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Wood Elves are one of Warhammer’s more notable factions, but I never liked the name. It was entirely possible to take a ‘wood elf’ army in the tabletop game without a single elf in it.
The Wood Elf army was never an army of ‘wood elves’ in a familiar fantasy sense. The elves of Athel Loren have been changed by their long years of dwelling in the forest. Once they were High Elves, but remained behind in the Old World when the other elves left for Ulthuan following the War of the Beard and the rise of the Dark Elves. In many ways these Wood Elves have become the tools of Athel Loren.
The elves of Athel Loren are what you might expect of a fantasy army called Wood Elves. Cloaked, bow armed elves predominate. The glade guard typically take the wood elf bow, which outranges other bow weapons of the Warhammer World. Glade Guard can also opt for spears and fight in ranked formations, albeit formation which are not disrupted by being in the forest.
More exotic elf units include Waywatchers, the elite scouts who can lay traps for the enemy. Wardancers do what the name suggest, and different dances will give them bonuses in combat. Wild Riders gallop through the forest on whatever mount comes to hand.
Scouts themselves can take vanguard deployment and are armed with wood elf bows, and are excellent shots. Wander into the outskirts of Athel Loren and it’s probably going to be a scout’s arrow that kills you. Unless the dryads get you first.
I didn’t want to use the word dryad and just leave it there. When you read dryad, you might be thinking of something like this:
No. This is clearly a dryad, this one illustrated by Todd Lockwood for Magic: the Gathering. The Warhammer aesthetic is often referred to as ‘grimdark’ and this dryad is neither grim nor dark enough for Warhammer.
Here are the dryads of Athel Loren:
Now we’re on the same page. Over their different iterations in the game, Wood Elves gradually became grimmer and darker. Take a look at the three books they received, from oldest to most recent:
A definite darkening can be detected.
The forest spirits add a totally different dimension to the Wood Elf army. Dryads are the foot soldiers, deployed in numbers and moving at speed through the woods to attack and harass the enemy.
Larger versions also exist from the tree-kin, essentially troll-sized dryads, right up to the Treeman Ancient, a massive giant-sized creature that also doubles as a lord in the Wood Elf army. It was entirely legal in the tabletop game to take an army of dryads, tree-kin, and treemen, led by a Treeman Ancient. There was even a named character, Durthu, who I’d expect to see as a lord choice in the game (please oh please).
Wood Elves are not much concerned with leaving their forest. A large part of their army is literally the forest come to life. For the most part they attack anyone foolish enough to venture into the woods, and the Warhammer World has no shortage of fools. Well, it has a shortage of old fools.
Empire, Bretonnians, Skaven, and Dwarfs have all been foolish enough to enter Athel Loren in force in the past. The Beastmen are always eager to enter the forest but tend to die to hidden archers before doing any damage.
Of particular value to the Wood Elves are the sacred groves of Athel Loren and it is these they will defend to the death.