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...

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