The plastic armies

Angels! Angels!In between the battles with friends, I’m occasionally graced with the honor to battle a player from the local store. Now there’s a recurring theme about these battles: my opponent tends to be around half my age and own half an army.

I gracefully present them my improvised, or not so improvised army list of equivalent point size, twice the financial budget and end up tabling them (unless the dice gods decided differently). But there is no sweet taste of victory. There are no angels coming down from the skies to rain golden flakes on me and sing lovely tunes. And that won’t do.

Introducing a handicap…

In smaller games, you have fewer resources and so does your opponent. This means that point investments in tricks come at a higher cost, but can have a far bigger return. When battling against younger players who, because of their financial restrictions, often fall back on rank and file models, you find they lack means to beat a “tricky” army.

A handicap, the plastic army rule!

A handicap, the plastic army rules!

In order to put myself in their position through a handicap. I decided to build a few army lists limited to the following choices:

  • Plastic models from my own army are permitted to heart’s content, within the normal rules of the game.
  • Conversions are permitted but have to remain simple and yield a cheaper alternative to the original model.
  • The base models have to be from Games Workshop, to ensure the list can be used in their shops.

I long wondered if I should permit conversions at all, but I found that there’s no escape from it. Who can object a young opponent to use a suitable proxy or symbolically converted model?
Still, conversions should be restricted somewhat… Conversions tend to be easier for an older, more experienced audience than the youngsters I’m making these rules for.

The batallions march to war!

In order to make the fight more attractive and get people’s attention, I proposed the local shop to introduce a friendly competition. The rules would be fairly strict, though, since it’s directed at a clear audience: with the exception of a character of their choice, they can only field units choosen from batallion boxes and a single character. Well, literally, any starter box is avaialble. This gives Skaven, High Elves, Empire and Vampire Counts an edge, but heck at 600 points neither amry will be particularly impressive.
In subsequent rounds we increase the point size and relax the rules, to give everyone a shot at bringing in their top favorite unit.

Currently, the idea is to keep a monthly challenge going, or two if the time resources permit me so. On one hand we’d have a growing escalation war, where the point sizes increase to a comfortable 1500 points or more. On the other, we keep a small point tournament going on a regular basis for new players to join the fray or for experienced players to try out new units, new armies and new tricks.

So what about the Dark Elves?

Being a social chap doing stuff for the kids (the kids!!) is great and all, but what’s in it for us? It made me think thoroughly about expanding my army in a financially more comfortable way and explore the depths of the dark elf arsenal in that manner before expanding to more expensive unit choices. We have only a very limited selection of plastic models… but they offer quite some tools:

  • The 30 frenzy corsair unit. Frenzy corsairs are a popular choice and can’t be missed when trying to build strong units from plastic. The horde unit has a particularly strong sting combined with a good resilience. It’s a superb backbone to any offensive infantry list. They can also come in smaller number, but at a cost of resilience.
  • The 40 spearmen horde, or shall I make it 50? When 50 Corsair attacks are to be seen as impressive, surely so can 40 attacks from spears be? The unit comes far cheaper, with more bodies but lacks resilience and charges with only 30 attacks. That’s notably weaker than our frenzied troops. There’s still room for a banner there and plenty of options to pick from. At a massive 50 body count, they make a superb bunker for a sorceress with the Sacrificial Dagger, having bodies to spare for the dagger and still put out 40 attacks in defense. With a standard of discipline, this gives the army ld 10 and it only costs 330 points. I like the idea so much I’m almost tempted to buy two units of these, just to see the look on the face of my opponent: here’s a 100 bodies.. Good luck.
  • The Cold One Knight flanker comes at only 143 points for 5 models and a musician but look what it brings! The attack power is quite alright, but it’s a resilient unit. With 2+ armor save and fear to boot, you’re looking at something able to pin down any non elite unit for some time, or support you in the attack against anything stronger.
  • The Cold One Knight bus comes at an acceptable cost: 364 points for 12 models with full command. But at this point they only have 12 attacks in the front and 6 mount attacks. A banner can help them, like the banner of hag graef (hello there High Elves!) or the banner of murder (hello there heavy or monstrous cavalry), but it brings them close to 400 points for -only- 12 attacks. A cauldron of blood can help out by boosting their attacks, but chances are they’ll need the ward save to survive the trip to battle. One could place a hydra BSB in there, but this increases the cost of the unit to 600 points. Personally, I think it’s interesting such a death star is possible using plastic models only, but I’m less convinced by the strategic value of it.
  • Shade spam. Corsairs with handbows make such simple shade proxies that I’ve fallen in love with the idea and plan to use them as “advance troops” in a raiding theme. With Shades suddenly coming cheap and easy, the idea of using two large Shade units is glued on my mind. They are a fantastic tool to take out warmachines and weaken enemy hordes. But they introduce a weakness however: they aren’t resilient and a single fireball can severely damage them. Firemages or other auto-hit ranged attacks are their nemesis. They have to be used with caution, so they can deny points to the enemy. This turned out quite well so far.
  • The RXB bunker. With 22 bodies, full command and perhaps a devastating banner this bunker can come as cheap as 250 points, while delivering a staggering 44 shots. That’s almost a rival to the corsair unit at a distance.
  • The RXB dance units come in small packs of 10, with a musician. At 105 points, they come by the numbers and offer spread or concentrated firepower. Little victory can be gained, fleeing or redirecting is their close combat game… but they do come down fast.
  • The core choice shades. Wait.. What? These are not Corsairs posing as shades, but actually the units of Corsairs trying to rival the utility of shades. Equipped with handbows and a musician, a unit can come as cheap as 105 points. The quick to fire ensures no penalty for moving, and they’ll always have a stand and shoot. With swiftreform, a small frontage and the freedom to shoot whenever they want, they are the less agile version of shades. But they are far cheaper and don’t miss out in number of shots. This is a style I have seen very little about on the net, but I fully intend to explore.

I think it will be hard to bring the larger units of this list in smaller games, but some scale well when downsized: the shades, frenzy corsairs and small cold one flankers offer a good basis. The spearmen bunker is cheap enough to make an early entry, but it begs abuse to host a sorceress with a sacrificial dagger. I’m not sure if that really qualifies as a list designed to “balance” it for younger competitors… But who knows? Perhaps they find it balanced enough to have them woe me!

2 thoughts on “The plastic armies

  1. It’s not just a question of doing this on a budget. Players new to the army will also start out with battalion boxes and loads of plastic. Thanks for this, looks very interesting. I might base my dark elfs on this as well.

    • Yeah, there could be many reasons to do so, but in this case I do think their pocket money plays a role ­čÖé
      It’s worth noting though that some of those units come in cheaper versions.. point wise. The spearmen bunker can go as low as 25 and still be effective. The Corsair unit can go to 24 or 21 big and still be a formidable unit.

      The Cold One Knights also prove handy in sizes of 6 (a little more power, but ceases to be cheap), 9 or 11. The latter two mostly if you add a character. And if you don’t want to risk the BSB, you can take a dreadlord with some neat stuff instead. It merges your general and bsb. You loose a few attacks but the utility of the general is better. Comes at a price-tag though.

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