Elves. Elves! Elves? - Part 3

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Introduction

Welcome to the final part of this article. In the first part I looked at characters across all three elf books while last time I looked at Core units along with Special and Rare infantry.

In this concluding part I wrap up by looking at Cavalry, Chariots, War Machines, Monsters and chaff units.

Cavalry

When I was setting out my unit selection categories for this fantasy list I thought it would be easy to split the mounted units outside the Core section into Cavalry and Fast Cavalry for consideration. However, within the Fast Cavalry units there are some that do more than just run about the table picking off chaff and diverting combat blocks. Some units are actually capable of running into opposing armies' combat blocks and dishing out the pain, something that straight cavalry units are expected to do. Therefore there are some units with the Fast Cavalry rule that end up being considered in this section.

First though, I'm going to look at the two traditional cavalry units in the elf army books, the Cold One Knights and Dragon Princes.

Starting with Caledor's finest, you have an elf with an extra point of Weapon Skill, Initiative and Leadership, as well as an extra Attack. An elven steed combined with Ithilmar Barding means the unit doesn't lose any movement for having barding and that, combined with Dragon Armour on the rider and a shield, gives the unit a 2+ armour and 6+ Ward Save (increased to a 2+ against Flaming Attacks).

For a point more than the Dragon Prince you can get a Cold One Knight. For that point you're trading an Elven Steed for a Cold One, for which you lose two inches of Movement but gain an Attack and point of Strength, plus the Fear, Stupidity and Thick-skinned rules. On the rider you lose an Attack but gain a point of Strength.

I'm now going to turn to the units that don't really fit within the standard Cavalry description. First I'm going to take the Warhawk Riders from the Wood Elf book. The only Monstrous Cavalry across the three elf books, the obvious advantage that this unit has is that it flies. The riders on top of the Warhawks have the regular elf profile and come armed with Asrai spears and Asrai longbows, although they cannot take any of the enchanted arrows. The Warhawks, meanwhile, are essentially Great Eagles, albeit with one less Movement and one more Initiative. The Warhawks also have Armour Piercing and, on the charge, Killing Blow, making the role of the unit more likely to be that of wizard assassination than the hard hitting impact unit cavalry is normally expected to be.

The next unit I'm going to look at also comes from the Wood Elf book, the Wild Riders. Technically they should be considered under the Fast Cavalry section, since that's one of their Special Rules, but the damage output of the unit warrants it consideration next to the Cold One Knights and Dragon Princes. First, let's look at the unit's shortcomings. As you'd expect, being Wood Elves, they're very lightly armoured having only a 5+ armour save (although they can be upgraded with shields) and 6+ Ward Save from their Talismanic Tattoo rule. They're also Frenzied, which means you have to handle them correctly if you want to stop them being led around by your opponent's chaff, and they can't flee a charge.

Where my interest starts to come in is when you look at the damage output of the unit. Both the riders and the Steeds of Kurnous that they're mounted on are Strength 4 and with the Frenzy, that applies to both of them, not just the rider, giving them two Attacks each. The riders also have the Devastating Charge rule, giving them an extra attack on the charge, and Asrai spears, giving them Armour Piercing. A single rank of Wild Riders on the charge can put out 15 S5 armour piercing attacks from the riders and ten S4 attacks from the mounts.

From these units then I'm to choose one and as I want my cavalry to cause maximum damage when it charges it probably won't surprise you that I'm going to choose the Wild Riders. Yes they're far more likely to get ground out than the Cold One Knights or Dragon Princes but if you use them correctly then you hopefully shouldn't have too many return attacks to worry about.

Fast Cavalry

Having decided that the damage output of the Wild Riders warranted considering them against the regular Cavalry, and having already looked at three Fast Cavalry units in the Core Cavalry section, we're left with just two units for consideration: Doomfire Warlocks and Sisters of the Thorn.

Both units are new in the Dark Elf and Wood Elf books respectively and in many ways they're quite similar in that they both have 4+ Ward Saves and both count as Level 2 wizards, which I'll come to shortly.

Looking at the characteristics for the units and the Warlocks are standard elves, apart from having an extra point of Strength and an extra Attack, while the Sisters have a better Ballistic Skill and Leadership. In terms of special rules, aside from the expected race specific rules, both units have Poisoned Attacks on the riders.

Coming back to the magic, the Doomfire Warlocks get the spell Soulblight from the Lore of Death and Doombolt from Dark Magic, so you have a hex and a magic missile. For the Sisters of the Thorn the spells are Shield of Thorns from Lore of Life and Curse of Anraheir from Lore of Beasts. If the Warlocks didn't exist I might think that the Sisters' spells were ok but with a very similar unit to compare against, frankly the selection looks weak. If you're going to give the unit a spell from Lore of Beasts then why not give them Wyssan's Wildform, a spell that does a lot more for both the unit and the army in general?

Looking at the roles the units can perform, the 4+ Ward Save makes them an obvious character, most likely a mage, bunker. Unlike the Sisters of the Thorn though, the Doomfire Warlocks should also be able to successfully shelter and deliver a combat character into combat and do some damage to support him, whereas I'd consider that if the Sisters and their bunkered character ended up in combat they'd likely be just combat res for the opponent, even with the Ward Save.

It is probably no surprise then that I'm going to concur with the wisdom of the internet and select the Doomfire Warlocks.

Monsters

Prior to the 8th edition army books only the Dark Elves and Wood Elves had monsters that weren't Monstrous Mounts, the much feared War Hydra and the Treeman. Both are still there, albeit with changes, but the Dark Elves gained one new monster while the High Elves gained two.

Taking the army books in reverse order we first look at the Wood Elves' Treeman. Like all the Tree Spirit units in the book, the Treeman has lost a point of Strength. It has also lost a Wound and the Strangleroots shooting attack, now only available as an upgrade. It has gained the Tree Whack attack rule, which is mostly going to be useful against other monsters that tend to have lower Initiative.

In the High Elf book the new monsters are the phoenixes, the Flamespyre and Frostheart. Both are flying Terror causers and both have the Attuned to Magic rule which gives them a 5+ Ward Save as well as bonuses or penalties depending on the Winds of Magic roll.

The junior phoenix is the Flamespyre which has the Fireborn rule and Flaming Attacks on top of the rules the phoenixes share. As a monster its characteristics aren't massively impressive, the main disappointment being that it only has three Attacks. If I were to run the Flamespyre in my army it would be because of its other two special rules. Phoenix Reborn gives the chance of the phoenix (and its rider if it had one when it died) coming back to life while Wake of Fire can cause hits to units the phoenix flies over.

For just fifteen points more than the Flamespyre, the Frostheart is closer to the traditional hard hitting monster. Increasing the Attack, Weapon Skill, Strength and Toughness characteristics by one over the Flamespyre, although losing one point of Initiative, you're going to feel more confident about putting the Frostheart into combat. That confidence comes from its 5+ Natural Armour save and its Blizzard Aura that reduces the Strength of units in base contact by one and gives them Always Strikes Last.

Turning to the Dark Elf book and I'll look first at the War Hydra. It has gained some Ballistic Skill in the new book, which allows it to make use of one of its upgrade options, and potentially one more Attack than before. I say potentially as its number of attacks is now linked to the number of remaining wounds the creature has. While it has lost the Regeneration rule that helped make it so hard to deal with before, it retains its 4+ armour save and gets a new rule that allows you to roll a number of dice equal to the number of wounds the Hydra has lost for a chance to regain wounds. The breath weapon it used to come with is now an optional upgrade but you do get an alternative shooting attack option, although it is rather short-ranged and is dependent for Strength and shots on the number of wounds left. Lastly, the handlers who control the beast are no longer models for the purposes of working out attacks, so the model as a whole has lost some attacks there.

Lastly we come to the last new monster, the Kharibdyss. The standout characteristic on this monster has to be Strength 7, which means there's not much in the game it's not going to be wounding on a 2+. For some reason it has Poisoned Attacks (because you're really worried about needing to bypass the To Wound roll with this beast) plus a rule that makes units re-roll successful Leadership tests. Lastly, it also has a rule that potentially gives it an extra D6 attacks against one model.

Looking at the selection of monsters I feel I'm going to have to put two into my fantasy elf list. The first I'm going to include is the Frostheart Phoenix. While it has one less attack than I'd like to see on a monster, a big part of its role is supporting other units through the special rules it has that affect the enemy unit it is in base contact with.

The second monster I'm going to select is the Kharibdyss. Not only is its Strength 7 important in an age where there is a lot of 2+ or 1+ armour save Cavalry and Monstrous Cavalry about but it also aids with attacking other monsters, something that its Initiative of 4, higher than usual for a monster, seems designed to help it with.

Now for those units that didn't make the cut. For me the Flamespyre is a bit too situational, its special rules relying either on it dying or having large units to fly over. The Treeman I'm discounting because of the loss of strength and the Flammable rule and lastly the Hydra just seems to have lost too much and looks like poor value for the points next to the Kharibdyss.

War Machines

This is possibly the easiest section in which to make my choices as there are only two war machines across all three elf army books and even then they are effectively the same unit.

Sharing the "Repeater Bolt Thrower" special rule, the Dark Elves' Reaper Bolt Throwers and the High Elves' Eagle Claw Bolt Throwers also share the same characteristics for machine and crew. The only difference in game is that the Dark Elf crew's Murderous Prowess rule can potentially come into play when they are defending their machine, while Martial Prowess on the High Elf crew serves no purpose whatsoever.

When it comes to picking which one is included in the list the "no brainer" choice is the Reaper Bolt Thrower, since it sits in the Special section rather than Rare, and so isn't competing with the Monsters and any specialist units that are also in Rare.

Chariots

With the advent of the 8th edition army books the number of chariots has doubled, although the Wood Elf players are perhaps wondering where theirs are.

Starting with the book that had the most chariots last time round we have the High Elf Tiranoc Chariot. This is essentially unchanged from previous editions apart from being fifteen points cheaper and now being able to be run in units of three, achieving parity with those pesky Wolf Chariots from the Orcs and Goblins book.

Next we have a chariot that was itself a new unit in the last High Elf army book, the Lion Chariot of Chrace. Like the Tiranoc, the chariot itself is unchanged and has also had a points decrease. What it has gained this time around is the Stubborn rule.

Finally for the High Elf book we come to the first of the new chariots, the Lothern Skycutter. This can in part be considered a Tiranoc Chariot with an extra crewmember and a monstrous beast pulling it but obviously the most interesting things about it are that it has the Fly rule (although as it can't march since it's a chariot it's effectively Hover) and the option to take a bolt thrower as an upgrade.

Over to the Dark Elf book and the Cold One Chariot. This has gone up in cost by fifteen points since the last army book, for which you get two extra Strength 4 attacks, as Cold Ones have gained an extra attack on their profile in 8th edition, but otherwise it's still one of the toughest chariots in the game.

The next chariot is new, the Scourgerunner. A little unusual in that the chariot itself is only Strength 4 unlike most other chariots, it is crewed by Beastmasters who have two attacks apiece and spears. What makes this chariot especially different is that it has a S7 bolt thrower mounted on it that has an extra bonus against monsters.

Lastly we come to the Bloodwrack Shrine. Not what you would think of as a traditional chariot, in that it can join units but can also march, it makes up for having practically no save by being Toughness 6 and one more Wound than you'd normally expect to see on a chariot. Its special rules include Leadership bonuses and penalties, an Initiative based close combat attack plus the Bloodwrack Stare from the Medusa.

To choose from these units I'm going to base my choice on what I think the role of a chariot should be and that has to be as an almost grenade-like unit that charges in and hits hard, most likely in support of another unit, but possibly isn't going to be around come the end of the combat phase. While the Scourgerunner and the option to put a bolt thrower on the Skycutter are interesting I couldn't see myself using either enough to justify their inclusion in this list.

Overall I think I just have to give the nod to the Lion Chariot with its two Strength 6 and four Strength 5 attacks. It's not quite as durable as, for example, the Cold One Chariot which has a better Toughness and armour save but assuming it is not destroyed by any return attacks it should stick around for the next combat phase due to being Stubborn, holding the unit it is fighting in place and still having the same damage output in subsequent combat turns. The only concern I would have about the Lion Chariot is the inch or two of Movement it loses compared to some of the other chariots.

Chaff Units

Finally from the units in the army books we come to units whose purpose is blocking and diverting, possibly a bit of war machine hunting if they live long enough, although I'm also including the Bloodwrack Medusa in here whose role is a bit unclear to me.

Beginning with the Dark Elf book we have the Harpies. This unit used to be in Core but is now in Special and has gone up in price by four points for no increase in characteristics or change of special rules.

The Bloodwrack Medusa is a new unit for this edition of the Dark Elf book (and one suspects only added to give people buying the Bloodwrack Shrine/Cauldron of Blood kit something to do with the Medusa model if they build the Cauldron) and sits in the Rare section. For not far off a hundred points you get four attacks thanks to Frenzy plus Fear, the Murderous Prowess rule, the Bloodwrack Stare shooting attack and Avert Your Gaze Initiative test attack.

In the High Elf book we have just one unit to look at, the Great Eagle. Still in Rare, still the same cost as before, the Eagle does have some changes. First, the standard Rare unit restrictions now apply, so you can only take two units in a standard size game instead of the four you could before. A big difference is that unit size has changed to one or more, rather than just one, so you can run more eagles as long as they are in units. Another change is that the eagles can now be upgraded to have Always Strikes First and Armour Piercing.

Where the Great Eagles in the High Elf book got some new options their cousins in the Wood Elf book are sorely neglected, gaining only the option to be in units of greater than one and having no option for upgrades.

From this section my choice is the Great Eagle from the High Elf book. While it means using up valuable Rare points, the ability to give the eagles upgrades if you've got a few points going spare can give them a bit of an edge over their compatriot from the Wood Elf book if you have some points spare in your list and know what army you'll be facing. I'm not really sure what role the Medusa best suits but I don't think it's going to belong in this section in my fantasy list and the Harpies' below average leadership is a bit of a worry for a unit that needs to be reasonably autonomous.

Final List

That's that then. In the end I've ended up with a total of twenty-four units from the three elf army books and I think I've met my aim of getting a variety of units in there for both casual and tournament play.

What has surprised me is how many units I've got from each of the actual army books. While I wasn't surprised to find that I'd selected more Dark Elf units, I wasn't expecting to find myself picking more Wood Elf units than High Elf units. I don't think I've gone too far the other way in trying to ensure I wasn't biased towards the High Elves when I look at the areas where I've picked the Dark or Wood Elf option so overall I'm happy with the final list which is presented below.

Lords
    Lords
  • Archmage (High Elves)
  • Dreadlord (Dark Elves)
  • Treeman Ancient (Wood Elves)
Heroes
    Heroes
  • Branchwraith (Wood Elves)
  • Master (Dark Elves)
  • Sorceress (Dark Elves)
  • Waystalker (Wood Elves)
Core
    Core
  • Dark Riders (Dark Elves)
  • Eternal Guard (Wood Elves)
  • Glade Guard (Wood Elved)
  • Silver Helms (High Elves)
  • Witch Elves (Dark Elves)
Special
    Special
  • Black Guard (Dark Elves)
  • Lion Chariot of Chrace (High Elves)
  • Shades (Dark Elves)
  • Reaper Bolt Thrower (Dark Elves)
  • Wardancers (Wood Elves)
  • White Lions (High Elves)
  • Wild Riders (Wood Elves)
Rare
    Rare
  • Doomfire Warlocks (Dark Elves)
  • Frostheart Phoenix (High Elves)
  • Great Eagle (High Elves)
  • Kharibdyss (Dark Elves)
  • Waywatchers (Wood Elves)

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About the author

cerebros

cerebros has been back into Warhammer since October 2008, since which time he has failed to finish painting any units in his army. It was his tactical genius that David Moyes based Manchester United's 2013-14 season on.