Sunday, December 14, 2014

Beware of Dragon, Part 3: The "Offensive Versatile" Dragon Types

Good morning gamers,

In our previous two posts, we talked about the Vanilla dragon type (no upgrades) an the Utility dragon types (one upgrade). These five builds are more affordable options that what we're going to be talking about today, but they only do one thing for your army. In today's post, we're going to be looking at the three possible Versatile dragon builds that include the "Breathe Fire" upgrade, because let's face it, we think breathing fire is pretty cool. Because you pay Will points to use Breathe Fire, we're going to be referring to these dragon builds as "offensive versatile" types, while the non-Breathe-Fire builds save their Will stores for resisting magic or passing Courage tests ("defensive versatile" types). It's important to note that the fact that "offensive" or "defensive" has been tacked onto the Versatile description doesn't mean that taking an "offensive" dragon build lacks defensive options (or that "defensive" dragon builds lack offensive capabilities). Rather, the focus is only on how it enables the use of its Will store. Before we begin, let's get some of the elephants out of the room.

Concerns for taking Breathe Fire

First and foremost, as we just said, you're spending your Will store to do damage, instead of resisting magic. These dragon builds are not designed to counter serious magic armies. I've mentioned magic in every post so far, but this bears repeating:

Because you're a powerful melee monster, you will be targeted by magic.

This has become particularly true with the advent of Brutal Strikes, since monsters can't be pegged so easily by a single warrior anymore. If your foe wields an army of evil, adding a 60-70 point Ringwraith is easy and you can keep a powerful unit from doing anything for 4-6 turns.

If your gaming meta doesn't rely on magic (bad idea, but we'll get into that in a future month here at TMAT), there is another consideration for Breathe Fire upgrades. Your upgrade is only good for a maximum of three turns, so don't "just use it." While the upgrade is only worth 50 points (and you should probably be able to recoup that during three rounds of killing), any dragon commander needs to think about what he strategically needs to do to win a game. If your opponent runs a hero-oriented army, focus your firepower on the hero(es) that will make a difference for the rest of your army. For example, you can probably kill most of a Dwarf volley team with a single breath attack, but if Gimli's squad (or Balin's squad or the King's Champion's squad or...) sneaks off to the rest of your army, you've lost the game. Using the same example, though, you as the commander need to decide if you need to wipe out Gimli's two Fate points (and perhaps killing the hero) or if weakening him is good enough and taking out a swathe of guys is more important. Whatever you choose to do, you need to be deliberate with your fire.

Build #1: "The Missile Copter" (Breathe Fire + Wings)

This is your "cavalry archer" build: it combines the value of a bow-style range attack with the speed and rapid redeployment of flight. Being able to move 6"and still make a 12" range attack is powerful, especially in objective-based games. Glenstorm likes to talk about armies that can "wag" from one part of the battlefield to the other, and if you like being able to do that, this is your man!

While this is likely to be one of the most popular builds for dragons (and indeed my favorite offensive build), the greatest concern for anyone running this kind of dragon is the agro (read, concentrated fire) it will attract. With only Defense 7, beware of S3+ archery and more importantly, S5+ magical spells or siege weapons. Since you will hopefully be shooting for 3 turns, this gives your opponent time to shoot at you before melee is joined - that can be a lot of time!

Build #2: "The Sniper Team" (Breathe Fire + Wyrmtongue)

This is the "12-inch-ranged-cannon" build, and while it doesn't move as rapidly as the Missile Copter, it has the potential to skirmish for a long time. I call this the "sniper team" because you are probably focusing on taking out heroes with it. While Breathe Fire can be used to kill warriors, Breathe Fire in this build can be used to wear down one or two really powerful heroes (Elven lords, Aragorn, Imrahil, etc.) and once you've exhausted your Will store, reducing the Will and later Fight value of their other heroes as you take them out one by one.

It's important to note that if the Fly special rule came standard on dragons, this would be the play (at least for me) - you could fly 6" and still breathe fire or fly 12" and cast magic - it's incredible! Since this is not a possibility, it's important to realize that you will not be able to move up as quickly and so will be vulnerable to enemy ranged damage (to include everything listed in the previous build) AND will be closer to your own ranks when you engage. Be careful if you get charged before you get off all of your Breathe Fire attacks, as later, that could mean toasting some of your own guys, along with some of his. While the trade might be worth it if you're killing Elves as well as Goblins, you're not going to have that many guys, so be careful.

Build #3: "The Tank" (Breathe Fire +Tough Hide )

When I first read up on the special rules for dragons, I immediately thought "This is where it's at." While I no longer hold this opinion, this is still a fun build. You get a great ranged attack, and while you are slow, you are also impervious to damage (some concern from S5 attacks and S9 magic/siege weapons).

Unlike the previous two builds, you trade gaining agro for its antithesis: no one is going to focus on you. Now, whatever else you bought to accompany the dragon will be receiving the focus of the attack. We've talked in a previous post about how taking the Tough Hide upgrade results in general results in not being attacked: while at first this seems like a capital idea, since all scenario reward you on breaking your foe, you basically incentivize your opponent into trying to break you instead of dealing with your power unit. Since he's not fast, redeploying him is going to be hard. Breathe Fire will do a lot for you (if you can get it off before charges), but once entangled, only Brutal Strikes will help you. In the end, your foe is likely not going to wound you on better than 6s in melee anyway, so you pay 50 points for an upgrade that all but ensures that your dragon will make it to the end of the game. If you like that sort of thing...go with it. :)

I will say one more thing about "The Tank" - this I think would be the best build for at least one dragon in a 700 point list. Here at TMAT, we've never broken 603 points in a game (grace points included) because of the time constraints we have and the time it takes to move everyone, but I've heard speak of grand tournaments in the UK which are played at the 700 point level. Two 350 point dragons in those games have been powerful in the past and personally I'd go with one "Tank" and one "Missile Copter" or better yet, one "Tank" and one of the defensive builds we haven't talked about yet - more on that in our next update.

In our next post, we'll wrap up our discussion of dragon types with a look at the non-fire Versatile dragons, all of which rely on melee for their crushing power, but ally in various tricks to maximize that melee potential. Until then, happy hobbying!

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating write-up: I'm personally not a big fan of fire as an upgrade, but these are useful tricks. I'm interested in seeing your next write-up (as I think the dragon I favor will be in that list - Tough Hide + Wings), and look forward to the commentary!