Wednesday, 29 May 2013

High Elves review part I: Core

So yes, it has been a while since I got a post out (a fact I am deeply ashamed of) and so I shall begin to redeem myself.

It's been about a month since the new High Elves came out and I think it's about time to start posting my review. I'm going to start with the core units as they are the foundation on which we'll be building lists. Also, it's the section that I think has undergone the most interesting changes.

So, without further ado, let's cut to the core of the matter.

I couldn't resist, sorry

I'll start with a quick, generic point about each entry. A recurring change throughout the core choices is that the Command Squad upgrades have all been standardised to 10pts each. Mostly that means musicians have gone up in price and standard bearers and champions have come down (or stayed the same). I'm in favour of this. Musicians have definitely become more useful this edition and all the members are as useful as each other, just in different ways so I think this is a good idea. You probably won't need, say, a champion as much as a musician in some units (Ellyrian Reavers being a good example) but for what they bring to the party, 10pts is a good spend.

Anyway, with that done, onto the specific units:


Good artwork, except the guy with the sword...
there's just something not quite right there...

Well starting with the first choice in the list we also begin with the one that's changed the least. Their price is exactly the same as it was, with an increase to the musician upgrade bring all the command members to a nice round 10pts, and so is their use really. At 9pts each they're actually pretty well priced to form decent sized units. This is good because you can fight with 4 ranks at all times due to spears and Martial Prowess so deep is good to make the most of this. They're hitting first with a lot of attacks but with a 6+ save (5+ to range because of shields, they can't use them in combat because of their spears) they can melt quite fast. A nice, solid unit to form a battle line around though and they won't break the bank (for High Elves anyway).

I'll point out though, that spears don't grant you an extra rank of attacks when you charge. This opens up the choice of whether to charge for the +1 combat res, or stand to take the charge and gain another 5 attacks (or more, depending on how wide your unit is ranked). It is a 2 way combat res swing, because if you don't get it, your opponent does, against the chance to roll extra dice. Normally, I'd take the charge on the chin for the extra attacks and the chance to pull an enemy into a better position for a flank charge (angle your unit slightly to twist the enemy around, I'll cover things like this in later articles) but there may be instances when it's better to get that +1 resolution, for example against heavy cavalry, this denies them their lance bonus (if they have one) and that +1 will be important as your S3 is unlikely to do many wounds past a 2+/1+ armour save. Every little helps.

Worthy of note is their ability to take a magic standard of up to 25pts (only one unit can do this however). With the loss of First Among Equals they are the only unit with this possibility and it can give you some nice bonuses with the standards from the common magic items:

Banner of Swiftness: +1M. Probably not worth it, fun as M6 elves would be, spearmen an anchor for your battle line you need them to stay with everything else for support, not run off on their own. There are better options available.

Lichebone Pennant: MR1. That's a 6+ ward save against magic. Good considering you can now boost it with High Magic by casting spells on the spearmen. Kind of situational, but cheap and effective for 15pts. A pretty good choice.

Standard of Discipline: +1 LD but can't use the general's Inspiring Presence. Not bad, considering you could put the general in that unit and still benefit from it, but you have a natural LD8 so generally I think you wouldn't need it.

Banner of Eternal Flame: I'm a big fan of this banner. Flaming attacks are very good for knocking out regen and fighting off beasts. All for only 10pts. However, look out for the increasing number of special saves against fire attacks (Dragon Princes being a nightmare unit example from our own army book), as it could seriously reduce your damage output, considering spearmen need to kill before being killed this could be bad. Still, it's one of my top choices.

Gleaming Pennant: One use LD reroll. Good for holding the line. Particularly when you roll break tests as badly as I do. 5pts well spent.

Scarecrow Banner: Cause fear to fliers. I've never needed this I'm afraid. Fear is ok and the banner's only 5pts, but it's highly situational and if you are against a powerful flying force, is fear really going to make that much difference? Potentially, but I can't really see it happening.

So overall a solid choice for large(-ish) units. Beware of their damage output because S3 attacks only go so far, they'll need help if they hit anything above average in combat.


Prepare to fight in the shade boys
Now, the humble archer has always been a staple of my lists. I moved into a tactic of using a couple of naked 10-man units to act as chaff removal and extra drops at deployment and they have excelled at this role. They are relatively cheap, can put out a fair amount of accurate firepower (not great but it can worry/remove enemy chaff) and at a push they can be thrown into the path of enemy units to direct them away from anything important without losing too important a part of my army. Not very 'High-Elf-y' I know but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Now, they have only improved at this role due to their points decrease (10pts each now, so only 100pts for a 10-man unit). I should add here that I don't like to buy them light armour. I guess it could help, but for small units they're not going to be saving an awful lot (even when they're allowed to role for it) and they also aren't units I've ever really wanted to keep alive. Cheap and cheerful.

The new look for Archers, however, comes from their gaining Martial Prowess. This means they can fire in 3 ranks all the time. Even better than before. This opens up new considerations, do you up the unit size to 15 to make the most of this (and gain a rank for combat res)? Currently, I'm leaning to no. The main joy of the archers was their cheap price and 'expendability' (compared to other high elf units) and I don't think putting more points in to a T3 6+ save unit (if you shell out for armour) is going to help as they will still melt to a strong breeze. The stronger firepower is good though as bows can just patter off most things ineffectually but for starters I'm sticking to a couple of small units to sit on each flank. It's definitely a consideration though, even if just as a mage bunker with more bite than before.

Lothern Sea Guard

Yeah. They mean business.

Ah the humble Sea Guard. The Jack of all trades of the Core section. They fight like spearmen and they shoot like archers (minus 6" of range because they have bows not longbows, and the +1 BS for the champion), what's not to love?

Well, they've also gone down by a point this edition, which is great, so they're 12pts each now (13 with shields). I should note, that because they shoot pretty well, the shield upgrade may be worth it more with these guys than with spearmen as they become a threat earlier on  in the game, and so will attract more enemy missile fire. A 5+ save is much better than a 6+ and you can't afford to take too many casualties as you are going to need that rank bonus for when you want them to start fighting in combat.

Apart from this, they are very similar to spearmen, just with a little extra versatility. Generally, I approve of these guys and it's well worth noting that with Martial Prowess, they can now shoot in 3 ranks as standard now as well. As you want ranked up units to benefit from combat res and spears, this is very good news, 15 shots from a normally ranked unit before volley fire is pretty good. The only further point on this topic is their ability to stand and fire when taking a charge, and then fight with their extra rank. This is similar to the spearman charge of be charged conundrum, but if the enemy are far enough away to allow you to stand and shoot then I'd say it's even more mud to throw at the wall, some of your S3 attacks (bows and spears) are going to make an impression.

They have lost the ability to take a magic banner however. I mention this now because one of my favourite tactics was sticking the Banner of Eternal Flame on them to allow them to strip regen both with shooting and in combat. To do this now, you would have to assign the BSB to sit with them to grant this. That's not terrible, they'll be pretty central to the battle line to act as an 'anvil' (if you can say any elf units are anvils) but there are probably better uses of a BSB.

I'd say they are a solid unit and will certainly still have a place in my lists (as I don't horde up much I will usually pick these over spearmen. For price, the spearmen are better for a horde) as versatility in an elf list is always good. They can plug many gaps in a list.

Silver Helms

Old box art, same miniatures. Maybe our core models will get
an update someday. Who knows?
This is the first of the new additions to our core units. Well, last edition these boys were relegated to Special status but they have now returned to their rightful place as a core choice. Reclaiming their heritage as you might say.

First off, these guys haven't actually changed at all. Well, they've (re)gained ithilmar barding so their horses are no longer slowed by their barding (making them a M9 unit, rather than M8). They're a bit faster than before. Silver Helms were in a fairly good place however, for cavalry. They're cheaper than Dragon Princes, so if you wanted a cavalry bodyguard for a Prince, or just have a large cavalry unit and didn't want to shell out a huge amount they're a good choice (as they still have access to a 2+ save, very impressive for elves). Of course, they suffer the same problems all cavalry do in that against ranked up units they're chances of breaking them on the charge are low unless you've invested a lot into the unit and after that your chances just drop heavily.

They are one of the options in core that would allow you to take a purely mounted army which could be a fairly competitive choice as there are a fair amount of options available for that kind of list. Personally, I wouldn't run it unless I'm looking for a challenge. As I mentioned above, cavalry have limitations this issue and work best in conjunction with other units, either flank charging, or providing the kills to accompany the static combat resolution of an infantry unit (eg spearmen). Silver Helms are still good as a budget choice for Dragon Princes, or if your Specials points are going on other units and you still want heavy cavalry.

My Final point on Silver Helms is again Martial Prowess. This means they can have 3 ranks of riders (not steeds) fighting. If you're running a unit that big, it's a very good bonus to damage output. Of course, if you're running a small support unit, this rule is unlikely to come into play.

Ellyrian Reavers

'I knew we were in the starter set for a reason'

Now we get the real newcomers. As far as I'm aware, these guys have never been core choices, but I'm all in favour of it. We don't always need new units to liven up a force organisation slot, just a new option to play with.

Before the new book dropped, I was becoming a big fan of Reavers. I used to run one small, 5-man unit with spears, bows and a musician. The idea was they flitted around firing arrows at enemy chaff and charging in to deal with war machines or small, none combat units with their S4 (usually) rerollable attacks. One of their benefits however, is charge re-directing and being a general nuisance. They can get to annoying positions in front of big enemy units quite easily (M9 fast cavalry are almost as good as our friend the eagle, trust me) and even have an increased ability to act if they manage to flee from the enemy's charge. I won't go into too much detail as fast cavalry ought to be discussed in relation to 8th ed. in an entire article (there's a lot to say) but regardless they are a big nuisance to the enemy.

Their changes, they also became 1 point cheaper (I'm not going to complain about this) and so did their weapon upgrades. Whilst 19pts for a bow and spear Reaver is pretty good, I think I would lean towards dropping the spears. The amount of times I've used the spear bonus is quite low as mostly they choose not to charge and sit in front of units as redirectors. Also, if they're charging warmachines, they don't usually need the spears as most of the time crews are quite weak in comparison (this is excluding the obvious exceptions cough-ironblaster-cough). 17pts for a reaver with a bow is a price I'll gladly pay. Particularly when it goes towards my compulsory core choices. I should again point out that Reavers also let you make a pure cavalry army. I've already said why I'm not a big fan of this kind of army, but Reavers would be important for it, drawing units out of position to be hit hard in the flank by the heavy cavalry. This army concept can work well, I don't have any experience with it however, so maybe it's something I'll look at later. I would say that a couple of 5-man Reaver units would be a good choice for general support. They won't really contribute to the killing much though, so unless you want to play the wood elf game of running circles around the enemy whilst trying to pincushion them (however you probably won't do it as well as wood elves remember) don't invest too heavily here, save it for a few heavy hitting cavalry units.

Unit size, I'd still find it hard to recommend anything bigger than a 5-man squad. They're not going to be doing much damage, even in large units and 5 are much easier to manoeuvre into awkward positions. Don't forget your musician though, swift reform and +1 to rally are both bonuses that will greatly help fast cavalry, they are two of the main things they'll be doing after all. The other two command members are ok...I wouldn't support putting a standard bearer in your unit, they will be lost too easily and won't really add anything and while a champion will help you shoot a little better damage output is not this unit's main purpose so it's not the best use of those 10pts.


He's clearly thinking there's a lot more here than he expected...
I know I am.

So that covers the core choices now available to us in this new book. As I compiled this review I did notice that it's opening up more questions. How viable is a cavalry army? Are Seaguard actually worth that extra bit over Spearmen? etc etc...

This is a good sign for a book. I haven't rated the units, because they would all get good ratings, with regards to their purpose. The only differences I could make would be ones regarding my play style, and how the units fit into that. That would be completely subjective and I can't really say Silver Helms, for example, are bad just because I don't use them (this is in part because mine are very old and pretty smashed up. Some serious work needs to go into repairing them, then I might actually thing about using them...). As I said, this is a sign of a book with multiple options, where each player can find something good to fit them. Hopefully this will be a continuing theme throughout.

Shall I say it?

So far Matt Ward, good job.

Next I think I'll move onto the generic Lord Choices, perhaps with the heroes as well if I have enough space. This article did become pretty huge, so we'll see.

Until then folks!

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