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!


  1. How much is the fell beast? is it 50pts for the regular S6 D6 mount?

    That was a very interesting rundown. I've never really paid much attention to most of these guys. Recently I have been forced to re-think which of the Nazgul are my favorite as they all have their own bonuses so this detailed look at them has been most educational.

    1. Thanks, Tavros! A normal Fell Beast is 50 points and it's a good deal if you want an all-around good unit (but pricey in an all-Ringwraith army).

  2. Nice write-up, Tiberius - I especially like the second team of guys, :)

    Fell Beasts are generally a good buy if you're running a civ with cheap units. Spending almost 200 pts on one hero can be useful, though for most Nazgul, you're still looking at only 2 attacks on the charge (plus your mount), at a F5. Budget whether the extra power from the mount is worth 5-10 infantry or 2-5 cavalry for your force.

  3. Hi Tiberius, what are your thoughts on all fellbeast armies

    1. Ah, all-fell-beast armies. It depends on the scenario and point limit - I've heard great things about "Mordor Royal Air Force" armies at UK GTs where they play at the 700-point level. When you're playing that high, you can get anywhere from 4-6 flapping units of destruction, depending on whether you take basic/upgraded Fell Beasts and how many named ringwraiths you take.

      In my book, if you were to run 4 named Ringwraiths, you'd want the Witch King (for high Might/Will/Fate), Khamul (because he regains Will), the Shadow Lord (to run in center of formation against shooting-heavy armies), and the Tainted (because you'll roll a D6 for everyone you smash into - really great when your base is big).

      If you ran these 4 guys at the 700-point level, you're talking 500 points spent on them (with the Crown and 3M/12W/3F Witch King). That leaves you enough room to take 4 armored Fell Beasts (or horned ones if you like) and kit the Witch King out with more Will.

      Here at TMAT, we play at the 600 point level, which means if you spend 500 points on heroes, you need to run all vanilla Fell Beasts OR drop a named hero and take an unnamed one (not a bad choice - I'd drop the Shadow Lord and take the risk against archery civs).

      On To The Death, Lords of Battle, and against some armies Domination, this army can work really well (and I think Reconnoiter goes without saying). Hold Ground would be a bit more dicey, since you'd be forced to pack in close and may not be able to kill the mass horde of guys sitting on the objective before the game ran out. High Ground is a similar deal.

      Seriously though, if it weren't or the actual $$$ involved in running it, I might consider doing it. :)