Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Beware of Dragon, Part 2: The "Utility" Dragon Types

Good morning gamers,

In today's post, we're going to look at the four types of "utility" dragons that you can buy in the LOTR Strategy Battle Game. The following terms will be used throughout the post, so here are their "formal" definitions up front:
  • Utility Dragon - a dragon with a single upgrade is termed a "utility" dragon, since the upgrade provides a niche capability for the dragon to perform a primary function (and very few other functions besides that). This is used to differentiate a dragon with a single upgrade from those with no upgrades (termed a "vanilla" dragon) and those with two upgrades (termed a "versatile" dragon).
  • Lightning Build - a dragon who relies on its fiery breath to devastate enemy ranks and the heroes who lead them. This allows a dragon, for a limited time, to have an archery attack option.
  • Thunder Build - a dragon who relies on the thunderous pounding of its wings to choose its battles, avoid several turns of archery, and often ensures that it will receive its charge bonus.
  • Rain Build - a dragon who relies on magical spells to enfeeble enemy heroes (or warriors, I guess) in order to defeat them asymmetrically. Like fighting in rain, heroes who face a dragon of this kind will not be entering the combat at full strength (if anywhere near the same playing field).
  • Hail Build - a dragon who relies on its tough hide to ignore wounds dealt by the most powerful of blows. This has its advantages against enemy archery, damage-oriented magical spells, and melee attacks.
For the sake of theme, these all have storm elements in their titles - the "hail" build is probably better termed a "rock" build, but since hail is rock-like...you get the picture.

The "Lightning" Build

By taking the Breathe Fire upgrade, your dragon is able to tackle large blocks of troops or nasty heroes from a distance. Breathing fire costs a Will point, which means you'll only be able to use it three times. If your foe knows the rules for this, he'll be sure to space out his men to reduce the amount of damage you can do with each attack. You should still be able to pay for the upgrade, though, by tackling 3-4 units at a time. Alternatively, you can really pay for the cost if you can take down two captains (or one epic hero) with your breath attacks, though your combat profile should generally be good enough to kill them without using up your fire.

While you can do lots of damage with this build, you are slow. With only 6" speed, you will probably be near your main lines when you start unloading pain on your foes. Since the breath attack is made during the Shoot phase, you need to ensure that you're not charged in order to use it, so watch out for high Courage/Bodyguard rule units! This "downside" isn't necessarily a problem, but how you maneuver your units will be key to victory. Another concern about this build is that because you cannot race across the field, you are a prime target for enemy archery and enemy magic: if they can stop you before you can get close enough to use your breath attacks, you're in trouble. Magical spells that allow you to move an opponent his full distance (Spectres and Wood Elf Sentinels most particularly) are real dangers, as moving you your full distance will keep you from being able to doing a bow-style attack.

The "Thunder" Build

Wings get you into combat sooner - this is a self-evident fact. Since you already invest in the strong melee profile for any Utility dragon, this utility type relies on speed and maneuverability to get into combat quickly. You can take advantage of the Brutal Strikes available to monsters in order to get your kill count in, but you are focused on getting into the fray quickly. If you are allowed to deploy within 12" of your board edge, you can engaged your opponent in 2-3 turns and can even tackle enemy siege weapons if you need to. An added bonus of this build is that for those early turns of the battle, your enemy archery will probably not be directed against the other 300+ points of your army. This can save you a lot guys!

The downside to this build is that if you race across the field on wings, you are likely going to be facing the full force of your enemy's army alone. You'll want to save your Might points to win fights (or promote Fate points), as one bad roll for you could spell instant doom for the beloved monster of your force. Defense 7 will hold up well against most enemy attacks, but this shouldn't make the wielder of any dragon foolhardy. Spectres are again very dangerous for these sorts of dragons, as they can not only make them move at great speed into a trap, but they also wound against your low Courage value instead of your Defense value. If there are any Ringwraiths nearby, those nasty spectres will be wounding on 4s from the get-go an on 3s if the Ringwraith casts Drain Courage twice. Choosing to resist these spells necessarily means decreasing your Will store, which makes passing those Courage rolls that much less likely.

The "Rain" Build

While both of the previous builds trust to the powerful profile of the dragon, the Wyrmtongue upgrade allows you to use this powerful profile against a weaker profile of the enemy unit of your choice. With three simple spells, you can reduce the Will store or Fight value of your enemy's prized hero. Being Fight 7 is usually enough to win on ties, but reducing the attack number of your foe is no small thing. Furthermore, if a hero is known for wounding his foes (Thrysdane Wolfsbane or Aragorn with Anduril, for example), removing his ability to roll to wound on a given round will be worth its weight in dragon scales.

The other great benefit of running with this build is that every turn you receive a free Will point to cast a spell. This means that you will never be lacking for use of this upgrade, unless someone charges you before you can cast. Of course, the Terror/Harbinger of Evil special rule combo should make charging you hard to do.

The biggest downside to this build is that if your opponent relies more heavily on his warriors doing his dirty work than his heroes, you'll be hard pressed to cast magic against the whole of the army before they carve through whatever is left of your army. Magic is great, but it's best employed against heroes who will make a difference, rather than hordes of warriors. This isn't to say that you can't Transfix someone you intend to throw/bash through...

The "Hail" Build

The "hail" build is the closest thing I could come up with that rings like a "rock" build while focusing on storm terminology. Taking the Tough Hide upgrade boosts your maximum Wounds and Defense value to 9 (instead of 7). The increase of wounds is a bit excessive, since having the higher defense should be more than enough to disincentivize shooting at you and reduce any damage intake from melee. This is the build for the person who wants to steam roll through the enemy ranks and doesn't want to worry about taking damage if he flubs a roll.

Like all of the other builds (besides the Thunder build), you are probably going to be close to your own ranks when you finally get into charge range. If he arrives at the same time as the rest of your warriors, however, there is a bigger danger: why would your opponent want to charge a large, nasty dragon when he could charge a softer part of your army? On turns when you have priority, you can probably charge whatever units you want. On the other turns, however, you'll be forced to use your Brutal Strikes in order to get any semblance of kills in.

In our next post, we'll look at three of the six "versatile" dragon builds (all featuring the Breathe Fire upgrade), so watch this space!


  1. Interesting thoughts there, thanks for sharing.

  2. I am going to sound like such a brown-noser here but here goes: Have you guys ever thought of collecting all your articles and make some sort of SBG tactics-book in PDF?

    1. The thought is an interesting one...if we do, it'll probably be made available on Scribd, just like our Comp builder (similar to a builder used for Warhammer Fantasy around the world).

    2. I'd be open to it - I'd also like to segment our work so that similar articles are in one space (Isengard articles, Shire articles, Rohan articles, etc.), but yes: the idea would be fun, :)