Units in Kings of War (and most wargames) can be placed into categories of sorts. These categories tell you how that unit is best used on the battlefield, and it’s often a good idea to try and get several types of units into your army so that you can react to most situations.
The basic unit types that I would say there are in KoW are:
Units can often fit into two or sometimes even three categories, and as always there are exceptions to each of the rules. I’m also not counting the various support units, such as Inspiring or Bane-chant casters.
Hammers are your main damage dealers. They have a high damage output in melee. Their defensive stats tend to be fairly average which means that they can’t withstand a lot of damage, so being charged should be avoided where possible. These units are usually very expensive for their nerve and defence so are vulnerable to being taken out in a single hit, especially when charged by multiple enemy units.
Most Large Infantry units, such as Ogres or Trolls, elite infantry units, heavy cavalry units etc.
How to best to use them
Protect them from damage on the way in. If the enemy is faster than you or has ranged attacks that can hit you before you close the distance, protect them with chaff units.
You should avoid being charged first with these units wherever possible. If you have the option of either being charged or moving away from combat entirely even if it means taking them out of the main combat zone for a turn while they reform, it’s usually better to move away from the combat and save them for a later turn.
Avoid damage and aim to get the first charge in as much as possible.
The Glass Hammer
A Glass Hammer unit is a hammer unit taken to extremes – extremely high damage output, extremely low defensive stats. If they hit, then they hit like a freight train and will wipe out anything that gets in their way. Their incredibly low defensive stats means that it doesn’t take a stiff breeze to take them out of the game, usually meaning that they are very difficult to use and need a lot of supporting units. FIghtwagons are a prime example of a glass hammer.
Anvils have a very specific purpose in game. Don’t die.
I, and many others, also use the term tarpit (I actually prefer the term tarpit, but anvil works better with the “hammer” type above!) because the point is to get the enemy bogged down in a protracted fight – preferably one that they won’t win over the course of the entire game.
These units have very high defensive stats, whether that’s extremely high nerve, high defence, high lifeleech, regeneration, or a mixture of all of them. They have very little melee damage, but that’s not their point! When the enemy chooses to engage them, they will be stuck in place grinding against the anvil/tarpit for several turns.
Anvil units tend to be relatively cheap, especially compared to hammers.
Most basic infantry units not focussed on combat. The non-elite Undead, Empire of Dust, Ratkin and Goblin units in particular, and specific units the Revenant Horde, Zombie Legion and Kingdoms of Men Militia Hordes and Legions.
How best to use them
Bog the enemy down. Once they’ve decided to attack your tarpit, they’re likely to take multiple turns to take out the tarpit (bonus points if you have another one nearby to take up a routed unit’s position!) which gives you time to either concentrate your force on the rest of the army, or flank the enemy that’s stuck grinding on your tarpit.
When accepting that you’re going to get charged, absolutely force a charge through terrain. Where possible, make sure that the enemy ends their movement on top of terrain. Then, never bother to counter-charge with your tarpit. The enemy is stuck having to carry out a charge order, rather than a counter-charge order, meaning that they continuously suffer the hindered charge.
If you can back the unit up with some cheap healing then the enemy unit will often be stuck there for the entire game.
The best thing about tarpit units is that they’re almost always very cheap. Even if the enemy takes out your tarpit, big deal! It took them three turns to chew through a single 130 point unit.
Anchors are a mix between hammers and anvils. They have decent damage output and can withstand a charge or two. They’re not as good at the job as either specialist, but serve a good all round purpose. They make for a solid centre in your battleline, an anchor if you will!
They have enough of a damage threat that your opponent will think twice about getting in range of them, while also being tough enough that your opponent will have to commit significant resources to take them out.
An Orc Ax Horde is probably one of the best of these units in the game. It has significant melee damage output and is still extremely tough to shift at Ne 20/22 (potentially boosted to 22/24 with a Wardrum) and De5.
Any infantry horde with Crushing Strength will do the trick, such as a KoM Foot Guard Horde, a Revenant Horde with two handed weapons. In my Abyssals list, I use a horde of Lower Abyssals with two handed weapons as an anchor, relying on their high nerve and regeneration to overcome their paltry defence of 3.
How to use them
Use them at the centre of your battle lines, with their flanks protected by other units. Keep them inspired, healed and with any nerve bonuses that you can get. They make good candidates for magic artefacts, particularly ones that improve their melee output such as the brew of strength, or Elite/Vicious. An extra pip of speed is always useful.
They must be supported and cannot act on their own. One of the best Dwarf formations I’ve seen is a horde of Shieldbreakers with the +1 to hit artefact, with a regiment of Ironguard on either flank. That’s a massive, solid block of “Nope, not going near that thing”. Anchors are vulnerable to being flanked but if you can cover those flanks then the enemy is going to really struggle to break that anchor – and even if they do, they’ll get flanked by your flanking units!
These anchor formations are useful for walking up the field and parking themselves on objectives. That big dwarf formation sat on a bunch of objectives? *shudder* I can’t avoid that thing because it’s going to win the game and I have to overcommit my resources to taking it out. Even then, I’m going to take horrendous amounts of damage because it’s nearly impossible to take out with a single hit.
Ranged units are obviously those with a ranged attack. These can put out the hurt at long range but rarely are able to dish out anything in melee. They will often fall fast when hit with any decent melee unit.
Do I really need to list examples?
How to use them
Set them up at the start of the game so they’ve got visibility on as much of the battlefield as possible. Keep plugging away at the enemy as they advance.
There’s honestly not a whole lot of tactical thought with most ranged units, sadly. They’re a very reactionary unit type that either picks targets to plink at or is shut down by the enemy.
The only real tactics around shooting units revolve around protecting them and keeping them firing. If you have chaff units, don’t sit them out in front since you’ll give cover to the enemy. Instead keep them sat behind the shooting horde, and when the enemy prepares to charge your horde, move them in front. Your shooting unit will have a modifier that turn, but won’t be shut down the following.
If you are determined to keep your ranged units alive, you can have their flanks covered by a relatively cheap hammer unit (even troops of elite infantry can work). When someone charges your ranged units and hopefully bounces off, you can hit them in the flanks with your hammer.
You have quite a lot of options for kitting out ranged units with artefacts, most famously the +1 to hit Brew of Keeneyeness and the Heart Seeking Chant for +1 Piercing. I’m actually a fan of taking the Elite or Vicious artefacts instead, especially on ranged units that are good in melee as well. The Elite/Vicious not only save you a few points, but also work in combat meaning that cheap throwaway units charging your shooters are in more danger.
Don’t rely on them for your main damage dealing. You might do well against newer players, but once your opponent reaches a certain level then they will shut down your shooting.
Flankers are, as their name suggests, units that get on the flank. They are there to project force and force the enemy to react. If they actually manage to hit home, then fantastic, but even if they do nothing except force the enemy to be on the backfoot the entire game then they’ve done their job.
Typically, these will be high speed, Nimble and with a medium to high damage output. Units without Nimble can be used but they tend to be harder to get into position, especially if the enemy has flankers of their own.
They will often have above average defensive stats, since those with lower defensive stats will tend to have lower offensive stats too which pushes them more into the chaff category. On the whole these units tend to be very expensive to run, like hammers but even more costly. Almost every single flying unit and non-individual flying hero is a flanker.
Werewolves, Lycans and dragons of any form are the ideal flankers. Flying units such as Drakons or Elohi are also perfect.
How to use them
Fling them up the flank and out of front arcs and threat ranges of enemy units. Turn to face the enemy flank. They’re forced to either turn to face you, leaving your main battle line to waltz up unopposed, or you charge their flank.
If they turn to face you, think hard about whether you want to attack them or not. Units such as Werewolves are good enough in combat to take enemy units out in the front, however their very high points cost and relatively low nerve means that they won’t stick around in any protracted fight. Only attack if the enemy will not be able to attack you back. The main point of flankers is to draw the enemy out of position and force them to react to your threat.
These guys are threat projectors. Use them wisely.
The purpose of chaff is to die. While a tarpit is also an expendable unit, it is designed to stay in place for at least a couple of turns before dying. Chaff is to be rammed right up in your opponent’s face, forcing them to target the chaff rather than your hammers or other units behind.
Chaff units have low nerve and defence. The cheaper they are, the better. This usually means that they have low melee output (but not always).
Their speed depends on what they are trying to screen. If you need some chaff to screen your heavy cavalry, then a speed 5 unit probably isn’t going to cut it! On the other hand, if you’re wanting to protect your speed 5 anchor, then a cheaper and smaller speed 5 chaff unit will be fine. Speed 10 is probably a bit overkill.
Gargoyles, Beast Packs, Orc Sniffs, Goblin Fleabags.
How to use them
If you’re facing down an opponent who has ranged attacks that suffer cover or with limited line of sight, run chaff units in front of your hammers. Your opponent will be forced to either shoot at the chaff instead of your hammers, or suffer a cover modifier when doing so. Win-win for you, since your hammer gets to the enemy unscathed.
When your opponent has faster units than yourself, move your army up so you’re within charge range, and move your chaff so it blocks your opponent from having the initial first charge. Make sure that you’re within your charge range minus 3” of the front of your chaff. If your opponent charges and breaks the chaff, they can retreat backwards D3”. If you’re close enough to the front of your chaff then they won’t be able to use this move to get out of charge range.
Once your battle lines have collided, chaff becomes less useful. It can still be used to protect flanks by blocking charges, but in most situations I’ll send the chaff off war engine or support hero hunting. They still have enough hitting power to take out war engines and enough to disorder enemy heroes to stop them casting supporting spells like bane-chant, heal and surge.
When all else fails, after your battle lines have collided, see if you can retreat your chaff. At the end of the game, you can jump on an unclaimed objective or contest an objective that your opponent is trying to grab. I’ve won several games because I’ve managed to back a troop of gargoyles off from the main combat before claiming an objective with them at the end of the game.