The One Ring

The Math of Mirkwood - An Elven Tactica
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Author:  ONI [ Sun Feb 25, 2018 8:40 am ]
Post subject:  The Math of Mirkwood - An Elven Tactica

Hi, I’m Olly and I have put a lot of work into this. Several days, in fact!
Welcome one and all to the mathematical breakdown of Mirkwood elves! Be warned, this is a long, long post. Put on the kettle, grab a biscuit and make a coffee, we’re in for a ride. I’d recommend digesting this in chunks.

The tactics are my opinion on several effective strategies, nothing in this article (aside from the pure math of the duel rolls) is 100% unbiased. Even my later calculations are made using a method I chose for calculating a risk to reward ratio, which is not free from bias due to author selection of method of assessment - other methods may offer different numbers, so take these as opinion and not fact. Much as I’d like to say I’m infallible, there may be mistakes. Initially I was doing 2 part calculations but later I found a way to one line it, which reduces the potential for errors.

This article has several distinct sections:


The Math
What are the odds? Fight value and your chance of winning

The Tactics
The assets
Pick your battles and play around your weaknesses

Thranduil’s Halls is a playable faction and elves are a playable race but definitely not top tier. Their once vaunted fight value means less in this high strength, high defence, special striking, magic-riddled meta. Elves can be a fun semi-competitive option but, sadly, lack a lot of options that would take them to the top levels of gameplay.

My god what I would give for elven blades to be able to piercing strike! Even if it was a set +1S and -1D or +2S and -2D it would be huge! Take Mirkwood Armoured Elves, they are already expensive and now they have to pay for elven blades on their basic warriors that ⅓ can’t even use two-handed because of their shields! What an unnecessary tax. Not to mention a low number army can’t afford to have minus one to the duel roll, why should Orcs… gah. I’ve made my point.

Their fight is what you pay for, so use it. Take a banner to statistically maximise your chances, the more dice in an elf fight the better - even if the enemy has a lot. Make ample use of spears (and pikes, if you’re Galadhrim) and focus a lot of your model count into a small area, taking advantage of shielding in your centre, while you focus your killy killy in big stacks.
Breech enemy lines to get to the juicy defence 5 targets.
Feint with the front rank where possible, having a spear support keep the fight value high.
Prioritise things you can't handle in combat with your bowfire, like monsters.
Convex shape to maximise banner. Provides a little bubble for the elves. Thicken the flanks of your force to gradually envelope the enemy and adopt a concave formation.
Remember, big stacks are your friends with your higher fight, so a banner in the centre to provide your shielding elves with 3d6 to win, and spears at the flanks
Staying in semi-tight formation to protect against flanking but beware monsters!
Note that Mirkwood's dodgy special rule actually does not say consists solely of (unlike nearly all the other army bonuses), meaning they still get it even if they ally someone in. Hint: Galadriel (plus she's themey as you can say they were part of the forces taking down Dol Guldur)

What are the odds? Fight value and your chance of winning

I haven’t seen anyone with an actual formula for the probabilities of win/loss with duel rolls. I googled quite exhaustively but could not find a thing! Not to be dismayed, I instead set about figuring them out myself! After some trial and error, I cracked the code.

Obviously you’re not going to take a copy of this article to every game you play as a little pocket bible (I mean, I’m not the boss of you and if that’s what you want, you have my entirely unnecessary blessing). That said, you can get a feel of what to expect before a game, so maybe remember your rough odds against your most common opponents.

Duel statistics:

Chances of X attacks with higher fight beating a single attack model with lower fight (in parentheses is the % increase since last number), so your bog standard elf v goblin matchup.

1 v 1 = 57.87
2 v 1 = 74.54 (16.67)
3 v 1 = 82.64 (8.1)
4 v 1 = 87.41 (4.77)
5 v 1 = 90.52 (3.11)
6 v 1 = 92.67 (2.15)

What we are seeing here is a very clear trend of diminishing returns on investment. Against a lower fight enemy the ideal number is going to be 2 attacks, a maximum of 3 unless you’re just mopping up the last few enemies. Each additional attack roughly halves for the first bit, meaning that that initial 16.67% bump is great but after the 3 v 1 we’re seeing negligible return on investment.

Now let's look at fighting against 2 defenders, so your traditional spearwall or a single 2 attack model like a berserker.

1 v 2 = 42.13
2 v 2 = 61.04 (18.91)
3 v 2 = 71.93 (10.89)
4 v 2 = 78.93
5 v 2 = 83.76
6 v 2 = 87.25

Now fighting against a three deep Uruk/Easterling phalanx

1 v 3 = 34.03
2 v 3 = 52.84
3 v 3 = 64.77
4 v 3 = 72.93
5 v 3 = 78.76
6 v 3 = 83.13

Now fighting against the cheeky monkey filth that is a feral berserker and 2 pikes supporting them. The middle pikeman will invariably have a crossbow as well; that doesn’t influence this calculation in any way but we all know that they will have Mcshooty in the middle, who has been taking S4 pot shots on you the whole time.

1 v 4 = 29.26
2 v 4 = 47.43
3 v 4 = 59.73
4 v 4 = 68.50
5 v 4 = 75.00
6 v 4 = 79.94

At this point we’re out of formations and we are into 2 watchers of Karna with a spear support territory. Realistically, a lot of these bigger fights will be broken off into smaller fights -I recognise that; but things like your Thranduil/Mirkwood rangers with their extra dice means that these events CAN happen. So I decided to err on the side of caution and provide the statistics for you, you spoilt little thing, you.

1 v 5 = 26.15
2 v 5 = 43.63
3 v 5 = 56.02
4 v 5 = 65.16
5 v 5 = 72.08
6 v 5 = 77.44

Don’t worry, this is the last column of numbers I’ll be directly figuring out for this post. While there are still plenty of reference to numbers but we’ll just be using what we’ve got from here on in with only the occasional basic math sneaking in. Without further ado, the vs 6 category!

1 v 6 = 24.00
2 v 6 = 40.86
3 v 6 = 53.23
4 v 6 = 62.58
5 v 6 = 69.79
6 v 6 = 75.44

Well, what we are seeing is that in an even fight, the more dice, the better the chances of winning the fight. So even though the ratio of dice remains the same, the effect is a decided swing (of ~3% per extra attack) towards the elves.

1 v 1 = 57.87
2 v 2 = 61.04 (18.91)
3 v 3 = 64.77
4 v 4 = 68.50
5 v 5 = 72.08
6 v 6 = 75.44

Why does this matter? Well, it comes into both how you build your list and pick your fights. Spears are more helpful to you than they are to other races. Not only can you shield with them but you can also risk less points per combat! “Huh?” you mumble with a slight head tilt, “what do you mean, Olly?” you ask. Well, instead of two 1 v 1 fights, you can go for one 2 v 2 fight. This way, you are both instantly ~3% more likely to win, but you’re also only risking one model if you lose.

“3%, who cares? Who honestly gives a damn?”
Funny you should ask that, imagined straw-man version of you. Think about how many extra kills poisoned Harad arrows get over the course of a game. Did you know that (though this number fluctuates based off of defence and accuracy) most of the time, warriors of Harad are only about 1-4% more likely to kill than an equivalent warrior without poisoned arrows? It adds up!
Not to mention, winning 3% more of the time means losing 3% less of the time, and less losing means less dying. Hint: that’s a good thing.

Now we can break these numbers apart and look at them in different ways, for instance, instead of having the probabilities of winning broken down by increasing number of elf attacks, we can instead pick one category (say 2 attacks) and look from there. If we compile all 6 results for 2 attacks together we can see how a shielding elf would statistically compare against attackers with 1-6 dice.

2 v 1 = 74.54
2 v 2 = 61.04
2 v 3 = 52.84
2 v 4 = 47.43
2 v 5 = 43.63
2 v 6 = 40.86

Those are some impressive numbers. Even when heavily outnumbered, so long as we can maintain the higher fight, we still have a decent chance of taking the duel on fight value.

If we compiled all the 3 dice results, we could simulate how a shielding elf within range of a banner could statistically be expected to fare.

3 v 1 = 82.64
3 v 2 = 71.93
3 v 3 = 64.77
3 v 4 = 59.73
3 v 5 = 56.02
3 v 6 = 53.23

Against a Gondorian/typical shieldwall, one elf shielding in banner range could be expected to win ~72% of the time. We are talking some potentially amazing holding power, particularly against S3 majority opponents where the D6 line will help keep you alive when you do lose fights.

We can also look at probability of winning a fight, take that number and multiply it by the chance to wound. So let us look at a 2 v 2 with a Mirkwood armoured elf with shield and a spear support vs an uruk with shield and a pike support. Odds of winning a 2 v 2 are 61.04, which times the chance to wound (16.67 x 2, the two is to repeat the number because there are 2 attacks) gives a 20.35% chance of both winning and killing an uruk.
Conversely, if we take the uruks chance to win (in this case we take 100 and minus the elves’ chance to win to figure that out, so 100 - 61.04 = 38.96% that the uruks take the fight) and multiply it by their chance to wound, .33 chance of wounding x 2. The uruks actually have a 25.97% chance of both winning and killing! That’s a significant advantage to them, near 20% more likely to result in a kill than the elves.

Now let's look at the same combat but replace the uruks with Mordor orcs. Elves chance of winning is unchanged, but the chance of wounding is doubled. 61.04 x .33 x 2 = 40.69% chance of both winning and killing. Orcs have the same chance of winning as the uruks, 38.96 but are less likely to kill, so x.1667 x 2 = 12.98% chance of winning and killing. These are some good odds for aggressive play. However, it doesn’t take much to turn the tide, for instance, if the orcs catch a D5 elf such as a bowman or glaive model, they are just as likely to wound as an uruk, 25.97%.

Orcs and uruks perform the same against D5 elves, that’s not all we have to consider though. The final thing we can do with math is figure out the RISK/REWARD. When we are in combat, we are betting that our fighters can beat and even potentially kill the enemy fighters but to do this we must gamble the lives of our warriors. We can figure out how much is being gambled by looking at the points costs of the figures involved. The elf vs orc combat sees the elf player risking 11 points for a 40.69% chance of killing the opponent, while the orc is risking 6 points for a 12.98% chance at 11.

The reward is the points potentially gained, for this combat (the bigger your number, the better the deal; the smaller their number, the better the deal):
6 pts x 40.69 = 2.44 points won on average by the elf
11pts x 12.98 = 1.43 points won on average by the orc

As we can see, the elf comes out on top

What a difference a point of defence can make though! What if it was a bowman or a glaive instead of a shieldman that the orc attacks?
11 x 25.97 = 2.86 points won on average by the orc
6 pts x 40.69 = 2.44 points won on average by the elf

Now, despite the fact the elf is much more likely to win the fight, per point, the orc player is actually making a reasonable bet!

The Assets
What units does Mirkwood offer?

Mirkwood rangers
When a lot of people in my local group read the rules for these bad boys (and girls!) they thought they were broken. Well, they’re not. In fact, they’re almost outright bad. When you’re outnumbered, the potential for more attacks can be alluring. Their special rule is almost great but it is very rare to be able to charge 3 models, 2 is quite doable but 3 is a stretch, and far less likely to happen. The weakness of these elves is their confused role, coupled with their low defence. If these guys had 2 attacks base, I could see them working but as they are they are an elf bow that (in effect) can’t be shot back but for a few more points. Seems good but the trade for this is that they are both more expensive AND less durable. Defence 3 is really, really bad. Bog standard wood elves can get away with it because they are cheap, these guys have no staying power and are not costed like it. For 11 or (probably more fairly) 12 points I could see them being viable but as it stands there are very few instances where I would want them over Mirkwood armoured elves. The extra 2 defence and the 3 saved points is just too much to pass up.

Advice for these guys tends to follow the formula for elites, basically consider them as an upgrade for your regular units if you have extra points and not to consider them as a unit in their own right and I tend to agree. Look up some Galadhrim lists and you’ll see people don’t really include elf warriors with bow and elven cloak, it’s about half of the cost of another archer. Would you rather 2 bows with elven cloaks or 3 bows without? A lot of the time the more elven shots the better. For two points more than the elven cloak, you get an elven warrior. It just isn’t worth it on frontline troops.

The exception, of course, is your objective holders - and it is here where Mirkwood rangers excel. Having 2 or 3 rangers in a force can be an excellent way to hold your home field objectives. Their high courage means they’re likely to stay even if you’re broken, and their elven cloak and bow means they can take pot shots at any enemies trying to nab the objective out from under you. Additionally, provided they are sending a small group to take it, your knife fighter rule may even hold them off once they arrive. For this reason, they can be incredibly helpful, it’s just a damn shame they’re not in clamp packs and Mirkwood armoured elves are in a beautiful plastic set. The models are amazing, and as home field objective holders (they are outdone by Mirkwood cavalry/armoured elves for enemy objectives) they are definitely worth including 2-3.

Mirkwood Armoured Elves
These guys are your bread and butter, and overall you’re going to be relying on these guys and they are most definitely a worthwhile addition. That said, let’s start with the bads, there are three key failings of this unit:

They’re elves, ergo they’re expensive. Cheapest any of these guys effectively come (unless you physically cut off the swordsmen shields) is 11 points. You are not going to be able to horde out on these guys and compared to other similarly pointed models (Iron Hills Dwarves, Khazad Guards) they’re not quite up to scratch.

Their options. Now don’t get me wrong, these guys have glaives! Definitely a worthwhile and versatile weapon but the swordsmen are shoehorned into carrying elven blades, and the bowmen CANNOT take glaives. Unlike most other factions, when it comes to weapons Mirkwood must EXCHANGE their elven blade for an elf bow OR glaive - meaning no bowmen with glaives. Due to having shields, the swordsmen can never use their elven blades as two handed weapons (not that you’d want to anyway - but at least it was an option), so you’re paying a point so that in the event an opponent has equal fight AND you tie the duel roll AND you have a ⅙ chance of rolling a three you will win the fight.


So not worth it. Forcing elves, an ultra expensive race, to buy a weapon that requires three separate conditions to come into effect is just horrible. My only hope is that elven blades get reworked in some way to make them effective with shields. Having shields is necessary on nearly every frontline troop - especially elves as each troop is almost always more expensive than their adversary, and with elven blades being useless once paired with a shield… Not good.

They’re finecast. Aw man is this a big negative. Kudos to GW for finally putting these guys into a bundle where you can save a bit of money but when I bought mine they were $40 Australian dollars… for three. Not only that but they frequently have bubbles, the noses in particular are prone to bubbles and it’s just a dodgy material to work with. Then there is the fact that there are only 3 poses to your figures. Damn man, I know this hit Laketown and Gundabad too, so at least we’re not alone in our misery but it hurts. Especially after seeing what FW did with the Iron Hills Dwarves, can you imagine Forgeworld done Mirkwood Elves? Look at their Thranduil and then imagine that for their basic troops. I’m drooling. I can only hope once the finecast stock disappears that they’ll be redone but I think that that’s a fool’s dream. Combine that with Iron Hills Dwarves having rock solid profiles and amazing special rules/units and it’s hard to not feel left out in the cold.

With the gripes done, let's look at the positives:

They’re elves. They are amazing warriors, able to at least tie with almost any hero. They are the highest fight achievable for non-upgraded, regular troops. Sure, elite options like reavers might get up there but I’d hardly call them regulars, they’re definitely elites. They’re shooting accuracy is second to none, their courage is phenomenal. You’re one of the few non-fury factions that really need not worry to much come break tests.

They have access to glaives. That is nasty, it’s a nice piece of kit that adds some much needed versatility to an otherwise predictable force. Glaives can support like a spear, cut like an elven blade and shield like a… (synonym for shield). These guys are going to be the sneaky sneaks of the force, usable as a force multiplier.

You’re reasonably armoured. Let’s be real here, in this strength 4 meta, most armies are going to be killing your elves on a 5. 5 Seems to be the sweet spot for elves at the moment. Without access to D7, best we can do is D6 and that’s only on the swordsmen. Adding shields to your glaives will get them there too but you’ll have to make/aquire shields for them and you’ll both be paying a point for a special rule you already have (shielding) and lose access to one you already had (two handing with an elven blade), so in my opinion it is not worth it. Add on the fact that S4 is so prevalent and it’s more likely than not to just be another 1 point tax.
You’re tied with high elves for armour, you’re as durable as you can be.

Woodland creature. I think I have a few gripes about elves because we do get shafted a fair bit but only when comparisons are made. In isolation elves look awesome, it’s just that if you take in the full spectrum of opponents out there you start to see some issues. Woodland creature is awesome IF there is woodland terrain on the board and it’s in a useful location. Perhaps it’s just in my gaming group but generally there are only 2 forests on the board. This limits the usefulness of the rule but on more heavily wooded boards this rule can be pivotal. Used to full effect, this rule can let you effectively DOUBLE your movement. Forcing an enemy to engage you in a wooded area severely handicaps their ability to pick combats, allowing you to take full advantage of the chaos.

Mirkwood Cavalry:
These guys I am massively happy with. They’re rather cheaply costed for what they bring, they’re base 2 points less expensive than a Galadhrim knight. They lose out on the 12 inch moving armoured steed, but instead gain a banner reroll whilst mounted and within 6 inches of Thranduil. I think that is a very worthwhile trade, and makes them have (in effect) 3 dice to win the duel. Having them accompany Thranduil on elk is a formidable kill squad. Sure, they don’t have lances but compared to a Rivendell knight with shield, a Mirkwood cav model with shield costs 5 points less! Granted, they don’t have the elf bow or lance but Rivendell Knights don’t have the banner effect and are actually less likely to win!

On their own, I think these guys would still struggle against D6 and above. Their lack of lances means they don’t have as much punch as they would need BUT what they lack in punch they make up for in cheapness. These guys are 3 points more expensive than a Palace guard with shield and spear or a Mirkwood ranger. 3 points! That’s nothing! The jump in degree of usefulness between a Mirkwood palace guard and a knight is HUGE!. These guys are cheap enough to be fielded in a moderate group and act as an excellent supplement to an elven battleline. Flanking the opponents with these guys and Thranduil is bound to bring the hurt. Use them as trappers, their knock down will let you double the strikes of your basic infantry. These guys help to shore up a massive weakness of elves, and that is killing potential. All too often elves will win fights but won’t kill. Don’t forget to feint when this guy has another elf in the fight with him!

I would consider these guys mandatory if you’ve already included Thranduil. They’re too good at what the rest of your army is bad at to overlook them. AND they’re fantastic for snagging objectives too. Don’t forget that expert riders can pick up light objects without dismounting and that woodland creature lets these guys get their charge bonuses in woodland terrain!

Palace Guard

Well, these guys are simply overcosted and underperforming in my opinion. You wouldn’t believe it, but these guys are actually 2 points cheaper than they were. Before, with spear and shield they cost 16 points (I can say this as the profile was released as part of a free download in the desolation of Smaug).That’s as one point less than a current Mirkwood cavalry model with shield is now.
Even with their updated costs, basic Guards of the Galadhrim Court cost the exact same and have a better stat line, as well as a pike (which they can shield with!) instead of the elven blade Palace Guards come with. Let’s look and compare the two units on several fronts:

Guards of the Galadhrim Court lose the elven blade, which in this instance would be kind of useful, but they come with a pike that they can shield with, or they could support a model with a shield. Galadhrim win this round

Galadhrim guards don’t get access to D6 (which Palace guard would have to pay another point for) but let's think about what these guys are here for. They’re either going to be fighting low tier monsters, who don’t really care all that much about D5 or D6, or they’re going to be fighting heroes to force them to heroic strike. Heroes who, for the most part, are going to be S4 or above and therefore D5/6 matters little. Not to mention that given that these guys come with a supporting weapon basic, they don’t actually have to risk their own lives provided you can get someone else in combat (which Palace guard would have to pay ANOTHER point for, and it would only be a spear - not a pike!). Or, if they do get in combat, Galadhrim could shield with their pike! Galadhrim win this round too

Galadhrim lose access to the plus one fight when within 3 inches of Thranduil… but instead they just get +1 fight all the time and not just within a tiny 3 inch bubble of an already highly targeted and (relatively) low D model. Galadhrim hands down win this round

Galadhrim lose access to bodyguard. Firstly, they’re elves, so they’re very likely to pass anyway. Secondly, they get plus one courage base, so they come in at a default of courage 6 - and that’s not conditional on a squishy elf hero being alive, that’s all the time. Galadhrim win this round.

So, in summary, for 2 points more than a Galadhrim guard you get an extra defence and provided thranduil is alive AND within 3 inches, AND the hero you are bodyguarding is also alive, you can sometimes get access to what your Lorien cousins have. If Thranduil is dead and was the model you were bodyguarding, then (presuming you bought a shield) you have the same identical stats as a Mirkwood armoured elf swordsman… but costs much more.
Also, consider that to get the bonus fight value that they pay for, they really need to be with Thranduil - who as previously discussed, should be leading a warband of Mirkwood cavalry, so they will either slow the warband down or get left behind. Definitely not a great unit.

High elf kingsguard can be cheaper than a Mirkwood Palace Guard as well, or kitted out the same and have constant access to fight 6. And while they lose the bodyguard courage bonus, I think the constant fight irrespective of where Gil Galad is means that they are better. I have not done a full analysis of these guys, however, as they require the purchase of Gil Galad to even get them. Then again, palace guards require the purchase of Thranduil to even potentially get fight 6 so I suppose it wouldn’t be that odd a comparison.

To make them more competitive, I would give at least give them +1 fight all the time or +1 defence. OR, if you want a really, really cool unit, instead of the +1D or +1 fight (both of which aren’t really that useful for the cost they’re already paying) for 2 points more - so back to their old cost of 14 base - give them a rule equivalent to many knives that Mirkwood rangers have. That alone would power Mirkwood up hugely, but not game breakingly so. It would really make Mirkwood a unique faction, and they would be the first combat-oriented multi-attack elf - but only if they can engage at least 2 enemy models (I don’t count Mirkwood rangers which are first and foremost archers). Other races get multi attack models, why not the most disciplined, well-trained and swiftest striking soldiery in all of middle earth? Not to mention that at those points costs per figure, they’d essentially cost the same cost as cavalry but without the knock down bonuses - and would also still be reliant on having priority, if they didn’t then the opponent could simply engage them with one model and a spear support. The advantage is the potential of more attacks but the downside would be only if they could engage multiple opponents.

Pick your battles and play around your weaknesses

As elves, Mirkwood will pretty much always have the higher fight. With the math shown earlier we have proven that the bigger the stack in the duel (even if the opponent has a corresponding increase in their stack) the more likely you are to win. Even against 4 enemy models, a single shielding elf within banner range has just shy of a 60% chance of winning (in fact, the elf is very slightly more likely to win this fight than they would be to win in a one on one fight!).

With this in mind, I would personally suggest a battle formation similar to the Athenians under Miltiades at Marathon and the Carthaginians under Hannibal at Cannae (which the US military later adopted for use in the first and second Afghan wars). In both of these battles a numerically inferior foe surrounded and defeated numerically superior opponents.

The deployments were based on the principle of a folding centre and strengthened flanks. As battle would commence, the generals knew that their centres would be hard pressed, and thus ordered their men to fight but live, ceding ground as they went while the most elite/heavy troops were focused on eliminating enemy flankers and then pressing into the centre mass of troops, resulting in the iconic pincer movement.


Above is the diagram of Hannibal's forces at Cannae, this diagram is most useful because it also demonstrates what happens next.


Here we see the subsequent surrounding and entrapping of the Roman army. In this battle, Hannibal’s 50,000 men entrap and defeat 90,000 Romans. Hannibal’s centre was to fold and invert, his initial convex shape became concave and the enemy were trapped by their own gains of ground. After beating the Roman cavalry, Hannibal’s flankers turned their attention onto the infantry, circling from both sides and sealing the trap and fate of the Roman army.

It might seem grandiose to look at real life and try and get it onto the tabletop but this is a very viable (and interesting!) way to look at the problem. As elves, we will be outnumbered. What can we do about it? With a banner at the centre of a battle line and a convex deployment, we can draw the enemy force in towards us - this gives us much more coverage with our banner than we would otherwise get. We draw the enemy in because realistically they are best served bringing their numbers to bear upon us. By tactically placing our spears towards the flanks we maximise our chances of wins and kills there, while our centre gradually gives ground and constantly shields. The goal here being to keep the bulk of their forces occupied with as little of our forces as possible. Even if it’s 1 on 1, shield! You are worth more than they are, and they will have the advantage in points over time! Yes, you are more likely to win the fight but every elf loss is much more dire than the loss of a goblin or man. A 1 v 1 shielding elf is 75% likely to win the fight (~82% with a banner). Keep your centre alive!

With your formation, don’t be afraid to leave spaces between you troops so that you can present a wider front. While I talk about having a convex formation that will gradually give way to a concave it does not have to be base-to-base. So long as enemy models can’t slip through the cracks it is safe, preferable even as it can mean that you can keep more of the enemy busy and force them to move even farther to get to your flanks. I would suggest deploying in a tight formation to lull the enemy into thinking it’s a typical strategy and then, a turn or two in advance of the first combats, split out into a wider front but still maintaining the convex shape.

Heroes placed towards the flanks will help with the carving up of the enemy. As the enemy reaches your convex front, they will naturally want to envelope you, which by necessity dictates that a significant chunk of their forces are pushed to the sides, where Tauriel and Thranduil will be waiting. Thranduil as a hammer on the anvil that is your elven battle line while Tauriel is just a glass grenade you can throw into the enemy’s other flank. These two models are benefit by fighting more models, and this is where the enemy will be forced to go to bring their hurt to you. A delicious time, though don’t be over ambitious and take too many risks with Thranduil. He’s usually a big chunky of your forces.

With every duel with your basic warriors, think of not dying as a victory. Every time you don’t die it’s a step closer to winning the game. Break orcs and they flee in droves, whereas your basic elf passes courage 83.33% of the time. Whittle your opponents down and realise that you and them breaking the same turn is NOT equal. Our broken is not a big deal, so getting them broken, even if it breaks you as well, is NOT a fair trade but one that is in OUR favour.

This of course doesn’t account for monsters. Hurls will disrupt this formation like there’s no tomorrow, and sadly none of our named heroes are particularly adept monster hunters. Monsters will hurt as Legolas is not geared for combat and Thran and Taur are both troop munchers and any detouring from that will both hurt the army and expose them to considerable risk should the monsters win. Trolls and the likes should be a prime target for archery, shaving a wound or two off before the lines meet can be pivotal.
Against monsters ideally we’d have an expendable hero like a captain we can throw in, sadly we don't have a cheap captain. Best bet would be a palace guard captain but for a few points more you get either Tauriel or Legolas. In larger games priority should be on filling out at least all three named heroes warbands with the full 12 before adding little captains in. And after that I’d ally in a galadriel for banishment and some fortify spirits and only after that would I be looking at throwing in Palace Guard captains (though not necessarily looking at picking up any palace guards themselves the overcosted fools!)

It’s not necessarily in the spirit of the game, but sometimes, in a tournament scene, it can be beneficial to sacrifice your own men. In events where the game ends at a certain point, if you have enough VPs or possess the objective, it can be useful to chose bad combats to maximise your losses and speed the end of the game. Your high courage means you’re most likely to stay on the board. I remember winning the Australian Mother of All Battles tournament by laying down a wood elf with elven cloak on ¾ of the objectives and throwing my warriors into reckless combats. Courage 5 kept me on the table and 25% saw the game end.

Really sorry for how long that turned out but I always love reading in depth breakdowns and tacticas, so I thought I might as well provide one!

Author:  ja33 [ Sun Feb 25, 2018 6:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Math of Mirkwood - An Elven Tactica

Great post ONI....really detailed and lots of great information...

Stats were interesting, and agree that people would be wise to copy and paste that data somewhere - could be really helpful in games...

Really enjoyed the breakdown of the Mirkwood troops. Lots of well-thought out ideas there. A few years back, during in the real heyday of this site, several veteran writes/war gamers offered a series of similar posts on all different factions. As a beginner at that time, I found it really helpful in army building and troop prioritizing, in addition to being really interesting and educational.

Perhaps your post will inspire others to do similar write ups once more. I may even be tempted to write up guides for Rivendell, Lothlorien and Isengard myself, as those are the 3 factions that I have the most experience with.

Good job again ONI and look forward to more posts from you in the future....

Author:  LionoftheWest [ Sun Feb 25, 2018 6:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Math of Mirkwood - An Elven Tactica

This is incredibly helpful and inspiring. Thank you for taking the time and effort to write such a detailed post. I’ll agree and say this motivates me to want to attempt something similar. I also appreciate that this is about one of the more underrated factions. Well done!

Author:  Wan Shi Tong [ Sun Feb 25, 2018 10:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Math of Mirkwood - An Elven Tactica

Interesting. Nice work ONI.

I have never really bought into the tactic you outlined here though. Giving ground in a game where you opponent can see the whole field all the time is like trying to set up an ambush. Realistically, if they only way to get your center to fold back is to refuse to engage and move back, to give ground. This is both very noticeable to another player and very likely to result in unfavorable engagements as the other player tries to stack fights rather than engage the whole center line, especially if there is extra space between the models. Or, in the case of troops with ranged attacks, a volley of retaliation free kill chances. This sort of ploy relies to heavily on the inability of the troops being lured into the center to notice the rest of the field. Granted I have never seen this exact tactic employed in person but I have, with dwarves, seen the effects of trying to hold a formation in fixed position against superior numbers.

Author:  ONI [ Tue Feb 27, 2018 1:45 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Math of Mirkwood - An Elven Tactica

Thanks guys, I've always been passionate about elves and fondly remember the heyday when high elves were the top tier good army. Back before warbands when you could take a beast of a hero and then horde out on warriors, man those were the days.

Though things may be tougher now my passion for the race has not waned.

@wan, I am not talking about the deliberate baiting of the enemy into a concave but talking about the mathematical progression of combats. Im not usuggestiong that the elg player withdraw their unitd into a concave formation and hope that the enemy takes the bait. Starting with a convex formation, if the flanks possess both heroes and also the bolsteredbranks in the form of spear supports and cavalry then the flanks are statistically likely to make advances, As they both win and kill while the centre is strictly shielding. This means that the number of enemy models in the cente is relatively constant with the exception of models the enemy player moves to the flanks, so your centre should either collapse or maintain but not particularly advance. This is while your flanks will likely advance and it's the flanks that will cause the concave. Sorry if that was unclear in my first post, obviously the enemy player could just ignore your formation in that instance and attack without repercussion

Author:  ONI [ Tue Feb 27, 2018 1:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Math of Mirkwood - An Elven Tactica

I wrote the previous message on my phone (and this one as well). I will edit when I'm home as I've already spotted an embarrassing amount of typos but fixing it on here will be a nightmare

Author:  Wan Shi Tong [ Tue Feb 27, 2018 2:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Math of Mirkwood - An Elven Tactica

Hmm. I see where my confusion arose from. Cannae's envelopment relied on the collapse of the center in conjunction with advancing flanks. Your inclusion of that battle as a illustration threw me off from your intentions. Perhaps a different illustration for your strategy would be worth considering to avoid confusion in the future. Something like the Zulu Horns with a holding center and advancing flanks.

Author:  metalface13 [ Mon Mar 19, 2018 1:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Math of Mirkwood - An Elven Tactica

ja33 wrote:
Perhaps your post will inspire others to do similar write ups once more. I may even be tempted to write up guides for Rivendell, Lothlorien and Isengard myself, as those are the 3 factions that I have the most experience with.

I'd love to read those!

Author:  metalface13 [ Mon Mar 19, 2018 1:16 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Math of Mirkwood - An Elven Tactica

Great article, very interesting to me personally as I'm interested in starting a Mirkwood army. It is interesting that the mostly sylvan elves from Mirkwood have more elite options than the noldor elves from Rivendell ;) That has to due more with what's been represented in the movies more than anyone else. I'd love to see the high elves receive some more unit types but there's not a lot to go on from the books and movies. Still, the high elves have the biggest hero selection of the elf armies.

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