Monday, May 5, 2014

Company of the Damned – 2014 Wood Elf Army Book Review – Part Three: Embracing Change – Army Special Rules, the Armoury and Changes.


Part Three: Embracing Change – Army Special Rules, the Armoury and Changes – Continued…

Previously we discussed what had been lost and changed in the transition from the old Wood Elf book to the new.  We however have not really touched on…

What was gained...

1.       Always Strike First – Every elven unit gaining this ability is incredible.  Now High Elves, Dark Elves and Wood Elves all share the same special ability (stemming from the fact that they were all once the same race...) and are faster than a normal man.  This was one issue that always bothered me as I would get incredibly annoyed that Warriors of Chaos would be hitting simultaneously as a lithe and agile Wood Elf.  This ability will provide greater combat effectiveness to all melee units and to the units that were ranged such as Glade Guard, Waywatchers, etc… this now provides them with a modicum of more offensive melee might that they lacked before.  Striking first and potentially rerolling misses is a huge boon.  I will however note that the Forest Spirits in this book do not benefit from this ability, only the Elves.
2.       Forest Spirit Ward Save of 6+ - Forest Spirits no longer automatically fold to magic missiles or magical attacks.  While the ward save was reduced to a 6+, it is still a permanent ward save that they did not have previously.
3.       Forest Stalker – Not only does this provide Forest Strider, but when a Wood Elf unit with this rule is in a forest they gain the benefits of both the Martial Prowess and the Murderous Precision.  What that means is that the Wood Elf unit not only fights and shoots with an additional rank when in a forest but also rerolls all to wound rolls of “1” in close combat while fighting in a forest.  Essentially Wood Elves get the best of both worlds while fighting in their natural habitat.
4.       Armour Piercing – With the exception of standard hand weapons, Asrai longbows, spears and the Blackbriar Javelins all have the Armour Piercing special rule.  While the standard Glade Guard longbow lost its Strength of 4 at short range, the entire army now benefits from the Armour Piercing rule which is a far more effective option than the previous incarnation.  But why do you ask?  The Glade Guard longbow was only given to the Core troop choice of “The Glade Guard” in the previous book.  This meant that your Waywatchers, characters, scouts, Glade Riders, etc.. did not benefit from the Str 4 short range rule.  For most players this is a good chunk of the army, now that every bow has Armour Piercing however the army is always making opponents save a -1.  This was not the case in the old book where troops could shrug off arrow fire at long range even with a 6+ armour save.  This addition is a great advantage and it also fits the Wood Elf theme of “finding chinks in the armour”.  I haven’t even begun to discuss the synergy of the bows with the magical arrows.
5.       Magical Arrows – Of all the game changing additions that Mat Ward placed upon this army, the Enchanted Arrows special rule is perhaps the most synergistic of them all.  Not only do the six arrow types work well with the Armour Piercing of the Asrai Longbow, but also with the various Lores of Magic that the Wood Elf army has access to.  I will do a brief summary of each arrow and some of the possible combinations that they work well with.
·         Arcane Bodkins – The arcane bodkins impose a -3 to the Armour Save of the target wounded.  This is a huge boon to any Wood Elf general who has to deal with high armour value targets such as: Warriors of Chaos, Lizardmen, Dwarfs, Chaos Dwarfs, etc...  The downside is that the Strength is still only 3 which means it is wounding most of the high armour targets on a 5+ due to their inherent Toughness of 4.  If the Glade Guard are going to be outfitted with this option (which by the way is the most expensive upgrade option), then it is recommended that there be a Lore of Shadow caster to reduce the intended target unit’s Toughness by D3 in order to fully capitalize on this type of arrow.  The main question however is that is it worth taking a Glade Guard for 17 points to impose a -3 to armour saves when you can take a Waywatcher at 20 points who completely ignores armour saves and has a higher Ballistic Skill?
·         Moonfire Shot – These arrows provide a +1 to wound against enemies of the Forces of Order.  These shots are not only Armour Piercing but Flaming also.  The enemies that would be directly impacted by this would be: Lizardmen, High Elves, Empire, Bretonnia, Dwarfs and Wood Elves.  While it helps with the Strength of 3 on the longbow, this selection is perhaps the least useful arrow choice as it does not really synergize with anything but Lore of Shadow’s Withering or the Lore of Death’s Soul Blight. Providing a 2+ to wound against affected units.
·         Starfire Shafts – Much like the Moonfire Shot, these arrows are limited in their use.  The arrows provide a +1 to wound against the armies of: Beastmen, Daemons of Chaos, Dark Elves, Orcs & Goblins, Vampire Counts, Chaos Dwarfs and Warriors of Chaos.  Sharing the same synergy as the Moonfire Shot, these arrows are limited in their usefulness.
·         Trueflight Arrows – These arrows allow generals to hearken back to the time of MSU fighting and the highly mobile strike force.  These arrows work well with the Lore of Shadow’s Withering as the Wood Elf general may sit back in the backfield and hit on 3’s regardless of range or modifiers. I can see this being used by generals who wish to field many equine units or use move and shoot as their primary focus.
·         Swiftshiver Shards – These arrows seem to shine when the general has a Lore of Shadow caster – The Withering is flat out one of the best spells for Wood Elves to use as it reduces the Toughness of the model in question and with the Multiple Shots (2) rule the unit doubles its output which can have devastating effects on whomever is their target.
·         Hagbane Tips – These are the primary choice in my opinion for Wood Elves as they require no additional synergy to maintain effectiveness.  Regardless of Toughness, the arrows wound on a 6 to hit which negates the advantage of high Toughness.  This is also one of the most inexpensive options for enchanted arrows available.  The Hagbane Tips also are the best option for killing monsters and warmachines.

There have been multiple threads on sites like www.asrai.org (the main Wood Elf Warhammer Fan site) that provide break downs for the use of each arrow against not only toughness but also armour saves and to hit modifiers.  The end result proves that the Hagbane Tips are the best option to take as they have the highest wound percentage.  After the Hagbane Tips, the next best selection that barely eek out the Trueflight Arrows are the Swiftshiver Shards.  The multiple shots they put out prove to be more effective when the Lore of Shadow’s Withering is used or the Lore of Death’s Soul Blight

6.        Greater Magical Access – With the sad departing of the Lore of Athel Loren, Mat Ward decided to grace the Wood Elf race with full access to the 8 Lores of Magic.  In addition, the Lord level caster (The Spellweaver) gains access to the Lore of High Magic and the Lore of Dark Magic.  Now that Wood Elves have full access to all 8 Lores plus High and Dark Magic, they have gained a huge boost to their might.  Keep in mind that in the previous book only Spellweavers had access to the Lore of Life and Lore of Beasts.  The Spellsingers and Spellweavers also gain a +1 to cast when they are in a forest.  This provides a +5 base bonus for a Level 4 wizard.  In addition several of the units gain access to specific magical lores:
·         Spellweavers – Lore of High Magic, Lore of Dark Magic, 8 Lores of Magic
·         Spellsingers – All 8 Lores of Magic.
·         Treeman Ancients – Lore of Life
·         Shadow Dancers – Lore of Shadow
·         Branchwraiths – Lore of Life
The Lore of High Magic and Lore of Dark Magic also have specific Lore Attributes unique to the Wood Elves.  The Lore of High Magic allows you to place a wound counter next to the unit the caster is in.  Whenever that unit or the caster suffers an unsaved wound, the counter may be removed as if a wound had been taken.  The Lore of Dark Magic allows you to place a counter next to the unit affected.  When this unit suffers hits from the Lore of Dark Magic, the counter(s) are removed and D3 additional hits are added per counter.

This greater magical flexibility allows Wood Elves to no longer be reliant on getting Dweller’s Below or Amber Spear to have a “destructive” magic phase.  The Wood Elves now are able to properly synergize with the close combat, the ranged and the specialist units that are in the army to provide better and effective tactics to handle now every army.

These are just some of the numerous advantages that were gained with the transition from the old book to the new book.  As this review continues I will point out more and more advantages and disadvantages that were created by this new book.

The next few posts will begin to delve into the units that are in the book and how they have changed and what their role will be on the battlefield.