Monday, April 28, 2014

Forge Update: The Horde of Angmar (aka, "The Halloween Army")

Hey Reader!

Welcome back to TMAT!  First of all, I owe you all an apology: I said I'd get this up on Friday, but after arriving home after 11:00 and heading into a busy weekend, I decided to go to bed instead.  So I apologize, :)  So instead, here's a pick-up post for you Monday, :)

Second, we're over 50,000 views - so thank you so much to our loyal viewership!  The following army list is one that I've been thinking about for quite some time, but between a work travel schedule and projects for the GT III in late March, I haven't had a chance to finish the conversions and models until now.  Below is the army list I'll be taking to The Hunters Red October (THRO) Tournament this fall (which conveniently falls close to Halloween each year), but before I show it to you all there's something I need to mention:

I've never been a "scary halloween costume guy" for All Hallow's Eve.

So this army list is a bit out of character for me, :P  That being said, the Angmar selection choices for warriors and heroes is an interesting one, and while I've always run Angmar armies as a hybrid between Angmar and the Hobbit Azog's Hunters force (and other guys in our gaming group really like Angmar + Moria for their list), I've always wanted to do a straight-up Angmar list that doesn't rely on Buhrdur the Troll Chieftain (because that's boring and everybody does it because he's a good deal for the amount you pay, :P ).  So if I was running an Angmar-only list, this is how I would do it, :)

I.  Army Theory and Concept

The army I'm running in October is below:

The Horde of Angmar (Angmar Warbands - though it could be LOME as well)
Warband 1
-The Dwimmerlaik (Army Leader): 120 pts
-3 Spectres: 45 pts
-2 Cave Trolls: 160 pts
-5 Orc Trackers: 25 pts

Warband 2
-Barrow Wight (Methernil): 50 pts
-4 Orc Warrirors w/ shields: 24 pts
-4 Orc Warriors w/ shields/spears: 28 pts
-1 Orc Warrior w/ banner: 30 pts
-3 Orc Warriors w/ 2H weapons: 18 pts

Warband 3
-Barrow Wight (Taradan): 50 pts
-4 Orc Warrirors w/ shields: 24 pts
-4 Orc Warriors w/ shields/spears: 28 pts

TOTAL: 602 pts, 33 units

So the force looks like this:

The concept of the army is pretty straightforward: lots of avenues of attack.  The army has some "anvil" elements in the blocks of F3 D5 orc warriors, and gives some 2H and banner options to give you extra chances at doing damage and winning fights.  But most of the army is a variety of "hammers" to wail on a force's weak points.

The army also has 3 dedicated casters and 6 total casters, using ethereal units (spectres) and undead units (the Dwimmerlaik and the wights) to neutralize enemy heroes and kill enemy models within a 12" radius of the army leader.  With spectres wounding against Courage value instead of Defense value and the Dwimmerlaik providing a Courage -1 radius within 12" of him, most models are going to be wounded by a S3 spectre on 4s (if not 3s, in the case of C2 units like goblins and Warriors of Arnor), including most captain units (which neutralizes the "bunker captain" that people usually build who sports F4 D7, as they are predominately C3 after the Harbinger of Evil penalty is applied).  Add into that the possibility of the Dwimmerlaik cancelling Might, Will, and/or Fate points used by a hero within the same radius, and you present a hard front against enemy units near your army leader.  They also all cause terror, so enemies will charge them on Courage -1, and if they fail you're free to use your magic (which I'll explain in the next section).

Oh yeah - and there are two cave trolls.  Which gives you Monster Attack rules and 3 attacks at F6.  Let's not forget about that part, :P

II.  Strengths and Weaknesses

The list is not designed to do everything, but it is designed to a variety of things.  Since most armies are not well designed to fight against these forms of attack (with the White Council being the exception to this, as you'll see in a bit), it can be a very formidable list in a tournament setting, as armies are static, and are not allowed to make changes/alterations between rounds.  We'll begin by looking at the strengths of the list, and then look at the (sometimes glaring) weaknesses that it possesses.  For some of our readership, the weaknesses may not look that bad; part of the influence of my commentary comes from the selection choices of the guys in our gaming group, so it may not be a universal "problem" with the list.

A.  Strengths: Damage, Damage, Damage

This list is (ironically) built as a "power" list: it's not the strong "beatstick"-style army you'd expect to see, but that's because it hits heroes and units in ways most armies can't do, and thus also gets past a number of the defenses of traditional armies.  The list does three different forms of damage, with options at other weapons.

1.  Strength 6

With two cave trolls (though, realistically, a high-archery army is going to make it so you'll only have one at best by the time you get into combat), you have two monsters rocking 3 attacks at S6, using F6 to win the fight.  Per the new Hobbit Monster rules, you can either use this to do regular damage (which is likely wounding on 4s) against any models in base contact, rending damage (against the Strength of a model, which is almost always wounding on 3s) against one model in base contact, or a throwing attack that can hit tightly compact enemies further down the line.  Since most armies tend to rely on D6 for their frontlines, this means you'll be wounding on 4s against warriors who are usually relied on by an army to stand for a few rounds.  The potential to romp clean through enemy ranks with these trolls is a good advantage that can turn the tide of the fight your way.  And with most heroes being F4 or F5, opponents have to choose between a troll winning ties (and rending the poor hero) and not engaging your heavy monsters.  Both are okay scenarios for this army.  But this is not the biggest form of damage for the army...

2.  2H Attacks

The list also uses 4 2H weapons (three with orcs, and one on the Dwimmerlaik), which are at a -1 penalty to win the fight, but are +1 to their to-wound rolls.  This means that a S3 orc wounds a D6 warrior on 5s (instead of 6s), and the S4 Dwimmerlaik wounds a D6 warrior on 4s instead of the normal 5s.

Now this all sound well and good until you remember that orcs are only F3: how do you win the fight if you're going in on a penalty?  This list does it three ways: opportunities to swarm, the Paralyze spell, and the Transfix spell.  Because the team sports 6 casters (I'll get to the spectres in a bit), you have a lot of ways to either keep the enemy from striking wounds (by forcing them to shield or Transfixing them to keep them from wounding if they win the fight and allowing you to win ties), or you cause your opponent to lose the fight automatically, sparing you from rolling with a penalty to win the fight (via Paralyze).  Since trapping such foes is also pretty easy (on account of their not moving anywhere or they're knocked prone), it means that each of these 2H attacks is now doubled, giving you a better chance to do the killing blow in the flurry of wailing and clobbering directed at the target.

Though not always as helpful as the brute strength of a cave troll, you can spread it out a lot more than the two (or one) set of attacks from a cave troll, which forces you opponent to make hard choices on what he wants to protect/defend, and what he is willing to sacrifice.  But let's say for the purpose of argument that Boromir is standing surrounded by a number of Warriors of Minas Tirith, and even if you were to Paralyze him you wouldn't be able to load up the attacks against him (which means he's probably going to stand up and beat you next turn): what do you do?

Conversion I made from 3 High Elf Warriors, because I had extras lying around.
Per the fact that the rules for spectres say they always use hand weapons, I
used a bowman for one since I've got way to many bowmen lying around, :P
Enter the spectre.  Assuming that you keep the spectres within range of the Dwimmerlaik (which you always should, by the way, as you'll see in the next section), you target the men around Boromir with the A Fell Light Is In Them spell, and force them to take a Courage test (optimally also within range of the Dwimmerlaik, so that they are Courage 2-3 in the vast majority of cases).  When they fail it (because they will fail it primarily), you are able to take a full move with the unit, such that you do not enter an enemy control zone or cause damage to the unit (so no moving them into lava, dropping them off a cliff, etc.), you can move them far away from the place (or person they are supposed to guard).  Suddenly a Paralyzed Boromir of Gondor finds himself surrounded by warriors who are chomping into him on 4s and 5s, unprotected by his men.

Now the one problem with this strategy are bodyguard units: Rohan Royal Guards, Tower Guards, and Khazad Guards will present a problem, but on the whole, when coupled with Transfix and Paralyze, the Fell Light spell is very powerful in opening up enemies for an easy take-down.

But perhaps the most underhanded attack of all...

3.  Spectral Blades

Very few civs (and only one Force of Good) are able to wound against a unit's Courage value instead of their Defense value, and while monsters can wound against Strength, there are a lot of high-Strength opponents who are also high-Defense (uruk captains are a good example of this: S5 D5-7 for 60ish points).  Also, lowering an opponent's Defense or Strength is virtually impossible in a battle, so the values you are fighting are pretty static.

More of a close-up on them in better res: played with some different
skin tones, a wash, and some odd positions for the hands that look
disjointed because they died once upon a time.
Enter the Courage-based attack of spectres.  In the example above with Boromir, S3 units (like spectres and orcs) are usually wounding a D6-7 unit on 6s.  There are two ways to get around this: either attack with a 2H weapon (in which case the to-wound roll of a 5 is promoted to a 6), or somehow drop the Defense number to a 5.  For spectres, they wound against Courage value, which for most units is far lower than their defense (I'll get to Wood Elves and Dunedain in the next section), meaning that wounding them with a S3 unit (which is on-par with most warriors in the game) will have an easier time wounding people (usually 4s, even against Courage 4 dwarves).  Spectres are only F2 (so you'll have to protect them), but between causing Terror and Courage 6 (in case you ever need to charge someone else that causes terror), they do a fair job of holding their own.

B.  Weaknesses: Defense and Deficiency

The list is a "soft" build as far as lists go: it has a lot of potential weaknesses, and does not use its points solely for power and sustainability.  Some of the more glaring problems with the list are below, and things that I'll be thinking through over the next six months as we get ready for THRO.

1.  Low Courage

Perhaps the largest problem with this army is that it is predominately a low-Courage army.  Since all but 6 of the units (who happen to the be the casters) are Courage 3 or less, facing an enemy army that causes terror (the White Council, for example) could lead to a number of models doing absolutely nothing for you for a good portion of the game.  This problem compounds if your tournament does not require Good to face Evil, and you end up facing another army that sports ringwraiths/dragon/Sauron who reduce Courage near them.

It would also really be rocked by an Army of the Dead list, as all of their guys would cause terror and they would all be wounding my men on 4s or better, including my trolls and entire front there's always that, :P

2.  No Might

At first glance, not being able to promote a 4 to a 5, or a 5 to a 6, doesn't seem all that bad.  The great disadvantage for this army, though, is that you have no chance to call any Heroic Actions, which means that if Priority is not being equitable to both sides (which it has a tendency to do in my games.  Dumb Murphy's Law), you could find your casters not casting magic, your brutes not doing damage, and your front line being swarmed and you are powerless to stop it.

Honestly, it's what you get when you focus on casting power: there are very few casters (and virtually none below 100 points) that have a decent number of Might points, so this is just part of the problem with using casters.  It's part of the trade, so I'm alright with it.  But I recognize the potential problem this can create, and will be planning accordingly.

3.  Wood Elves and the White Council

Both of these lists should be avoided like the Plague, because they both play to the weaknesses of your list.  First of all, Wood Elves are Courage 5-6 for all units in the army, which draws out the fundamental problem with spectres:

You're not allowed to switch between damage types with Spectres.

Per the Spectral Blades rule, spectres always do damage against Courage value.  In most cases, this is okay: even a D4 Ranger of Arnor/Ranger of Gondor/Blackroot Vale Archer (low-defense) who is C3 is wounded on better odds by a spectre.  Same goes for D3 C3 hobbits.  But with Wood Elves, we have the exact opposite problem: instead of wounding against D3 (which would be 4s), we're wounding a F5 warrior (which means we have to beat him with him winning ties for starters) on 5s, and for F6 heroes (good luck winning that one) who are Courage 6, you're wounding on 6s.  I'll give you a hint: it doesn't end very well.

Second, if the Wood Elf player is using Thranduil, you can expect Aura of Dismay to go off for free at some point during the battle, causing his front line to cause Terror for a turn.  And that is going to hurt.  Also, since the entire team is C5+, even if you are within the radius of the Dwimmerlaik, your opponent is still passing Courage tests on 66% at C4, so the Fell Light rule won't help you to flush out an enemy defensive position.  Add in the Blinding Light spell from Galadriel and a lot of archery, and you've got yourself a painful, brutal, and probably short battle using this list.  Oh - and probably Legolas.  Legolas will probably be there, if it wasn't bad enough already, :P

The problems are exacerbated when rolling against a White Council army.  The fact that the army is small (forcing you to concentrate fire on extremely tough guys) aside, the entire army is usually C6+ (so again, no bonus to attacking against Courage), D7 (so trolls are usually not much help), F6/7 (which means tying off trolls or winning ties, not to mention beating everyone else quite handily on Fight value), and high Will stores (for resisting your magic or casting magic of their own) coupled with high Might stores for lots of killing.  You are also required by that small army to basically kill every single person in order to bring him to 25%, and he has good ways to avoid the vast majority of your guys and get away without a scratch as he picks off your men slowly.  Avoid this army at all costs.


Like all lists, this one has its weaknesses.  That being said, I think this is going to be a fun list: it has that nice mix of conventional warriors, magic users, bruisers, and a bit of archery to provide some protection for the flank.  It may not be tournament winning material, but that's okay - it will be a lot of fun, and I think it will highlight some of the advantages with thinking outside of the F4 D6 box that tournament lists tend to prize.  It will also be a good army to use with new players, as it will help them learn the ins and outs of casters, monsters, infantry, spear support, 2Hers, archery, courage testing - all of the basic game mechanics sans Might points (which they'll definitely be bringing to the table), so I hope to use it as a teaching experience as well for the newer guys in our gaming group (and I've learned over the years I really do have a heart for teaching, probably even more than I do playing the game).

I'm hoping to get in a game with Tiberius sometime next week after he finishes his masters program (congrats, Mr. M.A.!), and another post should be up on May 1st, so until then, you'll know where to find me,

Watching the stars,


"Trivial hurts, tiny human accidents," said Firenze, as his hooves thudded over the mossy floor.  "These are no more significant than the scurrying of ants to the wide universe, and are unaffected by planetary movements." ~ Firenze, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

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