Monday, 7 October 2013

Review: Dark Elves

This is something I wanted to do for a quite a while, but since I don't play HE or Lizardmen, I didn't get their books at release. I do however play Dark Elves, so here's my initial take on the new book in regards to the units, rules and army list. Things that are mostly unchanged are not mentioned.

Army Special Rules:
  • Not a fan of ASF, and really wish GW would have abolished that rule with the HE book earlier this year. The whole point with Elves is that they have high Init, so why add ASF on top of that? It's not really as if they need re-roll to Hit on every damn attack, as no other army has this kind of huge racial bonus.
  • Murderous Prowess allowing re-roll of 1's To Wound is nice, kinda prefer that over the old hatred, which felt rather "meh" as an army-wide rule. Good choice vs HE's Martial Prowess.
  • Eternal Hatred only applying to High Elves is fine, plays up their conflict more. However, this will rarely get used since they have ASF and high Init. already, further highlighting the issue with ASF.
  • Hekarti's Blessing is fine, giving the Sorceresses +1 to cast.
  • High Beastmasters are now a lord choice, and comes with a free Manticore or chariot. What's rather annoying and confusing is that you cannot field him on foot, despite the current available model and artwork shows him on foot. The name High Beastmaster is rather weird as well, seeing as there aren't any normal beastmasters to begin with! There's also no hero version, which is rather disappointing.
  • Fleetmaster is practically useless. Less attacks and WS than a Dreadlord, no equipment options or mounts, only 50 pts of magic items and more expensive. Why bother?
  • Assassins are characters again, though I don't really see them getting much use. At 90 pts, he does not get any ward saves unlike the Skaven Assassin, though he can buy magic items now. I will probably try them out, but doubt that they will become a mainstay unit.
  • Cauldron of Blood is still great, now giving a ward save to the unit it is in, and can cast a bound spell that gives a unit Frenzy or "super-frenzy". In addition, friendly units within 6"gets to re-roll all failed rolls to wound, similar to the Hurricanum.
Core Units:
  • Warriors are now divided into 3 units; Dreadspears, Bleakswords and Darkshards, costing 9, 9 and 12 pts respectively. A rather hefty, but needed, points increase. With ASF and Murderous Prowess, these guys are suddenly a lot more useful in combat. No real complaints here, though I don't think they should be allowed to take magic banners, they are just levy troops after all.
  • Corsairs are up 1pt, but also have a constant 4+ save now. Fairly balanced compared to the normal warriors.
  • Dark Riders are down in price and with cheaper x-bows to boot. You will probably see a lot more of these guys on the table from now on.
  • Witch Elves have moved to core for some reason, a choice I'm really not a fan of, despite owning close to 40 of them already. At only 1pt more than the previous edition, they are a lot better than past edition, and will most likely outclass all other infantry in the core section. Compared to corsairs, they gain +1A, ItP, and Poison, while losing the 4+ save, making them considerably better for the same price. Considering the slew of special rules that really makes them elite units, there's really no good reason for them to be moved to core. I'm guessing this was due to GW wanting to sell more of their new plastic kits rather than thoughtful game design.

Special Units:
  • Cold One Knights are more expensive, but also practically auto-wound on the charge now. The Cold Ones themselves have gained an extra attack as well. They should be really cost effective now despite their overall squishyness, will be interesting to try them out.
  • Black Guard are up 2 pts without gaining anything meaningful. Compared to the other choices, I fear these guys will be mostly overlooked from now on. Not a great move imo.
  • Executioners stayed the same, but with ASF they are considerably better, no longer striking last. Combining this with the Frenzy spell from the Cauldron and these guys can tear through almost anything. Yikes.
  • Bolt Throwers moved to special for some reason, a move I'm also not a fan of. It did drop a lot in price, so they should finally be worth taking now at least.
  • Harpies costs 15(!) pts now, 4 more than the old version, and are also a special choice. Fairly useless, in other words. Moving them to special would have been enough.
  • Scourgerunner Chariot is fairly interesting since it actually feel different from the Cold One, unlike most other chariot dual kits. It comes with a S7 bolt thrower (rather similar to the Hobgoblin War Wagon, interestingly enough) with bonuses against monsters. About the first time I'm actually glad to see 2 different chariot units in an army.
  • Hydra is even cheaper than before now, and have 8A by default. It did however, lose Hatred, Regen and the breath attacks (it's an upgrade now), and the attacks are dependent on the number of wounds. Its new version of regen is a huge improvement though, and hope they make something similar to the normal Regen rule in 9th ed. I really like the new rules, though putting it in the special section feels wrong, it fits much better as a rare choice.
Rare Units:
  • Doomfire Warlocks feels rather "meh". They are a good unit, but I'm not really a fan fluff-wise. They are another fast cavalry unit with poison and a 4+ ward that can also cast spells. They are pretty much an improved close-combat version of Dark Riders, but I don't really see them doing anything that couldn't be done already.
  • Bloodwrack Medusa (wonder if they read the Amazon book ;) is a really cool inclusion, but the solitary version really feels out of place here. As a single-model rare unit with no saves and T4, W3, I'd be surprised to see it survive even one turn against shooting or spells. At 90 pts, this is pretty much just free points for your opponent.
  • Kharibdyss, another inexpensive monster, it's very similar to the Hydra except is has more strength, less attacks, and poison. And no regen. It's not terrible by any means, but it doesn't really feel like it does anything the Hydra doesn't already. It can be used more as a support unit with it's anti-leadership rule and doesn't grow weaker as it loses wounds, but it still feels like a relatively unnecessary inclusion.
  • Bloodwrack Shrine is rather similar to the Cauldron, giving bonuses to the Dark Elves while debuffing the enemy. It has more offensive capabilities, but can not be included in another unit. Relatively interesting, but without any saves it can be destroyed by a single cannon ball without too much effort. The Cauldron is a lot better option for only 15 pts more imo, though it requires a Death Hag to operate it.
  • Sisters of Slaughter, another new unit, is actually a rather cool addition. With WS6 and A2 they are the most elite fighting unit in the army, even beating black guard, but they are only S3 and armed with hand weapons. Sporting a 4+ ward in close combat, they also gain bonuses against stronger or more skilled opponents so they are best used against lightly armoured elite enemy infantry, where they gain +1 to hit and to wound.
Conclusion: Giving the Dark Elves more of a Greek/Roman emphasis is definitely a step in the right direction with the inclusion of Gladiators and more mythological monsters. Aside from the army-wide ASF and a some less than great placements in the army list section (Witch Elves should be special as should Warlocks or Sisters, bolt throwers and hydra should be rare, and the medusa should be a hero imo), and some poor internal balancing, the new Dark Elf book does feel like a decent improvement for 8th ed, though I actually preferred the 7th ed book despite its cheesiness. While almost everything got better, it also become more expensive, and most of the insane magic combos are gone too. Though far from perfect, I think most Dark Elf players will still enjoy most of the changes and their opponents will hopefully curse them less.

  • Mostly good art and graphics.
  • More inspiration from Greek/Roman culture.
  • Better external balance.
  • Layout feels worse than previous 8th ed books.
  • Too many units are squeezed in on the same pages.
  • Worse internal balance.
Total: 3,5/5


  1. Lets be fair, this isn't a review of the book at all. It is simply what you like or do not like. A disappointing article.

    1. Uhm, that's kind of what a review is, a subjective opinion of a piece of work. In this case, I did it step by step regarding the new things in it, how they fit into the book, how they compare to the last version, and how I feel they have improved/worsened the book. What else did you expect?

    2. Mathias is totally right here.

      Actually the line "this isn't a review... it is simply what you like or do not like" is kind of funny.


      A very useful article. I miss the good old days when White Dwarf talked about the nerw rules instead of just saying how great the new miniatures are.

    3. Thanks, nice to hear more people liked it! Looking back, I could definitely have written it better though, which is something I will try to improve upon next time with more detail and thought :)

  2. I liked this article and agreed with M.E.

  3. can some one send me a PDF version of the army book?

  4. great job as usual, why GW doesn't hire you it's a mistery.