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)
-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
-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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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,