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D.R.A.I.C.H. The balance of an army. A theoretical approach. 
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This thread reflects my researches about how an army can be efficiently balanced. I began to post it after Skilgannon started his own thread reflecting another approach to a similar topic.The Tactics behind a Balanced list

What makes an army list to be balanced?

Efficience in all phases.
The balance of an army, as I understand it, is to behave well during all phases: each of your opponent's five phases and each of your own five phases.
[Irtehdar]Being balanced is for the army as a whole to be able to match up against anything and basically prevent the enemy from capitalizing a particular aspect of the game. It is an army that can compete, no matter what the enemy brings, if the player just commits to being flexible. So in essence, no matter how the enemy attempts to act, a ''balanced army'' has enough elements of each category to effectively counter the enemys strengths and also has enough of the other elements to capitalize on a ''one trick pony's'' shortages.

A balanced army uses several phases to build up and enhance each other in the search for the opponent's destruction, and is able to resist during all phases.
A balanced army is not necessarily strong during all phases. At least it must have some minimal defence during all phases where it is not strong.
A balanced army can be much stronger in one or two of your own phases, as long as it can deal with all other phases.

Adapted to any opponent you're not playing today.
As Skilgannon mentions in the parallel thread,
‘No element is vital in one game but all elements are vital in the list.’
The meaning is that you may well have some way to deal with a specific defensive strategy, and find yourself playing several games in a row not encountering this strategy.

A balanced list must be able to deal with the opponent you haven't met yet.

Only if none of your opponents in your gaming club ever resort to a specific strategy and if you do not intend to ever meet other opponents, then you can drop the corresponding specific ability. If you play against "open" opponents, then you need to keep all anti-strategies available, even if they don't serve often.

Some troops are very specialized and are well adapted against one of the defensive strategies, but ill adapted to most other strategies.
If you take them, you may win your bet. But if the opponent has chosen a defensive strategy that these units cannot cope with, your pricey units are wasted. It’s no use to yell “coward” at an elusive opponent you can't catch, if you end up with loosing the battle.

In order to be able to adapt to all the situations you may face, you need versatile units, able to cope with several of the defensive strategies available. If most of your units are dual or multiple-purpose, you will rarely be destabilized.

A balanced list is a list with a majority of versatile units, which allows the general to use most units all the time. This is how the general can stay on balance.

No element should be vital in any game.
Ideally, any of the opponent's defensive strategy should be dealt with by at least two of your units.

A balanced list can loose any of its elements and remain efficient.

The benefit is twofolded:
- to be able to cope with early losses and still compete,
- to be able to willingly sacrifice nearly any unit in order to get a higher advantage.

If you had specialized units for sacrifice (!), you would have few options. If almost any unit could be sacrificed, you'll always have many options to choose from.
This is how the army as a whole is versatile.

Instead of concentrating all forces in a focus point, which would be the natural tendency for a style of army with a couple of über-units, a balanced army can afford to keep some units in reserve.
That way, instead of hoping that your optimized melee will turn out to win the game, and have no option than to blame the dice if it fails to,
you will fight much less optimized melees, that you're ready to see fail, and you're ready to turn that failure to an advantage thanks to positioning.

Sacrifice and reserve are complementary.

Last edited by Calisson on Thu Apr 09, 2009 4:16 pm, edited 12 times in total.

Sat Apr 04, 2009 6:55 am
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Ten defensive strategies

0. Defence during the opponent's turn.
There are ten strategies to choose from and to combine together in order to prevent your army to be easily destroyed.
- Mass, big units with SCR, regen, raise undead..., difficult to kill them all
- MSU (many small units), difficult to target them all - this is an offensive tactics as well
- Armour and Endurance, Ward Save...
- Ethereal units (not accessible to DE), immune to non-magic attacks
- Fear & Terror, difficult to charge them reliably although not effective against distant attacks, and negated by Fear itself
- ASF so that the charging unit has less attacks although not effective against distant attacks
- distant magic, pre-emptive attack being the best defence! distant destruction before the opponent can act - can be negated by magic defence
- shooting, same as magic except that it cannot be negated
- snipe charges quick (suicide-) charges to get rid of single dangerous opponents, warmachine or a spell-caster, or at least neutralize 1 or 2 turns. Done by flyers, fast cavalry or units appearing behind the opponent's lines. Must be complemented with something else (avoidance, for instance). Often taken instead of shooting sniping or magic sniping.
- avoidance by mere careful positioning in order to be elusive: never targeted = never destroyed. Note: hiding a character in a unit with a champion to take challenges is, for the character, a way to be elusive. VPs can be obtained by pts denial and 1/4 tables ontest, helped with a bit of distant destruction.

Your army must not necessarily use all these tricks in order to be balanced!
The opponent will be more or less apt to defeat some of these defensive strategies => you need to rely on several of them.
A balanced army needs several of these defensive strategies.

The five (or six) phases

We have above a list of all possible defensive strategies.
From a reversed point of view, we know that the opponent will use some of them, but we don't know which ones. We will have to deal against the opponent's defensive strategies, during our own 5 phases.
A balanced army must be able to overcome any of the opponent's defensive strategies.

1. Psychology.
Psychology can be used offensively and defensively.
It works at close distance (mostly when charging & in melee), so it is much more important for a melee army than for a shooting/magic army.

2. Movement.
Movement includes speed, positioning and combined movement.
No destruction happens there.
But this phase can greatly and subtly enhance all the other phases with careful positioning. This is what tactics is really about.
Charging is included in movement. One very useful ability is charge-sniping: a charge at long distance aiming at destroying a character inside a unit, or destroying a warmachine.
Positioning can bring by itself some victory points (VP): contesting ¼ tables and taking monuments.

3. Magic.
Magic can either inflict direct damage (most of the time not enough to win the battle) or, more subtly, it can enhance each one the other 5 phases with which it combines greatly.
Magic defence can greatly mitigate magic offence.

4. Shooting.
Missiles are more reliable than magic but still less effective than melee.
This phase works on its own, and hardly combines with melee and psychology.

5. Melee.
I separate between mass melee and elite melee. You are not strong in melee if you are not strong in both aspects of melee.
Note that this problematic applies also for distant attacks:
- For magic, you need magic of mass destruction as well as sniper magic,
- For shooting, you need massive shooting as well as warmachines.

5.1 Mass Melee.
It deals with Static Combat Resolution (SCR) brought by big numbers, additional ranks, banners.
It can be countered with mass attacks (bring ACR = Active Combat Resolution, destroying models) and movement (side/rear charges, destroying SCR).

5.2. Elite Melee.
Against highly armoured troops (and/or with high endurance, or ethereal), the sheer quantity of attacks does not work, especially if the frontage is small, like against a lone character, a chariot or a monster.
There you need elite attacks, most often magic and/or armour denying.

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Last edited by Calisson on Thu Apr 09, 2009 4:25 pm, edited 7 times in total.

Sat Apr 04, 2009 7:13 am
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Melee-oriented vs distance-oriented armies.
[edited with nice comments received from geoguswrek]

Noting that melee prevents shooting and most magic, but is well complemented with psychology which is ineffective at distance, the usual combination is magic & shooting, or melee & psychology. Movement enhances all of them.

The combined use of Mass & Elite melee with Psychology and Movement but little to no magic (other than defence) nor shooting (but good armour) could claim to make a balanced army.

The combined use of Magic & Missile and Movement can be versatile enough to be considered as balanced, even with no psychology (ineffective at distance) nor significant melee ability (retaining some melee "goalkeeper" defence such as ASF BG or hydra).

This is why the two options provided above seem two genuine ways to achieve a rather balanced army, in addition to trying to have a strict equivalence of all 5 phases despite they are more difficult to combine efficiently.

Let's examine how it could apply to DE.

1. Pure melee army.

Let’s review if DE can take care of all the the opponent’s defensive strategies with only melee units.

Some DE units provide big SCR (masses of warriors, and, for a complement of ACR, corsairs, WE, BG, shielded DR and, with less attacks, Execs).
Alternatively, smaller units can combine together, MSU style, to try and remove the SCR of the opponent with side-charges and the help of ACR (warriors, corsairs, WE, BG, DR, Execs, harpies, COK, COC, hydra, character on monster).
Masters, DH & assassins help to provide ACR, and the COB is a great help to increase the sheer number of attacks.
[edit by geoguswrek] Here DE combat is really good, hatred means that basic warriors/corsairs are very good at getting a few kills and beating other massed units, they are also helped by the ability to have the warbanner, giving them a better starting combat res, and the cauldron's killing blow ability to take out characters in these units.

In order to take care of heavily protected opponents, fewer units are appropriate: Execs, BG or COK.
Against small units, COC, hydra and GW shades can be effective as well.
Masters with magic weapons and DH & assassins with KB are really useful.
In addition, the COB can transform WE, SSS corsairs and even warriors into deadly can openers.
[edit by geoguswrek] This can be a difficulty for DE, 1+ armour save knights are a real thorn in our side, since there isn't much reliable strength 6 and no strength 7 aside from characters. Without shooting, 2+ save knights also become an issue.

Here, magic weapons are required. Masters & Dreadlords are mandatory, not forgetting that COK and BG champions can have magic weapons as well.
This is where we see that 2 magic-wielders are necessary. A purely Khainite force would have a weakness there, as a single Green Knight could cause havoc freely.
[edit by geoguswrek] Don't forget combat res can hurt/negate ethereals as well. A full unit of warriors w/FC is going to annoy the hell out of the green knight.
[Calisson] The difficulty to beat ethereal creatures through SCR is that it requires more SCR than the ethereal's ACR. The mentioned Green Knight has many, many S4 attacks...

COK, BG, frenzied WE and SSS corsairs, COC, hydra don’t care for fear-causing opponents.
The high Ld brought by characters belittles this liability for other troops.
This should not really be an issue.

Druchii can get higher initiative ASF, but in limited numbers: one ASF banner, one dagger, assassins and COC.
In addition, COK and hydra are sufficiently protected to survive an ASF strike and strike back.
Against HE, this is not much.
[edit by geoguswrek] Without ASF stuff, two options remain available: using an MSU style force, you create a flank charge and then only charge the flank, thus taking very few ASF attacks. Using a mass force, use big units of spears to take on High Elf swordmasters, since you are likely to get a few attacks through and kill a swordsmaster or two and so not get too hurt on combat res over all. Without shooting, those swordmaster units are a real problem though.

If the enemy has many units, the danger is to be struck into a melee (or to be baited in an open field) and to receive a deadly side-charge. We need not only melee units superior to the enemy, we also need to be able to chase them all.
The best way to counter MSU is to go MSU as well and quicker or more numerous.
There are a multitude of good small melee units available to DE, so playing a pure MSU list answers that problem.
If playing partially MSU, there is a need for fast & deadly MSU hunters: DR, harpies, monster-mounted masters & dreadlords. A little bit slower are COK, COC and hydra.
[edit by geoguswrek] DR and even more harpies don't make particularly good MSU hunters, they don't have the hitting power to take out hard units and don't have the survivability to survive ASF stuff like MSU swordsmaster/white lions. Without shooting, an MSU DE list will suffer against a more all rounded MSU list since, while you may have more units to start with, the loss of light units early on will hurt your ability to interfere with your opponents plans, and you have no way of forcing the same situation on him.

Distant Magic.
You need to shut down the spells, or at least to survive to them until you can act.
A scroll caddy along with the RoH on a master or champion provides a minimal protection. Some null shards can be added.
Another solution is to kill quickly the casters, thanks to very fast charges from DR or harpies (monster-mounted characters charging a unit babysitting a magician can be challenged, so the magician is not targeted). It does not work if the babysitting unit is ASF, and it may fail as well if that unit is fear-causing.
An expandable screen can block the caster’s LOS on the most interesting units. Here again, harpies help greatly.
Finally, an alternative is to arrive inside a melee as quickly as possible; the opponent’s magic may not be powerful enough to blast all of your own defences (your mass, your armour, your MSU) before you arrive in melee where you’re supposed to get an edge: many spells cannot be cast at a unit in melee.
A combination of all of the above is recommended.
[edit by geoguswrek] Don't forget about flying wizards. You see lots of Tzeentch wizards on discs, DE level 4's on pegs and HE level 4's on eagles, which are very hard to force into combat, and for which you find yourself relying on the ring/NT for magic defence.

Similarly, you need to shut down the shooting, or at least to survive to it until you can act.
Here, no scroll, and there is only a single RoD, not overwhelmingly effective.
Kill quickly the shooters, thanks to very fast charges from DR or harpies. This time, monster-mounted characters work finely, as the shooting units are usually weak enough to be broken by a single monster. You need enough of such quick units to allow some of them to be killed by the very same shooting they are trying to shut up.
An expandable screen can block the shooter’s LOS on the most interesting units. Here again, harpies help greatly.
Finally, an alternative is to arrive inside a melee as quickly as possible; the opponent’s shooting may not be powerful enough to blast all of your own defences (your mass, your armour, your MSU) before you arrive in melee where you’re supposed to get an edge: shooting cannot be targeted at a unit in melee.
A combination of all of the above is recommended.
[edit by geoguswrek] There remains a problem against shooting armies that also employ avoidance (DR heavy dark elves for example), since you can't easily combat the shooters and also can't get into combat to avoid shooting.
In that case, use mass as a defence to shooting: have big units that can take a bit of shooting without worrying too much.

The melee army is normally not vulnerable to snipe-charges.
You're not supposed to have warmachines.
Scroll caddies are normally hidden in woods or behind screens.
Characters are either well armoured warriors/BSB or ASF assassins.
Possibly Death Hags are the only vulnerable unit, having no armour nor ASF. They can be protected by the nearby champion of the unit against monster-mounted snipe-charges, but not against harpy-like flying units' snipe-charge.
[edit by geoguswrek] Characters, especiallly those without the pendant, should generally avoid accepting challenges of charging characters, as those characters who charge into a unit with one of your characters in it will most likely be set up to kill enemy characters, and so have a good chance of killing yours. This is why characters should be protected by unit champions whenever possible.

Some opponents just refuse to get charged! Highly mobile, they fly circles around your units. Or they remain in a wood, in a building or on a hill where it is difficult for you to get them. Or they sneak behind your lines.
In order to get them, you need high manoeuvrability & speed, 360°LOS, or too many units for him to hide from them all (i.e. MSU).
Harpies charge at 360° at 20”. Flying monsters, DR, COK, COC threaten a huge surface.
MSU units combined together threaten to charge a huge surface as well.


Characters required.
Going into many melees, you wish, obviously, to have a dreadlord for his high Ld, and a BSB (especially with a magic banner).
We have seen several times that a monster-mounted character is useful in several cases.
Remember to get at least 2 magic weapons for ethereal creatures.
A CoB is a essential, two could even be considered; a COB can become BSB with great efficiency.
Remember as well, you need a scroll caddy.
Lord + dragon + scroll caddy + BSB + COB = too many character slots unless the COB is BSB.

If you want to play a balanced melee army, there are two options: mostly MSU, or not.

If you want to go mostly MSU, you will need the following:
Many units, a combination of mass killers and can-openers. A CoB can transform any unit into a mass-can-opener.
Get the ASF banner, some COC and/or some assassins to take care of the ASF.
Take some DR & harpies to take care of the distant magic & shooting and the elusive foes.
[edit by geoguswrek] You will need quite a few harpies and dark riders, since these will probably be the enemy's first shooting targets.

There you go! You’re able to cope with redundancy against any kind of enemy’s defence.
Your army is balanced.

If you want some mass units rather than pure MSU:
Your few main units will take care of most of the destruction of mass & armoured foes.
One will have the ASF banner, the others will shelter assassins.
Take many DR & harpies to take care of the distant magic & shooting and the elusive foes, and a few corsairs as screens (RHB corsairs are very nice to take care of annoying skirmishers).
There you go! You’re able to cope with redundancy against any kind of enemy’s defence.
Your army is balanced.

For Khaine lovers:
A purely Khainite force is not balanced.
Masters are required to use magic weapons. A scroll caddy is required.
DR / harpies are required to take care of casters, shooters and skirmishers.
Corsairs may help as screen.
The rest of the army can be Khainite.

Defensive strategies.
MSU is the natural strategy for an MSU army. It must be complemented for each unit.
Some units benefit from armour & fear (COK, COC, hydra) or possibly ASF (banner, assassin).
Most MSU troops have nothing else than MSU… and avoidance, which translates in: pick up your own fights, avoid unwanted fights.

If playing partial MSU, then you can provide mass to the units not benefiting from fear & armour.
For the remaining non-armoured MSU (not so “M” indeed), there is a problem: MSU relies on the multitude to work. FSU (“F” for Few) is at risk of just providing easy victory points to the opponent. Take care of your light skirmishers! Sacrifice them... only when necessary.

Building up on different phases.
Here, you lack any missile phase and magic phase.
But you can build up together the movement, psychology and melee phases in order to get a greater effect.
This is another incentive to get terror-causing & highly mobile monsters, fear-causing & mobile COK and COC, highly mobile DR & harpies.
These are vital complements to mass units which lack mobility and psychology, and they are also an essential part of a true MSU army.

Last edited by Calisson on Sat Apr 11, 2009 9:16 pm, edited 11 times in total.

Sat Apr 04, 2009 10:03 pm

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EDIT: points incorporated above.

Last edited by Geoguswrek on Sat Apr 11, 2009 5:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Sun Apr 05, 2009 2:40 am
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Thanks, geoguswrek, for your contribution. I included it in the original post.

2. Purely Magic & Shooting army.

This time, we have very few units to choose from.
Let’s assume that we’re taking a strong magic component, something like 2 levels of sorceresses per 500 pts.
RBTs as rare, shades as specials, and MXB, the most efficient missile core troop.

Other characters may shoot efficiently but they are not cost-efficient as shooters.
DR have MXB as well, but they shoot much less for each point spent than MXB. We will let them apart for the moment and see later if they are required.

Let’s see if this kind of list can deal with all the opponent's defensive strategies or if it has to be modified (answer: several harpy/DR units are required indeed).

Shooting must be very heavy to get rid of very massive units. This is why many MXB & shades are required, along with magic missiles.
[edit by geoguswrek] Since mass armies have normally a low leadership (Skaven, O&G, Empire), panic is your friend. Shooting to cause panic tests so that any failed panics causes the unit to run through its friends will maximize the effect of your shooting.
[Calisson] Concentrating your fire on a single small unit until its destruction will trigger panic tests all around.
[geoguswrek] Also remember the soul drain spell in the Lore of Dark magic, which hits every model in the unit, and wall of fire in the Lore of Fire, which prevents the unit moving or does a hit on every model in the unit.

In order to get sufficient time to shoot the units before they arrive in contact, it is important to slow them down.
Harpies are very useful for that, and the positioning of shades is important for that as well. MXB DR can be used for that as well, and still participate to shooting.

Terrain is very useful as well: put RBT on hills where they can see above any unit and the slopes will slow down the opponent. Put sorceresses inside buildings where they get 360° LOS. Difficult terrain will slow down opponents and provide a useful delay.

Avoidance brought by a good mobility and sacrifice of a few MSU units are two good tactics helping to resist opponent’s mass units.

RBT are frightening for the strongest armours. Some Metal Lore spells ignore armour.
[edit by geoguswrek] Half of RBT multiple shots are saved by a 1+ save. You are better off single shooting them, negating the save. Here, magic is a necessary option, and it isn't a great one since any magic defence the enemy has will be funnelled into stopping these spells. This presents a real problem for a shooting army.

In the same way as against mass units, the opponent’s regular units must be slowed down, with the help of the same units.
[edit by geoguswrek] Using marchblockers isn't enough usually, since these units often have high movement and will get to your troops quite quickly anyway, where they will be immune to shooting and most magic. Redirecting them with shades, harpies and dark riders is an option but not an easy one.

Shooting is hopeless. Only magic is effective, and remember that the opponent is likely to have one or two scrolls available.
[edit by geoguswrek] There aren't many options here, but deploying in such a way to avoid these units is a good one.

As fear is effective only at short distance, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Shouldn’t be a problem at distance either.

It's taken care of with many shooting and spell casting sources.
[edit by geoguswrek] Note that panic is a good option here: even with a low chance of them failing the test if they have a high leadership, the small size of the unit makes it easy to cause a test.

Distant Magic.
This may be an issue, but along with many sorceresses come many dispel dice. Remember to take some additional magic defence, such as scrolls.
[edit by geoguswrek] Note that a heavy shooting phase creates a strong magic defence by itself, because if the enemy wizards wish to deal some damage, they must be in line of sight (normally) where we can shoot at them.

This may be one of the biggest difficulty when facing such a strong gunline as Empire’s or Dwarves’ (Dwarves being blessed with a strong inherent magic defence as well). Both armies can canonsnipe the sorceresses.
[edit by geoguswrek] A clever use of deployment, out of range of large portions of the enemy army, can allow you to make the best of your maneuvrable elements and so improve your chances. Also remember that shooting at warmachines is a viable option and is sometimes enough to remove them.

Dark Lore spell #1, preventing the shooting of one unit, may be a solution.

However, in order to mitigate the most dangerous shooting, it is very helpful to have expandable harpies to block the LOS of warmachines (see the Fun with Harpies Horseshoe TM trick). Since the opposing gunline is made of models quite ineffective in melee, harpies & DR can efficiently charge them. But remember, DR are too expensive to be really expandable.

Terrain is a great help: building providing an excellent protection (except against template weapons), as well as woods’ edge from which it is possible to shoot without penalty while getting a protection (and a refuge if threaten with a charge).

Same issue as against shooting.
Magic/Shooting armies are inherently vulnerable to snipe charges:
both RBT and sorceresses make juicy targets for either flying monster-mounted characters/assassins or fast suicide chargers.

One of the biggest threats against our list comes from dragons and similar armoured & flying chargers that cannot be slowed down. It is difficult to avoid them. MSU is not enough a protection, as they are able to choose, among many units, the magic-users or the RBT as their target of predilection: being large targets, they are able to see and charge above any shielding unit.
Distant kill. It is vital to be able to kill them before they can get in contact. Before they can charge, there is a single round of casting/shooting, possibly two if the sorceresses are very mobile themselves (the Focus Familiar is a great help here). Often, the character riding the dragon will have some magic resistance so RBT are the best assets.
Avoidance. Expandable units like harpies can help to get a second round of shooting, even facing a large dragon: here is how two harpy units protect a single RBT (or a sorceress):

(dragon’s direction)


The RBT (or sorceress) can shoot at the dragon.
The dragon cannot charge directly the RBT because the space between harpies is not large enough, and the space between the harpies and the RBT is not large enough for the dragon to land.
If the dragon charges some harpies, it must charge the closest harpy (H) as it is a skirmishing unit. The harpies will flee, the other units don’t care, the dragon will fail its charge and move 20”, where it will receive another round of shooting next turn.

If you’ve got only DR instead of harpies, the very same trick can still work, with the help of another rule: BRB p.21 (manoeuvre during a charge), the dragon must maximize the models in contact, i.e. it must charge close to the centre of the unit, where it will not overrun into the RBT.
Well, there remains the terror test if the dragon lands in front of everywhere...

Another way to protect a sorceress is to hide her inside a large unit with champion and a good SCR. If charged by a dragon, supposing the fear test is passed, the champion challenges, get killed, the SCR compensates the lost ACR and there is one more turn to get rid of the dragon with magic… Good luck!

Terrain.But the best way to prevent quick charges is to go inside a building: only infantry can charge!
Another good protection is provided by a forest: each turn, the sorceress moves to a side where she cannot be charged.
[edit by geoguswrek] Also, remember that flyers can't fly into a wood, so you can use them to hide sorceress' from long range dragon charges, without even loosing your own Line of Sight!

It is very hard to avoid 48” RBTs and 24” multiple shots and spells cast from a Peggy-mounted FF using sorceress.
[edit by geoguswrek] DR with MXB also help, since they can move a very long distance in order to draw LoS to hard to see targets. Fast cavalry CAN double-march and shoot at maximum distance!

A magic-shooty army seems workable against any defence. The biggest difficulty is to face flying armoured monsters and heavy gunlines. There, the help of screens as harpies or DR is essential. Difficult terrains are a great help for this army.

Characters required.
Sorceresses may well be the only characters taken. Footed, they may join a MXB unit inside a building where they are immune to non-infantry units. Mounted, they are very mobile.

Other units.
RBTs are vital against armoured units. Some shades are nice to march-block the opponent. Some DR (and/or harpies) are vital to delay the opponent and screen. MXB are the bulk of the army.
[edit by geoguswrek] You may wish to consider larger units of MXB (15 strong, say) since the extra numbers give you extra protection against long distance charges.

Defensive strategies.
You rely on pre-emptive distant destruction (magic & shooting), avoidance and MSU.

In order to minimize the impact of the opponent, you need to have many cheap units (MXB) that are expandable, and to keep your most precious characters as mobile as possible.

The opponent, needing to shut down the spells and the shooting or at least to survive to them until it can act, will attack immediately at distance and rush towards you as fast as possible.

You need some magic defence, some screening units (or terrain cover) and some march-blocking/sacrificed units (or difficult terrain).

Building up on different phases.
With no effective melee and psychology phases, there remains movement, magic & shooting.

Movement is extremely important in order to allow you to position the units so that several units have a LOS on the same target and each unit has a LOS on many targets. It is also essential for march-blocking the enemy, screening his shooting with expandable troops and avoid his charges.

Magic and shooting phases will have to be resolved in a careful order: first, use the units with a single target; next concentrate on the most threatening targets.

Last edited by Calisson on Sat Apr 11, 2009 9:50 pm, edited 5 times in total.

Mon Apr 06, 2009 6:19 am
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3. A Mix of Melee and Distant destruction.

Let’s search for a good balance between melee and distance. Obviously this option will have more balance than the two previous options, heavily oriented towards melee or distance.
As usual, we will try to be effective against any of the opponent’s defensive strategy. But this time, as we want all phases to support each other, we will apply the redundancy principle in the following way:

Each possible opponent’s defensive strategy will be countered by one melee unit and one distance unit.

By doing so, we will open as much as possible the options available for us, if the enemy is more dangerous at distance we can deal with him in melee, and if he is more dangerous in melee we can deal with him at distance.

With this principle in mind, let’s review which units are necessary.

Requires either SCR + mass ACR, or MSU + manoeuvrability in melee. Requires MXB at distance, and march-blockers. Melee is the preferred way of dealing with mass, and distance aggression will help to thin down the opponent.
[edit by geoguswrek] A good method is to thin down and then combat and destroy the general's unit, which puts all the enemy on their own leadership. For mass units, the leadership is normally at most 8, so then you go to town with panic tests.

Requires Elite melee or CoB or assassins. Requires RBT and/or magic.
To be considered carefully.
[edit by geoguswrek] Here you are going to NEED some CoK/executioners/hydrae/combat characters, or infantry + CoB, since these are the only things to go through heavy armour reliably.

Requires magic weapons. Requires magic spells. Spells should be the most effective way to deal with that.
[edit by geoguswrek] Also, a BSB with the Pendant of Khaeleth, dark steed, full armour and the Sword of Might is a brilliant option against these units since even if you do fluff your attacks, you won't lose combat.

Requires ITP or fear. Distant killing helps a lot.
[edit by geoguswrek] Against Fear causing combat units, reduce them enough so that they no longer outnumber your combat units; if you do lose combat, you won't autobreak.

Requires ASF. Distant killing helps a lot and is the preferred way of dealing with that.

MSU and distance destruction are the way to go.
[edit by geoguswrek] Against an MSU army, you can also play a refused flank, i.e. you concentrate all your tough units on one flank, just keeping half of your opponent's army busy with a couple of light troop on the other flank (it requries mobile tough troops). This allows you to engage his units one at a time when your units will be superior to his.

Requires fast chargers, magic defence and screens, and distant killing.

Requires fast chargers and screens, and distant killing.

Requires screens, and distant killing.

Requires fast chargers and long range shooters/casters.
[edit by geoguswrek] We can use our shooting to create wide "no man's land" and threaten with charges the remaining of the table, forcing the enemy to choose between our charging area or our shooting area, both of which is favourable to us.


Characters required.
From characters, we want
- a rather strong magic capability (2 levels per 1000 pts), which provides simultaneously a needed magic defense.
- we will need a dreadlord / master / champion with a magic weapon.

There will not be enough character slots to allow a simultaneously a Lord on Dragon, a mounted BSB and a CoB.
A lord/master should not ride a monster taking a character slot, but rather a DP, a DS or a CO, letting magic & shooting deal with the most distant threats. He should have a magic weapon and the “unkillable” setting.
[edit by geoguswrek] I suggest a pendant/sword of might BSb, since this gives a lot of reliability against ethereals, flamers and other light units.

A single CoB may be a good option if it is simultaneously a BSB, although neither the COB nor the BSB are absoluterly necessary, though.

If you can afford it, an assassin is versatile, in the sense that he can start the game in any infantry unit, according to circumstances.

In 2k and above, the selection of a pair of RBT and a hydra is obvious.
Between 1k and 2k, I’d recommend the hydra as more versatile.
At 1k and below, a single RBT is the most reasonable.

Rest of the army.
One MXB unit per 1000pts provides decent shooting; give them shields in order to get more versatility from them. Other units should be melee oriented.
DR and harpies are as necessary as ever in order to shape the battlefield, charge weak units and march-block opponents.

In order not to be bothered by psychology and to have the ability to deal with armoured foes, selecting your special slots between ASF BG, COK & COC seems appropriate. However, if you have a CoB, a combination of Execs and SSS Corsairs is better because more versatile.
[edit by geoguswrek] Witches are also very versatile with the CoB, since they give you a good mass killer (without help), a good armour killer (with killing blow) and are great against psychology because of frenzy. If you keep the units small (no more than 10) then you don't mind if they are baited.
Shades are useful, and GW shades are more versatile.
A mass unit of warriors, with the highest SCR and an assassin, is a good choice with a sorceress using the sacrifice dagger. In that case, hard hitters like COK or Execs are mandatory. I’d recommend to take a single mass unit or none. MSU is the most flexible way to play.
[edit by geoguswrek] You will need more than 20 in this unit, to ensure full combat res when the unit reaches combat.
See GeOrc's "Temple of Khaine" for an example of an effective massed list (that could be expanded to be a truly balanced list with the inclusion of some shooting + magic).

We have seen that difficult terrain is a blessing for a magic/shooty army and a curse for a melee army.
Here, half of the army will benefit from the terrain, whatever terrain is found.

The 5 / 6 phases.
With such an army, all the phases are played actively, and can build up together.
The defence of the army we’re describing lays mostly on MSU for all the army, combined for individual units with either armour/fear, ASF, mass or avoidance.
The psychology phase should go well with several fear causing or ITP units.
The movement phase needs harpies & DR to be dominating.
The magic phase will be powerful against minimal magic defence but will not go through heavy magic defence.
The shooting is light but significant.
The mass melee is covered by either one mass unit, or by MSU; the magic/shooting should help belittle the opposing mass and the movement must allow to deal with a single unit at a time.
The elite melee must be carefully considered, but it can be covered by several solutions.

Building up all phases together is the real trick. If you have a single mass unit, it requires a fine general to have it positioned where it is really useful. And combining charges, magic and shooting is not always obvious.

This army can exceptionally well adapt to any opponent, any terrain, any situation.
However, it has no cutting edge anywhere and requires skill to combine all phases together for a winning panacea.

Nuanced armies.
Between the strictly balanced army and the previous two armies, focused on melee or on distance, there is a wide range of nuances: mostly melee but with a few shooters or with an aggressive caddy; or mostly distance but with one or two strong goalkeeper.
According to the personality of the general, there is no reason why these armies could not be called balanced.

A good example of what can be brought up with a mixed, balanced army can be found there => The Heartless - ...

Last edited by Calisson on Sun Apr 12, 2009 9:20 am, edited 7 times in total.

Mon Apr 06, 2009 3:42 pm
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4. What are the common forces in all balanced armies?
We've just seen three very different possibilities for a balanced army, designed to cope with anything.
Hardly any specific unit is mandatory. Dark Elves are very versatile indeed.

There are a few common factors founded in any balanced list studied above:

- The magic defense requires one sorceress, as a scroll caddy.
Resisting magic without sorceress is feasible, counting on the magic resistance brought by the Ring of Hotek and several null shards, helped with quick-chargers to threaten the spell casters and some shielding units to block the LOS, but really, nothing is as secure as a dispel scroll in a critical moment.
[edit by geoguswrek] Remember where possible to split scrolls between multiple casters, that way if the opponent kills one of your wizards you will never lose all your defence.

- Agile units are a vital part of any balanced list.
Harpies, DR (MXBed or not, but with no shields), shades and/or flying monster-mounted character.
The lack of any of these will hamper the movement phase and let the opponent get the most of it.
They are necessary to deal with far reaching threats.
[edit by geoguswrek] The number of agile units you need depends on the type of army: an army full of large units will need more harpies than an MSU one, since an MSU army can more easily impress itself on the movement phase without as much assistance.
Another point is that fast moving characters can become a substitute for harpies and dark riders. Taking a pair of masters on dark steeds/dark pegs gives a lot of movement and hitting power which is another way of controlling the foe's movement.

- A significant part of the army being made of MSU is also a factor found in all balanced lists.
There is room for large blocks of spears and for tiny expensive dragons, but most of the army should be made of many units, any of them being able to be sacrificed.
[edit by geoguswrek] Modifying Georc's Temple of Khaine with some shooting/magic/quickies will give a strong, balanced army - the army was partly designed by DA so it has to have some balance to it.

It's not that a scroll caddy, a couple of agile troops and an MSU army are enough to make an army balanced! It is that these three elements must be present.

5. Adaptation to small army size.
It requires a big army to have available at least two units able to deal with any of the 10 possible opponent's defensive strategy!

In smaller games, this may not be easy.

In order to be able to cope with any opponent, the only solution is to find the most versatile units, able to cope with many situations (i.e. to benefit from several defensive strategies and to be able to deal with several of the opponent's defensive strategies). There, the army can remain balanced.

The alternative would be to renounce something, but at what cost?

- the loss of redundancy.
[edit by geoguswrek] A non redundant army is never balanced since your opponent could employ shooting, alongside a defence you only have limited units to deal with, and thereby kill your units that can hurt him, giving himself run of the board for several turns.

- the loss of ability against some hardly ever seen defence.
There, the army will not anymore be perfectly balanced, but hopefully it can still cope with most opponents. The problem is that the remaining opponent with a rare defence is likely to benefit from this defence against everyone, so this opponent is very likely to win the tourney, which is not our goal!

So the alternative above is not really satisfying.

It is preferable to keep the most versatile units in a small army.

Examples of versatile units that are suboptimized to any role but very useful in many roles:
- GW shades, expensive but great shooters, great can-openers
- MXB DR, expensive but great to add a little bit of shooting or charges where it is needed.
- shielded MXB warriors, great shooters, able to give a hand in melee
- magic-users, inherently versatile
- warriors on monsters.
[edit by geoguswrek]
- Hydrae: great in combat, very survivable, terror causer, shooting magnet meaning the light stuff will survive longer, and a powerful shooter.
- CoK, while stupid, are able to kill massed units due to reasonable SCR combined with strong ACR, have a fast move so can double as WM hunters, are able to have magic weapons to kill ethereals (at a relatively low cost), cause fear, and have a high armour save, making them good against shooting armies and very good against undead/daemons.

For a limited size balanced army, there is a thread currently under development:
Druchii for beginners - scratch
As DA is the author, no doubt that the list will be kept balanced. :)

Winds never stop blowing, Oceans are borderless. Get a ship and a crew, so the World will be ours! Today the World, tomorrow Nagg! {--|oBrotherhood of the Coast!o|--}

Last edited by Calisson on Sun Sep 20, 2009 7:29 pm, edited 4 times in total.

Thu Apr 09, 2009 10:29 am
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Hey Calisson,
nice article, this gives me some ideas for tweaking my armies. I go for the melee oriented armies and I was recently reminded of the importance of dark riders. They can often charge and beat T4 chariots, very important against a beastmen chariot army! Not to mention snipe charges against mages, which I completely forgot to do. Also this article ties in with DA's beginner article.
About that article I was going to write...there's more than enough on magic defense out there, with Dyvim's articles in particular.

People say "insert problem" but it's better to say "insert improvement"

Fri Apr 10, 2009 8:23 pm

Joined: Sun Mar 02, 2003 3:57 pm
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Location: painting the null stone on my archmage
Looks pretty good so far mate, i especially like all those little comments some nice guy has added.
Sorry i won't be able to get any playtests, my plans to build a DE army have been put on back burner since i'm enjoying using my HE (dragonless in a relatively competitive environment) and have plans to start a WoC list which will be more fun to use than any DE i've got planned.
So in other words i won't be much use for testing yours (and my) theories out. It's all up to you.

Mon Apr 13, 2009 2:18 am
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Thanks a lot for the valuable inputs, geoguswrek, looking forwards for more future coop.

If you want to test an army list for balance, copy the check-list below and fill it up.

Check-list for a balanced army.
Based on D.R.A.I.C.H. The balance of an army. A theoretical approach.

1. Review of the defensive strategies.
A balanced army needs several of the defensive strategies below.
A balanced army must be able to overcome all of the possible opponent's defensive strategies.

- Mass. Own SCR, regen:
Against foes’mass, SCR & regen:

- MSU. Own:
Against foes’:

- Armour. Own:
Against foes’:

- Ethereal units. Own:
Against foes’:

- Fear & Terror. Own defense: :
Against foes’ fear:

- ASF. Own:
Against foes’:

- Distant magic. Own pre-emptive attacks, helped with march-blockers:
Resisting foes’, getting rid of march-blockers:

- Shooting before getting in melee. Own pre-emptive attacks, helped with march-blockers:
Resisting foes’, getting rid of march-blockers:

- Snipe charges against magic-users/warmachines. Own pre-emptive attacks:
Resisting foes’:

- Avoidance. Own:
Against foes’:

Highlighting features:
Overall, own defensive strength:
Overall, own defensive weakness:
Overall, own offensive strength:
Overall, own offensive weakness:

2. Review of the phases.
What to expect during the different phases.

Psychology: Own turn:
Opponent’s turn:

Movement: Own turn:
Opponent’s turn:

Magic: Own turn:
Opponent’s turn:

Shooting: Own turn:
Opponent’s turn:

Melee (Mass): Own turn:
Opponent’s turn:

Melee (Elite): Own turn:
Opponent’s turn:

Combination of phases: Own turn:

3. Balance of the army.
Efficience in all phases. Yes / Quite / No
Adapted to opponents you're not playing today. Any / Most / Some
Versatile / Adaptable / Flexible. Yes / Somehow / Not really
Redundancy / Reserves available. Yes / Somehow / No

4. Plans.

Use of terrain.
Preferred terrain:
Worrisome terrain:

Intended deployment:

7. From theory to practice.
If you tried the nice theories above, please provide below some feedback!

A first application of the theories above can be found there => Great experience with this 2250pts list.
Another analysis is there => Calisson's analysed approach to a balanced corsair army.

"La guerre est un art, tout d'exécution"
(War is an art, only about practice)

Winds never stop blowing, Oceans are borderless. Get a ship and a crew, so the World will be ours! Today the World, tomorrow Nagg! {--|oBrotherhood of the Coast!o|--}

Tue Apr 14, 2009 7:18 am
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