My purpose here is to discuss different hobbyists’ views of the corsairs. My personal objective is to figure out exactly how I want to represent them in my homegrown Kill Team (2021) rules. This isn’t a discussion to wish-list what anyone wants to see GW do. Imagine GW isn’t giving us corsair rules/minis (i.e., the rumors are false) and we’re just updating the corsairs for the current edition of the game. Different hobbyists are bound to have different outlooks, so I’m trying to find a happy medium. I’m just here to figure out basic concepts of their representation so that I can give fans of the corsairs a balanced and thematic set of homegrown rules for them. I’m specifically focused on Kill Team, but I think it would be impossible to limit the discussion to units that are appropriate for that game, so I’ll open the aperture to include Warhammer 40,000. I’m not necessarily looking at specific rules, but am more concerned with the units.
Here is their evolution as I know it (there may be some inaccuracies or gaps, for which I would welcome corrections/filling in):
- The modern corsairs are the eldar as they were introduced in the 1st edition Rogue Trader book – raiders, pirates, and mercenaries.
- The eldar were retconned later in 1st edition into what we now know as the eldar of the craftworlds, the asuryani.
- The corsairs (called “pirates” at that time) were incorporated into the 2nd edition Codex: Eldar. They didn’t really have their own models, but could be represented using the larger eldar range (using the guardians and the 1st edition models). They were somewhat comparable with the guardians and used the same weapons as their craftworld counterparts.
- The pirates/corsairs disappeared from the Warhammer 40,000 game (but not the setting) in 3rd edition, replaced by the Dark Eldar, who were much more twisted and evil. I suspect that the Dark Eldar were intended to be a replacement based on the image from the rulebook.
The corsairs remained in the setting in the Battlefleet Gothic game, however, as well as in the CCG. Yriel may have been a major factor in this as the long-established lore had this scion of a craftworld becoming a pirate before later returning to his craftworld. The Dark Eldar were incompatible with this, so the corsairs remained in the background to keep Yriel viable. Or maybe GW always meant to keep the corsairs around and I’m just mistaken in my assumption.
- The RPGs from FFG also kept the corsairs and they were later reintroduced in their modern incarnation in the first printing of The Doom of Mymeara. This was later updated and expanded in the second printing of The Doom of Mymeara. This version essentially presented them as a sort of neutral mix between the craftworld eldar and those of the Dark City, using some of the weapons and vehicles of both of the more popular branches, but also having a lot of their own unique vehicles and wargear. The signature elements of the eldar corsairs became the Corsair jet packs, lasblasters, braces of pistols, and blades (called different things in different incarnations). Their forces were fastfastfast, but delicate – the quintessential “glass hammer.” Aside from the conversion kits, however, they lacked character models, leaving hobbyists to use existing eldar models (craftworld and dark, and even harlequin) to come up with their own characters.
- Later editions of WH40K have largely ignored the corsairs, with their glorious The Doom of Mymeara rules pared down extensively in the Forge World updates (and the models/conversion kits no longer available except through recasters and 3D printing).
My personal preference with the corsairs is that, though they have a few things from their craftworld and Dark City cousins, they should be distinct. I suspect that this will be an unpopular view. The benefit of not being distinct (i.e., being able to use a lot of the weapons from both the craftworlds and the Dark City) is that players can then represent their corsairs using existing models. The conversion kit from Forge World included some man-portable weapons and pistols that were clearly of craftworld origin, different only in that they were carried by corsairs rather than being mounted on platforms. I think that the lore allows for the corsairs to visit both the craftworlds and the Dark City, however, so there should be some representation of weapons from both. I think that these should be few and far between, however.
My personal take is that the corsairs focus on the other technology for which the aeldari are known – las weapons. In this, instead of the shuriken cannon and splinter cannon as heavy weapon options, I’d much rather see a (nerfed?) scatter laser.
I’m also not a fan of the ghostwalkers-as-rangers. I can see why Forge World did that, but rangers are another type of outcast. I’d rather just see rangers as rangers (with the OUTCAST keyword). I’d like to see the sniper rifles given to the balestrike squads – basically turning those squads into the heavy weapons squads for the corsairs. The ability to take corsair jet packs sets them apart from the rangers (who rely more on stealth). I’d love for corsairs to be able to include rangers, with the ghostwalkers being differentiated from the rangers (in my head there is an image of a very watered down version of the drukhari mandrakes as a replacement for the ghostwalkers). These might be a good way to revisit the old eldar assassin concept that Jes Goodwin drew.
I mostly like the rules from The Doom of Mymeara otherwise. They’re in need of an update for the new edition, but the basic concepts were, I think, pretty good. If the corsairs are just part of the craftworld rules, then I expect to see their weapons and wargear limited to the corsair-specific stuff and some asuryani stuff. If, on the other hand, we also see them in the drukhari codex, I could see how they might have access to weapons and wargear from the Dark Kin, too. If we really get corsairs in this edition, however, they need dedicated plastic kits – not conversion kits. I could see them as small add-ons to the craftworlds/Drukhari codices, with a possible dedicated codex later. That’s in the realm of (really) wishful thinking, though, so right now I’m just expecting rules for squads and leaders as auxiliaries for the asuryani. I could easily see those being very limited (but the leaders – corsair princes/nobles or whatever they end up being called – had better be distinct from autarchs and archons). I can see them in a few variants as part of the craftworlds codex: barons (low level/lieutenant type characters – infantry/jet pack/jetbike variants), reaver squads (with/without corsair jet packs), jetbike squads. I’d love to see more, but just having those three (actually, that would probably be six) units would be sufficient for now. Okay, maybe hornets would be great, too (a better conversion kit than Forge World gave us, though).
Note that I’m not fanatical about my preference for the corsairs being distinct. I can see the benefits of being able to use the asuryani and drukhari weapons and wargear. Admittedly, the eldar [corsairs] had shuriken weapons in every edition in which they’ve had rules, so there is a weakness with my argument. I just lean towards making them truly distinct. I’m sure I’ll be able to stomach it if GW gives them asuryani/drukhari stuff.
I really see the corsairs as a variant on an all guardian/all kabalite army, with lots of fast and light units. This isn’t the type of army that has large tanks, but will see lots of infantry (possibly with transports), jet infantry, small walkers (I love those hornets), jetbikes, and small vehicles. I loved the rules update they got in the second edition of The Doom of Mymeara – I thought the rivalries between the coteries and the wild psyker rules were brilliant.
Regardless, if GW brings the FW corsairs back in plastic, I’m going to be spending an awful lot of money.
How do you see the corsairs? Do you prefer them as a sort of mix between the asuryani and drukhari (as presented in The Doom of Mymeara)? Would you prefer them to lean more strongly in one direction or another? Or would you prefer them to be truly distinct from both the asuryani and drukhari?