Monday, December 23, 2013

Rohan Tactics Post, Part I: Heroes

Hey Reader!

Greetings again from the Forge!  I hope you all are enjoying your week leading up to the Christmas week!  Things are starting to wind down at work, which has left me a bit more time for hobbying (and hopefully sometime soon another game with Tiberius to close out the Dunharrow questing series we're working through).  In this post, similar to the posts I did for the Grey Company and the Shire, I'll be looking at the heroes available to Rohan, and thinking through the unique things each hero contributes to your army.  Like all of these posts, I'll lead off with my two caveats: some of this will not be new information, and the big caveat that smart gamers give to each other:

This is just my opinion; others may disagree, but this is what I think, blah-blah-blah...

Okay, now that that's over with, let's talk about Rohan, :)

I.  Strengths of Rohan

Rohan does three things very well, and in each of these areas, they are among the best civs in the game, especially as far as Forces of Good go.  You play with Rohan if you are looking for mobility, flexibility in gear choices, and niche roles for your heroes.  In the next post we'll talk about how these are also reflected in your warrior choices; here I want to focus on the heroes available to Rohan.

A.  Mobility

It goes without saying that the Realm of the Horselords is a solid team if you want fast, mobile heroes.  All of your heroes with the exception of the King's Huntsman have the option of taking a horse (and some, like Eorl the Young, come with a horse in their starting profile), with some heroes (like Theoden) having the option of taking a D4 horse or an armored D5 horse.  Also sporting the only D5 12" move horses in the game, Rohan goes all-out on options for fast movement.  Even the hobbit in the army, Meriadoc Brandybuck, has the option of an 8" move pony.  The mobility of Rohan in its heroes means you can rush Might points, "Stand Fasts!" and S4 firepower wherever you need it on the battlefield, which is extremely helpful in any scenario.

B.  Flexibility in gear choices

Rohan also gets a lot of gear choices.  Most heroes start with armor, and have a chance to upgrade to heavy armor and/or a shield.  This means that if you are playing against a S3 team, you can get most of your heroes to D6 or D7 (so that you are wounded on 6s), or if you are facing a S4 team (like uruks or Iron Hill Vet Dwarves) you can keep your defense to D5 to conserve points, or go the whole way to D7 to maintain wounding on 6s.  You have a lot of options in regards to sustainability.

For weapons choices, a good number of your heroes can also take throwing weapons and/or bows, giving you options for skirmishing and doing damage from range before attacking in close combat.  What is more, almost all of your heroes have the expert rider rule, allowing them to wield shields and bows so that you can skirmish from a distance and then close the gap and improve your defenses if you desire.  This is very handy, and allows players (especially new players) to get a feel for what they like and dislike in equipment.

C.  Niche role heroes

Rohan's heroes fill unique needs for their army.  This has its drawbacks, as it keeps you from having your overall "power hero" (like Celeborn, who can win fights with F6, wound with S4, cast magic, and handle wounds with D7 coupled with 3 wounds and 3 Fate), but it does open a lot of doors to tackle units that other civs will have trouble facing.  Some of your heroes will skirmish.  Others will hold the flank while other heroes tear through an opposing element.  Others will harass and feint forces away from the main body to threaten an objective or an archer troop that thought it was safe.  Your heroes serve particular roles, and when allowed to fulfill those roles, they are work wonders on the battlefield.  Tiberius discusses this a bit in one of his recent posts on Rohan; I highly recommend it, and will be tying back to it under some of the heroes mentioned below.

II.  Limitations of Rohan
A.  No spears

If you've ever played Rohan (especially a Rohan that is attempting to take a bridge), this has frustrated you to no end.  Sure, throwing spears are nice (especially with the new 8" range with the new Hobbit rules), but when you need extra attack dice to puncture a hole through a well-fortified opponent or an incoming phalanx, things just go bad.  Cavalry charges can also be devastating to a Rohan force because they lack the spear support necessary to win the fight against (and thus put wounds on) the rider.  This reinforces a game mechanic that thematically follows Tolkien's envisioning of Rohan:

It's a peasant levy civ.

This is not a "regular army" civ - these are militia, and to reinforce that they are not a disciplined, veteran troop, there is a disincentive for them to fight in block/ordered formations.  This is key for fighting with Rohan - it will play very different from your standard Isengard, Gondor, or Mordor civ.

B.  No casters

All of the Forces of Evil civs have access to shamans and/or ringwraiths, and most other civs have access to some sort of caster.  For Rohan, you're forced to ally in casters, usually of the expensive sort (Gandalf, Radagast, etc.).  What is more, your team is generally short on Will points - only two of your heroes boast 3 Will (Theodred and Eomer), and most of your heroes only have 1 Will point, so your magic defense will be low.  Expect a number of F1 statues in your games if you play against a heavy caster civ, or using Fate points to block incoming S9 Black Darts.  This just comes with the territory.

C.  One-dimensional heroes/warriors with (generally speaking) low Fight Value

You have a wide selection of heroes.  They also each have their limitations, and once they are out of their element, they have great difficulty in overcoming their opponents.  What is more, most of your heroes are F4, with a few select heroes being F5.  Unlike every other civ for Forces of Good (and most civs for Forces of Evil), you don't have access to F6.  This means that, when you run up against the Aragorns, Cave Trolls, and Amdurs of the world, you are going to lose fights purely because someone rolled a 6.  Just be aware of that.

With all of this in mind, let's look at the heroes for Rohan.

III.  Heroes of Rohan
A.  Theoden, King of Rohan

All pictures courtesy of GamesWorkshop, unless otherwise noted
As mentioned in my post on Eomer, Theoden is a capable hero.  He offers you the reliable F5 S4 with 2 attack dice (3 on the charge if mounted) for killing power, and also sports the 2 Wounds and 2 Fate (with a chance at D7 if you'd like it) that you'd expect from a 80-90 pt hero.  Theoden tends to get a bad wrap, though, because he lacks the killing power of Eomer and Eorl, though, and appears to be a weaker hero all-around in comparison to them.  Tiberius makes a good point in his post, noting that for the same cost (or a shy bit more, you have access to Theodred and Eomer respectively who offer more on the stat level.

I don't think this means you should never take Theoden.  I think he falls into a different category of heroes from the bashy killers (like Eomer) or the versatile skirmishers (like Theodred) - in fact, it's a category that is extremely rare in LOTR SBG.  Gondor and Durin's Folk have options to take both captain-style units and a "King of Men" or "Dwarf King" option, which boasts a higher FV and greater sustainability in combat should the battle go south.  Theoden is that hero for this army: he is an upgraded captain with more options, including two options for a mount (which no other Rohan hero is offered).  Theoden can be customized to face the threat, which is a helpful trait, and one that I respect.

You need to be careful with him, though: he lacks Will points, which means casters will be a problem for him to handle (reiterate what I said earlier about Rohan just generally having problems at countering magic), and if you wiff one round of Courage testing you could find yourself without a hero.  Just be aware of this.  As this is a common problem for most of Rohan, though, Theoden is about as reliable a secondary hero as you will find.

B.  Theodred, Heir of Rohan


Theodred is bred and built for one purpose: he's an anti-caster/deep attack option for your force.  Like his cousin, Eomer, Theodred rocks the 3 Might and the throwing spears you'd expect from a fast attacker (allowing him to quickly sweep into an unsuspecting caster or archer core with a Heroic Move or Heroic Combat), has options for attacking at range, and has the 2 attacks at F5 (3 attacks on the charge) with D7 for defense that you'd expect from a named 70+ cost hero.

The problem with Theodred, which I mention in passing in my post about Eomer, is that he lacks Fate points.  If he gets trapped (or worse, if he gets hit with Immobilize or Transfix and is reduced to 1 attack dice without the ability to wound, or Paralyze which will cause him to immediately lose combat), he can die pretty quickly, even at D7.  He also only has 2 wounds, so there's not a lot of margin for error with Theodred.  He's one of the most magic resistant heroes Rohan has (boasting 3 Will Points), but you'll discover quickly that those Will points will disappear pretty quickly.  Just be careful, and bring an escort.

D.  Eomer, Marshal of the Riddermark


For those of you that own the Kingdoms of Men Sourcebook, you'll notice that I went out of order here, moving Eomer up before discussing Hama.  This is because I want to keep the different RoCap builds together (and I'll be doing the same thing with Merry and Grimbold coming up), as they play off of each other well, and discussing them in sequence works best.  So I crave your indulgence, :P

This was the original version of Eomer, and for 75-100 points, he's still among my favorite models of all time.  He sports the F5 D7 that you'd expect from a named combat hero, and he has the 2 attacks (3 on the charge when mounted) at S4 that is typical of Rohan heroes.  As I mentioned in my post on Eomer, some see this profile as outdated by the next profile in our lineup (the newer, bashier version of Eomer).  I disagree.  This Eomer not only offers you a cheaper option for a solid attacker (which is nice if you want to use another named hero, if you're trying to build a warband/detachment on a budget, etc.), but he also offers you a chance at a skirmisher, being able to take a horse, throwing spears, and/or a bow, which has its uses.

E.  Eomer, Knight of Pelennor


Eomer, Knight of Pelennor is your heavy damage dealer.  He's the only Rohan hero to boast 3 attacks in his base profile (so 4 attack dice on the charge, potentially 8 dice to wound when he knocks over infantry - gotta love that), and is the only Rohan hero who can hit S5.  In fact, he's one of a very few Forces of Good heroes that can hit S5 at all (mostly the others are dwarves and Gandalf with a shiny sword).  Eomer only becomes S5 when he is charging, but since he has 10" movement, he usually gets to pick when he gets involved in combat.

Eomer is also the only hero with a full 3M/3W/3F profile in the Rohan list.  At 115 points (130 with an armored horse), Eomer offers you the killing power you need and prize.  The thing to keep in mind, though, is that he's only F5, so going up against F6 heroes can create a problem.  For more discussion on his uses, look at my former post, :)

F.  Eowyn, Shieldmaiden


Eowyn is an interesting case.  Like Arwen in the elf lists, Eowyn is S3 amidst a number of S4 attackers, and sports only 1 attack (as opposed to the captain-standard 2 attacks).  She also starts as D3 instead of the standard D4, so she's a bit more fragile than your average captain on the defense side of things.  That being said (and almost in spite of that being said), Eowyn offers you the F5 and 2 Fate points that captain-style models dream of obtaining, and all save Elves and Uruk-Hai never find.  She also has a 2M/2W/2F profile, so she's very well-rounded in responding to threats.

She's also a cheap way to spread Might points across the battlefield.  At a base cost of 30 points, she's the best deal for Might, Will, or Fate you can find.  If you increase her cost to 40 points by purchasing armor and a shield, you are still looking at a cheaper hero than all other Rohan captains, and she boasts D5 (on-par with the basic captain that costs 5 points more), has F5 (which means she'll win fights against anything other than elite infantry and heroes), and can shield with two dice (which is not too shabby).  With the chance to also take throwing spears and/or a horse, Eowyn offers a lot of options for very cheap.

In most cases (which will be described below), it's probably worth it to pay a few more points to get the RoCap, but if you're going for spamming Might, this is a good option.  The real question is this: do you want 1 attack at F5, or 2 attacks at F4?  If you need the F5 (because you're fighting uruks, or you need to find a way to break through something else that's F4), it may be worth it to take Eowyn with armor and a shield for 40 points, if for no other reason than you win ties and you have 2 Might to help you land wounds.  But for 10 points more, you can gain an extra attack, higher strength, and hit D7 by taking a RoCap.  Both have their advantages, so make the call as you build your army.

G.  Meriadoc, Knight of the Mark


Merry's strength in the list is similar to Eowyn's advantages: he's a cheap way to add Might points to your army, and since he can hit D5 with 2 Fate for only 30 points, he's more survivable than a Ranger of the North (who is almost the same cost).  He also has the Resistant to Magic special rule, which is a strong boon to a Rohan army (as magic defense is one of its weaknesses).

Merry also has his limitations.  He's one of two heroes at F3 in this army, so he'll be tying off or losing to basic infantry.  He's a much stronger choice for a Shire list (and you can read my write-up on him here), but he has a place in a Rohan force.  He would be more helpful if he could lead a warband (as he could be an easy way to add another detachment), but if nothing else he's easy Might points.  And, as he's substantially shorter than most other heroes in your army, he really shines on terrain-heavy maps, especially if you purchase the elven cloak upgrade.

C.  Hama

We begin the discussion of the captain-style heroes with Hama.  Hama has the potential to be the most overlooked hero in the Rohan arsenal, perhaps second only to Merry.  People look at Hama and say, "Gamling can take an awesome banner, Grimbold and Erkenbrand can buff my warriors - why should I take Hama?"  Well, since you asked:

Hama is your anti-terror and Break Point bunker.

Hama is a hero that has the bodyguard rule when Theoden is on the board.  If you run him with Theoden, he can charge terror-causing units while boasting F4 and S4 for killing power, so that he can do reliable damage (especially to casters, as most casters only have 1 wound).  What is more, he is one of the most effective ways to hold your army together once you hit your Break Point.  Since your heroes test for Courage first, you test for Hama first: since Theoden is still on the board, he automatically passes, charges somewhere, and calls "Stand Fast!"  This holds the army together.  You can then test for Theoden, and even if he fails and runs off the field, your army will still be held together for a turn by Hama.  This is extremely rare in LOTR, and it can come in very handy.  So don't dismiss this hero: the question for Hama (and all of the captains we're about to discuss) is, "What do I need my heroes to do in this army?"

H.  Grimbold of Grimslade


Grimbold is a fun hero: he's Rohan's only access to a two-handed weapon (2H), and at S4, this means that he can wound D6 warriors on 4s, D8 ringwraiths on 5s, and dragons on 6s (which is saying something, btw).  For 10 points more than your average captain, you get a 2H and a special rule that allows you to pay 1 point/Warrior of Rohan to turn them into Helmingas (his people), which increases their strength from S3 to S4.  This has its uses: if you're playing against a D6 team, this is substantial, as it doubles your chances to wound.  If you're playing against a goblin army that's sporting a ton of D5 warriors, not so much (though if they're doing a monster-based army that's primarily D6, it may be worthwhile if you can land the hit past a 3 attack F6 monster).  So Grimbold serves two purposes: damage dealer and support buffer.

Grimbold's major problem is tied to these strengths: because he uses a 2H, he'll be -1 to win the fight, and if he loses, he's only D5, so most models will be wounding him on 5s.  The quickest fix is to accompany him with another warrior (a Royal Guard, perhaps) who does not get the penalty to win the fight, and the two models split duties: the RRG wins the fight, and Grimbold deals the wound.  Similar to Theodred, just be careful, and bring an escort.

I.  Gamling


I've only fought Gamling once, and he used to be more helpful when Rohan Outriders were heroes (which was cheating, and I'm glad that they changed that, :P ).  On his own with no upgrades, Gamling is a basic RoCap with heavy armor, rocking the F4 D6, and offering 2 attacks at S4 to do more damage than your average F4 D6 line infantry.  Like all other Rohan heroes (other than the Huntsman), he can also be mounted for greater firepower.  But he really shines when you pay another 50 points to give him the Royal Standard of Rohan.

The Royal Standard allows all heroes (other than Gamling) who start the turn within 3" of him to regain a single Might point they spent earlier in the game if their Might store is at 0 when the turn starts.  If you have heroes who routinely run through Might points (one of which will be discussed below, and they make a deadly combo) quickly, or if you are just running a hero-heavy army, Gamling may be a good choice for you.  Just remember: if you choose the Royal Standard, you'll get the -1 penalty to win the fight for carrying a banner, so I'll reiterate what I said about Grimbold: just be careful with him, and bring an escort.

J.  Erkenbrand


Erkenbrand is a tactical buffer for the team.  One of his buffs is a static buff that remains in play even if he dies, and the other requires him to be alive on the field - in either circumstance, he is the kind of hero that you don't want to handle with care.  Erkenbrand allows you to upgrade your Riders of Rohan for 1 pt/model to make them Westfold Redshields, giving them F4 instead of F3.  On the whole, this is a very good (and inexpensive) upgrade.  This also means that you should generally choose this hero if you are opting to run a good number of cavalry in your army.

Perhaps even more useful is that he comes automatically with a horn that increases the Courage of all Rohan models (including heroes) by +2 so long as he is alive.  This is the primary reason that he is 65 points, but when you consider that you get a D7 Bunker Captain (which will be discussed in the next section) for only 10 points more, plus your army has a lower chance of running, plus you have the option of improving your cavalry?  Erkenbrand is a good purchase for any team.

A word of caution on Erkenbrand, though: unless you are intending to do a fully mounted force for your theme, I do not recommend mounting him.  First, if you're going to play 75 points to purchase him and a mount, that's 10 points you didn't spend upgrading your riders, increasing your infantry core, etc.  But second and more importantly, since he needs to stay alive to provide the courage boost, the inability to shield with only 1 Fate point and 2 Wounds means that you are really trusting to charging copious amounts of infantry for the game in order to remain alive.  On foot, his survivability is increased by the fact that he can roll 4 dice to defend himself, and he still boasts a solid captain-style profile for landing hits.  The horse is purely a garnish for potentially greater damage on the charge.  I'd stick with keeping him on foot.

K.  Captain of Rohan

Most basic captains give you four options for your force: a "deep threat" mounted attacker, a two-hander for melee damage dealing, a ranged threat (bow or crossbow), and a "bunker" who can hit D7 and shield if you need to hold a flank.  Rohan really only offers you three options, one of which is very uncommon for basic captains.

1.  Deep Attacker


Deep attackers are available to all teams, but Rohan does them very well.  Not only do mounted captains have 10" movement with 3 attack dice on the charge at S4 and F4, but they also have the option of taking throwing spears, allowing them to take an additional 8" range attack at S3 before closing distance.  This is extremely helpful for covering ground, working down heavy-hitting heroes before closing for the kill, and taking down casters with 12" range.  As a model, the 3 attacks at S4 also make them very good against archers of all shapes and sizes, as you wound on 4s or 5s against everyone (including D6 dwarf archers).

Deep attackers need to watch being surrounded, though: if they charge quickly and are later swarmed, you may find yourself short a captain very early in the game.  But this is an option for you.

2.  Skirmisher


The skirmish build for a RoCap involves purchasing throwing spears (not a bow), and will usually also include at least the Heavy Armor upgrade if not the shield upgrade.  The skirmisher is designed to be a harasser that can hit a flank or take on spear support before closing distance to provide the F4 S4 killing power that Rohan uses to augment its frontline forces.  To some extent this build can also serve the purpose of the final category, which is more of a streamlined, less expensive version of the skirmisher.

3.  Bunker


This is the one I have the most experience with, as I tend to use one of these in each of my armies as much as possible.  Since I always run Eomer in my force, having a hero that can hold a flank against S4 attackers while Eomer does his work on the other side is extremely helpful in keeping my army together.  A
bunker RoCap goes for straight defense, sporting D7 to fend off S4 attackers, and since he tends to attract the attention of large opponents, he will usually use the shielding rules for about 25-50% of his combats.  That's fine, though: his role is to hold the flank while your killing machines (like Eorl and Eomer) crush their side of the field.  Couple one of these guys with a few Rohan Royal Guards (which I'll discuss in-depth in my next post), and you have a solid wall that can hold the ground for a few turns until reinforcements arrive.

You'll notice I didn't mention the bow upgrade in my analysis.  That's because I'm convinced that you should never take the bow.  I recommend this 1) because the next hero, the King's Huntsman, is a better model for the same cost to fill the role of "ranged threat" for your army, 2) because it's simply a bow (S2 at 24") and lacks the firepower of a longbow (S3 at 24", like the Huntsman has), and 3) because every round you spend shooting with a S2 bow you are wasting 2 attacks at S4 and F4 in close combat - which are static to the RoCap.  For the sake of economizing points, it makes more sense to keep a F3 1A S3 model in the back shooting (which is what the Huntsman does), and to keep a F4 2A S4 model on the front lines (which is what the Captain should do).

L.  King's Huntsman


The King's Huntsman is an interesting addition for Rohan.  While most civs have a "ranger" hero that can do DPS at range, the Huntsman makes for an interesting inclusion in a Rohan force.  Not only can he not be mounted (so he stand out like a sore thumb after a day of cattle cutting), but he also does things that Rohan is not well-known for doing.  All Rohan warriors and heroes boast the 24" S2 bow that humans are known to use.  The Huntsman uses a longbow (S3 at 24", similar to an elf bow, but not the same as an elf bow for the purposes of volleying), and thus is a lot like Beregond from the Gondor list and the Guard of the Citadel that would accompany him.  He's also only F3, putting him on-par with Merry and below all of the other captains in the list.

What you pay 50 points for, though is not only the upgraded bow, but also the Master Archer special rule: when a Huntsman kills a monster or a hero, he regains all of his Might points that he spent earlier in the battle.  He also passes all in-the-way rolls on a 2+, so hiding a hero behind someone else (short of an elven cloak) doesn't work to protect them, either.  This makes him extremely dangerous against heroes that have only 1 wound.

For example: if you have a Barrow Wight (D7 with 1 wound), a Huntsman hits the target on a 3+ (his shoot value), would pass an in-the-way roll on a 2+ (so probably still hitting), and wounds on a 6 - which, if he spends both of his Might points, means he could wound as low as 4s.  A 50% chance to take down a caster from 24"?  Yes please.

This gets even more dangerous when you pair him with Gamling.  The Huntsman suddenly becomes much more open to burning through Might points, as he can burn through Might to take a chance on killing his target, and if he fails, oh well: next turn he gets another one.  And he keeps getting another one until he dies or he kills a target (in which case he gets both Might back).  Potentially very dangerous, especially if you have a solid F4 D6 line to protect the pair of them.

A final word of caution from one who has used him.  The Huntsman is weaker in close combat than all other Rohan heroes (other than Merry, who is half his cost), so watch out; he's fragile.  If you are worried about how fragile he is, a regular RoCap will be more resilient, and probably cheaper.

M.  Eorl the Young


Eorl is the pinnacle of versatility and skirmishing.  With 12" move with an 8" throwing spear, this guy packs a punch at range or up close.  With his Legendary Hero special rule, he also has a chance on a 4+ to get Aragorn's special rule.  I discussed him in-depth in my post on Eomer, so I won't do too much of it here.  But suffice it to say, he's extremely good at redirecting: if you need a hero who can tie up a flank, keep an enemy element from hammering a weak force, or cause a bit of chaos, Eorl is your man.

Because he only has 2 wounds and 2 Fate, you have to be careful of him getting surrounded, so I don't recommend him as your frontline bruiser (Eomer, Knight of Pelennor would do a better job of that, though I don't exactly recommend him for that job, either - he's better as a flanker supporting a line of infantry who take the brunt of the attack).  Eorl works best when he has room to move and gets to choose his battles, so use him to augment your frontline force.  The best way to keep him effective is to bring an escort - preferably a troop of SoEs so that they can keep up with him in distance.  Plus the 2A at F4 S4 is pretty awesome (and that becomes 3 attacks on the charge, and 6 dice to wound if you win combat, so very devastating).

Summary

This is what Rohan has to offer.  It's a hard civ to use: not having spear support means that taking a charge can be devastating to a Rohan force, and if your heroes have an off day, you'll also lose your killing power.  Other civs (like Easterlings) suffer from the same problem in terms of killing power, but they get F4 D6 options with pike support (that can also be D6), so Rohan is unique in that sense.  That being said, don't just look at the stats for weighing this civ - I've seen Warriors of Rohan fend off overwhelming odds and refuse to die enough times to know not to count them out.  Try your hand at Rohan - if nothing else, it's a wild ride, :)

In my next post (which will be coming after Christmas), I'll be discussing the five warrior choices available to Rohan, how they also play to the strengths of the Rohan civ, and how they help to mitigate a few of the weaknesses inherent in the list.  Until then, may your days be merry and bright,

Watching the stars,

Glenstorm

"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, Glenstorm. One small nit-pick on your commentary: Rohan is one of two civs that can get a 12" D5 horse option. Galadhrim knights have 12" D5 horses that also benefit from the Woodland Creature rule and don't lose their charge bonuses while moving through woodland terrain. Of course, Woodland Realm players are not likely to field many of these knights, as their heroes are costly and we generally need bodies to fill out our ranks (hence, infantry).

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    1. Duly noted - shows how little I know of Elves, :P I should probably buy that sourcebook, as I'd like to do more with Elves in the future, and it would be good to know their options more - though I'd likely go more the Mirkwood/light armor route or the Rivendell/heavy armor route than the Galadhrim route, but that's a tactical post for another day, :)

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