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

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Rohan Month: Why You Don't Need To Take Eomer

Hello readers,

My good buddy and fellow admin Glenstorm made a post the other day which talked about why you should always take Eomer if you field Rohan. Please read his post before continuing - it's not only a great decomposition of the heroes in Rohan, but also a well-written piece from our team's longest-running Rohan player (my first convert to the game's first team he ran).
Glenstorm's analysis is sound, but there's one piece I wish to contest: you don't always need to take Eomer (yeah, I know, it's kind of the thesis of the post). I'll only make this exception in two cases and then show what army list I'm looking at building for Rohan - more to come on this army list soon.

1) You leave Eomer (any version) at home if you plan on skirmishing for most of the game

Let's face it - without spears and standardized F4 D6, it's hard to go toe-to-toe with civs that have them. Rohan's strengths come in its ability to skirmish with other armies from a safe distance. 8" thrown weapons can be very dangerous, given enough distance. In the hands of cavalry, thrown weapons are even more powerful, giving normal Riders of Rohan 18" of range before moving and Eorl the Young has 20" of range before moving. Against foes with S2 bows, this can not only eliminate a turn of archery potentially, but can also be devastating to their archers (all D5 or less). It's important to note that the cheaper version of Eomer can skirmish and isn't a bad option for a supporting hero - I think that Eorl is a better option, but Eomer can support him well.
While I consider Wood Elves and Dwarf Rangers to be better skirmishers than Rohan units because of their 3+ Shoot value, Rohan's strength in skirmishing comes from the mixture of cavalry archers, longer-range throwing weapon infantry, and archers who can benefit from Stand Fasts from a safe, elevated distance. Only Sons of Eorl and select named heroes do not have the option for ranged weapons, and Sons of Eorl are blissfully fast and powerful on the charge (not to mention riding D5 mounts). As more and more armies are coming to our tournaments with less emphasis on archery and more emphasis on melee combat, an army that can skirmish well can slant the weight of numbers in their favor pretty quickly.
2) You leave Eomer (the really expensive version at least) at home if you want to ally in another hero

Rohan's heroes are limited: though most can be D7, a great many are capped at F4 and the rest can only get to F5. With the exception of Eomer, Knight of the Pelennor (KotP), none have either 3 Wounds or 3 Fate points, making them a soft bunch if they ever get trapped in close combat (and not that likely to win against enemy F6 heroes or monsters). Allying in a hero to help them in combat - like Aragorn or Gimli - will cost a lot - too much if you try to keep someone like Eomer, Knight of the Pelennor in your army. Alternatively, auric heroes like Gandalf the White are great for keeping Rohan units from dying to S3 or S4 archery, as well as protecting units in close combat by knocking their foes to the ground, removing their ability to wound. Try including much in your army after Eomer and Gandalf are in your army...
(Picture is of riders soon to be converted into Sons of Eorl, discussion has nothing to do with them, :P) Maybe you're one of those people who plans on running just Rohan heroes in your army, so you think this point doesn't apply to you. It may not, but consider the combos you can run if you choose to take weaker Rohan heroes instead of a single power hero: for the same cost as Eomer, KotP and a Captain with shield and heavy armor, you can buy a weaker, cheaper Eomer and Theodred, mounting both of them and giving them shields and bows - both are D7, both can skirmish with a cavalry force, and both have 3 Might points. You'll also be more resilient against spell-casters, though your total Fate points will be less. Alternatively, you can drop the mounts and the bows and take Eowyn - choose to pay a little more, and you'll have a cheap F5 D5 hero with an additional bit of Might, Will, and Fate (not to mention 3 heroes to lead your warbands for just over 200 points).
3) Army List:

The army I'm planning on building (I've got the riders and I'm looking at getting the Royal Guards, the rest I'll borrow from the voluminous piles of Rohan guys owned by our club members) is detailed below, showcasing some never-before-used-in-tournament-and-maybe-ever heroes with some interesting synergy possibilities:

The Descent from the North (Warbands, Kingdom of Rohan)

*Eorl the Young - 90 points
*Gamling with Royal Banner of Rohan - 100 points
Theoden with heavy armor - 70 points
4 Riders of Rohan - 52 points
4 Riders of Rohan with throwing spears - 60 points
3 Sons of Eorl - 66 points
5 Rohan Royal Guards - 50 points
5 Warriors of Rohan with shields - 35 points
5 Warriors of Rohan with shields and throwing spears - 45 points
5 Rohan Outriders - 35 points

603 points, 34 units, 13 bows + 6 throwing spears (+4 from riders with bows already counted), 3 heroes, 7* Might

This army is built to skirmish - more than half the army has ranged weapons of some kind and about one-third of the army is mounted. The army relies not only on Eorl the Young getting some Might points for free via his Legendary Hero rule, but regaining Might once he runs out via the Royal Banner of Rohan (RBoR). It's important to note that in order to use the RBoR-Legendary Hero combo, you need to run in warband style - Gamling and Eorl the Young couldn't be in the same army in LOME.

This list gives you mobility and opportunity for surprise. I've thought about upgrading the captain to Erkenbrand and then increasing the Fight value of the Riders of Rohan to Fight 4, but not only would this require dropping at least one rider (or a bunch of throwing weapons), the purpose of the Riders of Rohan isn't to become shock troops who charge the enemy much - that's the job of the Sons of Eorl and Eorl himself. Their job is to harass and skirmish - the whole point of fielding this army in the first place, right?

Theoden is an interesting inclusion: I've debated about whether to keep him in there or replace him with Erkenbrand and upgrade my riders with throwing spears into Redshields (F4 anyone?), but for now, I'm going with the aged king of Rohan. Why? In part because I own the model (though I might use it as a conversion), and in part because he's a bit more resilient than Erkenbrand is, what with 2 Fate points and all. The largest driver, though, is that no one really uses Theoden, because he's not an efficient use of points - if you pay 70 points for him, Eomer gives you 2 Will points for 5 points more, while Theodred gives you the equivalent of 1 Will point more for the same price...not really worth it to have the old man from a competitive perspective.

But I own the model. So for now, the king is here to stay. Thematically, I see Eorl the Young bringing other kings of small fiefdoms down with him from the north. These kings, desirous for peaceable lands of rolling fields, are represented by Theoden. So for now, we'll see where this takes us.

Hopefully you saw the game that Glenstorm and I played with a portion of this list. I'm hoping to get some gaming in with Rohan soon, but I'm taking off for Christmas break soon and will be gone for a bit. When I get back, it's back to work on Goblins, as they recently got a kennel of puppies to play with (see this post for a sneak peak).

Until later, Merry Christmas and happy hobbying!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Battle Report: Men of Dunharrow, Quest 4: Another Rohan Army!


Hey Reader!

Welcome to Quest 4 of the Dunharrow Campaign!  Tiberius and I were able to get together on Sunday for a few hours, and he decided to run a portion of the new Rohan army he is testing.  The lists we ran are below:

The Men of Dunharrow (Rohan, Warbands)
Warband 1
-Eomer, Knight of the Pelennor Fields w/ armored horse (Army Leader): 130 pts
-5 Rohan Royal Guards: 50 pts
-1 Rider of Rohan: 13 pts
-1 Rider of Rohan w/ throwing spears: 15 pts
-2 Warriors of Rohan w/ shields/throwing spears: 18 pts
-2 Warriors of Rohan w/ shields: 14 pts

Warband 2
-Captain of Rohan w/ hvy armor/shield: 55 pts
-1 Rohan Royal Guard: 10 pts
-3 Rohan Royal Guards w/ throwing spears: 36 pts
-1 Warrior of Rohan w/ banner: 31 pts
-1 Rohan Outrider ("Hawk Eye"): 7 pts
-3 Warriors of Rohan w/ shields: 21 pts

TOTAL: 22 units, 400 pts, 5 Might

Descent from the North (Rohan, Warbands)
Warband 1
-Eorl the Young (Army Leader): 90 pts
-3 Sons of Eorl: 66 pts
-4 Riders of Rohan w/ throwing spears: 60 pts

Warband 2
-Gamling w/ Royal Banner of Rohan: 100 pts
-4 Rohan Outriders: 28 pts
-2 Warriors of Rohan w/ shields: 14 pts
-4 Warriors of Rohan w/ shields/throwing spears: 36 pts

TOTAL: 19 units, 400 pts, 5* Might


Scoring

Tiberius and I decided to play a To the Death scenario.  As a quick reminder, scoring works like this:
  • Game ends when one force is brought to 25% of its starting force
  • 2 Victory Points are awarded for killing the enemy army leader
  • 2 Victory Points are awarded if a team has a banner remaining at the end of the game (both teams are sporting banners this match, so this should be interesting!)
  • 1 Victory Point is awarded if the enemy force is broken.  3 Victory Points are awarded if the enemy force is broken and your force is not broken at the end of the game
Both of us liked our chances under these rules, as both of us were sporting banners, both of us had a solid army general, and our teams had different approaches (but doable approaches) for how to break the enemy army.

Deployment

We rolled for deployment, Tiberius placed first, and after everything was on-table the board looked like this:


The board was relatively open (giving lots of room for cav to maneuver), though with enough terrain to give archers and infantry a chance to screen their flanks or stay out of reach of horsemen.

Strategy for Glenstorm: Okay - I'll be honest: I don't really have a plan for taking out Eorl.  He has enough standing infantry that I can break his army by running over his footmen, so I'll plan on doing that, and perhaps screening his horsemen and forcing them to the far side, so that I can delay the brutal charge as long as possible.  But with F4 D6 warriors hitting me with 3 attacks on the charge with S4 (gotta love Sons of Eorl), whenever that hammer falls on my battle line, it's going to hurt.  Guess we get to see how resilient Rohan is, :)

Strategy for Tiberius: I'm really excited - I've been thinking about how to run a cavalry-focused army from Rohan and particularly how to use heroes that have hitherto not been seen on this blog. Glenstorm is not only the buddy that I learned to play the game with, but his Rohan army is the one that got them all started. I'm very thankful that he had some infantry models for me to borrow, and please pardon the unpainted riders - more on them soon!

...And with that... (for death and glory!) (The Red Dawn!)

Turn 1 (P: North)


Like most Turn 1s that do not involve Grey Company volley lines, nothing much happened on Turn 1, :)  The armies moved up, no one shot anything at each other, and we prepared for Turn 2.

Turn 2 (P: North)


I formed up my battle line against difficult terrain, with 3 RRGs and a Rider of Rohan in the building (primarily to screen Eorl and the Sons of Eorl from sweeping through there).  Tiberius took the high ground with his archers, giving him solid cover against the Eomer and my mounted warriors (which means I'll likely be unable to catch them for a while).


In the Shoot Phase, one of the Riders of Rohan took down one of my Warriors of Rohan, and we moved to Turn 3.

Turn 3 (P: Dunharrow)


I opted to reconsolidate my battle line so that it would be a bit more workable against the cav charge (and to force his SoEs to charge multiple guys, which will give me 4 dice on shielding against his 3).  I also ran Eomer wide to avoid archer fire, but also within a 10" striking distance of where I expected his infantry to be (yeah, we're screening the archers).  He setup his men in a skirmish formation on the other side (so that I'll only be able to charge one soldier at a time to get through to Gamling), and charged his heavy horse into my infantry lines (careful not to engage the Rohan Captain this round).


In the Shoot Phase, one of the Riders of Rohan lands a hit on the RoCap, who Fate saves it (1/1F).  Tiberius then launched his throwing weapons, and took down one of my Warriors of Rohan and Firefoot from under Eomer (*so* not cool, man) (but *oh* so necessary, :P ).  Heading into the Fight Phase, I realized that my plan had backfired, as Eorl would now be in combat from Turn 3, and Eomer would be out of action until at least Turn 5.  That...was poor planning on my part, :-/


In the Fight Phase, Eorl won his combat, knocked over the two RRGs, and wounded both of them.  In the fight next door, the RRGs won combat and killed the horse, bringing the Son of Eorl (axeman facing off against them) to the ground ("Riders, to Me!").  In the other combats, a Warrior of Rohan and 2 RRGs were killed, bringing the casualty count to:

Kill Count: Dunharrow 7/22 (4 from break), North 0/19 (10 from break)

Turn 4 (P: Dunharrow)


Any time you opt to take a charge from a unit of cav and don't have spear support, you expect to take a beating that round, :)  What makes up for it is the round after that, where you have a chance to counter-charge, take down a few horsemen, and prepare to overwhelm the enemy forces.  We were able to do a good job of it this round, surrounding two of the SoEs, charging the dismounted one, and pulling in a strong attack against the infantry.

In the Shoot Phase, the outriders took down Hawk-Eye; other than that, nothing else happened in the Shoot Phase.  Heading into the Fight Phase, the RoCap called a Heroic Combat (1/2M), and it was not contested by any other heroes.


The RoCap won combat, killed the Son of Eorl (represented by the infantryman on the ground) (*sigh*), and moved on with his RRGs to engage the Riders of Rohan (so that we can bring F4 to bear on that fight)


In the Fight Phase, Eorl won combat and wounded the warrior and RRG (1/3M after failing his Legendary Hero roll) in his combat, the Son of Eorl beat the Rider of Rohan and slew him and his horse, and one of the Sons of Eorl was taken down by the banner, Warrior of Rohan, and the RRG.  One of the Riders of Rohan for Tiberius was slain by the RRG and the Warrior of Rohan, and the other Rider (lucky dog) beat the RRG and the RoCap, knocked them down (because he was on the charge), and no one was wounded.


On the other side, our boys roll, :)  The Rider of Rohan won combat, knocked over the spearman, and wounded him, and another Warrior of Rohan won combat and wounded his man (who is one of my conversions - I really like that one) (this is not going well...).  As we prepared for Turn 5, I was anticipating finally bringing Eomer to bear on the combats, especially since I suffered enough losses on the other side to break my army.

Kill Count: Dunharrow: 11/22 (broken, 6 from game), North: 6/19 (4 from break)

Turn 5 (P: North)

So, I decided to do something kind of stupid: I called a Heroic Move with the RoCap (2/2M), primarily so that I could stand him up, call "Stand Fast!" and charge his horsemen this round.  If I failed my courage test with him, though, I'll lose the hero (who would otherwise have been engaged, stayed on the table, and rolled 4 dice at F4 to shield off his opponent, which would have also stood him up).  As it happens, he passed his courage test, charged the riders, and called "Stand Fast!"  When the warden charged Eorl, he landed a hit on him with his throwing spear, landed the hit on Feralof, and wounded him, which brought Eorl to the ground (represented by the infantry in grey and green with the spear; we also made a point to replace the Son of Eorl with an axeman in grey and green so that I wouldn't move him as one of my models, so that's the other change in this picture.  Figured Tiberius would appreciate that, :) ) (thanks for the models, boo for killing Feralof).  At the end of movement, the board looked like this:


Nothing happened in the Shoot Phase, so we moved to the Fight Phase.  Eomer called a Heroic Combat (1/3M) (because that's what you do when it's Turn 5 and you haven't killed anybody yet!), and no one else challenged it.


Eomer wins combat, kills his man on 4s, and engages the Warrior of Rohan (as he's out of range of Gamling - I badly need to catch that guy, as he's worth 2 points if he survives, which means even if I break Tiberius's army, he'll still win 3-1) (um, not really - you still have a banner, buddy. :) ).


In the rest of the Fight Phase, all but one of Tiberius's Warriors of Rohan go down, and the other one manages to kill the Rider of Rohan in his combat.  On the other side, Eorl killed the RRG in his fight (leaving the warden unwounded), the RoCap won combat but dealt no wounds, and the banner and RRG killed the Rider of Rohan in their fight.  Suddenly, the game was a lot closer on the points scale...

Dunharrow: 13/22 (broken, 4 from game), North: 9/19 (1 from break)

Turn 6 (P: Dunharrow)


Gamling called a Heroic Move (1/2M) (wise call, as Eomer would have been on him if he didn't escape, and since Eorl is the only model that can benefit from the special rule of the Banner of Rohan, it makes sense to pull the two together), and on the charge one of the Riders of Rohan took down an RRG with his throwing spear, allowing him to engage the banner (lame, :P ) (see, banner. :) ).


After the Move Phase was completed, no one from my team fled (hold the line, Dunharrow!), and I was able to pull the RRG from Eomer's side of the board to help against the horseman threat.  Nothing happened in the Shoot Phase, so we moved to the Fight Phase.  Both Eorl (3/3M) and Eomer (2/3M) called Heroic Combats, and Eorl went first.  Eorl presently won combat (not surprisingly), and then failed to wound on either dice (WOW...), ending the Heroic Combat (BOOO).


Eomer wins, wounds the warrior in his fight on 4s, and then runs toward Gamling.  In the rest of the combats, the Rider of Rohan was killed by the RoCap, the banner was killed by the other rider (no more banner, :P), and the Son of Eorl kills the warden.  The game was very close to ending, with both teams broken (1-1 tie), and a banner still remaining for the North (bringing it to 1-3 in favor of the North).

Kill count: Dunharrow 15/22 (broken, 2 from game), North 11/19 (broken, 4 from game)

Turn 7 (P: North)


Eomer called a Heroic Move (3/3M), because if Gamling got away, the game would be over, :)  (this will not end well...) The Rider of Rohan engaged the standing RRG, the Son of Eorl engaged the RRG on the ground, and Eorl took on the Warrior of Rohan.


After combat, Gamling was slain (and failed his Fate save) (what do you know...I died...), as was the RRG against the Son of Eorl.  With both forces broken and me 1 model away from 25%, the game was almost certainly ending next round.

Kill count: Dunharrow 16/22 (broken, 1 from game), North 12/19 (broken, 3 from game)

Turn 8 (P: Dunharrow)

So, I realized that due to the massive horse in the way, Eomer couldn't see Eorl - which meant my one way of killing Eorl was dead in the water, meaning the best I could hope for was a 1-1 Draw.  After I engaged Eorl, the Son of Eorl, and the Rider of Rohan (none of my men fled), I also realized that it was impossible for Tiberius to kill Eomer, which meant there was no way to stop us from pulling a Draw (unless we both royally botch our wounding rolls, which between a charging Eomer and Eorl is highly unlikely).  Ironically, 3 of the 4 outriders then promptly fled the field (failing their courage tests), bringing the game to a close at the end of this round (wow - talk about anti-climactic) (I know, right?).  So we quickly did the Fight Phase:


...And as the game ended, the Rider of Rohan and his horse were slain, and everyone else stayed on the field.  Final count:

Kill count: Dunharrow 16/22 (broken, 1 from game), North 16/19 (game)

Final Score: Both armies are broken (1-1), both army leaders are alive (still 1-1), and neither team has a banner, resulting in a 1-1 Draw.

Summary

Thoughts from Glenstorm: Well, that was interesting, :)  Losing the horse with Eomer was a major setback, as it kept the Red Knight from engaging until Turn 5 (while Eorl was engaged from Turn 3), and the result was a force broken way too quickly.  On the whole, though, my honest opinion is that I was outmaneuvered: his throwing weapons and horses did more damage than I thought they would, and I underestimated his list.  Pure and simple.  There weren't any die rolls I would have changed; my force was beaten straight-out, and it was grace that we pulled it to a draw.  But, for once in a draw/loss, it was not my force that reached 25%, :)

Thoughts from Tiberius: Tell you honestly, I didn't expect to lose any of my Outriders...and then I lost three. All in all, I like the cavalry force approach - Sons of Eorl are deadly on the charge and not shabby when they don't have it. Infantry are nice to have, but I need to keep Eorl closer to the infantry ranks instead of way off on the flank. For a first test run, I thought it went very well.

Stellar Unit for Glenstorm: Um...basically, everyone was kind of "meh" this game.  The RRGs took the pounding from the horses, and I was lucky to have two of them survive up until Turn 7.  Honestly, there wasn't anything super stellar about this team in the game.  Eomer was okay (especially considering the fact he was without a horse for all of combat), and the rest of my warriors just did what I usually expect them to.  That being said, I do want to recognize the RoCap for holding the line, dealing damage, and stunting the horsemen after the charge, giving me enough time to sweep the other side of the table with Eomer.  That was essential in pulling me out of my losing streak.

Stellar Unit for Tiberius: Sons of Eorl. Hands down, these guys were great. Three of them really helped Eorl take down the largest division of the opposing force and with 3 Attacks on the charge and S4, they're very, very powerful units. After being dismounted, they were generally resilient and killed most of the enemy units in this game. A big shout-out goes to the Riders of Rohan, who rode around and harassed the flanks and "wagged" between fronts. Stellar performance, strawheads - I look forward to doing more with you guys later!

So at this point in the quest, I've scored a Major Victory, a Minor Loss, a Major Loss, and a Draw.  I was planning on this being the last mission with Dunharrow (as I'd like to do some projects with the new Dwarf models I've got - super excited about that!), but Tiberius has graciously offered to give me one last shot at breaking even.  We're not sure which army he'll use (though I'd put my money on Wood Elves, :P ), but I hope to get in one last game with this list, for old times' sake, :)  In the meantime, here's the newest hero I painted up this week to add to my Rohan force (I purchased her unpainted courtesy of a friend of mine who runs the blog Chef of War):


It sounds like the Chef is selling more miniatures (some painted, some unpainted), so if you're looking to get a good deal on miniatures for LOTR, check the post on his blog.  To give you an idea of his skill in painting (which is phenomenally detailed, btw), check out the Khazad Guards here:


I painted all the others - he painted the Khazads.  He's head-and-shoulders above my painting abilities, so if you're looking for some high-quality miniatures at fair prices, you should seriously look into Chef of War.  He has good pictures of his models on the post, too, so you'll see those when you visit the site.

In the coming weeks, other than the Dunharrow game I intend to transition over to what has become a January tradition of mine in recent years: I'm expanding my Misty Mountain force from the new Hobbit miniatures, and I hope to feature them here soon!

Watching the stars,

Centaur

"Remember, Firenze, we are sworn not to set ourselves against the heavens.  Have we not read what is to come in the movements of the planets?" ~ Bane, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Desolation of Smaug Review (10 sec version)



Seriously though... it was a fun movie, despite some of the story shenanigans. I know lots of people were complaining about Tauriel's stats and how "no way can she be better than Legolas" - watch the movie. Waaaay can she be more kick-a than Legolas. 

-Z

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Rohan Tactics Post: Why You Should Always Take Eomer


Dear Reader,

First and foremost, this post is not exactly a challenge to Tiberius, or Glot, or any other Rohan players I know.  Exactly, ;)  It is the beginning of a series of tactics posts on Rohan, and things that Warbands and LOME players should keep in mind when running a Rohan force.  I wanted to start with a post on Eomer, as he is one of the seminal (and most powerful) heroes available to Rohan, and also because he was the first hero I ever owned.  And, of all of the heroes I have ever used, I feel most comfortable with him.  So we'll start there, :)  In the future, I'll be doing a few more tactics posts on the heroes and warriors of Rohan, much like the series I did on the Shire and the Grey Company on this blog.

I.  Versions of Eomer

First of all, there are two versions of Eomer that are available to Rohan players.  For LOME players, both are available in Theoden's Host, and Warbands players can use either for one of their warbands.  Both Eomers have their uses, though I prefer the second build, for reasons I'll detail in the next section.

A.  Eomer, Third Marshall of the Riddermark

Photo courtesy of Games Workshop; all unattributed photos belong to Centaur
This was the first rendition of Eomer, and it mimicked the profile for Faramir, but added throwing weapons as a bonus.  For 75 pts, you get a F5 S4 D6 hero who could add a shield for D7 staying power.  With the standard 3M/2W/2F Fighting Profile, he is a solid hero, and has the added bonus of having options for a bow and/or throwing spears for 5 pts/each if you'd like to have range options as well.  In recent times, though, this Eomer has fallen by the wayside, as users are favoring the new profile for Eomer...

B.  Eomer, Knight of Pelennor

Photo courtesy of Games Workshop
Eomer got decked out with the new profile: now boasting 3A instead of 2A (so 4A on the charge), and the full 3M/3W/3F fighting profile.  He has less options now: he costs 115 points, comes with the shield, and can only add an armored horse for 15 points, and lacks any ranged options now.  But some players are willing to trade the ranged threat for more firepower in close combat and the extra Fate point.

C.  Why Two Versions?

This is a worthwhile question, especially since they have combined profiles in the past (Grey Company and Rangers of the North as one example, though Faramir is a better example).  I propose that they have kept two versions of Eomer because they want him to be able to fulfill two purposes in an army: harasser or scrapper.  Depending on what you need for your force (and your other hero choices), either version of Eomer will suit your purposes.


For harassing, I'd take Eomer, Third Marshall with a horse, a shield, and throwing weapons, as it gives you 1) the chance to throw spears if you can't quite reach a priority target, 2) only costs you 95 pts, freeing up 35 points for other models (which could be as much as half a volley line or 5 standing infantry), and 3) when he engages his foes he will still be rolling 2-3 dice (depending on whether he gets the charge) and boasts F5 to win the fight, which is solid against any non-monster, non-elite hero opponent.  This Eomer also allows you to pick up a stray kill on the charge before engaging your primary target in melee combat, which is extremely helpful for getting around flanks and taking out soft targets (like banners, casters, and other support heroes).

...Because it wouldn't be me posting about Eomer without a
picture like this, :)  Just going to leave this here, :)
For scrapping, you should always go with the Knight of Pelennor, as he will have 3-4 dice to win combat, sports the solid D7 that should make most opponents wound on 6s, and if he charges and wins combat, he knocks infantry opponents over and wounds at S5, which means 8 dice wounding 4 targets on 5s or better in most cases.  Not too shabby.

II.  Uses of Eomer

Eomer does three things for your team: provides a deep threat against your opponent's backfield, offers a fast attack option for quickly engaging weakened enemy elements, and provides the reliable damage count that Rohan teams need to augment their light infantry and cavalry options.

A.  Deep Threat


From personal experience, there's nothing more scary than seeing a heavy-hitting horseman (S4 or S5, doesn't matter) call a heroic combat against one of your spearmen, kill him off, and then fling himself into your soft archer troop.  Even worse is the poor shaman who thought he was protected by a wall of defenders who suddenly finds himself face to face with a man who is fell and fair and itching to remove that Fury spell that's keeping the soldiers in line.

Unlike most other mounted heroes (I'll get to Imrahil in a bit), Eomer will either provide a throwing weapon fast attack or a heavy-hitting S5 D7 4A tidal wave against an opponent's backfield, which can turn the tide in a fight (especially in bringing an opponent to his break point) in a few turns.  Other heavy hitting heroes (like Aragorn and either Boromir profile, for example) either lack the D7 option (in the case of the lesser Aragorn and Boromir profiles) for long-term sustainability should you wiff your dice, or they force you to pay upwards of 180 points (the cost of Eomer + 5 Royal Guards, or Eomer and 2 Sons of Eorl) to obtain a similar advantage.  The only hero who is comparable in price and provides the same advantage is Imrahil, the Prince of Dol Amroth from the Fiefdoms list, and Imrahil's strengths lend him contrary to a deep attack option.

Eomer's saving grace is either that he has a variety of options for attack (in the Third Marshall profile) or he has S5 on the charge.  Imrahil's great strength is that all Knights of Dol Amroth count as being in range of a banner if they are within 12" of him.  This loses its luster if Imrahil is half a board away - it only makes its point cost back up if you keep him close to your front line fighters (as Imrahil only constitutes a deep threat if you pay 150 points to mount him on an armored horse, which is a ton of points for a S4 D7 deep threat).

What is more, Eomer is the only mounted hero for Forces of Good who can hit S5, which means every archer short of dwarves (including Isengard and Easterling archers that can sport D5) will be wounded on 4s.  That's critical if you want to hew through warriors quickly.  For deep attack options, Rohan has a solid attacker in Eomer, and no other hero for them can bring the pain to the backfield like he can.

B.  Fast Attack


Like all cav heroes, having the option to charge when you want to - to pick your battles and isolate weak elements of your opponent is critical to dismantling enemy formations.  Eomer offers a unique boost, in that while moving 10" he can either do an additional 8" ranged attack at S3 with his throwing spears (which is pretty awesome) or he offers a clobbering S5 attack on the charge (which is also not too shabby).  Rohan sports a number of S4 heroes who can potentially be mounted, and also offers horses to basically every hero in its list (it even offers a pony option for Merry).  What Eomer offers above everyone else, though, is a reason to be a fast attacker: either he sports a ranged attack with a F5 2-3A and a decent number of Fate points when he closes distance, or he offers the tidal wave of 4A (more than most pike-supported models will ever have) at S5 for solid wounding power on a quick charge.  Which leads us into the primary reason for choosing Eomer.

C.  Reliable Damage Dealer


Most heroes for Rohan (all except Merry and Eowyn) are S4, which is the "standard" for most heroes that are 50+ points.  This means that against D5 and D6 - which is most infantry and cavalry - they will wound on 5s.  Eomer offers something special to the team: a chance at S5.  This means that your standard D7 "bunker" hero who is supposed to hold a flank and fend off attackers is now wounded on 5s, and as this hero is likely not going to be mounted, Eomer will have 8 (count 'em: eight) chances to deal wounds to that hero.  Because of the sheer amount of pain that Eomer can deal out at S5 - even if he's charging cav models where he only gets 3 attacks - Eomer reliably offers 2+ kills/round, which is what Rohan teams need to stay competitive on the kill count.

III.  Eomer and Other Rohan Heroes

In this section, I want to compare Eomer to a number of other heroes available to Rohan, illustrating why Eomer is generally a better choice for a lead hero in your army.  I'll preface this by saying that if you're playing a 1000+ point game, please don't see this section as, "Never field So-and-So," as each of these heroes have a place in the Rohan list (and I'll detail that more next week).  Instead, I want to show you why Eomer gives you the most "bang for your buck" as you build a Rohan list.

A.  Eomer v. Theoden

Photo courtesy of Games Workshop
Theoden only costs 65 points base cost, and to his credit is one of the most flexible heroes for Rohan.  With two selections of horses, and a chance at bringing his D5 up to D7 with heavy armor and a shield, he is a proficient, reliable hero.  Comparing him to the Eomer, Third Marshall (as they are a closer fit in regards to points), Theoden leaves much to be desired in your lead hero, though: whereas Theoden pays and additional 20 points (for 85 total) to get a horse, shield, and heavy armor, Eomer pays 15 points (90 total) to add a horse and shield, for those 5 extra points Eomer sports 1 more Might point and 2 Will points - which, if you consistently play against casters (like I do), it's really nice having the anti-magic defense, let alone insurance against those low Courage test rolls that every gamer will face at some point.  I've seen heroes who lacked Will points be reduced to F1 statues for a game, and it's no fun.  Add in a chance for a few more points to get ranged options, and I can easily say that you should take Eomer (either version) over Theoden any day of the week.

B.  Eomer v. Theodred

Photo courtesy of Games Workshop
The comparison between Eomer and Theodred, his cousin, is even more interesting.  Both of them sport the F5 S4 and 3 Might heavy-hitting profile, and for only 70 base points, Theodred is probably my second favorite Rohan named hero.  He boasts the same flexibility in gear that Eomer, Third Marshall does, and in most circumstances will be a very reliable hero.

...Unless he gets trapped.  Theodred's "Achilles heel" is that he has only 2 wounds, and lacks any Fate points to boost his survivability.  This means that even if you make him a D7 combat hero, one bad roll and you're done.  This means you can either bite the bullet and play it close to the chest, or you use your Might points conservatively to win fights because losing one can be disastrous.  I don't like being tied down with my lead hero, so I'd prefer Eomer (either version) as my lead attacker.

C.  Eomer v. Eorl

Photo courtesy of Games Workshop
This will be the one that gets me in trouble in the blogosphere, :)  First and foremost, for anyone running LOME, you'll understand why I would always take Eomer over Eorl, as the Theoden's Host list does not allow you to use Eorl (and that makes perfect sense).  For Warbands players, this is more of a sticking point.  For only 90 points, Eorl offers you a comparable hero to Eomer, Third Marshall, including a 12" armored horse, D7 with a shield, and throwing spears, with a 4+ chance at Aragorn's special rule.  To be clear:

This is an awesome hero.

Okay, now for the sticky part, :)  First of all, you're limited to 2 attack dice unless you charge.  That's not bad, especially if you can knock over an opponent on the charge (as you'll get 4 dice to wound).  The problem comes when you attempt to engage a Wild Warg Chieftain (like I did recently) or some other creature that is not an infantry model and you need to do damage to it to keep your team in the game.  Eorl is more of a redirect hero (which I'll go in-depth into in my hero tactics post), focusing his firepower on specific types of units: heroic combats and devastating charges against infantry ranks, picking off units that would otherwise create problems for your rank-and-file infantry.

Unlike Aragorn who boasts F6, Eorl also lacks the combat firepower to tackle some of the larger infantry heroes on the board (like F5 D7 uruk captains, who would wound Eorl on 5s, with Eorl wounding them on 6s and rolling off to win the fight).  For a few points more (or, heck: for 40 points more) I'd gladly go for a hero that can do 3 wounds against a Wild Warg Chieftain on 4s on the charge, kill a Dweller in the Dark outright on 4s to wound if he wins the combat, etc., so that I have more options at taking down the heavy-hitting models of the enemy.  As a team, Eomer and Eorl make an excellent pair: one redirects the enemy, the other tackles the hard stuff.  But if I had to choose between the two, I'd much rather take Eomer than Eorl.

D.  Eomer v. Named/Unnamed Captains


Granted, any which way you cut it, you're spending a lot more points for Eomer than you are on any of the named captains.  Each of the caps, though, have an inherent weakness, which makes them good for niche rolls - possibly some of the rolls Eomer plays in a force, as mentioned above - and I'd definitely recommend you take one or two to augment what you're doing with Eomer.  Need a banner to hold your front line while Eomer romps through the backfield (deep threat)?  Take Gamling.  He'll hold his own in the center, though he has no shield, so be aware of that.  Need a D7 "bunker" to hold the side of the map that Eomer is not on to free him up for a fast attack option?  Take a RoCap with shield/heavy armor (and you can throw in throwing spears if you really want to).  Want a chance at wounding D6 models on 4s to redirect fire from your heavy hittter?  Grimbold is your only option at a 2H, and he uses it well, though be careful: he's only D5 himself, so his opponent will likely be wounding him on 5s or better.

Rohan also gets options at what I'll call "niche heroes": need some cheap Might points?  Eowyn at 40 points sports F5 D5 with a shield for holding a flank, and boasts 2 Might and 2 Fate to boot.  Need to take down a pesky caster before he gets dangerous?  I've seen the King's Huntsman do some pretty serious damage to 1 Wound heroes in my time (and having been the one on the receiving end, I'll tell you in passing that it's not fun).  Rohan has a ton of heroes that offer advantages that augment Eomer's strengths well.

IV.  Why You Should Always Field Eomer

Four things come to mind in light of our discussion, and I'll touch on them briefly as they have been covered in-depth above.

1.  Well-Rounded Profile


Eomer, Knight of Pelennor is the only hero in the Rohan list to sport a 3M/3W/3F profile, meaning that he is sustainable and powerful in close combat, and has a solid defense against magic as well - definitely enough defense to get him into close combat with the caster.  F5 also means that against most lesser heroes and warriors Eomer will win ties, and against most heroes and warriors generally, he will win ties or roll off against his opponent.  His natural bane is monsters and the elite of heroes in the universe, as well as the inherent chance to wiff your dice on a roll against what should have been an easy opponent.  As far as his build goes, however, Eomer offers you the most well-rounded attacker and defender Rohan has access to.

2.  Solid Defender


When you show me another Rohan hero with 3 Fate, 3 Wounds, and a F5 D7 static baseline to ward off attackers, I'll concede the point.  Rohan offers a number of "bunker" options with different heroes, but Eomer is the most survivable of them.  Since your front line will likely consist of F3 D5 warriors (perhaps S4 if you field Grimbold of Grimslade), Eomer provides you with a solid attacker that can defend himself, causing casualties and taking attention away from your weaker elements.

As you'll see later in my tactics posts, Rohan needs models - either cav or heroes - to take attention away from the peasant core units they need to field, and with no options for spear support, the problem of a weak center is compounded for Rohan armies.  Eomer helps to not only take firepower away from your infantry, but can also defend himself when things get hot.

3.  Strength 5 - Your Army Needs Strength 5


Players are going to disagree with me on this - that's fine.  From my experience playing with Rohan, I have found that the most helpful thing for me in a given combat is having someone who is S5, who gives me options for tearing through spear support (which is usually D5 or lower), can rip through non-D6+ front lines if necessary, and can challenge basically any hero and most monsters and wound on 5s.  Rohan's greatest problem is damage output, as they can get overwhelmed and caught in a shielding war if they start taking losses.  Eomer provides you with the reliable kill count you need in order to keep up in the casualty count.

4.  LOME and Warbands-certified


One of the big hold-ups for players is, "What units can I use and not use if I field a certain hero?"  This was more a question when LOME was the leading scheme for army building, but even under Warbands we are forced to ask that question.  If I want to field a certain number of warriors, I now need to work around heroes that are independent of warbands (the Huntsman, for example) and heroes that will cost so much to field that I won't be able to field the troop count I need to defend them and keep the break point up.  The advantage of fielding Eomer is that, as mentioned above, he's versatile, filling different roles for your force.  Whatever role you need filled in a Rohan army, Eomer can help with that role.  And since he can be fielded in either Theoden's Host from LOME or Rohan under Warbands, he's easy to integrate into your force for either army builder.

Conclusion

Is Eomer an overpowered or unbeatable hero?  Absolutely not - the Red Knight has been killed before on this blog, and I fear that it will happen again.  Is Eomer a powerful and reliable hero?  Yes - and I'd argue, the most reliable hero you'll find this side of the Isen.  And for only 90-130 points, he's an excellent deal.  There are places and circumstances where other heroes will come in handy (and that will be the subject of my next tactics post), but across the board Eomer should always rank high on your list of weapons to take with you to the field.  From my experience with Rohan over the past few years, you should never leave the house without Eomer - he's critical to success with Rohan.

In my next post I'll be discussing the various heroes available in the Rohan list, going in-depth into their uses and combat roles, and then I'll follow up with a post on the warriors in the list.  Until then, may your days be merry and bright,

Watching the stars,

Centaur

"Firenze!  What are you doing?  You have a human on your back!  Have you no shame?  Are you a common mule?" ~ Bane, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone