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D.R.A.I.C.H. - RXB men, the modest shooters 
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Corsair
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Here are a couple of thoughts about our humble core shooter.
Quick summary:
take 2 lines of 10 RXB with shields and musician, and use them also for side-charges.


1. Presentation.
2. How many RXBs?
3. Unit’s size.
4. Shields.
5. Command.
6. Assassin and characters.
7. Best use of terrain.
8. Deployment & movement.
9. Fighting in a melee.
10. The large RXB unit.
11. Priority targets?
12. Comparison with other shooters.
13. Conclusion.



1. Presentation.

Repeater Crossbowmen are the backbone of our fire power, large quantity with rather high accuracy shots, armour piercing, which somehow makes up for the low strength of the shot.
Large numbers of them can be taken fairly cheaply.
Despite not being designed to be game breakers, they are a constant irritation to our opponents.


2. How many RXBs?

The volume of fire results in volume of death.

A lone unit of 10 RXBmen tends not to do much damage against most targets and is specialized against fast cavalry.

RxBmen perform better when you take several units of them. When you take large amounts (>30 RXBmen for >60 shots) then you can pump out enough shots per turn to damage even hard targets like knights. A shooty army of 2250pts can pump out around 130 shots per turn and prove very efficient on the battlefield. Enough s3 shots can hurt just about anything, although not everything at once.

The psyche out factor is worth taking them alone! No player enjoys seeing their opponent pick up 40-80 dice for one round of shooting, no matter how puny that shooting may be.


3. Unit’s size.

Units of ten strong tend to be the best:
- The minimum size of 10 is the easiest to field in a single line, taking into account that only the front line can shoot unless you are on a hill. The RXB in the rear are usually wasted, and 10 is already a long line.
- Several small units allow you not to put all eggs in the same basket. Don’t allow your enemy to take out a significant potion of your firebase at once.
- A small unit may more easily avoid charges.
- In a building, only 5 per level can shoot.

Never take more in a unit unless you’ve got a good reason.
One good reason could be if they babysit a sorceress, but not necessarily.
Another, better reason is if you intend them to go in melee. Then you would rather take 15 or 20.


Mon Feb 22, 2010 11:24 pm
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Corsair
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4. Shields.

Many of the vets around here include shields on their RxB's. Why?
For 10 pts, you get a model with a 6+ save vs shooting and 6+ save in close combat.
For 11 pts, you get a model with a 5+ save vs shooting, and a 4+ save in frontal close combat.
Sure, if the enemy ignores them, it is a waste. But who can flatly ignore bolts raining on them?

Shooting:
With shields, you can resist a little bit more the enemy shooting, especially if it is arrows but also S4 shots: 1/6 armour dice rolls will result in survival when they would mean death without a shield, by spending 1pt/10pts. It works also against magic missiles. Well worth the cost!

Light charges:
With shields, you’re much, much safer from quick charges by fast cavalry or skirmishers:
- The stand & shoot reaction (20 shots at 5+, 6 hits, 3 wounds, saving on 6+) is quite likely to kill 2 assailants, enough for a panic on a 5 man unit. That is otherwise 2 less attackers to strike your RXBmen. A S&S may happen only if the attack comes from your 90° LOS at more than half of the charging distance, regardless if you have shields or not.
- When charged, for a mere 1pt, the shield will prevent 2/6 dice fatal results. The avoided casualties can strike back and count for the outnumbering. Remember also that the combat ability of elves is better than most core infantry.

Heavy charges:
Understanding the fighting ability of RXBmen with shields will force your opponent to dedicate heavy units in order to get rid of them. For 10 pts, this is some time bought for your combat units.

Versatility:
It is more versatile to provide your RXBmen with shields. Even if you’re not planning them beforehand to rush for a melee, you have now the option to use them as flankers for your other units (including other RXB units).

Survival:
As we’ve seen above, shields make a big difference in their survival in a 6 turn game. Survival means paying back nearly the cost of your unit with 100 VP for a ¼ table. If they're isolated and tasked with holding an area of the map, better to be safe.

No shields, still?
The only reason for not taking shields is that it is cheaper. If your usual foe has little shooting (or mostly S4-AP bullets), little magic and very few light units, or if you don’t care for your single RXB unit (let’s say their only role is to kill one or two light fast cav), then you can spare the shields.


5. Command.

Champion.
A champion is not that bad, but he simply isn't worth the points, from a shooting perspective.
The champion is more accurate but also more expansive. The raise in efficiency balances exactly the raise in the price in case of a very usual -2 to shoot. When shooting is easier (at close distance or at a large target) then the champion is a waste. When the shooting is harder (skirmishers at long distance or while moving) then the champion is more interesting. In average, the champion increases, just accordingly to the pts increase, the shooting efficiency of the unit, while keeping the same width but adding no more wounds. It is usually more interesting to keep the unit at a lower cost.

The only good reason for a champ is as a sacrificial bodyguard to challenge an enemy character. This is useful if your unit shelters a sorceress of an assassin, or if it is a large unit intended for melee. In that case, the champion can take on challenges, and possibly give one more turn to rescue the unit with countercharges, or reach Turn 6 and the end of the battle.

Standard.
A captured standard is worth 100 points to the enemy at the end of a battle, and no unit of crossbowmen is going to be able to keep a determined enemy from taking that standard away. Moreover, the more expensive the unit, the more valuable it is for the opponent to destroy.

Never take any standard, even if you babysit a sorceress, unless you design your unit specifically for melee (see the chapter about large units).

Musician.
Overall it is not absolutely necessary, but is probably the most popular upgrade, for a good reason.

The main benefit of the Musician for RXBs is the +1 to rally attempts. His cost is more than compensated by the number of times he will help to rally.
RXB troops often end up fleeing:
- Either voluntarily to avoid charges: in order to keep them from being crushed utterly (and giving up those all-important victory points!), a usual tactic is to flee from chargers.
- Or after loosing bodies to shooting or magic.
A mere 5 points for an effective +1 Ld is an absolute bargain.

The muso comes also in play when holding your ground vs. fast troops charging you.

The only time when a musician is not useful is if you’re playing on a board that is a bit too small, meaning that your RXB unit is pretty much hugging the table end, and will flee off the board when they flee.


6. Assassin and characters.

No one suspects an assassin in a RXB unit, so when the opponents charge the unit, they receive a nasty surprise. It has worked.
However, as usual, the assassin will benefit from a champion as bodyguard. Therefore, the mere sight of a champion can create a doubt in the experienced opponent’s mind.
The assassin is close to be required in large units designed for melee. In that case, it is not so much a surprise.

RXB units are a very popular choice for sheltering sorceresses: moving and shooting at 24” complements well with moving and casting spells which, for many of them, have a 24” range.
A unit with shields is mandatory as the unit is a likely target for shooting and magic.
A musician is required as well, in case it would run away for whatever reason.

Then comes a choice between two options:
- Either you have several units, and the sorceress can jump to the least threatened one, or even jump to safety while the unit holds the assailant (easier with a sorceress mounted on a dark steed, but also if you’re hidden in a wood or a house). In that case, the unit should be kept at minimal cost, i.e. only muso & shields in a 10 strong unit.
- Or you have a single unit from which the sorceress cannot easily get away. In that case, it is wise to make the unit larger (15 to 20), so as to soak more wounds and/or get some rank bonus, and to get a champion just in case. An assassin is also a nice addition. But that makes the unit very expensive, so this is not the recommended option.

The sorceress sheltered among RXBmen would nicely benefit from the lifetaker.
The guiding eye is to be considered with the presence of a character. However, the lifetaker should be a more useful option.


Mon Feb 22, 2010 11:27 pm
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7. Best use of terrain.

Terrain can help your RXB either to shoot or to survive.
If you can select your terrain you should consider the ones below, listed in the most interesting order.
If the terrain is set for you, look for the availabilities.

Buildings.
2-storey buildings are the best fire base:
A building provides a great protection, and 360°LOS from the base of the building.
It provides a nice protection from melee as well: only infantry can charge it, the defender get to strike in initiative order, the attackers are denied any charging bonus. In addition, if the defenders flee, they cannot be caught, the attacker can just occupy the building.
An important rule to know is that only 5 models can shoot from each storey. A 2 level building is therefore perfect to shelter 10 RXBmen, and possibly a sorceress as well, which would be delighted to be there.

Barricades.
Shooting from just behind a barricade creates no penalty, but it provides a better protection from shooting (-1 or -2 depending on the nature of the barricade), and it deprives a charging unit from any charging benefit (including striking first). Except flyers who ignore the barricade…

Flat impassable or difficult terrain.
A deep lake, a river or anything similar is a great place to be near: the opponent will have to get around it in order to charge, while this terrain does not prevent the slightest any shooting.
If the terrain is just flat and difficult, then its benefit will be to delay the moment when the opponent will be able to charge, while not preventing you to shoot.

Hills.
A great fire base: Shooters love to be on hills from which the second rank can shoot. Also, they can shoot above your own units.
Furthermore, if they are charged, they benefit from the uphill position for a nice +1 bonus.
However, they become very static, their position is somehow compulsory.
Also, your hill is very likely to receive your RBT. Too bad RXBmen would block your warmachine’s LOS. There are only so many units which can squeeze on top of a hill!
RBTs and RXBs can still complement each other well on a hill: RXB help to defend both units.

Woods.
Yes, a line can shoot from 2” within a forest with no penalty. Usually the forest will not be long enough for the whole unit to be protected by the woods, but hiding the majority of the unit is enough as far as shooting is concerned.
If charged, the unit may select to run into the woods and come back another day. Not very easy however.


8. Deployment & movement.

The best deployment is usually the one which makes the best use of the terrain.
Either you can start from inside a favourable terrain, or you can position yourself to be able to march and occupy this favourable terrain.

Otherwise, you can rather position your shooters taking into account the free lanes where they get the best chances to find some targets. This can be done with the intention to deny your opponent such lanes, or with the intention to belittle the opponent coming through them.

Alternatively, you can deploy on your flanks with the intention of preventing the opponent’s light units to threaten a flank charge or to march block your troops.

Another consideration is that often, you use RXBmen statically. They may well be the only remaining unit to claim one of the ¼ tables on your side at the end of the battle. A good idea could be to let them choose which ¼ table, by letting them close to a limit between two ¼ tables.

However, don’t forget that RXB can move and shoot. Sure, if there is no reason to move, it is better not to loose -1 for moving and shooting. This is why many players use RXBmen in a static way.

However, the decrease in distance soon compensates for the move.
Example of a game against a static opponent:
Turn 1, move and double shoot at long distance, 6 to hit.
Turn 2 & 3, move and double shoot at short distance, 5 to hit.
Turn 4 on, stay and double shoot at short distance, 4 to hit.
This is when you’re glad your unit can withstand some melee, because you’re now within charging range!

Also, don't forget the Change Formation rule on page 14 of the Warhammer rulebook. Change Formation (adding 5 to the front rank) is not a Reform; therefore, you can still shoot after changing formation twice. This works very well with 10 man units. Read it closely, it can come in very handy!
Irtehdar’s deployment: deploy them in a 3x3+1 setup (or even in a 1x10 column) next to dark riders. In first turn, move the Dark Riders forward and now the RxB's have room to reform twice to 10x1 – and shoot (but not move forwards).


9. Fighting in a melee.

You can move in order to follow you main line: you’ve got a unit which can provide a hand in a melee, which your opponent did not expect.
This is a very aggressive use of RXBmen, to be used in conjunction with an equally aggressive army.

RXB Warriors have M5 WS4 I5 Ld8 and 5+/4+ AS. The only real down sides are T3 and 11 points (with shield). Dwarves are the only other Army that can field a unit of missile armed Warriors than can also cut it in CC.
Many players don’t expect getting charged by "shooty" units, and they are even more surprised to discover that your shooty unit is better than many of their fighting units. With them, you have a good flanking unit (with shields) that won't die for charging their hard unit (4+ save).


10. The large RXB unit.

In the previous edition, RXBmen could well be used for HtH fights, but now, with the reduced cost of spears they really are not so worth for melee combats. However, some players still use them as a large fighting unit. They are likely to add a fighting character and/or an assassin.

Let’s compare a unit of 20 shielded RXB with full command to a unit of 20 shielded spearmen with full command.
Assuming that the warbanner is already provided to another third unit, no other banner is useful for spearmen; RXBmen cannot take any magic banner. So much for one of the advantages of the spearmen.
RXBmen are 80 points more expensive than spears. Let’s see how their shooting can justify the price.

RXBmen move in narrow blocks 5x4 if there is a chance for melee; if not, they spread (you can add or remove 5 in the front rank - and fire).
Against an opponent that is not bothered much by shooting, you can go 5 wide and get the same CR +4. You’ve lost 80 pts, nothing else. But who is not bothered by shooting?
10 wide, your RXBmen have 20 shots a turn and still +2 to their CR if they end up in combat without having the time for reforming. They can take casualties without losing shooting power.

The most important is that whatever their formation, they have the full 40 shots for large targets. Facing such large target, they will remain 5x4. This is when the guiding eye comes to an interesting use.

The extra shooting, the security of the 40 shots versus giants and other large targets, and the flexibility of just shooting a HE opponent off the table is why some players don't use spear elves: shield RXB are their standard warriors.

I would not recommend it myself: 2 units of 10 are confirmed to be a more flexible tactic.

Such large unit has been used by 20 or even 24 (8 x 3 ranks). It was mentioned to be worth only over 3K, as in smaller games, your whole army will lack of flexibility with only few units.
Against armies like VC or dwarves, it is simply hopeless, but it achieved very good results to put down giants, carnosaurus and other large winged monsters. Also, in stand and firing situations, it will remove a rank to the charging unit. A FC and assassin are compulsory in this kind of unit.

Added comment (Rabidnid): Its 80 points more than a block of spears. On a hill in two ranks defending they get +3 for the banner, hill and rank, plus 40 stand and shoot shots. They are a very powerful unit.
I tend to use 15 with a standard and muso the same way. 55 points cheaper and the same +3 to SCR but only 30 stand and shoot shots.


Last edited by Calisson on Thu Mar 04, 2010 9:29 am, edited 4 times in total.



Mon Feb 22, 2010 11:30 pm
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11. Priority targets?

Against weak troops (T3 5+ save), shooting with a typical -2, your 10 RXBmen unit will kill about 2-3 models a turn. It becomes much less if the target is better protected. The difficulty is to select the appropriate target to make this modest figure become relevant.

Interesting targets
It is best to target enemies that are either or preferentially a combination of the following:
- Easy to kill, low armour & low toughness.
- Good possibility of Panic, small unit size, low leadership.
- In a critical position, i.e. about to charge your crossbows or flank your Black Guards.
- Expensive points wise.

Fitting all aspects of this description, you have the small light march-blockers:
- flocks of flyers such as harpies;
- fast cavalry;
- light skirmishing infantry.
These targets are your priority #1 since they can deprive you the advantage in manoeuvrability, have little armour but are worth many points. Very good return.

Besides fast cavalry, your best targets are Large Targets with low armour save - e.g. giants.
Empire: either target Detachment units or Halberdiers.
Skaven: target Jezzails or Slaves.
Vampire: shoot at whatever small unit was summoned in front of you, or try concentrating on blocks of Skellies.
One last thing if you play against High Elves. Shoot the Swordmasters and watch the look on your opponents face. Better, let them get within charge range then wipe them out in a single shooting phase. This is the druchii way!

With few shooters
One unit will probably not achieve much on its own: you don't have enough firepower to decimate units.
Your unit’s achievable task is to get rid of small light march-blockers. This was probably the reason why you took this single unit in a non-shooty army, in the first place.
When no more such targets are available, your unit is not going to achieve much with its shooting anymore. Find it another job: you can use your unit for flank charge or just to survive and take a ¼ table.
In the in the meantime, you can spend your shots to whittle down any rank bonuses off infantry or cause the all important panic test from deplete units.

With many shooters.
With many units, you are going quickly to run short of the most interesting fast cavalry targets and the like. Fortunately, you can concentrate your shooting on more difficult targets.

When you take three or more units of 10 then the fun starts. Combine their shooting against things and watch the enemy drop like flies or at least be taking panic tests in every turn of shooting. This works best against t3 low armour guys but you can still reliably take out tougher things, knights and even dragons thanks to the new armour piercing rule.

If you want dark elf shooting to be truly effective then volume of shots is the key. When you are pumping out something in the area of 130 shots per turn, it can definitely weaken the enemy so much that they are incapable of fighting when they reach you.

The difficulty will be a tactical one, which is to concentrate your whole fire power on one or two targets. Always start shooting with the units who have only one possible target. Then the units who can select several targets will concentrate on the ones that have been already hit, until they have to pass a Ld test. Given a choice between equally juicy targets, shoot the units who can receive more shooting from your next unit.


12. Comparison with other shooters.

In The D.R.A.I.C.H. Boot Camp – Shooting, you’ll find an evaluation of all shooting units, including character’s shooting as well (not discussed here).
RXB are cheap enough and their crossbows are deadly enough to kill worth their cost in average in five turns or less. If they survive till the end, the extra shooting is a bonus, and the best is if they survive to occupy a ¼ table at the end of the battle.

The conclusion is that RXBmen are the most cost-effective unit for shooting. And they are core!
This is in addition to their availability as a complementary melee unit!
Shades and RBT are significantly behind: they are accurate or hard hitting, but more expensive per kill. RXB DR are too expensive to compete for low cost kills.

There are targets for which an RBT is decisively better: trying to get a dent into the steamtank with RXBs is very frustrating - every 6th hit will score a wound and every 6th wound will pass the save - So 36 hits (equal 72 shots at long range) for 1 wound. To compare to an RBT, hitting on 2, wounding on 4 - no AS and D3 wounds.

Overall, each shooting unit has its uses.
The RXBmen are the ones to relish mass shots of low strength, and occasionally provide some melee support.


13. Conclusion.

Good luck and may the skies darken under your hail of bolts which spells doom for the hapless foe.


EDIT: A testimony: Viability of RxBs - When is too much?

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Mon Feb 22, 2010 11:34 pm
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