Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Skaven State of Mind

Well, after a devastating loss at Demitra's hands today, I need to refocus my attention onto Friday, when I'll be facing the new Empire army book. My regular WHFB gaming buddy will be dropping by/ having me over (I probably should find out which) and we'll be going toe-to-toe with our armies. This one is going to be special. The army lists are set at 2,500 points, which is a fairly large number. I've been slapping together army lists and I've settled on one. The list is a touch more aggressive than the last one I fielded in preparation for the tournament I was supposed to go to, but blew of in favor of going to a brewfest. After seeing the traffic on Google and sampling the wares at the festival I must say I made the right call.

So it's back to pondering lists. I won't post the army yet, just some notes I've gleaned.

1) Plague Monks are trash. Seriously, they didn't even come close to winning a single combat. They may be devastating the turn you set off the Plague Banner, but that's just a single round of combat. The rest of the time they're relying on volume of attacks to get them through combat. That works fine for Witch Elves with their Poisoned Attacks, but not so much for my little rats.

2) Don't rely on your artillery. I had a fair amount of shooting in my last list (I do in my current list as well), but Warhammer Fantasy is won and lost in melee. If you can't cut it up close and personal you will lose games, pure and simple. If you aren't ready for the Close Combat Phase and your artillery goes up in flames, you're in deep, deep trouble.

3) Rat Ogres are unpredictable. It's hard to keep them in check when they're Frenzied on Leadership 7 (provided they're near the general). Failing to keep them in line results in them charging after something worthless the whole game, and while they're glorious once they get their big, meaty paws on something, they're not worth squat being kited around by fast, cheap stuff.

4) Your Grey Seer is your lifeblood. There's a reason I keep my command section (Grey Seer and Battle Standard) together in my biggest block is twofold. First, we have... poor Leadership. Without the General and Battle Standard's presence we're totally out of the game. The second reason is simpler. Your Grey Seer is your best utility piece on the board. He casts, he dispels, he channels. Skaven magic, in particular the Dreaded Thirteenth, is pretty potent. It's not as nasty as, say, the lores in the rulebook, but they were designed without the caster being able to add his level to the attempt in mind. This (arguably) makes them easier to cast than they should be. With that in mind, you can ratchet up their lores (and really, you should ever pick your spells from the Lore of Ruin) a bit on the power curve.

5) Warlock Engineers are amazing. They're 15 points each, and they can either be built as spellcasting or fighting characters. Sure you could do both, but then they'd be expensive and they wouldn't really be good at either role. A Warlock Engineer with either a Warp Energy Condenser and Level 2 spellcasting will get the job done at range. One with a Doomrocket and (if you have points left over) a Warplock Pistol is great at backfield harassment. Shoot, for 15 points you could keep them bare-bones and just Skitterleap them at your opponent's line to stop them from charging. It's cruel and a nasty ploy, but never forget, you're a Skaven General. It's a great reason to try out all kinds of despicable tactics (as long as you're not cheating, of course).

6) Clan Eshin? Yes please. With oodles of nasty shooting from slings with Poisoned Attacks, Gutter Runners are your premier war machine hunters. You don't even have to get into grips with them to destroy them. Just hit the offending machine with a hail of poisoned rocks and watch it vanish! Oh, don't forget assassins. Pesky challenges getting you down? just accept with your hidden assassin and tear apart the enemy character. My personal favorite loadout is the Blade of Corruption and The Other Trickster's Shard, but an argument can be made for an Ogre Blade and a Potion of Strength.

7) Soften them up. You have magic, Warp Lightning Cannons, and Weapon Teams for a reason. Cripple (or better yet eliminate) big threats as they close with you. Didn't I just say not to rely on your shooting? Yes, but you need to thin your enemy out on their way in. If the enemy closes with you unharmed, your less than stellar fighting ability will show. Be ready to get your paws dirty in melee, just don't fight intact enemies.

8) Abominations are your melee masters. If you're going to play Skaven, you're pretty much buying at least one (in big games two) of these puppies. The way they move and fight can be very confusing to your opponent, not to mention that it can get him around situations that would otherwise roadblock another unit. Just point, click, and roll dice with this bad boy. Not to say that this model is an auto-win. Not by a long shot. Anything with high strength and Flaming Attacks (Black Orcs with the Banner of Eternal Flame and cannons with The Flaming Sword of Rhun are my most top of mind examples) will take away this model's survivability very quickly. This model relies on its above average Toughness, large number of Wounds, and most importantly Regeneration special rule to stay in the game. One well placed Flaming cannonball can turn this as much as 250 point monster into a smoldering heap in one shot.

In the end, it all comes down to one thing- your whole army has to work in harmony from the list writing stage to the tabletop. If your army doesn't hum, you'll know it. No true Warhammer General is truly ever done tweaking and re-tweaking his list. Hopefully I'll have tweaked my list to pull out a win over the forthcoming man-things this Friday. We'll see.

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