Monday, December 24, 2012

Grey Company - Army Summary

Dear Reader,

Hope you enjoyed the last post!  I've really enjoyed taking a step back and thinking about my favorite army, and I look forward to the next two posts as we further discuss the unique civ we call the Grey Company.  In the last post, we discussed the named heroes of the GC force.  In this post, we will discuss the unnamed heroes (that work a lot like regular units), and the limited supply of units available to Arnor.

It is worth noting upfront that when it comes to units, Grey Company players need to take two factors very seriously.  First, you do not have a lot of units in your list.  This means that 1) your strategies are limited, as you only have certain options available to you by the nature of the list, and 2) most of those strategies can be predicted by your opponent well before the match.  This means that most of the tactical work for a Grey Company player is going to come in the spur of the moment - and for those of us who primarily play Warhammer for the adrenaline kick, we wouldn't have it any other way, :)

Second, almost all of your units (with the exception of the Warriors of Arnor, which I'll discuss later) are D4, and will be melee combat if they do not win the fight, so you can quickly rake up losses if you are unwise or indifferent in picking your combats in a given battle round.  Since you will likely have one of the lower numbers of units in a given tournament, a low break point can spell disaster for your force if you are careless with your units.

Unnamed Heroes

Ranger of the North
The Ranger of the North is probably the "rank-and-file" hero of every Dunedain force, primarily because, for 25 points, he does almost anything you could ask for a ranger.  Good shoot value, good fight value at F4, and S4 for killing blows when you need it.  Couple that with D5 and the 1M/1W/1F profile, and you have a hero that can provide a tactical advantage in crisis scenarios.  Heroes like this will never replace the need for an Aragorn or Halbarad, but they provide good all-around support for the list as rank-and-file heroes.

The Ranger of the North is also unique, in that it is the only unit in the game that can purchase the armor upgrade (from D4 to D5) for 1 point - all other heroes purchase it for 5 points.  The Ranger of the North is exactly the same as the Dunedain hero, with this exception: Dunedain are D4, and Rangers of the North are D5.  For those familiar with the Gondor list, picture Damrod (whom you can get for 20 points) with Courage 5 (instead of 4), and the ability to take a horse (6 points) and a spear (1 point).

As a general rule, I would not recommend taking the horse for these models (waaaaay too tempting of an archery target), though I can see the utility in mounting them for greater mobility, the charge bonus, and knocking enemies over when you win the fight.  GW doesn't sell a model for mounted Rangers of the North, so you're on your own as far as that goes, :)

To conclude, these are my favorite units for Grey Company - I highly recommend them in every GC force you build.

Grey Company

I...honestly don't know why this unit exists on the GW website, :)  Except that maybe 1) GW wanted to make a new model for a limited army list, 2) they wanted a Ranger of the North-style unit that had chainmail already cosmetically equipped, or 3) the Perry brothers were just plain bored. :)  Interesting enough, in the new Kingdoms of Men sourcebook, the Rangers of the North profile uses a Grey Company model picture, which seems to indicate that they have been lumped together into one unit: the Ranger of the North.

This unit is the original version of the Rangers of the North (being released a few months before the Rangers of the North blister was released), and have the exact same stat line as the Rangers of the North: 6" Movement, F4/3+, S4, D5, 1A, 1H, C5, with 1M/1W/1F for 25 points (26 with a spear, and the possibility of a horse for 6 more points).  Their usage is exactly the same as a Ranger of the North, because...they're exactly the same as a Ranger of the North, :)

A few of my Dunedain models.
If you want to save 1 point by having a D4 version of the Ranger of the North/Grey Company model, the Dunedain is your man.  At 24 points, the Dunedain is the exact same model as the Ranger of the North, except that it is a D4 unit instead of a D5 unit.  Is there an advantage to this?  Yes - if you are fighting an army that is primarily S3, they will be wounding D4s and D5s on the same roll, so there is no strategic advantage to being D5.  This is especially the case if you find yourself fighting Elven armies (we'll get to their heroes later), where both their archery and their hand attacks are at S3 - when S2 bows (human bows or orc bows) or crossbows at S4 are being used, there is a definite advantage to being D5, as your enemy will wound on 6s instead of 5s for bows, and 5s instead of 4s for crossbows.

In the unlikely scenario that you face Elven heroes, Dunedain (and Rangers of the North/Grey Company can also fall under this as well) have one simple rule:

You shouldn't.

If at all possible, you should attempt to avoid engaging them.  There are a few reasons for this.  First, you have a lower Fight Value, and only 1 wound with 1 Fate Point: chances are, you will not live to see the morning.  Your higher tier heroes may survive (Aragorn and the Twins come to mind), but remember: these units are very expensive, are usually only D5, and in the case of the Twins, they're elves, so I'm not counting them here, :)

In most cases, I use Dunedain as my spear units, paying 25 points for Rangers of the North, and 25 points for Dunedain with spears, giving me more options for spear support, and incentivizing my strategy of keeping them in the second rank for archery protection.  This also allows me to save their Might points for melee combat, which is where I prefer to use them.  Dunedain also cannot take horses, so they are limited to infantry-style units (unlike their Ranger of the North counterparts).

These heroes, unlike the ones mentioned in the last post, form the core of your army's staying power and longevity in a fight, and serve as the glue that keeps the team together.  With all of that before us, let's examine your unit choices in light of these heroes.

Captain of Arnor

The Captain of Arnor is a basic captain: at 50 points, he resembles his Gondorian counterpart, with a F5/4+, S4, D6, 2A, 2W, and the 2M/1W/1F profile.  He is uniquely Arnorian in both his Fight Value (5, instead of the Gondorian and Rohan F4), and in his Courage value (3, instead of 4).  He can be given a bow (for an archer commander) or a shield (for a front-rank commander), which, when coupled with his heavy armor, makes him a capable captain.  If you are looking for a low-cost hero, he may be a good option, though watch his Courage tests: he will not be the most reliable hero for "Stand Fast!" purposes.


Rangers of Arnor
Rangers of Arnor defending a ruin.
For rank-and-file infantry, Rangers of Arnor are a very light unit that can pack a punch.  They boast the typical S2 bow for men, are S3 like most other non-heroes of the race of men, and wear light armor, making them D4.  At 8 points (with the opportunity to use a spear for 1 point), they offer you a very versatile rank-and-file unit.

Unlike most infantry, the Ranger of Arnor has the ability to both shoot at enemies with a 3+ to land a hit, and also boasts the coveted F4, allowing them to beat most Evil infantry, and tie most Evil cavalry and heavy infantry.  Because these units are D4, it is most important for your survival as a Grey Company commander that you keep casualties to a minimum, thus matching up units according to Fight Value - and preferably with banner support.  I'll discuss this further in my next post on tactics, but suffice it to say, keeping your Rangers of Arnor in statistically strong match-ups is a necessity for winning the scenario.

Rangers of Arnor also offer you an opportunity to field both a cheap volley line that can also hold its own in close combat, and the opportunity to field a much larger (or multiple) volley lines.  With 10 units with the same bow required to volley, most civs can only purchase one.  Since every unit in the Grey Company has the same bow, you can easy have over 20 bows in a given scenario, allowing you to fire from very long range at multiple parts of the board.  With your forces then rolling at a 3+ when your enemy closes distance, the Rangers of Arnor becomes a powerful force for whittling an enemy down before they hit your line.

Warriors of Arnor

I have caveated the Warriors of Arnor several times in the last post, and it is high time I explain why.  Warriors of Arnor are the exception to virtually everything in an Arnor force, and while this means that they can fill in gaps that are caused by your other units, they are also highly unwieldy as allies to most GC lists, and are thus not commonly used with them.  You are more likely to see them used in a strict Arnor force than teamed into a Grey Company force, and there are a few reasons for this, which we will discuss under their weaknesses.

Warriors of Arnor work pretty well with Aragorn, the Twins, Arathorn, and Halbarad, but all of those heroes are more independent in their nature, and thus work well with almost any unit.  If you are looking for infantry that will support your heroes, "these aren't the droids you're looking for" would not be a mind trick in this situation.

What is more, the units their contributions to the army.  All Warriors of Arnor come with spears, which is exceptional for easy spear support for your soldiers (as they cost only 8 points, which is the same as a Ranger of Arnor without purchasing a spear).  They have F4, just like the rangers, so there is no reason not to place them in the back...except that they are your D6 units, too.  This means that you will always either waste the spear, or waste the armor.  They don't work well in economizing your points for your force.  Just...yeah.  They don't work well with this list.

What is more, they are less dependable than your other units.  With Courage 2, the chances that a Warrior of Arnor runs is on par with orcs and goblins.  Now, as someone who routinely uses orcs, they don't run as much as I thought they would, but in an army of orcs, your numbers are almost always still okay if 5-6 guys run in one round.  In an Arnor army, though, everyone counts - losing more than a few warriors to courage testing could result in catastrophe in a close game.

Not surprisingly, Warriors of Arnor work best with King Arvedui, primarily because of his 12" "Stand Fast!" to keep them all in line, and his D6 to match them.  Other than that, they will primarily offer you a chance at D6, but that's about it.  They lack a ranged option, so you will take a cut to your maximum bow count if you field them, but that is honestly a fair trade-off for a much higher defense value.  The question really comes down to whether or not you want more firepower at range or more longevity in close-combat.

Hobbit Archers
Originally part of the Grey Company list in LOME, the new sourcebooks have removed the hobbit archers from the army list.  This is bittersweet for GC players for a few reasons.

First, at 4 points per model, a hobbit archer has a 3+ archery value with a S2 bow - which is to say, a Ranger of Arnor for half the cost....  Yeah, take that in for a moment.  On defense (especially in melee combat) this becomes inaccurate, but in firepower at range, there is no difference between the Ranger of Arnor that costs you 8 points and the Hobbit Archer that costs you 4 points.  This is worth remembering.

Hobbit Archers have two major weaknesses, in addition to a third that stems from teaming them into a Grey Company army list.  First, apart from their bows, Hobbit Archers traditionally have been unarmed, meaning that they receive the -1 penalty to winning their fight.  My understanding is that this has changed (thanks for the comment, Tiberius!), so this weakness may have been remedied.  They are still D3, though, have a low Fight Value, and have an even lower Strength Value, which is still an incentive to keep them out of close combat as much as possible, and a serious weakness for a Grey Company force that doesn't have a lot of expendable soldiers for bodyguarding.

They are also not affected by any of the Grey Company-specific special abilities, which creates a problem if you intend to move your forces out as a concentrated unit.  Whereas most GC lists can remain at range and then fight concentrated, Hobbit Archers are primarily restricted to only ranged combat - this means that if your opponent covers his spear support and archers well, you could have units that are virtually useless to you when the fighting gets fiercest.  Be aware of this.

Finally, since they are no longer part of the Grey Company list, Hobbit Archers do not benefit from the unrestricted bow limit of a GC force.  This means that you will need to have non-archer units at a 2-1 ratio in order to field them with your army.  If your aim is to add cheap units, this may not be a problem.  If you are attempting to add durable firepower...this may not be the best unit for you.

As you can see, the list is very limited: most of a Grey Company player's choices come from his heroes.  Probably the biggest tactical disadvantage for this civ (which I'll discuss in-depth in the next post) is that you have no real cavalry options - all of your units are infantry, except for select heroes.  Losing the ability to move forces quickly around the map is something you will have to think through when you play with them, especially if you are used to using wargs, Riders of Rohan, or Gondorian Knights.

That said, though, the units in this list have an amazing knack for survival.  I would encourage you to experiment with different builds/uses for countering different types of forces (archer-heavy civs, cav-heavy civs, horde-based civs, mage-heavy civs, etc.), just to see how resilient the Grey Company list is - for having very "meh" stat lines, this force has a tendency to just not want to die, even against hard-hitting foes.  Take them out for a spin - they just might rock your world.

Watching the stars,


"I watch the stars, for it is mine to watch, as it is yours to remember." ~ Glenstorm


  1. Great write-up Glenstorm. I'll make a note that under the new sourcebooks, Hobbit archers are no longer unarmed. This doesn't help that they're no longer included in the Arnor list, but for hobbit warbands, their melee combat has gotten slightly better than it was.

    1. Good to know - I'm expecting a shipment of them any day now, so that's encouraging, :)