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Right well I am back to High Elves for the moment and have been having quite a bit of success I must say.
In particular my last three battles are of note. Two against Dark elves and one against Empire. THe battles were 1000pts and 2000pts against the Dark Elves and 1500pts against the Empire.
In all three battles I have experimented with using small units of elite troops White Lions and sword Masters backing up a beefed up unit of spear men 25 with a hero.
My small units generally run between 5-12. For example in the 2000pt battle I had 7 Sword Masters another unit of 10 and a unit of 12 White Lions.
I find that as supporting untis they are increibly useful, Both types of units hit hard and the White Lions in particular have stubborn which means that even a unit of 5 has a decent chance of holding up the enemy.
In addition the enemy often overlooks them, which means while vulnerable to shooting they often simply don't get shot at. Even when they do the amount of effort the enemy needs to expend to destroy them is rarely proportionate to either their tactical or poiints value.
I am coming to the conclusion that a White Lions unit can operate quite effectively in a unit size of 5-10 while Sword Masters who are more vulnerable to shooting really need to be in units of 8-12.
For the record I don't think Pheonix Guard should operate in units of less than 15. Below this and you have no real chance of outnumbering your oppoents and gaining the true advantage of fear.
[NB: I do use Pheonix Guard, but generally as a regular ranked up unit of 20 with full command].
Equally I have had good success with units of 5 or 6 Dragon Princes. I especially like using them as a reserve unit to finish off a softened up enemy.
I would be interested to know if any one else has had much success with small units in a High Elf Army.
If the small units of swordmaster weren't the main target of enemy shooting then your opponent made a mistake. is there any reason at all to make units of swordmasters bigger than 10?
All high elves armies I ever saw (exept for maybe one) had at least 2 small units of swordmasters/white lions and one of silver helms/ellyrian reavers/dragon princes, usualy even a llittle bit more.
The only time I faced a large block of white lions is failed a terror test and fled, it is much more reliable to have multiple small units than one big unit in the case of swordmasters (and somtimes also white lions).
It's general consensus that our elite infantry (with the obvious exception of PGs) work better in an MSU role. But we did miss you while you were away, if it's any consolation.
I run MSU as a cavalry army, and don't have much choice. When 8th ed. rolls around, I think that elves are going to see a very uncomfortable shift to large regiments of Spearelves, rather than small regiments of Swordmasters, WhiteLions, or cavalry.
Under the new rules, HE spearelves can form up in regiments 10x4, and roll out 40 attacks, with a rank bonus of +6 for ~360pts each. The downside however, is that we lack many support options. We only have a 5+ save on most of our infantry, so if we flank with them, we're going to see them get mauled (casualties are removed from the rear, allowing attacks back when typically there wouldnt be any) by return fire.
Shooting is supposedly more lethal as well, with all armies gaining the ability to fire in two ranks. White Lions will likely become a weapon of choice for those who don't want to run units of cavalry in support of their infantry.
I too really like the smaller units, they are extremely effective, I go over 10 with Swordmasters just for the ablative armour that an extra 2 bodies provides but other than that there is no point. However one unit is easier to protect than 2 that is why I don't have 2 units of 6 or 7.
I also think that Base to base contact will still count so the 40 attacks for spears would only be against a regiment of 8 or more wide, and because of our spears we can actually fight 5 ranks deep if we go to 10 wide so a unit 50 get 50 attacks, (2 ranks, +1 spears, +1 citizen Levy, +1 Horde rule being 10 wide).
For now forget about the new edition until it comes out, it will be what it is, right now our small units are great.
Fluffwise, yes, it will be excellent. I am actually very glad that we're going to be seeing a true wargame now, and leaving the smaller, elite forces to Warmachine. I'm excited to watch big regiments do the fighting, rather than serve as a character delivery system.
However, it's uncomfortable because I have been playing for years under the current system of "characters kill, and small units are good", even as editions changed. When you only own 30 Spearelves, and 20 archers, but have 10 DPs, 2 Chariots, and 30SHs sitting around, the shift is going to be uncomfortable
I disagree that we should let 8th ed. just roll up on us. We know it's coming. We know that it's putting a focus on large regiments. At the moment, yes, 2 regiments of 10 Swordmasters is awesome, but in a few paychecks, we're going to be consolidating that regiment into 1 unit of 20 swordmasters, if we hope to stay competitive.
I still agree with all of you, that small regiments are the way to go in the current edition. That's what my first post was saying; 7-12 swordmasters are utterly lethal as flankers, and can even hold a line for a while against most enemies.
Well for the record I have been using large regiments of High Elves generally until recently so that shift isn't going to bother me so much. I actually use my spear units as reserve force to throw into the general melee which my Pheonix guard and sword Masters have initiated. My spearmen have become particularly adept at flank charging enemy knights who have overrun off the table after destroying a unit of archers or bolt thrower crew and are then returning.
I think what makes the small units of High Elves so effective is the Always Strikes First Rule. it means we can get our retaliation in first which in turn means static combat resolution isn't of such importance. (By comparision a Dwarf unit for example needs to be keeping an eye on the the fact it potentially won't get a chance to attack back thus will be relying miore heavily on static combat resolution).
Now I don't know what this means for 8th edition but I will be interested to see if small units will still be a (possibly unique) feature for High elves.