Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Avoiding the bandwagon

Well it's unlikely you would have found this blog without already knowing it, but the 8th edition High Elf army book was released a few days ago. I have already bought a copy, but I am yet to see it – I'm away from home for a few days and my copy will have arrived in the mail in my absence. I will probably get my hands on it tomorrow, and I am really looking forward to reading through it.

The internet is already abuzz with how powerful some of the items and combinations in the new book are, however I have largely ignored what people have to say. I prefer to read the book myself and come to my own conclusions. Nevertheless, it's apparent that High Elf players are pretty excited about the new book and others are starting to worry about what they're going to find themselves up against.

The other thing that seems apparent is that every man and his dog is suddenly going to appear with a High Elf army and start to try out the new rules. It's common for a new army to start popping up all over the place, especially when the immediate response to the book is that it's going to be pretty powerful. However, High Elves are a bit of a special case.

There are a huge number of players with ancient High Elf armies stashed away. This seems to have been the case since 4th edition, when High Elf Spearmen and Archers were part of the Warhammer core boxed set. People tended to gather up small forces of the pointy-ears, only to then pack them away in a box – the 4th edition army book was terribly weak, being one of the first released and at the low end of the power creep that was rampant for so long. I should know; I got punted around by my friend's Vampires for many years, trying only to defend myself with the power of Battle Magic (which was, admittedly, a lot of fun). Anyway, it meant people had the army, but moved on to other things in the interest of being competitive. High Elves also have a distinctive character – they are the epitome of an noble, elite force clad in glittering armour. This helps them stand out when people are looking for something to collect, and probably contributes to the number of people with the models kicking about. Oh yeah, and they have Dragons. Lots of Dragons.

It seems inevitable that the Warhammer scene will be flooded with High Elf armies for a while, many of them leaving dusty trails across the table as they shake off years of neglect. In some ways I find it funny, as the last book wasn't terrible in terms of power (despite what some people might tell you). It was just limited in terms of its competitive options, and held back by a lack of internal balance and no interesting Core choices. The new book will probably address these things and also add a few monstrous options in keeping with the other recent books we've seen (this is partly guesswork – as I say, I've been ignoring real details of the new book). Basically it stands to make the army enticing to new players, and those who have had their collection in mothballs.

All of this means that I am pretty excited by the new book. And that it may be quite a while before I actually start using it. I have something of an aversion to using the same thing as everyone else, and an army that is all the rage definitely fits that criterion. If I discover that a huge percentage of players at a given event will be using a particular army, I will go out of my way to avoid it. When the current Ogre Kingdoms book came out, there was considerable excitement about how big an improvement it was over the old one. That resulted in 14 players using the army at Cancon shortly thereafter, which was enough to scare me away from the army for a pretty long time. Despite having an Ogre army on the shelf, I used the new book for the first time 2 weeks ago, some 15 months after that Cancon.

Going back further, I remember the current Wood Elf book coming out late in 6th edition, and every second person either already having an army, or getting excited and going shopping. I think 6 people at the club were suddenly all about the Wood Elves. 6 months later, they had almost all changed their minds, lost their enthusiasm or moved on, and I actually got around to trying the list for myself (and discovering the Forest Spirit armies were awesome). This feels like a lifetime ago now, but it just shows that this habit of mine is long-established.

Basically, I am the anti-bandwagoner. If everyone is getting excited about an army and jumping aboard, I'm the guy that turns around and heads the other way. Or sits down and waits for the wagon to leave and travel far, far away before I turn and walk after it. I think variety is good for the hobby, and that it's rather tiresome when everyone is using the same thing. I have a particular aversion to everyone using High Elves, as I have memories of the previous book coming out and High Elf vs High Elf games resulting in things like charging being irrelevant and the whole game turning on its head. It wasn't really my thing.
I make wagons. I don't jump on them...
I am one of those guys with a High Elf army gathering dust. Actually, I kind of have 3 eras of High Elves packed away, waiting to get used. And I am really excited to pull them out and give the new rules a spin. But I'm not going to do it until the dust settles and people either move on to something else, or prove to be all talk and their grand threats fail to materialise.

In the meantime I will be waiting patiently. Or maybe impatiently. After all, High Elves have shiny, shiny hats. And lots of Dragons...
Dragons, dude! Dragons!!


  1. Likewise, I pulled out all my old 4th Ed HE models, looked at them, had a think about a paint scheme did a couple of tester models and have now shoved them all back in the box to wait a good number of months before I'll even think about it.
    I’ve been running TK, WE & O&G for the last year and a bit and now O&G seem to be taking a surge in popularity I’m only interested in avoiding being on the bandwagon so they’ll either be shelved again or possibly run a few alternative builds, sadly I’m quite restricted by what I own/have painted so suspect it’s the shelf for them.
    Empire were the release that really caught me out, I was just building up the models for an all mounted force, which wasn’t that popular under the old book, when new book dropped and everyone went ‘oooh, all cav core and demi’s , cannons and tanks’. Empire went back in the box and haven’t seen the light of day since.
    Everyone seemed to be really down on the Daemons when the book came out so I’ve started painting up a force, sadly after a few tournaments people seem to have realised they’re not total rubbish, so they’ll probably creep up in numbers again. So I might be forced to flip back to Dark Elves which have massively fallen from favour.

  2. Bandwagons? Jumping? What are these alien concepts of which you speak? I never go with the popular army (except in Saga where I play Vikings, but that's only because I didn't know they were the popular army at the time!), and will happily spend hours converting totally useless units. Because they look cool.

  3. I had a decent sized pool of HE models on sprues ready to begin assembly about two months ago and realized I needed to not have them. Skaven, Lizardmen, Bretonnians, Ogre Kingdoms, and Vampire Counts really should be sufficient for my warhammer needs eh? But it is tempting because the new models are so cool and the new books are always so nice!

    Be strong though brother!

    1. Ah, but you see, my situation is slightly different. I do still have hundreds of unpainted High Elves. I barely need to buy anything - maybe a Phoenix or 2. For me it's more a question of steering clear of the army whilst the tempest of excitement in the community of still going strong. Once things settle down and people move on, *then* maybe I can get excited about using them myself...

      Sitting back and ignoring all the shiny new stuff that I already have at my disposal is a different challenge.