In the last entry, I looked at the fighty core of my Dark Elf collection, and determined that I needed some way to force the opponent to actually engage it in the melee combat that it loves so much.
The list needs stuff they’ll be wanting to either stay out of threat range of, or get into combat to avoid. That means either fast scary combat units that nobody wants to engage (Hydras, Cold One Knights, that sort of thing), or shooting. I don’t own any fast scary combat units yet, so that means shooting it will have to be.
Now, the problem with shooting in an army like this is that the melee elements will be occupying the centre ground, meaning that the shooting units are gradually edged out of the game plan. What I have to get used to is that that is part of the plan, that the shooty stuff is there to make things get into combat with the fighty stuff and if that happens then the shooty has done its job, even if it does nothing for the second half of the game.
Doesn’t mean I want to spend too many points on it though, so let’s look at the fire lanes that the example deployment leaves open and then see what we can fill them with.
Nothing too exciting at deployment, we could put anything in those slots and leave a blind spot into which the enemy can advance to avoid our shooting; that’s if they don’t mind being spanked by the Khainite melee elements, of course.
In turn one, the shooting elements need to be a bit further upfield to preserve the same effect and not be crowded out by the melee rush. The right flank’s shooting needs to be considerably faster than the left’s, too. A plan is forming.
Turn two. If the units move forward at the same rate, they can maintain more or less the same position and keep the lines of fire the same. However, there are more places to hide both in front of the shooting unit and, as shown by the little red targets, there are blind spots emerging besides and behind them. These are easily addressed – our unit on the left needs to be wide enough to hug the table edge and force anything that wants to escape its shooting to go through it, and our unit on the right just needs to hug the table edge and turn its line of fire sideways, across the front of the Dark Elf army.
Turn three. Ideally, this is when the melee elements should be getting stuck in (witness the bubble o’ buff, here represented by a helpful Skorne Control Area glyph). Experts will note the presence of an escape route, past the shooting unit on the right. We can close that off by keeping that unit where it is, like so:
This leaves the only safe place for the enemy right in front of the Khainite army. Now, there’s a slight risk that the enemy could just sit in that spot, outside the area we prefer to engage in, so what we really need is something to force the opponent’s hand; something in the bubble that’s worth going for but that requires fighting one’s way through the other stuff to reach.
Core: 20 Repeater Crossbowmen: 225
– standard bearer, musician and Guardmaster
Core: 5 Dark Riders: 131
– repeater crossbows
– musician and Herald
Some shields for the Crossbowmen would probably be a good idea, but since I don’t have any spare Dark Elf shields, I’m going to have to live with it. I could also do with some more Core points, so that I’m not cheating. I’d probably be best off with a second unit of Dark Riders to act as insurance on the right flank – that plus the shields would take me to 507 Core points, and so they’re going on the shopping list. For now, let’s go with the models I own:
Core: 19 Spearmen: 149
– standard bearer, musician and Lordling
That’s the minimum I can get away with to hit 500 points in Core. By curious quirk of fate, it also gives me a Sorceress-shaped hole in the unit, so I might as well make my big, buried threat a competent spellcaster. Her line of fire will be a bit limited, but that might not be such a big issue after all. I’ve recently been reminded that Dark Elf spellcasters can take the Lore of Metal, and that the third spell on said Lore’s list happens to be an armour save buff for either one unit within 12″ or every unit within 12″.
Since we’re looking at spellcasters now, I might as well reveal that I’m quite taken with the Lores of Shadow and Metal – Metal has that excellent buff and really punishes enemies with high Armour saves, while Shadow has the superb Occam’s Mindrazor (turning a S3 Dark Elf unit into a S8 Dark Elf unit by subbing its Leadership stat in? YES PLEASE MOTHER) and a variety of debuffs to boot.
The Lore of Shadow may also help with a controversial discussion I’m considering making with this list; not taking any Reaper Bolt Throwers. Look at the line of sight diagrams again. Assume I don’t have the backfield hill I gave myself. Where would they go and what would they shoot? I might go for one, as insurance against anything punching through the Dark Riders or Crossbowmen, and to snipe at Large Targets that present themselves, but for once I’m not going to automatically bolt two onto the back of the list without thinking. I think those two Lores of Magic, between them, might help my low-S shooting handle high-T low-save targets, and compensate for its inability to handle mid-T high-save targets.
Let’s put together some Sorceresses and see where that leaves us, points-wise.
Hero: Sorceress: 185
– Level 2
– Dark Pegasus
Lord: Supreme Sorceress: 300
– Level 4
– Ring of Darkness
Big ‘un gets the Lore of Metal and hides in the lines, trusting in her nineteen ablative wounds… sorry, noble Dark Elf Warriors… and Ring of Darkness to keep her alive. Little ‘un gets the Lore of Shadows and tries to fling out some good debuffs, and maybe a template spell or two in support of the Dark Riders. She could easily switch back to Dark Magic if more direct damage turns out to be what’s needed.
The points break down as follows:
- Total: 1707 / 2000 spent
- Lords: 300 / 500 spent
- Heroes: 410 / 500 spent
- Core: 505 spent, minimum reached
- Special: 492 / 1000 spent
- Rare: 0 / 500 spent
293 to go. What’s missing? Protection for the little Sorceress, decent Leadership (which will pretty much have to come from the Lords section, since I can’t get a decent Master out of the Heroes), and a Bolt Thrower just in case I need one.
Addressing the Leadership problem first. Hellebron would be, thematically speaking, rather nice, but she’s also too expensive to buddy up with any sort of Supreme Sorceress, so she’s out.
Lord: Dreadlord: 175
– repeater crossbow
– Armour of Darkness
His job is revoltingly simple; have Ld10, don’t die. He gets the crossbow for sniping at any Fanatics or similar that show their faces. That leaves me with 100 points for my security blanket Bolt Thrower, and 15 points for either the laughable Talisman of Protection (a 6+ Ward is better than no Ward at all, right?) or the Tome of Furion (three Shadow spells mean I should get something good) on my little Sorceress.