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,


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!

Friday, November 9, 2018

New Rules - Part III: Angmar and Moria

Good morning gamers,

In our first post, we discussed some of the rules changes that I thought were good/not-so-good with the new rules set. We then looked at Mordor to see a few different lists you can run with their army bonuses (and whether keeping the army bonuses are worth it). Today we're going to look at the armies that used to be included in the Moria and Angmar warbands book (which are conveniently still Moria and Angmar), but both of these army lists have been reviewed already on Mik's Veni Vidi Vici blog, so take a look at that for other takes by great players of the hobby.

Unlike Mordor, Moria and Angmar rely heavily on the old army structures that we found in the Legions of Middle-Earth book. As such, there are some big changes for Moria (less so for Angmar) from the Warbands book (one of which I don't like), but ultimately I think it drifted towards where it always should have been.

1) The New Lists: Moria and Angmar

Back in the Legions days, there were two Moria lists - the "Moria" army list and the "Dwellers Below" army list (which was basically generic Goblin heroes, Wild Warg Chieftains, Moria Goblin Warriors, Wild Wargs, Bat Swarms, and Giant Spiders). Between the two lists, you could ally with basically anyone, but if you wanted Durburz in your army (he was the only named hero back then), you needed to run Moria proper (not the other one). In the new version, they've basically eliminated the second list altogether, distributing the wild beasts of Middle-Earth in the Angmar list (for Wargs) and the Dark Denizens of Mirkwood list (for spiders), though thanks to Druzhag the Beastcaller you can include bats, spiders, and wargs in your army (Ashrak also allows you to get spiders), so if you WANT those creatures, you can still get them.

Not much to say about Angmar - they've remained mostly unchanged from release to release. The one major change that I found is this: back in the Legions era, Spectres were D5. In Warbands, they were D6. Now they're D5 again. Coupled with the fact that spears don't augment the front-line guy like they used to in Legions, Spectres have become a lot less powerful than they used to be. Still, they are Terror-causing warriors who can move low-Courage models with ease wherever they want, so having a few in your army isn't bad (though having a lot is probably a waste).

2) The Army Bonuses: Terrifying Orcs vs. Trap Them All!

Both Angmar and Moria have good army bonuses - not necessary to keep them, but they're very helpful. Angmar's bonus is simple: any Angmar Orcs you have in your army that are near a Spirit hero cause Terror. Since Arnor has always had terrible Courage, this is a very powerful army bonus thematically. From a competitive standpoint, I can tell you that it's frustrating when your army of Dwarves (or even Elves!) fails to charge an Orc shield wall, since those who do charge are probably going to be flanked by the Orcs you failed to tie down. Since many of the Spirit Heroes for Angmar also have the Harbinger of Evil special rule, even high-Courage models can have problems charging your dirt-cheap grunts.

Moria, on the other hand, has a good rule if you like your filthy little Goblins: any Moria Goblin in a fight with a Trapped model gets +1 Fight value. In our tournaments here at TMAT, we have yet to have a tournament where Rohan didn't show up (and I don't foresee that happening any time soon). Since Rohan is primarily Fight 3 (though mounted units near Theoden now have an easier time getting a higher Fight value), Moria was always left at a disadvantage having such a low Fight value. With Stab requiring you to take a S2 hit if you lose the fight, having a lower Fight value is still not a great thing, but this new army bonus allows Goblin armies to be able to compete against average models (and sometimes above-average models as we'll see later), making them not only competitive but very dangerous to fight.

The trick is actually trapping figures - after the battle lines get messy, this is less of an issue, but when you're first starting out, it can be rough getting units trapped (especially if you only have 5-6" move). Back in the day, Wild Wargs were cheap units with a lot of speed, allowing you to trap units with ease. With only Bat Swarms and Warg Marauders in the Moria list as high-speed models (both 30+ points per model), I expect heroes like Druzhag the Beastcaller will be far more interesting models to bring along so that you can keep your army bonus AND trap people more easily.

With that, let's get to the lists.

3) The Lists: Angmar

The big question facing Angmar players today (from my prespective) is this: how many Orcs do I bring? Angmar has always been able to spam units effectively (Orcs are only 6-7 points each, after all), but they've always done so with average units (on both the Fight value, Strength, and Defense fronts) who have below-average Courage. Today, we'll be looking at two lists - one that maximizes on numbers and one that maximizes on monsters (though you'll never get away from spamming warriors, I think).

List #1: Terror of the North
The Witch-King of Angmar with Crown of Morgul, 3M/11W/2F - 125
3 Barrow-Wights - 150
19 Angmar Orc Warriors with shields - 114
19 Angmar Orc Warriors with shields and spears - 133
8 Angmar Orc Warriors with Orc Bows - 48
5 Angmar Orc Warriors with two-handed axes - 30

If you read our last post on Mordor, you know that this version of the Witch-King is not particularly strong - he's designed more for casting and presiding over the retreat than the is at killing things (if you want him to kill more, give him a horse). Still, we've tried here to maximize our models and I think we've done it - 55 models is a lot of guys! What this list lacks (and what the Spirit Heroes for Angmar as a whole lack) is Might points - you've only got the 3 on the Witch-King. As such, counter-calling Heroic Moves is going to be hard, requiring your team to bear the brunt of whatever your opponent wants to do. Still, with 3 chances to Paralyze in a given turn from the Barrow-Wights (and an expected 7-8 successful Paralyzes in a given game), taking you the enemy power heroes ought not be that difficult.

We've also chosen to bring some archers along - I do this mostly because if you're going to have someone standing still on an objective, he might as well be able to shoot at someone. Still, you could forego this and bring more two-handers instead - wouldn't be a bad choice. Regardless of whether the bows are a good idea or not, your battle line will be causing Terror - with 19 fighting pairs, you can put 5 spears and 5 shields in each Barrow-Wight formation with 2 Bows in support (to claim objectives, harass, whatever). All told, this will be a terrifying army to fight and your opponent will be hard-pressed to break you if he doesn't bring archery (as charging all your Orcs is going to be very, VERY difficult).

List #2: Monsters of the North
Buhrdur - 110
Wild Warg Chieftain - 80
3 Cave Trolls with Hand-and-a-Half Hammers - 240
1 Orc Warrior with two-handed axe - 6
2 Wild Wargs - 14

Convenient Ally: Moria
Cave Drake - 150

Ok, so you don't NEED a Cave Drake in this army. This kind of list, however, doesn't require the army bonus at all - it only has 1 Orc! What you get, however, is a team of 6 deadly monsters with a handful of backup guys to absorb scatter fire from siege engines. All three heroes (Buhrdur, Wild Warg Chieftain, and Cave Drake) all have a single point of Fate, making siege engine fire very threatening. If you can get your army into combat, though, you're all but unstoppable - three Cave Trolls supported by three power monster heroes means lots of Barging, Hurling, and Rending (not to mention swallowing whole with the Cave Drake) depending on the disposition of your opponent.

This, however is the key - once again, you're limited in the Might that you have (though you have 6 Might in this list, instead of 3 in the previous). 6 Might, while good, doesn't go very far if you plan on winning fights against F6 opponents (against grunts you should be fine, though history has taught me that occasionally the grunts best your highest die). Still, this list is far more fun and very resilient (they'll have to cut down some of your monsters to break you, after all).

4) The Lists: Moria

Moria saw far more changes than Angmar - and some of them, I'll be honest, I didn't like. Let's begin with Prowlers. Prowlers in LOME were a nice spice to add to your team - they came with two-handed axes and Backstabbers - great for adding into a fight as the third model that trapped someone. In Warbands, these guys got better because while you could get two-handed axes, you could instead get shields, making them reliable F3/4+, D5, throwing weapon infantry. They were wonderful. In the new rules, they not only lost the ability to get shields, but they also lost their hand weapon - they now have to use their two-handed axe as a two-handed axe. While I still think they're good to use (spear-supporting two-handers keeps them viable), most of what I feel is regret for that change.

The other regret is the loss of Wild Wargs - with their army bonus requiring you to trap models, the first time the lines engage (when the lines are pretty), it's hard with a slow team to trap people. While you can get Wild Wargs if you take Druzhag the Beastcaller, it's pretty hard to trap people with just Bat Swarms and Warg Marauders (both coming in at 35pts each). It's not a big change (and is better thematically with Moria proper), but still... I could also complain about Blackshields becoming S3 C3 instead of S4 C2, but I never ran them anyway, so I won't. :)

We talked in a previous post about Moria Goblin Shamans (Fury is sadder now), but the other hero to fall sightly from glory is Groblog. In the Warbands era, Groblog leading a ton of Shamans was powerful - your Goblins aren't fleeing and they get a 5+ Fury save without a Heroic Channel. Life is good. Groblog's rule has migrated away from augmenting Fury to providing a possible boost each Fight phase to the Fight Value of the Moria Goblins nearby. This is a very different rule - and lends itself to a very different playing style. Groblog will now be near the front (whereas before I always kept him near the back), allowing your Goblins a better chance at tying Fight Values with better troops (and those Prowlers can get up to F5 if they're fighting someone who's Trapped).

On to some good changes - the Balrog, for example. The Balrog was never worth it - in LOME he was in the Monsters of Middle-Earth team, meaning you needed to ally him in to your army at a whopping 400 points. Ouch. In Warbands, he got moved to Moria but was an Independent Hero, so you still had to bring along a few more heroes (and he was still 400 points). Now, he not only got a price reduce and more rules, but he can lead 18 Goblins, making his whole warband come in at 440 pts with basic Goblins - not bad all things considered. Without Might or Fate, he's still vulnerable but definitely worth it (especially if you like throwing weapons as much as I do). Other models that saw good changes include Warg Marauders (they're more cavalry-like now), but let's get into the lists, shall we?

List #1: Shadow and Flame (and Goblins)
Balrog - 350
2 Moria Goblin Captains with shields - 80
17 Moria Goblin Warriors with shields - 45
17 Moria Goblin Warriors with spears - 75

Okay, I'll be honest - I just wanted to run the Balrog, alright???? For having more than half your points wrapped up in a single model, this army gets to a good size. Naturally, we could substitute him out for 2 Cave Drakes for less points, but we would quickly run out of warrior space. If you do run the double-Cave-Drake build, you can run Warg Marauders or Bat Swarms (since you have more points to work with and fewer warrior slots). Ultimately, we already used a Cave Drake today, so I didn't feel like adding another one. :)

List #2: Troll Horde
1 Moria Goblin Captain with shield - 40
1 Moria Goblin Shaman - 45
9 Moria Goblin Warriors with shields - 45
1 Cave Troll with Hand-and-a-Half Hammer - 80

Convenient Ally: The Trolls
Bill the Troll - 150
Bert the Troll - 110
Tom the Troll - 130

So this list is very different: it runs 4 Trolls - three of whom have Might points. This is not that different from the Angmar list we viewed earlier - in fact, the key difference is the amount of siege engine scatter shot you have to work with. We've taken the Shaman (Fury being sad, I know) because no one has good Courage - no one is going to stay and fight if our Goblins die). Ergo, we need our army to stay together as best it can (and this is my proposed way of doing it).

I know what you're thinking - where's the Goblin Horde?!?!?!?! Okay, we're only reviewing two armies here, so like in the last post, you get a bonus list:

Bonus List: The Denizens of Moria
Durburz, The Goblin King of Moria - 70
Groblog - 50
1 Moria Goblin Captain with shield - 40
1 Moria Blackshield Captain - 45
10 Moria Goblin Warriors with shields - 50
20 Moria Goblin Warriors with spears - 100
10 Moria Goblin Prowlers - 70
1 Moria Goblin Drum - 75
1 Cave Troll with Hand-and-a-Half Hammer - 80

So maybe I should have dropped the Drum for another Cave Troll - let me just say that right away. Since I've covered Trolls so much already in this post, I don't feel like I need any more here. Instead, we're glorifying the Goblins - they're all more Courageous given the Drum (and we get banner rerolls). The Prowlers and Warriors with shields are evenly split - we want firepower! The heroes provided much needed resilience (Durburz), augmented combat skill (Groblog), and Heroic Marches (the captains). All told, with 51 total models, this is a fitting horde!

There's lots more we could talk about Moria and Angmar, but this shall suffice for now. Next up are the Fallen Realms, so watch this space and happy hobbying!