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donderdag 13 oktober 2011

On the viability of combat characters

Now that the OK army book has been out for a while and the dust is starting to settle, we can see that Ogre Kingdoms really is a well-designed army. The defining trait of any well-designed army is, to me, that you have a good number of units to choose from when look at each and every slot in the army. And by slots I mean Lords, Heroes, Core, Special, and Rare choices. Ogre Kingdoms has this almost everywhere.

You can go with all Bulls or Ironguts in Core, mix it up, and add Gnoblars to taste. Taking just Gnoblars as Core is something I haven't seen an effective list with, but having one weaker choice out of three isn't that bad.

Most Rare choices are also viable at least, and deciding which to pick (and which to leave at home) can be a nightmare. Sure, some choices are better than others, but on a whole there's three, arguably four, very solid choices in the Rare section of the book.

Special choices are the same. Three very solid choices vying for points, with the other three also useful-to-very useful in various builds. Very nicely designed and probably the best section in the book.

Btw, don't think of this as my version of an OK review. I'll do a more in depth one later, this is just superficially what's good.

If we move to characters, Heroes specifically, we see the same thing. Both wizard and fighter characters are useful, although the Hunter and the Firebelly are probably more situational than the Bruiser and the Butcher. Still, you can get pretty tight on Heroes points if you don't watch out!

Where am I going with this, you ask? And how on earth does this all tie in with the post's title?
Well, the one area of the book where it seems that there really only is one solid option is in the Lords section. Let's discount Special Characters because they aren't as commonly used as regulars and, let's be honest, the OK Special Characters aren't really that much better than the regular characters, if that. That leaves just two choices, and of those two the one usually picked is the Slaughtermaster.

I'm not surprising anyone here with that statement, right?

And why would you not take a SM? There are few armies out there that can choose a lvl 4 wizard with those stats for that price!

But why then is the Tyrant not a viable option? I mean, he is rock hard in close combat! And what Ogre player doesn't appreciate a character who can win pretty much any argument by just smashing their opponent's head in? Why then is a Tyrant a less viable option? And does that mean you should never take him? Many armies usually won't have the points to spare to pick both a Tyrant and a SM. It's never a good idea in 8th to max out your Character points and Ogres are already an expensive army.

Let's look at a few reasons why you wouldn't take a Tyrant in your force:

- Magic trumps Combat Prowess.

One of the main edicts of Warhammer Fantasy today is this: while it is possible to win without magic, magic very much increases your chances of winning, and no army should be without magical defenses.
There are of cource exceptions and nuances, but essentially this is very true.
And characters are the main suppliers of magical offense and defense. Combat prowess can be found throughout the entire army.
An important aspects of this problem is this: a combat character, any combat character, will most likely not start making it's points back (i.e. actually do something) until T2 or 3 when he's in combat. A wizard can easily affect the battle from T1. Add to this that a SM is no pushover in combat, and you can see why combat characters are less necessary.
Taking a Lord level wizard boost both your offensive capabilities and your magical defenses. Taking a Tyrant and a level 2 will usually see you at a disadvantage when dispelling enemy spells.

- 8th nerfed combat characters and boosted magic.

Combat characters have also suffered from the change to 8th. Previously it was a completely viable form of defense to use your higher I to kill all models in base contact so none could hit you back. Not anymore! This almost forces you to bring equipment to protect your character, cutting into his offensive ability. Of course, for Ogres this was always of less importance because OK character have a low I, plus having a great weapon meant they'd strike last anyway, so they have always needed some sort of protection. Yet the change is there: it is much easier to actually strike at characters in combat this edition.
Also, with the added combat ability a character provides, it was much easier to win the combat by a large enough margin to almost guarantee your opponent would break. With steadfast rarely will Ogres see an enemy unit break from them the first round of combat, no matter hiw many models you kill.
I don't think I really need to go into th second part of this statement, right? I'm sure we all know how devastating magic can potentially be...

- A Bruiser is almost as good as a Tyrant at beating face.

For half the points you can take a Hero who is still good in fighting in combat. Sure, you have lower WS and I, but that's not that big a deal since a Tyrant's WS and I aren't really that high either. Losing an attack is annoying, as is having one less wound, but they're still Ogres, and as such have higher Attacks and Wounds on average anyway. Basically, for the points, I would take two Bruisers over one Tyrant any day!

Are there no reasons to take a Tyrant then? Sure there are:

- Higher Magic Item Allowence.

Since in the current game your characters need to be protected, Heroes sometimes have to sacrifice offensive items for defensive ones. Not so a Tyrant. With 100 pts of magic items you could equip your Tyrant with a 4+ ward save (i.e. 4++) and have points to spare for a nice magical weapon. 100 points allow you to tailor your Tyrant to whatever combat-oriented role you want him to perform.

- Increases army reliability.

Which is to say, he has a higher Leadership and as your General, a large part of your army will benefit from that. Ogres have a fairly low average Ld, so any boost they can get in that department will be worthwhile. Of course, many people (including myself) will say that a SM in a unit with the Banner of Discipline will be just as effective, and while that is true, we shouldn't forget that in that same unit, a Tyrant would be even more effective, with Ld 10!

So, overall, these are the reasons a Tyrant is a less viable choice in an OK army. Points are tight for characters in an OK army anyway, so every player will always need to weigh his options between going for magic or combat prowess. By taking a SM and a Bruiser BSB, you get the best of both, and still keep the costs down.
On the other hand, taking a Tyrant will allow you to take some of the cooler, and thus more expensive, toys. You can kit him out for his role better. Also, that extra point of Leadership can come in handy. Finally, there is no OK character better in combat than your Tyrant. Too bad combat characters as a whole are less effective...

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