Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Rohan Army Tactics: Tricks of the Trade

Dear Reader,

Greetings again from the Forge! The How has been a busy place, with lots of comings and goings, and not all of them from the world of Tolkien (as you might have noticed from the wolves in the background of my rider picture from the last post, which are definitely not wolves from Isengard or the Misty Mountaints, :D ). More on those and other things in a future post.

I promised some time ago that I'd feature my Rohan forces and some of the tactics I use in a post, and with the TMAT tournament coming up this month, I'm releasing some of my thoughts to our readership for your feedback. These strategies are ones that I commonly employ, and I'd love to hear your thoughts before I bring them out to their first tournament.

Philosophy for Rohan Forces

Before discussing some of the strategies and tactics that I have found effective in rolling with Rohan, I think it's helpful to first lay out my philosophy as a Rohan player, as the reader's thought process and my approach may be radically different. Out of all of the things I have learned from playing with Rohan over the years, three things are blazoned in my mind:

1. High Casualty Count: Your units are light - with a few exceptions, your units are primarily D4 or D5, and especially against Elves and Uruk-Hai, this creates a problem. Being wounded on 4s or 5s is "not exactly conducive to our health," to quote a science fiction rogue I know, but it is an essential gulp that every Rohan player will likely need to make: get used to the idea of losing guys. I have had some games where I only lost a handful of soldiers while taking out dozens of enemies, but these games are rare: in general, prepare for a slugfest, and plan on having to courage test.

2. Bait & Switch: Few armies get the luxury of 6" movement with throwing weapons, and even fewer of those also get shields for additional defense. Rohan's strength is in harrassing forces, whittling them down to a more manageable size, and then closing for an engulfing attack through sheer numbers (because, let's face it: how many armies of good get solid rank-and-file infantry for 6-7 points?). The primary aim of any Rohan force is to remove any spear advantage that an enemy has against them, as it will cause you to lose a lot of soldiers very quickly (unless you shield a lot, which will be covered later).

3. Archery - Or the Lack Thereof: You have archers, and their range is not bad: S2 bows at 24" with a 4+ shoot value. That said, your archers are D4, and have no special rules (like their Haradrim counterparts) to assist them in landing hits more often. More than that, they are not as good as Elves and Dunedain at landing hits on enemies, and are pretty much only useful as a cheap volley line (I'll talk about Outriders in a bit). As I mentioned in a previous post, you should always ultimately read "swordsman" when you read "archer" - they hit more often, and are generally more deadly in that role.

This point deserves further consideration in the case of Rohan Outriders. Someone will astutely point out that Rohan Outriders pass their to-hit rolls on a 3+, and thus should make for more quality archery choices than the Rohan Warriors I have referred to here. First of all, this is true: outriders give Rohan a competent ability to land to-hit rolls on their enemies. They suffer from lower defense (D3, so you have to guard them like Wood Elves), and because of this, I do not prefer using them, as they do not double well as swordsmen. Experience tells me that my archers are almost always assaulted, and I like more durable infantry than the chance of landing to-hit rolls that may not convert into wounds.

Battle Teams - How to Deploy Your Rohan Forces

Now to the fun stuff, :) What follows are some of the tactics I have experimented with, following the paradigm I laid out above.

While Easterling, Gondorian, and your standard "Fist of Isengard"-style armies can afford to place most of their troops in one concentrated block (due to spears, pikes, and halberds backing up heavy infantry), Rohan cannot function like a "regular army": battle teams and small warbands are essential to survival as a Rohan commander. The advantage that Rohan gets, however, is that your units are very cheap, and thus you can generally field more units than your average opponent (Moria being the notable exception, but more on them later).

In this vein, I developed three basic fighting styles, each of which is embodied in a different detachment in my army. Let's examine each of the battle teams in turn.

1. Westfold Warriors

I wanted horsemen for each battle group, with Edoras having the largest number (because, after all, it's Edoras). So I chose two riders that appeared to have the lowest upkeep cost for armaments (simpler helms, leather armor as opposed to chainmail, etc.), and assigned these two to the Westfold fighters. You'll notice that most of the Westfold warriors look pretty tattered and plain: this is part of how I envision them (as Tolkien and Jackson are quiet on the issue), though I give each of my battalions two Royal Guards for durability.

The farmers of the Westfold employ my strategy for taking down bodies of archers: a wide spread of forces (to mitigate the effectiveness of volleying and picking your target), coupled with cavalry. The Scatter Formation is especially useful on an opponent's flank, as the units are 1) hard to engage while remaining in a solid formation (which eliminates the spear advantage), and can easily be obscured by enemy lines and scenery from archery as well. I don't get this option often, but when it presents itself, it is very useful.

2. Dunharrow Detachment

In Rohan's darkest days, it was the men of Dunharrow, led by Eomer, Third Marshall of the Riddermark, that kept the forces of evil at bay. I almost always use this detachment in combat, in part because I love their poses and color theme, but also because, for reasons unknown to man, they are an exceptionally durable troop. In all of the games that I have played, this body of soldiers has either killed its points worth in enemy forces and paid the full measure for the freedom of their lands, or they have refused to die (even if it means successfully shielding 7 consecutive rounds against three Uruk-Hai, on one occasion). In the 19 games that I have played with this full unit, none of them have ever run from battle by failing a courage test, either. I think that's pretty amazing, :)

What the Men of Dunharrow offer the army is one of the tactics I am most well-known for: the Wag. Like a dog's tail, this force is designed to move from one flank to the other, crushing into enemy formations to trap enemies and pepper enemy lines through throwing weapons, a few archers, horsemen, and a captain and banner to maintain their fighting vigor and potency. Placing the banner in this detachment allows me more chances to win in the more critical combats that could change the tide of a battle, and accompany him with some of my strongest units.

I also recommend to all Rohan players that they divide up their F4 units. Units like Royal Guards, Captains, and heroes (like Eomer) should never be situated side-by-side, as it takes away the opportunity to turn more of your combats into Fight 4, as opposed to a Fight 3 combat (and against Uruk-Hai especially, this can make a huge difference, as it will lead to a roll off on a tie, as opposed to an automatic win on a tie in favor of Isengard). Thus, you can see that I have split up my captain and my Guards, but all of them are still within the 3" banner range (which is also optimal).

3. Edoras Regiment

The warriors for Edoras are by far the most numerous, and form the core of the army of Rohan. Usually accompanied by the Huntsman (who is in the back by the volley line), this force relies on brute strength covering for a substantial amount of cavalry, using the Scorpion or "Flying Columns" tactic employed in Ancient and medieval military history. Most of the units from Edoras use throwing weapons, allowing them to form two ranks that will quickly become an extended single rank, providing the length and depth of warriors to surround and trap enemy infantry ranks.

Utilized by Joshua and the Israelites, Hannibal, and many other generals throughout the ages, the Flying Columns strategy presents a solid block of infantry, which will meet and engage the enemy. I primarily use the following detachment, with a heavy emphasis on shielding to keep us alive:

On either side, a body of infantry or horsemen form up to press in on the enemy position, trapping and flanking the enemy units in an attempt to weaken their morale, and force a retreat. In history, this strategy met with wild success, and in Lord of the Rings, the same holds true: when you trap a unit, you double your wound dice, and thus there is a strong advantage in using this tactic (you also remove the spear advantage that other civs have that is noticeably lacking for Rohan). My flanking bodies of infantry especially tend to use throwing weapons to soften up the enemy for the punch, much like what you see here:

This force is most effective against large blocks of infantry (like Uruk or Easterling formations). Archers throw some disorganization and chaos into the pretty ranks of the invaders, and then double as substitutes to fill in casualty gaps, allowing more of the warriors to surround the enemy block. Horsemen close the ring, striking far and fast against the middle spearmen by hurling spears while rushing to the extreme rear of an enemy formation.

And, of course, there are many more formations and deployments that you can do with these battle groups, but these are a few that I use consistently, and can now do with greater success because of the great influx of infantry and cavalry at my disposal.


Now, obviously, these strategies will not help players that rely primarily on Rohan's all-star cast of heroes (from their list or as allies), nor will it prove useful for those who like well-mapped out plans that detail how to adjust the formation or battle group as the fight continues. Each of these strategies is planned up until you engage the enemy in melee combat; from that point on, they are completely organic, taking new nature and form as changes are made to the balance and distribution of your forces. Above all, Rohan is designed for flexibility: they give you a lot of options in the event that a plan fails, so be open-minded to altering your plan to accommodate unforeseen developments in the scenario.

In my next post, I'll discuss some of the tweaks I made to some of my models, as some of the new poses are pretty sweet, and make my army different from your typical Rohan force. I'll hopefully also have some news on these other guys I'm working on (which you got a glimpse at in the last battle report):

(...Oh, and you can ignore the chocolate-colored knights in the back for now - I'll have more on them in a future post, :) As I said, we've got a lot of projects going on right now at the Forge, :) )

Watching the stars,


"Will they follow me?" - High King Peter
"To the death." - Oreius


  1. sweet stuff. I love Rohan's focus on organic motion in battle. I've been trying to adapt it a bit for some of my other forces - which has been fairly successful as of late. I'm looking forward to seeing this force on the field of battle.

    is it just me, or have you added another box of troops to your force? I don't remember it being so large...

  2. Yeah - I added another box. Between the 48 infantry, Eomer and the other 8 riders, my 6 Royal Guards, and a few heroes here and there, I can easily field 1000+ pts in an army now. I'm really excited about this, :)