Author Topic: Undead Units and Tactics  (Read 10145 times)

andrewgr

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Undead Units and Tactics
« on: March 27, 2009, 01:00:13 AM »
Undead Strategy Guide
Andrew Gross (andrew.b.gross@gmail.com)
v. 1.1

OVERALL:

The most notable feature of the Undead is that all but 2 of their units are immune to Courage checks, and neither of the two units that must make Courage checks are important in most army builds.  This means that as the commander of the Undead, you have the luxury of predictability; you suffer nasty surprises far less often than your enemies.

The second prominent feature of the Undead is that they are a defensive faction.  Most of their units have below average offensive statistics, as compared to other factions on a point-by-point basis.  At the same time, not only do most Undead units have above average defensive statistics, but on top of this they can be reanimated, keeping units alive even longer.  One very nice aspect of reanimation is that it puts a sure hit back onto the unit where you need it most; many command cards, while theoretically worth a point of damage, can’t be used on exactly the unit you need with absolute reliability.

Finally, the third important feature is the existence of very useful cheap units.  As the Undead player, you can almost always manage to field more units than your opponent, sometimes by a wide margin.  In addition, if you have points left over after building your army, you can sometimes afford to field another useful unit, like Zombies; in many armies, if you’ve got less than 150 points left over, you wind up taking a unit that you can’t really figure out a good use for, or else buying expensive command cards.

The combination of these three features dictates almost every viable strategy for winning with the Undead.  Most Undead army builds rely on either superior numbers or a heavy concentration of missile fire to create gaps in the enemy line and seize flanks.  In both cases, using cheap units with good durability to pin more expensive units in place until they can be swarmed is a standard tactic.  Reanimating units in key positions to hold out an extra turn, so that your opponent suffers a break in his line before you suffer a break in yours, is also a feature of almost every battle.

COMMAND CARDS:

You must know and remember the distribution of red/green/blue cards in your deck.  The Undead have 18 red, 3 green, and 9 blue command cards.  This is the highest concentration of red cards of any faction, and has some important implications.

Often times you’ll be faced with the choice of reanimating a unit, or of drawing one or more command cards.  If you mistakenly think to yourself “well, I’m bound to draw a blue card as one of my 3 draws, so I’ll just use that instead of reanimating this turn, and I’ll be okay”, then you better be sure there’s a decent ratio of blue cards left in your deck, because it’s quite possible for you to draw 3 or 4 cards in a row without hitting a single blue.  Similarly, you usually don’t need to hoard a red card for the next turn; it’s almost a sure thing you’ll draw a couple to choose from.  And because your units have such poor offensive statistics, the red cards should be drawn and spent liberally; they’re more important for dealing damage for the Undead than they are for other armies, because it’s a higher fraction of the total damage they’ll do over the course of a battle.

Maybe even more important than knowing the red/green/blue distribution is knowing the number and the effects of a few key cards: Accuracy (x2), Vampirism (x2), Festering Wound (x1), Wave of Terror (x1), and Raise Dead (x2).  None of these cards should ever be played lightly; they should be assigned to particular units or situations based on having the greatest possible impact.   If you use these eight cards to maximum effect, rather than just playing them because they’re in your hand and you want to do more damage this roll, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

Accuracy is an important card to the Undead because their units have such poor skill.  However, many of them have good Power.  You don’t want to use Accuracy on a unit that rolls only a few dice, or is facing a unit that is a poor matchup; you want to save Accuracy for a unit that’s rolling a good number of dice with a favorable “to damage” roll.  You should also be more eager to play Accuracy if your opponent is out of command cards, or if you think he doesn’t have blue cards left due to the cards you’ve seen him play.  Accuracy should be worth almost 2 extra hits for the Undead, whereas for many factions it’s only going to be worth 1.

Vampirism is a game changing card.  It can be played on the same turn as the unit is reanimated, meaning even an expensive elite unit can suddenly gain back 2 boxes of damage.  For a unit with high defensive statistics, those two boxes could very well have taken 3 rounds of combat for the enemy to deal out.  It goes without saying that you’d like to use Vampirism on your most expensive units: for the command point you spent to draw Vampirism, you could have just healed a Minor Undead unit anyway, but it would have required 3 command actions to heal a Greater Undead unit.  Because Vampirism only gives you 1 extra die and has no other boost to offensive statistics, be very careful of playing it when your opponent is holding blue cards; if you only pay attention to playing it on your most expensive unit, you might get a rude surprise when your opponent whips out the perfect blue card and you find that you only have a 50/50 chance to do even the single point of damage necessary to trigger Vampirism’s effect!

Festering Wound is very nice because it allows you to add a point of damage at exactly the point you need it, provided you do at least one point of damage.  For a faction with poor offensive statistics, this is a major benefit.  Festering Wound acts in much the same way as Vampirism, except for it’s the enemy unit that you want to be expensive, not necessarily your own unit.  Playing Festering Wound on a moderately priced enemy unit just because it’s in your hand, or because it will trigger a Rout check, is not as useful in the long run as playing it later on a unit that’s much harder to hit.  Unlike Flesh Rot, which theoretically also does an extra point of damage, your opponent doesn’t know that now is the time to play that Parry card that he’s been saving to make you roll “1s” to hit.

Wave of Terror is an often misunderstood card.  First, note that it is played during either player’s Movement and Command phase, not just in the Undead player’s Movement and Command phase; many players overlook the wording, and assume it can only be played on their turn.  Second, note that it causes fear checks, not rout checks; a unit that fails its Courage check is (-1)-1/-1 for the turn, but it doesn’t Rout!  The optimal time to use Wave of Terror is usually the turn after impact.  For example, your line final rushes, and each fearsome unit in your line causes its opponent to make a Fear check.  Then it’s your opponent’s turn, and during his Movement & Command phase, you play Wave of Terror and they all have to make Fear checks again.  This isn’t always the best time to play it, but it usually is, and it’s never a bad time.

The important point to keep in mind with regards to Raise Dead is that there are two of them in your deck.  Keep track of how many you’ve played.  If you’re getting towards the end of your draw pile, and you still have one left, it can often make sense to draw command cards rather than reanimating, because you’ll get an “extra” command action this turn when you draw it. 

UNITS

Skeleton Horde: Useless in all situations.  Even if you have exactly 149 points left, do not buy one.

Skeleton Spearmen: Useless in all situations.  Even if you have exactly 167 points left, do not buy one.

Swarm of Rats: Potentially useful in a narrow range of situations, particularly in some scenarios or if you’re relatively sure what your opponent is fielding.  If your opponent has reasonable missile fire, he can evaporate one unit of Rats per turn, which is just awful for you; you can tell yourself “at least he’s not shooting at my expensive units”, but 109 points is too expensive for ablative armor.  If your opponent has good toughness, those 8 dice aren’t going to do much—you’re going to hit with 4 or 5 at most, and then need “1s”—it’s easily possible to rate to do less than 1 hit even with 8 dice, and even if you do get a favorable matchup, your opponent can make it unfavorable by playing a blue card, whilst you cannot counter with a red.

Ghoul Pack: More useful than most players give it credit for.  The fact that it takes Courage checks and has a Courage of only 8 seems to be really bad.  But look more closely: it has only 1 green box.  That’s actually to your benefit.  First of all, the Ghoul Pack becomes a quandary for an opposing missile unit: if he shoots at the Ghouls, they’ll rout early, then have plenty of speed to catch up with the rest of the army.   But if the opponent doesn’t shoot at it, the Ghouls are fast enough to sweep around the flanks and gain pinching/flanking attacks.  If they do rout from initial melee damage, they rout far enough to get away from all but the most speedy pursuers.  Not a front line unit, and not every army build should have them, but they shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

Zombies: The mainstay of the Undead faction, and one of the reasons it’s so successful.  If you eliminated Zombies from the faction, it would suffer an enormous drop in effectiveness.  Zombies are insanely durable for the points: for 90 points, you get 6 boxes of damage, a toughness of *3*, immunity to Courage checks, and the ability to reanimate a box of damage for a single command point.  They can’t hit anything, but that’s not their job; their job is to tie up 200 point units turn after turn as the rest of the Undead army crushes the balance of the opposing army.

Abominations: Zombies on steroids.  For 153 points, you get *11* boxes of damage, the same 3 toughness, immunity to Courage checks, the ability to reanimate for only a single command point—plus 6 dice, so that even with cruddy offensive statistics, you have a reasonable chance of putting a hit on your opponent each round.  Oh, and they’re Fearsome for good measure.  Abominations are so good that they were made Elite in order to keep the Undead balanced.  For a long time I started every army build with the maximum number of Abominations allowed for however many points we were using; I no longer think this is always the optimal build, but I also don’t think you can get yourself into any trouble by doing this.

Zombie Trolls: Maybe useful in some situations, but not in the general case.  The 6 Power looks nice, but the Undead’s weakness isn’t their Power, it’s their Accuracy, so this isn’t actually helping your army out that much—the Zombie Trolls are replicating an advantage you can get many other ways, and they are also asking for exactly the same red command cards as most of your other units.  The 4 toughness is very nice, no doubt; although the Undead army excels in toughness, 4 is just a whole lot better than 3 against many opponents.  However, 232 is a lot of points to get that extra toughness.

Skeleton Trolls: Quite useful due to decent offensive statistics and average defense.  A 5 skill doesn’t look like anything to write home about, until you start looking at all the units with 4 skill that you’re fielding with your Zombies, Abominations, and Skeleton Bowmen shooting at anything other than short range.  The speed of 5 can be nice in the right situation, though often it’s not as useful as you would think because the rest of your army is moving half as fast.  Not every army needs one, and almost no army needs two, but one to supply some directed firepower and make a hole in the enemy line can often be a reasonable choice.

Skeleton Cavalry: Almost completely useless.  The problem is the same as with many other cavalry units, but it’s even worse for the Undead: lack of damage boxes.  This unit is probably going to die in 2 turns, whether it reanimates or not (remember, you don’t have many blue cards, and you’re better off using them on more expensive units, so your opponent is quite likely to be gaining a command card advantage when swinging on your cavalry).   It could be useful in a scenario that calls for speed, I guess.

Skeleton Bowmen: An important unit in many Undead armies, not just missile heavy ones.  Keep in mind that the continual struggle for the Undead is figuring out ways to deal damage.  Even though the Skeleton Bowmen don’t have impressive offensive statistics, they do allow you to concentrate your fire on one enemy at a time.  Once you blow that enemy unit up, hopefully you can exploit it to gain pinching attacks, which is how you start dealing your damage—causing Rout checks due to pinching, combined with getting the multiple +1/+1 bonuses.  For some reason, many players want to play Accuracy on their Bowmen units, perhaps because the picture and name evoke missile units.  This is a mistake—save your Accuracy for a unit with more dice and more Power.

Death Knights: Not very useful.  I hesitate to call them “useless”, but I’ve never seen an army build that I thought was impressive that featured them, so maybe I’m just being sucked in by their glitzy numbers.  They take Courage checks, which is awful; if you make a habit of fielding them, once every 3 games or so they’re going to blow their initial Rout check, and 500+ points is going to be taking free swings on their rear and cowering away from the battle for a while.  7 boxes of damage is okay, but nothing special.  Consider this: for fewer points, a Tyrannosaurus Rex has 15 boxes of damage and the same base defensive stats—the only advantages the Death Knights have are due to defensive modifiers against missile fire and while final rushing, and the fact that you can reanimate them—at the steep price of 3 full command actions.  I would be inclined to at least experiment with this unit if it didn’t need to pass Courage checks, but as it is, I’d just get too frustrated having an entire army that doesn’t rout, and then watching my most expensive unit run away at first contact.

Giant Catapult: Very useful for stand and shoot army builds.  Way back when only the three initial factions (Men of Hawkshold, Orcs, and Undead) were available, I prepared for the first Sword Tournament by playing various army builds against each other.  The rules at that time didn’t have the penalty for extreme range, and cavalry didn’t have the bonus against missile fire; using those rules, I quickly came to the conclusion that stand and shoot armies were the way to go.  The question then became, which stand and shoot army would win in a battle between two such armies?  The obvious answer was the Undead, because of the Giant Catapult.  If our missile units target one another (which is the correct strategy—when your missile units are dead and mine aren’t, you’re obligated to come marching across the field to engage me, with an army that wasn’t designed for that, while taking missile fire the entire way), then the 4 toughness of the Giant Catapult, along with the fact that it can be reanimated, means that it will always outlast any other elite missile unit.  For dueling stand and shoot armies, the Giant Catapult is pretty much an auto-win, under any version of the rules.

For the case where your Undead stand and shoot army faces a melee army, the Giant Catapult is still quite useful, because it’s a perfectly serviceable front line unit.  It has some of the best offensive statistics in the Undead faction, even while engaged; and its toughness of 4 and 9 damage boxes makes it among the hardier units as well.  The fact that the Undead can load up on Zombies means that the steep 510 points you pay for them can be mitigated; an Undead Catapult plus a Zombie unit averages out to 300 points each, which suddenly doesn’t seem so outrageous.  I have won all three Sword Tournaments I entered using three different army builds, but all three of them featured two Giant Catapults.
« Last Edit: March 27, 2009, 09:36:48 AM by Dru'ahn the Gross »

Chad_YMG

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Re: Undead Units and Tactics
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2009, 08:45:37 AM »
Great guide!

[The following comment about the Ghoul Pack has been adressed in v1.1 of the guide, so it won't make sense if you're reading that version.]

I have a few tiny nitpicks and small areas of disagreement.  The nittiest nitpick is that the hit that puts a Ghoul Pack into the Red doesn't actually kill it.  The last yellow hit lost puts it into the red, and I have actually seen a few Ghoul Packs die because they got down to one hit and routed.  That doesn't detract from your analysis, but since you're right about pretty much everything here, I have to take what I can get.

I don't really agree at all about only wanting to use Festering Wound on an expensive enemy unit.  I get the logic -- the pure value of doing an extra point of damage is greater on, say, Celestial Guard than on Cygnets, but many times that's irrelevant.  As you point out, the Undead Army isn't great at doing damage anyway, so what they need to do is concentrate fire and begin the pinching.  For that reason, an extra point on Cygnets is probably worth a lot more than on a Celestial Guard, since the Cygnets are where you're hoping to break a hole in their line; the Celestial Guard probably isn't dying until they're in a pinch.

The one caveat to all this is that, as you point out, the Undead often have a lot of Red cards.  You may be better off using Strike on the Cygnets and Festering Wound on the Celestial Guard, but if you're concentrating fire with some archers as well you probably just want to hit the Cygnets as hard as you can.

I also disagree on Skeleton Cavalry.  They're fragile, to be sure, but they aren't terribly expensive and they hit reasonably hard.  They aren't an auto-include by any means, but I've fielded them a number of times -- particularly in scenarios -- and not been unhappy.  The fact that they are Lesser Undead (only one CA to heal) can be a big deal.

On the Skeleton infantry -- what's your opinion about the hit boost that would be needed to make them viable?
« Last Edit: March 27, 2009, 09:35:47 AM by Dru'ahn the Gross »
David Humphrey está todavía en la Colina 217.
      - From Spanish translation of Hill 218 rules

andrewgr

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Re: Undead Units and Tactics
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2009, 10:02:28 AM »

I have a few tiny nitpicks and small areas of disagreement.  The nittiest nitpick is that the hit that puts a Ghoul Pack into the Red doesn't actually kill it.  The last yellow hit lost puts it into the red, and I have actually seen a few Ghoul Packs die because they got down to one hit and routed.  That doesn't detract from your analysis, but since you're right about pretty much everything here, I have to take what I can get.


Good catch, I changed the guide to v1.1 and made this correction.

Quote

I don't really agree at all about only wanting to use Festering Wound on an expensive enemy unit.  I get the logic -- the pure value of doing an extra point of damage is greater on, say, Celestial Guard than on Cygnets, but many times that's irrelevant.  As you point out, the Undead Army isn't great at doing damage anyway, so what they need to do is concentrate fire and begin the pinching.  For that reason, an extra point on Cygnets is probably worth a lot more than on a Celestial Guard, since the Cygnets are where you're hoping to break a hole in their line; the Celestial Guard probably isn't dying until they're in a pinch.

The one caveat to all this is that, as you point out, the Undead often have a lot of Red cards.  You may be better off using Strike on the Cygnets and Festering Wound on the Celestial Guard, but if you're concentrating fire with some archers as well you probably just want to hit the Cygnets as hard as you can.


I think you're wrong.

In the situation you describe, you are frontally engaged with the unit you're trying to break.  That's one red card you need.  You're not pinching it, so no more red cards for melee.

Now, how many missile units are you using to gang up on it?  Let's say for each one you play a red card (saving Festering Wound as I advise).  When you get to a missile unit that still hasn't rolled and you have only Festering Wound left, you make the attack and see how many hits you get.  I am claiming that the only time it should even be a possibility to use the card would be if it would do the last point of damage, and when it's your opponent's turn.  In that situation, sure, play Festering Wound, kill the unit, and then exploit the gap on your turn.  If it's your turn, playing Festering Wound only saves you from taking damage from the wounded unit on your opponent's next turn, and it only does that if it passes its rout check, and even if it does, it's down 2 dice; and in any event, you're not going to get to exploit the gap any sooner by killing it immediately. 

I don't think the above combination happens all that often.  I advise against using Festering Wound against a cheap unit in any other situation.

Quote

I also disagree on Skeleton Cavalry.  They're fragile, to be sure, but they aren't terribly expensive and they hit reasonably hard.  They aren't an auto-include by any means, but I've fielded them a number of times -- particularly in scenarios -- and not been unhappy.  The fact that they are Lesser Undead (only one CA to heal) can be a big deal.


I did note in my guide that they might be useful in scenarios.   :)

I can imagine situations in which the Skeleton Cavalry pays for itself and you're not unhappy that you took them; but the question is, in how many of those situations would you not have been able to find another use for those points that would have made you equally happy?  My judgment is that this is an infrequent occurance.

I'll repeat a suggestion I've made before: if YMG decides to modify the Skeletong Spearmen and Skeleton Horde, please consider changing Skeleton Cavalry to be Core.  Since the Core/Elite distinction isn't printed on the Undead anyway, this is sort of a "free" errata to make.  It would make Skeleton Cavalry more useful than they currently are, without in any way making them overpowered.  And as a not-insignificant benefit, that might indirectly lead to more Death Knights seeing the field, since it would allow the Undead to field an entire army that moves at least 5" (Cavalry, Knights, Skeleton Trolls, Ghouls).  You can currently do this if you take Ghoul Packs as your core units, but that's just not viable in almost any situation.  Being able to flank a Death Knight unit with Skeleton Cavalry on either side could conceivably be interesting.

Quote

On the Skeleton infantry -- what's your opinion about the hit boost that would be needed to make them viable?


My strong preference is to errata units on the back of the card, and not on the front.  I really don't like the idea of errata that adds damage boxes or changes melee statistics.

The most straightforward change I would endorse would be to lower their cost to whatever they're actually worth.

A less simple change that might be interesting if you want to keep their points at the current level would be to play with the reanimate ability.  I'm not sure how much of a boost you'd need to give to make them worth the points if you went in this direction.  "Spend 2 command actions to uncheck 3 damage boxes" is probably not overpowered, and would make them interestingly different from other units, but opponents might find it frustrating to deal with such units even if they're not unbalanced.  Or maybe something like: "If this unit begins your Movement and Command phase in the Red, uncheck one box without spending a Command Action.  You may not spend a Command Action to uncheck an additional box."  Sometimes this would be worth no extra boxes, sometimes it would be worth 1, and sometimes it would be worth more than 1; on average, I'm guessing it would be worth 1 extra box.
« Last Edit: March 27, 2009, 10:06:11 AM by Dru'ahn the Gross »

GoIndy

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Re: Undead Units and Tactics
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2009, 10:28:51 AM »
Interesting.

When I read this, and his comments, I kind of get the impression that Dru'ahn thinks that the Undead Army is superior to the other armies.  It sounds like he did alot of research, (good for him), and came up with a unit force that was strong.  Now, knowing that, is seems wrong to me to "fix" this army, it implies making them better, or at least, making the skeleton dudes better.  I realize we aren't talking some mammoth upgrade, but I do not follow the rationale of upgrading them at all, especially if they are more than capable as is.

I guess in my mind the fact that the Undead army has some units that are so incredibly good that it is darn near silly to ever take some of its other units means that the really good units should possibly be downgraded.  (As opposed to having its bad units upgraded)


Chad_YMG

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Re: Undead Units and Tactics
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2009, 11:08:30 AM »
It's good to know that Andrew and I still have some areas of substance on which we disagree wrt Battleground strategy!  :)

My current opinion is that the most important strategy for most Battleground fights (once you get past the basic things, like having a solid line, avoiding unnecessary gaps/pinches, etc.) is identifying and winning your good fights faster than you lose your bad ones.  Most other things are secondary and some are virtually irrelevant.  This is often expressed by military strategists as something like, "Apply the greatest possible force to the decisive area of the battlefield."  Breaking through that line is what creates pinches which is what creates the force imbalance to sweep away the rest of your opponent's army.

In the Cygnet/Celestial Guard scenario, where both are engaged with Undead units, it is likely that a point of damage done to the Celestial Guard is not only less valuable than one done to the Cygnets, it's unlikely to be worth much at all.  That's a battle where my priority is almost certainly not losing rather than winning, whereas the Cygnets are (by High Elf standards) tissue paper that I want to pile onto.

The idea that I only want to trade Festering Wound for an extra point to the Cygnets when it's their last point and it's my opponents turn seems clearly wrong to me.  That spot on the battlefield is my dominant consideration and unless he has a reserve unit he can bring there (unlikely), I want to do anything I can to accelerate that unit's demise.  If I'm saving Festering Wound this turn it may be that I'm a point short later on when I've either played a card or failed to do a point of damage.

Moreover, there are plenty of situations where Festering Wound is going to be a better card to play than another red card in your hand.  Let's say those Cygnets are matched up against an Abomination, with a Skeleton Bowmen unit piling on some extra dice.  In my hand I have Strike, Might, Follow Through, Cunning, Vampirism and Festering Wound.  Neither Strike nor Might are particularly attractive and each lends itself to being trumped, so with six dice it's likely that my best bet is to pass priority.  If my opponent plays a card I might counter it but if not (and even if so) I may just roll, knowing that either Cunning or Follow Through is likely to get a point.  My attack ends up doing two hits and one damage (about what it rates) -- in that case I'd rather play Festering Wound because I can almost always trade Cunning for a point of damage and I retain the advantage of having reactive cards so I don't have to lead with a trump-able Strike/Might.

I share your general preference for changing the back, rather than the front, of unit cards.  That said, I'm less excited about doing that for the Skeletons.  The Undead already have so many cheap units -- I'm not thrilled about giving them another one with good offensive stats.  Instead I'd rather make the Skeletons work the way we intended -- as moderately priced line units that won't hold up too long but, like Umenzi Warriors/Javelineers -- can give you value for what you paid.

That said, I'm happy to turn the question around...what do you think they're worth?  At what price would you start to consider them for your Undead builds?
David Humphrey está todavía en la Colina 217.
      - From Spanish translation of Hill 218 rules

andrewgr

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Re: Undead Units and Tactics
« Reply #5 on: March 27, 2009, 11:14:53 AM »
Interesting.

When I read this, and his comments, I kind of get the impression that Dru'ahn thinks that the Undead Army is superior to the other armies. 


Wow, I didn't mean to imply that at all!

I believe the Undead are the most powerful of the original 3 factions.  I also believe they're a viable contender for "strongest faction", whatever that means.  But I also believe two other things:  (1) the factions are all very well balanced, such that the "strongest faction" isn't really all that much better than the "average faction"; and (2) no faction in the game has a more lopsided disadvantage than when the Undead must play the Lizardmen.

If a strong player put together an Undead army, I would be confident of winning against him 2/3 of the time if I got to play the Lizardmen, which is a bit ridiculous, but I guess adds some interest to the Battleground universe, and also offers a convenient way to handicap a battle-- the experienced player can play the Undead.

If a strong player put together an Undead army, I would be confident of winning around 1/2 the time with the High Elves or Dwarves.

I guess with any other faction I'd expect to win 1/2 the time, but wouldn't be so confident. :)
« Last Edit: March 27, 2009, 11:17:46 AM by Dru'ahn the Gross »

andrewgr

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Re: Undead Units and Tactics
« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2009, 11:37:39 AM »
It's good to know that Andrew and I still have some areas of substance on which we disagree he has clearly surpassed me wrt Battleground strategy!  :)

I fixed your typo.  :)

Quote
In the Cygnet/Celestial Guard scenario, where both are engaged with Undead units, it is likely that a point of damage done to the Celestial Guard is not only less valuable than one done to the Cygnets, it's unlikely to be worth much at all...If I'm saving Festering Wound this turn it may be that I'm a point short later on when I've either played a card or failed to do a point of damage.

Celestial Guard will fail their Rout check when going into the Yellow 16% of the time.  When that happens, the Undead are going to win the battle some very large percentage of the time.  So the question is: what percentage of the time does the Festering Wound you play "speculatively" on the Cygnets, before it's clear that it's the final hit, wind up being the deciding point of damage on a subsequent turn?  And when that happens, how much does it improve the Undead's chances of winning?

Quote
I share your general preference for changing the back, rather than the front, of unit cards.  That said, I'm less excited about doing that for the Skeletons.  The Undead already have so many cheap units -- I'm not thrilled about giving them another one with good offensive stats.  Instead I'd rather make the Skeletons work the way we intended -- as moderately priced line units that won't hold up too long but, like Umenzi Warriors/Javelineers -- can give you value for what you paid.

That said, I'm happy to turn the question around...what do you think they're worth?  At what price would you start to consider them for your Undead builds?

I don't have time to figure this out today, I'll get back to you sometime this weekend.
« Last Edit: March 27, 2009, 12:00:14 PM by Dru'ahn the Gross »

Chad_YMG

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Re: Undead Units and Tactics
« Reply #7 on: March 27, 2009, 11:48:47 AM »
I think it's also worth noting that the original dominance of the Undead applies less now because of rules tweaks we've made along the way.

As Andrew noted, under the original rules the "Stand and Shoot" strategy was dominant in a standard scenario with open field.  Similarly, cavalry units were too weak originally and were particularly vulnerable to stand-and-shoot armies.

Since then we've tweaked the rules to reduce the power of stand and shoot armies.  For example:

1. Originally there was just short range (half your range or less, no penalty) and long range (over half your range, -1 to skill).  Now we have range bands -- no penalty up to 7", -1 from 7" to 14" and -2 beyond that.  This is no change for normal bowmen and a boost to units with low range (e.g. javelineers, atlatlmen, centaurs) but nerfs the elite range units like Giant Catapult and Longbowmen.

2. It used to be that you could abuse the "Stay with the Line" command to have your entire line on Close with SwtL and one unit on Hold.  This would mean that you could hold in place but still gain the charge bonus when your opponent reached you.

3. There is now a "cavalry target" penalty -- ranged attacks on cavalry are at -1 to skill.

Next, the dominance of the Undead wasn't that they were better overall but rather that they won the "mirror match".  That is, stand and shoot armies would defeat all other armies and the Undead stand and shoot army beats other stand and shoot armies because the Giant Catapult's 0/4 (adjusting for being a large target) defensive stats are way better than those of Longbowmen, the Bomb-Chucker, Dwarven Ballista, etc.  If X Giant Catapults and X of any of the others stand across a field and fire on each other, the Giant wins...so if that's the dominant strategy then the Undead are the dominant faction.

With "stand and shoot" now just a possible strategy rather than being the best one, the strategic advantage that the Undead once enjoyed no longer applies in anything like the same way.  Finally, as Andrew noted, the Lizardmen army has a favorable matchup vs. the Undead because it's relatively easy to put Undead units into the yellow -- which means that the Lizardmen will spend a high percentage of the fight having an extra attack and +2 courage.

Finally, moving the Skeleton Infantry from "unplayable" to "interesting" doesn't necessarily represent a meaningful change in the overall power of the Undead.  It might add another army style, or it might just mean that sometimes when the points were right you played a Skeleton as a random dude.
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      - From Spanish translation of Hill 218 rules

Chad_YMG

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Re: Undead Units and Tactics
« Reply #8 on: March 27, 2009, 11:55:41 AM »
I fixed your typo.  :)

Heh.  :)

Quote
Celestial Guard will fail their Rout check when going into the Yellow 16% of the time.  When that happens, the Undead are going to win the battle some very large percentage of the time.  So the question is: What percentage of the time does the Festering Wound you play "speculatively" on the Cygnets, before it's clear that it's the final hit, wind up being the deciding point of damage on a subsequent turn?  And when that happens, how much does it improve the Undead's chances of winning?

That's a very good point.  If the Celestial Guard is engaged with a heavy hitter and/or has already taken two points of damage it might be more attractive to hold onto Festering Wound and hope for a lucky hit.  As you point out, small percentage change times win the game can be pretty attractive, especially if the overall match looks unfavorable.

One of my weaknesses is that I often lean heavily on experience and intuition in games.  (It lets me play a lot more games online than I could if I actually did the math each turn!)  My experience and intuition is that most of the time you are better off not being tempted by speculative damage in the fights where you're outmatched unless it's causing a rout check or there's some tangible reason to think otherwise.  I've seen players do it so often and I've done it myself -- only to find that a turn or two later I haven't quite won the fight I need to win and I'm out of red cards.  So anyway, I don't want to be dogmatic about it at all -- but my hunch is that most of the time "kill the damn Cygnets" substantially outweighs "get the maximum value (in the abstract) from card X".
« Last Edit: March 27, 2009, 12:01:15 PM by Dru'ahn the Gross »
David Humphrey está todavía en la Colina 217.
      - From Spanish translation of Hill 218 rules

GoIndy

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Re: Undead Units and Tactics
« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2009, 10:05:09 AM »
Dru'ahn:
I've been meaning to ask you....you mention the Lizardmen have a tremendous advantage over the Undead, (at least in your mind/testing).  Just looking at the Lizardman units doesn't give me any indication that they would be overwhelming, so I am presuming it is the blood frenzy that is rendering them so strong in a heads up matchup.  Is that what is the deciding point, or is there some stratgeic/tactical doctrine I am missing?

andrewgr

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Re: Undead Units and Tactics
« Reply #10 on: March 31, 2009, 10:48:34 AM »
You got it.  A couple of posts up, Chad says:

Quote
Finally, as Andrew noted, the Lizardmen army has a favorable matchup vs. the Undead because it's relatively easy to put Undead units into the yellow -- which means that the Lizardmen will spend a high percentage of the fight having an extra attack and +2 courage.

Which explains it as well as I could.

It really is a huge advantage.  Given that the Lizardmen are already quite strong, they don't need the extra help. :)

ajax98

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Re: Undead Units and Tactics
« Reply #11 on: April 01, 2009, 03:53:05 AM »
The Undead really became Unscary when I played Lizardmen against.

With the advent of M&M, I always made room for a Healer and it was usually just how well the Undead played their cards to determine how well they were able to fair. Nothing like being able to shrug off a few (or more!) damage before my melee line got to engage. If I got lucky with a Regenerate Cmd Card, removing 3 damage on a Spearmen unit was very demoralizing for the Undead.

With a Healer, there is high confidence that 1 damage per turn for the length of the game will be removed from your forces.  I have much affection for this unit.

With mindful set up I was confident that the worse I would suffer would be a draw.

For the first round (before M&M) of playtesting Kingdoms, there were 2 Undead players. I learned a lot real quick.


ZiNOS

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Re: Undead Units and Tactics
« Reply #12 on: April 03, 2009, 12:16:31 PM »
Just out of my head now, Skeletons are only bones and in some rpgs weregiven a defense bonus against slashing or piercing weapons (probably 96% :P of the game's units, only Hammermen and the Big Uns use bludgeoning).

We could use the following house rule. "For each six rolled when rolling to hit against a skeleton unit, make any dice a 5". Something like a reverse net.

What do you think?

Maybe this could be used as a unit ability in the future. Incorporeal units anyone?  8)
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Torrg

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Re: Undead Units and Tactics
« Reply #13 on: April 03, 2009, 12:58:33 PM »
I have not tested this but I wanted to throw this out. I am not sure it has been suggested in the past.

A possible fix for the Undead Skeleton Units being "Useless". What if you allow the undead player to use as many of his available command actions to heal one unit? 1 minor undead unit could heal 4 health in one turn, if the undead player choose (assuming a game with 4 command actions), or 2 health for Major Undead, but still 1 with Greater Undead. Unless the undead unit is basically one shoted, this would enable the undead player to concentrate his healing instead of having to spread them around with only 1 health being healed at a time (outside of having the Vampirism card, which is still a one time use).

All core units could be Lesser Undead, Elite Greater Undead, and others would be Major Undead. It appears from me looking at the Army Builder to benifit the Ghouls the most. Also you could make an exception for the Trolls to be similar to the Orc Trolls. Once all green health is gone you can only re-animate the red.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2009, 04:21:44 PM by Torrg »
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gull2112

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Re: Undead Units and Tactics
« Reply #14 on: April 03, 2009, 07:23:03 PM »
I like the simple fix of allowing the spending of command points to replace losses. This would represent the Necrmancer spending his time reviving units. In most battles, you have more than enough uses for command actions, so I think the chance of this getting unbalancing are pretty rare. If you really want to limit it you could make it an ability unique to skellies, but even so I think it is unnecessary.
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