Among the ranks of the Eldar Aspect Warriors, there lie one of the game’s greatest assassin teams, capable of striking from the shadows at any foe foolish enough to get too close. I speak of course of the Striking Scorpions. Let’s delve into their own shadowy past and learn where they came from, what they can do and why they are one of the Eldar’s most iconic units.
A Bit of History
In 1987, one of my favourite films was released; Predator (yes, we covered this when we spoke about Predator tanks too). From the immortal lines (of Arnie and Jesse Ventura in particular) to the awesome action sequences, it was a triumph, and the Predator itself entered into legend (and probably too many sequels and spin offs). It entered into GW in 1991 with the Striking Scorpion which draws many parallels in terms of its look with the eponymous alien. Ok, so underneath the suit they look quite different, but with the scowling eyes of the helmet, dreadlocks, mandible weaponry and stealth, the movie monster is definitely a source of inspiration for the tactics and armament/armour of the stinging Aspect Warriors. But you need to combine it with one other individual to find the true origins of these guys, and you may not be too familiar with him.
Yaevin Pureheart. There’s a name you don’t hear much these days. Sculpted by Jes Goodwin and released in 1987 as part of the Space Elf Command unit for Rogue Trader, he is arguably the first ever Striking Scorpion. True, there’s no mention of Striking Scorpion in his name or info but with his chainsword, tall, scowling helmet with flowing hair and shurikan pistol he certainly has something of the Scorpion about him. Were I a betting man, a few years later when the first metal Scorpions were sculpted, I’d say it was this guy that they looked to for inspiration.
Five years later, the Eldar came into being as something separate from the fantasy elves (in space) that they had launched as – they became Craftworld Eldar and five Striking Scorpions (along with the five Dragons, Avengers, Banshees, Hawks and Reapers) became the first of the Aspect Warriors. The rest, as they say, is history. But given as this is a section about history, I’ll continue writing about them. During 2nd Edition, Karandras was also released giving the Scorpions their own Phoenix Lord, but we’ll talk more about him later.
The RT Era sculpts would remain until third edition when new metal miniatures were created, but they looked a bit weird so we won’t talk about them (curly helmets, no dreadlocks – it was a weird time). One thing that is worth noting is that in 2nd Ed, the Exarch had been a hero, capable of leading an entire army, whereas in 3rd Ed, he took on the role of a Sergeant and thus part of the squad. The miniatures you know and love today were truly born, again in metal, during 4th Edition, circa 2006.
Since then, these miniatures (with perhaps a couple of tweaks here and there) have ended up in the finecast kit on the shelves now. How’s that for a 10 year old kit that still looks good? And while they do still have that very cool look about them, Eldar fans would love to see these guys get a dynamic plastic kit in the near future. That being said, they’ve come along way from Yaevin Pureheart.
Let’s Get Fluffy
The Striking Scorpions have some of the best fluff in the Eldar and before going further I should say that reading Path Of The Warrior by Gav Thorpe is well worth it as the novel really draws you into the dark nature of these stealthy warriors. 40k is full of mysteries and the Striking Scorpions history is one of those great uncertainties that help to make the game and universe so rich. Their Aspect Shrine was founded by Arhra, the most treacherous of the Phoenix Lords who led a great war before fleeing into the webway. After he disappeared, Karandras took his place at the head of the shrine and has since rebuilt it to its former glory, but there is still much unanswered about the Phoenix Lord and his predecessor…
The Scorpions are themselves weapons of stealth who lurk in the shadows and pounce on their foes with shocking speed and agility. Along with their chainswords and pistols, the mandiblaster is one of the Striking Scorpions’ most potent weapons, neutralising many enemies in close combat before they have a chance to fight back, leaving others to the mercy of their diamond edged chain-blades.
Time To Talk Tactics
Alas, New-dar has little place for the Striking Scorpions in 7th Edition if you’re one of the competitive set. You’ll be all about jetbikes, wraithknights and serpents so aside from maybe some Fire Dragons, you’ll probably not spend too much time shopping in the Aspect Warriors aisle of Eldar-mart. That being said, they still have some tricks up their sleeves for those of you who like the unit, so lets focus on those.
One thing that the Scorpions will always have in their favour is that with just a few of them, you can destroy guardsmen or their equivalents with ease in close combat. The problem is getting them there. First you’ve got Eldar’s horrid lack of assault ramps on their vehicles but the good thing about Striking Scorpions is their ability to infiltrate and outflank (and these chaps have their Shadowstrike special rule to help them out). Don’t be shy – get them as close to your enemy’s gunlines as you can, keep them in cover or obscured and pray you get first turn. Then they have to survive overwatch but if you can get them into a mob of fire warriors, cultists or guardsmen, they can clean house. Against MEQs, their shortage of AP can make them very ‘meh’ and at best you’ll have an expensive tar pit. The Exarch’s claw combined with their 3+ save is a nice bonus (as is his Stalker special rule), but if you focus on armour, the scorpions themselves become an expensive meatshield. My advice is infiltrate, hide, strike at the weaker armour/combat units and don’t get too attached to them – they’re great for dealing with weaker troop choices.
Karandras is a different kettle of fish (or arachnids) entirely. He’s still a pricey unit and many would argue it’s better to fill your HQ slots with Farseers (on bikes obvs), but this dude is a great utility when you need to deal with tough HQs or even Monsters (even though he lost Monster Hunter with the latest codex). His big fist hits at initiative (which pretty much means against almost everyone he hits first), he’s pretty tough, has a bucketload of attacks, and he gets all the fun rules the Scorpions get. Probably not a tier 1 HQ for the Eldar, but very close. In fact, he may be the one reason to take a squad of Scorpions just so he can have a body guard. If only he had an invulnerable save…
If Looks Could Kill…
We’ve already talked about how much of their look came from the Predator from the classic film of that name, but there is plenty more to say on the subject of their aesthetics. All of the Aspect Warriors have striking (you know what I mean) looks, but there’s something about the vibrant greens and yellows of the classic paint scheme that goes with these guys. The green is as wild as a jungle, and the yellow screams danger to their enemies, and that fits well with both their name and nature. Their glaring red eyes too add to a surprisingly colourful yet predatory paint scheme, giving them a unique kind of scariness. Like a giant bug that has already worked out how to kill you.
They are as typically and expectedly slender as any other Eldar unit, but the ridges and plates on their armour appear to stand out more, much like the armour plates on an actual scorpion, making them look a little bigger and tougher. Their swords, in contrast to their armour, are slender, and among the thinnest of chainswords in the game and add a feeling of speed and precision to the miniatures. Their helms look like biting maws around the faceplate, and extend to the tall crest, covered in dreadlocks that add to their wild nature. Their looks are those of hunters and perhaps because they remain looking so threatening, that is why GW has not needed to really update the current sculpts in so long.
Ah, The Memories
Ever since I saw these guys, I’ve been a little bit in love with them. Sure, a Fire Dragon squad can melt a tank with ease, and Swooping Hawks have wings, but these guys just look so mean and fighty, that I’ve always enjoyed them. I did paint a squad some years back but I’m afraid the quality isn’t up to much so there are no photos. They did however earn me a compliment once when Henry South and I were playing a Kill Team game in the old GW Plaza store in London some years back now. of course his Death Korps got the most compliments but my Scorpions (and Fire Dragons) got plenty of plaudits too. It’s that sort of encouragement that keeps you going in this hobby sometimes so without those Scorpions earning me some praise, who knows whether I’d still be doing this today. I think I lost that battle, but Striking Scorpions have never lost my heart.
They also provided me with one of the most convoluted and complex ongoing combats I’ve ever dealt with. Back in 6th, my Scorpions, Exarch with a Biting Blade and Karandras mixed it up with a group of Grey Knight Terminators and a Librarian. With all the varied stat lines and weapons, I think we ended up with about eight initiative steps going onto various toughness values with varying strengths and saves… it lasted four turns and in the end, only Karandras, my Exarch and the Librarian were still standing. I won that game but boy did I have to work for it.
These guys are always going to be one of the Eldar’s most iconic units, even in days like these when you won’t see much of them on the tabletop. They have some of the coolest weapons, and some tricks which make them super fun to play, and I think that counts for a lot. Yaevin Pureheart was a long time ago, and they’ve not had so many updates since, but in the age of GW producing such amazing, dynamic miniatures, I think it would be brilliant if these guys could get a new multi-part kit with tons of options. That being said, their reputation is secure (even if their rules let them down a little) and they’re not going away any time soon. So the next time you walk through a jungle, or you pass some ominous shadows, do not linger, or soon you may see those glowing red eyes…