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D.R.A.I.C.H. - Dark Elf Spears Tactica 
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Cold One Knight
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D.R.A.I.C.H. - Dark Elf Spears Tactica
Let me start by saying why I want to write this article. I love infantry, in particular ranked infantry. I think it looks great on the battlefield; I enjoy painting infantry and I think they are a really strong tactical option which I have had a lot of success with. I see a lot of talk about the decline in the use of rank infantry and it’s usefulness. I think this is unfortunate and will touch on the issues faced and opportunities provided by the changed in the more recent books.

In this discussion I am going to focus on Dark Elf Warriors rather than any of the other units you are likely to rank up mainly because they are much cheaper and have relatively low killing power. Therefore you are likely to rank these units far more regularly than corsairs for example. Also i’m going to spend a lot of attention on ideas that benefit from having multiple units rather than a single unit although some of the tactics will be suitable for a single unit. In my time using the Druchii I can’t think of a single game where I haven’t used at least one unit of 20 Dark Elf Spears in a game of any size (500pts upwards) but I will be mainly considering things from a perspective of the usual tournament size games of 2000-2250 points.

Key points regarding our Spears Units

• They are cheap, very cheap, 6 points a model is an absolute steal for a movement 5 Ld 8 WS 4 model with a spear. Yes a strong breeze might blow them over but when you are paying so little for a unit and they aren’t really any easier to take down than any of your more expensive units who cares? With a cheap command group to boot a full unit of 20 with command comes to a paltry 135pts (only 18 points more than the Dark Rider units that are very popular). I know that people will be thinking what about the shields? I have no problem with shields but they are an upgrade you don’t have to have them, they should be added when appropriate (models permitting) depending on the role your spears are intended for.

• Cheap units can be throw away units. Not many people will expect a fully ranked unit to be sacrificed but at 135pts it really isn’t much different from sacrificing a Dark Rider unit but you have the added bonus of having a lot of static combat res that can cause problems if your opponent tries to ignore the unit.

• Cheap units don’t have to carry the weight of responsibility that they used to. Ranked units aren’t as good as they used to be but they are now cheaper to compensate. You used to be able to get 2 units of 5 cheap heavy cav for the same cost as a ranked unit. So the ranked unit got flanked. Now 5 cheap heavy cavalry are barely cheaper than a ranked unit so it is a one on one fight.

• Spears are a decent weapon especially with hatred. Getting a couple of attacks back on a character such as mages, Vampires, GW armed heroes a useful ability that shouldn’t be ignored. Also with high initiative units like Ghouls and Daemons don’t like getting hit by 10 plus attacks before they get to strike even if they are only S3.

• Hand Weapon Shield gives you a good chance to limit enemy’s damage if they have a lot of S3/4 attacks, this is better than the rest of our infantry in combat. In particular this is useful when facing units with good armour saves where spears aren’t going to be useful (but see point above for how useful they can be).


Versus each unit summary

Vs Other ranked units (i.e. 3 ranks, banner not 7x2 units)
Not an ideal match up but particularly with shields you should win most combats versus other cheap ranked units spears will go through un-armoured troops easily but against better armoured troops ideally you want to just stand off until another unit can support as the enemy isn’t likely to engage. However, if the battle isn’t swinging your way you have a decent chance of breaking another ranked unit if they are out of General/BSB range so it is worth the risk to free up some troops. Where you have the advantage over your opponent through shooting and magic the ability to force a stand off is helpful. If you need to push the game against Ranked units ideally you would want to counter the opposition’s ranks with your own plus some killing power such as a Chariot or a character. The weaknesses versus other ranked infantry are the flipside (where they have support and you don’t), this means that they have been able to get more points into a point of the battlefield than you have and you need to try and avoid this situation. Luckily you have a 10 inch charge range so you may be able to back up so that you can charge one unit and try and break through rather than face both. Shields help with these combats but I wouldn’t recommend adding Spear units into the list with the intention of taking on other ranked units.

Vs Elite Infantry
This is the match up which I think has made most people go off ranked units the quickest. Most elite infantry these days will go through a fully ranked unit comfortably in a turn. This isn’t a one on one match up you want to see. Luckily a 14 strong full command unit with magic banner costs about the same as two units of spears without shields. The tactic here is to threaten the flank of the elite unit with only 2 models able to fight the elite unit should be in trouble. This may involve sacrificing a unit of spears but if you have a unit of spear left and take his unit and banner you will be well ahead. If the elite unit doesn’t take the bait then they are stuck out off the fight and unable to do more than hold off your units by turning to avoid one unit getting round the flank in any event. This leaves them vulnerable to shooting and magic probably more so than you as you have almost three times the models. This idea may seem a little difficult to achieve in a flowing combat situation but the key points about bait and flanking remain. If the elite unit is stubborn this tactic is less useful but in some situations it is worth it to hold a unit up/prevent a BSB from moving elsewhere/making your opponent take the tests. The key is don’t try and fight in the front (even if you are also in the flank) you are trying to minimise his attacks, if you have a front and flank charge on only go in the flank.

Vs Fast Cavalry
This is not a match up that is really suitable for Spear units. The enemy will avoid you on the whole and are quick enough to stay out of charge range. Shooting/magic/Dark Riders etc. are the tools to deal with Fast Cavalry. Two key points are: don’t expose your flanks to these units and blocking charges. Fast Cavalry excel at taking away rank bonus and you don’t have the hitting power to be confident of seeing them off/they will hit with something else in the front. Using them to block off charges on softer units (shooting units etc) they will try to get to (with a 10 inch move this should be do able a lot of the time) may give you that extra turn to shoot and magic the unit.

Vs Small Regular Heavy Cavalry units
In this category I include units like Silver Helms, Empire Knights, Flesh Hounds, Fiends and Black knights. These units are there to disrupt and overwhelm shooting units and outnumber more expensive combat units due to being fairly cheap 5 models strong and lacking most command. A couple of cheap unit of spears can be a great counter to these units by blocking their charge options. None of these units are likely to win on the charge (even 5 flesh hounds lose on average) and the second round of combat is usually heavily in the Spear unit’s favour. With a decent charge range it can also be possible to take the fight to the enemy, often opponents underestimate a how long a 10 inch charge is and can be caught out. The key with these units is that you are cheap enough to compete 1 on 1 without disadvantaging the rest of the army. These units can be quite a big pain to some of your other elements that you rely on to do more damage Black Guard for example don’t want to face 1+ save empire knights which their S4 can’t hurt easily. With so much effective shooting and magic in the Dark Elf army being able to hold off these units can allow you to concentrate on more dangerous or vulnerable units rather than the relatively hard to hurt but low value units.

As with fast cavalry avoiding exposing your flank is key against these units as they will roll you over. Also if the enemy moves a character in then your spears are unlikely to be able to stand without support. In particular at the better end of these units (Dragon Princes, Flesh Hounds etc.) a little shooting or magic can swing combat quite quickly. Rather than having to wipe the unit out killing one model can often give the Spear unit enough of an edge to feel confident in holding without distracting much of your shooting resources.

Vs Elite Cavalry
Much like elite infantry the key is to threaten the flank and flank only. Alternatively with the high movement of the cavalry units a low speed bait unit can be useful as it guarantees the elite unit will be in a vulnerable position if it charges as it will move full speed. Also ranked units are harder to shift with other combat units and shooting so it can be a way of holding up a much more expensive unit with a relatively cheap unit.

Vs Chariots
Not really an ideal match up for either side, two chariots will be a big threat to the rank unit and you want to avoid this where possible. One chariot vs a unit of spears is a very variable combat either side could win comfortably. You could use a ranked unit to encourage a stand off as it won’t be a fight the chariots wants to risk. However, where possible you would be better to line up options where the chances are more in your favour.

Vs Characters
On their own most characters would not want to face a ranked unit whereas they might not mind against cavalry or elite infantry. This opportunity may not come up very often but as elite infantry becomes more frequently used the ‘torpedo’ style mounted heroes might become more popular as a counter measure and having ranked units is a good counter to this.

Most of the time characters will be in units and this makes it likely they will go through spear units relatively easily with the added kills. Therefore unless you have counter measures in place spears should only look to engage units with characters in where the character will not be able to fight (flank or rear). If you have your own character to counter the opposition’s character then this may not be relevant.

Vs Monsters (flying and otherwise)
With Dragons etc. becoming more common in Warhammer ranked units can be a useful counter measure. Most monsters rely on kills alone without access to static combat res most characters will avoid ranked units as a slightly poor roll could leave them on very dicey leadership rolls especially as they often fight away from their BSB re-roll range. This can help protect your bolt throwers as parking a ranked unit in front of a bolt thrower allows the bolt thrower to shoot whilst stopping the charge of the monster. Also ranked units can threaten with a counter charge to reduce viable targets for enemy monsters. Two ways to really increase the threat of a ranked unit to a flying monster is to either have a hard to kill character to challenge and reduce combat res from kills or the 5+ ward from the cauldron.

Regular monsters such as vargulfs also tend to have to avoid ranked units unless they can go in with other units so you can control quite a lot of area by having a ranked unit around these units. Even Lizardmen players with stegadons don’t really fancy charging ranked units on the whole in case they get stuck so careful use can limit the impact of other units. You might not want to take a charge because they have gone wrong in the past but also your opponent may have bad memories of charging ranked units a fluffing their rolls so be aware of that you can use ranked units to deter opponents because it makes their moves more risky and players prefer ‘sure thing’ charges. Also be aware that when players are in need of points they are more likely to make these charges so you may need to re-evaluate the risks of depending on your own position in the game and your own risk appetite.

Vs Shooting
Spears are heavily spilt in their value against shooting. Being so cheap they are actually pretty good defensively against shooting. However, offensively they struggle to put shooting under much pressure. One reason I love to have at least one or two units of spears in my armies is that against a heavy shooting army I can run a line of 20 in front of my lines taking all the heat from shooting. Some people use 10 Corsairs for this role but they cost almost the same as 20 spears and whilst corsairs get a better save it is much better to have twice as many models.

Offensively I often find spears really useful for holding Characters on Dark Steeds and then unleashing these at shooting units as the Stand and Shoot hits the Spears rather than the character and the Spears can happily move forwards 10 inches in the first turn to give charge for the second turn and subsequently the spears will probably still be in a pretty good position to fulfil some of the other roles above.

Whilst a lot of people won’t target spear units with much shooting it is worth being aware that they are vulnerable from units trying to know off the odd rank to reduce effectiveness so it can be worth adding a couple of extra models to a if you think your opponent might target them. Against shooting I would say shields actually add very little value for Spear units as a large amount of shooting these days has a -1 or -2 modifier which tends to leave you better spending points on extra spears for the unit rather than shields.

Working with other units
As you have probably picked up by now Spears units aren’t exactly all-rounders able to fulfil any role on the battlefield. In many respects they are closer to Dark Rider units or small units of Cold One Knights in terms of you need to deploy them in specific ways to get the most of them. However, they do cost about the same as these units so there is a good reason for their limitations. As they aren’t all-rounders how you get synergy with other units in the army is important so I going to discuss the combinations that really bring the benefit from Spear units.

Characters
Characters and ranked units are a classic combination the characters add kills and the unit adds combat res. This still applies now although with the mounted character option it is now quite possible to use spears as a launching pad for the characters to go after light targets as well. This gives you the added tactical flexibility of having two three different types: Strong all round unit; fast light unit hunter and cheap decent combat unit. Assassins also work really well at boosting the combat abilities of the unit and can really scare off other enemy characters from charging the unit. Throwing star assassins also go well with spear blocks as they are much harder to beat than shades and can get closer than crossbow units usually want to get to the enemy. Sorceresses kept safe in bunkers are also useful as the spears can get into range for spells more easily and if targeted by fast units spears plus hatred will have good chance of getting at least half points off the light unit before it flees and there is unlikely to be a second round of combat for the light unit to have another attack at your wizard (disclaimer: avoid having your wizard charged if possible). Also it is much harder to panic a unit of spears with shooting and magic than a unit of crossbows. Adding a character with ranged attacks can be really helpful to the spears as well by giving them options against more agile opponents who want to stand off.

Shooting/Magic
The first point here is reducing the killing power of units. Kill a Flesh hound, couple of knights etc and the spears become a much scarier prospect for your opponent. This is much more efficient than trying to kill the whole unit if you can isolate the enemy unit from the rest of it’s lines. Spears are also great when playing against a large targets as they can deter flying monsters from charging your bolt throwers like no other cheap unit can without blocking line of sight as they can stand right in front of it. Spears are also effective deployed on the flank of your shooting units then used to threaten the flank of your enemies units so they have to slow their advance towards your shooting allowing you to get more shots in if they chase after the ranked unit or flank charge if not. Remember here that fleeing and being run down only gives away 135pts compared to 235pts if your unit is caught from combat.

Cavalry/Chariots etc.
Chariots and infantry hitting together are a well established fusion of killing and hitting power. Also flank and front charges with cavalry is a classic manoeuvre. Chariots and infantry also work really well at supporting each other. Units will not want to move into charge range of the chariots in order to hit the spears and quicker units will not want to charge the spears so you can use these to block charges. In addition spears can be used as bait against quick strong units that you could like to charge with chariots or knights quite effectively.

Summary
In summary using spears opens up a range of options to the Druchii general and shouldn’t be ignored. I will leave you with two lists which have both finished in the top 10 at the UK Grand Tournaments (150 players, no comp restrictions/penalties at all) in the last two years used by different generals and heavily feature spear units. Hopefully these will give you some context to think about what has been written in this article. More details about both these armies cna be found in the battle reports section.

Joe Sturge GT army 2008
Scions of Nagarythe : a 2000 point Dark Elf army

High Sorceress : Level 4, Sacrificial Dagger, Pearls of Infinite Bleakness, 2 Dispel Scrolls
Sorceress : Level 2, Tome of Furion, Lifetaker
Master : BSB, Sea Dragon Cloak, Heavy Armour, Shield, Crossbow Pistol, Soulrender, Pendant of Khaleth

20 Spear Elves: Shields, Full Command
20 Spear Elves: Shields, Full Command
20 Spear Elves: Shields, Full Command
10 Crossbow Elves: Shields, Musician
5 Harpies

6 Cold One Knights: Standard, Musician, Banner of Cold Blood
Cold One Chariot
5 Shades: Great Weapons
5 Shades: Additional Hand Weapons

War Hydra

Paul Brown GT army 2009
Supreme Sorceress: L4, Sacrificial Dagger, 2 Dispel Scrolls, Pearl of Infinite Darkness: 360pts
Master: BSB, Dark steed, Heavy Armour, Shield, SDC, Pendant of Khaleth, Sword of Might: 177pts
Assassin: Additional Hand Weapons, Rending Stars, Manbane: 151pts

21 Warriors: CSM, Shields, Banner of Murder: 187pts
21 Warriors: CSM, Shields, Banner of Cold Blood: 177pts
20 Warriors: CSM: 135pts
15 Warriors: C: 96pts
5 Dark Riders: M, RXB: 117pts
5 Harpies: 55pts

2 Cold One Chariots: 200pts
5 Cold One Knights: M : 143pts
2 Bolt Throwers: 200pts


Last edited by Skilgannon on Fri Oct 16, 2009 6:50 am, edited 2 times in total.



Mon Oct 12, 2009 9:55 pm
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Great Summary.
I'd also mention that a basic spear block can also be very tough with a few simple additions.
i.e Assassins are great as spears natural defensive abilites are nicely complemented by his ASF
Also giving them the Warbanner is a great way to make them more likely to win combats.
I have also had a lot of success with a Sorceress in a unit of Spears with Pearl of Infinite Bleakness, so that they never fail those crucial fear/panic tests.

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Tue Oct 13, 2009 4:34 am
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Cheers Bounce,

In terms of unit set up I purposely stayed away from talking about how to set them up but rather focused on how to use them in the battlefield. You will see pearl of infinite darkness is in both armies. However, I wouldn't suggest this for a main combat unit as you lose the option to flee. War banner is always good and I mentioned assassins.


Tue Oct 13, 2009 7:24 am
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Great article, makes me want to pull out some warriors and make a list.

I notice that in both armies there are very few units of DR/harpies. Any particular reason and how does that affect how you use them? I often use about 5 such units and find them invaluable to my game plan


Tue Oct 13, 2009 8:27 am
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Indeed. If only I didn't paint so slow. It's indeed my greatest concern most units munch through ranked blocks like nothing else nowadays. Congratulations on a good article and a good result with a less than common and optimal list.

You got many surprised looks I can imagine?

I expect your series of battle reports to continue. :D Good job!

How about some colored/larger titles in your article? Makes the whole easier to read.


Last edited by Thanatoz on Tue Oct 13, 2009 7:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Tue Oct 13, 2009 8:50 am
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D.R.A.I.C.H.ed.
Compliments for your article. :D
I would support what Thanatoz said, some presentation improvements so that the whole article gets more pleasant to read.

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Tue Oct 13, 2009 9:35 am
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I would also like to add that spears combined with word of pain can be really good! I had a unit of 20 spears for 135 points hold up Korhil and 15 swordmasters for 3 rounds of combat, grinding each other down.
Word of pain means that spearmen can break most enemies that rely on ACR.


Tue Oct 13, 2009 10:45 am
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Yeah in terms of presentation I agree and will try to tidy it up for you guys. I will also do a read through.

I took some notes so I will also try to do some battle reports but they won't be as detailed as the ones I usuallly write.

@ E Bloodletter:
In the article I discuss using the spears to deflect etc. which is part of it but otherwise it's not like you are trying to shoot all game you want to get stuck in so you don't need to divert etc. as much. Also with so many combat units in the army you can use other stuff to target weaker units.

@ Borog

Yeah it definitely helps alot. I always want to roll word of pain if I can with this army.


Tue Oct 13, 2009 11:53 am
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Very good article. Maybe mention the different magic banners that the unit itself can carry as an upgrade to the unit. War Banner, Banner of Murder, and Banner of Cold Blood can all be useful to them, but in different ways and roles.

Cheers.


Tue Oct 13, 2009 3:55 pm
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@ Great Escape
See my response to Bounce. It is a good point but I will let people draw their own conclusions as to which banners would be good for the scenarios in the article and see what they come up with.


Tue Oct 13, 2009 5:01 pm
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Good job on improving the readability.

You started 10 month ago a very interesting thread, which conclusions could be added to your article, making a new paragraph: Dark Elf Warriors with or without shields.
You can cut & paste the quotes below if you like.


Should Dark Elf warriors be given shields?

Introduction
In the army list forum, whenever I post a list without shields, I'm told to put them on. Personally I think shield value is very situation dependant and that there are lots of occasions where not having shields is a good way to save points.

Against shooting
5+ Save is only going to benefit you against a few of the weapons available to opponents, and even then it will usually only give a 6+ save which isn't great. So 20pts seems alot when you could buy 3 more guys for the points (or a third of a unit of harpies to take out a war machine/distract the shooting unit). It only really seems worth it if you are facing a lot of S3 shots such as High Elf armies, but I would expect to see more bolt throwers than archers in these armies and would be surprised if much fire power went on warriors.

Combat, if you want to use spears
You will have either a 5+ or 6+ save in combat against S3. A 5+ save is decent but nothing special, a 6+ might save the odd wound but isn't going to do much. Against strength 4, a 6+ save doesn't do a lot and I struggle to see the value in paying 20pts for this. Against S5, neither unit gets a save.

Combat, if you use shields and hand weapons
Balance the extra points and loss of attacks vs a good 4+ save. With hatred, the extra attacks are fairly valuable, but there are plenty of units which aren't going to be too heavily effected. Once you reach S5, the 6+ save is of limited value but it could save you occasionally against bigger stuff that is quite a good unit for warriors to face; the extra 1 combat res from saving a wound is valuable but it is only going to come through occassionally. I can see the 4+ save being good at holding up S4 units but these units may be more vunerable to spear attacks, so it might be better to use the spears.

Shields and characters.
- I have noticed that with a sorceress in a warrior unit, a bit of extra protection would help to finish off the remainder of S4 units (particuarly cavalry).
- Warrior units with assassins seem to work pretty well without shields, especially with the extra supporting attacks usually being useful. The extra save making little difference against the stuff I send an assassin against.
- Units with fighting characters is interesting as I have rarely used a fighting character in a warrior unit without an assassin.


Where is the limit when shields are cost-effective?

For melee frontal attacks (using handweapon and shield),
Facing S4 or less, the shield spares more than its price.
Facing S4 AP or S5, it hardly makes any difference: the cost of the warriors spared thanks to the shield (17%) is the same as the cost of the shield (17%).
facing S5 AP or worse, the shield is useless and just wastes pts.


For missile attacks (or side attacks, or shield & spear)
Facing S3 missile attacks, it is more interesting to have the shield.
Facing S3 AP or S4 missile attacks, the shield cost (17%) pays exactly the save rate (17%).
Facing S4 AP or higher S, don't take shields, which are not paying back their points.


Reasons for deciding NO SHIELD:
- You don't plan to take part in any combat because your main purpose is babysitter / dagger fuel.
AND
- you're facing mostly ranged attacks with S3 AP or worse (like a Dwarven gunline or Empire gunline with only crossbows and powderguns) or no shooting at all - but not if they have bows.

OR

- You're facing mostly melee attacks with S4 AP or worse (such as Ogres or chariots...).

Other factors.
Value isn't directly linked to survivability, it depends on the situation and hardly can be measured.
- A unit WITH shields might hold in close combat, where a unit WITHOUT them would lose and flee, potentially causing you to lose the battle.
- If you hit the flank with the unit, you need to compare the benefit of winning combat by one point more compared to the extra 15% cost, this would only have an value if you were around leadership 6, 7 or 8.
- If you get shot at, that won't take you below half unit strength but causes a panic check, then you have to compare the reduction in chance of a panic check being caused compared to the chance of failing the test (potentically on Ld 10).

The real question: what are you going to do with your spears? vs. What could you do with extra pts?
Warriors are flexible and the 1 pt shield makes them even more flexible.
However, the "flexibility" means actually to always use the same, simple golden rule: ''always use HW+shield unless my opponent negates their armour completely (S5+AS or better)''.

For 20 warriors, it is balanced with:
a) 3 more warriors
b) 2 more corsairs
c) 2 more harpies
d) 2 more RxBs (no shield)
e) 20 pts more equipment for characters.
Would you make better use of these instead of some flexibility to your spears?

The ultimate reason for taking a shield.
The #1 reason is purely because without shields, spear warriors look weird, with that arm raised for a shield, to have no shield is plain annoying.

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Tue Oct 13, 2009 8:01 pm
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Hi Calisson,

Feel free to add something on about how to equip spears for the D.R.A.I.C.H. (what you have pulled up would work as far as i'm concerned) also a conversation about magic banners also seems to interest people. However, i'm not really interested on doing any work on how to equip units. My intention was to write something about how to use them on the table top as when I started a thread about how to use spears most comments were about how to equip them/add characters. To me that is more about list design rather than tactics. That's why I wrote the article I wanted it to be about what I would call tactics not about equipment.

I will at least enter the debate though. In response to the 'ultimate' point. Converting warriors without shields is easy. Take the single arm holding the RXB chop off the RXB cut the wrist and twist it round and the warriors look like they are standing at ease (quite cool actually).


Tue Oct 13, 2009 9:53 pm
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Suggested additions:

Any thoughts about terrain? How to use it / mitigate it?

What about deployment?

Last addition which oculd improve your article, change the title to:
D.R.A.I.C.H. - Dark Elf Spears Tactica
;)

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Thu Oct 15, 2009 9:10 pm
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To be honest terrain is a whole topic in itself and there isn't much to say that is specific to using warriors. Also there are much better players at using terrain than I so I don't think I would do a very good job compared to what someonelse could do. Maybe one day I will focus on how I use terrain and then I will be able to say something more helpful.

Same goes for deployment. There is nothing special about warriors in this regard they are just another tool in your army.

I don't know if I need to do the title thing or not are you kidding or does it make a difference.


Thu Oct 15, 2009 9:46 pm
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Half kidding, it will not make much of a difference, except:
- your article becomes member of a large projet rather than stand-alone
- the title tells instantaneously that it is a deep analysis, elaborate thread.
Otherwise it won't make any difference as I already sticked your article in the D.R.A.I.C.H., removed previous links related to spears from the D.R.A.I.C.H., and "greened" the need to summarize the spears in the "help me to improve the D.R.A.I.C.H." thread.
You don't have to do if you don't like it, others did not do it as well (the article about WE).

Acknowledge, nothing special to say about deployment or terrain, roger that.

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Fri Oct 16, 2009 6:23 am
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