Magic, Part I - How to Use it, and How to Survive It

Being a forum for the free exchange of ideas, tactical ploys, solutions for problematic situations, and discussions of our generals' approaches to the art of strateegery.

Bongiorno, bambini ' benvenuto a tutti mi amici.

I want to thank my friends in the Warmonger Club for their suggestions about articles that would interest them. While the question of whether to use a fast or slow army is the most requested topic from the last polling, the issue of how to develop a tactical approach to wielding or defending against magic seems to have more urgency for some of you, me included. As always, please send any ideas you have for topics or any thoughts to my secretary, John Bianchi.

(Editor's note: The count is fundamentally confused about the difference between the meanings of 'secretary' and 'editor'. - J. Bianchi)

In our next installment, we'll cover strategies for building armies with enhanced mobility. But for now, let us wade directly into the topic of -

MAGIC, Part I  - How to Use it, and How to Survive It

Have I ever mentioned just how much I hate magic? I have the tread marks of fifth-edition magic all over my body, and several of the old magic cards jammed down in the joints of my tassets. 'Od's flints and daggers! Jocoppo, there's another one of those blasted cards again ' oh God, its the Curse of Years sticking me right where the sun fears to penetrate ' just like in battle so many times before. Wouch! Better swab something on it. How about a little grappa?

But, magic, though sometimes painful, needn't scare you. There is one approach to defending against it, which I'll elucidate here. Conversely, there are many ways to use it offensively. I don't want to talk about things I don't know about, so I've enlisted the help of two of the best generals to employ mages in the Old World ' Matt Birdoff and Nidal Nasr ' to give you their thoughts on how to make the dark arts work for you. Of course, any tips they give to counter their favorite ploys are given at their discretion ' since you may be in a position to use this information against them ' and that constitutes a big bonus for you, dear reader.

And now, as Jocoppo and my coachman Annabile drive us over to the luxuriously appointed residence of Nidal Nasr, let me favor you with some...

Notes on Anti-Magic
Ecco ' I have one cheering thing to say to those of you who worry: do not be over-fearful of magic when constructing an army. Points to consider:

    • If you are creating an army that doesn't rely on casting spells as part of its main strategy, the only magic you'll want to think about will be defensive. So ' for a modest investment ' take one level one mage with two dispel scrolls; a scroll caddy. In all probability, you'll need no more than this defense in a general-purpose army list, so be confident in this choice.
    • If your opponent takes a magic offense, think of those mages as war machines or missile units. They frequently have a similar, variably effective, influence on a battle, and can be dealt with in a similar way. They are perhaps more vulnerable; even powerful mages in units can be killed by a charge from fliers (which have no better use, in my opinion) and even from light cavalry (which may concentrate 5-7 attacks on the mage, then lose the battle, and flee out of danger).

But, until you can kill or neutralize the opposition's magic, how do you spread your single scroll caddy's protection over your army?

    • One way is through your deployment and movements, which may be used to minimize the impact of certain spells. You can often count on facing spells that have a limited range or a proscribed area of impact. Storm of Cronos, Comet of Cassandora; Master of Stone; Master of the Wood; and others can hurt you only under certain circumstances. Keep units well apart to avoid spells like the Comet; Stay out of woods and minimize the amount of time units remain within 12" of terrain features to lessen the effect of the Stone and Wood spells. Stay out of range on destructive ranged spells until you can kill the mage wielding them.
    • Also ' consider this. Does the spell ignore armour saves? If it does, you'll want to protect the most vulnerable units ' small elites like knights. If not, you may wish to let the spell go through, counting on good armour saves to lessen the impact of the spell.

When a spell is cast on one of your units, consider for a moment: just how likely is that spell to do damage? How many more spells might be in the pipeline that turn?

    • Will a magic missile spell that causes D6 S4 hits be worth dispelling against a unit of 25 infantry in heavy armour with shields? IF you're facing an army with a level 1 mage who can only get off the one spell per turn, the answer is yes, use the scrolls first, generally, and then the dispel dice to try to stop the spell ' and by turn three if the dice don't work, its not the end of the world.
    • If that same spell is cast against the same unit of 25 infantry by a mage in an army with two level two mages, and perhaps a level three or four mage lord, the situation is very different. Say the spell is cast by one of the level two mages, and the other level 2 and the wizard lord still have spells to cast. If that's the situation, don't do a thing to stop the spell: let it go through. On average it will cause 3-4 hits, 2-3 wounds, and you will successfully save 1 of those wounds. Losing 1-2 troopers in a unit of 25 is of little consequence, and not worth burning your scrolls or rolling valuable dice over - especially since more magic IS coming.
    • OK ' so the spell has gone through and killed one trooper. You still have your scroll caddy with all her dispel dice and scrolls, ready for the next two mages to step up to the plate. She can then use scrolls to deal with spells cast on your most vulnerable units (small numbers of high value troops) and the most destructive spells (those that are generally cast on the highest rolls), and may try her luck at dispelling the slightly less destructive/lower casting value spells with her dice. Play this properly, and your wizard will be effective for at least two full turns, choosing which spells to let through unopposed and which to deal with. Three turns is also possible, depending on your judgment and a fair portion of luck. But, you had better be in combat by then, mi amico, dealing death to those mages with cold steel or hot lead; since your mage is swiftly coming to the end of her effectiveness. More on what to do with scroll-less mages in part II when we visit with Mr. Birdoff, I believe.

Your scroll caddy is a real buy at about 100 ' 120 points. If she seems a conventional choice, remember, that conventions work most of the time. Many players new to magic feel they've got to take a novel approach. One opponent I faced took three level one mages and tricked them out with 2 dispels scrolls each ' and guess what? I took my usual 100-point, level one mage and virtually negated the effect of almost 400 points of characters.

In my experience, using middling amounts of magic like this is an approach that doesn't work too well since it won't DO enough to justify the expense. It provides slightly more effectiveness defensively than a level one mage, but at higher cost, AND you won't be likely to cast too many meaningful spells. So don't feel bad about adhering to convention ' convention works.

This is the experienced general's modest approach to magic defense. It has the advantage of being cheap, simple, and effective (most of the time). Unless you're playing the ultimate anti-magic army (Khorne), or you have chosen an army that has some built-in protections (i.e. Dwarves and even Brettonia), take the scroll caddy: it will work for you and should be considered the first line of magic defense.

Now ' Mssr. Nasr will favor you with the reverse of the coin. How to use magic to swamp a foe, how much it can be counted on to work, and what to do when you face the full specter of the wall of magic.

Hmmmm...I know there's an obscure cultural reference in that last sentence, but I can't quite find it. Maybe you can.

Well, I see that Jocoppo has taken the short cut to Signore Nasr's lovely home, so I will now turn you over to his extremely capable care. Listen and learn about...

All or Nothing: Mounting an Effective Magic Offense
"Ah yes! By the looks of the carriage outside my walls, my good friend the Count has finally arrived to beg me to explain to you (and him) how it is that magic can be used to save the Day and end the War. Excuse me for a moment while I lock up the liquor cabinets before I open the door for my good, dear friend.

"Now where were we? Oh yes! Magic! Well, as any good practitioner of the dark arts--as some may call them--knows, it's either all magic, or no magic. There is no such thing as a useful 5 dice of magic. It's either the scroll caddy or 8+ dice. I prefer 10 dice myself, plus a mild bound item. Why? Well. Expect one spell per turn not to reach the casting number required due to those terrible, horrible dice of yours -- you know, those innocent dice you're always blaming for losing you the game (after you make those terrible tactical decisions, of course).

"A few casting dice are wasted by bad rolls. Then, 2 or 3 dice will be negated by your opponent's dispel pool and/or dispel scrolls. That leaves you only a few dice that will actually cast spells successfully. And as the best spells have a 9 or 10 or even higher casting value, you want to be able to get at least one or two off per turn, especially if you're heavily invested in magic. A typical lots-o-magic army will spend 400+ points on mages and their trinkets.

"At this time, I can't go into detail about which lore is best, and which spells you should cast first. Figure that part out for yourself. I need to rush to the other room to stop my good, dear friend, the Count and his sticky fingers from pilfering my silverware. I'm not going to believe him when he tells me that his horse took it this time.

"Time! Yes! What I tell you is that to make magic work, you need time. Magic generally functions like missiles, or artillery. It pounds away at the enemy, reducing their ranks, and killing their elites. It won't wipe out armies, but it will take away that crucial chaos dwarf third rank with their stink of blunderbuss powder, or scatter that annoying light cavalry with spears coming around your lines to the left. You know, the one behind those woods. You can't see them? That's alright! I'm sure you have a spell that doesn't need to see them. Look for it in your books of lore.

"To the point: you need to buy yourself time to make magic work. Use light cavalry, fanatics, swarms, woods, whatever you can get your hands on to SLOW enemy marches, or force them to charge units which won't go away. Nothing so much hurts a mage as a Bretonnian hero with a sharp, pointy stick charging full-tilt at him. You need to stop this happening in turn 2. So slow him down!!!

"Dammit. Where is that good, dear friend of mine, the Count? I've completely lost track of him. You know, the Count and I go way back. I even worked as a lieutenant for the drunk-- I mean gentleman--once. Serving in his army was nothing but rum, buggery, and the lash (he kept all the grappa for himself). Those were the days!

"Now where was I? Oh yes. You've slowed the enemy down for 3 or 4 or 5 turns. You've blasted the enemy with magic, reducing their ranks and killing those hard-hitting elites, which they have relied upon so foolishly. Of course, they're not just standing around. They're lobbing rocks, shooting lead balls, casting spells back of their own. What are you to do? That's easy. Hire yourself some rabble to protect you. The fools will take the damage, and even throw you from the way of a cannonball, taking it themselves, right in the chest. As they're so foolish, there's no reason to pay them well. I would recommend hiring the lowest form of rabble. Bretonnian peasants. Ork boyz. Skaven slaves. The cheaper, and tougher, the better. You want numbers. Hordes. Big, big units. Units so big that they're very hard to panic. Since you likely have a mage with a poor leadership as your general, you don't want to have to suffer too many panic checks. (The dear, good Count's wife also likes big units, but I've only heard that from friends, of course.)

"What else are big units good for (besides mitigating poor leadership by preventing panic checks and keeping the Count's wife happy)? That's easy. They can win combat--not through fighting ability, but through sheer weight of numbers. Remember, you've been pounding the enemy with comets, fireballs, big-clawed feet, and holes in the warp for the past 4 turns. He doesn't have much left that's fit to fight. You won't beat him with elite troops (they're too expensive). Instead, you will beat the enemy back with your hordes (remember the hordes we spoke of earlier, and you promised me you'd employ?). Your hordes will hit your opponent's units in the front: this is very acceptable, since you should have rank and outnumbering bonuses over him at this point.

Those charges alone won't break him; they'll just barely hold him. Your opponent's line will be in disarray, since he would be rushing at you at top speed, unconcerned about maintaining his formation since your magic has proven so devastating for the past few turns (he simply can't afford to wait while he dresses his line). What happens the next turn is that you now smack him in the flanks with another of your units (you have a horde, remember?) and send him packing.

"Speaking of packing. That noise in the that the sound of my trunks being opened? Is the Count fondling my family jewels again? Excuse me while I sort this out..."

"To recap what we've learned today using my approach to winning with magic--

    • Lots of dice, or don't bother.
    • A horde of cheap bodies to soak up enemy long-range damage.
    • Fast cav, skirmishers, flyers, whatever it takes, slow the enemy down.
    • The same horde as above wins combat once the enemy finally engages.

"Is this the only way to effectively use magic? Certainly not. But it has proven its worth in countless battles--and even in battles with the Count. Sometimes I just slay me. Usually, I slay others. Now excuse me while I see this *ahem* gentleman off my property."

And In Conclusion...
Oh, that Nidal ' what a kidder. If I didn't know the man, I'd say he was laying for the Count. In a nice way, of course. Believe me, I don't want to get within 10 feet of his family jewels...unless they're safely locked away somewhere.

If you like to take note of analagous situations, you perhaps noticed that the army contruction Nidal describes is similar to that for any especially war-machine-heavy army. A large number of destructive war engines are backed by countless hordes of the cheapest possible troopers, which can soak up lots of losses and still be very effective. The only question in my mind is which army is more effective? The horde supporting a magic offense, or the horde supporting a wall of warmachine fire. The tactical doctrines for each are very similar, yet it's hard to say which of these has the statistical edge in effectiveness...I think perhaps magic properly used is superior, but warmachines frequently can edge out a novice going magic-heavy.

In our next installment, we'll be travelling over to the tower where Matt Birdoff has set up his alchemist's workshop for the creation of non-metallic metals ' that's a story unto itself...

Until then, Bambini, Ciao!

~ Count Federigo da Montefeltro
Duke of Urbino, KG,
Order of the Golden Fleece, etc. etc. ~


Created by: ZiggyQubert. Last Modification: Sunday 25 of January, 2009 01:30:06 PM EST by ZiggyQubert.

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