40K RETRO: The First Dark Eldar


It’s time to face your fears. We are pulling out the OLD 1998 Dark Eldar from 3rd Edition.  I warned you…

There were certainly some random very early Eldar models from Rogue Trader that could be considered Corsairs or Eldar pirates. That said, things were very much in flux back then. It wasn’t until 3rd Edition that the Dark Eldar burst upon the scene in 1998 with their very own codex, and a full line of minis.


They were the opposing force to the Space Marines in the 3rd Edition boxed set! When do you think THAT will ever happen again? Take a look at this:

40k-3rd-edition 40k-3rd-box-back

I remember those plastic trees & ruins!


The current Dark Eldar range while short in the rules department is a visual masterpiece – and scrubs away most people’s memories of the original range from 1998 (which was very cool for it’s time). Let’s take a walk down memory lane…


Hello Archon and Dracon! I HATED this dude’s Shadowfield back then!


The first Haemonculi. Even then you see the skins and misshapen heads.


The first Incubi – hard as nails back then with head guns for extra style-points!


Meet the first Grotesques. That dude 2nd from the right needs to lose weight.

Dark_Eldar_MandrakesMandrakes.  These remind me of male Wyches… Also all leaning to the right, odd.


Hello Ladies! No one had better hair than the Wyches.


Warp Beasts Pack – Somewhere in Commorragh is a giant mountain of catskins.



Warriors. I actually played a guy who got half a dozen of these stuck to his sweater.  It was a thing.


The original Raider.  Also a risk to play with during the winter (or if you are very hairy).


Reavers. One of the better models form the range. The overhead firing guns (with blades) just add to the danger!


Hellions.  I dare you to NOT think of Green Goblin.


Scourges – these guys made the old CSM Raptors with their pipe-organ jump packs look like dimwitted slowpokes.


The Talos. Giving Dreadnoughts a run for their money back in the day!


Maybe the best looking vehicle back then, the Ravager was fast and deadly – and looked the part. Just don’t drop it…

On the Tabletop

The Dark Eldar were exactly what you expected on the 3rd edition tabletop. They were the game’s definitive glass hammers (aside from the thrice-damned Shadow-field and the Talos, grrr, I’m still bitter). From a visual perspective, they had a very strong unified theme and appeared in GW art as a mono-colored force. A rarity in the ultra bright multi-hued style of most 3rd edition armies. Take a look at them kicking some Catachan butt from 1998:


~Who’s still got some of these lying around?

  • DrLove42

    Still got a few raiders, Talos akd Hemonculi.

    I actually prefer the Talos then to the current one.

  • Golden Yak

    Oh man, I still think of all these as ‘the new guys’. I am *old*.

    • Lord Elpus

      You’re not the only one….

    • Andrew

      I have vague memories of seeing some conversions of “Dark Eldar” in a WD long before they were a thing. Wish I knew what number, I remember them looking rather cool.

      • Golden Yak

        Yeah, me too. I remember this one Slaaneshi dark eldar army made of converted eldar, painted in loud gaudy patterns. The jetbikes had their canopies sculpted to resemble huge leering daemon faces. It was a really cool look.

        • Andrew


    • ellobouk

      Right there with you.
      I still think of the current ‘Nid warriors etc as ‘the new ones’ too, miss those old RT/2nd models

  • Thomas Gardiner

    Man, I’m glad they updated the range. The new DE are easily the prettiest GW models imo.

    That said, I still use the old Raiders for my Covenites!

    • Agent OfBolas

      Well, they are beautiful. I just remember how cool those were when GW released them.

      • Muninwing

        there’s something unbalanced about the old raider that i never liked. i added a big fin on the back of mine with toothpicks and paper (think a chinese junk) and it looked far better, but it was a nightmare to store.

        sold them a decade ago. pretty sure the guy who got them ripped off the fins right when he got them.

  • Darth Bumbles

    I miss the old Mandrakes rules 🙁
    I still use the old Mandrakes as Wyches.

  • Mr.Fister

    Memba berries?

  • Rainthezangoose

    When archons could take a bike and combat drugs, I swear mine OD’ mid joy ride every game. But at 21 I was very young when I played this codex so had very little understanding of the risk at the time of stacking the buffs from the old Combat drugs.

    • Djbz

      I always made sure to only use 2 at a time to ensure I didn’t kill my own Archon that was on foot.
      The Archon would always die to the first strength 6 hit he took anyway (still does), the shadowfield could protect him from anything else, just not strength 6.

  • Arthfael

    The vehicles were good to very good, and still are in my opinion, though inferior to the beautiful updated ones. The models, though… let’s say they haven’t stood the test of time, with the exception of the still excellent Incubi (I hated that they removed the gun options and helmet-mounted weapon).

    • Djbz

      I think that female Archon still looks pretty decent.
      The rest though, not so much

      • deris87

        I think technically it was the Dracon model, but I still use it as an Archon on the rare occasions I break out my DE.

  • Spacefrisian

    Iam still using those old models, with parts of the new range. Those raiders and ravagers with the new sails look pretty nice.

    • neverness

      I have done this as well and I really liked the results.

  • memitchell

    So long ago, so many memories, so much disappointment. I had the only fully painted DE army I ever saw. A skinny codex with a few paragraphs of fluff. The DE army was supposed to be “Fast and Fragile.” Well, if was kind of fast, and most certainly fragile. A bunch of unit types that all did very nearly the same thing. But, did nothing very well. A few did some things fairly badly. Eventually (like a decade later), fluff was solidified into its current, convoluted nonsense. Yeah, I loved’em. But, I quit’em, and sold’em before DE were ever cool.

  • frank
    • DJ860
      • Coltcabunny

        It’s to emphasise her cameltoe, which the model did actually have sculpted on. Yes, really.

        • euansmith

          Cameltoe needs to be the name of a palace in Commorragh.

          “Look, my liege!”
          “It’s only a model.”
          “On second thoughts, let us not go to Cameltoe. ‘Tis a silly place.”

      • euansmith

        That mini, except for the palm cannons, looks pretty darn cool with that paint job.

      • frank

        that is true but the model itself doesn’t do a good job at that either. the studio schemes only favor to the model is mostly that the viewer is unable to see most the details of the mini. I really wonder what the sculptor was trying to do with the mini her hand tubes look awkward her pose is strange and the outfit seems overall unnatural.

    • Hedwerx

      She must spend 3/4 of the battle adjusting her “outfit”.

      • Morgrim

        This is a race that canonically attaches their shoulder pads with fish hooks. I don’t think minor wedgies are going to register in comparison.

        • Hedwerx

          I don’t think it’s just wedgies she has to worry about, one good jump and she’ll be flapping free. If you know what I mean.

      • Lord Elpus

        Superglue or a staple gun…

  • This little guy was one of the first miniatures I ever painted, way back in 1998. http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/086ef76ea8747a6fae38c617f0b7c9f92ba484e5655c89872966ff6474650c98.jpg

  • ultraspike

    I wanted to play Dark Eldar for ages and it was the models that put me off. When the new ones were released I was in, but I’m still annoyed that we have the crappy old Drazhar mini. Especially when compared to the current Incubi he just looks so dated.

  • Jason Pinhay

    I used to have a lot of them. Built up a very large army on the cheap, and did really well with them actually. But I waited and waited and waited for a new codex. Ironically the new book came out with the amazing new models, but I hated the rules, and never won another game. I would have needed to buy about$300 in new stuff to be competitive again. And that was it for them.

  • Emperor’s Champion

    these minis would make good looking nurgledar
    so glad these are a thing of the past

  • yergerjo

    Yup, they are still 98% the core of my DE force and 100% fully painted. I actually prefer the old esthetic to the new.

    I will use the newer warriors as my true born and mix some of the new raiders in if I must to differentiate which have wych/warrior/incubi.

    I much prefer the old i. Ubi to the new, but all the new models are great.

  • Heinz Fiction

    The vehicles still look good i’d say.

  • Braden_Campbell

    I have roughly 2000 points of 3rd Edition DE

  • Severius_Tolluck

    Worst balanced starter set ever! I remember trying DE first and learning to hate them so much as they were a tough army to start a new player to 3e. As I would play them to teach others as marines were way more forgiving! I still have the terrain and bits from that set. I used some of the trees in my 2008 Guard army!
    20 warriors against ten marines (+ sgt, flame thrower and rocket launcher) and a land speeder!

    • Ben_S

      As a starter set, it was definitely a mistake to include proper multi-part kits, rather than push-fit stuff. Great for more experienced modellers though.

      • Severius_Tolluck

        Well at the time they didn’t have that or want that I suppose. Other than what was left in those early get started painting kits with the one marine from 2ed.

        • Ben_S

          Each new box set has featured new models, so they weren’t really limited by what they had already available.

          All I’m saying is it was a mistake not to make simple push-fit models for the new players. I think this is evident from the fact that all subsequent editions have featured push-fit models.

  • CatachanCommissar

    My Dark Eldar are all from this edition. The slave raid on melfa river in White Dwarf is why I own both DE and catachans. Love these models.

  • grim

    Memba? I memba.

  • Alan C

    That Talos is an awesome model as is the Ravager. I actually quite like the Incubi Warriors even though I also like the new versions. Its a shame they’re so starkly different that they’d look a little odd in the same army.

  • rtheom

    Ah yes, the kit that I cut my teeth on. The sad thing is, I still don’t have any of those models painted. :p

  • Ben_S

    The metals were generally horrible, but I still like those plastic warriors, in some ways more than the current kit. I have loads of them and even converted a Blood Bowl team out of them – the shoulder pads are just right.

  • ChahDresh

    No model I have ever assembled has been more irritating than the stupid Ravager. First: it’s a metal-plastic combo kit. Those never end well. Second, the heavy, large, broad parts (the “runners”) are the metal ones, held in place along the thin edge of a plastic piece (horizontally) and an even thinner pewter one (vertically). Third, the guns attach to an itty-bitty ball which in turn attaches to the warrior (another metal-plastic interface) and an oh-so-skinny railing on the *inside* of the runner. It was far beyond my skill then, and even now I would find some excuse not to (“Hey, it’s got the runners, you know *that* one is the Ravager”).

    • Muninwing

      i actually hated the metal joiners for the side runners… they had axelike blades on them, but facing in the wrong direction.

      i forgot to order them when i bitz-ordered mine (using store discount), so i had to make my own. i made it flat and maximized contact area, and it worked just fine

  • John Laird

    Always felt sorry for the “fuel”.

  • Muninwing

    i’ve got about 3000 points in boxes and cases… built it just in time for a wych-based army to get gutted by the changes in sweeping advance.

    of course, half mine were converted from WHF witch elves