Another day in the flesh pits – a look at the 2014 Dark Eldar release

The 2010 Dark Eldar release was possibly one of the most spectacular GW releases ever. After basically fumbling every attempt at handling the Dark Eldar for over a decade, GW managed to entirely redesign an entire army, putting it on the map as one of the most beautiful and visually arresting factions in 40k, while also keeping all that had been cool about the army to begin with. Whatever they pay Jes Goodwin over at GW, it cannot possibly ever be enough…

The release also brought me back to the hobby, albeit in a rather roundabout way — Dark Eldar had been my first 40k army, after all! And even though I eventually settled on revisiting my World Eaters instead, it was the first look at the new Dark Eldar that rekindled my interest in little plastic men — the release was just that good!

All of this makes for a pretty tough act to follow, yet here we are, four years later, with another helping of Dark Eldar. In all fairness, this release doesn’t constitute another dramatic revamp, but rather serves to fill out the existing army with some of the kits yet missing from the lineup. But it is may just be the curse of the Dark Eldar now that any release will always be compared to that legendary offering of ’10.

Dark Eldar release 2014 (1)

This release also brings a new Codex — which, by the look of it, already gets hotly debated all over the internet. But instead of shouting over the din, let’s rather focus on the models, because we’re all here for the plastic crack anyway, right? πŸ˜‰

So, as has become a treasured custom here at Eternal Hunt, allow me to walk you through the various parts of this release and to share my impressions about the models as well as a couple of ideas for possible kitbashes and conversions. Here goes:

 

Voidraven Bomber

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This kit seems to be marketed as the big thing about this release — and indeed, DE players have been without a kit to represent the bigger of their two fliers for the last four years. Here it is now, the Voidraven — quite a beast!

Probably the biggest pitfall for GW’s designers to avoid was the danger of ending up with a model looking like a bigger version of the Razorwing, and they seem to have been very aware of this particular problem. Because, while the Voidraven clearly takes quite a few design cues from its smaller brother, it is still immediately recognisable as its own thing. This is mostly due to its “double cockpit”, and element that manages to give it a very distinct look and silhouette, while also immediately communicating the idea that this is a bomber rather than a quick fighter aircraft. Plus the model’s silhouette also recalls real-world cutting edge bombers, only with a serrated, sinister twist:

Dark Eldar release 2014 (4)In any case, the cockpit not only defines the model’s silhouette, but also serves as one of its key visual features: I really like the idea of the gunner being surrounded by glass panes, the better to see his enemies at all times. The HUD elements molded into the clear plastic canopy have appeared on other (Dark) Eldar vehicles before, but are really taken up to eleven here: I love it as a concept, although I’d probably suffer a heart attack if I actually had to paint these finicky details πŸ˜‰

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The rest of the model basically adheres to the design cues laid down by the Razorwing: This is very obviously a vicious looking, serrated Dark Eldar aircraft — no doubt about it.

The model also comes with the results of GW’s attempt at designing an evil looking bomb — and boy did they succeed with that! By adding a hideous, organic spine to the thing, it really ended up looking quite disturbing: You don’t want that thing anywhere near or army — or, for that matter, yourself:

Dark Eldar release 2014 (6)
You better believe that this is one dirty bomb! Just look at the thing!

It’s certainly a great kit, all in all, and if it fails to utterly blow me away, then that is not due to lack of quality, but rather due to my general lack of interest in vehicles. Moving on.

 

Dark Eldar Wracks

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Okay, this is where it gets far more interesting: When the Wracks were first released as during the second wave of the Dark Eldar revamp, GW finally delivered on the torturer archetype they had introduced with the Grotesques over a decade earlier. We all know what came next: The Grotesques were promoted to rather more monstrous creatures, while the newly created Wracks moved into the Grotesque slot — but the important part was that the new Wrack models were truly glorious! The only caveat to these models was that they were only available in Finecast.

Well, no longer, because enterprising sadists and torturers all over thh Webway are now free to field the glorious new plastic Wracks.

Apart from the material, the Wracks‘ design was already pretty much perfect as it was, so Steve Buddle made a good call by basically re-envisioning the existing models as a more versatile plastic kit without changing the overall aesthetics. He also added a ton of customisation options along the way, creating what may just be my new favourite Dark Eldar infantry kit. I mean, just look at these guys:

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Maybe my favourite part about the models are the slowly advancig legs: While the Wracks certainly share some of the other Dark Eldar’s elegance, their poses make it clear that they slowly but purposefully stride forward, making them all the more sinister and threatening!

Some of the weapons are also truly something to behold: I really love the hideous, curved twin blades held by the Acothyst in this picture:

Dark Eldar release 2014 (12)Or the creepily sinister scissor hand that also comes with the kit:

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Of course, there is a bit of silliness as well: One of the heads in the kit has a little friend:

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But even if you – like me – are not a big fan of this particular element, it’s all cool! The kit has so many heads and weapons that you can get rid of whatever you don’t like! Speaking of extra bitz, GW even included some additional bitz to make sure your vehicles could be piloted by Wracks as well:

Dark Eldar release 2014 (13)Although I suppose driving (or hitting anything) with those maks on must be quite a daunting task…

Seriously, though: The kit seems to be a great toybox that allows you to tailor your own wracks to your needs and aesthetic preferences! I only have two minor issues with the kit:

One, the transfer to plastic and modularity of the kit creates a new problem too: The arms of the models can now end up having a slightly tacked-on look. This is only a minor problem, and one that should be easy enough to address by carefully aligning the arms and sanding off a bit of plastic where necessary — and this problem is merely the price of poseability.

The second concern is the amount of models you get: The Wrack kit certainly fills a role similar to that of the Kabalite Warrior and Wych kits, yet it only gives you five models, compared to the ten that come with the other kits. Maybe that’s the price for the amount of options you get, but at the end of the day, it could be seen as a bit less bang for the buck.

But those are really minor quibbles! All things considered, it’s really awesome to have three distinct kinds of foot soldiers for a DE army now, with each of the kits following the same system and being fully compatible.Β  And the Wracks provide a great kit, chock full of conversion options — definitely the high point of the release for me!

 

We also get three new plastic HQ models, with each of them serving as one of the Dark Eldar generic HQ options, so let’s take a closer look at those as well:

 

Dark Eldar Haemonculus

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The Haemonculi have always owed a huge debt of inspiration to Clive Barker’s Cenobites, and the new plastic Haemonculus makes the visual connection even more obvious, in some ways (just check out the way his cloak seems to be sewn to his very chest). At the same time, the model also seems to serve as a remix of several elements already seen on earlier models: The sewn on face and weapons seem rather reminsicent of Urien Rakarth, for example.

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At the same time, the new Haemonculus seems somewhat more flamboyant, for lack of a better word, than his Finecast predecessor: He has more bare skin on show, for one, and there’s the flowing hair. To be honest, I did prefer the slim, leather-clad form of the Finecast Haemonculus to this new guy, but that may just be a matter of preference. And in any case, the Urien Rakarth model still hews pretty close to that design, while the new plastic model seems to represent a slightly different kind of “artist”. So while I personally prefer the older model, the added variety is still appreciated!

There are still one or two areas about the model I am not completely sold on, however. The way the skin-cloak falls seems a little messy when compared to the overall composition of the model. And the curved dagger seems surprisingly clunky when compared to some of the rather disturbing surgical implements wielded by the Haemonculus.

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A look at the sprue reveals that more involved conversions using this kit as a base would be slightly tricky, but certainly not impossible:

Dark Eldar release 2014 (17)All in all, it’s a solid model. If I am sounding slightly disappointed, that is mostly due to the fact that I had high hopes for the concept of a plastic Haemonculus and was looking forward to using it for a particular conversion project. As it stands, the new model is nice enough — but working with the Urien Rakarth model seems like the better way.

 

Dark Eldar Archon

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This guy replaces a model that was arguably one of the more iconic parts of the 2010 revamp: The Archon released along with that wave, with his daemon face helmet and hideously organic husk blade, really encapsulated the Dark Eldar’s visual change to a more baroque (and also more visceral) design.

When it comes to equipment and basic constituent parts, the new Archon model seems to mirror his predecessor pretty closely: We get the same basic armour design, almost the same weapons and also a cloak (although this one is made from tanned skin — nice touch…).

Let me address the elephant in the room right away: I think this new Archon model falls flat when compared to the earlier version, and that is mostly due to the pose. Oh, I certainly see what they were trying to do here — the Archon is shown in full magnificent bastard mode, and those arms are certainly a clever bit of engineering. No doubt about that.

But there are a couple of problems for me: First of all, the pose doesn’t look relaxed and natural, it looks like this guy is trying too hard. And what were they thinking when they added that rock to the base: That element makes the pigeon-toed stance even worse! And then there’s the face:

Dark Eldar release 2014 (19)
Again, I get the basic idea: The Archon is supposed to be wearing an arrogant smirk — but this guy just looks like a doofus, trying his darnedest to seem like a tough cookie.

The other problem with this pose and composition is that it gets really awkward once you end up with two of these in the same army or on the same table: Now you’ve got two of those prancing idiots facing off in a posing contest. What a horrible thought! Anyway, I think a generic HQ model might be better served with a slightly more neutral pose!

Now don’t get me wrong: There are parts of the model I really like: The stitched together skin cape, the trophy rack (why does it punch through the cape, though? That doesn’t make sense…) — those are great touches. But the pose and face really ruin the stock model for me — why on earth didn’t they include a helmeted head? The older version had two to choose from, for crying out loud…

The really good news is that all that is horrible about the model should be quite easily remedied by a bit of kitbashing: The Archon is advertised as being fully compatible with the different DE plastic kits, and a closer look at the sprue reveals that this is no understatement:

Dark Eldar release 2014 (20)
It looks like the arms could simply be swapped out for basically any DE arm in existence. The head, likewise, would be easy enough to replace (and good riddance!). As a matter of fact, it might even be possible to replace the legs with a regular set of Kabalite Warrior or Wych legs.

So, all’s well that ends well, then? Yes and no: As a stockΒ  model, the Archon is the worst part of the release for me. It’s also a pretty poor replacement for the 2010 Archon. It can be used as a base for a great Archon model, no doubt about that. But one could argue that it’s equally possible to kitbash an awesome Archon without this kit altogether. Just off the top of my head, Picta Mortis’ amazing Archon conversion is far more awesome, and it doesn’t use a single component from the new model.

One last thing that strikes me as slightly odd: This new Archon seems to be designed to look very similar to the guy depicted on the 2010 edition of the codex while the new codex shows a character who is the spitting image of …the 2010 Archon model — is that some kind of hidden message or trolling on GW’s part?

 

Dark Eldar Succubus

Dark Eldar release 2014 (21)
Okay, now we’re talking! Like the Archon, the new plastic Succubus seems to be a re-envisioning of its earlier Finecast version, but the transition ended up beeing a much smoother one with this lady! I love the fact that the model is now pictured in running pose (which seems more apt for a Wych), and several flowing elements about the model support the sense of movement and dynamism.

Dark Eldar release 2014 (22)
I have to say I also really like the glaive!

At the same time, the model shares the Archon’s flexibility, so swapping in a new head or alternate arms would be really easy, as a look at the sprue reveals:

Dark Eldar release 2014 (24)
All in all, the new plastic Succubus may not be a revolutionary revamp: Rather a re-envisioning of the earlier model that actually manages to improve on the original — at least in my opinion. Good job!

 

Conversion options:

No review on this blog would be complete without a look at the conversion options that the new kits bring, so let’s get right down to it:

Dark Eldar players are obviously the big winners, because they now have even more highly versatile plastic kits at their disposal: Almost the entire army is available in plastic now, with all of the kits perfectly in line with the current design, and all of them fully compatible and, in some cases, interlocking. Not only does this make the Dark Eldar one of the most stunning armies from a visual standpoint, it also pretty much turns them into a kitbasher’s dream! So yeah, good for you, Dark Eldar players! πŸ˜‰

Looking beyond this army, however, there are certainly quite a few areas where some of the new kits could become pretty useful as well:

The Wracks are very much the jack-of-all-trades in this respect: For instance, they could be used as a wide variety of different cultists, among them Death cultists (or rather, torture cultists, as it were) Imperial traitors, renegade medics (!), Slaaneshi cultists — the sky is really the limit here! All it takes is some shaving down of the DE-like characteristics and some external bitz, and you’re golden! In fact, these could even become a very interesting base for very sinister Genestealer cultists with a bit of work — just sayin’…

But the forces of the Imperium may also profit from these: Just imagine an added brass etch =][= added on top of the wrack’s facemask, and you have a pretty serviceable Inquisitorial torturer! In fact, I think we can be fairly confident that the enterprising INQ28 scene will come up with all kinds of uses for these bad boys.

One last idea: Imagine a radical Genetor of the Adeptus Mechanicus, having made a name for himself as an expert flesh-crafter. Or even a Heretek of the Dark Mechanicus pursuing a similar career: Maybe some suitably twisted followers of these magi could also be built using the Wrack kit? Interesting thought, isn’t it?

The Haemonculus seems nearly as interesting for conversions: Like the Wracks, he could be turned into a flesh-crafting member of the Dark Mechanicus with a couple of changes. The dangling feet also remind me of a Daemonhost — or a rogue Psyker for a force of Traitor Guard, or as a character in games of INQ28 — once again, I am pretty sure that the INQ28 scene won’t disappoint when it comes to finding creative uses for this guy!

And, finally, the Succubus seems like an interesting base model as well. Maybe she could be turned into a lithe Imperial assassin? A Death Cultist? Or an Inquisitor’s beautiful and deadly operative? Again, due to the models being avaiable in plastic, it should only take a bit of kitbashing and a small cut here and there to truly change their overall look!

 

So, what’s the verdict about this release? All in all, I am inclined to call it a solid offering. This certainly doesn’t revolutionise the Dark Eldar catalogue like the prior release, but that was never the point. Rather, this release builds on the fantastic foundation laid down by the 2010 redesign and fills out a some of the few remaining gaps in the army’s catalogue.

Speaking of which, some of the gaps that still remain are maybe my biggest gripe with this release: Sure, I would have loved to see an Inccubi/Trueborn combi-kit in glorious plastic — but the Wracks were really the more essential infantry kit to be released. So far so good. But no model for Asdrubael Vect? Or any other of the named characters? That seems like a bit of a missed opportunity, especially since most of these characters have been dropped from the codex altogether! I mean, Dark Eldar players have gone without a model for Keradruakh for more than 15 years — why drop him now?

Even if some (any) of these characters should eventually get patched back into the army via an additional supplement, this does seem like a bit of a dick move on GW’s part. But I guess hobbyists can just never be happy, myself included πŸ˜‰

 

Again, this seems like a solid, middle of the road release. But that’s just my take on it: How do you feel about the new Dark Eldar? Any opinions you’d like to share? Any conversion idea? I’d be happy to hear from you in the comments section!

As always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

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14 Responses to “Another day in the flesh pits – a look at the 2014 Dark Eldar release”

  1. It pleases me to see that you like the older Haemonculus as well! I’m really going to miss him and can’t really decide if I should open the last one I got or not!

    Also, spot on on the Archon. The older model looked a lot more detached with the hidden face, this one looks as if it got a sudden strike of diarrhea during a photoshoot and is asking the cameraman to make it quick or something… oh well, better get used to it huh?

    While it was difficult for me to picture your conversion ideas, I’m looking forward to seeing your work with them, if you ever decide to do so!

    • Cheers, mate!

      Well, I’ll admit to being even weirder than you in that I am still a huge fan of the very first Haemonculi πŸ˜‰

      Regarding your remark about some of the conversion ideas being a bit far out, I think we can look forward to the INQ28 scene having a field day with some of these kits — and then, all shall become clear πŸ˜‰

  2. Astute as ever Kraut Scientist.

  3. Great overview of the new models. I was not a fan of the new archon model…as I really loved the original. The New succubus though is awesome! And the bomber reminds me of an SR-71…So lovely.

    • Cheers, greggles: Yeah, making that Voidraven reminiscent of an actual real world bomber while also being absolutely believable as a 40k vehicle is a pretty nifty touch, isn’t it? πŸ™‚

  4. A great review, as always. You are dead right about the Dark Eldar now being one of the most visually consistent and striking armies. They are beautiful.

    Now, the Archon. I’m going to be controversial here and say it’s my favourite part of this release (the bomber is a very close second). I understand why you may not like such a static pose but that’s what I like it. The DE are dynamic; the Wyches are all running, the Warriors are poised to blast away and even the new Wracks are in some cases advancing. This Archon will now stand out in the army. A solid, calm point in an army of advancing killers.

    My feeling is that if you constructed him with his arms down against his body more he’d be less awkward. And the head would be fine with another paint job — the ‘Eavy Metal one is too hash in its shading. Again, it’s nice to have something different to the Jes-style heads of the rest of the army.

    Overall I think it will work really well as a point of juxtaposition, of visual interest. Damn, now I want to paint one.

    • Hmm, you raise a good point about the Archon offering a visual counterpoint when compared with the rest of the army. But the pose still seems awkward to me — I think there would have been a middle-ground between dynamism and a threatening, static pose (with the legs spread a bit further apart, preferably). And while I totally agree about the arms, they should really have designed them in a more neutral pose to begin with: Having the arms folded across the model’s chest like that on a single model is a neat touch. But having it as the standard pose on a stock model just seems needlessly gimmicky to me.

      That said, the one, slightly sub-par model certainly doesn’t change my appreciation for the army in general. And like I said, it’s certainly possible to build a cool Archon from that kit — but building an equally cool Archon without the kit seems just as feasible, making this new model feel slightly redundant…

    • Something that comes immediately to mind, when reading these lovely discussions…is that seeing a model in 2D and seeing it in 3D are two entirely different experiences.

      There has been a number of GW models that I have absolutely hated in photos. Then I see them on the tabletop, with a non avy metal paint scheme, and suddenly they look absolutely lovely.

      The stormwolf flyer is one of these types of models. Looks all awkward and unwieldy in photos. Looks pretty awesome in person. (Grows on you FAST!)

      • Spot on! There is a huge difference these days between the images of something and the real thing. All of the models that the internets hates on seem to be real nice when you see them.

  5. @ greggles & Drone21c:

    Well, to be fair, reviewing models from afar cannot be an exact science for obvious reasons. And I am certainly the first to give a model another chance when seeing it firsthand. Plus I think I have a reasonably good track record of not bashing GW just for the heck of it. All of those considerations notwithstanding, however, the Archon model just doesn’t do it for me — sorry πŸ˜‰ That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the discussion, though — very much the opposite, in fact!

    • greggles Says:

      It wouldn’t be a discussion if we all had the same viewpoint. I in no way meant to denote a negative vibe in my additional response. Just wanted to point out my own experiences in terms with many miniatures. (not just GW ones).

      Case in point. My girl loves the standard squat imperial knights, hates the big giant tall ones. But has yet to see the tall ones in person. Could change her tune! (At nova she kept asking me why I “didn’t have one of those knight things”)

  6. To add a little to this interresting discussion, I think that the archon’s stance is a little akward too, but having seen the mini I’ll admit that it’s a pretty model nonetheless, in particular the head sculpt is not so bad. It must come from the painting that deserve the sculpt IMO!!

    I agree with Drone21c regarding his point of view concerning static lord vs dynamic troops… it could be a good bias to go with.

    Still I’m thinking that arm’s position have to be reworked! May try something with this model some day !!

    Anyway other models are pretty amazing and you sorted another well made review, Kraut, thank you, well done!!

    Keb.

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