Drukhari Codex Review: Fast Attack: Hellions

You wouldn’t think that it would be possible to make space gangs living in the slums of Hell and riding their hoverboards through the citywhile high on drugs boring, but GW is just that good. Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.

Overview

Hellions are one of the jump pack troops in the Drukhari codex, though technically they are riding skyboards rather than the various thrust-based means of propulsion other races use. Their statline is largely what you might expect from such a unit; 14″ movement is quite excellent, being among the top class in the game and noticeably above what most jump units get. Weapon and ballistic skill 3+ are standard for Aeldari, as are strength and toughness three- though the latter leaves them at a bit of a disadvantage in combat. Two attacks per model base is a nice little bonus, although not exceptional, and leadership seven is reasonable but not particularly impressive. A 5+ armor save, though, is a huge disadvantage on a variety of fronts, especially since they lack the invulnerable save of their Wych counterparts. One model in the squad can be upgraded to a Helliarch for free, gaining a pip in leadership and attacks; the unit otherwise of five to twenty models at 12pts apiece, which feels rather pricey for how fragile they are.

Special Rules and Wargear

Hellions, as members of the Wych Cults, come with a couple useful special rules. They of course have Power From Pain, which gives escalating bonuses as the game goes on and most notably includes the ability to shrug off wounds on a 6+, but also have Combat Drugs, which adds +1 to one of their stats (or +2 to Ld/Mov), which can be very helpful in shoring up weaknesses or improving on a strength.

They also come with Hit and Run, which allows the unit to fall back and still charge normally. Combined with their Fly keyword for being able to shoot normally, this means they are almost completely unimpeded by falling back, which is quite a powerful situation to be in and makes them very good at harassing the enemy with repeated charges, although overwatch can be a significant detriment to this plan.

Every Hellion is armed with Splinter Pods (18″ AP0 Assault 2 poisoned), which make for a fairly decent ranged weapon. That they can be fired even when advancing is particularly handy, though you shouldn’t count on them to do any particular work in shooting.

More important is their Hellglaive (S+1 AP0 Dmg2 melee), which makes them potentially quite a threat in melee. The extra pip of strength and damage make it a very real danger to many units, especially multiwound ones, and while the lack of any AP is certainly a limiter the potential always exists for the enemy to fail saves and dropping a large enough number attacks can still be very threatening.

The Helliarch can also take a number of other pieces of gear. They can purchase a Phantasm Grenade Launcher (18″ S1 AP0 Assault d3), which gives any targeted enemy -1 to leadership- and also opens up the potential for causing mortal wounds with a strat. They can also swap their Hellglaive for a Splinter Pistol (12″ AP0 Pistol 1 poison) and a second weapon, either a Power Sword (AP-3 melee), Agonizer (AP-2 melee poisoned), or a Stunclaw (S+1 AP0 melee, 6s cause mortal wounds in addition). None of them are particularly expensive (3-4pts) but also are mostly just sidegrades from the Hellglaive, which is free, so I do’t think there is a strong incentive to use them.

Uses

I spent a fair bit of time defending Reavers in my last article, because although that unit is flawed, I think they are flawed in a way that has potential- with a little bit of a price drop or meta shift, it would be possible for them to do some good work. I will not be defending Hellions in this one.

Hellions have always had a number of problems in various editions, and 8th is no different; most notably, they are very fragile for how much they cost, which tends to render every other plus or minus obsolete- if the unit can’t survive to get to the enemy, it really doesn’t matter what they can or can’t do. Of course, this isn’t helped by 8E’s overwhelming hitting power for most armies, both in combat and in shooting, but regardless of the edition T3/5+ was never going to be particularly tough.

Some other units can leverage speed to bypass this kind of weakness, or special abilities, or rely on overwhelming the enemy, but none of these options really work for Hellions. They are indeed fast, and taking them as Cult of the Red Grief can make them even faster as you can advance and still charge, giving them a plausible threat range of 20″-30″ on a given turn with no need for support pieces. However, they are simply so fragile that overwatch and return attacks from the enemy can be a significant threat to them, which is a real problem when you’re wanting to declare a charge every turn- and unlike Orks or other “true” horde units, they aren’t cheap enough to simply soak the damage with numbers.

They also don’t really have any special abilities that really help them; falling back and charging is a nice trick once you’ve gotten stuck in, but it doesn’t actually help them get there and the comparatively-large models mean they can’t easily hide behind terrain in many cases, despite being Infantry. Having a 5++ “dodge” save in the manner of Wyches (perhaps even applying to shooting) would have done them a lot of good, because as-is they tend to just evaporate as soon as a squad of Marines remember they exist, and none of the Obsessions really do anything to help this problem.

Now, Hellions do have some things in their favor. Weight of S4 Dmg2 attacks is nothing to joke about if you can actually leverage it, and with the right Combat Drug and Power From Pain bonuses you can potentially see a unit of them throwing out sixty attacks, hitting on 2s and rerolling 1s; even if you’re wounding on 4s or 5s, that will cause a lot of damage to most things, plausibly destroying most T7/3+ vehicles in a single set of swings. And their ability to duck in and out of combat is also very useful, since they can use their basic fist slaps to avoid killing something on your turn and stay locked in with it, then swing with the Glaives on the enemy turn so that even if they fail to kill they can back out of the fight and hit some more targets rather than be forced to continue punching something sitting at 1-2 wounds.

However, none of that is really a saving grace for the unit and you will never really see them in anything resembling a competitive list. They did get a price drop in Chapter Approved (from 14pts down to 12), but I think they would need to come down several increments further for people to even consider them. Even at 8pts, I’m not sure if they would see significant presence in the game, though it might be cheap enough to potentially work.

Countering

Anything that deals damage. Shooting, punches, psychic powers, whatever. Since they usually will need to be taking in big blocks to be anything resembling effective, don’t forget the Morale phase as well, as killing 5-8 of them on the enemy turn isn’t particularly hard and you can easily get a bunch of free bonus casualties.

Final Thoughts

Hellions are a conceptually-cool unit that have some pretty excellent models (especially for conversion purposes), but sadly have just been really underwhelming for pretty much all of their life cycle. We may yet see the heyday of the Hellion, but we certainly aren’t there yet nor anytime soon.

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 an existing army or start a new one.

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About abusepuppy

AbusePuppy is the one who has been ruining 40K for everyone this whole time. He is also searching for the six-fingered man and is one of the three people who know the secret recipe for coke (not the soda, the illegal drug.)

19 Responses to “Drukhari Codex Review: Fast Attack: Hellions”

  1. Avatar
    Anaximander April 29, 2020 5:41 am #

    Thanks for this review, and others. The unit reviews are what draws me to your website.

    It is a shame this unit is rubbish, because the fluff and models are cool. It would not take a lot to fix them, eg. make them base T4 in the same way a bike increases toughness. Perhaps in the next codex?

    • Avatar
      abusepuppy April 29, 2020 6:37 am #

      A price drop would help them a lot; T4 could work, but I feel like it might make them too similar to Reavers. The 5++ mentioned in the article could also be of some use, or perhaps an “inverted” version that gave them a 4++ against shooting and a 6++ in combat, to complement Wyches.

      Glad you’re enjoying the reviews, though; I’m closing in on the end of the Drukhari book, but perhaps some of the upcoming releases will give me cause to go back and change things.

  2. Faitherun
    Faitherun April 29, 2020 7:11 am #

    Man, hellions. Some of the coolest looking models in our range. If the opponent ignores them, they have decent damage output for their cost. It’s like you say though AP, they simply melt when anything turns it’s eyes on them.

    There are a variety of ways to try and fix them, beyond points. I like the idea of a 4++/6++ in shooting /cc respectively.

    I believe in past editions, the board gave them +1 toughness too.

    Perhaps Wargear to ignore overwatch, or, as in the lore, to let them better target characters would also help make them worthwhile.

    Would love to see these models actually use able at some point, because the kit is one of my absolute favorites

    • Avatar
      abusepuppy April 29, 2020 6:31 pm #

      I don’t recall them ever getting +1T, but during 5th Edition they could get the Stealth USR from Baron Sarthonyx (RIP), which could be very helpful combined with being Jump Infantry to get a 3+ cover save.

      • Faitherun
        Faitherun April 30, 2020 4:49 am #

        You made me go pull out my second edition codex to check… It was +1 to save and a 5++ jink.

        • Avatar
          abusepuppy April 30, 2020 5:03 am #

          That sounds more like what I remember. Man, for the days when Archons could get Jetbikes…

  3. Avatar
    gvcolor April 29, 2020 7:46 am #

    Cursed Blade for the +1 ST and drugs for +1 T isn’t bad with them – and fun to drop from a portal, but yeah with the current shooting output of SM it just kind of sucks no matter.

    • Avatar
      abusepuppy April 29, 2020 6:32 pm #

      Cursed Blade is a pretty decent choice for them, yeah, especially since it helps with morale.

  4. Reecius
    Reecius April 29, 2020 9:31 am #

    I played against a max units of Hellions at Slaughterfest and they were really effective. My opponent used them very well and I was surprised at the combination of mobility, shooting and solid melee. I think they’re certainly a serviceable unit.

    • Avatar
      abusepuppy April 29, 2020 6:34 pm #

      They are quite fast and hit surprisingly hard thanks to their weapons, but keep in mind that a max unit of them costs about the same as a max unit of Assault Centurions but it is easier to kill _the whole unit_ of them with Bolters than it is to kill _one model_ of the Centurions.

      • Reecius
        Reecius April 29, 2020 7:14 pm #

        Lol, fair play, but I think that says more about the criminal cost of Cents.

        • Avatar
          abusepuppy April 29, 2020 8:56 pm #

          Oh that’s definitely part of it as well. But I think that Hellions compare badly to other, similar units like Stormboyz or the like; they’re too fragile for their cost. They have a niche they fit into, but their pricing makes them fairly poor at that overall.

          • Avatar
            Ohlmann April 29, 2020 11:31 pm
            #

            Yes, they can work but require entirely too much efforts and resources to be worth it. They aren’t beastmaster-level of trash but if you want to protect one unit against shooting (and overwatch !) there’s probably better choice.

            The surprise effect can be real however. Hampered by the fact people might decimate them without even identifying them as threat, but I guess if you’re too careless against them things can go south.

          • Reecius
            Reecius April 30, 2020 10:17 am
            #

            Yeah, I think if you want to use them you have to really build your list around supporting them. They’re certainly viable but not top tier. The fact that you so rarely see them really is testament to that. Shame too, because the models are awesome.

  5. Avatar
    Liam April 30, 2020 6:35 am #

    First of all, I did really enjoyed the article. Good read, though it skips on some of the ways you can help Hellions be better. More on that later.

    I do want to agree on Reecius point of them having a surprising damage output, as they are effective in 2 out of the 3 damage dealing phases of the game. Usually Drukhari only do one phase (shooting or melee), and as we don’t have the psychic phase, having a unit being active in an additional phase is very useful.

    Their survivability is definitely an issue as is moral. But as mentioned giving them +1T can go a long way, upping it for a round to +2 with the Hyperstimm Backlash to T5 will greatly change the amount of work required to remove them. Obvious big issue here is that the Strat pops at the start of a battleround and will not be useful for DS.

    And if you want to get a 5++, there is always the Ynnari and the Yncarne, and everytime a Hellion does die, is a chance to fuel the Yncarne’s W back up.

    When it comes do damage output, the new obsessions are also very useful. Test of skill works for their shooting and CC making them very scary to T7. Even vehicles are wounded in 5+ in shooting. Not great but at 2 shots a model, it adds to the death of a thousand cuts.

    Coming to points. In my opinion, Hellions are fairly priced and here is why. Looking at all the things they can do, and how fast they are, having a shooting weapon that hurts everything on 4+. At your suggested 8 points a model, you could play a wooping 200 at 2000k points and still have 400p to spare. But hey, that’s just me.

    In any way, I do really appreciate your articles as they do make me think harder on the units and question and change my opinions (on some occasions XD ). Keep up the good work.

    • Avatar
      abusepuppy April 30, 2020 5:40 pm #

      I’ll bring up Ork Stormboyz as the point of comparison again here. They move about as fast or even faster, have an extra point of toughness and an extra attack (which the Hellions can only match one of with Combat Drugs), have access to better support auras, and cost two-thirds of what a Hellion does, not to mention being takeable in larger squads, morale mitigation, etc. Yes, they do give up the Dmg2 attacks, but considering Hellions rarely survive to make it to combat in any numbers that isn’t really a loss.

      Also, I’ll point out that you can’t take 200 Hellions because you’re limited to three units of them (in other words, sixty) in most formats.

      I think you’re also grossly overestimating how much damage their shooting does. Two poisoned shots per model isn’t BAD, but neither is it particularly impressive- it takes a full unit of twenty of them to kill off a single squad of Guardsmen with their shooting (assuming no cover) and they are all but useless against Marines hugging terrain or anything else with a 2+ save. It can be a useful supplement to what they do, but virtually any kind of basic infantry unit will easily outclass them in shooting.

  6. Avatar
    Liam May 1, 2020 8:36 am #

    So I believe you are not a fan of death by a thousand cuts. And as the shooting is just as basic as the kabal warriors, I assume you are not a fan of it either.
    Also, the big strength of poison weapons is not against Guard, its literally anything other than guard.
    In addition, I am not saying they are a solid shooting unit, I am saying, they can do something in the shooting phase, as well as in the fight phase.

    regarding your comparison. Not sure if you factored in all the different options they have. Adding 2″ movement through combat drugs + advance and charge through Cult of Red Grief should make the movement argument meh. At a threat range of up to 34″, who is comparing about a few inch?(not sure what the max of Stormboyz is).

    Regarding the attacks and toughness. Yes, they come with standard better toughness and an extra attack, but you could double up on the toughness and have S5 with Cult of Cursed Blade. Which at that point brings the moral to an equal footing.

    Points wise, yeah, hard to argue with that one. Definitely better priced. Might also have something to do with the fact they could be benefiting from Ynnari, hence the whole issue that CWE had with their point costs.
    And actually fielding 200 Hellions, I don’t even want to paint all those models lol

    • Avatar
      Ohlmann May 1, 2020 12:58 pm #

      Against what the poisoned weapons are supposed to be good ? They are AP 0 so shooting on something at 3+ save or better is just gonna not do much of anything. High toughness targets tend to also have some measure of armor save, so poisoned weapons are often fine, but very rarely excellent.

    • Avatar
      abusepuppy May 1, 2020 6:32 pm #

      Kabal Warriors are great, they’re 5pts per model. You can buy two Warriors for less than a single Hellion, who will always have at least as much firepower and potentially twice as much, plus they can take a special/heavy weapon and will have more wounds to boot.

      Poison only becomes an advantage against T5+ units that aren’t vehicles. Right now that means Riptides (2+ armor save), Centurions (2+ armor save), and Tyranid MCs (3+ armor save.) That’s… not ideal.

      Cult of the Red Grief lets Hellions advance and charge; Combat Drugs can add +2″ movement. An Ork Warboss lets Stormboyz advance and charge, and Evil Suns gives them +3″ movement. Stormboyz are better. (The max threat range on Stormboyz is 33″, but their reroll on charges is active from turn 1, giving them superior threat potential in most cases.)

      Hellions can only get T5 by spending 2CP on a stratagem and accepting some mortal wounds, a stratagem that is generally considered marginal by most players and that as you yourself admit has a big disadvantage in needing to be activated at the start of a battle round.

      Conceptually, Hellions are a cool idea, they just don’t have enough going for them to justify their extremely high price. Hellions cost as much as a Space Marine each, and that’s just not viable when their defenses are garbage and their attacks are all AP0.

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