They’re finally here, the time has come! As this blog’s resident High Elves player I am morally obligated to share my thoughts on the new book. You’ll find many reviews about every different aspect all over the internet, so instead of spending a lot of time rambling on what has already been written (and probably better), I’ll instead give my personal impression of the new book.
High Elves were in a weird place until last week. The book wasn’t bad, but it was a crudely designed 7th edition army trying to perform in an 8th edition world. They did a lot of things well, but never good enough that the army as such could coherently perform on the highest level. You always seemed to miss that one thing that pushed any list into mediocrity. List building was a frustrating exercise in creating something that was carefully balanced, but could go horribly wrong no matter how well it was crafted.
The new book suffers from none of that. Two elements stand out. Firstly, there are a lot more options available. Putting Reavers and Silver Helms in Core freed up a lot of space in the overcrowded Special Section, and adding new options in the previously barren Rare section opened a lot of avenues. As an icing on the cake, the character section has been expanded with THREE new support type characters that act as force multipliers. There are so many different builds available that I literally had trouble figuring out were to start. Want an all mounted army? You can do that. Want a monster mash? You can do that. Flying circus? You bet. Rock hard elite infantry list (i.e. the only sensible option in the old book)? Yes Sir! With all the new (well designed!) toys with and lot of internal balance it’ll take a long time before we are bored with this one.
The second element is that we got points reductions across the board, while adding the neat little Martial Prowess rule. This makes shooting lists and MMU (multiple medium units) or MSU (multiple small units) builds incredibly viable. Expect to see 10 man units of White Lions deployed as 3×3+1 or 15 Archers deployed in three ranks of five, because such units deliver a lot of punch while maintaining a small frontage. It also frees up points for taking maximum advantage of the new options and multiple synergies that are available. Just one example, in a standard 2,4k list you really had to gimp yourself if you wanted two Lords. Now it’s an outstanding option.
Another point I would like to comment on is the background and general feel of the book. A lot of effort has gone into fleshing out the different identities of the different Kingdoms of Ulthuan (except Cothique and Yveresse, but nobody likes them anyway). It feels a lot more like a book about an entire continent where many different styles of warfare exists, and a lot less like one big host where every kingdom had a taken unit present with a different hat on. I’ve only been able to play with the iBook due to a delivery SNAFU at my local store, but judging from the internet version the book as an item in of itself is a beauty. The release of Heraldry book is just icing on the cake, and makes the elf loving geek in me very, very happy.
To me, most of the new models are well executed as well. The Skycutter, while an idiotic concept when considered abstractly, is gorgeous in it’s execution. I had a similar reaction to the Demigryphs. The Shadow Warriors are just perfect and will happily join my collection. The Maiden Guard is competently done and quite original, but they don’t quite do it for me. The Phoenixes are a mixed bag. From certain angles they look fantastic, but from others they look flat and uninspiring, no doubt due to the technical limitations of the plastic moulding process. I’ll be getting at least one regardless (and probably more). The new trend of including an unmounted version of the character riding something (Sea Helm for the Skycutter and Anointed for the Phoenix) is something I applaud, especially considering the quality of the two. The Everqueen + Maiden are a nice throwback to olden days, but not quite of my cup of tea.The Loremaster is not that impressive, I ordered one for completeness’ sake but I’ll probably convert my own should I chose to field one, which is a shame considering the high level of quality we’ve come to expect from the plastic clampacks.
So there you have it, my initial reaction to the book. It’s hit almost all the right spots for me, and I’m incredibly happy. This is saying something, because it wasn’t at all what I had expected, nor is it what I’d hoped for. The book is powerful without being silly, doesn’t shoehorn one into a certain type of cookie-cutter list and is incredibly well balanced internally. The models are fresh and exciting. The spell lore is interesting. The book and the background are gorgeous. Well done Mr. Ward, you may have gotten some (deserved) flak in the past but I applaud you for this one.
PS : Oh, and there’s a certain banner. I hear it’s quite good. My personal theory is that the author, well aware of his internet reputation, intentionally put this one in to jumpstart the internet hate machine. Mission accomplished I must say.