Thursday, April 4, 2013

April Project: Uruk-Hai Month with a Twist!

Dear Reader,

So, I want to begin this post by mentioning a fact that has likely heretofore not been known in the blogosphere:

I was the first person at TMAT to run Isengard, and the first to field a Fallen Realms army!

Okay, glad that's settled, :)  Yes, I am returning to one of the first armies I ever made: The Isengard Raiders!  This is a unique brand of Isengard, and since all of the other players in our gaming community use the heavier, more expensive Fighting Uruk-Hai, the scout side of the list is rarely seen.  In the first TMAT GT I fielded them with a number of Mordor Orcs (primarily for spear support), and in the recent TMAT GT, Tiberius fielded a few of them as Marauders.  In this post, I want to highlight why I love the trackers so much, as well as why I'm building the list the way I do.  I will also give you all a sneak peak at some of the other models I'm painting - some of which have never been seen on this blog, and which will likely be my project for the very merry month of May.

Theory and Preliminary Tactics
My force, as well as a number of wolves in the background that
are definitely not the "wolves of Isengard"
First of all, for those who are using the new Sourcebooks, the units included in an LOME Isengard Raiders list are very limited: Uruk Scouts, Feral Uruk-Hai, Warg Riders, Uruk-Hai drummers, and an assortment of light, cheap heroes costing 60 points or less.  There is some variety within these units, but not much.  We'll examine the heroes and units in turn in the next section.  What I want to focus on under this point, though, is the theory behind a purely Uruk Scout force as differentiated from their heavier counterparts, as well as some of my preliminary thoughts on tactics before playtesting the army against anyone.

As we look at strategy, there are only two differences between an Uruk Scout and a Fighting Uruk-Hai Warrior: armor and cost.  Both affect your strategy.

1.  Your units are less survivable: Fighting Uruk-Hai wear heavy armor, so they start at a base D5, and become D6 with a shield.  This makes them more survivable against S3 attacks in close combat (Elves, men, most dwarves, orcs, and goblins) as well as at range (Elves and dwarves, plus select human heroes using longbows).  While both scouts and warriors have F4, the D6 over D5 distinction makes warriors more survivable in close combat should you lose a fight.  This is exacerbated by the next problem...

2.  You lack spear support: When you add the lack of spear support to the fact that you have a lower defense value, you will generally have less dice going into a single combat to attempt to score a "6."  With F4, you are likely to win ties against most units, but if you fail to have the better role, your unit will likely have a 33% chance of falling in combat, instead of a 17-33% of falling.  This statistic is boosted when fighting units with multiple attacks.  This leads to the next point...

3.  Flanking with power units and heroes is critical: Notice I didn't say "flank with units" there.  While you will undoubtedly have scouts getting around the battle line (especially if you run Marauders, which we'll discuss in a bit), but crunching the enemy battle line is not the only consideration for this force: you need to smother and destroy the enemy battle line before it punctures a massive hole in your battle line, as you will have no support behind your front line (except maybe archers, who can double as capable swordsmen).  In the picture above, you can see both that you can field a long battle line with this force with some melee warriors in reserve, so you have plenty of units to go around.  But if you start losing soldiers in this line without getting around the flank, you will quickly find your army broken and Ugluk being forced to play headtaker instead of army leader.  And as a minor aside, try to avoid bridge combat if at all possible, :)

4.  Timing is everything: As much as possible, you need to be picking when your forces enter melee combat. If your battle line moves up too quickly so that it will be 2-3 turns before your flankers hammer home into your enemy's sides, you will lose a lot of your warriors in a short period of time.  Because all of your warriors and heroes fight individually, any warrior not engaged in combat in a melee combat round is a unit lost, as he contributes nothing to the combats.  Compare this to someone charging into a pike formation: pikes will help their army, regardless of whether the attack happened according to the timing of the general.  For scouts, timing is everything.

5.  Shielding is your friend: As much fun as it is to know that you have F4 at S4 for all of your units (except heroes, who are F5 at S5), shielding is an old tactic, well proven, that still takes advantage of your F4.  Use shielding to take ground, hold ground, and keep the main body of your opponent at bay until your flankers can punch a hole through the opponent's main force.

Did none of this strike you as new?  Not surprising, due to the final point to consider:

6.  A limited list means limited options and strategies: There are only so many things you can do with four units.  As I mentioned in my post on Grey Company units, when you have only a handful of units to play with, you are hemmed in by the natural constraints of the list.  This will limit your ability to evolve and branch out in your strategies and tactics.  I suppose we cannot all be Harad, Gondor, and other civs that are heavily developed and nuanced; Isengard as a civ is very nuanced, but the Raiders side of the list has remained fairly stagnant since the first batch of units came out.  Just part of the limitations of the list, I suppose, :)

Units

Before jumping into the units Isengard offers, I'll give you both a caveat as well as my 600-point army list.  First, I don't use all of the units available in the Isengard Raiders list, so some of these will be using GW pictures.  The analysis under them will also be fairly scant, as I haven't given them nearly as much thought as I've given the others.  Second, here's my 600-point list, with 200+ points given to heroes (in case a tournament requires that):

Rager's Raiders: 600 pts, 41 units, 10 Might
-Ugluk (Army Leader): 60 pts
-Vrasku: 60 pts
-Uruk-Hai Scout Captain w/ 2H weapon: 55 pts
-Uruk-Hai Scout Captain: 50 pts
-20 Uruk Scouts w/ shields: 180 pts
-1 Uruk Scout w/ banner: 33 pts
-6 Feral Uruk-Hai: 72 pts
-10 Uruk Scouts w/ bows: 90 pts

With this in mind, let's examine the units available to Isengard.

Uruk Scout (with shield)
Presenting, Clansmen of Lamedon!  In May I'll highlight my Gondor forces,
including these boys.  Two lessons learned: 1) painting redheads is fun,
and 2) painting plaid is not fun
I first bought a blister of Uruk Scouts because I loved the poses for the shield warriors.  When I discovered that I could actually determine the placement of the arms of a few of these guys as well (first chance at customization! :) ), I got really excited.  Over the years, I've really loved the look of these warriors, and painting and customizing them over those years has been a joy.

Anyone looking to run a Raiders list - whether you run Marauders with Mauhur or regular scouts - should be comfortable using these units.  I foresee almost no instance in which you'd forgo buying the shields for these guys, so I'd recommend equipping all of them with shields.  The only scenario that I could foresee that would encourage you to not purchase shields for these units is if you were facing a Dwarf or Elf army, where everyone is S3 (which wounds them both on 5s), and if you had absolutely no desire to shield (which I'd say is a dumb move considering you have no spear support).  From someone who has played with scouts without shields...buy the shields, :)

Marauders deserve a special look: Tiberius has used them in a few games, and I must admit: they are very effective.  For +1 cost, a Marauder has 8" movement, giving an additional 2" of movement to your infantry.  This may not seem like much, but consider: 8" is enough distance to close a gap against throwing weapons before they fire.  8" allows you to sit comfortably away from an enemy battle line, and have the chance to strike first, picking which units you fight, and opting not to take others if you don't want to.  It also makes wrapping around flanks insanely easy (and almost impossible to hide banners and other weaker units).  I don't use them because I don't run Mauhur, but I'd highly recommend them as an option for a general who wants more versatility in his list.  The only other option is the Warg Rider, which we'll discuss later on.

Uruk Scout (with bow)
Damrod and two Osgiliath Veterans fend off an Uruk archer attack
Whatever chronicles may say of the bows of Elves, Dwarves, and the fell sons of the Dunedain, never underestimate the danger of a well-placed orc arrow.  Uruk scouts are not exceptional archers: 4+ shoot value at 18" with S2 punching power.  They are far less deadly at range than their crossbow counterparts, and a commander that is more of an artillery general at heart should definitely take crossbows over orc bows any day of the week (except Mondays - nothing goes right on Mondays).

I really like the orc bows, primarily because I'm more of an infantry general.  As I've mentioned earlier on this blog when discussing Rohan, my theory regarding archery is this:

Whenever you read the word "archer," you should be reading the word "swordsman."

I make it very clear to all of my archers that, at some point in the battle, they will be asked to contribute swordarms instead of arrows.  This is especially true of Uruk archers: with the same F4 and S4 of their shielded companions, they are twice as powerful and much more effective as swordsmen.  Their primarily role in my army is to soften up the enemy a bit (not expecting more than 2-3 kills in a game from archery), and then move in for the kill at close quarters.  We'll see how this goes.

Feral Uruk-Hai
That's right, Boromir: call for help...
These guys are new to my army, and I had a ton of fun using a small pair of pliers to turn their arms and hands to make them more unique.  With 2 attacks at S4 and F4, these guys offer you a bit more firepower, either for a flanking maneuver or holding the center of the line.  At D5, they are also just as survivable as their counterparts at range and in melee combat.  Their Courage 5 also makes them exceptional at charging units or heroes that cause terror.

You'll notice upfront that this is really just the lighter version of the berserkers that other Isengard generals are fond of using.  I'm glad that GW provided scout players with this option, though, because I've grown to love 2 attack warriors following my time with Angmar over the past few months.  They fill a special niche in my army list, though they don't attract nearly as much attention as a berserker would from archery.  With six of these guys on the field, I'm looking forward to some serious carnage against an enemy battle line!

Warg Riders
Photo courtesy of GamesWorkshop
Personally, I don't run Warg Riders in my army.  I know that some players will want wargs so that they have a 10" move unit, which is very handy if your archery comes from the worst bow in the game (S2 at 18").  For 12 points base, you can purchase shields, bows, a banner, and/or throwing spears for these riders, making them very similar to Riders of Rohan for close to the same cost.  There are a few reasons why I am currently not investing in Warg Riders.

1) It's an orc mounted on a warg.  The warg sports a S4 attack, but it is not F4 like your Uruk-Hai.  They represent the weakest Fight Value in this army, which is often what you rely on to win fights.

2) They sport the lowest defense, and attract a lot of attention.  The warg is D4 (like non-armored horses), and there is no way to enhance that stat.  With the orc also at D4, the warg rider either remains D4 if given a bow or banner, or can become D5 but is limited to only taking a shield and possibly throwing spears.  This is because...

3) Unlike a Rider of Rohan, warg riders lack the "expert rider" rule, meaning that they cannot have both a bow and a shield at the same time.  Warg riders either focus on giving you mounted archery, or being primarily a close-range melee fighter.  But at D5 and F3, the threat from these warriors is much less than the threat of, say, a Feral Uruk-Hai, who costs 12 points - the base cost for a warg rider.

Ultimately, you'll field these guys if you want speed, or if you just love commanding cavalry.  It's an option for you if you'd like to use it.

Heroes

For an in-depth discussion of Isengard Uruk heroes, I highly recommend Tiberius's post on this blog regarding Isengard Heroes and their roles in an army.  I wholeheartedly agree with his approach, though I'll make a slight jab for one of my boys later in this section (because I might be the only guy in creation who runs him), :)  In this section, I want to highlight the four heroes that I use in my list.

Vrasku
Vrasku and two of my archers - shout out to Tiberius for the helmet!
Vrasku is one of the most commonly fielded Uruk named heroes, regardless of which list you use.  With a 3+ shoot value and two shots with S4 at 24", it is hard to top his firepower in the Isengard list.  For only 60 points, he makes a devastating hero at range, and a good artillery option if you need to hold a position.  Tiberius does an exceptional job describing him in his post, so I'll forego further discussion here.

Ugluk
Ugluk and his trackers encounter Faramir, Capt. Terrek, and some Osgiliath Veterans
Sorry for the blur.  Tiberius describes Ugluk as the tactical/support hero for Isengard, as he has a 12" Stand Fast! with his headtaker special rule.  I know that some players prefer to run Lurtz or Mauhur as their "hatchet" and power hero, but I really like this guy.  As I mentioned earlier, I'll throw a line for Ugluk here that Tiberius doesn't mention.

Ugluk is one of the strongest Isengard heroes in melee combat, primarily because of his profile.  While Mauhur is the 3 attack brawler for Isengard, Ugluk has 3 Might points (to Mauhur's 2), allowing him to be involved in more heroic combats, and boosting critical dice in dire situations.  At D5, he is also just as strong as Lurtz on defense (with a similar M/W/F breakdown), but his lack of a shield forces Ugluk to focus on killing units: he is completely one-track, being forced to kill his target.  For someone who loves shielding, I appreciate the fact that Ugluk forces me to stay constantly on the offense, as he does not have the option of shielding.  For the army as I run it, I really appreciate that.

All that to say, I agree with Tiberius that he serves a critical support/tactical role for an army, but I'll also mention that he is quite the capable melee brawler, and will rack up a good number of kills if you place him well.

Uruk-Hai Captain with 2H weapon
I got $20 on the Uruk...
Thanks to a Christmas present from Tiberius, I now own 3 Mordor Uruk-Hai, all of whom are in the process of being modified into Isengard Uruk Captains!  This means that I will soon have 2 captains with actual 2H weapons, which will be sweet!  Check back to this space for further updates on those conversions.

Uruk-Hai Captain
An Uruk Captain leads a troop of scouts
In case you were wondering, yes: I opted to run this captain without a shield.  Tiberius makes a solid argument for the "rock" hero that a captain with a shield is for a team, and I'd very much have preferred to buy a shield for him.  Alas, though, my army could not accommodate the other 5 points, so he will be running as a weaker version of Ugluk in this force.  I still intend to use him to defend a flank like a shield cap would do, but he will be slightly less defensible.

I considered getting an Orc Captain with a shield and an Uruk Scout without a shield to round out the points, but I think I'll be pleased with another F5 hero at S5.  We'll see if I change that in the list.

Conclusion

As you can expect, the strategy for most games will be simple: rush the enemy line as they form, swarm and envelope each element, and crunch each element of the enemy force until you can overrun into the next element.  There is not a lot of variety in this army, so it will feel a lot like an Easterling/Dol Amroth force in terms of what you can do with your units once they are on-table.

The most important thing for Raider commanders is this: you need to be comfortable with D5.  If you are worried because your boys are wounded in close combat on 5s instead of 6s by normal infantry (like you would if your men were D6), you're in for a learning curve with a scout force.  As someone who started with Rohan and now consistently runs Azog's Hunters and Grey Company, I'm very comfortable with D5 and below, so it's not a major concern for me.  But for those who are used to D6, be warned: it will feel very different when you are on the wounding side of things.

Finally, your heroes fit a niche roll in your army.  Unlike your Halbarads, Golden Kings, Gandalfs, etc., all of your heroes are designed to do one and only one thing for your force.  Use them effectively within those niches, and plan ahead to ensure that your opponent does not do a last-minute switch of placement for a critical hero or element that will neutralize the strengths of your heroes.  I'll also warn you in advance that your heroes only have 1 Will point: magic is going to hurt.  Period.  Just remember: keep calm, and eat man flesh. :)

I look forward to what the next few weeks will hold!  You'll find me,

Watching the stars,

Centaur

"Centaurs are concerned with what has been foretold!  It is not our business to run around like donkeys after stray humans in our forest!" ~ Bane, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

2 comments:

  1. Great write-up Centaur - should be an interesting month with these guys. One consideration for Marauders: since they cost 9 points + upgrades, you need to assess whether they are necessary for the army you're using - more on that in an upcoming post.

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    Replies
    1. I'll look forward to seeing your input, Tiberius: I've never run Marauders, so I'd really like to see your thoughts on them.

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