Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why I Play Dark Eldar

Eat your heart out, Professor Membrane
Warhammer 40K, as a hobby, is pretty new to me. I've always been aware of it, and my general Anglophilia has made me mildly curious, but it wasn't until my roommate Zack fell in love with it that I had an excuse to pick it up myself. My first inclination was to play Necrons, because c'mon, robot zombies, but they don't have a lot of units yet and they're a bit lacking in individual character. (Some of that may change soon, as they're rumored to be getting a new Codex.) My true fate was next to them on the shelf of my favorite Local Game Shop: the Dark Eldar.

I used to gravitate toward goody-goodies. I'm still a vehement supporter of the Autobots. My first World of Warcraft character was a (female!) dwarf paladin.  Five years in tech support has rotted my soul. I'm only a little more irritable and misanthropic in my day-to-day life, but these days I like my fictional cultures as evil (or at the very least amoral) as possible. The Dark Eldar are the most over-the-top evil culture I have seen pretty much anywhere. As a race they literally feed off pain. They're drugged-up body mod junkies. They were the flayed skin of those who opposed them as loincloths over their armor.  Their leader dropped a starship on a guy who dared to question his command. In a setting already full of over-the-top concepts and characters, where there are no real Good Guys, they are Villainy Incarnate. Reading through their Codex reveals details so ridiculously evil as to be comical. Their alignment is Chaotic WTF.

Though the Dark Eldar are really just Evil Space Elves, one of the more interesting unit types is the haemonculi and their fleshcrafted minions. My own personal body modifications may consist of two rarely-used pairs of ear piercings and an eyebrow barbell, but I love it in fiction.With cyberpunk a dying subgenre, I often have to get my posthumanism (posteldarism?) from fantasy. As part of a race that embodies all the worst things about traditional elves, the haemonculi exist to fulfill whatever ridiculous vain whim the others entertain. You want wings? Here you go. We'll even hollow out your bones for you. Got killed in battle? No problem, we'll pop your remaining finger in a tube and regenerate you, feeding you on a steady diet of pain from our experimental subjects. Horrible disfigurement is the latest fashion? Lovely!
Equal opportunity silly armor

They also have women, which a lot of the other races are lacking. The Codex specifically says "Little distinction is drawn between the sexes, for an individual's skill and cunning is far more important than physical traits such as height or gender." (Yes, I know, "gender" is not physical; I'm gonna chalk it up to not wanting to use "sex" twice in the same sentence.)  Vanilla Eldar have a lot of female characters in their fiction, but not so many as actual minis. To be fair, being elves, the Dark Eldar have little sexual dimorphism anyway, and when assembling minis it really doesn't matter whether most of the heads are put on male or female bodies. Yes, there are female torsos with cleavage windows, but only in units that don't wear full armor, and those have male companions with exposed midriffs. The women from the "warrior" unit have full body armor. Everything but the torsos are unisex. I get a kick out of that androgyny.

So to any of my like four readers: Do you currently play or have you previously played Warhammer? What was your favorite army, and why?

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