With a good army, the whole is better than the sum of its parts. The different units do not only work well together, they make each other stronger through synergies.
The goal of this article is to help you understand the role of buffs and their targets. I hope this will help you build stronger armies and improve your positioning during your games.
How much do buffs improve your units
There are a lot of different buffs, both offensive and defensive. These buffs can improve the result of your rolls, allow you to re-roll failed rolls, have an extra effect on high rolls, increase your units movement and other cool stuff. In this article, I will discuss each type of buff and what its strengths are.
+1 to your dice rolls
Positive roll modifiers add to the results of certain dice rolls, this can increasing your chance to hit, wound, cast spells etc.
Every side of a dice has a 17% chance of showing, but buffs that add one to the result of your roll go beyond a 17% increase. If you give a Judicator +1 to hit, it goes from a 3+ to a 2+, reducing its chance to miss by a third. The efficiency of the unit does not increase beyond 17%, but its reliability does.
Following this logic, the lower you have to roll, the more impact a +1 to your dice roll will have. Going from a 3+ to a 2+ gives you more reliable attacks than going from a 4+ to a 3+.
This means that giving two +1 to hit buffs to one unit that hits on a 4+ can be preferable over giving it to two different units with the same hit chance. This all depends on how important it is for you to make specific rolls. The more reliable your units are, the more you can plan their actions.
Due to the rule of 1, 1s will always fail. This means that buffing the roll on anything that has a 2+ is a loss unless you are trying to counter negative modifiers.
Re-rolls are a lot stronger than people give it credit for. They reduce the chance of your roll failing by the success chance of your rolls. You have a 50% chance of rolling a 4+, with a re-roll this is 75% because the chance of a fail is halved. A rollable 4+ has a better chance of succeeding than a regular 3+.
The ability to re-roll failed rolls of 1 are a lot less strong but can be very effective on the right units. Units that can only fail rolls of 1 maximise their efficiency with a re-roll of 1.
Extra effects on high rolls
There are plenty of buffs and abilities that add extra effects to your units when you roll high enough. Usually, this is on a 6+.
Examples of this are Retributors, Executors and Concussors that all deal mortal wounds on a hit-roll of 6 or more. When you give one of these units +1 to hit, they will deal mortal wounds on a hit roll of 5+. If you give them +2 to hit, they will deal mortal wounds on a hit roll of a 4+ etc… Increasing their hit chance will increase the chance they activate their extra effect.
Due to the innate abilities of these units, they benefit even more from improved hit or wound rolls than others. It is important that you keep in mind that modifiers that increase a roll past a 2+, are wasted. If possible, choose your buff targets so that they waste as little of your buffs as possible.
For example, Retributors and Executioners have a hit chance of 3+ while Concussors have a Hit chance of 4+. Even though all these units will get an extra effect on the roll of a 6+, Concussors can enjoy two +1 to hit buffs better than the Executioners and Retributors can.
Improving number of attacks
Some buffs give models or even entire units extra attacks. Always look at the benefit you will get out of the buff. The better the attack profile of the buffed unit, the more you will get out of the buff.
Giving a skeleton warrior one extra attack is a lot less powerful than giving it to a Terrorgheist. Giving it to 20 skeletons, on the other hand, is a lot better than giving it to that one little Terrorgheist.
Apart from improving armour saves, there are also loads of ways to give your models a ward save. This allows them a save against failed armour saves and mortal wounds. This is especially good for units with multiple wounds. More wounds will allow more save rolls, which gives you more chances to get your ward safe off. Think big monsters or loads of little guys.
There are also buffs that enhance a unit’s mobility. This can be through increasing its movement range or giving it the ability to teleport. These buffs are a lot rarer but are the icing on your synergy cake. You can use these abilities to move your buffed units across the board and kick butt. When building a synergy heavy army looking at mobility buffs can be a great starting point.
Building a synergy heavy army
When you are building a synergy heavy army, choosing the right targets for your buffs, is key to your success.
Even though Retributors are crazy scary after a few buffs, they are very slow, have medium saves and a low bravery. If you are counting on them to walk across the board and smack face, you are going to have a bad time.
Your army should be effective in all scenarios and all opponents. There should be no obvious weaknesses that, if taken advantage off, renders your army useless.
Even though synergies make your army more efficient, it also makes your army dependent on individual units. Dependency in wargaming is almost always a weakness.
Your army starts to shine when each unit contributes to the strength of the other units in your armies without being too dependent on the whole.
Finding and fixing the weaknesses of your army
Synergy heavy armies are stronger and more efficient but depended on individual units. This is their biggest weakness.
Keeping your supports close enough to their targets while keeping them out of your opponents threat range can be quite a challenge.
The key to defending against your weaknesses is stepping in the shoes of your opponent. Try to figure out how you would defeat your army, try to best yourself. Once you know, see if you can figure out ways to improve your army and defend against it.
The process of building a strong synergy army is one of trial and error. Try stuff out, discover its flaws, fix them and try again.
Going beyond damage output
Building a synergy army goes beyond increasing damage output. It is about building a machine of which all parts work together, making the whole stronger than each individual part. Once you have a strong damage based synergy, you can look into units that can compliment it.
An example of my list building process
For my core synergy, I have chosen a unit of 4 Concussors that I buff with my Celestial Huricanum, Volkmar the Grim and Collegiate Arcane Battle Wizard.
This gives the Concussors +2 to hit and +1 to wound. This allows me to hit and wound on a 2+ while dealing mortal wounds on hit rolls of 4+. My Dracoth’s claws deal D6 damage on wound rolls of 5+. The Battle Wizard gets +1 to its casting roll while within 10″ of the Huricanum.
To expand on these four units, I should look at my resources and weaknesses. My main resource is the 10″ +1 to hit aura from my Celestial Huricanum and my two wizards. My weaknesses are my dependency on the Huricanum, the battle wizard and Volkmar who all die pretty quick.
To fix this, I need one or two resilient units that can hold up my enemies until I can charge them with my Concussors. After some searching, I find the Frostheart Phoenix with an anointed on top. A beefy monster rider that reduces the wound rolls of enemies within 9″ by 1. He also hits and wounds on a 3+ which is a perfect candidate for the Huricanum’s +1 to hit buff. The Phoenix has an ability that gives it a chance to increase its save roll by 1, every time a spell is cast within 12″.
Now, every time I use my spells to buff up my Concussors, I am also buffing the save rolls of my Frostheart phoenix. Since my Huricanum can also cast spells, I decide I take two Phoenixes.
My army now adds up to 1600 points, leaving me with 400 points to round it out for my next tournament. Since I have very few models, I look for a cheap high model count battle line unit. This brings me to Skinks. While they deal no damage and fold like a towel, they have 10 models per unit and are extremely fast for their point cost.
After adding 3 units of skinks, I am left with 160 points to spend. Since My Phoenixes benefit soo much from spellcasters, I decide to look for a caster. Balthazar Gelt does the trick. For exactly 160 points I get a wizard that can move 14″ and cast two spells per turn, bringing my total to 4 spells per turn.
Now I have an extremely resilient army of which most units help each other out. For 2000 points I get a high enough model and hero count to capture and hold objectives. Even though it has some clear weaknesses, they are hard to take advantage of by melee armies. To deal with Ranged armies I can utilise the speed of my Phoenixes and Balthazar to engage and debuff enemy ranged units.