lauantai 25. helmikuuta 2017

Animal handlers in 3rd edition WFB

In the comments part of my previous posting LM suggested that I should write about Animal handlers in 3rd edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battle. After doing some research I´ve decided to write not just one but several articles about them. Putting everything in one place would make that single article a very long one. And very time consuming to write. Tackling this beast is better done in smaller steps.

This first posting will discuss the animal handlers in general. The rules, who gets them, pro´s and con´s in general etc. Later on I will look more closely to each army list in WFB: Armies and show you some examples for all the armies that can use animal handlers. And of course look at their strenghts and weaknesses.

The article for Wood Elf Beastmasters is here.
The article for Dark Elf Whelp masters is here.

 Wood Elf animal handler with war hounds. One of the first sets
I painted after discovering Oldhammer and getting back to painting miniatures.

Animal handlers are introduced in the WFB rulebook under the advanced rules part at page 95.  The rules copied here from the rule book are in italic. My thoughts on rules are written below each section.
Some smaller animals may be used in units led and controlled by a single human, or any other intelligent animal handler. Armies permitted to employ beast packs are indicated in Warhammer Armies together with the number of handlers available. Typical examples include wolves used by Goblins and reptilian warhounds used by Slann.
There are five armies in the WFB: Armies book that can take animal handlers: dark elf, wood elf, chaos, skaven and slann. In addition to that Hobgoblin mercenary contingent can have hobhound handlers.

In this opening paragraph we see yet another minor change from the original  rule book to the Armies. Rule book uses goblins with wolves as a typical example, but there are no animal handlers in Orcs & Goblins army list.
1. A pack of beasts must have one or more handler models, one of which is nominated as the unit´s leader.
Well, this is pretty obvious.
2. Beast models must be placed in front of the handlers during movement. A typical beast pack has one or more ranks of beasts in front of one or more handlers. The unit´s leader is placed in the center of the first handler rank.
Again, nothing special here. Just like in the picture above and below- beasts in the front, handler(s) behind them.

A big pack of rat ogres and their handlers by LM.
3. All psychology test are taken using the leader´s profile. If the leader model is slain another handler may take over, and a new leader´s profile is used. The beasts´ profile is not used for psychology unless pack reverts to a wild disposition (see 7 below).
This makes sense to me. It´s the handlers who keep the pack together. If they break and run the pack will do the same. On the other hand it´s the handlers´ will (and whip) that can drive a hesitating pack forward.
4. A pack of beasts may make a single free maneuver during the movement or reserve phase. No additional maneuvers may be attempted.
This rule can be concidered as one of the weaknesses of a beast pack. They are not that maneuverable. You can´t send them on a tricky route that would require multiple wheeling etc.
5. If the unit sustains missile hits the GM must determine whether beasts or handlers are hit. This can only be done fairly by randomizing each hit. For example, if there are 4 handlers and 8 beasts the chance of hitting a beast would be twice that of hitting a handler (eg roll a D6 - 1 or 2 = a handler, 3, 4, 5 or 6 = a beast). If the proportions are not convenient (eg 2 handlers and 7 beasts) always round up the number of beasts to a fraction dividable by a dice roll. This represent the fact that beasts are a more immediate targer and are marginally more likely to be hit.
Another weakness of a beast pack. You can lose the whole unit with some lucky missile shots. For example a unit of three wood elf handlers with total of nine bears is 39 + 180 points when no additional equipment is chosen. Just three (un)lucky shots can take out the whole unit putting the bears to a wild pack mode (see rule 7 below).

Rat ogres lost their handlers to ship company´s arrows and went home.

You can take optional armor for handlers but choosing both shield and light armor will slow you down.
edit.  As brought up by LM in the comments you can add some staying power to a handler team by using animal handler champions as per WFB: Armies page 6.
6. It is likely that a pack´s beasts and handlers have different movement rates. However, we do not wish to seperate handlers from their beasts as this would lead to confusion. Therefore, a pack normally moves at the rate of it´s handlers or beasts whichever is slower. However, a pack charges and pursues at the movement rate of the beasts regardless of whether handlers are faster or slower. This is an exception to the normal movement rules.
edit. I had missed some part of the rules in part 6. This way written they are clear.
7. If all the handlers are slain, beast automatically revert to a wild disposition. Beast models are subsequently moved by the GM towards the nearest table edge. Models leaving the table do not return. A wild pack will fight if attacked, but will not charge of it´s own volition. A pack involved in a combat engagement will not revert to a wild state until the engagement and subsequent pursuit is completed.
This is of course connected to rule n:o 3. If the handlers are no longer there to tell the pack what to do it goes away. In a GM´d game you could concider giving GM some more control over the pack - wild beasts could attack their former masters or the nearest unit - friend of foe.
8. Handlers may not fight in hand-to-hand combat during the first round of an engagement. Handlers may be moved into the front rank during any subsequent round of combat and may fight as normal. An enemy model may choose to strike at beast or handler if in base-to-base contact.
Again a very logical rule. Keep in mind that putting the handlers in the front row will make them vulnerable.
An Animal Handler costs as additional +5 points. This is added after points have been calculated for equipment.
For skavens and hobgoblins the points cost for a model in doubled which seems a bit high. For elves, chaos and slann the raise is about 50%. But as with war altars the beast packs look good on the battlefield and because of that can always be concidered worth taking.

In my opinion the pro´s and con´s for animal handlers and beast packs are:

They look good on the battle field
Not everyone gets them
They add character to an army
Some of the animals are pretty powerful

A bit pricey
Not very maneuverable
Somewhat vulnerable
In the following posting I will take a look into each army list including animal handlers. The order will be (the list is subject to changes if I so decide):
  1. Wood elves
  2. Dark elves
  3. Chaos
  4. Skaven
  5. Slann
  6. Hobgoblin Hobhound handers
  7. The Oddities
Please let me know if you want you pictures to be shown in one or more of those. Or if you have a blog link to share. Or any other material you would like me to include.

7 kommenttia:

  1. I've got a few to contribute bud - great idea for an article! I reckon you've got some mileage here looking at all sorts of specialist troops and oddities in the army lists.

  2. Regarding movement. It was always my thought that all normal movement, charge and pursuit is done with slower M (usually M of the handler/s).

  3. Hi Inkub! Thank you for commenting. I took a second look at the rules because of your comment and noticed I had made a mistake there. But I got it corrected now.

    1. Yep, You are right now, and I was mistaken too:)

  4. One small, but possibly significant rule addition can be found in WA p. 6. For 5 points more, you are allowed to have animal handler champions that can significantly add to their resiliency against missile fire.
    Something that came up in a recent game was cannon fire vs. beast packs. Counting the handler rank as a full rank (i.e. 2 automatic hits) seemed a bit harsh and as a house rule we decided to give them only a single hit.

  5. Great article! I've used chaos warhound handlers in just one game and they look great, but were also shot to pieces before doing anything useful.

  6. Finmirage - thank you for comment. You don´t happen to have pics of your chaos beast handlers, do you?

    LM - that one I really missed but now it´s added to the text. Thank you very much for pointing that out. And the house rule seems quite fair to me.