Commanding Ravilla
by Rob Heinsoo


The physician does not come to minister to the healthy. The troubleshooter does not meddle in the affairs of the smoothly humming organization. And this dissection of a Chainmail faction’s problems of command does not poke into the affairs of Thalos, or Ahmut, or even Naresh. Those factions don’t have problems, they have solutions. But when it comes to command, the elves of Ravilla -- they’ve got problems.

Context

Wood Elf Ranger

The ancient elf empire of Ravilla married magical might with military discipline. Unfortunately for the military tradition, the chaos of the decaying empire rewarded personal initiative more than nobly following orders to their deaths; proper military conduct led only to glorious defeat. Those who had the wits to flee in the proper direction survived.

To give the elves their due, they value individual initiative instead of overly structured command systems. Either way, the fact is that Ravilla’s continued cultural preference is for mobile units that can command themselves, such as Wood Elf Rangers and Snakestrike Duelists, rather than for highly trained battlefield commanders who can maneuver and rally large numbers of troops.

The Consequence: A Vacuum at the Top

Thalos has a 5-point commander (not to mention a 4). Ahmut’s Legion has a 4-point leader. Mordengard has a pair of 3-point commanders. Even Drazen’s Horde and Naresh each have at least one 3-point commander, but the best that Ravilla can muster is the 2-command-point Gray Elf Wizard.

This isn’t a problem for Ravilla’s many independent models, who are by definition always under command and able to maneuver and rally themselves freely. But lack of commanders doesn’t pan out so well for Ravilla’s other troops, notably the four powerful but headstrong trooper models who have the Difficult Troop x2 ability. Three of these models are Felldrakes, and one is the Centaur Trooper. Thanks to the Difficult Troop x2 ability, these models require 2 command points to be placed under command. To maneuver or rally any of these models with a Ravilla warband, you need a Gray Elf Wizard.

Commander Profile: Gray Elf Wizard
Commander Points: 2
Cost: 15

Gray Elf Wizard

Compared to some of the other commanders in the game, the Gray Elf Wizard can be a challenge to use effectively. He has a couple offensive spells, but nothing like the sheer firepower of the Human Sorcerer. He has a defensive spell, but nothing that will keep him alive through a serious melee.

Let’s touch on each of the Gray Elf Wizard’s three 1st-level spells to detail the best tactical options.

Magic Missile

You might find yourself tempted to use the Wizard’s magic missile on the first available target. Resist that temptation. Save the Wizard’s one magic missile for a situation in which a point of damage matters: to knock down an enemy model, or force a big enemy model to make a morale save.

Sleep

Any opposing model that ends its activation next to a sleeping model automatically awakens all sleeping models it is touching. That means enemies who don’t want to be affected by sleep tend to cluster together. You probably won’t be able to break them of this habit until elf wizards who cast glitterdust and fireball make it to the gaming table!

Therefore, patience is once again your best bet. The most effective use of the Gray Elf Wizard’s sleep spell is to wait until Ravilla models that are immune to sleep have engaged in melee with enemy models that are not immune. Use the spell in the middle of the melee, where the enemy cannot count on maintaining freedom of movement or simply keeping the models’ bases in contact. You don’t even have to count your models with the Immune Sleep ability as potentially affected by the spell. An enemy model that falls asleep will become vulnerable to an automatic double-damage hit from the next one of your models that attacks it.

Play Note: if your model is already touching an enemy model knocked down by the sleep spell, your model (unless it’s a Wild Troop) can just stand still and swing at the downed enemy. Or you can put your model under command and maneuver it to touch the downed enemy. The thing you don’t want to do is let your uncommanded models just run away from the sleeping enemy toward the nearest standing enemy model they can see!

Mage Armor +4

Mage armor +4 only brings the Wizard to an armor of 15. When the Wizard is out of spells and forced into melee, it usually becomes a question of, "How quickly will he die?" rather than, "Will he survive?" Therefore, the best way to use the Wizard once he has cast his three 1st-level spells is to keep him just beyond melee. Run him around the edge of the combat, casting his four 0-level daze spells where they will be most effective. A failed saving throw against daze, especially by an enemy commander, is more likely to help your cause than the Gray Elf Wizard’s -1 melee attack.

Flying the Centaur Kite
Against a very slow enemy who lacks missile weapons, in a battle fought above ground, the combination of the Gray Elf Wizard and the Centaur Trooper can completely spoil your opponent’s day. Keep your Centaur moving and shooting, constantly under the Gray Elf Wizard’s command. If your enemy has a living commander, however, you may have trouble keeping the Wizard alive. If you’ve managed to kill all the enemy’s commanders, the Centaur’s speed combined with clever use of terrain can allow you to kite the enemy indefinitely. And when you’re shooting for 2 damage per ranged attack, "indefinite" is finite and in your favor.

Commander Profile: Gray Elf Warsinger
Command Points: 0
Cost: 9

Gray Elf Warsinger

The Gray Elf Warsinger isn’t a commander. So what is she doing here? The answer: Inspiring Courage in every Ravilla model within 6".

The Warsinger cannot put another model under command, so she can’t maneuver or rally troops. But all other Ravilla models within 6" of the Warsinger get a +2 bonus to their attacks and +2 to their morale saves. The best Thalos commander can only give a +2 bonus to two models each turn, but the Warsinger can offer +2 to as many Ravilla models as you can purchase for your warband and fit within 6"! This includes even the Ravilla troopers with the Difficult Troop x2 ability; Ravilla commanders can’t give them a bonus to attack or morale because they lack the command points, but the Warsinger can-do!

In practice, this means the most powerful Ravilla archer warbands are built around a Gray Elf Warsinger instead of around one of Ravilla’s leaders. Cluster as many Elf Scouts as you can around the Warsinger, and you’ve mustered a lethal songfest of feathered death. Add at least one Wood Elf Ranger to handle maneuvering a Scout or rerolling Initiative, and the Warsinger’s warband is complete.

Of course, what works well in aboveground battles isn’t as much use belowground. Even when the light conditions are normal, and line of sight is 24", the denser terrain underground works against ranged attack warbands. The news isn’t all bad, though -- there are few things that a ranged attack army likes better than setting up on a Sacred Circle and getting another +2 bonus to all attacks.

And before you get too excited about the Warsinger, remember this one fact: A second Warsinger in your band doesn’t stack its bonuses with the first one’s song. It just gives you a wider spread where you can send your other models and still receive the bonus.

Ranged Attack Warbands and the Problem of the Final Engagement

If you’re playing a ranged attack warband, you want to put as much space between your models and the enemy as possible. Usually that means you keep your models at the edge of the board. Playing Ravilla, you find that the elves’ high speed sends them sprinting straight out of play after one failed morale save. And with elves’ low health, you can count on your models being forced into morale saves if the enemy ever manages to put damage on them. Solution? Figure out where you want the toughest fighting to occur. Then deploy terrain that will slow down your models on their likely routing paths away from that spot.

Cross-Faction Models: Who to Draft

Stonechild

What the Ravilla faction needs most are models that inflict a lot of damage in one swing. Your best bet is probably the Stonechild from Mordengard. He’s not a Difficult Troop, so he only requires a 2-point command from your Gray Elf Wizard to maneuver or rally (1 point plus the 1 point cross-faction penalty). The Stonechild inflicts 3 points of damage and he has high armor, so he’s got what your skinny Ravilla types don’t. He’s also great against undead thanks to his Magic Stone short ranged attack. That’s important, because if there’s one thing that most Ravilla armies can’t handle, it’s high-health zombies and hard-to-damage skeletons.

Note that the one type of model you probably can’t draft, if you want to play a warband that’s technically Ravilla, is a commander, because warbands are defined by the faction that gives them the most command points.

Cross-Faction Models: A Ravilla Warband Flying a Different Flag

So go ahead and ignore what I just said. Take a powerful commander from another faction. Fill the warband out with as many Ravilla models as that commander can afford as cross-faction troops. For 4 command points, either the Aasimar Cleric or the Human Paladin can maneuver or rally the Centaur Trooper or one of the Felldrakes.

The Aasimar Cleric makes a fine commander for a Gray Elf Warsinger accompanied by three Wood Elf Scouts, for a total of 54 points. That leaves you 16 points to play with in a 70-point battle.

About the Author

Rob Heinsoo has been working in the adventure gaming industry as a writer and game designer since 1994. He worked on the Shadowfist trading card game and the Feng Shui RPG at Daedalus Entertainment, helped direct the world of Glorantha at Chaosium, and helped put together the King of Dragon Pass computer game at A-Sharp. Rob joined Wizards in 1999. He joined the Chainmail team after writing D&D products for the Forgotten Realms and working as the lead writer on the Legends of the Five Rings story team.

Go back to the D&D Chainmail main news page for news you might have missed or discuss what you think of these miniatures on the D&D Chainmail bulletin board

 

 



© 1995-2004 Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Wizards is headquartered in Renton, Washington, PO Box 707, Renton, WA 98057.