Friday, September 17, 2010

WHFB: Guide to the Basic Rulebook Missions

When all else fails, you can hit him with it.

I haven't see anyone do an indepth review of the missions in the Fantasy book.  The 40k rulebook missions and victory conditions have been worked over from any angle, but the Fantasy missions are mostly undiscussed.  I'm not the best player by any means, so hopefully this is a good starting point for the discussion rather than the be-all, end-all analysis.

So the plan is to go through each mission, discuss the deployment, victory conditions and particular difficulties, and some basic strategies that you can capitalize on.
Mission 1: The Battle Line
Deployment:  This is your standard 'pitched battle' mission.  Each player takes a side and deploys with a 24" no man's land between the armies.  It's the simplest of them all.  The only real strategy to consider is your spells and your opponent's spells.  Be careful of the range of your opponent's spells, and your own, as you do not want to get blasted by an 18" or 12" range spell before you get the chance to moveFor this reason I always deploy a centimeter or two before the edge of the zone, as this won't impact my ability to charge greatly, but it could have the beneficial effect of boning an opponent's shooting or magic.  Since most players will assume you used your maximum deployment zone, they won't pre-measure their magic or shooting range in the movement phase, and they can assume themselves right out of shooting or magic for a turn, which can be a game changer.

Victory Conditions:  This is straight up victory points.  As simple as it gets.  Remember that in 8th Edition there are no half-points for units.  Either they are wiped out, or broken, or they are full points.  There is no shame in hiding the last man of a horde unit behind a rock completely out of Line of Sight on the last turn to save 300+ Victory Points.  Many 40k-turned-Fantasy players forget that unit standards are worth 25 points when you kill the standard bearer in combat, and these can win you the match.  And also remember that Battle Standard Bearers are worth +100 Victory Points.  This can often make a lowly Hero BSB worth more VP than a Lord, and it's definitely worth your while to ensure that you kill the BSB in close combat to get the bump, than snipe him with magic.  All of that said, though, be careful going against your strategy in order to grab those 100 extra VP.  If your opponent gives you a golden opportunity to kill his BSB outside of combat, I would take the easy kill rather than potentially risk it.  BSB are powerful, and their abilities over the course of the game may end up costing you more than 100 VP are worth by delaying killing him.
Mission 2: Dawn Attack

Deployment:  Now they start to get tricky.  The player who wins the initial dice off deploys his entire army first, not in alternating units like the first mission.  However, they are deployed randomly in his deployment zone, with a 1 being left flank, 2 being right flank, 3-5 center, and 6 your choice.  After his entire army is deployed the second player does the same with his army.  Since it's highly random no special strategy needed here.  Just remember there is a 24" no man's land and the 'don't deploy right on the edge' advice remains the same.

The player who deployed first will get the first turn on a roll of anything but a 6, and you can use this knowledge in your deployment.  Knowing you will almost definitely have the first turn can allow you to be more aggressive with the placement of your shooty units and magic, as well as your Scout units and Vanguard moves.  Conversely, if you know that you're going second you should deploy with the idea of boning your opponent's first turn shooting and magic as much as possible.

Lastly, Scouts are very strong in this mission.  It is very, very easy for a player to have, say, a right flank with one long unit of Gnoblars or a single warmachine sitting all alone.  The ability of scouts to trump the random deployment can allow you to turn your opponent's weak flank early and get him playing defensively as he is worried about defending his vulnerable flank rather than moving forward and bringing the pain to you.

Victory Conditions:  Straight victory points again.  Similar advice to the first mission here.  I would add that, based on the random deployment and the strong chance your opponent will have a weak flank, that you should always target the weak point of the army rather than go after the juicy high victory point units.  If you start rolling an opponent's weak flank, or divide his army that has no center into two wing you can table your opponent much easier than smashing your baddest unit into his baddest unit and hoping for the best.  In short, this is a mission where I would ignore victory points until Turn 5, and spend the first 4 turns trying to rout his whole army off the table, even if it causes you more casualties. 

 Mission 3: Battle For the Pass

Deployment:  This mission is really tough.  You deploy on the short table ends rather than the long end as normal with a 24" no man's land using the alternating unit deployment method.  The tough part is that you have very deep deployment zones.  AKA, bring war-machines or Purple Suns or be at a decided disadvantage.  Obviously, you can't tailor your list for this mission, but you have to remember that war-machines and Purple Sun are strong anyway.  It's a long, long walk to the other side of the table, and you can eat a lot of cannonballs and stone throwers in the meantime.  You have to deploy in a way that either maximizes your own artillery, or disrupts your opponent's if you are weak in that area. 

Victory Conditions:   Straight victory points again.  Winning this mission requires answering a question: who is the beatdown?  When you play this mission, one army will ALWAYS benefit from being defensive and sitting back letting the opponent come to him, and one army will ALWAYS benefit from being aggressive and getting to the opponent.  If you are playing Warriors of Chaos with little or no shooting, chances are you cannot just sit back and wait for your opponent to come to you, especially if he is content to shoot war-machines and magic the hell out of you.  If you are Dwarves and have 7 or 8 war-machines, there is no reason for you to trudge across the board.  The earlier you figure out which army you are in the scenario, the more likely you are to win.   The match up is key.  Let's say you are Empire.  Against Warriors of Chaos, he is the beat down and he will have to come to you, so stay put.  But against Dwarves, you better get your hiking boots on because you can't outshoot him.  If you try to play the same game each time you will be setting yourself back greatly.

Mission 4: Blood and Glory

Deployment:  This mission is a meat grinder.  Pitched battle set up with alternating deployment method used.  A couple of minor differences: there is only an 18" no man's land, and there are 9" no man's land on each flank.  This deployment forces your army into the center and there may not be a lot of space available.  This makes Scouts and Vanguard movement even more important.  Your flanks will be unguarded and so will your opponent's.  If you can quickly move to flank him before he can do the same to you, it puts you in a fantastic situation.  Applying non-linear pressure, as you might have guessed from reading the previous few missions, can win you games that you have no right winning based on brute force alone.  

The smaller no man's land means that first turn charges are theoretically possible for cavalry, and that there will be less chance of avoiding your opponent's magic on the first turn.   This creates some interesting trade offs.  Bring few units, get first turn and unload your magic or charges first.  But having only a few units increases the chances that your vulnerable flanks will be exploited more easily.  Either of these extremes can be bad, so I would suggest, as always, bringing an all-comers list and not banking on exploiting the scenario and also not being exploited.

Victory Conditions:  This is the one everyone fears.  Victory is achieved by breaking the opponent, which entails killing his general, battle standard bearer and unit standards.  For every thousand points your army gets 1 breaking point, and you get a point of fortitude for each unit standard and battle standard, and two for the general.  In a 2,500 point game,  the break point is two.  An army with a General, BSB, and 4 standards has a fortitude of 7.  Thus, to break them, you have to kill or force to flee off the table 5 of their Fortitude points.  If neither army has reached the breaking point by the end of turn 6, the game goes to victory points.

My advice: unless your opponent has 4 or under Fortitude, or you have 4 or under Fortitude points you should play for Victory Points.  In a battle where its 8 Fortitude against an army of 8 Fortitude chances are neither will break unless it's a landslide victory anyway.  Unless you can get an easy 'phase out' you are much better approaching the game like it was standard victory points.  If you are an army with 3 or 4 Fortitude, you have to keep your general alive, or else you auto-lose.  This means, even if you have a combat tooled up general, that you keep him out of combat as much as possible.  If your general is a wizard, beware of miscasts as one bad miscast can end the game for you.

Mission 5: Meeting Engagement

Deployment:  This is my least favorite mission, but also the most tactically rewarding.  This is also the mission that rewards cavalry the most.  The battlefield is divided diagonally with a mere 12" no man's land.  this means a couple of things.  First, cavalry, and M5 infantry, should be able to get a first turn charge off if the opponent deploys poorly.  Second, there is a deep backfield similar to the third mission which allows warmachines and unlimited range magic to have a strong showing.  With that in mind, remember who is the aggressor and who is the defender.

There is another wrinkle to deployment.  This mission has reserves, and you roll for each unit and character individually, and on a 1 that unit must be held in reserve.  It can be absolutely devastating if your level 4 wizard is in reserve and your opponent gets the first turn.  It gives him an entire turn to cast against you with little opposition.  My advice would be if you do not get your level 4, or your BSB, to reserve your whole army.  In fact, if you're going second, or have a fast army, I would consider going all in reserve voluntarily.  This is a mission where you can easily be alphastriked right off the board if you have bad luck and deploy poorly.
Victory Conditions:  standard victory points.  I said above that this mission benefits cavalry the most, and it wasn't just because of the ability to first turn charge.  Reserves come in on their long table edge.    Because of that, you can easily come in behind someone's deep lines to threaten their deeply deployed war-machines, or at least on their exposed flank, and if you're cavalry you can exploit that with the devastating charges next turn to the flank or rear.  If they turn to prevent the charge, well, the portion of your army already on the table's job just got way easier.  This mission almost always comes down to who can flank the best, and who can defend against the flanking the best.  How that is done is often determined in pre-game deployment, but a crafty general can outmaneuver an opponent here by using reserves tactically.  This mission, incidentally, is where 40k players used to reserves and outflanking can take advantage of Fantasy only players who aren't used to incorporating those concepts into their game plan yet.


Whew!  That was long.  I hope this helped all you new and old Fantasy players alike.  Comments?  Questions?  Criticisms?  Death threats?  Let me know.

1 comment:

  1. This is a pretty cool idea. I am not terribly familiar with Fantasy, but I enjoy this introduction a lot.