The Kabal Template ~A Competitive Guide~
The Kabal template is the basic Dark Eldar list. Most new players gravitate to it instinctively, as its the easiest general strategy the DE have to play with on the tabletop, and mastering it will give you the capability to move on to more complex styles. It embodies the 'Glass Hammer' style of the Dark Eldar at its finest, in that it cannot take a tremendous amount of punishment, and will fail quite miserably should it be misplayed, but, by applying the right amount of force to the right place on the battlefield, will crush a foe. That is the Kabal template strategy at its most basic level.
To expound in more detail, the Kabal list relies on three elements upon the battlefield. The first is speed. Just about every unit in a Kabal list will be mounted, count as beasts/jump infantry, or deep striked. This general army wide maneovrability, being far in excess of anything most foes are capable of, allows you to follow the basic 40K recipe for success, otherwise known as, 'Shoot the choppy ones, chop the shooty ones'. You annihilate combat units with firepower before they can touch you, and bring down enemy support fire units in combat, where they are weak. Every Rnaged unit you take should be specialised, carrying either solely anti-tank, or anti-infantry firepower as a general rule of thumb. You should only multi-task a unit if you can do so for a minimum of cost, and if the capability to multi-task does not dilute a units capbilities seriously in one field.
The second element is general firepower. The Kabal list makes use of the ability to cram as many effective guns in as possible. It will usually be of a decent range as well, so Dark Lances and Splinter Cannons are your friends. Ideally, a Kabal list should outgun any opponent not entirely dedicated to long range firepower, and be capable of exchanging equal shots with those that are. However, a Kabal list should possess one other thing, to give them an edge in such a scenario, the third element.
That third element is the counter-attack. 'Sounds like pretty basic strategy' I hear you say? Yes. It is basic strategy. But in order to play successfully with Dark Eldar, you must have honed your basic strategy to a near-perfect level. Marine players can afford to make a few mistakes. Dark Eldar cannot. They are too fragile. And so the counter-attack must be perfectly executed. Ideally, a Kabal list should have a minimum of one solid close combat unit. And they cannot afford to be of minimum size either. No skimping. The Counter attack must be capable of demolishing an enemy unit in the space of two combats, and being able to continue the charge, and roll up a foe's battle line. However, the key is knowing when and where to commit your assault troops. And that's where the basics come into play.
For the Kabal List, launching a perfectly synchonised attack is everything. The strategy is basic, simple, and difficult for an unskilled player to pull off. Your speed allows you to dictate where on the battlefield you engage the enemy. Being able to do this means that even if your foe has equal shooting power to you, odds are that they cannot move and shoot. Your capability to do just that means that you can bring the full might of your guns to bear on one section of the enemy army, whilst being out of range of the rest. Having eliminated any serious threat to your assault troops, you then counter-attack, and obliterate the enemy. Therefore unit placement at the start of a game is integral. You must know, as soon as you've taken a look at what you're facing, and seen the board, exactly what your strategy is going to be. You must have examined your opponents units, analysed the greatest threats in priority order, figured out the greatest terrain advantage and fire lanes, and deployed accordingly. For the Kabal list, half the battle is won in the deployment phase. You should have formulated your strategy, and deployed accordingly. If you screw it up, odds are that you won't get a second chance. The basics are essential. Master them and win. Ignore them and lose. As simple as that.
So. Target Priority. Simply put, you must label each enemy unit in roughly the following order:
1.Enemy Long Range firepower
3.Enemy Combat Troops
4.Everything Else in threat order.
Your first target is the Enemy Long Range Firepower. Your vehicles are weak. Any long range heavy weapons pose a serious threat to them, and so should be destroyed accordingly. Lascannons, Shuriken Cannons, Heavy Gauss Cannons, Autocannons, Multi-lasers and so on. However, if you succeed in rendering a enemy gun useless for a turn, move on. The trick is to negate the enemy firepower. Destroying it entirely is secondary. If I see an enemy Vendetta, and succeed in Shaking it, and there are two more Vendettas in range, I will focus on the remaining two. Because the simple fact is, it cannot return fire next turn. The other two can. Therefore the other two will now rank higher in the Target Priority list. Simple as that really.
Second is enemy mobility. To phrase it differently, their ability to get around the board. Assuming you've picked out and silenced the long range firepower, the only options a foe should should have is to get into medium firepower range (so 24 inches maximum usually), or close combat. And that's the beauty of the splinter cannon and dark lance. If you outrange a foe, you can weaken them with firepower at your leisure. If they move and don't shoot, so as to be in range the following turn, you can move out of range AND shoot. If they're combat troops, they likely have a delivery method, usually a transport. Blow the transport, and the combat soldiers are forced to slog across the board, chasing you in a race they can never win. You, in the meanwhile, get to shower them with firepower, and dance around one step ahead of them, never quite within assault range. By eliminating an enemies mobility, you also destroy their capability to deploy onto objectives at the last minute.
Third, enemy combat troops. This is for those combat troops capable of moving more than six inches a turn. So those with jetpacks, cavalry, jump infantry, beasts, and so on. You'll note deep strikers aren't included here, that's because a deep striker can't assault immediately after hitting the board generally, allowing you to quickly jump out of assault range. Destroying mobile combat troops is essential, because they can swamp your vehicles, and generally keep up with them, which is a most undesirable feature in prey. Sometimes, destroying them can even be more important then enemy mobility, that's something you have to decide on the fly, depending on what you're facing.
Fourth, everything else. And to be frank, everything else is irrelevant. If you've taken out the above, you've won. You're faster, and will have more firepower.
Now things don't usually go to plan. If your enemy has too much firepower, or too many combat troops, or just generally too much for you to handle feasibly, that's where the counter-attack comes in. The counter-attack should be at the turning point, dedicated to the most critical point of the battle. It should, in short, be the thing that defeats your opponents weakest point. The application of suitable pressure at just the right spot. Two combat units usually, thrown in to finish off a weakened foe's death star combat unit just before it hits your lines, to intercept the unit they're planning on committing to holding an objective, to taking out their most troublesome ranged squad. Your combat units should be carefully husbanded until you know the precise time to commit them. Do it too early, and watch them getting munched by the not weakened death star, or shot up because they destroyed one enemy unit and got caught out in the open. It's basic, but key.
That, in a nutshell, is the Kabal engagement strategy.
So. The Kabal Army List. As mentioned, you want as many guns as you can cram in whilst still maintaining a combat edge. The trick is to capitalise on points to guns cost for maximum efficiency. So presuming you want Dark Lances, points for guns wise, these are the best units in ascending preference.
1. Ravager. 105 points for a ravager with 3 Dark Lances = 35 points per Dark Lance
2. Trueborn. 86 points for 3 Trueborn with 2 Dark Lances = 43 points per Dark Lance
3. Raider. 60 points per Raider with 1 Dark Lance = 60 points per Dark Lance
4. Scourges. 140 points for 5 Scourges with 2 Dark lances = 70 points per Dark Lance
5. Razorwing. 145 points for 2 Dark Lances = 72.5 points per Dark Lance
6. Warriors. 115 points for 10 Warriors with 1 Dark Lance = 115 points per Dark Lance
As can be seen, The Ravager is clearly the optimum platform with which to mount Dark Lances in terms of points efficiency.
To do the same again for Splinter Cannons.
1. Trueborn. 56 points for 3 Trueborn with 2 Splinter Cannons = 28 points per Splinter Cannon
2. Venom. 65 points for a Venom with 2 Splinter Cannons = 32.5 points per Splinter Cannon
3. Scourges. 130 points for 5 Scourges with 2 Splinter Cannons = 65 points per Splinter Cannon
4. Warriors. 100 points for 10 Warriors for 1 Splinter Cannon = 100 points per Splinter Cannon.
Using the figures outlined above, Trueborn shine once again. As can be evidently seen, Trueborn are the choice to make when examining optimum fire output. However, Venoms fall only ever so slightly behind them in points cost, and being a transport and vehicle to boot, are infinitely hardier, making them clearly preferable when looking to take the maximum number of splinter cannons.
For Blasters and Heat Lances (grouped together as they have similar intention -to tank bust- and range).
1. Trueborn. 108 points for 4 Trueborn with 4 Blasters = 27 points per Blaster
2. Warriors. 60 points for 5 Warriors with 1 Blaster = 60 points per Blaster
3. Scourges. 134 points for 5 Scourges with 2 Heat Lances = 67 points per Heat Lance
4. Scourges. 140 points for 5 Scourges with 2 Blasters = 70 points per Blaster
5. Reavers. 78 points for 3 Reavers with 1 Heat Lance = 78 points per Heat Lance
6. Reavers. 81 points for 3 Reavers with 1 Heat Lance = 81 points per Blaster
7. Talos. 115 points for Talos with Twin Linked Heat Lance = 115 points per Heat Lance
As ever, the Trueborn top the charts. It quickly becomes apparent why 3 units of Trueborn are the obvious choice for any competitive Kabal List. Yet Warriors, despite falling near the bottom in the other two weapon for points comparisons, strike near the top in this one, clearly indicating their optimum use and configuration.
Whilst the simple displays I have laid out above do not account for other capabilities of the units in question, like transport capacity, objective holding, shardcarbines, and so on, the trick is to try and get the most bang for your buck whilst retaining maximum usefulness. By gauging the best way to put guns on the table, you can construct your army around that in the best possible fashion.
In terms of combat, it is generally presumed that a Kabal List will have all 3 Elites and Heavy Support slots filled up for the reasons given above. As such, this leaves only the Troops, HQ, and Fast Attack options open for your combat units.
Now as troops choices to hold objectives are clearly desirable, with the conditions for winning missions what they are, Wyches become an obvious selection. Taking a unit of 9 in a Raider (with a flickerfield), with a shardnet and Impaler to help combat HQ'S and MC's, a Hekatrix with an Agoniser & Phantasm Grenade Launcher, Haywire Grenades, and a Haemonculus with a Liquifier Gun may weigh in at a hefty 288 points, but gives a solid close combat unit capable of counter-attacking with considerable force.
The second option for causing serious damage remaining in the available slot would be a Beastmaster unit. The usual cheap and cheerful minimum unit available consists of 3 Beastsmasters, 5 Khymerae, and 4 Razorwing Flocks, at 156 points. Such a unit has a large quantity of wounds of different types for allocation purposes, an invulnerable save where necessary, and several rending attacks.
Presuming you leave a Elites slot open, a small unit of Incubi can be of use. 5 Incubi in a Venom with a second splinter cannon, equipped with a Klaivex with Onslaught costs a mere 205 points. An Incubi can be subtracted to make room for a suitably tooled up Archon, or Haemonculi as well.
The last and final option available for a Kabal list is units of Wracks, presuming you take a minimum of 1 Haemonculi. At 10 points apiece, a squad of 5 can fit inside a Venom and take a liquifier gun for a cheap 125 points. Probably the worst possible support combat unit for the counter-attack, as the cheapest of the lot, it can be squeezed in, assuming you don't have many points to spare. They also double up as being capable of holding objectives.
Ultimately, the trick when creating your army list is to combine the points efficiency given for guns above, with the combat units given above, and vary the amount of points given over to firepower, and the amount of points given over to assault units based on personal preference. As you learn how to wield your army, and what your local meta and tournaments are running, you'll come to adapt your list for what is ultimately best suited for it. At least, that's the theory.