Thursday, 22 May 2014

Wood Elves vs Empire: Crazy Horses

On a sojourn to Leofa Towers, we decided to play a 1,600pt OffBoot. Unlike Kraken's recent experience, there were no fluffy-chinned beardlings here, just a combined age of 70+, a thin grasp of the rules and improvised scenery.

Leofa patched together (literally, in some cases) a themed Empire army, while I blew the dust off my 4th ed. Wood Elf models to try out the 8th ed. rules.

Wood Elf army
"Don't shoot until you see the whites of their eyes..."
"General! The eyes haven't been painted yet!"

The Poison Ivy League

  • Glade Captain (Great Weapon, Hail of Doom Arrow)
  • Spellweaver (Lv4 Lore of Shadow, Talisman of Preservation, Dispel Scroll)
  • Waystalker (Bow of Loren)
  • 10 x Glade Guard (Trueflight Arrows)
  • 10 x Glade Guard (Hagbane Tips)
  • 10 x Dryads
  • 5 x Wardancers (Champion, Musician)
  • 10 x Deepwood Scouts (Hagbane Tips)
  • 3 x Treekin (Champion)
  • 10 x Waywatchers (Hagbane Tips)
  • 1 x Great Eagle
- 1,600pts

My army selection was pretty straightforward: this was everything I had painted (or else I don't think the much-maligned forest spirits would have made it in).

The plan was to emphasise magic and shooting, and use the combat troops (such as they were) to slow or redirect the bad guys. I gave every archery unit poisoned shots (with the exception of one unit of Glade Guard, who got arrows that ignore penalties - I was already nostalgic for the old rules), plus the Hail of Doom on my general and Bow of Loren so the Waystalker could do some character sniping.

The Lore of Shadows is meant to have some good synergies with Wood Elves, as well as being appropriately fluffy. Unfortunately I rolled Enfeebling Foe, Penumbral Pendulum, Steed of Shadows (swapped for Melkoth’s Mystifying Miasma) and a free pick. Which meant I had failed to roll the best three spells in the lore - I decided to go with The Withering, hoping a lowered toughness would compliment my S3 shooting (but that meant forgoing Pit of Shades and - disappointingly - Okkam’s Mindrazor.)

The Steel Hooves of Sigmar

  • Grand Master (Sword of Striking, Spellshield, Luckstone)
  • Captain of the Empire, BSB (Barded Warhorse, Steel Standard)
  • Battle Wizard (Lv2 Lore of Beasts, Dispel Scroll, Ruby Ring of Ruin)
  • 8 x Inner Circle Knights (Full Command, Standard of Discipline)
  • 5 x Knights (Full Command)
  • 3 x Demigryph Knights (Full Command, War Banner)
  • 5 x Outriders
  • 5 x Pistoliers
  • Steam Tank
- 1,600pts

General Leofa went for an all-cavalry army, with the Steam Tank adding some mechanised support. With only six units on the table, most of them expensive, he would be relying on those 1+ armour saves to get him into combat.

His wizard rolled Flock of Doom (swapped out for Wyssan's Wildform) and Savage Beast of Horros. I may have been tempted to keep Flock of Doom, as Wood Elf archers are one of the few units who would be troubled by its paltry S2 hits, but the wizard already had a ranged attack with the Ruby Ring, so went for the augments instead. The fact that all his army was on horses meant that he would get a +1 to cast for everything.


I have just seen the unfortunate implications of abbreviating Demigryphs and Inner Circle Knights.
This is an accident, not a jibe at my opponent.  

The two armies end up on opposite corners of the field. Both Empire Knights started on the Temple of Skulls (we were trying out the random terrain for hills), flanked by Demigryphs and Outriders. Over on the right flank were the Pistoliers and Steam Tank

A placed my 'free wood' (Venom Thicket) in the centre of my lines, and occupied it with the Captain-led Glade Guard (Trueflight Arrows), the Spellweaver and her Wardancer bodyguards alongside them. The Treekin guarded the left side of the woods, and the Dryads on the right, with the Waystalker sneaking around close by.

Over to the left were the other Glade Guards, followed in the scouting phase by the Deepwood Scouts (occupying an unknown wood) and Waywatchers. Holding down the right flank was the Great Eagle, trying to hide its massive wingspan behind a building.

We rolled for the first turn and Leofa won. Then we realised he forgot to vanguard and had to roll again - and I won (BRING IT!)


Having now remembered to vanguard, the Pistoliers skipped over to the other side of the Steam Tank, and the Outriders zoomed forward.

My Glade Captain officially started the battle by shooting his Arrow of Kurnos at the Empire Grand Master which, in an ominous display of my archery, failed to wound.

Then the Empire Knights on the Temple of Skulls decided to pledge their souls to the Ruinous Powers:
  • With the fateful call of "BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!", the Inner Circle Preceptor was rewarded with a toughness boost.
  • With the fateful call of "Anything But A 1!", the Knight Preceptor was punished for his heresy and dragged to his doom.

"I regret nothing!"

Turn 1 - Wood Elves

The formalities concluded, the Wood Elves were free to move onto the dance floor. The Great Eagle rejoined the army, the archers nudged for position and the forest spirits advanced cautiously.

Enjoying the +5 for her level and casting in woods, the Spellweaver cast Miasma on the Pistoliers, but the Withering on the Steam Tank was dispelled.

In the shooting phase, displaying the prowess for which they are so rightly feared, the Waywatchers missed almost all their shots on the Steam Tank. Not to be left out, the Waystalker missed both his sniper shots on the Battle Standard, and the Glade Captain's Hail of Doom managed to generate a lousy 5 arrows (on 3D6) on the Demigryphs, of which only a handful hit and none wounded.

The Deepwood Scouts and Glade Guard fared slightly better, combining to wipe out the Pistoliers.

(.... sassafrasn' frickin' Hail of Doom arrow)

Turn 1 - Empire

Clearly angling for a change of allegiance, the Inner Circle Preceptor once again pledged his alliance to Khorne, and rather than being squished, was rewarded with increased WS.

The Empire then signals a general advance. The Wizard's spells either fail or are dispelled.

The Steam Tank trundles forward, then fires its steam cannon to destroy one Treekin and bounce on to kill two Wardancers. The Outriders take aim on the Great Eagle, then realise their weapons are move-or-shoot, and do nothing.

Turn 2 - Wood Elves

The sacrificial units are sent to do their duty: the Great Eagle moves to block the small unit of Knights, the Dryads march forward to block the Khornite Inner Circle Knights and Demigryphs, while the Treekin face off against the Steam Tank.

Clearly outraged at this callous use of forest spirits, the unknown wood turned out to be a Wildwood forest, which woke up and smashed three Deepwood Scouts (i.e. it should have happened last turn, but we forgot about it). Making a mental note to call in the Wildwood Rangers, the Scouts leave the arboreal blender. 

In the magic phase, Withering on Steam Tank is dispel scrolled, but Enfeebling Foe is cast on Inner Circle Knights.

With poisoned arrows (sure, you can poison a tank) the Waywatchers manage a few no-armour-save shots that take three wounds off the Steam Tank. But the rest of the archers discover that all the accuracy in the world is not much use against 1+ armour saves. The Waystalker does even worse, with his three sniper shots missing the Battle Wizard.

Turn 2 - Empire

Despite its injuries, the Steam Tank passed its boiler test (every time he tested, Leofa consistently rolled just under the required amount to pass) and charged the Treekin, but fell just short.

The Knights charged the Great Eagle, which wisely fled, and left them stranded. The Inner Circle Knights and Demigryphs had better luck and easily made it into the waiting Dryads.

The Outriders continue their tour of the battlefield surroundings.

In the magic phase, the Savage Beast on the Grand Master is dispel scrolled (I wasn't trying to spare the Dryads, but just conscious that my wizard may not be around long enough to use it next time) and everything else is stopped with dispel dice.

In the shooting phase, the Steam Tank picks off a few Glade Guard, to compensate for its failed charge. In close-combat, the Dryads are smashed up and what remains break and are run down. The Inner Circle Knights pursue into a (rather carelessly-positioned) Waystalker, but the Demigryphs stop just short of the Poison Thicket.

Turn 3 - Wood Elves

Keen to avoid the prospect of D6+3 S6 Impact Hits, the Treekin charge into the Steam Tank. The Great Eagle rallies, the archers position themselves to shoot, and the Spellweaver takes her leave of the Wardancer unit.

In the magic phase, after much Dithering (between Steam Tank and Demigryph), I cast the Withering on the Steam Tank, which knocks its toughness down to 4.

The remainder of the shooting is only able to knock a single wound of a Demigryph, and then we're into the close-combat.

Trying to atone for his poor shooting, the Waystalker issues a challenge - which is declined by the Champion of Khorne in the unit - leaving the Grand Master to pick up the slack. Clearly embarrassed, the Empire general wiffs all his attacks, leaving the unit to win by combat resolution. The Waystalker flees, is run down and the Inner Circle Knights (including the Chicken of Khorne) pursue into the Great Eagle (who I did at least position correctly to redirect them away from the business end of the battle).

On the other side of the field, even T4 proves too much for the Treekin. They fail to dent the Steam Tank, which repays the favour by failing to hurt them.

Turn 3 - Empire

The Demigryphs charge into the Glade Guard, surviving the perils of the woodland terrain. The Knights and Outriders move across the field. As part of its movement phase (not close-combat, apparently), the Steam Tank revs its engine and grinds up one of the Treekin.

In the magic phase, Wildform is successfully cast on the Demigryphs. In combat, the Inner Circle Knights fail to kill the Great Eagle (they must have fallen out of Khorne's favour), but still manage to run it off the board

Meanwhile, the Demigryphs lose one of their number to the Glade Guard's poisoned attacks, but kill Glade Captain, a few more archers. The Wood Elves break and are run down, with the Demigryphs overruning into the Wardancers.

Turn 4 - Wood Elves

With only the left flank of the army remaining, the Wood Elves move for position, in the hope that their shooting will improve.

The Spellweaver lines up along Demigryph flank. Miasma on Inner Circle Knights is dispelled, allowing Penumbral Pendulum to go off. The Pendulum passes through both units, but only puts a single wound on one Demigryph, then kills a few Inner Circle Knights (most managed to make their Initiative tests, which was why dispelling Miasma was so crucial).

In the shooting phase, everything is thrown against the Inner Circle Knights, managing to remove their back rank.

In the close-combat phase, the Wardancers dance the Storm of Blades, which produced a rather-effective 6 poisoned hits from 10 attacks. It's enough to kill a whole Demigryph, although not enough to prevent them getting squished by the surviving monster, who repositions to charge into Spellweaver. 

Over at the Steam Tank, the remaining Treekin continues to batter away at the metal sides like he's auditioning for a steel band, to no effect.

Turn 4 - Empire

The lone Demigryph charges into the Spellweaver. The rest of the army reins back into position: the Inner Circle Knights swing around and advance, as do the Knights and Outriders.

The Steam Tank's grind attacks are saved by Treekin's ward, but the Engineer manages to cause a wound, winning the combat, although the forest spirit holds.

In the magic phase, Wildform is successfully cast on the Inner Circle Knights.

The Demigryph fails to kill Spellweaver, but she breaks nonetheless and is run down. The Demigryph pursues into the second unit of Glade Guard.

Turn 5 - Wood Elves

More archery, as the inaccurate force meets the impenetrable objects. The Waywatchers and Scouts succeed in taking out two Knights, who would have fled but for their general's leadership (and only when increased by the Standard of Discipline which - while being rules-as-written - seems so daft it's crying out to be revised).

The Treekin loses another wound to the Tank's steam gun, but still holds in combat. The Glade Guard actually take a wound off the Demigryph, and I almost hope for an upset as the knight whiffs his attacks. However, the Demigryph itself kills one archer and combat resolution does the rest. Continuing my theme of below-par leadership tests, the Glade Guard break and are run down.

Turn 5 - Empire

The Knights charge into back of Treekin, whereupon the Steam Tank finally gets its act together and grinds the Treekin into chippings, leaving the Knights stranded.

Everything else moves closer, with the exception of the Outriders, who finally find themselves able to take a shot.

In the magic phase, the Ruby Ring kills a couple of Waywatchers, then miscasts and explodes.

In the shooting phase, the Outriders unload 15 shots at the Deepwood Scouts, although when the smoke clears, only one elf is dead.

Turn 6 - Wood Elves

There's not much left for the elves to do now, other than prey to Isha for the Steam Tank to blow up.

Both units move for position, and it takes their combined bowshots to remove the last wound from the Demigryph.

Turn 6 - Empire

The Steam Tank runs out of puff, and fails to charge Waywatchers. Its cannon then misfires, but to no ill-effect.

The Inner Circle Knights charge into the Deepwood Scouts, wiping them out with ease and overrunning into Waywatchers (who I'm sure could totally take them, but I'm afraid that's all the time we've got, folks).

Result: 1470 : 303 - Victory to the Empire.

Closing thoughts

Oh, shot

Low strength attacks and enemies with high armour saves. These are meant to be the traditional problems for Wood Elf armies, and I'm sure I would have found the same - except my bloody archers scarcely hit a thing!

Even the celebrated Waywatchers were rolling a hell of a lot of 1s and 2s to hit (seriously: they managed to shoot 58 poisoned, armour-negating shots and they totalled 8 wounds in the whole game). And as for the Hail of Doom ... don't get me started on the Hail of Doom.

These Asrai are clearly in need of some eyesight tests - I hope they can get them on the National Elf Service.

Boom Boom.


On paper, Empire Knights should be a good prospect for the Wood Elves: expensive troops, average toughness, relatively few in number. The only problem was everything I had failed against that damn 1+ armour: the lack of strength in my army meant I really had no answer to it. In retrospect, I should have taken Okkam’s Mindrazor - I went for the Withering because it synced with my archery, and I assumed that, if I ever found myself in close combat, I was already screwed. But with Mindrazor and Always Strike First, I reckon even Glade Guard could be pretty formidable.

Spells notwithstanding, I did enjoy bossing the magic phase (not only with a Lv 4, but +1 for Blessings of the Ancients) - I think there is a lot of potential in Lore of Shadows, but I would be very tempted to go for a Lore of Metal mage next time, as I don't think the Waywatchers can cope with being the only anti-armour unit (certainly not the way mine shoot).

New rulebook

Generally, it was fun getting back into playing Wood Elves, fragile little glass hammers that they are.

Things I liked:
  • Arrow of Kurnos - it didn't work, but it is fun watching your opponent's expression as you explain it to them.
  • Special arrows: not cheap, but I'd kit out every archery unit with at least Hagbane Tips (less sure about the Trueflight Arrows - hitting things *shouldn't* usually be a problem, but you could always park them at extreme range, behind a wood, and still hit on 3s).
  • Always Strikes First - but it needs a strength buff to be effective.
  • Waywatchers - Hawk-Eyed Archery negates armour and has the potential to delete small units of knights (in theory).
  • Waystalker - has the potential to snipe wizards off the board (again in theory).

Things I didn't like:
  • Dryads - 2 x attacks with Hatred, but S3 is a problem. They might serve as 5-strong units of ItP blockers/redirectors - like Great Eagles, but slower and from Core. I don't see their potential to fight in bigger units with ranks, so their loss of Skirmish is a negative.
  • Treekin - another drop in strength meant they couldn't even dent a Withered Steam Tank. Their toughness, scaly skin and ward save does mean they can hold things up - but you are asking them to die slowly, rather than win combat for you.
  • Glade Captain - attacking first, even with a great weapon, was nice, but's he's not a combat general. Given that I failed a lot of average leadership rolls, and all I want is a Arrow of Kurnos model and Hail of Doom caddy (although why, I don't know...), I'd probably take him as a BSB and make the Spellweaver the general.
  • Rolling 5 (out of a possible 18) for Hail of Frickin' Doom!

Army play

I picked what units I had, but I've no complaints, since I wanted to see how they all played.

If I were to choose again (and had the rest of my army painted), I'd be happy to keep the emphasis on arrows n' spells, but get some fast cavalry in there, and perhaps another eagle. The Treekin might still have a place, but I think the Dryads are going to get benched.

In terms of how I played, I supposed I could have deployed more aggressively, and started shooting at his knights from Turn 1 (I wasted my shots against the Tank - although everything was armour-plated, so maybe it wouldn't have mattered).

It took six turns for Leofa to reach all of my army, so I was able to shoot for the whole battle (those units that made it that far), and the Knights and Outriders were shut out of most of the battle. My blocking and redirecting could use some work - sometimes it did exactly what I wanted, sometimes it just presented an easy overrun charge.

From the Empire's perspective, the Inner Circle and Demigryph knights did exactly what they were supposed to: take punishment and plough through things. The smaller unit of Knights didn't get into combat, so did nothing but babysit the wizard (and sacrifice its champion to the Chaos Gods).

For magic, a combination of poor rolls and inferior casting level meant the Empire were playing defence for most of the game. I don't think the buffs swung any combats and the Ruby Ring (which did have me worried) only killed a couple of Waywatchers.

The Pistoliers could have been dangerous, but got wiped out on the first turn (for that very reason), and the Outriders were useless. Even as fast cavalry, their move-or-shoot weapons couldn't cope with a more mobile enemy. Against something static, like Dwarves, their movement and multiple shots could wreak havoc, but when fast cavalry is needed, Pistoliers do a better job.

The Steam Tank was a curiosity: very hard to damage, but not too effective in combat (that said, the rolls during combat were poor, while the steam boiler rolls were consistently good). If I faced it again, I wouldn't have any better idea what to do, other than Pit of Shades, or shove a couple of Treekin under its wheels.

Well, the epic is concluded. And if you thought that took a long time to read, you should have been there for the battle (From 7.30pm-1am. I absolve Leofa of the blame for this one - I had a lot of rules to digest and was taking my time).


  1. If that Preceptor of Khorne is interested, my WoCs are recruiting for cavalry.

    Good report that, and an interesting battle. I like the Lore of Shadows too, but the expense of the higher level mage that would get the most out of the spell synergy means it's a tall order for a small battle.

    I would absolutely dread taking on Welves with my WoCs. Slow, small units of heavily armoured footsoldiers against armour-ignoring, highly mobile snipers? No thanks. Regardless, let's try and schedule that pioneering Skype battle sometime soon.

    1. Ta, and that's a good point about getting the value out of spellcasters: I was enjoying magical dominance, but when half my army was wiped out, there were a lot less things to compliment.

      And yes, you'll want to pit your WoC against my Wood Elves before they learn to shoot - expect a DM on that very subject.

  2. Great report, I have had 3 games now with the new wood elves and I must say I love them. Favorite unit so far is the wild riders, my god at 130 points basic they can do so much. Waywatchers cannot take enchanted arrows unfortunately ;). glade riders are very handy now, and as for enchanted arrow choice I favour hagbane and 1 unit with starfire for negating regen with flaming and also +1 to wound all nasty stuff. I use the sisters as a bunker for my lvl 4 on shadow, bsb with HoD, and I have been running a lvl 2 death in that unit aswell. All fast cav with the lichbone banner for a decent save versus magic attacks. Waywatchers have obliterated WoC in the 2 games against them so far, and withering is just a killer. I am still unsure of my support mage, I am liking the idea of heavens or maybe beasts for wyssans. I will continue to test them out, but I have really gone for avoidance rather than anything else. 3 games, 2 wins against WoC and 1 narrow loss tonight against ogres. Looking forward to more. Again all I can say is make sure you have wild riders :) I am running 2 units of 6 with FC and shields. Also the warhawk riders are now worth a mention :)

    1. Good stuff, sounds like there's a lot of untapped potential in the army - luckily, most of the stuff I have unpainted is cavalry, so that's next up. I'd like to get to grips with an avoidance strategy, which is very in-character for Wood Elves. Keep posting anything else you learn about them (were these 2,400pt games?)

    2. Yes all games I have played are at 2400 points. I will keep posting the goods and bad :)

    3. The new sister/wild rider kit is really fiddly to put together, 4 boxes nearly drove me insane lol :)

    4. I hear lots of raving about the Wild Riders too, the new Doomfire Warlocks it seems. Even if the Sisters are supposed to be that!

  3. "Waywatchers cannot take enchanted arrows unfortunately"
    Ah, you're right about that. Did you hear that, Leofa? It looks like the army was invalid, so we'll have to call the battle a draw. I guess we'll never really know who won... ;-)

    1. I also forgot to apply Murderous Prowess to the Wood Elves fighting in the forest.
      (if being scraped off a Demigrpyh's paw counts as prowess...)

  4. Hey guys, I've nominated you for a Liebster Award, in case nobody else has done so yet...