Finally, long-suffering High Elf players can put aside their grievances and get back to playing games again with those “serried white-robed legions” that were so common back in the days of 5th ed. And if the designers have anything to say about it, and this author thinks they stated it quite clearly, you will be fielding a few ranks of the new High Elf infantry and probably a dragon, maybe two, in most of your new High Elf lists. Certainly it’s a bit premature to pen a detailed High Elf tactica, but a preliminary review of the new army book might prove enlightening.
The new book itself comes in at a weighty 104 pages–a full 24 pages more than its 6th ed. Predecessor–and it seems to be one of the beefier army books. Flipping casually through the pages I’m struck by the new art work (for the most part, there are a few retreads) which is once again very nicely executed and the considerable amounts of fluff. The layout itself is clean and well organized though I do regret the absence of a master army rule page where one can easily turn to find a particular rule. Maybe I’m lazy, but when I play an army, I like to commit that page number to memory, or even mark it, so that you can easily reference it during play. Sure the book has something like that. I mean, there is a page that explains the “we hate Dark Elves” and the First Strike ability, but that’s it. All the other abilities are found in the full text entry for individual units. I’m not crazy about that, but maybe I’m alone in this criticism.
THE NEW ARMY RULES
Much fuss has been made concerning the new Speed of Asuryan and it’s true that it will give the High Elf player a certain advantage in maneuvering, allowing that player to be a bit sloppy with many of his units since the charge for his infantry isn’t all that important. In practice, it makes heroes on foot with Great Weapons considerably better (they’re priced accordingly by the way) as it does most of the High Elf missile troops. At the end of the day though, we’re only talking about toughness 3 elves here, many of whom run around the battlefield in little more than upscale bath robes, so I’m not expecting many armies will be hesitant in getting to grips with the poncy lads. Light shock troops like fast cav and the like maybe, but chaos knights and other elites will hardly notice the difference. Of course, Swordmasters are a different story, but you’ll just have to solve that problem via shooting, magic, or autohits. The second army-wide rule deals with the hated Druchii, the Dark Elves. In a nutshell, High Elf go into Chaos Undivided mode when going at against their hated cousins. Not bad I guess, but I’d rather have Hatred, advantage Dark Elves, which they’ll need in the face of the aforementioned SoA. High Elf players are united in their joy over the removal of the Rule That Shall Not Be Named. Suffice to say, the High Elf general can now go to war confident that a coup will not occur in the officers tent the evening before the battle. Speed of Asuryan may prove to be Mr. Troke’s Folly (the author), but I think that in time that it will be viewed simply as a challenging tactical consideration that must be taken into account when facing the sons of Ulthuan.
With the High Elf book, the design team decided that the High Elf would be an elite army in every sense. As a result, the High Elf player has fewer compulsory core choices to make than other armies, and the list itself only has 3 core choices: archers, spearmen, and Lothern Sea Guard. Gone from the core choices are the medium cavalry Silver Helms making it very difficult to create effective versions of the popular pony armies of earlier editions.
Archers became a bit less expensive in the new book and will probably become a popular unit for those not wanting to pay essentially 40% more or so for the new Lothern Sea Guard. A unit of 12 or 13 with a flag and musician will likely see play on occasion in my own lists just to give you some quality shooting. High Elf spears get a substantial decrease in cost and enjoy a solid boost from SoA against those opponents that might be concerned with all of those Str 3 attacks. The greatly maligned Lothern Sea Guard of 6th ed have been completely revamped. They’re no longer an elite 0–1 choice (a move that is consistent with the other High Elf elites) while their effective cost has dropped considerably. This unit may be one of the most flexible units in the game now thanks to the SoA rule and only the fact that they’re armed with bows rather than long bows could be seen as a negative. They’re still pricey for an infantry unit to this writer’s eyes, but a unit of 20 gives one a multi-use unit that can make life very hard on the enemy. As a bonus, the new High Elf book retains the First Among Equals rule so expect to see one of the 4 possible banners on one of the core units (more on these later).
Special in every sense of the word, or at least that’s how I would describe many of these units. This section of the army has been completely revamped and High Elf players will enjoy their extra special choices (6 specials for a 2000pt army), a change to the list that will encourage several new army types. The major change here is that the elite High Elf troop types are all specials and are no longer restricted to the poorly conceived 0–1 foolishness of the previous book (more of Mr. Thornton’s mischief). Some will complain about the move of the Silverhelms to the special selections, but it would be a bit more tolerable if they actually were an elite unit. In the new book, their cost is the same, though they pay a few points more for command, but they’re no longer core, and may not field a magic banner. Furthermore, they’re the only ranked unit in the special selection that are not allowed to equip their unit champ with a magical item. Note to GW, if you were trying to sabotage sails of Silver Helm boxes, I would speculate that you will succeed beyond your wildest expectations.
Overall though, the special choices are dizzying and High Elf players will no doubt feel quite giddy at the prospects of trotting out a few of those old elite infantry units and actually seeing them contribute in a meaningful way in the battle. Of the special units only the Tyranoc Chariot is a copy and paste job from the earlier book though it is no longer a 2-for-1 choice (very disappointing to still see the High Elf saddled with a non-scythed chariot) and most of the other choices get a considerable upgrade. Two units of note are the Sword Masters and Dragon Princes. Both of these units receive a 2nd attack for the basic trooper (making the champion of these units practically a Hero in his own right). Along with the advantage of SoA, the units increase in cost (3pts for Sword Masters and 4pts for Dragon Princes). Sword Masters, along with the other elite ranked infantry, may now be fielded as small as 5 models, surely an interesting tactical possibility for the High Elf player.
Clearly Mr. Troke and his Merry Band of Gentleman want you to send these guys into melee with enemy support and war machines at your earliest convenience. Shadow Warriors and Ellyrian Reavers should both see increased usage as they will both benefit from the new SoA rules (nothing like following up a stand and shoot with a first strike). Though the High Elf scouts are a single point more expensive, they now have their own special sort of Hatred to go along with SoA and sport a WS of 5. Clearly Mr. Troke and his Merry Band of Gentleman want you to send these guys into melee with enemy support and war machines at your earliest convenience. Meanwhile, the Ellyrian Reavers–which were already a very fine unit–receive a reduction in points to the point where a single unit with musician and both spear and bow seems almost too good to leave out.
Phoenix Guard are a completely different animal now. In practice, you’ll save a couple of point on your command so they’re effectively a bit cheaper. The biggest change is the staggering 4+ Ward Save which should have High Elf fans turning back flips. This has always been one of the finest looking units in the game, but now they’ve got staying power to accompany those WS5 halberd hits. Clearly GW wants to sell a few more of these all-metal units and I’ll be one of the first to pony up. I’ve always held to the firm belief that there is a disconnect in the current functionality of elite infantry. At somewhere in the neighborhood of 13 points or so, a ranked unit becomes a very tempting target, even a point sink on some level, and it becomes painfully obvious that these units typically produce little more than modest results on the tabletop.
As is the case with the gorgeous Phoenix Guard models, I think it’s a fine thing that we’ll start seeing more of these units on the table top since White Lions make for a stunning unit.It always seems that there are plenty of other choices available that would have yielded “same or better” performance for less cost and risk. Chaos Warriors in their current incarnation are the perfect example of this dilemma. With the Dwarf army book, the design team has made a good attempt at remedying this situation, though I don’t think we’re quite there yet. To sum up, I think that 15 points is still a lot to pay for ranked infantry, but Phoenix Guard, at least on paper, look very intriguing.
White Lions have been moved into the special slot and like the other elites they’re no longer 0–1, a fact sure to warm the hearts of Wood Elf players everywhere. Another improvement is that you no longer need a character in the unit; they’re always Stubborn. Astute readers will note that the White Lions are a bit more expensive now (2pts more in fact), but the upgraded to heavy armor and SoA is surely worth the cost. As is the case with the gorgeous Phoenix Guard models, I think it’s a fine thing that we’ll start seeing more of these units on the table top since White Lions make for a stunning unit. I don’t know about you, but I can think of one painter who would relish the thought of tackling an entire Chrase-themed army.
Last and certainly not least is the new Lion Chariot, a piece that gives the High Elf army a counterpart to the popular Dark Elf Cold One Chariot. There’s a lot to like in comparison, but particularly the fact that the lions aren’t Stupid. The Killer Kitty Kat Kart hits pretty darn hard and in a sense, it’s reasonable to compare it to a slightly lighter Nurgle Chaos Warrior chariot. It’s also reasonably priced giving the new list both a tight new model, as well as a piece that the enemy will really be concerned with. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or two of these units become a pretty common element in most 2250 point lists. The only drawback that I can see is that you can’t mount a character other than Khoril on it.
Players will notice very little change with these choices. Both Great Eagles and RBTs get updated with no change other than the removal of the 2-for-1 selection from previous versions of the list. Not to worry though. The High Elf player is allowed 4 Rare choices at 2000 points so when you feel compelled to trot out the 4 RBTs there’s certainly nothing (other than common courtesy) to prevent you doing so.
The Tao of Bear
Characters, Magic Items, and the new High Elf lore to follow…