"Nothing makes one so vain as being told that one is a sinner." - Oscar Wilde
The Eldar are one of the playable armies in Warhammer 40,000. They are essentially elves ported directly from Tolkien into space, pointy ears and all, and as a result are often called 'Elfdar' by fa/tg/uys. Which is retarded, because the term 'Eldar' itself is already pulled straight out of Tolkien, being one of the many names the Tolkien Elves use to refer to themselves (appropriately enough, it means "people of the [light of the] stars"). They are one of the oldest races in the galaxy and have very advanced technology and highly developed psychic abilities, but ages of warfare and strife, and in particular one extremely devastating and painfully avoidable strife, have reduced their population from the galaxy-spanning empires of the past to the few surviving Craftworlds, Maiden Worlds and Exodite Worlds still present in the 41st millennium.
In the 40k game, the Eldar army is comprised of specialized units that excel at a particular task, as opposed to more general all-rounders like the Space Marine tactical squads. Their vehicles are almost all skimmers too, with the exception of War Walkers. The Eldar also have a few special tricks up their mystical elfy sleeves, one of which comes in the form of wraith-constructs, which are wraithbone suits that are controlled by the souls of dead Eldar. It's like a Space Marine Dreadnought in purpose, only the Dreadnought pilot is merely a cripple while the wraith-construct's 'pilot' is a straight up ghost. The Avatar of Khaine, one of the Eldar's most powerful units, is a giant monster made of lava that used to be the penis of a war-god.
In spite of their fall from being a colossal empire that ruled the stars and heavens alike when Mankind was still poking things with sticks and roasting dead animals over fires in caves to their current state (a dying, elegiac race slowly being whittled down to extinction by combat losses and the hunger of Slaanesh), their utter disdain for every single bit of non-Eldarin life remains completely unchanged. (Though it's better than what the fucking Imperium does to everyone.) The race as a whole has a superiority complex that would put Failbaddon to shame. They often act indirectly, subtly manipulating events to resolve in their favor.
These traits, paired with their being used as the defenders of the status quo (see below) and the blatant favoritism they seem to get in any work featuring them have caused them to be the single most-hated race by /tg/. Yes, more than the space zombies and weeaboo space communists. Part of this stems from the fact that they are a hit-or-miss army, much as their counterparts were in the last edition. When they work, they work amazingly; when they don't, they tend to fail. Some argue that a lot of the hate has been due to them being insufficiently Orky, which, if true, is RACIST.
Thankfully, some of the hate has recently started to abate, and this has everything to do with the fact that the Eldar seem to have become the whipping boys of Games Workshop. You know they hate you when you can't even win in your own codices. Also, almost every victory they get nowadays is a Pyrrhic one. Matt Ward especially enjoys his crusade against the Eldar, with Avatars dying in almost every codex the guy's written, and if not that then expect similarly one-sided defeats for the Eldar.
Gav Thorpe, on the other hand, will fight to the death to write about anything starring the Eldar, because he just loves the elves (not enough to stop them from losing in their own codex, so he's a much better kind of fan than Matt Ward in this regard) and it's more or less agreed that he's really the only one who can portray them totally accurately since he is the Eldar expert. However, a sizable number of the older 40K playerbase hate Thorpe for turning Exarchs into watered-down Space Marine sergeants and other travesties of fluff. Eldar are also noted to have a major Asian influence, most notably from China, with their martial arts, yin-yang symbol, phoenix and dragon worshiping, cultural pride and philosophy. Pre-1945 Japan factors in as well, with an infantry standard weapon called the Shuriken Catapult, their belief in racial superiority and their ideas about being direct descendants of gods. So all in all this means that the Space Elves are the 40k equivalent of East Asia...huh.
The Eldar were one of many races created by the Old Ones to fight against the Necrons. They were designed to be powerful psykers to take advantage of the C'tan's weakness to the powers of the Warp. At the height of their civilization, approximately the same time humans were starting to evolve, they used their advanced technology to perform pretty much all the work required in their societies and devoted themselves to pursuing lives of hedonistic decadence (like a goddamn Dr. Seuss fantasy...IN SPAAAACE). Some Eldar decided to forsake the ways of their kin and left to settle other planets at the fringes of the galaxy; this turned out to be a pretty smart move, since the planet-wide orgies and other assorted debauchery going on back home culminated psychically in a gargantuan Warp anomaly which came to be called the Eye of Terror, and caused the birth of the Chaos god Slaanesh. This calamity also resulted in the deaths of most of the Eldar still on their homeworlds.
The Eldar present in the 41st millennium are the descendants of those who left to settle other planets or are the mercantile group that travelled around in their enormous ships called Craftworlds. They are dedicated to their fight against the forces of Chaos spawned by the folly of their ancestors. They are extremely long-lived; the average Eldar has a natural lifespan of at least a thousand years, and the most powerful of their psykers can survive to be tens of thousands of years old. As a result, most Eldar die in battle while still in their prime, and their population continues to dwindle. So grimdark.
Notable Eldar gods are Khaine and Isha. The former is in a million pieces at the moment and the latter is held captive by Nurgle. There is also Cegorach, the laughing god, who usually plays paradox poker with Tzeentch, the Deceiver and the Emperor once every week. It's not exactly known how one dimension managed to contain that much dickery in a single location without imploding.
The Eldar Paths
After the fall of their race, and apart from the potential to have their souls eaten by a crazed she-man masturbating furiously in the Warp, the Eldar discovered most of their population had also been cursed with ADHD. This new curse was adapted into the Paths of the Eldar, their equivalent to careers. The Eldar will spend hundreds of years dedicated to mastering their fry cook job at Space Elf Wendy's, then move on to the next occupation that takes their fancy. As you would expect from a universe where an entire race can be wiped out by the birth of a single hermaphrodite, the two most prevalent paths are the Path of the Seer and the Path of the Warrior. These can be simplified as The Path of the Dick and The Path of Everyone Else. The Path of the Warrior includes such exotically-titled job opportunities as being a Warp Spider, a Howling Banshee, or a Fire Dragon, all of which involve the applicant donning some form of flamboyant drag attire and out-trending the enemy. Also, Aspect Warriors will occasionally shoot and impale things with deadly proficiency. The Path of the Seer includes jobs for potential Warlocks and Seers. The few Eldar without ADHD who follow the Path of the Warrior or the Seer will eventually become an Exarch or Farseer. Of course, the Paths of the Eldar are not limited to the Seer and the Warrior. There has to be someone to fill the revered positions in the Path of the Toilet Cleaner. Let's not forget the Path of the Angry Gamer and the Path of the Craftworld Drunk, either.
According to rogue trader fluff which is almost two decades old (and has almost been entirely retconned out of existence), humans and Eldar once had a common ancestor, which doesn't make any sense since the Eldar as a race are far older than humanity (by at least 60 million years). There was a theory back in the day that both races were creations of the Old Ones (or the C'tan successfully made humans similar enough to the Eldar). This apparently made it possible for both races to interbreed and produce viable offspring. For example, it was hinted that Illiyan Nastase, Chief Librarian Astropath of the Ultramarines, was part Eldar. This is of course HERESY and GW has, in a rare case of good judgment, rightfully chosen to ignore this character's existence. Illiyan Nastase would later be overwritten and replaced by a new Chief Librarian of the Ultramarines, Varro Tigurius, in the more current fluff (likely because of his unusual affinity for psychic powers). Another example is the cute little bugger Lofn from the fan comic LCB.
Nowadays if it was still possible for Eldar-Human hybrids to be born, they would be born in Commorragh (basically take all the worst aspects of 16th century Port Royal, 19th century Singapore, Las Vegas and Mos Eisley spaceport, and throw in extra helpings of pain, rape, scum, villainy and wretched hive-ness, and there ya go). What did you think the Dark Eldar used those slaves for, making pie or HERESY?
The Black Library novel The Chapter's Due has as a minor character Kaarja Salombar the Corsair Queen. She's variously described as "... beautiful, with palm skin and warm almond shaped eyes of striking violet...there were some who said there was Eldar blood in her veins" and "...more than a hint of inhuman Eldar to her lithe frame, and a wild mane of azure hair flowing around her shoulders". She also bags at least a trio of Ultramarines and nearly slays Cato Sicarius before getting piked by the Ultramarines 2nd Company standard, which should make her a bit of a hero to the various Ward haters. She could also just be an unusually beautiful and gifted woman that has nothing to do with the Eldar.
At their infancy as a race, Eldar learned how to create warp entities (essentially, artificial daemons) to help them doing shit (be it war or healing, or building), but when the Old Ones took Eldar to war and subsequently get wiped out by the combined effort of C'Tan, Necrons and Enslavers, Eldar constructs went out of control and started merging into much more powerful beings, even capable of facing full-powered C'Tan without being annihilated in 0.1 second. What had left of Eldar race mistook those beings for gods, and started worshiping them, and the gods themselves started to play divine soap opera (which ofter resulted in piles of space elf corpses) until their boss, Asurian, get tired of this shit, and banned all manifestations in realspace, effectively locking all of the gods in the Warp. The Eldar previously had many gods, but following their fall and the birth of Slaanesh, most of the Eldar gods were wiped out along with most of their race. The three that survived are the Laughing God, Cegorach, the shattered God of War and Fire, Khaine, and the goddess of healing and fertility, Isha, also known as the Mother.
Cegorach was famous for running from Slaanesh in a very Benny Hill-like fashion until Khaine showed up and attacked Slaanesh. It was at this point Cegorach told Khaine "you got this" and fled to safety. Cegorach spends all his time getting into just as planned competitions with the other dicks of the galaxy. The rest of his time is spent reading books in the Black Library and trolling Ahriman by denying him entrance to the Library.
During the genocide of the Eldar gods, Khaine fought against Slaanesh and found himself evenly matched. Before a winner could be decided, however, Khorne appeared and declared Khaine his property. Whether this was due to the slight similarities in their names, or the fact that Khaine was another god of war is unknown. What is known is that Slaanesh refused, resulting in the first of the many regular beatings Khorne gives Slaanesh. While Khorne was curb-stomping Slaanesh, Khaine was shattered into many pieces and flung into the mortal realm. These shattered pieces of Khaine found their way to the Eldar Craftworlds and are now used to summon the Avatar of Khaine to fight for them (a fate very similar to the Burning One).
The fertility goddess Isha was saved from
the lusty Argonian maid*BLAM*NO!! by none other than Papa Nurgle. Isha now spends romantic weekends locked up in Nurgle's den of filth, disease and decay while eating some of his famous homemade food. The level of Stockholm Syndrome is presumed to be through the roof.
The War in the East
It has long been stated by many a fa/tg/uy that the Tau are Japs in space. When compared to the Eldar as China, this seems much more legit. The Eldar are a more established civilization, with a fucking complicated language when compared to the Tau. The Tau would probably invade the Eldar or absorb them into their empire if given the chance, to which the Eldar would reply, "fuck you". This is essentially Chinese/Japanese history in a nutshell. Some history/culturefags strongly dispute this assertion as being simplistic and inaccurate - the Chinese language is marked by relatively light grammar and high syllable-information density, as well as one unified set of logographic symbols (that mostly have one pronunciation). Japanese has low syllable-information density and has a sophisticated agglutinative grammar structure, like Korean, and also possesses two syllable-alphabets in addition to utilizing Chinese characters (often with multiple readings). Linguistically and philosophically the Tau draw influence from post WWII Chinese-Communist culture. The Eldar are Elves in space.
To add to the language debate, Only War describes the Eldar tongue as 'tonal', something that is a prominent feature in the Chinese language, and is not present in Japanese. So if FFG are to be trusted, the Eldar speak a language more similar to Chinese than Japanese. Just don't ask why the Eldar religion is sorta Hindu (India) and the Tau religion is sorta Buddhist, the only difference between East and Southeast where you haven't been and where you'll never go.
A problem with this idea is that the Tau philosophy of the "Greater Good" is more Chinese than Japanese. One of the greatest philosophical teachers who studied social interactions, ethics and morals and to leave a lasting mark was Confucius, who lived in China, while the Eldar's divisions between Aspect Warriors and Guardians can be better compared to those between Japanese samurai warriors and ashigaru peasant conscripts.
As a general rule, the Eldar are an army of specialists. Each unit is engineered for a particular style of fighting but is nigh useless outside of that assigned role. For example, Dark Reaper squads are known to cripple, if not wipe out completely, entire squads of Space Marines in a single volley. Conversely, they are incapable of moving and shooting (but now they can, lulz) and are comparable to Guardsmen in close combat (though they don't wear wet cardboard boxes for armor).
Eldar vehicles are known for two things. The first is the fact that they are
damn hard to kill. Three out of four damaging hits will, on average, only result in disabling weapons for a turn. Not anymore, fuck you 6th Edition. T_T Tanks can cost more than 200 points and are often outgunned by their counterparts at half the price. But at least in 6th Edition, skimmers get jink save ( flickerfields useless much? U mad DE? We DE beg to differ; vehicles only get jink saves if they MOVE Skimmers (at least) can jink regardless of movement or not (unless immobilized) in 7th edition, so Flickerfields are good for emergency situations if the vehicle can't move. Razorwings and Voidravens love them too as this makes them even harder to kill. Also FF aren't affected by things that cancel jink [A.K.A. cover] saves.). So, if any Eldar vehicle moves that isn't a War Walker, it just about avoids getting destroyed/wrecked. Mech has been toned down in 6th edition, and with only 3 hull points maximum at about 200 points, Eldar vehicles are always outgunned (though they don't need a lot of dakka; the guns they have are extremely powerful, so if the dice will it, you can do just as much damage as any other tank).
In summary, when an Eldar army is functioning as it should, it is difficult to stop. For this reason, opponents hate them. On the other hand, the army falls apart if given a mean look. They are devastating if they set up, and terrifying if allowed to stick around, but the presence of one Manticore Rocket Launcher, Whirlwind Artillery Tank or Defiler can collapse an entire Eldar battle line should the space elves not fight with care and foresight. Or go second.
Eldar as Defenders of the Status Quo
Games Workshop is well-known (read:
notorious infamous) for using the Eldar as a gigantic fiat that everything remains exactly as it is (which is to say, in a state of imminent-but-not-quite-here-yet disaster). In a number of works that have Eldar in them (such as books and the Dawn of War series), the Eldar usually provide the "crisis is averted, absolutely nothing else changes" push of the series, causing many players to label them as one of the core reasons Games Workshop has not advanced the 41st millennium's plot in over a decade and a half. This can be seen extensively in Dawn of War, where the Eldar, canonically, won Winter Assault.
It must be noted, however, that they aren't the sole custodians of this - just the most blatantly obvious ones. Necrons, pre-update, used to be pretty bad for doing this, and the Tyranids in general seem to exist to eat GW's mistakes, but both of those can be written off as the fault of the armies themselves, since the Tyranids exist only to consume biomass, and the pre-5th edition Necrons just wanted to kill everything. Contrastingly, the Eldar are infamous in official works for their upholding the current state of affairs, mostly through being racist shits armed with the power of plot convenience. In short, whenever something needs to be eaten, destroyed, turned into armor paint, or the interplanetary equivalent of poking an electrical outlet with a fork, GW uses one of the other armies - but when a situation calls for things to remain exactly as they are, the Eldar, traditionally, get the call.
Thankfully, there have been rumblings of great fluff changes in the future from employees who work in GW's fluff department (as in so big that Abaddon himself stands a good chance of being dethroned and replaced as the leader of the Black Legion, for one thing). Indeed, there might already be something in the works: If Dawn of War II is to be considered canon, then the entire Biel-Tan Seer Council was slaughtered in the events of Retribution.
- Farseer Caerys - Farseer of the Kaurava endeavour. From Craftworld Ulthwé.
- Farseer Eldrad - Lead Farseer (and most powerful Farseer in general) of Craftworld Ulthwé. A dick.
- Farseer Macha - Farseer from Biel-Tan. Tried to stop Gabriel Angelos from accidentally setting a daemon loose. Also infamous among /tg/ for being a 4000-year old virgin until very recently.
- Farseer Taldeer - Ulthwé Farseer for the Lorn V and Kronus affairs. Presumed dead following the events on Kronus, which had her cornered. As it turns out, the truth was far more complicated than that.
- Farseer Idranel - Ulthwé Farseer who tried to stop Tyranids from nomming a craftworld in Subsector Aurelia by getting the Orks and the Blood Ravens pissed off. It failed utterly, with special mention going to Tarkus and his termie armour.
- Farseer Eldorath Starbane - Farseer of Craftworld Alaitoc. An arrogant bastard who couldn't get over himself and promptly got his ass handed to him by the Necrons.
- Kayleth - Autarch of Craftworld Alaitoc. Took charge of the Subsector Aurelia situation after Idranel's death.
- Ronahn - Pathfinder. Born on Ulthwé, but eventually cut ties with his craftworld to wander the stars. Taldeer's brother.
- Iyanna Arienal - Head Spiritseer of Iyanden. Responsible for making most of its Wraith-constructs.
- Prince Yriel - Formerly of Iyanden, he was booted out and started his own band of Corsairs, which helped save the Craftworld. Currently yields a magic spear that will slowly but surely suck his life out, though he staves it off somehow.
- Phoenix Lords - The founders of the Aspect Shrines. They've been around since the Fall, and are effectively immortal by storing their souls in their armour. Also completely badass.
- Craftworld Alaitoc - Best known for their rangers and pathfinders. This makes them good buddies with Corsairs.
- Craftworld Biel-tan - Best known for their military prowess, which allows them to wipe out invaders. Can also sterilize the ground, purging it of any Orks. The most militaristic of the Craftworlds.
- Craftworld Iyanden - Got nommed to near-death by Tyranids. As a result, they now have a bunch of wraith units. 6E gave them a whole Codex expansion.
- Craftworld Saim-Hann - Favor using bikes. A lot, though not to the point of being xeno White Scars. Also believe that "da' red wuns go fasta'!"
- Craftworld Ulthwé - Best known for the tons of Farseers they have, including a certain dick. Spends most of its time dealing with Chaos due to its proximity to the Eye of Terror.
- Craftworld Altansar - Was lost in the Eye of Terror for a while. Then Maugan Ra dragged it out with his epicness.
- Craftworld Malan'Tai - Also got nommed by 'Nids, leading to the naming of one particular Zoanthrope.
- Craftworld Iybraesil - A matriarchal society with a disproportionately high female population. Commissars warn citizens of the empire to stay away of the craftworld because the perfidious xenos capture men for sexual fun and reproduction, as there are not eldar men to fulfil these tasks. Many brave citizens have decided to risk their lives in the name of the Emperor to find the Craftworld Iybraesil and ... ahem ... destroy this heresy.
You may have noticed that in most of the fluff the Eldar are described as a dying race. However, they've been slowly dying for the past 10,000 years, never seem to mind the heavy losses they take when they lose a battle, and for every one world lost there are a dozen more that pop up. The reason for this is that GW writers have different opinions on what the Eldar's "theme" is. Gav Thorpe, who did most of their older fluff, views them as dying out, and only thinks there are a dozen craftworlds with a dozen million Eldar each. However, Phil Kelly thinks their theme is "holding on just barely and losses are only minor things, keeping the important stuff" and thinks there are hundreds of craftworlds, with the average housing a hundred million to half a billion Eldar. Humorously, Matt Ward seems to agree with Phil as the theme of his Iyanden book is "definitely rising through the ashes" (maybe Phil and Matt were sick of Eldar being treated as the galaxy's punching bag in 40K).
What we're saying is: as with the other species, Craftworld Eldar do take the time to reproduce, but the open question is whether they're technically dying out or if they managed to keep a net population growth rate over the 12 millennia or so since Slaanesh came
into the picture. If the former, an intelligent species is still paying the price for the nuttery of their forebears, and will until they're totally extinct; if the latter, a bunch of racist assholes who hate you (yes, you) are on the upswing, though all possibility of a total comeback is about on the same level of probability as Nurgle taking an antibiotic bath. Between all the wars and the occasional disaster (like Kher-ys and Malan'tai), one would think the galaxy is waging a slow war of attrition on their species. Fluff describes them going either way.
These guys pop up every so often, though whether they're technically a naval splinter group of the Craftworlds or a completely separate offshoot is still an open question. Most of them are Craftworlders living the Path of the Outcast, though considering Eldar can spend many years away from their Craftworld, many may just be natural-born corsairs. These Eldar live on ships and space stations until they return to their home Craftworld (if they return at all), and often raid other species' space lanes for plunder, usually in the form of people. Part of the reason Imperial commanders think Eldar are a random, inscrutable force in the galaxy is because they can't tell the difference between these guys, Dark Eldar, or a Craftworld strike force (Corsairs and Craftworld ships could be forgiven, but your intel must be pretty fucked if you confuse those ships and the ones covered in blades and similar grotesque shit).
Anybody could reasonably play them on the tabletop with the Eldar Codex, but since IA11 they've had independent lists with lots of fast and deep strike options, plus jetpack infantry. However, that was back in 5th edition, and a lack of any updates to their list means they're pretty fucking outdated, even with errata.
Eldar recently were dethroned as the punching bag of Games Workshop. Until the most recent codex (Newcrons), the Eldar suffered repeated and humiliating defeats. Every single defeat involved overwhelming odds in favor of the Eldar, with gigantic wraithbone constructs and burning shards of war gods being overwhelmed by [insert faction here]'s broken pinky finger.
Let's make a list here:
- Fulgrim - Big Eldar force including a fucking Avatar and Wraithlords is killed by a small detachment of the Emperor's Children (the Avatar is strangled to death by Fulgrim because he's distracted by his glowy Laer blade. I'm not making this shit up.)
- Codex: Chaos Daemons - Aside from being a nifty reference to Ker-Ys/Ker-Is, an Avatar is possessed by a Keeper of Secrets and helps wipe out a Craftworld.
- Codex: Tyranids - Avatar issues a challenge to the Hive Tyrant leading the assault on Iyanden. Apparently it doesn't work and it literally gets stampeded to death by 12 Carnifexes. What the fuck. (To be fair, it is 12 Carnifexes.) Oh, and Farseer Kelmon dies, despite neither the Avatar nor Kelmon dying in older iterations of Iyanden's invasion. Oh, and the Doom of Malan'Tai singlehandedly eats an ENTIRE CRAFTWORLD.
- Matt Ward's Cornucopia of Wank - From the Avatar getting his chest punched in by Papa Smurf, other hilarious things like Wraithlords being killed by Sergeants and god knows what, Matt Ward's Necron Codex featuring a fucking retarded Alaitoc Farseer who fucks over every engagement he commands and gets 'captured' in the White Dwarf issue, I don't even know where to start.
- Ironically, Ward is also the only one who writes the Eldar being badass, including a bit about Biel-tan beating two whole Imperial sector fleets and ten Space Marines chapters.
- Dawn of War: Dark Crusade has the Blood Ravens wipe out all of Taldeer's distractions and then kill her, with their heretical Chapter Master gaining a fancy new piece of bling by taking her spirit stone (or perhaps she escaped and Kyras only managed to kill a body double, depending on who you listen to).
- In Dawn of War: Soulstorm, Vance Motherfucking Stubbs wipes the Ulthwe forces on Kaurava III out wholesale and used his sheer manliness to make Caerys join his harem.
- Dawn of War II has the Eldar farseer acting like a complete and total DUMBASS from the moment you take control of Force Commander Hairgel. While things started off good with the Eldar making the Orks and Space Marines do the work for them, Farseer Ree-t'ard then decides to antagonize the Blud Rehvens for literally no reason, resulting in a total of 11 marines and 3 scouts killing somewhere in the ballpark of
hundredsthousands of Eldar.
- Imperial Armour 11: Doom of Mymeara (which sounds like a Playschool TV show puppet - way to go on the Craftworld name GW) - Again, droves of Eldar in the midst of snotting Imperial Guard and Space Wolves from here to Jupiter, somehow get their collective arses handed to them. This is achieved by some fresh out of training/wet nosed/"tea bagging my comrades for the Emperor is my past time" IG commander, pulling a victory out of his chocolate starfish - with collective precision that makes the Dome of Seers predictive foresight look like your average crystal ball psychic con artist.
(And let's not forget that all of these instances are pretty recent fluff, from 4th-5th edition.) Case in point, when GeeDubs needs to give some character or unit or faction some street cred, they just go "he killed an Avatar, so that's good enough." As if the prevailing logic wouldn't be; "gee, if so many things can kill the Avatar, isn't it kind of a lame thing to kill anymore?" Regardless, GW sucks at writing decent fluff (with a few exceptions).
Fortunately, the new punching bag has been changed to the Tau, who for reasons uncertain, don't seem to mind the change of pace- Uh, don't you mean Sisters of Battle? The ones who, you know, not only die in droves, but usually at the hands of their own alleged allies? Eldar still lost most times they were mentioned in the codex, though.
- High Elves and Wood Elves (Warhammer) for their Fantasy Craftworld and Exodite equivalents respectively.