This is the beginning of a series of articles I will be posting on how I use the units in armies I create and play. This is not however the best way to use the units since my playstyle will invariably be different from yours. The purpose of these articles is to grant the reader a different perspective on how units are used and hopefully expand that person's playstyle. Example - I always thought Glade Guard Scouts were absolutely useless since they lost their str4 longbows and were overcosted. I did not realize however that they make a perfect unit for housing a character that needs to be near the enemy. It's examples like that which pushed me to write out these articles to hopefully broaden other's playstyles and with other's comments expand my own. So, without further ado, I present the Waywatcher Tactica.
The Forest Stalkers of Athel Loren, the Waywatchers
The silent sentinels of Athel Loren, the Waywatchers. My personal favorite unit of the entire Wood Elf Army and the very reason I chose to get into Fantasy in the first place. Many people underestimate the sheer brutality that Waywatchers bring to the table. They see them as overpriced archers that don't really do anything but score a lucky hit every so often and generally just serve as a speed bump. This perception makes me very sad. The Waywatcher selection is perhaps the best thing in the Wood Elf army book. They encompass the very spirit and feel of the Wood Elves. I will explain the reasoning behind this shortly.
1. Skirmishers - Waywatchers are skirmishers which mean that they are -1 to hit by default by missile weapons and are stubborn in forests. They can also march and fire.
2. Wood Elf Archery - being skirmishers the waywatchers now have a 25" range on their Lethal Shot ability because you can march 10" and have 15" for short range WITHOUT penalty. Meaning you generally need 2's to hit.
3. Lethal Shot - Killing Blow at ranged is absolutely brutal. Every army has a form of heavy infantry or heavy cavalry in some fashion. Chaos has Knights, Warriors, and Chosen. Lizardmen have Saurus Warriors and Cavalry. High Elves and Dark Elves have heavy cavalry and the entire Brettonian army is practically Heavy Cav. Almost every army has the ability to get a 3-4+ save in some fashion with the exception of the Wood Elves. Lethal Shot nullifies this advantage and brings the lack of heavy army into balance.
4. Forest Stalkers - Waywatchers are sneaky and are granted an additional -1 to being hit at ranged. This means they have a constant -2 to being hit and if they are in good cover that turns into a -4 to hit, -5 if they are at long range of the enemy (which normally means 12" which means they are still in short range for Lethal Shot).
5. Two hand weapons - in close combat they are hitting at WS4, Init 5 and have 2 attacks. Not to shabby.
6. Scouts - they are able to be deployed 12" as scouts - huge advantage. This allows you to almost always put yourself in range of your opponents heavy cavalry or prize unit.
1. 24 points each - rather expensive for a model with a T3 and no armor at all.
2. Vulnerable to magic missiles and warmachines - magic missiles can annihilate a unit of Waywatchers
3. No armor - the Waywatchers lack armor and as a result generally fold in prolonged combats.
4. Same selection slots as Treeman and Great Eagles.
5. Difficult to use properly, this unit is an absolute finesse unit and it has to be used correctly otherwise it will fold quickly.
6. Small units not feasible. In order to be effective the minimum number of Waywatchers to be fielded in a unit needs to be at least 8. You need those dice rolls to pop those sixes.
How to use the Waywatchers:
I use my Waywatcher unit to be my alpha strike in games. They are my skeleton key for dealing with my opponents heavily armored units that my Glade Guard and other units would have trouble with. I will position them on the board where I can move and be within 15" of that unit turn 1 and unleash a barrage of lethal shot fire into that unit. This allows me to accomplish 3 things.
1. Hopefully I can kill or cause a panic test in the unit I attack and that will remove them from at least 1 round of effectiveness.
2. Cause panic tests for the army - even if I can cause 1 unit to flee that means that the Waywatchers did their job - this grants me an additional turn to deal with the fleeing units and allows me to focus fire on remaining ones.
3. Shift of focus from other units in my army - the sudden hammering of a prized unit will normally cause your opponent to shift focus to your Waywatchers and away from the other units in your army granting you the ability to pick your own battles.
The Waywatcher's also can provide you with some march blocking which sadly in 8th isn't that effective but when you can get it off it is worth it. After I have managed to deal with the heaviest armor unit or the prized unit in my opponents army, I will then use the Waywatchers to hunt lone characters, wizards or warmachines. Remember, if Lethal shot goes off on a character, the character dies regardless of how many wounds it has.
You also have to be intelligent about where you move your Waywatchers, remember they generally will fold in close combat if attacked by a large unit. You always want to move them out of the charge line of sight arc of your opponent and you have to be very, very careful about what units you will Stand and Shoot against.
30 infantry - flee
6 chaos knights - stand and shoot
10 heavy cavalry - generally stand and shoot
hellcannon - you better already have your flee dice ready to throw.
Methods of configuring Waywatchers:
1. Without a character - If I am playing a lower point game, I will field my Waywatchers in a unit of 10 and have them perform the way they always do. The lack of a character will also allow me to use them a bit more recklessly since I don't have to worry about protecting anything.
2. With a noble - When fielding the Waywatchers with a Noble, I will make the Noble a Waywatcher or Scout kindred and give them the Hail of Doom Arrow. This configuration can absolutely obliterate a unit on turn 1.
3. With a Highborn - This is my standard configuration. I field 10 Waywatchers with my General. The General will be a Waywatcher or Scout Kindred and be equipped with the Bow of Athel Loren and Arcane Bodkins. The unit suddenly becomes a huge worry for your opponent. You have 5 shots that can remove 5 heavily armored models on 5's usually and an additional 10 shots that could do the same thing. The other advantage of having a LD10 model in the unit is that you can march your big units forward and hopefully stay in the 12" bubble of his leadership. I will also use this unit as the tip of the spear when attacking my opponent. I send the Waywatchers in to soften up the most troublesome unit and allow the other units to strike at them.
In closing, I use the Waywatchers as a primary strike force in my army. They function as a distraction, disruption and finally a frustration to my opponent while earning their point value usually 2-3x over in a game.
You have to keep in mind however, that is how my playstyle works. The Wood elf army is a fast and mobile army that strikes at their opponent at range to soften them up before charging in with their monstrous forest spirits. They have on several occasions killed an entire unit of heavy cavalry, the general and another important unit in my games. They are very effective if used properly.
From the Roleplaying standpoint - the Waywatchers are your quintessential Wood Elf unit. They are Rangers, forest stalkers, hidden assassins that terrorize enemies of the forest. They are your silent killers and the very reason Athel Loren does not have many invaders...