GW Dark Elves- Impressions from an ex-GW player

Posted by admin on October 15, 2013

Inspired once again by the Mantic community, I decided to try to take a fair look at the GW Dark Elf line, since plenty of WFB players were abuzz about it with the release of the new Army Book.

So let's have a look-see at their offerings as a whole, from my admittedly biased perspective.

I gave up on GW in 2011. Malifaux and now Mantic are the main reasons I stuck around in the hobby at all. Rather than go off on a rant (that's for my actual blog), I'll just say I have several reasons, for leaving them, with the most important being that their current games just weren't fun for me. If you like GW, hey, it's all good. I owe some of my favorite game nerd moments to some of their 80s and 90s products.

In other words, I do have an anti-GW bias. Better to admit it now and move on. I will do my best to be fair, but any staunch GW fans are probably going to think I'm an idiot (despite the fact that I play, and enjoy, multiple games for the same cost as a single GW army ). Haters gonna hate, so let's get back to the story.

The Dark Elves are the new hotness in Warhammer-land. Did GW bring the awesome? Even without my usual price-based castigation, are the minis worth it for those willing to pay? Generally speaking, I think much of GW's stuff is overpriced, but sometimes they have something worth picking up (as a side note, I'd like to see Mantic come up with a Kings of War movement tray kit that's better than GW's, which is quite good).

The Good:

  • Cold One Knights: I like these. The Cold Ones look nice and vicious- the old school models looked sort of bored and lived up to the name. They are expensive, but at least the detail level is enough (almost) to justify the cost. I kinda hate the name "Cold Ones" though. It says less "ferocious lizard cavalry" and more "we're going to...shun you. Yeah, we'll ignore you really hard." I like the Gamezone Knights on Predators better, but they are expensive. Maybe they can get those into resin plastic soon, eh?
  • Kharibdyss/War Hydra:
    • Price-wise, the big monster kits seem relatively reasonable. Considering the smaller Mantic Elven Battle Dragon (admittedly cast in metal which costs more per model) is $40, $65 for hosses like this doesn't seem that bad. Am I nuts?
    • The Kharibdyss config is, presumably, appropriately gross looking. Why do the Hydra heads look toothless? Seems like they did two quick head sculpts and called it a day.
    • GW strikes an egalitarian note with the handlers- hell, I'd probably write a little back story for them, making them a couple or something. Ugh, I am so sentimental sometimes but I think they are my favorite part of the kit. Am I the only one who thinks they look like a couple?
  • Cauldron of Blood/Bloodwrack Shrine:
    • Am I right in assuming you can build that big nasty medusa and the Bloody Cauldron of Bloody Bloodiness at the same time with one kit? If so, I'd offer to buy the Medusa portion of the kit off someone (Arena Rex has a Euryale monster, and this would work great for it).
    • This kit is full of the insane, brain-hurting details that GW is famous for- you know, the ones that are completely unnecessary yet inspire compulsion to properly paint them. I think a lot of people are going to chop this kit up since the parts are greater than the whole.
    • Also, if the scrying mirror bit is hand painted, that's amazing and the painter deserves kudos for that. If he/she used some sort of transfer or a printed image glued on there instead, I'd say "well played" and be disappointed. Still, the paintjob is nice, but that little bit takes it over the top for me.
  • With a few exceptions mentioned below, most of the heroes are pretty good to great. While expensive, I wouldn't feel completely ripped off buying them if I was a good painter and wanted a painting piece.
  • The Shadowblade is the type of mini I'd expect from a boutique studio, and GW deserves kudos for letting that sculptor go a little wild. It's nice, though for $20 I can find better.
  • It's nice to see the old-school Sorceress is still available. It's not worth that price (especially since you can probably find one in metal and cheaper on eBay), but it's nice to see an actual nostalgia piece, instead of what should be a nostalgia piece marketed as new.

The Bad:

  • Shades: These would've been considered amazing in the mid-to-late 90's. Now, they just seem dated. Their earrings (?) look like some sort of funky earplugs. $6.50 a piece for them? Not from me.
  • Harpies: Mantic deserves a pat on the back for their Gargoyle/Harpy kits, because their kit absolutely owns these. Again, these have a fun mid-90s nostalgia trip vibe to them, but for a modern figure set they don't really work. I haven't been paying attention- are they the same sculpt from back then? Anyway, they'd be worth a clearance price for the nostalgia factor, but certainly not for what GW is asking.
  • Malekith, Morathi, and Malus Darkblade are straight 90's nostalgia, but a little too far gone for my liking. They look very dated to me. I find it amusing that most of the named characters have very uninspiring sculpts, but the generic heroes are actually interesting.
  • That one Sorceress is not as good as Mantic's TK Sorceress. I imagine the conversation with the sculptor they commissioned for Mantic's piece went something like this: "OK, we want an evil elf sorceress. Beautiful in that classic Circe/Medea way, but not too sleazy. Beyond that, we're not exactly sure what we want, but make it better than this (shows the GW Sorceress)." Lo and behold, that's exactly what the sculptor delivered . Somehow the GW Sorceress manages to look a bit thicker in the middle than her kin (though let me firmly state that I am fine with this part), yet her limbs are waif-y. She should either have a thinner torso to go with her thin arms and legs, or her limbs should have a bit more meat on them to go with that buff abdomen.

The Meh:

  • Spears/Crossbows/Blades Troop Box: These are not bad. I like the crossbows, actually. GW, why are you charging me a premium for two sets of bits I will not use? Make a body sprue, a command sprue, then separate sprues for crossbows, spears, and swords. These are not worth the price premium over the Gamezone spearmen, that's for sure, and I would argue that they aren't much better than Mantic's TK Spearmen, either.
  • Witch Elves: $60?! They are plastic, same as the other troop sets, and there is no justification for this. At least the above box give you a bunch of bits that might prove useful for conversions. The leftovers here won't be nearly as versatile. They are solid sculpts but they sure as hell aren't worth $60 to me. At least they are more feminine/warrior feminine than before- while I have no problems with variety when it comes to sculpts of either gender (indeed, I welcome it), it's nice to see that these models don't look like men with breast implants.
  • Black Ark Corsairs ($24.75): OK, so from this we learn that GW's base box of 10 price is about $25. But even these guys have the option of a hand crossbow in their off-hand. Why so much cheaper? Do they suck in-game now? Also, have they ditched the puerile "cloaks made from human skin" idiocy? Only demons have time for that crap- pirates should be looting and burning, not playing arts and crafts with the skins of the dead. I confess that I love the standard with the kraken motif, and wouldn't mind trading bits for one.
  • Reaper Bolt Thrower ($29.75): It's a good sculpt, but it doesn't wow me. They get bonus points for gender equality in the crew though (one male, one female, and both in mostly sensible enough armor, no less). A bit pricey but not too bad, especially considering Mantic's TK Bolt Thrower is $20.

So, to recap TL;DR style:

  • I would buy the Hydra handlers or the Medusa from the Shrine kit off someone, and I wold trade for the Black Ark Corsairs standard bits.
  • The Cold One Knights are pretty good and I'd consider purchasing them if I got a bit of a discount.
  • The Cauldron of Blood kit is a bunch of neat bits that form V(isual) O(ver)l(oad)tron.
  • The Witch Elves, like the new Dark Eldar before them, show that GW is getting better with their female sculpts. Doesn't justify being nearly double the price of the spear/bow/blade troops!
  • The Harpies and Shades would have been good in the 90s, but they are very dated looking now. Mantic's Gargoyle/Harpy kits are leagues better than the former.
  • The heroes with a few exceptions are good to great, but still very expensive considering what other sculpting studios are putting out these days.
  • Overall, some nice additions, and a few surprisingly good items that made me stand up and take notice, but the prices for most of this stuff are so high that it kills what little interest I had.