Wednesday, 19 June 2013

High Elves review part II: Lords

Now I finally move on to the second part of my High Elf review. The Lords section has become very interesting with the addition of competition to the almost obligatory Archmage of the last book. The magic items and High Magic are topics too big for me to discuss here so I'll cover them later. For now, I'll look into the Lords themselves and how they stand in comparison to each other.

Let's get on with it, starting with the classic choice:

Who's superfluous now!
I start with that statement mainly because the poor old Prince was usually overlooked in the last book in favour of the ever-popular Archmage. Now, the question to address is has this fact changed in the new book.

Looking at it now, I'll say no. At least, probably not because people who weren't taking him before are unlikely to start doing so now. Don't get me wrong, the Prince is an amazing beat-stick and he's only improved this edition due to a drop in price for him and most of his upgrades. He also has a lot more customisation, in particular a lot of his mounts can take upgrades making Griffons (hello Island of Blood Prince, you may be finally getting some use) and Eagles in particular more tempting. Fans of White Lions will also be excited to sea the Lion Cloak making it onto his equipment list adding a fairly impressive defence against ranged attacks for a cheap cost, however this is likely to help him most if you're running him outside of a unit, which is nice to help out against the vulnerability of monster riding characters. All in all, he's a very solid choice.

Of course, the Prince is mostly a one trick pony. He kills stuff, and he kills stuff well but that's about it. He brings a nice LD 10 inspiring presence but if you're looking to strengthen your units' staying power an Anointed is probably your best bet for reasons I'll go into later. Although, this is the only LD10 bubble you can get from the bog standard Lords, so he is the most solid battle line holder available (a good candidate for the Stubborn Helm or to be put in a White Lion unit). Another route to go down is sticking him on a big monster and boosting his killing power even more but they still suffer from the vulnerability to Cannons and the like. S10 Multiple Wounds d6 will dissolve most mounts fairly quickly if you're not careful. The reduce in cost of almost everything makes this build better than it was in the last book, but still vulnerable to the same things to a similar extent.

Overall the Prince is good for sticking in units or on monsters to kill stuff, if this is what you want he'll do very  well, he just won't bring much to your army outside of that.

Rating: 7/10 (What he does, he does well)

Turtle-necks are all the rage on Ulthuan
Ah, now for everyone's favourite, the Archmage. This man was a staple of most Elf armies before. There is very little bad you can say for a Lvl 4 wizard, particularly when you look how much the Lore of Shadow benefits and elf force. This has been covered a lot before and I will look into magic in particular later in the series but let's see if the Archmage has improved over his old version, or not.

So, once again we see a much appreciated drop in points. This time an impressive 40pts below his previous incarnation meaning you can get yourself a Lvl 4 Wizard for less points than a Lvl 3 in the last book. This impacts negatively on the Prince more than anything as he's changed in the same way, only to a greater extent. He's also gained slightly more options in the customisation of his mounts, but he doesn't have as many options as the Prince (understandably for a Mage). Also, the Book of Hoeth is nowhere near as deadly as it was. It's a great item still, but it won't make the Archmage the unstoppable caster he was. It is worth pointing out that with Lileath's Blessing, he now gets +1 to cast whatever, instead of the +1 to dispel we had before. This reduces his dispel to the not inconsiderable +4 but buffs his cast to +5. This is a slight change in direction for the Mages, defence to offence, but I guess the best defence always was a good offence. Don't forget this little rule, it's mightily handy.

So on the whole, he's not as devastating as he was before, but he's still the beautiful, flexible army supporter he was before. Dropping buffs to the army to make everything better means he can affect more of the battlefield than the Prince. I should also mention that High Magic has had a very interesting change (I would say improvement but it's still being debated) that I will look into in a further article.

Rating 9/10 (only below 10 because we can now get good casters elsewhere, he's not the only option)

Anointed of Asuryan
Needs more gold methinks
Our first newcomer to the Lord Section and one that I'm very happy to see. I've always loved the Phoenix Guard most out of all our Special Regiments (the only exception being perhaps Shadow Warriors) and now we can have an army led by a silent Guardian resplendent in gold armour. It's just an image that appeals to me.

So does he bring anything useful to the table? Well, stat-wise he's 70pts more than a Prince, has 1 less attack, LD and BS. Not great...? However, he's here for more than just combat ability.

First off he comes with Heavy Armour and a Halberd standard, fairly good equipment. This gives him a decent save and S5 attacks (impressive for an elf). But the best is in his rules. He has the standard Phoenix Guard 4+ Ward save (making him amazingly durable for an elf), and fear, for a little more of a buff. When it works it's pretty nifty, not game-breaking, but handy.

But, he also confers his unit with a Magic Resistance (2), a 6+ Ward and the Immune to Psychology Rule. So against spells, that's a 4+ save to the whole unit. Wow. They also need not worry about panicking and running from anything but being broken in combat. Ironically, this means he works best in a unit of White Lions. He gets Stubborn from them, they have a 3+ armour against non-magical shooting, a 4+ against magical shooting and are immune to Psychology. This creates a very hard to shift unit, particularly for elves. He could of course join a unit of Phoenix Guard to give them a 2+ ward against magic and 4+ against everything else, but you'd probably still want a stubborn crown as LD9 can still need a helping hand to stop them getting run down .

Another way of using this guy is to stick him on a Phoenix and use him in a way similar to a Monster Prince. The Phoenix is slightly better than other mounts because it comes stock with a ward save to try to help against cannons, but other than that it is slightly more squishy than, say, a dragon. Though the Frostheart Phoenix has more tactical flexibility (everyone loves handing out ASL to enemies), it's worth considering the Flamespyre more as a mount, as in this use it can come back to life on a 5+, drops its burning template on a 2+ and only finally dies if you roll a 1. No-one likes their enemy's big monster coming back to life, it means they can remain a threat all game.

All in all I'm very impressed with this new addition. He's not quite as killy as a Prince though, and not quite as  good at supporting friendly units as an Archmage and he is a fair amount more expensive...but he can bring things to the table that other choices just can't. And if combined with some High Magic, his unit's 6+ ward can get considerably boosted (+1 ward for each buff cast on them...). He's a good contender for Lords.

Rating 8/10 (a good all-rounder)

Loremaster of Hoeth
Badass...who has stabbed himself in the leg.
So last but in no means least we have a very interesting option. Basically, he's what you get if you cross a Swordmaster with a Mage, and then some. If I said the Anointed was an all-rounder, this guy is twice that.

So what does he do? Well, for 230pts (our most expensive base cost Lord) you get a Noble with less BS and and extra wound, a great weapon, heavy armour, and Lvl 2 spell casting ability.

That's right, he's a Mage who wears armour. Not only that, but he doesn't generate spells normally, he knows all of the signature spells from the basic lores of magic instead of picking a lore and rolling. This gives him 3 magic missiles, 1 direct damage spell, 2 hexes and 2 augments. That's 8 spells in a combination that means he'll almost always be able to cast, no getting stuck in combat and only having magic missiles for this guy. You can tool him out with a 2+ save, some killy weapons (though I think the Great weapon for S6 attacks should do him nicely) and take the casting as a bonus.

The one point I think needs to be made is he's only a Lvl 2. So he has a large amount of spells but only a +2 to cast and dispel. No Lileath's Blessing to beef that up to a +3. For this reason he's not all that difficult to stop for high level enemy wizards, and one failed cast and you lose your chance to cast all your spells. However, as they're signature spells, they usually have a low casting value anyway (unless you're boosting them for some reason) so you can drain your opponent's dispel pool on spells you don't really need before powering through the one you do without needing a second caster to support you too much. The book of Hoeth is a very good idea for this guy as rerolling a single casting or dispel die per attempt will help secure his unlucky rolls and let you throw a lot of spells at the enemy (and try to compensate for his relatively low dispel boost). He will only be average at dispelling due to it just being +2 (against an Archmage's +4 ), this will make a difference, so the book of Hoeth is a good friend here.

The Loremaster is the king of generalists, a joy for elf armies. He's not overshadowing the other choices because he is a jack of all trades and a master of none. For casting, an Archmage is still better, and for fighting he's not better than a Prince. He's also pretty expensive but I think a very good choice for support. Drop a 2+ save and the Book of Hoeth on him and let him go.

Rating: 9/10 (a strong competitor for the Archmage)

That finishes my look at the generic lords of the High Elves. The Archmage and Loremaster are probably the strongest choices, but they aren't that much better than the other two, meaning that they can all be used to great effect. Another good sign for the army book as it's presenting a lot of different choices, all of which are effective.

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