Friday, January 14, 2011

Culling the Warherd - Beastmen Reflections

So for the last few months I have been posting about my new Beastman army and saying how I feel the army should be run and throwing up lists full of theoryhammer awesomeness.  I've managed to almost sound like I know what I am talking about without having actually played the army against an opponent.  Massive props right??  I am happy, well not happy, but we'll use the term satisfied to say that I was completely wrong.  

The common mistake most gamers make when they make a new army is that they attempt to play it like they did their old one.  In some instances this isn't a big deal such as going from Space Marine army A to Space Marine army B.  However, in the realm of Fantasy this is a drastic mistake.  I have learned that in Fantasy every army is played differently, very differently.  While game mechanics stay the same the method in which units are used changes. Forgetting this very important detail can lead to massive incorrect theoryhammering and generally result in you getting your ass handed to you seven ways from sundown.  

You see there is a huge difference between knowing how to play against and army and actually playing an army. I've gotten to the point where I feel comfortable playing against any army using my Wood Elves and I can expect  a reasonable amount of success (sans completely sacking out on every single dice roll - die Neil die).  Assuming that you know how an army should work based on how you play them with your army generally will lead to some rather amusing mistakes when you attempt to play your new army for the first time.

I should have played a few smaller point games before collecting and assembling a 2000 point force - that type of thinking would have been rational and you know....intelligent.  However, in typical Sylvos fashion I decided I knew better and went full throttle.  We all know how well this always ends up ( the 5000 points of Eldar in my closet of which I only use 1500 points of should be an example).

Anyway - so I had the opportunity to cut my teeth with my Beastmen last night.  Once a month or so I go to a buddies house and hang out in his Warhammer Mancave.  It's rather impressive and I should bring a camera sometime to photograph it.  He's got 2 tables that are ready to play upon with room for a 3rd if need be and shelves upon shelves of various armies from different game systems.  Oddly enough, most of the guys I play with have a similar set up at their homes as well.  Anyway, his gaming group and I had yet to play or play against the Beastman army since the new book had come out and we were rather excited to see how it would work.  I ended up playing 4 games in 5 hours.  The first three games combined lasted an hour and a half.  

I'm going to pause the post right here and mention one important detail:
My list did not work at all.

I played primarily against a standard Warriors of Chaos list and also against an Empire army.  The issues that I was running into were:
1.  Lack of models for prolonged combat.
2.  Lack of capable shooting - this is very bad since this was one of the focal points of the list.
3.  Lack of understanding of how some units actually perform in close combat.

The first two games resulted in my army being decimated by turn 2 - either by massed combat or shooting.  The third game I began to get the hang of the army and lasted until turn 3.  I would post battle reports of these  fights but honestly, there was nothing spectacular to post.  It was Sylvos running up and dieing over and over again.  The fourth game I'll discuss later in the post since I actually won that game by a super slim margin.

Now let's go ahead and make one thing known - I had no expectation of winning my first few games with this army.  I did however expect to at least last longer than 2 turns.  I made the mistake of trying to play an army like it was something else.  You can not play a Beastman army as if it were Wood Elves.  It just will not work.  This was painfully obvious when I started to fail leadership tests and attempted to perform the same tactics I use with my Wood Elves.  I've never played a low leadership army before - Wood Elves 8-10, Eldar 8-10, and Black Templars 8-10.  Having the Beastmen be 5-8 was pretty brutal, even with a battle standard bearer.  Also having a lower initiative was something I definitely was not used to, my elves almost always are going first or at the same time as my opponent.  Going last was not something I was used to or had really thought about and that caused some issues.  

So after the first three games I sat down and had a few bites of pizza.  I asked the guys what they thought was the issue and what we could do to at least make the army feasible to play with.  Nick mentioned that it felt like I was playing with my Wood Elves and when he said that things began to click.  Aaron also mentioned that when his Empire guys were engaged in combat I did not have the bodies to really support the attacks I was trying to pull off - namely the Bestigors.  So we sat down, had a beer or two and I used his laptop to hammer out a new list which was totally different from my previously posted one.  I used a Beastlord as general, a Great Bray Shaman that was level 4 who used Lore of Shadows (huge difference btw I'll detail it later) and I used a Gorebull as the BSB.  I ditched the Cygor and all remnants of shooting and went for close combat devastation.  The 4th game against Warriors of Chaos resulted in the Beastmen winning by 103 VPs baby!

I'm going to take a few minutes to post some reflections on the experience on a per unit basis.  

Beastman Army Analysis.

1. Doombull - the Doombull performed absolutely amazingly in every game I used him.  The strength, toughness, movement and incredible amount of attacks he can dish out are something that I had known would be effective but actually seeing it in action was amazing.  Giving the Doombull an always strike first weapon ensured that he was going to perform to his full potential every combat.  Frenzy turned out to be both a bane and a boon since I was able to get more attacks but in 2 of the 3 games I ended up being led around by my opponent until I could pass a leadership test.  The success of the Doombull lead me to use a Gorebull as the Battle Standard Bearer in my 4th game and honestly, the results were very similar. 

2. Gorebull - the Gorebull is the hero version of the Doombull and at first glance he looks like a glorified Bloodkine.  The Gorebull however is an excellent candidate for the Battle Standard Bearer position.  While he isn't as God of War brutal as the Doombull, he definitely can perform as a wrecking ball.

3.  Minotaurs - when I first put this unit down on paper I thought to myself - "these look awesome and should dish out a truckton of damage!".  I was right!  Give them a Doombull or a Gorebull and you have a mobile wrecking ball of destruction.  This unit performed successfully in every game last night.  At first glance you ask "Why are they using shields and not extra hand weapons? They don't get a parry save cause of Frenzy".  You are correct they do not get the parry save but the 1 point of armor they do get gave them the longevity I was hoping.  Why the 2 ranks?  The frenzy and bloodgreed abilities are amazing and being limited to 3 attacks from the back does suck but having that extra rank there made the difference in all 4 games and it will be the standard method in which I will deploy them moving forward.  Minotaurs have proven to be my favorite unit in the entire Beastman army.  

4. Primal Fury - this ability is amazing.  Having a free chance at Hatred every round of combat is absolutely nothing to sneeze at.  I know I count on the ability to reroll close combat attack heavily with my Black Templars and so I really, really like this ability for the Beastmen.

5. Bestigors - they are amazing.  They have a 5+ armor save and hit (generally with rerolls) a ton.  The fact that they will be strength 6 when they wound is awesome.  However, fielding 15 is not enough you need at least 4 ranks of 5 for them to have the survivability and be able to endure prolonged combat.  These guys are definitely a flank charge unit since they can devastate anything they touch.  I used them very successfully in game 4 with my minotaurs and managed to obliterate a unit of 25 Warriors of Chaos in a single round (granted the general and bsb and minotaurs were also there but that's still a big feat).

6. Bray Shaman and Great Bray Shamans - my level 2 was suffering in every game.  I think I managed to get 1 spell off the entire time.  The Great Bray Shaman however was much more effective and I was able to get most of my spells to go off in game 4.  I would also like to point out that while Lore of Beasts is amazing for Beastmen, Lore of Shadows is utterly amazing period.  I switched to Shadows in game 4 and the debuffing that you can perform upon your opponents army is game changing.  The GBS is also no slouch in close combat, the ward save I gave him allowed him to kill quite a few models. Lore of Shadows can also affect Initiative - this was a serious game changer for the initiative 3 Beastmen.  HUGE.

7. Gors and Ambush - Ambush is awesome.  I will be making heavy use of it in my future games.  Gors however, need to have ranks to survive in close combat. I had thought of using the 6x4 method which is fine but I found the 5x5 deployment also works very well.  Unless you are rear charging a unit, you need to have at least 24 Gors, 30 preferably but 24 is the bare minimum unless you are Ambushing with them.  They also really, really need to be in range of the General. Their low leadership hurts especially in Panic tests.

8. Ungor Raiders - I won't be using these in the future.  In 3 games they scored 1 wound and really they were just wasted points.  I don't need shooting nor a free panic test that they cause when my opponent kills them too close to my other units.  They can still be good, of this I have no doubt but for me I will be hesitant to add them in the future.

9. Cygor - man, I really really wanted this guy to be awesome in my games.  He just wasn't.  I think you really should only field one of these in 2500+ games where you have a target rich environment.  Due to the fact that you want to get your army into close combat as soon as possible, you kind of cut down on who he can lob rocks on and even then he is an expensive stone thrower.

10.  Harpies - these girls were awesome.  Scout enabled me to get 1st turn charges on warmachines.  If I had the points I'd field more than 5.  

11.  Beastlord - I ended up using a Beastlord in my 4th game because I desperately needed the leadership 9. While no where near as destructive as the Doombull, he is still no slouch when it comes to carnage.  Twice he managed to score 7 attacks in CC which is pretty awesome imho.  

12. The Hunting Spear - this 50 point magic item killed 1 model in 3 games.  The BS of 3 in the Beastmen army really makes it difficult to justify the 50 points for the Bolt thrower.  It's not bad but I just didn't get my points back on it in any of the games I used it in.

So there is a brief analysis of my experience so far with these units.  I will be hopefully getting a few more games in in the next few weeks and will being to actually paint the army soon as well =).

The changes I made to my gameplay and army list were pretty simple in game 4.  I boosted my leadership and magic performance while abandoning shooting.  I increased unit sizes in some of the important units and made some changes to the command structure.  I kept most of the units together and was able to pull off multi-unit charges and the Leadership 9 bubble was such a huge difference.  I could not believe that 1 point made that much of a difference in the performance.  Also, instead of trying to finesse my way around the bigger units for flank charges, I just flat out hammered into them with the Bestigors and Minotaurs and let the Gors flank.  It worked out so much better.  Anyway, I'll do a battle report next game I have with them and we'll see how this army works out!

Oh here is the list I used in game 4:
2000 Pts - Beastmen Roster

Beastlord (1#, 215 pts)
1 Beastlord, 215 pts (General; Primal Fury; Hand Weapon)
1 The Steel-Claws
1 Armour of Fortune

Great Bray-Shaman (1#, 269 pts)
1 Great Bray-Shaman, 269 pts (Primal Fury; Level 4 Upgrade; Hand Weapon; Extra Hand Weapon; Extra Attack)
1 Talisman of Endurance

Gorebull (1#, 247 pts)
1 Gorebull (Battle Standard Bearer), 247 pts (Hand Weapon; Heavy Armour; Shield; Battle Standard Bearer; Causes Fear; Frenzy)
1 Sword of Swift Slaying
1 Uncanny Senses
1 Gnarled Hide

Bestigor Herd (19#, 268 pts)
18 Bestigor Herd, 268 pts (Always Strikes Last; Primal Fury; Musician Mus; Standard Bearer Std; Great Weapon; Heavy Armour)
1 Gouge-Horn (Always Strikes Last; Hand Weapon; Great Weapon; Heavy Armour)
1 Banner of Eternal Flame

Harpies (5#, 70 pts)
5 Harpies, 70 pts (Flyer; Scouts)

Minotaurs (5#, 325 pts)
5 Minotaurs, 325 pts (Musician Mus; Standard Bearer Std; Hand Weapon; Light Armour; Shield; Stomp)

Gor Herd (24#, 217 pts)
23 Gor Herd, 217 pts (Ambush; Primal Fury; Musician Mus; Standard Bearer Std; Hand Weapon; Extra Hand Weapon; Extra Attack)
1 Foe-Render (Hand Weapon; Extra Hand Weapon; Extra Attack)

Gor Herd (25#, 225 pts)
24 Gor Herd, 225 pts (Ambush; Primal Fury; Musician Mus; Standard Bearer Std; Hand Weapon; Extra Hand Weapon; Extra Attack)
1 Foe-Render (Hand Weapon; Extra Hand Weapon; Extra Attack)

Gor Herd (20#, 160 pts)
20 Gor Herd, 160 pts (Ambush; Primal Fury; Hand Weapon; Extra Hand Weapon; Extra Attack)

Composition Report:
Points of Lords: 484 (0 - 500)
Points of Heroes: 247 (0 - 500)
Points of Core: 602 (500 - Unlimited)
Points of Special: 663 (0 - 1000)
Points of Rare: 0 (0 - 500)

Total Roster Cost: 1996