First Impressions of the Wood Elf army book
Oh sweet baby jesus, after 12 years, I can finally retire my old Wood Elf army book. It's served me well for quite some time, still complete with it's $24.95 price tag and classic Comic Quest security barcode that set off every metal detector without fail, regardless of how many times it's been demagnetized. I'm going to miss you old boy...
Well... Out with the old, in with the new!
Now, as usual, when a new book is released, I shut out all knowledge of the previous book and just look at what's in the current one. There's no reason to lament over what once was, nor does anything in the previous book remain relevant to the new one! So if you're looking for someone who will join you in a whine fest, tearing up over old units and cursing Games Workshop for daring to release the latest pile of garbage, I suggest you check out Bell of Lost Souls or Warseer instead.
First the Fluff
The fluff has been expanded, which is usually a dreadful though, especially when it's written by Matt Ward, but this time, I didn't vomit with rage. The expanding of the concept of the World Roots is pretty cool, and gives Wood Elves a reason and method of fighting beyond the borders of Athel Loren.
Other than that, it's fun little stories, though I kind of wish they'd have tied in some of the older classic WE stories, but oh well. Overall the book is very nice looking, probably one of the prettiest books GW has made. I did notice that a lot of the art is very concept-art-ish, clearly done in photoshop, probably by some people I've seen on Deviant Art. It's not bad, but it's definitely missing the painterly aspect of the classic GW art style.
With that out of the way, lets get to the nitty-gritty, as always the Wood Elves have a selection of special rules that help you approximate what it's like facing these denizens of the deep woods. The most iconic special rule is that they're allowed to place a single Citadel Wood on the table. This may not seem like a huge deal to most novice players, but most veterans will agree that terrain can be very impactful to the game, to make it better, Wood Elves have a selection of special rules that apply while they're in the woods.
Forest Stalker is the Wood Elf equivalent of the High/Dark Elf prowess rules. Specifically, it's both of them combined, but only when you have at least half of the unit in the woods. When you take into account that woods are the most common result on the table when generating terrain, plus the free one that Wood Elves get to deploy in their table half, it means that you can have a few places on the board to take advantage of this rule.
Finally, the other major rule to talk about is the Forest Spirit rule. Not a lot of things have this, really just the models with a nice bark coating, namely Dryads, Treekin and Treemen. This gives them a nice little 6+ ward save, and Immune to Psychology. While that means they'll be immune to fear/terror/panic, it also means that they cannot choose to flee as a charge reaction, so keep that in mind when using Forest Spirits.
Armoury of Torgovann
Traditionally, Wood Elves have always struggled with high armour opponents, but it seems that someone at GW decided that the Wood Elves shouldn't be so afraid of a bit of plate mail. The two most common weapons in the army, the Asrai Longbow and Asrai spear, are exactly the same as their common counterparts, except that they get Armour Piercing. HOT! Armour Piercing on bows which can volley fire, or move and shoot, yes please! The Spears are handy too, though hopefully you wont be fighting many high armoured enemies in melee.
These really deserve some attention, there are 6 to choose from, but after doing the math, I really only think there are 3 which will get regular use,: Hagbane Tips (poisoned attacks, cheapest of the arrows), Arcane Bodkins (most expensive arrow, -3 save), and Trueflight Arrows (mid point cost, no penalties to hit). The other arrows, are either too expensive (Swiftshiver Shards which give Multiple Shots), or are too situational (Moonfire/Starfire, +1 to wound Order/Destruction and flaming).
Lords and Heroes
The Lords and Heroes for WE have some unique units, but not many particularly interesting one. They get the standard Elf fighty lords/heroes and casters, and they don't really have anything terribly special going for them, so I wont really touch on them right now (wait for a more detailed analysis of the WE book). So really, lets get on about the characters that really jump out to me.
The Treeman Ancient has gone down considerably in cost from before, but for some reason, he's flat out forgotten how to fight. He's the only example of a Lord that I can think of which has worse stats than it's common counterpart. It is a level 2 caster with Lore of Life, so that's nice, but unfortunately has no way to increase his ward save. I'd really like to like the Treeman Ancient, but I feel like tying up this many points in a Lord who is going to eat a cannonball just isn't my style. It should also be noted that with LD10, he will be your General, unless you have a standard Glade Lord.
Shadowdancers have an impressive statline for a Hero, especially it's WS/I of 8, but with a restricted magic allowance of 25 points, it may be hard to find a proper place for him. Interestingly though, he isn't required to join Wardancers, so having him in a unit of Eternal Guard or Wildwood Rangers might actually be a solid idea, nobody wants to get in a challenge with a WS8 hero with killing blow! With his dances, if the opponent isn't running a hero you want to Killing Blow, you can always remove the enemy rank bonus instead. For 60 points he can be upgraded to a level 1 Wizard with Lore of Shadow, but I think that's far too steep when you could by a whole Spellsinger for 80 points.
The Waystalker is basically the bane of enemy Heroes. Fairly cheap at 90 points, he's got a great BS of 7, is a scout, sniper and has the Hawk-eyed Archer rule that Waywatchers get. This rule lets him fire twice, or have his shots ignore armour, when you keep in mind that these shots are going to be directed at the enemy BSB or a hero level wizard, that can really rack up some point fast.
Unfortunately, it seems that Core is going to be a tax. The Glade Guard are fairly expensive for what they are, and get more expensive with magic arrows. The Dryads are honestly, probably the worst unit in the game, at a soaring 11 points per model, they're basically a Beastman Gor, it's really unfortunate. Glade Riders seem promising, but with the Ambushers rule, you never know when they'll be on the board (I really wish Ambushers was optional). Last but not least, we have the most expensive spearmen in the game, which granted are ASF, WS5, stubborn and armour piercing, it doesn't stop them from being T3 with a 5+ save, at 12 points with shields, you really are paying for each of those rules.
This is definitely going to the the most sought after section of the army list. Most of the units are useful, if not downright great. The first unit we see here are the Wildwood Rangers, which are a new unit, fairly analogous to Executioners, Their statline is fairly lacklustre, gaining +1WS/LD and Immune to Psychology over a normal elf, they tote Great Weapons and only sport Light Armour. What makes them special though is that against fear/terror causing opponents, they get +1 Attack. That can be useful, especially against TK/VC/Daemons, and can even combo well with your free woods (make them Abyssal Woods which makes units in them cause fear). I'm struggling to find use for Wardancers, they seem alright, but generally, I'd just rather stuck a Shadowdancer in a better combat unit. Treekin are just terrifying, with a high WS/I for Monstrous Infantry, plus being T5 with a 4+ save makes them some of the hardest MI to fight.
The real winner of the special section though may be the Warhawk Riders, at 45 points per model, they're basically riding better Great Eagles and are Monstrous Cav, hot damn!
Out of Rare, we have the ubiquitous Great Eagles, which are missing their over-priced upgrades that High Elves seem to get (they breed better eagles?). Treemen are still present and are actually a pretty solid monster for their cost, I might not take them every game, but that's not because they're bad monsters, more just because monsters in general are cannon bait currently. But Waywatchers... man, I love Waywatchers, and I'm sure everyone else who picks up this book will. A few points more expensive than a Deepwood Scout with Arcane Bodkins, you get basically the same unit, except with higher BS, plus the same shooting rules as the Waystalker above, either Multiple Shots (2) or flat out totally ignore armour! No option to buy special arrows, but who the hell cares, you already get two! I expect most armies to run 2 units of these guys, and at fairly good sized units to boot.
At first I thought doom and gloom, their Core is fairly taxing, and I can't imagine taking more than necessary, but their Rare and Special choices are really phenomenal. They will still be a tough army to play as, but the new book gives them the tools they need to handle most opponents. I'm looking forward to getting a few games in so that I can give you a more detailed analysis of the units in the book. Until then, game on!