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Ive just gotten back into warhammer again since I'm done school right now and have a lot of free time. Ive been reading a lot on various lists and tips and i see that people here like to have small units of infantry except for PG and spearmen. I was wondering why you would make smaller units (down to 7?). I could see it could be useful against an army with little magic or shooting but i cant imagine how those small units could survive most armies.
Could some of you high elf gurus please refresh me on the tactics behind this as well as how to keep them alive.
all of the high elf special slots are fairly expensive. The characters are really expensive. When you add all these things up, there is usually a low body count which means we are outnumbered almost always. Due to lack of numbers in general, there are many units that really only make their points back or win combats by killing things in combat. Units like Swordmasters or dragon princes or even white lions (WL can go both ways) can usually do just as well by killing the enemy with their multiple attacks as they would in a static combat resolution formation (ie 4 ranks, banner, numbers) so many people will run 20mm based figures 7 wide to optimize the number of attacks they get but run them in smaller, cheaper units with little to no command so that they don't cost as many points (thus allowing more troops/units) and don't lose as many points if they do get beat.
So you may see swordmasters and white lions in small units 7 wide and dragon princes 6 wide with musician often in the army lists here.
Two units of 7 rather than one unit of 14 means that you have twice as many targets and they can't pick off both units from one unit of shooting. It also seems less threatening to the opponent, one line rather than several ranks. It also doesn't 'waste' models. A second or third rank of SM will only give +1 to combat res for the rank, when they are killing machines and a rank in combat will give several points against pretty much anything. And for the above mentioned reasons, you save points when we have expensive units and small armies anyway.
Really, spearmen need at least 3 ranks to function with all the attacks. PG have excellent defence so are a great large unit. The rest are perfectly fine as support units for the big blocks. And with our expanded special choices, we very rarely need more than the allowed amount or even fill them up. Might as well make use of multiple small units for ones that kill like crazy, and save the big units for those with good defence and static combat res.
The fewer points you have to spend, the smaller the units will become. Swordmasters and White Lions are quite frail, but as stated, 2 5-man units will last longer than 1 10man unit.
You see larger units of PGs for two reasons,
1) pgs don't generate as many kills in CC as the lions or swordmasters do. Therefor, their CR suffers, and they need ranks, banners, musicians, to shore up the difference.
2) PGs make a great center. They cause Fear, have a ward save, and the option to take a banner. Add korhil to the mix and it's a great unit, stubborn, and with an awesome character up front.
The downside to such tiny units however is their propensity for panic. If you only have 7 SMs, or WLs, only 4 need to be killed before the unit is panicking. In combat, your opponent will likely always get
+1 banner, +1 rank, +1 outnumber
The elves can handle this, as they will likely kill just over 7 foes per turn, but one bad go with the rolls and you'll lose based on static CR alone.
My rule of thumb: at anything over 1K, go with 10men and give them a banner. For spears, you are fine with 15 in low point games, but should be looking at 20men by 1K, and 20-25 for 2K.
For Dragon Princes and cavalry*, always go 6-7men, regardless of size. In low points, give them a banner, as he adds to your SCR.
Archers, due to their cost, and their lack of effectiveness, are best left in minimal units of 10.
*For SilverHelms, I'd check the post "any use for silver helms", as in low point games, you may be best going with the MSU theme, but in larger games, this is one unit of cavalry that might be worth upgrading to a large regiment of 10.