If there’s one thing that keeps Games Workshop moving, it’s the new arrays of shiny model kits for its Warhammer tabletop games that keep fans oohing, ahhing, and throwing out lots of money on little plastic warriors. But their latest releases are going to be doing justice to one of Warhammer 40,000's most neglected factions.
As the pandemic has thrust us all back into chasing old hobbies out of comfort, one particular joy I’ve been able to have in the past few years is returning to my teenage love of tabletop wargames, and Warhammer in particular. But my return to Games Workshop’s miniature skirmishes so far has largely been constrained to Age of Sigmar, the latest iteration of its fantasy setting, instead of the far-flung, ridiculously grim future worlds of Warhammer 40,000, the setting that first thrust me into the hobby as a kid the best part of two decades ago.
The reason for that was primarily a little vain. My interest in 40K was rarely in the bulky armored brutes of the Space Marines or their chaotic foils, or monstrous alien factions like the space-bug Tyranids or the mobs of space Orks. My first and ever-lasting love in the world of 40K were the Eldar: futuristic, melancholic, and incredibly dramatic/assholish elves who traveled the galaxy aboard massive “craftworld” ships, carrying the remnants of their empire after a cataclysm of their own ruin doomed them millennia in the past.
They’re, like most species in Warhammer’s grimdark world, comically horrible, but they’re also cool as hell... except for the fact that the vast majority of their models are the same ones that Games Workshop were selling when I was still playing the game as a 13-year-old, space-elf-loving nerd. Warhammer 40,000 has gone through multiple iterations in the years since I first left it behind, and many of its factions have had plenty of more dynamic, beautiful models to go with those changes, leaving the Eldar behind in the process. It’s not like they’re bad—there’s still a charm to them. They’re just old, and unable to take advantage of the leaps and bounds Games Workshop has made in sculpting and design in the years since they released.
That’s finally about to change. After months of teasing, at the Las Vegas Open tournament taking place this weekend Games Workshop lifted the lid on a series of new model upgrades for the Eldar—now named the Aeldari all these years later, because you really do need something more specific to copyright after you try and bully the world into thinking you own “Space Marines.” While there are no entirely new units on display, the updated models represent changes to kits that Games Workshop has been selling for years at this point. Some of the models revealed as part of this wave are updating models that were new when I was last playing 40K as a teenager. One of the largest, the flaming, demonic-looking chap known as the Avatar of Khaine, is an update on a sculpt the company started selling in 1993, outside of a pricey alternate first sold in 2006:
It’s quite the overhaul. And what I love about a lot of these new models is that, on the surface, they’re not radical updates to the old kits, aesthetically. They still have all those old design trademarks, and more often than not they’re still inspired by classic Warhammer concept art from legendary artists like Jes Goodwin, faithfully translating them into a tiny miniature scale. They’re what I loved about the Eldar as a kid, plucked out of my mind’s idea of what they could look like at their best, rendered in modern techniques so they can be posed and dynamically customized with more granular options. Finally, the Aeldari can be as dramatic and cool looking on the table as they have been in Warhammer’s vast lore.
The updates are enough to warm my heart as a life-long fan of these ethereal, aloof, and occasionally very evil pointy-eared jerks. Unfortunately, they’re also enough to have me feverishly anticipating them and their new rules’ release—Games Workshop have stayed quiet about just when that might be—so that, decades later, I can return to the tabletop with the army that made me fall in love with that experience in the first place.
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