Saturday, January 31, 2015

The First Ever PCTPTGTA - Rules and Contestant #1

Good morning gamers,

So I have several armies that are vying for a chance to be taken to a grand tournament his year and try as I might to figure out which one to take, I can't make a decision. Ergo, I am placing the power of deciding in the hands of our viewership. The rules for the first ever "Popularity-Contest-To-Pick-Tiberius'-Grand-Tournament-Army" are as follows:
  • On March 1st, I will take a snapshot of the total votes cast in favor of all three armies. The one with the highest number of views will be the winner.
  • Posts will go up in rapid succession (within a few days), reducing any advantage of one post being put up before another one.
Without any further ado, Contestant #1 is...
From The Mountain Depths: Moria Warbands

Warband 1:
Groblog [Army Leader]
5 Goblin Warriors with shields
5 Goblin Warriors with spears

Warband 2:
Moria Goblin Shaman
5 Goblin Warriors with shields
5 Goblin Warriors with spears

Warband 3:
Ancalagon, Dragon with Wings and ???
10 Goblin Warriors with Orc bows

High Concept: During our most recent series on dragons, we talked about every kind of dragon you can run in the Hobbit SBG. This army puts the theory to the test. Our loyal readership may recall that my two favorite kinds of dragons have the ability to fly and mix that with either fire-breathing capabilities or the Wyrmtongue upgrade. I haven't decided which one to use yet (and some surprises deserve to be kept a little longer), but you'll see one of these kinds of dragons if this post wins the contest. To back up the dragon is a 32-unit Goblin horde that sports a 5+ Fury save and plenty of Might points to make sure you get the charge when you want it.

The next post will be coming in a few days, so don't forget to view this page to cast your vote!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Warg Update

TGIF y'all! so progress was slowed by the holidays, but I've been working on and off to get these beasties finished. I think I'm pretty pleased with the results.

Wild Wargs of Angmar (and occasionally Harad)
 I went for a vaguely hyena-inspired color scheme with an assortment of browns (or dark greys in the case of the two black wargs) and finished off with some dry-dabbed (like dry brushing, but dabbing it on instead of brushing it on) black for the spots. The effect is a bit more subtle than the harsh lighting suggests...

for the black wargs, I added both grey and black spots for added contrast

the color graduations don't show too well in these photos, but it was late and I didn't have time to rig up better lighting

Glowing eyes achieved by adding progressively lighter layers of green further out from the
socket and a pastel green highlight to the eyeball - which really makes them pop in a suitably creepy fashion.

and yes, he is as front-heavy as he looks. I'm currently awating a shipment of lead
fishing line sinkers to glue underneath and try to offset that.

As fun as these were to work on, I'm glad to get these off the hobby table... because I need to start turning my hobbying attention towards TMAT GT15 and whatever projects that will inspire!


Friday, January 16, 2015

Beware of Dragon, Part 5: To Fear or Not To Fear

Good morning gamers,

We've talked about the "vanilla" dragons who have no upgrades, the "utility" dragons who have a single upgrade, the "offensive versatile" dragons who have two upgrades and use their Will to breathe fire, and the "defensive versatile" dragons who have two upgrades but no fire. Given these 11 possible builds, how does one go about fighting these things? To all the dragon hunters out there, this post is for you.

1) Never Underestimate The Power Of Lots of Archery

This is perhaps the least inspired of all the strategies, but it bears mentioning: Defense 7 is high, but with a lot of guys, anything becomes possible. If your Goblin volley team is 11-12 strong like mine is, you're supposed to be getting 4 hits a round. This translates into one wound every three rounds, which I'll admit isn't great. This means one of three things:
  • Find a way to get more Strength 2 archery. This can't be done with all armies, but can done effectively with armies from the Arnor, Harad and Umbar, Eastern Kingdoms, and Rohan army lists. All of these armies can have 50% or more of their armies have S2 archery pumping in one direction. The Shire can also do this strategy, not because they can have more than 33% of their forces be archers, but because at 3-5 points per unit, you shouldn't have a problem getting 60 units in a 600 point list and that means upwards of 15 archers in any given game.
  • Second, you can get archers who have bows that are better than Strength 2. Again, this can't be done by everyone, but you can do it quite well with armies from the Isengard, Durin's Folk, Rivendell & Eregion, Lothlorien & Mirkwood, and Minas Tirith (thanks to Citadel Guard) army lists. The Elven lists in this set also have 3+ shoot values (or better) which increases the number of wound you are expected to land in a given round.
  • Third, you can use siege weapons. Hitting single targets is hard because of the scatter dice, but if your foe doesn't have Wings, there will probably be someone you can scatter into. When you do get a direct hit, you'll be wounding that puppy pretty well, so hopefully you get some damage in there. Alternatively, you can use monsters who can throw stones (Trolls and Ents especially), since this does high damage without the scatter rolls.
These strategies will work against any dragon type that don't have the Tough Hide upgrade (though the siege weapons will work even against these kinds of units, but have problems against dragons with the Wings upgrade). Furthermore, these strategies cover most armies available to you as a general: only Numenor from the Lord of the Rings collection's conventional army lists can't use one of the three strategies above. If you're running this list (or most of the non-Elf armies from the Hobbit collection), try something below (Numenor players should pay attention to #3).

2) Never Underestimate The Power Of Simple Spells

This is slightly more inspired that "pumping iron" into the beastie, but I'm amazed that here at TMAT we don't see more offensive magic. Sure, at most tournaments you'll see a shaman or two keeping the hordes of Moria in line, but we've had 3-4 teams in our history of tournaments actually bring magic to bear against their foes (and two of them were mine).

Magic is easy and efficient: pay 60 points for a Ringwraith with a bonus Might point, and you can sap the will of any power unit and then keep him from killing anyone else for 4-5 more turns (depending on how chancy you want to play). During those 5-6 turns, your foe kills for a single round...yeah, he's not paying for himself. Given that there are ~10 rounds, you basically take the power unit out for half the game. Though dragons have the Resistant to Magic rule, a single dice is often unlikely to resist a successful spell.

Not all armies can field casters, but a few armies can field casters capable stopping a dragon:
  • Mordor, of course, has the greatest selection of casters, with named and unnamed ringwraiths. I've written up several posts on how to use ringwraiths as casters, which you can find under the Mordor label in the side bar.
  • A select few armies can field casters who receive a free Will point each turn, which is great for ensuring that at least one monster doesn't do anything. These armies include Mordor (if you want to buy Sauron, who is as expensive as a dragon), The White Council (which you can ally in for 150 points with either Saruman the White or Radagast the Brown), The Fellowship of the Ring (which has Gandalf the Grey/White, though you can also get Gandalf the Grey in the White Council list), Lothlorien & Mirkwood (with Galadriel), and Isengard (for the woefully overpriced Saruman the Colorful).
  • A few other heroes have the Immobilize/Transfix spell, allowing you to cast it a few times to try to weaken your foe. These heroes can be found in the army lists for Rivendell (Gildor Inglorion), Lothlorien & Mirkwood (Celeborn), and Mordor (The Mouth of Sauron). Unlike Ringwraiths, though, you only have a few Will points, so use them when it really matters.
If you run a warband list, it is possible (though potentially costly) to employ this strategy. This will also work against any style of dragon, but none so well as against one that breathes fire (as you'll be targeting his Will store with your magic OR preventing him from shooting via transfix/immobilize). You may also find that your opponent's dragon is unrealistically good at rolling high on his single Resistant to Magic dice (or you just barely cast your spells each time). After checking to make sure his dice aren't rigged, you may want to turn to this next strategy, which works rather well in tandem with a caster.

3) Never Underestimate The Power Of One Fool (or Famed Hero)

While tagging monsters with a single unit is not as effective as it used to be (now it's like giving him a free projectile), you can still limit a dragon's ability to take important ground by throwing a single unit in his way. Dragon templates are big - HUGE even - so a single unit could be used to plug a corridor, walkway, or bridge. Alternatively, you can trust to a famed hero to slay the dragon. Your average captain might be able to wound the dragon okay, but winning fights with an unnamed leader of a garrison will be difficult. Therefore, you turn to the named hero section of your army book and see who you trust the most and stick him to the dragon until the game is almost over or the dragon falls.
  • Armies who can field effective "fools" include Minas Tirith (thanks to the Bodyguard rule on both Citadel Guards and Guards of the Fountain Court), any Elven army (Courage 5+ standard), Durin's Folk (Khazad Guards have the Bodyguard rule and everyone else rerolls failed Courage tests when within 12" of a Dwarf Shield-bearer), the Kingdom of Rohan (Rohan Royal Guards have the Bodyguard rule as well), an any Uruk/Goblin/Orc army that brings a shaman with the Fury spell active (after the poor grunt does his valiant charge, we abandon him and FLEE!!!).
  • I'll note that many of the units in the previous bullet can be mounted - this not only increases the size of their footprint, but also allows them to charge a dragon sooner, tying him up further from the rest of your army. Citadel Guards, for example, cost less than 15 points when mounted and Rohan Royal Guard are similarly priced. I'll also add that mounted units without the Bodyguard rule (or a high Courage value) still make great "fools," if the dragon is earth-bound (e.g. doesn't have the Wings upgrade).
  • Heroes from the Forces of Good who can go toe-to-toe with a dragon include Aragorn (that free Might point is great for winning a fight when the dragon get a weak roll, promoting Fate points to avoid damage, or making that wound work - and don't underestimate the power of Anduril!), Eomer (Pelennor version, as S5 on the charge will be wounding on a single dice - just focus on winning the fight), almost all of the named Dwarf heroes in the Durin's Folk list (S5 is nice, Eomer, but the 2h rule can be just as good), the King's Champion from the Durin's Folk list (if he's in range of both his heralds, he effectively rolls 5 dice to win the fight, which gives you a sporting chance of winning, followed up by 3 dice wounding on S5), Elrond (wounding the dragon could be made easier with your Elven blade, but it should take a while to eat through those Fate points when you reroll failures), and Treebeard (yes, he's practically the same cost as a dragon, but let's face it, he's S8 and casts rocks of similar strength - I had to include him!).
  • Forces of Evil can rely on Uruk commanders across the Isengard and Mordor lists (S5 across the board, many also have 3 Might points), while various other monster heroes could be fielded to "fight fire with fire." In general, though, your primary hero choices appear in the spell-caster section above or are not very efficient at dealing damage against a dragon.
This strategy doesn't work very well against dragons with wings, as their mobility will cause problems in tying them down. When facing these kinds of dragons, you can use a slightly different strategy (see the 5th point below) to protect your vital units. If you're selecting the hero option here, you should also beware dragons that take Tough Hide, as even the strongest heroes will be wounding on 6s (5s if they have a two-handed weapon or a similar rule). This can not only keep you from carving through the grunts of your enemy's army, but also prolongs your struggle against a foe who likely has a higher Fight value (and Strength) value than your own.

4) Never Underestimate The Power Of Not Having Spears

The meta here at TMAT tends to recommend the use of spearmen - they buff your attacks, enhance heroes, and can allow miserable Goblins to have an even chance of beating better units who lack spear support (like Dwarves). There is, however, a very practical benefit of not having spears: you don't need ranks. If the dragon charges ahead of the main line, armies without spears are free to stagger their units without much fear of being hurt in the long-term. This seriously limits not only a dragon's ability to kill large numbers of units, but can also be a very effective way to protect tactical heroes from a monster with a huge base.
  • Armies that fit this bill include Rohan (throwing spears aren't spears, buddy - they're better!), Durin's Folk (throwing weapons and super-powered bows make up for not having spears), and the Shire ("throwing weapons" might be a bit of a stretch here, but tons of little minions who would take FOREVER to pay for a 250 point dragon - let alone a 300-350 dragon - is pretty effective).
  • Other armies who can choose not to take spears include Isengard (armies that field almost exclusively berserkers, ferals, or scouts will find this easy enough and not miss their spears too much), Easterlings (halberds are great, but if you're going for 50% bow limit, you don't need spears), and Angmar (Orcs are great, but an army of spectres could really keep that dragon on the run).
While the "stagger" strategy is very effective against dragons who breathe fire, it is not very effective against those with wings, as spreading out your units means that individual units can be selected as prey much more easily. Catching these dragons, however, is much easier with a stagger formation, as our units are, well, everywhere. If your goal is to catch them, you can do that here rather easily...I won't say that this allows you to beat a dragon...

5) Never Underestimate The Power Of Terrain

In a recent game I played against Glenstorm, a Rohan army that was cavalry-only successfully defeated a Goblin army that fielded a "vanilla" dragon. The reason? Terrain (chief among other reasons). Monsters have this rough rule in the ORB that says that they cannot perform jump tests or climbing tests, which makes it really difficult for monsters to move around without being able to fly. Having a vanilla dragon and a lot of terrain means a slow, lumbering terror who can be avoided simply by leaping over a wall (yes boys, I think it's broken too). There are other ways to use terrain though:
  • Placing a tactical hero, like a shaman or spell-caster, between pieces of terrain (or next to a large piece of terrain with a staggered group of warriors) can keep the dragon from charging for 1-3 turns. This not only buys you time to use your tactical heroes for as long as possible before they meet an ill end, but gives a caster time to whittle down the Will store of the wyrm (how about that for alliteration) OR allow a power hero time to charge the dragon and keep him at bay.
  • If you have a powerful archer hero, terrain can be used as a screen to buy you a turn or two more to shoot at the beast OR can serve as a disincentive for the beast to charge the archer in the first place (as "hopping over the wall" over and over again gets old really quick if you can't pull the same maneuver).
  • While terrain that is raised above the ground can be very useful to keep monsters of any size at bay, dragons without the ability of flight are perhaps more crippled by patches of difficult terrain. With such large bases, it will take a while for them to get out of the difficult terrain and they'll lose their charge bonuses (I think, like cavalry do) if they pass through difficult terrain when they are charging. While this could be a forest, it could also be a sand pit, patch of rocky ground, or marshland.
This strategy can not only be employed by any army (though those with strong choices for casters and archers can make particularly good use of it), but it can work very effectively against any kind of dragon. Unlike the other strategies, however, you are a slave to the one who created the map. The more terrain is on the map, the harder any dragon (wings or no wings) will find it to move. If the map is desolate, however, you'll need one of the other strategies listed above.

Onward To Slaying Dragons!

This post wraps up our discussion on dragons. I'm looking forward to finishing some work on my Wood Elves and Dwarves in the coming months. Also, in February, I'll be having a special "contest" related to my army in the Grand Tournament, so be watching this space!