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Hello those with pointy ears and pesky bows, I'm a chaos player that usually plays againt dwarves and empire, and I keep going green with envy when thier cannons and hand gunners just pick me off one by one. I find the high elves the coolest army, and im wondering if a high elf bow line is a competetive option.
Generally speaking, no, it is not. Not because we do poorly at it, but rather, because other armies can do it more cheaply.
Our only core missile option are longbow-armed elves. With light armor, they come in at a whopping 12pts. Considering that that's twice the cost of an unarmored Bretonian Bowman, we're looking at quite a problem, and when the Empire bowmen gets the same thing at a 25% discount, we're really in trouble.
Now, both Breton and Imperial bowmen suffer from -1BS, but when they are cranking out nearly double the ammo, they don't have to be very accurate. They also have the same toughness rating, but also have either Defensive Stakes, or the ability to Skirmish. We of course have ASF, which makes our ranged troops better in hand to hand (confused?)
When you get into warmachines, we elves have but 1. The workhorse Repeater Bolt Thrower. It's a beautiful weapon really, capable of firing 6 handgun shots from 40" away, or blasting away with the standard single, rank-piercing, D3W, spear. Now for the downside: they use up Rare spots, and although we get 1 more Rare than other armies, we don't get our RBTs in packs of 2, like the Dwarves. Worse yet, those dwarves get their RBTs about 25% cheaper than we do, and all that they lose is the ability to fire the 6-shot spread.
Some people might say that the Lothern Seaguard constitute a ranged choice. This is true, but they are generally thought to be too expensive for what they achieve. They come stock with Light Armor, Spears, and Bows, for the same price as an armored archer. The bow of course suffers from having a dismally short range, and while the spears stack with our ASF to give us a reasonable punch in combat, we're doing it at extremely high prices, and we still don't have any armor worth wearing.
Our characters only have 2 choices for ranged weapons- the Reaver Bow (shoot multiple shots) and the Bow of the Seafarer (a single shot from a standard RBT). The latter of these weapons is only available to our pricey Lords.
Across the board, our army lacks armor and toughness, so enemy bowfire is a real threat for us (almost a 50% chance of killing us) and with our low numbers, they are punching out far more ammo than we are. We can't stand toe-to-toe with any opposing shooting army and hope to win. Elf armies use bowfire to cover their advance, pick off flankers, and score some points in the early turns of the game. Commonly, our archers are only there because we have to take a core choice, or to serve as meatshields for our Mages.
And speaking of our mages- they are our only redeeming quality at range. We can sling some serious magic at the enemy, or put up an iron-wall of defense against theirs. A shooting list backed with magic has been attempted before, and against most other shooting armies, our magic will carry the game. Unfortunately, our magic is more expensive than our average counterpart, so we're losing far more in the missile-department, which means a smaller net gain for each mage that we take. This is especially true against foes who maximize their magic defense (if you play the same people over and over, they'll eventually learn to carry scrolls).
If you're looking for a shooting army, I'm sorry- High Elves may not be the way to go. Dwarves and Empires have the best gunlines in the game. Perhaps taking WoodElves would help a bit, for the sake of more useful shooting, or taking a Horde army to soak up those few bullets. If you don't want to switch armies, you can always try running Wulfrik the Wanderer and a strike-team of Marauders with flails or additional handweapons. Wulfrik doesn't have to stay in the regiment once he brings it on, and he's more than capable of demolishing a guncrew on his own.
A ranged-centric army can work if you also go magic heavy. It's much different from an empire-style gunline, though, so if you're oohing and aahing at cannons, you'll be pretty disappointed. If the idea of slinging magic with a hail of RBT arrows backing it up is appealing, though, you'd probably want High Elves.
No sorry i didn't get this across in the first place, but I hate dwarfs and empire, plus I like the bolt throwers, and even one archer block is an improovment from chaos, plus I am looking forward from playing an almost polar opposite of chas, and as far a gun lines go, I dont have much of a problem, I just want to have a shooting phase, I love heavy magic, and ASF rocks.It's much different from an empire-style gunline, though, so if you're oohing and aahing at cannons, you'll be pretty disappointed.
Thanks for the imput:
To be honest I have had a bit of success with my own archer-line, it is extremely unnerving to play with and pretty boring for the enemy but our troops are extremely mobile. Empire and Dwarves do it better and cheaper but they do it without moving and that can be used against them.
I haven't lost with my "gunline" and generally don't use it anymore because the people I play with really don't like it.
It appears extremely soft but as I said it hasn't lost vs Dark elves and Dwarves and Demons (got a very lucky in this one but it still won).
PM me if you want the list, I can't remember it exactly off the top of my head, but I could find it, as I said it seems very soft but has worked although it defies reason a bit.