Eldar (Warhammer 40,000)

Eldar (Warhammer 40,000)

In the fictional universe of Warhammer 40,000, the Eldar are a race of elf-like humanoids who look into the future via psychic powers. They are one of the most ancient and advanced races in the universe's history, though younger than the Necrons, the C'tan, and the Old Ones. Their armies usually have the advantages of speed and technology, but are often outnumbered and composed of units with little ability to absorb damage.

There are two main Eldar armies, the Craftworld Eldar (often simply called Eldar), and the Dark Eldar. The most recent Craftworld Eldar army book, the 4th edition of the Eldar Codex, was released by Games Workshop in 2006 and is designed to function with the 4th Edition of the Warhammer: 40,000 core rules.


Fantasy Counterpart

In the sense that Warhammer 40,000 races parallel the earlier (and still extant) Warhammer Fantasy Battle game, the Eldar race mirrors the Elven people.

The High Elves of Ulthuan were one of the earliest and most powerful civilizations but their people eventually split up into three factors (mostly due to civil war and a cataclysm known as "The Sundering"); in a similar analogy in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, the Eldar race was technologically advanced and one of the most powerful in the entire galaxy, but due to the corruption of their society (known as "The Fall") that destroyed the Eldar Empire, they have been split into three distinct groups.

The Eldar consist of three distinct sides: the Craftworld Eldar (often simply called Eldar), who are similar to the High Elves; the Dark Eldar, who are similar to the Dark Elves; and the Exodites, who are similar to the Wood Elves. These equivalences are only in very general thematic terms, however, as the major details of the races' backgrounds differ greatly from their Warhammer Fantasy counterparts. For instance while the Dark Elves has long existed as the main antagonist to the High Elves in Warhammer Fantasy, Games Workshop originally incorporated both High and Dark Elves' elements into the Craftworld Eldar for the Warhammer 40,000 universe, and only recently in 1998 did they create the Dark Eldar as a separate army, and there is little back-story on the Eldar-Dark Eldar rivalry. The Exodites exist mainly in Warhammer 40,000 background material and never had any specific models or army books for use in tabletop game, however the Saim-Hann Craftworld Eldar is closely linked with the Exodites.

Both the Elves and Eldar share some deities. The blood-handed God Khaine is a recurring entity for both the Elves (High and Dark Elves) and Craftworld Eldar. For instance, Aenarion drew the Sword of Khaine to defeat the First Chaos Invasion, while Prince Yuriel used the Spear of Khaine to repel Hive Fleet Kraken from the Iyanden Craftworld. The Brides of Khaine, commonly known as the Witch Elves, are one of the forces in the ranks of the Dark Elves; while the Craftworld Eldar can summon the Avatar of Khaine.[1]


The Eldar are typically stylized with lightweight and sleek forms, organic contours, and bright colors. This is a direct foil to the bulky Orkz with "ramshackle" technology and oftentimes dull or "dirty" color schemes. The various Eldar Craftworlds (similar to Space Marine Chapters) each have their own color schemes. Examples are Ulthwé's black armor and bone helmets, Alaitoc's Blue armor and Yellow helmets, and Saim-hann's red armor and white helmets. The various Eldar paths (described below) also have their own color schemes. For example, the Howling Banshees' color scheme is bone armor, green loin cloth, and red helmet fringe. The Striking Scorpions color scheme is green armor and helmets, black weaponry, and gold trim. Despite this, many players tend to paint aspect warriors the color of their chosen Craftworld for sake of uniformity.

Eldar vehicles also follow the above policy of avoiding too many harsh edges and flat surfaces. Instead the armor plating is curved and is often criss-crossed with various inset lines which run either parallel or perpendicular to other edges/lines. For painted examples of either, simply browse through the Eldar army section of the Games-Workshop web site.


Unlike some other armies which have many army choices which are okay at many roles and few specialists, the Eldar have many specialists and few which are okay at many roles. For example, the Eldar Howling Banshees are melee specialists and, with their power weapons and other special rules, excel at killing heavily armored infantry units in melee combat while using them for ranged attacks often leads to failure. In contrast, the Eldar Dark Reaper excels at long range fighting but will almost certainly be taken down in melee by even moderately skilled/equipped melee units. However, Dire Avengers can be outfitted for either melee or ranged combat though they will not be as able as a more specialized aspect.

Eldar vehicles, unlike their infantry counter-parts, are very tough and hard to kill pending lucky rolls. While no Eldar vehicle has the maximum armor value (14), they often have upgrades and special abilities which can compensate for this and make them more effective than heavier vehicles. Most Eldar vehicles can also be equipped with weapons designed for various purposes. Some examples include the Brightlance (designed for killing Heavy Tanks), the Star Cannon (Designed to kill Heavy Infantry), and the Scatter Laser (Designed for killing light infantry). This is in addition to other upgrades like the Star Engines, Holo-Fields, and Soul Stones. With the exception of walkers, all Eldar vehicles are skimmers allowing them to move "freely" across the board and, with upgrades, at speeds only matched by the Dark Eldar and the Tau armies. The drawback to this is Eldar vehicles are expensive to field in game. An example is the Eldar Wave Serpent which is one of the most expensive dedicated transport vehicles in the game.

Because of the Eldar's comparatively weak armor and high fielding costs but comparatively powerful weapons and fast speed, successful game play is often stylized by out-numbered Eldar units out maneuvering the opponent and killing entire squads before they have a chance to retaliate. This is also the cause of Eldar game play being regarded as "unforgiving". Unlike Space Marines or Necron who boast heavy armor, high toughness and some form of wound resistance; the Eldar cannot. Because of this lack of staying power, Eldar infantry is often subject to severe, and sometimes unrecoverable, losses after a bad tactical decision or even a series of poor rolls. Somewhat comparable to an eggshell with a hammer.

The Fall

Before The Fall the Eldar were a technologically advanced race, generally considered one of the most powerful races in the entire Galaxy. Their technology had advanced so far that little or no work was required by individual Eldar, and as a result, at some point around the 24th or 25th millennia, groups of Eldar began forming cults dedicated to the pursuit of experiencing everything that life had to offer.

Despite the prediction of the reclusive Eldar Seers that warned of impending doom if the Eldar did not change their ways, government within the Eldar Empire soon collapsed and the moral degeneration of their homeworlds and colonies continued unimpeded. As the pursuit of ever more extreme experiences reached its height, death reigned in the streets of Eldar cities, hunter and hunted each being part of a twisted ritual of destruction which consumed thousands. Some Eldar were able to see that their now-corrupt society was destroying itself, and fled in disgust; these refugees would settle in the distant colonies of their Empire, and would later be known as the Exodites.

Upon dying, the soul of the deceased traverse the bounds of the physical realm and go to rest within the warp. As more and more Eldar died, the souls began to coalesce into a larger entity due to the higher "density" of the Eldar mind. A representation of the hedonism that had taken over their lives was created. This collection of souls gained sentience sometime in the early 30th millennium, creating the being known as the Chaos god Slaanesh. When Slaanesh came to be, an ethereal explosion occurred, with the epicentre being the Eldar homeworld. All Eldar caught in the immense blast were instantly obliterated, their souls consumed by Slaanesh. Most of the remaining Eldar gods were eaten by Slaanesh.

The Fall destroyed the Eldar Empire, leaving scattered bands of Eldar fighting for survival. Before the Fall, vast space-borne vessels called Craftworlds were constructed, enabling those wishing to escape the degeneration to flee. When the Fall occurred, the various Craftworlds rode out the ethereal shockwave, some being destroyed in the process. The Exodite worlds, far from the epicentre of the catastrophe, were largely untouched. In order to prevent the events of The Fall from ever recurring, the Eldar devised the Path system.

The Eldar Paths

The Eldar are forever wary of falling into the same traps which led them to the Fall. In order to avoid slipping into such debauchery and becoming a more tempting meal for Slaanesh, most Craftworld Eldar take an extremely focused view on life, the paths, in addition to rules set in place by the respective Craftworlds. These paths include The Path of the Warrior, The Path of the Seer, The Path of Command, The Path of Exile, and the assumed various undescribed non-military paths. Once an Eldar has become a master of a given path, they will often move to another path to avoid becoming "lost" on a path. Once one is lost on a path, they cannot leave it and often become Exarchs (Grand Masters) of the path. Though Exarchs are seen as the pinnacles of their respective paths, they are also regarded with pity because they are trapped in a limited existence. However, their long lifespans mean that single Eldar will often master several skills or Paths in the course of their life, pursuing each until they feel they have reached their potential and then starting anew.

Divergent factions

The Dark Eldar, analogous to Dark Elves/Drow/the "Unseelie" court of Fae from other fantasy settings, are a Kindred of the Eldar that revel in piracy, enslavement and torture, and are sadistic in the extreme. They are the remnants of the pleasure cultists that brought about the birth of Slaanesh, and believe that killing "lesser" races and offering the joy and pain within these souls to Slaanesh can forestall Slaanesh's hunger for their own souls, a futile goal given that Slaanesh feeds on the same sadism that drives many of their actions. But this should not be interpreted to mean that the Dark Eldar are, in any sense, allied with Chaos. They hate and fear Slaanesh, as well as despising the other Chaos gods, just as much as their more disciplined kinsmen. They use the Webway to traverse the galaxy safely and far more quickly than most races are able to with their Warp jumps, launching raids against other species.

The Eldar Harlequins are the keepers of the Black Library and serve the Laughing God. They see themselves as a unifying force for the Eldar, dedicated to preserving their race, and often acting as mediators and coordinators between the various Eldar factions. The other Eldar view the Harlequins with a mixture of awe, fear and respect. Harlequins are rare but respected warriors and, if seen at all, will usually be heading an assault on tougher units such as Terminators, Tyranid Warriors, Ork Nobs, or Tau battle suits.

During the Fall, the degeneration of the Eldar did not occur wholly without resistance. Some Eldar, the more far-sighted, began to openly criticise the laxity of their fellow citizens, and to warn against the birth of the hedonistic and savage pleasure cults. These individuals were mostly ignored or else treated as narrow-minded fools and puritanical fanatics. Eventually the general collapse of Eldar society just before the birth of Slaanesh convinced even the most resolute amongst them that there would be no end to the reign of death and depravity. Some decided to leave the Eldar worlds, and settle new planets free of the creeping corruption. They were the ones still untainted by the depravity that had claimed their fellow citizens, and by the time just before the Fall they were very few. These Eldar are known today as the Exodites because they made an exodus from the now lost homeworlds of the Eldar Empire before it was too late.


  1. ^ [1]
  • Cassern S Goto,. Eldar Prophecy (Warhammer 40,000 Novels (Paperback)). Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-84416-451-9. 
  • Priestley, Rick (1994). Warhammer 40,000 Codex: Eldar (2nd Edition ed.). Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-872372-74-0. 
  • Thorpe, Gav (2001). Warhammer 40,000 Codex: Eldar (3rd Edition ed.). Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-869893-39-5. 
  • Spurrier, Simon (2005). Xenology. Nottingham: Black Library. ISBN 1-84416-282-6. 

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