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Each tribe, or brand, seems to have different abilities and skills (stats), in line with their tribal personality/nature, offering a varied military force to draw from.
Woodsy Elves are referred to as "forest-capable units"Erf-b1-p046a (apart from Gumps they are the only such unit in Royal Crown Coalition). This allows them to attack flying units in forest hexes. It is not clear whether that gives them any bonus in forest terrain or simply allows them to move in forest terrain at all. They seem to be archers.Erf-b1-p057Erf-b1-p059
Shady Elves also seem to be competent archers.
Lofty Elves and Altruist Elves seem to have an innate healing ability. Erf-b1-p022 The nature of this is unclear; as all units recover lost hits as their turn begins, it must be some sort of a) defensive bonus, b) gradual, real-time healing, c) minor healing between each sides' turns, or d) croak-prevention similar to but distinct from uncroaking and regeneration
Ansom's tactics also provide insight into some of the tribe's combat usefulness. Eager Elves were used as a shock force, with Luckless and Schlemiel elves thrown in as waves of cannon fodder. Superfluous elves were a reserve and the Tardy Elves were too slow to join the battle.
The monikers of the tribes are apparently indicative of the members: the Tardy elves run lateErf-b1-p008, the Eager elves are raring to goErf-b1-p021, the Superfluous elves are rarely neededErf-b1-p022, the Altruist elves help other units, and so on.
Eager elves dress like Link (of the Legend of Zelda games). Shady elves dress in "goth" outfits, while Superfluous elves dress like "emos". Also, some make jokes on their names: when Ansom tells the Lofty and Altruist elves to heal other units, a representative of one of the groups says, "What's in it for us? ... I'm kidding!"Erf-b1-p022 This could be from the Lofty Elves (whose name suggests nobility and superiority) or the Altruist Elves (whose name suggests concern for the welfare of others).