Friday, December 26, 2014

Beware of Dragon, Part 4: The Defensive Versatile Dragon Types

Good evening gamers,

We've talked about Vanilla dragons, Utility dragons, and Offensive Versatile dragons. In this post, we're wrapping up the tactical overview of dragon builds and focusing on the "defensive versatile" dragon options. As mentioned in our last post, these dragons don't use the Breathe Fire upgrade, which brings a few concerns. The chief benefit to this dragon type is that your Will store can be saved for one of two things: casting magic (if you have the Wyrmtongue upgrade) or passing Courage tests (available to all three builds below). This allows you to protect your dragon either by weakening your foes or ensuring you are resolute enough to stay and fight. The concerns for this build are as follows:

Concerns for not taking Breathe Fire

The first and most important consideration is that your dragon is strictly a melee unit. With a large base, you need to watch terrain to make sure you can fit when you want to attack. You also need be careful not to accidentally trap your own units when you maneuver or retreat (should you lose a fight). Finally, watch out for enemy archery (for most builds), as exposure to too much archery as you try to cross the field could drain your Will (or Might/Fate) stores before combat is reached.

The second consideration is similar to a consideration for how to use Breathe Fire: you need to pay for a 350 point unit, so be deliberate about who you attack. I've hinted/said this in each post on dragons: you're paying for an expensive unit, so for the love of all that is holy, direct him at the enemy in a way that will recoup some of that investment. This could be by destroying heroes in melee combat OR by crunching enemy warriors who drift too far from the protection of a brawler hero. Whatever you choose to do to make up the cost of your army's centerpiece, don't "just attack with him," as telling him "smash" may not be good enough.

Build #4: "The Strike Drone" (Wings + Wyrmtongue)

I'll begin by saying that this is my favorite build for defensive dragons (and may be my favorite build for any dragon). Why you ask? Because taking an upgrade that allows you to fly and taking an upgrade that allows you to cast magic each turn you are not engaged is the only way to continue getting worth out of your dragon. I've talked a lot in the previous posts about how Breathe Fire only lasts for three turns (or less) and how taking the Rough Hide upgrade requires your opponent to actually try to kill you when you're nearly impregnable. These upgrades are different: they're not passive (like Tough Hide) and they're not limited use options.

The benefit of Wings can be lost if your opponent gets priority a lot, but on the whole, you should be able to use your incredible speed to position yourself to kill the units you need to kill in order to gain your points (be it to target an important hero, or line up a nice set of guys to throw one unsuspecting grunt into). Wyrmtongue also lasts the whole game, thanks to a free Will point and spells with difficulty of 3 or 4 - not all of your spells will go off successfully (and I don't particularly like spending Might points to make these work unless you REALLY need them to), but you'll have a chance next turn to make it work. Combined with wings, you have a 24" effective range too, which is great for making sure that anyone within your 12" movement path gets their will store removed or prevented from doing any damage.

Build #5: "The Lead Zeppelin" (Wings + Tough Hide)

If I didn't love magic so much, this would be my favorite dragon. I'll go further and say that if I were running a two-dragon army at 700 points, this would definitely be one of them (maybe both, depending on whether you can leave the Breathe Fire upgrade at home). With the passive skill of Tough Hide, you're not likely to take much damage and without Wyrmtongue or Breathe Fire, you can save all of your Will points to resist magic and pass Courage tests. If you don't want to be touched and be able to rapidly deploy, this is your man.

It comes at a price, though: who's going to attack you? Strength 5 heroes wound you on a single dice, but who's going to openly charge a dragon like this with the intent of trying to get that wound on 6s? Not many. The more likely event is that a single grunt (we'll call him Bob) charges you and everyone else high-tails it out of there to wherever the rest of your army is. It's worth noting that your 12" movement should allow you to lose this loser on the next turn, but losing any time with a dragon is costly. In addition, since non-siege archery isn't going to do a dent in that mail, your opponent is more likely to focus his archery on the rest of your army, which may have a greater toll on you than a Fate point or two plucked off the dragon before hitting combat without the Tough Hide upgrade.

Build #6: "The Quagmire" (Wyrmtongue + Tough Hide)

Perhaps you want to stay in step with your army and want to be able to take down the worst of your enemy's heroes. While I've come to enjoy mobility on my casters, a standard 6" movement coupled with magic works just fine. Unlike most fantasy games, you have the ability with this build to actually make your caster defensible. If you enjoy casting magic, this guy is really fun to use.

My biggest concern about this build is that you can't maneuver - it has all the benefits of the two previous builds except their movement capabilities. Being able to fly away from  "Suicide Bob" is no small thing, and being able to move quickly to keep an enemy hero on the other end of the map from making it off the board or making it to an objective is no small thing. Finally, since your foes will have no incentive to attack you, not being ahead of your army (thanks to Wings) will mean that he'll focus on everyone else. Even with a Goblin army, you're going to be pressed for numbers or other means of fire power, so having your foe focus on the rest of your army is kind of not the least for me.

The final post in this series will by my biased review of ways you can take down the 11 dragon types described in the four preceding posts. These will include general recommendations and tell you which dragon types are defeated by them - no rocket science, but a general should realize what element of his army he is neglecting to employ/expand given a monster like a dragon. After that, we move on to detail work on the Wood Elves, Goblins, and Dwarves as we celebrate the climax of the Hobbit trilogy and the turn of the year!

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