Sunday, 28 July 2013

Acceptable in the '80s: The Witch Elves of Naggaroth

I am sure that you have all heard of Richard Halliwell. In my opinion, enthusiasts of GW games (and many games beyond their universes) have a great deal to owe him. A few months ago, I researched and published an article that took a look at Halliwell's incredible back catalogue of games, from the early years of his career in a semi-professional capacity to the later, Games Workshop years when he produced quality title after quality title.

This article can be found here.

As well as a rich pedigree of games mechanics, Halliwell also wrote a large number of decent articles for White Dwarf and I present for discussion today, in my opinion, his finest work in the magazine. A detailed study of the Witch Elves (and the the rest of the Elves in a way) in Warhammer Third Edition. Let's have a read of the article. 

Well if that isn't enough contemporary background for a massive Oldhammer Campaign I don't know what is? Dark elf armies, chaos allies, sojourns into Lustria for skirmishes with Slaan and Norse, pitched battles with Sea Elf and High Elf armies. Standing over all of this, the narrative of the Witch Elf domination of Naggaroth (with the power struggle with the remaining Black Pilgrims) and the identify of the High Elf traitor to play for.

Stirring stuff.

But what of the miniatures? Well, Bob Naismith sculpted several ranges of Dark Elves in the '80s and in my view his work still stands up their with the best of the sculpts available. As a footnote to the article above, White Dwarf published a range of Dark Elf warriors. This would include a witch elf or two, cold one riders and the famous Mengil Manhide's Regiment of Renown.

Now my collection does contain many dark elves. I have ten or so of the plastic ones from the Warhammer Regiments boxset and I have a smattering of the Manhides lurking around in bags. I did have the full set back in the day, having bought the clear plastic regiment set in Wonderworld in Bournemouth in the late 80s. Sadly, those models have long since been sold on (when I was a poor single man) but I am slowly building up a reasonable force on them.

I rather like Naismith's elves. They have a detailed, almost engraved feel to them. They have lots of little details that make painting them quite a challenge and all the models have this 'twisted' vibe to them which is suitably evil. Aly Morrison contributed further to the range with a series of command figures. These were produced around 1987 along with a wealth of other command models in support of 3rd edition. Though slightly different in character, their style is in keeping enough not to look odd alongside Naismith's work.

Here are the models published alongside the article above.

Sadly, this is the second and final Regiments of Renown article, the first being the Orc Boar Boys. I really enjoyed the exploration of the background of the elves at this point. Later on, more background material would see the light of day; skaven, dwarfs and, of course, the empire would be detailed, but this material was increasingly geared towards 4th edition rather than the roleplay inspired 3rd.

So what are your opinions of the dark elves and the miniatures produced to represent them? Love? Loathe?

Discuss below.



  1. I loved those dark elves, still got some of those models in my collection.

  2. Always loved the twisted baroque fairytale feel to them.

    They are great looking miniatures, and not as difficult to rank up into units as the later Maruader ones. Design wise them seem to have started with the basic design from the old solid bases Dark Elves, and then added the baroque and engraved looking details to give them more character. Personally I think they did very well.

    Some of them, for example 110121, 110122, 110119, and 110115, can be a little small looking, especally compared to the other Elves at the time. The wizards 110112 and 110118 are very well detailed and have a great look to them. The 110118 has a great looking cloak design on the back, and 110112 has a load of potion bottles and things on the back of his belt and the disc he holds has a tiny pentgram on it.

    I always liked the Standard bearers as the heads on top of the standards looked almost oriental. To me this linked into the idea of the Dark Elves travelling the world and in Warhammer Armies allying with Samurai and Hobgoblins. Also the Dark Elves could use Temple Dogs.

    The article is good, great bit of background. They made a repeater bolt thrower too, same as the High Elf one but with different crew.

    Lovely old miniautres, worth a look to anyone who does'nt have any.

    Great article Orlygg :)

  3. I'm putting together a Dark Elf army now and I absolutely love the old minis. There is something more twisted about the sculpts that sets them apart from other elves. The cast of the face, their posture. I'm starting to paint the Mengils now, and the flesh cloaks always catch me off guard with just how ordinarilly creepy they make them. "You like my cloak? You recognise her?"

    The size difference between the older and the 5th edition is staggering. I'd planned to add marauder crossbows(I had 3) to some of the warriors to beef them up, and, no, it did not look good. Steroidal, growth hormone addicted elves are destructive to my idea of dark elves.

  4. The Naismith ones are really wonderful and I was fortunately enough to get some pristine castings some years ago. I really like the finely detailed faces on the Naismith ones--the noses are fine and pointy and I don't even mind the indented pupils--and how they all have proper kits with hand crossbows and anything else they might need. And the manhides are brilliant, got two units of those.

    At first it was going to be a small foot warband but in the past year or two I added cavalry, a bolt thrower, some command, some more manhides and some more troops both from the Citadel and Marauder varieties. The Citadel are more to my taste but the Marauder ones definitely have their charm as well. The cold ones from either range can't be beat. I guess the Morrison command models are a decent bridge between the Naismith ones and the later Morrison Marauder ones, but I'm not in love with them. Funny, many sculptors refine their craft over time, but Naismith, and I hate to say it but it's true, just got sloppier. If the Morrison command are looser than the Naismith ones, the later Naismith Grenadier dark elves are five times as loose.

  5. Old scan do in past time