Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Angmar, Part IV

Allies are something that an Angmar army must carefully select, as often they are the key to tying together a force. Angmar's own list lacks some very notable elements: characters that are not monsters (other than the ringwraiths), artillery, cavalry that is not undead, and monsters that are not characters. Thus, to get any of these things into the list, you have to take them as allies.

From my experience playing, the majority of units are not suitable allies to an Angmar force. Either they don't do anything you don't already do (such as taking Morannon Orcs when you could take Carn Dum Barbarians and not use up your ally points), or they do things that are useful for some armies, but not for yours (such as Uruk-hai crossbowmen or Corsair Arbalesters in a spirit army, as they are likely going to be great for the first turn or two, then be left behind and isolated, thus dying horribly).

This list is intended to provide some suggestions for allies that bring more than just their inherent value as a unit to the table, but rather synergy with the entire Angmar list (ignoring thematic concerns for now):

Morgul Stalker Warband - the key elements here are the ambusher and prowler abilities that these guys have. In a fast moving spirit list, they can spring out and often sucker punch people in the side or the rear, as the main focus of the opponent is going to have to be your spirits. If you use them to create another threat vector in a maneuver-based army, they can have significant value. To a lesser extent, the Orc Tracker Warband can do a similar job, but they are ultimately limited to a shooting role unless you want them to get chewed up in combat.

Black Guard of Barad Dur - in the barbarian heavy list, this can be the unit at the center of your army that the opponent absolutely must deal with, no exceptions, and no real way around it. They are a wrecking ball, and when you can surround them with other units that suck to be charged by, often your opponent will be faced with the unpleasant choice of which angry, berserk mob he would like to be punched repeatedly in the face by.

Siege Bow Battery - of all the artillery options, this one seems to fit Angmar the best. The catapults and Isengard ballista are significantly more expensive, so harder to fit into a limited allies allowance (though if you have the points, consider them as well). The 48" range means you can deploy them significantly out of the way and often get several turns of shooting out of them before they are annihilated by your opponent if the rest of your army has left them behind (though in the traditional barbarian army, they often can survive while your opponent has more pressing issues to deal with). Similarly, they can be used as the bait for a trap, forcing your opponent to deal with them or absorb their firepower every turn, and you can pop Buhrdur out of nearby terrain when a unit comes to deal with them, leading to their demise and the continued effectiveness of your artillery.

Feral Uruk-hai Warband - see my comments about the Morgul Stalkers. They are a very similar unit, with a bit more power on the attack and more courage at the cost of 5 more points per company and the prowlers ability. In reality, either one of these two units could serve the purpose you need them to effectively. I would be tempted to squeeze these guys in if I have the points to do so, but that can be a big if.

Wild Men of Dunland - the super-cheap version of ambushers. The least reliable, but the most numerous and easiest to wedge into an ally spot. One more trick to have up your sleeve as an Angmar player, especially if you are short on points but need more bodies on the field.

Thrydan Wolfsbane - cheap as hell, epic strike, resilience 3, and inspiring leader for your barbarians. Thrydan is an excellent ally choice to lead your barbarian hordes, especially if you want a less vulnerable character than a chieftain in one of the formations, and don't have a spare ringwraith.

Grima Wormtongue - minus two courage for a key enemy formation. You have dudes with spirit grasp and terror. Need I say more?

Moria Goblin Warband (and all goblin variants) - cheap bodies with master pathfinder and movement 8. One of the only ablative armor formations that can keep up with spirits, so if you are playing a spirit heavy army and need bodies, this should be a consideration. Keep in mind they will absolutely need a character to be able to at the double, but this is often a very good way to hide the Tainted in a reasonably sized unit that can keep up with your spirits. Perhaps one of the best allies for the spirit-heavy army, oddly enough.

Cave Troll - for the barbarian army, the cheapest non-character monster you can get your hands on. He makes a good enhancing unit to cover the flanks of barbarian units, and can help you win combats by piling in the front or the side when necessary. Also immune to ES duels by virtue of not being a hero, which can be oddly useful for a support unit.

Druzhag - normally, wilderness magic and ruin magic are both off limits for an Angmar army. Despite that, there are some very beneficial spells in both schools (especially ruin, where direct damage, dark fury, and sunder shields all have significant synergy with some of the direct bashing units like barbarians), and the ability to summon units that serve as ablative armor for your spirits is also a handy thing. I am typically leery of non-epic strike heroes, as they can lose combats for you at very inopportune times, but I'd suggest parking him either with a barbarian unit he can fall back out of, or an orc unit that is simply not important to limit the damage this can do to you.

Watchers of Karna Warband - once again, see my comments on ambushing formations above. Notably, I like these guys less than most of the others, as poisoned weapons is less valuable than berserk, roughly the same value as prowlers, and worse at times than the charging ability of the wild men. Just not compelling for the points in this particular context.

Black Numenorean Regiment - heavy infantry that causes terror. Here, if you are taking other units that reduce courage and intend to be playing games with terror, these guys can bring some value to the list. I don't think they are all stars, however, and the barbarians are likely better without being allies, so I would mostly leave them out. However...

Morgul Knights - these are the best heavy cavalry you can ally. Your ghostly riders have neither their defense nor lances, they also cause terror, they can be lead by a relatively mean character, and they are significantly cheaper than spirits. Basically, if you are going to ally in cavalry, you should be allying in these guys. They are great on their own, fill a hole in your list that you don't have a way to fill similar to the siege bows, and have terror to benefit from any courage issues you are creating. A strong consideration for the barbarian style list, and if you are using a spirit list, these guys can still keep up (barring terrain) with a solid character leading them.

Dalamyr, Fleetmaster of Umbar - one of the problems that you will face is your barbarians fare poorly being charged, and sometimes devastating cavalry charges are the bane of your army. There are no pikes in the Angmar list, and Dalamyr is often your best solution to this kind of issue. He's relatively cheap, has resilience 3 with epic strike to avoid death by duel, and denies the enemy a charge bonus when hitting his formation. Dalamyr in a large unit of barbarians will prevent cavalry from blowing them up, as their base attacks are often not nearly enough to win a fight, and if you have a turn where something absolutely must die, you can use an ES duel or Epic Poison with berserk (and possibly SfC'ed) barbarians to annihilate an enemy unit at a key juncture.

As a side note, Suladan and Amdur both provide inspiring leader for the Barbarians, and are brutal duelists themselves, but neither solve the cavalry problem nor are they cheap enough that you can take them as allies in smaller games, so consider them to have an honorable mention as allies.

Angmar, Part III

Angmar is a force that thrives on synergy. Few of the units in the army are strong enough on an individual basis to effectively fight against their enemies, and even fewer would be considered powerful choices within the context of any list. They are, in some ways, the exact opposite of an army like the Fallen Realms, where many of the units (Easterling footmen and pikes, for example) are relatively strong without any external support.

To win with an Angmar army, you need to understand that you are building an army of interlocking parts. They are, in essence, forced to take an army that is going to enhance each of the parts that you already have. For me, I evaluate every unit that I would add to my Angmar army with my eye on several criteria:

- How will this unit impact the overall maneuverability of my army, which is one of Angmar's main advantages?
- Are there any abilities this unit has that will increase the value of units I already am fielding, or will this unit be enhanced by them in any way?
- Are there any ways in which this unit will deny my opponent the ability to counter my most important strengths?

With these things in mind, you should be able to create a checklist for each unit that you could add to your army. Thus, when you play, you can develop a process where, after each game, you evaluate what your army did well and what your army did poorly (which is independent from what you did well and you did poorly, as sometimes you can have a perfectly viable force and play it poorly, thus losing, or play a very flawed force well and win). When you find areas where you are consistently lacking, you know what to add, and when you find areas where you are overweight, you know what units might be able to be trimmed out.

Now, to more practical concerns, here are some of the larger synergy issues in play for the force:

- The spirit formations, with high movement (8 or 12) and spirit walk, are already very fast on their own. Taking heroes to lead them will enhance this, however you are limited to captains due to the We Stand Alone rule for both the Ghostly Legion and the Ghostly Riders. Given that captains are extremely fragile in the face of an ES Duel, you have to decide if you want a lightning fast unit that has a major achilles heel, or if you want to take Shades, which will slow them down but ameliorate their biggest flaw while still allowing you to exploit their speed if they are not being threatened with ES.

- Spirit formations also have spirit grasp and terror, meaning they stress the courage of enemy formations. Thus, anything that is going to either increase their own hitting power or decrease the courage of the foe will have a major impact on the fight, as courage values are typically much lower than defense (minus the elves and, ironically, Angmar). Major synergy can be found with the Tainted as a result - denying the ability to use a hero's courage delivers the double whammy of more failed terror checks and better odds when fighting; similarly, ringwraiths in general tend to have several spells that are very useful here. Whenever moving courage a single point will change a die roll in combat (say courage 4 going to courage 3 so I will hit on 4's instead of 5's), I will often lead with Sunder Spirit to ensure I get it off, as few things are more useful than boosting the lethality of your formations. Visions of Woe, Transfix, and Terrifying Aura can all be useful follow up spells here, lending more strength to the Dismay tree in conjunction with Angmar's natural abilities than it would have in a typical Mordor list. Obviously, the Darkness spells are often solid on their own, but of particular interest here is Black Dart, as it will drain might from heroes that sorely need it to modify key rolls and duel against Angmar, so that is often an excellent follow up spell as well (especially if you can take an ES character from 2 might to 1, as then dueling a ringwraith becomes a suicidal maneuver if the wraith still has 1 point of might to call ES if it is attacked).

- Gulavhar also has quite a bit of synergy with the spirits from the maneuverability perspective, as well as the ability to call heroic fights for free. He is fast enough to keep up with them, can use them to screen his own advance, can smite characters that would otherwise try to attack your captains, and will allow you to pile on with the spirits (who are relatively good at winning fights if you are using the magic above in conjunction with the Tainted to really lay the lumber on people with spirit grasp).

- Conversely, including slower elements will increase the value of Shades, the Court of Fallen Kings, and the Werewolf Pack, as they will more easily keep pace with your army.

- Buhrdur's ambushing ability and ability to at the double means he can often arrive just as the spirits are delivering a crippling blow to the foe, and can usually keep up once he shows up on the board (though watch out for terrain, as he's not a master pathfinder).

- Conversely, taking the barbarians will often slow your force down, but provide you with a much more solid middle. Here, a ringwraith is hugely beneficial, as the barbarians pack far more of a punch if you deliver them with a charge, rather than get charged. Wings of Terror (to ensure they get charges off), Strength From Corruption (to boost their strength to a ridiculous 7 or 9 on the charge), and the fact that the wraith will cause terror are all going to enhance these guys dramatically. I prefer the Dwimmerlaik with them, as he saps the might of foes that would otherwise be acting to counter them and makes dueling him significantly more difficult. The Tainted loses some of the synergy here, as his courage reducing ability is simply not as good.

- Ghostly Riders have major value alongside the barbarians, much more so than the Ghostly Legion. The Angmar army fielding the barbarians will be engaging in a more typical battle line on a regular basis, and the Ghostly Riders are fast enough to start 6" behind the line and then move completely through an enemy formation that has maximized into a straight line to attack your own formations. Rear charges are entirely possible in this context, but likewise, you can hold the riders back and sweep around either side to deliver crippling punishment on the flank while the barbarians punch people directly in the face. Here, given that your main element is slower, the extreme speed of the Ghostly Riders allows you to hold them back as a reserve element and deploy them to where you need the punch, giving them a significant synergy advantage over the Ghostly Legion in this situation (they are not quite fast enough to leap over a battle line, nor cover flank to flank at times).

- The orcs also have more value in a straight line list, as they can serve all of the same roles that they would serve in a typical Mordor army: screening vulnerable troops, providing cheap shooting elements, and delivering 2h weapons either on the flank or to the face of the foe. Once more, a wraith with SfC and WoT makes the 2h weapon orcs vastly more dangerous, as they can reliably charge and will do huge amounts of damage when they arrive.

So my point is ultimately that the value of certain units in the Angmar army, more than most armies, depends on what you already have in your force. A single unit of barbarians in an otherwise fast spirit host will be left behind and isolated, reducing their value. A single unit of Ghostly Legion in a barbarian heavy horde, on the other hand, will likely not have enough support to be worth their points. Thus, army construction should keep in mind which units genuinely enhance what others bring to the table (and create problems for your opponent that are not easily solved), and by maximizing this, you should have an Angmar army that is at least playable, as some of the weaker choices grow much stronger with appropriate support.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Angmar, Part II

My evaluation of the units available to Angmar, all within the context of the standard list (no battlehosts):

Ghostly Legion

Useful at times, but not overwhelmingly so. The unit has some notable advantages, namely spirit grasp, spirit walk, terror, high movement, and high courage. Essentially, the profile they present is similar to elves: they will hit most foes on 4+/5+, but have less attacks, so the damage output is similar, they are similarly fast and able to ignore terrain, and similarly fragile. Also, just like elves, they are prone to getting punched in the mouth and being very expensive when this happens. The fact that they strike simultaneous with infantry means there is no way to avoid taking some pretty painful casualties with these guys, as they are only defense 5.

My experience, so far, has been that you can roll in and tear apart another unit on 4's or 5's with them relatively reliably, but that they take most return fire on 5's as well, and thus end up a net loss as they can win fights and cause grievous casualties, but often lose so many of their number in return that you are crippled. I would find these guys better if they were cheaper, but you can find a place for them in the normal list with appropriate support. Still, caveat emptor - these guys are often very expensive for what they do.

Ghostly Riders

Vastly improved over the ghostly legion, as they maximize their strengths while minimizing the weaknesses. Just like the infantry, they have a glass jaw and cannot take hits. However, they are fast enough that they can conceivably move directly through enemy formations in the right circumstances (as well as just being blazing fast in general), so the maneuverability is almost unparalleled in the game (they are as fast as Glorfindel and elven cavalry). Likewise, they strike before infantry, so proper use of these guys means they can inflict truly horrific casualties with multiple attacks before being hit back. If you can position them to hit the flank or the rear, and you are smacking a unit around on 4's and 5's, you will often take very little return fire as they absolutely eviscerate their foes.

Thus, I'm a fan of these guys in the basic list. They hit hard, they are fast, they can reliably at the double with a captain (though We Stand Alone is still a major bitch, so keep them away from Epic Strike or near a shade), and they don't take casualties if you are able to use them properly. Maneuvering is key here, however, and putting them in the line of fire prematurely will see them annihilated.

Spectral Host

All of the bad of the Ghostly Legion amplified with no additional value. The S1 ability is a neat gimmick, but not even close to worth 20 points and the loss of a point of fight and defense. I would not take these guys under any circumstances in the basic list. The single worst unit in the entire army here (and in the running for the worst unit on the evil side given their poor defense and extreme cost).

Carn Dum Warband

As bad as the spectral host are, these guys are that good. Fight 4, with decent defense of 6 from the front, a reasonable price, and a formation that can be taken with six companies to bulk it out would already make this unit a solid choice in most lists. They look like relatively stock heavy infantry (comparing reasonably with Morannon Orcs, Warriors of Minas Tirith, and the like), and then there is the small detail that they have Berserk. Thus, when they charge, they are strength 5 on average, though occasionally they injure themselves and occasionally they are strength 7.

Your opponent will be forced to worry about these guys. They have to be charged - you don't want to absorb charges from large numbers of cheap strength 5 troops. Being a common unit means you can spam them out there and really give your opponents nightmares trying to account for all of them. Similarly, they are still decent when taking charges, so their destruction is not assured when they are caught off guard by most units. Keeping some might around will also allow you to ensure berserk doesn't go horribly wrong and they betray you on the charge.

Thus, while these guys are probably not quite as good as the comparable Dunlending Huscarls (the combination of the assured strength 5 charge with the slightly cheaper cost gives them the edge in raw power), the fact that they are a common formation is fantastic. You can, and in my view should, build your basic Angmar lists around these guys. They are the crown jewel of the troops section, and a strong consideration for some of the other lists in the game as allies.

As an aside, there are no current GW models for these guys. In the battlehosts book, the army of the dead are painted as living warriors and used as the barbarians (with a rather nice red and black scheme). Other options I have seen used are Rohan Oathsworn Militia with the horse crests shaved down and the shields from the Army of the Dead and the Viking Huscarls from Wargames Factory. All, in the appropriate color schemes, have looked good.

Angmar Orc Warband

Orcs. They are what they are, and what they are is pretty much exactly what you can find in the Mordor or Isengard lists. Notably, the Angmar Orcs have slightly more expensive command options despite being otherwise identical (weird, right?), and if you are not using up your allies contingent, I'd just take allied Mordor or Isengard orcs if you want to use those command options. I prefer to run my orcs naked of command as I find their main value is being cheap, and like to keep them thus, if I use them.

In terms of usage, I do not like the orcs with shields in this list. Defense 5 is not sufficient for an anvil unit, and their cheapness is not a large enough advantage that I'd prefer them over the barbarians. The one exception to this is if you want them purely as a screen for better units, as they are cheaper casualties than anything else you have available. I'd rather these guys eat a unit of corsair arbalesters with the Betrayer to the face than anything else in your list, as an example.

Also, orcs are the only common shooting unit for Angmar, and can make a decent buy with the bows as support and flanking units. I've seen these used effectively in the past to harass opponents, and would definitely recommend it to a barbarian heavy normal list. Similarly, the 2h weapon orcs are a pain to have to deal with for your opponents. It's easy to win combat against them, but not without taking horrific casualties, so they can be used as a neutralizer unit to take out a large opposing unit that absolutely needs to die.

Bottom line is that orcs, unlike almost everything else in this list (other than the barbarians) are expendable losers. Use them to protect and support your other troops, throw them into the meat grinder rather than losing your better units, and understand that they are likely there to die horribly. As long as you have the right purpose in mind for them, they are fine if not spectacular.

Court of Fallen Kings

This is a unit I have a mixed opinion of. On one hand, R2, D7, indomitable infantry is quite tough before you get to the spirit grasp, spirit walk, and terror. In fact, they take the same amount of effort to kill as a 2.5 company formation of basic D7 troops, so they are tough but not extremely so. They also hit like a truck if they touch anything with a resilience higher than 1, as paralysing touch is extremely good against monsters and cavalry. Keep in mind, however, that while they have the ability to take the hits of a much larger company, they still only dish out 8 base attacks themselves.

Which brings me to the problem with the unit: they are slow as dirt without a hero compared to the targets you want them fighting. Cavalry and monsters will often simply avoid them, leaving them with nothing but infantry to fight. In a barbarian heavy list, they make a great counter-punch unit to hold behind your lines to corner one of the expensive units (ideally after they slam into your barbarians or orcs and get worn down some). However, in more maneuverable lists or without expensive targets to engage, they are often not worth their points.

Use them if they fit your list, but not otherwise.


Amazing. Absolutely amazing. I was not a huge fan of these guys before the ruling that Chill Miasma negates Epic Strike. Now the shade is the most notable duel equalizer in the game, as you are ensuring that the fight is going to occur at fight value 2, and might and luck will determine the course of it. It's a good way to keep duels from getting out of hand, which is fantastic.

Similarly, your troops tend to have pretty poor fight scores. Often, it is a wash to have the enemy reduced to fight 2 alongside you if you are fighting men, and it's to your advantage against dwarves and elves. On the evil side, you can reliably count on everyone other than Mordor and Moria to outfight you as well, so you are not going to be in bad shape with some shades on your side. The duel protection alone is great, and the rest is reasonable. Keep in mind that while the shade itself is a monster, it's a pretty crappy strength 1 monster that can be easily killed with a few hits. Don't ever expose your shade to enemy shooting (or it will die horribly), and keep it out of combat when possible. Think of the shade like a magic user without epic strike. It's there and useful, but you absolutely must protect it.

Shades are also another excellent ally choice if you are taking Angmar units as allies.

Werewolf Pack

Another unit without GW models, and in this case, I don't find that terribly concerning. I have yet to use them myself, so my commentary is purely conjecture at this point, but basic observation of the game would dictate that the werewolf pack will hit hard (with multiple attacks and high strength), be able to withstand about the same amount of punishment as a unit of 2.5 companies of rangers of Gondor (and thus, they are quite fragile), and win combats while losing the points exchange most of the time.

The lack of a hero is again bothersome, and they still suffer from we stand alone. The bonus dice they throw out on a charge is amazing, but canny opponents will work to prevent you from getting charges off with these guys. Another unit that can be useful in some situations, but they are too fragile to be the mainstay of an army, and lack the top tier destructive potential needed to crush units on their own. Once again, being infantry means they take back horrific amounts of damage similar to the ghostly legion, and severely limits the overall effectiveness of the unit. A one-shot wonder to cripple a key opponent formation with.

The reason I do not use them is that their value with a Shade is practically zero; negating their high fight value means they are delivering far less offensive punishment, which is the entire reason to take the unit. Avoid them if you are using Shades, unless you can somehow keep them away while still being able to screen them and deliver them, which is a tall order.


My favorite Angmar model, dubbed the "mass buhrdurer" by one of my opponents for his exploits against him. Buhrdur gives you everything that you could possibly want out of an offensive unit: three might, epic strike (so you can ES duel someone to win a key combat if your opponent is foolish enough to expose a captain at a key moment), a high enough fight value that epic strike is not usually necessary against foes who don't have it, high strength, decent defense, and resilience 2 with very hard to kill. If that weren't enough, he also can ambush and causes terror.

Basically, being a hero and a monster means that Buhrdur will motor around the board at the doubling most of the time (unless you want/need him throwing rocks), can punch in the face of most things that he will face in the game with Epic Strike and/or Strength, and can pop out of some very inconvenient places to absolutely wreck key opponent formations. I have had him plow into the back of warmachines after popping out of terrain near them, devastate units of archers with his surprise entrance into the battle, eviscerate key enemy leaders in battle (he has claimed the life of Imrahil, Boromir, and multiple ringwraiths for me), and generally introduce an element of unpredictability your opponent doesn't want to deal with. His usual threat range is 16" plus his charge, he can show up unannounced on the battlefield, and there are very few units in the game that want to tangle with him.

All this for 125 points. Unless you absolutely do not have the points to fit him in, take him. He's as close to an auto-include as Khamul in my view if you are playing competitively.

Buhrdur is probably the best ally option from the Angmar list, as well, as any army can benefit quite a bit from his ugly, mean, trollish presence.


Oddly, I am not quite as much of a fan of this guy as Buhrdur. He certainly has major advantages: flying monster with a 12" move, strength 7, plenty of attacks on the charge, epic strike, very hard to kill, and the ability to call heroic fights for free.

What makes me worry about him a bit is his cost paired with the fact that he is only defense 5. This means that you have to keep him screened much of the time, and if you are keeping him screened, you are wasting his mobility. To that end, I don't know that he does anything Buhrdur doesn't in many situations.

Thus, I would say that Gulavhar is a strong piece, as he's definitely left his mark on the game when I've used him, but he's not quite the value that Buhrdur is. Make sure you can screen him or keep him away from large amounts of shooting (especially if enemy heroes have might to modify rolls on the hard to kill table), prey on the weak with him wherever possible to take advantage of the heroic fight ability, and use him to eviscerate enemy heroes without epic strike (as he will annihilate them in duels). The best use I have found for him is to use his incredible threat range to hunt down enemy heroes that absolutely must die (especially if they are lacking epic strike) and then tear their faces off. Often he dies in the process, but having him wax someone like Galadriel can be a game winner.

The Ringwraiths

First, I don't use the Witch King. His special rule remains unclear after GW's less than helpful FAQ (hint to GW: you guys need to learn to fucking define words when you use them in a gaming context, and your technical writing is so poor that you really need to hire someone to do this for you), he's not a compelling value for his 200 point cost compared to the other ringwraiths, and he doesn't really bring any synergy to the list.

On the other hand, the Dwimmerlaik and the Tainted are the perfect ringwraiths for this list. As much as Khamul is stupidly good and the Betrayer is quite deadly, I think these two are a better fit for Angmar.

The Dwimmerlaik is epic strike defense, pure and simple. He cripples your opponents ability to use might reliably, and when you need to get two different rolls off to avoid spending extra might on an ES duel, it's quite tricky to do so. You can use his presence to protect your captains in We Stand Alone units, as well as simply being a might tarpit for a force that thrives on making the enemy roll dice in adverse conditions. His value to any evil side is significant, but when you are playing the one evil side that has a real reason to use captains and where Will of Iron rolls are absolutely necessities, you want this guy around. He's worth his weight in gold here, and should be your first wraith for most Angmar armies.

The Tainted is another solid choice. He thrives in armies with large amounts of Spirit Grasp, so if you are taking significant amounts of Ghostly Legion or Ghostly Riders, you want him. Reducing enemy courage so that they fail terror tests is fantastic, but when you use courage as their defense stat, it packs the double punch of also denying them the ability to use high courage troops to prevent massive damage in combat (as the hero usually replaces the courage value of the troops with his own, as per page 64). Given that he also has magic that reduces courage, it is quite common that you can be striking against C3 or C2 opponents in close combat with S3+ spirits, meaning you are routinely going to be hitting on 3+/4+ if you use him properly. With that said, his value in forces that are not heavy on spirits is more limited than the Dwimmerlaik, as his synergy with the boys from Carn Dum or the basic orcs is somewhat less. Usually the second wraith I take (so he doesn't always see the field), unless I am very spirit heavy, in which case I almost always bend over backwards to include both of them.

Lastly, as a note, we play that you cannot run the ringwraiths on a fell beast as native to the Angmar list, but if you were able to do this, I would be careful with it. The wraiths are key to the functioning of the army, and you need to make sure to keep them alive. Losing them early will lose you a lot of games, so I like to stash them in units of barbarians or orcs to make sure they have plenty of ablative armor to take hits for them. Not to mention that charging Carn Dum barbarians with Strength of Corruption is absolutely filthy, but more on that later. This is perhaps where the Witch King could serve a purpose...

Angmar, Part I

A few people have asked me to write on the topic of Angmar in the past, since I am apparently one of the few people around who actually play them. I've posted a few things on Warseer, but in the interests of getting everything organized and in a coherent framework, I am going to work on a series of posts for the side that should give people some idea of how I think about the evil, decaying realm.

The posts I have in mind are as follows:

- Evaluation of Basic Units
- Synergies within the list that make it or break it
- Notable allies
- Evaluation of the Battle Hosts and the changes that they create to the first three posts (each may get their own post)
- Effective use of fates and other loose ends

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Lately, I have been tinkering with themed lists for War of the Ring that could still be relatively playable competitively if desired, but also are capable of functioning as a themed list that could be primarily about exploring one of the less developed avenues in the game.

Initially, I considered looking at this several months ago, but was delayed by a few work projects. Now that I am a bit more back in the hobby saddle, I have time to finally execute on one of the ideas that I came up with. The initial block of themes were:

Arnor, just before the fall - the theme here would be the armies that had contested the final push of the Witch King to destroy the kingdom, meaning that it would largely be composed of warriors of arnor, rangers of arnor, converted cavalry and archers from the minas tirith profiles (using those profiles, most likely, but with the arnor green and appropriately modified armor), and maybe a smattering of war machines. Arvedui would be the leader, with the legendary formation for Arnor as the head of the host.

Karna, as the forbidden element of Harad - using the watchers of Karna battlehost as the main component of this theme, with allied spirits of some sort to represent some of the bound spirits that the watchers commanded / corralled / used against their enemies. Here, it would be a fallen realms army primarily based around misdirection, ambushing, and shooting, rather than your classic meat grinder easterling army. Was ambivalent about mumaks. Leader might have been one of the ringwraiths, or plausibly Suladan.

Men of the North - based around Rhovanion or the fallen realm of Arnor, as the men who fought against Sauron in the northlands during the latter portion of the Third Age before (and during) the War of the Ring. Here, it would be rangers, perhaps the grey company, and warriors from towns like Dale or Bree (possibly using the men of numenor stat lines to represent the lighter armor but greater fighting experience they would have). The leader might well have been Arathorn, or possibly Aragorn, depending on the situation. This is still an army idea I tinker with, and I think it has some potential.

Men of Dunland - I've always found the story of the Dunlendings interesting, as they are a group of men that are not necessarily evil in the traditional sense, but rather embittered and jaded. Forced out of their initial lands by Rohan (and Gondor), and with a rather tragic and isolated history even before that, their enmity for the forces of the Dunedain seems well-founded. Likewise, while they are mentioned in Tolkien's works several times, they are not well fleshed out, leaving some room for variability and interpretation, much like the men of the north theme.

However, the tipping point came in two ways:

1 - When the ES ruling in the WotR FAQ came out, I realized that any theme being lead by a legendary formation without ES would ultimately lead to tragedy. Thus, the Arnor theme was all but dead (unless I wanted to proxy a leader as well, which seems a bit much), as the access to an ES leader for more competitive games was just not there.

2 - I wanted to make sure that, whatever models were used, there was scope for both conversions and convertibility within it. I didn't want to be shackled down by having to use single-pose metal models and convert only from the relatively static bodies for some of them (Dunland comes to mind here), nor did I want to have to extensively convert an entirely large WotR armies. It was in my research on models to use that I stumbled across the new Vikings from Wargames Factory, and figured that they would fit the bill nicely for men in War of the Ring.

The question was who they best represented, and what else was available; clearly they share some of the elements with the ancient germans from WF as well, and I wanted to find an army where I could use all three in conjunction. While the men of the north theme was quite tempting (and still might be done), I noticed that they ultimately fit the dunlendings almost perfectly:

Vikings Huscarls for Dunlending Huscarls
Ancient Germanic Warbands for Wild Men of Dunland (shirtless, ragtag madmen!)
Ancient Germanic Cavalry for Dunlending Cavalry (representing their light cavalry quite well)

Thrydan has both a battlehost that I like (thus allowing me to field a totally legal Dunland list), has epic strike so could be used competitively, and gives me a bit of flexibility.

Some other thoughts on what might fit:

The Dwimmerlaik, as according to the GW fluff he is the ringwraith who is most active in the area. Likewise, I think he's underplayed and quite fun without being over the top like Khamul, so he might see some game time here.

Orc trackers, or basic orcs, as allies of the dunlendings either driven from the regions around Moria or seconded to them by Saruman, who I figure would never allow his best troops (the Uruk-hai) to be bossed around by dunland.

Carn Dum Barbarians, to represent berserk dunlending warriors (and, with the added benefit of also being men, as I'd like the majority of the list to be men) or their allies from further in the north, as clearly there was no love lost between Angmar and the men of the west.

Wargs, to represent the possibility of the wild creatures being used for war by the dunlendings. Thrydan Wolfsbane, after all, probably puts the fear of men into them with the whole wargbane and all, and animals respond to shows of dominance.

Part of the idea is to find common formations or heroes as allies to allow fielding more rare choices from the Isengard list to keep Dunlendings as the central theme. Thrydan's battlehost also fills this niche nicely, as I figure I could have a mostly to all mannish evil list filled to the gills with Dunlendings, and quite possibly have it play well.

I'll post more as it evolves...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Some musings on Harad

I have been tinkering with some ideas about the Haradrim of late, and it seems like they have a selection of units that is rather maddening. Not in the sense that they are unworkable, but rather, that they seem to have some obvious choices and some terrible choices.

For now, I'll constrain this set of posts to the units specifically from the tribes of Harad, and I will hit things like the Mahud, the Corsairs, Khand, and the Easterlings later. Likewise, I'm not yet going to touch on characters or monsters (keep it in your pants, you Mumak lovers).

For now, the basic Hardrim...

On the surface, the typical Harad infantry are terrible by any objective measure:

They are F3, S3, D4 for the same cost as warriors of minas tirith. They just are no match for them in combat, even with the added advantage of poisoned weapons. The numbers look like this against the WoMT:

Harad can expect to inflict 1.56 casualties per company (8 * 1/6 + 8 * 1/6 * 1/6) against the WoMT. (For the non math-savvy, that is 8 attacks with a 1/6 chance to wound, and then 1/6 of 8 attacks (as you re-roll the ones) times your 1/6 chance to wound again, which is a good enough approximation for our purposes).

The WoMT will return with 2.67 casualties (8 * 1/3), which is significantly better than the haradrim. Given that both formations are the same cost, it's pretty clear which one is better without introducing additional enhancements.

They fare even worse against cavalry, dwarves, and the like (the low defense just gets them killed in droves, and unlike orcs or goblins, they aren't cheap enough to want that to happen). So the basc haradrim, in large numbers, are just not effective without some serious buffs from Ringwraiths or the like.

Similarly, it's not like they have other characteristics that make them better - they maneuver in the same fashion, have roughly the same command options (minus the ability to take a Hasharin, which is now probably a liability more than anything else with the FAQ that ES works in duels, as he's going to get smoked by most heroes and take half his unit with him, or a taskmaster, which is of dubious use to such a poor unit to begin with), and no real other attributes to distinguish themselves. In short, I see them as inferior in all ways to WoMT, Morannon Orcs, or Easterlings, which are the comparable mannish units (one of which is a common in the same list).

Conversely, their archers are surprisingly good:

Compared to Rangers of Gondor, they are actually a decent buy. Shooting at the rangers, they will do 1.56 casualties again (same math as above), and will take 1.5 hits back in return. So here, they are actually coming out slightly ahead. More so, as defense values rise, the re-roll on the 1 becomes more valuable to the haradrim in any situation where you might be rolling twice, as your chances of having ones show up increase. Thus, while the harad infantry score pretty poorly, they outshoot rangers (and warriors of minas tirith with bows), and I don't think taking them as archers is an incredibly poor use of points. Yes, arbalesters are better, but arbalesters are criminally undercosted and not a common choice, so there is at least a rationale for taking the harad archers from a competitive standpoint.

In the case of archers, I also rarely see them taken in large blocks or with extensive command (outside of the GW battle reports, which typically include some pretty baffling army selection choices). Thus, I'd definitely consider these guys for my basic troops.

The takeaway here is this - you could take the basic warriors as an escort for a Ringwraith, most likely Khamul, with the idea that they die in droves but serve as ablative armor. Bouncing back hits against them from Khamul makes their fragility a strength; in any other case, what you are doing with them (if you take the Betrayer or Knight of Umbar, say) could probably be done better with Easterlings. Thus, if I take the basic guys, it will be with Khamul to rebound a ton of hits dealt to a large formation, and then for Khamul to leave them to die when they are crippled.

Conversely, small units of the archers are going to be superior shooting units from a common slot, and might well have a place in a solid Fallen Realms army.