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PostPosted: Tue Oct 08, 2013 1:59 am 
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Always better to be lucky than good, Hero! Sounds like lots of dead elves!


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 08, 2013 5:16 pm 
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Seredain wrote:
Nemo,

Basically, what John said (and SA concurred with). Str 7 allows your prince to do things that ordinary elves cannot and, when you're only toting 4 attacks (or 5 on the charge), +1 to wound tough models, and taking another -1 off their armour, is a very big deal. The crown of command is not, however, at least not for my unit. +2 static res from the flags and re-rollable 10 is brilliant defensive leadership, and doesn't need the item points which messes up the most powerful combat combos. I'd rather be generating active res with my prince to stay in the fight, than have his knights sit there with his crown waiting to be rescued. The BSB helps with his own kills, of course (and the flag is good), but his OTS is invaluable for a prince who's day can be ruined by decent ward saves. Something useful to note: that Chaos Disclord of Warhammer Immunity can't re-roll a re-roll, so just hope he makes his first ward saves and then rolls some 1s and 2s on the re-roll.

The idea of a stubborn knight unit as merit, though. I think I'd be looking to get some aggressive magic in there to help you out with killing power.


Fair enough - I figured I would just throw an idea out because of what happened in the last few games you reported on. You could keep the Str7 and take the Crown, but you lose out on the Armour Save re-rolls so that is a poor idea too! It is not a build I can run - I simply cannot avoid taking the Other Trickster's Shard with only 1 character in the unit, but I had been concerned as I would lack the BSB's re-roll thus was wondering about Stubborn (and given you are the Prince guru, I wanted your thoughts!).

Love the new army list, but it does have a significant reduction in the number of deployment drops so I am very interested in how the army plays.

+Edit+

You can ignore the following, I'm an idiot - I completely forgot about minimum Core requirements when looking at your list!

+/End+

You still have 3 points free - have you considered replacing the 6 Helms with a naked unit of Dragon Princes again?

You would lose out on the Standard and one extra wound/horse attack, but gain 4 extra attacks from the Knights (and gain better Weapon Skill/Initiative) and thus probably make up for the difference in Combat Resolution that the Banner provides anyway - without the risk of losing extra points should the unit break from combat. They are probably on a par in a grinding combat depending on how well that Banner and single extra Wound compare to better Initiative and Weapon Skill.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 19, 2013 7:04 pm 
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Hey Seredain, just wanted to let you know I'm the guy who played your friend Donal today (unless it was all an elaborate lie :P). He showed me the message you sent about my list and I do agree being a compromise. The problem is I really love the style of the list, and if you want to play it at 2k points I think there have to be compromises.

Definitely agree about the lore choice, High Magic without the book at this level just doesn't work, so I'd swap that out. Maybe also change up the BSB a bit. He needs the Star Lance as the Prince is only S6, but he could possibly lose OTS and take the Dragonhelm for a better save.

I don't think losing the Prince is a great option, as the BSB is not good enough on his own to be a real threat. It then ceases to be a real cavalry bus list and I think just going a defensive infantry list would be better. This is because the BSB will be so far away from infantry he fails at his main function, which is to help things stick around and not flee. This is fine when he's in a bus with Prince as the whole point of the army is to support the Prince. When there's no Prince, there's no real bus and you just end up with jack of all trades master of none situation. Whereas my list does some things very well (I think), but it does have big weaknesses too.

For those interested and don't know what the hell I'm talking about (or for Seredain who reads this in a week and can't remember what I'm on about), my list is:

Prince: Dawnstone; Enchanted Shield; Ogre Blade; Barded elven steed; Heavy armour. 243
Archmage: Dispel Scroll ; Level 4 Wizard; Lore of High Magic. 245

Noble: Star Lance; The Other Trickster's Shard; Barded Elven steed; Great weapon; Heavy armour; Shield; Battle Standard. 165

8 Silver Helms: Musician; Standard Bearer. 204
20 Archers: Standard Bearer. 210
5 Ellyrian Reavers: Musician. 90

15 White Lions: Standard Bearer (Banner of Eternal Flame). 215
18 Sword Masters: Standard Bearer (Banner of the World Dragon). 294

Eagle Claw Bolt Thrower 70
Eagle Claw Bolt Thrower 70
Eagle Claw Bolt Thrower 70
1 Great Eagle 50
5 Sisters of Avelorn 70

I played this at Throne of Skulls in Nottingham today, and lost all three of my games. I'd summarise them, but I can't be bothered right now :P

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 01, 2013 12:57 pm 
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Hi Tetengo,

Apologies for my late response. Since qualification I've been home late more often than not and the last thing you want to do at 10pm on a Wednesday is sit at another computer screen and keep typing.

I didn't imagine it'd be an Ulthuan regular playing Donal! But he's been smashing the tournament scene recently so I suppose it was inevitable he'd bump into one of you eventually. I've played the 2.5 variant of his daemon prince list myself: he's been getting very good results with the warriors of late.

The problem with High magic with your current set up isn't so much the lack of the Book - getting the +1 to cast remains an advantage for High over other lores - it's that High magic's range is too short for a mage permanently amping with archers. Just as importantly, if you're not getting those ward buffs on a unit which carries a high threat value to your opponent (against warriors, that isn't archers), the High spells you cast won't present your opponent with many difficult decisions when it comes to dispelling (without the ward, they mostly do different things).

Losing the prince changes your army, absolutely. A silver helm unit with a single hero character could not be described as a real bus. But your "jack of all trades" point is prescient. I wonder if, at 2000 points, you can really field a powerful combat bus with a beastly prince and a powerful magic phase. I would say that you can't, and I suspect your recent experiences have borne that out somewhat. That said, although your fighting characters certainly are a comprise from the 2500 point model, I think they're a decent compromise - your bus certainly has punch. So, I think a relatively small change will help a great deal. Chiefly, as I mentioned in that message to Donal, is to change your magic lore. Your lord allowance doesn't allow you to build the warded High archmage who can get the most out of his lore by standing in one of your elite units. So, choose a lore that has good range and can support your combat units from greater distance. The extent to which you want some direct damage output will determine whether you choose a lore like Heavens over something like Shadow. An army like this would be a 'bus with magic support' list. That seems to be what you're looking for. The trick, then, is to take a lore which allows your archmage to support your combat units without standing with them.

My alternative option is to drop the prince and go magic heavy. If you're keen on keeping High magic, then the heavier phase providing the trickle ward buffs on a powerful elite unit and the back up of a couple of complimentary battle magic spells (I like Heavens as we've often discussed), is, I think, the way to go. Whether you keep the helms and keep the BSB on his horse is up to you. Such a unit is not a true bus as you say, but core helms are still core heavy cavalry, and a mounted hero is the best access we have to a combat hero who can grind with a 1+ armour save. This isn't a true bus - it can't grind like the prince bus can, but keeping the star lance would make this unit a decent strike threat against enemy monsters, heavy cavalry and support units.

The bottom line is that it's very difficult to get the essential characteristics of the 2500 list into a 2000 point 'version' and, honestly, I think your list squares the circle verey well. It just needs a tweak of your chosen lore to really start ticking. Your silver helm bus is not anything like a deathstar: it needs magic support to do well against hard opponents. With one level 4 caster stuck in your backline, I don't think High magic is the way to get this.

Hope this helps.


HERO wrote:
Seredain, I had the funniest game against someone doing the CavPrince strat yesteday.

After depleting much of his Silver Helms into paste, my opponent charged me with his unit of Prince, BSB, and 3 Helms into my Witches unit in the flank due to a lucky overrun roll the previous turn. Then disaster struck: I throw Regen on my Witches unit and Hellebron makes way to the flank to intercept the Prince's attack. They fail their Fear check from Cry of War even with the re-roll, and then Hellebron threw out her attacks. 5 on the Prince, 3 on the BSB and 1 into the Champ (rolled a 4 for +D3 attacks). ASF cancels by and with Hatred, S10 and re-roll 1s, I kill all of the High Elf royalty. Attacks back resulted in 1 wound done to Hellebron, which I heal back next turn from my Life mage. Then I proceeded to 6-dice Dwellers and kill 19/24 White Lions.

Beyond funny, but I enjoyed it much.

HERO,

Hellebron is an absolute beast - and life magic strikes me as a brilliant support for witch elves (though aren't you worried about them knifing your sorceress?). The real danger for me, though, is the Cry of War fear check. The thing I'm most worried about in the dark elf book is a leadership bomb featuring Cry of War, a Level 4 of Death (for Doom and Darkness), Shroud of Despair on a level 2 via the Tome of Furion and a kharibdyss. Dangerous.

P.S. HERO What was your opponent's magic doing when all this was going down? If I was looking to win an overrun into a unit like that, you can be sure I'd be putting Iceshard Blizzard into it, and Hand of Glory and Apotheosis into the helms. Even if it's only Apotheosis that goes off (Hand and Blizzard the more likely dispels since the first offers me +1 to hit (since the prince is likely to pass the fear test on Ld 7rr), and the latter a -1 for Hellebron to hit. Blizzard is also more likely to attract dispel dice because the extra +4 you'd get to dispel is almost too good to pass up!), that means the prince doesn't take a fear check. Even if he dies, at least he's got a better shot of taking hellebron with him.

Still, in principle, Hellebron is one to avoid for us cav princes unless we can Unforge her swords. They're baaaad news.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 1:46 am 
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I'm going to need to post my latest battles to make the points stick, but I think it's worth injecting the following into the 'elite infantry debate'. Please read on.

Why swords are still the melee masters

There’s been plenty of mumbling, to the extent of veering toward becoming received internet wisdom, that swordmasters aren’t good in our current book as a line of battle unit. If we’re looking for our great weapon infantry of choice, we turn to white lions. Swordmasters might qualify for MSU uses, where having double the attacks matters, but they’re still considered something of a niche choice.

It’s worth saying that High Elf commanders aren’t idiots (don’t quote me), so unsurprisingly there are some justifiable reasons for this. Firstly, in their MSU role, swordmasters have obviously been compromised by the loss of Speed of Asuryan and the fact that they pay points for Martial Prowess. The former is huge when it comes to throwing down reliable hitting power. The latter, intended (in effect) to make up for the loss of the former, doesn’t typically work in small units, so the unit pays points for an ability it won’t often use. In terms of damage output, then, this unit has lost something of its old self, and having a 6++ against shooting doesn’t really compensate. Of course, getting 14 Str 5 attacks for 91 points is great – you’d only get 3 dragon princes for the price – but these models remain easy targets for light shooting and impact hits, and they don’t have the wallop that made even 3 of them so dangerous in our last book.

As someone who had previously used 14 swordmasters as a line of battle unit, Martial Prowess posed me a different problem. Firstly, I could keep the hitting power I used to enjoy by gaining extra attacks in a third rank, albeit I had to pay an extra 50 points for the privilege (extra attacks over the same frontage, and extra wounds, have some advantages over re-rolls, of course, so this was no biggy). But if I wanted great weapon elites, why would I not choose white lions with Martial Prowess? It’s obvious: swordmasters, having two attacks, get less benefit for the points spent on models sitting in the rear rank. I own 29 white lion models. Why use swords?

In short, because looking at the % benefit of Martial Prowess tells you nothing about how the unit actually performs in combat. For that, you need to look at the detail of combat, and at the magic lore you’re taking. Here's what happens.

Swords are flexible damage dealers

Large units of 20+ elites are expensive investments. Taking one which is unable to kill a certain strata of enemy unit is to render this investment vulnerable to hard counters. White lions are poor against massed infantry. Phoenix guard are poor against armour (without using your valuable BotWD flag slot for the AP banner). One solution to this particular problem is to take a big unit of each, lions with BotWD, guards with the AP banner.

But if you only have the points for one elite brick, swordmasters have the threshold Str 5 and the extra attacks to put effective damage on just about anything. Specifically, when both elites are hitting on 3’s and fighting in full 3 ranks of 7, swordmasters outperform white lions (in particular against hordes), up to T4 AS4+ enemies. They maintain close parity thereafter until you get to 1+ save units like empire knights. But even here the swords are still fine: 21 swordmasters kill 5.37 Empire knights against the white lions’ 6.1. Against mournfang, lions win, scoring 8.14 wounds, but swords still perform well with 6.45 wounds.

Having a 350 points unit that doesn’t perform against hordes is not that good, but the lions only perform slightly better against knights with lower weapon skill. Even then, the real tank cavalry, and worst enemy troops generally out there, have WS5. Your single elite block needs to be able to tackle these.

Weapon Skill 6 vs Weapon Skill 5

Without the re-rolls of Speed of Asuryan, having WS 6 is massive against WS5 troops, typically amongst our most dangerous close combat opponents. Swordmasters outperform white lions in this field all the way up to tank opponents like skullcrushers. The big difference is that, while swordmasters can still kill skullcrushers just fine, white lions struggle against light elites for want of the extra attacks at high weapon skill.

21 swordmasters inflict 4.3 wounds on skullcrushers, only narrowly beaten by white lions’ score of 4.58 wounds. Minor difference. Against Nurgle chaos warriors with halberds (the quintessential warriors build), 21 swordmasters kill 8.05 and white lions kill 6.10. That’s two models’ difference, but not huge. Take the other end of the elite spectrum, however. Against dark elf executioners, 21 white lions inflict only 9.15 wounds. 21 swordmasters inflict 16.1 wounds.

In a battle against elites, all-comers, swordmasters win by a significant margin. And winning is better than losing and holding with stubborn.

Roll more dice

All the above examples use averages to determine the number of wounds caused. However, we all know that averages are not dependable in a dice game: sometimes you go lower, sometimes higher. In reality, then, where averages are pretty close the advantage goes to the player who rolls the most dice. Swordmasters will always have a higher potential to do more damage than white lions even against units like Mournfang. For this intrinsic advantage to be overturned, white lions really need to focus on their most ideal targets, like tough armoured monsters, steam tanks etc. Large expensive units are not ideal for hunting these things down.

You will lose models

All the examples above not only look at averages, but at units that are fighting at full strength. People who field units of 28 white lions 7x4 may look away from this section. Everybody else must accept that, over the course of three combat turns (at least), their unit is going to lose models from the 3 ranks. Does your main elite infantry unit stay at full strength over the course of 6 turns? No. Bolts, war machines and rounds of close combat grind it down. How your main line-of-battle unit handles this punishment is part of its overall performance.

Having a 1 attack profile may increase the proportionate benefit from Martial Prowess, but correspondingly it is bad news for a unit that loses casualties. Since swordmasters always maintain 2 attacks in the first rank, they lose a lesser % of their fighting strength than white lions. The short point is this: all examples that use full strength units as their model, as I have done above, favour the white lions. In a real game, where you lose models, the advantage goes to the unit that keeps a greater proportion of its attacks. That is the swordmasters. By way of an example:

A single rank of swordmasters (inc. champion) does 2.2 wounds on skullcrushers. They do 8.3 wounds on executioners. The equivalent number of white lions would do only 1.7 wounds on the skullcrushers and a far inferior 3.3 wounds on the dark elves. Their advantage from Martial Prowess drops, badly, as their numbers are taken out.

Hand of Glory

This spell has been used to justify taking white lions overs swords by many players. Lions lack weapon skill? Cast this on them. The detail, however, changes things.

Ideally, swordmasters will want the initiative buff against all the elite enemies I've described above. White lions need initiative and weapon skill, so they’ll need the boosted version of the spell. Big deal? No. Until you hit a small to medium phase where you want to do something else as well, like cast Iceshard Blizzard into the same combat with your level 2, or Arcane Unforging on an enemy character to draw dispel dice. Or more high spells for the ward buffs… You get the point. Of course, if you don’t get the spell off at all, the WS 6 swords will suffer less for it than the WS5 white lions.

If it goes off, however, a successful cast of this spell is guaranteed to mean that swordmasters hit the threshold WS7 and only get hit on 5s by WS3 troops. This is huge against all WS3 troops but, particularly, against trolls, kroxigor and ogres. White lions get a 2/3 chance to get this bonus. That's good, but it's no way near as good as a guarantee.

Shield of Saphery

The biggest single advantage that white lions have over the swordmasters is their 3+ save against non-magical shooting. It's fantastic. By comparison, a 5+ and 6++ (the latter against non-magical non-template shooting only) pales in comparison.

However, an automatic +1 ward to the Shield of Saphery buff against shooting is fantastic. If an archmage in this unit gets even 2 spells off with the Book of Hoeth (and most of the High spells are cheap, so in my experience it's likely), that's a 4++ against BS shooting (and ironcurse icon fills the WM gap for 5 points). Phoenix Guard, eat your heart out. In an all comers list, someone looking to buff elites with a High Archmage can build on the swords' free ward bonus to very good effect. If you're choosing a combat High Archmage build, then, the white lions' defensive advantages fall away in the face of the ward save.

Having said that, having a Book of Hoeth archmage in a swordmaster unit demolishes their defensive weaknesses in combat too (as it would for lions). In what universe, in our last book, could swordmasters get access to a 4++ in combat? The benefit from Book of Hoeth + Shield of Saphery is enormous. Swords stand to get +3 ward save in combat from Shield of Saphery (assuming a dice-drawing 4th spell from the archmage or a level 2), seriously undermining the defensive province held by phoenix guard and our heavy cavalry. With access to High Magic, swordmasters become not only a good grinding unit but a tough one to boot. As we've seen, they already grind better than lions. This helps even more.

Stubborn only matters if you lose combat (and run out of ranks)

For stubborn to come into effect, you have to lose combat. The thing is, a large expensive elite unit shouldn't be aiming to lose combat if there are alternqtives available. If winning combat is less of a priority than holding in combat, then those units which are beating you are likely to be small and elite. Here, you have the ranks for steadfast. You also have magical defence available to fend off such units and remain steadfast until support comes in. Of course, the BotWD and Shield tend to plug this gap. If your unit is likely to take suvh a beating that ordinary steadfast is not enough, ask yourself if infantry is the answer when you jave hravy cavalry, magic weapons and bolt throwers available. Enemy lords remain dangerous, for example but, the end, defeating them is not simething white lions can achieve either. This is typically down to magic, and your own fighting heroes.

Because Steadfast exists, Stubborn is by its nature better designed for smaller units, where your unit doesn't have the ranks to hold on to ordinary steadfast.The Strength 6 of white lions comes in here: carving up tough hide. The fewer attacks make less difference too: monsters have fewer wounds for their points than cavalry and monstrous cavalry, certainly fewer than infantry. Here, the high strength attacks of the white lions pay dividends. If lions can't kill particular unit in one round, however, do you want to be using them and suffering the thunderstimps just on the basis you can hold on stubborn?

Conclusion

White lions are a fantastic unit. They hit hard in multiple ranks, they hold their ground, and they are our best infantry unit for taking town tough monsters. None of these qualities entitle them to be called our premier elite infantry unit against all comers. Single monsters, easily shot, will usually go down to 3 ranks of lion attacks if prepared by shooting. If not, then they make poor targets for infantry, who will suffer a great many casualties from return attacks and stomps. Even so, shielded swords will hold on steadfast as much as stubborn lions will until you're down to 4 models. When it comes to actually causing damage, however, against the vast array of large or powerful enemy units out there, the Banner swordmasters are the safer bet. They put more damage into a larger variety of enemy units, and they naturally get more benefits from my magic spells.

High Magic is a big part of the swordmasters' excellence. The 6++ against shooting feels like a deliberate attempt by GW to get our mages to march alongside their Sapherian troopers. And the fact is, with their defensive weakness cancelled out by a High Magic archmage, the swordmaster brick becomes amazing. Even though it feels like the loss of Speed of Asuryan has made them poorer, our reduced reliance on special points (because we have improved core), and our improved access to unbelievably good defensive magic (High Magic + Book of Hoeth + Banner of the World Dragon), as well as Martial Prowess, makes them our premiere all-comers grinding elite infantry unit. Ignore the swordmasters at your peril.

My unit of choice in a cavalry prince list:

High Archmage, Level 4, Book of Hoeth, Talisman of Endurance, Ironcurse Icon;
deployed in
20 Swordmasters, Full Command, Banner of the World Dragon.



Edit: It may be that we need to go back into why High Magic is amazing. If so, let me know!

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Last edited by Seredain on Thu Jan 23, 2014 4:22 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 2:17 am 
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Yeah, the logic here is pretty easy to see. For someone running High Magic already, Swordmasters become even easier to justify. I'm glad you touched upon the major advantage of Weapon Skill 6, which is something I notice every time I face down Warriors of Chaos and roll my eyes when Lions need 5+ to hit anything Nurgle (agh I still hate it so much.) When you don't have re-rolls, WS6 becomes much more advantageous. I often notice the lack of punch on my Lions, something I just accept as the natural casualty of a book change and an acceptable tradeoff for all their other versatility. Swordmasters are indeed more specialized though, and specialization is a nice thing.

I do have to say that I like Stubborn on the Lions because I tend to roll below-average a lot, and therefore often have one irredeemably bad round of combat (even with Augments, Hexes, etc. etc.) before my dice find traction and get their act together ;). High Elf players should be used to working under unforgiving constraints by now though, so I think lots of players will be fine running without Stubborn.

The idea of using Swordmasters as a neat alternative when you're only running one Special block is a particularly interesting one. I suspect his applies directly to you and your experiences, since you're probably using points to fill out a Cav Bus as well as giving yourself plenty of table control with lots of points in Rare?

That being said, how has this approach to Swordmasters impacted your own list building? Are you running High, giving the Attribute benefit to Swordmasters, and running them in tandem with your Helm bus?


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 2:31 am 
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Thanks for dropping in Tethlis - useful points as ever.

It's 2.35 in the morning here, so I'm going to put this whisky down and go to bed, but yours are great questions and I'll come back to them tomorrow.

Thanks,
S

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 2:56 am 
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Heya Seredain. Nice to meet you.. anyway, I have to agree with this.

One word: Wildform. That spell alone makes Swordies crazy.

High Magic Archmage + Loremaster in a unit of 20+ Swordmasters with BOTWD is probably a better Deathstar than the Alarielle Queenstar with White Lions.

The only thing missing here is Stubborn, but this unit shouldn't be losing any combat anytime soon!

I've been using Swordmasters with this setup when I can't take special characters. It is SO much more killy than my Queenstar list. I don't have to rely on Stubborn to grind down my opponent's unit. I just attack the crap out of them with a tough BSB and Loremaster in the front rank, unlike the Queenstar, where you have to basically have your BSB and other Mages in the light council nearly naked (5++ from the Queen).

Lastly, if you REALLY need the stubborn, throw the crown on your Loremaster.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 3:50 am 
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Oh nooo! Seredain, please, don't do that to me! Now everybody will start using Swordmasters and my own list will not be original any more :-P

As always it is a very interesting analysis you have provided. It would be great if the discussion would steer more towards the uses of Swordmasters in general and then in particular army too. We don't want another SM vs. WL lengthy "discussion" again, do we? :)

It is of course clear that you review them from the point of view of the army you run. They have particular role to play there and as you have pointed out, you can nicely augment them with High Magic. But what if somebody does not use that particular magic lore? And what about other armies, with no cavalry Prince to lead them? Is it mandatory to have the build you have to get the best out of the warriors of Hoeth?

It is also easy to consider the units in the vacuum. Sure, augmented by spells, be it high magic or another, is great thing to have. Yes, magic banners or certain number of warriors in the unit are things one need to consider. For example, I like the idea of Swordmasters as assault team for the buildings and if I could give them flaming attacks that would have made them even more deadly. But is the banner of flaming attacks the only and best solution here? What if you play in the environment that does not use scenarios that much so there is no need to urban warfare? Would that be good thing to do regardless?

In the end, you have a particular unit in particular army which determines a lot about how you field it and how you use it. The question is, as I remember you have put it yourself before, how do you deliver it?

Looking forward to see the discussion evolving!

Cheers!

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 4:33 am 
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I dont think that we Need to go back to why high Magic is amazing. A BoH in combination with high Magic is one of the most save and reliable things in WHFB (as Long as you dont rely on devastating a whole army with str 10 shots out of the mages rear in a single round).

Here my big Problem (probably because I have not played enough with the new HE):

The high mage already offers a lot of protection to the unit, in fact he offers as much of it for Magic damage as he does for Shooting. Giving the SMs the BotWD seems a bit over the top here, especialy if you Count in another character (for Points cost sake lets say its the BSB that you always have to buy) who can easily provide some additional MR to the whole unit.
The SMs would still run around with a high wardsave against Magic and the BotWD would be free for a second unit that is not babyset by the wards of a lvl4 high mage.
To add a second Point against BoTWD on the swordies, it would also free up their banner Slot, allowing them to take the AP banner for them, making them more reliable against high armor Targets.

reason why not to swap the BotWD:

You realy dont want your BSB to go with the swordies
You cant afford a character just for the MR for the SM
You want your SM to go up Close and personal on a Magic weapon wielding deathstar
You dont Need the AP on the SM
You simple dont have a second unit that could carry the BotWD.

Did I guess right with one of those or have the changes of the new book really put my knowledge about HE armies to such a small amount that I simply dont get it anymore?

Sorry if this went off-Topic. I just realized that this is not a SM-specific Problem, as it could be argued for every unit in the book that a BoH high mage is enough protection and the BotWD only nets diminishing Returns for his unit...


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 7:47 am 
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You've almost tempted me to switch since I have been finding the blending abilities of WL's to be limited...almost!

I like stubborn though, not just as a crutch, but against big nasties; impact hits, flyers, monsters...potentially if these guys hit you on the charge you *can* fluff some attacks and find you've lost combat quite badly. I once fought a DP who just charged my Mindrazored swordmasters, who failed to hit and wound him (hitting on 6's) and then ran off. White Lions would have stuck around. I know it's anecdotal but that sort of thing can happen. It's maybe less likely but the sort of scenario crops up quite often.

Do you tend to get the charge with your SM's or are they ever caught on the hoof themselves? I think that potentially makes a big difference (bigger than we'd think given no longer striking in charge order).

My other big worry would be reliance on shield of saphery. I've been running high recently with my white lions and have been forced to decide whether to charge with the unit+wizard or hold to recieve charge and jump mage out. The big risk of having a WardMage is essentially the same (but in reverse) as the Beasts 6 spell...you're very reliant on getting a decent magic phase. But that can be weakened by winds of magic, dwarves, the CD chalice (as I kept finding the other night) and just dumb luck. This seems to be a big issue for me with lions and presumably would matter even more to you with swords as you need to boost them from BS shooting as well.

I'd almost be inclined to go the other way and rather than compare SM with WL (both with BotWD) compare them to PG (with razor). You get the same anti-armour, lower to wound but more hits (from re-roll)...but fewer attacks...but less losses too, and less dependance on magic. They still benefit from the High boost but only need one casting to become tanky. Do you have similar stats comparisons as what you've quoted for WL/SM for PG?

(Not being argumentative for the sake of it - clearly you get SM to work really well, and clearly there's a strong logic as to why they do work so well!)

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 11:18 am 
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Seredain wrote:
In a battle against elites, all-comers, swordmasters win by a significant margin. And winning is better than losing and holding with stubborn.


Although I agree with the overall premise, I think this is something you’ve glossed over a bit too easily. Sure, we should probably do our best to avoid losing combats. We always engineer the perfect match-ups, and our opponents happily charge in to losing propositions, roll badly, and break in one turn. But I don’t think that’s the reality of the situation, is it? I know my opponents are not always so kind ;)

Consider one prime example that you listed, fighting a block of Nurgle Warriors of Chaos armed with Halberds. Your 21 Swordmasters kill 8, and the White Lions kill 6. Swordmasters win! But it isn’t the White Lions they need to beat. It’s the Nurgle Chaos Warriors. And a unit of 18 will kill 10 Swordmasters or White Lions back. So, in truth, you haven’t won, with White Lions or with Swordmasters. You’ve lost by 2 with your Swordmasters, and, well, you’ve lost worst with your White Lions, but that doesn’t matter. So in this prime situation that you’ve used to illustrate how wonderful Swordmasters are… they’ve actually lost, and they might have broken as well. The White Lions will probably hold on, however (just don’t get me to roll the dice). So Stubborn IS useful, even in these perfect match-ups.

Skullcrushers are certainly an odd duck, since they usually have magic attacks, so aren’t a worry for either unit to face, as long as BotWD is in play. Mournfang can do a horrendous amount of damage and will probably win combat, and the possibility of the extra wounds from White Lions killing a beast before it strikes is really helpful. Executioners are a really interesting scrap too, since the Executioners get hatred and re-rolls, and yet a similarly-sized unit will still lose to the Swordmasters, I’m happy to say!

Another reason to consider why Stubborn helps the White Lions here; say you get a good combat in your favour, and break the enemy. Great! But canny opponents will often have a unit ready in place to counter-charge and smash you in the flank if you do pursue. The White Lions can pursue, knowing that if they are hit in the flank, they will probably hold, get to reform, and win that fight. The Swordmasters can’t really take that risk, however. Even a unit of Skavenslaves to the flank will probably break them!

Mind you, having the attitude of “Well I’m stubborn so I won’t break” will probably lose you the occasional game, so it is a little foolhardy to put your nice big units in positions they may lose… but that’s part of the game, really, and you do have to take risks. Sometimes you have to let a chariot slam into a unit, knowing it can win combat, but stubborn will probably save you the day.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 1:04 pm 
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Nice analysis Seredain, now i want to play with swordmasters!

I usually play with a roster kinda similar to yours, with a cavalry prince and a block of BoWD lions. My archmage is mounted and usually goes with the silver helms. I tried it with life and high magic, so I'll give some feedback based on experience.

In your analysis, you nicely show how well high magic supports swordmasters, and how synergy is better between HM and them compared to HM and lions. Stats seems correct also. Main problem for me is the fact you are casting your spells to help swordmasters.

During my games, BoWD proves to usually be enough for my lions to fight without magic support (sometimes hand of glory or walk between worlds on them to have an optimal position or to increase their threat range when I play HM, Flesh to stone when facing harsh opponents when playing life), and main casting priority is usually Silver Helms bus. Thanks to their mobility, they usually pick up the worst foe, and their combat is where magic buffs are needed.

Board control from bolters, reavers, cav bus and frostie is efficient enough to avoid lions going into loosing combats, so they don't need that much magical assistance. To have swordmasters as efficient as lions in this role implies having the archmage with them, which reduces considerably the durability of the bus for me.

Another issue is that archmage gives magic resistance to the bus usually. Having him in swords leads to an additionnal character in bus to protect it against magic, or suboptimal combat build on BSB or Prince. And archmage is much more vulnerable in the front rank of swords than on second rank of helms.

So overall, powerlevel of the roster decreases (sadly) just by switching lions to swords.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 2:55 pm 
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I think it's interesting that a guy like Tethlis with 2 infantry blocks has gone for PG/WL (with WD), while Seredain with 1 has gone for SM's. Paracidas makes a decent point about the merits of running a sizeable SM block without the Banner (maybe alongside a Lion unit with it?) but I think your experience Seredain suggests that your SM unit needs it?

Stormie wrote:
Consider one prime example that you listed, fighting a block of Nurgle Warriors of Chaos armed with Halberds. Your 21 Swordmasters kill 8, and the White Lions kill 6. Swordmasters win! But it isn’t the White Lions they need to beat. It’s the Nurgle Chaos Warriors. And a unit of 18 will kill 10 Swordmasters or White Lions back. So, in truth, you haven’t won, with White Lions or with Swordmasters. You’ve lost by 2 with your Swordmasters, and, well, you’ve lost worst with your White Lions, but that doesn’t matter. So in this prime situation that you’ve used to illustrate how wonderful Swordmasters are… they’ve actually lost, and they might have broken as well. The White Lions will probably hold on, however (just don’t get me to roll the dice). So Stubborn IS useful, even in these perfect match-ups.


I feel you're missing a key point here Stormie which is magic. Now obviously it's hard to precisely analyse the impact of this and both sides may be benefitting from it. But the HE player can cast useful spells while getting the Ward stack as an almost free benefit and with Lileath's Blessing and Book of Hoeth it's pretty reliable. So that Nurgle block will likely be having to chew through at least a 5+ Ward which turns the combat on it's head. We often achieved the same thing using the old High Magic to drain dice with Flames etc. and then sneak through Shield fairly often. The chances of doing this have only improved with the new Lore.

It seems to me that the SM v WL debate has had a similar implication since 7th edition. If you favour Lions you get a more solid and reliable army. If you take SM's you are chancing your arm. You increase your chances of losing big and also of winning big. I've noticed that Seredain almost always tends to take calculated risks where another player might be more cautious.

On the bus issue, is MR strictly necessary here? I guess once you've put the AM in as well maybe it is. But HE magic defence, with Book/Scroll/+4 is already strong. Again, I think it comes down to a playstyle choice, put most of your eggs into the bus and treat the infantry as support, or try to spread your strength more evenly across the army.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 3:29 pm 
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An interesting advantage that Swordmasters have is for Tournaments that have the Watchtower Scenario.

Fighting with 10 guys in a building and throwing out 20 attacks (21 with Champion) at Strength 5 and as you mentioned WS6 is really good for clearing a building. Add to this the Banner of Eternal Flame and you now re-roll to wound as well.

Whereas the WL's and PG only throw out 10 attacks (11 with Champ).

I have been running 2 x 15 WL's and 1 x 10 SM's, but have changed this to 1 x 15 WL's and 2 x 12 SM's for an upcoming Tournament.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 3:51 pm 
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SpellArcher wrote:
I feel you're missing a key point here Stormie which is magic. Now obviously it's hard to precisely analyse the impact of this and both sides may be benefitting from it. But the HE player can cast useful spells while getting the Ward stack as an almost free benefit and with Lileath's Blessing and Book of Hoeth it's pretty reliable. So that Nurgle block will likely be having to chew through at least a 5+ Ward which turns the combat on it's head.


Well yes I do think it is pretty unfair to add in the effects of one side’s magic without the other side getting the equivalent. It’s great to think how easy it is to get 2 spells off and gain a 5+ ward save (in which case, yes, the Swordmasters could well win!), but really, getting two High magic spells off isn’t always so easy- if your Archmage is in combat, there’s certain spells that he cannot cast any more, such as the magic missile spell. Similarly, you will likely have far fewer targets for all the front arc-restricted direct damage, unless the Chaos player is marching his units behind each other! How often will an Archmage be able to successfully cast two spells while in combat? I would say only if he’s picked Apotheosis, Drain Magic and Hand of Glory, two of which have no actual use in the combat we’re describing, and obviously Drain Magic has to be cast first, or else it will remove the others’ effects, making the magic phase very predictable.

Then if you’re really focused on getting one spell through, then the big version of Hand of Glory will boost the White Lions to hit on a 4+ and also strike first, meaning the White Lions actually have more to gain from the addition of magic to the scenario.

Also if we’re thinking about magic, then the most likely spell effect to be on the Chaos Warriors’ side here is Soublight, which almost halves the SM’s kills to 4.8, with the White Lions suffer 1/3 of their killing power, going down to 4 kills. So really consider, do we want to bring magic into this fight? Other spells from the Nurgle lore can also wreck havoc with the numbers.

It’s also worth considering that if you do want to bring magic into the fight, and put an Archmage in the front rank, you’re giving up two Swordmaster attacks rather than one White Lion. Of course, one neat thing about Chaos Warriors is that if they have a champion then he has to challenge and you can happily remove your Archmage to the rear, so it’s not all bad ;)

Again, I like Swordmasters and I do actually think they’re a great counter to many nasties like a Nurgle block of Warriors (if you don’t have a Frostheart Phoenix at least ;) ), but I think if you’re going to do a proper comparison, you shouldn’t really gloss over minor points like “My guys actually lose the combat and break (but don’t worry, because they actually have an Archmage and a 5+ ward save”). I definitely agree that overall context and place in an army, magic effects, etc. are worth considering, as long as you can do it objectively!


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 4:36 pm 
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Firstly, the Nurgle unit may be the one doing the charging, in which case the High spellcasting issues are much less. It's quite likely that the Archmage will have Apotheosis, Drain Magic (which Seredain selects in preference to the missile) and Hand of Glory. Drain Magic could be very useful if making the charge to take off the effects of the Soulblight etc. you've described Stormie. The AM could well take a wound, making Apotheosis relevant and it could be a handy cast to help other HE troops out elsewhere. It has always been a feature of High Magic that spells cast at other targets let you get through the combat boosts you need by overloading enemy defence (not to mention the effects in Seredain's list of the options given by the second Lore). The High magic phase, with it's low casting values, +1 to cast and Book of Hoeth re-rolls is not optimised for getting one big spell (which could well be scrolled) off.

So it's not simply a case of 'my magic wil do this' conveniently forgetting the other guys' magic or the restrictions on your own as you seem to be suggesting. Warriors have no equivalent to Book of Hoeth (and it's defensive advantages too) or Lileath's Blessing. It's the unusual reliability these grant to the High phase that justifies putting the Ward save into the mix.

I also don't think 18 Nurgle Warriors are killing 10 SM's/Lions if 3 deep. 9 1/2 hits, just under 8 wounds I believe? Sure you can go 2 deep but so can the Swordmasters.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 6:01 pm 
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I used 24 Swordmasters (st+ch) with razor banner when the 8th ed book first came out (WL had the BoWD). That unit costs just over what 18 Nurgel warriors do so would be a better comparison. If you're ignoring magic I think that in CC the units would draw the first 2 rounds and SM will wipe out the warriors in the 3rd round with 5 models remaining (my math-hammer could be wrong).

I normally ran the SM with a L4 high mage with 4++ and BoH. I found the problem with this set up is one of reliability. When it works, they have great killing power with the staying power of PG. HoG is a great spell, ws 3 units hitting on 5 and hitting before elites like WoC. Its when things go wrong it really goes wrong. One bad magic phase and your unit gets decimated by shooting or in cc. One bad combat phase and you're breaking. Yes this can happen with our other elites but WL have stubborn and PG 4++ so are more forgiving when your rolling goes bad. Also it doesn’t take a huge amount of attacks to kill off a T3 mage even with a 3++, something that always made me nervous.

Then again, as SM are my fave unit so when things go well there are games where a SM unit will cut through everything and absorb huge amounts of damage and it's a fantastic feeling :).

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 7:34 pm 
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Seredain wrote:
I'm going to need to post my latest battles to make the points stick, but I think it's worth injecting the following into the 'elite infantry debate'. Please read on.

Why swords are still the melee masters

There’s been plenty of mumbling, to the extent of veering toward becoming received internet wisdom, that swordmasters aren’t good in our current book as a line of battle unit. If we’re looking for our great weapon infantry of choice, we turn to white lions. Swordmasters might qualify for MSU uses, where having double the attacks matters, but they’re still considered something of a niche choice.

It’s worth saying that High Elf commanders aren’t idiots (don’t quote me), so unsurprisingly there are some justifiable reasons for this. Firstly, in their MSU role, swordmasters have obviously been compromised by the loss of Speed of Asuryan and the fact that they pay points for Martial Prowess. The former is huge when it comes to throwing down reliable hitting power. The latter, intended (in effect) to make up for the loss of the former, doesn’t typically work in small units, so the unit pays points for an ability it won’t often use. In terms of damage output, then, this unit has lost something of its old self, and having a 6++ against shooting doesn’t really compensate. Of course, getting 14 Str 5 attacks for 91 points is great – you’d only get 3 dragon princes for the price – but these models remain easy targets for light shooting and impact hits, and they don’t have the wallop that made even 3 of them so dangerous in our last book.

As someone who had previously used 14 swordmasters as a line of battle unit, Martial Prowess posed me a different problem. Firstly, I could keep the hitting power I used to enjoy by gaining extra attacks in a third rank, albeit I had to pay an extra 50 points for the privilege (extra attacks over the same frontage, and extra wounds, have some advantages over re-rolls, of course, so this was no biggy). But if I wanted great weapon elites, why would I not choose white lions with Martial Prowess? It’s obvious: swordmasters, having two attacks, get less benefit for the points spent on models sitting in the rear rank. I own 29 white lion models. Why use swords?

In short, because looking at the % benefit of Martial Prowess tells you nothing about how the unit actually performs in combat. For that, you need to look at the detail of combat, and at the magic lore you’re taking. Here's what happens.

Swords are flexible damage dealers

Large units of 20+ elites are expensive investments. Taking one which is unable to kill a certain strata of enemy unit is to render this investment vulnerable to hard counters. White lions are poor against massed infantry. Phoenix guard are poor against armour (without using your valuable BotWD flag slot for the AP banner). One solution to this particular problem is to take a big unit of each, lions with BotWD, guards with the AP banner.

But if you only have the points for one elite brick, swordmasters have the threshold Str 5 and the extra attacks to put effective damage on just about anything. Specifically, when both elites are hitting on 3’s and fighting in full 3 ranks of 7, swordmasters outperform white lions (in particular against hordes), up to T4 AS4+ enemies. They maintain close parity thereafter until you get to 1+ save units like empire knights. But even here the swords are still fine: 21 swordmasters kill 5.37 Empire knights against the white lions’ 6.1. Against mournfang, lions win, scoring 8.14 wounds, but swords still perform well with 6.45 wounds.

Having a 350 points unit that doesn’t perform against hordes is not that good, but the lions only perform slightly better against knights with lower weapon skill. Even then, the real tank cavalry, and worst enemy troops generally out there, have WS5. Your single elite block needs to be able to tackle these.

Weapon Skill 6 vs Weapon Skill 5

Without the re-rolls of Speed of Asuryan, having WS 6 is massive against WS5 troops, typically amongst our most dangerous close combat opponents. Swordmasters outperform white lions in this field all the way up to tank opponents like skullcrushers. The big difference is that, while swordmasters can still kill skullcrushers just fine, white lions struggle against light elites for want of the extra attacks at high weapon skill.

21 swordmasters inflict 4.3 wounds on skullcrushers, only narrowly beaten by white lions’ score of 4.58 wounds. Minor difference. Against Nurgle chaos warriors with halberds (the quintessential warriors build), 21 swordmasters kill 8.05 and white lions kill 6.10. That’s two models’ difference, but not huge. Take the other end of the elite spectrum, however. Against dark elf executioners, 21 white lions inflict only 9.15 wounds. 21 swordmasters inflict 16.1 wounds.

In a battle against elites, all-comers, swordmasters win by a significant margin. And winning is better than losing and holding with stubborn.

Roll more dice

All the above examples use averages to determine the number of wounds caused. However, we all know that averages are not dependable in a dice game: sometimes you go lower, sometimes higher. In reality, then, where averages are pretty close the advantage goes to the player who rolls the most dice. Swordmasters will always have a higher potential to do more damage than white lions even against units like Mournfang. For this intrinsic advantage to be overturned, white lions really need to focus on their most ideal targets, like tough armoured monsters, steam tanks etc. Large expensive units are not ideal for hunting these things down.

You will lose models

All the examples above not only look at averages, but at units that are fighting at full strength. People who field units of 28 white lions 7x4 may look away from this section. Everybody else must accept that, over the course of three combat turns (at least), their unit is going to lose models from the 3 ranks. Does your main elite infantry unit stay at full strength over the course of 6 turns? No. Bolts, war machines and rounds of close combat grind it down. How your main line-of-battle unit handles this punishment is part of its overall performance.

Having a 1 attack profile may increase the proportionate benefit from Martial Prowess, but correspondingly it is bad news for a unit that loses casualties. Since swordmasters always maintain 2 attacks in the first rank, they lose a lesser % of their fighting strength than white lions. The short point is this: all examples that use full strength units as their model, as I have done above, favour the white lions. In a real game, where you lose models, the advantage goes to the unit that keeps a greater proportion of its attacks. That is the swordmasters. By way of an example:

A single rank of swordmasters (inc. champion) does 2.2 wounds on skullcrushers. They do 8.3 wounds on executioners. The equivalent number of white lions would do only 1.7 wounds on the skullcrushers and a far inferior 3.3 wounds on the dark elves. Their advantage from Martial Prowess drops, badly, as their numbers are taken out.

Hand of Glory

This spell has been used to justify taking white lions overs swords by many players. Lions lack weapon skill? Cast this on them. The detail, however, changes things.

Ideally, swordmasters will want the initiative buff against all the elite enemies I've described above. White lions need initiative and weapon skill, so they’ll need the boosted version of the spell. Big deal? No. Until you hit a small to medium phase where you want to do something else as well, like cast Iceshard Blizzard into the same combat with your level 2, or Arcane Unforging on an enemy character to draw dispel dice. Or more high spells for the ward buffs… You get the point. Of course, if you don’t get the spell off at all, the WS 6 swords will suffer less for it than the WS5 white lions.

If it goes off, however, a successful cast of this spell is guaranteed to mean that swordmasters hit the threshold WS7 and only get hit on 5s by WS3 troops. This is huge against all WS3 troops but, particularly, against trolls, kroxigor and ogres. White lions get a 2/3 chance to get this bonus. That's good, but it's no way near as good as a guarantee.

Shield of Saphery

The biggest single advantage that white lions have over the swordmasters is their 3+ save against non-magical shooting. It's fantastic. By comparison, a 5+ and 6++ (the latter against non-magical non-template shooting only) pales in comparison.

However, an automatic +1 ward to the Shield of Saphery buff against shooting is fantastic. If an archmage in this unit gets even 2 spells off with the Book of Hoeth (and most of the High spells are cheap, so in my experience it's likely), that's a 4++ against BS shooting (and ironcurse icon fills the WM gap for 5 points). Phoenix Guard, eat your heart out. In an all comers list, someone looking to buff elites with a High Archmage can build on the swords' free ward bonus to very good effect. If you're choosing a combat High Archmage build, then, the white lions' defensive advantages fall away in the face of the ward save.

Having said that, having a Book of Hoeth archmage in a swordmaster unit demolishes their defensive weaknesses in combat too (as it would for lions). In what universe, in our last book, could swordmasters get access to a 4++ in combat? The benefit from Book of Hoeth + Shield of Saphery is enormous. Swords stand to get +3 ward save in combat from Shield of Saphery (assuming a dice-drawing 4th spell from the archmage or a level 2), seriously undermining the defensive province held by phoenix guard and our heavy cavalry. With access to High Magic, swordmasters become not only a good grinding unit but a tough one to boot. As we've seen, they already grind better than lions. This helps even more.

Stubborn only matters if you lose combat

For stubborn to come into effect, you have to lose combat. The thing is, a large expensive elite unit shouldn't be losing combat (it'll only likely bounce against character ward save buses, where the 3 ranks should remain steadfast until support comes in. Of course, the BotWD tends to plug this gap, but enemy lords remain dangerous. In the end, defeating enemy characters is typically down to magic, and your own fighting heroes).

Losing combat is for cheap, small units, where stubborn allows them to valiantly hold up more expensive, monstrous foes. The Strength 6 of white lions comes in here: carving up tough hide. The fewer attacks make less difference too: monsters have fewer wounds for their points than cavalry and monstrous cavalry, certainly fewer than infantry. Here, the high strength attacks of the white lions pay dividends. This is why I field a unit of 15 white lions, full command, with the flaming banner.

Conclusion

White lions are a fantastic unit. They hit hard in multiple ranks, they hold their ground, and they are our best unit for taking town tough monsters. None of these qualities entitle them to be called our premier elite infantry unit against all comers. Single monsters, easily shot, will usually go down to a smaller unit than 21 white lions. After all, the base is too small for such a large unit to focus all of its attacks. Against the vast array of large or powerful enemy units out there, swordmasters are the safer bet.

High Magic is a big part of the swordmasters' excellence. The 6++ against shooting feels like a deliberate attempt by GW to get our mages to march alongside their Sapherian troopers. And the fact is, with their defensive weakness cancelled out by a High Magic archmage, the swordmaster brick becomes amazing. Even though it feels like the loss of Speed of Asuryan has made them poorer, our reduced reliance on special points (because we have improved core), and our improved access to unbelievably good defensive magic (High Magic + Book of Hoeth + Banner of the World Dragon), as well as Martial Prowess, makes them our premiere all-comers grinding elite infantry unit. Ignore the swordmasters at your peril.

My unit of choice in a cavalry prince list:

High Archmage, Level 4, Book of Hoeth, Talisman of Endurance, Ironcurse Icon;
deployed in
20 Swordmasters, Full Command, Banner of the World Dragon.



Edit: It may be that we need to go back into why High Magic is amazing. If so, let me know!


Seredain I have a lot of respect for you but I have to jump in on this tbh.

Matchups where templates or mass bs shooting mmake swordmasters so so easy to pop this as the best case scenario assuming you take banner of the world dragon,

Dark elves, Lizards, Wood elves, Brets, Orcs, occasional ogre lists that include maneaters or leadbelchers, tombkings, dwarves, occasional empire lists

combats where swordmasters excel are against the elves, empire infantry, skaven, chaos infantry (who takes that anyway?), tombkings,

so it appears to me at least that swordmasters struggle to rank up against a lot of opponents they can fight well against.

I want to love swordmasters dont get me wrong but i dont think your grasping why stubborn is big, its big because it means you are able to push units into areas of the board that are threatened while remaining confident if someone makes a long charge you still hold, This is exceptionally prevelant in matchups vs brets or other cav busses where in my experience the s5 doesnt crack the armour to well and you will lose steadfast.
Also a 3+ vs shooting means lions dont have to engage but just threaten an area where as swordmasters can get shot to bits for a few turns while your opponent works out how to engage them late game again knowing they wont be stubborn.

Have I been contemplating playing soem masters yes, do I think they can work yes, to call them the masters of combat I think was a correct statement the problem is in warhammer we dont start in combats and for this reason swordmasters struggle heavily. Lastly i dont like the concept of shoving a level 4 in a swormaster unit 1 bit, for my maths im actually looking at the lore master and getting off earthblood, i think high magic is let down by the fact the castign unit gets it that level 4 for my money doesnt want to be near a hammer unit.

I wish you luck though mate and keept the reports coming as I usually have a read and although we soemtimes disagree that is the beauty of warhammer :D

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 8:34 pm 
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"Stubborn only matters if you lose combat"

This is a terrible statement that should never be uttered again.

It is an oversimplification of the game and battlefield strategy.

Stubborn is beneficial when your opponent make the decision where to dedicate his forces. Seeing a Stubborn unit on the field means that he must dedicate his most elite forces to the fight to kill it -OR- send chaff to divert/tarpit -OR- shoot/magic it to death at range. This can limit his options if you are able to take out the units that will best deal with a Stubborn threat. If the opponent can't bring the right combination of units the fight, then the Stubborn unit will likely hold its ground no matter the odds and fight to the last Elf.

The ability to fight down to the very last model is significant when preserving points. As your units take casualties they will become more and more ready to lose combat or panic and then run away from the fight where they can easily give up their VP's. Stubborn requires that your opponent either get very lucky when you roll Break Tests (with nothing more than a hope that you fail it); otherwise they must be able to completely destroy your Stuborn unit. When you can add buffs that increase toughness or ward saves you find that destroying a Stubborn unit can become nearly impossible for some army builds.

Furthermore casualties are inevitable and as you lose combat effectiveness, even chaff units can begin to win fights; especially if they get into your flanks. White Lions may not have as many attacks, but they are far more likely to hold their ground when depleted to a single rank than Swordmasters. You can further improve their odds by narrowing the frontage of the Stubborn unit and letting more resilient characters take the front ranks to minimize late game casualties without the worry of losing by a point or two and breaking from combat with your General & BSB falling at the same time!

---------------------------

Sure Swordmasters are better at killing larger numbers of T3 infantry with medium armor saves. However this game has become more about being able to kill tougher and better armored units, while holding your ground when those units hit you back! Swordmasters might be a great middle of the road when it comes to killing, but when it comes to all around survivability and effectiveness, you will never do better than a White Lion unit.

I personally buff my White Lions to the max, literally taking every possible beneficial item and character that I can to make them the single most powerful/deadly/resilient unit in the game. 50 White Lions, BotWD, Annointed, Archmage (High Magic), Lothern Seahelm BSB. I get a better natural Ward than Swordmasters, with buffs to that ward from High Magic (usually 5+ or 4+ saves), then I get a 3+ armor from shooting attacks, next is the reliability of Stubborn, of course 4 ranks fighting with Strength 6 is quite deadly too, I further am Immune to Psych with the possibility of causing Fear!, and finally I can make a swift reform if flanked to maximize attacks due to Seahelm.

All these buffs are not possible with Swordmasters &/or they require more points investment than White Lions do.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 9:30 pm 
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I'm afraid I'm going to pile in on the swordmasters dont really cut it bandwagon.

Yep they benefit more from high magic buffs but dragon princes do it better and if I want combat buffs I'll take shadow, light, metal or a loremaster.
Yep they will smash up t3 models with low saves but most t3 low save combat blocks cost 2-3pts a model, nobody cares if they die.
Yep they will go toe to toe with lions over even tough infantry like saurus warriors but these units are rarely fielded and its case of win-more at best.
Yep they beat up Nurgle warriors( those are the guys on the back of chariots right?) but they only appear when there is a chance of watchtower.

They simply arent that relevant in the meta atm. Bret lances run straight over the top of swordmasters but bounce against lions. When a demon prince decides he wants to hold up your one combat block for a few turns, lions can kill him twice as fast(4vs8 rounds). Demigriffs, Mournfang, Skullcrushers, beasts of nurgle are the main combat blocks and lions kill all of them faster than swordmasters, sure 2 out of 4 are in our favor due to the banner but in a 6 turn game you cant spend 3 grinding a 300ish unit.

As for magic buffs I'd rather buff to kill than buff to stay alive, why do you think life magic fell off in favour of shadow, light and death? You save 100% of attacks they dont make due to being dead. Killing is always better than grinding because of units being stubborn, unbreakable or simply getting lucky on a breaktest due to bsb.

While you are right in that lions will bleed models over 2-3 combats, models dont give vps and if they win 2-3 combats then I've won game 9 times out of 10.

As for the ws/I problems of lions, skullcrushers are a non factor, witch elves mince both units, basic warriors on foot are rarely if ever seen and chariots do most of the damage on the impact hits. Bloodletters and demonettes are as rare as foot warriors and dont really matter due to the banner. That leaves executioners as the only unit that has ws and I to match and isnt a massacre one way or the other. Not common or good enough to be a reason to swap.

Against the top five most common/best armies atm which most people would agree are demons, warriors, empire, skaven and ogres( in any order and maybe with one or 2 swaps depending on opinion) lions are better 4 out of 5 times so I know which I'll take a main battle unit.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 29, 2013 12:15 am 
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Hey Seredain

Thanks for taking the time to write that article up, great read and it's got me thinking about the Swordmasters again in another light (yes when I finally return to playing High Elves that is....).

=D>

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 29, 2013 3:29 pm 
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I do not understand all this stubborn fanfare.

Sword Masters make sense as the primary fighting force in a Combined Arms list where White Lions are omnipresent as a support unit to challenge the bigger threats to these Sword Masters.

I fail to see how the homogeneous use of White Lions is ever more effective that using a mixture of units when planing for an all-comers battle.

Despite its unappealing aesthetics, I do not believe you should really take more than one (14+) unit of any of the special infantry. Your large blocks of soldiers will always function the same in every situation, and your weakness to a specific counter will bring about the collapse of your entire front.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 29, 2013 8:20 pm 
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This is the most excitement I've seen in a thread since I signed up. We should make well argued cases against the perceived wisdom more often...even if it causes disagreement, it's well argued disagreement =D>

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 30, 2013 10:38 am 
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Really agree with Seradain here, I feel that many underestimate what the swordmasters can do. In my current list I run 2x15 of them and they do get the job done. On a second note I also run 20 WLs but I feel that the 2 troop types perform completely different roles.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 01, 2013 6:18 am 
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I think Seredain has a good point. I'm sure I will get flamed for this but here goes. Swordmasters are underrated. I love White Lions, I really do. Awesome fluff and they are awesome in the game. When it comes to cracking armor and killing monsters they are the best our book has to offer. But there have been a lot of times where my big WL unit has failed its armor/ward saves due to sheer number of attacks and have been destroyed. Clanrats with a bell is a good example. I think that swordmasters make up for some of the things that WL lack, but only if used correctly. In my opinion the way to use them is with the Everqueen, Anointed, and a noble bsb with the stubborn crown. Granted enough attacks could be sent towards the bsb to kill him and lose stubborn, but I think that if you put your bsb on a corner the only real units that can put enough attacks against him will be big hordes or things that come in on the flank. But in most combats you will get to go first with all of your characters and swordmasters and if you cant whittle down an enemy unit with the amount of attacks this unit would put out then you probably shouldn't be fighting this combat anyway. A good example is a match up that I see a lot, which is 40 ghouls with a vampire hero and a vampire lord. In every game we play I blast the bejeesus out of him with fiery convocation and when he is whittled down enough I feed him some phoenix guard and smash into him with my swordmasters. with all of the attacks I put out his ghouls go down and the vamps die to combat res. Granted against saurus or warriors this tactic is not as sound. But with the advantage of the ward save provided by the everqueen and the anointed I think that they stand a chance. my reasoning may be flawed but I think that Seredain is on to something here and I wanted to defend him. Another point is that event if swordmasters are worse than WL, when they are controlled by a skilled player they can be just as deadly.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 01, 2013 8:17 am 
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Really good post, but there are a few problems with the premise. If the aim is to justify an inclusion of Swordmasters over Lions in an all-comers list, it should, with minimal changes, rely on similar tactics to achieve similar rewards. The problem being that this isn't the case with the argument presented. The argument presented says that it's possible to get Swordmasters to work, in certain circumstances - the ideal - while an attempt hasn't been made to look at other circumstances - non-ideal circumstances.

Firstly, if argument is that Swordmasters are equal to or better than Lions in "standard" (quotes emphasized) all-comers play, then need to be able to fulfill similar roles in a variety of circumstances. Two points you already brought up a worth further analysis; they are as follows:

Quote:
Specifically, when both elites are hitting on 3’s and fighting in full 3 ranks of 7, swordmasters outperform white lions (in particular against hordes), up to T4 AS4+ enemies. They maintain close parity thereafter until you get to 1+ save units like empire knights. But even here the swords are still fine: 21 swordmasters kill 5.37 Empire knights against the white lions’ 6.1. Against mournfang, lions win, scoring 8.14 wounds, but swords still perform well with 6.45 wounds.


This is, what I would argue, statistically significant data that Lions are better in their role for an all-comers army. Hordes are generally weaker than other choices for most armies (the exceptions really being Ghoul Horde and Savage Horde) while large infantry busses (Empire, Vampires, Skaven, sometimes O&G) are not comparable on the basis of points to a unit of our Elites, nor should our Elites be dealing with them in most circumstances due to the large point discrepancy (it's not efficient: use other elements in your army).

When we get to the numbers, the difference between 5.37 and 6.1 is actually relevant when you consider that 21 Vanilla Swords/Lions will almost never be fighting 10 Vanilla Inner Circle Knights (or similar); there are always multiple characters and champions to take into account if such an engagement takes place. Why does this matter? Because when we look at the actual circumstance rather than simply theory crafting, 1+ Dawnstone characters and 1+/4++ characters tip the scale much more heavily in favor of the Lions. Moreover, the relatively small difference of ~.8 Knights becomes much more relevant when only 1/3 of the unit is actually touching Vanilla Knights and not characters/champions. Maths on that to follow below.

The second point:

Quote:
Having said that, having a Book of Hoeth archmage in a swordmaster unit demolishes their defensive weaknesses in combat too (as it would for lions). In what universe, in our last book, could swordmasters get access to a 4++ in combat? The benefit from Book of Hoeth + Shield of Saphery is enormous. Swords stand to get +3 ward save in combat from Shield of Saphery (assuming a dice-drawing 4th spell from the archmage or a level 2), seriously undermining the defensive province held by phoenix guard and our heavy cavalry. With access to High Magic, swordmasters become not only a good grinding unit but a tough one to boot. As we've seen, they already grind better than lions. This helps even more.


This is deceiving. The argument here is that Swords + multiple (up to 3) castings of High Magic > Phoenix Guard and Heavy Cavalry while it should be Swords + multiple (up to 3) castings of High magic > Lions + multiple (up to 3) castings of High Magic, and it's here that I disagree. If the role of this 20-some unit of Elites is to a) control table space and b) grind down a variety of enemies, consistently, through attrition then in both points Lions are a better choice than Swords.

Assuming 0 Spells cast in both cases, pushing a unit of Lions right up into the enemy's face is a lot less risky than pushing Swords up because of a) Stubborn and b) Lion Cloaks (short range makes a massive difference for a lot of shooting armies, especially if it's S4 BS shooting); you can even offer an opponent a flank, thereby giving room for the rest of your army to run away with, which you can't do with Swords. Assuming 3+ Spells cast in both cases, pushing a unit of Swords up is similar to a unit of Lions, but this assumes you don't roll a 2-6 dice magic phase where you cannot physically cast that many spells, or similarly if you flub a first casting roll for instance. If consistency is the aim, Swords are less consistent in holding parts of the board.

Similarly, as we looked at in the first exert, while Swords are better against Hordes or similar elites, Lions are better against knights, monsters, chariots, and characters, when we assume 0 spells cast in both cases. This is key because not only should a singular unit of Elites be able to deal with other elites, but it should be able to deal with "counter units" opponent's are likely to throw against it. Against a WS5, T4, 1+ rerolling cowboy for instance, Swords do ~.79 wounds per turn while Lions do a little over 1. Against WS6+ or T5+, the Swords drop off heavily, doing half the wounds the Lions would over the same frontage (Lions ~.83 to Swords ~.44 : the difference between 3 rounds of combat and 5 rounds of combat for death). If we assume 3 spells, both units fail to take meaningful wounds in return, in all situations, and will win through combat resolution, where the argument then becomes: which units are more prevalent and which are an opponent likely to send against a unit of ranked elites? I would argue, more of the choices Lions are better against.

I certainly think there is room for Swordmasters in an all-comers list (and other lists besides), but I don't think 20-25 in a single unit is it. In my opinion and experience, if you're looking for a unit that size, you're better off with Lions or Phoenix Guard.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 01, 2013 10:35 pm 
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Everyone,

Some truly excellent responses posing some interesting questions and problems. Since the debate has been thorough, I hope you don't mind me taking the time to draft a thorough response. I'm at three pages and counting... bear with me!

Since we're taking stock for now, please keep in mind that I use a unit of 15 white lions with full command and the flaming banner. They work well without support from characters (particularly in the Leadership and shooting-protection deparments), and are both a valuable roadblock and attacking tool against (specifically) high toughness+armoured targets. You will never hear me say otherwise.

The short point comes down to the benefits of having better all-purpose damage output vs stubborn, in a single brick unit deployed within a combined arms High Magic list. Winning combat and destroying enemy units is my aim, not to push a unit forward on its own and take a charge in the flank.

You'll notice that the parameters are fairly specific, as they should be. Beyond my (rather self-indulgent) tendency towards dramatic flourishes, my arguments do (and will) not come down to "swordmasters are better than white lions" nor, do I hope, will I hear in reply simply that white lions are better than swordmasters. Because, in particular lists (mine included), they aren't. List building is more complicated than that. Our army's choices, perhaps even more so now than in our last book, are inter-dependent to a tremendous degree and, as Tethlis suspects, my choice of swordmasters arise from that. It also stems from the fact that a true all-comers list cannot afford to ignore the existence of enemy infantry.

In the meantime, then, it's worth bearing in mind my current list.

Prince – Giant Blade, Dragon Helm, Dawnstone, Potion of Foolhardiness, Heavy Armour, Shield, Barded Steed – 276
Archmage – Level 4, High Magic, Book of Hoeth, Talisman of Endurance, Ironcurse Icon – 310
 
BSB – Sword of Might, Enchanted Shield, Golden Crown, Other Trickster’s Shard, Dragon Armour, Barded Steed – 170
Mage – Level 2, Heavens, Dispel Scroll, Dragonbane Gem – 150
 
23 Archers – Musician – 240
9 Silver Helms – Full Command, Shields – 237 (Prince and BSB here, normally. Deployed as a lance except against cannons).
6 Silver Helms – Standard, Shields – 148 (still thinking on whether to replace the Standard with a High Helm).
 
20 Swordmasters – Full Command, Banner of the World Dragon – 340 (archmage here)
15 White Lions – Full Command, Banner of Eternal Flame – 235

6 Sisters – 84
3 Repeater Bolt Throwers – 210
1 Great Eagle – 50
1 Great Eagle – 50
 
2500 points

I'll be back soon.

Thanks,
S

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2013 12:19 am 
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I think a lot of this discussion comes down to how folks are playing the game. A lot of people are focusing on ETC deny builds where nothing is risked. In such cases, you would have to work very very hard to get those swordmasters into fights they want to be in. Beyond that, do the sword masters out perform phoenix guard over the long haul against those same targets?

I'm thinking specifically of skaven slaves and chaos warriors, two thing that white lions are bad against. In both of those cases, I think that the 4++ of the PG is safer, leading to increased damage output over time.

This is, to a degree, an academic discussion. I believe that high elves struggle against high point cost "super-men" types of characters, such as demon princes, greater demons, chariots, frost heart phoenixes etc. due to the lack of hyper reliable artillery. Neither sword masters nor phoenix guard are strong against those enemies.

A majority of people here will read this expecting to fight nothing but 1+ saves, beasts of nurgle or super-characters. Based on your reports, these are not the types of games you play. As such, the discussion will be skewed with Seredain operating in one type of environment and those that disagree operating in the other.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2013 3:13 am 
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Hey Seredain,

Very thought-provoking discussion (from all). Looking forward to your upcoming response. After reading your earlier notes on Swordmasters, I've been running a list similar to yours. For that reason, I thought I'd weigh in on the whether to take a High Helm or keep the standard in your small unit of Silver Helms. I've actually had the same issue come up, and I've tried the High Helm a couple of times and so far, I've found I'd have preferred the standard. While you lose the opportunity to do one more wound, you gain guaranteed combat res. This is particularly useful after the initial charge, when you lose the lance strength bonus. Even on the charge, it gives some built in protection against fluffing your rolls.

Also, and perhaps a conversation for another day because it's a small point, but query whether it is worth it to drop the Giant Blade from your general in favor of the Ogre Blade. Doing that allows you to make the Cav Prince self-contained (he can take TOTS, leaving more room to kit out your BSB in other creative ways). I understand the value of wounding tougher opponents on 2s, but then again, you're Prince isn't dependent on another model that can be sniped or otherwise lost unexpectedly.


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