Rise of the Underdogs: Kingdoms of Men

This is the forth and final installment in the Rise of the Underdogs series where the Northern Kings give their take on how they would approach one of the armies in the bottom four of a Call to Arms.

You can find Part 1 where I take a look at Free Dwarfs here,
Part 2 where Tom Robinson takes a look at the League of Rhordia here,
and Part 3 where Nick Williams gives his take on Ratkin Slaves here.

Taking us out in this final installment is the 2018 UK Masters winner, Adam Padley giving his take on Kingdoms of Men…


Kingdoms of Men

So, I was asked to write a list for one of the four worst preforming armies from A Call to Arms and despite never playing a human army in any game system, I volunteered to do Kingdoms of Men.

After looking at Kingdoms of Men, I was really surprised they only had a ~20% win rate. I mean they can do everything; solid infantry, cavalry, shooting and even monsters now! 

This is my second take on this list. I began with writing a nice all round balanced list taking advantage of the excellent ‘Indomitable Will’ special rule – but after Tom’s League of Rhordia review I realised I was repeating a lot of what Tom had said.  Kingdoms of Men can build a very similar list with advantages and disadvantages over League of Rhordia, but they’re basically very similar.

So take two. What I decided to do instead was take another look at what Kingdoms of Men can do, but focusing a bit more on the extreme builds that I’m know for. 

Even though shooting was given some considerable nerfs from version 2 to version 3 (more than it should have been) I began to come up with something I would feel very comfortable running (even though I don’t own a single human miniature!). With 2300 been the most popular points level across A Call to Arms I started there.

This is what I came up with:

Yes, that’s a lot of shots. 120 bows, 12 d3+6 blast and to round it off 12 Lightning Bolt – correction a lot of low power shots!


List Strengths

A lot of people will be looking at this and think, “yeah yeah, this is just another shooting spam list. We saw a lot of these in v2 and you said yourself, there has been a lot of nerfs to shooting from v2 to v3!”.

You wouldn’t be wrong, but the reason for this extreme skew is very simple. It’s deceivingly a very strong scenario list with a total of 21 drops and 25 Unit Strength with mobile scoring units. It forces people to react in different ways to your standard meta picks.

We haven’t seen a good shooting list in v3 yet (other than the obvious Abyssal Dwarf and Goblin war engines, but they’re not a dedicated shooting skew).  This list’s real strength on scenario is board control and area denial. If there’s a loot token in the open with 3 cannons and 2 archer hordes looking at it, that’s got to be one tanky or very brave unit to take that token alone.

Chip damage is your goal.

90% of the time, its not about killing 1-2 units a turn, its about putting 3-6 damage on 4-8 units a turn. This helps you control the flow of the game in your favour.


List Weaknesses

This list is very dependent on controlling the flow of the game so anything your opponent does to disrupt this can have a huge impact if you haven’t planned any redundancies. Letting a flyer behind your lines for example is a big no no and will often just cost you the game. This is where the General and Hero come in. These units are both for offensive and defensive use, keeping the enemy at bay for more shooting or mopping up anything that’s managed to get into your back field.

Mass regen can be very hard to play against due to it almost cancelling out your chip damage plan, along with Iron resolve and Life Leach. This has to be accounted for when you’re doing damage and you need to play around this as best you can.

But the biggest weaknesses of this list, is that it’s not an easy list to play. I’m saying this from a hell of a lot of experience with lists like this (over 100 games across v2). One mistake can cost you everything, because when you start loosing control of the game it quickly spirals out of control. Every single movement is key, you need to make sure you advance when you need to and stay still when you don’t need to. You have to be thinking 4 turns ahead otherwise you wont stand a chance.


Stand Out Units

The General on Winged Beast is a fantastic unit at 190 points, it’s basically a mini dragon for a fraction of a dragon’s points.

Cannons. I never thought I’d see cannons be played, I went all V2 without seeing one! I’m so glad these are viable now, excellent range and damage output. The Shattering is what makes this unit better than the Siege Artillery – I wish they would change grape shot to something playable though because at the moment there is ZERO reason to use it over just a cannon ball.

Wizards on Pegasus. These guys do everything, mobile Unit Strength for late game objective grabbing, they’re cheap enough for chaffing a unit up and to top it all off Lighting Bolt 3 is a nice touch to add to the chip damage.


Closing Thoughts

If I were to build a Kingdoms of Men list this is most likely the route I’d take. I feel this is a very good list, but as I said above not a easy one to play. It’s also massively weaker than any of the shooting lists I played in v2 due to lacking key support pieces that were available in v2 and the core rule changes to v3 really effect shooting as a whole.

I hope you found this interesting because despite my skew onto shooting, Kingdoms of Men are probably the most balanced army in the game.

Nothing they have is broken, nothing is over the top, everything is just about perfect. They excel in unit support, their strength is from working synergy into your list unlike say Undead, where it runs forward and rolls dice with the obviously broken units. 

Writing Kingdoms of Men lists actually feels like what a rank and flank game should be – it has been very enjoyable exploring a human faction for the first time!


A huge thank you to Adam for sharing his thought on an alternative way to play Kingdoms of Men. I totally agree with his assessment that Kingdoms of Men are one of the best all round factions in the game.

What do you all think of Adam’s list? Is it an effective list or has shooting been reduced in strength too much to make it feasible?


Rise of the Underdogs

This article is part of the Rise of the Underdogs series. Check out the other articles in the series below.


Elliot’s Beer Fund

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Rise of the Underdogs: Ratkin Slaves

This is Part 3 of the Rise of the Underdogs series of articles where I ask the members of the Northern Kings to have a go at writing a list for one of the armies currently in the bottom four of a Call to Arms.

You can find Part 1 where I take a look at Free Dwarfs here,
and Part 2, where Tom Robinson takes a look at the League of Rhordia here.

This time it is 2017 Clash of Kings winner, author of the very first Clash of Kings book and all round Kings of War aficionado Nick Williams.

Nick was ‘volunteered’ to give his take on how he would turn around the fortunes of Ratkin Slaves. Take it away Nick…


Ratkin Slaves

Write a Ratkin Slaves army list, he said! It’ll be fun, he said!

Well, he was right.

I don’t understand why people are so down on Ratkin Slaves. I think they bring some great stuff to the game. It’s true that they are very light on unit entries (I think they’ve got the shortest army list in the game) and a lot of the units in that list are decidedly meh, but they have got some great tools and combinations that you can’t get in other lists.

Now there’s already The Ratkin Slaves List that’s floating around the community. This relies on Decimators hiding behind hordes of Wretches with The Last Breath to do the heavy lifting. The opponent has to chew through horde nerve, takes damage when the horde dies and then gets shot up by the decimators as soon as the horde dies. If cavalry or other height 3+ units attack the Wretch hordes then they’re taking Decimator damage the whole time.

It’s a decent list archetype, and one that a lot of armies would struggle with. Dash28 did a Live Battle commentary with Jeremy Duvall using this list. I’m not going to go into spoilers, but I think that Jeremy played the list very well and with a few smarter decisions earlier on could have done even better with it in that game. I highly recommend watching the video – it’s a really entertaining battle report with three really good players giving commentary over the top, plus Elliot Morrish.

Elliot asked me come up with a Ratkin Slaves list that I think will work and be competitive and there you go. Use Jeremy Duvall’s list!

Oh…

Oh you want more?

I suppose I should try and come up with my own build… I guess.

It would be easy to take the list archetype and come up with a minor spin on it. I do think it would work well and I could see top players tearing up with it. However, I wanted to see if I could put together another list with Ratkin Slaves. Something that didn’t rely on Decimators and was a bit more balanced.

Here it is at 2000 points:

  • 130 – Slave Wretches Horde with The Last Breath
  • 205 – Blacksouls Horde with two handed weapons and throwing mastiff
  • 230 – Slave Nightmares Horde
  • 85 – Katsuchan Rocket Launcher
  • 85 – Katsuchan Rocket Launcher
  • 245 – Slave Tunnel Runners Regiment with Brew of Sharpness
  • 225 – Slave Tunnel Runners Regiment with Sir Jesse’s Boots of Striding
  • 230 – Slave Tunnel Runners Regiment with Maccwar’s Potion of the Caterpillar
  • 60 – Slavedriver with War-Bow of Kaba
  • 160 – Abyssal Halfbreed Champion with Mournful Blade
  • 145 – Abyssal Halfbreed Champion
  • 200 – Golekh Skinflayer

For 2300 points, the upgrade is simple:

  • 300 – Overmaster on Ancient Winged Halfbreed

This army consists of four battlegroups;

  • The Anvil with the two infantry hordes, the Slave Nightmares Horde and the Slavedriver
  • The Hammer with the Slave Tunnel Runners, Golekh Skinflayer and the Overmaster in 2300
  • The Guided Missiles with the two Halfbreed Champions
  • The Unguided Missiles with the two Katsuchan Rocket Launchers

The Anvil

The Anvil is far from invulnerable, but with decent nerve it still needs a strong concentration of enemy force to see off. It has a great shooting volley for clearing screens between the Nightmares and the Throwing Mastiffs, and then it has moderate hitting power in the grind afterwards.

As usual, the Slave Wretches are a trash block of nerve who are there to get in your opponent’s way. They inflict damage when they die, and your opponent is then sat there in front of your Blacksouls and Nightmares – a total of 43 Me4 CS1 attacks with Vicious. Against De5 that’s an 85% chance of dealing at least 10 damage with an average of 12.5. That’s quite consistently wavering or killing a large infantry horde in one shot.

It’s not the greatest damage output in the world, but it’s a big block of nerve that your opponent has to deal with. It’s a big block of nerve that sits on objectives and says “Come at me, dickweed!”

The Slavedriver has Rally(1) which affects slaves, taking the Nightmares to 15/17 and Wretches to 19/22. With Inspiring this keeps units in the game for a long time.

This would be an ideal place for a Lute of Insatiable Darkness, but I just didn’t have the points. I’m not sure where I’d shave them from. Maybe from the artefacts on the tunnel runners, but I think those are all pretty much essential. The War-bow is a nice so-so item whose main use is sniping a damaged unit late game and forcing a nerve test.

The Hammer

I really like Tunnel Runners (on paper, I’ve not used them yet). They’re a great cavalry type unit. They’ve got CS1 TC1, which I always love on cavalry and are sitting at 24 attacks with me4, offering more hits on average than a standard cavalry unit that hits on 3’s. Hindered or Phalanx charges hurt their hits a lot but this only takes them down to what a normal cavalry unit would get hindered anyway.

They have the same defensive stats as a regular cavalry unit, so at 210 points for more offensive stats I kinda feel they’re perhaps a little undercosted (slightly, not by much).

The Brew of Sharpness turns then into an incredible unit. 24 attacks hitting on 3’s with CS1 and TC1? Yes please! Sadly, you can only take one (boo, hiss) or this would be downright broken.

Golekh Skinflayer is the secret that makes these guys sing though. He has Rally(2). That takes the Tunnel Runners to an extremely impressive 16/18 nerve. He also has Dread for additional bonuses. While his own melee attacks aren’t all that great, buffing and Inspiring the Tunnel Runners while also having solid road-blocking potential really takes this battlegroup into true paintrain territory.

In general, I think Golekh is a bit overcosted, but he’s absolutely perfect for this list. I wouldn’t personally consider him in any other list that I’ve seen or been able to come up with.

This battlegroup’s only downside is a lack of chaff, which isn’t available in the list at all. Allies could potentially help here but with three fairly high nerve heavy hitter units you can afford to bait the enemy out with a sacrificial Tunnel Runner regiment. The grind will likely go in your favour, even if it means losing one of the Tunnel Runners early on. Your opponent will have to over-commit to taking the sacrifice out given the high nerve, giving you the jump on their own heavy hitters.

At 2300 this problem is largely fixed with the Overmaster giving extreme threat projection. He doesn’t have to stay with the Tunnel Runners the entire game; the best thing for him mid-late game is to start ping-ponging around the board picking up flanks and rears the whole way. Teaming up with the Guided Missiles below can pick up most enemy units fairly easily, even if he’s forced into the front. With his high nerve and Regeneration, the Overmaster is one of my favourite dragons in the game.

The Guided Missiles

Halfbreed Champs are fantastic.

They’re extremely reliable at dealing 3-4 points of damage to most enemy units. Two of them are a nightmare to keep track of.

This battlegroup is really quite flexible. If you need some war engines hunting down, these are your guys. If your opponent has a spellcaster, here’s the counter. If your opponent has a dragon, these guys are going to be chasing it around and grounding it, giving you the charge on it. They’re extremely good support for either battlegroup if there aren’t any suitable solo targets – that 3-4 points of damage (plus Golekh’s Dread if in range) very much tips things over the top.

The Unguided Missiles

Artillery is good in third edition. Katsuchan Rocket Launchers are available. Go for it.

Two of them are enough to put decent damage on your enemies over the game. They’re not game-winning, they’re not going to clear entire hordes and your opponent probably has an answer for them.

In the early game they can either start to put chip damage on key enemy units, softening them up for your Guided Missiles to take out and they can quickly clear chaff, giving you an advantage with The Hammer. At 3 shots rather than the usual 2 for artillery they are really quite reliable.

You’re only going to completely miss with both around 9% of the time. You should get at least one hit and reliably get at least two hits which is enough to start doing some good chunks of damage that won’t get reversed with Iron Resolve or Regeneration.

At 2300 your opponent will almost certainly have a combat individual to take them out, but it’ll still take a few turns to do that. Make sure to space the Rocket Launchers at least 21” apart so that your opponent can’t kill one and them immediately charge the other the next turn. This should mean that even if your opponent has a flying individual for taking out war engines and can charge turn 2, you should get at least 4-6 volleys off before it kills them both.

You can threaten charge zones with your Guided Missiles to increase the number of turns before your opponent’s individual gets to them.

Note though that at De5 it’s far from guaranteed that a combat individual will kill them. Even an Abyssal Champion will need a 7 on the nerve roll to kill it if it rolls perfectly average damage dice (people are far too quick to jump to “just double 1 it”, but that’s another rant for another day).

These guys aren’t the lynchpin of the gameplan, but they’re there for taking out chaff early game, dealing chip damage therefore tipping combats in your favour in the late game.

The Overall Game Plan

The Anvil goes up the centre. They threaten the middle of the board, temping enemies to get bogged down, and capture objectives.

The Hammers go on one of the flanks. With the strider, pathfinder and sharpness artefacts they can afford to go on a terrain heavy flank. If the opposing force has a cavalry wing facing The Hammers then they can afford to bait a charge by placing a Rallied Tunnel Runner Regiment to take a charge, preferably hindered. The Hammers must get into combat quickly though. They are the main damage dealers in the army and must start attacking the enemy as soon as possible.

In 2300 the Overmaster starts out supporting The Hammers but can go off and start taking out enemy units in the mid-late game on his own. Depending on the enemy force though (if they are slow and have little flyer defence), he could be deployed on the opposite flank on his own and jump over enemy lines.

The Unguided Missiles sit at the back chipping damage and taking out chaff. They deal out a few points of damage here and there but they’re unlikely to take out anything significant by themselves. Big enemy units like Dragons are prime targets – start to get close to 10 damage (doable in a couple of turns) and the Guided Missiles can take those dragons out. Don’t expect the Unguided Missiles to do your heavy lifting and win the game, or even survive it for that matter.

The Guided Missiles bounce around the battlefield adding 3-4 damage to combats and hunting enemy heroes and war engines. They are extremely flexible and are there to shore up combats wherever you need assistance. They can even be used as chaff themselves if needs be by charging enemy units in the front and disordering them, but this should only be done to save a scoring unit that will claim an objective or to stop an enemy unit moving onto an objective.

Thoughts

I really like this list and it is tempting to add it to the ever-growing backlog of hobby projects. I think it’s got real potential.

This was pretty much confirmed to me when I showed Elliot the 2000 point list and he thought it was a really solid 2300 list.

In a matchup against The Other Ratkin Slaves List, I’d definitely put money on the version I’ve cooked up. I’d have the drop on it and the Halfbreeds would be able to disorder the Decimator Hordes long enough for my Tunnel Runners and other combat units to chew through the opposing Wretches and alpha strike the Decimators.

Looking at it with my other 2300 lists I don’t think I can come up with an ideal way of taking this army out. The only real weakness is a lack of chaff but I’d struggle to take advantage of that with the Rocket Launcher’s taking mine out and the potential for a sacrificial Tunnel Runner regiment forcing me to engage unfavourably. The Tunnel Runners do need to stick together to benefit from Golekh’s Rally, so going for a pincer deployment with fast units on both flanks might work, but then again the Overmaster could deploy for a pincer as well and nullify that, or the Guided Missiles could deploy on that side endlessly messing with me.

So, how about that for your Ratkin Slaves list Elliot?


A huge thank you to Nick for his take on Ratkin Slaves. I think this might have to be another Nick Williams list idea that I ‘borrow’…

You can find Part 1 where I take a look at Free Dwarfs here,
and Part 2 where Tom Robinson takes a look at the League of Rhordia here.

In Part 4, Adam Padley is going to give his take on the Kingdoms of Men. And I think he has something a bit different in mind for them…

Rise of the Underdogs: League of Rhordia

This is Part 2 of the Rise of the Underdogs series of articles where I ask the members of the Northern Kings to have a go at writing a list for one of the armies currently in the bottom four of a Call to Arms.

You can find Part 1, where I take a look at the Free Dwarfs here.

This time its multiple time Clash of Kings and UK Masters winner Tom Robinson taking you through the League of Rhordia.

Take it away Tom…


League of Rhordia

Ok so I was asked to do this for two reasons.

Firstly, so far Call to Arms is three rounds in and the League of Rhordia are currently sat at a 20% win rate, that 20% was the two games I played with them in the tournament – it’s up to me to address that sorry state of affairs because Rhordia are anything but a whipping boy.

Secondly, I have played Rhordia since their creation, racking up seven tournament wins with them including the 2017 UK Masters. With third edition they got even more personality, the Aralez are awesome units which as I speak am ordering some big wolves to convert into proper Honour Guard. Just look at the art for them, they’re good boys!

Personally I find the idea of forcing Halflings onto the frontline to be distasteful and cruel. This is reflected in my current list which you will get to see in action in a grudge match with Mr Patrick Zoro Allen over on Dash 28 this Saturday 16th May 7:30pm BST. Shameless plug out of the way here we go!

The concept behind this list is that I wanted a robust, mobile combined arms.

I wanted to have a list that could take all comers, could alpha the slower lists, can tarpit the alpha strikers, win the chaff fight and outshoot most lists without sacrificing the ability to fight or manoeuvre. Something of a tall order in an all comers list but I think this does it pretty damn well. The units all work in tandem so that opponent depending you can achieve two to three of the aims above to help take victory.


Indomitable Will

First things first, one of the best things to happen to Rhordia and Kingdoms of Men this edition is Indomitable Will. You can see I have it on every unit which can take it and here’s why.

1. You save points on buying a third Inspiring characer. No need for the Standard bearer tax, or to work in a suboptimal character choice to give you that extra bit of inspiring to round your list out. Go nuts, you’ve got a safety net for each unit wherever it goes, deploy that knight regiment on the flank without a standard bearer shadowing it! You’re free! (for 10 points).

2. One use only Fearless. Yup, I think it’s nearly worth it just for this. Last edition I ran two hordes of Honour Guard and they almost always ran Staying Stone/ Chalice of Wrath in order to support their mediocre nerve and keep the wrecking ball of attacks rolling. Now I get a better version of it AND buy myself the Brew of Sharpness/ Potion of the Caterpillar. Win.

3. Put them together and you achieve something Kingdoms of Men for one definitely didn’t have last edition… character. I’ve always loved the idea of normal human soldiers facing off with stout heart and a burning passion against the immutable horrors of a twisted fantasy world. This is in my opinion a great distillation of that concept in gameplay terms, I love it.


Muster the Forces

The Battleshrine

This is the perfect support piece, it is all things to all men and it’s better than last edition. The rallying two pushes the average human nerve to super elite levels. The Lightning Bolt (6) gives it something to do early game in tandem with the rest of my list’s shooting. It’s hard to kill at def 5 -/14 so chaff aren’t picking it up and now it can even fight in combat so it whacks the chaff back and can threaten flanks once the melee closes leaving the Lightning redundant. In Third Edition it lost the character tag so now you can save a character unlock! It’s also height five so can safely shoot from behind infantry without cover (or over infantry at pesky individuals).

Like I said it does everything, it’s an auto include, every army wishes they could have it, it’s the Battleshrine.


Wizards (2x Pegs, one Boomstick, one on horse with Bane Chant and Inspire)

The unassuming chaff! These guys feature in three slightly different forms. The base form Pegasus Lightning (3) variety is a disposable early game shooting piece and providing it’s not tactically important to throw it under the bus it’s a late game objective taker and nuisance maker.

The second is the same again plus the Boomstick -he does the same thing but only sacrifices himself if I really have to when all the buses have arrived at once. Still cheap enough that it’s not a great loss though. The last is only on horseback, as he has the Inspiring Talisman as some redundancy against spiky nerve and damage rolls and to protect the Volley Guns and chaff since they don’t have Indomitable Will, he also has Bane Chant which the individual aspect makes use of as opposed to a Pegasus, he’s also easier to hide and is my only dedicated Inspiring unit.


Duke on Winged Aralez

He’s the flier protection, the flank threatener and a support combat unit which can take a surprising amount of damage thanks to the Radiance of Life and Iron Resolve. He’s good enough to send off without an item as this list doesn’t have the wiggle room, but Staying Stone is my go to. The heavy fliers tend to attract a lot of plink shooting and this guy shrugs all that off and the more expensive dragons can’t afford to ignore him.


Foot Guard horde (Indomitable Will)

A new addition from Kingdoms of Men is the ability to keep defence 5 AND to get the horde option. A great tarpit, not too shabby in combat, the horde unlock nets me the war engines, characters and monsters all in one. Can’t go wrong with them.


Dogs of War horde (Indomitable Will)

Probably the best tarpit in the game. Yeah you can only have one, yeah you can’t buy it an item (but you get Indomitable Will so who cares!), yeah you can no longer sit two Halflings behind them with 12 Drain Life and watch your opponent flail fruitlessly BUT phalanx got loads better, ensnare still rocks, def5 on top of those two rules is ridiculous!

This unit holds the line, whatever line I want to hold, these guys stand on it. Great and reliable in objective play. I often run in tandem with the Shrine to make sure they NEVER die but honestly my deployment is pretty fast and loose, I try to aim them at a choke point or at fliers like Wights etc to give them a proper neutering – lovely unit.


Knight Horde (Indomitable Will, Brew of Strength)

OK so I know a lot of people say Knight hordes don’t work but bear with me here. Last game I ran them they wiped a zombie horde on the charge, they were charged, and then with Bane Chant, one shot a regiment of Wraiths in return. They were then charged again by a horde of Wights, which they then one shot AGAIN on the counter before being brought down by a regiment of Soul Reaver infantry. These guys wreck face, they don’t need the charge, they don’t need to move quickly, hell I run them as super infantry a lot of the time but when you combine the support options you’re looking at a unit that puts out 32 attacks, Crushing 1 plus Bane Chant on Thunderous 2 WITH Indomitable Will and Rally (2) pushing them to -/25 nerve! Yeah have fun with that.


Honour Guard horde (Indomitable Will, Caterpillar)

Another beatstick, if I had the points I’d give them Brew of Sharpness, these guys like most of my army mathematically, between the hammers and the shooting, is designed to put -17 nerve units in real danger at any point. They aim to be fighting around terrain so the rest of the army doesn’t have to. Again if the flow of the battle is heading that way I can throw Bane Chant, Rally (2) and Indomitable Will to push up to -/20 nerve.

I love that adaptability and the aesthetic of armoured wolves ridden by Knights, they’re the poster boy for Rhordia, they’re good boys.


Volley Guns! (They come in threes)

OK so yes they took a nerf, that’s on me guys, I’m responsible for getting them nerfed. They have two roles. A metric fuckton of Piercing (2) shots speaks for itself.

Pew, pew, pew!! -Tom Robinson

Secondly, area denial. You don’t need these guys to be shooting to be getting use out of them, having reload and with mediocre range as war engines go opponents will try to just not come into range, use that to your advantage. It’s not a bad thing to drop all three of them early on, force your opponent to drop three units while you set these up on overwatch on an area and he deploys the rest of his army all cooped up somewhere else (preferably away from an objective or two you’re watching over). At 85 points who cares if they die, or if they only get one proper volley off if your opponent has put himself at a massive disadvantage to do so. They might not shoot until turn 5 and pick off a dragon and a chaff piece, hey they made their points back!

I also use them as a trap, people fixate on them, I’ll drop the lightning battery nearby with the Shrine pushing the guns up to 11/13 nerve for turn one or two so the individuals or counter batteries put themselves at massive risk trying to take them out. OR I have put the Honour Guard behind them when I knew the opponent was going to throw something big at them because when he kills one the other two get out the way and in goes the Honour Guard horde to trade a Volley Gun for a dragon. I love these guys, this is where your Halflings belong.


Mounted Scouts

Shooty fast chaff! Everything you need!

Screen the cavalry, pin down fliers, plink damage alongside the rest of the shooting hell if these guys as my primary under the bus unit survive to mid-game they can threaten flanks or grab objectives with their speed. Can’t go wrong with them, they pull their weight, perhaps without the flair that the rest of the army can show.


So there you have it. I like to think there’s some real depth to this list, it can function well in every phase of the game and I really enjoy playing them. The real weakness here is the limited damage mitigation, there’s only two lots of iron resolve and the radiance of life only does so much. The sheer amount of nerve mitigates this to an extent but combi charge alpha strikes are a threat that my list can struggle with, with limited mobility and little to no rear line or reserve units. Expect a long line of overlapping threat ranges with a shooting core and mobile lightning battery for opportune targets, the chaff range ahead ready to flag down their doom to buy the opportune moment or round of shooting that helps me clear a bit of the board on good trades.


A huge thank you to Tom, make sure to check out the Dash28’s livestream of Tom’s game against Patrick Zoro Allen on Saturday 16th May 7:30pm BST.

If you haven’t read it yet, in Part 1 I gave my take on the Free Dwarfs.


Coming up next is 2017 Clash of Kings winner, author of the very first Clash of Kings book and all round Kings of War aficionado Nick Williams.

Nick’s been given the hardest job (because he was last to respond so we volunteered him!) and will be giving his take on the Ratkin Slaves.

Look out for that in the coming days!

Rise of the Underdogs: Free Dwarfs

Everyone loves an underdog don’t they?

Well as the results for Round 3 of a Call to Arms continue to trickle in, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that there are armies that are doing well and armies that are doing… less well. Ok – they’re doing shite.

At the time of writing we’re just coming to an end of round 3 and the armies with the lowest win ratios are;

  • Free Dwarfs- 0% win rate
  • League of Rhordia- 20% win rate
  • Ratkin Slaves- 21% win rate
  • Kingdoms of Men- 25% win rate

I’ve assembled a crack team of Kings of War experts to share their wisdom on how they would improve the chances of these plucky underdog armies. And by crack team I mean the Northern Kings, because they were all that was available.

To be fair as a group we have some pretty solid Kings of War credentials, between us we’ve won three UK Masters, three Clash of Kings champions, two Clash of Kings team awards and a win percentage of 74.2%. But who’s counting?

So the plan is to share a bit of advice about how we would approach the armies currently in the bottom four – some of these we have direct experience playing with, and some we don’t.

We’ll talk through an example list that we think would work well and how we would play it.

You could of course choose to totally ignore us and that’s fine too, we often have no idea what we’re actually talking about…

I’m up first talking about the stoic little buggers that just had to break free.

Free Dwarfs

Poor Free Dwarfs. At the time of writing this, they had played 10 games and had won precisely none. Their Imperial brothers weren’t doing much better, with only 4 wins out of 15 games but at least they had something!

I actually really like the Free Dwarf list and was surprised to see it floundering at the bottom of the table. Since the start of 3rd edition, I’ve always thought of Free Dwarfs as just ‘better’ Dwarfs. I know that we shouldn’t draw too many conclusions from one tournament that is only 50% complete, but the trend for them at the moment doesn’t look good.

I still think that there is a lot of potential here, so I’m going to share my (admittedly limited) experiences with the Free Stunties. At the start of lockdown I rediscovered an old shoe box in my garage full of Dwarf infantry. I’ve been slowly building and repainting the army in the hope of being able to field a full army by the time we’re allowed outside the play again. In preparation for that time, I’ve been having a fair few practice games on Universal Battle to help me decide what units I want to focus on painting – I’m up to a respectable 4 wins/ 2 draws/ 2 losses with the Free Dwarfs so they definitely do have the potential to win games.

This is the list I’m using at the moment;

The list makes use of a couple of nice elements to maximise the Free Dwarfs’ strengths and help mitigate some of their weaknesses.


Maximise the Strengths

Dwarfs and Free Dwarfs have access to some incredibly good value infantry units, with unit strength galore. I started building this list by adding the Shieldbreakers, Ironclad and Mastiff Packs first, knowing that with all of those I had an incredibly solid centre to my army. All of that combined came to just 1025 points – leaving me with 1275 points left to spend on the ‘toys’ that are going to do the big damage.

Because I had a good number of scoring units with high defence and high nerve, I felt comfortable putting so many points into units that don’t have any unit strength i.e. the Bezerker Lords and the Cannons. One big advantage of the Dwarfs is that their core units are so good at playing the scenario, they can really invest heavily into other elements of their list.

Every unit that can take a Throwing Mastiff has got one. I love these little buggers – you can either gang up on one target and do enough damage to take out a unit in one go, pick off chaff from afar or (and this is the use that people often miss) snipe out characters from behind lines. Throwing Mastiffs work best when employed on mass, so wherever possible only split your fire if there is a tactical reason to do so e.g. trying to waver rather than kill chaff.

If you have a shot with your Mastiffs, take it even if it’s not ideal. If you die or end up in combat before you can use the Mastiffs you’ve just wasted 15 points you could have spent elsewhere. Better to take a bad shot than no shot at all.

The Mastiffs pair up beautifully with the Pack Master. These are really excellent units, not only do they give all of the surrounding throwing Mastiffs vicious, but they also have what is effectively a short range, vicious Lightning Bolt (6) that doesn’t suffer from any modifiers. I like to tuck him away hidden behind a wall of height 2 infantry, chucking dogs out at anything he can see that’s taller than the guys in front of him. I’ve chosen to give mine the Inspiring Talisman as my list would be quite short on Inspiring otherwise, but the Sacred Horn is also a solid choice for him.


Mitigate the Weaknesses

Dwarfs are slow… really slow. -1 speed compared to most other infantry might not seem massive on paper, but on the table top it’s huge. This list does its best to try and mitigate the infantry’s slow speed, without going down the route of all Brock Riders.

The King on Large Beast and the Brock Riders add in a bit of much needed threat range. This means that faster armies can’t ‘stand off’ from the Dwarfs, refusing to commit or continuously push them back. Rather than play the Brocks out on the flank like I often see people doing, I’ve been including them in the centre of my lines meaning that nothing can ever move into range to threaten the Dwarfs without also being in range of the Brocks.

The stars of this list are the two Berserker Lords – one flying and one mounted and with Scout. These two have one job, to get behind the lines as quickly as possible and cause maximum disruption. Normally when playing against Dwarfs, the opposing players has the first couple of turns as free movement, where they can move around the board fairly unopposed because they’re well out of charge range of anything. The two Berserkers upset that, because one of them can threaten turn 1 charges and the other can cross the board in a turn. While they obviously can’t take on an entire army by themselves, they at least prevent your opponent from moving around totally unopposed. If you can charge soft targets without putting yourself at risk of reprisal, go for it. But don’t be afraid to forgo charging for a few turns if it means getting yourself in a position to be the biggest pain in the arse possible during the mid to late game.

They also pair up really nicely with…

The Cannons! Three war engines isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. In fact taking them makes me feel a bit nauseous myself – but its Dwarfs so its thematic right?

The three cannons and the Berserker Lords add so much to this list because it means that the enemy has to start moving towards you. If they hang back, they’re going to get picked off by a mixture of cannon fire and flying angry Berserker Lords. If they move forward, then they’re coming to you and mitigating some of your issues with low speed. The cannons also pair up really well with the Throwing Mastiffs – a cannon hit (plus its Shattering) can often be enough to push a unit torn apart by Mastiffs over the edge.


Plan Ahead

An ideal situation for this list is to get both Berserker Lords behind the enemy, the cannons firing at a high value target (e.g. a dragon), the Mastiffs Packs moving up to chaff the enemies charges and the rest of your lines advancing behind them, ready to unleash their Throwing Mastiffs.

Of course that is the ideal situation! The biggest threat that Dwarfs need to be careful of is high speed, high damage output units that can blow through your units in one go. If you’re facing an opponent like this, you need to accept that you’re going to lose units and have counter attacks set up to respond when you do. Dwarfs are slow and sometimes struggle to readjust their lines if something goes wrong, so you need to think ahead.

Another thing to be careful about is your Scout move with the Shieldbreakers. It’s nice to have the option, but don’t forget that just because you can Scout, it doesn’t mean that you should. If you’re not going to gain anything from it in the game, its often better to keep your Shieldbreaker hordes in line with your other units, rather than rushing out on their own.


Hopefully this inspires a few Free Dwarf generals and we see some big wins creeping in during round 4. Who knows, if I can tear myself away from my beloved Order of the Green Lady then I might just take the Free Dwarfs out myself next round and put my money where my mouth is!


Part 2 is current UK Master, Tom Robinson talking about one of his favourite armies, the League of Rhordia. Check it out here!

Twilight Kin – First Impressions Count

Twilight Kin are an army that I have always liked the look of, simply because they’re just plain cool. But I was a little put off in version 2 because I didn’t want to build an army that was likely to be completely redesigned in version 3, so I never got round to actually playing any games with them.

By the time V3 finally rolled around, I’d forgotten all about Twilight Kin because I was enticed by the shiny new Order of the Green Lady. However, after playing my round two game of a Call to Arms against Kyle ‘Master Crafted’ Przenenski and his really nice Twilight Kin list, I was reminded of just how cool the army is and decided to have a go at making a list myself.

I’m now seven games in with Twilight Kin (thanks to Universal Battle, I can basically play a game whenever I like at the moment) with 5 wins and 2 loses, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share my initial impressions on Twilight Kin.

This is where I’m currently at with my Twilight Kin list. I’ve tweaked it slightly in each game and each time I’ve slowly ramped up the investment in Drain Life – so far its been worth it every time. The downside with taking three Summoner Crones and investing all those points into Drain Life, is that it basically means that the bulk of my army has to be made up of Cronebound units. Otherwise, I just wouldn’t be getting the value out of all the special rules the Summoner Crone pays for in her rules – more on that later.

The Good

Pick n’ Mix Unit Combinations

Twilight Kin have access to some of the most solid units in the game in a combination that isn’t available anywhere else (without relying on allies). Butcher, Fiends, Abyssal Horsemen, Gargoyles, Mindscreeches and Silverbreeze are all excellent choices in their parent army and the ability to take them mixed together in one list is a real strength of the Twilight Kin.

Dark Magic

One excellent unit unique to Twilight Kin is the Summoner Crone. Drain Life is an incredibly powerful spell and in my opinion no Twilight Kin general should leave home without at least one source of it – preferably more. Due to their high average unit cost, Twilight King armies are almost always going to be outnumbered. Drain Life is an incredible force multiplier as it lets you keep your precious few units alive for longer, whilst also damaging your opponent.

Check out my battle report against Steve’s Goblins to see Drain Life in action. It tipped the odds of half a dozen combats in my favour, letting me break units in one round of combat so that I didn’t need to endure the counter charge. The unit of Abyssal Horsemen that won me the game took almost 20 points of damage over the course of game, but thanks to Drain Life and Regeneration they ended the game without a scratch on them.

The Crone comes with built in Inspiring and the ability to throw her Drain Life heals 18″ which is massive. This does only applies to Cronebound units though – see the section on ‘List design funneling’ below.

Add in to that the fact that she’s Stealthy and has a really solid 11/13 nerve and you have an all round excellent unit.

Compared to similar spellcasters, I would say she is a little under costed. However, as Cronebound Nightstalker units lose the Mindthrist special rule for only a pitiful 5 point discount, I see any undercosting in the Crone as recompense for the greater discount Twilight Kin should receive for losing Mindthirst.

The Bad

Unlocks, unlocks and unlocks

It is seriously hard to get unlocks in this list – at least if you want to build a list that is at least semi-competitive.

More than any other army in Kings of War, Twilight Kin feel like they’re paying an ‘unlock tax’ being forced to take subpar units in order to unlock the ones that actually do some work. I would say that this amounts to at least 300 points you’re having to pump into suboptimal unit choices. If you happen to come up against an army that has an abundance of excellent unlock choice (Undead for example) and hasn’t had to pay the ‘unlock tax’ then you’re effectively starting the game ~300 points worse off than your opponent.

And to make matters worse, the units that can unlock are pretty much all regiments so are only providing one unlock slot each.

AND they’re all so bloody expensive, so each regiment you add in to provide some unlocks takes up a significant proportion of your overall list.

To give a comparison from another army, I know that in V3 Orcs were given the Young Ax regiments because there was a concern that their cheapest unit available to provide unlocks was a standard Ax regiment at 130 points.

The cheapest unlock that Twilight Kin have access to that can actually contribute to combat is 140 points.

This means that Twilight Kin players have to decide – use Kindred Archers as your unlocks but accept that you’re going to have to ‘dilute’ your pure combat army and resign yourself to the fact that ~10% of your list is going to have to sit back and stay out of the way all game. Or, invest heavily in Kindred Archers and go for a gunline. Or, use Kindred Tallspears as your unlocks and accept that you have the most expensive unlocks in the game (10 points more expensive than the Orcs, that were deemed so expensive they had to introduce a whole new unit to fix the problem!).

There are a few armies that struggle with unlocks in the game at the moment, (Ratkin Slaves is the other big one that springs to mind) but none have it quite so bad as the Twilight Kin. The problem is so bad at the moment that it almost completely invalidates the first good point about the army – their pick n’ mix nature. Twilight Kin have solid options in every unlock slot; heroes, monsters and war engines. But there is little chance to bring any of that to the table without hamstringing yourself elsewhere.

All these restrictions and lack of viable unlocks options inevitably leads to…

List Design Funnelling

When your unlocks are limited to the extent that Twilight Kin’s are, then the inevitable result is list design funnelling.

Put simply, this is where a player is forced to take a list in a very particular direction. It doesn’t mean its the only possible direction you can go, but if you want to build at least a semi-competitive list than its the direction you’re forced in to.

A really good example of list funnelling appeared in Trident Realms at the end of V2. 90% of lists you saw were some variation of-

  • Fury of the Sea formation
  • 2x either Depth Horrors or Gigas
  • Eckter and the Siren
  • 2 x Knuckers

There was lots of adjustments within that basic formula, but the core look of the army was exactly the same every time. That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t other Trident Realm builds available, but they were just no where near as good.

Twilight Kin feel like they’re in a similar spot at the moment.

The list building conversation I have with myself-

“The Summoner Crone is an excellent unit and one of the few units unique to Twilight Kin. Plus her Drain Life it pretty much essential for keeping valuable units alive. Ok, I’ll take two and put upgrades on them make sure that they can make the use out of their Drain Life. But I’m paying all those extra points for special rules that only effect Cronebound units – I better take Cronebound Abyssal Horsemen regiments as the unlocks for the Crones, that way I can make the most of her special rules.

Ok, I need some more heavy hitter to make up the centre of my battle line. I could take some Elf units, but if I did I would need to spend points on another source of Inspiring, because the Crones only effect Cronebound units… guess I’ll take Cronebound Butchers instead seeing as they’re just as killy as Impalers, more durable than Kindred Tallspears and benefit from all the great special rules of the Summoner Crones.

Oh and a couple of troops of Croneboun Gargoyles for chaff…”

So that’s… 1420 points spent with not a single unlock slot remaining.

And I get to this point every single time I try and write a Twilight Kin list – 65% of my list looks pretty much identical and then its fill in the blanks around it. I have a solid core of four combat units, 2 support casters and some chaff. In any other army this would be the point where I start looking at some monsters, or war engines – other pieces to play around the core of my army.

But I can’t do that, because I have no fecking unlocks!

You might argue that its just me and that I have no imagination in list building or that I’m too focused on building a certain style or list – you might be right. But what really brought home to me just how funnelled an effective Twilight Kin list is, was a conversation we had on the Northen Kings’ group chat.

I mentioned to the guys that I’d really enjoyed my game against Kyle and that I was going to build a Twilight Kin list to try out on Universal Battle. I went away to EasyArmy and started list building, eventually coming up with the list I took against Mark’s Ratkin Slaves.

Turns out my fellow Northern Kings had also gone to EasyArmy to try their own hand at building a Twilight Kin list. By pure coincidence we all shared the lists we’d come up with in the group chat within seconds of each other. And they were… pretty much identical. Three lists, built completely independently by three players with wildly different playstyles – more than 90% of the elements were identical across all three lists.

The Elves (well… some of them)

Impalers are fine I guess. They’re Palace Guard by another name, and how often do you see Elf players taking Palace Guard regiments? They’re a decent enough unit that I might consider if I really get fed up with taking the Archers for unlocks, but Twilight Kin have other units that do combat better and at 170 points they’re an expensive way of getting unlocks into your list.

If they could be taken in a horde, now that would be a different matter.

Blade Dancers are a very poor unit in my opinion. They’re just simply no where near as good as Nightstalker Reapers or Orc Morax (I just went to check EasyArmy to look at Blade Dancers and Morax side by side. I’d assumed they were a similar price and I still thought Morax were better. But no – Morax are 30 points cheaper!).

I can see a use for troops, but yet again you fall into issues with unlocks. Every time I’ve thought about adding Blade Dancers into my list, I take one look at Fiends and change my mind. Fiends fill the exact same role in the list (lots of attacks, good at chewing through high nerve, low defense and good speed) but they’re just better at it… and they can be healed from 18″ away by the Summoner Crone.

Summary

I’ve really enjoyed my games with Twilight Kin, and they’re definitely an army that can win games. I’ve won 5/7 games with them so far, and the games I lost were down to player skill (or lack of!) not because of the list.

I’m going to keep on with them and try and bring in more Elf elements into the list. The shame is that I think this will make the list worse not better.

Twilight Kin are definitely a cool army, but at the moment they feel like a fairly one dimensional army.

What Would Make It Better?

I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved in playtesting for the last few Clash of Kings books and the 3rd edition rule book (I even have my name in the credits of the rulebook – how cool is that!). One of things I’ve learnt from playtesting and putting suggestions forward for ways to improve armies is that small changes tend to have big impacts and that often a small nudge here and there can make a massive impact on how an army plays.

So, with that in mind I have put together a few suggestions for how I think Twilight Kin can be pulled right up into the mix as a competitive army, and far more importantly open up a much greater variety of feasible builds.

Regiments are fine, horde are incredible

Goodie two shoes Elves get Palace Guard hordes, hippie Elves get Forest Guard hordes, so why don’t the bad boys of Pannithor get Impaler hordes?

Giving Impalers a horde option would have a massive impact on the range of lists that Twilight Kin could build. No only would it give them an actual powerful Elf option that can’t be found elsewhere in the Cronebound sections of the list, it most importantly gives them an infantry horde worth of unlocks that doesn’t feel like an ‘unlock tax’.

This one change alone would have a huge positive impact on the variety of lists that Twilight Kin could build.

A cheap unlock, a cheap unlock. My kingdom for a cheap unlock!

Lets give the Twilight Kin the Orc treatment and give them a brand new unit that is cheap and cheerful and can be used to provide unlocks.

Call them something like Twilight Initiates and a stat line like this-

These would be a really interesting addition to the game. They’d be something unique to Twilight Kin, and no other ‘Shieldwall’ equivalent unit in the game comes with built in Elite. And again, a unit like this would unlock so much of the potential currently locked in the Twilight Kin list.

Also Mantic, you know how you added in Shield Watch to the Elf list so that people would buy more hand weapon and shield Elf models? Well… Twilight Initiates would be an excellent way of encouraging people to buy a horde of them *hint* *hint*

Black Magic Woman

As I’ve said , the Summoner Crone is an excellent unit for the Twilight Kin. But when you take her you’re forced to take your army down a very particular path – or accept that you’re paying for special rules that you’re not able to use.

I agree that there should never be a unit that can do everything all of the time, but it would be great if the Crone could be ‘upgraded’ to benefit either Elves OR Cronebound.

My suggestion would be to add the following:

“The Summoner Crone may choose to replace the Wicked Miasma special rule with Aura: Stealthy (Elf only)”

Boom – she’s instantly a fantastic support piece for the Elf element of your list, but doesn’t push your Cronebound units over the top at the same time. Plus a stealthy aura would be very in keeping with the Twilight Kin’s background lore.

I’d still say to keep her Inspiring limited to Cronebound only – I think spell casters that Inspire entire armies should be kept to a minimum.

This last one if probably the most wishlisty of my three suggestions but I still feel that it would be a subtle enough change to boost certain elements of the list without going over board.

Throwing Down the Gauntlet

So here’s my promise to the Rules Committee, Matt Gilbert, Kyle Przenenski and the other guys at Mantic – make the changes above in the Clash of Kings 2021 book and I promise to buy, build and paint and entirely 100% Mantic Twilight Kin army and bring it to Clash of Kings 2021 – spindly Elves and all!

C’mon guys, Twilight Kin are so close to being awesome, lets unlock their potential!

What do you think? Have I been overly critical on the Twilight Kin or am I being over optimistic about them?

And do you think my suggested changes would make them a more rounded army?