat, giving her attacks an almost uncanny accuracy as well as helping support nearby friends. No Escape is identical to the one possessed by Wyches and prevents infantry units from falling back from a fight with her unless they win a roll-off with you, which is a nice feature.
Lelith’s version of Dodge, Quicksilver Dodge, gives her a flat 3++ save that applies against all attacks at all times- fantastic for any melee character and especially useful on the normally-squishy Drukhari characters. She also has Natural Perfection, which replaces Combat Drugs. In essence, Lelith gets to pick her Drug at the start of every battle round, freely allowing her to shift it as needed- and since it is different from the actual rule, you don’t have to worry about doubling up on it or try and roll for the one you want, you just get it every round. Both of these being straight superior to the generic versions goes a long ways towards making her worthwhile at her cost, but she actually gets even more than that.
A League Apart is her only truly “unique” special rule, and it’s fairly simple- Lelith can reroll all failed hit and wound rolls that target an enemy character, by virtue of her dueling skill we presume. Although the hits part is fairly useless (since she already rerolls those thanks to Brides of Death), but rerolling failed wounds is huge on a low-strength character and really makes her attacks a lot more dangerous to most characters out there.
This is doubly true because of her potential armament, as unlike most named characters Lelith actually can choose two different setups. She comes standard with two Penetrating Blades (S3 AP-4 one extra attack for the pair), which are pretty decent little weapons. However, she can swap one of them out for an Impaler (S3 AP-1 Dmg2), which gives up the bonus attack in return for having a multidamage weapon to take out enemy characters- which is a pretty nice option, in my mind. Regardless, she also comes with a Mane of Barbs and Hooks, which gives her two more bonus attacks with a basic CCW; it’s not amazing, but it can cut down weaker units and forcing the enemy to roll more saves is always nice.
So, as should be fairly obvious from her abilities, Lelith is a solid choice to replace a Succubus that wants to play at being a character assassin. This is actually something that Succubi can be pretty good at anyways depending on how you kit them out, but Lelith has the potential to be quite good at the role, albeit with some caveats that are worth discussing first. The most notable is that she is locked into the Cult of Strife (+1A the turn you charge or are charged), which depending on your preferences for Obsessions can be an issue. I myself strongly prefer Cult of the Cursed Blade for the additional strength and morale mitigation, but Strife has the potential to make some very hard-hitting units and it is especially effective against the T3 armies out there like Tau, Guard, and enemy Eldar; it also has some very good relics and warlord traits, so we can’t consider being forced into it a disadvantage per se, just something we need to be aware of. (As a named character she is also locked into a fixed warlord trait, namely Blood Dancer, which makes each hit roll of 6+ count as three hits for her- however, since this is probably the best possible trait for a Succubus this is more of an advantage than anything.)
Lelith also lacks many of the options other Succubi get such as taking a Blast Pistol (or even having any ranged weapons at all) as well as the option for relics, so her loadout ends up being a bit more limiting than we might like. Still, given the rules she comes with we can hardly complain too hard, and she is still relatively cheap by HQ standards, even if she is a fair bit more than a vanilla Succubus. But with the spread of special rules she gets that are pure upgrades over the normal versions, this can only be expected.
Now, with the prefaces out of the way, how good is Lelith at her job? Well, from one perspective she is quite good at it. Assuming you give her the Impaler and Penetrating Blade setup, she carries two weapons that will each be ideal for their own situation; the Penetrating Blade takes out support characters with no invulns, such as Librarians, by simply cutting through whatever armor they may have and inflicting a bunch of wounds. The Impaler, meanwhile, is ideally suited to cutting up the slightly tougher HQs such as Captains and Autarchs, since while it may only have AP-1, characters like this almost always have an invuln save that is no more than one point worse than their armor save, rendering any further AP irrelevant- and its multiple damage will take them out in far fewer hits than the Blade would. We also shouldn’t ignore the attacks from the Barbed Mane; those random AP0 attacks may not seem like much, but it’s pretty easy to force someone to roll one last 3+ armor save on a character to finish them off, which is a great feeling.
So in this sense, Lelith actually does her job pretty well. She throws down quite a lot of attacks on the charge- five “normal” and two Barb attacks, which will net us something like six successful wounds against a T4 character (presuming that we use Natural Perfection for +1Str, which is usually the optimal choice.) This is just about enough to take out a typical five-wound character in one round of combat, although naturally the dice in any given game are under no obligation to stay to averages. But even should the enemy survive, Lelith’s 3++ will generally keep her pretty safe, especially if you are facing something with a Thunder Hammer or other “big” melee weapon that will wound you on 2+s regardless. And No Escape makes any attempt to fall back unreliable, so they can’t easily plan a turn around knowing what will happen to their character.
However, all of this discussion masks some significant flaws in Lelith. For one, we are not guaranteed to get into combat with the characters we want- or even with any character at all. Although she can potentially move 10″ per turn with the aid of Natural Perfection, this still is not exceptionally fast and certainly isn’t going to get her into combat on turn 2. And unlike jetbikes, jump packs, and Harlequins, Lelith has no way to pass over screens to get to the characters behind them- and rest assured, your opponent is going to screen their characters if they are any good at all.
This is exacerbated by her inability to deal with a lot of kinds of basic infantry effectively. Although she isn’t completely helpless against them when using Penetrating Blade and S4, the lack of rerolls means her output is significantly worse and won’t generally impress much. Combined with her low toughness and inability to break away from combat to go after something else it makes her very vulnerable to getting tied down by basic units. And it’s even worse when you bring big models like vehicles or monsters into the picture, who can give her a very bad time- especially if they aren’t characters, as she will struggle to do any damage at all to such targets. A simple Rhino can keep her occupied completely for as long as it cares to chase her about the field, which can be very frustrating.
There also is the issue of unreliability to consider- you’re generally looking at a lot of 4+s or 5+s to get any wounds in on the enemy, and then having to face their 4++ or 3++ save (with potential rerolls) when hitting most kinds of valuable characters. It’s very plausible that she fails to take anyone out on the first round of combat, allowing the enemy to send in something else to hold her down and take advantage of her T3 and small wound count to wear her down. In fact, it’s not unlikely that she does no damage at all in a combat, due some combination of poor rolls on your part and good rolls on the enemy’s- and while this possibility exists for all characters, Lelith probably has it worse than most.
So, bearing all of this in mind, is Lelith good? Probably not quite. If she had a better method of delivery or was in a slightly stronger subfaction or was more reliable in taking out targets she would have a lot better potential, but as it is she is just a bit too hard to get to work overall in several different ways. Any one of these might be circumvented with good play and/or good army design, but having all of them at play just makes her a bit too much work for not quite enough of a payoff. Now, that doesn’t make her bad or without value; she can fill in for a 4th Succubus if you really want to field a double battalion of Wych Cults for whatever reason, something that the Kabals don’t really have good access to, and in terrain-heavy boards or in narrative games she could probably get a lot of mileage in, since she’s actually fairly functional within her role in the fluff. But for the competitive player, she likely isn’t going to make the cut.
We talked about some of her problems above, but let’s go into a little more detail about them now. If you see Lelith across the table from you, first look and see how the enemy plans to get her to you. Does she have transports to ride in? This is the most likely scenario, and if not you probably don’t need to worry much about her at all, but if they do have them then simply make sure to keep an eye on where those transports are (and can get to) relative to your characters. mind your positioning and you can probably keep her from getting to anything critical all game long. Make sure to keep a screen of infantry or other units in the way when possible, as Lelith can’t cross over them.
This screen of units can also help with her second problem, namely fragility. Bolters and other basic weapons will do a lot of work against Lelith, even on overwatch. Attacks in close combat can also add up fairly quickly if you can get them in number. As with most Eldar, attrition is your friend. Due to her low wound count and the lack of psychic defense for the faction, Smite and other mortal wound spells can also do a lot of work, especially in combination with the above- if you do one wound in overwatch and one wound with basic attacks, you have a decent chance of simply Smiting her right off the table with no further fuss.
Although Lelith has a lot of weaknesses, it is important to remember she’s a mere eighty points- barely over the cost of a naked HQ from most other factions, and that’s for a unique character. If you keep in mind her cost she can be fairly effective and a lot of fun to play with, but I think she represents a good step in the trend of GW pricing more of the named units at more affordable levels so that they can see play in games more often, rather than simply stacking a hundred special rules and stat bonuses onto them to make them be as powerful (and expensive) as possible.
As always, remember you can get your wargaming supplies at great discounts every day from the Frontline Gaming store, whether you’re looking to expand an existing army or start a new one.
(Answer: A female gladiator is called a “gladiator.” English dropped gendered job conjugations back in the 1960s, you pig.)