Thursday, 17 February 2011


I wanted to write something today about the new creatures for the GW Dark Eldar range, but I really can't. Not because I'm not interested of course - I've usually got a comment on the potential for alien lifeforms - but because the DE just make me sad.

My thoughts on the faction I've put at Bell of Lost Souls and will surprise none of the longer-term readers there. Without getting into all the issues of their suitability for the younger end of the customer base, I feel that while the structural quality of the miniatures is high, and the DE concept might have moved beyond 'Eldar who are Dark', this really ought to have been true over 12 years ago when they were first released.

After all, the structural and conceptual quality of the succubus in the most recent batch doesn't seem to me greatly different than the House Escher miniatures released for 1995's Necromunda. Compare that latest mini with the Escher gang here. If only the original DE - released just under three years after the Escher - had been so well-proportioned and naturally-posed.

I wonder how many people bought the boxed third edition of 40K in 1998 - which featured the starts of two armies, space marines and DE - only to realise that the popularity of space marines meant that if they didn't want largely internecine wars, and did want to build on their sunk investment, they had to fork out for something seemingly less than finished. And then watch as it was supported less than many other factions later.

It was almost the Squats all over again. And if you still believe the Tyranids ate those guys, and that we should avoid talking about them because of some imaginary clock, take a look at what Hungry Ghosts has compiled, specifically this post; scroll down to 'White Dwarf 240'. That wound still hurts.

Many of us probably have concerns about big firms and the way they go about things. It's probably inevitable that many will be dissatisfied given the size of the customer base, especially with older lines with stronger emotional connections. Mostly we probably give the firm the benefit of the doubt - as I'd say we should, once, twice, maybe thrice - and just shake our heads and move on. We don't see the numbers or understand the pressures. You need to be an economist to comment, right?

Some Thursday words of wisdom then from Shawn Gately at Blue Table Painting, a successful small businessman with a passion not only for the hobby, but free thinking.

The first rule of Gately-nomics is you're not too stupid to understand economics. As soon as you say 'Well, it's just too complex for me, I just can't do it' guess what - other people own your life now.

Here's the vid if you want to hear the words spoken - 4:15 is where it starts. It certainly can't hurt to follow this man's blog, even if like me you disagree on much.


kelvingreen said...

I was already heading out of the game by the time the third edition rolled around and the dark eldar were released, but they always struck me as redundant and half-arsed in concept. Eldar with spikey bits? That's it? Yawn.

I don't miss the old rulesets, but I really do miss the sense of fun the old game had. Eldar pirates were much more interesting than the space-goths.

Even orks are boring now. Sad.

ArmChairGeneral said...

DE to me is like "OK so we have these cool alien elves - but they are darker - what do we call them? We call them Dark Eldar and we model them after the Drow from DnD. Ok what else. Well we could give them Jabba's sand skiffs.

The Angry Lurker said...

Dark Eldar now would make The Marquis the Sade blush and don't get me started on the Squats, I have had to get my fix of shorties at Hasslefree Miniatures.

Porky said...

Looks like we all feel pretty much the same way.

@ kelvingreen - Why are the bad guys so often spikier? I do miss the sanctioned possibilities of the old rulesets if nothing else. I see your point about the Orks too - they have changed a great deal. I don't know how much the game had an innocence it's since lost and how much we just look at it differently now.

@ ArmChairGeneral - This gets back to the subject of originality from a few days ago. There were some good thoughts in the comments you might want to read, and maybe even in the post.

@ The Angry Lurker - I'll bet you get real angry when it comes to Squats. I get a regular urge to convert some up from plastic humans. I'd love to recapture that mix of greasy engineer, biker and pulp sci-fi infantry.

Von said...

@Porky - described like that, the Squats sound cool. To be honest, I never had a problem with them - some elements, like the idea of Ancestor Lords, were cool. Where did the idea of treating them as comic relief emerge from? Do we blame Ian Watson?

Also, the linked Squat history is hilarious. Vaguely touching, but mainly hilarious.

Colonel Kane said...

I know we've all heard the published statement re the end of the Squats, but a senior GW exec once told me how many blisters were sold in the entire NA region over the year before they were pulled from the stores. Seriously, by the sound of it, no one actually had an army when they had the chance, and no business in existence would have kept such an unpopular line on the shelves :-(

To make it worse, they were available from UK Mail Order until as recently as 2004, and no one ever asked for them.

Personally, I like the Squats (though I think the bikers killed them...) but I'm not surprised they aren't in the range. As far as them being eaten by Tyranids goes, the studio has *never* said that. Its only mentioned in two Black Library books (and one was an author's intro) because BL thought that was the studio's line and later retracted that position with the reprint of Ian Watson's Inquisitor series (when Grimm the Squat was allowed back in!).

The nids eating the Squats is as much a gamer myth as people thinking they were got rid of because Andy Chambers hated them. In truth, if people liked them as much back then as they say they did now, they'd still be around!

Porky said...

@ Von - They were cool. They were supported too, even included in the second edition with the other major factions. They just never received a codex. I don't think they were ever more comic relief than any other faction, but as time passed through second edition they became less familiar and their design aged.

One of the claims made about the lack of an update is that GW lacked inspiration for a dwarf archetype in sci-fi, which is hard to believe given that of the three major new independent factions introduced over second edition or at the very beginning of third - the Sisters of Battle, Necrons and Dark Eldar - one can be seen as an undead archetype and one as a dark elf.

In terms of new ideas, the Squats got a makeover in 6mm Epic with the release of a supplement just over a year before second edition 40K. No one was expecting superheavy war machines in 28mm, or even gyrocopters, but even after all these years we could probably come up with some good starting points.

Looking at the very strong guild biker theme, we could see as a minimum the introduction of some kind of light buggy, along the lines of the Elysian Tauros. Working from the gyrocopter idea we could have turbofan drones able to spot for off-table artillery pieces or superheavies, with a rule of the kind the Imperial Guard had then. The list could have been a new home for the otherwise absent robots, this matching the open approach to technology, and these could even take forms of the kind the Tau were later to be given, as offsetting the natural lack of mobility. If mobility was less desirable, even a tank-sized kit for a land train battlecar-style tracked vehicle could easily have been produced, since kits of this kind were appearing more often then, with the IG chimera and Leman Russ for example, and the Eldar Falcon. If ideas were really short, this could even have had three variants, each corresponding to one of the distinct superheavy variants of leviathan, colossus and cyclops, i.e. heavily armoured troop transport, multiple weapon system heavy support and high-powered tank hunter. Tunnel fighting could have been played up, along with odd weaponry of the cyclops kind or adapted from extraction equipment, based on electricity perhaps, maybe even a classic pulp heavy blaster of some kind, or rail guns.

These are average ideas more or less of the cuff. A whole design studio could surely have come up with better.

@ Colonel Kane - The material at Hungry Ghosts suggests the Tyrands were only one of two options, suggested in White Dwarf of course, not directly from the studio. At any rate, by that point in time I'd imagine motives were already being forgotten. I don't like to question the claim of the exec you spoke to, but in that I would question even myself, it should be said that issues of memory at the very least needs considering. It also does seem odd that no one ever asked, even given the near lack of the spotlight or references, even the supposedly active avoidance of mentions. There's also the issue of the WD response - if no one was interested, why did GW feel compelled to respond to questioning? I guess we'll never know for sure now.

A couple of points on the business aspect. If it was lack of interest and not lack of ideas, I don't understand why a completely new and seemingly underdeveloped Dark Eldar line was released soon after. Even at the time that must have looked risky. The Sisters of Battle and Necrons were trialled through White Dwarf at least, to get a sense of popularity perhaps and get the idea in minds. On the other hand, if the Squats were already a success in Epic, surely it made more sense to build on that, rather than just throw away the IP, which is what they've effectively done after all these years, in the sense that if the Squats ever return we'd expect them to be very different.

ArmChairGeneral said...

DE is to me is like "Oh yeah we have those too."