Spiky pointy people – a look at the new Dark Elves

Another month, another new release: This time, it’s the Dark Elves’ turn: The army reveives a complete design overhaul that rivals the redesign of their dark future counterpart, the Dark Eldar. So, once again, let’s take a look at this month’s release in order to figure out the good and the bad and to come up with some conversion ideas.

Dark Elves release (1)

You might be surprised to learn that I have always had a huge soft spot for the Dark Elves: Back in my WFB days (during the 90s), a box of metal Cold One Knights may actually have been the first GW models I ever purchased, and  I even bought the 4th edition army book and had some grand notion of building a Dark Elf army. Alas, the price of assembling such a force proved to be far too steep for my pocket money as a lad: Most models were also only available in metal. So, apart from a squad of Cold One Knights that I bought and painted piecemeal, and a small unit of plastic Dark Elf warriors, my plans of an army of Druchii never quite got off the ground: Instead, I turned to chaos, my one true tabletop love (and, coincidentally, the army with the most plastic kits available back then). But I still marveled at the background of the Dark Elves. But what did I find so interesting about them?

The Dark Elves are truly an evil race, no surprises there. But where chaos as a faction is evil in an archetypal, almost incomprehensible way, the Dark Elves have this strong leitmotif of fallen glory. Champions of chaos only follow their own ambition and the twisted reasons of their dark gods, but the Dark Elves believe that it is their birthright to rule, a birthright denied them by their High Elf kin. It’s great fun to imagine the courts of Naggaroth, rife with perverted beauty and intrigue, a society turning on itself in the desperate struggle to maintain their power and majesty. And it’s also very interesting to have a force that looks every bit as elegant and disciplined as a High Elf army, only with a more spiky and sinister design and some seriously disturbing, even monstrous additions.

So, how does this translate to the new release? Those familiar with the 4th edition army book will immediately notice that the new models were very much inspired by the Dark Elf designs of the early to mid 90s: They look less like Dark Eldar with medieval equipment and more like sinister reflections of High Elves. I think the overall visual direction for these models is a fantastic blend of nostalgia and modern design trappings. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s take a look at the different kits:

 

Cauldron of Blood/Bloodwrack Shrine

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Let’s begin with a huge kit, and arguably the visually most impressive addition to the Dark Eldar catalogue: The Cauldron of Blood shares quite a few design cues with the Vampire Counts Coven Throne, if you ask me, so if you didn’t like that one, it seems you’re pretty much out of luck. If, like me, you found the Coven Throne to be a fantastically over the top, beautifully eclectic piece, chancec are you’ll find a lot to like about this model as well!

Of course, you could always argue that there’s a slightly silly concept at the heart of it all, with the basic frame of the cauldron making it look like the Witch Elves are bringing along their own set of stairs for their special show act. But even a cynic interpretation like that would be strangely fitting for the Dark Elves for whom evil and style always go hand in hand, don’t you think?

My favourite part of the model has got to be the imposing and immensely spiky statue of Khaine towering above the cauldron. This statue turns the model into a great centre piece for any Dark Elf army, plus it should make for a brilliantly sinister (plastic!!!) Avatar of Khaine for all you (Dark) Eldar players out there. Some work on the pose would probably be required, but that’s half the fun, isn’t it?

Whether you intend to use the statue as a standalone model in your 40k force or in its original function, though, it’s a brilliant element.

I also quite like both the actual cauldron and the statue bearing it on its back:

Dark Elves release (3)

The kit comes with several Witch Elves, all of them in suitably theatrical poses:

Dark Elves release (4)
The Death Hag would also make a great character model (both for WFB and for 40k…):

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And finally, the model for Crone Hellebron is another high point. This bonny lass really exemplifies what Dark Elves have always been about for me: spiky bitz, theatrical poses and extremely huge hair:

Dark Elves release (5)

I do of course realise that this may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I love the design. Again, used on her own, she could make a great character for a Dark Elf army, a great Dracon for Dark Eldar Kabal or even a Slaaneshi cult leader for INQ28.

In addition to all of this, there’s also the option of assembling the kit as a Bloodwrack Shrine, which gets rid of the Khaine statue and replaces it with a mirror, used to keep a particularly pissed off Bloodwrack Medusa in check:

Dark Elves release (7)
Some may feel that the inclusion of a Medusa comes a bit out of the left field, but strange, serpent-bodied creatures have been a part of Dark Elf iconograpgy at least since the 4th edition army book, so it all works out.

While the basic construction remains the same between both variants, some of the additional bitz are really cool. Granted, that mirror will be a hell of a chore to paint if you want to pull of a convincing effect and don’t work for the ‘Eavy Metal team 😉

Dark Elves release (8)
But from the beautifully decorated back of the mirror to the alternate face masks for the witch elves, there’s a lot of variety if you assemble the kit this way. The ornaments on the back of the mirror are also an excellent example of the Dark Elves sinister but stylish culture.

The star of the show should be the Bloodwrack Medusa, of course, so let’s take a closer look at her:

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I love the pose! And this girl should be a real looker on the table, both if you use it as part of the shrine or as a standalone model. My favourite part has to be the clawed gauntlet:

Dark Elves release (10)

The face is a bit of a letdown, though: I would have loved the snake hair to billow around the face more, for one, and that facial expression makes her look like a dumbstruck idiot. I know GW can pull of much better female faces (as is evident with several models in this very release), so this one is a bit of a bummer. On a more positive notice, for all those who have been lamenting the decrease in bare breasts over the last years: Seems like you at least get one uncovered boob out of this kit. Yay! 😉

One last though: Wouldn’t the Bloodwrack Medusa be an interesting option for a plastic Fulgrim conversion? Just sayin’…

 

War Hydra/Kharybdiss

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Okay, I’ll be honest with you: The War Hydra is the absolute low point of this release for me: The pose seems slightly awkward (what on earth is happening with those hind legs?) and the heads are just plain terrible. It boggles the mind how GW’s designers have gone through three different versions of this creature without ever coming up with a cool looking model. And seeing the awesome monsters Trish Camden is designing for Forgeworld, it’s hard to come to grips with the silliness of this model.

In all fairness, one of the different paintjobs showcased in this month’s WD has the model look slightly less horrible, but there’s really no way of seeing beyond those silly snake heads… Anyway, I just want to put you through anymore of my ranting: The Hydra is my least favourite model coming from this month’s release, period.

That being said, the kit has another option, however: It can also be used to build the sea-dwelling Kharybdiss:

Dark Elves release (12)
Let’s just ignore the fact that the whole sea-dwelling thing doesn’t seem to make too much sense, given the fact that this monster will only ever be used on land in Dark Elf armies. And, to get this out of the way as well:  I may not be huge on classical education, but that particular spelling of Charybdis made me die a little inside. Plus did you guys do realise that the original Charybdis wasn’t a monster but a whirlpool, right? Scylla’s the one you want for the monster, people.

That aside, the Kharybdiss variant of assembling the kit does, strangely enough, solve much of what seems wrong about the hydra: The different heads make the creature look completely alien. And since you’re hard pressed to tell what this thing is supposed to be in the first place, the pose doesn’t really matter that much. Strange, I know, but for the, those heads make the model much better, precisely because they are so strange. The one thing I’m not keen on is that growth on the tip of the tail, but that should be easy enough to replace.

So, for me at least, the Kharybdiss is the definite way to go with this kit. It’s just strange enough to work, while the hydra is just silly.

Oh, and let’s not forget the beastmasters: On the one hand, both models are sporting what may be my least favourite elven hairstyle. Still, it’s nice that they got their own, distinct look, with clothes made from tanned monster hide and all.

A final thought: Maybe those Hydra heads could at least be used as Alpha Legion ornaments? I don’t know…

 

Dreadspears/Darkshards/Bleakswords

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Phew, they really know how to motivate the Naggaroth citizens to join the Dark Elf armed forces with those unit names alone, don’t they?
Anyway, these will bascially be the main troops for any Dark Elf army, so it’s clear that this is a pretty important kit.

And GW has really managed to deliver with these: From a visual standpoint, the models  are a definite callback to the older metal warriors, and for me at least, they are everything you could ask of Dark Elf soldiers: They are clearly identifiable as evil, pointy gitz, yet they retain the discipline and sinister elegance that defines the elves.

The one problem I have with these is that, from a converter’s point of view, you lose a lot of flexibility with this kit: All the bodies and heads are single piece, with only the hands and some doodads left as separate bitz. That means they don’t exactly lend themselves all that well to expansive conversions.

In all fairness, though, players will probably need a lot of these guys, so flexibility in posing them is really less important than ease of assembly (and the ability to rank them up without a hitch). And it’s great that they have all the equipment options in the box this time around, giving you three possible regiment types:

Dark Elves release (14)

And while I certainly don’t hate the older plastic warriors – they were pretty cool for their time – it’s good that the new warriors’ proportions are now finally in tune with the Black Ark Corsairs and Cold One Knights (although those hands still seem to be a bit on the big side, if you ask me…).

One small thing that bugs me, though: Why is it that helmetless Dark Elves always have to default back to one of two pretty horrible hairstyles?

Dark Elves release (17)

However, all in all, these are just what you would ask of your most important troop choice. Good job all around, GW!

 

Witch Elves/Sisters of Slaughter

Dark Elves release (18)

While the Dreadspears were the obligatory part, these girls are the freestyle performance, so to speak. And they are definitely the stars of the show for me for a number of reasons, but we’ll be getting to that in a minute.

First of all , these are also very much a callback to the 90s’ metal Witch Elves — the colour of the hair in the official ‘Eavy Metal paintjobs couldn’t be any more telling… The fact that these are plastic now means we get some much cooler poses, and these ladies really excel at dynamism!

And to address the elephant in the room: Yes, these models are clearly on the more stripperific side, but GW at least clearly resisted the temptation of making them too busty.  And in contrast with some of the recent High Elves (yes, I am looking at you, Sisters of Avelorn!), at least these gals really look feminine enough to actually pass for females!

Dark Elves release (19)

The alternate option for the kit is to assemble some Sisters of Slaughter, and this is where things really gets interesting:

Dark Elves release (20)

With their sinister facemasks and whips made from hair, these models are quite different from the Witch Elves while using the same bodies and poses. They would also make for excellent Wyches, Death Cultists or, indeed, Slaaneshi cultists, if you ask me. Or you could even kitbash them with some Daemonettes for very interesting results…

The one little thing I really don’t like about the kit is the awkward pose of the musician:

Dark Elves release (21)

Seems like she has to coordinate some rather complex actions there…

Apart from this one small gripe, this is clearly my favourite part of this release, and as soon as I had seen this kit, I was pretty sure that I would pick up one just for the heck of it.

And then I saw the price tag.

Wow. Just wow. 45 Euros for ten of those? No matter how many bitz you get, that is a bit of a ripoff. Sure, I can see how one of the big kits would cost that much. But ten – rather small – infantry models? I don’t want to keep ranting about GW’s prices, believe me, but it’s really a shame they took what is probably the most interesting kit of this whole release and priced it like that. I mean, that’s almost a hundred Euros for a decent sized regiment of these girls. And even for a huge plastic crack enthusiast such as myself, that seems a bit much…

 

Shadowblade

Dark Elves release (22)

And finally, the one new character so far — and the model’s plastic — yay! The standout parts of the model are the highly dynamic pose and the impressive cape flowing behind it. This last part is very obviously GD painter bait, if you ask me…
What’s really cool is that the way Shadowblade is posed on his base means that you’ll be able to almost pose him above his designated target — only a fun little detail, of course, but I still like it. My main gripe with the model is that it seems little devoid of personality, although I guess that is pretty much the whole point of the exercise in this case.

Let me also say that Dark Eldar players could be looking at a pretty cool base model for a counts as Kheradruakh here…

 

Conversion potential

Another thing this release excels at is the amount of conversion potential it brings:

First up, most of the new stuff will prove immensely useful to Dark Eldar players, obviously. The Death Hag or Crone Hellebron would make for awesome female Dark Eldar commanders. The Witch Elves are brilliant alternate Wyches. And the Sisters of Slaughter would be a very interesting and equally sinister way of representing Wyches in a Haemonculi Coven themed army. But all of this seems pretty obvious.

An even more interesting option would be to use parts from the Dreadspears and/or Witch Elves to build more sinister Eldar Guardians, either for use in an Ulthwé army, or in a mixed force of allied Eldar an Dark Eldar. And, like I said earlier, that Khaine statue would make for a fantastic, if sinister, Avatar.

All in all, for fans of the pointy eared armies, the options for creative kitbashing are really endless here.

But worshippers of chaos should also find a lot to like about this release: Many of the models would look great in a WFB or 40k army dedicated to Slaanesh: From the serpentine Bloodwrack Medusa to the daemon masked Sisters of Slaughter, there are all kinds of options (with the one for alternate cultists maybe the most interesting, if also most expensive one).

And finally, INQ28 aficionados should also take a close look at this release: They’ll find ample material for several varieties of cultists and some of the best female GW models to date — always a challenge for every fan of Inquisitor played at the 28mm scale!

 

As you will have gleaned from my enthusiasm for the models so far, I think that this is a very strong release with only very minor design slipups. My main point of contention isn’t even the horrible War Hydra model, but rather the pricing on the Witch Elves — it doesn’t even seem to fit the rest of the model range at all. Apart from that, though, it’s plain to see that the GW designers have poured lots of attention into this complete redesign.

So, the final question remains: Is this a redesign on par with the fabled 2010 relaunch of the Dark Eldar? It seems official now that the new Dark Elves will be released in two waves, and with leaked pictures of the next slew of kits already making their rounds all over the internet, I think it’s fair to say that, yes, this is a redesign every bit as involved as that of the Dark Eldar. I, for one, am very much looking forward to next month already! Will I begin a Dark Elf army now? No, I do have that much impulse control at least. But my dark and forbidden love for the Druchii will fester, and who can say what will happen?

 

So much for my take on the new models, but what do you think? Do you like the new designs as much as I do? Are you already contemplating all kinds of crazy conversions? Or do you feel completely differently about this release? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

13 Responses to “Spiky pointy people – a look at the new Dark Elves”

  1. I was going to write this up but you were so thorough and in depth that I got more from your article than my own initial take on the new releases. Thank you for writing this!

    • Cheers, TJ! Didn’t want to steal your thunder there, sorry! 🙂 That said, would this be interesting to the readers over at DFG as well? If so, we could repost it over there, as Aasfresser suggested.

  2. Aasfresser Says:

    I have to admit, the part of an WHFB release I’m looking the most forward to is your “conversion summary”. Well you can extend this to all armies releases I don’t play. I really enjoy it. You really should repost this on GWFW or at Dark Future Games. Seriously.
    When I first saw the Kharybdiss I thought: Wow, those Heads would make a nice Tzeentch GD/DP conversion. This Faceless/Shapeless sinde of the Changer of Ways is the part I like the most about him. Like a little lovechild of Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth.

    • Cheers, mate! Glad you like those articles of mine. To tell you the truth, writing down my thoughts on the new kits like that actually manages to give me all kinds of conversion ideas that I wouldn’t have otherwise, so it is quite a lot of fun, even if it can be hard work 😉 Regarding reposting this on DFG, let’s see what TJ has to say on that.

      When it comes to the Kharybdiss, you’re right, the Tzeentchian look is there, if you know where to look.

  3. I was thinking of grabbing the upper half of the charybdis and making it into a soul grinder.

    • Aasfresser Says:

      Or a forgefiend, but one would have to swap the body with the Necrosphinxbody. Would look so nice.

  4. Definately a fan of the release, but unlike you, i really, really dislike the Cauldron of blood. It looks like stairs from a pricey hotel, and the model is so long, you can’t even consider adding anything in front or behind hit, and i guess we’ll end up having all kind of problem when in CC to have it fit in front of your ennemy unit without knocking half his unit.

    On the wyches, i didnt like their hair style at first, but slowly growing on me. The color they used on those pictures (the hot pink with white hair) definately gives idea on what to do with those very big 90s hairstyle.

    And its funny, i see alot of people playing Dark Elf saying that Wyches from Dark Eldar would be a better option than WHFB Wyches because of the price… WHFB wyches in 40k and vince versa? funny.

    • Cheers, man. Like I said, I did get the “show stairs” impression as well, although I think it fits the theatrical side of the Dark Elves. Regarding the Witch Elves: DE Wyches might be cheaper, and they are a great kit in their own right, but I think they are too futuristic (and slightly too muscular in places) to be a good replacement for the beautiful new Witch Elves. If you want your army to look great, you’ll have to cough up the dough — business as usual… 😉

  5. I agree with most of your points. It is wonderful to have nice witch elves, ones that harken back to 4th edition’s metal themed ones. Their poses are excellent (although because they are so distinctive it will be easy to spot duplicates; but with the price tag you probably will only ever buy a box or two, ha ha).

    I think the Dreadspears were a huge missed opportunity, and the kit I was probably looking forward to the most. While much better then the old kit, they still suffer from most of the same problems. Huge hands and ridiculous spears so large they make little sense. And I would rather not even talk about the faces… I suppose the paint job is part of the reason they looks so bad, but still for a unit you need a lot of, I do not really think I would want any. I feel they completely lack subtlety.

    I think the Medusa will be a fantastic conversion opportunity for Slaanesh cults, we have been waiting for a good snake for a long while 🙂

    I agree that this release is similar to the great Dark Eldar release years back, but feel it falls far short of it. The Dark Eldar release was filled with all great kits, all reasonably priced, not succumbing to making large over the top kits to attract attention. This release is filled with largely good models with a few great ones, most with ridiculous prices, and models so large you can hardly transport them. The Dark Eldar all had interchangeable parts all scaled properly (since Goodwin made almost all of them). I do not want to seem too negative, because I am really excited to get some of these models and try some conversions, but I was just a little bit let down by them.

    • Hmm, you may want to check out the leaked pictures for the second half of this release over on Dakka. I think the kits that are yet to come, combined with this month’s release, makes for a pretty astounding package that is very much on par with the Dark Eldar release of 2010.

      And while I think the lack of poseability is a disadvantage of the new warriors, I cannot really fault their look: They look exactly like I would want my Dark Elf warriors.

  6. […] A blog about KrautScientist's wargaming exploits « Spiky pointy people – a look at the new Dark Elves […]

  7. […] one year after a sizeable High Elves release and about eight months after a rather spectacular relaunch/redesign of the Dark Elves, the Wood Elves are the final elven faction in WFB to receive an update. And after many fears that […]

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