Knives in the night – Dave takes a look at the new Dark Elf book

So, now the dust has settled on the Dark Elf release and I’ve had a chance to mull over the book, let’s take a look at my thoughts on this shall we? It’s no secret that Dark Elves are my first wargaming love. The Adeptus Astartes may have been my first army, but my word, Dark Elves were the first army I ever got really excited about. Normally, I think Elves in fantasy are a bit lame – with a few notable exceptions, they are written as too pretty, too good and just too damn perfect. Not so the Dark Elves. Here was a race that was proud and arrogant and massively flawed. That was interesting.

As you probably already know, I recently spent a good year or so building up my 4000pt Dark Elf army, the High House Of Chains, and carefully crafting a huge background for them. This was all based on the old 7th ed army book and to be honest I was a little worried about the new 8th ed book and where it would take them. Despite GW’s claims that 8th ed was going to be about large blocks of troops and not the hero/monster hammer of previous editions, the more recent army releases had all been heading that way. High Elves were the worst example of this to my eyes – core units desperately in need of redoing, and already a mass of characters and elite units – what did GW release? Another 2 monsters (taking the total available to 7 monsters in one army…), another 3 characters (including a pretty hench combat/magic caster) and a brand new elite unit (ok, the archer ladies were pretty cool). Oh, and a fucking ridiculous flying chariot that looked shit and had the worst fluff justification I had ever seen.

That, coupled with the rumours I had heard about the Dark Elf release – multiple monsters, because every Dark Elf army is a Beastmaster party from Clar Karond – and an emphasis on Khainite stuff, worried me.

Then the new book dropped.

And the new models.

And by god, I loved GW all over again.

Lets take a look at the book in sections – the good and the bad.

Fluff/Background

Ok, the good first – loads of extra background about the city-states and how they are governed, how they look etc. Every unit got a bit more love. The characters are pretty rounded out. In particular, both Morathi and Malekith get a lot more depth and personality – Malekith even gets laid, so kudos to that burned up armoured crazy man. Seriously though, the extra background is pretty damn good and gives a lot more depth to the Druchii than they had before – no longer just the emo-stab elves, they have a proper culture and aim.

My favourite bits were the expansion of the Druchii pantheon, the extra little gods and goddesses are very cool. And Malekith. Man, giving him a wife just added so much more to him as a character – a whole lot more depth and flavour and a proper sense of how the Druchii screw each other up – thanks to his mum.

Something I didn’t like however was the sudden shoe-horning in of Slaanesh laying claim to all Elven souls, like some fat kid taking all the cake at a birthday party. No previous mention of it, or justification, just a sudden BOOM Slaanesh uses Elves as sex toys. Way to force a link between Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40k gents. Good work.

Overall, it’s a thumbs up from the Warbastards resident fluff-nazi. The book looks gorgeous as well, the artwork is generally very nice and the high point being an expanded map with about 156846250% more detail on it than before.

The Models

New core you say? Wonderful. Three options in one box you say? Great. They look nice, but not nice enough to make me replace the 70-odd I’ve already done.

Plastic Witch Elves – nice, very nice. My one gripe is the silly jumping around and standing on stuff. The Sisters of Slaughter alternatives look fucking terrible though. And the price is quite frankly ridiculous and smacks of pure profiteering on GWs part. They know people want plastic Witch Elves and they know people will take them as core. The issue is the £35 price tag. For a unit of 30, the minimum you want really, that’s over a hundred quid.

That’s fucking silly.

The hydra is ok, nothing special – the Kharybdiss is much nicer looking but so bad rules-wise that the Hydra is the sensible choice. The pointless handlers that come with the kit are pretty bad though.

The Corsair fleetmaster is nothing special, as is the Beastmaster lord – though his chariot does look nice.

Dual Executioners/Black Guard is a nice idea – the Executioners have grown on me, their helms are particularly nice, but the Black Guard lack something in my eyes.

Shadowblade is a nice model, but very over the top – someone wants to be a Rackham sculptor I think. Also, more stupid Elven ruins everywhere – do the Druchii take that shit everywhere with them?

The dual Cauldron of Blood/Bloodwrack Shrine is lovely. I would never get one, but my word it is lovely. I’ve never been a fan of the bit dual kits like the Mortis Throne etc, but this one is something special.

Finally, the Dark Riders and Doomfire Warlocks are very nice – so much so that I will be dumping my conversions and getting some. My only issue is the horses, the random armour just doesn’t fit for Fast Cavalry.

The Rules.

My fucking word.

Lets start with the obvious – Always Strikes First and high Int, coupled with Murderous Prowess is sickening. So much better than Hatred, as it works every damn turn. Just crazy good.

Dark Magic is horrendous as well – two signature spells, a lore attribute that is horrible and spells that have a mid-range casting value, which you get +1 to casting? Way to stack the boat guys. Incidentally, allowing Druchii mages to access every lore in the basic book is a nice touch and offers up a lot more options as well in-game.

I’m sad to see that GW are doing away with all the cool little magic items that each army used to have in favour of a handful of higher-priced uber-items. Having said that……the majority are actually pretty nice. In particular the Cloak Of Twilight has become a favourite of mine – killing blow and d3 wounds on the first round of every combat? Yes please. During my second test game, my Dreadlord smashed out 11 wounds on one poor Vampire Thrall using that item. You can’t see, but I’m flexing like a fratboy at you right now because of that.

Unit-wise, the Hydra is a no-brainer – cheaper than before, but much tougher and stronger, it’s hard to see why anyone wouldn’t take it. Also, why the fuck give it its own version of regen, and not just the basic Regen? Way to keep things simple.

Witch-elves as core are great – easily see them being the tourney favourite with a Mind-razor spamming mage making them truly gross. Lots of Khainite armies around now I think, especially with the Cauldron working so well.

The only duff units I see in there are the Harpies and Scourgerunner chariots – fighting for a place in an already bloated special unit section. Also the Kharbydiss, which while looking cool and being pretty decent, just gets overshadowed entirely by the Hydra.

A quick word on the characters – Malekith, Morathi and Hellebrone are all awesome and massively good, though Hellebrone will fold like a cheap napkin if you can weather her 5-7 s10 attacks. The Corsair and Beastmaster lord choices are pretty fucking pointless though, the Fleetmaster in particular – bonus rules for being in a challenge? Great. Only 50pts to spend on magic items on a s4 t3 character with a 4+ save? Er….how does that work again?

Assassins have also taken a hefty nerf, which is fair enough, they were pretty OP in the last book – now they are a nice buff to a unit and a potential low-level character killer.

So overall, I like the new book. Is it another example of codex-creep and heavily biased towards a certain type of army? Oh God yes. Are the prices of the models just fucking silly? Course they are, it’s GW. Are there just way too many special rules to remember? Yep – in two games , I totally forgot my Lore Attribute, despite rolling enough to hit it off on damn near every casting roll.

But I’m biased. I love Dark Elves and always well. The new book makes me very happy and even with my hamstrung-fluff-list that ignores the more obvious game-winning units, the House Of Chains still hits hard. So does the new book work for me?

Oh. Fuck. Yes.

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  • I have to respectfully disagree on your assessment of the Hydra and Kharybdiss.

    The Kharybdiss is the superior monster because:

    a) the Hydra’s regrowth ability is not very good. It only triggers at the end of your turn, meaning that a clever opponent has the whole of their turn and yours to kill it before it can regenerate. This means their magic and shooting or their combat phase, possibly a stand-and-shoot and your combat phase. If it is attacked piecemeal, it might get to regrow but a concentrated effort will see it die before that. Therefore, I would not rate its defensive abilities higher than they of the Kharybdiss.

    b) It is WS 4 and Ini 2. In other words, it will hit anyone but chaff on a 4+ and anything but Ogres, Dwarves and Orcs will strike before it, thereby reducing its number of attacks, further reducing the number of hits. The Kharybdiss is WS 5 and Ini 4, so it can actually strike before or simultaneously with most units and especially monsters. Likewise, WS5 means that monsters such as Griffins or Manticores only hit it on 4s, thus improving its survivability.

    c) The Kharybdiss has to compete with the weaker Rare slot, where only the Warlocks, at a paltry 125 points a unit are really competing with it. The Hydra shares its slot (albeit one that can be taken with double the points of Rare) with Executioners, Shades, Reapers and Black Guard, to name but a few.

    d) The Kharybdiss is Strength 7, thus denying all but magically-enhanced infantry and monster their armour save, as well as dropping even 1+ units to a 5+. Furthermore, it gets some free wounds with its poison (no need to wound on a 6 and thus no chance of rolling a 1) and thunderstomps on 7 too. The Hydra’s strength 5 is horrible against other monsters and even just toughness 4 infantry, let alone really tough infantry like Ironguts, Ironbreakers or Chaos Warriors where it just fails to do more than a couple of points of damage.

    e) As both of them rely on combo charges with other units to survive combat against regular units (though I think the argument above show that a Kharybdiss can take on monsters on its own), you need to take into account what they bring into that combat beyond their attacks and the only thing the Hydra brings is Terror and thus a slight chance of a failed Ld Check, what with anyone and their mum having a BSB and Ld 10 generals with Standard of Discipline. The Kharybdiss’ Abyssal Howl vastly improves the odds of a failed Fear check in combat and thus increases your own troops’ chances to hit and your opponent’s chances to miss. This is better synergy than the Hydra.

    f) On the other hand, a Hydra can get a Breath Weapon, though the Strength might be disappointing by the time it can use it.

    • Dave

      Hi Cthoss – thanks for taking the time to read this article and reply, it’s much appreciated.

      You make some damn fine points regarding the Kharybdiss – the higher strength, initiative and ws are all pluses, and I agree that it makes a fine monster hunter, especially with its extra attacks special rule. I’ll be honest, our groups regular armies don’t field a huge amount of monsters so I haven’t had a chance to field the Kharybdiss against one of those yet, but I reckon it would punch its weight. Big blocks of troops is where we are usually at here, and that’s where the Hydra excels with the attacks, thunderstomp and breath weapon.

      My reasoning on the Hydra comes down to the regaining wounds – its a better chance (4+) than the BRB Regen (5+) and can be used every turn to regain wounds lost in earlier turns. For my money, that is a touch better than the standard regen. I take your point about concentrated attacks taking it out in one turn, but the same would happen to the Kharbydiss, and to the old regenerating Hydra. Being able to swing yourself back up to full wounds 2 or 3 turns after loosing some is a massive bonus.

      Your points about the synergy and the slot competition are great though – totally didn’t take that into consideration, so kudos for those.

      All in all, you’ve convinced me to try out the Kharybdiss and see how it fairs – I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂

      Thanks again,
      Dave