The Empire at War ... The Gamers Guild > Tactica Board 8th Edition

Tactica: Balancing an Empire Army

(1/3) > >>

There have been some analysis about individual units’ merits.
Empire Complete Tactica part 1:
Empire Complete Tactica Part 2:
What everyones 8th edition Empire army will look like.
And the evaluation after 3 months.

Here, I’d like to examine here the feeling of the army as a whole.

Please note that I don’t pretend to have extensive experience playing WHFB. I spend much more time analyzing than playing.
However, my analysis on have been met with interest, I hope that W-E readers will benefit from them as well.

There are other articles which have great interest as well:
The Tao of the Empire
Essential Tactical Manoeuvres

1.   Generic categories.
First, I’ll classify units in broad generic categories:
-   Melee units (infantry, heavy cavalry, STank).
-   Buffing units: most characters, buff wagons.
-   Warmachines + spells damaging at long distance.
-   Agile units (fast cavalry, skirmishers, flyers, sacrificial units).
-   BS shooters + spells damaging at short distance.

I attribute more or less the same categories for the opponent. Of course, we’re not playing only Empire vs Empire, but the generic categories should be more or less the same, with slight adjustments.

Next, I specify what can threaten some specific units, which are either too large or too agile, and what threatens characters hidden inside a unit.

1.1.   Melee units.
Infantry units absorb damage and provide ranks (buses, hordes). Most infantry units need buffing to avoid losing morale and to increase their fighting effectiveness. 
They are Halberdiers, Spearmen, Swordsmen, Free Company, Greatswords, Flagellants.

Heavy cavalry units escape damage thanks to the armor. They kill more than infantry, but may lack staying power.
They are Knightly Orders, Inner Circle Knights, Reiksguard Knights, Demigryph Knights, Steam Tank. I include also the Templar Grand Master, which main role is similar.

Melee units are likely to do most of the damage to the opponent, and to receive most of the damage.
Therefore, survivability and killing potential need to be the best you can get.

Melee has many flavours.
It could be made with large units (hordes or buses) or many small units (MSU).
EDIT: see can someone please explain how Empire MSU works?
It could be based on infantry, on cavalry, or a mix. Monsters ridden by mighty characters add another dimension.
These choices influence dramatically the army.

1.2.   Buffing units.
They allow melee units to be more efficient, in complement to command group and magic banners.
Some units influence mostly Leadership tests, especially as General and BSB:
-   General of The Empire, Captain of The Empire.
Some units provide permanent fighting buffs, and/or require powerdice for more buffs:
-   Arch Lector, Warrior Priest,
-   War Altar of Sigmar, Celestial Hurricanum, Luminark of Hysh,
-   Wizard Lord, Battle Wizard (with buffs & hexes, all Lores except Fire).

These units are normally not expected to do that much direct damage, however they are paramount to allow melee units to inflict effective damage and to resist the damage they receive.

They are always extremely high on the target priority of the opponent: not only they are worth many victory points, but moreover, when they are gone, the melee units are far easier to handle.

As they role is to buff, they should be geared defensively in order to fulfill their duty longer. They should be placed as far as possible from direct risk (melee, shooting).
However, they need to move along with the battle line in order to keep buffing it, so they are quite likely to find themselves in melee sooner than they wish. With the exceptions of Metal/Shadows/Heavens spell casters, who may safely follow the battle at 48”/36”/24”.

1.3.   Warmachines.
They kill far (48” or further) and they kill hard or massively. They are the best to threaten buffing units remaining in the back lines. However, they are vulnerable to very modest units in melee.
They are Helstorm, Mortar, Cannon (including STank’s), along with the Engineer who improves their performance.
Many spells have a similar range, be them magic missiles, direct damage, vortexes or damaging hexes. Especially Fire, Light, and, with a bit of luck, Heavens, which all have a typical range of 48” (plus move). They lack the sniping capability of some warmachines but are still welcome to get rid of an opponent’s buffing unit.
If they don't have a buffing unit to destroy, they can well serve to downsize the enemy's main units.

1.4.   Agile units.
They won’t survive shocks or shots. They serve to disrupt enemy’s plans, by attacking warmachines and interposing in the path of melee units.
Skirmishers and fast cavalry can double-move and shoot: Archers, Huntsmen, Pistoliers, for a total threatening range of 32” or 28”. However, their shooting hardly threatens anyone but lone mages.
Flyers can position where they want: Griffon, Pegasus.
Still in that category, you can find small detachments, whose role is to speed bump the enemy.
Witch Hunters could be considered in this category: they are not that likely to kill their target, but may well force it to react.

You want all these units as cheap as possible. Because they are much more likely to die than to kill anything except the crappiest fighters, i.e. warmachines.

1.5.   BS shooters.
They shoot at a rather short range (24” to 36”). They can kill agile units, but struggle to damage the largest melee units. Move-or-shoot and short range allow most targets to get out of range. All in all, they are more suited to interdict a rather small area than to kill nasty foes.
They are Handgunners, Crossbowmen, Outriders.
I include HelBlaster Volley Gun, which range is similar and which uses BS, too.
Engineers using Hochland Long Rifle or Pigeons are in the same category.
Wagons’ spells, Magic missiles, direct damage, vortexes or damaging hexes have a similar area of influence. Especially Metal, Life and Death, which typical range are 24” (plus move).

When there is no agile unit to shoot at, they may well try to downsize a larger unit. Don't expect much, though.

1.6.   Serial Killers, Mass Murderers, Bounty Hunters or Professional Assassins? Select the appropriate tool.
Size matters.
The opponent will not field only units of 15-20 infantry or 7-10 cavalry, which are rather easy to kill.
-   There will be immense Hordes & Buses – no matter how many are killed, there seem to be little difference.
-   Sometimes there will be Many Small Units (MSU): one unit is easy to kill, but there are so many of them that time is too short to catch them and kill them all.
-    Single Characters, the most rewarding targets, will be hidden amongst masses.

"One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic" (Joseph Stalin).
-   The usual Serial Killers, who make most of WH armies, are best suited against medium units, but are insufficient against large units, have trouble to reach agile units and are not selective enough to kill characters.
-   Mass Murderers are able to cleanse out a large chunk of a horde – but have trouble aiming at the hero leading them, and are overkill against a Small Unit.
-   Bounty Hunters can look after evasive targets – they do marvels also to finish off the remnants of a larger unit.
-   Snipers are able to aim at a specific model – but struggle against small units and are hopeless against massive units.

The appropriate tool shows the good workman. Let’s review our tools (keeping in mind that they are also our opponent’s tools against us).

1.7.   Mass Murderers against Hordes & Buses.
The best way to kill them all at once is Melee – if they lose morale and you catch them.
-   To overcome combat resolution: Active Combat Resolution, helped with Buffs/Hexes, takes many models with many attacks and/or high strength; Static Combat Resolution is achieved with ranks, banners and side/rear charging;
-   To overcome steadfast, you can either use a longer bus yourself or kill so many of them that they are no longer steadfast (think about several sharks eating a whale). Alternatively, use terrain: fights in woods /rivers /buildings can impose or deny steadfast.
-   To hamper their morale test, kill the BSB, kill or lower the General’s Leadership, decrease their own leadership – but that’s no longer a task for Mass Murderers.

Magic offers a few genocide spells able to kill large parts of a Mammoth unit, whatever the size:
-   Fire #5 (all models suffer S4 if moving – 24”)
-   Metal #6 (all models have 2/6 chances to die, no WS – 18”)
-   Life #6 (all models test S or die, no WS – 24”).
Templates spell are weapons of massive destruction:
-   Fire #6 (small/large template, S4 – 30”)
-   Fire #3 (S4 line – 36”)
-   Shadows #5 (small/large template, I test or die, no WS – 24”)
-   Shadows #4 (line, S10, ~40”)
-   Death #6 (small/large template, I test or die, no WS – short distance)
-   Heavens #5 (comet, all units within 2D6” suffer 2D6+m hits, S4+m – infinite distance!)
-   Beasts #3 (S6 ballista – 24”)
Milder spells must be used repetitively before they can cause significant havoc:
-   Fire #0 (1D6 or 2D6 or 3D6, S4 MM – 48”)
-   Fire #1 (each unit in contacts suffers 2D6, S4 - touch)
-   Fire #4 (D3 per rank, S4 – 48”)
-   Metal #0 (2D6 – 24”)
-   Light #5 (2D6, S4 – 48”)
-   Beasts #1 (2D6, S2 – 24”)
-   Beasts #6 may allow a breathing weapon.
In summary, your best Magic Lores against Large Units are:
Fire (#5, 6, 0, 1, 3, 4) and Metal (#6, 0 – short range).
Shadows (#4, 5) is less powerful.
The following Lores can cause significant damage, but you’re not sure to get THE only single spell which works against large units, unless you take two mages with the same Lore: Life (#6), Death (#6), Heavens (#5).
Beasts (#1, 3, 6) might cause significant damage in the long run, but cannot be considered a mass murder Lore.
Light (#5) is near helpless against large units.

There is one more way to deal with superlarge überunits.
Some warmachines can kill many birds with a single stone, at long distance: Mortar (large template), Helstorm Rockets with 1D3 small templates. Their accuracy greatly increases with an engineer, and taking several of them increases chances to get the right target.

Overall, make sure you have at least two ways to deal with hordes/bus überunits:
-   Your own überunit of Melee (with buffs)
-   Many killer Melee Units (with buffs, attacking simultaneously)
-   Fire or Metal Lores, possibly Shadows, assimilated to warmachines.
-   One single spell of Life, Death or Heavens is in the same category.
-   Mortars or Helstorm.

1.8.   Bounty Hunters hunting Small Units.
The good thing with Small Units is that once they’re caught, they’re dead. The trouble is to catch them.
Some of them hide far behind the battleline (warmachines). Some of them are agile enough to evade threats (Agile units). Some of them are so cheap that there are just too many of them.
Mass Murder tools work against them but that’s overkill.

The ideal answer against them should be shooters.
The difficulty with our shooting is that it is mostly Move Or Shoot. Worse, most of our shooting has 90° LOS.
The way to overcome that limit is to take several units of shooters, each of them covering a specific location or a specific direction. If an intruder has to spend half the game getting around them or risking annihilation, that could be worth.
The best shooting unit is the HelBlaster, because of its 360° LOS and its high S.
Pigeons can be used after moving but they are unreliable.
Bows are very weak but they can be used after moving. Their effective range at 360° is 32”. In rather large units, that can be a significant threat.
Pistoliers offer a great alternative. With a double-move, they get a 360° range of 28”.
Other missile weapons are stronger but cover only a predetermined small area that the opponent can circumvent.

The best answer to Small Units is Magic Missiles, assimilated to Shooting but often more efficient – when winds of magic are sufficient.
They can be sent after moving, so they cover a very large area (all the more if their range is long).
They need no BS, so they are outstanding against troops benefitting from covers (skirmishers in a building anytime).
-   Heavens #4 (D6, S6 – 48”)
-   Heavens #2 (D6, S3 – 24”)
-   Heavens #6 (D6, S6, bounces – 24” – perfect against MSU)
-   Light #5 (2D6, S4 – 48”)
-   Light #0 (D6, S4 – 48”)
-   Light #4 (D6, S4 if moves – 48”)
-   Fire #0 (1D6 or 2D6 or 3D6, S4 MM – 48”)
-   Fire #4 (D3 per rank, S4 – 48”)
-   Metal #0 (2D6 – 24”)
-   Beasts #1 (2D6, S2 – 24”)
-   Life #1 (D6, S4 – 18”)
In summary, your best Magic Lores against Small Units are:
Heavens (#2, 4, 6), Light (#0, 4, 5) and Fire (#0, 4). A mobile Metal signature Level 1 could do the job, too.

1.9.   Professional Assassins sniping Leaders.
In melee, that’s easy: the character to kill is in base contact. But it’s risky, too, he could strike back – or worse, strike pre-emptively.
-   Many Rank & File attacks directed to the target and the help of buffs & hexes could do the job: they can take some punishment and strike back with ranks filled in.
-   A tailored killing machine such as The Grand Master with Runefang and Other Trickster Shard has great chances. He is well armoured and could benefit from a Priest’s 5+ ward save. He can challenge to become impervious to Rank & File attacks.
-   Another possibility is to aim for Killing Blows. A Witch Hunter can do that, the problem with him is to survive until his task is achieved. Fencing Blades could be determinant for that.

Some shooting attacks have the sniping capability, too.
-   Witch Hunters can snipe, but at a terrible short range. The brace of pistols is mandatory, and taking 2 of them is the best bet – but still, it’s hard to get good chances for an instakill. In order to bring them into range, a Magic Carpet, or Shadows #1 spell makes them fly. Alternatively, getting inside a unit of bowmen gives the skirmisher capability, allowing to double-move and shoot.
-   Hochland Long Rifles have the sniping capability. They can be given to Engineers, to Handgunners champions and to the Steam Tank. However, their chances to remove one wound are remote, let alone all wounds from a model.

Magic can do the trick. That’s the specialty of Death Lore. Metal has a single access to sniping.
-   Death #0 (24”), #2 (24”), #5 (12”) – as ranges are short, it is best done with a mobile wizard, on a Pegasus for example.
-   Metal #4 (24”).

A combination of Death #0 and Witch Hunter is possible thanks to the Ring of Volans. This increases a lot the chances of killing the desired target. However, the difficulty of getting in range remains.

2.   Ranges of effect and charges.
It is crucial in WHFB to understand the range at which a unit has an influence.
For a melee unit, that’s the charging range.

2.1.   Melee units.
Melee is started at charging distance. Charging distance varies according to the unit.
For M4 infantry, that’s 10-13” (M4 + 2D6, with 72% chances for 10”, 28% chances for 13”). 
For M7 cavalry, that’s 15-17” (M7 + best 2 of 3D6, with 68% chances for 15”, 36% chances for 17”).
For flyers, that’s 18-21” (like cavalry +3”).
For Steam Tank, that’s 9-13” (3D6, with 74% chances for 9”, 26% chances for 13”). That’s quite short, but that’s at 360°, not 90° like others.

If you add one double-move, the range of effect in two turns becomes:
18-21”, ~20" for infantry,
29-31”, ~30" for cavalry,
38-41”, ~40" for flyers,
18-26” for STank.

The Steel Standard makes cavalry M8 and rerolls 1s when charging, which adds further 0.5” to the charging range for a total of +1.5”: 16-19” (80% chances for 16”, 26% chances for 19”).
If a unit of infantry (GreatSwords) takes the Steel Standard, no benefit on movement, but many more 1s are rerolled, which brings +1” on the average charging range which becomes 11-14” (73% chances for 11”, 23% chances for 14”).

2.2.   Getting the charge with Melee units.
If both opponents are charging head-on, the first one to end his movement at the appropriate charging distance for the opponent will be charged.
Therefore, for a unit of infantry or cavalry, the trick is to stop just behind the opponent's charging distance.
If you face infantry, stop at 14" and wait for them to come at you.
If you face cavalry, stop at 18" and wait for them to come at you
- but if they are smart, they will just stop at 13.5” of your infantry. In that case, move backwards the full 2” amount and hope they fail their charge.

If your opponent is using that trick himself, you may surprise him – once – with the Steel Standard. Your cavalry will get +1.5” on average or your GreatSwords +1”.
That’s even not a one trick pony: next games with the same opponent, he will be wary of any unit of Inner Circle Knights, Reiksguard Knights or Demigryph Knights with a pennant, and will give ALL of them 2” more leeway – until he knows who has that standard (and that may be GreatSwords).

2.3.   Getting the charge with Steam Tank.
Many players are happy to let the STank be charged, confident in its sturdiness. They just steam forwards and see what happens.
Some players aren't satisfied with being charged and wish to get the impact hits.
The difficulty with Steam Tank is that you have little control about how far it gets, so you are very likely to fail to reach the distance you're wanting.
With that difficulty in mind, you're very likely to get too far and get charged, or not far enough.
Hence, the trick above cannot work. One solution is to use the Steam Tank for countercharges. Remain behind a large steadfast unit, and you can be sure that the enemy will be within appropriate charging distance of your Steam Tank.

Fortunately, you can also take advantage of fact that the Steam Tank can charge at 360°, not only frontal 90°. Furthermore, the Steam Tank moves an average of 10.5", not 8" like infantry. With that in mind, you can try to move your Steam Tank around a flank.

Here is the Tangent Move, a Steam Tank positioning strategy:
- imagine a circle around the opponent's unit, at a radius slightly over his realistic charging range (14" inf, 18" cav). (Now you know why it takes an engineer to maneuver it!).
- with the Steam Tank, aim at this circle, with a tangent. Whatever the distance rolled, you will end up at slightly more than 14"/18" of the opponent, showing your side.
- The opponent may charge. He is likely to miss and to end up at much less than 13" of your Steam Tank. 
The opponent may move forwards instead and to end up at much less than 13" of your Steam Tank.
In both cases, you're now at much less than 13", on your flank. The charge is likely to be yours. Good news, you start by a pivot around the Steam Tank centre; this brings your model closer to the enemy, making the charge easier.
If the opponent is prudent enough to remain at more than 12", then repeat the process until you've moved around his 90° charging ark. Then set up for a flank charge.

2.4.   Buffing units.
General & BSB influence at 12” or 18”. The “hold the line” rule remains within the unit and detachments at 3”.
They can lead from behind without the benefit of “HtL” (for example mounting Griffons/Pegasus, or from a babysitting unit), or else they better be prepared to be at risk in melee.
They are best used in massive armies remaining around them, i.e. infantry with detachments.

WP buff their unit and detachments at 3”. They must prepare to be in melee.
Buff wagons buff at 6”, including WA’s prayers. They should follow closely the battle line. Easier done along with infantry than with cavalry.

Wizards buff/hex at various distances.
Life/Beasts/Light must follow closely, within General & BSB’s bubble.
Death/Heavens can maintain a safer distance.
Shadows and Metal can watch from far apart.

In order to get the most influence over melee units, there are two strategies.

-   Buffing fom within: GotE, CotE, WP.
Several WP or CotE cand buff several units and their detachments, allowing the army to spread. That’s recommended for cavalry.

-   Buffing from behind: buff wagons, BSB on small unit or Pegasus, general on Griffon or on either buff wagon.
That makes a compact army around the buffer heart. This is more adapted to infantry.
Most Lores don't require the wizard to be in direct contact with the enemy. I'll develop on that in another post below.

From within, buffer characters are vulnerable to melee but are protected from warmachines.
From behind, they are vulnerable to warmachines but are protected from melee.

2.5.   Warmachines.
A range of 48” or more allows reaching pretty much anything. What it cannot reach has probably little influence anyway.
They may select their target. Among the opponent’s melee units, buffing units, warmachines, agile units or shooters, they should select whichever is the most disturbing for own’s plan.

If the battlefield is wide enough, they should be placed backwards, in order to get more time before they are reached in melee by agile troops.
Indeed, the opponent’s flyers, fast cavalry and skirmishers may be within range of our warmachines pretty fast.
This is where we need a babysitter for them.

2.6.   Agile units.
Their most important role is to get rid of the warmachines.
Their later role in the game is to destroy fleeing units and small unit remnants, in order to get precious victory points.
If required, they are highly useful for disrupting opponent’s maneuvers.
Their range of effect depends heavily on the unit.

2.7.   Shooters.
Their primary role is NOT to shoot at large melee units, as we will see in the next paragraph.
Their primary role is to prohibit some areas to opponent’s light agile units, which are the only units that their shooting can hope to destroy.
Indeed, agile units are the bane of warmachines. Shooters should cover the area in which agile units must position in order to charge warmachines. If agile units come, they are shot to death or at least to manageable size, even for a warmachine. If agile units don’t come, that means that their mission has been completed.
They can help also to get rid of annoying speed bumpers, fanatics and the likes.
If they face too large an opponent, they better reposition themselves so that the overrun goes towards an innocuous path, rather than shoot once more for little effect.

2.8.   Shooters vs Melee units.
As many players do, let’s compare the ranges for move-or-fire shooting vs. head-on charging, and see what happens.
-   Incoming infantry starting at 24” and moving first is shot three times, at 16”, at 8” and with S&S.
-   Incoming cavalry starting at 24” and moving first is shot twice including S&S.
-   Incoming flyers can be so close as to avoid the S&S reaction, leaving only one shot.
In case the shooters play first, that’s one more shot if their range was over 24”.

More than often, only 1/3 of the shots hit anything. If half of the hits kill an infantryman (very gross estimation), the shooting unit will have killed the equivalent of half its complement when it will be charged by slow going infantry. Knowing that the shooters are outperformed in melee, that’s a losing situation.
If the shooters are charged by heavy cavalrymen, you’d expect most hits to be stopped by the armor. You’re lucky if 10 shooters kill more than 2 cavalrymen. The remaining cavalrymen will no doubt butcher the shooters.
Flyers are faster but often more fragile, the situation can be compared to cavalry. Monsters are even sturdier.

Immediate conclusion: shooting cannot compete with incoming, unhampered charge by a fighting unit. We knew it already, did we?

2.9.   More creative uses for Shooters.
Many players don’t think further and shelf their handgunners and crossbowmen.
However, we have seen in a previous paragraph that their best use is to deny some specific area for agile troops.

Also, there are some ways to make BS shooters more effective against melee troops:
-   Buffing our troops/hexing opponents.
-   Delaying opponent’s arrival with agile units.
That requires more development. Looking forwards to reading analysis/batreps about this strategy.

3. Magic ranges.

Some threads have examined the pros and cons of Magic Lores: The Colleges of Magic Rankings and Cav-heavy list - which wizard?
There's one thread summazing it very clearly:8th Edition Empire - Magic Lore Review
--- Quote from: Folken on May 01, 2012, 05:54:02 PM ---In summary:
Out of combat lores: Fire - Death
Balanced: Metal - Light - Heavens
Combat Lores: Shadow - Life - Beasts
--- End quote ---
I'd like to include some considerations about the ranges of effectiveness.

3.1. Out of combat lores:
- Fire: destructive at 48". The wizard has the same role as a warmachine.
Both a level 4 or a level 1 need not to be very mobile but should avoid the heat of the melee.
- Death: With a short range of 24" or less, this is best used by a mobile wizard, harassing the ennemy.
A Pegasus mount seems well adapted.

3.2. Balanced:
- Metal: Buffs from far apart, destroys at close distance. The sorcerer is better closer to the enemy than to his friends!
Here again, a Pegasus should help.
- Heavens: It kills at distance but buffes rather close. The wizard must follow closely the battleline.
The Hurricanum is fine, moving along the troops. With cavalry, that means to start in the front line.
Otherwise, on horse inside a small unit of vanilla knights or pistoliers, that should work well too for cavalry armies.
Exception, a Heavens Level 1 can remain safely among warmachines, and help at distance.
- Light: Destroys very far (48"), buffs all nearby units at 12".
That's perfect for a wizard on the Luminark around masses of infantry, or in a babysitting unit following just behind the lines.
He could be mounted or remain on foot depending on the main melee units of the army.

3.3. Combat Lores:
- Shadows: The ranges are great. The wizard can help from far behind, except if he intends to make a Witch Hunter fly.
A footslogger in a batysitting unit of shooters should be fine.
This is true also for a Level 1 helping to turn the tide.
- Life: Ranges are small, especially for the attribute. This Lore is best with expensive troops such as heavy cavalry.
The wizard must remain close to the battleline, i.e. mounted in the main cavalry unit or in a unit of vanilla knights.
A level 1 could be set just behind the Grand Master, healing him as required with the attribute of the Lore.
- Beasts: As Life, small buffing ranges. This Lore is best with vulnerable characters, so it must be preferred for infantry-heavy armies.
The mage can remain within the main unit, as his buffs protects him too.
A Wizard Lord on Griffon would be advised to remain close behind the main battle line. That seems not the best effective use for the Griffon.
A level 1, however, can help at distance and could remain on foot, even if he helps cavalry armies.

I like the orientation of this analysis. As I go through it, I want to add a few notes based on my own thoughts, if that's alright.

1) Cavalry can absorb wounds too, just not via the same mechanism as infantry. Where infantry provide wounds, cavalry provide durability. Against a S3 opponent, one cavalry model is worth 6 infantry models with no save. Against S4, one cav is worth 6 infantry models with light armor or shield. I think this is really worth point out, as we have a tendency to think about cavalry as offensive. Against the right opponent, they can be fantastically durable, particularly with the right buffs (looking at you, Harmonic Convergence). My augment here is simply to say that, in the right conditions, an IC Knight is defensively worth 6 halberdiers, and 11 points cheaper.

Cav can also count as agile, particularly in small groups. I think small darts of 2x3 Reiksguard may well become standard.

Thank you for this.

I read 1 sentace but it sounded Great!  :happy:


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

Go to full version