Thursday, February 28, 2013

Riders in Black: Part 3

A recent comment from one of the admins here at TMAT asked me why a certain Ringwraith scored so low in my first Riders in Black post. While the Riders in Black army that I'm building focuses on using only Ringwraiths, most armies that field a Ringwraith (or two) will be conventional armies looking for a spell-caster to support dozens of grunts or elite warriors. In this post, I want to go through a couple of teams that you can build using all 10 of the Nazgul and present a sample army list that conforms to the warband rules from the new sourcebooks and allows your Ringwraiths to maximize their potential. For commentaries on what spells Ringwraiths should cast an when, look at Part 2 here.

The Bane Of Great Heroes: the Witch King and the Knight of Umbar

Named heroes can have a wide variety of Will points: captains like Haldir and Madril have 1 Will while spell-casters like Elrond or Gandalf can have 3-6 Will points. The key to fighting named heroes is being able to deplete their Will stores and still have Will enough to transfix them, engage them in combat, and bash them to a pulp. If this is your cup of tea, the Witch King is your man. For 100+ points, you can have a 3 Attack hero with 10-20 Will points and 0-3 Might points - plenty of oomph to smash a hero in.

On the other hand, if you want to "fight fairly," you can use the Knight of Umbar. Thanks to his special rules, you can take all of the offensive stats of the opposing hero which aid you and not lose a Will point if you win the fight. Against heroes who traditionally carry the advantage (Boromir, Aragorn, and Gimli come immediately to mind), you can even the playing field if you can spend as many Might points as he does. Against lesser heroes (like Hama or Gamling), you can gain a stat bonus or two and now carry the advantage against them and maintain the upper hand. With 14 Will points (and not always paying Will for the fight you're in), you should be able to slap quite a few heroes.

Sample army list: 601 points, 35 units

Witch King of Angmar with Crown of Morgul and 3M/15W/3F - 155 points
10 Morannon Orcs with shields and spears - 90 points

Knight of Umbar - 120 points
Haradhrim Taskmaster - 60 points
11 Serpent Guard - 88 points
11 Haradhrim Warriors with spears and bows - 88 points

This army unites the high Strength and Defense value of Morannon Orcs under the Witch King with the high archery and supporting spear capabilities of the Haradhrim. The Morannon Orcs can either support their Harahdrim counterparts (if you want Fight 4) or can fight in close combat with the Serpent Guard supporting them (if Strength 4 and Defense 6 are up your alley, keeping in mind that you can always cut out the spears from the Morannon Orcs if you wanted an additional Orc). The Taskmaster helps the Witch King and the Knight of Umbar keep their Might points for as long as possible, as making sure you roll higher than your opponent is key (especially for the Knight of Umbar).

Conquering Lowly Heroes: Khamul the Easterling and the Dwimmerlaik

Though not as offensive-focused as the Witch King, Khamul has elements of both the Witch King and the Knight of Umbar in his special rules. His ability to regain Will points is tied to dealing wounds, not winning combats - making him most capable against heroes with low Fate point stores (like the unnamed heroes of most armies). With the ability to boost his Fight, Strength, or Attack value with a single Will point, Khamul is also capable of getting more than 1 Attack while on foot (like the Witch King) but may choose instead to boost his Fight value or Strength value if the need arises.

The Dwimmerlaik is the royal pain in the neck, neutralizing the effectiveness of enemy Might, Will, and Fate points - perfect against unnamed heroes with a single point of Will/Fate or 2 Might points (care to spend everything you have and not ensure that they'll work when you do?). With plenty of Will points to both fight foes and cast spells, the Dwimmerlaik can exploit the weaknesses of minor heroes.

Sample list: 603 points, 37 units

Khamul the Easterling - 120 points
Easterling Captain with shield - 50 points
12 Black Dragons with shields - 120 points
12 Easterling Warriors with shields and pikes - 108 points

The Dwimmerlaik - 120 points
5 Orc Warriors with shields - 30 points
5 Orc Warriors with shields and spears - 35 points

Though both of these armies could take archers in their armies (and thanks to the most recent FAQs, you could make all of the Easterling Warriors with pikes bowmen), these armies are built for melee combat and speed. Khamul's warriors have excellent offensive profiles (lots of Fight 4 and Defense 6 and options for +1 or +2 Attacks via the pikes). The Dwimmerlaik's Orcs are less capable but blissfully cheap to guard the flanks or lend extra help. The Dwimmerlaik will focus on neutralizing enemy heroes, while Khamul topples enemy rank-and-file units and regains Will points he spends to fight and improve his stat line.

Enabling The Little Guy: the Dark Marshal and the Shadow Lord

An army that likes lots and lots and lots of minions will benefit from having the Dark Marshal and the Shadow Lord. Both of these heroes maximize the resiliency and efficiency of your standard units, which means you can benefit greatly from having lots of units. The Dark Marshal's 6" banner rule for warriors only assists them in making them win more fights. The Shadow Lord ensures that even the least resilient warriors can survive enemy barrages of arrows and arrive intact to fight the war.

Together, these Ringwraiths are very effective. The Shadow Lord has a standard Ringwraith profile, but with 14 Will points he can cast many spells to reduce hero Courage values, transfix them in combat, and target key units with Black Darts. The Dark Marshal has Fight 6, which means that he becomes an excellent close-combat hero when supported by an Orc with spear.

Sample list: 600 points, 39 units

The Dark Marshal - 120 points
The Shadow Lord - 120 points
Orc Captain with shield - 45 points
12 Orc Warriors with shields - 72 points
14 Orc Warriors with spears and shields - 98 points
9 Orc Trackers - 45 points
Mordor Troll - 100 points

The Mordor Troll in this army presents the strength of the list - and with 3 Attacks and a banner reroll, he should be able to pound a hole in most armies. Enemy spell-casters will be targeted early by your Ringwraiths (sap will from two units is awesome), enabling the troll to work wonders against the enemy quickly. There are also 9 archers that hit on a 4+ to support 26 other Orcs that carry shields (and many of those have spears). With Defense 5 nearly across the board, your units will be wounded in close combat on 5s and by many archers on 6s. Consider that you're being hit by archers on 6s if you can stay close to the Shadow Lord and you've got an army that uses an average Defense value that can resist enemy attacks from a distance.

Black Dart Factories: the Undying and the Betrayer

The Nazgul are gifted with the spell "Black Dart." Dealing a Strength 9 hit to a unit (especially if the unit doesn't have any Will points) is absolutely nasty, but to cast this spell usually requires using a lot of dice. So which units can you use to cast such a spell? Enter the Undying: 20 Will points and the ability to regain Will points if other spell-casters cast spells nearby. Spend 3 Will points each turn and still be able to keep casting for 5-6 turns without sweating.

Add to this that you have the Betrayer, who not only increases the poison capabilities of your army, but also casts Black Dart on a 5+ like all the other Ringwraiths (unlike all his other spells). 14 Will points in the Betrayer's profile means 4-5 Black Darts in a game and if you keep him close to the Undying, these can give the Undying 2 more Black Darts, tallying a final tally of 11-13 Black Darts!

Sample list: 600 points, 39 units

The Undying - 120 points
The Mouth of Sauron - 60 points
24 Morannon Orcs with shields - 192 points

The Betrayer - 120 points

6 Serpent Guard - 48 points
6 Warriors of Karna (upgraded Haradhrim Warriors) with bows and spears - 60 points

Both the Undying and the Betrayer assist in making life difficult for everyone with their Black Darts, but the Mouth of Sauron assists them further. If you want him to cause terror, you can keep units from charging him as he cranks through their ranks. The disadvantage here is that you can only use 2 Will points to cast spells after getting Terrifying Aura up. Though 3 spells cast (Terrifying Aura and 2 Drain Courage or Transfix spells, say) will give the Undying 3 Will points if you stay close - and you should, you could always choose to spend your last Will point late in the game if it makes a difference. Alternatively, you could forego causing terror in order to weaken enemy heroes more easily, but the call is yours.

Mob Control: The Tainted and a Ringwraith on a Fell Beast

Managing large numbers of enemy warriors is hard for Nazgul of any kind, but it takes a special unit to make sure that your opponent struggles to overwhelm you. For starters, you want an army that will have a large number of units and some amount of resiliency so that you can protect your Ringwraiths as they damage the enemy. If you want to ensure lots of killing, look no farther than a normal, unnamed Ringwraith mounted on a Fell Beast. Avid fans of the LOTR Strategy Battle Game will know that there are upgraded versions of Fell Beasts which can give you additional Strength and Defense stats. These mounts can be very useful, but for the purposes of this post, we're just going to focus on the standard mount. A Nazgul mounted on a Fell Beast not only gains a Fight 6, Strength 6, 2 Attacks profile, but also gets greater movement, better line of sight for casting spells, and unmatched benefits over enemy cavalry units.

While the Ringwraith on Fell Beast is an offensive tool, the Tainted is a superb defensive hero. Placing him on the end of your battle line will not only make it more difficult for someone to overwhelm the end of your battle line, but those units who choose to engage the Tainted will be wary, as they can be killed before the battle even begins! Once the enemy is broken, the real fun begins for the Tainted as you reduce the Courage of all units within 12" by 1 (thanks to the Harbinger of Evil special rule) and you prevent all friendly units within 6" of the Tainted from benefiting from a Stand Fast! When the majority of the enemy army is rolling with Courage 2 and cannot benefit from a hero's efforts, you should see the enemy rank-and-file flee the field in droves.

Sample list: 603 points, 40 units

The Tainted - 120 points
Orc Shaman - 50 points
6 Orc Warriors with shields - 36 points
8 Orc Warriors with shields and spears - 56 points
10 Orc Trackers - 50 points

Ringwraith with 2M/11W/2F on Fell Beast - 145 points
Orc Shaman - 50 points
12 Morannon Orcs with shields - 96 points

This army mixes the power of Morannon Orcs with the numbers of Orc Warriors. The army sports 10 archers that hit on a 4+, which means the army can land a good number of hits from a distance against an average army. Once in close combat, 26 Defense 5-6 Orcs await the enemy's advance. With the aid of the Fell Beast on the offensive end and the Fury of the shamans on the defensive end, you have the capability to resist some damage and deal a little extra. Should your army be broken, the special rule of the Tainted will not hurt you, as your Orcs should be benefiting from the Fury of the shamans - not a Stand Fast, but a spell!

In summary, these are five pairings of Nazgul that can be used with conventional armies. Some pairings may play more to your style than the others - and maybe in reading these sample lists you've thought of "better" army builds. If you have a better army list than one provided here (or a different pairing that utilizes the special rules of the Nazgul in a more creative way), please leave them in comments!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Urban Combat Scenery: What Do You Think?

Dear Reader,

First of all, a major shout out to our loyal fans who have now pushed us over 18,000 views! :)  Seeing the interest you all are generating in our site keeps us going, so thank you for that, :)  I thought about not doing another scenery post (as I'm badly wanting to get some battle reports in), but as we head into 10 days before the TMAT Grand Tournament, I thought it would help you all (and the other competitors) to see some of my ideas for an urban combat board.  After hours of painting, lots of shuffling things around, and carefully measuring out parameters for how the scenery would work, I came up with a rough sketch that will serve as a guide for how the field could be setup for a tournament game.

For the walkthrough today, Captain Terrek and his troop of Osgiliath Veterans have graciously allowed me to use them for demo purposes, and they will be joined by random members of my Chill of Angmar list (just to spice things up).  I hope that you find this walkthrough helpful for how I'm envisioning the dynamics of the board to work.

Setting: The forces of Good and Evil have been locked in siege combat for weeks.  The final assault is approaching, and victory will be determined within the rubble.  The camera pans back for a wide shot:

And we have what remains of the town!  As you'll notice, I varied the board into a more "open" section (the lower half) and a more "closed" section (the top half), to give outlets for various styles of play, depending on the force.  The five warriors at the bottom also show you the length of the coffee stirrers that you'll see in the post: they are around 5.25" long (almost 5.5").

As you can see, the board does not use all of my terrain pieces.  I've set aside various pieces either for other boards that may want some additional flavor, or in case we believe that the scenery is too sparse, and we would like more walls.  All of the pieces except for the smial could work in this scenario, so we have a lot of options.  The board is setup with the following parameters in play:

  • Scenery is 8" away from the left and right board edges, and 4" away from the top and bottom board edges (which you can see from the tape measure in the first picture)
  • A wide road (at least 4" wide) goes cleanly through the center of the city, giving ease of access for mounts of almost every size (we'll talk about Mumakil in a bit)
  • The bridge is in the center of the map

Other than that, I didn't give myself any parameters in how to plan the city.  For this setup, I decided to create four separate segments of town.  We'll go around and view each part in turn:

1.  The Courtyard
For the courtyard, my theory was to create a space near the gate where horses could be watered, people could gather, and a random statue could look stoicly down on those who did the former two.  The statues are also conveniently posted in five spots in the town: one in each quadrant, and the fifth on the bridge (more on that in a bit).  This is not required, but in case we wanted to do a Domination game here, I have some thoughts on that later.

The courtyard represents one of the most open portions of the battlefield.  The battlements of the barracks look down on the courtyard, and the space would be a terrible place to be caught in a firefight.  The barracks, on the other hand, is quite the contrary.

2.  The Barracks
The barracks represents the hold of strength in the city, and rightly connects to the bridge that leads into the more domesticated part of town.  Within this area, we find rubble from the bombardment (as the bombardment would likely have been the heaviest here), as well as strong fortifications and open archways for ease of access.  I've been thinking about making weapons racks, so we'll see what the next 10 days bring.

The chances for fighting on the battlements, on the ground level, around the rubble, and from the bridge gives this section of the board the most opportunities, and a small chance for fortification against the other sections of the board (if you can seize it).  From below, someone on the battlements easily gets a cover save; almost nowhere receives a cover save from the LOS of the battlements.

Since these guys were in the shot, I thought I'd zoom in on my newest additions to my army: my Orc Trackers.  I had fun painting these guys, though I'm at a loss for ideas on customizing, as they are pretty straightforward poses.

All of the statues in the town, by the way, are 18" apart (more or less; I had to move one because it landed it in a precarious position on some brickwork), which would mean that they would be closer to each other than your normal Domination game if we did it in the town (though, I'd argue, that would actually play well to the strengths of this type of map).  For non-Domination games...this just means that you have statues about 18" apart, :)

3.  The Bridge
Okay, so I know what you're thinking: "Glenstorm...uh...that's the bridge?  You're joking, right?"  Yes, I am - the bridge is still IP, so these coffee stirrers are standing in for me today.  The final bridge will likely be a foam/spackle bridge that will have a ledge jutting out from the side for the statue to stand on (so that he is not in the way).  What I want to spend some time emphasizing in this section, though, is the height, width, and placement of the bridge, and how it can factor into the scenario.

Up top, as you can see, we have options for shooting the poor warriors on the bridge, with some sides being more favorable for protecting your archers.  You can also see the spacing for the bridge: I'm thinking of keeping it for 1 (maybe 2) models tops, primarily because I don't want it to take up over half of the top battlement space overlooking Main Street.  Quite the contrary, I want the bridge to be an option for you to exploit, but not overwhelming both of the scenery pieces that support it.

Underneath, Terrek and his men were kind enough to demonstrate the spacing of the building around Main Street (and, as you can see, he's very brave to do that!).  4" provides room for 4 infantry, as well as 2 40mm bases and 1 25mm base (as evidenced by the orc and minotaurs, who are standing in for cav units).  The height of the buildings is such that mounted units (and trolls and such) should not hit their heads on the bridge, though this is no reason not to exercise caution when you move models under the bridge. :)  This should provide larger blocks of infantry, battalions of cavalry, and all shades of heroes with a good amount of room to maneuver.

What is more, you'll notice that both sides of the terrain pieces are open, like an aqueduct: this allows swarm armies to still employ their strategy, helping to alleviate any advantages that may come from restricted deployment.  Obviously, there are some tactical advantages to marching large hordes of guys down Main, but my intent is to keep it from being overpowering and "unfair" to non-spear and non-pike civs.  Feedback would be wonderful.

My thinking is that if this were used as a domination game, both the units below and on the bridge would count as within 3" of the objective, forcing more combat over the center objective than just fighting over the bridge.  In an Arkenstone game, I figure that the measuring would work similarly.  In a To the Death scenario...I expect generals to do whatever pleases them on, over, and around my bridge, :)

4.  The Marketplace
Not nearly as exciting as the bridge, I know, :)  The bottom left corner of the map will be the old marketplace, which I always envisioned more as a "swap meet"/"flea market"-style area, rather than a hardcore marketplace, so it is more open.  Most of this area has been leveled, with a number of walls and hastily created barriers lying where trade carts used to be.

5.  The Manor
And finally, we have the shattered remains of what used to be the old manor house.  Some of the steps remain, as does the statue that stood near it, but otherwise everything has been washed away in the tide of war.  If I were to throw in the fallen pillars or statue, I would do it here, as it would help to build this scene.  For now, I've kept them off the board, in the name of going for a battered look, not a cluttered look.

You will also notice near the bottom left of the screen a small tower of sorts: this is conveniently large enough for bases to sit on (max two, if you remove the barrel), to provide just enough of a perch for an archer to cover the bottom section of the map, and can also support into about half of the bridge (and naturally all of the battlement on the southern approach to the bridge.  The wall is not so high to provide cover for the archer (unless he's kneeling), hence the barrel.

So, anyway, those are my ideas for an urban board: still room to maneuver phalanxes of infantry and units of cavalry, but more restricted, and with set lanes for archers (rather than a clear field).  Now, if you bring a Mumakil to war here, I'll be honest: you'll likely be stuck primarily in that 8" section on either side of the board.  That said, 24" will cover past the bridge on either side, and there is no cover from the howdah LOS on either side of the board.  This means you likely won't be able to use your trampling ability, but you should still get some work out of your units on the oliphant.  If you're unhappy with that, we can talk about how to rearrange the map...or I'll just be honest: you ought to know better than to try to navigate a mumak in a town, :)

One of the things I like about this map is that it is full of options.  There are innate advantages to heavy armor civs, archer-based civs, horde civs, hero-based civs - you name it, and they can be combined to both assist each other and used against another force if planned correctly.  But those advantages can vary in their effectiveness based on the scenario, giving an extra set of wonder to what will transpire within these battered walls.  I suppose only time will tell.

Until that time, may you remain, as ever,
Watching the stars,


"We watch the skies for the great tides of evil or change that are sometimes marked there." ~ Firenze, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Riders in Black: Part 2

As promised, the second post in this series is going to be a magical tactica post. To be clear, most of this post is going to focus on what spells should be used by Ringwraiths in all-hero games. The end of this post will discuss how the spells can be used to assist conventional armies that have a Ringwraith or two in them (for those who don't want to count the number of units you field on one or two hands).

1) Types of Spells

There are three kinds of spells that I've found with Ringwraiths (though I've only played two unrecorded games with my Ringwraiths): "weariness," "enfeebling," and "red button." Each has a time during the game to use and some require more work than others to work properly. Not each type is created equal and spells within each type are not equal either, since the value of each will be determined by the units in your opponent's army and your mission objectives.

2) Weariness: Preparing your enemy for slaughter

Drain Courage
This spell (cast on a 2+ by most Ringwraiths) is perhaps the least appreciated spell in the Nazgul's arsenal. It's rules are simple: if the targeted unit fails to resist the spell (or just lets the spell go), the unit's Courage rating is reduced by 1. Multiple castings of this spell on the same target stack on each other and this is the power of the spell. With several Ringwraiths casting this spell (and rarely failing), a single hero will be hard pressed to be able to keep his Courage rating high. Let's take a look at an example...
Gandalf begins the game with Courage 7, perfectly capable of charging any of these Ringwraiths if he chooses - and he stands a good chance of living if allowed to fight with his basic profile. Once Gandalf is within 12" of the Ringwraiths (spell-casting range), he will be reduced to Courage 6 because of their Harbinger of Evil special rules (which don't stack). If these 2 Ringwraiths cast Drain Courage on Gandalf and are successful in casting them, Gandalf has two choice for each spell: he can let the spell go and suffer a hit to his Courage rating or resist with a Will point (or two, but likely he won't use more than 1 Will on any of these spells). If he lets them go, his Courage will soon be so low that he will struggle to complete a charge against the Ringwraiths without burning his valuable Might points. If he resists them, he will have less Will to resist other spells (like Transfix). Either way, your Ringwraiths win if they can keep their distance.
Drain Courage is an easy spell to cast and can be useful in keeping heroes from being able to charge your units unless their dice do the work for them in their Courage test. It's important to keep in mind that you can't completely stop someone from charging you with this spell, since a roll of 10+ will successfully charge your units no matter what you do. You can still, however, drive the probability of success so far down that at least a few heroes (let alone units) are able to charge your lines.
Sap Will
Sap Will is the most effective way to defeat an enemy unit with magic: if successful, this spell reduces your opponent's Will store to 0. Without Will points, your enemies will be powerless against your spells, unless he is "Resistant to Magic" or otherwise gains free Will points (more on this later). Within the gaming circles here at TMAT, we've discussed banning this spell from being used against units who depend on their Will store to remain in the game (other Ringwraiths, Castellans of Dul Guldor, or Sauron the Necromancer, for example). We've decided that, at the end of the day, the need to make a rule on the subject isn't necessary. First off, only if you allow evil to fight evil will this become an issue (and most of the time, we play Good vs. Evil games...though that historical trend may change with the new TMAT tournament). Second, part of the nature of choosing your army when you enter a tournament that allows Evil vs. Evil is knowing that you could face a Ringwraith or some other unit that has Sap Will and could kill you outright. Finally, if both players have Ringwraiths with roughly equal Will points, it may be in their best interest to not bother each other (like, if they need to focus on the enemy power-house heroes and monsters).
The utility of Sap Will is dependent on your target: the more Will points he has, the greater the drive to cast it. If your opponent has 0-2 Will points, let me submit that casting this spell is worthless. Since Sap Will is cast by most Ringwraiths on a 3+, you are likely to get a roll that requires 2 Will points to comfortably resist, which would end up being all of the target's Will points. You can get the same result by casting Drain Courage constantly or Transfix (more on this in the next section). Against targets that have 3-4 Will, Sap Will is great to cast once and only once (basically, until you get the target down to 2 or less Will points). Wizards who have 6 Will points each are prime targets for Sap Will not only because they have so many Will points, but also because they use Will points to cast devastating spells.
"Your Staff Is Broken!"
This is the rare spell of the bunch that only the Witch King of Angmar wields: on a 4+, the Witch King can take away the benefit of a "Staff of Power," wielded by a wizard (Gandalf, Radagast, or Saruman). I don't think I need to say that your use of this spell is going to be rare, but I also need to note that it should only be cast after you have sapped the Will of your target (making it unlikely but still possible that he will be able to resist the spell without Might points because he'll only have 1 dice to resist a spell that will be cast on a 4+).

3) Enfeebling: Taking the teeth from the dog

Transfix is the work-horse of most spell-casters in the ranks of Evil (and its twin, Immobilize, by spell-casters from the forces of Good) and remains the most effective way of dealing with heroes, monsters, and elite units. The spell is handily cast by most Ringwraiths on a 3+ and cripples an enemy instantly: the target cannot move/shoot/ cast magic, the Fight Value of the target is reduced to 1 (which will lose a tie against any of your heroes), rolls no more than 1 dice to win the fight, and doesn't strike wounds even if he manages to win the fight. There are few heroes in the game who can't kill a Ringwraith during the course of the game if he can attack one at his normal profile, so Transfix is great for keeping heroes from gaining their points back.
When you mount your Ringwraiths, Transfix gives you a greater benefit: not only does it make you more likely to win your fight, but you can also make sure that your mount is immune to attacks from your opponent. This is a comfort if you depend on your mounts for additional attacks throughout your army.
Compel is a specialized form of Transfix: this spell is 1 grade harder to cast (4+ in most cases) and does the exact same thing as Transfix except that you also get to move the model half of its Move value. Generally speaking, this spell is not very useful in an all-hero force, unless you need to bring a model in charge range of your power hero (like the Witch King). Compel is also valuable against units that provide strategic benefits: move a banner-bearer 3" and he won't be aiding any fights unless he was touching someone before he started moving. Except in these rare cases, use Transfix.

4) "Red Button:" Instant death for an unlucky soul

Black Dart
The Black Dart is the universal hard spell for a Ringwraith to cast and by far is the most dangerous spell in their arsenal. If successfully cast (requires a 5+ for all Ringwraiths), the target receives a Strength 9 hit, perfect for dealing with most heroes and warriors. Since most units are going to be wounded on a 3+, your ability to kill a few units is certainly a possibility, though I'll emphasize that it's not a guaranteed wound, so don't be surprised if you get a bad roll and fail to wound your target.
Black Darts are best used against warriors instead of heroes. A basic captain will have 2 Wounds and a Fate point (maybe more, in the case of Erestor or Hasharin), which means you will need to spend 2-3 turns trying to kill this unit if you wound him each time you cast the spell (longer if you mess up the casting or wounding rolls or if he successfully blocks the spell with his Will point - or 2 Will points in the case of Eowyn or a Dwarf King). During those 2-3 turns, you could instead be casting Transfix (with a single dice instead of two or three dice), keeping him from killing any units and possibly killing the hero with the strength of your other models (Ringwraiths or warriors in a conventional army).
I'm not going to recommend that you never use Black Dart against a hero, but if you are going to need to work to make sure that the spell's effects are felt, make sure that you feel the results immediately. There are five categories of models that top the list of models that should be wounded with a Black Dart (in no particular order):
  • Warriors with banners - these warriors not only lack Fate points (as a general rule), but also improve the capabilities of warriors and heroes alike. The benefit also of these units is that you can pay for much of your cost by killing these units if the banner is lost. If it isn't, some other unit who was intended for a purpose is denied his equipment in order to wield the banner.
  • Warriors that have Strength 4 and the Bodyguard special rule - units like Dwarf Khazad Guards are dangerous: not only can they automatically pass their Courage tests if their sworn lord is still alive, but if they can win the fight, they will wound your Ringwraiths on a single dice (6+ with hand weapon, 5+ with two-handed weapon). Though a single Khazad Guard is not likely to kill your Ringwraith quickly, in large numbers, these guys are quite dangerous.
  • Warriors that have either Strength 4 or the Bodyguard special rule - As noted above, both of these elements are capable of driving a Ringwraith to death (in the Bodyguard rule's case, this doesn't even require winning a fight in most cases). Units to be wary of include Rohan's Rohan Royal Guards and Sons of Eorl, both providing one of but not both of these requirements.
  • Heroes who have 1 Wound and perhaps a Fate point - Heroes like Damrod, Dunedain, or Rangers of the North are blessed with Might points to help their rolls be more effective. On top of this, their Courage ratings are typically good and they have Strength 4 to ensure that they wound your units on a single dice. Taking them out swiftly can make the difference between life and death for your units (and they tend to be pricey, so more valuable in gaining your cost back than basic warriors).
  • Warriors with Strength 4+ ranged weapons - Like Strength 4 units mentioned above, these units bring the advantages of Strength 4 or greater (wounding on a single dice) but do not require charging your heroes. Given enough time and enough fire-power, you can suffer heavy casualties (or spend much of the defense you need for close-combat later in the game).
5) Integrating these strategies into a conventional army

Ringwraiths are great tactical units and can support conventional armies just as well as supporting each other. My recommendation is that you look at using only three spells when supporting a "normal" army (maybe four if you have more than one Ringwraith in the army):
  • Drain Courage: during the early phases of the game, Drain Courage not only protects your Ringwraith (and other terror units) from being charged, but also reduces the ability to cast Stand Fasts! during the late periods of the game. You can also reduce the Will available to resist more powerful spells later in the game.
  • Transfix: classic spell, useful for taking care of dangerous heroes and capitalizing on the numbers you can bring to bear on your foes.
  • Sap Will: follow the guidelines above, but this spell allows you to neutralize power heroes and tactical heroes. You can get a lot of mileage out of your Ringwraith by killing one or two epic heroes by sapping their will and then transfixing them.
  • Optional - Black Dart: the problem with Black Dart is that to be likely to cast it in the first place (that is, over 50% chance of casting it), you need to spend at least 2 Will points. Cast that a few times and most Ringwraiths will be spreading themselves thin and will have only dealt a wound or two. If, however, you have multiple Ringwraiths in your army, you can get away with casting it a few times (once or twice each) in order to pick off elite units or banner-bearers (or gang up on a hero who is attempting to race around your ranks into your wraiths).
In Part 3 of this series, we'll be looking at combinations of Ringwraiths, focusing on supporting a conventional army. Until then, happy hobbying!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Scenery Update 2

Dear Reader,

Greetings again from the Forge!  Scenery pieces are pouring out of my ears over here, and the creative juices have been flowing like the Brandywine River (which flows pretty swiftly, in case you haven't seen it for yourself).  Today's post will examine three pieces I've designed from scratch, which may or may not make an appearance at the upcoming TMAT Grand Tournament this March, as well as an update on two of the pieces that was still "In Progress" from my last post.

1.  City Well

You all have seen the well in several battle reports and tactical posts in various stages,but I finally broke down and put the masonry into it.  I started by spackling it all around (except the interior), and then followed up with another layer once the other dried, so that I'd have a hardened core before cutting into it.  I then used the spackle knife to cut straight(ish) ridges into the side to form the mortar between the stones...

I painted over it with Mechanicus Standard Gray, and here is the result:

And just like that, you have a simple well!  I'm still deciding what to do with the interior (water?  If so, how?), so we'll see what happens.  For now, it will serve as a welcome refreshment to a weary traveler, and a good plot-developer for an encounter with the unkind....

2.  Statue of the "Axe King"

The original statue bears a scroll, and comes with the Ruins of Osgiliath set sold by GW.  I took one of my Fantasy Minotaur axe heads and glued it on like so:

I then painted it up, and viola!  We have a new statue.  I also took my Agrax Earthshade wash and textured one of the "Sword Statues," giving him a bit more "wear and tear" than his purely white counterpart:

Very straightforward, very easy.  I didn't notice until I glued on the axe that there is a skull on the back of it - I"m still debating on whether to take it off, or leave it on (orc defiled it, :P ).  We'll see in coming posts.

3.  Mound of Rubble

Ever wanted to do a fight in a city, and have some "wear and tear" that shows that this is not the first assault that these forces have made at each other?  Glenstorm's plan: throw a few piles of rubble here and there.  This piece was actually inspired by a mound that Tiberius made (and we have used in a couple of battles with each other, most memorably for me in a skirmish between the Wood Elves of Galadriel and the Space Wolves of Ragnar Blackmane, but we won't revisit that memory...).  I started with a mound of styrofoam glued together, attached to a (you guessed it) Pop Tarts box piece (because it makes for convenient grounding for terrain pieces).  I then painted over them with Skavenblight Dinge Gray, and then glued a few of the extra bits from one of my Minotaurs under part of it, just for a little more character:

And just like that - a terrain piece that will add a bit of color and splash to any scenario. :)  I then painted up the Minotaur, and the current product looks like this:

4.  UPDATE: Lord of the Rings Scenery Pieces

In my last post, I noted that my scenery pack from GW hadn't arrived yet.  Here's an update on what those pieces look like:

As you can see, I have a number of simple "L" walls (three in White Scar White, three in Mechanicus Standard Gray), a number of broken pillars and statues, a campfire with Rohanesque weapons next to it, and a scary statue, all painted up and ready to roll.  Nothing amazing here, but definitely a lot of options for spicing up a dull battlefield somewhere in Middle Earth.

5.  And the Surprise Piece...

Pretty quaint and comfortable, right?  :)  This is the "In Progress" piece I'm most proud of, as it is 1) completely of my own design (though I looked at a lot of concept art as I designed it), and 2) can be made by anyone.  Don't believe me?  Here's how I did it:

1.  Take a large piece of foam, and cut a semi-circle out of it, using a Sharpie to trace your line, like this:

It's going to look rough after cutting it; mine looked like this (sorry for the blur):

That's okay - we'll smooth it out next.

2. Spackle over that, aiming for overcompensating in terms of spackle used.

Spackling does two things for you: 1) it provides a layer that we can then sand down evenly to give it a smooth, sloping look, and 2) it gives us something rigid and hard that can absorb the paint and glue that we'll use later, rather than the porous surface of the foam.  Overcompensating on the spackle allows you more room to work with so that you can perfect the slope and texture of your hill.

When you are done spackling, you should have the proper shape with a number of ridges and extra bumps everywhere.  Unfortunately, I moved directly into the next step before taking a WIP picture, so there's no pic here.  Now let's take care of those ridges...

3. After letting it dry (I let mine sit for a few days, just to make sure it took well to the foam, which was my major concern), I sanded it down very, very, VERY carefully (mine took only about 10 minutes, though you need to be careful not to sand too far, and not to sand too hard, as you'll break off spackle chunks - which you can see happened to mine), until you get a more smooth, sloping surface.  Base paint and texturize:

It doesn't have to be completely even - if you add hobby grass, the small anomalies will be covered easily.  I'm thinking I'll add hobby grass to the top and edges of it, though I'm currently price checking hobby grass to find good deals on it (as I'm not impressed with how much this could cost for fake grass...).  For now, I'll settle for this, :)

5. Fashion a door, which I did by cutting out a cardboard circle from a Pop Tarts box (predictable, I know), and then gluing bits of coffee stirrers to it:

7. And build a fence and sill (I like to use coffee stirrers, as they're thinner than the popsicle sticks that Tiberius uses, and highly pliable, so you can make rounded fences.  They are easy to grab on your way up to work, so it doesn't cost you a penny), coupled with some bricks from one of those Ruins of Osgiliath I own:

...And you're done!  It took me about 2 hours to do (not including spackle drying time), though I'm guessing that it will be faster now that I know what I'm doing.  Expect more of these with a few changes to them as we head into the summer months (my ETA of when I'll get to Smial #2 and Smial #3), as they will complement some of the new units I'm adding to my army.

So, anyway, a few projects we've been working on over here, :)  Hope you've enjoyed it!  Now back to getting my army spruced up for a tournament and making some final conversions,

Watching the stars,


"We watch the skies for the great tides of evil or change that are sometimes marked there." ~ Firenze, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Monday, February 18, 2013

Dol Amroth for Gondor!

"Nahhh... I don't want Amroth. I don't like their goofy looking helmets." *facepalm*

So after acquiring a box of mounted Dol Amroth knights, I threw my current plans for my Gondor army completely out the window. And now? Oh-ho-ho, am I glad I did! Why? Cuz they are fun and awesome, thats why!

Actually a very good pack. With some attention paid, you can easily make each model unique using only the materials that comes in the set. (and still have some leftover goodies for fun elsewhere)

For a single point more than the basic Warrior of Minas Tirith with shield, a KoDA gets an extra fight value, an extra courage value, AND a special rule that counts them within range of a banner if Prince Imrahil is within 12"! wow... And yes, there are those who find these little bonus stats quite frustrating. llew hO. What are you gonna do?

"I will charge you and kill you
whilst you fall over laughing at me!"
(of course they are finecast now.
No comment on that yet)

So I've got the cav. Now what?
I didn't want to just go out and buy a bunch of foot knights for several reasons.
1) I don't like the giant spires floating out of the side's of the KoDA's metal minis head's... I think they are ugly. plain and simple.
2) I didn't really feel like investing in the steep priced foot models, me being less then enthusiastic about the way they look, and deciding against it. Not to mention, they're hideous... did I say that already?
3) In simple mathematics for ya we have:  1+2 = 3... take this a little further - it gets a little complicated. we need get into derivatives here... but just skipping to the end... - we are left with this final equation: 3 = nope.

With the math out of the way I now need to decide how to proceed. hmmm... well, my buddy Zorro is having all kinds of fun converting mini's and making works of art by hewing up these poor little guys and putting them back together in cool ways. So I thought, "meh... why not give it a go." So with modelling putty in hand, a pile of numenorean volunteers bought off ebay, and a knife, I started making plans for creating my very own Knights of Dol Amroth... (They really need to come out with a Working on Tiny Little Miniature Human Gamepieces That Are Smaller Than your Fingernails for Dummies. I would have bought it. If anyone's a dummy when it comes to this stuff, its me... But... As of yet, they have not. So I was largely on my own)

The most noticeable detail of the KoDA's is the helmet - I have already expressed my feelings on that - Easily the second most important detail is the shield. By a stroke of dumb luck, the shape of the Amroth shield and the Numenorean warrior's shield is identical. I only noticed this after already committing to the plan. But it worked out well. (Now of course you still have the Numenorean insignia, but that really isn't a problem)

Once again, I did not take any WIP pix. So I will describe the steps I took.

The helmets were built in two stages using modelling clay. But first, I prepared the models... er... that is I tore up their current helmets.
Step one: Cut off those stupid 'cat ears'

From here I spent an eternity cutting out little wing-shaped pieces from a sheet of cardstock... Imagine trying to cut a a complicated shape, that's about the size of a tick, out of a piece of paper... Now cut out 16 of them... You feeling me?..  But hey! No worries here! My psychiatrist taught me a great little trick in case I have another screaming spell. Its alllll good.   

So with the wings all cut out (I had to cut out a few extra... I'm sure we have all experienced moments when those tiny little modelling pieces go rocketing over the horizon after the slightest little nudge... or even an exhalation that was a little too strong) I now got out the modeling putty and unleashed my creativity!

On the first stage I glued the wings on to the helmet and shaped the 'dome' look with the putty. Once dry, I carefully applied another layer and shaped the features of the helm in the signature Amrothian style.

Other modifications that I made were basic, easy stuff like applying a generous amount of putty to the chest to create the breastplates. I also spread a thin layer of it down the right side of the models hip/thigh area and poked a myriad of tiny holes into it with a pin to create chain-mail. Or my favorite, I modeled the 'wing' thigh-guard  armor piece over the upper corner of the tunic.

Final product. (yes, of course I'm showing you the best helmet job) hmmm... You can't really see the thigh-guards.. oh well.
With all the modifications to the mini itself complete, I just now needed to alter the shields as I did not want half of my men running around with the obvious Numenorean logo. So after I had some fun with that, distributed the Amroth shields with my altered shields and a couple un-altered shields (as Amroth is supposed to be a pure line descended from the men of Numenor), I geared up for painting.

The paint scheme is obvious. Green and white. Not too hard there. As I am not writing a post about painting (although I would invite you to inspect the faces of these minis), I am not going to go through a step-by-step painting process. But basically, the underside of the green cloaks are a lighter green then the outside, and where the background is green, I put a white stripe, and where the background it white, I put a green stripe. Simple and elegant. Booyeah.


With the surplus of heads in the mounted KoDA set, I had a helmet left over. Just some added detail fun. I just hollowed it out, and plopped it on Imrahil's base. Easy peasy.

So there you have it! An interesting and cheap(ish) way of fielding a Dol Amroth division. The fact that I got to tone down those goofy wings a little is just another plus!

Later, guys.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Harad update: Corsairs, Watchers, Serpents and more!

So with TMAT GT 2013 just three short weeks away, the crafting benches have been in a flurry to get my army ready for the battlefield. My force contains a mixture of Corsair Reavers, Serpent Guard, Watchers of Karna, and warriors with both bows and spears. Guess how many of those my collection supported before posting my army? =P

As you can see from my post here, the Corsair Reavers had been converted, but that is about it. But now, after a couple weeks of effort, they stand ready to take the field!

L-R former spear, 2 former swordsmen, and an archer
I will probably still do some additional highlighting/detailing... eventually, but at least they are tabletop quality and ready for the tournament

I love the way the Southron corsairs came out. The guy on the left had some jeweler's chain added, and I  was able to morph his shield into a sack of treasure. I sculpted hair on the center guy as well.

Next I had to find a way to get spears added to my archers. I cut up some bits of brass rod and filed them into points. Added a little grey stuff to articulate where the spearhead meets the shaft. Painted the entire thing brown, used some Bleached Bone (GW) to add bone detail to the blade, and picked out the wrappings with Dark Flesh (Game Color).

When you have 12 of these to do, it's hard to come up with variety.  Especially when you are working with already painted miniatures. Not a lot of room for conversions without completely redoing your previous work. 

My Watchers of Karna were next on the list. Unfortunately these models are not very conducive to being converted - unless you want to do some sort of weapon swaps (which I didn't have time for. there are still a half dozen more to come, so plenty of time for that). I did put one of them on a little rock, and Bane got a trophy tuft of beard hanging from his sword (courtesy of his valiant attack on the ancient seer in this battle). Given the difficult nature of shading/highlighting black, I made a mixture of dark gray with a touch of black, shaded with black wash, and then highlighted with the original mixture. I think it turned out pretty well:

a simple color scheme, but I rather like the ninja-esque result.

If I have time, I'd like to add some more detailing or maybe some freehand on the Corsairs and Watchers. But that totally depends on the progress I make on my final project: Serpent Guard conversions.

soooo much sculpting to do! 

Thankfully we are just about to head into a 3-day weekend. I'm trying to protect some hobbying time with all the social events that 3-day weekends tend to attract. All 12 of my Serpent Guards need new armor, capes (if not already modeled), pelts, swords, and new spears. We'll see how many of these I can manage this weekend. Wish me luck!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Riders in Black: Part 1

So, the faithful readers of this blog will know that I am a huge fan of spell-casters (I spent a whole month talking about Radagast, Saruman, Gandalf, Ringwraiths, and other random spell-casters). They can be really expensive, but can also help you deal (unconventionally) with the monsters and bruisers of the enemy. This months' focus is going to be on a very particular type of spell-caster: the Ringwraith. Why?...

...because I'm working on my third all-hero army, and have chosen the Riders in Black, the famed and iconic Nazgul. One of the models you might recognize from some of my Moria posts, but the others are all new acquisitions. I want to talk about what challenges and advantages an all-Nazgul force has on the field as well as what Nazgul I believe are valuable for an all-hero Nazgul army.

1) "Why in the world would you pick Ringwraiths? Are they viable as an army?"

Unlike Zorro's Cave Troll brood that he's building for his Angmar horde, an all-Nazgul army is a force that requires tact, subtlety, and patience. Understanding what the mission objective is and how many units you need to kill to break the enemy is key to winning the game. You also can't waste a single Will point or you cripple your long-term capabilities. So...why would you want to take such a complicated army?
First, you rarely need to worry about that army-crunching hero that comes out to face you. The faithful readers also know that I have a famed army of Dwarves at my command and really like playing with the Fellowship (and the White Council). All three of these armies sport powerful Fight 6 heroes with 2-3 Attacks at Strength 4 and 3 (or more) Might points. Yeah, those heroes are really tough to beat in combat and often are hard to kill with archery too. Playing with a host of spell-casters who can cast Transfix easily can allow you to concentrate firepower one a single hero (or two heroes in one turn if they have 1-2 Will points) and completely nix their ability to kill units. If that hero is a 90 point hero (like Gimli) or a 105 point hero (like Boromir), you can knock out a hero that sits at/near your point cost in a single turn! Since both these heroes have a sum total of 3 Will points, you can have 5 Ringwraiths (assuming that each Will point resists a spell) cast Transfix in one round and BOOM - no wounding for them. In each subsequent round, you will find it easier to destroy these heroes if you can move before they do.
Second, each unit in this army has Defense 8 and causes Terror. Even though no unit has more than 1 Wound and all are defeated if they run out of Will points, charging your heroes with warriors will be difficult (especially with your Harbinger of Evil special rule) and when they are charged, they will be hard to wound. Wounding these heroes is also far from easy for most archers in the game (except those tree-men who throw huge rocks...), so advance without fear of missiles for a few rounds at least.
Finally, the special rules for the named Ringwraiths can make your army adaptable to face a variety of armies. Lots of Might (or Will) points in the enemy army? The Dwimmerlaik can help you. Want to wound a transfixed Defense 9 Durin on a single dice? Khamul's your shade of black. Worried about being trapped and battered to death? Try killing the Undying. I don't want to get into too many details here, but we'll talk about this more later when we get to which Ringwraiths are valuable in an all-hero army.
2) "Okay, these guys are great...but they've got weaknesses, right?"

With all these advantages, it's tough to play with the Riders in Black. Yes, they are a feared company in the books and I'm sure they will be feared when I learn to field them as well, but they're very specialized and hard to use. Let's explore some of the reasons why this might be...
First (as mentioned above), you've got no more than 1 Wound on each of your units. That means all it takes is a lucky arrow, a mighty stroke, or calamity for your mount and you're a goner, pal. While your Defense 8 and Fate points (if you have any) can do wonders to prevent this from happening, there's no robustness in your Wounds category to absorb accidents. Heroes like Legolas (or Vrasku is you're playing against an Evil army) can prove very, VERY dangerous to the health and well-being of your army. Other heroes who cast Nature's Wrath that automatically trap your units by placing them on the ground are also to be feared - perhaps even more so.
Second, you have lots of spells to choose from, but (generally) a limited number of Will points. This isn't a problem for a disciplined general who knows what he needs to do to win the game, but can confuse a new general. Though we won't go into spell tactica here, I'm planning on devoting the next post in this series to this very issue and looking at the utility of all five spells available to your non-Witch King wraiths.
Finally, you need to mount most of your units if you want more than 1 Attack. If I asked you, "Who would win in the following To The Death match: a 110 point Ringwraith (all upgrades) or Merry, Pippin, Sam, and Frodo with no upgrades?" You'd be tempted to say, "The Ringwraith...who was chasing who in the Shire, right?" But consider: the Ringwraith wounds the hobbits on 4s and needs to deal at least 6 wounds to the hobbits (1 wound to both Merry and Pippin and 2 wounds to both Frodo and Sam). Between the four hobbits, they have 7 Fate points, they can always roll a dice to resist spells (if any are used), and together they have 3 Might points and 4 Attacks on the Ringwraith's 2 Might and 1 Attack. Tough chances there...
The Ringwraith must not only be lucky in winning fights and wounding, but must also do this within the 14 Will point constraint that he has...I don't think he can win in this scenario. If he's mounted and has no Fate points (relying on the hobbits not getting any 6/5+ rolls during the game), he could be mounted OR take the Witch King with the Crown of Morgul and 1M/11W/0F - both of these would increase the chance of winning, but bottom line is you need to mount the guy if he's not the Witch King (or Khamul, as we'll see later).
3) "Okay, you've convinced me, there are some high points and low points, but are all Ringwraiths created equal?"

In an all-hero-Ringwraith army, not all Ringwraiths are worth taking. Though each of them has a benefit for the army as a whole, I recommend 5 of them (the others are better tailored to supporting a conventional army and will be reviewed afterwards):

(All of the following pictures are courtesy of Games Workshop)

1st choice: the Witch King of Angmar with the Crown of Morgul and at least 2M/12W/0F (120+ points)
The Witch King of Angmar with the Crown of Morgul is the only Ringwraith to be guaranteed 3 Attacks (if he's not immobilized or commanded). This not only increases his chances of beating your "average joe" from Rohan or Gondor, but gives him a competitive edge against heroes who are 1) Fight 4 or lower or 2) were Fight 5 or higher and were transfixed as he charged. Since the Witch King starts with a large Will store, you an afford to do some magic casting, but your focus should be less on magic than combat. Assume that there will be 6-8 rounds of close combat and budget the rest of your Will accordingly.
2nd choice: the Undying (120 points)
The Undying is my second choice for three reasons: first, he has 20 Will points that can be used as Fate points. Even if you can only spare 10 Will points for Fate points (because you're casting spells and fighting), it is really, REALLY hard to kill him. While the Witch King is an offensive powerhouse with his Crown of Morgul, the Undying is your anchor. The second reason is that you can gain Will points back if a friendly or enemy spell-caster successfully casts a spell within 6" of you - a perfect way to ensure that you can continue to cast your own spells or resist damage. Finally (to say nothing of his spell-casting potential), the recent FAQs on the GW website indicate that the Will points used by the Undying as Fate points don't count towards the points of your opponent in the "Lords of Battle" game...which means you can resist lots of damage and your opponent gets (at best) 1 point for killing you. Yeah, I like this guy...
3rd choice: Khamul the Easterling (120 points)
Khamul the Easterling is my third choice for two reasons: first, you need attacks in your army and Khamul can guarantee himself 2 Attacks if he has a Will point to spare. This makes him less of a spell-caster, but a reliable offensive tool (especially against Fight 4 or less warriors). The second reason is that Khamul can regain Will points by dealing wounds - a perfect way to stay in the game longer (and get 2 Attacks in future combats). You will probably notice that the number of attacks and ability to regain Will plays a critical role in using a Ringwraith force (especially if your opponent has conventional army with 32-40 units in it), so Khamul is your clutch unit who does both moderately well (unlike the Witch King who does the Attack-element well and the Undying who does the Will-element well).
4th choice: Ringwraith on horse with at least 1M/9W/0F (80+ points each)
The traditional, unnamed "rider in black" gives you the following critical advantage: they're cheap enough that you can flesh out your army. Having 3-4 unnamed Ringwraiths not only allows you to protect your strong, expensive wraiths from being overwhelmed, but also means that you can spread out the Will cost to transfix key heroes/monsters and charge more units within a group. I require a mount for these guys for two reasons: first, mounting spell-casters ensures that wherever your enemy places his tactical heroes, you can get to them. You'll need to be careful of archers, but you should be able to transfix any hero who attempts to evade your rank-and-file in order to focus on your stronger units. The second reason is a bit more practical: you need more than 1 Attack to be effective - a horse gets you that (if you're tactful) for a reasonable cost (see discussion above).
Keep in mind, though, that you should be planning on 4-5 rounds of close-combat action for these guys, so if you plan on using these guys to cast spells, load up on the Will points! Also, the proposed 80 point Ringwraith is taking his chances without Fate points. This is primarily because Fate points aren't guaranteed to work and the ability to be wounded isn't high if you can keep heroes from smashing your face in. Hence, an extra Will point or two might be more useful for your Ringwraith if you intend to (say) charge archers instead of hordes of enemy men-at-arms.
5th choice: the Dwimmerlaik (120 points)
The Dwimmerlaik makes it potentially harder for your opponents to use their Might, Will, and Fate points and can use a two-handed weapon (for extra smashing power). This makes the Dwimmerlaik a great tactical piece against both conventional armies and all-Nazgul armies. Add to this calculation that he has 16 Will points to fight with or cast spells and can make heroes with 1 Will unable to resist spells for the game and you've got a great asset. The Dwimmerlaik could be removed for the Tainted for the following reasons: first, in order for him to add to the kill count of the army, you need to 1) mount him (which disables the use of his two-handed weapon) or 2) depend on your two-handed weapon with a single Attack. The second reason is that the Dwimmerlaik has no Might, and I see him getting trapped and pummeled by elite units and being unable to improve his dice roll. Both heroes are great circumstantially, so I cose the Dwimmerlaik because of his ability to devastate captain units.
Perhaps you're thinking, "Why not the _______? Isn't his ______ special rule useful for your army?" Depending on which hero you choose, this might be a valid point, but I'll go through the remaining five Nazgul and explain why I avoided putting them on my list.

1st runner up: the Tainted (120 points)
The tainted is an oddity in the game and by-and-large doesn't look much different than a 100 point unnamed Ringwraith. What he gains for the additional 20 points, however, is found in his two special rules: first, no friendly or enemy unit can benefit from a Stand Fast! if they are within 6" of the Tainted. Since your army is a hero army, you don't cast Stand Fasts, so this only affects your opponent's army and all of his Courage tests will be resolved with the -1 penalty from the Harbinger of Evil special rule. Nifty? Not done yet. The second special rule states that before combat, you roll a dice for each unit (friend or foe) in base contact with the Tainted: on the roll of a 6, the unit takes a wound. As a long-time Goblin Shaman user, I can tell you that rolling that 6 can be really, really fickle, so I can't place him in the recommended slots.
2nd runner up: the Knight of Umbar (120 points)
Make no mistake, the Knight of Umbar is a great hero. Not only does he not lose Will points when he wins a fight (really like that), but he can also borrow the Fight, Attack, and/or Strength value of his opponent (via the "Combat Mimicry" special rule). This is great for ensuring that you have an even chance of winning against an enemy hero, but is less effective if you're fighting a conventional army. Consider that the wording of his "Combat Mimicry" is as follows:
"the Knight of Umbar may elect to use the Fight, Strength, or Attack values of his opponent instead of his own."

Since this is singular, you can't borrow the combined Attack values of multiple opponents (so if two Khazad Guards charge you, you will not be able to contest their 2 Attacks with 2 Attacks of your own). Also, the FAQs mentioned above indicate that if the hero you are fighting is transfixed, you can elect to use their transfixed values (Fight 1, Strength X, 1 Attack) instead of their normal profile. If you're planning on having heroes transfixed (easier targets), the Knight of Umbar isn't for you. In the end, while the Knight of Umbar isn't that great supporting an all-Nazgul army, he is an excellent candidate for a conventional army for tackling the hardest of heroes and monsters (or if you're taking your all-hero Nazgul army against another all-hero army). Remember that his ability to cast spells in impaired by their casting values being raised, so he's not a great spell-caster.

3nd runner up: the Shadow Lord (120 points)
The Shadow Lord is great for one reason: you pay 15 more points than you would for a fully-decked unnamed Ringwraith (if you factor in the Courage 5 instead of Courage 6 rating) and you protect units within 6" of the Shadow Lord from archery in the same way as Cast Blinding Light (your enemy hits you on 6s). Though this is very effective in a conventional army - especially those with low defense values - it's not that necessary for this army as everyone has Defense 8. Yes, an arrow or two may wound your units, but it will be more cost-effective to have a few Fate points on each unit than spend 120 points on a single hero who will need to be near your units to aid them. Great hero, but not as valuable for an all-Nazgul force.
4th runner up: the Dark Marshal (120 points)
The Dark Marshal is treated as a banner by warriors but not heroes. It goes without saying that this is 1) very good for a conventional army and 2) very not helpful for an all-Nazgul force. So why isn't he last? Fight 6. The only other Ringwraith hero who can guarantee a Fight 6 score is Khamul (the Knight of Umbar can if he's aligned against a Fight 6 foe, for the record), but this comes at the cost of gaining 2 Attacks (and costs a Will point). The Dark Marshal has Fight 6 and 12 Will points, which means he can deal some solid damage if mounted on his armored horse. His special rule's in-applicability to heroes sours the value of this in an all-hero army and generally speaking I don't recommend taking him (unless you're running a conventional army, in which case you're hard pressed to find a better Ringwraith for your force).
5th runner up: the Betrayer (120 points)
The Betrayer costs 10 points more than a fully-decked unnamed Ringwraith and gives you the same profile with the following advantages: first, he has the advanced "poisoned blades" rule, which allows him to reroll any failed rolls to wound in close combat (just like Dalamyr or a Hasharin). Though this is useful, he only has 1 Attack (unless mounted), so how effective is this? His second advantage is that he enhances the "Poisoned Blades" and "Poisoned Arrows" rules for the units within 6" of him. This is really good in a Serpent Horde army from Harad that can have 50% of its army have poisoned arrows and the rest of the army have poisoned blades, but is not beneficial at all for Ringwraiths. The downside to the Betrayer is that like the Knight of Umbar, his ability to cast spells is impaired (with most being 1 grade harder to cast than a normal Ringwraith) and for me, the "poison" rule doesn't make up for this. Unless you have poison in your army, take an unnamed Ringwraith instead.
In the next post, we're going to talk about strategies for the unit types within the following army list (my working 600 point list):

The Black Court of Morgul: 600 points

The Witch King of Angmar with Crown of Morgul and 3M/15W/2F - 150 points
The Undying - 120 points
3 Ringwraiths with horses and 2M/12W/2F - 330 points

Looking forward to this month's work (I'm concurrently working on some Uruk-Hai, which I may showcase in an article or two as we gear up for the Spring TMAT tournament). Happy hobbying!