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7th Edition High Elves Tactica – Part 2 – Melee, Magic, Psychology

Tactics, Part 2 — Melee, Magic, Psychology (revised)

Melee Troops: There are two general kinds of mainline units available in Warhammer: “Shock Melee” and “Attrition Melee”. The prime difference between ”shock” and “attrition” is that “shock” troops rely on wounds to win combat, while “Attrition” troops rely on their combat resolution modifiers (ranks, standard, outnumbering) to turn the tide of battle.

The High Elves have several fast shock melee troops (Dragon Princes, Silver Helms, White Lion Chariot, Tiranoc Chariot), one slow-but-flexible shock melee troops (White Lions), one slow Infantry based shock melee troops (Swordmasters), and some infantry based attrition melee units (Phoenix Guard , Spear Elves, Lothern Seaguard). The Phoenix Guard is a close call, but since it’s my belief that playing Phoenix Guard in small numbers is counterproductive given their abilities (Fear, 4+ Ward). Therefore selecting them in sufficient numbers to enhance the fear ability also gives them the numbers for ranks and with a standard yields a good static combat resolution.

Shock Melee: “Shock” melee troops are those whose purpose is to hit and break the enemy on the charge. Chariots are the classic example of a shock melee troop; they hit hard but are almost worthless after the initial round of combat. Most heavy cavalry fits into this category as well, since they lose the benefits of their lances after the first turn. Their reliance on the charge means that most shock units are high-speed troops.

Our shock troops are either slower (Swordmasters, White Lions) or more fragile than most enemy shock units. Maneuver is an extremely important aspect of a Shock Melee Army. If a Shock unit gets itself charged it loses a lot of its advantages. Conversely, if a Shock unit charges in conjunction with a flank charge by another unit, the target unit will almost certainly break. Very few of our shock units are able to regularly break enemy units from the front, as large units of heavy cavalry are able to do. A rank of 6 Swordmasters with champion might be able to see off an enemy unit with a frontal charge, or a unit of Dragon Princes with champion and character, but other than that most of our tactics should revolve around getting flank or rear charges on enemy units, either through outmaneuvering them or by sticking them in place for a countercharge.

Attrition Melee: The “Attrition” melee troops are designed to absorb charges, hold, and win in subsequent rounds through combat resolution. These are normally large infantry units with maximum ranks and standard. The more armor and the more troops in the unit, the more effective it is. Dwarves are the classic attrition melee army; high toughness, good armor, good leadership. Attrition melee troops, since they rely so heavily on ranks to bolster their combat resolution, are very vulnerable to flank and rear attacks.

The loss of the “Lion Guard” honor hurts the High Elf list with respect to “attrition” melee troops. It has left us with only one stubborn unit (White Lions). Stubborn is a very useful attribute for an attrition melee unit, as is a nearby BSB to re-roll any failed leadership tests. Unfortunately the White Lions are better suited to “shock melee” duties than “attrition”. We did acquire a magic spell (Courage of Aenarion) that makes all units within 12” of the caster, “stubborn”. Selecting “Korhil” to lead a unit other than the White Lions will create a “stubborn” unit. The Spear Elves are our most likely candidate to fill the role of an attrition melee unit, however without “stubborn” their chances of “sticking” the enemy are less than ideal. The Phoenix Guard, while not “stubborn”, do have the advantage of the 4+ ward save and a strength 4 attack, which in the end may make them our best “attrition” unit. High Elf generals should most likely decide between redirection and sticking at deployment time based on the main battle unit that appears on the other side of the table.

If you are taking “attrition” troops in your army, make sure you have enough supporting troops to deliver a flank charge into whoever they are fighting. It does no good to be “stubborn” if the opponent grinds down your unsupported Spear Elves to nothing. You must bring the units necessary to clear a flank, and provide the all important flank charge. One needs to make sure that you have the units on the table to protect and exploit the flanks or your “attrition” units may simply suffer a slow death.

Psychology: Certain armies can use psychology as a weapon, while others are vulnerable to psychological attack. Seventh Edition has improved the High Elves with respect to psychology. Phoenix Guard as special choice, the Lion Chariot, the Dragon Mage, Dragons, Standard of Balance, Lion Standard, and Dragonhorn are all positive changes.

Taking Advantage of Psychology: Humans, Beastmen, Orcs & Goblins, for example, are very vulnerable to psychology. Even units close to the general are testing on a leadership 9, and units outside his leadership radius are often testing at leadership 6 or lower. Such units can easily panic from Missile fire, panic from a unit destroyed, fail fear checks to charge or receive charges from fear-causing units, or fail terror tests caused by a Dragon.

Those High Elf generals that choose to play the Phoenix guard or Dragons should take this into account when developing your battle plan. Remember that enemy units have to take a test before charging our terror/fear causing units. For example, imagine three Goblin Wolf-Chariots interdicting an open area with their 18” charge range. Normally one might be hesitant to move your Phoenix guard into charge range, but your opponent will have to make a fear test on five or six to even charge. If you maneuver your Phoenix guard so that only one or two of those chariots can even declare a charge, one stands a good chance of not taking a charge at all.

Against vulnerable armies, causing panic checks should be a cornerstone of any High Elf strategy. Concentration of missile and magic fire, especially on units away from the general’s leadership radius, can collapse entire flanks. Remember, the important part of the battle, in the early game, is to establish dominance over the battlefield. You can kill the opponents expensive units in the latter part of the game; the beginning of the game is about destroying light units to open the avenues of attack on the expensive units.

Protecting Your Army From Psychological Attack: Some armies (Vampire Counts, Tomb Kings, Daemons, and Dark Elves to a lesser extent) will use psychology as a weapon against you. In this case, one need to be aware that dual charges with units not immune to psychology will be risky (one unit may fail its fear check leaving the other hung out). The “Lion Standard” and the “Standard of Balance” both give some protection from adverse psychology. The loss of “Pure of Heart” is unfortunate.

Also remember that the enemy armies mentioned above are largely immune to psychology. This changes the High Elves missile strategy from trying to create panic checks (not possible) to pure damage. If you are fielding an army with several units that you plan to use in combat, you should not (absent absolute necessity) declare a charge unless you are prepared for one failed fear test. Over commit to battles, as few things are more demoralizing than watching your Spears go into the front of a heavy unit, while the Dragon Princes cower in fear on a flank. Psychology can be a game-breaker, so plan for it wisely.

Missile Fire: Missile fire, of course, is the ability to cause non-magical damage from range. Archers, Repeating Bolt Throwers, Magic bows, all contribute to an army’s dominance of the missile fire phase. This is slightly different from the idea of interdiction. The army with the ability to cause the most long-range damage can force its opponent to cross the battlefield. This is widely known as “making your opponent come to you,” and can be a valuable asset in ones quest for victory.

Magic: Magic, when viewed from a certain perspective, is not really its own phase but a supplement to the other phases, depending on a particular army’s available spells. Your opponent may have you outgunned in the missile fire phase, but its possible to regain the shortfall through the use of magic damage spells. Your opponent may dominate the maneuver phase, but movement spells could balance the inequities. Dominance of the magic phase can make up for many shortfalls in other phases of the game.

Magic Offense: “Can” is the operative word here. Magic, for all its power, is also unreliable. A reliance on magical dominance as a path to victory is a treacherous road. Always ensure that you have the assets to defeat your enemy outside of the magic phase; if you can’t, one need spend less on mages and more on troops.

The High Elf list can indeed go heavy magic. Our mages have access to the eight lores of magic plus high magic. The “Seerstaff” allows one mage to cherry pick spells and tailor one’s magic to combat the army that appears on the other side of the table. However, High Elf mages are so expensive, that a heavy investment in magic will often leave too few points for combat units. Another casualty of seventh edition is making the “Ring of Corin” an arcane item. This makes the item virtually unusable (especially since it’s now a “one use” item). Bound spells are the keys to forcing ones magic past the magical defense armies (Dwarfs, Khorne Mortals). Seventh edition has left us with only the “Ring of Fury”.

Magic Defense:
The expense of our troops, when combined with their generally low toughness, light armor, and ward saves that disappear in the face of magic attacks, means that we have no option but to spend on magic defense. The requirement changes from army to army, but if one has less than five dispel dice and two scrolls in your list, you have placed your army in grave danger of complete destruction.

Counter Magic: With “high magic” the High Elves have access to “drain magic” which will eat the enemy’s casting dice and limit the number of spells cast. Cast it a second time and many mid-range spells, plus all the big spells become very problematic.

Mage Hunting: Dice and scrolls are not the only ways to fight back in the magic phase. One can defend your army from magic by making sure that you have units available to hunt enemy mages. To qualify for mage-hunting duties, a unit must be fast, flexible, and relatively cheap. Our best mage-hunting units are (from most qualified to least): Great Eagles (fly, cheap), Shadow Warriors (forward deployment, close to the mage), Ellyrian Reavers (fast), Characters on Dragons (fly, cause terror, many high weapon skill, high strength attacks)

Mages are usually hidden in large enemy infantry units, so mage hunting often involves charging a clearly superior opponent in the front in order to attack the enemy mage. The charge should be done in a fashion that allows two or three models to be in base-to-base with the enemy mage. The attacking models should expect to be broken and pursued after the attack, which is why cheap units with a high (7”+) movement value are preferred (3d6 flee opposed to 2d6 pursuit). Units with champions are not good for mage-hunting, since most infantry units have full command. A smart player will challenge with his mage, leaving the mage to fight a single model instead of two or three. Keep this in mind during army construction if you plan for a particular unit to go mage-hunting.

If you are attacking with a lone character, you should try to place the character in a position on the charge where he touches the mage but not the unit champion. This is easier to do with an infantry based character than a monster based or eagle-rider. If the character touches the champion, the champion will challenge and the mage will be safe.

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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