Thursday, October 26, 2017

Workbench Update: Wood Elves

Good morning gamers,

With THRO 2017 around the bend (and as the planner of that tournament), I was faced with a glaring question: What army do I take? Do I run those Dwarves I love so much? How about Uruk-Hai? Buckets of Goblins? My Spectre-Orc army I've been dying to run? The answer to all of these (though begrudgingly for Dwarves and Goblins) is...

We're going back to Wood Elves.

For those who've followed this blog from the beginning, Wood Elves were the first army I developed: back in the LOME days, where Legolas and Gandalf (later replaced by Galadriel) were all you needed to make a powerful army of light troops work, Wood Elves were my jam (even over those bearded fellows I love so much). In this post, we'll be talking about a few different lists I've been considering and why to take them (particularly with a 150-point limit in mind).

1) The Wood Elf Grand Strategy: Skirmishing

There are three basic types of Elven warriors: High Elves for those who like the ability to get to D6 (and who don't like to be flooded with unit choices - not always a bad thing), Wood Elves for those who don't care about resiliency and want cheap skirmish units, and Galadhrim Warriors who do neither of these things, ;-). While I think there's value to having some D4 archers and D5 melee warriors, in general I think the decision between Rivendell & Eregion armies and Lothlorien & Mirkwood armies is what you want your warrior choices to be/do.

When I first got interested in the hobby, I knew I wanted an Elven army and the one thing that sold Wood Elves to me over High Elves was this: skirmishing potential. Not only can all Wood Elf Warriors use their 3+ shoot value (with Elf bows/throwing daggers), but you can get an all-archery team for less points than the equivalent D6 front-line + D5 archer support from High Elves. This, paired with many, MANY heroes who can shoot can make this team very, VERY deadly in the Shoot phase (and also the Move phase if you're fielding throwing daggers). So...I invested in Wood Elves. A few years, a small handful of Galadhrim, and a few Sentinels later, and my opinion hasn't changed (though I own a small lot of High Elves too, now) - Wood Elves have incredible flexibility and can provide for fun (though difficult) game-play.

2) A Brief Note on 150-Point Lists:

In the upcoming THRO tournament, we're running 150-point lists (with basically no heroes). Normally, your army can do several things (have some crushing units, have a shield-wall, have some archer, have some tactical heroes/units, and have some fast units). In a 150-point list, you'll be lucky if you can do two of these. This requires specialization - and if you tailor your army to do one thing well (or two things decently), you should end each game with a respectable bucket of enemies killed.

With these lists below, it should be noted that in a conventional game (600+ points), you could easily pair up two of these lists and then add some heroes. Each of these lists is going to focus on one (or two) of the emphasis areas noted above, but by pairing them together in a larger game, you can overcome some glaring weaknesses. For each build, I'll note a hero that makes the list better (who, conveniently, usually makes the list work at the 250-point level, if you're looking for quick list-building).

3) Build #1: Archery is Everything

3 Wood Elf Warriors with Wood Elf Spears
8 Wood Elf Warriors with Throwing Daggers
6 Wood Elf Warriors with Elf Bows

17 models, 6 Elf Bows + 8 throwing daggers

This list is pretty simple: basically everyone can shoot. I've chosen here to only include a small contingent of spearmen because for 8 points a model, there's not a lot of reason to leave them behind. While I could have dropped one warrior to give more people throwing daggers, I didn't think it was necessary (plus, let's face it, we want the extra model for when we eventually get caught).

The beauty of using throwing weapons, as mentioned above, is that they enable more of our units (14 out of 17) to be able to use that irresistible 3+ Shoot value that we love in our Elven archers. I could talk all day about how great throwing weapons are, how to use them, and so forth, but I already did. So rather than repeat myself, you can read about it here.

Hero to add: Thranduil. The extra points in a 250-point game could be used to upgrade most of your bowmen to Mirkwood Guard - which is well-worth the upgrade!

4) Build #2: Balanced Build

5 Wood Elf Warriors with Wood Elf Spears
3 Wood Elf Warriors with Throwing Daggers
4 Wood Elf Warriors with Elf Bows
3 Galadhrim Warriors with shields
2 Galadhrim Warriors with Elf bows

17 models, 6 Elf Bows + 3 Throwing Daggers

Wood Elves have one thing going for them: they can get warriors who are Fight 5 with shielding (or spear support) capability for 8 points. And they're Courage 5. This means that if all the guys you buy for melee support have spears, you can field a ton of them for relatively no expense. In the above case, we actually have less shooting potential and less Might than the previous list, though we've added shields and more spears (which can be used for shielding).

Unlike the last list, this army runs a mixture of Galadhrim and Wood Elves - I don't believe in Galadhrim spearmen (Wood Elf Spears are cheaper and support/defend themselves just as well) and paying to be D5 isn't worth it to me. While there are a few shield-toting Galadhrim in the list, I didn't go the whole way and drop the throwing weapons altogether. Instead, the daggers can be used as a small skirmishing band, whose potential shouldn't be underestimated in a small game (every man counts - especially if your opponent has low Courage and no heroes).

Hero to add: Galadriel - if you're looking for a balanced hero, Galadriel is an excellent choice. While she's 130 points (which would mean dropping the throwing dagger units and the shields on the Galadhrim in a 250-point game), she provides tactical support for your list that can supplement your other units. If the cost is too much for you, any hero would probably help (Thranduil, as mentioned above, is an excellent choice).

5) Build #3: Semi-Heroic Build

10 Wood Elf Warriors with Wood Elf Spears
5 Wood Elf Warriors with Elf Bows
1 Wood Elf Sentinel

16 models, 6 Elf Bows

This list drops the throwing weapons altogether, has 1 fewer model than the previous lists, but gives you a Wood Elf Sentinel. Sentinels are powerful in small games because 1) they have Elven Cloaks (making them hard to hit) and 2) because they have 2 attacks (3 attacks when supported by a spear...which you have plenty of). Multi-attack models who are facing single models tend to win their fights, which means they don't die. Sentinels also have quasi-magical abilities, which can make you cause Terror (huge in games where your foes have low Courage and no shamans), make a friendly unit pass a Courage test (I'll take that spear-support again, thanks), and make enemies perform moves (yeah, don't shoot that crossbow at my friends this turn, okay?). All of this (along with an Elf bow) makes a Sentinel kinda like a hero (and equally-costed to the heroes that are likely to show up at the tournament - except without Might/Will/Fate).

Hero to add: Legolas with armor - come on, you didn't think we'd have a list where he didn't show up, right? With 5 extra points, you can swap out 5 of your Wood Elf Spears with throwing daggers, or take Galadhrim shield troops instead (whichever floats your boat).

5) Build #3: Very Heroic Build

6 Wood Elf Warriors with Wood Elf Spears
2 Wood Elf Warriors with Throwing Daggers
1 Wood Elf Warriors with Elf Bows
3 Wood Elf Sentinels

12 models, 4 Elf Bows + 2 Throwing Daggers

This list has (understandably) fewer units than the other lists. I'm not sure it's that competitive, but for the sake of the trade-space, I need to mention it. Half of your models can shoot (which is pretty good) and the rest have spears for supporting your troops in fights (or fending off the ranks while you carve up pieces of it at a time). Everyone is D3, so you're very vulnerable to damage if you lose a fight, so this list (unlike all the others) needs to be careful. While you've upped the number of Sentinels you have, Sentinels are squishy, so don't be reckless with them. Their ability to make sure that low Courage spearmen aren't able to participate in fights (or Trolls...or Wargs...or banners) can give you very powerful benefits, so don't underestimate them!

Hero to add: Haldir with Elf bow. I haven't written much on Haldir, but this battle report says some about him. Haldir is basically a cheaper, less-good version of Legolas - given the choice, you want Legolas. However, when your model count is tiny (thanks to all those Sentinels), it's good to go a little cheaper on the hero so you can add 3 more units (two spears and an Elf bow). Some people like the Helms Deep version of Haldir (that one will give you armor for free), but I prefer the double-shot with archery vs. the melee bonuses that come from that Haldir - you don't want to engage in melee with this list if it can be avoided...

Not sure which one I'll be running, but I've decided to make the decision this weekend, so until then, happy hobbying!

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