Resurrecting my Eldar: The army that started it all

The mighty Eldar have returned with a vengeance in 6th edition.  Lucky for me, I’ve had a full army ready to go, desperately awaiting their return to glory for the last 10 years. This is not so much the story of an army, but the birth of an obsession.

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The story of my love for miniature gaming goes all the way back to 1996 when I was visiting some cousins in Seattle, WA.  At the time we were heavily into Magic: The Gathering’s launch craze.  My brother and I played a fair amount at home and bought most of our cards from the local Sports card store.  We didn’t know of any local game stores, in the traditional sense.  So while we were visiting our cousins in Seattle, they took us to their local game store to pick up some boosters.

The store was amazing.  All the stuff we loved.  D&D, comics, cards…you name it.  It was one of the more larger game stores in the Redmond area.  We had no idea this area of the country was the birthplace of many of these sci-fi/fantasy franchises.  We loved the vast selection of choice cards behind the glass, but the pushers at the store quickly got us hooked on a much more lucrative drug…Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40k.  My teenage self nearly exploded with glee.

The models were awesome.  The universe was awesome.  It was like a pandora’s box of sci-fi nerdery.  I saw the Eldar and the idea of space elves, like, blew my mind.  Who would’ve ever thought to apply the Tolkien fantasy universe of Elves, Dwarves, and Orks to science fiction?  When I heard the tag line “In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war,”  my mind ran wild.  I mean, that slogan still sends chills down my arms.  I freakin loved it.  I also relished in the rampant hate that the Eldar received.  I don’t know what it is.  There is just something about the testosterone fueled fiction of the universe that inspires many to disrespect a dying race of elves in space.  I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdogs of the world and welcomed the chance to bring glory to these once-great warriors!

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My first Codex: Eldar – circa 1996.

“When I heard the tag line “In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war,”  my mind ran wild.”

I was quickly attracted to the hobby aspect.  I saw the little pewter and white metal figs as blank canvases that I could make into my own.  I stupidly bought a squad of Swooping Hawk Eldar aspect warriors.  Not the easiest starter models, and near useless on the table.  When I got them home, I hooked them up with a sweet paint job, using just about every color from a beginner’s set of Testor gloss enamels. Yak!  They looked ridiculous.  The guys at the store gave me no tips how to recreate the gorgeous paint jobs from the Citadel Journal.  I just applied my limited knowledge of painting pinewood derby cars and star trek models.

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Some of my very first models. Plastic guardian (left) and Metal Swooping Hawk (right) …everyone’s got to start somewhere.

Sadly, that would be it for a couple years.  I never really got far after that squad.  My brother was still too little to afford the hobby and none of the neighborhood kids were really into it either.  Hell, we really had no idea how to play.  I have, still to this day, never bought a main rulebook.   When I was finally a little older and got a job and driver’s license, I discovered a local game store called Cyberdragon here in Jensen Beach, FL.  It was a smaller version of the store we experienced in Seattle, but they had a huge 40K following.

The call of the Craftworld was still echoing in my mind.  The painting bar at Cyberdragon, was pretty high.  Lots of guys had full painted armies and they really encouraged the “play it painted” philosophy.  They were also really cool about sharing techniques.  The resident painting guru, Joe, was there every Saturday hosting painting classes and everyone pushed each other to paint better.  When I got serious about starting an army, I picked up some Citadel paints and some plastic guardians.  I probably trashed that squad of Hawks somewhere along the line, but I have managed to keep one of them, and one of the very first guardians I ever painted.  I keep them to show others and remind myself how far I’ve come.

Like many players, I loved creating a character for my army and coming up with my own background fluff.  My brother and I would pour over the rulebook and codex, soaking in every ounce of lore.  We loved the fiction so much, we could easily get past the wild and primitive concept art by Jes Goodwin.  It wasn’t the best, but when I look at it now, it takes me back to a special time.  I almost look at it like early renaissance paintings.  It’s a style that defined an era of miniature gaming.  The dark universe of the 41st millennia was so fleshed out, there were tons to draw on when creating the backstory for an army.

My craftworld would be called Vaul-Kinj, or Engines of Vaul.  The story is that they were defensive in nature, and had the finest mechanized force of all the craftworlds.  In those days of 2nd and 3rd edition, vehicles were just starting to come into their own, and were game changers.  I loved running lots of vypers and falcons.  I came up with the color scheme of Yellow and Grey, purely because everyone was painting their armies so dark.  One thing I loved about 40k was the complete disregard for camouflage.  Bright red Marines would march to war without a care.  My bright yellow space elves would rely on their speed and agility.  No time for trying to blend in.

The color was tough to work with.  I had to prime everything white just to get a good yellow in the end.  I also had a few other standard design elements.

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Jes Goodwin’s early Eldar concept art. Date unknown.

I used Yellow for the primary color of armor and grey for the helmets.  Aspect Warriors have their own color schemes, but the vehicles and troops generally follow this template.  I have recently swapped the pattern on my Dire avengers and wraith constructs.  This is a nice little contrast and is meant to designate their elite status.  I also use the double chevrons on vehicles to break up the big wall of yellow.  All of my heavy weapons use metallics that blend from copper to gold.  The standard spirit stones and weapons are red.  Red is my big accent color and really pops where needed.

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There are some other little design elements I used back in the day that I’ve kind of grown out of.  I used to use thorns on the tips of my tanks and bikes.  I also used to drop the Wu-Tang symbol here and there, as this was the general soundtrack during the creation of this army.  I must’ve listened to that double album, while I painted, for months.

That was back in 1998.  Almost 17 years ago.  I was just out of high school and had tons a free time.  I had broken up with my girlfriend and worked part time.  My only responsibilities were gas for my car and beer money on the weekends.  That left a lot of time for hobbies.  I even made my first full website ever, dedicated to all things Eldar; eldaronline.com.  My brother and I rocked this army for the better part of 3 years until it was time for a change.  Eldar became so fustrating to play towards the end of 3rd edition.  That awful Ballistic Skill of 3 made me miserable.  I couldn’t play it the way I wanted, which was a mix of everything.  I wanted some troops, some aspects, some tanks, and a cool warlord.  Eldar had the worst of them.  I still loved playing the underdogs of the 40K universe, but they just could never compete with the continuous releases of codices that “one-upped” the last.  The only viable lists were little to no aspects and tons of firepower to make up for the poor BS.  They pretty much stayed that way for the better part of a decade.  I eventually went to another unplayed codex at the time; the Space Wolves.

“But alas, the winds of fate have changed for the children of Isha.”

I was always so sad I couldn’t play my Eldar effectively.  I just couldnt play a game where I knew the odds were dramatically stacked against me.  Especially with so many more armies out there that were easier to play.  Truthfully, the conversion potential of the Space Wolves really attracted me.  Those are still some of my most favorite models.

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But alas, the winds of fate have changed for the children of Isha.  6th Edition has brought us an updated codex full of huge changes to the Eldar.  I just love the way the new Eldar play.  Fasts and nimble, and able to hit more than 50% of the time.  I love even more hearing people cry how overpowered they are.  It’s fucking justified.  Much like the Eldar of the 41st millennia, we the players have suffered greatly.  We had to work so hard to play in character or come up with ridiculous leaf blower lists just to stay semi-competitive.  The new eldar have inspired me to pick up where I left off 12 years ago.  My new army will be an evolution of the original Vaul-Kinj, honoring the original colors and design. There are tons of new resculpts that I can’t wait to paint the Vaul-Kinj version of.

This army is so sentimental to me.  It’s the reason I started playing 40K.  I never thought I would field it again.  I thought it would sit in a case someday in my office or something.  That, or my son would get into and destroy it.  I guess the Farseer in me knew the strands of fate held more for Engines of Vaul.  Oh and hate on, Eldar haters.  I always love to see the look on your faces when you get beat by Space Elves.