“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, and they’re gonna stab you if you hang around too long.” – Robert Frost, probably.
The elves of Athel Loren are back and better than ever before in The Old World. Time and the machinations of Chaos and mankind have yet to wear away nature’s power like they had in previous editions of the game, and because of this we are presented with an elite faction fielding arguably the best ranged units in the game backed by toughened tree folk and fast-moving, hard-hitting elven warriors that take keen advantage of the changes to combat and initiative.
So if you go into the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise and it ain’t bears having picnics (though please dear reader, be afraid of bears, they’re terrifying for real and should have already taken over the earth if they weren’t so sleepy all the time).
Table of Contents
Why Play Wood Elves
Wood Elves have units that excel at every aspect of the game other than heavy artillery, however unlike their kin each unit is more specialized in doing 1 of those things very well. They can be extremely mobile, they almost universally ignore the worst aspects of terrain (ignores cover and move through cover are special rules found on most datasheets), and units with Asrai longbows easily outrange any other small arms fire in the game. The dichotomy of the faction is a huge selling point as you can truly make Wood Elf lists that perform vastly different from one another. You can lean on the elf side of the rules as was commonly the case at the end of 8th edition and be fast, with long ranged shooting attacks but suffer from weak defensive profiles, or go heavy on trees to summon vast forests and march into the enemy with higher toughness Dryads, Treekin, and, Treemen that sacrifice that range and mobility for longevity.
Five Things You Need to Know to Play Wood Elves
- Glade Guard and Riders are two of the best core units in the game.
- Remember to bring multiple forests to your games. You get one extra for free and Tree Singing is an invaluable tool against factions that rely on deep ranks or artillery. You can always use templates but that sounds lazy.
- Playing the elf side of this book means mastering movement shenanigans. Your rank and file models are generally sitting on a 5+ armor at best and toughness 3 so mistakes are costly. Take advantage of terrain, range, and wild initiative values if you want to go deep.
- Each of the arrow types has use and purpose. They are going to be what shores up the holes in your list so choose wisely.
- Do not sleep on Sisters of the Thorn, they are an incredible package for magical support.
The Rules and Weapons of Athel Loren
Like all of the other army books, Wood Elves have a small selection of their own special rules and common weapons that you need to know outside of what is found in the core rule book.
Asrai Longbow: Range 32, Strength user, AP -, Armourbane(1), Volleyfire.
Enchanted Arrows: Some models in the Wood Elf Realms army that use the Asrai longbow may be equipped with enchanted arrows that modify the properties of their equipped range weapon as below:
- Arcane Bodkins: AP -2
- Hagbane Tips: Poisoned Attacks
- Moonfire Shot: Flaming Attacks and Magical Attacks
- Swiftshiver Shards: Multiple Shots(2)
- Trueflight Arrows: Ignores Cover and Quick Shot
Elven Reflexes: Shared amongst all Elf armies, units with this rule gain +1 to their initiative in the first round of combat.
Talismanic Tattoos: Units with this special rule have a 6+ ward save.
Tree Spirit: Characters with this special rule cannot join units that do not have it. In addition, units with this special rule cannot use the leadership of characters without it and cannot be joined by them. Tree Spirits instead use the leadership of any character with this special rule so long as they are in its command range and that character is not fleeing. In short, if you choose to use an elf as your general then your Dryads, Treekin, and Treemen cannot use their leadership characteristic and they cannot join those units.
Tree Whack: Once per turn, during the Combat Phase, a model with this rule may replace one of its attacks with a single ‘Tree Whack’. To do this, nominate as single enemy model in an enemy unit engaged in combat with this model to be the target of the attack. That model must take an initiative test. If it it failed, the target suffers d3 hits at the strength of the model doing the whacking with no armour saves allowed. If the test is passed, nothing happens.
Woodland Ambush: Once all terrain has been placed, a Wood Elf player may add 1 additional wood measuring between 8 and 12 inches at its widest point. This may be placed anywhere on the map that is not in the opponent’s deployment zone and not within 12 inches of the center of the field.
Units and Composition
Most of the old Wood Elf line is back and available for use in the Old World outside of those named characters that have yet to make their appearances known. Even units like the Sisters of the Thorn are here for your poisoned pleasure.
In the hero slot, Wood Elf players may take Wood Elf Nobles (Glade Lords and Captains), Wood Elf Mages (Spellweavers and Singers), Shadowdancers, Waystalkers, Treeman Ancients and Branchwraiths. You may only take 1 Glade Lord OR Spellweaver, and only 1 Treeman Ancient for every 1000 points of your army.
Wood Elf nobles are your combat specialists. The Lord is quite the effective killer with WS 7, BS 7, Str 4, I 6 and 4 base attacks, with Leadership 10 (you love to see it). They come with an Asrai Longbow and light armor base and may be upgraded with an additional hand weapon, great weapon, cavalry spear (if mounted), and shield as well as 1 of the enchanted arrow types mentioned above. Nobles may take up to 50 points in Forest Sprite upgrades and 50-100 points of magic items depending on just how cool they are. You can choose to mount your noble on an Elven Steed, a Great Stag, a Warhawk, Forest Dragon, or Great Eagle. Of these the Dragon is of course the doozy, bumping a Noble up to 8-9 wounds and providing them with a base of full plate armour rather than the light armour they start with and all the benefits being a Large Target provides, though I feel like all of the mounts have their own benefits/drawbacks.
All nobles come with the Evasive (they may move 2d6 when targeted by a ranged attack), Fire and Flee, Ignores Cover, Moves through Cover, Rallying Cry and Strike First special rules and the Arrow of Kurnous special attack.
The Arrow of Kurnous is a special bowshot fired once deployment is complete and before the rolloff to decide who goes first. If the 2 opposing generals are within 36 inches of each other, a Wood Elf Realms player may decide to strike their opponent’s general with a single Str 3 hit with no armour or Regeneration saves allowed. If they elect to fire the shot, their opponent gets a +1 to the First Turn roll off.
Wood Elf mages are the elven wizards of the wood. They may pay for Talismanic Tattoos, may be mounted on an Elven Steed, Unicorn, Warhawk, or Great Eagle, and have the Elven Reflexes, Magical Attacks, and Move Through Cover special rules. They may choose spells from the Battle Magic, Elementalism, High Magic, or Illusion Lores of Magic and may choose to replace 1 of their spells with a signature spell from the Lore of Athel Loren. Unicorns are a unique form of protection as enemy units that try to swing at the rider must successfully pass a leadership test or only hit on 6s.
Shadowdancers are close combat experts that may be upgraded to be level 1 wizards knowing a spell from either the Battle Magic or Illusion lores. They are WS 8, Str 4, I 7, A3 and have the Evasive, Furious Charge, Immune to Psychology, Loner, Move Through Cover, Strike First, Talismanic Tattoos special rules and is considered a Wardancer when selecting a dance in the close combat phase so long as they are embedded in a unit of Wardancers (Troubadour of Loec). When in combat they may choose to attack with the Spear of Loec (Str+1, AP -1, Armourbane(2), Killing Blow) or the Trickster’s Blades (Extra Attacks (+d3), Requires Two Hands). Shadowdancers are an incredible add if you plan on bringing wardancers to the table. At 85 points base they absolutely blend through anything non-elite and are amazing in a challenge against all but the most hardy opposing characters. Like all elf characters, they are paper thin and do not take kindly to any kind of clapback but they will invariably get their points back in most matchups.
Waystalkers are to Waywatchers, what Shadowdancers are to Wardancers. A ranged specialist character, you actually cannot field Waywatchers without also fielding a Waystalker for every one of those units you wish to bring. Waystalkers make for really fun character and champion assassins due to their Hawk-Eyed Archer rule that lets them target out any model in a unit and ignore the Lone character special rules. Give them the Bow of Loren for 40 points and Swiftshiver Shards if you want to be a really cute little terror and pick off bigger prey. With Evasive, Feigned Flight, Fire and Flee, and Scout special rules they can be a frustrating unit to deal with if they have any cover they can dive behind.
Treeman Ancients are everything you want them to be. WS 5, BS 5, Str 5, To 6, W 6 behemoths with leadership 10 and the ability to be upgraded all the way to a level 4 wizard (upping the base cost to 325 points), if you’re looking for a 1 stop-shop of fun this is your tree. Ancients are stalwart defenders of the forest, they count has having Full Plate, are Immune to Psychology, have Regeneration 5+ and D3 Stomp attacks and have the Large Target, Move Through Cover, Stubborn, Terror, Tree Whack, Tree Spirit, Magical Attacks and Timberrr special rules. They’re also Flammable so stay away from candles. Treeman Ancients cannot take magic items, but may take up to 100 points in Forest Sprites.
It should be noted that the Tree Spirit special rule still allows non-tree spirits the use of a Tree Spirit’s leadership, just not the other way around. So if you’re not particularly into kitting out a Glade Lord, having a leadership 10 General with an 18 inch command bubble is not bad at all in the current game.
Branchwraiths are the final character option for Wood Elves. These little baby baddies are lvl 1-2 wizards that can take Battle Magic, Elementalism or Illusion magic. If you’re looking to shore up a unit of skirmishing dryads with some extra forest sprite support (befuddlement of mischiefs and lamentation of despairs are both excellent for this) look no further.
At Core, Wood Elves really shine. As mentioned in the 5 things to know about this army, Glade Guard are one of the best core units in the game in my opinion and Glade Riders are up there too. You can also take 1 unit of deepwood scouts as a core option in your lists, Eternal Guard, and Dryads.
Glade Guard are a 1+ option in all Wood Elf army lists currently and are 11 points per model (ppm) and that is perfectly fine. To just get this out of the way, it is my belief (and others) that they are one of the reasons there should be a blanket unit cap in the rulebook outside of the ones listed in specific army compositions. 100+ glade guard in minimum sized units with a mix of enchanted arrows and staggered on diagonals for line of sight purposes is a helluva frustrating army to play against as they deny points extremely well and chip them back easily enough. This is particularly effective if the wood elf player has a hill to stand on and/or is casting Plague of Rust with any regularity. For some people that sounds amazing, and I’m not going to yuck your yum, but it is an extremely potent skew list to have to face. Glade Guard also have the option to purchase the Vanguard or Fire and Flee rules for 1 point per model for 1 unit per 1000 points of your army.
Glade Riders are Glade Guard but on horses. Not only are they faster at movement 9, they can pay for the Reserve Move special rule on 1 unit per 1000 points, allowing them to move in, shoot, and then move either out of threat range or around line of sight. This is incredibly powerful. These guys never stop never stopping. You can also pay for Ambushers or Drilled which are situationally strong in their own rights, though as they are Skirmishers already, I think the Reserve Move is the real spice.
Deepwood Scouts are the scouting version of Glade Guard, sacrificing the open order special rule for Scout, Skirmisher, Evasive and Fire and Flee. They are 2 points more expensive than Glade Guard, but having the ability to start where you please is very effective. A unit of 10 with hagbane arrows to harass enemy artillery or monsters early is great though you may be more keen to just field more Glade Guard, or run Waystalkers instead.
Eternal Guard are the elven close combat unit of choice. They are only going to have a 5+ armor at best so you’re relying a lot on the Stubborn special rule they have built in with them, as they are designed more as a speedbump than anything else. If you plan on using a mid-large block of Eternal Guard, there are some advantages. Their Asrai spears are ap-1, fight in extra ranks AND they give you +1 initiative if you were on the receiving end of a charge, making the unit a minimum initiative of 6 on the first turn of any combat. They also have the Martial Prowess special rule that allows them to fight in extra ranks on the Flank and Rear as well as the front. You can also choose to pay for the drilled special rule or veterans for an additional 1 point per model at a limit of 1 per 1000 points.
Dryads are the Core choice for arboreal afficionados and they are actually quite good. At 13 points per model they come in at the same price as Eternal Guard before upgrades. While they only have a 6+ armor, they are still WS 4, To 4 and I 4 with 2 attacks each. They are Stubborn, cause Fear and have both the Open Order and Skirmisher special rules so you can choose to place them in ranks or not. They also come stock with Immune to Psychology and a have 6+ regeneration save. While the Strength 3 and no AP is a setback, I am a fan of running a larger unit of 24+ in ranks of 6 with a Branchwraith to give the unit access to good forest sprites. Reducing opponent’s WS, Initiative and leadership by 1 are very subtle ways to make the Dryads stick around and is a key strategy if you’re looking to play the leadership manipulation build that this book has access to.
The special slot is vast for the elves of Athel Loren, and while I do not think it is necessarily as strong as what is readily available in the Core slot there are some units here that bang hard.
Wildwood Rangers are first up and are your monster hunters. Their Ranger’s Glaives put them at Str 5, AP -2 and if they are engaged in combat with an enemy unit with the Fear or Terror rules they boost their attacks to 2 apiece and gain the Multiple Wounds(2) special rule. While a neat concept for a unit and flavorful, with mass access to poisoned attacks and ways to reduce leadership and armour saves I am not sure they have a place. Perhaps if everyone starts running Dragons with massive save profiles then the Rangers will hit the field.
Wardancers are the naked close combat experts of the army. They may take extra hand weapons or throwing spears and have the Motley Crew special rule so they can mix and match at will. The key selling point of the unit is their Dances of Loec that grant 1 of 4 special rules every turn that the unit is engaged in close combat. They may either gain AP -2 on their attacks, the Extra Attacks (+1) special rule, a 4+ Ward Save, or force enemy units to be -1 to hit when directing attacks at the unit. Wardancers are evasive blenders that can be absolutely terrifying with a Shadowdancer embedded in the unit, but I wonder if they will suffer due to the existence of the faster and more versatile Wild Riders.
Tree Kin are an amazing anvil unit. While they come in at 51 points per model, their 5 Toughness, 5+ armour, and 5+ regeneration saves plus the Stubborn and Immune to Psychology special rules make them perfect for holding the center of the board while your faster moving units pick away opposing stragglers and slam into flanks and rears. A unit of 6-8 is a solid investment depending on your playstyle as they require no real support so long as your opponent didn’t bring any candles and Tree Whack gives the unit some extra oomph against low initiative, heavily armored foes.
Warhawk Riders come in at 44 points and have an interesting mixed profile role that isn’t found in much of the rest of the army, though I am not sure that is a good thing. As flying monstrous cavalry with rules more suited for evasive shooting and a light dash of close combat proficiency from the hawks themselves, I only see much value in the unit if multiple small unit spam is a serious issue. Though, one piece of value you can get out of them is as a wizard shut down unit. As wizards cannot dispel spells if they are engaged in combat, so have a flying unit like Warhawks (or Pegasi for Bretonnia for example) that can fly over and get stuck in for more than a single combat phase in the early game can really swing some turns in your favor.
Wild Riders are here and just as they were in 8th edition, they are a shock force to be reckoned with so long as they make the charge (so don’t let them). Steeds of Kurnous are movement 9 and the Hunting Spears their riders wield are Str 5, AP -2, Armourbane(1), with 3 base attacks and Initiative 9 on a successful 3+ inch charge (+1 additional str 4 attack from the steed). Otherwise? They will have at best 2 str 4 attacks with 0 AP. They cause Fear, have Move Through Cover, and the Counter Charge special rules. I highly recommend fielding at least a small unit of them, though 10+ is probably more appropriate given their at best 5+ save and 6+ ward. If you’re playing into them, try to take advantage of their Frenzy rule to force them into bad charges and leave them out in the open and vulnerable.
Last of our Special slot units is my favorite pet right now, the Sisters of the Thorn. At 24 points per model, they carry Blackbriar Javelins which are Str User AP -1 with the Move and Shoot and Quick Shot rules allowing the Sisters to March and shoot without penalty which is decent given the Sisters have the Poisoned Attacks special rule on all of their weapons. Where the unit becomes really spicy is in their 2 unique special rules. Daughters of Eternity grants the unit a very rare 4+ ward save and Deepwood Coven allows each unit of Sisters of the Thorn to select a spell from the Battle Magic or Elementalism Lores of Magic as a Bound spell prior to deployment. As long as the unit champion is still alive, this spell is cast at power level 1, if both the champion and banner are alive, it is at power level 2. What I absolutely love about this unit is that they are essentially a level 2 wizard with 5+ wounds, multiple poisoned attacks at BS5, that can move 16 inches a turn and has the Lore Familiar arcane item for free. VALUE. Btw, unless you’re playing in the mirror? Just take plague of rust. It is incredible given the amount of poison you can have at your disposal. Rush outside of dispel ranges, jam your hand-picked spells every turn, toss javelins, force your opponent to make movement choices, just be an absolute ‘Thorn’ in their side (get it!?!).
The Rare slot for Wood Elves comes in 3 flavours. Waywatchers, Great Eagles, and Treemen.
Waywatchers are the elite scouts of the Wood Elf realms. They may purchase the Ambusher, Vanguard, or Veteran special rules and take enchanted arrows and can only be taken if you field a Waystalker in your army (1-1). If you’re keen on using scouts I feel like Deepwood models are perfectly fine given the premium you are paying for +1 BS, ignores cover, and Feigned Flight rules on the ‘Watchers, but they are a more reliable artillery hunter if that is an issue in your area.
Treemen are just as sturdy as they have always been at Str 5, To 6 and 6 wounds with a WS of 6. They still have strangleroots which now act as essentially a shotgun pumping out D6+1 shots at 12 inches, Str 5 and AP -1. At 215 points, they are an excellent Behemoth all arounder if you’re looking for something beefy to throw at your opponent in the later parts of the game.
Finally, we have Great Eagles. These birds of prey are limited to 3 per 1000 points and that is for good reason (why some other equally good units do not at least have this restriction I will never know). Great Eagles are the all around chaff champions they always have been. Monsters with the Fly(10) keyword and the low cost of 60 points, they are excellent artillery hunters, charge redirects and occasional character assassins with their Serrated Maw attack. I’d never leave home without at least 2 unless someone here forced me to.
Sprites and Items of Magicry
The Wood Elf Realms, just like most of the other armies in the Old World boast 18 army specific magic items in the Forces of Fantasy book and an additional 7 Forest Sprite upgrade options.
Forest Sprites represent the smaller fey creatures of the forest that sometimes follow the watchers of the woods into battle and each sprite may only be taken once in your army. They range from the powerful Blight of Terrors that grants the model they are attached to and any unit they are in the Terror special rule to the Resplendence of Luminescents which grants Magical Attacks to a unit for 10 points. A strong and obvious combo is putting a Blight of Terrors and Lamentation of Despairs on the same unit (like the aforementioned large block of Dryads with a Branchwraith in tow). Being able to stack up to -3 or more via sprites and magic items (the Wraithstone is an enchanted item that also imposes a leadership penalty on units within range of the holder) to opposing leadership tests is something opponents will have to consider when they try to engage you.
As far as other magic items go, the Wood Elf Realms boast several items that either only function if the wielder is inside a wood or are significantly improved if that is the case. Like the Banner of the Eternal Queen that grants +1 combat resolution to the wielder if they are inside a forest, or the Oaken Stave which for 40 points grants the user +3 inches on their dispel attempts, but if they are within a woodland feature they may also roll 3 dice when dispelling and drop the lowest.
The Lore of Athel Loren
Wizards in the Wood Elf Realms army generally have the Lore of Athel Loren special rule, allowing them to swap one of their spells for 1 of 3 signature spells known only to them.
Tree Singing: A Magical Vortex with a 15 inch range and a casting value of 7+ or 9+, Tree Singing is a remains in play spell that allows the wizard to place either a 3 or 5 inch round forest on the board with its center anywhere within 15 inches of the caster. A powerful tool given the amount of Moves Through Cover and Ignores Cover available to the army.
Forest Walker: A Conveyance spell with a range of 24 inches and a casting value of 10+, this spell allows you to teleport any character within range that is already within a woodland feature and not in the process of fleeing to any other woodland feature on the board. While it does have a high casting cost, the situational utility here is immense, big emphasis on situational.
Flock of Doom: A magic missile spell with a range of 18 and a casting value of 9+. Flock drops a small template of angry seagulls (the book says hawks but we know that isn’t true) on the center of a single enemy unit within range. Models under the template risk taking a str 3 ap -1 hit. With partial hits, I have found this spell to be rather underwhelming all of the time.
Putting it All Together
The forces of the Wood Elves are so varied and deep that I think there are a plethora of very unique takes you can put together that are both flavorful and powerful on the board without falling into unit spam. Here are a couple I have been toying with in the last month.
Army Composition: Wood Elf Realms
Glade Lord: Elven Steed, Annoyance of Netlings, Spear of Twilight
Spellweaver: Lvl 4, Elven Steed, Lore Familiar
9x Glade Riders: Hagbane Tips, Reserve Move
10x Glade Guard: Hagbane Tips, Vanguard
5x Glade Guard: Hagbane Tips
5x Glade Guard: Hagbane Tips
5x Glade Guard: Hagbane Tips
5x Glade Guard: Hagbane Tips
5x Sisters of the Thorn: Standard, Handmaiden
5x Sisters of the Thorn: Standard, Handmaiden
9x Wild Riders: Shields, Full Command, Rampaging Banner
5x Tree Kin: Elder
This is a mixed list meant to take advantage of potentially getting 3 casts of Plague of Rust to spread armor reduction around your opponents’ army and whittle them down with all of your javelins and hagbane arrows. Your Wild Riders are your main hammer unit with the Rampaging Banner there to hopefully ensure you don’t leave yourself out in the open and your Tree Kin are your anvil. The Glade Lord general here can join the Wild Riders if your opponent has a particularly aggressive shock unit that you are unsure they can handle, or sit back with the Glade Riders as backline protection and a challenge master. Your Great Eagles are distractions meant to dive bomb backfield targets and slow down aggressive charges.
Army Composition: Wood Elf Realms
Glade Lord: Forest Dragon, Great Weapon, Talisman of Protection, Wraithstone
Branchwraith: Blight of Terrors, Great Weapon
Waystalker: Bow of Athel Loren, Swiftshiver Shards, Additional Handweapon
24x Dryads: Nymph, Lamentation of Despairs
10x Glade Guard: Arcane Bodkins
10x Glade Guard: Arcane Bodkins
10x Wild Riders: Full Command, Shields, Banner of the Wildwood
10x Waywatchers: Hagbane Tips
This list is mostly pure jank but there is a lot of power underneath it. Your Dryads, Wild Riders, and Glade Lord on Dragon all cause terror and are capable of stacking leadership debuffs of up to -3 on Fear, Terror, and Panic tests and -2 on Break tests from your various sources. The Waystalker with Bow of Athel Loren and Swiftshiver can target out characters and unit champions regardless of what special rules they have to protect them. His big purpose is actually to snipe champions from units before your lord on dragon hits them so they cannot just challenge him without losing a hero, but those 3 shots a turn are going to be a looming threat to foot heroes in particular all the same. You could argue for arcane bodkins here instead of swiftshiver and it is probably an equivalent choice. Because you’re only running a lvl 1 wizard in this list, it is pretty imperative that you tie up opposing wizards fast. If you wanted to tighten up the list, you could probably drop the lord on dragon for a bsb on horseback with the wraithstone and then bring in a lvl 4 Treeman Ancient as your general to play a more plodding game but that isn’t as fun as a dragon.
Fans of wood elves should rejoice. This book is a big winner in my books with plenty of build options and strategic play. If you are a big fan of the movement phase, they really nailed it here and the play lines when running these elves feel cinematic and exciting.