High Elf Tactical Thoughts

We have just finished another Mighty Empires-based campaign for Warhammer Fantasy (High Elves won!) and so it seemed like a good time to review the units used and the tactics that were built around them. I am not going to go through the entire army list, just covering the units that were actually used (though, to be fair, you can make a very good army just out of these).


Heroes and Lords

At the 1,500 point level we were playing at, you don’t get much room for Heroes and Lords as a High Elf, even with the new 50% allowances.


My first choice was always an Archmage, pumped up to Level 4 and carrying the Book of Hoeth. He had some other bits and pieces, but they tended to be optional. The high level and Book were what was important. In the past, I always gave him the Lore of High Magic but in this campaign I tried out the Lore of Life – and loved it. Hiding within a unit of Dragon Knights (see later), he helped make the cavalry a very nasty unit.


Second choice was always a basic Level 2 Mage, normally carrying a Dispel Scroll and maybe a Channelling Staff. He sat in the  main block of Archers for protection and concentrated on either the Lore of Metal (to deal with heavily armoured units, such as cavalry and Chaos Warriors) or the Lore of Death (going after single models that could otherwise be quite nasty, like Vampires and Hell Pit Abominations).

The combination of these two meant the High Elves always, and I mean always, dominated the magic phase of every battle they fought. The magic phase belonged to them, no other way of putting it. However, it did mean that I had no super-warrior characters that could go toe-to-toe with enemies in challenges.


I briefly experimented with a Noble leading the Dragon knights but, with the Archmage in there too, it was an 800-point unit waiting for a disaster to happen. Very powerful, no argument there, especially with the Archmage casting the likes of Regrowth to bring dead Knights back and Flesh to Stone, giving them hideous toughness. They never suffered the major disaster I feared, but it is something to bear in mind when using them. Still, it is also a lot of fun absolutely annihilating anything they manage to charge.


Core Units

I would really have liked to take more Core Units than I did but, at 1500 points a High Elf army does not have a lot of room to breathe, and you will need to draw from the Special and Hero/Lord choices to have an effective army.

Lacking Silver Helms, I dispensed with the idea of an all cavalry army and though I have a couple of units of Sea Guard, went with Archers instead to keep the points down.


A single big block of Archers became a standard feature of the army, topping out at 30-odd models, in three ranks – not for the horde bonus, it is just that as a High Elf you want shooting warriors in three ranks (because of the Fight in Extra Rank rule they get). Archers are not all that, true, and they will generally be second-class compared to their counterparts among the Wood Elves but if you have enough of them, they make even big monsters think twice. No upgrades on this unit other than the Hawkeye leading them.


I backed them up with a single unit of five Reavers. I had wanted (and painted up!)  a second unit, but could never squeeze them into the force – a shame, as having one unit on each flank would work well. They carry both spears and bows but have no other upgrade, leaving them at a neat 95 points, just low enough to not mind too much if they get wiped out. As it happened, they ended up quite survivable, with only Wood Elves paying them any great attention. They work as a real nuisance unit, bombing round the battlefield to interrupt marches, hammer lone wizards and war machines and possibly perform a charge into a weakened unit.


Special Units

This is possibly where the real strength of High Elves lie.


The Dragon Knights saw a lot of action and ended up being fielded in a block of ten, including a Noble and Archmage – very, very expensive, but very survivable and very powerful on the charge (and yes, I gave them the Banner of the World Dragon – there really is no choice in 1500 points when the unit as a whole takes up more than half your force…).


Towards the end, I switched the Dragon knights out for Swordmasters, again with the Banner of the World Dragon to keep them safe against enemy magic. The idea here was that they might be more survivable with their greater numbers, and possibly more powerful with their high Strength attacks not being reliant on the charge. Overall, that is a pretty fair assessment of them and I drool when I think of a big block of 40-odd…


Rare Units

I only ever delved into Rare units twice for this campaign.



The Sky Cutter is a lovely model, and I opted for it over a Lion Chariot. If I am honest, the Lion Chariot would probably be more potent. Lots of mobility with the Cutter, but you are not going to want to get it into close combat and the reduced range bolt thrower is… okay at best.


The Sisters of Avelorn, on the other hand, are another matter entirely. The average-sized block above are just shy of 300 points (the High Sister goes with them and has a magic bow that kicks out three shots per turn) but they can absolutely annihilate almost any target within a turn or three. A base BS of 5 means they rarely miss, and their magic arrows hit hard. These girls get a Gold Star recommendation for any High Elf force.


On the Battlefield

My general tactics against the enemy armies in the campaign (two Wood Elf forces, Vampire Counts, and Skaven) were to never, ever, ever directly engage any enemy, unless it was completely on my own terms. Despite this causing some derision among some opponents (why do you not stand and fight? Coward!), the mobility of a High Elf army allows you to do just this which means you can get the best-suited unit matched against the weakest enemy time and again (in many ways they really are the Craftworld Eldar of fantasy).

The Archers (sometimes accompanied by the Sisters) formed a solid base line that anchored the whole army and, frankly, I had no intention of moving them, ever. Their orders were to stand and launch as many arrows as they could against the enemy.

The faster moving units, such as the Reavers and Sky Cutter, roamed the flanks, looking to slip past (or fly over!) the main line of enemy units. Once they punched through, their goal was to cause as much trouble as possible, slowing units from behind while peppering them with arrows, and going after lone characters and war machines. If an enemy so much as sneezed near them, they retreated and came back in a later turn.

Meanwhile, the mages hurled spells at the enemy, everything from Dwellers below to various magic missiles. Anything to help the Archers whittle down the enemy.

Then, and only then, the close combat guys charged, either Knights or Swordmasters, preferably into a now weakened enemy that had no chance to halt them.

A simple approach, but it worked time and again.

Can’t wait until the next campaign!


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