Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Last Alliance: Concept & Strategy

In this post update, we're looking at Numenor and Rivendell & Eregion and what you can do with them. First, we'll do a brief overview of both army lists and then we'll talk about how those in our gaming group have approached the hero and warrior choices for a High Elf list and then we'll close with what I saw in both of these lists and how I've chosen to build my army. Pictures will be an update from the workbench for our progress on Numenorians (and a few High Elf acquisitions).

Unpacking The Lists: Numenor and Rivendell & Eregion

Both Numenor and Rivendell & Eregion (hereafter Rivendell) lists have one thing in common: they have one warrior option. On the one hand, having one warrior option is nice because you know very quickly what you want - spears? Bows? Shields? Shields with spears? Banners?

On the other hand, having more than one warrior choice often allows an army to compensate for the weaknesses of a basic unit (for example, having a Strength 4 unit choice). This means that an army taken solely from Rivendell or Numenor will be stuck with certain limitations (say, expensive base units for the Elves or average Defense values for Numenor).

400-pt Warbands for Rivendell...not a lot of guys...
Rivendell has poor warrior options primarily because the emphasis of the list is on its Hero choices - you have many combat hero options (like Glorfindell or Elladan and Elrohir), captain options (both named captains like Erestor or Gildor Inglorion and unnamed ones), and even some auric/tactical hero options (like Arwen or High Elf Stormcallers). Magic casters are a given for Elven armies and the Elves of Rivendell are no exception. This list also has some crossover heroes (like Elrond) who do both magic and damage. The problem, of course, with having lots of good heroes is that once you choose one or two heroes you want, you quickly run out of room for warriors...

For 201 points, you can get a Captain with shield, one with no
equipment, and 12 Warriors - cheap and average troops.
Numenor, on the other hand, not only lacks in warrior choices, but also lacks in hero choices. You really have three hero options: Elendil (lots of combat power and free Heroic Combats), Isildur (good combat abilities with the ability to sneak in on enemy forces), and unnamed captains (who can be F5 D7, which makes them good bunker captains to hold down enemy heroes...or kill stuff, you know, as well as captains can). By taking Elendil or Isildur, you basically opt for a smaller army, but more damage done by conventional hero methods (bashing). By going the captain route, you could get ~50 models in a 600-point game. Take Isildur and you're looking at a list in the mid-40s. Take Elendil and you're looking at roughly 3 full warbands.

The Might of the Elves: The Current Rivendell Meta

High Elf lists as you've seen them on this blog tend to take one of three flavors:
  • Legions Of Middle-Earth (LOME) adapted rules (which we've altered to require the total cost of heroes to be at least equal to 33% of the army list requirement) build with 2 heroes that barely break the 33% requirement (one could be allied) and spamming 10-11 point High Elves (generally an even split between shields, shields + spears, and Elf bows).
  • LOME build with 3 heroes who all do combat damage (one could be an ally) and fewer High Elves (still basically spamming the traditional shield, shield + spear, and Elf bow combinations).
  • LOME build with 2 heroes and spamming not only traditional High Elf Warriors, but also including a High Elf Warrior with a banner.
We'll look at some common concepts of the meta in brief.

1) Legions Of Middle-Earth Dominates Over Warbands

The choice of LOME shouldn't come as a surprise: if you want numbers, it's going to be hard to get to ~39 models without choosing some really poor hero choices (at least, in terms of combat power). Let's face it, if we buy three 80-point heroes (say 3 High Elf Captains with shields or Elf bows), we have ~120 points per warband to spend on units. If we want 33% of our warriors to have Elf bows (which we probably do), four of our other warriors will need to take no equipment at all and the other four will need to choose between shields (D6) or spears (supporting attacks). Not great options.

If we choose to take two 80-point heroes and one Stormcaller/Arwen, we gain 20 points to work with, which basically can outfit our melee warriors with shields (or almost all of them), but we are choosing a hero who is not that likely to kill any warriors (or at least, not many).

Also, we mentioned before that one of the big draws to playing as Rivendell is to be able to use their power heroes, who will take up 140-170 points to use. Clearly, LOME is a good option.

While all of this is true, there is one big advantage to running Warbands over LOME:

You get to run Wood Elves.

Yes, I'm a Wood Elf player, so of course this is a big draw to me. LOME doesn't allow High Elves to take Wood Elves because Gildor is in the Wanderers in the Wild list, not the Rivendell or Eregion lists. Now consider: let's say that I'm trying to build a 600-pt list and my first warband looks like this:

Gildor Inglorion - 80pts
11 Wood Elf Warriors with Wood Elf spears - 88 pts
Army Total: 12 models, 168pts (432 remaining)

If my goal is three full warbands (we're going to get close, but not quite hit 39 models), here could be my next warband:

High Elf Stormcaller - 60pts
11 High Elf Warriors with Elf bows - 121pts
Army Total: 24 models, 349pts (251 remaining)

This allows me to do the following warband to finish my crew:

Elladan and Elrohir - 140pts
11 High Elf Warriors with shields - 110pts
Army Total: 36 models, 599pts

If your league allows for grace points (we at TMAT usually do 0.5% of the limit, which in this case would be 3 points), you can actually convert more of your Wood Elves into High Elves. Regardless of what ratio of High Elves to Wood Elves you use, this kind of list actually gives you a lot of flexibility against opponents: your spear units are cheap, and while their Defense is low, they can shield if charged (an ability gained at +3 points/model with High Elf Warriors).

Your archers are supported by a stormcaller, who can blow a target model away from the group 2D6" and keeps them knocked on the ground for that turn. This buys you valuable time against cavalry models/heroes/monsters who might try to clear out your archer core. You can probably get this off three times in any given game, but you could get it off more often than that. Target something worth at least 60 points, and you'll probably keep that value out of the game completely (especially if it's melee).

My melee wall will have 11 High Elves supported by Wood Elves with the twins running havoc on their foes. They don't have the D6 armor buff, but they're still very capable on offense, so if you can keep them protected from enemy fire, they should be able to weather the storm. With Gildor Immobilizing their targets, you can also take down monsters/light heroes with ease, paying for the pair quickly and efficiently (not to mention saving the rest of your team from a lot of pain).

Alternatively, if I wanted three more models for the list, I could swap the twins with Erestor (saving me 60 points), allowing me to purchase 3 more infantry models, swap my Stormcaller for a Captain with Elf bow, and still have a few points left over for converting Wood Elves to High Elves.

It's important to note that you can't take this army with Legions: you can run roughly the same list by dropping Gildor entirely and converting his cost (and his men) into High Elves (or upgrades on the twins), and you'll basically gain 2-4 models. I'll emphasize this point:

Taking a Legions list would be just fine - not as flexible, but more resilient.

2) The F5 D6 Spam

Here at TMAT, we have a F4 D6 meta - basically everyone shoots for this or shoots way under it and spams lots of guys or takes lots of monsters/bashy heroes. It's just how it goes - people like above average combat prowess and resilience. Where High Elves come into a realm all their own is the F5 combat prowess (trumping basically all other warriors and some heroes) in addition to a D6 resilience. It's sooooo tempting!

It comes, however, at a price: I believe all High Elf players should take a good handful of F5 D6 warriors - it pays to be a winner in fights and to come out alive on the off-chance that you lose. However, how far does this go?

Most High Elf players here at TMAT run two ranks of D6 warriors, with each file in their battle line costing 21 points (10 for the front man, 11 for his spear support). This is a lot of money - even for armies with expensive warriors, like Uruk-Hai. While I call this method the "spam," it's really hard to spam this because it's really expensive. If you want to get three full warbands (or their equivalent) and assuming that you have 33% of your warriors with Elf bows ('re Elves), you'd have this to work with after getting your warrior core set:

12 High Elf Warriors with shields - 120pts
12 High Elf Warriors with shields and shields - 132pts
12 High Elf Warriors with Elf bows - 132pts
Army Total: 384pts (216 remaining)

Okay, if I just spend 2/3 of my army on warriors, I have a few options:

a) LOME: Elladan and Elrohir with heavy armor (or Elf bows) + Arwen (or a stormcaller)
b) LOME: Elrond, Master of Rivendell + 1 more High Elf Warrior with Elf bow
c) Warbands: Arwen with Elven cloak + Stormcaller + High Elf Captain with Elf bow (or shield...or Erestor...or Gildor...)

Not a lot of options - all good options (maybe not Option B...not convinced that will work), but you're limited simply because of your warrior choices. I also didn't highlight that Gil-Galad allows you to get a F6 D6 front line...but that only exacerbates the issue (and would probably reduce your numbers a fair bit).

3) The Rule Of One (Power Hero)

Generally speaking here at TMAT, High Elf lists have one power hero. Even in the sample lists I provided, you're looking at one good hero (unless you take the twins). It's hard to break this rule, even though Rivendell is loaded with good heroes. Legions lists thrive on having numbers and the necessary evil that comes from spamming 40 guys is that if you're paying 10-11 points per model, you're going to have ~200 points to play with for your heroes. From my perspective, that tells me one thing:

If you only want to spend 200 points on your heroes, don't play as Rivendell.

I make this note fully knowing that people have taken Rivendell lists on this blog with a single power hero and won. Lots. TONS even. But if you're taking Rivendell, you miss out on their true capabilities if half your army isn't invested in heroes. Why take the twins and some captain/stormcaller when you could take the twins AND GLORFINDEL? Three combat heroes will clear out enemy positions easily. Want to cut down on costs a little? Drop Glorfindel and take Erestor - rerollable wounding dice on ranged and melee attacks is downright scary. Or perhaps you leave the twins at home and pay a few more points to get Elrond with Glorfindel. To do any of this, you need close to 300 points invested in heroes (or more).

Going Tiberius-Crazy: A Last Alliance

So, I'm a long-time listener of MrMalorian's Warhammer Fantasy youtube channel, and he likes to talk about lists that are "Malorian crazy" - lists that focus heavily on one thing that only a player who knows what he's doing would do but could end up proving to be quite valuable (or a complete bomb).

What we're going to talk about here is the most "Tiberius-crazy" army I've come up with to date: a Last Alliance build that takes all the tactical units you could hope to field with High Elves (well, most of them) and the supplemental units you can field from Numenor (which have gone heretofore untested on our blog).

Okay, some basics for starters: with the current meta, as I've mentioned in my previous post, we see a lot of unprotected Elven archers running about. D5 on your archers is great, but against S3 bows, you're going to get roasted. While you may take down some of them in return, it'll probably cost you more in the long-run. Sending a D6 warrior to stand in front of these guys (never count on terrain being your friend) is expensive - why keep 10 additional points/model out of the fight?

So, we recruit some cheap warriors from Numenor. While Numenor doesn't have access to D6 (you'd have to turn to Arnor for that - read more about them in Centaur's post here), you do get cheaper 8-point cost units who are also D5 to improve the survivability of those deadly archers. Let's assume we have the following Numenorian warband to ally into the army:

Captain of Numenor with heavy armor and shield - 60pts
10 Warriors of Numenor with shields - 80pts
2 Warriors of Numenor with bows - 16pts
Army Total: 13 models, 156pts (444 remaining)

With about a quarter of the army point cost spoken for, we now turn to getting some High Elf warriors to flesh out our ranks. If we shoot for two full warbands, we'll spend at least the following points on our High Elf Warriors:

16 High Elf Warriors with shields - 160pts
8 High Elf Warriors with Elf bows - 88pts
Army Total: 37 models, 404pts (196 remaining)

With almost 200 points left, we can do a few things, but here's what I would recommend:

2 Stormcallers - 120pts
Captain of Numenor with shield and heavy armor - 60pts
2 Warriors of Numenor with bows - 16pts
Army Total: 42 models, 600pts

Why so many Numenorians? And why run 10 shields and 4 bows? The answer is simple: your army already has 16 warriors decked with F5 D6 and the shielding rule to stay alive. The rest of your army are elite bowmen hiding behind either a F4 D5 shield wall or a F5 D7 captain who can shield. Factor in two stormcallers, and any enemy heroes you face are not going to be punishing your lines. The result is pretty simple: you clean up enemies with your archery and absorb whatever enemy archery comes your way. It's important to note that by dropping 4 High Elf Warriors, we could grow our number by one total unit by adding in some more Numenorians (say 2 with bows and 3 with shields). In this kind of set-up, we'd be going for firepower with this list, instead of the traditional charge-and-break. Tiberius-crazy? Perhaps...we'll be looking to get the army tested for either this year's GT or next year's GT, so more on that in a bit.

A special thanks to my little munchkin helper, Vin, who isn't looking her best, but is sick we give her a pass.
In our next post, we'll be looking at my beloved Wood Elves and how we get a very different Elven experience with them. Until then, happy hobbying!

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