Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Preferred Enemies - Black Orcs

Preferred Enemies - Black Orcs

This installment of the Preferred Enemies will deal with the Special choice for the Orcs and Goblins army, the Black Orcs.  The Black Orcs, the slave race to the Chaos Dwarfs in ages past now the elite shock troops of the Orcs and Goblin army.  The unit possesses excellent stats, armor, weapons and abilities that mark them a step above the rest of the units in the Orcs and Goblins army.   The Black Orcs are a difficult enemy to break and even more difficult to engage with normal Wood Elf shenanigans. 

The Black Orc Special unit provides the Orcs and Goblins army with a very tough anvil for its opponent to smash against while also serving as an absolutely brutal hammer that can cut through anything when they need to.  This is an extremely versatile unit that provides any Orcs and Goblins general with a lot of battlefield flexibility and tactical advantage.  This type of flexibility makes it difficult for a Wood Elf general to properly engage this type of unit since it is able to change its designation and function on the fly.              

First and foremost here is the stat line and special abilities of a Black Orc:
Movement:           4
Weapon Skill:       4
Ballistic Skill:         3             
Strength:               4
Toughness:            4
Wounds:                1
Initiative:               2
Attacks:                  1
Leadership:           8
Equipment:  Hand Weapon, Heavy Armor
Special Rules: Immune to Psychology, Armed to da Teef, Choppas

Black Orcs are all Immune to Psychology and Leadership 8 which means that the advantages that Wood Elves normally have on opponents such as Fear and Terror causing units, ability to cause Panic tests at range and march blocking using fliers is less effective due to their high leadership.  Not many Wood Elf players realize that one of the chief tactics that still proves to be one of the most effective methods is disruption and confusion.  Causing Panic tests outside close combat is very useful, especially if you are being set up for a multi-charge in another round.  Having units that are immune to psychology means that they won’t flee when another unit flees through them, nor will the have their Weapon Skill reduced to 1 for having to fail a Fear test.  This special rule however does provide canny Wood Elf generals with another tactical option which will be discussed later.

The Choppas rule is absolutely brutal to any army that has to deal with Orcs in hand to hand combat.  The Choppas rule states that in the first round of combat that the Orcs gain +1 Strength.  Therefore a standard Orc goes from Strength 3 to Strength 4 and a Black Orc would then go from four to five.  This offensive edge provides the Orcs with a little bit of offensive bite when they are charged or they charge an opponent but in regards to the Black Orcs, it makes any opponent in close combat suffer a barrage of at least Strength 5 attacks in the first round.  When the elite monstrous infantry of the Wood Elf army is Strength 5 and Toughness 5, having a unit that can wound them on 4’s is a bit worrisome.  This special ability also synergizes with another option that the Black Orcs get which will be explained below.

The Armed to da Teef special rules is an incredibly versatile rule that allows Black Orcs to change their form and function on the fly.  This special rule states that the Black Orc player is allowed to choose to use a hand weapon and shield (provided they paid the 1 pt upgrade for one), two hand weapons or a great weapon at the beginning of the first round of close combat.  So a Black Orc could be using two hand weapons in the one combat then in the subsequent combats he may decide that he wants a bigger punch and uses great weapons instead.  This is also very helpful when you are facing low toughness/armor opponents or high toughness/armor opponents, especially since the first round of combat will always yield the Black Orcs +1 Strength.  Against the lower toughness and armor the Black Orc player may choose to double the attacks and use two hand weapons at Strength 5, yet against opponents like Treekin or Knights of Chaos the same player may choose to boost the unit’s strength to 7 and wound on 2’s and provide a -4 to their armor save. 

So how does a Wood Elf general deal with a unit that is immune to psychology and can reduce their elite monstrous infantry to kindling? 


Let’s review the basics in relation to Wood Elf advantages and options:
  1. Black Orcs are limited to a movement rate of 4” vs. the Wood Elves basic rate of 5”.
  2. Black Orcs are immune to psychology so they must hold against all charges and are immune to all leadership based tests like Fear, Terror, and Panic.
  3. Black Orcs possess no ranged attacks.
  4. Black Orcs have no parry save unless they paid the extra point for a shield.
  5. Black Orcs initiative is a 2 which means that it will be striking after everything in the Wood Elf army except a Treeman or great weapon wielding characters.
  6. Black Orcs have an armor save of 5+ with a Toughness of 4.
  7. Black Orcs at a minimum will be Strength 5 during the first round of combat always.
  8. Black Orcs have a minimum unit size of 10 with no real maximum size other than the 50% Special unit allocation limit, meaning the Black Orc unit(s) can be very large.
  9. Black Orcs are able to take a Magical Standard of up to 50 points.

The Black Orcs are very susceptible to shooting and units with ward saves.  The Glade Guard Longbows are Strength 4 at short range meaning that they are wounding on 4’s and reducing the armor save of the Black Orcs to 6+.  If a Wood Elf general is able to reduce the unit size by shooting and magic, the Dryads are a good option for engaging Black Orcs in the flank.  The issue with dealing with Black Orcs is that they are able to punish whoever charges them fairly effectively due to their ability to change weapons and gain the +1 Strength.  The best option when engaging the Black Orcs is either from the flank or rear and even then with heavily augmented infantry.

The Black Orcs are also very susceptible to multi-charges since they are not able to choose Flee as a charge reaction.  So if a Wood Elf general is able to maneuver appropriately, the Black Orcs generally suffer a rear and a flank charge and will suffer some fairly heavy casualties. 

The Black Orcs require a Wood Elf General to definitely make difficult decisions when deciding what units to use when engaging them in close combat. 
  1. Wild Riders of Kurnous are an excellent unit to engage the Black Orcs in the flank due to their Strength 5 on the first round of combat and their high weapon skill and initiative will allow them to inflict heavy casualties before the Black Orcs can strike back.  The Black Orcs even with using two hand weapons only need 2’s to wound the Wild Riders of Kurnous still have to deal with the Wild Rider’s 5+ Ward save.
  2. Dryads provide a good flank support as well; they are Strength 4 and Toughness 4 so they have staying power provided they survive the first round of attacks.  Their main contribution is the 5+ ward save much like the Wild Riders of Kurnous.
  3. Treekin are a difficult choice when dealing with the Black Orc unit.  Treekin are Strength 5 and Toughness 5 so they are generally stronger and tougher than the Black Orcs but due to the ability to change weapons and also the Choppa rule, the high toughness of the Treekin is essentially negated because at worst the Black Orcs hit on 4’s and wound on 4’s in the first round which reduces the Treekin’s armor save to a 6+ then a 5+ ward save.  Granted when the Treekin swing the Black Orcs will have no armor save but the Treekin are only really a flank charge unless augmented.
  4. The Treeman and Treeman Ancient are not the optimal choice to engage Black Orcs either since they will either swing at the same time as Black Orcs and be wounded on 5’s or swing before the Black Orcs and have the Black Orcs wound them on 3’s.  The Black Orcs will generally switch to great weapons and swing against the Treemen at Strength 7 which negates the 3+ armor save the Treemen possess and the Treeman has to rely only on his 5+ Ward save.  The only real option is to flank charge the Black Orcs and hope that they miss a lot.
  5. The Eternal Guard are an interesting option.  The unit being Strength 3 and Toughness 3 means that Black Orcs will generally use two hand weapons against them and attempt to smash through the unit.  Unless this unit is properly augmented, it is not recommended that you engage the Black Orcs with this unit (and definitely not from the front).  The number of casualties that the Eternal Guard would suffer makes them a difficult choice to commit to fighting the Black Orcs without some sort of synergy involved.

The Black Orc unit requires the Wood Elf general to use some rather creative combinations in order to combat their effectiveness on the battlefield.  Some of the tactics involve completely ignoring the unit and handling other priorities first.
  1. Isolate the Black Orcs and leave them unsupported by other units -  The Black Orc unit despite being tough and fairly difficult to kill, will not stand up well when it receives multiple charges.  In an Orcs and Goblin army however, it is rather difficult to set up a multi-charge when there are over a dozen units on the field.  If a Wood Elf general is able to cause panic tests and cause the units around the Black Orcs to flee, then that leaves the Black Orcs unsupported and isolated from the rest of the army.  Orcs and Goblin deployment zones are generally very populated and as a result, it tends to be very easy to cause chain panic tests in the units that usually surround Black Orcs.  This tactic obviously fails when there is an army full of Frenized Savage Orcs but that’s a tactics article for another day.
  2. Focus firing on the Black Orc unit with short range Glade Guard fire and Waywatchers is an excellent way of killing the unit.  The Glade Guard are able to hit on 3’s and wound on 4’s.  A 6+ armor save should cause several casualties and the Waywatchers landing Lethal Shot will autoremove Black Orcs on a to wound roll of 6. 
  3. Dweller’s Below has a decent chance of removing a good chunk of casualties but the real muscle that Wood Elves are able to employ is through their augments.
  4. Throne of Vines combined with Flesh to Stone provides the Wood Elf general with either elves that are Toughness 7, Treekin that are Toughness 9 or Treemen that are Toughness 10.  In addition to augmenting the unit engaged with Flesh to Stone, using Shield of Thorns will also prove to be very effective since its adding additional hits/wounds before blows are struck.
  5. Positioning and charges are incredibly important when battling the Black Orcs unit.  It is more important to slam into this unit from the flank and rear (flank more importantly if it’s a larger unit or a horde).  Minimizing the amount of attacks the Black Orcs are able to swing back with is very important – especially when it may be either Strength 5 or Strength 7 attacks.  Wood elves have various high movement rate units so positioning and maneuvering should be fairly easy to accomplish as long as the Wood Elf general is able to properly isolate the Black Orcs and not leave his units exposed.
  6. The use of redirectors can be dicey since Black Orcs have a fairly good chance of wiping out the unit entirely then just combat reforming in the desired direction.   If there is a unit that has been properly augmented and they aren’t wiped out in close combat on the charge, then the Black Orcs can be left out of position for several turns or be easily rear/flank charged by other Wood Elf units.

In essence, the Black Orc unit is an excellent of example of how important it is for a Wood Elf general to make use of every weapon in his or her arsenal.  If the Black Orcs are to be engaged in close combat then the unit taking the most punishment needs to be augmented appropriately.  When the Wood Elf general wishes to kill the unit via ranged supremacy, the options like Hail of Doom Arrow, Dweller’s Below, Transformation of Kadon and focused archery fire are key.  The Black Orc unit will punish whatever other units charge into combat with them, but if a Wood Elf general has properly whittled down the unit with archery and magic then the effectiveness of the Black Orcs diminishes when engaged in close combat. 

How to deal with Black Orcs synergy and combat combinations:

  1. Black Orcs with Flaming Banner – the best option is to honestly shoot this unit to death.  You do not want any unit that could potentially nullify your monstrous heavy infantry and monster’s armor saves making them rely solely on a 5+ ward save.  If you must engage this unit in close combat then make sure they are properly augmented by Flesh to Stone (Throne of Vines version) and perhaps Shield of Thorns (Throne of Version) in order to grant the unit some added punch before the first swing.

  1. Black Orcs with the Razor Standard – this makes the unit slightly harder to death with since the first round of combat will grant a -3 to armor saves using two hand weapons or -5 if the Black Orcs are using great weapons.  As mentioned above, the best method is to focus fire on this unit and reduce it to the unit size that it can be easily slain in close combat.  I also recommend reviewing the advice provided in the last number.

  1. Black Orcs with a Black Orc Hero/Lord – whenever you add a character to an elite unit such as Black Orcs, then a sense of urgency or importance gets added to that unit.  There are a few specific ways to deal with a unit that possess a character
A.       If the character is the General then you nuke that unit from outer space.  Orcs without high and strong leaderships tend to fall apart and panic easily.  The method in which you deal with this unit does not differ than you would deal with a stand unit like this.  You would focus fire until there is nothing left o the model.
B.       If the character is the Battle Standard Bearer, it is increasingly important to kill the entire unit and remove the ability to get leadership rerolls for this army.  Again I recommend focus firing and avoiding the unit until its small enough to deal with in small sections.

  1.  Black Orc Horde – When dealing with the Horde formation of Black Orcs, it becomes imperative to decide upon the course of action on how to deal with the unit from the beginning.  Wood elf players may either avoid the horde the entire game, then in the final phase then shoot up the horde until it dies.  The Wood Elf army has the mobility to avoid bigger, slower units and unload tremendous amounts of firepower when they are finally in position.  The Wood elf players may also maneuver units until they are within short range and unload into the Black Orcs, round after round, until substantial casualties have been made and the unit is small enough to multi-charge and wipe out or be Dweller’d.    It is not recommended that a Wood Elf general engage a Black Orc horde with a frontal charge even if that unit is augmented with Flesh to Stone and is a unit of Treekin.  That is not to say that the unit can’t be charged but unless you can get multiple charges off and surround the unit, it’s going to be difficult to cut through this unit. 

The primary method to deal with the Black Orc Special selection of the Orcs and Goblins army is to rely heavily on ranged firepower and offensive spells until it is weak enough that it can be defeated in close combat by units that have been heavily augmented by defensive spells.  Wood Elf generals have to employ a lot of guile and tactical acumen when dealing with this unit otherwise it can and will just scythe through the army without stopping.

I hope this Preferred Enemies edition provides helpful advice and an accurate and effective method of handling and dealing with the Orcs and Goblin Special selection of the Black Orcs.