Friday, 27 May 2011

Empire Tactica Part 10: Outriders

You sit down to relax and enjoy the Empire army book and it's difficult not to notice these guys. With 3 Handgun shots per turn EACH its difficult for your eyes not to light up. And the models a beautiful!

You also have the option of giving the champion the sniper rifle upgrade allowing him to pinpoint enemy characters (very useful versus Tomb Kings particularly).

Like the Greatswords, tactics articles in White Dwarf will tell you that these guys are great. But like the Greatswords, I haven't had much luck with them.

  • Multiple Shots gives them a penalty to hit that makes them quite unaccurate
  • There's only five of them (in my unit) so they die fast
  • They tend to only get a couple of turns shooting before they get charged
  • Despite looking like a fast attack unit, they can't move and shoot so there's often a dilemma about wasting a turn's shooting to redelpoy
My call on these guys is to deploy them amongst the shooty contingent of my army and get shooting.  

Sticking them on the flank allows them to tackle small flanking units single-handedly (in theory).

Basically I have no idea. I know what NOT to do better than anyone. That's kind of my speciality.

Watch this space. If I suddenly get some inspiration then I'll post more.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Empire Tactica Part 9: Mortar

The mortar is the horde-army killing workhorse of the Empire army. Its large template is great for hitting large numbers of enemy models and excels against such dastardly foes as Skaven (boo hiss). If it doesn't misfire. Or get charged.

Tactics here are based on two things:

  1. Fire it at the largest units and if possible, in the centre of the enemy battleline. Large units mean more hits and centre of the battleline means scattering is more likely to go in your favour.
  2. Place the mortar to maximise the number of shots you can get off during the game. Don't limit your success with this beauty to one or two turns. Keep it firing and keep it killing.
By the way, I base all my war machines on these round bases now, aiming for a mini-diorama feel and I think they look amazing!

Second by the way... If you don't glue the mortar itself on it's possible to switch it over to being a cannon for games whern you'll be facing giants, knights, monsters and other tough multi-wound nasties.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Empire Tactica Part 8: Greatswords

You may notice that these sweet babies are made up of official Greatsword models alternating with some Sisters of Sigmar I had kicking around - a pleasant combination to add interest and use some otherwise rarely used models.

Now every Empire Tactics article I've ever read says these guys are AMAZING. But they're lying.

Seriously, I have never EVER had any luck with these chaps.


They have Great Weapons and Stubborn so these are the guys you send against heavy infantry. Their Great Weapons have the crucial bonus to hit and armour penetration to deal with tough enemies in a way lesser units will struggle with.

Fine in principle. But why does it never work?

Part of the problem nowadays is that in the current rules, charging doesn't mean attacking first and everyone gets to strike. In previous iterations, these guys had a much better chance of doing damage, preventing the enemy attacking back.

Stubborn is used to hold losing units in the battle, preventing their Leadership dropping on Break Tests. Placing them near your General and/or Battle Standard Bearer will make that even more likely but the other way of looking at it is that because they're stubborn, they can afford not to be placed centrally if you don't have enough space.

I'm going to keep trying with them and one day maybe they'll turn around.

But I'm not holding my breath.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Massacre on the Old Silk Road

Tim (Daemons of Chaos) vs Gill (Tempestrians)

Rachel d’Astatic brought her horse to a stop and sniffed the air, raising her slender hand to halt the column of Tempestrian knights behind her. There was something very wrong here, even if she couldn’t put her finger on exactly what it was. Bearing the army battle standard, Ford galloped out of position and came up alongside her. “What is it your majesty?”
“I’m not sure,” replied Rachel, the Merchant Queen of Tempest Falls, “but I feel a sliver of ice chill in my bosom as though part of me is responding to something up ahead, lying in wait. Send word back along the line to deploy the archers from their carts and unhitch the catapult. Move it into position on that rise.” She pointed. “I saw a watchtower in the trees a hundred yards over to the right. It looked deserted. Order a battalion of archers to garrison it and to watch ahead for enemies.”
“Yes m’lady.”
“Where is Methuselah?”
“Ranging wide on his hippogriff, scouting the forest.”
“Sound the horn,” said Rachel. “Summon him back.”
“Yes m’lady.”

Ford cantered back toward the column but Rachel did not watch him go. She was thinking about Methuselah and of the doubts she had felt lately; the questions in her heart about this man she was married to, who she was meant to love, that had no answers. More and more lately, she couldn’t quite recall the moment when they fell in love; the reason that had drawn them together. And another face loomed darkly in her dreams that she could not identify – a tall pale skinned man with strange flickering eyes.
She shook her head to clear the ruminations. This was no time for such luxuries; not when danger loomed; especially when their mission was so critical.
The road ahead led to Malko, capital of New Sylvania, the capital of the Empire’s presence in the Border Princes and the only ally they had within reach in the war against the encroaching darkness in the south. This trip was to be the first meeting between Rachel and her New Sylvanian counterpart, Marcus von Drak. If talks went well, and she anticipated they would, then their realms could join in a great chain of resistance against the encroaching tide of evil. Together they might be unstoppable.
But what was this sliver of ice in her chest that boded ill? What grave forces lay in wait ahead?
Rachel had no idea.
And then they came. All along the edge of the road up ahead and to the right, the foliage crashed apart as a huge throng of Daemons came surging through: Bloodletters, Horrors, Flamers, and flitting through the dense cloud cover, the unmistakably terrifying sight that could only be a mighty Bloodthirster.

The Bloodletters led the charge, sprinting down the slope onto the road ahead of them, at the forefront of each fork of their throng, a huge Juggernaut, each of them a mount for a devastatingly powerful Herald of Khorne.
At Rachel’s command, the archers let fly but a flitting shadow at the edge of her field of vision made the merchant queen pause. Crossing the road ahead of them and ghosting between the trees on the other side, zooming round to her force’s flank, came a cluster of revolting, but also somehow beguiling Seekers of Slaanesh: Daemonettes mounted on sleek steeds every bit as fast as a flock of birds. They were in danger of ripping the flank out of her advance party and Rachel cried for her men to take them down as a priority.
Arrows flew, taking down one of the Seekers as they vaulted the undergrowth but they were simply too fast. They charged into one of the archers units, hacking them down and sending them fleeing with their vicious claws, then crashed through into the Greatswords that Marcus von Drak had sent to guide the Tempestrians into Malko.

Rachel directed her knights into position to take down the Seekers of Slaanesh and overwhelmed, the Seekers succumbed to the weapons of humanity. But too late, Rachel realised the true purpose of the attack. The strike of the Seekers had been as much distraction as gambit. The Bloodletters were on the battle line! The Tempestrians had missed their chance to bring them down at range before they closed!
The Bloodletters hit the knights as they galloped forward to meet them, screaming their hatred into the darkening air, with the Heralds at the fore, pulverising the front line of the knights and driving them back. Cries of fear broke out in the otherwise stalwart men. This assault was like nothing they’d faced before. The swords of the Bloodletters cleaved their armour like it was immaterial. Roaring, the Bloodcrushers reared and dropped, stampeding their enemies. In the centre of the battle, the diabolically infamous daemonic creature, Skulltaker, whirled, swinging his sword in a vile whirlwind of decapitation.
Rachel tried to steady her horse, calling for the men to remain calm; tried to steady her own nerves sufficiently to draw upon her sorcery. Twirling incandescent Flamers, their forms constantly shifting, sent torrents of fire into her bowmen. She could see them faltering, preparing to flee, but to their credit, they held firm.
Where was Methuselah?!
Then the cry came from his mighty Hippogriff, and plunging from the dense cloud cover, Methuselah plummeted down on the battlefield, hit the ground for the briefest of seconds, then charged at the cascading Horrors cavorting towards him. Before he could reach them he was engulfed in flame from all sides and Rachel screamed his name, all doubt in her feelings for him gone. The daemons were on him, scratching at his steed; almost ignoring the king himself in their haste to rob him of his mobility. The Hippogriff went down and suddenly Methuselah was lost from Rachel’s sight.
She was terror stricken. For the first time since this war had begun; with all their victories; this was the first time that she’d felt real panic. She had long sensed a deeper power within her, begging to be tapped, scratching at her subconscious; needing her to give in to its seduction. And never before had her power been this sorely needed. She started to summon it, not realising she was connecting to the Chaos Vein deep beneath the Border Princes and her hair began to lift as the power shot through her body.
But that gave her pause. Was this really the worst it had ever been? She had a memory... She had a memory of fighting alongside a tall man she could no longer picture; fighting for her life and the very existence of her beloved kingdom. But why did those memories falter? Why couldn’t she remember such a pivotal battle? Who was this dark figure she fought with and why did she appear to be battling against Methuselah in this vision?
She shook the memory as the last of the Empire Greatswords was hacked down, drawing on this forbidden and lethal wellspring. The dark magic of the Chaos Vein surrounded her and she drew it into her hands to be sent forth as flame. The kiss of Chaos weedled in, trying to taint her, but her purity and determination protected her without her even realising. Before she could get an inkling of the rot that was trying to seep into her soul the gargantuan Bloodthirster, Greater Daemon of Khorne took to the air and sailed toward her.
All around her the Tempestrian battle line was in tatters. Almost everyone was dead! The Bloodletters sprinted up the slope toward the watchtower, engaging the guards the archers had posted at the door and they tore through them as easily as they’d torn through the rest.
Methuselah was nowhere to be seen, still buried beneath the writhing mass of the horrors as more Bloodletters and a huge Daemonic Beast closed in to finish him off.

The Bloodthirster glided across the road, there where it was widest, roaring in exultation at its victory, circling its great brass axe.

Rachel unleashed the dark magic at her command, blasting it at the oncoming Greater Daemon, screaming as she did so. There was no one left. There was only her. But the fire did not stop it. If anything, the Bloodthirster thrived on it.
It’s great hooves came down on her horse’s neck, crushing the bones and knocking her to the ground. She struggled on hands and knees to get up as it punched its axe into the steed’s flank and ripped it casually in half down its length. Then snorting, steam issuing from its burning nostrils, smoke pouring from its back, the leviathan strode after her, even as she crawled away, her head ringing, desperately trying to focus her mind; to cast some kind of incantation of defence if not attack.
The jolt to her head had sent her mind reeling but despite the imminent danger, she wasn’t seeing the here and now. She was seeing some other place; some other time. The tall stranger was lifting her into his arms. She was on the verge of death; her life slipping away; and he was weeping – this man whom she could not place. He was weeping as he kissed her gently on the forehead then carefully exposed his neck.
The Bloodthirster was on her and suddenly the world was only a series of terrible sensations.
Its massive clawed hand was round her lower leg.
She was swinging up into the air.
Cries of misery and death and bellows of inhuman victory were all around her.
The sky was turning red. The clouds were boiling.
Something inside her cracked.
There was heat everywhere.
Then the grip on her leg released and she was thrown through the air.
Higher and higher.
Trees passing below her madly spinning body.
The road.
More trees.
Rachel tried to reach out but her body was flailing out of control.
Faster and faster.
Until the trees came up around her too fast.
Far far too fast.
Nothing she could do to save herself.
All of them were dead.
And she couldn’t even—

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Empire Tactica Part 7: Knights

Knights are great - especially with a character in tow. They can really kick ass. I've seen them go through unit after unit, their only weakness being the time it takes to get back into position for the next charge.

But beware. I've also seen them perform poorly, not doing anywhere near as much damage as I hoped and ending up in a drawn out wasteful combat.

Choosing when and where to strike is the trick. My personal view here is to place them on the flank and hold position until a charge is possible. Charge forward, smash the enemy then maneouvre ready to support the infantry charge you've also been holding back, hopefully getting in from the flank.

Should you pursue fleeing foes? If you don't then they might bite you back a turn or two later. I would not pursue if their Leadership was less than seven as long as reforming set me up for something really good next turn.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Empire Tactica Part 6: Swordsmen

Ah the great Empire moral dilemma: which troop type to go for.

Halberdiers give the strength and armour penetration bonus; Spearmen fight with an extra rank; and Swordsmen get extra Weapon Skill and Initiative.

You may guess from the picture above which one I went for.

But why?

Well it was almost a random choice, I tell you. I might have gone for spearmen if not for the fact I have a lot of these in my Tomb Kings army. In the end I was liking the hand weapon and shield defensive bonus as well as striking earlier and more easily. Time will tell if I made the right choice (they've seen very little combat as I've tended to hang them back).

At the end of the day, we have to trust that the points cost is calculated farly across the units. After that it comes down to: 

  • Which weapons we think look best
  • Whether we're going for a defensive stance (spears)
  • Or against armoured foes (halberds)
I'm thinking Swordsmen are the middle ground versatile unit. At least that what I'm telling myself. 

But what to do with them?

With half the army forming a gunline, my view here is to position them with other combat elements as far forward as possible. Hold them in place until a charge is viable. By this time the shooting elements will have weakened the opposition. Charge in with as much support as possible and do your darndest to roll well!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Empire Tactica Part 5: Handgunners

Though not as good as Dwarf Thunderers, these guys are one of my favourite Empire units. But why are they always a little disappointing in the game?

Deployment with misile weapons is pretty crucial and the challenge here is to maximise shooting while not letting your combat troops get in the way - deploying to one side helps here. Causing panic tests and stripping ranks off incoming enemy units is the goal here. Combat is going to happen eventually - the Handgunners job is to get it more in the Empire's favour. Bear in mind though that with only a couple of rounds of shooting there isn't much chance to achieve that.

One challenge is whether to deploy forward to get the enemy in range sooner or back to slow them down in reaching you. Another is that if you send your combat troops forward too early, the enemy can gang up on them and once in combat are immune to your shooting.

What to do... what to do?

My current stance is to deploy them forward alongside the combat troops. Focus fire on knocking ranks off incoming units and forcing panic tests. Keep firing on one unit until the panic test point is reached then move on to another. You're unlikely to wipe them out but doing this will weaken their combat resolution even if they pass the panic test.

One thing I am a great fan of is the Hochland Long Rifle. This allows your champion to shoot at individual models rather than joining in the unit's shooting. Shooting at enemy combat characters is often disappointing here but good results can certainly be gained when targetting wizards - particularly undead characters whose death means the army crumbles.

Friday, 13 May 2011

On the Painting Table: Spider Goblin Great Shaman!

My Spider Goblin army is finished at last!!!!!!

And just in time for my first proper game with the assembled army! Man this is going to be good!

But what was the last unit I needed to complete? Here he is! My Spider Goblin Great Shaman!

Now this, of course, is the Shaman off the Arachnarok Spider. I decided not to use the Spider as a mount (more on why in a future article) but I still wanted him on foot, and wanted to maintain the possibility of using him on the Spider if I felt like it in the future.

If you look closely at the picture above you'll see how I got away with it.

I drilled a hole in his butt and another one in the piece of shale I used on his base. I glued a section of paper clip in the base and painted it black - job done!

Now he can either be used on foot or balanced on the front of the Arachnarok Spider:

No glue required!

Now, just wait, the Chittering Horde is coming! Soon... Very soon... My Spider Goblin army will take to the tabletop in all its beautiful glory!!!!!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Empire Tactica Part 4: Warrior Priests

For anyone who has seen one of the Warhammer Mark of Chaos intro movies from the computer game, Warrior Priests are lovely for their imagery and background.

Now as yet I haven't had a lot of success with them, but here's why:

I always forget to use their Prayer abilities. Or the Hatred. I ALWAYS forget that. In fact, the biggest challenge with Warhammer is remembering all the little detail like that when the heat of battle takes over.

With the new magic rules meaning Bound Spells are no longer "free," having Warrior Priests and Wizards in the same army can eat into one another's Power Dice pool so don't go too heavy with both or you'll end up with nothing.

Because the Bound Spell prayer abilities of Warrior Priests are so easy to cast and they don't have a magic level to add to the attempt, they tend to be easy to dispel too so don't rely on getting a lot of these off. Several of them Remain in Play. The key here is to lead up your Priests with these effects as they advace so that they're in position to use them when their moment comes.

The prayer that benefits the unit they join, making it Unbreakable, is cool. Consider here building large units around the priest. More men mean more benefit considering it affects the whole unit, regardless of size. That's more men to benefit from the Hate granted by Righteous Fury as well.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Empire Tactica Part 3: Battle Standard Bearer

Here's my best piece of advice for this or any army.

Take a Battle Standard Bearer and stick him in the middle.

With the current ruleset, Battle Standard Bearers are amazingly useful, allowing you to reroll any Leadership test. I tell you, the number of times this has saved my bacon... And (annoyingly) my opponent's bacon. And the plastic GW model is also really nice! I often think of the Battle Standard Bearer as an inferior character in combat but there's no reason he needs to be and can be tooled up and utilised like any other character. Putting him right next to the general maximises the joint Leadership benefit they provide (though can lead to a dense army that's less intersting to play with).

As I mentioned under the Empire General tactics entry, another option is to have each character protect a different half of the army: Leadership boost for one half, a reroll in the other.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

On the Painting Table: Seekers of Slaanesh!

Well taking a quick break from the Empire Tactica (and from building my garden decking), here's a look at the latest unit to roll off my painting table. Seekers of Slaanesh!

Like all cavalry, these took a terribly long time to paint but they are beautiful. I took the controversial path of painting the Steeds of Slaanesh to match the flesh colour of my Daemonettes. I wasn't sure during the process but now they're done I love them! They're my best looking Daemon unit.

I used Bronzed Flesh, Ogryn Flesh wash and then Bronzed Flesh and Elf Flesh highlights for them. Notice I've gone for the 40k rounded bases but slapped them on a movement tray so I can use them in both games.

Not only are they nice models but the rules in-game are cool as well (10" movement is so nice to have on cavalry models!). You can hear more about how useful they are in my next battle report. I'm still in mid-game with my wife though so it'll be a few days yet.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Empire Tactica Part 2: Empire Wizards

Empire Wizards are maybe some of the best wizards in the game. Why? Because they can chose from any of the standard lores! They can do anything!

But don't go crazy. The magic rules in the latest edition of Warhammer are pretty restrictive on the number of wizards you can get away with. There are only so many power dice to go around and I think a fourth level and a second level is about where you want to be aiming. Any more and the third wizard tends to hang around, wondering why he was invited considering nobody's passing any dice his way.

I love my wizard on his flying carpet. But at 50 points for the carpet (from the Warhammer rulebook), is he really worth it? I don't think so. For me he's more of a cool factor thing. I've cut him from my recent army lists.

Choosing the magical lore can be tricky. I recommend having a good thorough read of all the lists and settling on the one that has the most spells that match your playing style. It's a shame spells are chosen randomely. I'm a huge fan of the Transformation of Kadon spell; but I don't really like the other Lore of Beasts spells. The number of games I've chosen Lore of Beasts hoping to get it and ended up with some other crap...

Maybe I think I could run my wizard forward and cast enhancement spells on him to make him good in combat. But then, what if I fail the roll or it gets dispelled? That's the problem. I keep choosing that lore in the vague hiope of accomplishing something but I never do.

The Lore I've had most experience with (and has never let me down) is the Lore of Fire. It's simple, straight forward and easy to use. There may be some sneaky stuff in the other lists but give me good old-fashioned blasting power every time! And the Fulminating Flame Cage is ace for annoying my opponent by freezing one of his units in place at the risk of them being damaged.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Empire Tactica Part 1: Empire General

Well first of all, this is going to be a series of Empire Tactics articles with a difference: the major difference being that I have never won a game with them.

Who am I to dare suggest tactics, you may ask? Well who indeed. But while blundering my way across the war board to failure after failure I have at least managed to gain a firm understanding of what DOESN'T work. Hopefully at least these articles will provide food for thought rather than prescribed answers.

But the articles will also be a showcase of my Empire army. It isn't huge but I do like it. Empire is one of the few armies I don't let anyone else use. For some reason I just really like using them.

We'll be looking at the units one by one but today, let's start the characters off with the:

Empire General

The Empire General provides a good bit of Leadership bonus for troops within twelve inches, but beware... Putting him on a horse is a major bit of double-edged swordage. Because for the Leadership bonus you want him to be in the centre of the army but on a horse, in a unit of knights, that isn't going to be where he ends up.

I'm inclined to think here that there are two options: firstly to use a general on foot in the centre of the army, sharing a unit perhaps with the Battle Standard Bearer. You can then have a captain on horseback leading your knights if you like and he's no longer restricted by where he goes. Or second, have your general providing a 12" radius for his Leadership on one side of your army and the Battle Standard Bearer providing his rerolls on the other. That way, the army needn't be too compact and you still get the protection you need.

When buying equipment for heroes there's always an interesting set of choices. Certainly there's some pretty good stuff you can get without dipping into the magic item section at all, in the way of great weapons, shield and armour. Think carefully about how many extra men you could get instead of paying for that ultra-expensive magic item. What is your tooled-up character going to achieve and will he make his points back?

Plan his mission ahead of time (especially if you know what opponent you'll be facing) and tool or don't tool him up as necessary.