(I mentioned the presence of links and new readers to the good Dr. Shiny, by the way, and asked him if he had the faintest idea why people were reading this stuff. He paused, contemplated, and then told me “basically, it’s the Stephen Fry of wargaming blogs.” Flatterer.)
Remember that Big Game I was on about a while back? Didn’t happen. Ended up creating a 2000 point list on the fly for a mini-league – it wasn’t very good and didn’t do very well, which is what happens when you try to scale back a list rather than design one that’s appropriate to the size of game you’re playing. That’s not to say that I played no part in my brace of defeats – far from it – but I didn’t get the game I’d prepared for, and didn’t prepare for the game I did get. Funny how that happens every time I try to play WFB in a Games Workshop branch. I might as well just take my models in and ask what the shop would like me to play today, and then write the damn list.
Anyway, I did manage to glean some sort of insights from the day, despite the half-handedness of it all, and I did have a couple of enjoyable enough games, even if I wasn’t putting up a proper fight in them. Insights:
Executioners really are rubbish. At least, a unit of sixteen is. S, my opponent for the second game, suggested that units with great weapons and dodgy armour need to be huge, and I have to admit that his forty Grave Guard were quite intimidating. Of course, they have Toughness 4, spells that make them come back, a Weapon Skill buff from the Helm of Commandment and easy access to Always Strikes First via Corpse Carts and Vanhel’s Danse, as well as a Wight Lord and Mannfred parked in the front rank, so I suspect there’s slightly more to the comparison than he was letting on. The basic principle, though, that the Executioners probably need at least one superflous rank to help them suffer the inevitable casualties, is sound.
The Assassin isn’t enough to carry them any more; they take more casualties than he can inflict and they don’t deal out enough to compensate for that. I suspect that a Death Hag, toting the Banner of Hag Graef, might be the only answer to their woes; she can provide a similar quantity of attacks, would Always Strike First herself, and would also raise the Executioners’ game significantly. I can live with them striking in Initiative order; I5 isn’t too shabby at all when swinging at S6, and with access to an extra attack from the Cauldron.
Talking of which, playing against a slow-moving army (S’s Vampires) and a static, set-up-deep-and-shoot-you army (Blackheart’s Empire: I sold him that bloody army and I’m starting to regret it now, given that he stomps me with it every time we meet up for a game) revealed a certain weakness in my army’s game plan, namely the extent to which my key combat units are tethered to the slow-moving Cauldron. It’s not an issue in games where the enemy is coming to me – as the Goblins and Skaven are wont to do – but it’s definitely an issue when I have a lot of board to cross and can’t afford tension between the slow support pieces and the fast hurty pieces slowing me down.
Admittedly the Witch Elves’ extended movement from the Standard of Swiftness contributed to that, as did some frankly stupendous charge rolls (I managed a 17″ charge on Scott’s Grave Guard in the second game), but still: it shuffles along at 5″ per turn, they move at least 10″, and must remain within 12″ if they want to stay Stubborn and re-roll break tests from the Battle Standard the Hag in charge is lugging around. Granted, the range on the Blessings of Khaine is longer, but one Blessing per turn isn’t really worth the 225 points I’m sinking into it. Part of the problem is that I’m setting it up too far back. The Cauldron needs to be up front, pelting forward as fast as it can; it can just about keep up if it starts at the front of my deployment zone, and I haven’t been doing that of late. It has Toughness 10 and 4 effective Wounds, it’ll be fine! Of course, if I’m moving the Army Standard into the Executioners, that means the Cauldron becomes 200 points for one buff per turn and two tethered, Stubborn units… is that worth the investment?
The general forward-movementliness of my army is giving me cause for concern in other areas, too. I don’t know whether it’s that I’m not used to shooting or that the fields of fire on 4′ x 4′ boards are self-limiting as forces close or both, but it’s proving very difficult to get any value out of the Crossbowmen. I have three big, wide combat units grinding upfield, blocking their lines of sight and making them largely irrelevant after the third turn. Now, I have some thoughts about board size, game size and the tripartite nature of army selection, those thoughts take up three paragraphs and this entry’s already running long, so let’s skip to the end and say that the Crossbowmen were edged out of usefulness in the list that I ended up running last week.
Finally, I’m not quite sure about the Sorceress, for several reasons. Only having a single magic user means I have one big damn target for anyone who wants free reign in the Magic phase, and she was the subject of more unwelcome attention than she was really prepared to handle. She also had a nasty habit of Miscasting every time I used the Sacrificial Dagger (I think it’s cursed or something) and either wounding herself (a worry, with the Pendant of Khaeleth absent without leave) or, worse, blowing up fourteen Spearmen and nearly panicking her bunker away. Finally, I’m actually somewhat underwhelmed by Dark Magic now – and I never thought I’d hear myself say that. It’s by no means a bad lore or anything, it’s as good as it ever was, but with the new standard Lores being what they are, it’s no longer the top of the tree. Since Power of Darkness and Druchii Sorcery are tied to Dark Elf spellcasters rather than the Lore of Dark Magic, I might be trying a new approach to Dark Elf spellcasting in future…
So, basically, my Dark Elf army needs a retool from scratch if it’s to remain the greatest power for evil on the South Devon coast. I’m bound to the Temple of Khaine for now – being the dedicated Frugalist that I am, I would rather extend what I have than replace the entire army, and I’m convinced that the Khainite synergies aren’t a total dead loss – but some revisions and additions need to be made.
At the very least, I think I need to write up some distinct lists, and tell myself that each piece has a place, but that place might not be in every game. I think I need to start tailoring – not for opponents, that’s just shameful, but for environments. A game on a 6′ x 4′ board is very different from a game on a 4′ x 4′ board, and a game in the shop is very different from a game at home. Even something as economical as ‘how quick is this army to set up and take down?’ is worth considering, I think.
I am definitely sticking with them, though. Shiny’s recently staged an Intervention, in which he told me in no uncertain terms that while he thinks I could do well with Warriors of Chaos, he was certain that I would complain about the army’s limitations at great length, and was ill inclined to endure that whinge-fest. We discussed Beastmen for a while – our discussion was originally going to be the essential substance of this post, but then I remembered that I’d not followed through on the list post from last week – and, while I’m still tempted, thinking about the Dark Elves in depth has given me the urge to follow through on my thoughts and prove how clever I am.
Also, when asked mid-game where I wanted to go for lunch, I replied (without thinking): “Something that used to be alive; I want to taste its suffering.”
Chap on the next table, who I’d never met before, laughed for a good minute, and said I was a natural Dark Elf player.
I’ll leave you with that thought, for now.