Eldar (Warhammer 40,000)
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In the fictional setting of Warhammer 40,000, the Eldar are a race and playable army in the tabletop miniatures wargame. They are patterned after the High Elves of fantasy fiction; long-lived, arrogant, and possessing great psychic powers. The Eldar once ruled the galaxy and seek to reclaim their old dominions from humanity and the other Warhammer 40,000 races.
Tabletop game mechanics
Unlike some other armies which have versatile units, 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 counterparts, are very tough and hard to kill because of many evasive and shielding benefits. 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.
Millions of years ago, the Eldar once ruled the galaxy. After the defeat of the Necrons and the decline of the Old Ones, with no serious enemies to challenge them or labors to burden them, they became the solitary masters of the galaxy. However, over the course of millennia, the unchallenged Eldar fell into the most extreme kind of decadence imaginable. Because the Eldar are highly psychic, this behavior led to the creation of the Chaos God of excess and hedonism, Slaanesh. When Slaanesh was finally born (c 30th millennium), the psychic shockwave killed most of the Eldar race.
A minority of the Eldar, somehow seeing the impending doom that would arise from their decadence, had earlier rejected the debauchery of their kin and had constructed colossal starships that they called "Craftworlds [fr]". Truly gargantuan in size, these Craftworlds were capable of housing hundreds of thousands of Eldar and their technological wonders, and would become their refuge from the turbulent times to come. While some craftworlds did not get far enough to escape the psychic shockwave, others did. The remaining Craftworlds are now spread around the galaxy; massive holofields, advance stealth systems, and the vastness of space itself, has largely masked their presence and only a few have become known. 10,000 years on, the Eldar have yet to recover due to their extremely low birthrates and conflicts with the other powers of the galaxy, such as the Orks and Imperium of man.
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 five distinct sides: the Craftworld Eldar (often simply called Eldar), who are similar to the High Elves; the Drukhari, who are similar to the Dark Elves; the Exodites, who are similar to the Wood Elves; the Harlequins, servants of Cegorach, the Laughing God; and the Ynnari, a new faction of the Eldar that worship the god Ynnead. 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 [fr] (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.
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 [fr] 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 reclusive and arrogant. This is in addition to both being near extinction and having organic/nature inspired looking crafts of all sorts. In fact, the name Eldar itself is derived from Tolkien's work. Their weaponry and fighting is based on their physiology and therefore is agile and depends more on speed and precision. Asian influences can be seen in some of their weaponry like the shuriken weapon technology and some of their melee weapons. Some others have European origins like the Harlequin which are taken from Renaissance Europe, it is also visible in some of their weapons not to mention their fighting style which looks like a ballet dance of death. Ancient Egyptian roots are also visible in their clothing and also their symbols and writings which are similar to the ancient Hieroglyphic writing and also in their Hierarchy and spirituality. The Eldanesh gods are a good mix of common pagan gods which can be found in a lot pagan cultures.
- Cassern S Goto,. Eldar Prophecy (Warhammer 40,000 Novels (Paperback)). Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-84416-451-9.
- Priestley, Rick (1994). Warhammer 40,000 Codex: Eldar (2nd ed.). Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-872372-74-0.
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- Spurrier, Simon (2005). Xenology. Nottingham: Black Library. ISBN 1-84416-282-6.