Thursday, April 16, 2015

Centaur Tactica Post: Army List Building, Part 2

Hey Reader!

This is Glenstorm with another tactical post, picking up with Part 2 of our Army List Building blog series.  I'm hoping to get a recorded video version up later on this, but we will see how long that takes (as I'm still trying to video my army review posts as well for Grey Company, Rohan, and Shire).

As the guiding light for this post, I'll be hearkening back to a tactical post from my favorite YouTuber for Warhammer Fantasy, OnceBitten.  OnceBitten has a tactica post on army building for Warhammer Fantasy (which you can find here), and I've found it very useful in my army list building for both Fantasy and LOTR SBG.  In our last post we chatted about mindsets behind army list building, and the seven common list building philosophies.  In today's post, we want to look at the seven things to think about when building a list, set within the context of the two types of army building schemes we use here at TMAT: Warbands (the official army building rules as of this writing) and the modified LOME scheme (for all the "old school" players, which happens to include us).

1.  If you want to win games, how do you win with this list?

As always, Centaur will repeat the (very true) sentiment that winning isn't everything, but let's face it: it's also not fun to devote a Saturday (or an entire weekend if you go to a multiple-day tournament) to losing a ton of games.  So one of the first questions we should ask when building a list is how we will win games with this list.

For some people, it will be the 3" Scoot-and-Shoot archery strategy, where you move as little as possible, fire as much as possible, and pray you get lots of wounds in the Shoot Phase (linchpin wood elf and Haradrim armies, for example).  For some people, it will be overwhelming melee combat firepower (most dwarf armies, virtually all Isengard armies, most Gondor armies), and for some it will be heavy, successful magic phases in the Move Phase (ringwraith and Angmar armies especially).  There's no "right way" to attempt to win, but you should have an idea of what you need to do to win with a given list.

The second extension of this question is to ask, "What kinds of things will contribute to victory?"  This may seem like a similar question, but it should be considered separately.  Will ending the game early contribute to victory, as your army moves faster and can claim objectives faster than an opponent (we'll discuss this further under Thought #7)?  Will getting Hero X into combat as soon as possible contribute to victory?  Will keeping Hero Y (say, a shaman, caster, etc.) out of combat as long as possible contribute to victory?  All of these are important questions, and they affect your strategy in-game if you know what you need to do to win with a given list.

2.  What role does each unit play?

This is key: if a unit is supposed to play a certain role within our strategy for winning with a given list, you want to make sure that the unit is doing what you want it to do.  If the goal of an uruk marauder is to wrap around, flank, and trap models (so as to help the kill count) and the goal of an uruk warrior with shield is to be the D6 "anvil" for your opponent to wail on while the marauder kills stuff, you'll want to make sure that your marauders don't end up being the "anvil" against a set of enemy models, and your uruk warriors are bogged down with people who they are not killing.

This is especially true for models where you pay extra points to give them a certain bonus or advantage.  If your 2Her weapons are not dealing damage, you have a problem.  If your banner is not helping you re-roll dice in fights, you have a problem.  If your shaman is not providing Fury for models in your army who desperately need to make a charge or need a chance to save against a wound, you have a problem.  So make sure that each warrior selection and hero selection is contributing in accordance with the overall strategy.

Now if your opponent is any good they will try to thwart your strategy and make poor match-ups for you.  That's fine - but inasmuch as we have a Move Phase and the chance to get our units where they need to be, we should be keeping this question in mind: what role does the unit play in the army, and how do we get them to do "their thing" for the army?  Keeping this question at the forefront will help us to better utilize our forces during the match.

3.  How do the units work together as an army?

Does your army have synergy?  Do any of the units require other units near them/interacting with them in order to be more effective?  So for example, do you use spectres (who wound against the target's Courage value instead of Defense) with spearmen (so that the chance at wounding goes up)?  Is it a problem if the spearmen are not supporting the spectres?

Depending on your army strategy (tying back to the previous post), this question can also play into how you approach your list.  A Min/Max army may decide, for example, to use orcs without shields (so they are only 6 pts/model) to support spectres and lead the unit with a ringwraith (so that not only are the spectres receiving an extra dice to win the fight, but they are wounding the target with a -1 to their Courage while within range of the ringwraith).  Generals who are even more Min/Max will use the Dwimmerlaik so that it will not only affect the Courage of the models, but will also make Fate Points and Might Points less successful within that same range (but not that we've thought about this, :) ).

This question also means asking the question, "Is there a reason we have X and Y in the army?"  That is to say, if a general is having trouble winning with a given force, it may be because they have X present in the army, and that dedication of points is keeping them from obtaining another objective.  By way of example, I've been asking the question recently why I was running uruk scouts with orc bows in my army (10 of them, costing me about 90 pts).  As I started working through this question, I began to realize that I was doing it primarily so that I would have a chance to shoot back at other volleying armies, but I was rarely getting any wounds out of it.  So I instead decided to drop the models, take a ballista instead (for 65 pts), and dedicate those 25 pts to another segment of my army (in this case, rush infantry).

4.  How should I use the terrain to my advantage?

This is an important question, and is one of the questions that, when asked before arriving at a tournament, becomes an integral thought for deployment.  If a player shows up and has not thought about what terrain will work most to their advantage, pivotal mistakes can be made in deployment.  A few examples for you.

At THRO 2013 I took my Halloween Army, and in Game 2 I was up against General Will's Isengard force, and he had a serious number of crossbows in his force.  For whatever reason (must not have been thinking) I placed my force in a position where we had no chance at cover, we had difficult terrain blocking us from hitting his archers, and a clear path that would have been covered and protected had we simply lined up on a different side of the board edge I elected for my deployment.  So there was no reason for me not to go there - I just hadn't thought about it, and I placed my troops poorly.  Result?  I got torn up (and lost a troll among other things) before hitting his lines, and I lost that game.

Fast forward to THRO 2014, and my Shire/Dwarf force was up against Red Jacket's Isengard forces.  Before coming to the tournament, I took some time to think about what my list required in terms of terrain for it to remain competitive.  I had a short list: an open space for melee (as I was fielding 56 models with no spear support, so we need space for guys to wrap around and overwhelm an opponent), a patch of difficult terrain to buy more time for my 4" move archer core, and a solitary rock for protecting Farmer Maggot (as he anchored my fast attack core, namely his dogs).

So I looked at the board, and I had a good patch of difficult terrain (about 6" wide, which was plenty wide enough for my 12 archers), a large fighting space near the center objective (which, in a Hold Ground game, is really nice), and a few isolated rock outcroppings on approach that I could use to protect Maggot.  Deployment was random, and it worked out that I was able to take advantage of all three.  Result?  The archers were never touched, Maggot survived all game, and we even got a flank charge in during the match.  Terrain was used to boost our chances of victory, and it gave me the security and protection that my list needed.

So ask the questions about terrain.  Do we need firing lanes for archery?  Do we need room to maneuver a phalanx?  Do we need cover for the cavalry as they make their approach to the enemy's flank (or front)?  Does difficult terrain help us at all by anchoring the flank of one of our units?  All of these are good things to know as you approach a game, and are best asked when building your army as opposed to day-of at a tournament.

5.  What match-ups do I not enjoy?

I've seen this play out at tournaments a lot - people show up and once they see who the other teams are they start thinking, "Okay, I really don't want to fight So-and-So today."  While this is not bad, 1) it means you have no time to adjust if you do face that person, and 2) and probably more important it retrains the focus of our fears regarding lists toward players, not lists.  As a good example of this, I've heard a lot of guys before a tournament mention how they don't want to face Zorro (as he has a good record at tournaments), which I find ironic because 1) I enjoy facing Zorro, 2) I've traded blows well with lists that Zorro brings to tournaments, and 3) why in the world would I fear playing against a player?  Think about it: players roll 1s.  Players forget to claim objectives.  Players take daring risks that can get their army leader killed (and I say all of these things because I've done all of them, :P ).

No, we need to not fear players and instead start realistically evaluating lists.  Put another way, we need to know the match-ups listwise that we will not enjoy facing, especially when we build a list.  So for example, from the last tournament (GT 2015 as of this writing), I declared that I'd be running a Shire list.  There were a host of lists that I knew I would not enjoy facing, and I knew there were some that would be hard to beat, but not unenjoyable.  So for example, I knew it would be hard to beat a dwarf list (because most of my army, including my archery, needed 6+ or higher to wound).  But facing dwarves was not something I wouldn't enjoy - what I wouldn't enjoy playing against is a Rohan army with lots of S3 throwing weapons, as they wound on 4+ against most of my army, they've got 8" range, and with 4-5" move for the vast majority of the army, it's frankly unlikely that I'd be able to catch anyone.

Even more unenjoyable would be a fully mounted force (let alone a fully mounted Rohan force with S3 throwing weapons, :P ), as I didn't have a good answer for the mobility, the wounding, or the range.  And I knew this going into the tournament: armies that sported lots of S3 ranged options, high mobility, and decent Shoot values would not be fun to play against.

As it happens I didn't need to face either of the two Rohan armies in the tournament, but suffice it to say I knew this going into the tournament as I built my list and I was okay with this.  Knowing that there are certain lists you don't enjoy facing with a given list is fine - we know this in advance.  It also means that if we have to face such a list we know in advance that it will be hard, and we will be mentally prepared before the tournament starts if we face it.

So as you build your list, ask the question of which lists you don't enjoy facing.  If you're running an elf army, do you enjoy a match-up against an Isengard army?  Does our feeling change if they take a drummer?  Does it change if they bring siege equipment?  We'll be coming back to this one again under Point #7, but suffice it to say for now, we should ask the question of which match-ups are less-than-ideal for us, as this will help us to mentally prepare for the tournament in advance.

6.  How will I counter common threats?

This question plays to the meta of your local gaming group, so the answers to these questions will vary based on the group.  That being said, these questions are also very important for us to answer.  We'll touch on four major questions here.

Do you commonly play against Isengard?  If so, how do you deal with S4 and S5 wounding you?  Some people (dwarves, Bunker Captains, etc.) simply say, "Eh, we'll pack on the army and for him to roll 5s/6s to wound," while other people (Shire and Grey Company, for example) simply say, "Oh yeah: if they get into melee with us they'll likely wound us as they wound on 4s, but our plan is to either kill them before they reach us or be wise in how many melee combats we fight each turn."  Both are good options, but teams should think about this.

Do you commonly play against Haradrim/Grey Company with lots of shooting?  If so, how do you deal with the hail of arrows (or S3 archery in the case of elves)?  Some will go the "everyone has a shield and everyone takes the beating as we advance" approach, some will bring a utility hero or warrior who increases movement so that they can close distance faster, and some will take a "we can pound them with our archery/siege equipment more than they can pound us" strategy, and all of these can work.  None of them are "right" or "wrong" per se: they just play to different play styles.

Do you commonly face terror-causing models (be they casters/undead/monsters)?  Think through how you can boost your Courage rating.  Some Forces of Evil will take a shaman and use Fury to keep their models capable of charging.  Most Forces of Good will trust to generally high Courage and/or a horn for an extra boost.  Some armies (like elves) just don't mind because they are innately high-Courage.  So for your force you'll want to think about this as you build your list.

Do you commonly face high-Defense enemies (D6 Gondor/Easterlings, D7 Dwarves)?  How do you crack through the armor of the enemy so that you can break their force?  Some trust to S4 (which is generally good enough to get the job done) or two-handed weapons (and for those few - and happy few - lists who get access to S4 2Hers, we give you a shout out here) to crack the armor.  Some will go the crossbow/siege weapon route to crack the armor from range, while others will grab monsters and crack the armor with S6 or so in close combat.  However you choose to approach it, have an idea of how you'll deal with the threat.

It is worth noting that we want to be considering the common threats here.  At almost any tournament someone is going to bring "that list" that totally works outside of the norm - Shire, for example - and they are going to be totally different from every other army you face.  And that's fine - we don't need to micromanage the list to "plan for everything"; we want to make sure we are at least planning for the common threats, though.

7.  Who in the army must survive the fight?

The more time goes by, the more I'm coming to realize that this is key, and more key than most people think because there's a whole half of this discussion that I'd be willing to wager people are not thinking about at all.

When you first read the tag line for this point, I'm betting you all were thinking, "Okay: who in my army cannot die in this fight or I'll lose," and I'd bet everyone thought, "well, the less units I lose the better, but if I could avoid losing my Army Leader that would be great."  This is an important consideration, and it's true: I don't know a single person who is ever glad that their army leader dies.  But there is an even more important question we should be asking, which is who must survive the fight over and against another of my models - that is to say, who we are okay with allowing to die.

Now I'd be willing to wager that no one thinks about this when they build their armies (except me, sometimes), because we all think, "Hey: if I don't reach my break point, I have a lower chance of losing the fight, so I want to lose as few models as possible," and while this is sometimes true, I am coming more and more to the conclusion that there are certain scenarios where it is actually to your advantage to hit 25% as soon as possible.  To illustrate this, I'll hearken to two fights that I've fought recently (as of this writing): a game between my Isengard uruk army and Tiberius's Wood Elf army, and my third game at the TMAT GT 2015 against Red Jacket's Isengard army.

Case Study: Isengard (Centaur) v. Wood Elves

Tiberius was testing out a new wood elf Linchpin build (big ole' "Death Star" of super shooty wood elves that can cause terror for a turn, move you if you fail a Courage test, augment each other - it's nasty), and I brought a heavily D5 uruk scout army.  As you can imagine, a 2+ Shoot Value from bows and a 3+ Shoot Value for throwing daggers followed up by 5+ wounds (including on my heroes) did a good number on my frontlines, but I had one thing working in my favor.  I was approaching this scenario (a Domination scenario) with the understanding that I didn't need to have half my army left at the end - in fact, I didn't even need 25% of my army left.  All I needed was one guy on my starting objective, the only guy on another objective, more guys on a third objective, and one guy in the middle - which means I can do it with as little as five models (more likely 9-10).  And with that split I'd get 8 pts from objectives, while my opponent gets (likely) 2-5 pts from objectives and 3-5 pts for breaking me - that is to say, a chance at a Draw or Minor Win, even though my army is hitting 25% first.

So I rammed my main body of infantry (about 25 models) straight ahead and planned on everyone dying save one.  On the sides we piled into the two objectives, won complete control of one, and were contested at the other, and we left a Feral Uruk-Hai at the starting objective (because he's Courage 5, so he'll stick around when the fighting gets tough).  As it happened he also kept the Death Star together, so he left the back objective open (0 pts for that one), and I decided now was the time - I threw a ton of my models into fights they could not win, ran my banner into combat, and prayed I lost everyone save Ugluk in the center.  Sure enough, I took a ton of casualties, the army started breaking, and Tiberius realized as we went into the next round that I was 3-4 models from game, and he was losing in Battle Points.

Now I ended up losing the game (my feral holding the back objective ran, the elves at the far objective held on, and we lost the match by a few points), but the lesson was well-taken: we had a really good chance of actually winning the game because I realized what units could die without us losing the game.  There were other units that we had to not lose (like the feral), but there were a number of expendable models that I could lose and use the speed of losing models to help me win the game.

Case Study: Shire + Dwarves (Centaur) v. Isengard

Red Jacket brought a very traditional Isengard army to the tournament: Drummer for movement, D7 Bunker Captain for defense, Vrasku for heavy fire support, tons of D6 frontline fighters, pike support, and some marauders (and Mauhur, naturally) for fast attack.  Pretty standard Isengard army.

I brought a heavy shooting, heavy D7 frontline Shire/Dwarf army, and in the first 3-4 turns I hacked through a good number of his forces and almost brought him to his break point.  This then presented a problem: since we were playing a Hold Ground scenario and he had 7 models in scoring range and I was nowhere close to the center objective, if I broke him and he intentionally failed a number of tests with guys who were not in range (pulled back his heroes to keep his men out of Stand Fast! range, for example), he could have ran back to the objective, claimed all the points for having models near the center objective, and he would have won the game.  Thankfully my force was able to make it over there, but the point still remains: it is definitely possible to be the winning team even if you are the team that hits 25% first.

Now I'll caveat this point by noting that you should think about this is more likely (if not only possible) within the context of terrain-based scoring scenarios (like Hold Ground and Domination), and for those who are playing those scenarios you should seriously consider this.  One way to win the scenario is to overwhelm your opponent at more objectives (if not push him out of scoring range), but against an army that plays well against your list you may not have this option.  So I recommend thinking through, "Okay: if I'm down to 25% who needs to survive so that we can still win the game, or at least score well enough to avoid a Major Loss, and who can we lose so that we wrap up the game quickly before my opponent can tip the balance."

This framework of thinking is extremely helpful when playing against an army that is well-tailored to tackle your list, as it plays to the fact that you will lose casualties.  The question, then, is how to lose casualties strategically, protecting what you must save to win the game, and giving up what is not necessary to win the game.  And suddenly, getting gunned down by Haradrim archery doesn't hurt as much, because it's all part of the plan, and we're okay with losing models to it.  So something you should think about for you army.

Conclusion

In summary, when you are building an army list you should start by asking the question, "What is my army strategy for this list?"  If you're running a Linchpin list, build a Linchpin list and ask these seven questions about the units in the army.  If you're running a themed list, settle on a theme and then ask these questions.  Each strategy will answer the questions differently, and that's alright - we want our army list to match our strategy (so that the army plays well to our play style), but we also want the list to have a shot at doing well, so it behooves us to take the time to prepare the list well.

Watching the stars,

Centaur

"Firenze!  What are you doing?  You have a human on your back!  Have you no shame?  Are you a common mule?" ~ Bane, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Monday, April 13, 2015

Hold Ground: Easterlings vs. Wood Elves


Hey Reader!

This is Centaur with another battle report!  I got together with Tiberius last weekend for another Easterling game, and we decided to play a Hold Ground scenario.  We're testing the castle that I own (tons of fun - I love this thing), and the scoring radius almost perfectly lines up with the lower section of the castle (so all the attackers have to do is breach the walls and get down the slope; pretty simple).  So for this match I'll be the defenders (lose 150 pts from my list), and Tiberius is bringing a wood elf army to challenge us for control of the walls, which should be fun, :)

I changed up the list a bit since our last battle (so that I can test more ways to use the army, as this is in preparation for a write-up), and since I dropped 150 pts from my list as the defender (hence why Warband 4 doesn't have a hero), it also meant that there were some things in the list that I didn't have (my D7 "Bunker Cap," for example).  After modifications, the lists look like this:

The Dragon Maw (Eastern Kingdoms, Warbands)

Warband 1
-Amdur, Lord of Blades (Army Leader): 100 pts
-5 Easterling Back Dragons with shields: 50 pts
-1 Easterling Black Dragon Kataphract: 16 pts

Warband 2
-Easterling War Priest: 60 pts
-4 Easterling Black Dragons with shields: 40 pts
-4 Easterling Warriors with halberds/shields: 36 pts

Warband 3
-Dragon Knight: 70 pts

Warband 4
-2 Easterling Black Dragons with shields: 20 pts
-7 Easterling Warriors with bows: 56 pts

TOTAL: 448 pts, 26 models, 6 Might

Muster Of The Forest (Lothloien & Mirkwood, Warbands)

Warband 1
Thranduil (Army Leader): 90 ps
1 Wood Elf Sentinel: 25 pts
3 Mirkwood Guard with Elf bows: 33 pts
5 Wood Elf Warriors with Wood Elf Spears: 40 pts
2 Wood Elf Warriors with throwing daggers: 18 pts

Warband 2
*Legolas with armor: 95 pts
1 Wood Elf Sentinel: 25 pts
3 Mirkwood Guard with Elf bows: 33 pts
5 Wood Elf Warriors with Wood Elf Spears: 40 pts
2 Wood Elf Warriors with throwing daggers: 18 pts

Warband 3
^Haldir with Elf bow: 75 pts
1 Wood Elf Sentinel: 25 pts
2 Galadhrim Warriors with Elf bows: 20 pts
3 Galadhrim Warriors with shields: 27 pts
4 Wood Elf Warriors with throwing daggers: 36 pts

TOTAL: 600 pts, 35 models, 9 Might

Pre-Game Assessment from Centaur: On the one hand, Tiberius is not running Galadriel, which means I don't need to worry about Blinding Light taking my archers out of the game in the Shoot Phase (as 6+ to hit is not going to land anything).  On the other hand, my archers have a way of not contributing in the Shoot Phase as it is, so there's that, :P  My plan is quite simple: shield off my foes, kill the elves as they scale the walls with my heroes, and remove 2-3 elves/round so that we can break them before they break us (because they will break us).  That should keep the game close as the time runs down.

Pre-Game Assessment by Tiberius: I'm experimenting with running my Wood Elf army without Galadriel, since most members of the gaming crew have abandoned archery as a dominant element of their armies. Instead, I've opted for a shooting-oriented army that sports 15-17 Elf bow shots each round (that should translate into 2-4 wounds/round). I'm also excited because I've been on the defensive end of this particular fortress, but now on the offense, I'm hoping that all that archery will get past the in-the-ways of the fortress and nail some D6 guys before I get up there...

Scoring

We're playing a Hold Ground scenario (which would likely be the scenario for a "Castle Siege" mission in the future) with the following scoring rules:

  • 1 Victory Point for breaking the enemy force, or 3 Victory Points for breaking the enemy force and not being broken
  • 2 Victory Points for killing the enemy army leader
  • 2 Victory Points for bringing your opponent to 25%
  • 1 Victory Point for each model within 6" of the center objective

Deployment

We rolled for deployment, the Easterlings won the roll off, and to start the game both Amdur's warband and the Dragon Knight's warband rolled 1s for deployment (which means you don't come on the board the first turn, and when you roll for Turn 2 they don't arrive in the castle), so I paid a Might Point for each to get them on the board at the start (so starting at 1/3M gone for Amdur and 1/2M gone for the Drag Knight - great start to the game, :P ).  After deployment, the board looked like this:


And with that... (For death and glory!) (For the Lady and apple-pie-flavored-lembas!)

Turn 1 (P: Easterlings)

In the Move Phase the elves moved up, mostly going 3" forward to screen the archery this round, though a few of the throwing dagger elves moved up 6".  My forces to the north moved up, with a few infantry moving into the guard house entryway (just in case the elves sweep that way), and the kataphract moves up to join them.

The War Priest also gets up Fury (1/3M), and one of the Sentinels targets the Dragon Knight and attempts to move him (Courage Test), and the Drag Knight passes the test.


In the Shoot Phase my archers do nothing (which I've come to expect), and one of the Mirk Guards takes down one of my bowmen.  Haldir burns through 2 Might, but successfully kills one of the Black Dragons (2/3M) (gotta spend them on something...).  Nothing else happens in archery, and we head to Turn 2.

Turn 2 (P: Wood Elves)

In the Move Phase one of the Sentinels targets the Drag Knight again with that moving song he's got, and the Drag Knight passes.  Otherwise the elves move up, the throwing daggers are now in throwing range (strike true!), and my War Priest and forces continue to charge forward to reinforce the south.


In the Shoot Phase Haldir kills two bowmen (3 kills so far for Haldir), and we return fire and kill one of the wood elves.


Down below one of the Mirk Guard kills a Black Dragon, and with no other shooting we move to Turn 3.

Turn 3 (P: Wood Elves)

Heading into Turn 3 we have the elves first assaulting the walls.  Thankfully the throwing daggers didn't kill anyone on the charge, and five of my models found themselves engaged against six elves.  The Wood Elf Sentinels all ganged on the Drag Knight, singing their moving song against him and (thankfully) he passed all three tests before being engaged in combat (boo).  In the Shoot Phase we all had a lot of misses (in the case of the elves it was a lot of shots against the walls), and we moved into combat.


In the Fight Phase we won combat about evenly, though there were very few wounds.  The Drag Knight managed to kill one of the elves in his fight, but otherwise no wounds dealt.

Kill Count: Easterlings 5/26 (8 from Break), Wood Elves 2/35 (16 from Break)

Turn 4 (P: Easterlings)

Move Phase was pretty straightforward: my War Priest and and his troop got into position (just in time to fend off the elves - you go, guys!), my men formed up on the walls, and the kat moved out of the entryway to prepare his charge against the elves next turn (and to divert archery away from the guys on the walls).  The elves moved up as you see, had six groups of scalers coming up the walls (Galadhrim is not engaging Amdur yet, so he will not be in combat this round), and none of the throwing daggers hit their targets on the charge.


In the Shoot Phase we failed to hit anyone (as per normal), and Legolas manages to kill one of the Black Drags near Amdur (failed Fury save) (finally).  Haldir picks off one of the bowmen (please, take him - I want him to die), and one of the Galadhrim archers kills the armored horse that the kat was riding, and he passed his throw test to maintain his footing.


In the Fight Phase one of the Black Dragons kills the wood elf in his fight on the south side, the Dragon Knight kills the elf in his fight on the west wall, and one of the elves kills one of the Black Drags on that side (failed Fury save).  So as we approach Turn 5, things are looking tight for the Dragon Army.

Kill Count: Easterlings 8/26 (5 from Break), Wood Elves 4/35 (14 from Break)

Turn 5 (P: Wood Elves)

In the Move Phase nothing interesting happened; the elves continued their assault, and any wounds caused by throwing daggers were Fury saved (don't think there were any, but if any were caused we didn't lose anyone).  Virtually everyone is engaged now, and I started pulling my archers off of the tower to bring them into scoring range.


In the Shoot Phase Haldir kills another bowman (5th bowman killed by Haldir), and Thranduil pops one of the archers in the tower (nice shot, Thranduil).  So with my army 3 from Break Point, we headed into the Fight Phase, :P


...And thankfully we didn't get mauled in the Fight Phase!  We lost a pikeman (not a huge problem), and we were able to down two of the throwing dagger elves, so we can't complain too much about that.  So heading into Turn 6, the kill count looked like this:

Kill Count: Easterlings 11/26 (2 from Break), Wood Elves 6/35 (12 from Break)

Turn 6 (P: Easterlings)

So for starters, the Move Phase actually looked pretty good for us at the start of the Move Phase, :P  We moved up, formed up to block a good number of the elves as they approached the wall, and then Tiberius took his turn.  Thranduil cast Nature's Wrath in the near vicinity, Amdur attempts to ressist it (as I didn't want to resist with my War Priest), and he rolls like a 2 to resist the spell (1/1W), so the spell still goes off.  So a bunch of my guys get knocked over, elves start pouring over the walls, and a number of my guys get tagged by people (oh, and to make matters worse, the Drag Knight failed his roll to stay standing because...reasons).  Once again we didn't lose any of my forces to the throwing weapons (a good number of hits against the walls; the elves were actually throwing really well here), nothing really happened in the Shoot Phase, so we moved to the Fight Phase.


Legolas called a Heroic Combat, killed the Black Drag he was against (3/3M) and took his place on the wall before charging the Black Drag on the ground (bringing me to 1 from Break).


At the end of the Fight Phase the wood elf spearman on the west side kills the Black Drag in his fight (so my force is broken), Amdur is able to kill the Galadhrim in his fight, and the Black Dragon next door kills the sentinel in his fight.

Kill Count: Easterlings 13/26 (Broken, 7 from Game), Wood Elves 8/35 (10 from Break)

Turn 7 (P: Wood Elves)

The Wood Elves finally get priority, and on a turn where it really helps them.  Legolas charges the War Priest and the pikeman near him, Thranduil is able to jump over the wall and attack the Drag Knight, and the elves not only completely take over the western wall, but also pop through the gate.  We countercharge them, running two of my archers into the galadhrim closest to the objective, and I make a desperate effort to save the War Priest.  With no shooting, we commenced with fighting.


Amdur calls a Heroic Combat (2/3M), is able to kill the wood elf with throwing daggers in his fight, and charges into the two spearmen (one on the wall, and one spear supporting Legolas), so that Legolas is not alone taking on the War Priest, the pikeman, and two other pikemen who are charging him from the side, and the re-roll from Amdur, which is the best I can do, :P


...And it wasn't good enough; Legolas wins the fight (on a 6) (yeah-yeah), kills the pikeman on the ground, and Fury goes down.  Up top one of the wood elves kills one of my bowmen, Amdur downs both of the spears in his fight, and we are able to kill one of the spearman in the fights on the southern wall.

Kill Count: Easterlings 13/26 (Broken, 7 from Game), Wood Elves 12/35 (6 from Break)

Turn 8 (P: Easterlings)

Good news: we got priority!  Better news: the War Priest passed his Courage Test (1/1M, 2/3W), so he's still around and capable of casting Fury.  Still better news: he got Fury off on a 4 (3/3W)!  So the whole army (which believe it or not fits within 6" of him) sticks around!  Gotta love it when a plan comes together, :)  We formed up, started the slow advance to get back toward the center objective, as I'm going to need all of the 13 models I still have on-table within scoring range.

I wasn't able to totally protect the War Priest, so he's back in combat this round (which is not exciting), and against a Galadhrim (so I wound on 5s, which is not good with a 1A War Priest).  Otherwise the combats are as you see; Amdur is in combat with Legolas, the elves are crumpling our western line, and we are badly outnumbered on the southern wall.  With no shooting on either side, we move to the Fight Phase.


In the Fight Phase we get really lucky: our bowman at the top, who was surrounded by 5 guys, got off very easy (Haldir whiffed his dice, the sentinel whiffed his dice, and the lone galadhrim archer wounded him, and then he saved the wound on a 6 with Fury, so he's still with us (eh, happens).  We did lose one of the pikes to two of the wood elf spearmen (not surprising) and one of the Black Drags was able to kill one of the spearmen (Yay!  Someone is contributing!).  There were also some really amazing things that happened: the War Priest won the combat (didn't wound, but hey: we've still got Fury up!), Amdur won combat and was able to put a wound on Legolas (1/2H), and the Drag Knight, believe it or not, won combat against Thranduil and dealt a wound to him (1/2H).

Kill Count: Easterlings 14/26 (Broken, 6 from Game), Wood Elves 13/35 (5 from Break)

Turn 9 (P: Easterlings)

As we headed into Turn 9, things looked bad - really bad, :P  We were badly outnumbered, but courtesy of Fury we didn't lose anyone to failing Courage tests for being below our Break Point, and we were able to centralize our position around the War Priest, though we still weren't able to get him out of combat.  Oh - and there are a host of elves in scoring range, :P

In the Shoot Phase the wood elf with throwing dagger standing to the left of Legolas threw a throwing dagger at the pikeman who is spear supporting and he failed to wound, so we moved to the Fight Phase.


In the Fight Phase we lost a ton of guys - yeah...we lost a ton of guys, :P  We lost the Drag Knight to Thranduil and his men, the archers got womped by Haldir and his men, the Black Drag on the walls and the other guys in the tower all got crushed.

There was good news, though: the Black Drag near Amdur who was fending off Legolas + spear support + two more archers won his fight, Amdur won his fight but failed to wound the Galadhrim, and the War Priest (WAR PRIEST!!!) killed the wood elf in his fight (WAR PRIEST!!!).  So we were brought down to 6 models remaining, which ended the game.

Kill Count: Easterlings 20/26 (Game), Wood Elves 14/35 (4 from Break)

So for the final score, the Wood Elves received 3 points for breaking the enemy force and not being broken, 2 points for bringing the Easterlings to 25%, 10 points for models in scoring range, and 0 points for failing to kill the enemy army leader.  The Easterlings received 6 points for models within scoring range, bringing the final score to a 6-15 Major Loss for the Easterlings.

Concluding Thoughts from Centaur: Wow, that was brutal, :P  Archery didn't work hardly at all (one kill I think the entire game; not terrible, but not great), we didn't kill nearly enough people on the walls, and those two rounds where we were on the ground and then lost Priority really hurt, as it both cost me the fights on the wall and then control of the walls the following turn, allowing him to get into scoring range with a flood of guys.  On the whole, though, there wasn't much else we could do; it was a fun game, and elves are tough to beat.  Well played, Tiberius.

Concluding Thoughts from Tiberius: That was fun - I've played one mission where I was defending the walls and I think both Glenstorm and I agree that the mission works (who knows, you might see this mission in the next THRO tournament). Still trying to figure out if the cost is right, but I think it works on the whole. Having D6 foes on the other side of that wall can be really painful - if I didn't have a dedicated archery front I this game, I would have had a much, MUCH harder time.

Stellar Unit for Centaur: Easterling Warrior with halberd/shield.  These guys don't get a lot of praise in the battle report itself all that often, as they often work from behind the scenes to contribute.  In this battle they gave me extra attacks where I needed it to kill a few elves each turn, and that was valuable when I had the barrier helping to save some of the wounds coming my way from the elves as they scaled the walls.  Once the walls were breached they provided both the shielding support we needed and the extra attacks required to do a few wounds on the ground.  While not the best troops in the game, in this game these guys performed well and helped us hang in until Turn 9.

Stellar Unit for Tiberius: Mirkwood Guard with Elf bows. Tough call between the "mirk guard" and the wood elves with spears, but these guys got extra hits on target which translated into more kills before the fight got going. The trick to beating D5+ teams is getting plenty of hits, and these guys do that very well.

Hope you enjoyed the battle report - I got in a "double header" set of games against Glot and Tavros (Rohan and Angmoria armies) on Friday night, which was a blast - I made a few changes to the army list, most notably the addition of these two bad boys:


Not a lot of commentary here on how they did (as I'd like to test it out some more), but you'll definitely see some commentary on chariots in the army write-up in May at the very latest.

I'm hoping to get the second post in the army list building series up this week (though I've got a huge event at work on Thursday/Friday, so it may not be until the weekend), and I'm also hoping to get in a few more Easterling games as well.  Until then, you'll know where to find me,

Watching the stars,

Centaur

"I watch the stars, for it is mine to watch, as it is your's, Badger, to remember." ~ Glenstorm, Prince Caspian

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Centaur Tactica Post: Army List Building, Part 1

Hey Reader!

This is Glenstorm with a bit of a different post to lead off Easterling month, and that is a two-part series on list building for Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle players.  Over the past few months I've helped a few friends prepare lists for tournaments, and from what I've learned from helping them and building lists myself I thought I'd take a moment just to step back and think about list building.

Before jumping into how to build an army list, I'd like to give a shout out to a guy that I follow on YouTube who plays Warhammer Fantasy (which I also play).  OnceBitten is a longtime Warhammer player, and his thoughts have been very influential in guiding my thoughts on list building, both for Warhammer Fantasy and LOTR SBG.  You can find his tactica post on list building here, and this post will mimic some of his thoughts (as he has a lot of good points), though with a very LOTR focus (which means some things will change from his commentary).

Like his analysis of Fantasy players, I think that there are seven types of list-building philosophies out there for LOTR, and most people will use multiple philosophies when they build an army list - you rarely see a pure philosophy for any player.  As fair warning to you all, this is a long post, :)

1.  Current Models
The first models I ever owned - they still form my Rohan core to this day
This philosophy asks the question, "What is the most competitive list I can build with the models that I have?"  This is a common (and good) philosophy for newer players who have a small collection of models, and I still use this theory when building armies five years after picking up the hobby.

This style of philosophy doesn't often win tournaments (as the models people own either tend to become the new meta, as is the case with Isengard in our gaming group, or they weren't purchased to be the best model from the army list), but this shouldn't deter you from running these armies.  Sure, maybe you don't win a GT every year with your army, but that doesn't mean it will never win.  Why do I say this?  Because the meta changes.  Just two years ago, the meta in our gaming group was phalanxes of Easterlings and Uruk-Hai: they clobbered everything, and if you brought more than a few points worth of cavalry you were throwing away the game (I know because I brought virtually all of the cav models in my armies during those years, :P ).  Then the phalanx became harder to run as heavy archery and throwing weapon armies became the meta (elves and Harad rose to the top), and virtually every army had a volley line.

Within the past year, though, we've seen horses become a lot more competitive, and a good number of armies are not fielding volley lines because they are focusing on mobility (with drummers, uruk marauders, Easterling kataphracts with drums, etc. being integral to army building).  So over time the meta changes, and this means units that may not win tournaments now may become more competitive later.

Because we can't predict this trend, my recommendation is that if you use a Current Models approach to army building, ask yourself one question: "What armies do I enjoy reading about/watching when I read/watch The Lord of the Rings."  If you're going to play with a force, you'll want to enjoy the look and feel of the army.  And besides, sometimes we don't build an army for the sake of winning: some people will work from this mindset because of economic/comfort reasons as opposed to competitive reasons, and that's a perfectly understandable reason to build an army.  Five years ago I bought uruk scouts (D5) over and against uruk warriors (D6) purely for how they looked, and I've never been disappointed by their performance, so I run them in my Isengard armies (even though the meta would say they are not as effective as the heavies, and they haven't won a tournament for me yet - we'll see what THRO 2015 holds).

2.  Themed Armies
The Halloween Army - THRO 2014
Some people will build a list around a particular theme.  What I don't mean by this is the "I'm going to build a Harad army" or "I'm going to build a Gondor army" mindset; that's just called "building an army," :)  I'm speaking instead of someone who builds an army around a central theme (more on that in the next paragraph) and chooses to stick with the theme even if it means that the list is softer than it would otherwise be if they ran something else from the army book (oh, and for those who don't know what I mean when I say "softer" and "harder" in regards to lists, check out my post on this blog for more on that).  An example is helpful.

For the THRO 2014 Tournament I ran the "Halloween Army," which was a themed army designed to use the scary stuff from the Angmar army book.  This meant I needed some undead stuff (spectres), some dead "whoozy" stuff (like wights and a ringwraith), some big scary stuff (like cave trolls) and some spam mooks for running down people (because that's essential to the horror genre - I used orcs).  The result was a themed army that didn't use Buhrdur (because he would have replaced an integral part of the theme, which was the nazgul) or wargs for fast attack (because they didn't fit the Halloween feel of the army), even though they would have helped to protect me from bruisers in close combat and give me more mobility (which would have helped against the Rohan and Isengard lists that I faced in the tournament).  I didn't take these models because this was a themed army, and the theme was more important than the competitiveness of the army list.

Other themes include a "Monster Mash" army (say, Gwaihir + Tons of Eagles that sacrifice unit numbers for the theme of Big-Nasties-Tearing-Up-Everything), White Council/Riders in Black armies, Dunlending-filled Isengard armies (because Spam Troops + cheap S4 2Hers + 12" Stand Fast is fun), etc.  These are not necessarily the strongest armies, but some people don't want to build the strongest army possible: for some people it's the theme that matters, and those people will use the theme to guide the building of the list.  And at the end of the day, people who bring themed lists can always fall back on, "Eh, I wasn't trying to build the toughest list possible" if and when they lose.  Tiberius loves building themed armies (especially of the all-hero variety - he doesn't always build themed armies, but he does every now and then), so if you're looking for some themed army ideas, check out this blog and look for his posts.

3.  Underdog Armies
The definition of an Underdog list: Shirelings
Related to Point #2, there are some people who run Underdog lists.  An underdog list, as OnceBitten describes it, followed the idea of, "This is a list that I think I can win with, but not everyone could," and if I had to choose only one philosophy for my army list paradigm, it would be this one.  I run D5 uruk scouts over and against the D6 heavy armor guys.  I run Shire ('nuff said).  I run Rivendell with a banner (because when your units are expensive, of course you have 25 points lying around to sport a banner).  I like running Underdog lists because I find them to be more fun.

What this doesn't mean, though, is that you're running impossible lists.  To reiterate the paradigm, it's the idea that "This is a list that I think I can win with, but not everyone could" - which is to say, you're not building a list that is designed to cede the game to your opponent.  You play the list and have a viable strategy for winning, and sure, sometimes it doesn't (or in my case, a good amount of the time it doesn't), but we take joy in having a hard fight to get to the final goal.

OnceBitten makes a really good point that I want to reiterate here: it's especially helpful to run an Underdog list if you're teaching the rules of the game to a new player.  While it is helpful for players to play against hard lists that are built to be competitive according to the current meta (as it helps them to grow), when a person is first learning the rules it does them no favors to just slaughter them on the field.  This is one of the reasons I run Underdog lists (and why I think I'm so comfortable with them, because I run them a lot): I play Underdog lists to teach people how the game works, and then as they gain experience I can play more competitive lists against them.

This is not generally recommended for tournaments (especially if you're trying to win), but if you're used to running them...well, you might be like me and run them anyway because it's the kind of lists you're comfortable playing with, :P

4.  Linchpin (aka, Focus and Overwhelm)
F4 S4 D7 Frontline with spear support, a volley line, and a 5+ Save against
all wounds...yeah, just try and break this line, I dare you...
This one is worth parking on for a bit, as they are very common.  The high concept of this philosophy is that the player places a lot of points into a given unit or group of units that will basically single-handedly win the game for him/her.  A few of the more common examples include:

-Mumakil with Haradrim with the Karna upgrade: 3+ Shooting with poison protected in a Howdah, and they always pass Courage tests (so they'll never run from combat if the army is broken)
-Dwarf "Hero Block" using a power hero + Dwarf Shieldbearer + D7 support warriors to cover the flanks
-Angmar cave troll "monster mash" armies that sport a ton of monsters using Brutal Strike attacks coupled with Burduhr

...The list goes on - in fact, almost every army can form a linchpin of some sort (still trying to figure out how Shire does it without teaming in another force...), but the strategy behind this army build is very simple: get the linchpin to do its thing, leave everything to the linchpin, and win the game.  Now while I don't really enjoy this style of army building myself, I'll note here that there's nothing wrong with it: it's perfectly fine to do this (and I used to - story coming up in a bit).  What it means, though (as fair warning) is that if the Linchpin of the army doesn't work (call it bad rolls, not reaching the target, etc.), the game will likely go very poorly, but that's the trade-off for this army build approach.

A common derivative of this in LOTR SBG (OnceBitten considers this a different strategy entirely, though I'd contend they are basically the same strategy in LOTR) is the Focus and Overwhelm strategy, where an army overloads a particular phase of the game (heavy magic in a ringwraith-heavy army, archery in an elf or Grey Company "Gun Line" army, uruk-hai getting quickly into melee to avoid as many Shoot Phases as possible, etc.) and use that phase to overwhelm the enemy and win the game.  I think the most important thing to remember for both the Linchpin and the Focus and Overwhelm is that since you're rolling dice, you always have the chance of having an off-game, so just be careful if you use this strategy to build your list.  A story is helpful here.

For THRO 2013 I took a Grey Company army, and I really love that army (and am planning on taking it to another tournament in the future - probably GT or THRO 2016, depending on when I want to run my dwarf army).  It was a linchpin army that relied on two things: archery killing 2-4 units/round, and getting Aragorn into melee combat.  And I discovered that if I had a game where I couldn't get a lot of archery in (because I started in a dwarf hold that didn't allow for volleying out, for example) or Aragorn just wasn't killing a lot of guys, I'd lose the game (and sure enough I think I went 1-2 at that tournament).

5.  Min/Max Armies
Take a Rohan Outrider over a Rohan Warrior with bow every day of the week...
A Min/Max army is an army built to minimize the number of points they have to devote to a certain element of the army, and maximize the number of undercosted models in their army.  This is easier to do with an LOME army than it is to do with a Warbands army, but some people will do this as they build lists (Tiberius will do this every now and then).  I'll use dwarves as an example:

-The King's Champion: For 125 pts you get a ton of Defense (anywhere from D7-D9), S5 on the King's Champion, a high FV, lots of attacks, two banners (which is 50 pts worth of upgrades right there), and a good number of Fate Points.  A Min/Max army list for dwarves would likely include him over and against Dain Ironfoot, for example.

-Dwarf Heroes Generally: While all dwarf heroes are a great use of points, a Min/Max list would use a Dwarf King over and against a Dwarf Captain, Gimli over and against almost anyone (just a really good use of points right there), etc. to maximize the stats you get for the points you spend.

-Warriors over Rangers: Now this could get me in trouble.  I want to point out that for 7 pts you actually get really good warrior selections from dwarf rangers - for the same cost as a Rohan Warrior with shield you get the same defense value, a higher FV, a higher Courage rating, treat all rocky and woodland terrain as open terrain for the purposes of movement, and all you sacrifice is 1" of movement and the shielding special rule.  So I'm not saying that dwarf rangers are a bad use of points - they just don't maximize your use of points.  For example, almost every upgrade for dwarf rangers is +3 pts/model in cost.  Ouch.  For a S2 24" bow (that all humans get for +1 pt/model) or a S3 6" throwing weapon (which elves and corsairs get for +1 pt/model)?  Not worth it.  Perhaps it's worth it for a cheap 2Her, but at the same time you can get a S3 2H for orcs or Dunlendings for 6pts/warrior instead of 8, and you get the same firepower (albeit slightly weaker Defense and a slighly lower FV).

Dwarves can get a lot of momentum out of 9pt/warrior dwarf warriors, Khazad Guards (such a good purchase for the points, especially if you use the 2H option when attacking *hint hint*) - lots of cool options, and they only got better with the new Hobbit releases.

And this is not specific to dwarves - Easterlings and Rohan do a great job of Min/Max on heroes (not so much on warriors for Easterlings), Wood Elves do a great job of Min/Max on warriors (wood elves over Galadhrim, for example), etc.  Isengard actually does not do well with Min/Max (as most of your heroes are about the same cost, so there are few ways to reduce the cost of your hero selections, most of your warrior selections are 9-10 pts, etc.), and Rivendell is in the same boat (most heroes being either 80 pts or close to double that, and most warriors are right around 10 pts).  So all of that to say, some people will look at their army book, find out what units are a good use of points, and maximize the number of units they purchase from that shorter list of models to get the most for the points they spend.

6.  Reactionary Lists
I see your heavy infantry line, and I'll raise you one Grey Company "Gun Line"
Reactionary lists refer to lists that are designed to respond to the current tournament/local meta for army lists.  I was actually talking with Tiberius about this recently, and he mentioned to me that since Isengard has more or less become the meta (F4 S4 D6 with a melee focus) this is the reason that Isengard doesn't win tournaments: everyone builds their lists to prepare for an Isengard army.  I think he has a point - I'll be testing out an Isengard army for THRO 2015 just to try an asymmetric and unique Isengard list (little hint: no D6 or D7 in the entire force, and exceptional Courage for the whole army just in case of terror), so we'll see how that goes.  But I think there's something to this: because it is highly likely that a team will face an Isengard team (and even more so that they will face a D6 Heavies + Pikes + Drummer + Vrasku + D7 Bunker Captain army, which is the current standard fare for Isengard), so people plan ahead on how to play against Isengard.

And this is an accurate assessment, I think, of what people think about when they build lists.  It's not uncommon to hear people talking about the need for S4 (to get past the D6 everyone brings), thoughts on either going to the extreme of D7 to keep people alive (against the S4 of the meta) or the spam approach of guys who are only D5 (and just chalking up their armies to wound on 5s against the S4 but hoping to mitigate that through mass numbers), and seeing a lot of people paying points for F4 if they don't start with it (it's very rare you see an Easterling force that does not use Black Dragons for their front ranks, Haradrim that are not fielding Serpent Guard as their infantry, etc.).

People are also starting to lean away from archery (it used to be that every army had a volley team or a heavy crossbow contingent for the archery game; nowadays volley lines are rare) because so many armies are focusing on high mobility and getting into combat on Turn 3 instead of Turn 4 (which may not sound like a huge change, but trust me: it's makes a huge difference for a Grey Company, Shire, or Elf army that places lots of points on shooting).  So it's been interesting to watch.

If I had to guess, I think a lot of people use a Reactionary mindset to inform their primary philosophy for army building - not so much that they consciously ask the question, "What will I face at this tournament" so much as a latent, underlying thought while building their army list.  And there's nothing wrong with this: playing to the meta can help people win critical games in a tournament, as they are well-prepared for the threats they face.  The only danger is what happens when you face an army that is totally not built to match the current meta?  The downside of those who play to the meta is that if someone is a standard deviation or two from the mean, do you have what you need to counter the new threats?  This is an important question for you if you use this philosophy to build your army.  Good example of this?  The Waistcoat Brigade (my army for the GT 2014) was a predominately F3 S2 D3 army, and no one knew what to do with it.  Result: a Minor Loss and two Major Victories.

7.  Toolkit Army
Even a limited army list can have a lot of variety...
Finally we examine the Toolkit approach to army list building.  I'll note in passing that while I'd consider myself to generally be an Underdog player, I tend to build Underdog armies that use a healthy dose of Toolkit theory.  The Toolkit approach builds the army to have an answer for a variety of threats to the force, even if the "answer" is not ideal.

When I sit down to build a Toolkit army, I usually plan on having the following: a High Courage option (for Terror), a High Defense option (for archery), a High Strength option (for cracking D7+), and a High Mobility option (for chasing down archers/skirmishers).  Depending on the list I may look into a caster to provide Transfix/Immobilize/Paralyze for the army (for big heroes that I don't want to try to beat through straight combat res), and a siege weapon (for breaking up phalanxes before my melee guys close in for combat).  Building a Toolkit army doesn't require you to have all of these things in your force, but it will likely focus on having most of them if possible.

My Easterling force is one example (I'll use them here because I'm testing out Easterlings at present).  Easterlings have a limited warrior core, but even their limited core can do quite a bit: they can give banner support, heavy cav, pike support, F4 D6 frontline troops, and heavy armor archers.  They also have a good mix of heroes that cover a lot of bases.  For High Defense and High mobility you've got Khamul, who can hit and fade while being D8 (and D5-D7 for the mount, depending on which one you purchase), and archers know that if they don't target him with their shots he'll mow them down.  You also have access to a 50-pt Easterling Captain with shield, which is the cheapest Bunker Captain in the game (even cheaper than the Rohan guy who has the same stats for 55 pts).

For high-Strength you've got a good mix of S4 heroes who can become S6 with Bladewrath (on a 2+ cast from a dirt cheap 60-pt hero), though you can also throw the spell on a warrior as well to boost his strength if the match-up is better.  Dragon Knights do a good job of adding some additional damage output (F5 with 3 attacks is really nice), and once you throw in Khanish units into the mix you get access to 2Hers, chariots - tons of damage options.

On the utility side you've got access to Fury to both keep your guys in the field and allow them to charge terror due to automatically passing Courage tests (and a 6+ save on top of D6, which is not bad), and access to a number of utility spells with Khamul (not the best caster, but not bad).  So a Toolkit army would take 2-3 very different heroes (maybe a War Priest, Khamul, and a Dragon Knight for damage) and warriors to cover a variety of needs (some swordsmen for frontline defense, pikes to make the Drag Knight and warriors more effective, archers to cover the flanks and protect against other archers, maybe some 2Her Khand Warriors for killing power, and access to heavy knights for reliable flank charging and mobility).

Conclusion

Again, the purpose of this post is not to say that one way of building an army is "right" or "wrong."  Instead I think it's helpful for players - both veteran and new - to develop an overall strategy for how they build their lists.  This also means that if you find that your armies haven't been working the way you want them to, you can make adjustments by refocusing on your army building strategy, changing up units within the list to better fit your strategy, etc.

And ultimately, your advice from Centaur should always be this: build the list you want to build.  If you want to play a Hobbit army, go for it!  From one who's done it, it's a lot of fun!  If you want to play an all-hero army that will likely lose Domination games just because you don't have the model count to outnumber your opponent, run it!  If you want to build a heavily meta-ed army that is designed to womp rank-and-file armies, build it!  Run an army you enjoy running, and then if you're looking to win at tournaments, make it winnable.  If you're looking at just having a beautifully painted army, make it beautiful.  But build something you'll be proud of, because ultimately we are practicing craftsmanship, and that is a calling worth pursuing.

In our next post we will apply these philosophies to actual list building (that is to say the more practical post to offset this highly theoretical post), and I'm really looking forward to that discussion.  In the meantime, I'm hoping to get notes up for the Hold Ground battle that Tiberius and I got in wiht my Easterling force, and I'm hoping to get that up this weekend, so keep watching this space!  Until then, you'll know where to find me,

Watching the stars,

Glenstorm

"I watch the stars, for it is mine to watch." ~ Glenstorm, Prince Caspian