Chracian from the Ulthuan.net has posted a great write up on the strategy and tactics for using High Elves Ellyrian Reavers. They have lost a lot of love in this 7th edition. I hope with this tactics article we can bring them back into our game.
Ellyrian reavers are the fast cavalry of the HE army. As such, they have a very different role to play than silver helms or dragon princes, and I will try to outline how reavers can be used. This is intended for newcomers to either HE or WHFB, so please excuse me if I cover what may seem to others to be obvious ground. A lot of this advice can also be applied to DE dark riders.
First of all, reavers are fast cav. It is important that the rules concerning fast cav are understood in order to get the best out of this unit. I will not repeat the rules verbatim here (as we’re not allowed to, although I will refer to them) but direct readers to page 70 of the rulebook.
Roles that reavers can perform
Reavers are fast (obviously…). As their horses are unbarded, they can move very quickly indeed. Also, given the ability of fast cav to reform freely, they can move through narrow gaps left by terrain or even blocks of troops (move through in single file and then reform once through the gap). These things allow them to quickly get into a position within the enemy lines. Once there, they can perform many different tasks:
Units cannot march if an opponent’s unit is within 8”. If you can get reavers this close to an enemy unit, it prevents them from marching and thus slows them down. This is particularly useful against fast moving units, such as other cavalry.
Make sure that your reavers are not within the charge arc of the enemy units, unless you want them to be charged, which brings me on to the next thing…
Tempt an enemy unit to charge you by deliberately placing your reavers within charge range (or better still, just outside of the charge range) and within the charge arc of the unit. As reavers are lightly armoured, the enemy might well see them as an easy target and charge. Declare your charge reaction as flee. Given the high Ld of HE, it is likely that they will rally and so you are now in a good position to follow through in the next turn, as reavers can move after rallying.
This approach can be used to either tie up an enemy unit for a turn (or more, if they carry on following the reavers around, such as frenzied troops) or to lead an enemy unit into a position where they can be charged by your better armed and armoured units, such as dragon princes or swordmasters. Make sure, however, that your reavers are at least 6” from your other units – if they are (heaven forbid) destroyed, you don’t want them causing panic.
War machine/character hunting
Given the speed at which fast cav can move, it is not unreasonable that they could well approach a war machine quickly and dispose of its crew. This can be risky as war machines could well decimate a unit of reavers if you don’t get there first.
Alternatively, reavers can be used to hunt for that pesky wizard that hangs around the back of all the other units, making a nuisance of himself. Don’t forget that reavers can shoot after marching and have 360 degree line of sight, which helps enormously when using this approach.
Reavers are special choices and so the overall army composition needs to be taken into account, but assuming you have decided to include a unit, what should you include in the unit?
Size of unit and Command group
Reavers are usually put together as units of five. Fast cav don’t get any rank bonuses, so an extra rank won’t provide combat resolution and can’t take part in close combat. They are there to annoy enemy forces, not engage in close combat, so five is usually considered optimal.
A reaver champion (harbinger) has an additional +1 to his BS rather than +1 attack and so is more likely to hit with his longbow, if equipped. This is a personal decision but I don’t think the points spent on a harbinger are worth it.
A standard bearer will probably not be useful either. It is more likely (from what I have seen) that the standard will be a hindrance (100VP to the opponent if he captures it) rather than a help (+1 combat resolution). However, if you are using reavers as bait, a standard does make them more tempting.
A musician, on the other hand, is very useful, especially if the reavers are used as bait. The +1 Ld when rallying can be invaluable, and so overall I would recommend a unit of five reavers with a musician.
Equipping the unit
Reavers come equipped with a spear as standard. This can be swapped for a bow or the unit can have both spears and bows at extra cost. How you equip them is entirely down to how you want to use them. If you expect your reavers to get into close combat, take spears; if they are hunting take bows. Taking both is the best option, but of course there is the extra cost involved; personally, this is my favorite as it allows you to cover most options during the game and means your reavers can take on different roles.
Although eagles and shadow warriors can perform the same tasks as reavers, there are restrictions to them. Shadow warriors are expensive for what they do whereas eagles are a rare choice. Reavers are versatile and as long as you can guess distances well and use terrain to your advantage, a very useful addition to any HE army.