Designers' Roundtable
October 2001
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D&D Chainmail
Designers' Roundtable
By Jesse Decker

The new D&D Chainmail miniatures game is finally out! Now everyone is trying to build the perfect warband. Here's a chance to learn how, and what, the folks who make the game play. Get new ideas for your warbands and see how your own ideas measure up to those of the pros!

Who's Who

Jonathan Tweet
lead designer

Chris Pramas
game designer

Jennifer Clarke Wilkes
technical editor

Rob Heinsoo
game designer

Bruce Cordell
game designer

Wizards of the Coast: Describe your favorite warband (models and terrain selections). What basic strategy do you use in most matches?

Jonathan Tweet: I like Naresh -- the gnolls and demons. They're competent with ranged attacks and good in melee. I like high walls to hide behind and low walls to shoot over. If my opponents don't have ranged attacks, I use my ranged attacks to force them to come to me and fight on my turf. Even if my opponents do have ranged attacks, I can often outlast them in a shoot-out just because the gnolls are so tough.

Chris Pramas: I'm all about variety. I rarely play the same warband twice because I like to try out new combos and troop types. Lately, I've been playing an Ahmut's Legion warband. Ahmut's Legion is usually referred to as the undead faction, but it also includes mortal death cultists. I thought it would be fun to do an all-cultist army, so I made a 50-point band with a human death cleric, a halfling sneak, and a crazed minotaur cultist. I used a low wall and woods for terrain.

I start the minotaur and the death cleric in base-to-base contact. That allows me to cast shield of faith on the minotaur first thing, which bumps up his Armor by 2. The minotaur then tears off towards the enemy, while the halfling sneak slides into cover and starts shooting. The cleric follows the minotaur, judiciously using cause fear and command points to assist his troops. The minotaur is a beast in melee, as you'd expect, so once he makes it to the enemy, things get ugly. The band works pretty well, although having only 3 figs is a limitation in certain scenarios. Luckily, the death cleric is a good enough commander to put the minotaur under command, so I can control him if I need to.

Jennifer Clarke Wilkes: I keep trying to make a goblinoid army work. I've been running with a hobgoblin fighter and a collection of goblin scouts and troopers (including the Set 2 bugbear trooper, due out in early 2002). I've experimented with various cross-faction troops to complement the goblin hordes with special attacks that can let the little guys gang up. So far it's not working very well, although I once had Jonathan's killer abyssal ravager army on the ropes -- until a spate of bad die rolls turned the tide for me.

The goblinoids don't like being shot at, since they have to get numbers to do much of anything, but they have ranged attacks of their own. I usually run with a low wall and a high wall as a result. (I tried the hut for a while, but it too often gets used against me, especially by those pesky elves.)

My earliest armies were Ravilla archer-heavy troops with plenty of trees. I am glad to see that, as Rob demonstrates regularly, these are very tough to deal with.

Rob Heinsoo: One of my favorite warbands is a heavy command, good melee, good ranged attack warband, consisting of one dwarven fighter, one dwarven cleric, one wood elf ranger (cross faction) and one gnome infiltrator (a different cross-faction troop). The dwarven cleric puts shield of faith on the dwarven fighter, who can advance ahead of the rest of the warband with her new improved Armor Class of 22. The wood elf ranger and the gnome infiltrator hang back and shoot at the enemy, a strategy made easier by my terrain choice: two quagmires -- terrain that doesn't block line-of-sight. Even though the wood elf and the gnome are cross-faction to the dwarves, the dwarves have enough command points to tell the missile guys to shoot at the second nearest enemy model.

If the enemy warband is a melee army, it has to close with my forces. I shoot it while it advances and then the enemy has to fight the dwarven fighter. The cleric heals the fighter or uses spells against enemies who've come too close. The gnome infiltrator has Precise Shot and can shoot into melee. The wood elf ranger can mix it up in melee using her extra melee attack. If the enemy warband has even more missile power than I've got, I can advance the gnome and wood elf behind the dwarven fighter, shooting all the way.

Bruce Cordell: I had early success with a 50-point warband comprising two dwarven fighters and one stone child. While this army is a liability against a player who has both a ranged army and experience using it against the dwarves, in many cases this army is hard to beat. The stonechild has Armor Class 19, and both fighters have Armor Class 20. They are difficult to hit, have great health, and the two fighter commanders can each lend another model a +2 attack bonus each round with an expenditure of 2 command points apiece. The worth of high Armor Class and good health (so that a single 1-point hit will not make you check morale) is not to be underestimated.

For terrain, you want to take all high walls. If you can, place one of the walls just past the center, opposite from your starting position (assuming standard skirmish), and keep under cover as you rush to the center. Ideally, your enemy will come to you -- otherwise, you'll have to draw a missile army into charge distance by constantly moving around the wall. If you've managed to keep your army together (it's important you don't string your forces out), you can look forward to a flank bonus against an enemy because you want to throw all three of your models into the fight right away.

Wizards: Why do you favor this warband and strategy?

Jonathan: I like the mixed melee/ranged warband because it's flexible. Naresh has the added bonus of having the coolest models that we've released so far. The demonic gnoll adept is a marvelous model, and the abyssal ravager is great, too.

Chris: I like the flavor of the all-cultist band, and I had been looking for an excuse to try out the crazed minotaur cultist. Mmmm . . . evil.

Jennifer: I'm a sucker for the underdog, I guess. I've been a closet goblin for years, and I always enjoy seeing a mass of individually weak troops overwhelm a big thing. I've taken to calling my goblinoid army my "Sligh" as a homage to the cheap-junk, amazingly effective red Magic tournament deck of the same name.

Rob: I love playing warbands that allow flexible responses to whatever the enemy has to offer. Even though this warband isn't the strongest or most dominating, it gives me a chance to compete with fun tactics no matter what my opponent brings to the table. Some of the "stronger" warbands have bigger weaknesses when they go up against the wrong opponent.

Bruce: I favor this strategy because it is easy to play and satisfying for a beginning player. However, the lack of at least one good missile model plagues me, and is something I'll rectify once I've assembled my perfect warband.

Go to the D&D miniatures main news page for more articles and news about the new D&D Chainmail Skirmish Game, coming in October 2001! Or check out the D&D Chainmail message boards for a lively discussion of the D&D Chainmail game.

 





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