The last month before a new army book is always an odd one.
I feel myself almost frothing at the mouth in anticipation of the rumoured release of High Elves in May. Seeing that the big April release (Tau) has now leaked, the forces of Ulthuan should be the next thing on our GW rumour radar. Unfortunately, rather little is known at this point. After the new GW rumour policy it has become harder and harder to get reliable info ahead of time. In this little piece, I will use my amazing powers of deduction to get an idea as to how this release will pan out.
One should not extrapolate blindly, however the last few army releases have followed enough of a pattern to warrant an educated guess as to what we might expect. Roughly speaking, what might be reasonably expected to happen is…
1) Rank & file only available in Finecast or metal will be released in plastic.
2) New character models, be it in plastic or Finecast, will come out.
3) A new hardback army book.
4) Some type of new centrepiece, in the form of a large (possibly multi-purpose) plastic kit.
5) Some type of new unit, usually filling in some niche that the army lacked.
6) A magic card deck.
Mapping this template to the High Elves, we find a few specific problems. Let’s see if we can figure this out.
1) Plastic re-releases
HE got a rather large wave two years ago and the Island of Blood box set replaced many metal models with plastic versions. Lothern Seaguard, Ellyrian Reavers and Swordmastesr came out in the basic box set. A dedicated set might be desirable, but that would seem unlikely, noting that the separate availability of the Seaguard is due to their presence in the Paint Set. White Lions, Phoenix Guard and Dragon Princes got brand new plastic kits, leaving only Shadow Warriors and Great Eagles as non-plastic options. The Great Eagles got semi-released in that they are now available for the Hobbit game, so there is very little need for a replacement plastic set, barring the Shadow Warriors. Although a dedicated plastic set for them is not outside of the realm of possibility, I consider it rather unlikely.
The fact that Shadow Warriors are not in plastic right now is intriguing. To me it would make sense if a possible SW plastic box would include the option for assembling them as regular archers, which brings us to a contentious topic, namely the spearmen and archer kits. Both kits have been around for almost a decade now and are really showing their age. New kits have been high on the wish list of practically any HE player for a while now, especially after seeing the difference between those venerable models and the IoB Seaguard which are far better models. Unfortunately, GW does not seem in a hurry to update existing plastic kits. The only reason why this might be an exception is the aforementioned SW link and the fact that almost every other option in the book has had a plastic update recently.
2) New character models
This might be a safe bet. High Elves are well supplied with both multipart plastic kits and finecast/metal models. The remaining metal models (mages mainly) might be replaced by Finecast, leaving some room for new things. A likely candidate would be one of the special characters that might re-appear in the army book. Belannaer or Everqueen anyone? Intriguingly, there have been credible mumblings about a new plastic mage, undoubtedly in the single pose plastic format which has been a big success lately. This might seem odd seeing that there is a nice multipart kit (something most armies lack) and a plethora of metal (or soon to be Finecast?) mage models available, but it would appear to be the case considering the source.
3) Army book
This seems to be a given. No-one seems to know what the new rules will be, although there have been some rumblings that Speed of Asuryan might be dropped or that Intrigue at the Court will see a return. Neither possibility particularly appeals to me, but we’ll have to see and evaluate within the context of the full book. I will not speculate on rules changes further since these do not seem to follow any easily discernible trends.
4) New large kit
Reliable rumours have been spread that some kind of flying chariot, possibly pulled by Eagles. They are from a credible source, so this is probably the case. The question remains if this will be a dual kit or perhaps give the option of fielding a special character in said chariot. There have been rumblings that Belannaer might be making a comeback (he used to be in the army list back in 5th edition) so it’s very possible he will be an option for this kit.
5) New units
There has been talk of a unit of monstrous cavalry for High Elves, although little is known. Since some type of monstrous creature has been included in almost every army book released since 8th (the only exception I can think of is Orcs & Goblins) this would seem likely. I might be biased, but I think that “true” Dragon Princes, i.e. drake cavalry would be an excellent choice. Some of our older readers might remember the War of the Beard army book where this unit was featured. This does contradict the current fluff for Dragon Princes but this is not the best predictor for new units so we’ll have to see. It might be entirely possible that a completely new unit is introduced, in which case all bets are off.
6) New magic cards
High Magic is still a perfectly serviceable lore, but compared to the rulebook and recent army book lores it does seem to lack punch.This will certainly be updated and there will almost certainly be nice magic cards to get when the book hits. Interestingly, the Storm of Magic (yeah, I know…) HE spells were somewhat of a throwback to the old 5th edition High Magic. Assault of Stone anyone? Considering GW’s newfound fondness for “vintage” spells and effects this might give us some indication of what to expect. I for one remember the old Apotheosis spell, which let you resurrect a dead character who then caused fear and stayed alive as the spell remained in play. 5 euros says that something like this might make a comeback.
To sum it up, what we might expect is
New magic cards
Flying eagle chariot
Finecast character re-releases
Some new unit type
Plastic Shadow Warriors
TOO HARD TO TELL
New plastic archers/spearmen
Comeback of old special characters (Everqueen & Belannaer)
In a month we shall know my friends, and there will be many screams of rage on the internet regardless of what happens. I, for one, am ready to welcome our new pointy-eared Overlords!