Thursday, January 31, 2013

Starting a Dark Eldar army

Kruellagh the Vile - Des Hanley

Ever since their introduction in the 3rd Edition of Warhammer 40,000, the Dark Eldar have always peaked my interest. Portrayed as deeply depraved and sadistic raiders, traveling the void praying upon the unwary, the Dark Eldar have always been a force that demanded attention. Some of the original imagery done by Des Hanley and Wayne England is superb and still sticks with me today. The image of Kruellagh the Vile slaughtering that Imperial guardsman with her Soul Flayer is particularly memorable. 

Haemonculus - Wayne England
While not as striking as some of the artwork, the original  line of models was certainly interesting (many of which were sculpted by Gary Morley and Chris FitzPatrick) and are not easily forgotten (the original Archon with his dead-skin mask and outrageously large claw springs to mind). At the time, I was only in high school and without a steady form of income, I was forced to be content with a single squad of Dark Eldar warriors (all of which I somehow managed to paint in a single weekend...). I continued to slowly collect models from the range sporadically, never really creating a viable force to actually use them in the game. Eventually, I vowed that I would fully embrace the force and construct a proper army when they received a new Codex and accompanying range of miniatures. As many of you know, this took Games Workshop twelve years to finally accomplish.

Needless to say, when the Dark Eldar were finally revisited in the Fall of 2010, I eagerly set out to start an army of the Dark Lords of Commorragh. Fortunately, the army received royal treatment, with nearly every unit and model being designed and sculpted by Games Workshop’s master modeller Jes Goodwin. This attention resulted in the most consistent and uniform range of miniatures Games Workshop has released for a Warhammer 40,000 army.  Each of the plastic kits were designed and planned so well that nearly every piece from one set is interchangeable with the others (and many of the Dark Elf plastics too!). This interchangeability even spills over into many of the the new character models (the Archon with Husk Blade and Soul Trap for instance), presenting a wealth of conversion possibilities.

This post will mark the first of many detailing my progress assembling a Dark Eldar army. For this first installment, I want to talk about my initial efforts in tackling the Dark Eldar Headquarters section. The Headquarters section for me is typically one of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of building an army. The Dark Eldar codex is filled with interesting and effective 
Headquarter options, making choosing an initial model tricky. Eventually I opted for an Archon wielding a Husk Blade and a Soul Trap (eager to try one of the codex’s new options over the trusty old agonizer...).

As a bit of a homage to the older Dark Eldar range, I decided to use the old Kruellagh the Vile model as a base for the conversion. If any of you remember the model, you will probably recall that both her hands and feet looked awful.  
Kruellagh the Vile - horrible hands, feet, name...
The brunt of the conversion was to replace both of her hands and feet with nicer ones from the new Dark Eldar range. Replacing the hands turned out to be pretty easy as they could be swapped with the Soul Trap and Husk Blade from the new Archon model, only requiring minor greenstuff work to fill in some of the seams between her hands and wrists. Her legs were a little more involved, requiring me to largely remove them below the knees.

Off with her legs!
I chose to replace them with the legs from one of the new plastic wyches, which were thankfully correct in scale. Like the hands, the legs required some greenstuff work to fill gaps and smoothen out the transition between the plastic and metal. Finally, I pinned the model to a scenic base taken from the Eldar Harlequin Troupe Master.

The new Dark Eldar components even fit well with the old models! 
And now to build the rest of the army...
That about does it for my first Dark Eldar post. Any questions or comments would be appreciated. There are still several ideas going around in my head for other Archon models, including one based on another even older Dark Eldar model than Kruellagh...

- Harlon Nayl


  1. Hello there matey, just found your blog as my wife is looking to start a dark eldar army to fight my space wolves and we are reading up on all things D.E. :) I love your conversion work here and was wondering if you have any advice on which sets or mini's would be a good starting point for us to embrace our evil space pirate side !

    Keep up the great work and thanks for your time,


  2. Thanks for the kind words! I am glad you are enjoying the blog.

    The Dark Eldar are a great army to get into both for their characterful models, background, and how they play on the battlefield. More so than most 40k armies, the Dark Eldar reward clever leadership and maneuvering (since most of the units are fragile you need to be careful not to leave them out of cover or within sight of large portions of your opponents army). Further, nearly all of the units in the army are fairly costed in game terms and worth taking (except for maybe the Mandrakes…I still use them because they are cool though…). This allows for countless interesting army builds.

    The first thing I recommend doing is deciding whether you want the army to be themed. If you particularly like warriors, wyches, or wracks, you could consider focusing the core of the army around those units. For instance you could start a Wych Cult army made up of wyches, Reaver jetbikes, Beastmaster squads, and Bloodbraids all lead by a Succubus (or Lelith). Unless you are really sold on the wrack design, I might suggest that you focus on either warriors or wyches. Both are plastic kits, rather than finecast. This allows for much greater modeling flexibility and opportunity for conversions. Moreover, all the plastic kits parts interchange with one another, allowing for simple yet effective conversions with very little cutting. The Reaver jetbikes have these awesome domed face masks that work well to distinguish a more elite unit (Bloodbraids or Trueborn) and give them a sinister look, as faceless killing machines.

    Once deciding on a theme for the army, I would recommend buying a squad or two of the basic Troop squads (probably either warriors or wyches). These basic units will always be useful and will make of the core of all of your army lists. It is good to get these squads finished early before getting carried away with the more specialized units that you will not always be using (it is much easier to buy models than it is to assemble them!). Having spent a lot of time assembling models for my Dark Eldar army, I am starting to find that I need to assemble more squads of warriors and wyches (I can’t keep buying and assembling Elite choices... ha ha).

    I personally have been having a great time “updating” some of the 3rd edition Dark Eldar range with the new plastics. It is not very difficult to acquire some of these older miniatures off ebay, and would encourage you to experiment with some of them if you think any are particularly cool (the old Archon with the human face stretched out as a mask comes to mind).

    Also, if you are looking for more inspiration for starting a Dark Eldar army, try looking at the blog ‘Eye of Error’. The guy heading up that blog is incredibly talented and extremely prolific when it comes to producing stunning conversion work.

    Best of luck! If you have any other questions feel free to ask them and I will do my best to answer!

    1. What an awesome reply and advice, thanks so much :)

      I think wyches are the way she will go to be honest, something about loads of female mini's running round with guns and swords seems to appeal to her (should I be worried ?!) and I agree totally, I think a themed army would look great. Personally my background is Space Marine armies which let you get away with a lot by basically being 7 foot tall supermen in power armour so tend to be much more forgiving than the Eldar !
      I will be sure to check out the Eye of Error site so thanks for the tip, and have been hunting on Ebay for some mini's to pick up, we are also travelling to our local GW this weekend and were thinking of picking up the battleforce box as a good solid introduction set, warriors, wyches, jetbikes and a ravager seem like a good place to start :)
      I love the incubi and scourge fluff and mini's personally but I'm trying not to influence her too much with what I think are cool (although all of Jes Goodwin's work blows me away to be honest) I'm sure she'll be able to put together a list that gives my wolves a good fight before too long !

      Thanks again for the advice and taking the time out to reply dude, really appreciate it :)

      Keep fighting the good/bad/evil fight !


    2. The Dark Eldar Battleforce is certainly a great place to start. All of the units in it are ones that you will be wanting to take in most battles. It will also give you a nice range of their plastics allowing you to mix and match pieces between the kits.

      Best of luck assembling all those models! The Dark Eldar can be a little tricky due to all the small and incredibly detailed pieces (particularly if you want to take off all of the mold-lines...). Thankfully all of the units were designed very well and they fit together easily (even the Raider goes together smoothly).