D&D Miniatures02/05/2004


The Power of Cheap Creatures



When building a warband, many players first look to the Knights, Dragons, Ogres, and other high-cost, powerful combatants. Their warbands usually have three or four creatures costing 100 points. But there is another way to approach Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures warband construction, using cheap creatures, or "grunts." I look to those powerhouse creatures as well, but I also seek out the 3-point grunts to get in the heavy hitters' way.

Advantages of Cheap Creatures

There are several good reasons to include a bunch of cheap creatures in your warband.

Initiative

By playing with lots of grunts, you will likely have more creatures than your opponent and therefore have the initiative advantage. Getting the first attack is a big deal when just two or three hits can cause a morale save, and five hits kills the enemy creature. This becomes even more important when you have an expensive creature that you want to attack your opponent's expensive creature.

Let's say your heavy hitter is a Red Samurai and your opponent's is a Thayan Knight, both of which have two melee attacks. If it moves in right away to engage the Thayan Knight, the Samurai will get just one attack while the Knight will get both of its attacks (because it does not need to move). The solution: Activate all the grunts first. This forces the opponent to activate the Knight before you activate the Samurai. If the Knight engages the Samurai, the Samurai will get two attacks to the Knight's one. If it doesn't engage, the Samurai can attack the Knight after the Knight was activated and not be subject to a return attack this round.

Flanking

When you have more creatures on the battle grid than your opponent, you can set up plenty of flanking situations. It is also much easier to make sneak attacks when you have more creatures and initiative advantage.

The MegaOrc

A large group of cheap creatures works almost like one big creature. For example, I like to fill my Chaotic Evil warbands with seven Orc Warriors. The way I look at it, this is what you get for your 21 points:

MegaOrc
CE, 21 points
Lvl: 1
Spd: 6
AC: 13
HP: 35
Melee Attack:+4/+4/+4/+4/+4/+4/+4 (10/10/10/10/10/10/10)
Ranged Attack: --
Type: Humanoid (Orc)

Fearless. DR X (When this creature takes damage, prevent all but 5 points of that damage and this creature loses one attack per round)

The megacreature essentially is Fearless, because you never make morale checks with 5 hp creatures unless a spell or ability forces it. With only 5 hps, they just die instead of running.

The Megaorc has something similar to DR, but instead of preventing the first five damage, it prevents everything except for the first five damage. No matter how much damage the enemy's attack inflicts, only 5 points of it actually matter; the excess is wasted. Your opponent paid a lot of points to get an Ogre Ravager in his warband. When it wipes out a 3-point Orc, that player is wasting 25 points of expensive damage.

Of course, if there were a single creature with these stats it would be broken, or at least insanely expensive. Seven Orc Warriors are close to this and even better in some ways (a single creature can't set up flanking as easily, for example).

Disadvantages of Cheap Creatures

Having a bunch of grunts in play has weaknesses as well. You can overcome or minimize them with clever use of tactics.

Damaging Area Effects

Fireball spells and Breath Weapons can clear the field of grunts a handful at a time. Avoid mass destruction by hiding your creatures behind walls when not engaged and spreading them out so they don't all get caught in the blast.

Multiple Attacks

An enemy creature with two or more attacks can wipe out multiple grunts every round. When facing something like the Ogre Ravager, the best approach is to send in just one grunt at a time and stagger the rest (separate them by 2 to 4 squares).

The special abilities Cleave and Whirlwind attack also present problems to warbands with lots of grunts. Surrounding an Axe Sister with seven Orc Warriors is a poor idea. If you time it well, you might get lucky and force a morale save on the first round, but odds are the Axe Sister will slaughter your orcs with her whirlwind attack on the second round.

When you do commit to melee with many grunts, be sure to engage with your heavy hitters as well. That way, your opponent faces a tough choice between attacking your Red Samurai to remove that danger while taking hits from all the cheap Orcs, or smashing the Orcs and leaving the tough enemy unharmed. An opponent with only Orcs as targets can mop them up quickly without fear of damage from your Samurai.

Ranged Attacks

Archers are not what you want to see on the other side of the table when you have many creatures with few hit points and low ACs. If you are expecting archers, try including a high-AC figure such as a monk. Let him lead the charge and absorb the arrows.

Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures is a great game with many viable approaches to warband building. Try something different with your next warband to get the most out of it.

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