"The Dark Elves are the evil kinsfolk of the Elves of Ulthuan, driven away during the Elf civil war in the far distant past. [...] So great was the destruction that much of the area sank under a gigantic tidal wave, but the Dark Elf Archmages were not daunted. As the mighty flood swept over their land they cast powerful spells on their fortress-palaces, shielding them from the deluge. The castles tore themselves from the bedrock of the land and floated free on the roiling waves, held together by titanic binding enchantments." (Man O'War rulebook, p. 53)
Dark Elf fleet (1 Black Ark, 3 Death Fortresses, 2 Doomreaver squadrons)
When I had built my Bretonnian, Empire, Dwarven and Elf fleets, I looked at what was next on my list: the Dark Elves. "There is no way I can do these", I thought, "they are way to complicated." But one of my friends - Frank Messicci - who is very fond of Dark Elves in general decided to give it a try. He and his sister Tanja sat down and created these amazing Sea monsters from plastilin. After I had stopped staring in wonder at their work it was easy for me to add the hulls and towers to the models.
Unfortunately we did not have the opportunity to play the Dark Elf fleet regularly, so my experience with it is limited. I have never actually played the Dark Elves myself, only fought against them. The fleet proved to be pretty strong in the few games we managed, but it has its weaknesses. In one of my few convention games I beat a Dark Elf fleet soundly with the Bretonnians. Although the fact that my opponent blew his Chaos sorcerer to nirvana (the warp) in the second round of the battle might have had something to do with it.
Generally the Dark Elf fleet has several very strong attacks and the single most powerful individual ship, but is somewhat dependent on luck to be fully effective. More on this under the individual units.
The Black Ark is the single most powerful ship covered in the official Man O'War rules. It is fast, maneuverable, heavily armed, well-crewed, tough, and protected by powerful spells. It is also very rare, i.e. the Dark Elf player may only have one of these babies in his fleet for every full 1000 points. All these qualities make the ship a prime target for enemy admirals, because if they manage to sink it, they are at least halfway to winning the game.
The Ark is armed with Reaper ballistas that do from 2 to 6 hits per round (or zero). That makes the firepower of the Ark impossible to predict for a given round - the Dark Elf player has to rely on luck here.
The skull mounted on the prow of this model was done by Tanja Kämmle (Frank Messicci's sister) and looks absolutely gorgeous (sadly the photo isn't that good). It makes the Black Ark a magnificent centerpiece on every battle field.
Death Fortresses are independent units armed with Reaper Ballistas and mounted on powerful Sea Dragons. As all Dark Elf units (except the Black Ark) they live and die with the health of their monsters. The Sea Dragons' close combat attack is very powerful but they have a real Achilles heel: Any damage to the "5" location immediately sends the Sea Dragon out of control and the unit out the game. If the dice are against the Dark Elf player, he can lose a significant portion of his fleet very quickly.
On the positive side Sea Monsters are very maneuverable, do not need to bother with wind conditions, and can be healed within the Black Ark.
The smaller cousins of the Sea Dragons, the Helldrakes pulling the Doomreavers are similar in many respects. But the Doomreavers themselves do not have a ranged attack and rely solely on their monsters to damage enemy ships. Helldrakes are well-suited to that task becasue they can do a frenzy attack as an alternative to their normal close combat attack. This can damage other ships heavily but is also very unreliable, again increasing the Dark Elf players dependence on lucky die rolls.
Note the different Helldrakes on these models. The handmade monsters all have their own look and personality. They might not be as finely detailed as the original models, but their individuality makes more than up for that in my opinion.
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Created by Ralf Schemmann, last updated: October 5th 2005