Monday, February 6, 2012

Warhammer Fantasy: How To Win The Game Part 3

Most army books in the game have the capability to make lists that are designed to win the game in the Close Combat Phase, which is what you’d expect from a game based around close combat.  A fewer –but still significant- number of books are capable of crafting competitive lists that are built to do their dirty work in the Magic Phase.  The topic for today will be the armies that are built in order to dominate the Shooting Phase.  The few, the much maligned.

...and fire!

Army books with shooting lists are primarily war machine armies, which is to say that they are armies that have a plurality of war machines in the Special and Rare slots sufficient enough to saturate the enemy with high powered shooting.  While having shooty Core choices is desirable, it isn’t obligatory for these lists and having a shooty Core won’t make up for a lack of good heavy shooting elsewhere in the book.

The first consideration for a shooting army is, as I said, war machines.  Max out your war machine choices before you buy anything else.  Some armies are blessed enough to have so many options that they can’t just bring them all.  Engines that do not have to roll to hit are the best, and cannons are king.  Always bring the maximum amount of cannons you can.  Stone throwers are incredibly good in 8th Edition, and you should bring as many of them as you can.  Bolt throwers have to roll to hit, but usually they are very cheap and/or allow you to bring lot’s of them.  Since they have a powerful effect when they hit, and you can bring several of them, you should be able to get some hits in.  Most of this is something most of you already know.

Smalls arms fire is not integral to a gunline list, but is definitely a great bonus
When selecting your Core for a shooty list, small arms choices aren’t bad.  Thunderers, crossbowmen, archers etc. all make good choices.  They can protect anyone who wants to attack your engines and are usually quite effective at short range.  But as I said, they are not obligatory.  If you have high leadership fighty dudes, or otherwise difficult to break units, they can serve as a deterrent to enemy warmachine hunters.  Lastly, it helps to bring counter charge units, because your machines won’t be able to kill everything, and quite often you will need to beat the remnants of your opponent’s army in close combat.

For a variety of reasons, Lore of Heavens gets there for a shooting list
The next step is to figure out how you are going to slow your enemy down.  Units in Fantasy cross the board really quickly, and unless you take care to slow them down, you won’t get many shots off before you’re dead.  Happily, there are several ways to go about this, which allows you to select the one that is most copasetic to your book’s style.  Fast cavalry can get in the advancing unit’s face, retreat from a charge declaration, and then reform next turn.  Scouts can deploy on the flanks of the battlefield, or the enemy backlines, which will divert attention away from your gunline.  Every unit of your opponent’s that doesn’t advance towards you in order to deal with the pressure on his own backlines is a unit you can ignore for a couple of turns.  As I touched on the Core section, you can bring incredibly difficult to break units, advance them to the midfield and force your opponent to get out of the tarpit before he can continue onward.  Lastly, magic can be used to slow an advancing foe.  Wind Blast in Lore of Heavens is the all-star spell in a shooting list, since it allows you to physically move the enemy units backwards.  Additionally, the Lore has spells to protect you from shooting.  Additionally, Iceshard Blizzard helps you win the gunline vs gunline mirror match.  Lastly, don’t discount the ability to control the movement of enemy units with a Comet of Casandora: the spell functions best as a defensive spell that can close off a movement choke point, or to force a unit out of cover and into line of sight.  Lore of Heavens simply gets there for a gunline army.

As far as the army commanders go, you obviously do not need to buy fighty characters, but a BSB is advantageous because you never want your crew to be cowering under their engines when they could be shooting.  Magic defense, even if you aren’t planning to do the Lore of Heavens route, is key and the best magic defense is a level 4.  You might also want to bring a level 1 (for the extra Iceshard Blizzard goodness!) to carry a scroll.  The goal of a shooting list is to have several unmolested turns to fire at the start of the game, and a well timed dispel scroll can act like a “skip your turn” card to an opponent, freeing you to shoot him up for another turn.  Dispel Scrolls will rarely be a wasted item in a shooty list.

So that’s a wrap on shooting armies.  I will admit, I am not a Dwarf, Empire, or OnG player, so I may have missed some of the finer points of blasting my opponent off the board so please chime in if I left anything key out.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Questions?


  1. I am quite used to being blasted off the planet by Dwarven War Machines. Flaming Magical attacks can be nasty.

    Tomb Kings also turned out to be quite shooting in the low point campaign we ran. War Machines a Giant with a Bolt Thrower and Archers add up.

  2. I dunno, I've never played a proper shooty army. My Dark Elves tried, but the collection I had was all wrong for it. I maintain they can do it, with the right Lores of Magic to deal with large targets and counter their own fragility (so, Metal, then), but never quite managed to get it ticking with the models I could lay a hand to.