Thursday, April 11, 2013

Cavalry

Being the sole regular user of cavalry in our group here at TMAT (at least so far... hoping... hoping!), I felt like writing a post about the tactics I employ for the use of cavalry in the LOTR SBG.

Alright... ok... I hear ya... "Cavalry? Why on earth would I want to spend, like, ten extra points - the price of a good warrior (or two bad ones) -  for a mount?". Good question... Most don't... But they miss out on a lot.

Cavalry have always been a huge fascination of mine... *cough... well... If I'm completely honest... my fascination with cavalry starts with the armored cavalry divisions of WWII and transfers to the modern Air Cavalry divisions in today's military that get to use cool things like the AH-64 Apache... So, I like cavalry as soon as you get the horse out of the picture... (mostly joking)

I will start with a strong point:
In the Strategy Battle Game that we all here know and love, cavalry charges do... not... work! I'm not kidding. When I first got into this game, I loved the idea of cavalry. Glimmering knights atop their prancing steads, lances reflecting the sunlight so as to appear that they had some enchantment from the Valar... I won't even talk about my love of the warg and any model that is enthroned on one... but I couldn't understand why no one, who was familiar with the game ever used them.
I didn't care.
I got ahold of some Knights of Minas Tirith and sent them off to charge at the vanguard of my armies!... and they died.
I was not happy... Again I sent them off in their next game, to valiantly vanquish my foes and flank the enemy!... they died... again.
For the longest time, the only cavalry that had any sort of luck were wargs beneath petty orcs and their riderless counterparts (which are subject to controversy) but with S4 you're bound to chew something every now and then... (plus wargs are just awesome)
I was disappointed. But I did not give up. It took me a good long time, yes, but I have since discovered  few pointers that greatly improve your chances of succeeding with cavalry... In a nutshell... Cavalry work with infantry. plain and simple... more specifically, while staying alongside infantry, cavalry engage only after the battle lines have clashed...
Reasons:

  1. You want to give the cavalry some supporting attacks to win the fight.
  2. You want more models around to make the opponent think about who he's targeting.
  3. You don't want your horses all alone holding a flank. They just don't have the strength (for the most part)

This is not a hard and fast rule, I suppose. Knights are still as fit of a soldier as a normal infantry unit. They're not weaker somehow. They just are not invincible and in order to get the distinct advantage that you pay for with cavalry, you need to protect them and use them wisely. Sending them out on their own tends to go downhill reaaall fast. but sometimes you need to... So, don't underestimate the psychological effect five knights will have if they suddenly take off around some major piece of terrain, threatening to flank the opponents force.

Obviously, deployment is crucial. but the extreme mobility that cavalry have, allows you to maneuver them into position long before any normal warrior would be able to get there. - sigh... I feel like I'm giving away my secrets here to my regular opponents... but oh well... I guess it isn't all that secret - I deploy my cavalry behind the front lines on both flanks... As soon as the battle lines clash, my cav wip out from behind the lines and engage alongside the infantry... of course... your opponent is sitting there watching your lines advance and he's looking at your cavalry advancing behind the lines... I wonder what he thinks your gonna do? So, mix it up. Cavalry can pretty much get to wherever you want them to be, so they can completely switch what side of the field they're on in 1-2 rounds. Getting your opponent thinking that they are going one way and then taking off another way is what cavalry are great for.

I also never field large amounts of cavalry (unless the fight is 1000+ pts). If you have too many horses, you won't have enough infantry to support them with added attacks and take some hits for them if need be. In the end, your cav will die, and you won't have enough other stuff to hold their own against the onslaught and you will, in almost the blink of an eye, lose the game and have to pack up and go find someone's arms to cry in... don't ask me how I know.

The above pointers are to help convince anyone who is just not too sure about cavalry to give it a try. I want to get more people to use cavalry because they are an interested unit and pull a whole 'nother dynamic to the game (yeah that... and I want more people to invest in cav cuz I'm tired of being so darn outnumbered all the time!)... And no... It is not fool proof... nor is it traitor-dice proof... You'll have to work that part out. But treat your horses well and they'll come through for you... maybe.

Here is a quick rundown of the cavalry that I am familiar with:

  •  Knights of Minas Tirith are nice. Definitely on the cheaper end of the points cost of cavalry, these bad boys pretty much can only brag about their fancy lances (+1 to all wounding die when you charge) and D-6 with shield.
  • Mounted Knights of Dol Amroth on the other end of the spectrum are among the most expensive. but with their F4 riders, D5 mounts, lances, and special banner rule with their prince Imrahil, these guys have been the most successful of any cavalry unit I've seen. 
  • Morgul Knights come in just slightly more expensive then the mounted KoDAs but their shtick is the terror special rule. Now in case you fell asleep through my above writing, it is very important for your cavalry to charge their enemies. This special rule, at least in theory, mixed in with (again) a lance, gives the Morgul Knight the potential to be the most lethal of all the cav units because if the enemy can't charge you cuz they keep failing their tests, guess who gets to charge them. Nazgul mix very well with these guys. *evil grin*
  • Riders of Rohan are a fair bargain for the price (cheap). Great for running around, shooting, and engaging at just the right moment. These guys come with a  bow and still get the defensive bonus of having a shield. That's pretty good. But at D5, you better have some infantry around to make sure they win the fight. If the army includes Erkenbrand, you may upgrade your Riders of Rohan to F-4. Very nice. You should pretty much always do that. Erkenbrand is one of the best heros in the game for his price and why wouldn't you want F-4? I will also note and admit that the tactics I use for cav I have not tested much on this particular type. If you know a Rohan General who has his own techniques for these guys, his way is probably better. 
  • Son(s) of Eorl are worth mentioning. I've never played with them nor have I ever seen them used, but these guys sport two attacks, S-4 and an armored horse with a move of 12". Three attacking die on the charge, six wounding die, and the movement of an eagle? Yeah... if are willing to pay the price (in $$$ and in point value :P), these guys could be very effective.
  • Warg Riders are largely unimpressive. The orc on top is kinda just going to sit there and be an extra unit for you if the warg dies because the warg is the one who brings the hefty strength 4 to bear. But think of it this way: you get a warg for just seven points plus a five point orc on top. There's a free point hanging out there somewhere! (unless my math or memory is off) 
  • Wild Wargs are my personal favorite. At Strength 4, these devils can really put a damper on someones day, (or flank). The performance I've gotten out of wargs has been spread across the whole spectrum. I've seen three wargs slaughter a whole entire battalion of Gondorians (we're talking like ten guys here) and I've seen wargs run up and die in the first round of combat. They are only D4 so they will die on you.  Some games they are very effective, sometimes mildly effective, sometime not overly effective, sometimes not effective at all, sometimes quite ineffective, and sometime extremely painful at how pathetic they were. But I loved wargs in the movies, I love wargs in all the games, and I love wargs on the battlefield, even if they do seem to be a little unreliable.
Now I know that many of you may have opinions that Wild Wargs are not, in fact, cavalry... And the mucketty mucks at GW have recently come out with a modified rulebook, themed after The Hobbit, in which they define, very clearly, what a cavalry model is... yeah... I guess I ticked somebody off, but they threw that in just to spite me personally. Not kidding. I am personally offended by those few sentences... The extra attack and knock down special rule for cavalry comes from the physical force of  impact when a 400 lbs beast crashes in to you. I'm sorry, but how does a warg with an orc on top of it have any substantial increase in its momentum? Answer = it doesn't. Wargs are cavalry. (I'm not quite sure if I've actually convinced most of my regular opponents of my view or if they've just gotten tired of my whining... maybe I'll never know)

There are, of course, many other cavalry units that I have not covered and I am definitely one who would encourage players to try them out. But you can't just throw them at the enemy lines and expect results. Be tactful. It's called a battle strategy game. It just took me a year and a half to learn how to use these guys but they are a lot of fun and very satisfying to play with. Plus they just look cool.

   ~Tavros~


3 comments:

  1. Thanks for the write-up, Tavros. Most of my experience with cavalry has been with heroes (primarily Eomer and Khamul), so seeing some thoughts that are more troop-based is helpful.

    I tentatively disagree, though, that cavalry charges do not work. Against certain formations (pikes come to mind), they are highly ineffective (which is realistic as well, :) ), primarily because your opponent will likely have far more dice in a combat than you will. Knights suffer from this problem, though, because they are one-dimensional: knights exist to run into enemy formations, preferably the flank of said formation. Other cav, though, have more dimensions and assets at their disposal (Riders of Rohan, for example), that make them much better at whittling down enemy formations. And now that RoR don't count toward bow limit, they make a good cav option on their own, even without infantry support. I hope to test this in a post on this site soon, :)

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    1. I definitely agree with you on the RoR. These being a cav piece that I have not played with much, I can not argue with you there nor would I as they really are among the most versatile of cavalry. I am very interested in seeing how you use them.
      But if you charge your cavalry out on their own either ahead of the main troops or away from the main troops, then you will just not have enough Attacks to win the fights. and when you lose, you won't have enough Wounds in the area to hold your ground.
      If you keep your army integrated, however, you can 1) have those scary cavalry with 10" of movement within striking distance of a lot of stuff (this is very unnerving to the opponent) and 2) have all the support for the cav that you need.

      Oh... and I very much approve of mounted heroes. Suddenly, a piddly captain has the potential to be quite lethal or an already lethal Imrahil (or Eomer ;) ) now has the potential to become... even... more lethal!

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    2. Agreed - one of the things that I'd like to experiment with is mounting elite infantry as passengers and dropping them off with your cavs so that you'll have some infantry support to help take the brunt of the damage from an enemy. I've attempted straight cav charges in the past, and (like you mentioned), I haven't had a ton of success with it (though in small enough games, it can actually play to your advantage).

      I'm curious as to whether a mix of heavy horse and skirmish cav, though, could whittle down a force and then punch in with power enough to destroy a formation that only has spear support, not pike support. If you had just as many (if not more) dice than your opponent because he's only rolling 2 dice, I'd like to see what would happen in that style of combat.

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