Earth Warriors

In spite of their popularity as perhaps the most iconic of all fantasy races (sorry dwarves!) it wasn’t until recently that I started to recognise the appeal of elves. Too often they have been presented in a way that focussed only on their glory and never on their flaws. Hyperbole is everywhere – they are wiser and more talented in every way than mere humans and long-lived to the point of near immortality. Whilst we are often ugly, cowardly and uncultured, and always bedevilled by age, sickness and death, these natural aristocrats remain forever young and beautiful, an eternal master race. Generally their only flaw is their arrogance, which only serves to make the face that they are practically perfect in every way so much more grating. I like my heroes grubby and imperfect and my fey folk devilish wildwood dwellers, the treacherous creatures of northern European myth and Brian Froud paintings, not the gentle, civilised people of Tolkien but the otherworldly shamanic creatures feared by the Gaels and Norse alike.DrychaThe idea of collecting any elven miniatures therefore was, for a long time, a non-issue. If I wanted a superior race of magically powerful immortals to contemptuously survey the human herd then my allegiance was to the Vampire Counts, and that was that. It wasn’t until the release of the newest edition of the Wood Elves from Games Workshop, followed swiftly by the merging of the elven races in the End Times that I began to change my mind. Partly it’s the fact that many of the new Wood Elf kits are just gorgeous, a welcome result for a faction which had previously suffered from having some of the worst sculpts in Games Workshop’s catalogue. More than that however, I became drawn to the idea of creating a wild hunt, blending elements of the Dark and Wood Elves to create a savage sylvan host, the elemental ferocity of the forest unleashed. It’s an image which has stuck with me, yet to be built but growing organically in my mind’s eye; packs of witch elves and blood-fed dryads, sorceresses leading the host from atop their mobile shrines, treemen and ancient forest gods awaking to furious life.

ConvertOrDie Wood Elf Mantic

To my memory the only elf I’ve ever painted; acquired long ago as part of a Mantic giveaway. Quite how he fights with a bow in one hand and a sword in the other (and no arrows) remains a mystery…

All of which brings me to this weekend’s Sylvaneth release. Through Silver Tower we’ve already seen some of Games Workshop’s concepts for a new, much more savage and alien aspect to the elves, now it’s the turn of the dryads and treemen. Age of Sigmar has been categorised by the over-the-top appearance of its models. Restraint has been cast aside and everything needs to be bigger and crazier than ever before. Now this is far from a bad thing, this is fantasy after all, but it has meant that when they’ve overcooked things they’ve tended to do it quite spectacularly. Thus I awaited this release with a degree of trepidation. If they pulled it off this could be a treasure trove for my elves, but for every hit recently there’s been a miss; for every slaughterpriest or maw-krusha there’s been a warchanter or celestant-prime. Luckily, my fears have not been realised and, for the most part, the Sylvaneth stay just the right side of silly. There are a few close calls – Alarielle herself comes close to overegging it but somehow remains brilliant rather than ridiculous. Likewise the new incarnation of Drycha is a little silly (I feel like someone at the design studio said “Trees are cool, dreadnaughts are cool, why not?!’) although adjusting the pose the snipping off the trailing insects should be more than enough to redeem her. These are balanced by some moments of real brilliance; the Branchwytch for instance, the revenants and or the huge slabs of honeycomb on Drycha’s armour (which is almost enough for me to forgive them for dragging another Warhammer character back from the grave).

The longer I looked at this release the more I became convinced I’d seen something in this style before and, looking at Alarielle’s giant beetle steed it suddenly clicked. This is not a reimagining of Games Workshops Wood Elves but a resurrection of Rackham’s Daikinee.

Mandigorn Warrior

A Mandigorn Warrior by Rackham. Like Alarielle the Daikinee were gripped by bettlemania.

Elves Comparison

Spot the difference; a Daikinee Sylvan Animae and a Sylvaneth Spite Revenant.

For the whippersnappers out there Rackham was a French miniatures company rightly famed for the quality of their miniatures. Sadly they collapsed following a radical shift in direction that alienated many fans, switching from a square-based skirmish game to a round-based rank-and-file set-up. The name of this new game, for those not already feeling a vertiginous sense of déjà-vu was ‘Age of Rag’narok’.  The nail in the coffin was the decision to abandon their former range for pre-painted plastics and, with recession already haunting economies around the globe and their fans abandoning them, they went to the wall in short order. Rumour has it that Games Workshop recruited many of the suddenly unemployed Rackham sculptors although I confess I’m sufficiently out of the loop on these things now that I may barking up the wrong tree (pun very definitely intended). Whatever the truth of what happened the Daikinee remain one of the most beautiful and original interpretations of the wood elf concept ever created, especially when compared to Games Workshop models of a similar vintage. If this is their rebirth then that alone is worthy of celebration.

Advertisements

13 responses to “Earth Warriors

  • imperialrebelork

    I too have never really been interested in elves, Eldar etc. until lately. At one time I was never interested in Chaos Marines either. Funny where the hobby can take us. I look forward to seeing what you build and paint man.

    • Wudugast

      Yeah, it’s funny how what we like changes. I sometimes find that an army I don’t like comes to have more appeal over time than one that appeals at first glance. I start to deconstruct it in my head, to work out what elements I would keep and which I wouldn’t, and I find there’s a greater thrill to that than just painting things straight out of the box.

  • vongutenboom

    Ah good old Rackham games I still have a bunch of AT-43 and Confrontation minis I instantly recognized the bases you have on the first photo! They are some of my favorite bases! 😀

    • Wudugast

      Aye, when Rackham went down I managed to snap up a few bargains on confrontation models. Most of them are still carefully packed away under the bed, waiting for the day when I feel brave enough to paint them!

  • Alex

    Great musings mate – yes… the new AoS tree-kin are a sight to behold! They look great as is, but also some potential gems for the more imaginative converters out there…

  • ejhenries

    Interesting article bud, must say I like this take on the Wood Elves. Be cool to see where you take it.

  • The Responsible One

    Yes, Games Workshop definitely have at least one of the ex-Rackham sculptors.

    • Wudugast

      I thought they did, and I’d bet he or she was involved in the Sylvaneth. I know it’s extremely farfetched but it would be excellent to see some of the other Rackham factions given a new lease of life through Age of Sigmar. Never going to happen of course but a man can dream…

  • 2016 – For Anyone Who Missed It | Convert or Die

    […] other Old-World-Warhammer factions re-imagined in the new setting. These latter have included the Sylvaneth – a new race developed from the treemen and dryads that used to hang out with the Wood Elves, and […]

Speak, damn you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: