Dark Eldar Then & Now! What Does The Future Hold?

September 18, 2014 by crew

From the shadows of Comorragh, through the webway and fabric of the twilight realm, emerge the pallid terror of the Dark Eldar. This ancient race of incarnate evil are masters of rapid and precise combat skill, insidious poison and the horrid manipulation of the flesh in order to gain sources of pleasure and power from their acts.

Dark Eldar Haemonculii

A once omniscient race of galaxy-forgers, the nobles and dilettantes of society dedicated their time to pleasure and excess through extreme and curious methods and relocated themselves to the Webway dimension and build their palaces of ecstasy to their own designs. Their empire fell to the designs of Slaanesh, the God of excess, but those that had turned to the ways of the Dark Eldar were initially unaffected by his ascendance. Instead, their souls drain slowly into his maw, ensuring that the Dark Eldar’s battlefield prowess exists in order to offer souls to Slaanesh in their stead.

For those of you that have read this and thought “Sounds great, where do I sign up?!” all that needs to be done is continue reading, for the Dark Eldar are coming

Dark Eldar – About Time!

I have a love/hate relationship with Games Workshop. Whether this is down to their tactics in marketing and business, or because I have somewhat aged and matured as a miniatures gamer and steered away from “OOOH BIG SHINY FLYING SHIP! MUST HAVE IT”, that is yet to be discovered.


The crux of my spectrum-range of emotions towards GW is down to the quality of each release in relation to the one before it. I was very much excited and interested to see where GW was going with the new 40k set, the repackaging of Dark Vengeance, the release of Sanctus Reach and the all-too-deserved update of the Ork book.

I was disappointed across the board, a full sweep. Not much changed from old to new edition of 40k, the Dark Vengeance box received a new coat of paint, The Sanctus Reach Stormclaw box looked like a training exercise for The Space Wolf player and the Ork release seemed purposefully obtuse in regards to the rules and some of the frankly abominable models.

Wyches (Art)

Then, as if my magic, Games Workshop managed to go an entire month where I said nothing bad about their releases. The month of End Times has been beautiful – all models released look fabulous, moving the canon along with the narrative book left me emotionally drained but excited for potential future narrative drive and playing in the End Times game {link to the article} was a sublime experience. GW even dropped a new release of Space Hulk while everyone was distracted by Nagash and even adding new goodies to the box.

Bloodied Claw Kabal

I raise this point because the Dark Eldar release is this weekend. I have a huge love for this army, not just for the way they play but the model range is some of the jaw-dropping in detail and beauty in the Games Workshop range. So, will the prophecy of good release/bad release fulfill itself, or will the pattern be broken? To judge that, the current set of rules and models need to be examined in order to estimate a future for the sadistic horde.

Current Rulebook

In my opinion, the current Dark Eldar book is still great on the whole. Phil Kelly worked his magic into every single page. Dark Eldar are admittedly a difficult army to play with – the tactics have to be subtle and convoluted at times to properly maximise things such as the distribution of pain tokens and knowing when to get your more able units involved. If these tactics are properly conducted, one can leave an opponent on their knees. If the tactics are scuppered, your Kabal will undergo a beating akin to that of a firing squad in the foreign legion.

The Dark Eldar army wide special rules – Power from Pain, Combat Drugs, etc. have no complaints from me, just some extra clarification regarding how the pain tokens are distributed in the codex itself as I remember the errata for the book being mostly about how pain tokens work.


The Archon, for me, is the best HQ choice. I love using Haemonculi’s and their Ancient counterparts for numerous reasons, but the Archon delivers a punch that the Haemonculi’s can’t. Load an Archon in a unit of Incubi or even a mass squad of Kabalites and the unit is an instant threat. Succubi are fun but I don’t use them as my Warlord. While the warlord is dictating the army, having a succubi backed with bloodbrides is a great left-field option; deep strike down and hopefully get the drop to assault them into a unit. I don’t often use named characters in my force. I’ve only ever used Lelith once or twice and she is insane. One rumour I have heard is that a plethora of named character – Duke Siliscus, Baron Sathyx, The Decapitator – are going to be removed from the new book. This was the first twinge of “What the hell?” I experienced in relation to Dark Eldar release and rumour mill firing up, but this was counteracted by the rumour that Lord Vect is going to be getting a model.

Kabalite Warriors

The core being Kabalite Warriors and Wyches is enough – no need to add to or reduce new models to that selection, both perform tasks expected of them on the battlefield. Wyches may get blown up on the way to a target unit, but if you’re a player marching wyches up the board you may as well have painted them like targets. The one area I could see them doing something is making Wracks a core unit.


I think the fast attack units in the book are a bit too expensive in terms of points cost. I have Reaver Jetbikes but haven’t used them in an age because for the same point, I can get Scourges which I think are the best fast attack unit in the book. Hellions are great for smaller point forces, but require safety in numbers. Beastmasters are great little foil units but I fear their days may be numbered as an option to take.


Another unit that may face the chop if not severely worked over are the Mandrakes. My first purchase was a unit of metal Mandrakes off eBay. They lasted three games before being sidelined. I have seen them used to great effect in certain situations, but that is the problem – when playing a finesse army where each unit is there to do something in order to augment another units purpose, having a unit for purely situational purposes is difficult to operate.


Incubi and Wracks are amazing. Load these units into dedicated transport systems, get them into combat and watch the torture flow.

Grotesques are a distraction/risk unit too. If your opponent doesn’t deal with them, they’ll make short work of units. If your opponent does deal with them, your more important units have turns of grace. However, the risk of them mincing through your own units/taking a babysitter to ensure they don’t go bananas-crazy is a big points sink.

Kabalite Trueborns and Hekatrix Bloodbrides do the jobs of Kabalites and Wyches – just better. I’ve played games with entire load outs of Kabalites and Wyches and it’s great, if a bit lacking in variety.

Talos Pain Engine

Pain Engine/Talos engines, again, great distraction pieces. I’ve held squads of terminators in rounds of combat with these things, allowing other units to sneak behind for added impact or even just to disable an opponents unit. It may not be the best way of using them, but tying up an opponents unit allows for strength elsewhere on the field.

The area that needs severe improvement in the Dark Eldar rules is the vehicle/flyers section. The Raiders, Venoms and Ravagers are adequate, but the Razorwing and Voidraven need major overhauls to become the deadly models and showpieces of a Dark Eldar army they deserve to be.

What is Yet to Come?

This is the main part of my apprehension towards the new release. With the new version of the 40k rules, the decision to dedicate a whole phase to psykers and psychic abilities was brought to the forefront again, and I think deservedly so. My opponents would often forget about their psychic abilities and in terms of an over-arcing context, matching it to that of the magic phase in Fantasy battle, makes sense.

Urien Rakarth

However, Dark Eldar don’t as current have any psychic powers. Yes, we can ally with our battle-brothers to gain psychic powers, but in terms of a financial cost, that is an almost £100 sink to have the ability to roll some dice in a small part of a game. My initial thought was the potential for a new HQ choice with psychic powers, but again, the ability to ally with Eldar is there for that reason. I then thought of a potential low-level psyker in the Archon’s court but that felt a bit of a weird thought. A suggestion towards anti-psyker models was made to me and that piqued an interest, but as of today, I still have no clue how folding Dark Eldar into the psychic phase would work, especially considering the rumour being the force is getting it’s own set of cards. Furthermore, it breaks the fluff of the Dark Eldar, as the practice of psychic abilities is forbidden by their own creed.


The current codex as it stands isn’t a cheese-filled book of rule-bending units, nor is it a weak book. The balance that Phil Kelly wrote into it is brilliant, I could just see them taking the majority of this book and giving it an aesthetic update. As I said the flyers need updating and I think some models will disappear, but psykers will be the area that I focus on the mostly when it comes time to look at the codex.

Miniature Previews

I am excited by what I have seen and heard so far in the Dark Eldar corners of the internet. I’ve started using wrack/haemonculi armies more and more, so the new Haemonculi model looks great and fills me with great expectation. If GW keep to the line of all plastic releases, it excites me even more, as the finecast haemonculi while they look good, they are very fragile – especially the Urien Rakarth model. That feeling is the same for a potential all-plastic Wrack box, which is the reason behind my earlier thought regarding moving Wracks into a core choice.


Haemonculus (Detail)

The potential for an Asdrubael Vect model will be a showpiece model. Vect, some form of a retinue and his custom Dais of Destruction ship in one big box. This will be the test of “Oooh Big Shiny Ship” syndrome I will face, as Dark Eldar forces have some of the best looking flyers in the game.


Low-level mutterings of a model being released of similar size to a terminator but looking like Bane from the most recent Batman film – all muscle and sinew and anger – has somewhat disappeared. I would like to see this potential model appear in place of the grotesques because the current grotesque models aren’t very good. For my grotesques I bought a box of Vampire Count Crypt Horror box and kit-bashed them with Talos Pain Engine spares.

Wracks (Alt)

The Dark Eldar range doesn’t need that much of an update, which was why I was surprised the release was happening. The majority of the Dark Eldar army looks great. The customisation one can do with a Kabalite or Wych box is immeasurable and then further taking those spares into the HQ models or even across into an Eldar force to create slightly corrupted brethren. Just take things away from finecast, that’s what is required.


That being said, based upon the utter shock of a Space Hulk release, Games Workshop will no doubt surprise us all by releasing something for the Dark Eldar completely out of left-field (or, the shadows!) for their range. Plastic Incubi would be a nice addition, or a multi-pose Archon kit (Dream on! – BoW Ben).


All of this being said, it is down to Games Workshop to deliver the goods in the next few weeks. For me, the jury is still out on my final opinion until the codex comes out because after all, it is a game that these models are being supplied for. People will no doubt submit themselves to the Shiny-Syndrome Gods and buy the ships and I have full confidence they will be amazing looking models, but I want to know how my current force is going to change and play before I part with any money.

Am I going to lose Mandrakes? Am I going to need another unit of wracks? What the hell are these rumoured cards going to be used for? Only time will tell, but much like a Dark Eldar’s soul, my patience is slipping away. I cannot wait until this weekend.

Thomas Brown

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