Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Why there isn't a "best army" in Kings of War

Recently I've been plotting new ideas to help expand what Master Crafted brings to the Kings of War community. This first of which should go live on our YouTube page this coming week. It discusses the role each unit in each size plays within its army faction. This post is a precursor to that to help set up what I will be doing throughout the series.
Coming Soon!

I feel in the simplest way possible Kings of War has achieved an incredible balance of competitive play and flavorful army selection. So so often I see on the Kings of War Fanatics Facebook page, players from other game systems looking for the best list or reasons to play a particular army. What these players may not realize is that the rules, by design, offer very similar army builds by offering roughly 18 primary unit functions. The factions (Elves, Dwarfs, Kingdoms of Men, etc.) take advantage of some of these functions and layer them on top of faction specific rules to provide both balance among armies and flavor.

The purpose of this post is to break down what I determine each of these unit functions are and briefly describe them. The first video (Elves) I'll be covering with my wife, Brittany as she's never been exposed to Kings of War...and well, she's more attractive than Caleb. In hopes to effectively communicate these principals to someone new to the game.

Who am I kidding...I'd marry them both.
Critically, many units can perform multiple roles within an army build. The directive behind this list is to say these are roles accomplished in the course of the battle and certain units are designed to fit them like a freaking glove. Every army has units that will fit somewhere within the scope of this list but does any army actually cover all of them?

*****The KEY difference in Kings of War is that more often than not these roles offer an identical unit within each army as far as stats and points go with the exception as to what makes them special within their faction.*****

  1. Ranged - Ranged units are generally stationary units designed to provide as many opportunities to put points of damage on units from a distance. Proper deployment and foresight into firing lanes around terrain and objectives (or your own cunning feints) are critical to their success. 
  2. Grinders - High nerve, typical hordes, often with special rules such a phalanx. Not necessarily high defensive units, grinders are meant to be able to get into combat and survive at least 2 to 3 turns without support. Placement as roadblocks, denying critical positions on the battlefield are key.
  1. Defense - Units reserved to 5+ and 6+ defense. The Big Shield rule comes to mind. Not always the highest nerve, these units are set up to protect positions and purposefully be difficult to crack. They can be a psychological weapon deterring an opponent from targeting them in the first place because of their discouraging defense.
  2. Jack of All Trades- Unusual units that have both ranged attacks and close combat with decent middle-of-the road stats. They aren't particularly good at either role however. They are designed to fill gaps when needed and have to be used in a supportive role more than standing on their own.
  3. Unit Erasers - A fan favorite, these units pack a PUNCH. Highly offensive and to devastating effect. Often with excessive amounts of attacks, great melee stat, and plenty of crushing strength and piercing. Often with modest nerve values, you can't send them to the fight on their own.
  4. Harassment - These units are often a combination of fast movement and/or small shots. Troop sized archer units or nimble cavalry peppering small points of damage where needed to boost an eventual charge or whittle down a critical defensive block.
  5. Rapid Insertion/Deployment - Typically paired with the Vanguard and Pathfinder rules, these units force their charge arc right off the bat. Able to advance just short of an opponents first turn charge you've not put them in a place to avoid your charge on the following turn. These units are able to help dictate the aggressiveness of an opponents advancement by providing an early threat bubble.
  6. Charging Cavalry - Fast, hard hitters, charging cav often comes with Thunderous Charge to help reduce the defense of their target. Typically great melee stats and a formidable amount of attacks leads to a great flanking unit or one that can provide a game changing combat right when you need it. Patience to find the right charge is key as they don't win many combats when hindered.
  7. Flexible Cavalry - Often chariots or flying cavalry that begin to open up more than your straight line charge of Charging Cavalry. Many chariots have ranged attacks that can provide considerable ranged support with their hefty attack stat. Other units such as Drakon Riders introduce entirely new threats with a flight bubble.
  8. Anti-Armor - Very straightforward with punishing Crushing Strength special rules, these units are designed to open cans and be the antitheses of a Defense unit. Not always boasting the highest attack stat, they bestow a blessing to your damage roll unlike any other unit and clear the way for the rest of your army.
  9. Small Unit Hunters - A savvy opponent will take advantage of multiple unit sizes to help dictate the battle. Wasting dedicated combat units to clearing them out of the way is exactly what your opponent wants. These units track down those annoying troops and swarms and snuff them out freeing your nasty bits to get into the thick of it.
  10. Monster Hunters - Often heroes or artillery, these units perform best by targeting easily found height 4 monsters and eliminating their threat. Some lone models don't come with the individual rule and can stalk a monsters advance throughout the course of the game and surprise them with an effective flank or rear charge. Nothing is more humiliating than losing your "distraction Carnifex" to a chap in a feather cap.
  11. Artillery - Stationary long range firepower with very low amount of shots. Typically paired with the Blast special rule or a Breath weapon, these units are often found on the back lines looking for the right moment to blast away. Cannons and bolt throwers often targeting Cavalry troops, monsters, or small units and Breath weapons defending against flyers or rapid insertion troops with their limited range.
  12. Casters - Offense or support in a wide array of magical options, Casters throw out ranged abilities to compliment their force. Unlike other games where they control roughly everything about the game, these units can be devastating if left unchecked and often present little enough of an apparent threat to target on their own. All casters come stock with a spell and have options to be expanded based on their individual need in your force.
  13. Unique Support - I'm talking about Inspiring here. So often armies have access to a standard bearer for a measly amount of points. These units provide an essential (unless you're Caleb) role of mitigating lucky dice rolls by an opponent or provide you luck by forcing a re-roll to your opponent. They often do little else however without expanded magical artifacts. 
  14. Chaff - Units designed purely to redirect, be munched up, bait, or otherwise feint your opponent into making a mistake. Not always the apparent choice based on stats, some units fulfill this role rather well. Chaff units are also simultaneously good options as warmachine hunters. 
  15. Disruption - Shutting down line of sight, denying shooting by placing a single pesky wound to a unit and hindering them, fitting right into a charge arc of an otherwise perfect charge. These units cause havoc in less apparent ways and are oh-so-critical to a successful battle plan. Often the form of Cavalry heroes, Vampires with wings, or some monsters, these units make your opponents dentist squeal with delight because they'll be grinding their teeth at night.
  16. Monstrosities - Dragons, beasts, nasty units with high nerve, great melee stats, high attacks, crushing strength, ranged attacks and spells, excellent defense, fly...etc. etc. Point values soar into the 300+ range for a single unit and are paired as centerpiece models and similarly effective distractions for an opponent. They play many roles within the game but none so great as the fear factor. 
When determining what faction you want to play, you've got to have a grasp on your playstyle. Understanding what you tend to do well in a game is critical to finding the army you will latch onto quickest. Our series is going to showcase a faction-by-faction of my opinion on how each of their available units fits into these roles and then describe how to use them best.

Please provide suggestions to this list! I'm open to your opinions as well and if you open me up to a new idea I'll gladly give you credit.


  1. I think there is some overlap in your categories. For example, a chariot seems to be both a harassment type unit and a flexible cavalry type unit. I'm not sure this is not by design though; when you parse the units into that many divisions, you'll get overlap.

    You actually ended with what I always struggle with the most - what is my preferred play style. I don't think you can pitch something as being for beginners and expect them to know what their preferred playstyle is. I've been playing mini games on and off for 20 years and I still can't tell you mine. I like well-painted cool looking minis. I don't like units getting wiped out. I like maneuver. I like sneaky tactics, and seeing them work as planned. I like thinking strategically about the objectives, scenario, placement and terrain. I hate spammy and netlists. I like playing armies that seem to be out of favor by people who like spammy netlists. But that doesn't really tell me my preferred play style, or at least I don't think it does. I find that I end up picking an army and then trying to figure out how it plays best. Anyway, you might want to start your discussion by talking about how one decides what army to pick or identifies a preferred play style.

    1. You make an excellent point on pitching to beginners to pick a play style. I would suggest The Herd for you based on your preferred style of tactics as an opinion. As far as what you consider cool looking minis, that's much harder. I think most people draw interest from the models and if they're torn they don't know which direction to take. You may be able to narrow it down to maybe 2-3 armies though? They may like one but have a great fear it isn't competitive enough. I want to debunk that idea...then reinforce it with one that any army can be competitive if you play with excitement about certain tactical goals.

      What the videos will do after this is take a look at each KoW faction and start to talk about what a player can do tactically within the scope of these divisions. So I would suggest a new player watch the videos for the army they like and HOPE it helps from there. They might be able to draw the lines from there.

      I would think this is more for people familiar with wargaming but new to Kings of War.

  2. I look forward to your videos then. At this point, I think I've selected what armies I'm going to try to work up. I considered The Herd, but there are two to three people playing it locally and, well, see my previous comment about wanting to play armies that are not being played as much which applies somewhat even when they aren't spammy netlist armies. Anyway, here is the lineup, I'm currently working on:

    Elves: I didn't really select this army so much as it was the only remaining army I had from my WFB days back around 2000. I could convert it quickly to KoW play. The biggest turn off for me with elves is that it seems to be one of the 'in' armies with lots of flyer-shooty list goodness that seems to be so much in vogue right now. So what I'm trying to do is emphasize the units that aren't so much in those lists. I admit I have a Lord on Dragon, but that's because I had one and it looks cool. The units, I'm trying to utilize are chariots, Sea Guard, Gladestalkers, and Dragon Breath warmachines. I also like Palace Guard (because I had a bunch of former White Lions).

    My other army picks are all voluntary. The first time I picked up a KoW rulebook was because the store employee told me all about how this game actually had a halfling army. I was curious how they had worked that out. Then we got to talking about the importance of maneuver and the fact that you don't have to try to figure out how to fit ranked models and then remove them one-by-one. That wasn't really what sold me on the League of Rhordia though. What sold me was the fluff. I actually LIKE these guys and their values which is unusual for the normal twisted background gamemakers create for their armies. Add to that that no one around here seems to play them and they have one of the lowest topic counts on the Mantic forum and I got interested. I've still got a lot of questions about how to use them and how to mix them and what the devil you do with light cavalry that is neither fast nor particularly durable, but I hope to work it out.

    And I decided to play Forces of Nature. I like druids or at least the idea of druids; I have since I first read Elfstones of Shannara. There also seemed to be a lot of flexibility in the list to customize troops to fit what you want to do, plus they have pathfinder which seemed really kind of useful. Unlike The Herd where a sizable number of units don't have pathfinder, all or almost all the FoN does. And (you'll notice the theme here) no one around here seems to play that army. I am also intrigued by some of the options I have to model this army.

    Some day, assuming I stick with this game, I want to develop an army from the evil side of things. I (think I) like the idea of having armies that play differently from one another as well. My elves tend to be fast and less numerous. Rhordia is NOT fast at all, but probably more numerous. Nature is more vague but would seem to reward offensive play more than defensive. I'm thinking I want my evil army to be more elite, forcing a style that has few units, where all of them matter. Anyway, none of this really seems oriented to preferred play style. I obviously have my reasons for my choices, and to some extent I know them, just not that one because I don't really perceive a preferred style.

    Anyway, if you'd like to continue this conversation off your comment thread, I'm game for that.

    1. I say that not because I want to talk in secret, but because it's kind of off-topic of your post and probably not that interesting to everyone else.

  3. Enjoyed the article. One of the things I saw in my (admittedly few) games is that a large amount of the play style is different from warhammer. I'd love to see an article about specific strategies that changed. For instance, getting locked in combat just doesn't happen anymore. A lot of people's strategies have to change due to the fact that you can't hold a unit up for six turns.

  4. Enjoyed the article. One of the things I saw in my (admittedly few) games is that a large amount of the play style is different from warhammer. I'd love to see an article about specific strategies that changed. For instance, getting locked in combat just doesn't happen anymore. A lot of people's strategies have to change due to the fact that you can't hold a unit up for six turns.

  5. Did you intentionally use 1 and 2 twice in the list, or am I reading tli to a typo too much.

    1. I definitely did not use 1 and 2 twice on purpose. I didn't even realize the formatting screwed up when inserting that picture. Oh well.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Hi all ... Perhaps a post/article on actual playstyle(s) would be in order or at least a review of some categorical styles: Hammer/Anvil, The Avoidance Dance, Shoot you First ... or other variations on cute names ... in that way when playstyles are referenced we can have a more easily understandable conversation because we will be speaking the same language. P.S. Nice job on the website and especially on the YouTube channel. I know a thing or two about community (wargame) organization and since 'coming out of wargames retirement' its nice to see things being so well done :-) Keep up the good work and maybe I'll see you guys at a GT one day!

    All My Best!

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  9. Army is the only thing that every country will have
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