Posts Tagged ‘dark elves’
Trying a new tack with the Dark Elves – away from the Khainite bias and into something that forces me to adjust my style away from RUN FORWARD SHOUTING.
Lord: Supreme Sorceress: 350
- level 4 wizard
- Pendant of Khaeleth
- Dark Pegasus
Hero: Master: 113
- heavy armour, Sea Dragon cloak
- Crimson Death
- Army General
Hero: Master: 329
- lance, heavy armour, shield, Sea Dragon Cloak
- Ring of Hotek
Core: 39 Warriors: 293
- standard, musician, champion
- Banner of Murder
Core: 10 Crossbowmen: 105
Core: 10 Crossbowmen: 105
Core: 5 Dark Riders: 131
- repeater crossbows
- musician, champion
Core: Assassin: 171
- additional hand weapon
- Rending Stars, Cloak of Twilight, Manbane
Special: 7 Shades: 130
Rare: 2 Reaper Bolt Throwers: 200
Another of those ‘the best you can with what you’ve got’ jobs, I’m afraid. I’m acutely conscious that it doesn’t include any of the best stuff (a problem I’ve often had: the financial cost of Rare units and their position at the end of the army list combine to push them out of my awareness when list building), but I feel it should play a decent denial/attrition game, especially with the Lore of Shadows around to drop some hexes and reduce the resilience of key targets.
The Manticore Master and Assassin are both counter-attack units, who can also be recast as artillery/wizard hunters should the need arise. At a pinch, I can also slingshot the Master with Crimson Death out of his unit with Shadow Magic, if there’s something out there that absolutely has to die. Shades and Dark Riders put pressure on the enemy, either by being upfield and chucking out some respectably reliable firepower or just serving as delivery systems for the aforementioned characters. Crossbowmen and Spearmen move up and hold the midfield…
… I’m still not convinced there’s enough hitty in this list. Maybe I need to squash some Chariots in there somehow? What would you drop to fit them in, Internets?
In the last entry, I looked at the fighty core of my Dark Elf collection, and determined that I needed some way to force the opponent to actually engage it in the melee combat that it loves so much.
The list needs stuff they’ll be wanting to either stay out of threat range of, or get into combat to avoid. That means either fast scary combat units that nobody wants to engage (Hydras, Cold One Knights, that sort of thing), or shooting. I don’t own any fast scary combat units yet, so that means shooting it will have to be.
Now, the problem with shooting in an army like this is that the melee elements will be occupying the centre ground, meaning that the shooting units are gradually edged out of the game plan. What I have to get used to is that that is part of the plan, that the shooty stuff is there to make things get into combat with the fighty stuff and if that happens then the shooty has done its job, even if it does nothing for the second half of the game.
Doesn’t mean I want to spend too many points on it though, so let’s look at the fire lanes that the example deployment leaves open and then see what we can fill them with.
Nothing too exciting at deployment, we could put anything in those slots and leave a blind spot into which the enemy can advance to avoid our shooting; that’s if they don’t mind being spanked by the Khainite melee elements, of course.
In turn one, the shooting elements need to be a bit further upfield to preserve the same effect and not be crowded out by the melee rush. The right flank’s shooting needs to be considerably faster than the left’s, too. A plan is forming.
Turn two. If the units move forward at the same rate, they can maintain more or less the same position and keep the lines of fire the same. However, there are more places to hide both in front of the shooting unit and, as shown by the little red targets, there are blind spots emerging besides and behind them. These are easily addressed – our unit on the left needs to be wide enough to hug the table edge and force anything that wants to escape its shooting to go through it, and our unit on the right just needs to hug the table edge and turn its line of fire sideways, across the front of the Dark Elf army.
Turn three. Ideally, this is when the melee elements should be getting stuck in (witness the bubble o’ buff, here represented by a helpful Skorne Control Area glyph). Experts will note the presence of an escape route, past the shooting unit on the right. We can close that off by keeping that unit where it is, like so:
This leaves the only safe place for the enemy right in front of the Khainite army. Now, there’s a slight risk that the enemy could just sit in that spot, outside the area we prefer to engage in, so what we really need is something to force the opponent’s hand; something in the bubble that’s worth going for but that requires fighting one’s way through the other stuff to reach.
Core: 20 Repeater Crossbowmen: 225
- standard bearer, musician and Guardmaster
Core: 5 Dark Riders: 131
- repeater crossbows
- musician and Herald
Some shields for the Crossbowmen would probably be a good idea, but since I don’t have any spare Dark Elf shields, I’m going to have to live with it. I could also do with some more Core points, so that I’m not cheating. I’d probably be best off with a second unit of Dark Riders to act as insurance on the right flank – that plus the shields would take me to 507 Core points, and so they’re going on the shopping list. For now, let’s go with the models I own:
Core: 19 Spearmen: 149
- standard bearer, musician and Lordling
That’s the minimum I can get away with to hit 500 points in Core. By curious quirk of fate, it also gives me a Sorceress-shaped hole in the unit, so I might as well make my big, buried threat a competent spellcaster. Her line of fire will be a bit limited, but that might not be such a big issue after all. I’ve recently been reminded that Dark Elf spellcasters can take the Lore of Metal, and that the third spell on said Lore’s list happens to be an armour save buff for either one unit within 12″ or every unit within 12″.
Since we’re looking at spellcasters now, I might as well reveal that I’m quite taken with the Lores of Shadow and Metal – Metal has that excellent buff and really punishes enemies with high Armour saves, while Shadow has the superb Occam’s Mindrazor (turning a S3 Dark Elf unit into a S8 Dark Elf unit by subbing its Leadership stat in? YES PLEASE MOTHER) and a variety of debuffs to boot.
The Lore of Shadow may also help with a controversial discussion I’m considering making with this list; not taking any Reaper Bolt Throwers. Look at the line of sight diagrams again. Assume I don’t have the backfield hill I gave myself. Where would they go and what would they shoot? I might go for one, as insurance against anything punching through the Dark Riders or Crossbowmen, and to snipe at Large Targets that present themselves, but for once I’m not going to automatically bolt two onto the back of the list without thinking. I think those two Lores of Magic, between them, might help my low-S shooting handle high-T low-save targets, and compensate for its inability to handle mid-T high-save targets.
Let’s put together some Sorceresses and see where that leaves us, points-wise.
Hero: Sorceress: 185
- Level 2
- Dark Pegasus
Lord: Supreme Sorceress: 300
- Level 4
- Ring of Darkness
Big ‘un gets the Lore of Metal and hides in the lines, trusting in her nineteen ablative wounds… sorry, noble Dark Elf Warriors… and Ring of Darkness to keep her alive. Little ‘un gets the Lore of Shadows and tries to fling out some good debuffs, and maybe a template spell or two in support of the Dark Riders. She could easily switch back to Dark Magic if more direct damage turns out to be what’s needed.
The points break down as follows:
- Total: 1707 / 2000 spent
- Lords: 300 / 500 spent
- Heroes: 410 / 500 spent
- Core: 505 spent, minimum reached
- Special: 492 / 1000 spent
- Rare: 0 / 500 spent
293 to go. What’s missing? Protection for the little Sorceress, decent Leadership (which will pretty much have to come from the Lords section, since I can’t get a decent Master out of the Heroes), and a Bolt Thrower just in case I need one.
Addressing the Leadership problem first. Hellebron would be, thematically speaking, rather nice, but she’s also too expensive to buddy up with any sort of Supreme Sorceress, so she’s out.
Lord: Dreadlord: 175
- repeater crossbow
- Armour of Darkness
His job is revoltingly simple; have Ld10, don’t die. He gets the crossbow for sniping at any Fanatics or similar that show their faces. That leaves me with 100 points for my security blanket Bolt Thrower, and 15 points for either the laughable Talisman of Protection (a 6+ Ward is better than no Ward at all, right?) or the Tome of Furion (three Shadow spells mean I should get something good) on my little Sorceress.
Well! NOVA’s been and gone, everyone seems to have had a whizzy jolly time barring a couple of miserygutses who weren’t even there (am I right about that part?), nobody’s dead, the Orks didn’t win, and, since everyone’s back at their desks, I once more have a readership it takes both hands to count.
While some of you were gallivanting off with your much-vaunted comp-free competitive events (I’m just jealous), I was wallowing in the influx of ready cash from flogging off my Mercenaries and making a few new purchases (and forgetting to make a few more; I should carve ‘Dark Rider musician’ into the meat of my hand, just to be sure…) and moving my little lead-free men around, playing with formations and unit sizes for the next iteration of the Dark Elf list.
Here’s what I’ve come up with.
(I mentioned the presence of links and new readers to the good Dr. Shiny, by the way, and asked him if he had the faintest idea why people were reading this stuff. He paused, contemplated, and then told me “basically, it’s the Stephen Fry of wargaming blogs.” Flatterer.)
Remember that Big Game I was on about a while back? Didn’t happen. Ended up creating a 2000 point list on the fly for a mini-league – it wasn’t very good and didn’t do very well, which is what happens when you try to scale back a list rather than design one that’s appropriate to the size of game you’re playing. That’s not to say that I played no part in my brace of defeats – far from it – but I didn’t get the game I’d prepared for, and didn’t prepare for the game I did get. Funny how that happens every time I try to play WFB in a Games Workshop branch. I might as well just take my models in and ask what the shop would like me to play today, and then write the damn list.
Anyway, I did manage to glean some sort of insights from the day, despite the half-handedness of it all, and I did have a couple of enjoyable enough games, even if I wasn’t putting up a proper fight in them. Insights:
Executioners really are rubbish. At least, a unit of sixteen is. S, my opponent for the second game, suggested that units with great weapons and dodgy armour need to be huge, and I have to admit that his forty Grave Guard were quite intimidating. Of course, they have Toughness 4, spells that make them come back, a Weapon Skill buff from the Helm of Commandment and easy access to Always Strikes First via Corpse Carts and Vanhel’s Danse, as well as a Wight Lord and Mannfred parked in the front rank, so I suspect there’s slightly more to the comparison than he was letting on. The basic principle, though, that the Executioners probably need at least one superflous rank to help them suffer the inevitable casualties, is sound.
The Assassin isn’t enough to carry them any more; they take more casualties than he can inflict and they don’t deal out enough to compensate for that. I suspect that a Death Hag, toting the Banner of Hag Graef, might be the only answer to their woes; she can provide a similar quantity of attacks, would Always Strike First herself, and would also raise the Executioners’ game significantly. I can live with them striking in Initiative order; I5 isn’t too shabby at all when swinging at S6, and with access to an extra attack from the Cauldron.
Talking of which, playing against a slow-moving army (S’s Vampires) and a static, set-up-deep-and-shoot-you army (Blackheart’s Empire: I sold him that bloody army and I’m starting to regret it now, given that he stomps me with it every time we meet up for a game) revealed a certain weakness in my army’s game plan, namely the extent to which my key combat units are tethered to the slow-moving Cauldron. It’s not an issue in games where the enemy is coming to me – as the Goblins and Skaven are wont to do – but it’s definitely an issue when I have a lot of board to cross and can’t afford tension between the slow support pieces and the fast hurty pieces slowing me down.
Admittedly the Witch Elves’ extended movement from the Standard of Swiftness contributed to that, as did some frankly stupendous charge rolls (I managed a 17″ charge on Scott’s Grave Guard in the second game), but still: it shuffles along at 5″ per turn, they move at least 10″, and must remain within 12″ if they want to stay Stubborn and re-roll break tests from the Battle Standard the Hag in charge is lugging around. Granted, the range on the Blessings of Khaine is longer, but one Blessing per turn isn’t really worth the 225 points I’m sinking into it. Part of the problem is that I’m setting it up too far back. The Cauldron needs to be up front, pelting forward as fast as it can; it can just about keep up if it starts at the front of my deployment zone, and I haven’t been doing that of late. It has Toughness 10 and 4 effective Wounds, it’ll be fine! Of course, if I’m moving the Army Standard into the Executioners, that means the Cauldron becomes 200 points for one buff per turn and two tethered, Stubborn units… is that worth the investment?
The general forward-movementliness of my army is giving me cause for concern in other areas, too. I don’t know whether it’s that I’m not used to shooting or that the fields of fire on 4′ x 4′ boards are self-limiting as forces close or both, but it’s proving very difficult to get any value out of the Crossbowmen. I have three big, wide combat units grinding upfield, blocking their lines of sight and making them largely irrelevant after the third turn. Now, I have some thoughts about board size, game size and the tripartite nature of army selection, those thoughts take up three paragraphs and this entry’s already running long, so let’s skip to the end and say that the Crossbowmen were edged out of usefulness in the list that I ended up running last week.
Finally, I’m not quite sure about the Sorceress, for several reasons. Only having a single magic user means I have one big damn target for anyone who wants free reign in the Magic phase, and she was the subject of more unwelcome attention than she was really prepared to handle. She also had a nasty habit of Miscasting every time I used the Sacrificial Dagger (I think it’s cursed or something) and either wounding herself (a worry, with the Pendant of Khaeleth absent without leave) or, worse, blowing up fourteen Spearmen and nearly panicking her bunker away. Finally, I’m actually somewhat underwhelmed by Dark Magic now – and I never thought I’d hear myself say that. It’s by no means a bad lore or anything, it’s as good as it ever was, but with the new standard Lores being what they are, it’s no longer the top of the tree. Since Power of Darkness and Druchii Sorcery are tied to Dark Elf spellcasters rather than the Lore of Dark Magic, I might be trying a new approach to Dark Elf spellcasting in future…
So, basically, my Dark Elf army needs a retool from scratch if it’s to remain the greatest power for evil on the South Devon coast. I’m bound to the Temple of Khaine for now – being the dedicated Frugalist that I am, I would rather extend what I have than replace the entire army, and I’m convinced that the Khainite synergies aren’t a total dead loss – but some revisions and additions need to be made.
At the very least, I think I need to write up some distinct lists, and tell myself that each piece has a place, but that place might not be in every game. I think I need to start tailoring – not for opponents, that’s just shameful, but for environments. A game on a 6′ x 4′ board is very different from a game on a 4′ x 4′ board, and a game in the shop is very different from a game at home. Even something as economical as ‘how quick is this army to set up and take down?’ is worth considering, I think.
I am definitely sticking with them, though. Shiny’s recently staged an Intervention, in which he told me in no uncertain terms that while he thinks I could do well with Warriors of Chaos, he was certain that I would complain about the army’s limitations at great length, and was ill inclined to endure that whinge-fest. We discussed Beastmen for a while – our discussion was originally going to be the essential substance of this post, but then I remembered that I’d not followed through on the list post from last week – and, while I’m still tempted, thinking about the Dark Elves in depth has given me the urge to follow through on my thoughts and prove how clever I am.
Also, when asked mid-game where I wanted to go for lunch, I replied (without thinking): “Something that used to be alive; I want to taste its suffering.”
Chap on the next table, who I’d never met before, laughed for a good minute, and said I was a natural Dark Elf player.
I’ll leave you with that thought, for now.