So what are the problems with Wood Elves? (besides them being tree hugging fairies...)
Basically I think it comes down to them not being able to compete in any phase. There is no phase that they can dominate these days like they use to be of old. I often refer to strong armies being able to compete in at least two phases, where the hardest most likely are solid in three or more. These days Woodies find it tough to even compete in shooting
Shooting: Yes when you have an army which emphasises multiple small units and a lot of ranged BS based combat, in an environment that often sees major close combat engagements in the second turn, you start to get problems developing. The army lacks a ranged attack that is capable of dealing with today's fast moving 1+ armour save ponies.Where there Elven cousins have access to Repeater Bolt Throwers and there ilk, Woodies have to rely on bowhammer. And at the moment, they often fall down in this field. We hear about these mystical magical mythical 90 shot armies that terrorise all before them, until that is they face a 200+ shot Tomb King army, or one of their Elven cousins, all of which can do it better.
Then there is the movement phase. Wood Elves strategies tend to rely on being able to control the movement phase and project battlefield control with their archers (yes its not always about shooting things off, often its just the threat). They should be able to play the denial list well yet they fall over when fighting similar lists from other armies. Both High and Dark Elves have access to fast cav in core, skirmishers in special, flying units and long range shooting. There is very little to differentiate the three in this field. The biggest problem comes when they get the mirror match, and its not vs Woodies. Its more a sign of the book being old, but its still a weakness.
Now in close combat it all falls apart. The shift to 8th introduced step up and large combat blocks, then eventually moved into the realm of chikenhammer, where every man, elf, troll and their dogs bought a shotgun to a knife fight in the form of monstrous whatever. Woodies simply don't have a good anvil option, and are luke warm at best when it comes to a hammer. Now this would not be so much of a problem if they could compete as well in the movement phase, but what chance do they have at this fighting WoC full of disc lords and flyers... They have a hint at a chance when you see dryads in core, but unfortunately these fall over as the rules for them where written in a different age and do not lend well to todays battles. Instead relying on treeman of all types to shore up the sinking ship, and these things are either too weak or to expensive to have a chance (or both to some)
So what do they need to make things right? (or what would I do...) From my point of view, they need to take back the movement phase. Why not shooting? Well to be fair, this, for the Woodies is part of the movement phase. Short of giving them bolt throwers which just dosn't fit... By projecting the shooting component, they can control the movement phase of their opponents (something you need to do with Tomb Kings to have a chance of victory). The combination of appropriately priced archers, skirmishers, and fast cav will anchor the new army book. Next I think they need a solid anvil to differentiate them from the other Elven races. I think Woodies are the perfect race for this. They are low in numbers so rely on the forest for help in the form of Dryads, Tree Kin, and Treemen. Its a good formula. Make Dryads drop the skirmish rule and give them some rules similar to Daemons, ie Unbreakable/Unstable/5++ etc. Do the same to Tree Kin. Give Treemen some funky special attacks or types to make them forefil specific roles in the book. All this will give Woodies the capability to stand toe to toe with other armies in combat, all the time trying to control the movement phase.
So what can we expect in the new book? There appears to be a formula being applied these days to Elves.
Always Strikes First is a given. It is the new design philosophy that all Elves gain ASF. Love it or hate it, the rule fits well with the concept of Warhammer Elves.
"Archer" Prowess? With both dark Elves and High Elves receiving a prowess, it leans to Wood Elves receiving the same treatment. The obvious choice would be to wrap up some rules to do with BS shooting, which could range from AP to no modifiers for moving and shooting. Re-rolling ones to hit could prove interesting, but bow based shooting has the inherent problem of armour penetration, or lack there-of.
"Patron Gods" blessing. I have not seen much discussion here but it would not surprise me to see a new lore for Wood Elves. Yes Warhammer Battle Magic: Wood Elves will happen IMO, and there will most likely be a blessing adding +1 to cast. This along with opening up the full 8 battlemagic lores will help Wood Elves immensely offering more flexibility to the army.
Elven Long Bows. We should see this survive as an equipment option but it is yet to be seen whether it will retain rules for strength 4 at short range. I think we may see AP on the weapon, and combined with an "Archer Prowess" with re-rolls to hit could prove effective at making shots count.
Dryads. A mainstay unit in Wood Elves book fore filling core requirements in an army that lacks a solid combat block. These I think will undergo the largest changes. I expect them to lose skirmish rule, which I think is the biggest drawback they have. Alongside this they may well end up with scaly skin 5+ armour save, and I also expect to see the spirit rules change to be closer to Daemons. Imagine unbreakable, unstable, 5+ ward save core combat troops. Too much to ask for? I think it would go a huge way to transforming the Wood Elves army into something that can compete in today's game of Warhammer. It fixes a lot of problems with the book.
Treekin will probably receive similar treatment to Dryads if this where the case. They are one of the "ok" units in the book at the moment in design and concept, however only fall over thanks to the costing not being of 8th.
The book itself would turn into a more high fantasy army with woodland spirits uniting with the Elven guardians to defend the real. Elves providing the support and woodland spirits providing the punch.
So what will we see in the new range. (WARNING: RUMOURS FOLLOW)
The following units I have been informed are likely:
New Plastic Eternal Guard
New Plastic Wild Riders
New Plastic Wardancers
I have it on good authority that the current models will be replaced with plastic kits, and to expect a dual kit for Wardancers and Eternal Guard (maybe even the same kit!)
The following units are educated guesses:
Plastic Treeman - long overdue, reportedly been spotted.
Plastic War Hawk Rider kit
The above are just simply looking at the range and seeing what is what. A treemen kit has been talked about for ages and makes sense for the army, but my source would neither confirm nor deny anything about it (damn you!)
I will briefly mention stag riders. Yep. Done.
Now we could see almost all of it, as I have a funny feeling that the Eternal Guard and Wardancers could be the same plastic dual kit. That could mean 4 new plastic box sets, which is not unheard of (Daemons, WoC, Dark Elves). There are a lot of models that need re-done, and there is scope for several new units to be introduced to fill in several gaps in the army. Things like stag riders and what not have been thrown about for years. All I can think is how nice these High Elves Drake Riders look on the battlefield... Now citing the Wood Elves are the least supported of the Elven races by Games Workshop, and the most in need of a shot in the arm to get them popular, and thus sell models, we could see a huge revamp of the range, probably not Dark Elves revamp but still a good effort. Wood Elves have always been the least popular race in WHFB, thus GW never really invested a lot into the product range (which some will see as a self fore-filling cycle). A new book and some new plastics would see them well.
But will they get a 2nd wave release...?
With eight edition about 9 months away, it boosts the chances. Dwarves are next, followed by Wood Elves, and then I think we will see Fantasy go on hiatus for a few months until the new edition is released...