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I just got my battleforce and I have a question. I want an all melee army (except for magic). Will my army still be as good as one that uses ranged weapons?
A balanced army works best IMHO. But you don't need much shooting, and it can come from units that are also fine melee support units.
I don't actually field any dedicated shooting units anymore, and the shooting I do is just to pick off trouble support units and knock off a rank bonus before charging. I use 2 units of 5 no command dark riders, and 1 unit of 5 GW shades. So a modest 30 shots a turn, in very handy support units. 310 points of shooting that are also legit melee threats is a good investment at any points level.
All-melee is not too hard of a handicap, especially with supporting magic. Black Guard, Cold One Knights and Hydras will all serve you well in this regard. The only serious issue is what to do about core choices, since the most popular ones are Crossbowmen and the shooty Dark Riders notabot187 mentioned. I suppose Warriors will be your default choice; they're not bad at SCR but can't do much else. Many Druchii generals bring one Warrior squad anyway, in order to feed a Supreme Sorc carrying the sacrificial dagger. Corsairs are a step up from Warriors in performance and two steps down in model count. No-crossbow Dark Riders are good for contesting table quarters and nothing else; I've tried to make a decent melee unit out of them and given up. They die to skink screens. (Then again, I've given up on the shooty ones as well; they just don't do anything well.)
I see three directions you could take with your core. One is to have minimal units whose only task is to hold table quarters. Such units can also be used to bait enemies into ambushes you might set up. Try this direction if you face many Death Star opponents or want a high-cavalry list. Two, you could base your army around large, well-supported blocks infested with assassins. This would work best if your metagame has few high armor/toughness armies or you want a Corsairs theme. The third would be clean-up crews, independent Warrior blocks of 20-30 who can't win a fair fight but won't have to once their enemies bleed through a gauntlet of magic and offensive units.
For comparison, most Dark Elf generals use core units to shoot down screening units, scouts and incautious characters, then reposition or take quarters when the heavy hitters reach melee. This is why many of the lists you will see in the army sub-forum have small core units (to facilitate mobility) and no command (it isn't cost-effective for a unit that isn't expected to survive melee).
"My tanks have names, my men have numbers." -Col. Edmund Grahvess, 23rd Kronecker Prison Guard
For a melee focused army I would bring one big block of 20+ warriors with full command and War banner, and put the Banner of Nagarythe in it to make it unbreakable. Then put a choppy assassin (either killing blow or manbane) to bodyguard the BSB. It ends up being something like 7-8 SCR with an assassin able to clear the front rank at ASF speed.
The other core should be 2 min sized units of corsairs, preferably with RHB instead of extra weapons. They still contribute their rule to combat, and have a powerful stand and shoot effect if someone tries to pick off the small units with cavalry or fliers. (though personally I like RxB dark riders, I've found that they can do anything you want them to do as long as you understand they are fragile and disposable.)
In a CC oriented army, a unit of ASF black guard with crimson death is a must. Then at least one unit of cold one knights with no command (and maybe even 2). The other specials depend on preference, but I recommend shades and witches. Shades so you have GWs able to attack war machines early, and witches since they sometimes are ignored until it is too late (threat saturation, people fear black guard and hyrdras over anything else). Special choice are max hydras, because it is a hard to kill fast fire breathing and strong CC monster for way too little point.
No shooty armies can do fine. The only shooting I have, besides a hydra, is from 7 shades, assassin and a filler 10x crossbowmen unit. The shades never make back their points in shooting and are used for anti-warmachine and shooting from my opponents (when I can scout place them favorably). The assassin usually makes his points back through high T and AS models or monstrous creatures which he decimates. And he defends the shades as well as he can always stand and shoot. But all that is unnecessary. Like stated above, stick with a rock hard line w/ BG (armor piercing banner) and spearmen, and I would also leave a suggestion open for Execs w/ Death Hag BSB with ASF. You should have the pts left over to do this with no shooting. It's not just what you have, but what your opponent thinks you have. A hydra and cold one unit would be recommended for this if possible.
I think the only must would be more than average harpy units as you will be vulnerable to warmachines more than most DE armies. I'd shoot for 3 units of 5 harpies.
I've gotten the army box to, ordered it at the local store.
Haven't even gotten the main rulebook yet. (gonna wait till summer to see if there i a new one coming)
I was thinking of adding to the batallion box another unit of Crossbowmen, 2 Balistae and perhaps some Blackguard. Is that a good start?
H.Q. wise I already ordered a Lord on Cold One and the Sorceress on horse and without horse blister.
Any must-haves for the rest? (i'll get a hydra later on?)
After I finish my WoTR army i'll start painting. I should have some time to paint up part of my army 'till summer.
Take a look here:
Unless you're going for a really shooty army I might avoid adding the extra 16 xbows. You can always get the box and make warriors as well, just add a few more x'bow.
In terms of must have units, I would highly reccomend Dark Riders. They are core, and they are fast cav with X-Bows...so you can always take them instead of the extra x-bows. I find they work really well. The main issue with Dark riders is that the models are not the best...i've heard some rumors that they will get a new plastic kit soon, but i dont really trust that. You can always kit bash some Wood elf Glade Riders with the Corsair models you get in the batalion box...So that's something to keep in mind since corsairs are not the DE's best unit. They are usefull in some cases.
Shades are also nice, since with bs 5 they will hit on a 2+
In terms of "must haves" though, it will really depend on what kind of list you would like to play. If you are going for a balanced list, you're already off to a really good start. If you want to go "shooty" I'd say add some harpies for march blocking. For a more melee heavy list, "maybe" a cauldron and some witch elves (instead of Corsairs)...Cauldon of blood gives some really nice buffs that will actually help in CC.