Ask Uncle Von: Robbie’s WFB Woes

E-mail in from the ‘Big Spoon’ of Dice and Decks, who’s setting up a Tale of X Gamers thing for WFB.  I am unsure how much of this is due to my mentioning it on the Frugal blog, but we’ll assume I can’t claim total credit.  Anyway, His Spoonishness is having a spot of bother settling on a project, and since this is a topic near and dear to my heart, I’m going to try and help him out.

I’m struggling to choose an army, help please!!!

The only Fantasy army that really appeals and that I really get is Dark Elves, lots of the others are nice but none are DE. So that said I still need to pick one

I have ruled out the following

Beastmen – Horrid minis
Daemons – Cheesey
Dark Elves – Already have em
Dwarfs – I like nothing about Dwarfs at all
High Elves – Too white, think few other people wanna do them too
Lizards – Not very keen on minis or paint style required
Ogres – I like the idea of them but they aren’t me
Orcs – I don’t like Greenskins, well maybe for Blood Bowl but nothing else
Skaven – I like Skaven but they would cost a fortune to get the army I’d like (c300 clanrats @2k points)
The Empire – Too many minis therefore expensive
Tomb Kings – Sam has them and they badly need an update
Warriors – Boring, march, charge, hack……….

So this leaves a choice between Bretonnians, Vampires and Wood Elves

Real challenge to my painting (but would this drive me insane?), I get to be all pompous and knightly while playing, some nice mins (Green Kinght and Grail Reliquary)
See painting above, Grail Reliquary is absolute pap, very simplistic tactically (skill in setting up charges I admit)

Mantic minis make this budget friendly, Vampires are cool, big units of skellies would paint up relativly fast, nice Vampire minis everywhere
Cons –
Would I get bored of grinding people down with big slabs of infantry? Cheese factor?

Wood Elves
Very pretty, unique playstyle, colour pallette is total new one to me
Do I want another elf army?

I’ll do these in reverse order.

Aesthetically, I think Wood Elves are a sure thing; the nature of the range is such that you can almost phone in the core troops, get ’em on the board quickly, and develop the exact same colourscheme in much greater quality for the centrepieces and small units that are going to be looked at.  This is thinking inside the GW box, but in fairness, I don’t think any WFB army can ever be small enough to not have to do a functional job on at least part of it.  Someone out here on the blogosphere recently told me that a miniature has three chances to impress: on its own, in a unit, or as part of an army (actually, it might have been GW’s in-house blog, of all things).  I think this is good stuff, and the Wood Elves offer all three opportunities (characters/treemen, small skirmishy units, archer lines).  Plus, I can teach you how to make my trees in a vaguely humanoid form, which means you need never buy a Forest Spirit kit, ever; just base up appropriately-sized Von trees and go for it.

However, tactically, they’re a poor man’s Dark Elves.  They lack access to Lores of Magic that would compensate for their weaknesses or support their strengths (give ’em Shadows and Heavens and we’d be cooking with gas), and their strength has been eroded somewhat by WFB8.  Don’t take my word for it: here’s Archnomad on shooty infantry and Stelek on Wood Elf magic and combat.  I think they’re both too close to something you already own, and not as good as it.

Vampires: if Warriors are boring, Vampires are doubly so.  Observe the Core slots: Warriors get horde infantry, heavy infantry and fast cavalry with both ranged and combat capability.  Vampire Counts get three different flavours of horde infantry, of which one is mediocre and another is totally outshone by the third.  They have some variety in their Specials and Rares, admittedly, but the problem with having the combat troops is that you need some way to persuade the enemy to come near them, or punish them for staying away.  Vampires can’t do that – they may have some decent wizardry options, but they need those for buffs, raising and board control before messing about raising stuff.  It’s just grind, grind, grind all the way down with them, and the fun options present in the sixth edition book are largely absent from the seventh.  While they can be made to look nice, they’re probably the dullest of the three choices you’re facing.

As far as cheap Mantic minis go, that’s a point in their favour, but the mechanics of the army may negate that advantage.  An army that adds to its own number has a hidden cost in terms of ensuring you’ve enough pieces to represent that, and trust me; you’ll NEVER have enough.  I used to roll with seventy Zombies and fifty Skeletons and I’d still regularly run out.  Vampires are indeed cool but everything else about the army saps that away.

That leaves us with Bretonnians, and to be honest I think you underestimate the tactical depth available.  Bretonnians have access to cheap shooting, including a VERY cheap stone thrower with an impressive S stat, and some disposable board-control chaff/tarpits in the Special section.  Redirecting charges makes them slightly harder to bait than they used to be, and Swift Reform allows them to turn around more efficiently once they’re behind an enemy army, which was my biggest issue with them in the past.  Their magic will never be award-winning, but the ability to bury Damsels in the middle of Knight units and just use them to Dispel and maybe use the Lore of Life to restore casualties (I’m not sure if that’s mechanically permitted – haven’t really explored WFB8 yet, for reasons which Robbie knows and the rest of you will soon share in) means they should be able to cover their own backs with some well-chosen items (Staff of Sorcery, yo?).

The question is really whether you can handle the aesthetic requirements of the army; your painting is up to the job, but you might go spare having to paint every single one differently, and the problem here is that each Knight would be trying to impress in all three of the ways I talked about earlier, which can result in a bit of a riot of colours.  It might be wise to dedicate each regiment to a particular dukedom and paint them all in similar colours, allowing the different heraldry they’re sculpted with to shine through.  That also means each Peasant unit can attach to a Knight unit and a character, giving you immediate thematic and narrative potential within the force selection.  Units that stand out – Green Knight, Damsels, any Knights without corresponding Peasants (hint: Grail Knights) can have their own unique schemes, and since they’ll draw the eye, they can be a bit more individualised.  This gives you a few blocks of ‘army’ impression, a few units that impress on their own, and then your centrepieces on top of that.

Beyond that, they’re the oldest of the three books you’ve picked, meaning the collection is the most likely to be rendered obsolete by the development team in the future.

I say chance it and go Bretonnian.

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