Ah, Ral Partha, the old man of miniatures...well, maybe not chronologically, but it certainly feels that way! Their Crucible line has plenty of excellent figures (although I can't really mention the Greater Winged Monkeys here) and, thanks to some sterling behind the scenes work, is available for the foreseeable future. Prices are fair, quality is good and imagination used. They're even the right size.
Start with the 'Infernal Elves': they're utterly essential! The two spearmen are relatively normal - scale mail skirts and pointed shoulder pads - but the jagged blades create an image of callous bloodletting. Solid support comes through the Desolatier, a plate-clad champion with double-headed axe, and the two crossbowmen, although their long coats and gansta posing is almost cyberpunk.
Things start to get really different with the Spoiler, a knife wielding sorceress who floats in the air. Levitation is always tricky for sculptors, but the twisting fabric prevents this from simply being 'figure with clear pole stuck in bottom'. Oh, and if you're wondering just how evil she is, there's a severed head. The two Thorn-Cha continue the trend: wrapped head to foot in plate armour, these are the second heaviest Drow troops on the market. It's a credit to the Ral Partha team that they still seem light and thin, while the spikes and groin pieces echo other dark elves.
Finally, we have the Infernal Elf Serpent Riders. Forget your four footed lizards, these brave troops are riding massive snakes! The detail is perfect, the maws are viscous and they'll put the fear of god into snake-phobic opponents...
The 'Royal Elf' range has a very different style and it's also perfect for Dark Elf generals. The 2 spearmen may wear more fur than normal, but their halberds are suitably wicked, while the top-heavy Hippolytans and their two swords are (skirting the risk of legal issues) witchlike and elvish. Centurions provide further rank and file; with heavy armour, bows and seriously brutal swords, these guys haven't come to talk. Overall, the hair is looser and the tools are sharper.
Command comes in the form of a Tyrennian Champion (spikey), the pure form of evil which is the Exemplar (I've no idea why he's flying either) and the Master of the Hunt (big chopper), while the Grand Mystic is a formidable looking sorcerer.
The Royal Elves don't shirk in the cavalry department either. The Royal Elf Wyrm Rider is astride one of the nastiest looking lizards you're likely to see, and it's no wonder he's screaming...wait till your friend has recovered from the snakes and drop this one in front of him!
There are also two Dark Elves in the Fantasy Adventurers line. One's called Sarlon (armed with sword, shield and worried look) while the second is simply 'Dark Elf' (two swords). Both are moulded onto oval bases.
If the sculpting and casting of Ral Partha is excellent, the design is often staggering. Anyone who's bored of the major Dark Elf line (name omitted for reasons of Intellectual Property) can re-ignite their love through the Infernal and Royal warriors.
This must surely be a Dark Elf on something liberated from a particularly wide cave (and what else could it be, short of wood-elf on large vole!) The sculpting on both figures might not be of the highest quality, and the rat does look a little odd (well fed?), but it's got a grimy underground feel that your standard Drow lizard rider can't match.
The rest of this line, female elves with various weapons and often fewer clothes, might also be of interest: although many have furs and cloaks reminiscent of wood elves, some are kinky. Excalibur models tend to come with slotted bases.
The three 'Les Elfes Noir' include a wizard (book open, staff to sky and, curiously for a magic-user, armour), a hero (wielding crossbow and gesturing with sword) and a figure of indeterminate use: he's got a wrist mounted crossbow and all-over mail. Thin and gaunt, these three menfolk contrast sharply with the Guerriéres Elfes Noires, a triumvirate of tall, athletic elf-women in stylised plate armour. Armed with a mixture of swords and polearm, this striking group are almost Amazonian.
Fenryll's cavalry figure (Cavaliére Elfe Noir) is even better, an axe-wielding elfstress mounted on a lively horse; regrettably, they only make one type. There are also two command options. The first is the Champion Elfe Noir, a tall, lithe character with little armour and two weapons (both looking brutally effective), while the second is a polar opposite: an old Elf General (Général Elfe) wrapped in armour and scowling like a man who's just had his Death Star blown up. He comes with two weapons and a nice table.
Finally, the Elfettes tueuses de géant are worthy of consideration. With the same physiology as the Guerriéres Elfes Noires, but loose hair and garments instead of armour, they're almost the off-duty equivalents.
With their good quality sculpting and casting the Fenryll 28mm line should be easy to praise, but their male and female elves don't blend seamlessly together...a real matter of personal preference. Bases shouldn't be problematic though: most are moulded with a square base of standard size and the white resin is easy enough to cut. Nevertheless, inexperienced modellers using an unusual system should be prepared.
"...are Dark Elves really
called Elves Black in French?" Ernho
There are two Dark Elfs, both first cast in 1987: a Dark Elf (0844) and a Dark Elf Sorcerer (0886). The first is a classic pose, a fully armoured elf with both hands on his sword, while the second is a rather bland wizard, arm raised to cast. With heights of 26 and 27mm respectively they'll be a little small for some armies, and the sculpting has dated. Equally, they're
moulded onto pretty solid white metal bases and both
touch in large areas: care will be required for rebasing.
If you're looking for something new, don't get excited at this entry in the Masterworks...but if you're looking for classics, this is a big one. Julie Guthrie is 25mm fantasy's legendary sculptress, whose 'Personalities' line enticed many youngsters into the hobby. Luckily for nostalgia fiends Dark Ages Miniatures have reproduced the entire line!
There are two Dark Elfs, both first cast in 1987: a Dark Elf (0844) and a Dark Elf Sorcerer (0886). The first is a classic pose, a fully armoured elf with both hands on his sword, while the second is a rather bland wizard, arm raised to cast. With heights of 26 and 27mm respectively they'll be a little small for some armies, and the sculpting has dated. Equally, they're moulded onto pretty solid white metal bases and both touch in large areas: care will be required for rebasing.
They might not be the best figures on this page, but they're a little bit of gaming history.
Ah, the (Wargames) Foundry. They make lovely figures; they sell them for terrifying prices. They cause bitter rants about ramage and casting...but they always make us come back. Imaginative Dark Elf generals will find the Foundry's three elf and nymph ranges very rewarding, especially if they're bored of chainmail clad rank and file. These are less the Drow of Salvatore, more the fairies in A Midsummer Nights Dream, Oberon and Titiana in lead.
As the pictures reveal, each figure drips character. The Foundry paintwork signifies several 'dark' individuals, not least of which are elegant and stalking males like Aelphe and Mayalari, with their seductive consorts Firiel and Mayalari. However, ignore the company issue paintwork and look at the form and detail: in the Empire of Elfs collection only the four City guard, Winterlily and a fairy are too nice. The rest, especially Bronwyn in her spikey armour and the whip-wielding Elebor, make suitably decadent and spiteful characters. However, the other two collections - Behold the Elf Host and 50 fiesty Elf nymphs (an arbitrary and random selection of 50) contain only one or two suitable figures.
We are clearly dealing with champions, heros and leaders here, although a skirmishing unit isn't out of the question. Each is well sculpted, on the taller end of 28mm and usually well cast (although the net holds a few horror stories). The bases - small oblong stumps of lead - could pose a problem on some minis, but shouldn't be too tricky. Mind you, if you buy an entire collection you'll probably want to melt the 'free' cutesy cherubs down.
If you want something a little more classic in design, you’ll have to search ebay and your favourite bartering sites for the ‘Drow’ from Citadels AD&D range, code ADD68. There are three, a female and two male warriors, which come in five different poses each, to allow for (with a little bending) a very unit pleasing fifteen variations. Each comes with slightly different weapons, but the females come with a mixture of hand weapons and staffs while the males with one hand weapon and a small crossbow. All are wearing chainmail and cloaks; some have helmets. They were sculpted by Bob Naismith.
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