Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Grey Company, Part I - Hero Summary

Dear Reader,

Greetings again from the Forge! I've had greater opportunity to catch up on my painting projects at the How recently, and this week I want to showcase my Dunedain army again. Of all of the armies I play with, I love this one the most, even though they are the most difficult to use, and have the greatest "wildcard" factor to terms of strategy and tactics.  This will be the first of a three-part series on my Grey Company force discussing the various named heroes, non-unique heroes, and units that you can use in a Grey Company and Arnor force, in addition to more of the strategy involved with playing Grey Company, which is arguably one of the most tactical civs in the game.

These posts will also allow me to showcase some of the work that I've been doing on my force in terms of customization.  Some of the pictures are taken from the GW website or a sourcebook, while others (which will be clearly marked) are from my personal model collection.  If there is no caption giving credit for the picture, it comes to you courtesy of our friends at the GW website.

Grey Company: History and Strategic Overview

The Dunedain (from "Dunadan," or "Man of the West," in the Elvish tongue) were the silent, unknown defenders of the Northern Kingdoms of the Free People, including the Shire, the remnant of the ancient Kingdom of Arnor, and the wilderness territories between the Free Peoples and the dark Kingdom of Angmar. Every time I picture the Dunedain, I immediately think of men that are worn by the elements and war, lightly armored, serving in a thankless position against unthinkable odds. And there are times where I feel the same is true for my poor plastic and metal pieces on the tabletop. :)  It's a crazy ride when you roll with the Grey Company, but it's an amazing ride, and well worth the journey.

Most of the lighter civs, likes Rohan, Wood Elves, and Umbar, have good skirmishing options with throwing weapons that do S3 damage at range to soften up the enemy before meeting the enemy in close combat.  You have no throwing weapons with this force, which means your skirmish tactics will involve the "Three-inch Shuffle Boogie" tactic prevalent in the soften-envelope-dispatch strategy that everyone expects of an archer-heavy civ.  That said, your units are capable with their swords (armor is another question), and it is to these that every GC force will ultimately turn when battle rages fiercest.  Remember this.

Grey Company: Units and Heroes

While their army list is very limited in the "Units" category (as we will see in the next post), Arnor boasts a large assortment of heroes, both named and unnamed.  That said, the list is not hopelessly impaired, and the few things that the Grey Company does they do quite capably.  This post will discuss the many routes you can take with the named heroes of the crew, and then we'll discuss the more rank-and-file units that accompany them in the next post.

Heroes
Aragorn, Strider


Aragorn leading a detachment of my rangers.
Though not technically part of the Arnor List under the new sourcebooks, the Fellowship Aragorn is probably the most common ally for any Grey Company army (because, let's face it: sometimes you want an Aragorn that's D6).  I've included him here 1) because he provides an alternative to the Isildur's Heir model, and 2) because he has traditionally been an option for Grey Company armies (ditto the note on Hobbit Archers in the next post).

Aragorn is your typical bruiser hero, able to sustain a good amount of damage, pack a punch against his enemies, and sustain prolonged melee combat with flying colors.  With a free Might point each turn, it is not uncommon to see Aragorn calling Heroic Moves, Heroic Combats, or wounding lots of enemies on a given turn while engaged in melee combat (I have almost never seen him use his free Might point in ranged combat, but it has happened).  As an all-around hero, his F6/3+, S4, D5, C6, 3A, 3H profile makes him a highly formidable opponent even before considering his 3M/3W/3F combination.  Add on the free Might point each turn, and you have a very adept warrior - probably one of my favorite warriors in the game.

Aragorn starts at 175 points, and may be given armor (for 5 points to raise him from D5 to D6), a bow (for 5 points, 24" at S2), an Elven Cloak (to protect him from enemies charging/shooting/casting at him for 10 points), a horse (for 10 points, and makes him more maneuverable, gives him a charge bonus, and knocks enemies over when he wins a fight on the charge).

This Aragorn also sports the chance (unlikely chance, but a chance nonetheless) of using Anduril, Flame of the West: a 75-point upgrade that changes Aragorn's weapon from a hand weapon to Anduril, which is a hand weapon that wounds all enemies at least on a 4+, regardless of their defense value.  I have never seen anyone buy this, though if someone fields a Mumakil, you'd better believe I'll at least try it for kicks and giggles. :)

Aragorn, Isildur's Heir
Most Grey Company players prefer to use Aragorn, Isildur's Heir, and I am no exception.  This Aragorn is more expensive (200 points), and cannot receive the bow (already in his profile), armor, horse, or Anduril upgrades that Strider can.  He can be given an Elven cloak (for 10 points), though I usually don't - frankly, because with as small an army as you will have if you run Grey Company, I'd rather have the extra Ranger of Arnor.

This Aragorn also appeals to Grey Company players because he comes with two very helpful special rules:

  • Chieftain of Forgotten Arnor: Aragorn counts as a banner for all Arnor units within 3" of him, but he does not receive the -1 penalty to your roll to win the fight like other banners do (very similar to Amdur, Lord of Blades in this respect).  This is very good for Arnor commanders, as there is no banner upgrade for any of your standard units (other than Warriors of Arnor, which I'll discuss later).
  • Master of the Wilderness: Aragorn eliminates movement reduction on difficult terrain for those on foot within 6" of him for all Arnor units.
Both of these rules provide a substantial tactical bonus for your force, but I will add this caveat:

It is less effective to team in an allied force with this version of Aragorn.

All of the bonuses just listed will not apply to a Rohan force, Gondor force, Elf/Dwarf detachment, etc.  You still get the advantage of teaming Aragorn with that force (which is a kingly gift to the allied force, no pun intended...actually, maybe it was...), but the two special rules will not apply to them.  They apply only to Grey Company and Arnor forces.

For a pure Grey Company force, though, it doesn't take long to realize the inherent value in a unit like this - being able to move your men like Elves and Dwarf Rangers (all rolled into one rule) across the map is an amazing ability.  Add onto that the fact that you get a 3" banner radius without the -1 to your role to win the fight that usually accompanies a banner is an amazing gift, especially for an archery-heavy civ like the Grey Company.  In the third post in this series, I'll post a few thoughts on tactics and strategy, but for now, suffice it to say that Aragorn, Isildur's Heir is likely one of my favorite heroes for any Grey Company force, and is probably the most useful.

Halbarad

Halbarad Dunadan is one of Aragorn's kinsmen (cousin, I believe), and the only other named Dunedain Ranger in all of Tolkien's lore that makes the journey with Aragorn to Minas Tirith.  He is also one of the cheapest heroes for the Grey Company at 65 points, though he can also take a spear (for 1 point) or a horse (for 10 points), and one other upgrade, that we will take about in a bit.

Halbarad boasts an above-average captain-style stat line: F5/3+, S4, D5, 2A, 2H, C5, with 3M/2W/1F with armor and a bow, making him a powerful attacker, but less durable than your typical rank-and-file captain for most other civs in sustained combat.  What Halbarad sports that they do not, however, is mentioned in the next profile, as I want to dedicate some time to discussing the trade-offs and advantages in upgrading him.

Halbarad (Bearing the Banner of the Evenstar)
Halbarad, a Dunedain (right) and a Ranger of
the North taking positions on a rampart.
At 125 pts, Halbarad with the Banner of the Evenstar is one of the most expensive banners in the game.  That said, paying the extra 60 points is often well worth the investment for two reasons.  First, Halbarad's banner has a 6" radius, which is very rare in LOTR SBG, and when you are fighting with primarily D4 units that have a good fight value (F4), this is very helpful in both keeping your men alive and thinning out the enemy ranks.  The second advantage is that he is the only banner unit that can also use a bow simultaneously (mad skillz for that boy!).  I'll talk a bit about teaming specific heroes with Halbarad in the tactics post, but for now, let me reiterate that this is a good call for virtually any Grey Company army.

The trade-off to the banner upgrade, as you can expect, is that...

He's holding a banner.  

Unlike Aragorn, Isildur's Heir, Halbarad receives a -1 penalty to his roll to win the fight, which means that he cannot contribute a 6 to your rolls without expending a Might point.  His F5 helps to mitigate the effects of this disadvantage, but when facing Uruk-Hai, hero units, and other heavy-hitting characters, the presence of this disadvantage can make the difference between living and dying, so be aware of this.

He also cannot take a spear if he takes a banner, so while he is most effective as a banner in the second rank (increasing his radius over your units), he will do virtually no good (save as a ranged option) unless he is in the front rank, and usually near the middle of your battle line.  Again, this is not necessarily a problem (especially if you team him up with the next duo of heroes, as he can hold the center while they hold the wings), but be aware of this.

In short, this is the tactical version of Halbarad - the other version is the cheaper version, and a better warrior in close combat.

Elrohir and Elladan


My Elrohir and Elladan in their light ranger garb.
As a twin, I've always loved the sons of Elrond - and in LOTR SBG, they are well worth buying.  They are one of three hero sets you much purchase as a pair (along with Murin and Drar from Durin's Folk and Sharky and Worm from Isengard), and any upgrades that you buy for one you must buy for the other.  They boast the standard profile for an Elven hero with F6/3+, S4, F6, D5, C6, 2A, and 2H, and the 3M/2W/2F profile of good (but not amazing) close-combat warriors.  For 140 points, they're a good purchase.

You can upgrade them with heavy armor (for 10 points for both models, raising them from D5 to D6), elven bows (for 10 points for both models, giving them a S3 attack at 24", and the chance to volley fire with other elven bows), elven cloaks (for 20 points for both models), and horses (for 20 points for both models), which gives them a lot of options for your force.

They also have three helpful rules that make them unique within a GC force:

  • Woodland Creature: Like all elves, the Twins do not suffer a movement penalty for movement in a wooded area.  This can be further enhanced in proximity to Aragorn, Isildur's Heir, to include all difficult terrain.
  • Twin Elven Blades: Elladan and Elrohir may chose to use two blades (giving them 3 attacks instead of 2), an Elven Blade (counts as a 2H weapon), or parry (giving the unit the shielding rule).  The Twins are not required to declare the same weapon in a combat - so one could use two blades for the additional attack, while the other uses an Elven Blade for a 2H weapon for wounding power.
  • Unbreakable Bond: If one of the Twins dies, the other twin is guaranteed to pass all courage tests, raises his strength to S5 (instead of S4), and lowers his defense to D4 (instead of D5 or D6 - I am unsure whether this is just a -1 penalty to armor, or whether a Twin would fall to D4 from D6 if they have the heavy armor upgrade).  The remaining twin must 1) charge the nearest unit(s) who killed his brother if possible, and 2) will attempt to kill that unit whenever possible.  He will also charge the nearest enemy unit when the unit that killed his brother has been killed.

There is a lot of versatility in these abilities, though care is advised in working with this pair, as an enemy could draw the Twin far away from the main battle (or an objective) if the conditions surrounding his brother's death are right.  Just be aware of that.

These units are scrappers: your aim is to get them into quick combats that they can win, taking advantage of their high fight value and solid attack numbers, and keep them chomping through the enemy lines.  They are not bruisers, however - with only 2 wounds and 2 Fate points at D5 or D6, they are not nearly as sustainable in close combat as your bruiser-class heroes (think Glorfindel, Celeborn, Elrond, etc. who are around their same cost), and, if ganged, they will fall.  You are forewarned.

The other thing to watch out for (and probably a greater concern, depending on your opponent's army list) is that they only have 2 Will points.  This creates a problem when playing against a heavy spellcaster army (especially Barrow Wights), who can cause an otherwise dynamic duo to be an impotent waste of points.

Malbeth the Seer
My Malbeth the Seer with an archer troop
led by Torchirion (Ranger of the North)
Before discussing Malbeth as a hero, a quick note needs to be made on him in regards to army listing.  If you are an LOME-only player, Malbeth is an allied hero to a Dunedain force, as he technically falls under the Arnor list. If you are a Warband player, Malbeth is part of the Arnor list, and is a hero for a GC army.  Knowing how you construct your army lists, and especially what your opponent is using to build his/her army lists, is important in regards to this unit.  Be proactive in mentioning that you are fielding him, and be ready to work with your opponent to work out potential differences in opinion in the creation of army lists.

With that said, let's discuss Malbeth, :)  First of all, Malbeth the Seer is not a caster: he has no offensive spells, and is not a wizard.  Thus, he does not have a staff of power to grant him a free Will point each turn (like Radagast, Gandalf, and Saruman have).  Malbeth is a man, and thus boasts a standard human stat line: F3, S4, D5, C5, 1A, 2H, and 1M/2W/1F.  As you can tell, Malbeth is not a close-combat warrior by any stretch of the imagination.  That said, he provides an amazing special rule for a Grey Company army:

  • Gift of Foresight: Any unit within 6" of Malbeth the Seer who takes a wound may roll a dice: the wound is ignored on a 5+ (just like a Fate save).

We discussed earlier that one of the great fears of any Dunedain army is its durability and survivability, since most of its units are D4, and most of its heroes are D5.  Malbeth gives a chance (small, but a chance nonetheless) for greater survivability.  For only 80 points, Malbeth is a good option for a support hero, especially in tandem with some of the other support heroes that this list offers.  I don't know too many reasons not to take him, and would highly recommend him for pretty much any Good army as an ally.

King Arvedui, Last King of Arnor


Like Malbeth, a note must be made regarding army listing for Arvedui.  If you are an LOME-only player, Arvedui is an allied hero to a Dunedain force; if you are a Warband player, Arvedui is part of the Arnor list, and is a hero for a GC army.  I cannot reiterate this enough, but be sure to be proactive in alerting your opponent that you are fielding him, and be sure to check on their desires in regards to creating army lists.

Arvedui will likely not cause as great a raucous from your opponent as Malbeth will, because the gaming world as a whole recognizes that Arvedui is a weak hero.  There are very few things that Arvedui does well, though he does certain things better than other units in the GC list.  Especially following the combination of the Grey Company and Arnor lists under the Warband rules, the Last King of Arnor is becoming less and less common in army lists.

Like most human unique heroes, Arvedui has a F5, S4, D6, and C5.  His high defense value is one of his greatest assets in an otherwise overwhelmingly D4 or D5 army, and is not to be ignored when building a GC force.  He also has the standard 2A and 2H, as is typical for a named hero in the 70-point range.  One of Arvedui's weaknesses, however (and probably underscoring the fact that he is the last King of Arnor), is that while he has 3M/2W, like most heroes in his respective range, he has 0 Fate points, which, when you only have 2 wounds and 2 attacks with no chance to shield, dramatically reduces a hero's longevity (even if he is D6).  Other heroes are D6 and lack Fate points (Boromir of Gondor comes to mind immediately), but even Boromir has 3 attacks, a F6 (which should win him ties 9 out of 10 fights on the battlefield), and the shielding rule (not to mention the insane 6 Might points that this guy boasts - what a beast).  For 35 more points, it might be worth it to skip on Arvedui for an army, and bring in Boromir instead as an ally.

One of the reasons to take Arvedui, though, is that he is the only hero in the Arnor lists that boasts the 12" "Stand Fast!" rule, instead of the usual 6" radius for heroes.  Every civ has a 12" "Stand Fast!" hero, and Arvedui is the hero for Arnor.  Thus, Arvedui should be treated like a more fragile captain-style unit for combat purposes, but is much more useful for the tactical role of keeping an army standing once the break point has been reached (and, trust me, friend: chances are you will at least flirt with your break point, if not pass it).  If this is a foreseeable scenario for your GC list, definitely consider Arvedui.

Arathorn
Next we have Arathorn, the father of Aragorn who was killed by orcs, causing Aragorn to be raised in Rivendell.  Arathorn's profile is very similiar to that of Arvedui, and they highlight each other's strengths and weaknesses very well.  In general, I would consider Arathorn to be more of the warrior-class unit, while Arvedui is more of the tactical unit.  Both are comparable in cost (Arvedui is 70 points while Arathorn is 75 points), but they offer different advantages to your list.

Like Arvedui, Arathorn boasts a F5, but also has a bow at a 3+ shoot value, which makes him more helpful in adding to the kill count for a Grey Company force.  At S4, D5, A3, 2H, and C5, he plays like the rest of the Dunedain, though he has 3 attacks compared to Arvedui's 2 attacks.  Arvedui is D6, though, so against S3 opponents, Arvedui has the defensive advantage.  Both are at 2 health, though Arathorn has the advantage of a 3M/2W/1F profile, which gives him a bit of added durability (if a wound should slip through).

From a defensive perspective, the question is whether you want a higher defense value to stop damage, or if you want the Fate point for wounds that slip past the lower defense rating and another dice in combat to attempt to win the fight.  The only other differences between these units is that one can contribute to archery (including volley fire), and the other has a 12" "Stand Fast!" (compared to the normal 6") to keep the troops in line.  You can use either to meet deficiencies in your army list, or to bolster some of the focuses of your list (higher defense value, maximum archery, etc.).

As you can see, each hero for the Grey Company has a purpose - some are more useful than others, but all of them have a use within the context of the list.  In the next post, I'll focus on the units and minor heroes that support the heroes featured in this post, but before I depart, I want to caution you with this warning:

Don't overdo it on the heroes.

There is a tendency to use too many heroes in a Grey Company force.  I would not recommend more than 1-2 of the guys listed in this post, primarily because at the end of the day, you will need killing power through numbers to avoid being trapped and overwhelmed by sheer numbers in a battle.  You are free to experiment, but as a fellow ranger, I will encourage you to place great trust in the units I'll mention in the next post, because they have earned their keep in every game I've played.  They are dependable, so take advantage of it.

Until the next post,

Glenstorm

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

6 comments:

  1. A very good discussion on one of my favoured Good forces...

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  2. Good stuff bro. I've never really delved into Arnor so this was a very insightful writeup.

    one note though - under LOME, Arnor actually cannot ally with the GC (why? who knows...). In fact, they can only ally with Rivendell, the Grey Havens, Minas Tirith and Khazad-Dum. Just a head's up so you can plan ahead for the spring tourney. ;)

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  3. @Scott: I didn't know you played Arnor! I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on them sometime, as I'm very new to them, and still feeling them out.

    @Zorro: ...Okay, that teaming mishap is just stupid, :P I'll be keeping an eye out as the tournament approaches, and see what I do.

    Can GC team with Minas Tirith? If so, maybe I could do a really odd three-way alliance with Minas Tirith as the main, and GC and Arnor teamed in... ;)

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  4. well, looking at the LOME lists a little more, they broke out the older versions of civs into seperate lists, so it actually does make sense. The GC is set looooong after the kingdom of Arnor fell. The Minas Tirith and Khazad Dum lists are also the "older" versions of their respective civs. Basically, think 2nd age civs vs 3rd age civs (or maybe it's technically early vs late 3rd age) - you can't field a combined army that is from two different time periods. That is like fielding SEALs with Vikings. ;)

    So to answer your question, no. GC cannot ally with the Minas Tirith list either (being the "old Gondor" list), but it can ally with the other 4 Gondor lists. Even if it could ally with Minas Tirith, your suggested list wouldn't work because all allies need to be able to legally pair with *all* other allies. This is one of the "perks" of the warband scheme - no ally restrictions and no consideration of theme in army building. Elendil and Aragorn can fight side by side - both wielding the same sword =P

    you really should just check out the army builder yourself sometime. It already has all this information - and Tiberius and I put looong hours into updating it with the new profiles. ;)

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  5. Nice write up. I play both Arnor and grey company, but I don't tend to mix the two, as I feel they are best kept in their own times.

    I love both armies, and as you highlighted, both have strength and weaknesses - my Arnor have beaten many a stronger army with Arvedui as the leader, Malbeth is a must! I played against Mirkwood elves and he managed to save almost every wound from bow fire, luck of the dice, but also the same as might've fury.

    My Grey company is usually led by Arathorn, he is fun to play with, but sometimes I sink the points into Aragorn.

    Halbarad is also nice, the banner helps, but as you said the points cost needs to be considered.

    The biggest issue with Arnor is the courage 2 with the troops, I dread playing Angmar or Fellbeasts as I simply struggle to charge the opponents.

    My strength is in numbers, spear and shield with sword for feinting makes for a sturdy and reliable force, just not against terror!

    Love your write ups, well done and keep it up.

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    Replies
    1. Leonardis, welcome to the blog and thanks for your thoughts!

      I saw a player do a write-up of a chicago tournament he went to years ago (I think it got archived/taken down, can't seem to find it), but he added Cirdan to an Arnor army (90 pts) to cast Aura of Command on him (rarely used as a spell, especially if you're commanding an army of Elves) to make everyone within a really big range pass any courage tests they need to take. Don't know if you've considered him (a pretty costly ally) for your lists, but in 600+ point games, you can probably do it.

      If you do take Cirdan, you can also take 12 High Elves with shields to make that front-line that much stronger...

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