Greenskin Medium Cavalry
The subject of this article is a group of units not clearly defined anywhere, but united by certain common traits. Typically they fall somewhere in between the very light fast cavalry units and the heavy cavalry (knight) units on the other. Unlike the former they (obviously) lack the fast cavalry rule, which means they have less manoeuverability and they do not have the equipment or the improved stats and special rules of the latter. In most cases, a medium cavalryman is just an infantryman mounted on a steed, with no special rules added. They tend to carry spears while heavy cavalry usually have lances, wear only light armour and ride steeds with no barding. Thus they only get +1 Strength when charging and have a 3+ armour save at best. Essentially, medium cavalry are not that manoeuverable, not that hard-hitting and tends to die rather quickly if shot at. Prime examples of medium cavalry are Orc Boar Boyz, Goblin Wolf Riders with shields, Saurus Cavalry, Tomb King "Heavy" Cavalry and Bretonnian Mounted Yeomen with shields. Chaos Centigors and stripped-down High Elf Silver Helms also work much like medium cavalry and you might also include Wood Elf Wild Riders, who are fast cavalry and do have a lot of special rules, but who are used a lot like medium cavalry.
This article deals with the five types of medium cavalry available to the Orcs & Goblins army: Goblin Wolf Riders with shields, Orc Boar Boyz, Orc Boar Boy Big 'Uns, Savage Orc Boar Boyz and Savage Orc Boar Boy Big 'Uns.
Attributes of greenskin medium cavalry
Selecting greenskin medium cavalry
- Types of medium cavalry
- Rank bonus - do you want it?
- Unit size
- Equipment upgrades
- Command options
- Including characters
Using greenskin medium cavalry
Attributes of greenskin medium cavalry
It should be stated right from the beginning that greenskin medium cavalry are not terribly good units. While other units in the army list have gotten cheaper or better (or both) over the years, the medium cavalry have actually gotten worse and are actually more expensive in this edition than in the previous one.
The primary reason for taking cavalry of any type, greenskin medium cavalry
move about twice as fast as the infantry (a little less in the case of boars, a
little more in the case of wolves) and get to roll 3D6 for pursuit and flee
moves. This is the greatest advantage of these units, as it means you get to
pick your fights more often than not. Most obviously, being faster means you
can attack enemy units sooner and it is more difficult for them to avoid you.
There is much less risk of units being isolated and not being able to do
anything and you can be more certain of getting the most out of your expensive
fighter characters. Take a Dwarf Lord, for example, he is very tough and very
nasty in combat, but as he is reduced to moving around at Dwarf speed, he might
not ever get into a combat, in which case he is mostly a waste of points. A
character in a cavalry unit, on the other hand, can get into three or more
combats in the same battle and therefore being much more useful.
Secondly, it is less obvious where you will be going. An infantry unit moves quite slowly and once in range of an enemy unit, it will probably be limited to charging just that single unit. A cavalry unit with good movement, on the other hand, might threaten many units at the same time, giving your opponent much more to worry about and letting you choose the target you think you are most likely to be able to defeat.
Thirdly, the good movement means that several of your units, placed quite far apart, can gang up on an unsuspecting opponent. Again you are more able to pick your fights instead of reacting to what your opponent is doing.
And, of course, being able to move faster means that your opponent gets less turns to shoot at you and you can get quicker out of difficult terrain (some people have this odd idea that terrain hampers cavalry more than infantry, which is certainly not true). Cavalry units move quicker and therefore spends less time in bad places.
Last, but not least, being able to roll 3D6 for pursuit means that more than four times out of five you will run down a fleeing infantry unit while being able to roll 3D6 for flee moves means that even if an infantry unit breaks you, they will need to be very lucky to run you down (though of course you will be more likely to flee off the table).
The greenskin medium cavalry hit somewhat harder than the infantry versions, which is mainly due to the steeds (wolves and boars). Goblin Wolf Riders with spears also hit harder than any gobbo on foot, though Orcs on boars fight worse than Orcs on foot, since the choppa is now such an excellent weapon that it gives +1 Strength even if the bearer is charged, which is not the case with a cavalryman's spear. Unfortunately, though, choppas do nothing special for mounted models and thus an Orc Boar Boy who charges will do just the same damage as an Orc Boy with a choppa and a shield. On the bright side, boars fight very well with Strength 5 on the charge, which means that they are actually better fighter than normal Orc riders. And the 7th edition rule that gives mounts +1 Attack when their rider is frenzied (I know that many people are not aware of this, but it is really true) means that the boars ridden by Savage Orcs are very nasty with two S5 attacks each. In units of normal Orc Boar Boyz, nearly all the damage will be done by the Boss and the boars (in the first four battles with my all-mounted list, the rank and file Orc Boar Boyz did just one wound in total). It is said that steeds always do more damage than their riders and with Orcs & Goblins that is quite often true.
In some cases, though, the riders can actually fight. A Savage Orc Boar Boy Big 'Un is a prime example of this, with the rider having two WS4 S5 attacks when charging (which is better than the boar's since the rider has a higher Weapon Skill). You are mainly buying medium cavalry for their hitting power and that varies quite a bit from unit to unit. Wolf Riders are not surprisingly the least deadly with one S3 and one S4 attack each, but it is worth noting that normal Savage Orc Boar Boyz (at 25 pts each) do more damage than Orc Boar Boy Big 'Uns (at 30 pts each). Taking a unit of 6 normal Orc Boar Boyz with a full command group as the basic example, the unit will do about 5 wounds of damage against a unit of rather wimpy enemy troops. Add to that a +1 CR for the standard and you are looking at a narrow win against a unit with a full rank bonus, standard and outnumbering; probably not enough to give you a good chance of breaking them. The problem with that is that getting a better combat result score is rather difficult, as a rank bonus is overly expensive. Thus your options are mostly to either add a character to the unit or to take a more hard-hitting cavalry unit instead. Both of these solutions have their problems, the former being that the number of character choices you have will be rather limited and the latter that the nastier cavalry types either cost significantly more and/or are vulnerable to being diverted due to frenzy. A third option is to back up the cavalry with other units, a subject that will be debated below.
Medium cavalry units are reasonably tough, but not that tough. They have better armour than infantry units have, but only one or two points better. Empire Knights, on the other hand, have four points better armour than Empire infantry. Thus you should not overestimate the resilience of your cavalry units and not let them get shot at more than you strictly need to. This becomes a problem when combined with the fact that medium cavalry units normally get most of their combat result score from killing people - if your plan hinges on having six Boar Boyz all fighting then losing two of them to enemy handgunner fire can easily be disastrous. The solution, besides using screening troops and making every effort to take out enemy firepower units, is often to take more models, either more units or bigger units. If you need six models fighting but take two extra models in the second rank then you can afford to suffer two casualties without fighting any worse.
My second army is Ogre Kingdoms and the problem is not unknown there - the models are tough, but not that tough (they may have Toughness 4 and 3 Wounds each, but they have next to no armour save). Thus I often take a unit of four rank and file Ogres, plus a character. The unit will be deployed four wide with the last model going in the second rank and stepping forward if one is killed. Alternatively one can field many smaller units of Ogres and having no models in the second rank at all. This is often more effective as every model will be in a position to fight and two units that have been damaged by shooting can gang up on the same enemy unit (due to the extra pursuit moves you get, two smaller units are often more effective than one big one). As I will soon describe, this is often difficult to do in a greenskin army and taking bigger units can be more attractive.
The biggest limiting factor for medium cavalry (as I see it) is that with the exception of eavy Wolf Riders they each take up a Special choice while not really being all that special. In my opinion, it would have been much better if only Boar Boy Big Uns were Special, while normal Boar Boyz (of both types) were Core choices. That way you could field several smaller units of Boar Boyz working together, at which level the units are more effective. As it is, there are so many unit types that contribute much more to the army (squigs, chariots, war machines) that I am reluctant to spend my precious Special choices on cavalry. At higher points levels this is less of a problem, as you will get more Special choices to play around with, but when I only have three or four Special choices I'd prefer to spend them on something else.
Annoyingly, this is the first version of Warhammer for more than a decade when it is not possible to get around the limitation on Boar Boyz; back in 4th and 5th edition you could have however many units you wanted and in 6th edition there was the 'Ardboyz list with Boar Boyz as Core (for some reason) and the unofficial Nomadic Badlands list that focused on cavalry. Nowadays it just seems more difficult to field themed lists, for some reason.
Medium cavalry is expensive, costing around three times as much as a
similarly-equipped infantryman would (e.g.. an Orc Big Un on foot with a
spear, shield and light armour is 11 points, the same model on a boar is 30
points). For that extra cost you do get a very good mount (wolves are very fast
while boars are tough and fight very well on the charge), but it is debatable
if that is enough. Any unit that is tough enough to withstand some damage is
going to be very expensive and cheaper units aren't really doing anything that
you couldn't do just as well with gobbo fast cavalry instead.
One of the basic problems with medium cavalry is their cost, which comes bundled with an unimpressive survivability and a not too great hitting power. This varies of course, from eavy Wolf Riders who are not overly expensive but fight badly and die really easily, to Savage Orc Boar Boy Big Uns, who have four Strength 5 attacks each when charging, but cost as much as a Chaos Knight.
Here it is worth adding a little not on how the cost of cavalry models has been worked out over the years. Back in 4th/5th edition there was a set price for steeds (a Warboss could get a boar for a mere 8 points) and a cavalry model cost was essentially that cost plus twice the cost of the model riding it. In sixth edition, however, the price of a steed for a trooper was half the cost a Hero paid for it plus two points, the cost of the rider was not doubled and he only paid an extra point for his armour. In 7th edition it appears that points costs have been more or less arbitrarily decided upon, which amongst other things have given us Orc Boar Boyz that are only 1 point cheaper than Empire Knights. It is certainly a mystery to me why 'eavy Wolf Riders went up 2 pts this while lesser Boar Boyz of both types went up 4 points and Boar Boy Big 'Uns of both types went up 8(!) points.
Greenskin medium cavalry suffer all the usual reliability problems of other greenskin units (Animosity, Leadership 6 or 7, possibly also Frenzy) and also have the problem of coming in smaller units than other greenskins, which makes it easier for an opponent to force them to take Panic tests (frenzied Savage Boar Boyz are of course immune to this). This is not a good thing in a unit that really needs to be charging to be effective and a squabble at the wrong time can really ruin a cavalry unit's day, especially considering the cost of the unit. You can limit the problems somewhat by adding characters to the unit and/or blocking enemy units' lines of fire with terrain or more expendable units, but that greatly adds to the cost of the unit without really being all that much of an advantage. I would always make sure that my medium cavalry units have an effective Leadership of at least 8 and preferably 9, either from a character in the unit or the general being nearby. The exception is Savage Boar Boyz, who should not be taking Leadership tests if things are not going very wrong.
Animosity is especially tough on medium cavalry, as they fight so much worse when they are charged instead of charging and the only way around Animosity (other than taking Azhag) is to place a Black Orc character in the unit. The problem with that plan is that the D6 S5 hits from Quell Animosity can cripple the unit and thus end up being worse than simply squabbling for a turn. Personally I never take Black Orcs in my cavalry units, preferring to keep my characters the same race as the troopers.
Similarly, the new Waaagh! special rule is mainly a disadvantage for medium cavalry, since they do not usually have enough of a rank bonus to get much out of it and losing D6 models when squabbling is very harsh. My all-mounted list never uses this special rule at all because it will probably do me more harm than good. The only time when Waaagh! is a benefit to medium cavalry is when you only have a single unit of them in an otherwise standard army and place your general in the unit to give it that automatic +D6 move when the Waaagh! is called, but that is a very specific tactic and gives you a rather costly unit.
Savage Boar Boyz of both types must charge if able to, which makes them vulnerable to being lured out of line by enemy fast cavalry or other similar units. This can be a big problem, but I have found that if you keep a unit of Wolf or Spider Riders in front of the Savages to block their charge path until turn 2 or 3, they will be in range of enough targets to given them something viable to charge. This of course runs the risk that the unit in front squabbles and holds up the Savages, though with a little luck and some good placement the only critical test should be the first one and even if that is failed, the unit has only been delayed one turn (assuming the cavalry doesn't keep squabbling, that is).
Selecting greenskin medium cavalry
Assuming that you have not been discouraged by the above and simply gone for more infantry, chariots, war machines, squigs or whatever instead of the medium cavalry, here comes a little guide to how to choose your units.
Types of medium cavalry
At your disposal you have five different units and I will now rapidly go
Goblin Wolf Riders with shields: Relatively cheap and (more importantly) Core makes this unit a contender for the best medium cavalry unit. Unfortunately they die very easily, don't fight very well and have rubbish Leadership, so you will want to select their targets with care and keep your general nearby to keep them in line. Needs to be backed up by a Big Boss or a Wolf Chariot (or both) if you want to take on anything reasonably competent.
Orc Boar Boyz: The only Boar Boy unit I would consider taking in two ranks. More useful as a bodyguard for a decent fighter character than for anything else. The poor quality of the rank and file riders are an annoyance considering that they take up a Special choice.
Orc Boar Boy Big 'Uns: The least useful unit, as I see it. The improved combat stats do not make up for the increase in cost, especially since they are still Leadership 7 and die just as quickly as lesser Boar Boyz.
Savage Orc Boar Boyz: Fights twice as well as regular Orc Boar Boyz for only three points more (they actually fight better than regular Boar Boy Big 'Uns, for five points less) and don't take psychology tests. Must be supported by fast cavalry (or something similar) for the first turn or two, to keep them from charging something inappropriate.
Savage Orc Boar Boy Big 'Uns: The Big 'Uns upgrade is actually not too bad in this case, as you are essentially upgrading twice as many attacks for the same cost compared to regular Big 'Uns. One of my favourite medium cavalry units as they fight well enough not to need a character to help them out and while they are frenzied, their mediocre Leadership is not a problem. Needs to be kept under control just as much as lesser Savage Boar Boyz, though.
Rank bonus - do you want it?
In reality, you are probably not going to be aiming for all that much of a
rank bonus. This is partly due to the very high cost of the rank bonus (which
has a minimum cost of 70 to 165 points, depending on the unit type) and the
fact that you need five models for a rank bonus in this edition. Take normal
Orc Boar Boyz as an example, with a unit of ten models (220 points with no
command options) you can have a +1 rank bonus, but if you lose a single model
from that unit, you suddenly have no rank bonus at all. Thus ranks that are
just five models wide can be a rather risky investment.
An option if you want a rank bonus is to go for slightly more models than you need for rank bonus, for example by going for ranks that are six or seven models wide or by taking a unit that is five models wide and having an incomplete rear rank. Fifteen Orc Boar Boyz in three ranks of five is rather expensive and will probably not retain a +2 rank bonus when they get into combat. Meanwhile, a unit of twelve in two ranks of 6 (possibly with an extra model in the third rank) will probably get the same rank bonus, costs quite a bit less and has one more model fighting.
Of course, if you don't expect to be facing much in the way of firepower, you can go with just enough models for a rank bonus with more confidence. Fifteen eavy Wolf Riders (one of them a Big Boss) are not all that expensive, very fast and can both have a reasonably high static CR and do some damage.
My own rule of thumb is that units should not cost more than approximately
300 points and preferably a main unit should fall somewhere between 200 and 250
points. I believe this gives you a good number of fighting units for a balanced
and flexible list. Typically this gives you around seven Boar Boy Big
Uns, a little more than ten lesser Boar Boyz and a little over fifteen
eavy Wolf Riders. These then are the maximum numbers. The main reason I
see to go with a larger unit than just five or six models (typical unit sizes
for fast cavalry) is ablative wounds. Models beyond seven are probably not
going to be able to fight in most cases (and the seventh one might not get to
do so either) and as discussed above, paying for a rank bonus is both very
expensive and risky. Thus, for me, additional models beyond those who are in a
fighting position are mainly there to ensure that the unit stays fit for a
fight, even if it gets shot at.
The logic goes like this: In most units, killing half the members of the unit means that the unit will perform only half as good (or worse), while in a unit of combat cavalry, most of the Combat Result score of the unit comes from the fighting rank. Kill off the second rank of models and you are probably just losing a single point of rank bonus. It needs to be said that these extra models are (as complained about above) quite expensive and if Boar Boyz were Core instead of Special (or if you feel you have enough Special choices, which I rarely do) it would have been more effective to go with two units of one rank rather than a single unit in two ranks.
One good thing about big units of cavalry is that they look threatening, often much more threatening than they really are. Thus your opponent may spend quite a bit of firepower on a unit that is not all that affected by it instead of more vulnerable targets. This mainly applies to army lists consisting of mounted models, some of which are very vulnerable to enemy firepower, such as monsters and chariots. In a list that mainly consists of infantry units, you do not want your expensive cavalry units shot at.
Savage Orc Boar Boyz and Goblin Wolf Riders can take spears, which I heartily recommend you do (Orc Boar Boyz come with them automatically) - the Strength bonus improves the damage done by quite a bit and the spear is relatively cheap. Wolf Riders can also take short bows, which are essentially pointless for a unit that is not fast cavalry, will probably be fielded in more than one rank and whose main purpose is to fight. Compared to other weaponry wielded by heavier cavalry, a spear is not terribly impressive and one can wonder why a model that gets a +1 Strength bonus from its basic hand weapon when on foot - even if not charging - does not get a better bonus from a long spear when he wields it from atop a charging steed. I have no good answer for that, but a spear is as good as it gets for rank and file troops.
When it comes to armour upgrades, Savage Boar Boyz and Wolf Riders can take shields, and for this article I have assumed that you have chosen to buy shields for your Wolf Riders (if you haven't they will be fast cavalry, which are dealt with in another article). In any case, as with nearly all other units in the Orcs & Goblins army, getting as much armour as you can is very worthwhile. There is no drawback other than the cost and compared to how much the model costs to begin with, that is not overly much. It would appear that equipment is left optional if there exists (or has recently existed) models that don't have that equipment. In the case of Savage Boar Boyz, the current boxed set does not include shields and the previous generation of models included some without spears.
Funny trivia: In 4th/5th edition you could equip your Savage Boar Boyz with bows for +4 pts per model. It is not known whether or not anyone ever gave this silly option a go, but I certainly never did and I've never heard of anyone that thought it worthwhile.
For a unit whose main (and often sole) purpose is to win combats, a standard is pretty much compulsory and, as always, a musician can be very nice to have and is relatively cheap. Whether to get a Boss or not depends on the unit. For a unit of normal Boar Boyz a Boss is very worthwhile and will considerably add to the damage done. The Wolf Rider Boss is not exceptional, but is at least cheap, so it's okay. The only units where a Boss is obviously overprices is in a unit of Boar Boy Big Uns, who have already paid once of the bonus Weapon Skill and Strength that the Boss gets when they took the Big Uns upgrade. Seventeen points for one extra attack is not a very good deal.
One good thing about both types of Boar Boyz is that one unit may carry a
magic standard, an option I suggest you take. Not that there are a whole lot of
useful magic standards for Boar Boyz in this edition, but it is hard to go
wrong with a War Banner. The Banner of Butchery isn't bad either, though it's a
shame it doesn't give any extra attacks to the boars. With a competent
character and a Boss it can be quite nice, though. The third option is for the
Waaagh! Banner, which is what I usually take on my Boar Boyz and means that on
average they charge nearly as far as Wolf Riders, at least once. This can be
nice in and of itself though I have found that instead of attempting very
long-range charges, I mostly use the banner to ensure that charges that might
be just out of range are successful. It is possible to combine the banner with
the Waaagh! special ability for an average charge of 21" from that one
unit, though my all-mounted list will essentially never use that ability due to
the downsides for mounted units. It is not completely clear how the banner
works with a unit of frenzied Savage Boar Boyz.
Finally, while it would be possible to take Mork's Spirit-totem on a unit of Boar Boyz, this is a pretty pointless idea considering how little rank bonus a cavalry unit tends to have. It is also possible to take a Goblin Battle Standard Bearer, give him the Spider Banner, mount him on a wolf and have him join a unit of Wolf Riders, though it should not be necessary to do a whole lot of number crunching to see what a waste of points that would be.
When it comes to boosting the combat result score of your medium cavalry (which you will nearly always be wanting to do), adding a character is often a very good option. Not only is a Big Boss mounted on a wolf or boar and given a reasonable selection of equipment generally cheaper than buying enough models for a point of rank bonus, he will generally give you a higher CR bonus with the Wounds he inflicts and he is more difficult for the opponent to get rid of. I have found this to be quite nice with large-ish units of regular Orc Boar Boyz with an Orc Warboss (Akk'rit Axe, Best Boss 'At, Kickin' Boots, light armour, shield, boar) in it: almost the entire combat result score will be contributed by the Warboss, Boss and boars in the front rank and it doesn't really matter if my opponent keeps shooting dead the troopers in the second rank. Such a unit could be reduced to just the Warboss, Boss and Standard Bearer and it will still have almost the same CR as it had when it was at full strength.
The obvious problem with adding a cheap Big Boss to your units of medium cavalry is that there are only so many Big Bosses you can take in an army. Running my all-mounted themed list I discovered to my dismay that I really needed my Big Bosses to ride around in chariots instead to ease the pressure on my Special choices (chariots taken as mounts for characters do not take up Special choices in this edition), leaving next to no-one to join the cavalry, which then ended up as very expensive underperformers. Many things would have been better, had Boar Boyz only been Core. One bright light in this regard are Savage Orc Boar Boy Big 'Uns, which may cost 33 points each, but at least fight well enough not to need a Hero to help them out.
Using greenskin medium cavalry
Medium cavalry are a bit difficult to use properly - they tend to be a bit too costly and limited to make good support units and have problems racking up a high enough combat result score to operate on their own. If you are a new player, I would not recommend these units - and certainly not large units of them - until you have gotten more experience with the Orcs & Goblins army.
Thump the weak
It is a simple fact: You cannot really expect a fast unit to convincingly beat an equally expensive but slower unit in a head-on charge, because the faster unit will be paying quite a few points for their speed, points which the slower unit can put into more models or better equipment instead. This is a simplified rule and does not apply in all cases (most notably it only applies to combat units, not to missile units), but the principle holds for reasonably balanced units. The problem becomes worse for greenskin medium cavalry units, who are overpriced to begin with. So what do you do if you cannot rely on taking out an equal foe? You beat up someone weaker than you instead and then use your good movement to move on and beat up another wimp as well.
This is playing to the strengths of the medium cavalry: reasonably good speed combined with reasonably good hitting power. On one notable occasion I threw a large block of 'eavy Wolf Riders, a Savage Orc Big Boss in a chariot, a unit of Squig Hoppers and a Pump Wagon against a unit of 20 Saurus Warriors, including a Hero. Not only did I kill all enemy models apart from the Hero and Standard Bearer, my guys took next to no losses themselves and were fit to go and beat up some more scaly ones later. As a rule of thumb, if you have a 2:1 advantage in points in one combat you will most likely defeat the enemy unit by enough to have a very good chance of breaking him.
Units to stay away from are those who will bog you down, as cavalry units generally fight very badly in an ongoing combat. This includes large units of Unbreakable troops, Undead or units that are Stubborn on a good Leadership. A Boar Boy charging with one Strength 4 and one Strength 5 attack isn't too bad, but one that is locked in combat will only have two Strength 3 attacks (at a low Initiative value) and that is nothing to write home about.
One traditional option for medium cavalry has been to treat them as a fast infantry unit. You'd get a reasonably big unit (12 to 16 models), give it full command and maybe a decent character to lead them and then basically use them as you'd use an infantry unit with an exceptionally long charge range. This is rather less viable now, for two reasons: Firstly, the models have (for some unknown reason) become considerably more expensive and secondly, such units now have a lower rank bonus than before, since ranks now need to be 25% wider (and hence costing 25% more) than previously. In 6th edition, 16 Goblin Wolf Riders with spear, shield and light armour, including a full command group, cost 222 points and had a +3 rank bonus. Nowadays, 15 Goblin Wolf Riders equipped the same way cost 240 points and only have a +2 rank bonus. Don't ask me why.
Still, the tactic is possible for those who want to use it, just considerably less effective than before.
What works well with medium cavalry?
Being a rather expensive unit and a bit limited in what it can do, it is natural that you'd want to team up your medium cavalry with other support units. Normally when you decide on support units for something, you want units that compliment the unit they are support. For example, an infantry unit that takes up a lot of room, has a high static CR (ranks, outnumbering, standard) but a rather low variable CR (dead enemies) benefits a lot from teaming up with a chariot which is on a narrow base, has a high variable CR but no static CR. Now, medium cavalry are generally also rather wide, so you'll want support units that are either quite narrow (chariots, monsters) or move fast enough to attack enemy units in the flank or rear (fast cavalry or a character on a Wyvern). The cavalry will have a low static CR (a standard and possibly one or two points of rank bonus) and a not too high variable CR, so you will either want something that can get a good CR on its own (either type is good, though most units that can keep up with cavalry do not have much of a static CR) or can negate the rank bonus of enemy units.
My own favoured support units are, in no particular order: fast cavalry Wolf Riders, who are very fast and can threaten the flanks of enemy units. They are also Core and comparably cheap. Characters on chariots are nice because they pack a lot of punch into a small area and don't take up a Special choice - it is often better to take a character out of a unit you planned to keep him in and place him in the chariot you bought to support the unit, as this frees up one of your limited Special choices. Finally, a Giant or a single Troll pack a reasonable punch on a narrow base, are almost as fast as the cavalry and come out of your Rare units quota (which is smaller than the Special units quota but usually less competed for).
It is also possible to use the medium cavalry units as support for other units, for example by having a small unit of Boar Boyz with no standard in support of a unit of Orc Boyz, but generally I find that using fast cavalry for this purpose works better, as these units are Core, more manoeuverable and cheaper.
Getting shot is a pain
As explained above, certain units of medium cavalry don't mind all that much getting shot at if that means that more vulnerable units do not get shot at, but in general you want to avoid it as much as possible. There are several ways of avoiding this. The most basic one is to deploy your cavalry well away from any missile units. One of the biggest threats to medium cavalry are units of missile troops, such as handgunners, who can kill a lot of very expensive models if you linger for too long in their line of fire. Many missile units are Strength 4 and quite a few are also armour piercing, which can be quite nasty for a model with only a 3+ or 4+ armour save. Units with only Strength 3 are less of a threat, unless they can deliver a very high number of shots (it takes on average 9 S3 hits to kill an Orc Boar Boy, compared to only 4 S4 hits). Fortunately, most threatening missile units can only fire in a 90 degree arc to their front and cannot move and fire. This will often make it possible to outmanoeuvre them by deploying your cavalry unit late (always take a lot of cheap units you can deploy early on to give you an advantage in deployment) and outside the arc of fire of nasty missile units. By combining your medium cavalry with a unit of fast cavalry you can position your units so that if the enemy missile unit turns to face your medium cavalry, the fast cavalry unit can charge them in the flank. War machines are more difficult to avoid, especially if they have a long range, but many war machines have problems hitting a unit of cavalry deployed in a single line and facing towards them (getting shot at in the flank, on the other hand, will often be disastrous for your unit). Exceptions include the Dwarf Organ Gun, a truly horrible contraption that has a 24" range and will on average get 6 Strength 5 hits with a -3 save modifier on your unit. Stay far away from these things until you have taken them out or they blow up.
Secondly, do your best to take out these missile units, as they are one of the biggest threats to your cavalry. Flank them if you can. If you can't do this and are forced to charge a unit of handgunners head-on, make sure you keep your unit either outside short range of the enemy unit (to make his shooting less effective) or within the basic movement distance of your unit (to deny him a stand and shoot charge reaction). If you end your movement inside short range of a missile unit but not within your basic move distance, you will not only let him get an effective round of firing in his own shooting phase, he will also be able to shoot at your unit as it charges. Against a unit with handguns, only a good-sized greenskin infantry unit will not mind that. War machines are much easier to neutralise in this manner, as they cannot stand and shoot and often make rather easy targets for your fast cavalry.
Thirdly, you can sometimes place less vulnerable units between your medium
cavalry and the enemy unit, to block their line of fire. This is not always
possible, for example if the firing unit is deployed on a hill, from where they
will be able to see and fire over any unit on the ground below and will often
be difficult to charge in return. Insisting that the terrain is randomly
determined so that your opponent cannot set up the terrain to best suit his
army certainly helps here. The best screening unit is cheap infantry, such as
Goblins, though they are slow and difficult to get into position. Well,
actually it is even better to screen your troops with the opponent's troops.
Sometimes you will be able to achieve this and it is very satisfying. On one
occasion I managed to outmanoeuvre a Dwarf army which had deployed around a
hill. I concentrated my forces on the other side of the field and made a
sweeping attack on the Dwarf right flank which forced his infantry units on the
left flank to walk past his own missile units and block their lines of fire if
they wanted to get into the fight at all.
Most commonly, your screening units will be fast cavalry, because they are easier to get into position than any other greenskin unit. They may of course suddenly decide to squabble, which you can do very little about (though I often take units of 5 and hope that one will get shot, which means that the unit will no longer have to take Animosity tests). You need to take this into account, not place Animosity-prone units in front of each other when it would be pointless and not place them closer together than they need to be. If the only threatening unit is a bolt thrower, then your Wolf Riders will give your Boar Boyz equally good protection 1" away from the bolt thrower as they will 1" away from the Boar Boyz, and will be a lot less in the way there.
Terrain can also be used to block lines of fire and has the added advantage that terrain doesn't cost you any points. On the whole, however, terrain in Warhammer is something you generally want to stay away from unless you have some special rule that lets you ignore it completely. Cavalry units should not move through terrain if they can avoid it and should be careful not to place themselves in a position where a failed Panic test causes them to flee into a piece of impassable terrain and die.
Other related articles
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