Thursday, November 15, 2018

New Rules - Part V: The Fallen Realms, Part II


Good morning gamers,

Today we’re wrapping up our discussion of the armies of evil by tackling the other side of the Fallen Realms book, where we’ll talk about Isengard (two lists) the Eastern Kingdoms (two lists) - we've already covered Mordor, Angmar/Moria, and the other Fallen Realms armies in case you've missed those. As mentioned in our previous posts, you should also check out Mik's Veni Vidi Vici blog for thoughts from the “experts.”

1) The New Lists: Isengard, the Easterlings, the Variags of Khand, and Sharkey’s Rogues

These four lists haven’t changed too much since the last version (besides being broken out from each other). The Easterlings and the Variags of Khand are virtually unchanged, except that most of the Easterling models got common rules that encourage running them as large blocks of units. Isengard, on the other hand, has seen many changes: they got one of the best army bonuses in the game, their captains have increased slightly in price (offsetting what used to be a free Strength point) and Lurtz finally got improved to be what we always wanted. Saruman also got improvements to make him more like the Saruman the White profile that we’ve loved for the armies of Good since forever (and ultimately making him a very powerful piece on the board now). Perhaps the greatest shift is seeing Sharkey’s Rogues turn into their own list again. While I liked Ruffian archers as a cheap volley team in the Warbands sourcebooks, the army rule provided to Sharkey’s Rogues allows you to run warbands without leaders, which can be a very, VERY powerful thing (but no spoilers yet).

2) The Army Bonuses: Army Composition and Courage

The army bonuses for these armies – in the main – should be kept. Khand’s bonus allows you to take as many horsemen and bow-armed chariots as you like, which greatly improves your mobility (don’t really need infantry) and your ability to skirmish with people (though running things over with chariots is fun). While this isn’t a necessary army bonus, it’s very, VERY nice (though it does limit your ally choices). Without the Sharkey’s Rogues special rule, you’re limited to a single warband of guys (17 guys + Worm), which is not going to be a good allied contingent on its own, ignoring the fact that your alliance becomes Impossible allies with everyone). Plus, thanks to the Sharkey’s Rogues bonus, Sharkey’s Stand Fast! Covers the entire battlefield, so you can keep him hidden for most of the game, and then make him pop up somewhere high up and visible when your force is being beaten down to keep everyone on the field.

Isengard’s bonus (as stated previously) is one of the best – allowing you to avoid those darn courage tests for when your army is broken until far closer to the end of the game (saving you costly units running away for no good reason), as well as allowing you to chase through woods or run screaming to an objective with some of your warriors and many of your heroes more easily. The only group I think that can easily lose their army bonus is the Easterlings – while occasionally useful, it’s not really that necessary to the “turtling” strategy that they run. That said, might as well keep it sometimes (but don’t feel like you have to).

3) The Lists: Isengard

Isengard was the third army I heartily pursued and it’s been a long struggle to find something I like to run with them (despite bringing them to every other tournament, it seems). J With the new rules, Isengard has been reinvigorated for me, giving you lots of options for create use and loads of fun to play on the table. We’ll be looking at a themed scout list first and then an allied team that drops the army’s special bonuses in favor of cheaper, durable troops.

List #1: Find the Halflings!
Lurtz with shield – 90
Ugluk – 65
Mauhur – 60
Uruk-Hai Drummer – 35
1 Orc Warrior with shield – 6
20 Uruk-Hai Scouts with shields – 180
6 Uruk-Hai Scouts with hand axes - 54
11 Uruk-Hai Marauders with Uruk-Hai Bows - 110

We have 1 warrior slot left (using to hold the Drummer right now in the Marauder warband), but you could very easily drop the drummer and pick up a banner-carrying Warrior. Now some of the things we’ve done here might seem a little odd. First off, the lone Orc Warrior is there simply as chaff for Ugluk’s Head Taker rule (which now affects heroes as well as warriors, which is nice – of course, you’ll not be taking Courage tests as early as you used to, but still). We’ve taken a prodigious number Uruk-Hai Scouts with shields – average defense models who can now run through woods without hindrance.

We’ve also included my favorite type of Marauders (the kind that can shoot while running really fast), and with a Heroic March to push these guys further than the drum/Marauder upgrade normally do, you can move a good 7.5” and still shoot with your bows (which are now S3) – perfect for gaining ground while softening up your opponent (which you’ll need since you lack spears). The final pack of guys we’ve included are some un-shielded Uruk-Hai Scouts with axes (who cost just as much as their shield-touting comrades). Why????

The answer is pretty simple: we need to kill things. Against D6 fight lines, Uruk Scouts are pretty good (they might die easily, but they’ll also rage through pretty well too). Taking Hand Axes allows us to do Piercing Strike against D5 (Rohan) models or D7 (Dwarf) models and get a decent shot at killing them. While you might argue that taking shields is the better option, I like options (so there). Unlike most Uruk armies, this army has more than 40 guys (42 to be exact) and it includes some of our favorite heroes from the mix (though you could replace Ugluk with Vrasku if you wanted…though you should then drop the Orc and give shields to all those axemen).

List #2: The Might Drain
Saruman the Wise – 180
Grima Wormtongue – 25
6 Uruk-Hai Warriors with shields - 60
5 Uruk-Hai Warriors with pikes - 50
6 Uruk-Hai Warriors with crossbows - 66

Ally: Mordor
The Dwimmerlaik - 120
5 Morannon Orcs with shields and spears – 45
6 Black Numenoreans - 54

I’ll be honest: I’ve always wanted to run this list. Though we’ve given up our army bonus, we’ve done the thematically appropriate thing of bringing Saruman’s army to join forces with the Dark Lord’s minions. While the glaringly obvious problem with this list is the almost complete lack of Might points, you’re not going to be that hurt by your opponent’s Might, since this deck is all about draining their Might (and Will and Fate) points as quickly as possible. Let’s take a look.

Saruman is powerful – you’ve got a great array of spells including Command at 18” on a 3+ and Flameburst at 6” on a 5+ (though Sorcerous Blast is still my go-to on a 4+). With a free reroll each time Saruman makes a cast, he doesn’t need to spend a lot of Will each time, making him a game-long caster and a deadly adversary. If you target your opponent’s heroes as soon as they get within 18” of Saruman with Command, he’ll need to spend his Will point to resist you (or stay out of the fight for the entire game).

Whoever isn’t targeted by Saruman will be around the Dwimmerlaik (who casts Drain Courage on a 2+, making it very, VERY hard to charge your Terror models, like the Black Numenoreans or the Dwimmerlaik or Saruman). Any foes who try to use Might/Will/Fate near the Dwimmerlaik (including people resisting the spells of the Dwimmerlaik) may need to spend extra points to make their first point work (which is often impossible in the case of Will/Fate, since many characters only have 1 point of either). The magic coming from these two guys is incredible (though don’t cast too much with the Dwimmerlaik – you need your Will for the Might/Will/Fate drain rule).

And skulking around the enemy ranks causing as much havoc as he can is Grima, who makes any hero nearby him spend 2 Might points to call Heroic Actions. We’ve left one spot in Saruman’s warband in case your opponent has full warbands on his side of the table, but obviously you want him deployed with your opponent if you possibly can. While Grima can be tied down, putting him near an infantry hero (generic Captains are my favorite, since they only have 2 Might) will keep them from calling heroic actions as much, giving your team a sizeable advantage. Never EVER attack someone with Grima – it’s better to have him standing around on a rear objective or chatting with a hero trying to focus as they march towards the army of Uruks.

And to protect these three units, we have the fist of Isengard (17 Uruk-Hai Warriors with shields, pikes, or crossbows), as well as some hardened units from Mordor (5 Morannon Orcs – mini Uruks – and 6 Black Numenoreans). While we could have spammed more models, we wanted our units in this list to be resilient (since we only have 31 models in this list). All told, this list is fun (and not VERY competitive), but don’t underestimate it (and try not to be a jerk while using it). J

4) The Lists: The Easterlings

Ah, Easterlings. The army I love to see, the army I love to face, and the army I’ll never own. Easterlings are a lot like many other civs – their basic infantry are basically mirror-images of Warriors of Minas Tirith, they can be upgraded to look like Uruk-Hai (but with better Courage instead of Strength), and their cavalry are a lot like Knights of Minas Tirith (but without the lances). With almost no named heroes (besides Amdur and Khamul – who shows up in the Mordor list), you’ve basically got an evil version of Minas Tirith. EXCEPT that while Minas Tirith has one of the most robust warrior selections of any army in the Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game, the Easterlings have … basically nothing. Ergo, armies of Easterlings, like High Elves or Numenor, must rely on one or two kinds of models (and a handful of generic heroes) to win the day. As such, I have no intention of owning these guys, but we’ll talk about them anyway.

List #1: Armored Assault
Amdur, Lord of Blades with armored horse – 145
Easterling Dragon Knight – 65
Easterling War Priest – 60
7 Black Dragon Warriors with shields – 70
16 Black Dragon Warriors with pikes and shields – 176
6 Easterling Kataphrakts - 84

This is the kind of list I’ve grown accustomed to seeing (except for maybe the horses) – long line of Black Dragons led by Amdur and a Dragon Knight, War Priest making the Dragon Knight or Amdur do more damage, Kataphrakts to cause trouble or smash into your flank/supporting units/archers. It’s not exciting, but it does work. The Black Dragon upgrade (paired with the army special rule after you’re broken) makes this battle line remarkably good at charging terror units, as well as makes your line F4. While a two-deep line was always a thing, the new Phalanx rule allows a three-deep line to be much more viable (which we’ve chosen to do, with some models supporting the Dragon Knight). Having a battle line like this can lead to trapped models if you’re not careful (it’s not particularly long as far as battle lines go), but provided you use your cavalry (with Amdur at their head) to protect your flanks so your front-liners can power through, you should be fine.

One thing I’d consider doing is this: drop 1 Easterling Kataphrakt to give your Black Dragons with shields and your other Kataphrakts hand axes. Being able to be S4 (especially since the Kataphrakts gain the Shieldwall rule, despite being Cavalry) allows Easterlings to do the one thing they normally can’t: kill stuff. Yes, getting 3 dice to wound is good, but if you need 6s, it can still be hard to come by. Axes help a lot with that. While weapon swaps add up if you do them across a lot models, dropping one model to make a bunch of your other models more effective seems like a good trade to me.

List #2: Hammers and Anvil
Amdur, Lord of Blades – 130
Easterling Dragon Knight – 65
11 Black Dragon Warriors with shields – 110
10 Easterling Warriors with pikes and shields – 90

Ally: Moria
Moria Blackshield Captain – 45
2 Cave Trolls with hand-and-a-half hammers - 160

You know how I just got through saying that Easterlings have problems wounding people? Well, this solves all those problems. J While you only have 26 models, you’ve got a solid anvil battle line, supported by two 3A heroes as well as an allied contingent flushed with two-handed weapons. Moria Blackshield Captains are reasonably Courageous (Courage 4) and come with a two-handed sword, while the Cave Trolls have Burly two-handers (great for pulverizing things). All your Easterlings need to do is hold out long enough for the monsters and heroes to do their thing. If facing siege engines, you’ve got plenty of guys to scatter on to protect your Trolls (watch maelstrom deployments), making this list hard to deal with. Probably not as competitive as the last list, but very, VERY fun.

5) The Lists: The Variags of Khand

Khand, like Far Harad, is hard to do as a solo army. Yes, you can pick up lots of Chariots, a veritable horde of warriors, or tons of cavalry archers. Whatever you choose to do, it won’t be very exciting. Period. You’ll have a bunch of the same. Old. Warriors. Not much fun. However, as an allied contingent, Khand is one of the most powerful additions you can have, as they provide you with fast, durable chariots (great at charging and absorbing archery) and reasonably cheap horse archers. These lists all assume an alliance (one Historical, one Convenient), but Khand remains the central focus of each army.

List #1: The Eastern Hammer and Anvil
1 Khandish King with Chariot – 125
13 Khandish Horsemen – 169
1 Khandish Charioteer with bow - 30

Ally: The Easterlings
Amdur, Lord of Blades – 130
8 Black Dragon Warriors with shields – 80
6 Black Dragon Warriors with pikes and shields – 66

Khandish infantry, while cheap, are not very effective or resilient. Their profile (and cost) is similar to a Corsair or a Dunlending, but their Defense isn’t as good as Dunland and their ability to skirmish isn’t as good as Corsairs (and the cost is comparable). Easterling infantry, by comparison are good – albeit a bit expensive. While Easterling infantry pride themselves on marching in tight formations and keeping the arrows out (a Tseudo formation if you will), their cavalry are just a tad too expensive for my taste. Khandish horsemen are a bit cheaper but have the ability to skirmish (and if the horse dies, you can spring up a two-handed warrior where the horse died to support your block of infantry). I will note that we could have taken 2 Dragon Knights to lead this allied group instead of Amdur and used some of the extra cash to pick up some additional Khandish warriors, but we love Amdur (and he really helps the battle line function better).

List #2: Cavalry Charge
1 Khandish King with Chariot – 125
5 Khandish Charioteers - 150
1 Khandish Charioteers with bows – 30
2 Khandish Horsemen - 26

Ally: Far Harad
Mahud King with War Spear, Shield, and War Camel – 90
9 Mahud Raiders with War Spears – 162
1 Mahud Raider - 17

While the Easterlings provide heavy infantry to augment Khandish units, Far Harad provides high-impact charging cavalry. Since we lost the army bonus that allows us to take unlimited bows on our horse archers and chariots, we’ve decided to focus on the Chariot aspect of this army (7 total) and bring a ton of Camels to assist in the charge (11 total). Both of these kinds of cavalry deal impact damage to their targets, so it’s possible to remove some of your opponent’s units before the fighting even begins. Obviously this army will want to save its Might points for Heroic Moves to guarantee it gets to charge, but I’m not convinced how competitive it really is. Still, if you can run it, it would be very, VERY fun (as it maximizes one niche aspect of the game: impact hits).

6) The Lists: Sharkey’s Rogues

Okay, truth time: I’ve been looking forward to writing about this army for a long, LONG time. Sharkey’s Rogues is perhaps the most limited list in the game – it has one hero choice (which is really two heroes in one and they’re both terrible) and one warrior choice (which has very little gear options, with the only standard weapon option being a bow). Ruffians are some of the least combat proficient models in the game and while they’re blissfully cheap, they’re unlikely to best anyone that isn’t a Goblin or a Hobbit.

So why all the excitement? Because like Hobbits and Goblins, it’s not about how good the model is – it’s about how many you can field. Take a look at this for example:

List #1: Sharkey’s Chumps
Sharkey and Worm – 60
49 Ruffians with whips – 294
31 Ruffians with bows – 186
12 Ruffians - 60

This army sports a whopping 94 models – almost all of the Ruffians have one of the equipment options, giving you 49 low-strength, short-range throwing weapon attacks and 31 normal bow shots (granted, they have a terrible shoot value, but still). On its own, getting above 90 models isn’t THAT much of a bonus. What makes this team incredible, though, is that the army bonus 1) allows you to field these guys in small gangs without a hero to lead them, but also 2) Sharkey’s Stand Fast! Affects the entire battlefield, meaning that you can hide Sharkey until you’re nearing getting broken, run him up somewhere high that everyone can see, and then call a Stand Fast! To keep your monstrously large army in the field. Who wouldn’t want to do that?

List #2: Forget Whips – Just Bash Them!
Sharkey and Worm – 60
35 Ruffians with bows – 210
66 Ruffians - 330

This variant basically assumes that you don’t want equipment (except bows) and you just want numbers. I think having lots of bows (nearly 33%) is a good thing, since it allows you to get your Ruffians in action before they charge, but the rest of the strategy is literally just to have a bunch of Ruffians clogging up important points on the table. With 103 models in this list (9 more than the previous), it’s unclear to me if this is more competitive or less competitive. The MOST competitive list would probably be a variant of the first list, dropping 2 unequipped models, and allowing the remaining 10 unequipped models to take axes. Since Whips allow you to Whirl, each guy already has the options for Stun or Stab (let’s assume for a minute that you’re not Feinting), and Bash provides an incentive to having higher Strength or using a two-handed weapon (neither of which we have), Piercing Strike is the only attack that makes that much sense. All told, paying 6 points per model isn’t a bad thing (and you’d still have 92 models, which is still outrageously high).

We’re not covering any historic/convenient allies here because Sharkey’s Rogues doesn’t have any in either category. Since you lose your army bonus unless you’re taking a Historical ally, a true Sharkey’s Rogues army is going to be mono-themed (you TECHNCIALLY could have an Impossible Alliance with them, but I don’t think their allied contingent would provide very much and I don’t think they’d last very long).

With this post complete, we turn from the armies of evil to the armies of good. While the Warband era had only two sourcebooks dedicated to the armies of good, we’ll be dividing them into three parts. In our next post, we’ll cover the Kingdoms of Men, and we’ll wrap up with two posts on the Free Peoples of Middle-Earth. Until next time, happy hobbying!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Hunters Red October 2018 Recap

Hey Reader!

Welcome back to the TMAT blog! Over the next few weeks I'm going to be doing battle reports from the recent THRO tournament, so keep an eye on this space! As a bit of background for the tournament, I want to discuss the army list that I brought, my strategy going into the tournament, and how I felt about the various armies that were going to be present at the tournament.

For information on the format of the tournament itself you can see Tiberius's post on our blog here; the tournament would feature four prelim games, each using a different scenario from a list of five. So our lists had to have a plan for how to deal with each scenario.

I.  My Army: The All Saints Day Army

I decided to branch out and run an army that I've owned for a while (and brought as a contingency in a Gondor army in the past): The Army of the Dead. A few years back I ran an Angmar army for the THRO tournament which I called The Halloween Army, and since that army was a Forces of Evil army that was run in an October tournament with all manner of scary creatures, I named it The Halloween Army.

Since this army was a Forces of Good army that was also scary and was being run for an October tournament (in November), it made sense to call it The All Saints Day Army. The army list was very straightforward:

The All Saints Day Army (Army of the Dead, 450 pt Limit)

Warband 1
-King of the Dead (Army Leader): 100 pts
-6 Warriors of the Dead (with shields): 90 pts
-6 Warriors of the Dead (with shields and spears): 96 pts
-1 Warrior of the Dead (with banner and shield): 40 pts

Warband 2
-4 Warriors of the Dead (with shields): 60 pts
-4 Warriors of the Dead (with shields and spears): 64 pts

Total: 22 models, 450 pts, 1 Might Point

So it's a unique list: I've never run such a one-dimensional list (as you know I tend to favor toolkit and underdog lists), but I figured that if there was a place to try out an army it's the THRO tournament. So this was the list I brought, and was the first list posted on the blog for the tournament.

II.  Strengths of the Army of the Dead

The Army of the Dead has a host of strengths that make for asymmetric fighting against most lists. These come with trade-offs (which we'll see a little later), but the strengths of this list lend them well to fighting in most scenarios.

Perhaps the most well-known strength of the Army of the Dead is its high defense. With all models in the army starting at D7 and all being able to take shields, you can get an entirely D8 army for a relatively low cost. This means that, while your army lacks archery, opposing archery (sans siege weapons) is virtually nullified, so you don't feel the lack of archery as much as other civs would.

The Army of the Dead also benefits from all units possessing terror, so low-Courage forces (orcs and goblins without shamans especially, but also uruks, hobbits, and most humans) who generally field larger armies cannot engage you as heavily in melee combat. Add onto this that your army special rule grants the King of the Dead the Harbinger of Evil special rule within 12" this becomes an even bigger advantage: if you can keep your army near the King of the Dead, charging your men becomes even harder as their Courage is reduced by 1.

The Army of the Dead also maintained their Spectral Blades rule from past iterations of the game, so they wound against the Courage value of the opponent as opposed to their Defense value. So not only does this negate the heavy armor that a lot of armies purchase (because of all of the other armies that attack against Defense), but it also stacks well with the Harbinger of Evil rule from the King of the Dead: keep your men near him, and you'll break an enemy force through sheer volume of wounds.

We also benefit from a high Courage army, as the Warriors of the Dead and Spectral Riders are Courage 6, and the King of the Dead is Courage 7, so when you run the Army of the Dead, Courage tests are something you don't need to worry about nearly as much as other armies.

Now, that being said, there are some disadvantages to running this army.

III.  Weaknesses of the Army of the Dead

Perhaps the most glaring weakness of the army is its low numbers. This means that if your opponent gets a good streak of luck rolling 6s, you will find your army rapidly declining in size. This also means that it is easy for an enemy force to wrap your lines, threatening your spear support, banners, etc.

This also creates problems in scenarios where you need to count models near an objective, as you generally have less forces.

The army also possesses limited mobility. While they do have access to spectral riders (who have a D6 horse, which is insanely incredible against archery), those riders will run you around 25 pts each, almost double the cost of a Rider of Rohan and most other cavalry, so while the army has access to high mobility, it comes at a severe cost.

Even in a 600-750 point match (which is a decent number of points for Middle Earth SBG), you will be hard pressed to have an army over 30 models that has more than 2-4 horsemen. And with enemy forces at that range being able to reach 40+ models easily, the margin for error in model count mentioned above is a serious problem. So while you have access to cavalry, trust that you will primarily be working with 6" move models in the vast majority of fights.

This also translates into tactical issues regarding mobility. If an opponent reaches a barrier, objective, or other part of the map that matters for the purposes of scoring before your force does, they can easily keep you from the objective through sheer numbers.

So while there are some huge advantages to running the Army of the Dead, there are some drawbacks. A lot of it depends on the scenario, and how well you can play to the scenario. So in the next section I want to briefly discuss my plan going into the tournament for how to deal with the scenarios, as a host of them required counting of units, which is a weakness of the army list.

IV.  Scenario Expectations

We had five possible scenarios for the tournament, each bringing its own share of trouble.


  1. Heirloom of Ages Past: I was excited for this scenario because it gives you Victory Points for taking a banner (so I start on the scoreboard for points, which is nice, especially since a lot of other people don't take banners), and only an infantry model can claim an objective, so it's likely that my limited mobility wouldn't hurt me as much in getting to the objectives. The reduced size of the map also means that if my opponent found the heirloom first I would have a decent chance of catching him. So I feel confident of my chances in performing well in this scenario.
  2. Storm the Camp: Our limited mobility and smaller size makes me less confident in this match. If I can break the enemy army in the first 40 minutes of the match (as the 60 minute time limit will bode poorly for my force in this regard), then we stand a chance of breaking through their lines and reducing their Courage near the King of the Dead, which should cause more of their men to flee, making it so that they can't tie us down as we approach their camp. Still, the limited mobility of the army and lack of ranged options means that defending our camp and taking the other will require us to catch and slay them.
  3. Fog of War: I feel confident in this match. The fact that I can leave a high-Courage model on the terrain piece means that even if my army is broken (which could end the game before he can kill the King of the Dead, get a guy on his terrain piece, etc.) my guy should stick around on the objective. The fact that I get to pick a non-Army Leader to kill and that they are forced to kill my F5 D8 with 3 Fate King of the Dead (after passing Terror checks to charge him) means that I'm feeling good about this match.
  4. To the Death: I feel very confident in this match. To the Death starts me on the board because a banner is worth points, so we're already on the board (and, since most people don't bring banners, it starts me ahead). Add onto this that the only way to even the odds is to engage my force, I can keep my forces around the King of the Dead to maximize our strengths without really feeling our weaknesses. So I'm really hoping this is one of the matches I am assigned.
  5. Domination: I feel worried about this match. With only 22 models, that's an average of 5 models to each objective, and at 6" move with only 1 Might to get in a Heroic Move, the weaknesses of the army make this a hard match. I may not draw it, but if I do, this one is going to be hard unless I'm up against an army about my size, in which case I stand a chance of breaking through the lines and holding more objectives.

For the tournament I would play on four of these; in my next few posts you'll see how they went, so stay tuned!

Watching the stars,

Centaur

Monday, November 12, 2018

New Rules - Part IV: The Fallen Realms, Part I

Good morning gamers,

In our previous posts, we’ve talked about the general rules changes, and then walked through a few thoughts on the Mordor and Angmar/Moria army lists. Wrapping up our discussion of the armies of evil is the old Fallen Realms book, which include the armies from Isengard, Harad/Umbar, and the Eastern Kingdoms (now seven different lists). I’ve decided that trying to tackle seven armies in one go was going to be too overwhelming, so instead, we’re breaking the Fallen Realms up into two different discussions. Today we’ll focus on the Southron armies (Serpent Horde, Far Harad, Corsairs of Umbar), and next time we’ll conclude our discussion of Armies of Evil by tackling Isengard and the East. As mentioned in our previous posts, you should also check out Mik's Veni Vidi Vici blog for thoughts from the “experts” – though at the time of this writing, none of these lists have been reviewed yet.

1) The New Lists: The Serpent Horde, Far Harad, Corsairs of Umbar

Back in the Legions of Middle-Earth days, there were many different Harad lists – three of which were very similar to what we see in the book today. But there were other lists – a generic Umbar list that allowed you to run generic heroes crossing the Serpent Horde and Corsair armies, allowing for great pairings of cheap spears and high-Fight value skirmish troops.

With the new rules, while the lists have been broken out, the Serpent Horde gives you the unique benefit of being able to ally easily with more civs than any other evil faction. With three historical allies (Corsairs of Umbar, Far Harad, Mordor), the Serpent Horde has the greatest possibility for force diversity of any Army of Evil (and rivals most of the Armies of Good).

The draw-back is that while the Serpent Horde can ally with any one of these factions and retain their army bonus, none of these other nations can ally with the others, so getting a three or four faction alliance will result in none of your beloved army rules lasting. Still, if you’re planning on playing any of these civilizations, you don’t HAVE to be mono-focused in your army creation.

As far as Far Harad and the Corsairs are concerned, they’re not much changed and both can basically be run either mono-focused or with the Serpent Horde. As we’ll see in a bit, taking convenient allies with these civs is not a big deal, since their army bonuses are nice but not necessary for the team’s survival.

2) The Army Bonuses: Shooting and Charging

The Serpent Horde’s army bonus is one of the best in the game – not only can you run 50% of your army with bows (great for those big blisters of warriors that come with 50% bows), but you also get poison across all your Haradrim Warriors and Raiders. I’ll be honest – in the previous editions, there was no reason to take Haradrim Warriors with spears (Serpent Guard cost one extra point, get Fight 4 instead of Fight 3, and had Poisoned Spears vs. the Haradrim Warrior's Poisoned Arrows...which he didn't even have equipped). Now, you can choose to omit the Fight value boost and take normal Haradrim Warriors if you want to and there’s not a big penalty lost (assuming you don’t view Fight 4 as critically necessary). Since Harad has a good assortment of allies, I’m going to posit you want to keep your army bonus in almost all cases.

With weapon swaps being a thing, however, you can actually get MORE out of a Haradrim Warrior than you can out of a Serpent Guard, since you can take a vanilla Haradrim Warrior (6pts) and swap his hand dagger (Stab will get you killed on a 5+, if you're able to Feint, you will likely be Fight 1) for a hand axe (not much lost by going from D4 to something lower, option for S4 in your front line) or a flail (your Feint would bring you down to Fight 1 anyway, but adds wounding rolls you can perform if flanked or outnumbered).

Far Harad’s army bonus is fine – your units auto-pass Courage tests so long as your heroes are charging. I personally don’t think this is a great rule (one of the worst, if I’m honest), but against Terror teams (especially those with Harbinger), this is essential. Unlike the Serpent Horde bonus (very archery-oriented), this rule is more charge-oriented (and that’s reflected in the unit choices available to the army).

Finally, Corsair units (basically everyone except Black Numenoreans) get Backstabbers, making them great killing units if they can trap their foes. With some foes being felled by throwing daggers (if you take them in large volumes), getting a bonus to wounding others is pretty great (but again, not essential to the strategy - especially if you like a front-line of Black Numenoreans).

3) The Lists: The Serpent Horde

As mentioned before, the Serpent Horde benefits from a great army bonus, but it’s not necessary for a solid victory. While there are many different ways you can build a Serpent Horde army (many of which will keep the army bonus), we’re looking at two lists today – one mono-Serpent-Horde, one with a convenient alliance.

List #1: The Viper’s Venom
Suladan the Serpent Lord with bow - 105
The Golden King of Abrakhan - 130
Hasharin - 80
18 Haradhrim Warriors with bows - 126
4 Haradhrim Warriors with axes - 28
4 Serpent Guard - 32
5 Watchers of Karna with twin blades - 45
6 Abrakhan Guard - 54

Let’s look at the understated fact of this list: it has 19 bows with poisoned arrows (and throwing daggers on the Hasharin). The Serpent Horde has some great infantry choices, so to supplement the mass number of bows we’re fielding, we’ve taken a smattering of all of them. As mentioned previously, Haradrim don’t suffer much from the disadvantage of Piercing Strike, and against a Fight 4 meta, the S2 hit you take from Stab is as likely to kill you as your opponent’s weapons. Ergo, we’ve taken a handful of Haradrim with poisoned-axe-conversions, supplemented by Serpent Guard (who lend Fight 4 with their poisoned spears) as the basic infantry in the list. These guys are supplemented by more elite infantry with the multi-attack Watchers of Karna (who are also great for charging Terror units) and Abrakhan Guard (who are … simply devastating). All told, your opponent will be at a loss for what units to target first – the glaringly obvious Abrakhan Guard or Watchers of Karna? Those Haradrim with axes are S4 and can be backed by Serpent Guard, you know? Do you have a plan for dealing with those bows?

In addition to these warriors, you have three epic heroes to deal with. The Hasharin are hard to kill and lethal in close-combat. Suladan has a good combat profile and provides good bonuses to those around him. Between him and the Golden King of Abrakhan, you have banner support for your army (great, since we didn’t take very many spears) and have good heroic actions they can tap into. If you’ve never faced the Golden King of Abrakhan, consider yourself blessed – he’s a pain. The rules alteration that GW made (where you offer the bribe BEFORE the hero you’re attempting to bribe pays Might or Will) is a good touch and makes it a bit more fair in the actual bribing process. In combat, none of these guys are slouches, but as with any mono-Serpent-Horde army, you pay for great offense with an average defense. The entire list (sans some of the heroes who are Defense 5 and the Watchers of Karna who are Defense 3) is Defense 4, making them vulnerable to all kinds of archery and melee damage. Still, you have 40 models (higher than most armies of Good that you’ll face) and plenty of bows to reduce your opponent’s army size, even if you’re moving and shooting.

If the defense of this team is bothering you, you can always ally with Mordor/the Easterlings (Historical allies both) and keep some of the heroes and warriors listed above to get a more solid battle line. I personally think the infantry choices of Harad are very good in their own right and don’t need changes (despite their low defense).

List #2: Cavalry Charge
War Mumak of Harad with Rocks and Rappelling Lines - 305
4 Haradrim Warriors with bows - 28
8 Haradrim Warriors - 48

Ally: Isengard
Sharku with shield and Warg - 65
10 Warg Riders with shields and throwing spears – 130
2 Warg Riders with Shield - 24

I’ll admit, I was thinking about being boring and allying in some heavy Isengard infantry, but then I had a thought: you have the chance to make a Mumak list – MAKE IT! Running a Mumak is kind of like running a Balrog – you don’t do it because it’s the most competitive build, you do it because it’s fun. In this list, we have just enough Haradhrim to fill the Howdah and a full pack of Warg Riders led by their undaunted leader, Sharku. The Warg Riders are fast and can skirmish with their throwing spears (though they’ll only hit on 6s in the Shoot phase if they move and shoot). With a decent defense and S4 on the charge, they’re fantastic cheap cavalry and better choices in my opinion than Haradrim Raiders (capped at D4 and cost-equivalent) or Serpent Riders (cost-equivalent). Granted, the Warg Riders don’t have lances (both Haradrim sets can take War Spears), but the S4 makes the wounding likelihood close and the opportunity to kill someone on the charge with the throwing spear is nice too.

While the Warg Riders are good and can get out of the way of the Mumak easily, the real start of the list is the Mumak itself. Not only did we take the Rocks upgrade (great for short-range archery damage), but we also took Rappelling Lines (allowing our monolith of power turn into a troop transport and drop off melee models near objectives late in the game). The Howdah provides good protection for most of the models in this list and the Mumak itself is … well … beastly to deal with. All told, this is a fun list that isn’t competitive at all but would be fun to see on the board doing its work. It also has a good chance of winning missions where you’re trying to get models off the board (as the Mumak getting off scores you 14 points).

4) The Lists: Far Harad

Far Harad is a very different beast compared to the Serpent Horde – while there are many hero and warrior choices for the Serpent Horde (and a variety of melee and archery choices), Far Harad has two hero choices (basically) and three warrior choices – none of which are particularly good at shooting. Ergo, your strategy with a Mahud army is very, VERY different. So, I think the answer is to keep your army mobile and get the most out of what you do well – charging stuff. So without further ado, let’s look at the lists.

List #1: Cavalry Charge
Mahud Tribesmaster with War Spear and War Camel - 65
War Mumak of Far Harad with Rocks and Rappelling Lines - 330
12 Mahud Warriors – 96
5 Mahud Raiders with War Spears – 90
1 Mahud Raider with War Spear and Blowpipe with Poisoned Darts - 19

Yes, we’re doing yet-another-Mumak-list – he’s a good troop transport for your melee units (who are D5 in the Howdah, great for resisting most archery). I didn't give the guys up top Blowpipes because the difference in range between Blowpipes and Rocks is not that big – just use the rocks. We have room for 1 more warrior in the Howdah, so you could drop the rocks upgrade, add blowpipes to everyone (including your camels), and add one more guy. Your choice.

To support the lumbering Mumak, we have 6 Camel-riding Raiders with a Camel-riding Mahud Tribesmaster. Like any lancer squadron, you don’t want to bull-rush a battle line, but instead come smashing into a flank. If you’re facing an archery team, it would benefit you greatly to run behind your Mumak to provide some cover (as these guys without their camels are pretty unimpressive). On the charge, they’re lethal (so save those Might points for Heroic Moves), with decent Impaler damage on the charge as well as Fight 4 once you’re in the fight. This is a squishy list (and probably not that competitive), but it would be very, VERY fun to run.

List #2: Troll Horde
Mahud Tribesmaster with War Spear, shield, and War Camel - 70
4 Half Trolls - 92
2 Half Trolls with two-handed clubs - 48

Ally: Moria
Cave Drake – 150
3 Cave Trolls with hand-and-a-half hammers - 240

As mentioned before, you don’t need the army bonus for Far Harad – it’s nice, but not necessary. In this list, we’ve decided to focus on the monster element of Far Harad – Half Trolls! These guys (we have 6 of them) provide decent killing power for not that many points. As cheap, terror-causing, high-strength units, they’re perfect for smashing into the side of a line and doing some damage. They’re not Monster models, so you can’t go hurling units around, but they’re still going to do lots of damage. Leading them is a cheap captain kitted out to charge into the enemy and cause some havoc.

The focus of your opponent will probably not be on the Half Trolls though – it’ll be on the Cave Trolls and the Cave Drake allies of this team. Cave Trolls got brutal now with Burly and hand-and-a-half hammers for the same former base cost of the Troll. This not only allows them to roll 3 dice without penalty, but they’ll wound most units on 3s (or even 2s) thanks to that free two-hander bonus. While dealing with one or two Cave Trolls is often incredibly difficult, three is downright impossible to prevent from getting to your ranks and smashing you up. With the Cave Drake also being able to do monstrous mashing, you’ve got four pieces your opponent has to deal with and very few teams will have the archery, magic, or epic melee hero power to combat all four of these things. Whatever’s left unengaged by these four pieces should be easily attacked by the Half Trolls.

While I don’t think Far Harad is as good as the Serpent Horde, I do think they’re fun to play with and interesting to use. I have no intention of collecting them, though I’ll admit that the second list does look tempting.

5) The Lists: Corsairs of Umbar

Ah, the beloved pirates of the Lord of the Rings. Backstabbers is a nice rule, but not very nice. Ergo, we’ll be looking at a few things you can do with the pirate fleets here (though I’ll say upfront that I’m not using any Black Numenoreans – consider substituting Reavers for Numenoreans in the lists below if you want).

List #1: The Pirate Crew
1 Corsair Captain with crossbow – 55
3 Corsair Bo’suns with spears – 138
10 Corsairs of Umbar with shields – 80
10 Corsairs of Umbar with shields and spears – 90
13 Corsair Reavers – 117
12 Corsair Arbalesters - 120

This is a brute-force, high-model-count, charge your guys all over the board kind of list. With a whopping 49 models at 600 points, you’ve got plenty of models to engage the 30-40 man lists that you’ll face (and a good thing too, since most of your units are only Defense 4). As discussed with the Serpent Horde above, your low defense can be seen as a vulnerability, but it’s just part of the experience. Ignore it as best you can and enjoy what your team does. The 20 Corsairs of Umbar have throwing daggers, making charges by these units irresistible (and can further change the disparity between army sizes), though I recommend using the spearmen and the three Bosuns to support the Reavers.

Reavers are great when they go Berserk now (so long as you can control it), as you make your guys more deadly and able to charge Terror units with impunity. Covering these guys are some of the most feared archers in the game: Arbalesters! With D6 against non-melee damage and one point cheaper than their Uruk counterparts, Corsair Arbalesters are a pain to have to shift (just figure out how to place them so they can stay in the fight for as long as possible without moving…personally I hate figuring that out because I’m not very good at it).

I will note in passing that you can part with the Reavers if you want in favor of Black Numenoreans - they'll be more resilient, less punchy, and cause Terror. If you value that sort of thing, swap them (or do part Reaver/part Black Numenorean - for theme, I've kept just the pirates.

List #2: The Black Fleet
Dalamyr, Fleetmaster of Umbar – 90
1 Corsair Bo’sun with spear – 46
6 Corsairs of Umbar with shields and spears – 54
6 Corsairs of Umbar with shields - 48
6 Corsair Reavers – 54
8 Corsair Arbalesters - 80

Ally: Mordor
The Shadow Lord – 120
7 Black Numenoreans - 63
5 Morannon Orcs with shields and spears – 45

For thematic reasons, we’ve chosen to ally the Corsairs with Mordor. By giving up both army bonuses, we’ve dropped a bunch of models in order to get two key upgrades: better heroes and more protection overall. Allying in Mordor gives us access to Morannon Orcs, who have D6 with spears, making our anvil more resilient than an all-Corsair list. As discussed above, Black Numenoreans are available in either list, so you could use them to supplement your Corsairs if you wanted to without Mordor.

The bonuses we get from the hero choices work like this: first, we get Dalamyr, who not only provides us with good offensive damage (one thing we were lacking in the generic heroes of the previous list), but also allows you to immobilize people with his smoke bombs (greatly helps him stay alive in combat). We also got the Shadow Lord – the whole reason we allied in Mordor in the first place – to get some protection against archery for our guys as we race across the field. Once battle is joined, you can turn that Will-point-spent-per-turn from providing archery protection to casting (I recommend Drain Courage or Transfix, depending on how dangerous a hero is). Late in the game (assuming he's still around), the Shadow Lord makes it more likely that your foes run from the fight - a great day for Corsairs, who are probably struggling on the numbers count as it is.

Hopefully this gets the creative juices flowing for the Southern realms of Harad and Umbar. In our next post, we wrap up our discussion of armies of evil by covering the other Fallen Realms. Until next time, happy hobbying!