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I've been playing Dark Elves for 6 years now, so I feel I might as well share some of what I've learnt over this time.....
1. Give your Crossbowmen shields. For 12 points you get 2 shots at range 24 and a 4+ save in combat.
2. Take solid units that can take 1 or 2 losses without it comprimising their abilities. Example in my army all my regiments (apart from Knights and 2 distraction units of warriors) are at least 15 models in size.
3. Always support each unit.
4. When setting up, try to think about what you want each unit to do in it's first turn. On the first turn, think about what u want each unit to be doing in the 2nd turn etc etc.
Heres 2 3000-3500pts Army lists that I use with good results..
High Sorceress - Lvl 4 100pts magic items
Sorceress - Lvl 2 50pts magic items
Sorceress - Lvl 2 50 pts magic items
Sorceress - Lvl 2 Cold one 50pts magic items
Beastmaster - Light armour Web of shadows
Assassin - 2 hand weapons Rune of Khaine Manbane
20 spearmen - Full Command and shields
10 spearmen - "" " " ""
20 crossbowmen " " " " ""
10 crossbowmen " " "" ""
8 Shades - Bloodshade Light armour
2 Cold one chariots
6 Cold one knights Full Command banner of Murder
2 bolt throwers
15 black guard - Full command dread banner
the other army list is the same except i take malus darkblade minus a sorceress or i take a Highborn.
feel free to criticise or praise my army list and tips. Hope for some good feedback
Worshipper of Dice
Last game: Victory Dark Elves vs High Elves & Orcs & Goblins
WDL: Dark Elves:37/6/8 Space Marines:7/3/3
Thinking about getting into WHFB and Dark Elves are one army I'm considering (yeah, I know, new armybook/models soon), and I really appreciate these tips, however, I am hoping you could expand on some of them -
3. What do you mean by "support each unit"? I assume you mean - don't let any unit go into combat alone - use them in teams, etc, but it's a bit of a vague statement.
4. That's always good advice - looking ahead - but again, kind of vague. What would be helpful would some examples, anecdotes, perhaps using your list as an example, for some insight into some of the kinds of things that would be good first turn moves for each unit.
Forgot I posted this.
Updated for 8th Ed:
Point 1 - Give Crossbows Shields, only 11 points now, and instead of getting a 4+ save in combat, they get a 5+ armour and a 6+ parry. My unit of 10 recently stood 3 turns against 5 Cold One knights who charged. All thanks to the 6+ parry. Even killed 3 of them, although that was the dice.
Point 2 - Still stands, although now my regimented units are at a minimum of 20-25. My spearmen units are now blocks of 35. Tried a horde of 40, didn't work, so I run 35 in 5 wide 7 deep. I have a unit of 49 Witch Elves I run as a horde, sure they lose plenty of attacks in the 4 ranks behind the first, but it means those attacks from the front are still there when they hit combat. Cavalry I run as a minimum of 7 in one rank. Shades I run 5-10 with the obligatory Assassin with Rending Stars/Manbane.
Point 3 - Making it clearer. Being Dark Elves, you want to break an enemy unit on the first round if you can or pin it in place with a solid unit, then crush it the next turn with a flank charge from a supporting unit. Spearmen blocks will never win a fight on their own (unless you are very lucky and have 3 ranks and War Banner at least) so make sure they are supported, from a simple Assassin in the ranks to give you a few extra kills, to a Chariot, Hydra or even a small unit of Knights on the flank. A good point to remember is that you're a Dark Elf player....so why fight fair? A simple tactic is to pick one enemy unit, pummel it mercilessly with massed firepower and sorcery, then crush it with two-three hard hitting units. Make the enemy units fight against the odds. The first round of combat is the most important for Dark Elves, because of Eternal Hatred. You will quickly see your units begin to struggle without those re-rolls, unless you're Black Guard or fighting High Elves.
Point 4 - Think about what you want your units to be doing in Turn One whilst deploying, what you want them to be doing Turn Two whilst playing Turn One and so on and so on.
Example: I played a game against another Dark Elf player recently. This was my list.
Dreadlord - Sword of Bloodshed, Pendant of Khaeleth, Potion of Foolhardiness, Heavy Armour, mounted on Chariot
Master - BSB, Sea Dragon Cloak, Heavy Armour, Repeater Handbow, Ring of Darkness, Shrieking Blade
Sorceress - Lvl 2, Dark Pegasus, Scroll of Shielding, Seal of Ghrond
34 Spearmen - Full Command, Shields, Warbanner
10 Crossbowmen - Full Command, Shields
7 Cold One Knights - Full Command, Ranger Standard
3 Reaper Bolt Throwers
I set up with 1 BT, 10 Xbows with Shields, and the 7 Knights on the left flank, Spears and BSB in the centre with the Hydra and Dreadlord flanking it, then the other 10 Xbows and the 2 BTs in a tower on the right flank. What I wanted was the spears to inch forward in an attempt to lure the enemy into them, so the Hydra or Dreadlord could flank, the Knights to head up to the wood near the centre, to then charge through into the enemy crossbows behind it and break their lines, forcing him to either ignore them at his peril, or to cause the nearby corsairs to turn and present their rear. The BTs and Xbows I wanted to distract the enemy and pick off his Shades, Spears, Bolt Throwers and his 5 Knights.
My 7 Knights did their job, crushing the xbows and forcing his corsairs to turn to face, however the failed their stupidity check next turn and couldn't swift reform and nip round the corsairs to face the rear of the Black Guard. However, the eventually destroyed the 20 man unit of Corsairs, losing 3 of their number. My spears also performed admirably, tying up his Black Guard so the Dreadlord could flank them and unleash his 8 attacks on the charge, with the chariots attacks on top. After killing 13 Black Guard he then over ran into the warriors who had been tied up by Hydra, crushing them with impunity too.
By knowing what I wanted my units to be doing a turn in advance it meant I could react easily to my opponents moves and that my plan was flexible enough for me to change. It also meant that the Cold One Knights failing their stupidity test still performed their job, by providing a threat to his rear and tying up a unit of Corsairs that could have tied up my Dreadlord and left my Spears without support against the Black Guard.
So there we have it, some updated tips with a couple more years of experiance on top.
Hope this helps someone out there.