Friday, 5 December 2014

Warhammer Fantasy Battle; Lore of Shadows

So as many WHF generals have had to do, I have played through most of the different spell decks with regards to my WHF wizards.

First it was “Well you only have 15 models so you should play “Lore of Life”

Then it was “Well you do not have any ranged attacks so you should play “Lore of Fire”

Then it was “Well you have a cavalry force so it has to be “Lore of Beasts”

And finally I think I have found the motherload “Lore of Muther F*@king Shadows!” the one Jiri and Lano love to hate!

Smoke and mirrors

The Lore Attribute for the Lore of Shadows “Smoke and Mirrors” allows the caster to swap places with any friendly character of the same troop type (eg Infantry, Cavalry etc) when he successfully casts a spell.

As I generally play with very few characters this is of limited use to me but the most obvious use for this spell for me is to get myself out of a unit that has arrived into a meat grinder combat (or is about to), or perhaps to get the wizard into a better location for another spell (Pendulum I hear you scream!). The trouble is you need another character to be waiting in your desired destination – one who doesn’t mind being thrown into the thick of combat.

One use I have found for this attribute is moving my General out of a unit into a flank in the charge phase, cast a spell and then swap the Wizard and General to blast down the charged rank with The Penumbral Pendulum (see below). It is a risky manoeuvre which my opponent will generally see coming a mile away but can be a game changer in the later stages of a game. My real hope is in bigger games where I have several units of Cavalry and infantry on the table I will field a greater number of Charaters and therefore have more options to swap characters.

Melkoth’s Mystifying Miasma is the Signature Spell of the Lore, and one I absolutely love. It’s a hex that knocks D3 off the target’s WS, BS, Initiative or Movement (you choose) for a full turn. It has a range of 48”! and is dirt cheap to cast on a 5+. You can boost this to a 10+ and have it affect all of those stats, which reduces most enemy units into ranks of cannon fodder which can’t get out the way of a charge if they wanted to.

The benefits of dropping enemy BS and Movement in the early stages of a game are pretty obvious. One will slow down my target unit to a crawl which will hopefully stop an enemy charge if I have messed up my distances and allow me to still get off the counter charge with my Knights next turn (and I have learnt the hard way Knights have to Charge!). Or it helps me to isolate an enemy unit or stop a enemy unit moving up in support. 

In this example by hitting the dwarves movement range with Miasma twice I have succesfully stopped the Troll slayers moving up in support of the larger unit of Dwarves while leaving the Slayers vunerable to the charge next turn.
Whilst dropping the enemy BS will make the enemy lousy shots (Skaven Jezzels and Gutter runners I hear you shout!). This is especially useful for my Empire army as I generally only field 15 to 20 models when playing less than 1000 points and any casualties to shooting really hurts me in the later game.

The Initiative hit will generally be of most use in combat, however, there are two other spells in this Lore that force Initiative tests on your targets (with potentially devastating results if they fail). All in all, this is a very cheap and annoying (for your opponent) Signature Spell. Even if it might not have the potentially dramatic effects of some other spells your opponent will soon learn the folly of letting this one through too often and any dispel die you can get your opponent to spend is a good thing!

Steed of Shadows Next up we have Steed of Shadows. To be honest this is a spell I have yet to really make full use of. The spell allows you to make an immediate Fly move with a character within 12”. The ongoing trend in 8th edition is the removal of the ability to charge with magic, and this spell suffers for it. There will be times when it is useful to fly a character out of danger, or around to the enemy’s flank such as to reposition the wizard himself in order to cast The Penumbral Pendulum down the enemy line, but you will probably only ever get away with this once. I have been looking at this spell with more appreciation recently especially after playing Skaven generals and their “Skitter leap” spell! It’s always nice to give the enemy a taste of their own medicine! 

"WOW, Steed of Shadows would have been REALLY useful about not to blast down this LONG line of archers into the wizard and across that bloody great big unit of Gobbo spears!" If only!

The Enfeebling Foe is a hex spell that reduces the target’s Strength by D3. Depending upon how you roll, the effects of the spell could vary from annoying to crippling ("Yer sorry your hitting at strength 1 now and I have a 1+ armour save!"). The spell remains in play, but you’re only guaranteed to have it in place for your own combat phase. The casting value of 10+ means your opponent will probably need to save a few dice to dispel it, if not in your turn then certianly in his, so its being a remains in play spell is not all bad. The Enfeebling Foe has a moderate range of 18” but this is not too bad as I generally have my Wizard in my main unit of Knights and 18” is well within the desired charge range of the unit.

In this example the Goblin Warlord has had his strength reduced by 2 meaning My Gryphs have stayed in the combat for an additional turn and manage to finish off the Gobbo leader in the next round of combat.
The Withering is the twin spell to The Enfeebling Foe and of the two is ALWAYS my first choice. Where the previous spell knocked off Strength, The Withering lowers the target’s Toughness by D3. This is extremely dangerous for the target when facing an Imperial charge with lances.

They can suddenly find themselves relying on their armour for protection (if any). The other benefit for me in the bigger games is suddenly mediocre weapons such as Imperial hand gunners suddenly start wounding on a 2+!

Just like The Enfeebling Foe, this is a remains in play spell with a range of 18”. The cost is slightly higher at 13+. The remains in play aspect of this spell also means your opponent will be forced to allocate a fair pile of dice to dispel the spell in his turn or face having scores of his forces fall due to the reduced toughness.

Lowering your target’s Toughness is a more versatile effect than lowering their Strength. In particular, even if the spell lasts for its minimum duration (being dispelled in your opponent’s next magic phase), a unit may find itself being shot at twice before regaining its Toughness – once in your shooting phase, then again from a Stand and Shoot charge reaction!!

More than once I have found this to be enough to scare my opponent out of charging my hand gunners or Outriders that turn at all and that can only be a good thing as I generally have them in one or two ranks (Maximum), with no command group attached!

In this example the Gutter runners stand and shoot rather then risk running the gauntlet of "Stand and shoot" fire from the Outriders if the Gutter runners had risked the charge. As it was they were blasted to Kingdom come next turn!
The Penumbral Pendulum is a strange one. It draws a line from the caster, 6D6” long (an average of 18”). Everything the line crosses must take an Initiative test, or cop a Strength 10 hit, doing D3 wounds. You can double the distance rolled by increasing the casting level from 13+ to 18+ (simular to "Cracks call" for Skaven).

Quite often you will be trying to target a very large, tough target, which mostly have pretty poor Initiative (Units of Lizard men anyone!). The bad news is, D3 wounds are unlikely to kill the larger monsters your facing outright. It is a threat to characters, but unless they’re standing off by themselves, they will get a Look Out Sir roll to get out of the way of the Pendulum.

One thing I have learnt from Skaven generals such as Russell and Jiri is spells like The Penumbral Pendulum always get the best results if you can get into the enemy’s flank and fire it down the line (smoke and mirrors anyone?). This makes it a serious danger to wide, shallow formations such as my cavalry or hand gunner units and I love the opportunity to pull the same stunt off on my opponent (especially Skaven players!). If you manage to fire it off down the line of an Ogre or Lizardman army (with their miserable Initiative 2 and multiple wounds), the player will only ever be holding on to their dispel dice to use against this spell from that point on nearly always allowing other spells through.

You will get more out of this spell if you’re able to lower the target’s Initiative with Melkoth’s Mystifying Miasma, which could result in every model in the unit you touch being killed (provided you roll well on the D3). However, all things being equal, The Penumbral Pendulum is far from the most lethal spell going around.

The penultimate spell in the deck, Pit of Shades, is a real game changer when compared to Pendulum. You place a small round template (or the large round template if boosted), anywhere within 24”, then have to roll to scatter it D6”. Models touched by the template must pass an Initiative test or be dragged to their doom! Victims get no saves of any kind (up yours Dwarves and Knights with barding), so this is potentially a very painful spell.

As I realised later on, this does not have to be directly placed over a MODEL, just placed somewhere. The risk with this one is, will I roll a direct hit?

Unit of Lizard men before being hit with "Pit of Shades"

Unit 7 figures lighter after "Pit of Shades", the unit only have an Initiative value of two so were failing on 2+. If I had placed the template in the centre of the UNIT not a model I would have hit 12 lizardmen spelling the end (pun intended) of the unit as a viable force!
As with the Pendulum, characters in units will get Look Out Sir rolls, so you’re unlikely to claim many of them with this spell. However, Pit of Shades has the ability to kill targets outright. This could mean that the BIG giant that is steamrolling towards your battle line while your cannon can’t hit a barn door will actually be dead, not just winged and still able to cause carnage!

In this instance "Pit of shades" would have destroyed this giant nightmare at least two turns ago. As it was the Giant survived several rounds of shooting by Cannon and Handgunners thanks to "Fleshy Abundance", "Pit of shades" would have neutred this from the off!

Another reason I like Pit of Shades over Pendulum is because it concentrates damage on a single uint (with a lucky scatter roll). The boosted template is capable of covering all of a unit, whereas Pendulum can never kill more than a single rank (Including only depleting the rank bonus by one!) or file (even if that is down the front rank of an ENTIRE army). It is nice to damage a lot of units with a single spell, but concentration of damage is generally more effective when I charge a much reduced unit which has lost several ranks rather then just one (especially against horde armies like Goblins and Skaven). It will also allow you to get the most effect from combining the spell with Melkoth’s Mystifying Miasma, as both spells can target the same single unit.

Imagine if I had hit this flanking unit of Gobbo Spears with Miasma and Pit of shades in the opening part of the game before they made this flank attack! It was only the rank bonus of the gobbo spears which kept them in this fight until they broke my Knights!

And finally we get to the all mighty  Okkam’s Mindrazor

This Augment spell allowed me to kill off a Greater Demon with the remnants of a unit of low born Spearmen! This spell lasts for one full turn and is expensive to cast on an 18+. This can be boosted to a 21+. Models in the target unit use their Leadership characteristic instead of their Strength when rolling to wound in close combat! Further modifiers to the user’s Strength from weapons (like my great swords) are ignored but if they’re fighting at Strength 8, I really won’t care even if they are hitting last.

In this instance the Greater Demon, slaughtered and run off the field my Heroic Demigryphs, the "Flower" of my army before......

...... running into my low born Spearmen........

...... augmented with "Okkams F*@king Mindrazor" and being banished back to the warp!

The potential from this spell is pretty apparent to anyone with decent Leadership in their army (Grand Master with Leadership 9 anyone?). Even my standard humans have Leadership 7, which will make short work of pretty much anything other than a Steam Tank. The best targets for this spell should have a lot of attacks and a decent Leadership. For example my lowborn Spearmen with Warpriest are fighting in 3 ranks (if their charged). This results in 20 attacks with Hatred (rerolling any misses thanks to the priest) and a potential augment from his battle prayers. The augment from Mind Razor means they are whaling away at strength 8! Generally they are going to boil through anything they come up against and this spell will turn a regular unit of cannon fodder into Demon killers!


One of the observations I have about the Lore of Shadow is that it rarely plays a big part in the early turns of the game. Spells that affect Strength (The Enfeebling Foe, Okkam’s Mindrazor) have no real impact until the battle lines are closed, so while other armies are still manoeuvring for position and firing missile volleys, these spells are of little use. Depending upon the spells you have been dealt with, you may find yourself relying on the Signature Spell (which I always suggest taking unless you roll two doozys!) to blunt the effectiveness of a shooting unit or mess with a target’s movement in the opening turns, whilst waiting to play the big hammer.

HOWEVER as I  play as predominately a cavalry force this is not such a concern to me as I am generally involved in Melee from the first turn (if I am going second) and a spell deck full of Hexs and Augments is just what I need!

The Lore can also come unstuck as its 2 offensive spells rely upon low enemy Initiative in order to be effective and this in a nightmare against Skaven and Elf armies which will literally dance around the spells and piss themselves laughing at you while they do! If you’re relying upon magic to deal out the offensive damage other Lores of Magic (such as Lore of Fire) are probably worth a closer look.

On the upside (especially for me), once the battle lines close, few Lores offer so many hex and augment spells with which to sway the combats, especially with my wizards attached to units which WILL see combat. If you have a half-decent target, your opponent is likely to be very wary about Okkam’s Mindrazor (word soon gets out around the club if you kill a greater demon with spearmen!). However, you have 3 other spells that can have an impact; The Withering could still see your units (including Handgunners and Outriders) wounding enemies on a 2+. 

An enemy unit can go from lethal to useless if you roll well for The Enfeebling Foe. You can make opponents strike last and be easier to hit, all with Melkoth’s Mystifying Miasma. This is a range of options most Lores simply do not have. If like me you feel your units need a bit of a boost when it comes to combat, and this is more important than having magic to devastate the enemy on the way in, the Lore of Shadow would have to be high on your wish list. 

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