Sunday, March 8, 2009

Updated Tactica: Baiting the Opponent

I will be discussing the tactic of luring the opponent into either failed charges or situations which will be disastrous for them.

This tactic is simple enough in concept, yet often difficult to execute properly, especially when playing against a skilled opponent who can recognize the tactic and will make efforts to disrupt your plans.

There are many different ways and situations in which you can use this tactic and it will depend on which units you are using and the unit(s) which your opponent is bringing to bear.

There are two parts to effectively using this tactic and it requires 2 of your units - it can contain more units, but at its heart, 2 units are at the heart of it.

You need both a screening unit and the hammer unit [COLOR=green][COLOR=green]Ideally the screening unit will be a group of skirmishers --- for me this is almost always going to be pistol armed duellists. While we do have other skirmishing units available (Lumpin Croop's, Mengil's Manflayers etc), the RoR skirmishers are far too expensive to be used as front line shields for the hammer units.

I do use Lumpin Croop's in my army (much to the annoyance of my opponents), and they have never failed to perform. Their role is one of harassing and annoying the enemy, hopefully putting wounds on small weak units (fast cav, and generally anything T3 within their range, and of course as marchblockers). Why duellists? Why not? They are one of the best units available to a DOW general. There are several different equipment options available. Lets break these down briefly:

Vanilla Duellists - comes with a handweapon - not really good for much of anything - these guys will struggle to kill anything

Duellist w/2 handweapons - 2 WS4, I4 attacks are great, and they can chop up small weak units with relative success, although they lack staying power

Duelist w/Pistol - You have a duellist with 2 WS4, I4 attacks in close combat, but perhaps most importantly, we have a fairly powerful and often underestimated ranged attack (several of my opponents learned this when my duellists proceeded to tear their units apart in the shooting phase). One key ability the pistol armed duellist possesses over other ranged units (bows etc) is that you can always stand and shoot with a pistol (-1 to hit still applies). Opponents will often reconsider charging for fear of potentially getting whiped out on the charge. Yet for me, close combat is not the primary role for the duellists, unless the situation is just too good to pass up (judgment call).

Duellists w/Buckler - give you a wimpy 6+ save vs shooting and 5+ in CC - While the 5+ in CC could give you some survivability vs your average S3 footslogger, it really isn't worth it IMO, as their primary purpose for me is to be shooting the enemy and acting as tempting bait.

Duellists w/Throwing Knives - the other missile option for these guys - with a range of 6" at S3, is it really worth it over the pistol? NO! Unless you're going this route for fluff reasons, leave the knives at home and pack on the black powder.

Duellist w/maximum equipment - This will easily bring your duellists past the 10pts/mini margin and frankly isn't worth it either. Yes, they will be a shooting and CC threat, but with their average T3 and 6+ AS while out in the open they just will not survive, despite being at -1 to hit from being skirmishers. Your points are really better spent elsewhere.

Of the various options, I run with the single pistol duellist. I use 2 units of 9 in my 2250pts build. These 2 units screen my two 'hammer' units. As Dogs Of War, I would say we have access to perhaps the most diverse array of troops among the various Warhammer Fantasy armies (if not always the best or flashiest troops). Its always fun beating down opponents with their power units, decked out with magic banners, and expensive characters and their various magic items. No sir, we win with skill and a few common magic items.In my army I use what I will refer to as 'hammer' units. I'll explain my reasoning behind these choices, and possible alternatives.

Hammer unit 1 - 20+ Leo's Leopoard Company
Hammer unit 2 - 3 Maneaters
Hammer unit 3 - 15-20 Marauders with Great Weapons

What do these units have in common?

They are immune to psychology.

This is crucial on various levels. These units are also very capable of beating most units that they will face.Leo's Leopard Company - now I know many will say to just use vanilla pikes, or even go for Ricco's, Alcatani, or Pirazzo's, but I have found the Leopard Company to be winners. Their cost (most expensive pike unit) can be prohibitive, but I have found them to be worth it. My first few outings with DOW were without duellists and after Leo's demolished one of my opponent's units, they began drawing heavy fire in subsequent games, leaving them to be less than effective. Be well aware, with only light armor, pikes will die in droves to handguns and xbows, to say nothing of warmachines. Hence, the duellist screen. Yes, opponents, can still target them from hills etc. I try to make sure my opponents have so many things to worry about, that if they focus too much attention on eradicating the pikes, other parts of my army can and will make them pay dearly.

Now, back to the immune to psychology ability. You will get shot at and you will lose pikemen, but you will not be running away from these losses. I also find the ability extremely valuable, as I play against WE (who uses a lot of dryads, treekin, treemen), VC (undead - duh), Ogres (more fear). I can't have an expensive block of troops failing a fear check and leaving a gap in the battle line.Pikes oddly enough work best vs infantry, light cavalry, ogres, and units of that size/toughness. Pikes will struggle vs 1+ or 2+ save knights (even with the +1 str bonus). I find that the sheer number of attacks + the fact that you go first (except versus HE and magical ASF) allows you to easily wipe out the front rank if not 2 ranks of most infantry units. I should also mention I place my paymaster in my Leopard Company unit - if the paymaster dies (likely in CC) then you will have pikes + hatred vs the unit that killed him - very nice!

We also can't ignore Leo himself, a fairly generic captain, although he 'technically' gets an additional attack as he carries a pistol. Leo also carries heavy armor so he has a bit more staying power than the rank and file pikemen of the unit.

I also arm my paymaster with the following wargear: pistol, heavy armor, shield, morningstar. This makes the entire pike unit able to throw out 2 pistols shots at nearby units to either boost the duellist shooting or put a few wounds on another unit. These two shots may not seem like much but anything casualty you inflict on your opponent is worth it. Most opponents also don't expect to be shot at from an infantry unit, so its just another little surprise I use. These two shots will also hit most of the time - Leo is BS5, and the paymaster comes in at a respectable BS4. Again, they can always stand and shoot as well which can take out a couple of enemies before you unleash the massive number of pike attacks in CC.

Another hammer 'unit' is a unit of 3 maneaters. I have seen lists use units of 3 with a braces of hanguns (pistols for the maneaters) to great effect and I might build of unit of these in the near future. My unit of three contains 2 maneaters with cathayan longswords and one with a great weapon who is placed in the middle. Maneaters already come with an impressive statline and several nice abilities (immune to psych, stubborn, cause fear). I find the WS + I boost of the longswords nice because it lets these guys compete with most hero level characters in terms of speed and the extra WS ensure you should be hitting most enemy units on a 3+, and with a S5, you can expect to usually wound on a 3+, and often a 2+. The one maneater with a great weapon is there to have a S7 chariot killing machine (4 S7 attacks is nothing to scoff at). With a S7 this guy will also put fear into heavily armed cavalry with a nice -4 modifier to their armor save.

Lastly, another good hammer unit is a medium-large unit of Marauders armed with Great Weapons. Being Frenzied means they are Immune to Psychology, however you will have to keep them under control. Each marauder will put out 2 WS4 S5 attacks, a champion will put out 3 WS4 S5 attacks. Even in the current Elite Unit environment of Warhammer, they can provide a lot of punch.

On to the actual implementation of the tactic:

I deploy my duellist units as screens directly in front of my hammer units to prevent them from getting shot up as much as possible. During the first few movement phases the duellists units advance so that they are anywhere from 5-8 inches in front of the hammer units. I also try to keep the rest of the batteline roughly even with my hammer units so that flank charges on the hammers dont present themselves.

What do I do with each unit?

The duellists will engage enemy units within range using their pistols, hopefully inflicting a few casualties. I will rarely charge with duellists unless I see a strategic advantage in doing so which will help me in the following turns. There is no point in wiping out an enemy unit only to get yourself out of position in their turn. If the duellists are in range to shoot then anyone but dwarfs should be able to charge them. Depending on the enemy and the opponent, you will likely get charged. If its a weak enough enemy or if my shooting phase has inflicted a decent amount of casualties, I might stand and shoot. Typically, I will choose to flee (remember - 5-8 inches away from the hammers). I typically roll fairly high, so my duellists will flee through either of my immune to psych units who will ignore the fleeing troops. Make sure you dont have any other friendlies in their path who might be affected. It will also take some careful positioning so that your duellists flee through your hammers and not in a direction which will cause other units to panic. Depending on the type of unit that charged the duellists, the enemy will either get a failed charge or carry on through to your hammer unit. I should mention I leave a tiny gap so that my hammer unit can see the enemy unit in question so that they could be a legal charge target.

Preferably, I want my pike unit charged, whereas I want a unit getting a failed charge and stopping short of my maneaters who will of course charge that unit in my turn. Thus I usually leave the duellists screening the maneaters a bit further out than the ones screening my pikes.

As outlined above, the combat prowess of these units ensure they will win most fights, and hopefully the duellists will have put some wounds on the opposing enemy units. If everything works well, the duellists will rally in the subsequent turn and will again work their way forward to support the battleline. It can of course happen that you dont flee far enough with your duellists resulting in their death. Be prepared to sacrifice your units.

All of my opponents suffer from the problem that they hate losing their units, even more so if it is one of their favorites which they expect to do well. Nothing like psychological warfare...

Losing certain units typically results in my opponents losing their focus and they will begin to make tactical mistakes. My regular opponents become too emotionally attached to certain units and when these don't perform well they get upset - An agitated and distracted player is far easier to beat than someone who is focused.

One thing I can say about my style of play and overall strategy is this: I'm prepared to sacrifice any unit in my army if it presents me with an opportunity to smash my opponent. Thus, if I happen to lose my duellists, I certainly won't like it, but I won't get upset over it. Losing any expensive unit and getting visibly upset over it lets your opponent know they just killed something important to your army.

Case in point: My goblin wizard lord wiped out 2 units of my opponent's wood elf cavalry - a unit of glade riders and wild riders in 2 turns of magic - the way I deployed seemed to suggest it was a weak point in my battle line as I placed more troops on the opposite side of the table. This was the first time my opponent was using these units and we had been talking about the various uses of cavalry and how we thought that the wild riders could and should be deadly if they got a charge off. In other words, he valued that entire flank considerably. He also place a unit of wardancers and dryads on this side of the board. My forces in comparison were weak on the surface level. 20 gobbo archers, 1 unit of 20 Night gobbo spears (with 3 fanatics), my wizard lord, and 1 bolt thrower. I also had a unit of 5 spider riders on that side which ran up early to disrupt his movement and they actually managed to kill 2 glade riders in CC. Once in range I was able to wipe his wild riders out with a nice roll on the d6 s6 magic massile the gobbos have. Judging from his facial expression he was certainly upset about this. To make a long story short, I managed to wipe out that entire flank with comparatively fewer points. I knew which units he hates to lose and so deployed my units to maximum effect. He actually won the other flank due to fanatics not managing to do anything that game and some poor rolls on my part in CC - it was a 6 turn slugfest that resulted in a draw - I did lose several units which I find crucial, but I did not let on that their loss bothered me or disrupted my plans.

Back to Dogs Of WarIf the duellists die, then they die. The pikemen who will have their static combat resolution (paymaster helps here as well) in addition to the wounds they cause in combat will likely break most units. The maneaters undoubtedly can dish out lots of punishment which should mean that they will face few if any return attacks depending on the situation of course. As they cause fear and with a starting US9 they should auto-break a lot of opponents (in the unlikely event someone rolls insane courage). I've used this tactic quite successfully. My opponent can either charge the duellists, shoot them (which is their major weakness), or try to maneuver around them. If they are ignored, I continue to put pistol shots into whichever enemy is in range.Keep in mind that none of this is ocurring in a vacuum - the rest of the army is there as well as the rest of your opponent's forces + the terrain. Every unit in my list works in concert with the other units of my army. I try to make sure that any of my opponent's units which I try to draw into these baits have been shot at by either my xbows, cannons, halflings, duellists, and if possible by either of my wizards. The tactic isn't going to be a guaranteed success, as anything can happen at any point in the battle. You also shouldn't limit yourself to one strategy. It takes a combination efforts in all phases of the game to be successful. There are many issues within the metagame which can help make you a more successful general, but that is for another tactica.

Some other potential candidates for hammer units: Dwarfs - high WS, T, Ld, can always march, with many different equipment options, HW + Shield + Heavy Armor gives them great staying power. Giving them a great weapon brings you to S5 and can let you death with the many T4 baddies out there.

Marauders - High WS, high I, average Ld but frenzy - immune to psych but they need to be controlled, different equipment options means you can easily cut through low T, low armor save troops, or great weapons means you will put out a healthy number of high WS S5 attacks. I list them here again just because I haven't included them in my army for a while. It may be time to try them again. You could try to use Beorg's Bearmen although that will set you back a lot of points.

Generic pikes + other RoR pikes - all good for the various reasons outlined above, minus the immune to psych, although you will save some pts

Halfing spearmen - just kidding

Other ogres - high S and T, multipe wounds, and multipe attacks, but average leadership, stilll cause fear though, and far far cheaper than maneaters

Cavalry - I haven't tried this yet as the major drawback to this is that you really need to get the charge off on an enemy for cavalry to be at their best and even then rubber lance syndrome can strike. You would also need to set the screens further out than normal which might result in them either getting annihilated or fleeing in the wrong direction. Still, a potential cavalry charge (Voland's potentially) against a unit that failed a charge could be devastating.

This concludes the tactica. I hope you can find something useful for your future battles.



Anonymous said...

good read, I like getting other peoples' ideas of the game, especially when they use me as an example - haha. This artocle has made me think that I need to have a stategy instead of just putting down figures and moving around hoping for the best. Like you, I am going to try and make sure every unit has a goal and purpose.

Adam on March 10, 2009 at 2:12 AM said...

Glad to see you mentioned Empire in there....Oh wait, you didn't.

I think my set Empire list could give you a real run for your money. I still haven't lost that win streak yet either. Wins or draws baby.

Slicksauce on March 10, 2009 at 7:46 PM said...

@Anon, start a blog of your own finally ;)

@Pyle - dark elves will be enslaving your army soon :)

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