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Design Your Own Craftworld!

Submitted By: Gutstikk Date: August 10, 2010, 07:28:42 AM Views: 10142
Summary: A walkthrough on the process of developing your own complete, personalized Eldar background material.

Design Your Own Craftworld

You have probably heard the following craftworld names before: Alaitoc, Biel-Tan, Iyanden, Saim-Hann, and Ulthwé.  The chances are these names conjure an image of what you would expect to see in an army from any of these craftworlds, and what it might look like.  This is the result of branding.  Each of these craftworlds has a very specific set of units associated with it, a playstyle, and a paint scheme.  While it would be possible to play an Iyanden army that was painted entirely red and included no Wraithguards or Wraithlords, most people would not identify this as an Iyanden force [and may even argue with you that it is not].  When designing your own craftworld, think about the image, the units, and the playstyle that will represent it.

While the 'big five' craftworlds mentioned above have the advantage of print media publication, making them recognizable throughout the gaming community, whereas your craftworld probably will not receive such a benefit [unless you win some Golden Demon competitions, that is].  This means that your craftworld is going to need some distinguishing characteristics if you want people to recognize it when they see it on the opposite side of a table.  Furthermore, unless your craftworld descends from one of the 'big five' craftworlds, it will need something to set it apart, so that others do not mistake it for one of those forces.

Naming your Craftworld:

The easiest way to make your craftworld stand out is to give it a name.  The name you arrive at is ultimately up to you.  However, the convention for naming a craftworld follows a general format including the actual name of the craftworld followed by an identifier that gives a little info about that craftworld.  Some examples of this are as follows:

Name - Identifier:

Biel-Tan - The Swordwind
Iyanden - The Ghost Warriors

A Biel-Tan host generally seeks to use mobility to crush foes in close combat [a wind of swords].  An Iyanden army will typically rely on the spirits of fallen warriors housed in machines of war [ghost warriors].  The identifier embodies how the craftworld is recognized by others, while the name is how the craftworld recognizes itself.  Remember, not all Eldar hate all other races; many have xenos trading partners, and if you were a human it would be useful to know which ones you are dealing with!  Imagine that you are a human in the 41st millennium, and you encounter emissaries from Biel-Tan rather than Alaitoc.  Would you not prefer to know that you had met 'The Swordwind' instead of 'The Starstriders'?  Which seems more likely to cut you down?

Notice that generally a craftworld's name is mostly composed of soft vowel sounds, and is generally polysyllabic, or composed of a compound of monosyllabic words.  Also, they generally end in a consonant sound, and tend to be somewhat guttural rather than fluid.  While they do have a Celtic spin to them, many aspects of feudal Japanese society [think samurai and striving for perfection] went into developing Eldar, and that harsh sounding, guttural quality sets out the Bushin of the Eldar quite nicely [wikipedia can tell you a bit more about Bushin, but it is the idea of stopping the sword with the mind, or being in perfect harmony with one's environment].  Each word is also associated with an ideal, philosophy, concept, or trait.  The Eldar identify very strongly with what they do, rather than what they are.  If at all possible you should, therefore, keep in mind that you want your name to fit the people it describes.  It should sound right.  It will be a made up word in a fake language, so you can bend syllables however you need to get the right sound, but it is an ideal worth striving for.

For inspiration I suggest carefully looking at the names in the Eldar codex, or going through materials from the Black Library and White Dwarf.  Also, reading up on some Tolkien could help [though you will notice these names are more fluid than Eldar], or researching Babylonian/Sumerian mythology [which gets closer to the harsh sound but further from the Celtic derivations].


Unless you are brand new to the game you will want to give some thought to your play style.  It is not necessary to commit to particular units at this point, but having an idea of the type of units you want to include will go a long way to figuring out how you want the army to look and feel on the tabletop.  Some possible options are to have a fast, mechanized army, or a slower, infantry based, army.  You may want to focus on high powered weapons, creating a hail of bullets, or rushing headlong into combat.  Having an idea as to the sort of army you would like to play will also go a long way to establishing the history of your craftworld, providing you with a point at which to jump into its background. The units you exclude will also reinforce your craftworld's theme, so if there are any models that you particularly dislike, consider not using them.

Now is a good time to consider some cautionary measures, so that your craftworld is not confused with others [namely, the Big Five].  Alaitoc, Biel-Tan, Iyanden, Saim-Hann, or Ulthwé all have long standing traditions, and tend to be easily identifiable based on two themes: color scheme and unit selection.  The most important thing to avoid is 'crossing the streams'.  You can find the color schemes for each of these craftworlds in the Eldar codex, however, for the sake of completeness, here is a quick list of colors, along with the types of forces these craftworlds tend to field.  If you wish to avoid your craftworld being misidentified, do not choose a color scheme from a craftworld along with a similar army design:

Alaitoc: colors - Sunburst Yellow, Regal Blue; army - heavy presence of infiltrating/scouting units, along with 'jump' Aspects, or Jetbikes, and relies on stealth to pick off enemy at weak points.

Biel-Tan: colors - Snot Green, Skull White; army - composed mainly, but not exclusively, of Aspect Warriors, known for mechanized close combat focus.

Iyanden: colors - Regal Blue, Sunburst Yellow; army - often includes multiple Wraith units, with the presence of Seers, makes use of fewer models, which have more resilience and equipment.

Saim-Hann: colors - Blood Red, Skull White or Chaos Black; army - relies on manoeuvrability and mobility to outmatch its foes, and generally foregoes the use of non-mechanized units, while including a large number of Jetbikes.

Ulthwé: colors - Chaos Black, Bleached Bone; army - often includes a sizeable force of Guardian units, led by Warlocks and Farseers, with excellent psychic abilities.

If you plan on using one of these playstyles listed above, it would be advisable to avoid the associated colour scheme, unless you are developing a craftworld derived from the Big Five.

Hobby Considerations:

Using greenstuff, and undertaking other conversions, can really help your army stand out.  Think about some possible conversions you can perform that will be suited to your style.  If your army features a ragtag band of raiders engaging in skirmish style tactics, you may want to convert every model to be remarkably different from each other.  An army from a craftworld with a large standing force, that relies on its military might, would tend to look more uniform in appearance.

Consider your playstyle when posing your models.  Models which stand and shoot do not need to have dynamic poses, whereas models that charge the enemy really ought to be pitched forward with weapons raised.  This can of course be applied on a unit by unit basis, but can also be considered from the perspective of your overall playstyle.  If you exercise caution as a player, rather than haste and brute force, it may be a good move to pose your assault squads as though they are slinking, or looking, around.  A regimented appearance is more suited to a methodical approach to the game.

How you paint your army will influence how it is perceived on the table, and serve to reflect your theme and playstyle.  If you want your army to have a more noble feel, it will be beneficial to select brighter colours, and use softer shading and separations. If you want your craftworld to feel more sinister, keep the palette dark, and use harsher breaks between areas of colour by using a sharper gradation.  Also think about your fighting style.  A guerilla force using ambush tactics would stick to camouflage, while a harassment style force may need brighter colours to distinguish them as allies.

Basing your models is also a good way to reinforce your craftworld design.  If the army tends to fight on frozen planets you may want to use a finer grade flock, and paint it white, whereas if your troops do battle on marshy worlds, some static grass, and gel medium, can give the appearance of swampy pools.  If they stay on their own craftworld, some form of ceramic tiling effect may be in order.  Clear posts, or thin gauge wire, can be used for posing models in the middle of a leap.  Removing the lower portions of models can make them appear to be bursting forth from the ground, reflecting a unit emerging from ambush.  Base these sort of decisions on the style of fighting that your craftworld is known for, and you will get your message through pretty clearly.

If you think that you will follow a specific archetype for your craftworld, it would be a good idea to flesh out your background a bit before modelling.  If, for example, your Eldar are refugees from an abandoned craftworld, they will need to have a dark and dirty appearance.  Some of these themes will be discussed in the next section, so if you want to theme your army read ahead before committing to a particular modelling style, or paint scheme.

A history is a collection of the experiences of a particular people, along with the information needed to give it significance.  Historic events can shape the future of a people, and continue to impact on a society long after the event has concluded.  As such, history and society are inextricably linked, and each one influences the other.


You will probably find it necessary to think about the history of your craftworld in order to develop its motivations and attributes.  Where has it been, and what have its people seen?  What important events, for better or worse, have changed its culture?

Most Eldar craftworlds date back to the period of The Fall, or shortly beforehand.  It would be rare to find an Eldar craftworld that had developed into its own isolated nation long before The Fall, as during that time the Eldar civilization was a galactic empire which would make the empire of man look shabby by comparison.  This is a good example as to why some background will be necessary, for if your craftworld was around as its own autonomous entity long before The Fall, were its people renegades or pioneers?  Did the rest of the Eldar civilization commission them or hunt them down?

The period of The Fall offers a great starting point for a craftworld's society; perhaps better than most, as that period was riven with so much conflict, and there are numerous reasons why your Eldar society would have elected to break away from the empire.  The Eldar path did not exist at this point in time, and Eldar civilization was degrading into hedonism, thus the Eldar themselves probably largely resembled the Dark Eldar in terms of lifestyle, although probably not in terms of appearance.  Many Eldar left, in order to avoid this sort of social decay, while others probably felt [or scryed] the coming of Slaanesh, and sought to flee from her before she was born into the Warp.  Once this happened, the psychic shockwave that followed killed Eldar by the millions as their souls were syphoned off to feed her power, and any craftworld too close to the Eye of Terror would have suffered horrendous casualties, as well as horrendous experiences.  The planets previously held by the Eldar in that area would become the Crone Worlds.

When writing your craftworld's history, you may want to do it as a timeline.  This format is easily understood, and shows a sequence of events, which may reveal patterns useful in determining what sort of society your Eldar have evolved into.  Consider expanding all the way back to The Fall, if not to the origin of the craftworld, and work your way forwards.  Where has your craftworld been, who have its members seen, why did it end up where it is?  Were there any important historical figures, epic battles, horrible defeats, or amazing advances?  Why were these things so significant to your people?  Give an account of the sort of events your craftworld experienced.  Important historical figures, and their lives, make very good topics, especially as their stories help to write the history of the craftworld as a whole.  For instance, an important Seer may have guided her people to a maiden world which they have since recovered from a Tyranid invasion.  The defence of this maiden world may then make up a large part of your craftworld history.  Alternately, you may consider where the craftworld is now, and work your way backwards to explain how it  got to each step, for example, if the craftworld is currently fighting Chaos Space Marines, what is the reason?


Answering some of the following questions will help you develop your craftworld's social structure:

What sort of government runs this society?
What sort of people are they in terms of relations to others?
Who do they interact with?
What sort of beliefs guide their culture?
How large is this society?
How much wealth is available to this society?
What sort of environment does this society exist in?
How do smaller units of this society relate to the whole [think of a province versus a nation]?

While most craftworlds are fairly self sufficient, this need not always be the case, and there may be craftworlds that produce things at a higher quality than yours.  Your craftworld may also lack certain Aspect Shrines, and need to send its Aspect Warriors out periodically to visit the shrines on other craftworlds.  These types of dependencies help to shape the strengths of your craftworld, because, ultimately, nothing comes free.  A craftworld without the right resources might have trouble producing wraithbone for grav-tanks, or even food for its civilians.  A craftworld with a wealth of resources may gift or trade such materials or products with other craftworlds.  Such a craftworld might even lord their wealth over other Eldar, demanding submission from lesser craftworlds.  A society on a larger craftworld, or one that spans several craftworlds or colonies, may be less hesitant to commit more troops to a battle than a tiny craftworld or a single colony.

A craftworld with a long history of warfare may be ruled by its military.  A collection of several craftworld colonies might be run by a council of the family leaders.  Because the politics of the Eldar are so infrequently delved into, the possibilities are quite open here.  Next, consider the ethical rules of your society.  These will often be influenced by their historical experiences.  Many Eldar craftworlds have a number of taboos, which may not be broken under any circumstances.  This means they will tend to utilize tools, and maintain social structures, which have not changed much over millennia.  On the other hand, a corsair style society may use a wider range of exotic and innovative items than an ascetic and pacifist craftworld, strictly due to the lifestyle of corsairs.  A more traditional craftworld may have a number of ritualistic embellishments that distinguish rank and accomplishment.  Some of this may be reflected in the way in which you model your army.

Knowing where your Eldar civilization is located, in relation to the sort of threats it is likely to face will be useful, as the enemies you face routinely will largely shape the sort of culture your craftworld has [who you can trade with, who you do battle with and how often, what sort of society you need to effectively deal with those threats, and what is available, in terms of resources, for your Eldar to make use of].  Think about the other players you are likely to game with when fleshing this out, for example, if you do not know any Ork players, it may not be wise to make Orks your most hated enemy.  Additionally, think about the sort of treaties your society may be involved in, i.e. consider armies that you are likely to play team games with, and whether adding an alliance to your background might make sense.  Also, visualise where in the 40k universe your craftworld is located.  Eldar inhabiting a system of ice worlds will have access to different resources compared to those inhabiting jungle planets.  The following link is to a map of the 40k universe:

Almost no army goes to war without a reason for doing so, not even an army of Khorne Berzerkers [whose reason is that they must go to war]!  It will, therefore, be necessary to think about the goals and aims of your craftworld's society, as well as its history, in order to get a sense of why its armies fight.  Your craftworld may seek to rebuild the Eldar empire of old, or simply be out to plunder the galaxy.  Your craftworld may be attempting to eradicate an Imperial colony that is colonising a system where many ancient Eldar artifacts were lost during the fall.  Alternatively, perhaps your craftworld holds a grudge, owing to a grievous injustice suffered at the hands of other armies.

If you have a specific set of routine opponents, you may want to work them into your story.  The colony your craftworld is searching for may have been destroyed hundreds of years ago by the Death Guard, and this is why you fight this player regularly.  On the other hand, perhaps that colony was destroyed mysteriously and in your search for it you encounter these opponents who block your progress.  Remember that the Eldar is a dying race, so its forces will not go to war without good reason, unless, of course, you come up with a reason to get around this.  Fanatics of Ynnead, for example, may seek death in battle to strengthen their patron deity, while simultaneously weakening their foes.


An archetype is a sort of pattern or theme that reappears throughout many stories.  The following are some examples of possible archetypes to use in developing your history and society.  They are based on possible points of origin for your craftworld in an historical sense, and can be used to decide where the story of your craftworld began and how it evolved into what it is today.  The questions included in each section are posed to help you flesh things out.  The archetypes listed are just some ideas of how a craftworld may have come into existence, the possibilities are pretty much endless.


Your Eldar society is probably not too fond of other Eldar, having had to fight them for untold millennia to retain their independence.  The tragic plight of the Eldar as a whole would probably not bother your craftworld - the other Eldar brought things upon themselves.  You probably have few, if any, Aspects; and the ones that are available would certainly not have been founded by Phoenix Lords [as these would have been fought off], but they may have the same fighting style.  Are your Eldar fiercely individual, or do they form close bonds of kinship?  How well equipped are they?  What sort of epic battles have they fought against other Eldar that has allowed them to establish their own society?  Are they well known and infamous, looked up to, or unknown?  Have they worked to reattach their ties of kinship, or do they detest all other Eldar still?  Have they become pirates, seeking to loot and plunder the wealth and resources of any other races they encounter?  These are the sorts of questions that might be asked of such an Eldar society.


The question is mainly at what point in time were your Eldar building colonies, and how did that impact their experiences?  If it was long enough before the event of the Fall, they were probably far enough away from the Eye of Terror to escape relatively unscathed.  Maybe they were reclaiming renegade Eldar worlds or craftworlds, or perhaps they were settling new planets?  Does your Eldar society know the secrets of the maiden worlds and has set about awakening them?  Do your Eldar crusade against the mon-keigh in an attempt to retake worlds that have since fallen into human hands?  Alternatively, did their wave of exploration finally break, causing them to settle at the fringe of the galaxy without interest in striking out further into the unknown?  Do they embrace the Path, or do they still wander [in Exodite fashion]?  Being relatively disconnected from the rest of the Eldar, do they maintain relations or have they been forgotten?


This is an archetype typical of many craftworlds that broke from the Empire during the fall.  Such Eldar are sick of the spiritual malaise of the Eldar race, and seek to cure it by avoiding the excesses of the Eldar Empire that brought about the awakening of Slaanesh.  Such a craftworld would be composed of many Eldar following a Path, whether in the form of the Artisan, Artist, Warrior, or something else.  There would probably be many Aspect Shrines on such a craftworld, as well as many other shrines to the other gods of the Eldar, and the paths associated with such gods [consider a shrine to Vaul with the associated Eldar on the Path of the Smith...].  Such Eldar might exhibit the infamous Eldar arrogance and be cold and dispassionate.  They might also have a strong sense of honour, which may or may not be extended to the less worthy inhabitants of the galaxy.  The question becomes, which Paths do such Eldar walk?  What is the focus of their society?  Are all Eldar in this society striving towards a common goal, or is their goal simply to exist without degrading?  What are they known for?  Do they craft things with unparalleled beauty, or do they prefer dull simplicity to further avoid excess?  Are they hesitant to deal with other Eldar who may not live up to their standards, or do they try to convince others to further embrace a focused and sparse lifestyle?


Such Eldar would have relied heavily on the powers of psychics to see that they were bringing their own doom upon them, and that the only way to ensure survival was to leave the empire, and embrace a much more stringent lifestyle.  The Fall may have caught them, but since they had fair warning, did it hit them as hard as others or were they relatively untouched?  Have the Seers and mystics of such a society become a sort of revered cult, or is their status something else?  How did they manage to read the skeins of fate where others failed?  Why did they neglect to save other Eldar, if they even had the chance?  Where are the strands of fate leading them now?  Do they feel the need to intervene in the activities of others to bend fate to their will, or do they prefer to ride the times, hoping to avoid calamity through careful observation?


These Eldar did not escape the fall, though they were far enough away from the event that they escaped the Eye of Terror.  Many of their kin were probably slain in the psychic apocalypse as Slaanesh was born, and the survivors probably had to battle their way to safety, either against creatures of the Warp, possessed Eldar, or Eldar who were simply driven mad, further weakening them.  In such a state they probably limped through the galaxy, avoiding contact with others where possible as they nursed their wounds.  The question is, did they recover?  Are these refugees still downtrodden, undersupplied, and fighting to hang on?  Do they get caught in battle because others find them easy prey, or do they fight to take what they need?  Are they wandering pirates, or have they finally found a place to settle, and begun to rebuild?  What impact has their experience had on their ability to make a society?  Are they close-knit and reliant on each other for support, or have they experienced such horror that they have become grim and despondent?


These Eldar were hit the hardest, being totally inside the Eye of Terror as it formed, and they were, therefore, sucked into a nightmare realm where the unimaginable became reality.  They have spent millennia living in the worst possible circumstances, where the Warp and reality entwine.  They have probably had to deal continuously with fending off the depredations of daemons.  Eventually, they have emerged from the Eye.  How did they escape?  What sort of things did they experience?  Do they have any knowledge of the Crone Worlds?  Did they encounter Chaos Space Marines during their time in the Warp?  How long were they stuck there, and did time pass at the same speed for them as it did for those outside of the Warp?  Are they to be trusted [Altansar is viewed suspiciously...]?  Have they since been able to form a society, or are they merely the last remnants of an army whose sole purpose is to survive until they are wiped out?  Do they have dealings with anyone else?  Do they even know they have escaped from the warp?  Are they still sane?


These are the Eldar which have decided to serve on the side of Slaanesh, or one of the other Chaos gods, as a result of their time in the Eye of Terror or their experiences during the fall [if they did not get drawn into the Eye].  Perhaps they summon daemons rather than awakening Avatars?  Perhaps their psychic powers come from more sinister sources?  These are not Dark Eldar, who live at the mercy of Slaanesh as hopeless pawns, but rather Eldar who have found a new path - the Path of Glory.  They willingly serve their new masters and seek to gain untold power in their service, to perhaps rival and overthrow their dark masters.  Necromancy is not a thing to fear, but a means of overcoming death and continuing to gain power.  Spirit stones become warp focuses that enhance the powers of the bearer, possibly through the experience of the Eldar spirit trapped inside, but possibly through something darker lurking in it.  What experiences shaped their culture in the Warp?  How did they come to ally with Chaos, and why?  Do they deal with other Eldar still, or seek to stomp them out?  Are they involved with the traitors of mankind?  Have they suffered mutations?  What sort of promises have the Chaos gods made them?  Which powers do they serve?  (N.B. Editor's note: Chaos Craftworld Eldar is not very likely as a concept, but small remnants of destroyed craftworlds, inhabitants of the Crone Worlds, or pirates, outcasts or corsairs turning to Chaos is possible.)


If nothing else, Eldar are known for their grace, intellect and philosophy.  Eldar, having a lifespan many times that of a human, will have centuries to deliberate upon the mysteries of the universe, as well as to master any task they set their minds to.  Such deliberation will often develop into very specific means of viewing the world, often through the scope of one's field of expertise, so that every encounter an Eldar has is connected in some way to every other encounter.  The most obvious manifestation of this aspect of the Eldar psyche is in the Farseer, who is able to view these connections and even manipulate them to change destiny.  However, this seems to be just a more powerful vision of the relationships between the various elements of an Eldar lifespan.

Think of an Eldar as a a consummate craftsman.  Whatever he sets his hand to, he will seek to perfect.  In order to obtain this perfection, he will begin to see how every action is a means of expressing the perfection of his handiwork.  The turn of a head, the exchange of a few words, or a still moment spent viewing one's surroundings, if performed by an Aspect Warrior, are but links in a chain, leading to the next perfect kill.  An Eldar artisan's choice of meal may become a part of the process of their handicraft.  Ultimately, the actual life of an Eldar becomes a way of life, and defines the Path that they follow.

The Path exists on a level that is larger than the individual as well.  It describes the journey taken on the road of destiny by entire Eldar civilizations; it may even define this journey for all Eldar, much as many tributaries create a river.  The infinite scope of all possibilities may therefore be viewed through the lens of the whole or its parts, and while an individual Eldar may have no knowledge of the impact his fate has on others, the channel he creates through his philosophy determines in small measure the course that the destinies of all Eldar will follow.

This may be the reason behind the strict adherence to a particular school of thought arising in any given Eldar society, which sets the rhythm and pattern of the lives of all Eldar who belong to that society.  The more a particular Path is followed, the greater it is reinforced, in the same manner that a small trail, when walked frequently, may eventually carve a highway through a forest.  The more influence a craftworld has through its philosophy, the more likely it becomes that the particular course of destiny they seek to realize will come to pass.  Eventually, a craftworld becomes known for a particular Path, and a particular set of associated values.

It has been said that Eldar fluff is drawn of the Greek civilization, while the Space Marines are drawn from the Romans.  This illustration may be useful because the mon-keigh have built their empire on the ruins of the former Eldar empire [as Rome did to Greece]. Each of the Greek city-states was known for particular strengths.  In addition, each city-state had a different ethos, placing value on particular philosophies not unlike the different craftworlds. So, I will demonstrate how one can develop a simple philosophy for their craftworld modelled from those of various city-states:

Athens - strategy, knowledge

Such Eldar would value flexibility and variety, as well as ingenuity, and would seek constant improvement while confounding the machinations of rivals

Sikyon - artwork

Such Eldar would place great importance on their artists and artwork [wraith constructs, vehicles], and would attempt to always achieve the perfect form.

Corinth - merchants, artisans

Mobility and traders would be prized by such Eldar, who would probably seek advantageous alliances or treaties when possible.

Sparta - valour

Military excellence would be the apex for such Eldar, and their society would be highly defined by their warfare.

Thebes - legends

Such Eldar would place great focus on the rare, exotic, and bizarre elements of their society, seeking uniqueness and individuality along with perfection.

Argos - artists, able warriors

Such Eldar would prize its citizens and strive for endurance, whether in leaving lasting impressions through their monuments upon future generations or persisting in defiance of extinction.

Mykenae - seafarers, conquerors

Such Eldar would require the ability to travel through space as well as military might, seeking to bring others under their heel or their blade, while developing their knowledge of unknown areas.

Delphi - Seers, Visionaries

Such Eldar would value the knowledge of the past as well as the future, looking to their history in an attempt to discover their destiny.

Olympia - religion, unity

Such Eldar would express diversity as well as prizing the mystic elements of its society - others would probably be welcome to benefit through belonging to this society, once they accepted their proper place in it

The website I took this information from was

Army Design:

An army is a standing body of troops available for deployment in military engagements.  This is different from an army list, which represents a particular detachment from the army as a whole and is fielded for particular engagements.  The particular army lists fielded by a craftworld will probably vary from mission to mission, while the army as a whole should not.  It is for this reason that it may be beneficial to think of your army as a set of conceptual models when you set about designing it, rather than as a particular list of units.  This will allow you to alter what you field from game to game while maintaining a certain internal structure to your force.

Basically, the entire Codex:Eldar is available to players when they build an army list.  Having an army design is a way to limit the options available in a way that makes sense and shows consistency without putting too much restriction on what is typically available to you.  In designing your army, you will want to consider the craftworld you have developed so far, what this craftworld is like, and which of the selections available to you in the codex would not make sense for you to field given these considerations.  Basically an army design is a set of restrictions you impose on yourself for the purpose of making your army more definitive.

A craftworld's history will affect how the army is developed, because the battles experienced in the past determine in large part the forces wielded in the future.  If your craftworld has been horribly ravaged by a Tyranid invasion which they are still trying to expel, their equipment may be less specialized and more ubiquitous.  It would need to be easily crafted in haste to be put to immediate use, and must be serviceable by whoever is wielding it.  On the other hand, a craftworld with a long history of conquest may have carved a larger empire with several smaller craftworlds under its governance.  Such a craftworld may feature detachments from several of its minions, with long-ranged shooting units clad in the colours of one pawnworld while the assault elements are enrolled from a different pawnworld. Additionally, the leadership may be somewhat fractious, so that each squad must have its own leader, and all the squads may only agree to serve simultaneously under the command of an Avatar, showing the willingness of the overworld to sacrifice for its pawns.

Weapons too will generally be determined by the history of a craftworld.  A craftworld with an extensive history of fighting Orks would probably have little need for including Bright Lances and Starcannons in its army, while a craftworld who fights the Chaos Space Marines frequently may field those heavy weapons exclusively.  A craftworld that faces off against Tyranids may rely on a mechanized approach to safeguard its warriors, as Tyranids have a hard time destroying Eldar armour. An Eldar force that faces the Imperial armies on the other hand may include many units that benefit from rapid assaults, closing into the Imperial lines quickly and destroying them in combat. It would not make sense to claim such a heritage in developing your craftworld only to abandon this heritage once you hit the field - after all, an army with a history of facing particular opponents will be optimized for those opponents, and will have more difficulty facing others.

The type of society your craftworld maintains will determine how it is composed.  A tribal structure may see the craftworld form up into separate divisions for battle which work more or less autonomously, or possibly in teams from a particular clan.  A craftworld with a rigid hierarchy will have a strong top-down style of command, and probably field units built to one particular role which only those units will engage in; one would expect to see Fire Dragons designed exclusively for AT duties while Dark Reapers shot heavy infantry, with combat restricted to assault specialists.  Vehicles would be equipped to match the units they were carrying, so that you would expect bright lances on wave serpents that carried Fire Dragons, and starcannons on those carrying Dark Reapers.  If your society is an agrarian society on some backwater Maidenworld, it is likely that a large number of Guardians would be fielded, probably without the benefit of support weapons.

Philosophy extends outwards from society to warfare.  If your craftworld values order above all else they will have a different manner of waging war than a craftworld that values individualism.  Your society's artistic preferences will influence the design of your weapons of war.  A craftworld that values nobility would seek face to face confrontations, while one that values the appearance of cooperation may carry out assassinations where battles need to be fought - such a craftworld may have an alliance with the Imperium and yet have a need to obliterate an element of the Imperial forces to further the interests of the craftworld.  This can only be done in secret.

If your craftworld is made up of merchants who value trade, and therefore need to be able to conduct their affairs peaceably and quickly, the army available to such a craftworld would differ from that maintained by a craftworld where theology was the primary concern.  In the first case the craftworld would probably feature a large militia and make use of transports which could be deployed from space or low orbit; perhaps even their merchant vessels have been fitted with weapons.  Warfare would probably be conducted from a distance with a premium placed on avoiding direct engagement, both to mask their identity and because the army is not composed of dedicated warriors.  On the other hand, the craftworld focused on theology would feature a large number of Seers and their Aspect Warriors may be dedicated to the particular god who most embodies their way of war.  If a militia was fielded it would probably be only under the supervision of the clergy, who may take to battle in the role of Warlocks.

All of these are things to consider when designing an army. Saim-Hann is Saim-Hann because of their colours and their lack of non mechanized units; failing either of those benchmarks would cause others to doubt that they were indeed facing a Saim-Hann force.  An Iyanden army without Wraithguard or Wraithlords would be dubious at best. Fielding an Ulthwé army that was painted pink would probably also fall short of conveying their identity.  A Biel-Tan Swordwind army relies on altered composition somewhat; failing to include some form of close combat Elite choices would hamper the image of the Bahzhakhain.

Here is an example of my own army design, which generally determines what I will include in an army list:

1: No Wraithguard or Wraithlords - this involves necromancy.
2: No Avatars - this involves working with Daemons.
3: Only 1 power per Farseer [except Seeress Ishnu, who gets two] - these involve the Warp.
4: Only 1 power per Exarch, at most - these are powers descended from the Warp and Khaine.
5: No Spiritseer Warlocks;  Warlocks may be fielded with no powers - powers involve the Warp.
6: Roughly even distribution of Aspect Warriors to non-Aspect Warriors; include Vypers and Warwalkers for this figure, due to dependence on Militia.
7: No duplicate Aspects except for Dire Avengers, due to low presence of Aspect Shrines.
8: Roughly even distribution of infantry to non-infantry units, due to strong craftsman presence.
9: Harlequins are permitted in games of 1500pts or higher, and should generally be included when fighting Chaos forces.

With this particular army design I can field a number of different army lists which reflect the Ryleinite forces from game to game, and certain provisions become noticeable with my opponents over time.  These design limitations do not overly hamper my gameplay, make collecting models a bit easier, and help me to build lists that have a certain synergistic style which has evolved to compensate for things which I do not include in a Ryleinite army.

Nuanced Gaming:

This concept is a little bit difficult to condense, but fortunately it is probably something you already do subconsciously.  However, it is better when you do this actively.  If you can learn to think about nuanced gaming as you field the forces of your craftworld, you will have a fuller experience from gaming.

Let's assume your craftworld is a force of Ork hunters.  They have a long history of warring with Orks and have made it a form of art in which they generally emerge unscathed and hugely victorious.  Your craftworld has overtime developed its weapons of war to excel at hunting the greenskins and even the Aspect Shrines not closely connected with this skill have lost their importance.  Furthermore, your gaming group includes two Ork players, a Tyranid player, and two Space Marine armies.  Of these you face the Orks and the Nids the most.  You have, therefore, designed your army to be effective vs its most common opponents, which makes sense regarding your craftworld's history.

One day a new player shows up at your gaming group with a Necron army.  This is an opponent whom you've never faced before, with an army you've never faced before, which your Craftworld has no history of fighting.  What do you do?

There is a strong compulsion here to field lots of high strength, low AP weapons and throw in some elements that will perform well against a Monolith or a C'tan just to play it safe.  This makes sense from a strictly mathematical point of view, but in almost any other frame of reference it does not.  You have never really used those kinds of weapons in games, and aren't likely to perform well if suddenly changing your arsenal.  Additionally, you will not look like much of an Ork Hunter coming to the tabletop with six Bright Lances, some D-cannons, a full squad of Wraithguard and one or two squads of Howling Banshees.  Finally, you aren't very likely to own all of those models anyways.

If your craftworld concept is important to you, you will not drastically alter it for a specific opponent.  Instead, you will alter your tactics somewhat to make them work against the new threat.  At first, during the game, you are likely to employ the same strategies you normally would because those are what you are familiar with.  You may also be hesitant to engage the enemy directly, testing the waters first with a couple of safer attacks at isolated elements and seeing what trade offs emerge between you and the Necrons.  Maybe your army begins to back peddle a little bit in an effort to buy time to change its strategy.  Towards the end of the game, perhaps you have decided you cannot adequately address this threat at the moment and go for defensive objective grabs, or have adapted successfully and begin to press your attack.  In either case the game will feel more like an army of Eldar which is inadequately equipped for its foe begins to come to grips with the enemy and eventually overcome or evade them.

Think about what your craftworld values.  If skimmers are rare in your society due to resource or craftsmen limitations you may only field them rarely, and would be unlikely to tank shock with them or risk them in difficult terrain.  If your independent characters are important you would likely dedicate a particular unit to guarding them and go to some lengths to keep them alive.  If your warriors are important or low in numbers you will not feed them to your Avatar every game.  It is equally rare to expect an Eldrad in all his arthritic crystallizing glory to run into combat with a unit of Aspect Warriors.  If you have included in your army list a very important seer who is the last of her line whose guidance affects the destiny of everyone from your craftworld, and shove her into close combat alone, is your opponent really going to notice her significance?

Now, on the other hand, what happens if you consistently withdrew from your opponent with your army, forming a protective cordon around your seer in an attempt to save her from the enemy, and then fled across the field in the last turn into his deployment zone to escape [assuming mission is recon]?  You have grabbed the objectives and fought a game that felt like your seer was really important and you absolutely could not afford to let her die.  This kind of gaming can be done in almost any situation, and if you are thoughtful, it can be done competitively.  When your opponent becomes convinced that something is important, many times you can control their actions, even if it is against their best interests to do as you wish.  In the example above it takes only a few sentences to explain to my opponent who my seer is and then try to emphasize his fighting escape.  It also allows for a moral victory even if you lose the match.

Gaming like this will help make elements of your craftworld's background clear to your opponent even if he never gets to read about it.  It also adds a lot of dramatic embellishment to a game, and can net good sportsmanship scores in tourneys even in games where you manage to destroy your opponent without much harm to yourself.  If the story behind the game is entertaining enough an unbalanced game can still be great fun for both players.  If you engage in this sort of gaming enough, the story of your craftworld may one day precede you to your game, and you may find yourself matched up against an opponent who already knows the story of your craftworld without ever having met you.  At the very least, the story of your craftworld should stick in the minds of your local gaming group, and provide fertile grounds for campaign-based gaming, or the story for a tournament.

Even with the information available to a player, designing a craftworld can be a daunting task.  The following portion of the article gives a walkthrough of the process as outlined in the earlier sections.  A sample Craftworld is designed, referring to each of the earlier sections of this article.

Sample Exercise: Developing a Craftworld

The sections covered earlier are best handled by selecting the first topic area that speaks to you and building from there.  For the purposes of this exercise, the craftworld will more or less be designed in the sequence outlined by the article.  It is probably beneficial to keep the relevant section open while working on it, to have a reference quickly available should you need one.

Section 1: Craftworld Branding - Choosing a Name and Hobby Considerations

The elements handled in this portion of the article deal with naming a craftworld, the playstyle of the craftworld, and the hobby considerations to be made when representing the craftworld.  After reading through the section, the portion about playstyle speaks to me.  I have an idea that I want to design an infantry force which marches nobly into battle.  I already know that I don't want to buy any tanks for this force, because tanks will not be marching into battle - though jetbikes might make a nice replacement for knights.  I also want some pretty high volume of fire to cover my advance and to push back the enemy, because I like the idea of a really shooty force.  Combat will play a role as a second wave of sorts.

Because I want this force to seem really noble I want them to appear bright and gleaming, like knights on the march.  Dark colors are not really suitable to this force. I think the addition of pennants to the models could look really cool, and what models can take them will wield interesting swords.  I want each unit to represent a specific order, yet it is important they retain their ties to their Aspect Shrines and craftworld.  So, the pennants will reflect the craftworld and their order, while the colors on the models themselves will reflect their order and their Aspect Shrine, or barring membership in a shrine, the colors of the craftworld. I want a silvery-white for armored portions of models, with a brightly dyed fabric texture to the bodysuit elements. Vehicles will stick to the dye colors though not have a fabric-like texture.  Each order will have its own color, with the craftworld's colors being blazing orange on a white field.  The symbol for each squad's order will be in blazing orange, detailed with the color of their order. All of the colors are to be bright.

From the colors of the craftworld and the idea of what it plays like I have some idea of what I want it to be known for.  This craftworld is uncommonly trustworthy and known for its valor in aiding those against the forces of Chaos.  They are a light against the grim darkness of the 40k universe, and hold the virtues of honor and justice above all else. Because of the sword theme, I want that accounted for as well.  So, to the rest of the Imperium they will be known as:

 "The Valorous Blades"

Now because I don't feel like making up words on my own [though that would be completely legitimate], I'm going to refer to the link provided and come up with something that roughly translates to "The Valorous Blades..." which turns out to be something like "Larstill Tuisach Lantillifieth," or "swords honoring bright slayer of darkness."  That's a bit unwieldy, so I'm going to butcher it to something that sounds nicer:

"Larillach Illieth" - The Valorous Blades

That concludes working in section one.  I have a craftworld name, some idea of what they will look like, some idea of how they will play, and some idea of what they are about.  Now it's time to flesh them out and breathe a little life into them.

Section 2: Crafting a People - History, Society and Archetypes

Having read through this section the portion on society jumps out first.  By answering some of the questions at the beginning of this section I will be able to get a clearer idea of who inhabits my craftworld.  For the moment, I will simply answer these questions one by one:

What sort of government runs this society?

This society is run by something which roughly translates to a monarch, who reigns for a period of one hundred years.  At the end of this time, during which his successor has been recognized, and trained thoroughly, in how best to manage the craftworld, he ascends to an inner circle of priests as the next offering to the Avatar.

What sort of people are they in terms of relations to others?

Larillach Illieth as a craftworld is known for its valor and honor, and has never reneged on an agreement with others, or dealt with them unfairly.  It sees destiny as most favorable to the Eldar when they serve order over chaos at all times. Generally, it has stable relations with others as a result, though its enemies know no respite, and alliances are mostly made as a joint military venture, rather than trade arrangements [though the craftworld does engage in some trade with others].

Who do they interact with?

Larillach Illieth generally interacts with the Imperium, the Tau, certain Space Marines and other Eldar.  Tyranids, Orks, the forces of Chaos are all to be shunned.  The Adeptus Sororitas are generally not to be trusted as allies, though Larillach Illieth will engage a common enemy unbeknown to the Sisters in such a manner that the aid of the Eldar is never discovered.  Sometimes this leads to the Sisters believing that divine intervention has occurred when really it is a secret involvement of Larillach Illieth.

What sort of beliefs guide their culture?

This culture is guided by a deep reverence for honor and justice.  The society is governed by strict adherence to the Paths of the Eldar and the social norm is always to seek out the way to greater order in the universe.  Disputes that come up in the society are settled through a council, which seeks a resolution which eliminates the most dischord.  Disputes are rare though. There is also a deep seated respect for rank and station, and the society is hierarchically stratified with specific methods for movement between ranks.

How large is this society?

Larillach Illieth is a single craftworld, with six smaller satellite craftworlds, with a population of about 100 million. The satellite worlds are designed primarily as warcraft with additional functions in aiding the support systems of Larillach Illieth. The smaller craftworlds are referred to as Houses and include the House of Dawn, the House of Twilight, the House of Blazing Sun, the House of Eclipse, the House of Dusk and the House of Clouded Sky.

Each of the houses maintains a similar standing army with a few special divisions relevant to the particular House.  The House of Dawn adds Rangers and Pathfinders, the House of Twilight features Warp Spiders, the House of Blazing Sun features Fire Dragons, the House of Eclipse features Dark Reapers, the House of Dusk features Wraithguard and the House of Clouded Sky features Swooping Hawks.

How much wealth is available to this society?

The society as a whole is fiercely independent and strives to provide everything needed for its maintenance without dependence on outside sources.  While its equipment and shrines are unparalleled and lovingly maintained, the society as a whole is not exceptionally wealthy, valuing merit above material possession.  This means that trade between themselves and other Eldar is executed as necessity dictates.

What sort of environment does this society exist in?

The society is wholly contained within their craftworlds.  Larillach Illieth is designed as a spacious arboreal wonderland, with a webway confined solely to the craftworld, except at one path used to link distant areas together with relative speed.  The six Houses are more practical in design, as they need to serve as warships in addition to additional realms, and much of the external commerce between Larillach Illieth is performed using the Houses as intermediaries.  As a result, the six Houses are designed as both military and metropolitan areas for their major portions, with a large area given over to shrines specific to the particular House in question.

How do smaller units of this society relate to the whole [think of a province vs a nation]?

Generally, Larillach Illiath behaves as a large nation state, with the six Houses acting as vassals more than as equals.  The balance of power is held because most of the trade and defense of Larillach Illieth occurs through the actions of the six Houses.  These are ruled by the Nobles of the Inner Council who are subject to the will of the Hundred Years King, who is always chosen from a civilian of Larillach Illieth by the current King.  The Nobles of the six Houses of Sun also choose their successors from civilians of Larilleth Illiach, though usually these will be civilians who have had extensive dealings on a particular House craftworld.

As you can see, quite a lot of background can be developed by simply answering some of these basic questions.  Now that I have some idea as to who these people are, it's time to take a look at why these people are who they are.

This can be done quickly and fleshed out later on by constructing a simple timeline:
  • In this case, Larillach Illieth existed before the Fall.
  • The Fall saw Larillach Illieth divide in two factions; those who favored the chaos of the Fallen and those who favored the path of honor and justice.
  • During the birth of Slaanesh, those who had fallen to depravity beset their kindred in a horrific battle.
  • At a steep price, those who had retained their dedication to honor and justice overcame the fallen.
  • Of these, the mightiest hero died in battle to lead his forces to victory as an Avatar.  This began the tradition of the Hundred Years King.
  • The first Hundred Years King was selected by the Avatar of Khaine at the end of combat and crowned by the most powerful of the craftworld's seers.
  • Over time, as the population grew and defense became an issue, the Orders of the Sun were established.
  • These Orders eventually became the six Houses, which achieved a degree of autonomy, although they retained their subservience to the Hundred Years King.
  • Ultimately, the craftworld set out on a slow crusade to vanquish the forces of Chaos wherever they might appear, and aid those who fought against Chaos with an undying belief in the forces of Order.
  • The people of Larillach Illieth hope to one day bring the fight all the way to She Who Must Not Be Named, vanquishing her for all time.

In this case I do not need to look too strongly at archetypes; most of what I need has already been written.  Without looking too hard I am sure you can see some resemblance to the archetype of the Ascetics, and I mention this to show how an archetype can be of great use to provide a model when designing a craftworld.

Section 3: Crafting an Army - Philosophy, Army Design and Nuanced Gaming

For the philosophy of Larilach Illieth in terms of military campaigning, there will be a premium placed on the infantry with other elements serving in supporting roles limited to walkers, monstrous creatures, and jump infantry.  It seeks to use withering firepower to provide the punishment needed to protect its advance towards the enemy.  The enemy is never to be balked at or shied away from; a continuous advance even in the face of adversity will carry through on the strength of the warrior's conviction.  Likewise, a moment of weakness or doubt will spell disaster, as it opens the mind to the whispers of Chaos, dissolving the warrior's resolve.  The tactics involved will be typical to the phalanx with cavalry support in a form of hammer and anvil, using a shieldwall formation to break up the attacks of the enemy.

Army design: An army fielded by any of the six Houses of Sun would appear as follows:

  • The army must be led by an Avatar.
  • Any of the following units may be included: Farseer, Warlocks, Scorpions, Banshees, Avengers, Wraithlords, Warwalkers.
  • Each two infantry selections entitles the inclusion of either one unit of jetbikes or one unit of shining spears.
  • Each squad of Aspect Warriors must be led by an Exarch.
  • Wraithlords must be given wraithswords.
  • Warlocks must use witchblades.
  • Where possible, Exarchs must wield swords, with the exceptions of shining spears and swooping hawks.  Warp Spider Exarchs must wield Powerblades, which will appear as swords.  Fire Dragon Exarchs wield Firepikes.
  • Armies mustered by Larillach Illieth vary depending on which of the six Houses is called to arms.  As a result, only one of the following unit types may be selected in any given army list, though there is no limit on the number of such units that are included barring normal FOC restrictions: Rangers, Warp Spiders, Fire Dragons, Dark Reapers, Wraithguard, Swooping Hawks.

To accurately represent an army of Larillach Illeath on the table is not difficult - the units must either advance towards the enemy or hold ground; the application of force should generally be concentrated rather than distributed [as they seek to systematically crush their foes], and hammer elements should seek to encircle the foe and drive them inwards.  This type of army is generally best played with a refused flank, with the infantry core deployed centrally and faster elements deployed on a given flank.  Even the shooting elements should hold ground rather than retreat; obviously Dark Reapers and Pathfinders are unlikely to advance, but should not hide from the enemy.

Jetbikes can play a role from hiding as they dash forwards to pepper their foes, but Shining Spears really ought to seek combat, and not waste too much time harassing opponents.  Hawks and Spiders can play a harassing role, but Spiders ought to seek the engagement of enemy more often than they hide.  Fire Dragons should advance, relying on the Exarch to shoot once in range and then close with the enemy at a measured pace to ensure some shooting is possible and that assault can be executed by a companion aspect.  To this end, they work well towards a flank between the hammer and the anvil, and standing mostly in cover.

The Avatar and any Wraithguard/Scorpions should be front and center, while the Wraithlords and Walkers can lead from the front, or hold at the back.  Be careful that these units do not obstruct the shooting of others in the line if placed at the front of a formation.

A sample army list for Craftworld Larillach Illiath army might appear as follows:

Larillach Illiath 2000pt Army of the House of Dusk
155: Avatar
145: Farseer with Runes of Warding, Spirit Stones, Doom and Fortune
215: 5 Wraithguard and 1 warlock with Witchblade and Conceal
215: 5 Wraithguard and 1 warlock with Witchblade and Conceal
192: 10 Scorpions, incl. Exarch with Stalker and Scorpion's Claw/Chainsword
150: 9 Avengers, incl. Exarch with Powersword/Shimmershield and Defend
150: 9 Avengers, incl. Exarch with Powersword/Shimmershield and Defend
150: 9 Avengers, incl. Exarch with Powersword/Shimmershield and Defend
152: 6 Jetbikes with 2 shuriken cannons
197: 4 Shining Spears incl. Exarch with Starlance, Skilled Riders and Withdraw
197: 4 Shining Spears incl. Exarch with Starlance, Skilled Riders and Withdraw
  40: 1 Warwalker with 2 shuriken cannons
  40: 1 Warwalker with 2 shuriken cannons

This concludes the development of Craftworld Larillach Illieth [for now].  This should provide an illustration of the development of a craftworld using the previous portions of this article.  Remember that each section can be handled in any order, working out the ones that feel easiest first, and using those areas to develop the areas which feel more difficult later on.  Developing a craftworld can seem to be a daunting task if tackled all at once, but if you take it one step at a time, it is much easier, and the effort is always worth it.

The Battery:

This portion of the article, as described earlier, is simply a set of questions which may help if you feel at a loss as to where to begin.  By simply answering any of these questions that you can, you will be starting the design process for your craftworld, and building material for your craftworld's background will become much easier.

Is your society based on a craftworld or elsewhere?
- If elsewhere, assume the questions refer to something appropriate when they state "craftworld"
When was your craftworld first established?
How was your craftworld established?
Did it exist before or after The Fall?
Did the Fall have an effect on your craftworld?  If so, how?  If not, why not?
Does your craftworld deal with other Eldar?  Has this always been the case?
Does your craftworld deal with other races?  Why, or why not?
How large is your craftworld?  How large is its population?
How wealthy is your craftworld?
Does your craftworld have colonies, establishments, or settlements?
Does your craftworld have preferred or mortal enemies?  If so, why?
How often does your craftworld wage war?
Where in the 40k universe is your Craftworld located?  Is it close to the Imperial center or farther away?
What races control areas of space closest to your craftworld?
What sort of beliefs govern your society?  What does it consider most important?
Who leads your society?  What sort of government does it have?
Are there any important historical figures?  Why are they important?
What are some important battles your craftworld has fought?
What does your craftworld look like, on the inside and on the outside?
What sort of people make up your Eldar society?  Are they dark and grim or airy and aloof?
What is the art of your craftworld like?  What sort of artistic principles govern their technology?
How are disputes between different members of the craftworld resolved?
How large is your craftworld's army?
What are the craftworld's important symbols or colors?
What are your craftworld's taboos?  What is expected of its members?
Does your craftworld have access to other craftworlds?  The webway?  The Black Library?
Does your Craftworld deal with Comorragh?  The forces of Chaos?  Creatures of the Warp?
What is your craftworld known for?
What names is your craftworld known by?
Do members of this society have a good deal of social mobility?  Is there a caste system?
What are some of the trademark units fielded by this army?
What sort of units are avoided by this army?  Why?
Is this craftworld an offshoot of a larger craftworld, such as Biel-Tan?
Are there any characteristics which distinguish Eldar of your craftworld from other Eldar?
What sort of tactics does your craftworld employ in battle?
How do your Eldar treat others?  Fairly, or without respect?
Are there any sources outside of 40k that inspire you?  For instance, if you enjoy Arthurian legends, how can this be reflected by your craftworld?


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