Eldar (Warhammer 40,000)
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The Eldar are an alien race of elf-like beings who inhabit the fictional universe of the game Warhammer 40,000, a 1987 tabletop miniature wargame produced by Games Workshop, set in a dystopian science-fantasy universe. Based around the general roleplaying and fantasy-game concept of Elves as conceived in Lord of the Rings, the Eldar concept has been heavily adapted to create a futuristic space-faring race complete with their own unique history, mythology and culture. Like their original inspiration, the Eldar are portrayed as an insular race who may even be on the brink of extinction. In Warhammer 40K, they are used to reflect humanity's more-decadent and artistically cultural aspects, with all the flaws of vice, arrogance and obsession heavily exaggerated to bring the species character in line with the gothic universe's mythology. Their armies, as fielded in the tabletop and computer games, usually have the advantages of speed and technology, composed of highly specialised units that have turned specific, the Craftworld Eldar (often simply called Eldar), and the Dark Eldar.
Each faction has had several rule books or codexes released for them, culminating in the present 5th Edition of Warhammer 40K, which includes an individual rule book for both the Craftworld Eldar and Dark Eldar. Other Eldar factions also exist within both the game narrative and, to some extent, its rule system, with Harlequins being reintroduced in 5th Edition with entries in both the Craftword and Dark Eldar codexes. Forge World, a partner company to Games Workshop, has also produced material and games rules covering further concepts, such as the Eldar Corsairs and expanding on material for existing armies. Further unofficial lists for groups such as the Harlequins, a faction of Eldar who used to have their own army list in earlier editions of the Warhammer 40K game, are also available online.
Some characters and related events are described, below, using in-universe tone.
The Eldar Model Range
The majority of the normal infantry and vehicles as described in the Games Workshop Codex books for the Craftworld and Dark Eldar are available as plastic or "fine cast" resin kits via either the company's many high street stores or by their mail order service. Some limited edition models have been produced for the Craftworld Eldar, although as of February 2012, these are only available as the old style 'lead 'casts on the open market. Models and rules for Super Heavy units and Eldar Titans are only available via Forge World. The company Games Workshop does supply to independent retailers. Also, a few of these distributors whose primary focus is tabletop wargaming can order the more-complex resin kits from Forge World. Both companies have websites from which online purchases can be made. Because the Eldar are one of the original races featured in the 40K universe they have an extensive back catalogue of classic lead and plastic miniatures including many variants of squads, squad leaders and infantry models which can still be found on sale both in store and online for those with the patience to search.
To date Games Workshop have produced no Eldar scenery kits, although brief descriptions have been given on how to build Eldar architecture and objectives in both the main Warhammer 40,000 rules books and in GW's monthly magazine White Dwarf. Such publications, along with Games Workshop's web site also contain many articles on how to assemble, convert and paint the standard range of Eldar models.
In the sense that Warhammer 40,000 races parallel the earlier (and still extant) Warhammer Fantasy Battle game, the Eldar race mirrors the Elven people.
The Eldar in general consist of three distinct sides: the Craftworld Eldar (often simply called Eldar), who are similar to the High Elves; the Dark Eldar, who are similar to the Dark Elves; and the Exodites, who are similar to the Wood Elves. These equivalences are only in very general thematic terms, however, as the major details of the races' backgrounds differ greatly from their Warhammer Fantasy counterparts. For instance while the Dark Elves have long existed as the main antagonist to the High Elves in Warhammer Fantasy, Games Workshop originally incorporated both High and Dark Elves' elements into the Craftworld Eldar for the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Only recently in 1998, did they create the Dark Eldar as a separate army, and there is little back-story on the Eldar-versus-Dark Eldar rivalry. The Exodites exist mainly in Warhammer 40,000 background material and never had any specific models or dedicated army books for use in the tabletop game, however the Alaitoc Craftworld Eldar is closely linked with the Exodites.
Both the Elves and Eldar share some deities. The bloody-handed God Khaine is a recurring entity for both the Elves (High and Dark Elves) and Craftworld Eldar. For instance, Aenarion drew the Sword of Khaine to defeat the First Chaos Invasion, while Prince Yriel used the Spear of Twilight to repel Hive Fleet Kraken from the Iyanden Craftworld. The Brides of Khaine, commonly known as the Witch Elves, are one of the forces in the ranks of the Dark Elves; while the Craftworld Eldar can summon the Avatar of Khaine.
The Eldar are typically stylized with lightweight and sleek forms, organic contours, and bright colors. This is a direct foil to the bulky Orkz with "ramshackle" technology and often dull or "dirty" color schemes. The various Eldar Craftworlds (similar to Space Marine Chapters) each have their own color schemes. Examples are Ulthwé's black armor and bone helmets, Alaitoc's blue armor and yellow helmets, and Saim-hann's red armor and white helmets. The various Eldar paths (described below) also have their own color schemes. For example, the Howling Banshees' color scheme is bone armor, green loin cloth, and red helmet fringe. The Striking Scorpions color scheme is green armor and helmets, black weaponry, and gold trim. Despite this, many players tend to paint aspect warriors the color of their chosen Craftworld for sake of uniformity.
Eldar vehicles also follow the above policy of avoiding too many harsh edges and flat surfaces. Instead, the armor plating is curved and is often criss-crossed with various inset lines which run either parallel or perpendicular to other edges/lines. For painted examples of either, simply browse through the Eldar army section of the Games-Workshop web site.
Unlike some other armies which have many army choices (squads/vehicles) which work many roles with few specialists, the Eldar have many specialists and few which can handle many roles. For example, the Eldar Howling Banshees are melee specialists and, with their power weapons and other special rules, excel at killing heavily armored infantry units in melee combat, while using them for ranged attacks often leads to failure. In contrast, the Eldar Dark Reaper excels at long range fighting but will almost certainly be taken down in melee by even moderately skilled/equipped melee units. However, Dire Avengers can be outfitted for either melee or ranged combat, though they will not be as able as a more specialized aspect.
Eldar vehicles, unlike their infantry counter-parts, are very tough and hard to kill, pending lucky rolls. While no Eldar vehicle has the maximum armor value (14), they often have upgrades and special abilities which can compensate for this and make them more effective than heavier vehicles. Most Eldar vehicles can also be equipped with weapons designed for various purposes. Some examples include the Brightlance (designed for killing Heavy Tanks), the Star Cannon (designed to kill Heavy Infantry), and the Scatter Laser (designed for killing light infantry). This is in addition to other upgrades, such as the Star Engines, Holo-Fields, and Spirit Stones. With the exception of walkers, all Eldar vehicles are skimmers which allow them to move "freely" across the board and, with upgrades, at speeds only matched by the Dark Eldar and the Tau armies. The drawback is that Eldar vehicles are expensive to field in game. An example is the Eldar Wave Serpent, which is one of the most-expensive dedicated transport vehicles in the game.
Because of the Eldar's comparatively weak armor and high fielding costs but comparatively powerful weapons and fast speed, successful game play is often stylized by outnumbered Eldar units which outmaneuver the opponent and kill entire squads before they have a chance to retaliate. This is also the cause of Eldar game play being regarded as "unforgiving". Unlike Space Marines or Necron, who boast heavy armor, high toughness and some form of wound-resistance; the Eldar do not. Because of this lack of staying power, Eldar infantry is often subject to severe, and sometimes unrecoverable, losses after a bad tactical decision or even a series of poor rolls. In some terms, they play the role of a glass cannon.
The Eldar, like other races in Warhammer 40,000, take their current state from various cultures. The Eldar naming-schemes are typically derived from Gaelic. Some examples are the craftworlds Saim-Hann, Ulthwé, Biel-Tan, Alaitoc, etc. The Eldar background and persona are heavily derived from The Lord of the Rings elves, in that both are lithe humanoids with pointed ears, having superb reflexes and speed, having keen senses and are extremely seclusive and arrogant. This is in addition to both being near extinction and having organic/nature inspired looking crafts of all sorts. Their weaponry and fighting style is pulled largely from Japanese Samurai and Bushido, in that any non-conscript Eldar Warrior attends Aspect Shrines (similar to Dojos dedicated to specific fighting styles/strategies) in order to learn war/fighting as an art. Many of their weapons also use shuriken, such as their shuriken catapults and shuriken cannons. The leaders (Exarches/Phoenix Lord) of the aspect known as the Dire Avengers even wear Sashimonos (suspended flags worn on the soldier's back) decorated with their particular shrine's emblem and colors. The specific names of many of the Aspects (and some non-aspect units) follow the eastern martial art "convention" of naming their fighting style after animals. Examples include: Fire Dragons, Striking Scorpions, Howling Banshees, Swooping Hawks, Falcons and Warp Spiders.
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