Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Throwing Weapon Theory: How to Make Them Work

Good morning readers,

So my wife and I just bought a condo, moved, and have been doing home-improvement jobs for the last few weeks. It's been really busy. But now that most of that stuff is put to bed, I can get back to writing on the blog. Rest assured, my hobbying-hands haven't been idle in the past few months, so I'm hoping to get up a lot of content over the next few weeks (give Glenstorm a break - thanks buddy).

Today, we're talking about throwing weapons, and this post constitutes the climax of a four-year journey in learning how and why to use throwing weapons. Since starting to collect in this hobby, I've really liked throwing weapons. First with Gimli, then with my Wood Elves, I learned that there is not only a reason, but also a tact to using these things. As a preliminary note, all references will be in inches - assume 2 cm for each 1 inch we talk about here if you use the metric scale.

1) Why Use Throwing Weapons?

Throwing weapons do two valuable things for your army: first, they allow more than 33% of your force to contribute to body-counting the enemy outside of the Fight phase. Second, they allow you to do damage in the Move phase, and not just the Shoot phase or Fight phase.
When I first looked into armies for LOTR SBG, I immediately liked Elves (any kind) and Dwarves. When trying to decide what kind of Elves to run, there were three kinds of units that I considered: heavy armor High Elves, light armor Galadhrim, and unarmored Wood Elves. Dedicated readers know that I've gone the Wood Elf route (though I have a small band of Galadhrim and am creating a small High Elf army), but the ultimate deal-breaker was that the Wood Elves could take throwing daggers and the others couldn't. Elves naturally come with a high Shoot value and the only way to capitalize on that for most of your army is to equip those who can't take bows with throwing weapons.

2) How Many Throwing Weapons Should I Take?

Throwing weapons can be taken in large quantities, but for most armies, throwing weapons are a supplement to the overall army killing power. Three of my armies field throwing weapons - Dwarves, Wood Elves, and Goblins - and because of how I've chosen to build them, throwing weapons are part of the overall strategy but not a large part. For 8 points/model, I can see why a general might take 2/3 of his Goblin army as Prowlers with shields/two-handed weapons (Corsairs can do this too for the same cost), but Wood Elves and Dwarves tend to rack up the points pretty quick if you're spending 9-10 points/model just to be able to shoot. This being said, having a 3+ Shoot value makes charges of this kind very, VERY dangerous.

There is one army that does well to have a large complement of throwing weapons: Rohan (though if you can protect Corsairs, you can do MURDER with lots and lots and lots of Corsairs). Since Riders of Rohan can take 8" throwing weapons on 10" movement units, your effective engagement (and escape) range is huge. Rohan infantry cost 9 points/model if they have throwing weapons and shields which can get expensive, but with a few cheap heroes, you can still have a high model count with a ton of throwing weapons.

I've often been asked the question by newer players in our gaming group (especially Rohan players), "How do you determine if the throwing weapons are worth it?" This is a legitimate question, since you're paying 2-3 points/throwing weapon in your army. My reply is simple:

"Tally the points you kill with throwing weapons and compare that to what you spend."

For some armies that overkill on throwing weapons (especially Rohan armies), if you're spending 40+ points on your throwing weapons, you want to see at least that many points being killed by them (not their wielders in melee - the throwing weapon itself needs to do the killing). Against Uruk armies, this means 4-5 kills, but for a Goblin army, you're talking upwards of 8 kills. Can you get that in before the fighting really gets started?

Consider, however, if you have 6 Dwarf Rangers with throwing axes, you only need to get 2-4 kills before you've paid for the upgrade. Statistically, you're supposed to get 4 hits with your rangers each round, which translates into 1-2 kills in the first volley alone (assuming Defense 4-5). With some tactical positioning (to be covered next), you might get in another round or two of shooting before the melee begins, which effectively pays for the weapon upgrade. For most armies, I'd recommend only a few units taking throwing weapons and keeping them together in a group where their style of fighting and firepower can be concentrated.

3) How To Use Throwing Weapons

There are four cases that you might face with your throwing weapon units:
  • You are not in charge range of enemy targets AND your range is greater than the movement of the enemy targets (One-Round Safety);
  • You are in charge range of enemy targets AND your range is greater than the movement of the enemy targets (Quick Get-Away);
  • You are not in charge range of enemy targets AND your range is less than the movement of the enemy targets (The Dance); and
  • You are in charge range of enemy targets AND your range is less than the movement of the enemy targets (Possible Get-Away).
The second and fourth cases are often the same, so we'll consider them together (they're really only different if you get priority and your movement is equal to or greater than your opponents). We'll look at some case examples of each of these in order to see what you can do when you're in them.

Case 1: One-Round Safety
When you are outside of charge range, it doesn't matter if you get priority first or second - you'll still be able to skirmish and you don't need to call a Heroic Move - the only thing this affects is "how" you skirmish. The simpler case is when your opponent moves first (no duh here): you know where his units are and can position your own where you need them. Here then is the first tactical rule of throwing weapons:
(1.0)     Distance between thrower and target = [Movement of Target] + 0.5 inches

Since this case assumes that your range is greater than the movement the target, the target will be in range. Why tack on the 0.5 inches then? The reason is minor but valuable: first, you should still be in range. Since all ranges and movements are in full inches, you'll still clip roughly half the base of the target with your range (as seen in the case of the Wood Elves and Goblins above). For units with 8" throwing spears, you can actually pick targets in two ranks doing this, even if they're 6" movement models.

There's another reason for tacking on the extra half-inch: your opponent's move on the following turn gets cut by half an inch too, giving you an extra half-inch to retreat on later turns. The reason is the rule on control zones: you're not allowed to enter the control zone of an enemy model unless you're able to complete the charge. Since you're beyond his movement stat, he can't complete the charge and so must stay out of your control zone. You may not see the overall distance gain as all that much, but trust me: over time, the distance stacks up. Ultimately, though, you've still bought yourself another turn with this strategy - if your opponent moves first, he tries to reach you but ends 1" away from you and you just move back so that there is the same distance as before between you and him (unless you move slower, which happens for some civs). In either event, you've gained at least one more turn to make those throwing weapons pay for themselves.

This begs the question though: what do you do when you have to move first? The answer is simple (kind of...):

(1.1)     Distance between thrower and target = [2x Movement of Target] + 0.5 inches

It's important to note that if you have less movement than your target, you won't actually get this far, but the reason for this distance should be easy to understand: you want to either choose to move his full distance and be in range of your guys this turn and not able to charge next turn, or to stay outside of your range and hence not be able to charge you on the following turn. In either event, you've won yourself one extra turn of shooting (hence, why this is called the One-Round Safety strategy).
Two words of caution on this particular strategy: first, it wins, but can be very, VERY frustrating for your opponent. There's nothing quite like having to take fire from an opponent you can't catch. The second point of caution though is for you: it is rare that you get this same strategy two turns in a row (if you keep not getting priority and your movement is at least as much as your target's movement, you can do it). As such, you need to be ready for the next two cases - especially the one we're tackling next.

Case 2: Quick/Possible Get-Away

In these cases, you begin in charge range and now need to adjust your movement to make sure that you aren't charged this turn and can get one last round of firing in. There's an important caveat to both of these cases: you need to have priority OR successfully get off a heroic move. That's hard and in many ways not up to you as much as it is to Lady Fortuna. Without priority/a heroic move, you're dead in the water (since you begin in charge range). Therefore, for this use case, we're going to assume that you've already got priority/the heroic move, and you're just trying to figure out how to get in one more turn.

If your throwing-weapon units were skirmish cavalry (e.g. Riders of Rohan/Warg Riders with throwing spears), it might be possible for you to get more than one turn of shooting out of your movement, but let's assume that that's not the case for now (because at that point, you basically become one of the other two cases we're looking at in this post).

In the quick get-away case (where your range is greater than your opponent's movement, my recommendation is to move just out of charge range (see Equation 1.0). You won't be able to move to a distance that is more than twice his movement, so don't worry about it - you get in one more valiant throw and then it's "fix bayonets" time.

In some cases, though, you only have a possible get-away: in the picture above, the Dwarves were only able to leave 2" between them an their warg oppressors, so now we have a different tact:
(2.0)     Distance between thrower and target = 1 inch + [Make Shooting Attack] + [Complete Charge]

In some cases of the possible get-away, you can put the opponent's movement + 0.5 inches between you and them, but since their movement is greater than your range, they could wait outside of your range if they wanted. Therefore, if your opponent gives you the opportunity to charge, just charge (you still get that one-more shot in - wounding-in-the-move-phase-for-the-win!).

Case 3: The Dance

This case is in many ways the worst of the cases - which is why we're tackling it last. :) Here, not only are you in charge range, but your opponent can also wait just outside your shooting range for a good turn to charge. In the example above, you see some Goblin Prowlers who are being outmaneuvered by some Uruk Marauders - 8" movement beats 5" move and 6" range. do you win?
It's important to note that since this scenario assumes that you begin within charge range, you also need to start with priority OR call a heroic move. Without it, you're charged and that's that. In the scenario above, the Urus have waited outside of your weapon range and therefore stayed outside your shooting range. So, we use Equation 1.1 - get to just outside their movement range. I know what you're thinking: "but we just did that - we know they'll just stay out of throwing range and we'll be back where we started next turn! What are we doing?!?!?" To answer this question, let's look bigger than the throwing weapon damage itself.

In the scenario above, the Prowlers are 6.5" away from the Marauders and knowing that the Prowlers can't charge them, they choose instead to move 2" directly away from the Marauders, getting out of charge range. If the Marauders want to not be shot at this round, they are capped to moving 2" towards their opponents (essentially 2" - they could try to maneuver around with their 8" move but still being 6.5" away from their assailants). In this case, the throwing weapons aren't doing damage, but they are denying the opponent his full movement and saving the Goblin army valuable space on the board (perhaps to protect an objective or to stretch the game out a little longer).

This is kind of scraping a value out of the situation (I said this was the worst one, remember?), but there are still tactical benefits to be gained. If your opponent gets hasty, he could choose to move up to the edge of your control zone, in which case you have bought yourself one turn of shooting and hopefully a charge on the next turn (that's two shots with your throwing weapons).'s to hoping that with enough wear-down, you can get some actual shooting out of your opponent.

Thanks for reading - in the coming weeks, I'll be getting some more posts on throwing weapons, as we look into how you can use them to augment your overall strategy, but more immediately, expect a post on the most recent work coming off the workbench and a sneak peak into this year's THRO tournament. Until then, happy hobbying!


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting - really good commentary here. As a Rohan player who has used throwing spears a bit (been backing off of them recently due to some stylistic choices elsewhere in the list), a lot of this commentary is spot-on. It makes me want to add throwing spears back into the list, :)