Friday, 10 June 2016

Thoughts on MSU army design

Since jumping into the hobby and Kings of War in February, I've played a number of tournaments / competitive games at 2k & 2.5k. Inspired in part by Pawel's blog, and in part by my own experience, I wanted to give Multiple Small Units (MSU) a try.

First up, I have to declare that my list building philosophy is more influenced by the models that I have than some strategic ideal. I purchased 90% of my WHFB Empire models as a bulk lot. I've shelled out for the odd bit or piece, but I'm (trying) not to spend more on this project. So, while I like the idea of running three halfling volley guns or a horde of demigryphs, I ain't gunna.

Anyway, on to my post hoc list justifications.

Up until now, I've run as many hordes as I could. A horde of Foot Guard or Shield Wall, I was building another Spear Phalanx Horde too. The keystone of my offence was my Horde of Arquebusiers with Brew of Keen Eyeness. 20 shots hitting on 4s with piercing 2. It's a pretty intimidating unit to be sure.

But it's just too easy to deal with for experienced players. Individuals can disrupt it from Turn 1-3 (depending), and if those individuals are say vampires or pharaohs that's it for the game for my Horde.

With reload, Cavalry can wait till I move the Horde and get stuck in then. With about half the scenarios I can't afford to leave my most expensive unit static the whole game.

24" is an annoyingly short range, and can be worked around. With clever positioning a flyer can get into the flanks of a shooting Horde without once exposing itself to fire.

My Horde at best could delete one unit per Turn, and that's great until your opponent comes at you with a range of stuff.

And while 20 attacks is a lot, there were too many occasions where I would only end up applying <5 wounds due to poor rolling. I can't afford that. KoM are a hard army to play to begin with, can't afford to expose yourself so much to the odd fail roll.

It loses to bows in a shoot out. Elves especially can take them apart. Def 3 means they melt. The Dwarf version at least is Def 4 and has headstrong.

So I decided to split my rifle Horde into 4 troops. It's much more expensive (400 points for the troops compared to 270 for the Horde) but it's much more versatile, and gives the enemy harder choices. With my Horde, they had no choice. They had to deal with it.

And I decided that while I was at it I'd split up the rest of my stuff as much as possible. My spears Horde became two regiments, my halberds Regiment became two troops. I left my knights as Regiments because I'm not insane and I left my Greatswords as a Regiment because I couldn't bear to split the base up, I really like how it turned out.

So anyway.

Part of my intent is to create headaches for my opponent by giving them a heap of options, by making them choose and second guess themselves.

At the moment my obvious hammers are my 2 Knight Regiments, my Beast of War / Iron Beast, my Foot Guard / House Guard Regiment, and my General on a Winged Beast / Duke on an Ancient Aralez. But that's 5 targets. All worth about 200 points, but none critical. Then I've got two war machines and 4 shooter troops. That's a lot of targets worth roughly 100 points each.

So theoretically my opponent won't have any obvious targets. From experience they will go in hard on my Steam Tank in the early turns. People love shooting at that thing. Doesn't matter if I'm running it as an Iron Beast (Def 6) or a Beast of War (5). Arrow magnet.

Out deploy. I have 16 drops at 2k, and 21 at 2.5. I'm going to have 3-5 more drops than most of my opponents, which means I can drop my hammers last, after everything is down. Will I stack one flank or the other? Both? Will I hold them behind my infantry line? Who knows hey. But dropping 33 - 50% of my army by points value after my opponent has completely deployed should give me some advantage you'd think.

With so many units, it becomes extremely difficult for an enemy to engage in melee without giving up flanks or even rears.

The weaknesses. A lot of low nerve units means that I am extremely vulnerable to an enemy who has many sources of ranged damage. My troops can take 2 wounds before an average nerve roll will waver them.

I'm not worried about the Ogre shooter Horde, or heavy Artillery. I'm worried about the Ogre warlocks. The Goblin wizards. Elven bolt throwers. Night stalker mind flayers. Silverbreeze Cavalry. I can ameliorate this a little by making sure I have inspiring bubbles all over my units, but only a little. Unfortunately my local meta has a few armies that run these sorts of units, so I'm going to have to learn the hard way.

I will also struggle against high def individuals. Most of my anti armour comes from shooting, and shooting at individuals sucks.

Other challenges:

I have a lot of infantry, and it is easy for them to get in the way and act as a reverse screen. Inspiring doesn't stop units from wavering. If I don't have my units in position to counter punch with flank attacks or at least multiple front charges I'm going to get absolutely pantsed.

Game play speed. With so many drops and sources of shooting, I'm going to really have to move quickly to finish games in a timely manner in a tournament environment. I'm not the slowest player in Canberra, but I'm up there hey. I need to train myself to make the correct decisions quickly. And making the correct decisions will be more critical with this army than usual.

I'll have an easier time in the pillage scenarios, I'll struggle with dominate, and who knows about the others.

Oh man I'm going to get slaughtered hey


  1. Hi Tas!

    Great to see you started blogging and many thanks for mentioning my own. I greatly appreciate that and I am happy to know you enjoy what I write!

    I am very intrigued by the approach you are going to take in order to give MSU a try. Or in fact, to actually define what it really is under KoW rules and for your particular army.

    I don't know if you happen to read the following blog:

    But it might be also good read for you since Mr. TastyBagel is also trying to build MSU orientated KoM army.

    One thing I want to comment on in particular is the comparison between the troops/regiments/hordes. Very often people point out that you can get a single horde, for example, cheaper than two regiments. And that single horde is going to have better nerve values as well as double number of the attacks (in the case of infantry/cavalry type of units).

    However, I always find this comparison a bit one sided. In my opinion the choice here is between two options, neither of which is better but serves different purpose and have different set of advantages and disadvantages.

    If you invest in regiments and/or troops over hordes you may need to pay more points but what you gain is:
    1. Flexibility - you can focus the effort on a single target but you can also spread the units according to the situation.
    2. Risk diversification - sorry for very sophisticated term but it simply means you do not present a single target to the enemy. You have already mentioned that but I find it important, hence I come back to it. A single fast individual is not going to shut down your shooters. The enemy also has to spread the efforts to deal with multiple small units. It may mean not all of them will have clear line of sight to their targets, etc.
    3. Nerve - that is actually interesting but if you think about it then in order to rout two regiments you may need more damage done in total than against a single horde. You have a chance to do so earlier for smaller units but in the end you need to beat 2 x 13/15 nerve instead of 1 x 20/22.

    Because of that I think that MSU approach has merits and it is not such straightforward comparison of advantages and disadvantages as some people claim.

    Which is also good because it creates a very good diversity, even in the frame of the same army.

    Looking forward to reading about your next adventures!


    1. I think the nerve issue you raise works well with Very Inspiring armies (KoM and League). If you can't inspire your troops though, I wouldn't like to trust their fate to a single nerve roll. It also works well for KoM because they have a LOT of infantry options.

      I also think a lot of the math-hammer stuff falls apart when faced with actual gameplay. Infantry hordes are just too darn clumsy. I'll keep running one in my 2500 army (for the efficiency of unlocking 3 special units compared to a regiment's 1), but I don't think I'll place it in the centre of my line again.

    2. I totally agree about infantry/cavalry horde. I know people like the look of it and it does have some advantages (like mentioned unlocking of other elements) but indeed, it is clumsy. And with such a huge frontage they can be hit by many more units too.

      The chances of success people calculate are simply to see what may be possible. If only that was used that way it would be perfectly fine. Unfortunately, they take it for granted that you will get the average roll and base their decisions on that.

      Luckily for you the armies you use have Very Inspire and your troops will have far better chance of staying on board!

  2. I love your Battle Reports, Tas! And I love your thoughts on MSU. I am currently building a MSU goblin army with 21-22 drops. Currently I am playing an all-infantry dwarf list (with no hordes) and I am doing all right. Obviously with slow dwarfs most scenarios are hard to win, but it is possible for sure. Invade and Push perhaps the best scenarios for this sort of dwarf list in my experience. Mostly because I am not forced to split my army too much.

    My brother has played MSU KoM for a while and has had success with it. But it is hard at times and you have to bring your A-Game every battle to win. Anyway, hope to see more MSU reports from both you and Swordmaster and I am looking forward to when my goblin army is ready for the table :)