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The Battleline Tax: options for Death armies

Malisteen

Master Necromancer
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Sep 23, 2009
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2,113
#1
So, the new General's Handbook is coming out in the next month or so with the new official points system, and some stores participating in the global campaign already have a store copy in hand to show off.

Along with points, we are seeing a return of force organization charts & battlefield roles, including a minimum number of battle line units - ie, the new core. 2+ core units for 1,000 point games, 3+ for 2,000 point games, 4+ for 2,500 point games.

Battle line options for Death armies include:

Skeleton Warriors
Zombies
Crypt Ghouls
Tomb Kings Skeleton Warriors (not archers)
Tomb Kings Skeleton Horsemen (not horse archers)
Tomb Kings Chariots

Worth noting - Dire wolves, formerly a core unit, are not a battle line unit in the new scheme.

In addition to the above, some units become battle line units under particular conditions:

Morghasts (both types) - if your entire army is Deathlords
Spirit hosts - if your entire army is Nighthaunts
Blood Knights - if your entire army is Soulblight
Black Knights - if your entire army is Deathrattle
Skeleton Archers - if your entire army is Tomb Kings AND your general is Khalida
Flayers - if your entire army is Flesh Eaters AND your general is an Infernal Courtier
Horrors - if your entire army is Flesh Eaters AND your general is a Haunter Courtier


Of these specialized variants, all soulblight for Blood Knights and the Khalida archer army seem the most viable. The other subthemes seem, for now, to be too restrictive to get a solid army out of them, imo, as they're lacking spellcasters (deathrattle, nighthaunts), or the general you need to field isn't really ideal (flayers/horrors). Deathlords are a sort of boarderline case.

I could see an argument being made for an all morghast + mortarch army, summoning in other stuff with magic and spare points during the game, but mannfred and neferata aren't the best casters, while arkhan and nagash want other casters with spells to steal, so I'm still not convinced that the all-deathlord option here is worthwhile.


For the most part, though, I think death armies will be best served by going the generic rout, which means fielding at least 2, 3, or 4 units from the first list. This presents a challenge, because the first three units on that list - and the only ones with currently available models, are kind of redundant, weak infantry that die quickly, with some recursion (zombies and skittles from banners, ghouls from courtier heroes), and extremely weak attacks that improve in either quality or number in big units.

These aren't bad units overall, but they're all offensive units that rely on numbers and buffs to get the job done, and now not only are we being pushed to field more of them, but the buffs available to support them are more restricted than before thanks to the 'rules of one'.

So how do we get around this?


1 - Zombies. The most obvious answer to our core woes is the lowly zombie. No, they're not as good as skeletons or ghouls, but in large units their bonuses to hit and wound still add up to make them reasonably threatening, and they're cheaper than both the main alternatives. The real advantage here is their ability to mob up. You can fill your entire battle line tax with minimum units of zombies, then pool them all into one big unit on your first turn. 40 zombies may be worse than 40 skeletons, but 40 zombies is much, much better than four units of 10 skeletons. If you do go with this option, consider using the points you save buying zombies instead of the more expensive skeletons or ghouls to pick up a corpse cart as well.

2 - sacrificial units. It's unfortunate, but what are you going to do? Even if you used to only run a single big block of skeletons or ghouls, you still might be better off spending points on two more nigh-useless 10 man squads than switching to zombies, particularly if you have buffs tied to specific keywords, whether from ghoul kings or wight kings or whatever.

3 - Formations - aka warscroll battalions. Many of our existing war scrolls were kind of iffy due to the large number of units required, but if you have to field a bunch of these units anyway, why not? The deathrattle formations with their minimum 3 units of skeletons comes to mind. The chariot formation meets the battle line requirements of a 2500 point army on its own. It's particularly worth noting that for every battalion your army includes, you get to outfit one extra generic hero with a free artefact, and several of the death artefacts are worth fielding.

4 - Tomb Kings. With their product line discontinued, it's easy to forget about the tomb kings, but their rules still exist, and other companies are already moving to fill the gap - mantic in particular should have the first wave of their not-tomb-kings out in the next month or so, though sadly the first round of models doesn't include the most relevant options for this discussion - skeleton horsemen and chariots. While our infantry doesn't operate well at minimum unit sizes, horsemen and chariots do fine.

The horsemen are fragile and weak, but not really noticeably more so than black knights, and with the ability to run and charge their faster. One or two minimum sized horsemen units running round the flanks to harass artillery crew could easily justify a slot in your army. If you're looking for conversion ideas - try hexknights with upper bodies & shields from the skeleton warrior kit.

Chariots are a far cry from the heavy hitters they could be back in 8e, but 3 chariots still compare favorably to 20 skeletons or ghouls, while being less expensive than either in points. They have a very favorable recursion mechanic, but don't forget that they're still very fragile with hardly any save. And they double their attacks on the charge for 12 attacks each (14 for the champion), but those attacks are each still individually extremely weak, with almost no rend, so try to use them to target units with poor saves (you're likely to see more such units with the core tax back in place). Conversion-wise, well, I can't help much here. If you can find a suitable chariot chassis, you can attach it to a couple hexwraith steeds and put some skeleton warriors inside. Don't forget to mount some bows & quivers somewhere. Seaguard bits are good for that, and can still be found on the secondary markets last I looked.


----------------------

So yeah, those're my initial thoughts. If you're trying to find an actual use for those obligatory battle line units, try either a formation or one to two large infantry blocks plus msu squads of horsemen and chariots. Or just suck it up and field a couple 10 man skeleton or ghoul units as a tax.
 

Demian

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Oct 28, 2011
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1,248
#2
As I see, I was wrong on my earlier impression of Nagash at low point games, but he would do most well the larger the game it is, since you can make full use of his summoning prowess, while fielding his minimum with Deathlords bonus too:

- Instead of wanting him to make use of other wizard's spells, we could focus entirely on his summoning capabilities, bringing to the table only the most ferocious models we possess, such as 4 other Morghasts, 2 Zombie Dragons / Terrorgheists or 20 Grave Guard. This obviously needs tweaking but the idea isn't so bad.

If you own the models, and their points do not soar beyond reason, Tomb Kings Skeleton warriors seem to be better than their generic counterparts because of their Tomb Shields.

I also understand why Dire Wolves are no longer a "core" option for AoS and that is because they are like Zombie Cavalry now, with better saves than even Black Knights (buffed by Corpse Carts, might I add).

I agree we should see many generic armies, at least before they release Nighthaunts and Soulblight themed books. Vampire Lords are still our best tool-box generals that can affect any and all undead with their command abilities, and one should consider only fielding, for instance Deathrattle themed armies if, say a Wight King would use that special item that makes him a wizard, and thus, would have access to Summoning, should he needed it.

Mortis Engines and Corpse Carts are too good of a magical buffers to not want to include them in many armies, and from those, only Flesh-Eaters have "summoning" mechanics that bypass this need.

An interesting era for Age of Sigmar, one I long to greet by waging war in the name of Carpe Noctem
 

Malisteen

Master Necromancer
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Sep 23, 2009
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2,113
#3
Actually, I think the wizard thing may not be the best option, even if you don't have other wizards to pull from. IMO, +1 to the faction trait is the best command trait you can pick up for a generic hero. Ignoring a third of wounds is a major defensive boost - it's equivalent to casting mystic shield on spirit hosts, except that it applies to every unit in your army (or at least every one within range of a hero), with no casting roll and no chance of dispel, and it works on mortal wounds.

I am very eager to try out a Wight King with Black Axe, plus that ability, plus the artefact that gives him back a wound for every model he kills. With his halving of incoming wounds, that should make him quite durable for a generic infantry hero.

Generic vampires are still too fragile to make good generals, imo. At least, not unless you're dipping into tomb kings to give them a herald. On the other hand, vampires on zombie dragons look quite impressive.



The problem with the 'Nagash plus morghasts, and just summon the rest' army is that it really only gets you out of your battle line requirements, and considering that even the largest games will only cost you less than 250 points of zombies to set that requirement aside, I'm not convinced that you're better off summoning than you would be just fielding whatever, especially when it means giving up on necromancer for vanhels.

Plus, morghasts are so expensive that you don't actually leave yourself a lot of points that way. In a 2,500 point game - the largest game size - Nagash plus the minimum 8 morghasts to meet your core tax eats up 1,860 points, leaving you only 640 points to summon with. You can bring in exactly one pair of terrorgheists, then your summoning is done for the entire game with that one spell, and all of nagash's extra casting attempts are for naught, and your army is Nagash, 8 morghasts, and two terrorgheists. A lot to handle, sure, but I'm not convinced that it would be overwhelming at that points value, and you don't get to use the command traits or artefacts.

The all shooty khalida army, however, could definitely be a thing. Ranged attacks are pretty crazy in this game. 120 archers, khalida, and a triangle of catapults with a necrotect in the middle to let them double shoot meets all core requirements and still leaves 700 odd points left to fill in some casting & countercharge ability in a 2,500 point game. Maybe a necrosphinx, 3 bowshabti, and a lich priest? Leaves you 60 points spare with literally nothing you can spend it on, but the lack of granularity in points costs means you'll often get stuck with that sort of leftover gap unless your group houserules that you can buy partial units. You could use your artefact to improve the priests casting, or make the tect a backup caster, or give one of them the mini carstein ring to keep them around an extra turn.

You don't get the command trait, though.
 
Last edited:

Demian

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#4
So, as I am reading now...

if all the units we field have the DEATH keyword, we gain the Death Allegiance, and thus we are able to use a Command Trait. However, in order for us to take advantage of the Battleline option on, say Blood Knights, we must choose the Soulblight Allegiance... which would prevent us from gaining Death Allegiance traits?

am I reading this right?

Artifacts of Death seem to be undisturbed by the above.
 

Malisteen

Master Necromancer
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#5
That seems to me to be exactly what they wrote, although I can't imagine that's what was intended, and I'd expect the first FAQ of this book to fix it.
 

Demian

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#6
Oh, alright then!

Also, good catch on the Nagash thing. It would me much easier to just field him, some zombies and fill the rest as needed. Paying ~180 points on Battleline is not such a bad thing, and as you have said, we can still benefit from joining those zombies together and set them to purpose
 

Eyeless

Wight King
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May 17, 2013
Messages
443
#7
Also pure flesh eater lists might not be too bad either. I toyed with some ideas yesterday similar to somethings I've tried and it looks promising.
 

Malisteen

Master Necromancer
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#8
Pure flesh eaters looks fine at first, but I'd really want one of the ghoul kings as the general for their command abilities, not a horror or infernal courtiers, and if you take a ghoul king general than flesh eater allegiance doesn't actually get you anything. As such, you might as well throw a necromancer in there for vanhels.
 

Eyeless

Wight King
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May 17, 2013
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443
#9
@Malisteen I agree about the necromancer, however the ghoul king's command abilities aren't that good considering summoning requires points. On foot gets you 10 ghouls, on terrorgheist gets you 3 horrors or flayers and on zombie dragon gets you an infernal or a haunter. Not bad but not something i won't consider trading for having flayers or horrors as battleline. Again this all depends on what formations you'll be playing and if you want to rely on summoning or not.
 

Malisteen

Master Necromancer
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#10
Hrm. Right right, good point, I forgot that the ghoul kings lost their buffing command abilities and got summoning instead. Will depend in part on the exact wording of the summoning restriction, but yeah, a courtier general no longer looks like the worst idea.
 
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