Warhammer Armies High Elves - 8th edition army overview and first impressions

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Let's get this out of the way now - if you want the opinion of someone who knows what they're talking about when it comes to building High Elf armies (or just Warhammer armies in general), this probably isn't the review for you. In fact, you're probably better off skipping to the Links section below and accessing one of the reviews linked to there.

So, given that disclaimer, why am I writing this review? Well, I'm a Warhammer player and High Elves are my army. I first played Warhammer with some friends back in the early '90s and didn't have an army per se, buying a few Empire and High Elf models that I liked. When we got back into playing in 2008, my friend who got me into Warhammer was using Empire so I ended up taking on High Elves.

Since then I've been building up my army (or in other words, I splurged on eBay) which consists mostly of 4th edition Archers and Spearmen for my core with a mixture of plastics and metals (which I'm slowly replacing with plastics where available). Due to being a slow painter, as well as not particularly enjoying painting, I've not got any units "finished" although there are plenty I've got painted to tournament standard. Recently I've been running all Archer core with medium size units of Sword Masters and White Lions, of which I'm in the process of replacing my metals with plastics.

I'll be the first to admit that, while in general I think I've got a pretty good grasp of the rules, I'm probably a below average player at best, with a win rate in 8th edition of around 29%. My best achievement with the High Elves was coming 2nd highest High Elf player at the Summer Incursion 2012, although I was 69th overall out of 106 players.

As I don't use special characters or play against people who do I'm not going to cover them here.

What was I hoping to see in the book?

For me the only issues I had with the 7th edition book under 8th edition rules was that everything seemed a bit overpriced for what it did and the High Magic spells just needed boostable versions.

Given the way previous army book releases had gone I was also hoping for some monstrous infantry or monstrous cavalry to give another option for dealing with the same unit types in other armies.

Army special rules

The first of the big changes are in the Special Rules. Speed of Asuryan is replaced with regular Always Strikes First, meaning no more re-rolls with Great Weapons for Sword Masters, White Lions, Lion Chariots and characters.

Martial Prowess now applies to all elves in the army and gives an extra rank of shooting while Valour of Ages now also gives re-rolls against Fear and Terror. New rules are Lileath's Blessing, which replaces the +1 to dispel with +1 to cast High Magic spells. Fireborn, is the name of the special rule granting Dragon Armour the 2+ ward save against Flaming Attacks, while Arrows of Isha a rule for the new Bows of Avelorn.

The Elite Army special rule that was brought in via the errata to allow High Elves to take double the amount of duplicate Special and Rare units is now gone, although I don't think I ever saw that used except for Bolt Throwers and Eagles.


As with all the new army books, the rules for some equipment is given on the same page as the army-wide special rules so here you find the return of Ithilmar Barding, and the changed Dragon Armour (which now gives a 6+ Ward Save but no longer confers the 2+ Ward Save against Flaming Attacks save to mounts and also no longer works against all breath weapons) and Lion Cloaks, plus the Bow of Avelorn rules.

Changes to existing units

The champions of the special infantry units retain their magic items allowance (this now extends to the Shadow Warrior champion) but it can now only be used to purchase magic weapons, while the Drakemaster now gets double the allowance which can be spent on a combination of magic weapons and magic armour.

White Lions and Sword Masters drop in price, while the Lions and Phoenix Guard are now minimum unit size ten. The Lion Chariot gains Stubborn as well as dropping in points. Dragon Princes drop in price by a whole half a Skaven Slave but gain a 6+ Ward Save and a pip of movement. Tiranoc Chariots see a drop in price and can now be taken in units of up to three.

Bolt Throwers are now Armour Piercing (so no more augmenting with Enchanted Blades for -3 to armour saves on volley fire) as well as seeing a welcome price drop, although they are still only two wounds. You can still take four of these in a regular size army unlike Great Eagles who can now be taken in units of more than one as well as being upgradable to Always Strikes First and Armour Piercing.

Most of the characters got cheaper, apart from the Dragon Mage who stays the same price, gained the option for Dragon Armour, has to take Flaming Swords as his first spell and now only adds +2 to casting spells rather than an extra power die.

All dragons now get the same Scaly Skin and Breath weapon while the Star Dragons went up in cost, and can now be taken as mounts for Archmages as well as gaining a point of toughness. Griffons dropped in cost by 25 percent and can now be upgraded to have Always Strikes First and Devastating Charge with +1 Strength. More importantly, they can now be mounts for Nobles so you may actually see the Island of Blood Griffon rider being fielded as a Griffon rather than a proxy for something else.

New Units

Anointed of Asuryan

One of two new Lord choices this character is a Phoenix Guard character and so comes with a Halberd, Heavy Armour, 4+ Ward Save and Fear. He also has Magic Resistance (2) and confers a ward save and Immune to Psychology on any unit he joins. His characteristics are a mix of elven Lord and Hero. He has a Prince's Weapon Skill and Initiative but a Noble's Attacks and Leadership. This is all for 70 points more than a Prince now costs which might appear a bit pricey at first but once you factor in the 4+ Ward Save you'd be buying your Prince anyway you've narrowed the difference to 25 points. He can take either of the new Phoenixes as a mount as well as being on foot although the only other option he has is to purchase magic items.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Loremaster of Hoeth

This is a very interesting option. Essentially a Noble with an extra wound, he's kitted out like a Sword Master and is a Level 2 mage who knows every signature spell from the eight lores of magic. All this for five more points than an Archmage cost in the last army book.

Great though the knowing all signature spells ability is, given the hero level stat line and the fact that you can't buy him more magic levels I can't help thinking he's possibly a bit overpriced.

Rating: 4 / 5

Lothern Sea Helm

A hero level character this chap has the same stats as a Noble apart from attacks, which is one less. He costs as much as a Mage used to. What do you get for these points? Well he can take one of the new Skycutters as a mount, giving it a Ward Save against shooting attacks. He also grants a unit he joins the Naval Discipline rule which permits them to make a combat reform after passing a Leadership test although they can't have made a Stand and Shoot reaction before this.

Apart from themed lists I really can't see this guy being used much. His special abilities seem like a bit of a gimmick and he displaces two Sea Guard if you put him on a Skycutter (seriously, is his helmet that big?). If a unit could stand and shoot and still use Naval Discipline I could see him being used.

Rating: 2 / 5

Handmaiden of the Everqueen

The second new Hero level character is also an attack short of a Noble while costing more. What she lacks in attacks she makes up for in Ballistic Skill, equal to a Prince, and having the Quick to Fire rule, which she also confers to units of Sisters of Avelorn she joins.

As with the Sea Helm, I think you're paying a bit too much over the price of a Noble for what the Handmaiden brings to the table but I do think you'll see them bought to boost Sisters of Avelorn units.

Rating: 3 / 5

Lothern Skycutter

This is pretty much a souped up Tiranoc Chariot, with the extra movement and strength from the Swiftfeather Roc along with an additional crewman making for five strength 4 attacks on the charge. The chariot can also be upgraded with a bolt thrower, albeit with a shorter range and lesser strength, as well as being taken as a mount for the Sea Helm.

Overall I'm not sure that you're not just better off saving your points for Tiranoc. If you could have taken the base chariot in units of three I think that would have been a more compelling proposition.

Rating: 3 / 5

Flamespyre Phoenix

The first of the phoenixes this one's tricks are coming back to life (accompanied by a rider if the phoenix died before the rider) and the Wake of Fire which does D6 strength 4 plus D3 per rank after the first. While this initially appears quite useful, when you consider that you only really see big ranked units in Skaven, Vampire Counts, with most other armies running big infantry blocks typically in horde, I personally think this will be of limited use, especially when you consider the lesser characteristics compared to the Flamespyre's elder brother.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Frostheart Phoenix

My preference out of the two phoenixes, the Frostheart confers Always Strikes Last and a strength penalty to units in base contact with it. If combo charging with them the Frostheart's abilities help to partly overcome the problems the White Lions and Sword Masters now have, particularly against elite units who could well be striking simultaneously with them now.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Sisters of Avelorn

These are essentially Shadow Warriors with magic bows, costing the same points as Shadow Warriors. Strangely, considering these are a ranked unit, they don't have the option for either a standard bearer or, perhaps more importantly, a musician, so no swift-reforms. The fact that they carry bows rather than longbows and need to give them a Handmaiden to make best use of them means I can't score them any higher.

Rating: 3 / 5

Playing the Slots

Along with Ogre Kingdoms, High Elves had the smallest selection of Core units in their army book, with a grand total of three, as well as a measly two Rare choices. It was in Special where High Elves excelled with a total of nine choices.

In 7th edition, the slot system allowed High Elves to take fewer Core units than other armies while also being able to take more Special units. 8th edition swapped slots for percentages, although restrictions were brought in on the number of duplicates you could take of each Special and Rare choice. While High Elves got the "Elite Army" special rule, allowing them to take double the number of units in Special and Rare than other armies, they were still stuck with needing to take 25% of the army in Core - quite a change from the often minimal Core selections of two Archer units often seen during 7th edition.

Edition Lords Heroes Core Special Rare
7th 2 3 3 9 2
8th 4 5 5 8 5

The new army book sees Silver Helms and Ellyrian Reavers move from Special to Core, allowing for the possibility of running an all mounted High Elf army and somewhat alleviating the feeling that High Elf Core is a "tax" on the army that requires you to spend points on units that don't achieve much.

I find the addition of the Skycutter into the Special section a bit strange considering both existing chariots remain there.

High Magic

Similar to the army itself I wasn't hoping for masses of change with the magic lore, just the same spells with boosted versions available. Of course, this was never going to happen so what do we get?

Lore Attribute - Shield of Saphery

This gives a Ward Save or +1 to the Ward Save of the caster and his unit. If this had been to the target of the spell if a friendly unit, or the wizard could choose which unit applied to this would be a 5/5 for me.

Rating: 3 / 5

Signature Spell 1 - Drain Magic

Auto-dispels any Remains in Play or other spells in effect on a unit. Can be boosted to an area of effect but the short-ish basic range stops this from being a 5 for me.

It should be noted that High Elf mages get +1 to their spell casting attempts. It's not obvious right away why the casting costs weren't just one lower as other than Tzeentch wizards who've stolen the specks with Glean Magic, no-one else can use High Magic. It would make sense, however, if rumours of the Lizardmen book, supposedly due in November, giving Slann access to High Magic are true.

Rating: 4 / 5

Signature Spell 2 - Soul Quench

Replace Fury of Khaine from the last edition book and retains the same casting cost but drops the range by 6", which stops it being a 5. Can be boosted to 4d6 hits.

Rating: 4 / 5

1. Apotheosis

Puts a wound back on a model or D3 if boosted and the target also causes Fear.

Rating: 3 / 5

2. Hand of Glory

Basically this is the mirror image of Mystifying Miasma from the Lore of Shadow. While I think it has its uses (boosting the Ballistic Skill of missile troops for example) the fact that the boosted version just means you boost all the stats the spell can affect rather than bubbling the effect means I will probably drop this more often than not.

Rating: 2 / 5

3. Walk Between Worlds

If this lasted until the caster's next magic phase this would be one of the best spells in the game. As it is it's still pretty good, allowing a unit to make an Ethereal 10" move, or 20" if boosted, potentially allowing a Flamespyre Phoenix to make another Wake of Fire attack by passing over a unit or allowing one of your combat blocks or fast cavalry or fliers to get into the enemy's back lines past those pesky enemy units in the way.

Rating: 4 / 5

4. Tempest

Large template that scatters and does Strength 3 hits. Any unit that suffers a wound then has a penalty to hit (or has to pass a 4+ if it does not use Ballistic Skill)

Rating: 3 / 5

5. Arcane Unforging

The replacement for Vaul's Unmaking. It is now direct damage and does a wound with no armour saves. Once the wound is resolved the owner of the model must reveal all magic items the target has and you destroy one at random on a 2+.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

6. Fiery Convocation

Flames of the Phoenix for 8th edition. It's now strength 4 all the time and does damage at the end of every subsequent magic phase. The casting cost is increased by eight over Flames of the Phoenix which stops me rating this any higher.

Rating: 4 / 5

Magic Items

The only items I was really hoping the High Elves would keep were the Banner of Sorcery, Silver Wand and Seerstaff which have been mainstays in my army list for quite a while, so of course, none of them stayed.

Blade of Leaping Gold

Got more expensive although any To Wound rolls of a 6 ignore armour saves.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Star Lance

Stayed the same but got cheaper.

Rating: 5 / 5

Reaver Bow

Got cheaper but got a bit worse. Now has the Multiple Shots rule and is strength of the bearer +1. Would synergise well with Wyssan's Wildform or Savage Beast from Lore of Beasts.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Armour of Caledor

Doubled in cost and only gained a 6+ Ward Save.

Rating: 2.5 / 5

Shadow Armour

Pretty much the same but the wearer also gains the Strider rule.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Shield of the Merwyrm

Gives a 4+ parry save unless using a double-handed weapon. Handy if you haven't got a spare 4+ ward save to give your combat character. Will need FAQing to clarify whether you get the parry when mounted (if you do then I make this a 5/5).

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Golden Crown of Atrazar

Similar to Charmed Shield but works on first wound. As it's a Talisman it could be stacked with the Charmed Shield.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Moranion's Wayshard

Gives Ambush rule to a character on foot and a unit of Archers or Spearmen. If it could be used with any infantry unit, so it could apply to a unit of White Lions or Sword Masters, it might have been worth the cost.

Rating: 2 / 5

Khaine's Ring of Fury

As with Ring of Fury from the previous book this contains a bound version of the equivalent spell in this army book. Has had a nice points drop reflecting the reduced range of the spell.

Rating: 4 / 5

Gem of Sunfire

A single use item that gives a +1 To Wound for all spells, shooting and close combat attacks as long as the model has the Flaming Attacks special rule.

Rating: 1 / 5

Cloak of Beards

Only of use against one in sixteen armies although it does have the ability now to destroy magic items from that army carried by someone in base contact with the bearer.

Rating: 1 / 5

Book of Hoeth

Allows the bearer to re-roll a single die in every casting or dispel attempt apart from sixes.

Rating: 5 / 5

Gives a 2+ ward save against Wounds caused by magical attacks, magic weapons and spells that permit saves. Also makes all dragons within 12" of the bearer Stubborn. Unlike the version in the 7th edition book this is cheap enough to be carried by a Special unit's standard bearer.

Rating: 5 / 5 (or 1/5 when you factor in all the whining you'll have to put up with if you use it)

Which units passed their Mat Ward save?

In this section I'll quickly run through which units I think are hits or misses in the new book.


  • Phoenix Guard, Dragon Princes, Tiranoc Chariots, Ellyrian Reavers and Bolt Throwers got cheaper and/or better.
  • Anointed of Asuryan and Loremaster of Hoeth look like interesting options but time will tell as to their usefulness.
  • Frostheart Phoenix. Combo charge with Sword Masters and White Lions to alleviate some of the problems those units now have.
  • Walk Between Worlds. Ability to give a unit a 20" Ethereal move is potentially game winning.
  • Book of Hoeth. Not as good as previous but is actually a definite auto-include.
  • Banner of the World Dragon. Doesn't protect against the spells Elves really hate but is, I think, an auto-include nonetheless. Expect lots of wailing from people who can't figure out to kill the rest of the army not being protected by the banner.


  • White Lions and Sword Masters. Hit hard with the nerf bat with the loss of re-rolls and having to take much bigger units to have even a hope of the same damage potential.
  • Sea Helm. Too many points for a gimmicky couple of special rules and losing an attack compared to a Noble. Should probably have been a unit upgrade for Sea Guard.


  • Sea Guard are still at least a point overpriced for what they do despite getting cheaper, likewise Archers. A close call for whether these should be misses or not considering they can no longer take a magic banner.
  • Lothern Skycutter. An extra crew member and higher strength on the Roc but the bolt thrower upgrade drops a crewman and you'll be at minus one to hit with the bolt thrower after moving into position.
  • Flamespyre Phoenix. Not enough base attacks coupled with poor toughness for a monster and special attack that's situational.
  • Dragon Mage. The dragon got better and the mage can now take Dragon Armour making him more survivable in combat but he's still a strength 4 elf.

New Models

Phoenixes / Anointed of Asuryan / Caradryan on Phoenix

There are bits of these models I do and don't like. The heads look pretty good and the wings look quite nice. However, the join between the wings and body is really poor, it just doesn't blend in at all (unlike those of the Skycutter Eagle) and looks like it'd need an awful lot of green-stuffing to blend out. The posing of the wings is incredibly flat as well. Lastly, the snowflakes. Really? If I ever build a Frostheart I'm highly likely to scrape these off or just build it using the flaming wing ends and paint it in an ice scheme. For me these are definitely more foul than fair.

The Anointed / Caradryan in contrast looks very nice as a rider or character/champion for your rank and file.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Skycutter / Sea Helm

I'd better get this out of the way first. I think the concept of this kit is dumb. I'm not quite sure it's as dumb as having the Soul Grinder or Skull Cannon in Fantasy but still, it just throws up too many questions that wreck my suspension of disbelief.

Now I've got that off my chest I will say that all parts of the kit do seem to be very well sculpted. From what I can see on the pictures the wings of the eagle blend in very nicely with the body and the elven crew look good as well. The Sea Helm, even if you don't use him as a character, will make a nice alternative champion or standard bearer for your Sea Guard.

Best of all, even from my admittedly inexpert eyes, and bearing in mind I've not got my hands on an actual kit, the eagle itself looks like it should be easily convertible for use as a character mount and possible even as an eagle on its own (although I'm guessing most High Elf players will probably have all the eagles they'll ever need already).

Rating: 5 / 5 for the quality of the sculpt, 2 / 5 for the fact it looks stupid

Handmaiden of the Everqueen

Overall this looks a reasonably nice model but I'm not sure about the hand holding the spear. It could be the way it has been painted but it just looks a bit off to me.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Loremaster of Hoeth

This model seemed to get a bit of flack for its pose when the pictures first leaked on the forums but I think that was due to the angle of the photo in question. Having had the chance to view the model on GW's website, especially the 360 degree view, I quite like this and, even if I never end up running a Loremaster, will probably find a use for it in my army, even if it is just as an alternative Sword Master champion or character.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Shadow Warriors / Sisters of Avelorn

A great dual kit that gives you badass looking Shadow Warriors and decent female elves for the Sisters.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Army rating

The 7th edition High Elf army book under 8th edition rules was a lower middle tier army book. For all the whining about how overpowered Speed of Asuryan and things like the Book of Hoeth supposedly were, when you look back at big two-day tournament results, where were the High Elf wins? I don't think I've heard of any. At best really good High Elf players could scrape top ten finishes but the rest of us were struggling to make mid-table.

Does the new army book address the problems High Elves had? In my opinion, at this point in time, no. While the option of running all-cavalry Core sounds appealing at first, after the first round of combat you're left with strength 3 elves.

That leaves the old faithful Sword Masters and White Lions who, while they got cheaper, got worse through losing re-rolls to hit and need to be run in bigger units to have the same potential impact.

Don't get me wrong, I hope I'm wrong about what the army's performance will be (at present I haven't had a chance to get a game with the new book) but honestly, I can't see that the army has gotten any better.

Rating: 3 / 5

My future plans with the army

With the points decreases I'm going to need to plug a gap in Core (happily I have an assembled, albeit not fully painted, unit of Ellyrian Reavers I can drop in) and I'll probably try out the new Loremaster of Hoeth but other than that for the time being, with no money to buy the new kits, it's going to be a case of filling out my existing units with more models where I have them, or pulling in stuff I've dropped from my army lists for a while

I hope to find time to revisit this article in future to see how my thoughts on the new book have developed

Below are links to other articles, podcasts and videos about the new High Elf army book.

Note: The Wargame Tournaments Website takes no responsibility for content hosted on external websites. If you object to the gratuitous use of foul language you may not enjoy some of the items linked to below or want your children to read/listen/watch them.

Description Format Link
Bell of Lost Souls - High Elf Army Book Review by HERO Blog, Forum etc. Link
Bell of Lost Souls - High Elf Army Book Review by Man Boy Genius Blog, Forum etc. Link
The Brush of Doom blog - I guess I should give my opinion on the new High Elves Blog, Forum etc. Link
finreir (Ian Sturgess) review on Ulthuan.net Blog, Forum etc. Link
Flames of the Phoenix blog Blog, Forum etc. Link
Furion review on Ulthuan.net Blog, Forum etc. Link
Imperator Guides website - High Elves Tactica - Army Special Rules and Magic Items Blog, Forum etc. Link
Imperator Guides website - High Elves Tactica - Special Characters Blog, Forum etc. Link
Imperator Guides website - High Elves Tactica - Special Characters Blog, Forum etc. Link
Imperator Guides website - High Elves Tactica - Lords Blog, Forum etc. Link
Imperator Guides website - High Elves Tactica - Heroes Blog, Forum etc. Link
Imperator Guides website - High Elves Tactica - Core Blog, Forum etc. Link
Imperator Guides website - High Elves Tactica - Special Blog, Forum etc. Link
Imperator Guides website - High Elves Tactica - Rare Blog, Forum etc. Link
Imperator Guides website - High Elves - Army List Fun Blog, Forum etc. Link
Knights of the Square Table - New High Elf Army Book Comparison Blog, Forum etc. Link
Korhain's hobby blog - A better rule based review of the new High Elf army book Blog, Forum etc. Link
Loremaster blog - The New High Elves of Warhammer Blog, Forum etc. Link
RafazzaTime - Oxyotl Report Blog, Forum etc. Link
The Shell Case Blog - Warhammer Armies: High Elves - A review Blog, Forum etc. Link
Stumpy Heaven - Stumpy's review of the new High Elves or Don't belive the Interweb Blog, Forum etc. Link
Bad Dice Daily 242 - Top 5 High Elf Highlights Podcast Link
Bad Dice Daily 244 - Q + A Session Podcast Link
Bad Dice Daily 245 - What Would Curry Do - High Elves Podcast Link
Bad Dice Daily 246 - High Elves Elites Podcast Link
Bad Dice Daily 247 - Top 5 High Elves Shooting Units Podcast Link
Bad Dice Daily 250 - What Would Curry Do High Elves Monster Lists Podcast Link
Bad Dice Daily 253 - Archer Horde Podcast Link
Bad Dice Daily 255 - Kairos and Teclis Podcast Link
Bad Dice Podcast 105 - High Elves Army First Impressions Podcast Link
The Black Sun Podcast - Episode XLII - Benfica vs Chelsea and the Pussy-Dart Podcast Link
Chumphammer Podcast - Episode 15 - The Banner Does What? Podcast Link
The Dwellers Below podcast review Podcast Link
Garagehammer Podcast - Episode 73 - High Elf Review Part 1 Podcast Link
Garagehammer Podcast - Episode 74 - High Elf Review Part 2 Podcast Link
Heelanhammer Episode 85: Elfabet Podcast Link
Jaded Gamercast Episode 125 Podcast Link
Jaded Gamercast Episode 126 Podcast Link
Long Island Wargaming - New High Elf 8th Edition Book Review (Part 1) YouTube Link
Long Island Wargaming - New High Elf 8th Edition Book Review (Part 2) YouTube Link
Orc Tactical Team - Episode 170 - New 8th Ed high Elve Army Book Review YouTube Link
Tom Richards - First Look At: 8th Edition High Elves YouTube Link

About the author


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.