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7th Edition High Elves Tactica – Part 1 – Maneuver

Tactics, Part 1 — Maneuver (revised)

Please note that, for the most part, this article is a copy of “Manchiara’s” Wood Elf Tactica. “Manchiara”, is a consistent winning Wood/High Elf general who is a regular player in my RTT and Indy GT circuit of play.

This article is about the nuances of the Maneuver “phase” of a given Warhammer army. It is not about the movement “phase of a Warhammer game turn. It is about the strength and weaknesses of various units within a High Elf army which can be exploited, either by the High Elf general or by its opponent to gain an advantage on the battlefield.

Therefore without further ado;

It is not the army with the most troops who will win the day. Rather, it is the army who has more troops at the critical point on the battlefield who will emerge victorious.

The above quote illustrates my belief that the army that dominates maneuver is the army who is “in control” of the battle/game. The army with superior maneuverability will, depending on its degree of superiority in the three aspects of the “phase”, largely be able to dictate when and where melee combat will occur, and most likely be able to make decisive combat-related maneuvers such as flank or rear charges that swing the tide of battle.

There are three aspects to “Maneuver”: Speed; Flexibility; and Interdiction:

Speed — Speed is not a comparison of two armies movement values: it is a comparison of the movement values of melee combat units. I define “melee combat units” as units that can win combat with opposing mainline units by themselves or in conjunction with other fast units. Unfortunately the High Elf order of battle contains few examples of this type of unit.

Heavy Cavalry is the most common example of a unit with a high “speed” value; it can carry unit destroying melee power across the table at a frightening pace. The best example of this kind of speed is perhaps the Bretonnian lance. With a 16” march move and hard-hitting charge, the Bretonnians place a lot of pressure on their opponents simply because they are on top of those opponents with quality combat units quickly.

Although High Elves have a natural advantage in “pure” speed with infantry movement of five, cavalry movement of eight/nine, and access to flying troops, we are hindered by the fact that our main combat units are infantry-based. Our “new” Dragon Princes are being mentioned as perhaps the best heavy cavalry in the game, but their expense (30 points a model and 50 point command costs) plus the strength downgrade suffered if they fail to break the enemy on the charge makes them an average hammer unit at best. Silver Helms and, Ellyrian Reavers, our other fast units, will rarely be able to break mainline enemy units without serious support. The “new” Dragons are, in my opinion, simply too expensive for a 2000-2250 point tournament army, in that they use hundreds of points that are needed to fill out ones army with units better suited for an all comers army.

Most armies have an advantage in “speed” because they can field good to excellent melee cavalry and we cannot. Although our Eagles and Elven Steeds can move faster than opposing cavalry, we do not have the heavy melee units that can match heavy cavalry’s speed. High Elf generals should recognize that most armies will outclass us in “speed”.

Flexibility — Flexibility, as used here, is an army’s ability to ignore factors, which would otherwise limit its movement options.

Skirmishers, for example, are the ultimate in flexible troops. They ignore terrain, can shoot or charge in a 360-degree radius. Fast cavalry has good flexibility because free reforms allow them to avoid the wheels and turns that slow more traditional units. Flying units such as Eagles or Dragons are almost impossible for enemy melee units to engage. The Banner of Ellyrian is a very important item to improve the flexibility of a High Elf unit. White Lions have an added degree of flexibility due to their “woodsman” ability allowing them free movement through trees.

High Elf generals have won battles simply by exploiting the inflexibility of the enemy. Since our hard hitting melee units’ (e.g. White Lions, Sword Masters, with the banner) outstrips the flexibility of opposing melee units, we are able to win through redeployment during the battle that create an advantage at the decisive “point of attack” on the battlefield.

Interdiction — Interdiction is the flip, or “offensive” side of flexibility and is defined as the ability to interfere with the opposing army’s movement. An army can normally do this in two ways: by preventing march moves (“march interdiction”) by the enemy, and by “damage interdiction” over portions of the battlefield.

March Interdiction can turn a 2000 point on 2000 point battle into what is effectively a 2000 point on 1250 point battle simply because the opposing army is unable to move its troops to the critical point on the battlefield. Scouts (Shadow Warriors) and flyers (especially the Great Eagle) are the best units for preventing enemy march moves. Fast cavalry can also march interdict, although their own inability to march within 8” of the enemy and the need to use their shooting or combat power elsewhere leaves them second-best to flyers or infiltrators.

Damage Interdiction is a very important concept; understanding what kind of damage interdiction both you and your opponent bring to the table can be a key component for influencing your own and understanding your opponent’s battle plan.

Damage Interdiction is the ability to “threaten” damage within a specific area of the battlefield. The key is to threaten damage beyond the charge range of enemy units or as those units come into range on the charge. The Helblaster Volley Gun is a classic damage interdictor; it commands the area within 24” radius, only modified by line of sight, and largely prevents movement within that radius. Although the Helblaster never moves, it provides a huge maneuver advantage for its owner by limiting the area where opponent units can operate.

Our Repeater Bolt Throwers, and to a lesser extent, our Archers are the best High Elf damage interdictors. Our chariots (Tiranoc and Lion) with their long charge ranges are also useful threatening an area.

Fighting Opposing Damage Interdictors

The High Elf general gains a huge edge in maneuver by eliminating or redirecting the enemy’s damage interdiction units. The opposing general is counting on these units to dominate their area of the battlefield, whether its a Helblaster on the flank or a unit of Chosen Chaos Knights coming straight down the middle. He is relying on being able to destroy anything that comes into that units threat radius, and may not be prepared to react if that unit is destroyed or diverted.

Great Eagles are very good for redirecting the fast, expensive enemy unit your opponent is counting as the linchpin of his battle plan. Simply land the Great Eagle in front of the unit, angled away from where that unit wants to go. Your opponent will either have to charge the Great Eagle, turning his unit away from it’s intended target, or try to move around the Great Eagle, in which case you simply move the Eagle and give your enemy the same choice next turn. Great Eagles are our best choice for this job as they are cheap (50 points), they are a formed unit (this does not work with skirmishers), they do not cause panic (less than US5). Ellyrian Reavers can also perform the task if the situation is desperate, but are not ideal.

Attacking with multiple units can sometimes destroy light enemy damage interdictors such as war machines and missile troops. For example, if one sends a unit of Ellyrian Reavers and a Great Eagle after a Helblaster Volley Gun, the Helblaster is only able to shoot one of the two units before you charge with the survivor on the following turn. This tactic does not work as well if the enemy is intersupporting his ranged damage interdictors (i.e., he has two units of Handgunners on either side of the Helblaster) as the damage you take on the way in can be greater than the reward of the charge. Also, you may not have enough units available to insure a positive outcome against so many enemy units.

If your opponent has inter-supported his interdictors to the extent that the above tactic is not feasible, then one has two options. The first is simple avoidance. If the enemy’s ranged damage interdictors are all in one place on the battlefield, they can’t be anywhere else on the battlefield. This option has the advantage of leaving hundreds of enemy points sitting useless on the battlefield, but has the drawback of not always being a workable solution due to terrain or army placement considerations. It also allows your opponent to dictate where on the battlefield your army will be fighting. Occasionally this is not an issue, but it is an insult to the High Elf general. After all, we are supposed to be the ones dictating the flow of battle.

The second option is to reduce the threat level of the enemy damage interdiction, either through damaging the interdictors yourself (using missile fire or magic attack) or making your units resistant to damage (magic protection or clever use of terrain). Concentrated Archer fire can almost always do significant damage to enemy shooters, and with a 30” range there is no reason to deploy within range of 24” range opponents, thereby getting first shot. Magic spells without range requirements, such as “Conflagration of Doom” or appropriate terrain related “Life” magic spells are also useful.

Heavy damage interdictors can be avoided, redirected (discussed above), or “stuck” by a unit capable of holding in the face of numerous mid-to-high strength attacks. To do this you need a stubborn unit from the High Elf list: White Lions, unit led by “Korhil”, or a magically enhanced unit (spell 3 high magic, “Courage of Aenarion”). This is the first step in the “stick-and-flank” gambit (full discussion of this tactic, later in another article). Loss of the “Lion Guard” honor is unfortunate. Also a battle-standard bearer to give ability to reroll bad break checks makes life easier.

The purpose of this extensive tactical discussion is to impress the importance of one’s army selection. The High Elf general needs to have a plan to deal with enemy damage interdictors while you are creating your army. You need to know that you have the resources to deal with, say, a few “Ratling Guns” or “Imperial Inner Circle Knights” should they show up on the other side of the table.

When you look at your army list, you should be able to see how you will deal with these various threats. Your plan does not have to revolve around destroying or even diverting the unit, if you are running an army that can simply avoid your opponent’s heavy hitters. There is no one right way of dealing with your opponent’s interdiction units, but you must have some way of dealing with those units. The High Elf general provides this way for himself during army selection.

Using Your Damage Interdictors The High Elves have access to some damage interdictors, although not on the scale of the Helblaster, Ratling Gun, or Chosen Chaos Knights. Massed Archers can perform interdiction duty (perhaps enhanced by “Curse of Arrow Attraction”) if they threaten enough damage to a target unit. However Archers struggle to cause enough damage on heavy cavalry units to deter them from moving through the Archers threat range. Our best damage interdictor is perhaps the Repeating Bolt Thrower and one of these backing the Archers will give some heavy cavalry units (mostly the 2+ save variety) second thoughts about entering the threat area. Chariots also provide a ranged threat to the enemies’ heavy units. Our new unit, the Lion Chariot, brings 6 strength 5 attacks plus D6 strength 5 impact hits on the charge.

Remember that your damage interdiction is subject to the very same countermeasures discussed above. You need to have some unit available for archer defense duties, if your opponent should decide to attack with multiple units.

Reproduced with permission by PaperElf, additional source material for these articles can be found in the General’s tent at Machiara’s web site, Battle Glade.


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