Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Our Informal FAQ, Part 2

Another FAQ question that came to mind recently:

Q: Where do you measure from when moving a unit, given that some of the maneuvers described in the rulebook (such as the diagram on p33 depicting the turning unit) appear to be illegal if you use the corner to corner rule, and likewise, this would prevent certain units from ever being able to turn around due to the far corner in the NE becoming the far corner in the SW for a complete turn?

A: Our rule of thumb is to always measure from the front-middle of the movement tray or the back-middle of the movement tray, whichever has moved more. Basically, if your move was 6", a legal move is one where your front-middle of the tray doesn't move more than 6" total, nor the back middle of the tray doesn't move more than 6". This allows for easy turns and turning a formation around (though it clearly costs movement to do so), and there is no "free lunch" movement that is possible, as any move must displace one of these two points.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Our Informal FAQ

After posting my thoughts on elves, I realized there were a few things I should clarify on a rules basis...

Given that there are several areas lacking in clarity in the WotR rulebook, we've come up with our own informal FAQ / set of house rules that we use in our area. I'm not posting these to tell people how to play so much as to give an example of how one group plays.

With that said, here's how we do it on a few common questions:

Q: Can epic heroes join mumaks?

A: No. Epic heroes may only join units that have "infantry" or "cavalry" listed for their unit type in the unit profile and do not have the "we stand alone" rule.

Q: If an epic hero has the terror special rule and joins a unit, does that unit cause terror?

A: In essence, yes. The terror rule on p62 specifies that a terror causing creature is what creates the effect. Thus, if a single epic hero who causes terror joins a formation, his presence is enough to force a terror check to charge the unit or when charged by the unit. However, if the epic hero later leaves the unit, the unit does not retain the ability to cause terror; it is an ability of the epic hero, not the unit, unless the unit also has the terror special rule.

Q: Can you use Epic Strike in a heroic duel?

A: No.

The explanation for this is relatively lengthy, and relates to how we play epic actions in general, so I will summarize here:

We view there as being two kinds of epic actions: those that are declared at the "start of the phase", such as Epic Tranquility or Epic Cowardice, and those that are declared at a time specified in the text of the epic action, such as Epic Defense or Epic Sacrifice.

Actions that are start of phase actions must go into the priority queue, along with other such actions (heroic charges, heroic moves, etc), and will occur in order based on the queue. Thus, if I want to heroic charge, and you want to epic tranquility, the result will depend on who gets to go first in the priority queue.

Actions that are not declared at the start of the phase cannot go into the priority queue, and take place when specific things occur. In order:

- Epic Charge is declared when a hero's formation actually charges (so if three heroic charges were declared, and this is the second charge we are discussing, Epic Charge would be declared just before rolling the dice for the second charge, and would be in effect then).

- Epic Defense, Rage, Sacrifice, and Strike are declared just before the formation itself fights, directly after heroic duels are resolved.

- Epic Shot can be used at any point during the shoot phase for that player.

Thus, by our reading of how epic actions are supposed to be used at all, epic strike cannot be used in duels. Another factor that was cited (wisely, in my view) by one of the members of my group is that the point costs of heroes seem to reflect this viewpoint. Directly comparing, say, Eomer and Theoden from the Rohan list would make it clear that, if Eomer could kill Theoden with nigh-certainty every time they faced each other in a duel, Eomer would be rather under-pointed and Theoden over-costed. However, if it is assumed that Epic Strike cannot be used in a duel, Theoden's additional abilities definitely tip the scales in his favor, and thus he should cost more.

This plays out across virtually all army lists, as people like Thrydan Wolfsbane or Faramir are scandalously under-costed if they can auto-slay many other heroes.

If there are any other questions people have, post them in the comments and I'll see what I can come up with, but those are the ones we thought it was wise to put down an actual solution for and play in a coherent fashion.

On Elves

I've been looking over War of the Ring recently, and wanted to jot down my observations on "The Elven Kingdoms" as an army list.

Common Units

Galadhrim Regiment - Definitely not one of my favorite units. Without the shields, you have tissue paper thin armor on a unit that costs 45 points per company; hardly ideal. With the shields, you are 50 points per company, but only defense six. Thus, strength 4 units in other armies (which are relatively common, unfortunately) are going to be wounding you on 5's, which is not the best state of affairs. Basically, you are getting a decently high fight value, very good courage, master pathfinders, and terror, but you are trading off the ability to survive. Unlike goblins, where you can just spam out units and accept that you are wimpy as can be on an individual basis when taking hits, the elves cannot win a battle of attrition, so I struggle to find a place in my army where I would put these guys.

Galadhrim Archer Regiment - Vastly superior to the hand to hand Galadhrim, in my view. The archers have long bows, and given that they will want to be taking shots at extreme range for the majority of a battle, the lower defense is not as big of an issue. They retain the high fight value and courage of elves, so that lightweight flanking units will bounce off of them (though be wary of the casualties you might receive doing this), and they put out 10 shots per company, so they can scythe through most non-heavily armored units in the game with terrifying ease. I suspect this will be the common unit for the elves that I utilize the most.

Wood Elf Warband - Solid niche unit. You could not form an army out of a majority of these guys and expect them to live; I view the longbow upgrade as mandatory. Throwing strength 3, defense 3 units into close combat has never been a particularly sound strategy, as they could reliably be expected to best almost nothing that was an equal matchup given their point costs. However, shooting from cover where the enemy must close in to return fire thanks to the enchanted cloaks is a very sound option. I suspect that in most lists, I will take a single unit of these guys to camp in cover somewhere and relentlessly harass my opponent with bowfire until he either diverts to deal with them, or leaves them to shoot at him for the entire game. I think fielding 1-2 small units (so you can fit them into cover) would be ideal for these guys.

High Elf Regiment - Galadhrim warriors without the ability to take shields. They are ten points more expensive for one more point of fight and one more point of defense. If they could take shields, they would be my default foot unit, as then they would reach that key defense 7, but as it currently stands, they cannot, and thus, suffer from all the flaws of the Galadhrim warriors without shields, only they pay 10 points more for the privilege. Don't bother.

High Elf Archer Regiment - Very similar to the Galadhrim archers. Same upgrades - one point of fight and one point of defense in return for 10 points more per company. My issue here is that I generally would prefer to have more bows on the board than to have my bows be slightly better when they end up in close combat, and the elves already have enough issues with getting bodies on the board that taking the more expensive option in any case is bound to be a dangerous strategy. I could see using these guys, but I prefer the normal Galadhrim.

Rare Units

Mirkwood Sentinels - An upgrade to the wood elves. They are 5 points more than wood elves with long bows. What you gain is enrapturing song, so that occasionally your opponent will be at strength 1 for the fight phase. A useful ability, especially if you can wedge them into base to base with a few units. The problem is that you are going to be running very fragile wood elves into combat to use it, and likewise, that you once more paid more for a similar unit when you desperately need to get bodies on the table as elves. If they weren't a rare choice, I might take a unit, but as it is, I'm usually going to be hurting for rare slots and another unit can do most of what they do cheaper. I view them the same way as the Spectres for Angmar - cool idea built into a unit where it is overcosted.

Galadhrim Knight Regiment - Rock solid. Very fast, extremely hard hitting with both bows (notice the 6 shots with a bow per stand) or in close combat (10 attacks on the charge), high courage, high fight, and a points cost that matches the Galadhrim Archers. I am very high on these guys as a unit. Their key flaw, like most elves, is that they are somewhat flimsy, so you need to be careful not to expose them to return fire before they do their job. Used properly, however, they are a cruise missile that can eliminate key units in the enemy force before they have a chance to strike at you.

High Elf Cohort - This is what I wish the High Elf Regiment was. They carry shields along with the armor, and thus have reached that key rating of defense 7 (so that even strength 4 will need 6's to harm them). You can only take them in four companies, but with the ability to take a fight 7, 3 might commander, and the high fight, terror, pathfinders, and shields, this is the unit in the elf list that seems to be the best candidate for the center of any reasonable army. I will be taking a full unit in all of my forces unless I intend to use allies to bring in a bulky, durable foot unit as my center (and I do intend to do so with Warriors of Minas Tirith at times).

Guards of the Galadhrim Court - Elven pikemen. In this case, their defense compares adequately with other varieties of pikemen, so I am less concerned about that. Likewise, the fight value for the elves is still quite good, so they don't suffer any degradation in number of attacks (and the pikes work just as well as glaives). The one downside is that, as usual, they are incredibly expensive in points. This once more means that you will have trouble getting bodies onto the field, but if you need pikes, this unit is perfectly reasonable for the army list.

Legendary Formation

Rivendell Guard - Basically, a High Elf Cohort that is a legendary unit. They have the same defense, the same fight, and the same hero. They have a banner and champion in the base cost of the first company, and they are stalwart. However, they are overall significantly more points than the High Elf Cohort, and I feel that (unless you are so squeezed for rare spots in the army that you absolutely need a legendary formation) they do not come close to justifying the cost, even with two more companies. Use the High Elf Cohort instead.

Gildor's Household - Another legendary unit that I am simply not enamored with. On one hand, Gildor is very solid. Seven fight, two might, and wilderness spells (mastery 2) make him a slightly toned down version of Thranduil. The fact that his unit can ambush and that a banner is included in the base cost is also very solid. However, the downside is that they are still wood elves, and thus are defense 3. For such an expensive unit, the fact that they are incredibly fragile is problematic for me. I'd rather have an epic hero who can move between units, rather than being trapped in a small unit that can be easily killed.

Glorfindel, Lord of the West - Glorfindel is a mean motherfucker. The problem is that he's also half the cost of a Balrog. Command (with mastery 2), multiple banes, very hard to kill, moves like a flying monster, high fight value, high defense; basically, he has everything you would want, and pays for it. In short, I think you get what you pay for with him. He's not always going to take on units alone (due to the sheer volume of return fire he absorbs from large formations), but he is going to make sure that most characters are terrified of him, and that most monsters will think twice about getting into a scrap with him as well. Only things like Amdur or Gulavhar will really want a piece of this guy, and having magic on top of that is a solid upgrade. Oddly, however, as elves are the only good side spoiled for magic, I am less enamored of this and, in some cases, Glorfindel will make a better ally for other forces than a core unit for the elves.

Haldir's Elves - Don't bother. Haldir is vastly superior as a stand-alone epic hero so that he can move from unit to unit, and fielding archers with a hornblower and a banner bearer is a waste of points. In short, you can take Galadhrim with epic Haldir for less points, and you give up only Take Aim in order to allow him to move from unit to unit, and Epic Sacrifice and Epic Shot. Just take him and a common formation of Galahdrim archers if you want to mimic this unit, which has the advantage of giving you another common unit, which elves are hurting for.

Guardians of Caras Galadhon - Compared to the Guards of the Galahdrim court, you gain orcbane and stalwart, and you pay out the nose to get Rumil (a standard champion for the unit), a banner, and a hornblower. Once again, similar to the Rivendell Guard, I just can't justify the extra points over the basic rare unit unless you are really hurting for rare unit slots. Even then, the cost is so high that it cripples your ability to get bodies onto the board. I would avoid this unit.

Epic Heroes

Galadriel, Lady of Lothlorien - Potentially extremely solid. Given that the elves have a bevy of basic company commanders that have very high fight values (6-7) in order to duel other heroes, Galadriel can make a very strong support hero to tie an elven force together. Her fight is high enough that assassinating her in a duel is not guaranteed without a relatively nasty hero tracking her down, and her abilities that she brings to a fight are very solid. Dismay and Command magic, with a mastery of 3, means that she has access to most of the courage-altering spells in the game, as well as visions of woe, transfix, and enfeeble from Dismay to counter some of the usual evil magic nonsense. I am not a huge fan of epic renewal, but counsellor is a very strong rule, as is Epic Defense for an elven hero. In short, Galadriel is a support hero in the true sense of the word, and is used to amplify the defensive power of your units while using magic to tilt the odds in your favor with each fight.

Galadriel, Protectress of Lothlorien - The ass-kicking version of Galadriel adds violence while subtracting magic. She loses her support ability here, but instead rolls into battle with fight ten, epic rage, epic challenge, and epic charge. Galadriel, in this form, is the perfect slayer of enemy heroes and brings the ever-powerful epic challenge to the table. If you need additional offensive punch, or have enemy heroes that absolutely must die, this Galadriel form is one of your poential answers.

Celeborn, Lord of Lothlorien - Celeborn is another defensive elven hero, which continues the theme of troops providing the offense (but lacking defense), while the heroes bring the defense to the party to keep the troops alive. Synergy for the elves is critically important, as they are always outnumbered, and Celeborn brings that to the party. His high fight, high resilience, and high might stores allow him to use epic defense (or epic challenge, once again) with some degree of regularity, and he passes his fight value to entire units (which is usually only worth a handful of extra attacks, as their base fight is already pretty brutal). The key is that he also knows command spells, so for his cost he's another strong all-around support hero. For me, he's slightly behind normal Galadriel, as I prefer counsellor and the greater magic options, but Celeborn would not be a poor choice.

Thranduil, King of Mirkwood - Let's not mince words: this guy is awesome. For 50 points less than Celeborn, you get the same stats, and you trade epic challenge and epic defense for epic strike and epic shot. I'd give Celeborn the edge at equal price, but for 50 points less, I like Thranduil in that trade. Likewise, you gain wilderness magic (in my view, the second best lore in the game behind darkness, though ruin is also strong) and you give up command, while preserving mastery 2. A trade that favors Thranduil. So in short, equal power for 50 points less. Probably the best value for the points among all the elven heroes.

Elrond, Master of Rivendell - Elrond is one of the least impressive elven heroes. He has epic renewal and epic restoration, neither of which are particularly impressive abilities for me. The latter would be better if you could recover companies that had been lost entirely, but instead it only replenishes depleted companies. Likewise, while Elrond has decent fight, he has no offensive abilities to back it up. He knows wilderness and command spells with solid mastery (a strong plus), but lacks counsellor like Galadriel or Epic Defense. In short, I can't see a strong case for taking him over normal Galadriel, and given that you'd have to pay 40 points to get him, I'd take her if I was going to go this route.

Legolas, Prince of Mirkwood - An intriguing choice. His fight value is average for elves and his resilience is not thrilling for a hero of his point cost. Conversely, Legolas brings offense to the party that cannot be found anywhere else in the game: crippling shot can spell the death of tough enemy monsters, and has even mumaks, balrogs, and dragons concerned about closing in on the prince of mirkwood. Likewise, swift strike means that a unit with Legolas in it will strike first against equivalent units, and strike simultaneously with units one spot up the priority chart. Given the fragility of elves, this can save a lot of casualties from return fire in the right situations, and can be a very powerful ability for a unit to possess. Overall, Legolas is high cost and high reward, and while I don't think his abilities can be effectively leveraged in low point value games, I think in high point value games, he could be lethal in a large block of elven warriors, or taking down tough monsters.

Cirdan of the Havens - One of the cheap elf options. Cirdan is sub-par in a fight by elven standards, has only a single point of might, and has all of the resilience of wet tissue paper. On the flip side of the coin, he has command (though with mastery 1), epic defense, and the gift of foresight to save the elves a few casualties here and there. Cirdan is a solid backup hero to put in a large formation instead of a stormcaller, as he brings significantly more to the table for less points. Basically, an economy choice to replace a unit upgrade, or if you are really trying to get bodies on the table, a very cheap leader. I would have a hard time not paying 50 points more to get Thranduil, however, as he's vastly more effective for the cost of a single company.

Gil-Galad, High King of the Elves - Ignoring continuity concerns, Gil-Galad is a serious badass. While he's the most expensive of the elven heroes, topping even Glorfindel, he's violent in ways that most people cannot imagine. Epic Defense, Epic Leadership, and Epic Sacrifice (don't do it!), six points of might, fight 10, and the ability to boost the hit rolls of his company by two are all fantastic abilities. My only concern is that his points is worth an entire large unit for the elves, and thus, he shouldn't see the field except in extremely large games. But in those games, this guy is gold.

Arwen Evenstar - Inferior in all ways to Thranduil, basically. While epic defense is nice, everything else is not. Don't bother with her for anything other than theme choices; if she had more resilience, I would consider her, but right now, she's too easy to kill.

Elladan and Elrohir - The pairing ability for them is interesting, but also prone to major inefficiency, as you have to get them both to precisely where you want in order to use them effectively in a single turn. So while they can double each others might in one specific way, it is tough to do that with reliable effect. However, these heroes do have major upsides. Being steadfast against orcs can be a huge advantage, and bringing terror to the table actually means that Elladan and Elrohir are one of the cheapest methods in the game for putting terror into allied units. Once again, perhaps better for allies to use than the elves, but I would consider them as cheap elven hero replacements, especially if I knew I would be facing orcs.

Haldir, Guardian of Lorien - The second most points efficient elven hero behind Thranduil, in my view. Haldir has one more point of might than a standard Galadhrim captain, and he's 25 points more. He also brings epic sacrifice and epic shot to the table, which is what tips the scales in his favor, as epic shot can be a key ability to take down large targets. Likewise, guardian of lothlorien rarely comes into play given the high courage of elves to begin with. Thus, to me, the main advantage of Haldir is simply the fact that he's cheap and effective, which is something the elves don't have a lot of.

A Brief Note on Allies:

Elves are one of the forces in the game that have all the fancy toys. They don't really need to ally wizards (they have their own magic, though Gandalf could bring them a nice trick or two, and Radagast is very good for his points). They certainly don't need to ally shooting or speed. Their units hit hard. They have heroes that can kill people.

There are only two things the elves lack:

Cheap, durable infantry, and artillery.

To that end, I think the best allies for the elves come from Gondor. Minas Tirith footmen are a very solid choice simply to put a large, high defense, beefy unit in the middle of an elven advance. Similarly, the avenger bolt thrower is a solid ally choice from Gondor as well, just to drop some decent firepower for taking down large monsters into an elven list. Still, the sheer points efficiency of Minas Tirith warriors make them hard to pass up for the elves, as it immediately fills the biggest need in the elven list: tough bodies in the middle.