Although elves have developed a degree of racial diversity, fantasy writers still favour three main stereotypes: the high elf, the wood elf and the dark elf (or Drow)...the lesser spotted sea-elf is growing rare. In any other situation the dark elves would simply have been an evil version of the others - simply a clan of heartless murderers - but the unrelenting nobility and sheer sickening niceness of the other elves lends the Drow an insidious and rebellious edge. They're kinky, slinky creatures who hide in caverns and tall spires, elves who explore their sexuality, impulses and perversions without conventional morality. Incidentally, they're also a clan of heartless murderers.
Two companies have pushed Dark Elf fiction and design forward in the past few years; one, TSR and their Dungeons and Dragons world, was brought by Wizards of the Coast and features below. The other can't be named here as they're paranoid about intellectual property. Besides, they've had enough publicity already.
This showcase lists every company producing Dark Elf figures at the moment and a few of the dear departed, with only one exception (see above). If you're a drow general, a fanatic frother or just a pervert who wants to see leather-clad elf minxes, get yourself a drink, a notepad and a credit card. It's about to get darker...
Gather round dark elf players, for Gamezone is going to revitalize your armies with their take on what has become traditional dark elf stylings. Based in Spain and slowly percolating across the globe, Gamezone can be difficult to source, but these figures are well worth it. Missile troops are provided for via six crossbow wielding ‘Elfos Oscuros’ in mail, robes and helmets (Dark Elves), while infantry are six different halberdiers, each wielding the titular weapon, holding a shield and wearing a mixture of plate and mail. As suits a Dark Elf force, they all look fairly thin despite wearing heavy protection. There’s a hero, who is actually less armoured than his troops, a magician, musician and standard bearer.
Meanwhile the cavalry: oh the cavalry! Somewhere along the line Dark Elves have become associated with riding ‘tame’ lizards, and Gamezone is no different, offering seven of the best on the market. Big, mean and very violent looking, they’ll come as close to intimidating your opponent as is possible in a small lead figure. There are four normal riders, armoured and with lances, plus three characters. However, if you don’t like lizards or want some units of lighter cavalry, there are also a number of dark elves on large, stocky horses. Finally, for those extra special characters, you can get a majestic lizard pulled chariot or a dark elf on Pegasus.
Assassin: they're small , they're German and they make high quality pewter miniatures...which is frother code for 'they're mainly pert women with a disregard for sensible winter clothes'. Unfortunately, their figures are usually limited editions of a few hundred pieces, giving you the option of buying now or forever scouring ebay (as if you don't already).
The first of three Dark Elf compatible figures is simply named 'Special Fair Miniature 2001': a special creation only available at the Spiel '01 Game Fair. The clothing - fur leggings and a dark (leather?) top - suggests some sort of rogue and the face is rather wide, but the spear certainly isn't a nice-elf weapon!
The second Assassin option is far more Dark Elf. With echo's of Commander Makara from Star Fleet (and Medusa thanks to the headwear) this is a solid 'Dark Sorceress', although the staff isn't inspiring. Assassin's sculpture might be full of character, but I found the mouth on this piece, that slight opening at one side, particularly interesting. It's not the Mona Lisa, but it's a start. The figure is limited to 500 pieces and is still in stock.
However, the female lizardrider is the real money-piece. It's large, it's toothy and it demands attention. Admittedly, the creature's legs look a little chickenish - and the business end seems disproportionately large - but it's a fine figure to lead your lizard cavalry. Personally, I'd like to lower the tail for dinosaur-style balance. Meanwhile, the rider is, err, healthy (she seems to have wonky breasts though) and is brandishing an open scroll. Despite being limited to 250 pieces, this is still in stock!
Assassin figures are usually well cast and based in two ways: older figures have slottabases, while newer ones use "a two-parted round base (a ring and an individual inlet for the miniature)" (thanks Thomas).
Incorporating miniatures from previous incarnations Harlequin and Icon, Black Tree Design is one of Britain's leading manufacturers of 28mm WW2, Fantasy and Ancients. Their range of Shadow Elves are Dark Elves in all but name, offer several variations, and fit 'the world's most popular fantasy wargames rules' (tm) requirements like a pre-shrunk glove.
Rank and file choices include six types of spearmen (with shields), six types of halberdier (without shield) and six 'killers', shadow elves wielding large, executioner style axes. Chainmail is present throughout, while helmets vary from klan points to curved tops with spikes.
Two types of command group are also available, while twelve types of crossbowmen should fulfill all your missile weapon needs. Eagle-eyed frother will notice the bulky, box-type nature of the crossbows, indicative of the traditional Dark Elf repeaters.
Contrast is provided through the all female wytch warriors (six types), each equipped with two swords, and the 'knights', six standing troops with three types of command, plate-armour and wickedly designed swords. There's also three nice, albeit battlefield equipped, assassins (you can't imagine these sneaking about in the dark.) There are also four types of deliciously serpentine cavalry (choice of lances or swords), a harbalist (artillery) and some pretty standard Harpies.
If this wasn't enough - and I dare any committed Dark Elf frother not to be salivating by now - Black Tree also produce some rather different wizards. The sorcerers have smooth robes and clean lines, while the sacrificers are naked bar a loin cloth; one is modelled holding a severed head. Traditionalists might avoid them, as they're not the leathered-up, bondage torturers of some Dark Elf stories, oozing perverted, dark magic. Instead, they're something almost more sinister, a kind of corrupted Wicca...and perfect canvas for miniature tattooists.
Overall, the Black Tree elves well sculpted, fairly priced miniatures with the breadth to assemble a large army. (They're also supplied with slotted bases, so no problems there.)
Joker are a brand new outfit devoted to selling the figures of Georg Damm, a German student (with an undoubted future in sculpting). The Cylwar Scout is intended to be Dark Elf compatible and, while I think the head's too domed, the evil fanatics of www.druchii.net, the webs own dark elf coven, certainly loved it. A white metal casting in two parts (the outstretched arm is separate), this release is limited to 500. A Dark Elf sorceress is forthcoming and Georg has several other plans.
Elves don't normally sport massive plate armour, nor do they carry axes made from entire slabs of steel, and if they do elements of grace, style and movement are retained. Chronopia have tossed all that out, producing a range of generic elves who could probably stop bullets with their metal. The elven faces are recognisable enough and, although I've said 'generic', it's hard to imagine this lot as anything other than Drow.
Seven axemen (above) are available as a boxset and 'singly'; they comprise Elf Axe Hero: Axemaster (wields 2 axes), Axeman leader (1 axe double-handed), Axeman Standard (2 axes and back-banner) and a group of four axemen. The spearmen (below) are more recognisably elven, albeit still in large armour, with broad bladed spears which easily double as halberds. Again, there's a set of seven with a leader (spear and shield), standard bearer (spear and back banner); they're also available individually.
Anyone still claiming that Chronopia's elves are clearly goodies should examine the 'Elf Flying Dragonbane'. That lizard is not friendly! Its combination of wyrm body and wings won't please biologists, but it's an effective figure and a much needed flyer for Drow generals.
The Chronopia range has good sculpting, round plastic bases and is recommended for anyone fed-up of their beanpole troops getting hammered by big knights!
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