Well, time for another GW release: This time, the High Elves players all over the world can look forward to receiving some new toys. And I too will take some time to take a look at the release, discussing the models themselves as well as their possible use for conversions.
Now you may say that this release really isn’t for me: Neither do I play WFB, nor do I plan to start a High Elf army anytime soon. Still, I’ve been in the hobby long enough to be able to appreciate the High Elves’ design, I suppose, and their catalogue has some models I really like: The High Elf Prince on Griffon from the Island of Blood boxed Set is one of the most beautiful plastic models ever released by GW, if you ask me, and I also love the White Lions of Chrace (which I stole extensively from in order to build my kitbashed Custodes). So I guess what I am trying to say is that the High Elves’ charm is not lost on me. Whether that makes me qualified to comment on the new models is not for me to decide, of course
It goes without saying that all of the following pictures belong to Games Workshop, of course.
The army book itself continues the trend of featuring evocative, striking atrwork on its cover. I cannot help but noticing the juxtaposition of the huge helmet and the character’s wee ankles, though…
Anyway, before we end up entrenched in all kinds of art class discussions, let’s just take a look at the models already, shall we?
Flamespire Phoenix /Frostheart Phoenix
It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that the High Elves also get a huge creature to bolster their ranks. In this case, it’s a kit containing a phoenix that comes in either firy or frosty flavour.
From a visual standpoint, the inclusion of more birds certainly makes sense: Eagles and Phoenixes abound in Elven iconography, and both Phoenix types will surely make for standout pieces on the table.
The body and a part of the wings seem to be identical for both builds, with only the head, the ridge down the back and the wings’ outer rim replaced between the two elemental variations. In both cases, this makes for a surprisingly convincing look. One thing that struck me, though, was the fact that the seam between wings and torso seems to be clearly noticeable, even in those official GW photos. I suppose some GS work will be necessary to solve that problem
All in all, I think the Frostheart Phoenix seems slightly more convincing: Maybe the effect of snow crystals is easier to pull of than burning feathers:
Of course you might say that both seem a bit comic book-like — in fact, I am getting a certain Final Fantasy vibe from those top-down views. But then, GW’s High Elves have always been Tolkien’s Elves turned up to eleven, so I guess that’s not much of a problem.
In fact, I am looking forward to the competition level painters getting their hands on these kits: I bet some of those people will truly make these models sing!
Oh, and if you choose to build the Phoenix without a rider, you even get an Anointed of Asuryan on foot out of the deal:
However, the problem with the model is that the ornate and ostentatious armour on its upper body works when it’s riding a Phoenix. On foot, this guy looks a bit top heavy, if you ask me…
This model seems to be getting tons of flak online for being, well, a boat pulled by an eagle. Most people seem to think it’s too unrealistic for the setting, which, once again, I think is a rather silly point of contention: These are High Elves, people! They live and breathe magic. Cooking up a means of transportation as unabashedly silly as this is fully in character for them. Plus I also think the construction of the model, with two discreet airborne components, is rather ambitious.
The kit gives you all kinds of options for several configurations, including different poses for the bird and different crew members. Once again, it becomes obvious that GW’s designers tend to hold back some of their nicer sculpts for random crew members hidden away in their vehicle kits. For instance, I really like this guy:
And in any case, the bird’s facial expression is definitely the star of the show here:
Pull a boat, they said. You’ll be a war hero, they said. Damned Elves…
Once again, if you play your cards right, you get an extra character out of the kit. This time, a High Elf Lord that can also be assembled as a standard bearer for your army. Luckily, while also ostentatiously armoured, this guy seems quite a bit more balanced than the Anointed of Asuryan and would certainly make a great commander for a High Elf army:
Shadow Warriors / Maiden Guard of Avalorn
This infantry kit allows you to build ten Shadow Warriors, to begin with. And I rather like the look GW has managed to achieve with these: While they are clearly High Elves in design, the overall shadowy nature and face concealing helmets makes them seem quite a bit more sinister, which is a nice fit for their background. In fact, I think these have an almost (Dark) Eldarish vibe to them, and they might be worth a look for those preparing for some Exodite conversions…
Definitely one of the best parts of the release!
Now the kit may also be assembled as Maiden Guard of Avalorn, and this is where the kite falls flat for me, because these bonnie lasses just look quite off for some reason:
I cannot even put my finger on what I think is wrong: It’s certainly not the magic bows, I can appreciate that detail!
The faces are not that great, for one. GW can do killer (female) faces when the designers put their mind to the task, but these are just subpar, if you ask me:
For some reason it just seems that the fact that these had to be part of a combi-kit served to compromise the look of the models. I am just guessing here, of course. I don’t know the truth of it, but I think these are not as cool as they could have been by far.
So, with the bigger kits out of the way, let’s take a look at the characters:
Loremaster of Hoeth
Another plastic character, which is a plus. But I have to admit I’m really not sold on this guy: The pose just seems very awkward: Does that sword really look like you could hold it in one hand while running? And while turning your upper body at a 90 degrees angle to the direction you are running in? In fact, it almost seems as if the upper and lower body were designed independently from one another and then combined at the last possible moment. And while I can see what they were trying to do with this (swordmaster who is also a mage), it just doesn’t add up. One commenter on Faeit 212 said the guy was looking like he was throwing a squid at the enemy, and I have to concur: That’s exactly what it looks like. All in all, I am prepared to call this the weakest of the (fantastic) new WFB plastic characters so far.
Alarielle the Radiant
Sorry, but I don’t have too many nice things to say about her either. The pose is nice, but that staff seems so clunky against the model’s slender silhouette. Then there’s that crazy hair. And all those hearts. All in all, she looks like a cast member from She-Ra, Princess of Power…
Handmaiden of the Everqueen
Now this is a great model! The spear’s a little too clunky once again, and there may be the odd heart, but I really like this lass. The face is great, and I would really like someone to take her and transform her into an INQ28 character, and Eldar Autarch or some crazy Exodite Princess. Possibly the best model coming out of this whole release for me!
Chrace Shield pack
Another shield pack players can use to customise their army. It’s great to have the option, and the purchase is obviously 100% optional, so a bit of added variety is always a good thing.
Once again, the unit types that didn’t get new models are nearly as interesting as those that did: I think we can all agree that the Spearmen and Bowmen were in some urgent need of attention, being two of the earlier WFB plastic regiments. Just compare the Spearmen and the White Lions to see the jarring difference in scale and facial detail. As a matter of fact, they even use White Lions in the new WD to kitbash Spearmen that are actually pleasant to look at! Granted, it’s for a themed Chrace army, but if that doesn’t tell you the core units need a revamp, what does? At least, by the look of it, that kit of kitbash seems to be a viable stopgap solution to breathe some life into the old Spearmen kit, but still…
Let me tell you what would have been brilliant: Two plastic combi-kits: one for Spearmen and Shadow Warriors, the other for Bowmen and Maiden Guard. That would have killed two birds with one stone. And the – highly different – male Shadow Warriors and female Maiden Guard wouldn’t have had to share one set of sprues. Now I know nothing about miniature production, of course, and can cheerfully post all kinds of demands without ever having to meet them. Still, that would at least have been a solution worth taking a look at, surely? Plus the resulting kits would probably have flown off the shelves.
Instead, they are repackaging all the really horrible stuff as a battallion set now. Way to go, GW…
So, what about all the converters and kitbashers among us? What do we get out of this release? Not unlike the Tau, the High Elves have a very strongly defined design, making most of the parts look decidedly elven — certainly a challenge for anyone trying to make them look completely different.
That said, I believe the Shadow Warriors and special characters may be worth a look for INQ28 aficionados. Like I said earlier, I would love somebody to tackle a conversion involving that Handmaiden…
Some people suggested the Phoenix could be used to create a Tzeentchian Greater Daemon or DP. I remain slightly skeptical, however, since I imagine a Tzeentchian character to look far more twisted and ruffled — but feel free to surprise me, people!
The most obvious conversion potential certainly lies in using these kits for all kinds of Eldar-related projects: With the new Eldar release rumoured to be only a month a way, I could see several uses for the High Elf models in a craftworld force: The Shadow Warriors and Maiden Guard bitz could be great for adding some real spice to Eldar Guardians and Aspect Warriors. Or they could even be used to build some Exodite models. And the new characters could be an interesting base for Autarch and Runeseer conversions.
So what to make of it all? Though the models are well designed, I am sad to admit that this release just seems a little thin to me. For one, GW’s release policy just seems slightly formulaic by now: One combi-kit for a huge creature, check. One slightly hokey vehicle kit, check. One combi-kit that’ll give you two kinds of infantry, check. One plastic character and two Finecast characters, check. Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s throw in some shields and bonus plastic characters in the huge kits!
Of course it’s probably not as easy as that, and even if they’re not at their most inspired, GW’s designers can and will still produce a certain level of quality. But out of all the releases I have talked about so far, I’ll have to call this the weakest one. Maybe it’s because I don’t play WFB. Maybe it’s because I don’t play High Elves. Maybe it’s because the relentless, breakneck speed at which new armies and model waves have been released for the last year or so has begun to take its toll on the design team.
I certainly hope it’s the former rather than the latter…
So what do you think? Am I just ranting and raving? Is this all just a matter of differences in taste? What are your favourite models from this release, and what are you going to use these kits for? Let me know in the comments section!
As always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!