Saturday, October 13, 2012

The King of the Woods: Thranduil

So my good buddy Glenstorm got me Thranduil for my birthday recently. Very, very happy with the new addition. We're going to take a quick break from Goblin month and look at a few of the new stats for the famed hero of Mirkwood. To examine how he benefits my famed Wood Elves, we'll look at his place in the army I'm taking to tournament at the end of the month. Note also that both he and his son can be included in a White Council army.
The Woodland Alliance: 

Galadriel, Lady of Lothlorien - 130 points

*Legolas with armor and Elven cloak - 105 points
Thranduil, King of Mirkwood - 90 points

9 Wood Elf Warriors with throwing daggers - 81 points
11 Wood Elf Warriors with Wood Elf spears - 88 points
4 Mirkwood Guard with Elf bows - 44 points
3 Galadhrim Warriors with Elf bows - 30 points
3 Galadhrim Warriors with Elf bows and Elven blades - 33 points

33 units, 12* Elf bows + 9 throwing weapons, 3 heroes

Stats and Special Rules
Like many Elven heroes, Thranduil has Strength 4, Courage 6, 2 Attacks, and 2 Wounds. Thranduil also sports Defense 5 thanks to his armor and has Fight 6/2+, which is the best base Shoot value in the game (unless you're a dragon with Breathe Fire). Thranduil also has 3M/2W/2F, making him a strong hero by comparison to other heroes of any army. His equipment includes an Elven blade, an Elf bow, and an Elven cloak, besides the armor we mentioned above.
Thranduil has three key capabilities for the army he assists: first, he can upgrade your Wood Elf Warriors to become Mirkwood Guard. The upgrade costs 2 points/model and makes the Fight value of the Wood Elf a 5/2+ (the best Shoot value of any warrior in the game). For 11 points each, a Wood Elf Warrior with Elf bow or throwing daggers could be a powerful tool in the hands of a skilled Elven commander.
The second and third capabilities are found in his Circlet of Kings special rule. The Circlet of Kings allows Thranduil to cast two spells once per game without using any Will points. These spells are cast "automatically" (ruled by Grand Tournament referees to mean that a 6 was rolled), and so resisting them (when possible) is difficult. The spells are:
  • Aura of Dismay: after Thranduil is done moving, all units within 6" of him cause "terror" until the end of the turn. Thranduil is one of three heroes (Radagast and Cirdan) to be able to cast this spell, though he can only use it once. The fact that most Evil units don't have good Courage ratings means that unless your foe has a shaman of sorts, you can ensure that charging the guys in your front-line is going to be hard - really hard. Also, the spell is an augment spell, and so because it doesn't target an enemy unit, it cannot be resisted.
  • Nature's Wrath: this spell is an offensive spell which knocks down all enemy units within 6" of Thranduil at the time when he decides to cast it (not where he ends his movement, like the spell above). One enemy unit who is about to be affected by the spell can attempt to resist it, but if failed, everyone who was targeted by the spell is affected. This spell is great for wounding enemy units more easily and ensuring that they don't wound your units in return for one turn (at least - more on that later).
Using Thranduil: Move Phase
The commander of every Wood Elf army knows that maneuverability is imperative to having a good game - prolonged fights end up taking a heavy toll in most cases. As such, Thranduil's greatest benefit to the Wood Elves during the Move Phase is his Circlet of Kings, which can buy two turns of shooting at your enemy's expense. As your enemy nears your force, casting Nature's Wrath can put them on the ground while your units dance away (staying within throwing dagger range, of course). On the following turn, the units who were knocked over will need to stand up and won't be able to move more than 3" (or 5-6" if they are Wild beasts of various kinds), which should mean that they shouldn't be able to charge you for another turn if you keep backing up. If the enemy has been reduced to the point where you have an advantage when you cast Nature's Wrath, you can charge into them, but this is rather risky (but still an option).
Aura of Dismay is useful as your enemy draws near again, forcing him to pass Courage tests to charge you. If they can't successfully charge you, your units should be able to shoot more or keep parts of your army fresh for the next round. If your opponent chooses not to engage, he will face the punishment that your bows and throwing daggers have to offer. Should the enemy stay out of the 6" range of your throwing weapons, you will be outside of his charge range the following turn (unless he's using cavalry to attack you), buying you an opportunity to shoot the following round. Be sure to kill enemy shamans or war priests before the enemy gets close, as these heroes will defeat this spell without any effort.
Using Thranduil: Shoot Phase
Thranduil's contribution to the Shoot phase is two-fold: his arrows and those of his Mirkwood Guard will rarely miss their targets. Having five shots that hit on a 2+ means that there should be a consistent number of hits on target each turn, and if you're wounding your foes on 5s (as will more often be the case), you're in good shape for a kill or two each turn. Thranduil and his guard will, without doubt, attract attention from the enemy. In this case, it's great that Thranduil has an Elven cloak, meaning that if an enemy unit cannot see Thranduil at the start of his move phase, the unit cannot shoot at/cast magic at/charge Thranduil for that turn - perfect for ensuring that he gets to shoot people with impunity.
Using Thranduil: Fight Phase
Thranduil is very magic and shooting-oriented, but he is by no means lacking in melee skills. To start, the spells that Thranduil casts can be useful in combat. Aura of Dismay makes it unlikely that all of your front-line fighters are engaged. If that front line is composed of spear-armed models, the units who are not engaged can support their friends who are in fights while the bowmen behind the ranks continue to fire. Alternatively, your front line can be composed of your bowmen and those who are not engaged can fire away.
Nature's Wrath provides natural benefits in close-combat: if your opponent wins the fight, he gets up off the ground but cannot wound you. If you win the fight, the unit is trapped and you double your wounding dice - perfect for making sure units die. As I mentioned above, this is risky if you plan to rely on your archery to save the day, as you open yourself up on the following turn (or in some fights that round) to being wounded and losing major casualties.
Finally, Thranduil's fighting profile is not bad: 2 Attacks with Fight 6 and Strength 4 and 3 Might points is not shabby by any stretch of the imagination, but be careful with him: with Defense 5, 2 Wounds, and 2 Fate points, you're not a durable hero. So make sure that the Mirkwood Guard are near their king and ensure he doesn't get ganged up on.
So, those are some preliminary thoughts on using Thranduil. If anyone reading this blog uses Thranduil, I'd love to hear your thoughts on how to use him. In the upcoming Hunter's Red October tournament, I'm going to be bringing Thranduil with my Wood Elves, so I'll be sure to write up what happened after the tourney.


  1. Very impressive - Thranduil has his weaknesses to be sure, but it looks like you have done a good job of covering for those in how you've structured your army and tactics.

    As a fellow Good Army, may the light bless you on your travels in the tournament!

  2. Great article! Nice work illustrating each ability/spell.