THE DARK ELVES
Fluff: 'The Druchii'
The Dark Elves are located in the north-western corner of the Warhammer world as far as the realms of men are concerned. Across the Great Ocean lies the Land of Chill Naggaroth; homeland of the Dark Elves or Druchii as they call themselves. For centuries the Druchii have endured within the Land of Chill and much like their new homeland over these centuries their hearts have turned to ice.
The Dark Elves are bitter, spiteful and find few joys outside the dominance of others. Murder, torture are mere playthings for the Druchii mind and they are firmly of the belief that they are above all other races. Betrayal can be common place, and no Druchii would give a second thought to killing a rival or removing someone in their way on the rise to power. As to Malekith, the ruler of the Dark Elves the Immortal Witch King sealed within his suit of armour, his eyes watch Ulthuan with a hatred above all of his kin. He has no doubt that he shall retake the lands that should be his, and with his ever present mother, the Hag Sorceress Queen Morathi, they plan their vengeance against the weakling Asur or the High Elves as they are known to man.
The Dark Elves have a society where all menial tasks are completed by slaves, be it those Druchii who have failed in their duty or the legions of mortals from lesser realms. A high percentage of the feared Druchii raids on city sized Black Arks that strike across the known world is to collect slaves, riches and food to maintain the lives of the Druchii nobility. People brought to the Land of Chill are broken beyond recognition, and serve their new masters as little more than mortal shells who daren't even dream of escape for what little time is left of their lives. With the lower tasks taken care of, the Druchii spend their long lives sharpening their skill with the blade, and using their wits to further their careers under the banner of the Witch King. While they take without thought or concern for the world, in Naggaroth the cities are ruled by Iron fists, with great Noble families demanding the respect of the other Druchii. In Naggarond no one dares whisper against the Witch King as he knows all that occurs within his realm. While in the infamous Har Ganeth Hellebron rules the cult of Khaine, her Witch Elves stalking the streets to sacrifice any they can find to the god of Murder on the yearly celebration of Death Night. They are a cruel people, forever it seems trapped within a cruel land they cannot escape. Their hatred burning bright, they travel the world bringing countless misery and grief to all they encounter.
Many voice that the Dark Elves have one of the most consistently great looking figure lines in Warhammer and have done for a long time. Many of the current metal elites where sculpted by the excellent Chris Fitzpatrick before he left the company a few years ago and still look really good today. However as one of the more recent armies to get an update, and due to the split release schedule now employed by GW, they are currently weak in the Plastics department when compared to some of the other Fantasy armies.
They do have a few plastic boxes though; I just feel they are lacking one or two more especially for conversion opportunities. The current Plastics are the Dark Elf Warriors box (16 models,) The Corsairs Box (10 models,) and the Cold One Knights box (5models.) The rest of the range is metal and even though their are generally more expensive pts wise than say a Empire army so you would need less overall troops, they are quite a bit dearer at the moment than their cousins to collect.
So overall a Dark Elf army can be quite reasonable price wise depending on what you start with, however with the hydra and two large monster mounts easy to field even at 2000pts, it isn’t in the cheapest to collect category, and we are let down slightly by the amount of our elites that are metal.
The models themselves in general are quite easy to put together, although I should note both the Black Guard and Executioners can be a little fiddly due to the weapons you need to attach to the figures. The Executioners especially as the metal blade has a tiny hole to be glued into and there is little if any room in the blade for pinning. It makes them slightly more delicate than your average figure and they do very poorly in any kind of fall.
As regards to painting, I find them elegant figures and take to the general Druchii theme of dark colours very well. Due to the amount of metal figures however there is a lot of detail to contend with, but to be honest no more than many other armies, just take your time and pick out all the details you can.
Common colours for Druchii include black, purple, dark red, and dark to midnight blue, dark metal colours and Gold. Good highlight colours are silver, red, light purple and shadow grey. I would say that if you pick this army and obviously get yourself the army book, the pages devoted to the painted figures section is very good, and show a great number of contrasting colours you could use for your force, much more so than previous Druchii army books.
Dark Elves like all Elf armies have a weakness in the fact they are fragile, with most of standard troops and characters of the army at Toughness 3. However they more than make up for this via their Magic, Monsters and Elite units. On top of this they have the Elven counter balance to the low toughness, the precious movement of 5. This fragile factor and the elite nature of the force and tactics employed have made many mark them as an army unfriendly to beginners. There might be some truth in that, but I would say to a beginner any Warhammer army is going to be difficult to use. One of the main things I will advise any Druchii budding general is to keep your mind on the prize. Try to avoid silly mistakes like not declaring a charge, moving in way to close when you have the distance advantage or really crazy things like forgetting the magic phase. Yep, sadly in my early years of gaming I've done that one, its fatal, but it does teach you to not do it again.
Also remember to use your movement to your advantage, you can get that just a little closer to most other races without fear of a charge, you can dictate when and where the key fights will happen, this a key thing to utilize as a Druchii General. Other things would be that the shooting phase and magic phases are important to us, and do not let your opponent dictate the pace of the game. Slow his units down, out shoot them and then combine on charges to bring your foe to his/her knees, it is after all the Druchii way.
I believe I also need to mention Hatred. It is a nice advantage but be aware of its down side, you must always pursue a enemy that flees and if you wipe out an enemy unit on the charge you must overrun so be aware of where you unit might go if its likely you will wipe them out in that first round. Basically if it’s going leave your prize unit in front of three enemy units it might be a short term gain for a long time loss. Try to be careful when and where you charge, a cunning opponent may place a unit knowing you will beat it easy just to force your unit to chase it out of position.
Now I'm going to take a little look at the units, just to give some general game play tips for each.
I think the first advice I would give regarding units is our firepower, both Repeater crossbows and Reaper Bolt Throwers lay down impressive rates of fire. The former is especially useful against other Elves, Humans and standard undead units as it has at least an evens chance of wounding most of the time. Although I would still probably take one squad of them for tougher armies, just to oppose any opponent flanking units which tend to be weaker. I should also note that I've happily out shot Wood Elves in battles, especially with Glade Guard needing to get within fifteen inches to be at their best, never underestimate our ability to let down a rain of death.
With Reapers I believe these are almost an automatic choice in our army, in games of 1000pts I'd advise one Reaper, at 1500 two and 2000pts or higher at least two with the Hydra. They can decimate foes units so easily it will make them a hated unit for most of your regular opponents. Combine those two with our Dark Magic and Dark Elves can out shoot or at least equal a lot of their opponents, allowing you to whittle down units until the right moment for your elites comes to strike. This combined with our movement should mean few units reach our lines intact.
Warriors are now silly cheap, dropping 2pts from the previous book for no change in gear or stat line and anyone building an army for tactical ability over fluff, cannot afford not to take one or two units of these guys and gals. For the pts you pay, you will have Empire Generals glancing over looking at the stat line and equipment and spitting teeth at you.
Corsairs are a cheap but useful offensive close combat unit; I'd tend to suggest using them to support a forward movement with elites or a large Warrior unit. Due to their added bonus against shooting attacks I would also recommend hiding any Sorceress on foot within a Corsair unit.
Harpies overlooked by many are tactically lethal with that cheap pts cost. Their ability to fly does several great things for you, great march blockers, wizard hunting, War machine hunting, screening troops and a general distraction for your opponent. Their cost though means unlike Dark Riders who many use in this role, they are pretty much throw away troops, and while your opponent is worried about them or being hampered by them, you main elites and monsters are closing in.
Dark Riders are still a tactically sound unit in any army however, arming them with repeater Crossbows allows you to harass your enemy and potentially kill an enemy wizard on their own without even needing to charge. You can also use them to protect a mounted Sorceress, or add a noble to make a surprisingly (for your opponents) tough flanking unit on the charge. They are still or course good march blockers, and thanks to their ranged abilities can deal with most enemy flankers on their own which is a huge advantage.
Cold One Knights are now really impressive. They gained a strength so their lances hit on a strength 6 making them much more deadly. They still have a 2+ save and one of the best supporting mounts for damage in the game, but have the added bonus of a banner that effectively lets you make a turn where you are not going to fail an important Stupidity check when you need a charge. Add to this the Dread Knight being able take a magic item which includes either a lance with killing blow, or a item to make the unit Immune to Psychology, they are just nasty.
Black Guard are pretty evil too with their improvements with the new book. Eternal Hatred every round thanks to Warrior Elite is really good, but they also gained an attack, became immune to psychology to go alongside their Stubborn ability, plus the unit leader can now take a 25pt magic item which is a additional useful bonus. Overall an excellent unit and with a noble on foot or the battle standard bearer can make a solid rock in your lines.
Witch Elves unleash a horrifying amount of attacks but are really weak against missile fire, basically leave these girls at home if you are facing a Dwarf gun line, but against the close combat themed armies such as Warriors of Chaos, Daemons and so on they are excellent, especially with some of their Khaine items and a Banner of murder. I would probably still take them against most foes if I'm honest as even if they are targeted by ranged attacks, that means other things are marching unhindered and due to the frenzy they will need to be fully wiped out, no need to worry about panic. Just be careful that their frenzy isn't used against them by your opponent’s cheap flanking scouting units to pull them out of position. Oh and due to the glorious return (I'd been moaning long enough) of Witch Elf Heroes, consider in larger pts games chucking one of these divas in the unit to cause even more carnage.
Executioners are now stronger thus hit at strength six, and they have killing blow which makes them an excellent unit to charge highly armoured foes with, however I still feel they are still our weakest option in Special, and would only consider them in large pts games.
The Cold one Chariot is a useful unit and like with the Cold One Knights now has a Ld of 9 to try and avoid failing to many stupidity checks. They hit hard and are quite quick, put a noble on there and they can really cause some damage, a joint Hydra, Noble mounted Chariot charge is a sight to behold.
Shades are still useful as a march blocker, being able to take Great weapons was an interesting advantage and in a wood they can be down right annoying. However at the moment I feel both the Harpies and Dark Riders perform the job better than they do for the pts. So I wouldn't take them myself unless the game was 2000pts or greater and only then against certain opponents such as those with a lot of War Machines or stand back units, where being a lot closer at the beginning would be a great advantage.
The Hydra was hard in the previous book, but a few more updates to this unit has made it very tough indeed. To be honest the only thing stopping it being an automatic choice is its location in rare, as Reaper Bolt Throwers are so damned useful. I think this will have to come down to personal choice, if you love the Hydra in games under 2000pts, take one, if you want the ranged ability take the Reapers. Although I would advise anyone once you get the second rare pick at 2000pts, to take them both.
Of our Heroes I think this comes down to personal choice, all have their uses depending on pts limit opponent etc, but I would advise anyone to take at least one Sorceress. With the new ability to earn more power dice via that spell and nifty items like the sacrificial dagger. One Sorceress can be quite a handful, two or more and your foes will be pulling their hair out trying to figure out how to stop the raw power they possess. We can dictate the game to most of our opponents via the Magic phase, I advise all Druchii generals to learn to love magic, its one of our favoured weapons.
I should make a special note for the Assassins. Now no longer a hero choice, they are expensive but deadly. Once you hit certain threshold in pts I'd almost say these fellows are an automatic choice, the higher your pts the more I would have. They can hide in units till the perfect opportunity arises to unleash them against you foe, most likely when an enemy character has charged the squad. Although if the squad should get caught by enemy troops before you are ready, they can make an awful mess of most units, elite or otherwise and may swing they fight for you. Just be careful your opponent isn't sending in flankers or a cheap unit to flush the assassin out before deciding to charge the unit with his General or another hero, In such a case waiting and not revealing the assassin especially if you think you can win the combat comfortably without his aid, might just give your opponent the shock of his/her life.
Well at the moment the only really good way to save money is by employing bulk units of Warriors, repeater Crossbowmen and Corsairs, due to their availability in plastic. On a side note Warriors are particularly useful at the moment due to their new pts cost making them a very attractive unit on the field as well as being cheaper to purchase overall.
Possibly another option would be to combine Corsair and Cold One Knight plastics to make cheaper Heroes on foot, or a Cold One mounted Master.
The Dark Elf army is a fairly strong list, it allows for a fairly fluffy options while still being competitive. You can happily theme a force around one of the city states, such as Har Ganeth by taking warrior units, repeating crossbows, Dark Riders with Executioners, Witch Elves, Shades, Cold One Knights and Reaper Bolt Throwers and still be a very nice themed force. You could also opt for a Black Ark raiding force by taking lots of corsairs and Naggarond by having plenty of Black Guard. We have some really great magic items and the Khaine item list as well, all making putting a Dark Elf force together a lot of fun.
It can be a hard army to learn, but once mastered it’s always been one of the toughest armies for an opponent to face. We have some of the best magic in the game, combined with good ranged ability and close combat units that can match up with most other elites in the game. The key thing to remember is we do most of our best stuff on the charge, it is the reason that many Druchii generals agree one of our toughest foes ironically is the slowest as Dwarves are the total anti to our force, working completely from a defensive position.
So what are you waiting for, raise the banner of the Witch King and conquer the known world.
Where to go next
Well there is only one site I would link to, and to any Druchii fan it is worthy of a mention as it has a very large Druchii player base. Some might remember they helped GW implement a White Dwarf update for the previous book after proving it was seriously under powered.
I speak of course of druchii.net
They have some great tactics pages over there and more detailed guides than this one, a great site for any Druchii fan.