Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Warhammer Fantasy: How To Win The Game Part Two

Hi all.  In part one of this series I discussed how to actually win the game in the close combat phase.  As you saw, it isn’t as easy as just throwing a bunch of random units into your list and pushing them forward; a plan is needed so that you can dominate a particular aspect of close combat and have the battles turn in your favor.  In this installment I’ll talk about how lists are crafted that are designed to win in the Magic Phase.

Throw two level fours and a level 2 in your list, add some items that boost your spellcasting ability and you’re good to go!

Unfortunately it’s not that easy.

Careful planning is key

The first step is to have a plan.  How will you use Magic to win the game?  This can be board sweepers like Purple Sun, unit killers like Dwellers/13th, or a close combat buff like Mindrazor.  If you don’t have spells capable of taking over the game, you can’t take over the game with spells.  It sounds obvious but you often see people bringing a huge magic investment in characters playing Lores that don’t have the ability to control the game.

Once you know what your weapon of choice will be, you will need spellcasters that get it to you.  This means either your Level 4 has to be a Loremaster, or you will need a Level 4 and a Level 2 at bare minimum.  If magic is going to be your major gameplan, I would highly advise you to bring a second level 4 in a different, complimentary lore, if you can afford it.  When Bad Things happen, this will give you another out.  You definitely don’t want all your eggs in a single basket if you don’t have to.

A Level 4 Wizard without a delivery mechanism isn't going to achieve much... for very long

The next step is a delivery mechanism.  Quite often in 8th Edition this will be in the form of a magic bunker.  Usually, this is a unit that will house the wizard(s) with enough characters or unit command to put the main caster at least into the second row, safe from close combat.  The unit should ideally be ultra-durable (Phoenix Guard/Temple Guard) or highly expendable (Skeletons, Night Goblins.)  Bunkers thus protect the wizards from shooting and enemy magic, but also act as a close combat deterrent.  When there is a BSB nearby (or in the unit) the bunker can be a rock that can only be dealt with through close combat.  The alternative to a bunker is to make your casters highly mobile.  Many of them can take mounts that have a movement of 8 or higher, and when rolling solo, it allows them to maneuver in a way that will keep them out of close combat altogether.  Generally, you’re going to want to equip them with some kind of ward save if you take this option, since they will be more exposed to shooting or magic.  The upside of this plan is that they are probably even safer from close combat than in a bunker, and you aren’t investing all the points a good magic bunker costs.

Screw you, Teclis
Now that you have your units picked out, you need to figure out a way to jam your spells through.  Not every army book can do this, and the ones that can’t are going to struggle to pursue Magic as their route to victory.  At this point you have a couple of options.  You can find a way to ignore miscasts (Teclis, Cupped Hands etc.) or generate extra power dice.  If you can ignore miscasts, just throw 6 dice at your key spells and there is a very little chance you won’t succeed in casting it.  Items like Book of Hoeth make this even easier.  If you can generate significantly more power dice than your opponent gets dispel dice (Power of Darkness, Focus Rumination, Banner of Sorcery, Warp Stone, Magic Mushrooms etc.) you can win the Magic Phase through attrition and force your key spells through.  The last option is to bring a lot of small spells and machine gun the opponent.  This strategy also relies on outclassing them with Power Dice.

It bears repeating at this stage that some armies simply can’t do this.  If you don’t have the ability to generate lots of power dice, or a way to use Irresistible Force to jam your spells through, you simply cannot count on winning the magic phase.  And if you can’t count on winning the magic phase every turn, you are going to be unable to win with a magic based list consistently.

With all of these things accounted for, your Magic shell is complete and you have to assemble the rest of the list.  The rest of the units you select ought to compliment the Lore you selected.  If your plan is go to Life Magic with a powerful bunker, you’re going to want defensive units that can stay somewhat close to your bunker and benefit from the relatively short range of Life buffs.  If you are going to use Shadow Magic, you will want some close combat units that can benefit from the enemy debuffs in the Lore, and really benefit from Mindrazor.  Since Shadow spells have a longer range, you can afford to have units that advance forward and play more aggressively.  This goes back to your Plan from the beginning of this article, but simply put, the Plan/Lore you choose should have tremendous synergy with the rest of your list.

With these considerations done, you can play a list whose goal is not to tread water in the Magic Phase, but to dominate it, and win the game on the back of powerful spell casters.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Questions?


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  2. So what's the takeover bid with the Lore of the Vampires? I'm guessing it's the substantial resurrection/buff augments, but that feels more like 'compensating for weaknesses' than 'dominating the game'. Maybe that Master Necromancer rocking the Lore of Death isn't such a bad idea...

    1. Yeah Lore of Vamps doesn't have that "I win" button some of the other ones have. I think the fighty vampire / master necro combo is probably the way I would go at first.

    2. I think you are right. I have been doodling some thoughts on the new Vampires.

      The problem with shadow magic is your General has to use Lore of Vamps. If you are not playing high point games you can not fit a master necro and lord vamp.

    3. @Nikephoros - that's what I've been working towards. A few level 1s and 2s using the Lore of the Vampires to keep the army ticking (of whom the combat Lord is one), one Master Necromancer with the Lore of Death to provide the win button and generate dice with the Lore attribute. Or I could just take Mannfred ("c'm on, let's play 2250...":p)...

      @Lyracian - that Shadow thing's a bit of a bugger. For smaller games, I'm tempted by a level 2 Hero Vampire with Forbidden Lore, just so I can work in a couple of spells from a Big Red Book lore (including Shadows). With that build I'd be taking a Master Necromancer to pack the Lore of the Vampires, I think, and some cheap fighty Heroes.

      Unlike some armies I can't really think of any one Lore that's much better than any of the others, and I think that's a sign of both how open the Vampire Counts are to different ways of playing, and of how much help they need. They're not like Tomb Kings, where I think "naa, what they've got is what they need" or like Dark Elves or Chaos where it's clear (to me) what Lores are the best fit for my army, or rather what armies I can build around having access to which Lores...

    4. It might also be that Vampires go from being a magic first combat second army to the other way around with the new book. They seem to have gotten a lot of good anti-warmachine units and a lot of items and special rules to make their close combat quite strong.

    5. Yes I would like to try them with three wizards and see how that does. Getting off a single heal can add so many troops and the the only way to get multiple a turn is with many wizards now.

    6. What levels, lores, and types would you run your three casters? And at what point levels.

      Level 1 Fighty Vamp Lord
      Level 4 Necro Lord
      Level 2 hero caster vamp

      Or maybe

      Level 4 Necro Lord
      Level 1 fighty Vamp
      Level 2 caster vamp

    7. We are usually only playing 1.5 or 2k so would not be able to play the first one and make a decent fighty Lord. I do like the look of a Lvl 4 Necromancer supported by a pair of vampires.

      However I was actually thinking of taking lots of Zombies, 3 Level 2 Wizards (all Vampire Lore) and perhaps a Mortis Engine and/or both magic books. Make one of the Heroes Mannfred. Use the bound spells to drain some dispel dice and then have three chances at Invocation.

      Not sure if it will be effective, but is sure will be fun.