Mine is bigger! A look at the new Eldar models

Another month, another GW release, and this one has been eagerly anticipated, to say the least:

The Eldar are, without a doubt, one of Warhammer 40k’s most iconic factions. And while “Elves IN SPACE!” may sound like a horrible concept in theory, Jes Goodwin’s incredible designs – conceived as early as during the late 80s and early 90s – are so utterly fantastic that not only did they help to sell what might otherwise been a very bad idea, but they also still haven’t lost any of their coolness, even more than two decades later — whatever they are paying the man at GW, it cannot ever possibly be enough!

So it’s no wonder that the Eldar are both an integral part of 40k lore and a faction beloved by many. And an update for them has been a long time coming.

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Let me start by saying that the Eldar Codex continues the latest trend of fantastic cover artwork (pretty closely mirroring the design of the new plastic Farseer, by the way). And the special edition cover sleeve, once again, seems very elegant and well designed — and, strangely enough, just as faux-japanese as the S.E. Tau Codex.

When it comes to the models, in my review of last month’s High Elves release, I talked about GW’s more and more formulaic approach to recent army updates. To quote myself on the matter:

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.

Now, here we are, one month later, with a new release, and look what we’ve got: one huge creature, one vehicle kit, one combi-kit for two kinds of infantry, one plastic character and two Finecast characters. At first glance, this doesn’t bode too well for the originality of the release. But is it that simple? In order to find out, let’s take a closer look at the new models and the conversion potential.

 

Wraithknight

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Well, this tall boy is certainly this month’s wraithbone elephant in the room. And let’s not beat around the bush here: That thing is a titan, period. A small titan, perhaps, but a titan nonetheless. With the Wraithknight standing noticeably taller than even the recently released Tau Riptide – a fact that’s even played up in GW’s marketing speak – we are looking at a very classic case of “mine is bigger!” here, and I am not sure I really like that prospect…

Before I elaborate, let’s focus on the model, though:

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The Wraithknight seems rather easy to customise, regarding both the weapons loadout and its pose. Personally speaking, and without any knowledge of the rules, I think the sword and shield combo looks much cooler. Plus, as with the Riptide, it will be very interesting to see the poses some of the more adventurous hobbyists will get out of this kit. The lower legs seem quite a bit too long at first glance – maybe the designers were just trying buff the model’s heigth that way – but the overall slightly alien look makes sure the proportions still work rather well.

The one part of the model I was initially not sold on was the helmet, since I would have preferred a design closer to that of the FW Eldar titans, i.e. a stylised guardian head, but seeing how the Wraithknight is really more of a wraithbone construct than a regular walker, I guess it makes sense that it would look like a taller version of the other constructs:

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And the pictures in WD show that the head can look very interesting when the faceplate isn’t painted like some kind of viewing window, but rather in the same colour as the rest of the head — that’s just a matter of personal taste, though…

I also noticed that GW seems to have settled on yet another iteration of their box designs. I’ve lost count of the different variants over time (photos, then artwork, then different artwork, then photos again, then photos painstakingly photoshopped to look like impressions from real, grimdark battlefields,…), but the new one seems much more elegant and minimalistic:

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Is this a way of positioning GW models even more as luxury goods? Regarding the Wraithknight which comes at 90,00 Euros a pop, that certainly seems like a possibility…

My main gripe with the model actually has nothing to do with the design, but rather with its size: Are we witnessing a whole different sort of scale creep here? Will players be “required” to add one or several titan-sized models to even their regular 40k armies in the future? Now I do of course realise that huge kits like this may be just what many hobbyists were waiting for, but since I’ve always been drawn to models at infantry-size first and foremost, the prospect of bigger and bigger models – in regular 40k – seems a little disconcerting to me.

Price and size notwithstanding, I like the design. The model will certainly be a centre piece for any Eldar army — so much so, in fact, that the rest of the force will probably have to struggle to keep up…

 

Hemlock Wraithfighter / Crimson Hunter

Well, this kit is a bit of a conundrum for me, because I feel entirely differently about it when I see model from different perspectives. Allow me to explain:
The first look I got at this particular kit was this picture:

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And to be honest, I instantly hated it! It looks like one of those G.I.Joe fighter jets I loved so much in my childhood, yet managed to outgrow (fortunately, I might add). The colour doesn’t really help either. And those additional wing/fin things just seem goofy.

But then, there’s also this:

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The Hemlock Wraithfighter, the other fighter variant that can be assembled from the same kit. And I have to say quite like it! I was initially put off by the slightly “drooping” lines of the model, but seeing how the Eldar do not assemble their vehicles so much as “grow” them from semi-organic wraithbone, it seems plausible that the flyer’s lines would be more organic than those of the Dark Eldar Razorwing (which is conventionally built from anorganic materials).

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And while some of the design reminds me of a present day fighter jet, there’s still enough to make it look like an Eldar vehicle – all those small visual cues that manage to tie it in with the rest of the army.

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The fact that the paintjob on this is truly gorgeous also helps, of course. I’ve always felt that everything lo0ks better in Saim-Hann colours, but in this case, the patterns and lines on the model do a great job of breaking up the huge empty space, making it look less like a toy and more like an elegant warmachine.

I also really love the fact that they managed to get one of the guys from Daft Punk to pilot the thing:

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Seriously, though: That head is great! Note to myself: Based on this head, check options for two Daft Punk-based character conversions for use in INQ28 πŸ˜‰

So let’s take another look at the other variant, the Crimson Hunter:

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At second glance, and without that dopey star background, it’s really not so bad. But it’s not as good as the Hemlock either. Much of what I don’t like about the model may be based on the paintjob, to be honest, so I may just have to reserve final judgment until I’ve seen a slightly different colour scheme on this. But I am not keen on those fins behind the cockpit and would likely leave them off if I ever were to build the model.

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And one thing I find really disappointing, especially since the Hemlock got its own (brilliant) pilot head option, is the fact that the Crimson Hunter’s helmet looks just like that of a regular Guardian. Granted, the actual aspect armour in this case is probably the fighter jet itself, but it would have been cool to get a more stylised mask, adding some visual distinction to the aspect. After all, the helmets have been the element that viusally defines the aspect warriors for a long time.

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As it stand, this guy just looks like an Eldar Guardian in purple armour, doesn’t he?

 

Wraithguard / Wraithblades

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An already existing unit choice, these are now finally available in plastic. The new version doesn’t fundamentally change the design, which is quite alright – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and all that. It’s also cool to have these as a plastic kit now, especially since a special HQ selection seems to transform them into troops.

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To be honest though, I find it rather hard to get too excited about the models, apart from a general appreciation of the fact that they are now available in plastic. Sure, there are lots of well-considered details to individualise the five models, but it’s really a design we are already very familiar with.

The other option for the kit is a bit more interesting at least, allowing us to assemble the models as the more CC focused Wraithblades:

Eldar release (18)According to GW’s description in WD, these ghostly warriors are so furious that their very wraithbone frame vibrates with their anger — only there’s very little anger evident in their poses. That probably cannot be helped, seeing how the same bodies and legs have to be used both for the shooty and the killy variants of the unit, but to make these guys look truly like the (angry) CC specialists they are supposed to be, one would have to do quite a bit of work regarding their poses — which, in all fairness, should be easy enough, seeing how they are plastic models.

While I like shape of the axes, I think I prefer the option of arming them with twin swords, if only because it’s possible to achieve great – if static – poses like this:

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This guy really seems like an ancient, dignified ghost swordsman, doesn’t he? In my opinion, it’s swords all the way for these guys!

 

In addition to the squad and vehicle kits, there are also three new characters for Eldar players. Let’s take a closer look:

 

Plastic Farseer

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This model was already leaked a couple of weeks ago, stirring up quite a buzz on the net. It seemed reasonably certain in advance that the Eldar would receive their own plastic clamshell character as well, and it was certainly a good decision to use the ever versatile Farseer for this. The model was designed by none other than Jes Goodwin himself, which is a bit of a no brainer really, because it was possibly the only way of having this new Farseer hold up to Jes’ older models — it’s truly baffling how those old Seer models of his are still just as great as they were ten or, in some cases, almost twenty years ago.

This new model is really dynamic and three dimensional, with a great pose and lots of nifty details. Just check out the hand:

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Some people online voiced an immense dislike for the farseer’s neck — go figure! But since this is a plastic release, there’s nothing stopping you from changing that! I would have liked a helmet without that strange pharao beard that has been creeping into Farseer designs for a couple of years, for instance, but again, it should really be easy enough to get rid of that element. All in all, this a really good entry into the 40k plastic character library, and I can easily see myself picking up one of these — if only for the conversion possibilities (more on that later!).

 

Spiritseer

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This guy is obviously the choice for people who want to use lots and lots of wraithbone constructs in their army, and the model’s designer Martin Fores did a really nice job of including a number of shout outs to those ghostly warriors, especially the featureless faceplate (which I love!). The satanic horns pose for psykers is getting a little long in the tooth, if you ask me, but I’ll let it slide this time, because it’s a lovely model all in all. My only gripe is, once again, that this had to be a Finecast release in the first place: It should have been very easy to release this guy as a plastic character as well (or, indeed, make one clamshell with different head and staff options for either a Farseer or Spiritseer — wouldn’t that have been neat?). It seems like they’re doing some of these models in Finecast just because it’s in the business rules somewhere, and that seems slightly dopey — just sayin’…

 

Illic Nightspear

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Ah, well, here’s the best part of this particular release for me: Illic is a beautiful model with a brilliant pose, and I can easily see people picking him up just to paint him for their display cases — he makes for a stunning display piece, on par with the brilliant model for Lelith Hesperax. In this case, I can even forgive the model being Finecast, since the character’s elegance and the stunning amount of detail probably make good use of the medium. I also really like how the piece of ancient ruin is incorporated into his pose. A true winner, this one. My one gripe is that I am not really all that fond of the hair, but since that’s strictly a matter of personal taste, I won’t hold it against the model. The fact that the designer, Edgar Ramos, was also responsible for last months rather unimpressive plastic Loremaster of Hoeth is a bit of a conundrum, however. Why release something like that when Illic shows Mr. Ramos is capable of infinitely better work?

 

Jetbike Autarch upgrade kit

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Having this available as an upgrade pack is a nice bit of service. Let’s just hope that the parts will still be useable once the new jetbikes are released *wink*wink*, *nudge*)…

 

Dire Avengers

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Oh, and GW also repackaged the (old) Dire Avenger models into a smaller squad of five — seems like a bit of a dick move, to be honest. Or is there any non-economic reason for this?

 

What’s missing?

With a release as strongly anticipated as the Eldar, it goes without saying that wishlisting abounded prior to the release: The fans would have loved twenty new kits at the very least, and, in all fairness, anticipation like that cannot possibly be fully satisfied by any release. Still, some things seem to be conspicuously absent from the release: What about the rumoured new jetbikes? WIP sculpts of these have been floating around on the net for years, and the new release would have been a good chance for updating them and bringing them more in line with the look of the DE jetbikes. Plus a jetbike / Shining Spears combi-kit would also have made a great itam for the combi-kit slot. Even more painful is the absence of any plastic aspect warriors, since at least some of these should lend themselves to a combi-kit rather beautifully. I don’t doubt that both of these units will be released in time, and GW’s strategy is to make sure all units in the codex are available in model form before doing any huge redesigns. But still, jetbikes and new aspects were the things fans were probably most eager to see, so it’s still a bit of a shame…

Conversion potential

Like the Tau, the Eldar have a very distinct and iconic look, which makes them instantly recognisable but also renders their different kits rather hard to use as “conversion fodder” in the classical sense. So most parts of this release will be useful for Eldar, Dark Eldar or Eldar Corsair armies, above all else. The models themselves should allow for quite a bit of customisation and reposing, so it will be interesting to witness what hobbyists all over the world come up with.

Illic Nightspear not only makes for a stunning display piece, but could also realistically be used as a lone Eldar operative during games of INQ28 — he looks the part.

The most interesting conversion options stem from the plastic Farseer, if you ask me. Let’s take a look at the sprue to illustrate what I mean:

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Seeing how the model’s head, forearms and chest are all separate pieces, the Farseer should not only be really easy to customise for your Eldar army, he should also make for a pretty useful base model for all kinds of INQ28-related conversions. I could easily see him transformed into an Ordo Xenos Inquisitor, with a bit of work! And the fact that the model is plastic makes it even more useful. Looks like I’ll be getting one of these sooner rather than later…

 

All in all, the Eldar release was so highly anticipated, and people were hoping for so many different things to come out of this release that GW’s designers were facing a bit of an insolvable problem. That said, the lack of new jetbikes and plastic aspect warriors does seem a little disappointing. However the actual new models are very well designed and make great visual additions to the Eldar catalogue.

Like almost no other 40k army, the Eldar are fantastic proof of how far a brilliant initial design will carry an army, informing each and every model and unit. The new additions play to the strengths of the Eldars’ overall design, and, small gripes notwithstanding, will fit right in on the table. My only bigger concern is the new kind of scale creep I already mentioned: Will we see an even bigger Tyranid bio construct or Imperial walker, once Apocalypse hits? Will these huge models make up more and more of the game? And will those who, like me, are rather drawn to normal, infantry-sized models, have an option to resist playing with what are basically action figures, at least from a scale perspective? Let’s wait and see…

In any case, Eldar players have received some beautiful new toys. And while last month’s High Elves seemed a little half-baked to me, the new Eldar models are quite a bit nicer. And even though I don’t plan on starting an Eldar army any time soon, I simply love looking at well painted Eldar armies and appreciating their models for what they are: Some of the best designed and most gorgeous pieces in GW’s entire catalogue.

So how did you like this new release? Any favourites? Any gripes? Any conversion ideas? Share your opinion in the comments section!
And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

9 Responses to “Mine is bigger! A look at the new Eldar models”

  1. Alexander Says:

    Ah, an other one of your ever delightful reviews. And again I think you are quite right in your assessment.

    The eldar has a lot of really great old figures in their range, farseer council and warlocks for example. So don’t fix what isn’t broken.

    However the new release seems a little bit stale and somewhat lacking. Part of this comes down to the rather somber and rigid paintjob, and the static way the miniatures are posed in. To me Eldar has always seemed like an explosion of colours (see 2nd ed Eldar) and that is very much lacking in todays paintjob.

    The wraithtitan is of course an amazing opportunity for the so inclined to create an interesting army center piece. For those like me who prefer the lowly grunts of the infantry this further alienates us from the current game model. Kind of ironic since 6th ed rules seems fit for squad based combat. I dread what the space marines will get, but neither chaos marines nor dark angels got anything too ridiculous so maybe there is still hope πŸ™‚

    The angry wraiths are way too static and do not show the supposed anger, but the gun wraiths of course looks great as almost automatons. I understand that it can be hard to combine both poses in the same kit in a manner that will satisfy every one.

    Spiritseer, as you said the devils horn gesture has become beyond lame for psykers at this point but it shouldn’t be to hard to correct. a
    And the plastic farseer is an opportunity just waiting to be exploited. As is the skaven looking eldar ranger.

    Some cool stuff in a slightly bland release. At least GW is trying to make sure you have everything you need to play with. But compared to the Dark Eldar release these kits do not offer the same coolness.

    • My feelings exactly: The overall design of the Eldar line is so downright spectacular that the new release seems a little thin — but I wonder whether there was really any other option? I mean, the Dark Eldar release was groundbreaking, no two ways about that, but the line was also in heavy need of redesigning. Whereas the Eldar have been pretty much perfect ever since the early 90s, so all I am really looking for in the line would be to be available in all plastic πŸ˜‰

      Regarding the scale creep, well, it’s really a two-edged sword, isn’t it? On the one hand, I don’t want to be that one guy always arguing how things used to be better, because that’s nonsense. On the other hand, bigger isn’t always better, and since I am an infantry-lover at heart, I’d much rather see more inspired infantry kits instead of huge war machines. And with the leaks from the Apocalypse release, we can see where things are going: Even bigger kits and models: That Khorne daemon engine will probably be huge (i.e. probably unusable for anything but Apocalpyse, unfortunately).

  2. I’ve decided I thoroughly like the new Eldar releases. Some I love, some I’m just OK with, so it averages out to a solid “ilke” πŸ™‚

    My favorites are the Wraithknight, the new Wraith Guard/Wraith Blades, and the plastic Farseer, but only because he’s plastic fodder for conversions. The Hemlock Fighters has a sweet profile and I’m guessing it appeals to me purely on the fact that it does indeed pull much of it’s profile from actual fighter jets that it looks almost plausible that it could fly, over the flying bricks of the marines, and the flying saucers of the neurons.

    The rest aren’t bad, and I’m so sick of Finecast it’s not even funny (as a side note, if you happen to have, or know of someone who has a METAL Shadowseer, unglued and unpainted, let me know, I’m on the hunt for a redo of my Xenos Inquisitor for my INQ28 GD entry).

    My biggest revelation when it comes to the new Eldar? How to handle an allied force, from a modeling and painting perspective! Since they are Battle Brothers with Tau, I have the perfect excuse to enjoy a few purchases and get my “ooh, shiny!” fix, without braking the bank on an entirely new army.

    My biggest disappointment? No new Jetbikes. I’m sorely disappointed in that, though my wallet thanks them for it.

    • Well, don’t get me wrong, the design is great! But I was browsing through some of the last WDs last weekend, and for some reasons it seems like the releases are getting more formulaic all the time: The CSM and DA releases also had the huge kits and combi-kits and whatnot, but they really managed to shake up things here and there.

      On the brighter side, the Eldar have some of the best art-design across GW’s whole catalogue, and that tendency clearly continues with this new release.

      Oh, and regarding FC: That stuff may have its shortcomings (and GW’s QA regarding the stuff still seems a bit spotty), but it’s a joy to convert at least. Couldn’t have pulled off my recent conversion for Inquisitor Zuul without the stuff!

  3. I think you covered most of my thoughts of the Eldar release. I too am a bit disappointed that the Eldar release also maintained the new release style of GW. An overly large kit, a questionable flier, a plastic character and some finecast models. But seeing that is just what they are doing now, I feel the Eldar made out well. All of the models look pretty good. As you pointed out, this largely stems from the fact that Jes Goodwin had such a large part in it. I am really glad he stepped in to work on these models as much as he did, as Eldar were so much defined by his imagination. His redesign of the Dark Eldar made them possibly the best looking army in 40k, and I am glad he has been continuing to make the their less evil counterparts great too.

    While I agree that the Wraithknight is a bit terrifying due to the scale creep it portents (after all, what I love about 40k are the individual soldiers, each characters in their own right), at least it is a wonderful model that fits in seamlessly with the other wraith constructs, and not simply some rushed out kit. I am thrilled that the Wraithguard finally have plastic models, and while they have largely stayed the same, I like how they have been subtly changed to be a bit more lithe (particularity the guns) and to fit even closer along side the wraithlord and knight.

    The farseer is beautiful, a testament to Goodwin’s skill. Proving that he is still one of the best at his craft. I can’t wait to see what conversions people do with him (my mind is swimming with possibilities…).

    Great to hear your thoughts as always; it is nice to hear a carefully analysis of models. It is something I do not see enough of! Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks a lot, Eric! I think figuring out the strengths and conversion potential of new kits is always a lot of fun, and it’s good to now that my ramblings are interesting to some of you out there!

      Both the Eldar and their dark kin owe so much to Jes Goodwin’s imagination! I mean, take a look at that Eldar concept art from the early 90s! It’s still perfect! I really hope they would include more concept art in WD (like they did for the Dark Eldar release or, more recently, for the CSM release, already with their new template for the mag). And I never tire of reading the designer’s notes on a kit, because that’s far more compelling to me than all the marketing speak on th gameplay virtues of a given kit!

  4. Ghost XV15 Says:

    I’m afully dissapointed that every army seems to get a big Walker and everything the Chaos got was the Fiends.
    They are awesome, but compared to those big badasses pretty lame…
    Well I hope the Greater Demons will be this size….

    • Well, you may want to take a look at that leaked Khornate model that is part of the Apocalypse release apparently. Consider the problem solved… πŸ˜‰

  5. All in all, let me just thank you all for the detailed and well-considered feedback! Reading through my post must have been just as much work as writing it, yet it’s good to know there seems to be some kind of interest in these lengthy pieces of mine!

    Cheers, guys! πŸ™‚

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