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.
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.
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.
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.
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.