Kings of War: More ways to use chaff

G’day Goonhammer readers! Having established what chaff is and how to use it, it would be pertinent to follow up with a few specific examples and setups. Although we went through some quite broad uses for chaff, sometimes the exact nuances that are applied to different situations are not immediately evident. In this article we hope to help bridge that gap, and show some additional examples that don’t fit the categories we originally presented.

Throughout this article we will be referring to the units that chaff are protecting as mainline units. These are the precious, powerful units that want to get in combat, but generally don’t want to be charged.

Mitigating wavering chaff

The best chaff to have is a unit that cannot be wavered, it is either alive and well or routed. Unfortunately, some armies simply do not have access to such chaff units, such as Orcs with Orclings. Other armies have chaff that is otherwise perfect, but can still be wavered, for example Gargoyles in Forces of the Abyss. In both cases, it’s good to have a plan to prevent a wavered unit of chaff from holding up mainline units.

Like many of the tactical nuances of Kings of War, it all comes down to geometry. The typical chaff unit is much wider than it is deep, for instance troops of infantry or cavalry. When wavered a unit can do one of three things, it can sit there (halt order), move backwards (half speed), or pivot on the spot. Rotating a wavered chaff unit 90° suddenly makes the space it takes up along the front line considerably less. 

The key to getting the most out of these facts is that two mainline units behind the chaff need to have a gap between them that is at least the same distance as the depth of the chaff unit. This allows the two mainline units to then move straight past the wavered chaff without the need of a pivot.

The mitigation of wavering chaff.

This relatively simple tactic will enable charges that were otherwise impossible. Often a single pivot is required by mainline units to charge the enemy, and for non-Nimble units this is impossible if they also need to navigate their way around wavered chaff. Obviously this is less an issue for Nimble mainline units.

Backyard cleanup

Chaff doesn’t always need to be ahead of the army. Sometimes the threats are not in front of the army, but rather behind, at least they want to be. More than a year ago we covered the most common army archetypes, and it’s the Flying Circus kind of army that aims to get behind your own forces and hit flanks, rears and generally run amok. This is where chaff running around behind the army can help.

Fast enemy units often try to run down the side of the battlefield, turning to face the flanks of your army. Let’s call them fast flankers. At this point, we have two options: 

1 – Turn some units to face the threat! Such a brazen act cannot go unpunished.

2 – Ignore! There’s still a whole army ahead of you to fight.

While sometimes nothing can be done and ignoring the fast flanker is the only choice, turning some units is a valid option, but only if the fast flanker can be held in place. One common mistake by players is to turn units to face the fast flanker, only to have the fast flanker relocate to another part of the battlefield. Those units that turned now have to turn again, and the threat of the fast flanker remains. 

The key to managing fast flankers is to pin them down first. Cheap chaff units are perfect for this, committing the minimal amount to stop the fast flanker whilst still facing the bulk of the opponent’s army with your main forces. However, not all opponents will just throw their fast flankers into the charge arcs of your chaff units, even if they are only chaff. 

The best kind of chaff unit for catching a fast flanker unawares is the humble Individual unit. Able to charge in any direction, Individuals can launch themselves at fast flankers from wherever they are in the army (assuming line of sight and speed). This unit will need to inflict at least one point of damage to Disorder the fast flanker, so avoid sending in a poor wizard or standard bearer.

Pinning down fast flankers.

With the fast flanker locked down the question is, what to do next? If the chaff is sufficiently sturdy, the fast flanker could potentially be ignored, especially if the rest of your army is only going to keep moving. If, however, your army is more static and the fast flanker could still be a major threat, turning a unit to then pounce on the fast flanker in the next turn can be the right decision.

Considering the complexity regarding Individuals we will have another article soon to cover them in more detail, on more than just chaff.

Protecting chaff from light shooting

One common mistake by newer players (definitely ourselves included) is to deploy chaff units right at the front of the army. It’s true that eventually chaff units will need to be put in front (or the side or wherever), but by placing them right at the front, light shooting can quite easily remove them. Shooting such as a stray lightning bolt from a spellcaster or some bowfire from a unit with nothing better to do are a hazard for the weaker chaff units in the game. 

To do this effectively, identify the sources of shooting in the army, and try to hide from these either behind the mainline units, or behind terrain. Make sure to keep close to the units that need the chaff, and try not to move the chaff out too soon. The best time to throw out the chaff is when the opponent cannot possibly delay. Too early and the opponent will wait a turn while shooting the chaff, then continue on with their original plan. This means having your own mainline units threatening the charge. Easier to do with cavalry mainline units, harder with infantry.

Now, this isn’t to say that chaff should never be deployed at the front; sometimes it’s preferred that the enemy shoots chaff rather than mainline units. It can be the whole purpose of chaff to get in the way of such shooting, like that of cannons or bolt throwers, particularly when that is the primary damage output of the opponent’s forces. This way it can also provide cover to the mainline units behind, or even completely block line of sight.

Holding objectives/loot

With all this talk about what chaff can do on the battlefield, their simplest application is in the acquisition and holding of objectives and loot tokens. Obviously, if they have survived by the end of the game, they are perfect for grabbing that last token. This cannot be a guarantee in any game, as the opponent will seek to remove chaff for this very reason. 

Early in the game, it can be apparent that the chaff is not needed. Your units have greater speed than the opponents’ (*cough* Dwarfs *cough*), so suddenly the four units of chaff are not as critical for setting up combats. At this point, it might be better to grab the tokens straight away, and start the now much slower journey of getting them to safety. Even if the enemy might charge your token-thieving chaff, if you have mainline units set up to charge them, they might think twice. Or you get to destroy them and get the token back! Win-win.

Even at the very beginning of the game, the scenario, combined with your chaff can provide an instant advantage. Scenarios with objective placement anywhere on the board (like Pillage and Salt the Earth) are perfect. Placing objectives in safe areas around the board, such as behind tall terrain, means chaff units can sit on these objectives and not be easily targeted. The rest of the battle requires only that the enemy be held back, and perhaps secure some more objectives.

Silencing the guns

There are plenty of units in Kings of War that can threaten mainline units at range, and the most intimidating are those that ignore obscuring cover (i.e. units in between of less than three height difference). These are war engines like Big Rocks Throwers or Siege Artillery, and they can put the hurt on mainline units even if some short chaff is in the way. Spellcasters, too, can threaten mainline units, particularly bulk Lightning Bolts from Mind-Screeches or Ogre Warlocks.

The best solution is to knock out these guns using the very chaff that is now obsolete. Fast and/or flying chaff units are best for this, as time is of the essence. If the chaff unit only starts attacking the war engines by Turn 5 or 6, then the damage is already done. If, however, the chaff can get there by Turn 2 or 3, this can save your units.

Horde chaff

Some armies have access to units that even when run in hordes can act as chaff, they are just that cheap. Goblin Rabble, Zombies, Villein Penitents and Scarecrows are all classic examples of cheap, trashy hordes that just get in the way. The important difference between horde chaff and regular chaff is where the latter breaks like a power gamer’s ego, horde chaff requires some serious investment to destroy.

Using horde chaff, the plan is to force the commitment of the opponents’ mainline units, preferably even more than one. To force this engagement, some form of pressure needs to be applied, otherwise the opponent is likely to only send in a single unit and grind it out. This pressure can be from ranged damage, the threat of your own impending charges, or even just the scenario. Either way, the opponent needs to feel that charging and destroying the horde chaff is their best option.

Using cheap hordes as chaff.

Upon the demise of the horde chaff, your mainline units need to be ready to strike. This means ensuring they have range on the enemy units even if they move back 3” after the combat. Having multiple mainline units ready to multicharge is even better. The idea is that the opponent’s powerful units have been lured out, and your mainline units have their pick of which to destroy, so make sure it can be done. Otherwise what did those Goblins die for? Did they die for nothing?!

There’s always more to learn

These sets of specific examples and uses of chaff are really the tip of the ice elemental. Thanks to all that commented in the Kings of War Fanatics Facebook group. If we come up with enough chaffy content, we will write another one! Until then, keep your Gargoyles close, and double check the charge range.

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