But they’re only scarecrows, they aren’t going to kill anything.
Settle down for the big one folks.
A Typical List
Let’s get some perspective on what I would take to a 2300 point event next weekend.
- 2 Scarecrow Regiments
- 1 Horde w/Crystal Pendant of Retribution
- 2 Naked Hordes
- 7 Hordes w/Screamshard
- 2 Mind-Screeches
- Portal of Despair
- Horror w/Vicious Aura & Bane Chant
- Horror w/Vicious Aura, Sacred Horn (+3″ to aura range) & Bane Chant
- Shakira the Wailing Shadow
Deployment is fairly simple. Deploy across the whole board length, taking impassable terrain into account. I’ll usually have 2 rows of scarecrows, and perhaps a couple of places where it’s 3 ranks deep.
Horrors go in amongst the Scarecrows for the Vicious & Bane-chant cover.
Mind Screeches cover the most important areas of the board, objective wise.
Portal of Despair sits behind/in terrain on an objective or carries Loot.
Shakira goes hero hunting.
The Crystal Pendant of Retribution
The Crystal Pendant horde is either dropped first, to dissuade my opponent from contesting an important objective area, or I drop the 2nd and 3rd rows of Scarecrow hordes first. The front line hordes are dropped later on, with the Crystal Pendant sat opposite their heavy (and preferably slow) hitters.
Now bear in mind that a lot of what I’ve talked about in previous articles is making my opponent hesitate for a few turns before committing. The Crystal Pendant certainly does that.
People are scared of it, rightly so, and will avoid charging a unit carrying it or getting stuck in prolonged combat. Pushing up aggressively with this horde means that they hesitate. They run away somewhere else, or just stay back and try to shoot, as Louis did in our game at Erit Bellum 2.
Naturally, if they do charge and get caught in the explosion then I have additional hordes lined up ready to charge the survivors.
The Crystal Pendant is a fantastic add to this list for aggressively bullying my opponent back into their own deployment area.
Some Basic Stats
People have it in their mind that Me5 and no crushing is bad in combat. They seem to forget that Scarecrows have 30 attacks. That’s 10 hits. Assuming no other support or circumstances, it’s an average of 5 damage against De4. That’s a decent wallop. Not unit killing, but not insignificant either. Only 3 against De5 on average.
Now let’s start to add some support. Put them in the Vicious aura. That’s jumped you up to 6 and 4 damage vs De4 and De5 respectively. Bane-Chant them. Now we’re up to 8 and 6. Suddenly we’re starting to get to some big numbers. Add TC1 from a hill. 10 and 8 damage. Medium unit killing.
In my game against Steve Hildrew, he expressed incredulity when two of my Scarecrow hordes charged a horde of Shock Troops (De4, Ne 21/23 inc. Rallying) and broke them in a single hit. I’m sure most gamers would as well.
Except one of the hordes charged off a hill (TC1) and the other was Bane-Chanted (CS1). Both of them were Vicious from the supporting Horror’s Aura.
60 attacks hitting on 5’s, wounding on 3’s and with Vicious is an average of 15.6 damage. Average. I did 16 damage. Here’s the damage bellcurve for that set of attacks:
It was a 50% chance of me doing at least 16 damage. Hell, there was a 13% chance that I would get him down to anything-but-a-double 1.
On instinct, Steve felt that this was a completely preposterous amount of damage. Like a lot of people, he greatly underestimated how much damage properly support Scarecrow hordes can do.
Let’s look at a single Scarecrow horde, properly supported, against De5.
The most common result is 6 damage, which is already a significant hit, but look at the upper end of that bellcurve. For a normal De5 Large Infantry Horde, I would suggest that 8 damage is an effective unit nullifying blow. An average nerve test of 7 will waver, and there’s a significant chance of a rout. Any further taps on the unit, if it’s not healed, have a strong chance of killing it. If I have 8+ damage on my Large Infantry Horde and no access to heal, I personally consider that unit effectively living on borrowed time and I’m now trying to get it to die in the most glorious way possible.
A single Vicious Bane-Chanted Scarecrow horde has a 21% chance of dealing at least 8 damage. 11% of at least 9 damage.
These aren’t insignificant hits. These are substantial thumps that, even if the current nerve test fails, makes a kill highly likely with future nerve tests.
Of course, we’re talking about when I roll hot dice. I have a 21% chance of doing 8+ damage, but I also have a 28% chance of dealing less than 5 damage. That’s where the next point comes in…
There. Are. Four. Combats!
It is my experience that I will have four combats to resolve per turn.
Of course, confirmation bias and all that, but my impression is that I pretty consistently have 4 combats going with this army in the key game-deciding turns of 2-4, assuming my opponent isn’t running away.
Assuming everything’s in a Vicious Aura, which it should be, the ones that I’ve bane-chanted or charged off a hill have a 21% chance of dealing 8+ damage to De5. The ones I’ve not bane-chanted have an 18% chance of dealing 6+ damage.
Most turns I will have at least one combat roll hot and achieve a significant wallop of damage, even against De5 (to say nothing of De4 or De3).
Add on top the chances of a high nerve roll (28% for a nerve roll of 9+) and that’s a lot of opportunity for hot dice to take off a unit.
If I have four combats to resolve, then roughly (not quite, I know) one of them will roll significantly under par, two of them will roll about average, and the other will roll very hot, potentially routing a heavy hitting large infantry horde in a single hit. Almost certainly dealing enough damage to put it in the danger zone.
It’s also my experience that most armies have 3-4 heavy hitters. If I get lucky 3-4 times then I don’t even have to grind my opponent down. I just straight up take out their heavy hitters.
If they get lucky against me and rout a horde in a single hit? Ok. Here’s another 9 hordes. Keep going.
Spiking high damage and routing in a single hit isn’t the only threat.
If I spike high damage, fail to rout, but then spike low damage then I’m still routing that unit. The same is true vice versa. A low damage spike, followed by an average or high damage spike is a unit either killed or in the danger zone.
If I hit a De5 unit at 18 rout Nerve with perfectly average damage then I’m still likely routing it in 2 hits with supported Scarecrow hordes, almost certainly routing it with 3 – even if one of the three hits is below average.
My opponent will chew through Scarecrow hordes, yes. But the damage keeps piling. I might get a lucky early waver or rout from hot dice but even if I’m only getting a consistent 4-6 damage per heavy hitter per turn, then I’m still going to grind them down through sheer attrition.
Doubles, Flanks and Rears
Double charges are a thing. With my army easily covering the full board width and most armies tending to try and concentrate their forces, flanks and rears become quite likely.
An Untestable Hypothesis
I believe that the number of combats and nerve tests you can force has a significant effect on the winner of a game, even if any one combat will fail on average. People don’t expect spikey dice rolls. If you give yourself more opportunities for a spikey dice roll, you have more chance of having a spikey dice roll. All you need is 3-4 spikes over the course of the game against the right units and you can flip a game completely.
However, this can’t really be quantified because it’s a self fulfilling hypothesis. A player who starts to win a game will almost always roll more dice and nerve rolls because there’s a runaway effect. When you start to lose units, you’ll have fewer combats to resolve.
We’ve discussed this a few times in the Northern Kings chat. Padley agrees with the hypothesis and attributes it to the success of his goblin army in 2nd edition. He was able to cause a large number of nerve tests across the board. Even if any individual set of attacks or nerve test had a low chance of success, he was able to cause a lot of them and naturally some of them spiked unusually high, and that gave him an opening he could exploit.
It seems to be opposite to the general strategy of concentrating force in KoW but I don’t know how you can systematically test this, while also eliminating the factor of the winning side runaway effect on number of attacks rolled.
I think the way that it works so well with this is army is because when I roll a spikey attack, it seriously hurts my opponent by taking out one of their expensive heavy hitters. However, when they spike back against me… I really don’t care. You took off a Scarecrow horde. Well done! Get you! Now chew through another 9.
This probably also applied to Padley’s army. He had so many units on the board and so much redundancy that spikes didn’t really impact him, however his own spikes would often significantly hurt, if not cripple, his opponent’s army.
I had planned to write a whole bunch of weaknesses, but I think this article is already long enough. Some of the weaknesses I’ve already hinted at (a combination of high defence AND high volume of attacks like Huscarls, Soul Reaver infantry etc), but I want to touch on two major weaknesses that makes me hesitate considering a Scarecrow themed army for tournaments.
Firstly, making my opponent hesitate.
This is a great strategy for winning and plays back to the original question of “How much nerve is too much for you to kill?”. The longer I can make my opponent hesitate and keep from committing, the better my chances are of winning. If they wait until turn 4 to really start attacking me, they simply do not have enough turns to kill my units. I win pretty much by default by having more unit strength on objectives.
However, this also means that I don’t have enough turns to grind.
I may have a lucky turn and get those big spikes that I want, but realistically to kill my opponents I want to be grinding away for several turns so that the damage stacks up. If I don’t get those kills, I don’t get tournament bonus points.
My game against Louis at Erit Bellum was probably one of the least deadly games of Kings of War I’ve ever played. I won the scenario, easily, but we barely killed anything of each other. In Northern Kings scoring you get up to +5 points for scenario and +5 for kills. I don’t think I even got +1 for the kills in our game, which is incredibly rare even if someone gets their arse handed to them.
Making my opponent hesitate and worry about committing for too long is a great strategy for winning a game, but it’s a terrible strategy for a tournament because I just don’t rack up those extra kill points either for bonus tournament points or for deciders.
Secondly, even in situations where I slaughter my opponent’s army, I lose a lot of points to do so.
Yes, I can kill far more than people think. However, I lose Scarecrow hordes left, right and centre in order to do so. Even in my most overwhelming victories, I lose a significant portion of the army. My game against Steve at Franticon was major victory, yet I lost a third of my army.
Many tournaments use attrition scoring. The value of units killed vs the value of units lost. It is rare for someone to win a tournament and not have a couple of games where they comprehensively wiped their opponents out while taking very few casualties in return.
In a 20-0 scoring system, they will have a couple of games at 19-1 or 20-0. Even my biggest wins would net me no more than 18-2 at most, and I would probably average 16-4 at best. I could win 5 out of 5 games over an event and someone with 4 wins could easily leapfrog me if they had strong wins.
Ultimately, while the army can do alright in a positive scoring system (hello, Northern Kings scoring), it sucks in any kind of attrition scoring.
bUt ThEy aRe OnLy Me4
I hope this has given people some insight into how my Scarecrows rack up those kills. I hope it also illustrates that a straight up average (mean) is a bad statistic to rely on because spikes can and do happen.
Next up, I’m looking at my “forgotten” Undead army.