Goblin Fast Cavalry
Greenskin fast cavalry is actually amongst the best in the game, a lot due to it being Core, fast and dead cheap. It also comes in plastic, which is very handy. If you ask me, no decent greenskin army should be without at least three units of these highly useful gits. This article will deal with Wolf Riders and Spider Riders in detail and give some tips on how to use them best.
Attributes of Goblin fast cavalry
Selecting Goblin fast cavalry
Uses for Goblin fast cavalry
- Flank charges
- Bait and flee
- Cascade charges
- Shooting things
Attributes of Goblin fast cavalry
A Wolf or Spider Rider typically costs 13 points and even if this is a little more expensive than in 6th edition, it is still very cheap considering how useful fast cavalry are in this game. As Gobbo fast cavalry is rather unreliable, their low cost means that it is possible to take a high number of units, and thus compensate for this. This follows the old O&G saying: "Everything counts in large numbers." Dark Elf Dark Riders may individually be much better troops than Wolf Riders, but they die just as easily if hit with a magic missile and costs 50% more than the Wolf Riders.
To make things even better, the fast cavalry is not only cheap points-wise, the models are also fairly easy on the wallet, coming in plastic sets of ten models. Spider Riders are also available in the very cheap Skull Pass set and by splitting two of these sets with a Dwarf player a greenskin General should have all the Spider Riders he can desire.
If you want, you could have an army consisting entirely of fast cavalry, which would certainly be a very unique army in Warhammer terms. For most armies, though, the ability to take an unlimited number of fast cavalry units is a great opportunity, with the limiting factor being how much the models cost. (How many Warhound units would Chaos players field if they came in plastic?) Along with the cheapness of the models, the fact that you can (and should) take a lot of them more than makes up for the weakness of the average Goblin.
A lot of fast cavalry in Warhammer isn't really all that fast. Goblin fast cavalry is, each in its own way - Wolf Riders are fast across open ground, while Spider Riders are fast across terrain, since they are not slowed down when crossing it. For an army where the average warrior has a Movement of 4, the ability to take a lot of very fast units in the army is a great advantage and makes up for a whole lot of the weaknesses of the infantry. I will claim that all types of greenskin armies need some fast units, and especially those that mainly consist of footsloggers. Manoeuverability is such an important aspect of the game that the chance of improving your army's performance in this regard should always be taken, unless you are deliberately planning to make a weak army.
In addition to their flat-out speed comes the fast cavalry ability to make any number of reforms as long as they are not charging or fleeing. Especially when you want to make a 180 degree turn and move off in the other direction is this a great ability, since a normal cavalry unit would not only get a penalty for doing this, they would be unable to march afterwards.
The ability to move quickly across the table and get where you want them to be makes gobbo fast cavalry ideal as units to deploy first. Five Wolf Riders a way out on the flank tells the opponent nothing of your battle plan and if they end up stranded an 18" march move should bring them back to where the action is.
Goblin fast cavalry is not just expendable due to their low cost, thanks to the Size Matters rule they can (in a mostly Orc army) be sacrificed with little concern for Panic tests. Most other armies that have excellent fast cavalry (Empire, Chaos and Dark Elves) do not have this advantage and when you have seen a unit of Chosen Chaos Warrior flee because some nearby Warhounds got zapped to death, you will appreciate how nice it is that the demise of a Goblin will not worry Orcs at all. With the unimpressive Leadership that most greenskin armies have, there are a lot of fast cavalry tactics that are made a lot less risky by the Size Matters.
On the downside, in a mainly Goblin army a fast cavalry unit that is destroyed or flees can cause real problems, both because it can cause Panic in a lot more units, but also because those units will tend to have a lower Leadership. Using Wolf or Spider Riders in an army of Gobbos requires a lot more skill than in an army dominated by larger greenies.
Of course, all the advantages of Gobbo fast cavalry does come with a disadvantage - they cannot be trusted. With the combination of Animostiy and Leadership 6, Wolf and Spider Riders are prone to misbehaving when you least want it, which can be a real problem if you are relying on a single, crucial unit to perform. Happily, most of the time this can be compensated for by taking multiple units. Take a decent number of small units, say three or four units of 5 models, and you should have some units that behave well in a given turn.
Amusingly enough, one of the best thing that can happen to a unit of five gobbo fast cavalry is that one member of the unit is shot to death. Not only is this too few to force a Panic test on them, they will also not have to take Animosity test anymore. Animosity will often turn out to be the bane of fast cavalry, since they will often be placed in dangerous situations and staying there for longer than you need to may mean that they get shot to death. A "We'll Show 'Em" can also be both an advantage or a disadvantage. Obviously, in the first turn, an extra D6" of movement is great, but several times I have had fast cavalry decide to perform suicidal charges against much nastier enemy units close by which they were meant to divert. A sneaky little trick to reduce the chance of this happening is to use the free reform rule to place the cavalry facing away from the enemy unit at the end of their move. You limit what you can charge next turn, but if the task is to bait or divert the enemy unit you are not planning to charge next turn anyway.
And then there is the Waaagh! rule. Since fast cavalry cannot get a rank bonus, when the Waaagh! is called they have a very real chance of crippling themselves if they manage to roll a 1 for their Animosity test. Indeed I have had unlucky units wipe themselves out when a Waaagh! was called. There really isn't much you can do about this, and on the whole it is not worth worrying too much about a 70-point unit of expendable fast cavalry anyway.
Goblin fast cavalry is relatively fragile, compared to the rest of the army. Compared to models in a lot of other armies, a thirteen-point model with Toughness 3 and a 5+ armour save is not that bad, but in the greenskin army you can get a model that is as resilient for a third of the price. As with their unreliability, there is not a whole lot you can do about this, so you might as well learn to live with it - the main task of gobbo fast cavalry is to be put in harm's way, so it is difficult to get them to perform well while still having a decent protection from getting shot, zapped or stabbed. You can try to have a little care for where you place them - there is after all no point in getting the gobbos killed needlessly (though there is a lot of point in getting them killed when you need to).
Selecting Goblin fast cavalry
So, now you know how gobbo fast cavalry works, how should you go about selecting your spider- or wolf-mounted gits, to get the most out of them? This section will tell you all about that.
Goblin Wolf Riders and Spider Riders are good at different things and thus compliment each other nicely, with the wolves being quicker across open terrain and spiders when going through terrain. As Warhammer battlefields don't tend to have all that much terrain, I would say that Wolf Riders are a bit better, but as Spider Riders can do things that no other unit in the army list can do (apart from Squig Hoppers), they have their place as well. Spiders also have a couple of other advantages, which make them more attractive. Firstly, their ability to move through most terrain as if it wasn't there means you can deploy them in places no other unit wants to deploy - in or behind difficult terrain. This saves you space in deployment and means you have to stack fewer units behind each other - a very good thing with a horde army. Secondly, the poisoned attacks of the Spiders make them a bit nastier in close combat, doing an average of 33% more casualties against T3 5+ save wimps and being progressively better the higher the Toughness and the worse the save of the enemy unit. While this is not terribly good and will normally mean no extra casualties against most targets, you don't need all that much luck to get an extra kill.
I would personally recommend that you take both Spider Riders and Wolf Riders in your army, unless you know you are going to be playing on a table with very little or very much terrain. As Wolf Riders are on the whole a bit better, I recommend taking at least two units of these gits and having a ratio of Wolf Riders to Spider Riders of about 2 to 1 (anything from 1 to 1 to 3 to 1 should work okay).
Personally I spend about 10% of my available points of fast cavalry - two units of 5 at 1500 points, three units at 2000 points and four units at 2500 points. This lets me spread them well out and cover most of the battlefield. This again means I have a lot of units that can be deployed very early and usually means that my opponent has to start deploying important units while I am still placing unimportant ones. (Readers of my other tactics articles will know how great a fan I am of having a lot of units to deploy.)
For unit sizes I would recommend either five or six, with five being probably more cost effective. This is because a lot of the things fast cavalry do is not dependant on unit size at all or does not require a large unit. To prevent enemy units nearby from making march moves, for example, is not dependant at all on Unit Strength, while a Unit Strength of 5 is all you need to remove enemy rank bonuses when you charge them in the flank or rear. A larger unit is a bit more resistant to missile damage, but you quickly reach the level where two units would be more useful than one big one. Take Panic tests, for example. On a unit of five fast cavalry, you need to kill two models to force a test. On a unit of ten models, however, you need to kill three, which is less than twice the number required for a unit of half the size. Clearly a case of diminishing returns. Furthermore, to neutralize two small units you need to hit them both. Whereas a lucky Fire Ball or other magic missile can force a Panic test on a unit of ten fast cavalry, you need two spells to force tests on two different units, which is much more difficult.
It must be admitted that bigger units do have some advantages, the greatest being that they are more difficult to destroy completely. Since a unit that is destroyed forces Panic tests on all units within 6", a small unit of fast cavalry that gets blasted to death in the first enemy turn - before you get a chance to move them - can cause a lot of unwelcome tests for your army. This can be avoided by taking bigger units, but it can also be avoided by good deployment (a unit of Spider Riders behind a wood are very difficult to target), by keeping a high-Leadership General (or a Big Red Raggedy banner) nearby or by making sure that the units nearby are Orcs, who don't care if Goblins die.
So, summing up, three or four units of five or six models are usually a decent number. As mentioned above, most of these should be Wolf Riders, but a unit or two of Spider Riders are also a good addition to your army.
As this article will only deal with fast cavalry, I will not talk about shields for Wolf Riders here, other than to express my annoyance for the fact that the new army book makes shields the decider between fast and non-fast cavalry, whereas it previously was light armour that made the difference. It is obvious that the army book writers care little about those of us with established armies.
With that out of the way, the question is spears and / or short bows for Wolf Riders, and short bows in addition to spears for Spider Riders. Everything is quite cheap (assuming you do the wise thing and use small units, that is), so it does not matter much if you take too much gear. It is hardly going to break the bank and there aren't any disadvantages to it anyway. That being said, spears for Wolf Riders are very rarely a bad buy. Assuming that you do end up charging something with them, the extra damage done with Strength 4 rather than 3 can be very good, and at 5 or 6 points per unit there is very little reason not to buy them. I have a unit of old metal Wolf Riders with short bows which I quite like and do not want to convert, I consider that to be one of the few reasons not to have spears.
On the questions of short bows for your fast cavalry, you must understand that you are probably not going to kill anything with them, and that taking a unit of fast cavalry with the intent of using them to shoot things is probably a wasted effort. If you want to achieve anything with Strength 3, BS 3 missile fire you will need either a lot of it, or a lot of luck. Okay, so once and again you might kill something of value (I once killed a Chosen Knight of Tzeentch with a volley of short bow fire from a bait unit), but these things will happen very rarely. Beware of taking these statistically unlikely events to mean anything. On the positive side, they are once again a very cheap option, but spears are significantly better for the same cost, so taking short bows instead of spears is not a good buy, while taking short bows in addition to spears is not all that bad. At least a fast cavalry unit can fire even after they have marched or after a feigned flight, and can fire all round. Still you should not be surprised if your fast cavalry goes through an entire game without killing anything at all. If you take them, take them as a fun option and don't hope to get much out of it.
This part can be written very short: Take a musician and none of the other two options.
Musicians are great for Ld 6 units who flee a lot, as the chance of rallying goes up by 40%, from 15/36 to 21/36. It is also the cheapest option, cannot be lost and lets you win combats on ties. It might not always make a difference, but for a very low 6 points I always take one, but then I buy musicians for everything all the time anyway - I really think they are a great option.
A Boss, on the other hand, is not very good. For the cost of another cavalryman you gain another WS 2 attack, which is not very good, and the option to issue or accept challenges, which is essentially meaningless in a fast cavalry unit as the chance almost never crops up. When you are in combat, it should either be in the flank of a unit (nothing much to challenge there) or against a war machine crew or other weak unit (ditto). An extra model is a far better buy and so is pretty much every other thing you could spend the points on.
Taking a standard bearer in a unit of fast cavalry need not be idiotic, but it will often be so in a greenskin army. This is because Wolf Riders or Spider Riders will often be called upon to nobly sacrifice themselves to redirect some big, nasty unit, and in such a case the 100 extra Victory Points the enemy unit gets for capturing the greenies' standard will more than double the points they get for destroying the unit. Against weaker units the +1 CR from the standard might come in handy, but buying another model for the unit will often achieve the same and does not lose you a lot of Victory Points if things go wrong. If you have ended up with a standard bearer model, consider converting the standard pole to a spear instead!
Uses for Goblin fast cavalry
Having learned how Goblin fast cavalry works and how to select it, here is a list of possible uses for your fast cavalry. As you can see, it is quite a long list, which should convince you how excellent fast cavalry is.
The first use for fast cavalry comes already when you deploy it. Because they have the ability to rapidly get where they want to be, it is not very important where you place them, and so you can set them out early without giving away anything of your masterful battle plan. Once you have finished deploying your fast cavalry - along with your Pump Wagons, Snotlings and other riff-raff - the opponent should be well into deploying his important units while you have yet to put something on the table that commits you to a particular plan.
Of course, some thought in placing your units is always required, even if they are cheap and fast support units. Firstly you must take into account the unreliability of gobbo fast cavalry. With Animosity being potentially more crippling than it was in 6th edition, you really do not want to place units behind each other more than you have to. A single unit that is subject to Animosity will have a one-sixth chance of being unable to do anything for a turn, but if you place another Animosity-prone unit in front of it, the chance increases to almost one third. The fast cavalry units have some advantages here. Firstly, since they are quite fast, you can stick them far out on the flanks, where few other units are. There is not much to get in the way of there and the fast cavalry should still be able to get where they need to be within a turn or two. Secondly, Spider Riders can be deployed in or behind difficult terrain, a place where few other greenskin units want to be. Thirdly, you sometimes get terrain in your deployment zone which is placed such that there is only a narrow clear strip in front of it, where you can deploy your units. The fast cavalry can be placed there, as they tend to only come in formations 2" deep. Fourthly, you can take advantage of the fast cavalry's ability to make free reforms to deploy the fast cavalry only two or three models wide. This will give you a nice, narrow formation which is much easier to fit into your deployment zone.
If you are able to predict where your opponent will deploy his opponent units, you can also deploy those fast cavalry units that are set to do nasty or annoying things to them in a good position to do so. Thus, if your opponent has one hill in his deployment zone and you think he will deploy his cannon there, then setting up a unit or two of fast cavalry to be well placed to take it out may be wise. Remember though that fast cavalry can move so swiftly that they can charge most things in turn 2 anyway, so a position that suits your other units may be better than one that is slightly closer to the intended target.
Flank (or rear) charges may be the bane of inexperienced players, but against someone with a bit of skill they don't tend to happen all that often. However, even a skilled player must normally take steps to avoid being flanked and so a unit that can threaten to do this is very useful. If you have nothing that can threaten his flanks, then your opponent can move around the table with much greater freedom. This is naturally something you should seek to prevent. With their high Movement rate and ability to make free reforms, fast cavalry is great at threatening flank charges. Spend the first turn or two setting up a flank charge and then charge in with some other unit. As Goblin fast cavalry is somewhat unimpressive in combat, you will probably need another unit to team up with, as the gobbos on their own are often unlikely to win the combat by enough to break the enemy unit. Sometimes they will even lose. Good partners for fast cavalry in this regard are other (heavier) cavalry, infantry (if you are lucky or the opponent is careless) or big critters, such as Trolls or characters on Wyverns.
A flank charge, when it happens, serves two reasons. Firstly, if you have a Unit Strength of 5 at the start of the close combat phase you will remove any rank bonus the enemy unit will normally get. This happens even if you are reduced below US 5 during the combat. Losing up to three points of CR can make a huge difference, particularly to units that normally live by their static CR (i.e. infantry units that cannot fight). Instead you will get +1 to your CR if you still have Unit Strength 5 or more at the end of the combat. If you get chopped up so that your US drops below this level, you will not get the flank bonus and you might very well be in deep trouble. Beware flank charges against Dwarfs (who hate Goblins) with great weapons. The second benefit is that you get a stab at killing some enemies yourself. Neither spears or hand weapons & shields give a bonus against enemies in their flank or rear, which can make quite resilient targets much easier to kill. Furthermore, not seldom will you have more models in contact than the enemy does, particularly when the enemy unit is less deep.
The ideal flank charge involves using two units that are both able to remove rank bonuses, placed so that it is impossible for the enemy unit to move in such a way that it will not be charged in the flank or rear next turn. Some people make the mistake of placing their flanking units so that they are at a 90 degree angle relative to each other and this is rarely enough to ensure a flank charge. If you look at the left part of the illustration below you can see that the enemy (red) unit has turned in such a way that both greenskin (green) units are in its front arc. Instead, something like 120 degrees will usually be needed, as shown in the right part of the illustration.
Of course, with gobbo fast cav being an unreliable as they are, there is a significant chance that a plan will be spoiled due to one or more units squabbling. This can be avoided with decent luck on the Animosity test or by taking extra units as back-up.
Be aware, though, that some units are too nasty for a flank or rear charge to have any effect. Chosen Knights, for example, are much to tough for the fast cavalry to have any significant chance at hurting them, tend not to have ranks anyway and even only one knight fighting back can kill a couple of Wolf or Spider Riders with not too much luck, negating any advantage you got out of the flank charge.
I have lumped the charging of all types of weak targets into a single category. These targets include war machines, wizards and other fragile characters other fast cavalry, skirmishers and chariots. All these units have in common that they are quite vulnerable to getting charged, and fast cavalry are quite good at this, since they (as the name suggests) move quite fast. I will not talk too much about this, as I believe it should be reasonably self-explanatory. What you do need to learn, though, is which targets are soft enough to be defeated by fast cavalry, and which are not. This all depends on that stats and special rules of the target. For example: Bretonnian Mounted Yeomen are a prime example of hostile fast cavalry that gobbo fast cavalry can take out. Marauder Cavalry with flails, however, do not make good targets for the greenies. Remember that gobbos do not fight all that well, will rarely do more than two wounds to their target and will often take damage in return. Quite often will you only win the combat due to your Unit Strength or by the fact that you have a musician and the enemy unit does not.
I would also like to make a couple of comments regarding targets which seem soft but are not, and vice-versa. A unit of missile troops are an example of the former. They might not fight very well, but a stand and shoot charge reaction against fast cavalry have a decent chance of causing enough casualties for a Panic test. In this case it will certainly help to have the General nearby (should you be so lucky), though you will often find that the damage done makes the gobbos ineffective in combat even if the Panic test is passed. Missile units should only really be charged in the flank / rear, or when you start within your basic Movement distance, when they will be unable to stand and shoot. The second example, something that looks hard but is really soft, is a fragile character inside a unit. Some armies, most notably both types of Undead plus Skaven and some Elves, have very nasty Wizards that you really need to take out as soon as possible. A heroic charge against the front of the unit will often lead to a unit the fast cavalry is going to lose by heaps, but may give you the chance to make a good number of attacks at the enemy character. This might not kill them, but a Wound caused will certainly make them worried about an unlucky Miscast or a further hit and run attack. Just make sure that you are not giving the enemy unit a good chance at a pursuit roll with a glorious charge following next turn.
This is the bane of any big and nasty, but unsupported unit. A fast cavalry unit is moved up right in front of the enemy unit and angled so that if the enemy charges they will end up facing in a direction they do not want to be. Often this will be so that other of your units have a good chance of charging the enemy unit next turn, possible into the enemy flank, if you are very lucky. Most players will not fall for such obvious plans unless they are forced to by some special rule, such as Frenzy, which forces a unit to charge if it can. The enemy unit can then either remain where it is, or spend a lot time trying to go around the fast cavalry. In either case you can just repeat the procedure with your fast cavalry next turn, which can lead to you holding up a very expensive unit with your 70 point fast cavalry unit. The illustration below shows the basic principles of diverting, even if the distance between the enemy unit (blue) and the counter-charging (big, green) unit is unrealistically short.
When diverting, you must take into account that your unit will normally be broken and flee. The enemy may then have the option to restrain pursuit (unless he is forced to pursue by some special rule, such as Hatred or Frenzy). Thus, at the end of the turn, the enemy unit may either be where he was when he charged, or he may have made a pursuit roll and you must have a plan for either of these occurrences. If a pursuit roll means that the enemy unit will be set up nicely for a charge by your other units, then he will normally try to restrain pursuit and most of the time be able to. Any plan of yours that hinges on an unwise or unlucky pursuit move is therefore not very likely to succeed and you must try to make it advantageous (for yourself) whether he pursues or not. If you can do this subtly, for example by having the counter-charging unit being equipped with the Waaagh! Banner so that they may be placed where they may seem to be out or range, then so much the better. The most likely result is though that the enemy unit does not charge at all.
Of course, sometimes you might not have a unit ready to perform a counter charge at all, and what you are hoping to do is to simply getting the enemy unit out of the way for a while. Diverting Frenzied units so that they pursue or overrun into difficult terrain and get stuck there for the rest of the game is great and well worth the sacrifice of a fast cavalry unit. Alternatively, you may want to divert a unit so that you can continue shooting at it, and possibly hope to get a flank shot at those knights with your Spear Chukkas. This is a bit of a lose-lose situation for the enemy unit, as they will most likely be shot at no matter what they do.
Finally, a word of warning. As Goblin fast cavalry suffers from Animosity, staying just out of reach of the enemy is a bit dependant on good dice rolls.
Somewhat similar to diverting is the bait and flee. In fact, a unit may be set up to either divert or flee, depending on the circumstances. Essentially, the idea behind the bait and flee is that you set up a unit (the bait) somewhere in the path of the enemy unit. The enemy unit charges the bait, which flees and either gets caught or escapes. This move will in return set them up for a counter-charge by one or more of your other units. With Goblins I have found that you might as well set them up to get caught - they are cheap and that makes sure they don't get in the way later. You do this by setting them up very close to the enemy, which means that against a unit with a good charge range, unless the bait unit rolls very high for its flee roll, they will be run down and the enemy unit will make a full charge move forward. This makes it much easier to charge them than if they just move a failed charge move. Against infantry a bait unit is unlikely to be run down. This is in some ways good (the bait may rally and be useable again later), and in some ways bad (they may end up rallying right in the path of a unit that wanted to charge). On the bright side, it is much easier to set up infantry as the victims of a counter-charge, since the difference between a full and a failed charge move is a lot smaller than with cavalry. In this edition, fleeing units will move right through friendly units, which gets them out of the way, and if the unit fled through was an Orc unit, no Panic test will be needed.
The things that apply for diverting mainly applies to the bait and flee as well - it will generally be rather obvious and when it looks excessively risky then few people will fall for it, in which case it buys you time instead. Similarly, the unreliability of greenskin fast cavalry must be kept in mind. The difference between diverting and bait and flee is that in the latter case the orientation of the bait unit doesn't matter, only the position of the unit's center. Of course, you may choose to angle the unit anyway, just to confuse the opponent.
There are of course ways of countering the bait and flee, as described in my article on Tactics for Dummies.
Harassment involves stopping the enemy from going where he wants to go and basically slowing him down. I consider there to be two main aspects to harassment. The first is stopping units from making march moves by being within 8" of them. This is particularly good for keeping slow, isolated units stranded away from the action. This tactic works especially well with the tactic of delayed deployment illustrated above. If you can make sure that the opponent has to start deploying important units before you do, you can deploy all your important units far away from them and leave them stranded. Expensive infantry are particularly vulnerable to this. Then, when the enemy unit needs three turns of march moves to get into a worthwhile combat, you can double the time needed by preventing him from marching. Fast cavalry are great at march blocking, since they have a good movement rate and can reform at will. Ideally speaking you want to stay in his flank or rear zone, where he cannot charge you. While you are there, you might also use the time to shoot him a bit, though as mentioned above, you are unlikely to make a noticeable impact. If you set a fast cavalry unit to do march blocking duty, take care that an unlucky Animosity test results in the gobbos deciding to show the rest of the army how it's done by charging the unit they were meant to harass. if it's a nasty unit, then the most likely result is that the fast cavalry get beaten and run away, while the enemy unit restrain pursuit and do as they please next turn. For this reason it can be good to have the fast cavalry end up facing the away from the enemy unit, utilizing their ability to reform as often as they like.
The other aspect to harassment is to stop enemy units from turning by placing a unit so that they will be charged in the flank if they do so. As a stranded unit will normally have to wheel and move along the table to get to where the action is, fear of getting flanked may prevent them from getting there entirely. This tactic only works if the opponent believes that the fast cavalry can threaten his unit. If the likely result of a flank charge is a lot of splatted gobbos, then it probably will not work. Against units that are less able in close combat, a flank charge by fast cavalry alone might not break the enemy unit, but it might end up being locked in combat for some time, which is also useful.
When fast cavalry screens a friendly unit, the object is to protect the other unit from being shot at or led astray by a unit attempting to bait or divert it. The concept of using lighter units, such as fast cavalry to screen more expensive units is something that a lot of armies engage in, and to be frank the greenskins are a bit bad at it. Firstly because the screening unit is suffering from Animosity and therefore unreliable. There is a decent chance that instead of being useful, the fast cavalry ends up being an obstacle to the unit they were set up to protect. Secondly, the fast cavalry is not much cheaper (on a points per wound basis) than the units they will probably be set to protect (Boar Boyz of various types) in addition to being much more vulnerable to being shot. The concept works much better in a Chaos army, where 6-point reliable Warhounds can screen 45-point Chosen Knights. Anyway, the idea behind screening is that the unit that works as a screen interposes themselves between any nasty, missile unit or war machine and the unit they are set to protect. The enemy unit will not be able to shoot at the unit they want to (unless it is a Large target, or the firing unit is on a hill) and must shoot something else instead. My opinion is that screening is much better left to other armies (it works much better in my Ogre Kingdoms army, where Bulls frequently screen Maneaters, for example).
The second way of screening something is to stop them from being led astray and greenies are much better at this task. Savage Orcs, and Savage Orc Boar Boyz in particular, are vulnerable to this, as their Frenzy forces them to charge if they have an enemy unit within reach. With the extra long charge range of the Boar Boyz, this is an extra large problem for them. Enemy fast cavalry units will like nothing better than to sneak just inside the charge range of the Savages while being out to the side. This forces the wild 'uns to charge off at an angle far away from where they want to go, leading to nothing good. Fast cavalry can in this regard work as blinkers, being deployed slightly ahead and to the side of the unit they are set to protect. This narrows their charge arc considerably, and makes it much more difficult to sabotage your plans. You may want to initially place the fast cavalry so that they are blocking the charge arc of the Savage Boar Boyz completely, but as mentioned many times before, this may lead to a road block if the fast cavalry decides to Squabble. The illustration below shows two units of gobbo fast cavalry screening a larger block of Savage Orcs, making sure that they can only charge forward and cannot be lured off at an angle.
This concept does not have a name in Warhammer Fantasy Battles, so it has ended up borrowing a name from an older edition of Warhammer 40,000 (the rule was dropped from 40K in the latest version, with nobody appearing to miss it...). It covers those situations where a unit ends up fleeing through an enemy unit with a Unit Strength of 5 or more, which means that they are immediately destroyed. My personally feeling is that attempting to set up these situations are a bit optimistic and discussion has often given the impression that breaking a unit is the easy part and running them down is what normally presents a problem, whereas I would argue that it's the other way around. In any case, if you want to set up a crossfire, there are few units in the greenskin army that does it better than fast cavalry, who have the speed to get around the flanks of the enemy army and line up behind his units so that if they break they will almost certainly be destroyed. My experience has shown that occasionally you do get a crossfire with fast cavalry, though more often than not it has been accidental and caused by enemy units breaking and fleeing into Wolf or Spider Riders who are attacking war machines behind enemy lines.
This is another new concept in 7th edition of Warhammer and aims to take advantage of the fact that a unit that pursues into a combat that has not been fought yet can fight again for a second time in a single turn. As with flank charges this is probably something you will not get to do very often against experienced opponents, but that does not mean that they will not have to protect against it. Again, fast cavalry are good at pulling it off You need (at least) one other unit to pull it off, preferably a nasty combat unit, such as a tooled up unit of Boar Boyz, Black Orcs or Big 'Uns. This main attacking unit charges a no too tough enemy unit, while the fast cavalry charges a second enemy unit that is placed so that your main attacking unit will pursue or overrun into it if their original target breaks and flees. You then hope that after giving you this nice, lovely setup, your opponent does not do something that will ruin your plan, such as fleeing from one of the charges. In the close combat phase you make sure to resolve the combat involving the main attacking unit first, which should hopefully let it fight twice and break two units in the same turn. So far I have not been able to pull this trick off against competent players, though it has worked several times against less able ones. It certainly helps if the original target of your main attacking unit is unable to flee.
The virtues of fast cavalry with missile weapons has been mentioned above (naturally it was a brief mention, as these virtues are few), though I feel that I should perhaps expand on the subject somewhat. Firstly, buying short bows for Wolf or Spider Riders is generally a waste of points, but as the cost is so low, it is not a terrible idea. Secondly, every turn you decide "This turn I shall use my fast cavalry to shoot that other unit." is probably a turn wasted. Any damage that does not result from extreme luck is unlikely to be noticeable. Be very skeptical of other people recommending short bows on the basis of a fluky event where their Wolf Riders once shot a Chosen Knight of Tzeentch to death. Half a dozen short bows is unlikely to stop anyone from doing anything. Further reasons for why this is a bad idea can be found in my article on Greenskin Archery.
That being said, if you do want to hope you'll get very lucky and shooting something significant, then it is better to spend half a dozen points to let a fast cavalry do this, than to spend ten times as much on a unit of Goblin infantry with short bows. At least the fast cavalry can shoot while they are doing other things, whereas infantry who want to shoot will generally be unable to perform any other task with any skill at all. But whatever you do, do not give large units of Wolf Riders or Spider Riders short bows (for that matter, avoid large units of fast cavalry at any cost). Very few members of the unit will be able to fire and you are just taking a unit that can perform no task well.
Finally, a word on running after lone characters and attempting to shoot them full of arrows: It will not work unless your opponent is an idiot (though of course some players are idiots). The average damage per turn from a unit of five fast cavalry is less than half a Wound, even against unarmoured Toughness 3 characters. Yes, bothering single characters with fast cavalry and charging them if you get the chance is quite a good idea, but he will probably die of old age before you can kill him with short bows.
Other related articles
- Goblin Cavalry Performance
- Goblin Units and Characters
- Uses for Goblin Infantry
- Greenskin Chariots
- Greenskin Archery
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