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7th Edition High Elves Tactica – Part 4 – How to Outmaneuver the Enemy

Tactics, Part 4 — How to Outmaneuver the Enemy

Somebody wrote:

”Never go into battle without a plan. Even a bad plan is better than no plan at All.”

As we see from Part 1.1, maneuver is a key element leading to victory. The High Elf army needs to achieve superiority in maneuver to reach full effectiveness. But, just exactly, how is this accomplished?

Maneuver has a dual purpose:

1. To create uneven fights that benefits your army.
2. Prevent opposing units from creating such uneven fights in their favor.

Do NOT move your units about aimlessly. EVERY move you make on the battlefield should be targeted toward achieving one of these two goals.

Unfortunately, its not always clear how to do this, which is why one need to formulate a maneuver plan from the very beginning of the battle.

Deployment: Winning the movement battle starts with army deployment. Good deployment can win games, and bad deployment can lose them. The goals of deployment should be:

1. Figure out as best you can what your opponent’s plan is.
2. try to hide your intentions for as long as possible
3. ensure that your units have good match ups across from them on the battlefield

How Your Opponent Reveals His Plan Through Deployment:Your opponent will give you clues about what he plans to do through his army deployment. If he begins by putting all of his missile troops on one side of the board, you can be fairly sure he will attempt to use a weighted flank with his melee units on the other side of the board. Some clues are very obvious; if your opponent places his big Chosen Chaos Knight unit in the center of his deployment zone, he is obviously planning to use it in or near the center of the battlefield. Simply because a clue is obvious doesn’t mean it’s not useful; you can begin to place your units assigned to fight that unit (whether a Great Eagle for redirection, stubborn White Lions to stick it, etc) with confidence that they will easily be able to engage their target unit.

Other deployments by your opponent are less obvious, or simply unhelpful; if your opponent places a fast cavalry unit near the edge of one flank, does that mean he is planning a push on that flank or is he just putting a fast unit in position to make a flank charge later in the battle? You will have to figure that out through your knowledge of your opponent’s army and an analysis of the units he has already placed on the board.

The battlefield terrain can also give you clues where your opponent will deploy. If the left side of the board is heavily wooded, you can bet your opponent will favor the right side of the board. If there are numerous patches of difficult ground in one area, you know that your opponent will probably not be placing his chariots there. Often terrain placement will create only one or two places on the battlefield where your opponent can conduct a strong intersupported cavalry or infantry push. If you know that’s where your opponent will have to deploy his heavy units, that knowledge should allow you to deploy your units more effectively.

Hiding Your Plans During Deployment: Obviously, if your opponent’s deployment reveals important aspects of his battle plan, your deployment can reveal important aspects of your plan. If you place your archers in a certain area, your opponent knows that you will want to keep their firing arcs free, and therefore you will probably not be sending many melee troops through the archers’ threat area. If you place a small elite infantry, its relatively slow movement means your opponent knows where on the battlefield he expects to find the unit, and allows him to react to the placement by putting his kill units in a position where they can easily make contact.

To avoid this, one should try to place your cheapest support units first. Ellyrian Reavers are excellent “deployment fodder”, as they move very quickly and can easily re-deploy to other parts of the table. Great Eagles are also good early placement, as their deployment rarely gives anything away about your intentions on the battlefield. Do not get too carried away with the subterfuge though; you still want your units where they will be most effective. It’s normally not worth it to place your units in a non-optimal position just to confuse your opponent.

One should also look to see if there are any “obvious” terrain influenced placements. If there is a well placed hill that both you and your opponent know would be a firebase for your archers, one won’t be giving much away by going ahead and deploying the archers.

Matching Up with Your Opponent: One of the most important parts of deployment is to ensure that your units are not placed in a position where they are vulnerable on turn one. For example, if you are playing against Dark Elves you want to make sure that all of your units are at least five inches back into your deployment zone so that you don’t have to suffer any infantry based repeater crossbow fire. If you are fielding chariots against Empire or Dwarfs you would want to hold back until the enemy has placed his war machines (cannons).

Try to obtain favorable match ups while avoiding the detrimental ones. If you have a White Lion unit that you plan to use as a stick unit against the enemy’s nastiest shock melee unit, it helps if the enemy unit is not on the opposite edge of the table. If you intend to use Reavers to hunt war machines, one either wants to place them fairly centrally, or directly opposite of the opponent’s best position (the hill in his zone) or directly across from the war machine, if already placed.

Same Old Same Old:Many generals have become comfortable with a certain style of fighting, and you can use this to your advantage. Some generals will head straight across the battlefield towards your archer line, because that is what they always do. Other generals will march their melee units towards the unit that they consider the biggest threat. If you know the habits of the opposing general, or can make some shrewd guess about what those habits might be, you can exploit them for your benefit. But how can one guess what an opponent is apt to do if one has never played the opponent before.

In many ways the composition of an opposing army can go a long way toward helping us understand opposing generals. The more points your opponent puts into a “main” unit, the fewer support units he has. One unit cannot fight an entire army by its self; many times a melee unit only has time to engage one of our units. By keeping the unit costs of our units relatively low we can afford to misdirect the big unit (while beating up on the enemy’s support units) without crippling our army.

If you see an opponent who has invested in such a unit, you know that he will want to direct that unit at what he sees as the largest point opportunity on the battlefield. If you can create an appropriately tempting opportunity OR the illusion thereof, you can create your plan of maneuver and attack around the near certainty that he will move the big unit towards that opportunity.

Providing a target free Battlefield: On the other hand, you can try to confuse your opponent by having no such tempting opportunities on the table at all. Many generals are used to fighting armies that have one or two “main” units, normally “Shock” or “Attrition” melee elite. Their normal battle strategy is tailored around destroying those “main” enemy units. When fighting a High Elf army, many generals become, if not confused, then somewhat unfocussed in their maneuvering, because they don’t have a firm idea of what do when presented with an army without large units.

Splitting the Army: Armies that do have a large “main” unit of the type are vulnerable to the “split army” strategy. This ploy essentially involves the division of your melee units into two fairly even forces, deployed on either flank of your missile base, which will control the middle.

The enemy’s “main” unit will have to commit itself to one flank or the other. If you present the indecisive general with a target unit (large spear block, for example), he can be lured into pursuing that unit on one side of the board, which may open opportunities for you in other areas of the battlefield and/or allow you to set up his melee units for flank or rear charges. The target unit you present must be seen either as a threat or as a large source of victory points for the opponent if this strategy is to work effectively.

Once the enemy’s main unit has committed itself to one side of the battlefield, use your march interdictors to keep that enemy unit from marching. Re-deploy a portion of your forces to the other side of the battlefield on the “contact” flank, where you will hopefully have an advantage.

The “Split Army “ ploy can be countered by an enemy who is able to concentrate all of his melee forces onto one flank, using an “oblique line” strategy to deny you engagement on your planned “contact flank”. While this kind of setup will deny the major benefits of the split army tactic, it should also open up maneuver opportunities of its own. The split army is also weak against a “Horde” army, since the army can stretch across the entire battlefield. Against a horde army, you will normally want to try a weighted flank attack of your own.

Fighting the weighted Flank: So your opponent has placed all of his melee units in close support of each other on a weighted flank, has put his missile troops in the center, and is basically ignoring the other flank.

Many of us remember the excellent battle scene in the movie “Gladiator”, in which General Maximus leads a flank charge of Roman cavalry. As they’re riding through the forest Maximus continually yells at his troops to “stay on line”. Maximus knows that a flank assault is much more effective when all the flankers get to the battle at the same time.

Well, we want to encourage our opponents to ignore General Maximus and get their units to our waiting Sword masters, Spear Elves, etc. piecemeal, so we can defeat them in detail. Many times our opponent will help us out by taking melee units of differing speeds, i.e., cavalry and infantry. An undisciplined opponent will bring his cavalry and infantry across the board at full speed. Fortunately for us, these speeds are very different, and the cavalry will arrive much before the infantry. This means we can use the full force of our army to fight a portion of the enemy’s army, which, as discussed above, is the whole purpose of maneuver in the first place.

If you’re playing against an army with melee elements of similar speed, you’ll have to do some of the work yourself. For example, say, there are three enemy melee units. If you move your march interdictors to prevent two of those units from marching, you give your opponent the opportunity to be undisciplined and march the un-interdicted unit. This causes the opponent to arrive at the battleline piecemeal, giving you a better chance to destroy the unit.

Of course, your opponent may be disciplined. If he is, at least you get that much more time to shoot the units before they make it to the battleline.

Destroying Elite Shock Melee Troops: Every so often you’re going to be facing some nasty enemy units, such as Chaos Knights, who have Speed and Shock Melee value to spare. These units are largely invulnerable to your missile fire, and if they get first turn, they’ll already be halfway across the table, leaving you no opportunity to interdict marches. At this point, you have four options:

1. You can avoid the enemy shock melee unit
2. You can redirect the enemy shock melee unit with a Great Eagle or Ellyrian Reavers
3. You can use a “stick” unit to pin the enemy shock melee
4. You can flee from the enemy shock melee, causing a failed charge and bring the unit into the charge range of your melee units.

Avoidance: If your army is fast and flexible enough, you may be able to completely avoid engagement with your enemy’s main shock units on anything but your terms. Even a slower army can avoid nasty enemy units through clever deployment, and use of terrain. Setting your units up behind centrally placed woods creates an opportunity for avoidance. Your opponent will have to send his shock melee one way or the other around the woods; your main units go the other way around, thereby completely avoiding his main unit. If your opponent has multiple shock melee troops, at the very lease you have split them up and prevented them from inter-supporting each other.

Redirection: Redirection was already discussed in Part 1, but the following is a brief recap on how to do it. Start with a cheap unit that the enemy will have to align to, should the enemy charge the unit. Skirmishers and unit flyers are not good, because they form up on the chargers. Great Eagles are ideal, Reavers are fast enough to get the job done if desperate.

Move your unit an inch away from the unit you wish to redirect, positioned so that the enemy unit will not be able to move without hitting your unit. Place your unit at an angle, so that if the enemy unit charges your unit, the wheel to align will face it away from anywhere important. This can sometimes tricky and it is vitally important not to: a) accidentally give your opponent a flank charge on your unit; or b) snipe at the enemy unit with missile fire or magic if your opponent could remove casualties in such a way that your “redirect” unit is no longer blocking the target units forward move.

A caution: Be careful about using this tactic against large terror causing units. Your “redirect” unit will have to take a terror test; if your unit fails and the enemy unit has higher unit strength than the “redirect” unit, your unit must flee, leaving the enemy unit to declare a charge on a unit that you were trying to protect.

Stick and Flank: First, this tactic requires a “stick” unit. A “stick” unit can successfully receive the charge from an enemy shock melee unit and hold. In the new High Elf” army you could use a White Lion unit (stubborn) or to a lesser extent a large Spear Elf block (high static combat resolution) or a large Phoenix Guard unit. In either case a nearby BSB or a unit champion carrying the “Gem of Courage” is useful. After the “stick” unit holds, you then “flank”, in your subsequent turn by charging the pinned units flank or rear.

Here’s how to do it: You maneuver your stick unit to a position where your enemy must either charge them or avoid them. Your designated flank unit positions itself for a countercharge on your turn.

On your enemy’s turn, he charges the “stick” unit. The unit holds. In your turn, you flank or rear charge with your flank unit. Now you’ve eliminated the enemy rank bonus, gained the +1/+2 bonus for the flank or rear attack, probably have +1 for outnumbering and, if a Spear block is in the mix +1-+4 from ranks and standard. Add in any combat damage and you win this combat, and probably win it BIG. Threat eliminated.

Flee: Clearly, the “Flee” tactic involves fleeing, but this shouldn’t just be random flight from threatening enemy units. We want intelligent flight, flight that sets our enemies up for their eventual destruction.

The best way to flee is to tempt your opponent into failed charges against Ellyrian Reavers or Great Eagles that bring his charging units into range of your melee units. The Reaver unit should present something of a threat (Bows). The Reaver unit moves toward the target enemy unit threatening to get on its flank unless the enemy charges. Melee units hold back, far enough away that they cannot be charged themselves but close enough so that they will be able to charge the enemy unit after a failed charge (and yes, this can be tricky with our slower melee units such as our elite infantry).

The enemy unit will have to charge the Reavers (if they don’t want to be charged themselves or expose a flank to the Reavers), and you will flee. This causes a failed charge by the enemy unit. The enemy unit will then move half their charge move towards the fleeing unit, putting them in front (hopefully with an exposed flank) your remaining combat troops. You charge on your next turn and clean them up. Piece of cake, right?

March Interdiction: Well, it’s not quite that easy if the enemy fields two or three nasty units (Knights or other good combat units) supporting each other. We need to outmaneuver and isolate our enemies in order to destroy them. We know that march interdiction goes a long way towards providing the High Elves with domination of the Maneuver phase by slowing down units that are targets of our “Stick and Flank” or “Flee” tactics. Sometimes, however, march interdiction is easier said than done. The High Elven army has three different units which can perform march interdiction, but each has drawbacks as well as advantages.

Great Eagles: Eagles are so good it’s almost a crime. They are the best march interdictors, they fly and have a small footprint, and can get pretty much anywhere they want. They cost only 50 points, cheapest option in the army list and have a unit strength of three. Their issue is that they are a rare choice and taking one, pushes out a Bolt Thrower, the best damage interdictor in the list. Unfortunately they are also the best re-direction unit and the best mage/war machine hunt unit. At least it’s an improvement over 6th Edition where they and the bolt throwers essentially eliminated Phoenix Guard from High Elf armies.

Shadow Warriors: At 16 points apiece, Shadow Warriors are the cheapest way to interdict marches. A unit of five runs one 80 points. As skirmishers they have flexibility in that they treat difficult terrain as normal with a 360 degree charge and shooting arc. Since they are infiltrators, they can deploy outside of your deployment zone as long as they are 10 inches from the enemy and outside their “true” line of sight (no “hiding in the grass” on the enemies flank). 7th edition rule now allow them to be march blocked which has hurt their effectiveness. While Shadow Warriors can be effective, the placement restrictions can be a serious problem, sometime forcing one to deploy them in your own deployment zone. If you were counting on them for march interdiction, this is a very bad thing.

Ellyrian Reavers: Reavers are decent march Interdictors. They are fast, with a march move of 18 inches, so they can get to within 8 inches of enemy units (and start interdicting) very quickly. No infiltration here, however; the Reavers must cross the battlefield to perform their mission. This can be difficult in the face of enemy shooters as with a 6+ armor save, they die like flies. Even though they are fast cavalry they are unable to march once they are within 8 inches of the enemy, and lose much flexibility. However the fast cavalry rules, with free turns and free reforms will keep the reavers out of the charge arc of an enemy unit. Equip them with bows and harass the unit all the while threating a flank or rear charge and you might tie up a superior unit the entire game. Bottom line however, the reaver shuld probably not be one’s first choice for march interdiction as they are more valuable as mage/war machine hunters.

Terrain from a High Elf Perspective

Terrain can be a very important part of High Elven maneuver, and is one of the primary ways by which we isolate enemy units. High Elf characters (on foot), White Lions, Shadow Warriors, and a unit carrying “Banner of Ellyrian” can move through the woods without penalty. These abilities should not be overlooked as the High Elf general creates his army list. High Elves can use Terrain as a screen, as a base, or as quicksand for enemy units.

Terrain as a Screen: Proper placement of terrain can force your enemy to split his forces. As we know, one of the main purposes of maneuver is to isolate enemy units so that we can overwhelm them. Terrain can provide an opportunity for the High Elf general to concentrate his forces on one group of enemy units while the other units are screened from the combat by their inability to move through difficult terrain.

Terrain as a Base: Nothing impairs enemy maneuver like a unit of White Lions lurking in the woods at the center of the table. The enemy is normally powerless to go in and root them out, or they risk becoming stuck in the quicksand that is difficult terrain. On the other hand, they can’t afford to let a unit of strength 6, always strike first, White Lions have free reign to flank charge them if they commit their units to other combats. The terrain will also protect the High Elven unit from nasty artillery and/or missile fire. A centrally placed wood in one’s deployment zone can provide an excellent placement for a Repeater Bolt Thrower battery

Terrain as Quicksand: Few things are better than getting an enemy stuck in difficult terrain, because it is SO hard for an inflexible unit to remove itself from the obstacle. Normally this occurs when an enemy unit charges one of your units occupying the difficult terrain. For obvious reasons, this strategy is most effective against frenzied units. Entangling an enemy unit in this way can provide great opportunities for flank or rear charging or, at the very least, take an opposing melee unit out of action for a turn or two while your army beats up on other units piecemeal.

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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