The intrepid Doug Mason is back with another Warhammer strategy guide, this one focused on Warhammer Fantasy’s Empire faction. You may be mere mortal men, but you have many guns and pointy things with which to fend off the encroaching darkness.
Sons of Sigmar: Empire Tactica
The Empire is the most evocative army in the Warhammer Fantasy world. Heck, the Hammer of Sigmar is on the cover of the Rulebook! The Empire is what finally dragged me away from 40K to try out Fantasy, and over the last five years it has turned me into another Fantasy fanatic. From the Emperor down to the lowliest militiaman, it is the gritty realism of men…common men, against all kinds of freakish and supernatural enemies that drew me in. I think it was the immortal John Blanche who said that it’s really, “just a bloke with a gun or spear” holding out against the worst the Old World can dish out. So how does the common man fare on the battlefield?
Quite well, considering. My Empire army has been a five year evolution, with both the 7th edition of Fantasy and the latest edition of the army book both being released during that time. As far as the “common man” theme goes, I have solid blocks of halberds, spears and swordsmen, all but one having detachments of similar troops or militia to go with them. halberds give +1 Str, spears fight in two ranks and swordsmen get +1 WS, so there is a sense of specialization, albeit a minimal one. Both the halberds and spears have a like detachment of the maximum size allowed, while my smaller unit of swords has a pair of militia detachments. In addition, my crossbows have a handgun detachment.
So let’s back up a second and explain how the detachments work. Detachments have two special rules: they can countercharge when the parent unit is charged, usually in the flank if you position them correctly; or, in the case of shooty troops, can stand and shoot a unit charging its parent. You do not have to do either however, so depending on your opponent they can range ahead to draw out goblin fanatics, hunt wizards, gun crews or other small units.
“Guns, lots of guns”. As we all know, in fantasy armies it’s usually the special and rare choices that really define an army as well as bringing the pain on the tabletop. The Empire has a number of great choices in these areas but first I have to cover that wonderful thunder. Great Cannons. Single. Best. Gun. In. The. Game. Sure, Skaven players will carp about lightning guns, and Chaos has the rather scary Hellcannon, but for my money nothing beats the Great Cannon. It is usually going to kill what it hits, then keep going and kill whatever is behind the first target, and so on, and so on, until the ball stops bouncing. Sick Strength, good range, no save. I have three. More than once I have decimated entire movement trays of goblins with these. No so hot against heavy armor, but against large units of lightly armored troops they are devastating.
Moving into rare choices, there is the Hellblaster, with a possible 30 Str 5 Armor Piercing shots which can turn hard units like knights and Black Orcs into a red smear on the battlefield. The newer Hellstorm rocket battery is another good template thrower, and last but not least, the Empire has its own RV, the Steam Tank. While toned down a bit in its latest incarnation, it is still formidable and has a trick new plastic kit as well.
Other special choices include Inner Circle Knights (+1 Str for Inner Circle, +2 Str on a charge with Lance = dead and broken enemy units), and Plate Armor and Barded Steeds provide a 1+ save while only compromising an inch of movement. Greatswords wield two-handers, wear plate and have the stubborn ability. Pricey yes, but add a Warrior Priest and they will stay put forever. Pistoleers and Outriders: more guns, toted by Cavalry no less. And our final rare choice – Flagellants. Unbreakable, flail wielding psychos. Sure, they are unarmored, but your opponent will have to kill every single one to defeat them.
The Empire also has a wide selection of Lord and Hero choices, from the lowliest hedge wizard to the Emperor himself. You can go magic heavy, able to choose lores from any college. You can go Knight heavy with mounted Grand Masters and Battle Standard bearing Captains. You can have a Sigmarite feel with Warrior Priests and those unbreakable Flagellants. Toss in the other named characters and flavor your army to suit them, or have simple Captains leading generic state troops in numbers to match most hoard armies. Or guns, did I mention the lovely guns? Engineers with pigeon bombs and mechanized steeds and the only tanks in the old world. The choice, or I should say choices, are all yours. I take a salad bar approach, with some of everything; decent blocks of infantry with supporting detachments to hold the line and protect the guns, fast cav for harassment, Knights and elite units to counter, and as many of those lovely guns as I can possibly squeeze in. For Sigmar and the Emperor, give the Empire a try. You won’t be disappointed.
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