I've seen a lot of talk on the internet lately about the apparent death of the Eldar, and I began to think about why they might be going extinct. Really, when it comes down to why an army gets played, the main reason is the person who plays the army wants to use it in a game. Now, there are many compound reasons for a person using an army, (mine are mostly because the filthy mon-keigh need to die [oh wait I play Imperial Guard too]) they may like the models, the rules, or just something inexplicable that draws them to their army of choice.
As a side note, I totally missed my post 300 (this one being 301!).
So, why are Eldar fading from use? I really think that it has a lot to do with the groups that people play with. My gaming group is small, the nearest retail store is about an hour away. Before the game even begins, we are all friends anyway. I've talked before about how I don't like playing at any store, and I feel it really is a bad place to get games in, but those are just my experiences.
In my group, we play from the 1500 to 1750 points level. Let's look at my gaming group for a moment and see what we have there for armies:
- 2 Ork Armies
- 2 Space Marine Armies
- 1 Space Wolves Army
- 1 Necron Army
- 1 Eldar Army
- 1 Tau Army
- 1 Chaos Space Marines
- 1 Imperial Guard Army
- 1 Tyranid Army
Of all those forces, my Eldar and my Imperial Guard, the Necrons, the Space Wolves, Space Marines and Tau are the most likely to see actual combat these days. My usual opponent can therefore be said to be T4 3+ save armies with not a lot of long range firepower. Even Tau can put this out in the form of Battlesuits. Aside from yourself, the next most influential thing in the game is your opponent.
Now, knowing what I know (and assuming money is not an issue) I can easily make a list to steamroll the armies there. I can take all the right troops, weapons, and wargear. I know my opponents, I read the Codices of their armies, and I know what they have in their collections. But what if someone plays a different army other than the one I'm gearing up to fight?
I'm not saying don't build your army for your opponent (because they are certainly going to be doing the same to you), but I am saying be wary of adapting to a changing situation. I'm not just talking about tactically in the game here, I'm talking about your opponents. There are times when everyone falls into the trap of knowing they are improving but they forget that everyone around them also improves as they play too, and this applies to all armies.
Right now there seems to be a huge focus on anti-mech (and with Tyranids coming up, anti MC). I'm not really worried about Tyranids, as my runes tell me, they're not likely to be played anytime soon. The most mechanized army that gets played right now is probably my Eldar. I regularity squeeze in Fire Prisms, Vypers, Jetbikes, and sometimes even a Falcon.
Traditionally, Eldar are a hard army to balance. There are not a lot of troops in the Eldar Codex that are capable of taking on multiple battlefield roles based purely on what is printed in the Codex. I will admit, there are times that I would much rather have some the equipment options in the 3rd Edition Codex.
Perhaps this sounds like an overused axiom, but the Eldar army is perhaps the army in 40K that needs the most synergy. With so many specialized units on the board, each one will rely on the others to make up for their shortcomings, even if it is just placing a unit in a transport. Units need to be close enough on the board to support each other, but not so close they get vaporized by a blast or caught up in a multiple assault.
Even things like Jetbikes are very dependent on just exactly what an inch measures on your table. Using the jetbike slide means you need to give yourself enough room to actually do it. If ever there were an army that relied upon the ruler in 40K for all aspects of the game, it has to be the Eldar hands down.
Now, you can argue Codex Creep all you want, but if nobody in your group plays those forces, then why are you even worrying about it? And even still, what happened to the challenge of adapting to the ever changing faces of war. Has it come down to abandoning an army in favor of new shiny plastic? Perhaps. Perhaps we just need to communicate with our opponents more and decide what kind of game we are going to play.
Naturally, everyone wants to win every once and a while. Do not get me wrong, I do enjoy using my Guard (and they probably the better army as far as the Codex is concerned), but they just pale in comparison to the fun I get from playing my Eldar. Eldar for me are definitely not dead, maybe it is just my group. What about you?