Friday, September 23, 2011

Spotlight: Blackbane's Ghost Raiders

The Ghost Raiders are an acquired taste. They're soft, weak, and expensive, so it's not a unit you will be seeing in many lists. I've had a lot of curious people asking me about them, so I'll do a spotlight, BUT I'm not sure I can accurately convey my thoughts on the matter.

Most people will shudder, at the thought of bringing a nine point unit, with the intention of getting them killed in new and fascinating ways, every game, but this is what the Ghost Raiders do best. The Ghost Raiders are experts at causing mayhem, and not very good at surviving it, so the key to using them is to maximize the mayhem, while minimizing the consequences. This is very important, and the key to using them successfully is, to know exactly when to get them killed.
  • Incorporeal: They're ghosts, they walk through walls and bodies, float above pits, and cannot be harmed by puny weapons until they allow it.
The Ghost Raiders are fast, and I mean mindbogglingly ridiculously fast. They ignore models, terrain, obstructions, and will move straight through an opposing army if needed. This makes them a lot faster than other models with an equal speed, and few people are prepared, when the Ghost Raiders suddenly move through their army, flooding their support in a horde of angry ghosts. When doing this you should pay attention to units with magical weapons, or just hand them a Ghost Walk spell, to completely ignore everything on the table for a round.
  • Reanimation: Blackbane's Ghost Raiders can recruit new members, by killing living enemy warriors. This is fun, and while it rarely means an unstoppable army of the undead, it's what allows them to create total confusion in your enemies lines. This only works while Blackbane is on the table, so keeping him safe is always a priority.
  • Cutlass: They light things on fire, which we all know is not only hilarious, but also extremely dangerous against a lot of models. Things that will survive a free strike, might not live to brag, when they catch on fire. This ability allows them to threaten free strikes on several casters in the game, since few casters like burning to death.
An opponent might choose to dare a few free strikes, against a MAT 6 enemy, with PS 10, tying him down, but not when each death means another angry ghost, ready to inflict additional free strikes, block lanes, or position themselves for a charge the following round (not to mention catching on fire if he survives the free strike). Incorporeal means, that you can position yourself in the best possible place for free strikes, and being engaged makes them a right nightmare to remove.

This is where it get's tricky to explain, so feel free to ask questions: The objective of the unit is, to absorb as many resources as possible, while suffering as little consequence as possible. This means, that a unit can get themselves annihilated, without inflicting a single casualty, and still be the unit that won you the game. The following is what you should be aiming to do, when fielding Blackbane's Ghost Raiders.
  • Engaging as many support models as possible: Support models rarely have the equipment and capacity to fight of the raiders, which means they will need to be saved. 
This forces your opponent to activate his offensive units first, turn them around, and often attack without the buffs they often rely on. If he doesn't turn to fight, you can massacre his support the following round, and spawn a host of ghosts in his back arc, and that's pretty much "game" right there. In addition to causing havoc in the activation sequence, making him fight without buffs, and messing up his carefully planned lines, you also stop a substantial part of his army from advancing, which is excellent in scenario play.
  • Engaging as many models/units as possible: Magical weapons are a threat, and Aiyana & Holt are regulars in many lists, but that's not a problem, as long as you engage multiple models and units, and do it from the right positions.
If you engage an unit of Winterguard, with your whole unit of ghosts, you will be annihilated. Aiyanna will magic them up, Joe will whip them into shape, and your entire unit will be wiped by sprays and melee. If you split up the unit, and send the ghosts to engage all kinds of vital pieces instead, you will force him into some really annoying decisions. If we send in a few ghosts to engage as many Winterguard as possible, a couple to tie down A&H, one on Joe, and distribute the rest to engage as many different models/units as possible, we create a nightmare sequence.

With the right placement, you ghosts can tie up twice their number of points, make a mess of his advance, take out a couple of models indirectly (friendly fire from sprays or spells), and light a few things on fire. His army is now in disarray, on fire, blocking his own lanes, and either didn't advance at all, or sent up half his army fight most of yours.

I've won several games doing this, since the sheer amount of rules and details, will overwhelm almost anyone. They will make mistakes, they will forget to activate in the right order, and they will use up a lot of time doing so (in tournaments where it matters). This is what they do, and they do it well. If you expect them to charge in, build an army of ghosts, and stampede across the battlefield, you'll be disappointed.

Even against an army where everyone features magical weapons, they can be a pest if you have access to Ghost Walk. It doesn't matter that they all die, if they gave you a round to get in position, hog the prime pieces of defensive terrain, and get a control point to force your opponent on the offense. What they bring is confusion, hard choices, and once in a blue moon, an rampaging army of ghosts.

Favorite moment:
  • Lighting eCaine on fire, with the last remaining raider. It forced eCaine back, taking a part of his army with him, when he suddenly reached "one lucky hit" territory in health. He had to divert resources to shielding him, and I won on scenario. Had the game gone another round, eCaine would have burned to death (we rolled the dice to see).

1 comment:

  1. Combined with the right units Blackbanes are simply amazing. I played in a large 4 game tournament today and added a max unit of Bloodgorgers (+Gerlak) and a min unit of Bile Thralls to a max unit of Blackbanes...

    Against the 2 opponents (I always let them go first)with limited access to magic weapons I ran them 14" straight at their single wound troops with the Bloodgorgers running 10" up the middle and the Bile Thralls right beside and 2"-3" behind the Bloodgorgers.

    The with unimpressive stats the Blackbanes were ignored and the huge mob of Bloodgorgers were targeted by everything. The Blackbanes moved in an locked down the enemy troops, the Bile Thralls waddled up past the Bloodgorgers and purged, and purged... The Blackbanes raced to the next target, awaiting the arrival of the next Bile Thrall.

    The min Bile Thrall unit and max Blackbanes together melted at least 75% of the enemy models in every game.

    In the 2 games against opponents with magical weapons I lead with the Bloodgorgers right up the middle, with the Blackbanes just behind. The Bloodgorgers were again pummeled (I love tough rolls while trailing Gerlak) and the Blackbanes raced through my lines and the enemy lines, setting up the Bile Thralls for amazing purge arcs.

    Sending the Bloodgorgers in 2 rows with a 1" gap between them set up easy purge windows when the front row was dropped in close combat. The second row of Bloodgorgers trailing Gerlak still a threat.

    The Blackbanes were worth way more than their points just in timing issues caused to the opponents. Locking down every infantry model with the Blackbanes clogged a majority of the enemy side of the table every game.

    It's hard to suppress maniacal laughter as you purge and wipe out the enemy models, and activate the Blackbanes and lock down the next row of victims...

    Simply amazing...