D&D Miniatures10/09/2008


Skullfire
The Art of Warbands



To kick off the re-launch of The Art of warbands, I've decided to fall back and fit some new pieces into one of my old standby-style of warbands: a multi-tasking squad with the ability to adapt to any number of environments and opponents.

Skullfire

Lyrander Skyfire Captain (55 pts, ChR 3)
Skullcleave Warrior x2 (78 pts)
Wild Mage (29 pts)
Human Sellsword (14 pts)
Kobold Archer x2 (12 pts)
Goblin Runner x3 (12 pts)
Broken Demongate
Total = 10 Activations, 200 pts

Setup

You're likely to have a ranged attack advantage over most enemy warbands, but, as ever, be wary of what area-of-effect or ranged attacks your opponent brings to the table. All of your archers and your Wild Mage will avail you little if they're destroyed in a well-placed first turn strike. (This is unlikely to happen on Broken Demongate. That's unlikely, not impossible …). Side A (the "happy" side) is recommended for use with this warband. Set at least one of your Skullcleave Warriors adjacent to your Captain in the start area closest to the center of the map, along with the Wild Mage and a Goblin Runner to be used as a screener. Throwing the Human Sellsword and/or the second Skullcleave Warrior in that area is a good idea, as well; the rest of your warband can start in the more remote start area near your "exit" squares.

If your opponent sets up first and allows you to potentially get a first turn strike with your Wild Mage, by all means take it. Otherwise, protect the fragile Mage with your tougher pieces. Try to keep at least one Goblin hidden away so that you're guaranteed at least one turn's worth of tile points.

Tactics

The best thing about a warband like Skullfire is its versatility. With the Wild Mage, you have a Controller that allows you to blast multiple units with an array of unpleasant effects. The Skullcleave Warriors are, of course, your centerpieces: high-AC beaters capable of dishing out tremendous amounts of damage and that are consistently capable of withstanding punishment. The Lyrander Skyfire Captain, oft used only for his buffing abilities, is a deadly marksman capable of hitting high-AC opponents even when other units in your warband fall short. Finally, the lowly Human Sellsword is more dangerous than his low cost might indicate, and he's more than capable of mopping up injured enemy units or acting as a reserve beater if the Skullcleave twins bite off more than they can chew. Use this array of pieces to deal with whatever threats come your way; the key here is knowing which piece to use in each situation.

Broken Demongate is a tricky map to maneuver on, and deployment is going to be even harder for your opponent thanks to the presence of your Wild Mage and Skyfire Captain. Patience is of the utmost importance when running this warband. Carefully consider your ranged attacks, for there are a number of tricky line-of-sight opportunities on this map if you're willing to wait for an opening. Reaching the victory areas can also prove challenging, as the only means of doing so involve passing through one of the two openings that link the distinct halves of the map.

Position your screeners, Skullcleave Warriors, and Human Sellsword near the central gap but out of easy line of sight to your opponent, thereby establishing control over the area when enemy units move through. Position your Skyfire Captain and Wild Mage further from the gap but within line of sight so that they can take easy shots at exposed enemy units. Use one or more Goblin Runners to build an early lead by grabbing juicy Assault Points. That should force your opponent to come to you in an effort to catch up. While you continue to soften up the enemy with your Champion and Mage, the formidable Skullcleave Warriors and Sellsword can move in and mop up the mess.

Things to remember:

  • A Skullcleave Warrior can inflict up to 60 points of damage to two adjacent enemies by combining his Unavoidable Strike and Skullcleaver abilities. A Skullcleave Warrior that has been augmented by the Skyfire Captain can inflict 70. Reserve the Unavoidable Strike ability for use against important enemy units that you can finish off with the attack. Against truly frightening enemies, you can combine the Skullcleavers to put up to 85 points of damage over the course of two activations onto a single unit. That's enough to seriously damage or destroy most pieces in the game.
  • The Skyfire Captain's Cat's Grace ability is probably best used on himself, granting him a mighty +21 ranged attack bonus and 27 AC. No other single important unit in your warband will benefit from the ranged attack bonus (although AC 28 on one of your Skullcleave Warriors is a good thing if you face enemies with high attack bonuses).
  • With his Burst of Speed ability, a Goblin Runner can cover up to 20 squares in a single turn. Use this as a last or next-to-last activation early in the game in order to guarantee assault points. A Goblin Runner will award your opponent only 4 victory points if eliminated; if used correctly, it earns you 10 victory points. That's a great trade-off, and it may force your opponent to burn an activation or two to eliminate those pesky goblins.
  • Don't be surprised if your Wild Mage becomes a big target for your opponent. Her constant barrage of area effect attacks are a major deterrent to open movement, and artillery of any sort is something most players don't want to face if they can do something about it. Indeed, you should anticipate the Mage becoming a target and use that fact to your advantage. Calling out enemy archers or spell flingers to target your Mage will leave them exposed to counterattack, and luring melee beaters deep into your territory in an effort to eliminate the Mage can allow your melee units to team up against the aggressor and take him down. (Look at it as a matter of points. If your Wild Mage is going to become 29-point bait, be sure to lure more than 29 points worth of enemies into the trap.)
  • The Human Sellsword is perhaps the best finisher in the game, capable of laying down a 30-damage smack against a Bloodied opponent at a base +14 attack bonus. That's a lot of damage for a 14-point figure. Use it wisely. At the same time, don't be afraid to sacrifice those 14 points if it serves a better purpose, such as drawing fire away from your more costly figures or laying a trap to bring enemy units into a more optimal striking position.

Strengths

Skullfire is strongest against titan warbands and warbands with little to no ranged or area-effect capabilities.

Weaknesses

Skullfire is weakest against warbands that rely on multiple strong beaters and warbands with plenty of energy resistance.

Variations

  • Try swapping out one or more of the Skullcleave Warriors for an Orc Champion or a Werewolf Champion. You lose the auto-crit capability of the Skullcleave Warriors but gain an increase in overall damage output and greater speed.
  • For added mobility, trade the Human Sellsword and a Kobold Archer for a Warhorse and another Goblin Runner. This option removes your third beater/finisher but adds a great deal of flexibility and added damage to one of your Skullcleave Warriors.

About the Author

Steven Montano gave up his dreams of becoming a kung fu action star in favor of becoming a financial accountant for Wizards of the Coast. Little did he dream how similar those two professions would end up being.

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