Welcome back Goonhammer readers to another Kings of War instalment, this time covering the latest line of models to be released by Mantic Games; the Halflings! Not only did they release some fantastic models, they have released the beta rules for the army for free. If you want a laid-back dive into the Halflings lore, units and their models, then read on.
Halflings in Pannithor
The Halflings of Pannithor may be short in stature, but they make up for it with their voracious appetites, tenacious temperaments, and inquisitive minds. They reside within the Shires which are spread out on the Ardovikian Plain, an immensely fertile region that supports the multitude of meals Halflings enjoy on any given day.
Given the Halflings love of food, it should come as no surprise that their primary sauce (hehe) of magical aid is called gastromancy. Although little is known about this bizarre form of magic, it is apparent that the gastronomical efforts of any Sauceror can push nearby Halflings well beyond their physical limits. Best not to underestimate the Shirefolk when a Sauceror is around.
The Halflings as a race are a young folk, yet in comparatively little (hah) time they have tinkered with and developed a number of technologies. Examples of these include agriculturally-based harvesters, floating aerostats, and even a giant boar-like automaton. Unlike the ramshackle approach of the equally diminutive goblins, the Halflings take great pride in their inventions, and no doubt more will be seen soon.
For a long while, the Halflings had been part of the League of Rhordia, providing their technologies and soldiers to the Council of Rhor. However, in recent years the Halflings have distanced themselves from the League, focusing instead on the protection of their own lands as greater threats begin to loom across Pannithor.
The Halflings of Kings of War are made up of arguably the best aspects of these little folk in other works of fiction, taking a little but from each without being a copy:
- From Middle-Earth, the hobbits’ love for food.
- From Warcraft, the Gnomes’ inventiveness.
- From Forgotten Realms, the Halflings’ sneakiness.
The major difference in Kings of War is the warlike aspect of the Halflings, otherwise why would they form great armies? With territorial aggressiveness, they will viciously defend their Shires, and even go out on military excursions beyond their realms to quash a threat (although they won’t be happy about being on rations).
The Mantic Approach to New Factions
We’ve talked about how we believe that Kings of War is an extremely well balanced game. All army lists are created, honed and balanced to near perfection by the Rules Committee. Each of these volunteer members brings a different wargaming point of view, yet all want the game to be its best. This allows Mantic to focus on creating fantastic models and worlds, while the Rules Committee ensures the game mechanics are as exciting yet smooth as possible.
With the Halfling release, we’ve got a public beta available, so everyone can get their hands on the rules, try them out, and give feedback! This will help the new faction settle in without coming out half-baked (pardon the pun) or overcooked (another food pun!)!
Later in the year, after sufficient time for feedback, the official rules for the Halflings will come out in the Clash of Kings update (similar to the Chapter Approved of 8th edition 40K), alongside the faction updates for ALL the other factions! Your favourite won’t be getting left in the dust here (*cough* Tyranids, Craftworlds, Tau, Chaos Space Marines *cough*)! We’ve also been told that this year’s updates will only include buffs to units, to bring up those bottom units and make all lists viable. No nerfing.
Now, back to the Halflings!
Army special rules
Relentless: A 5 point, once a game upgrade that lets a unit reroll 3 failed-to-wound dice in melee if the unit it is attacking has at least one point of damage already on it. This seems to be in line with other army upgrades, and a good way to guarantee a little extra damage here and there.
Spellward: A brand new effect for Halflings; All spells targeting a unit with Spellward receive -1 to hit. This an important rule, given the amount of armies with magic based shooting and the presumed popularity of Halflings could lead to a meta change with less lightning bolt spam. Another note is this also applies to friendly spells, so if you want to buff your units, you’ll want to bring backup spell casters or find a different way to do it. More on that shortly.
The most basic troops on offer in the Halflings army, these lads and ladies represent the common Shirefolk willing to do their bit in the defense of their homelands. The models have a look of unity, but the disparate range of weapons, helmets (or not) and shields belies the amateur nature of these soldiers. There are top hats, sideburns and even mashers, and all of this adds a lot of character to the unit.
They won’t be bringing down any great monsters (at least not on their own), but they will form the core of nearly every Halfling force. They are cheap enough that a regiment can be brought along to hold back objectives. Yet hordes and legions of these Braves can act as a solid brick in the heart of any army.
The Spearspikes are the spear-wielding variant of the Braves, deriving from the same kit. Unlike the Braves, Spearspikes only form regiments and hordes, but like all spear units they have an increase in attacks (denoting the increased ability to stab the enemy) and gain the rule Phalanx. Phalanx is a powerful defensive rule that removes Thunderous Charge from enemy units attacking in the front, but also imposes -1 to hit on cavalry units. Hence Spearspikes are slightly more defensive, and a bit stabbier than their Brave counterparts, but obviously this comes at an increased points cost. Which to take depends on how pervasive cavalry units are among opponents.
The Stalwarts are the truly military foot-troops of the Halfling armies, completely bedecked in armour and capable of wielding greatswords (normal swords for a human). The full-face helmets add a sense of imposing menace, something that is normally quite hard to achieve in the little folk.
These models will be possible thanks to a resin upgrade kit for the Braves, and if previous experience of Mantic resin is anything to go by, these Stalwarts will look just as good as they do in the above render.
Stalwarts march forth as troops, regiments and hordes, with a number of attacks comparable to the Braves. What sets them apart is their increased defence, improved melee attack and access to Crushing Strength (thanks to the two-handed swords option). When combined with the later discussed auras from the various heroes, these guys can quickly become very nasty!
The Poachers are the scouting troops, ranging ahead of the main Halfling force to stalk the enemy without being seen. The stealthy hood and silent bows help, however so does being half the height of most common targets. Like the Stalwarts, the Poachers are a combination of the Poacher upgrade kit and the Braves plastic kit.
The Poachers ignore terrain penalties (thanks to Pathfinder) and have a pre-game move (thanks to Scout). This maneuverability allows the Poachers to get into position or grab objectives turn 1, and the combination of Stealthy and Spellward means your opponent will have to commit more than they think to get them off. Being armed with bows also means that while protecting objectives or loot, they can still contribute to the fight.
The Halfling Rifles bring the power of gunpowder weaponry in a small (hah), mobile package. These might not be sharpshooters by any stretch, but enough shots will still bring down most targets. These are the alternative build from the Braves kit.
A reasonable points cost and steady aim means they can also function as chaff units to protect your good stuff. One thing to note for both the Rifles and the Poachers is their contribution to Relentless. Putting some chip damage on units through ranged attacks will make your melee much more consistent down the track.
The ‘Heavy Cavalry’ of the Halflings riding the adorable mounts favoured by the Shirefolk – the Aralez! These beasts are the happy cross between a dire wolf and a golden retriever, and help bring some speed to the Halfling forces. These are made with a resin upgrade kit for the Wild Runners (below).
Unlike the heavy cavalry of other factions, Juggers somewhat lack armour penetration, having only Thunderous Charge 1 (+1 to wound after charging). However, they make up for it with Nimble. Getting extra pivots in their movement can really open up tricky charges and threaten flanks, and they will still hit hard.
Wild Runners (Melee & Ranged)
The Wild Runners are the lighter variant of the Juggers, with riders sporting either spears and shields or bows. Like the Juggers, these guys bring speed to a rather short-legged army, but lack defense. Otherwise, compared to the juggers the melee Wild Runners are very similar –
14 attacks, hitting on 3’s, with the Thunderous Charge 1 for some armour piercing. Considering they are also nimble it wouldn’t be hard to hit some tender flanks.
The ranged versions sacrifice melee capabilities, yet they can choose from short bows and blackpowder weapons., both with Steady Aim. This mobile ranged damage is perfect for getting critical damage on any target on the battlefield, triggering Relentless for the rest of the army at key moments.
Both versions of the Wild Runners actually come from the same kit as the Braves kit; it’s all one kit! This is the first time a single set of sprues contains enough to make cavalry and infantry regiments. This also means there are twice the torsos, heads and arms to choose from when making the Braves and Wild Runners.
The Halflings from in and around the Elven city of Ej are clearly some of the most ingenious of their peoples because it is from here that the Ej Grenadiers hail. These are the ultimate shock troopers of the Halflings, coming in hard and fast with grenades amidst the ranks of their enemies. Working only in smaller hit squads means these will never be the bulk of any force, but used well they can truly bring the pain.
These brilliant models are the first of the Halfling stuff that are truly unique to Mantic. Not an amazing statline, but they come with Brutal D3 – temporary D3 damage applied to the Nerve test at the end of combat. Think of it like Impact Hits from Warhammer Fantasy or Mortal Wounds on the charge. This is the first time we’ve seen Brutal greater than 1; very exciting. Hence these Ej Grenadiers essentially have D3 automatic wounds that they bring to any combat. Pair this with Fly and Nimble and you can get wherever you need them.
It turns out there’s a ranking system of all the trolls of Pannithor based on their intelligence, and Forest Trolls are right at the bottom. It is for this reason that they are so easily coerced and cajoled into serving the Halflings (although a good meal probably helps).
One thing that is immediately apparent with these models is that the limbs of these trolls are a lot more proportioned (at least according to human standards) in comparison to the early Trolls that came with the Orcs. Although those old trolls are endearing, these Forest Trolls certainly have a more menacing quality to them now that they completed a few leg sessions.
Middle of the pack in terms of troll units, they still provide good value. The highest source of Crushing Strength in the Halfling army, you’ll need a few of these if you play against high defence armies. The built in Pathfinder means these guys will hit hard regardless of the terrain, and you can save the movement-enhancing magic items for the aralez cavalry.
Forest Troll Gunners
As if to drive home the point regarding the stupidly docile nature of a Forest Troll, the Halflings have managed to rig a firing platform right on their backs! This gives the small folk some much needed height, but also grants the relative safety of a troll’s back.
They are very similar to the Forest Trolls above, but they lose one point of Crushing Strength in order to accommodate the halfling with a pintle gun. These are a well-rounded unit, able to put in the work up close and at range. Great for softening up a unit on an objective with their guns, then following up with a charge to take control and push the enemy off. It also helps that they’re one of the best looking units in the range; the perfect mix of wacky and intimidating.
Another really interesting unit for the Halflings that exemplifies their inventive nature. Aeronauts are not as steampunk as the ships of the Kharadron Overlords of Age of Sigmar, going instead with a stripped back utilitarian look. These are the slower, yet more devastating flying units of the Halflings, bringing a much greater payload than their Grenadier counterparts.
The Bombing Run ability means Aeronauts always hit on a 4+ in melee, so you can throw them into any situation with no loss to damage output; into the front of Phalanx or Ensnare units, deep into terrain, wherever the wind takes them! Their melee attacks can reach incredibly high levels thanks to their Blast D3 (for each hit, D3 hits are scored), and they have Crushing Strength 2 to put the hurt on anything except the toughest of enemies. These are a unit to be feared.
Volley Gun & Howitzer
The crafty Halflings certainly didn’t stop with small firearms when it came to ranged weaponry, and have both the Howitzer and the Volley Gun to put some serious damage on the enemy and trigger that Relentless for upcoming melee combats. They are similar to most artillery units in the game, with the Volley Gun putting out a reliable amount of piercing shots at medium range, while the Howitzer has the greater range and ability to ignore cover. Both will be right at home in a mixed arms list.
The Harvester is arguably one of the craziest units that the Halflings bring to the battlefield (wait until you see the next one). Initially created for agricultural purposes, the threshing blades driven by the pushing power of the obliging Forest Troll are just as useful with nasty goblins as they are with wheat. Chances are the giant spiky shield was not part of the original design, but helps make the Harvester a truly implacable machine of war.
This is the Halflings answer to the Goblin Mincer, and are almost identical in most ways except for being quite a bit punchier. They also have much higher nerve (most likely thanks to the Forest Troll), but consequently cost quite a bit more points. This underlies the major difference between Halflings and Goblins; Halflings bring more elite units than Goblins in almost every category, yet to get the most out of these elite units they need to be supported by key heroes. In the case of the Harvester, the Engineer (see below) is essential in getting that per unit value.
The Iron Beast is the other crazy unit of the Halflings, this time combining the inventiveness with the love of food in what is essentially a mobile weapons platform that also couples as an industrial-themed food truck. What manner of engineering created this boar-shaped robot is anyone’s guess, but there’s little point in questioning the physics of Pannithor when it’s plowing through ranks of men.
The only titan in the Halfling army, the Iron Beast has a mighty profile that puts many other titans to shame. It’s damage output at range is nothing to sneeze at (5 attacks with Piercing 1), but the melee potential with D6+10 attacks with Crushing Strength 2 will really make opponents think twice about charging it. The one downside to this behemoth is the Speed 5, meaning it’s threat range is no greater than the rest of the Halflings on foot. But sticking this in between blocks of infantry means that eventually it will get into combat, and while it waits, it can shoot the enemy and trigger Relentless. The Pride of the Shires upgrade does make it come in at a hefty points cost, but if this is beast is truly in the middle of the army it will make sure that nothing wavers or flees sooner than it should.
One of the earliest models revealed for the Halflings, the Sauceror brings a unique flavour of magic not seen yet in Pannithor; gastromancy. The power of Gastromancy is subtle, empowering nearby units rather than bestowing great power on a single unit. They also lack the ability to damage enemy units directly, having not mastered the ability to summon fire or lightning. Instead they rely on manipulating the ravenous nature of the Halflings, turning the cheerful small folk into murderous gremlins (don’t feed them after midnight).
The Sauceror casts their spells before they move, unlike magic in the rest of Kings of War which happens in the Ranged Phase. They pick from one of four auras; Wild Charge, Brutal, Lifeleech, or Rally, and then roll three dice, with each roll of 4+ granting 1 point of that aura (ie. two successes could give Lifeleech 2!). This flexibility means that a Sauceror is always useful, whether it be helping a unit survive incoming ranged attacks with Rally (bonus to Nerve), or by helping the little folk get that big charge. No Halfling army will be without at least one of these amazing gastromancers, and demonstrates the synergism that is unique to the Halflings.
The Engineer is the Sauceror for the mechanical units of the Halflings, but sporting some incredible mutton chops and a massive gun establishes him in a league of his own. The model is full of character, from the tool belt at his waist to the goggles atop his head.
The Engineer comes with a Wild Charge +1 aura for all Tinker units (anything remotely mechanical), but can also be given Radiance of Life for Tinker units to give them some longevity on the battlefield. Unlike the Sauceror, he can bring two different guns, with the Halfling Long Rifle being a veritable cannon in terms of armour piercing. Perhaps most exciting, the Engineer can make a single infantry unit gain the Tinker keyword, thus gaining access to all the aforementioned buffs. Couple these buffs with the Sauceror’s own, and these Halflings will be almost unstoppable.
The cheap source of Inspiring that every army has (sorry, Nightstalkers), the Sergeant is just a bit more interesting. One can take The Standard of Hodenburg upgrade in order to gain the aura for Elite (reroll hit rolls of 1) for nearby infantry. Elite is a very useful rule as rerolls in Kings of War are much less plentiful than they are in Warhammer 40K and Age of Sigmar. The only problem is that when there are so many important heroes to add to a list, this one might just not make the cut.
The Muster Captain is the primary leader of the Halfling forces, representing the strength and resilience of the Shirefolk. Unfortunately, in an army needing Saucerors and Engineers, he doesn’t bring all that much to the table in terms of synergy, and is outshone by his counterpart on the winged Aralez. Inspiring is good to have, but the Engineer also has Inspiring. Where he might be useful is putting damage on flying enemies when mounted on the speedy aralez. The model is fantastic, though, so it is unlikely any Halfling collector will go without getting a Muster Captain if only for the chance to paint such a good boy (the aralez).
This choppy ruffian known as the Feast Master is the character hunter of the Halfling forces. Those cleavers are as much for dicing up enemy wizards as much as they are for rustling up a hearty mutton stew. Scout means these guys can get a headstart on closing in on their targets, but unfortunately being limited to Speed 5 means they can only get around the battlefield so much, and might be a bit too easy to avoid compared to character hunters of other armies.
Muster Captain on Winged Aralez
This is perhaps the goodest boy in all of Pannithor. Sporting ornate armour, glorious feathered wings and a serious Muster Captain on its back, this model is serious competition for the most gorgeous flying beast in the Kings of War range.
Although the Muster Captain on Winged Aralez does little to enhance the synergy of the army, it can do perfectly fine on its own much like the flying heroes present in other armies. Expect this winged doggo to be putting pressure on flanks, or flying over the front lines of the enemy to cause all manner of havoc around the back.
Forest Troll Gunner Hero
The hero variant of the Halfling-hefting Forest Troll Gunners, they are a solid source of Inspiring that can add some decent damage output. Sit these guys in between Halfling infantry, and much like the Harvester, they will help add armour piercing damage to any combat. Again, they offer little synergy and would only be taken once enough Saucerors and Engineers are in the army.
The head honcho of the Halflings, Aeron Cadwalader takes the Shirefolk to the next level in a very elegant way. His aura of Nimble for infantry means that what is normally a relatively unwieldy unit, particularly hordes and legions, are suddenly able to get around corners that much quicker, or track faster units and keep them in their sights for a subsequent charge.
Aeron himself is nothing special, only as good as a regular Muster Captain in combat, but his aura coupled with his Very Inspiring will see him taken more often than the standard Muster Captain.
The crazy oversized Halfling that is Greedyguts adds quite a bit of weight to the Halfling army. Throwing this lad into the thick of the fighting not only means some extra damage, but the Dread he brings along will really put the pressure on the enemy (-1 to enemy nerve within 6”). Removing him will also be no easy task, thanks to his Lifeleech 3 which means he gains health as he deals damage, up to a maximum of 3 per turn; most likely due to him eating his unfortunate opponents.
This Halfling hero is a nod to the sneaky, thieving nature of Halflings that is so intrinsic to the worlds such as the Forgotten Realms, but also to Bilbo Baggins. Similar to the Feast Master, Ally excels at hunting down enemy heroes, but she is a master thief, literally! She not only nullifies the effects of magical artefacts of nearby enemies, but when in combat with an enemy, can use the magical item herself! Suddenly that Brew of Sharpness is not such a good idea when Ally McSween gets a hold of it.
Halflings are going to be able to run extremely varied army styles, from large blocks of high nerve infantry, to a flying circus of winged Aralez, Aeronauts and Grenadiers, to a gunline of war machines, rifles and poachers. However, the real strength of the army will be in its combined arms approach, utilising the buffs from the Sauceror and Engineers to keep large blocks of infantry alive in the centre, while they are supported by war engines, ranged infantry, and fast, nimble cavalry and fliers.
There is a lack of armour piercing in the list, with even the Iron Beast capping out at Crushing Strength 2, unlike titans in other armies. There is also a lack of natural Bane Chant in the list, so defense 6+ units will be hard to take down, though the prevalence of Brutal may make up for it. There’s also their own lack of high defence units, but again, the hero’s buffs should help make up for that.
The whole army seems pointed appropriately for its individual strengths, but we’ll have to see just how much extra power the buffs give their units. We’ve seen in other game systems just how good stacking buffs can be on cheap infantry squads. We also need to remember that this army is written with the Clash of Kings update in mind. We’ve been told from Mantic that there will be straight buffs for underperforming units and armies, so if the Halflings are a little over tuned, we should be seeing everyone else brought up to the same level.
Overall, we can’t wait to give the Halflings a try, it seems like there will be a lot of reward for skilled players and the hobby opportunities will be excellent as well. The fact that everyone gets to try these rules out means that the Halflings will be well-placed to enter the ever expanding range of factions that Kings of War has to offer without tipping the balance that the Rules Committee has strived to maintain. Finally, the Halflings of Pannithor have somehow managed to pay homage to all the Halflings that have come before, but also brought something of their own.
One More Thing…
The ‘Fight for the Rift’ campaign website is up! Time to get those battles going between good and evil, and be sure to add them to the tally here https://www.kow-campaign.manticgames.com/campaign/fight-for-the-rift/. If this is the first time you’ve heard of it, all the information needed about the campaign is on the website, including faction overviews and exactly what is at stake. March for the Rift and control the Nexus!