Part one – Bladeslingers

Center-stage is a series of articles spotlighting a particular model or unit in Godslayer; first up are the Bladeslingers, one of the most commonly used units among the Wyldfolk of Annyr warbands. This Light-Infantry unit belongs to the Tribal sub-faction of the Wyldfolk, but can of course be used in warbands led by any Wyldfolk sub-faction warlord.

When village lands are overrun, all able-bodied farmers and craftsmen of the Annyr tribes form up into bands known as Bladeslingers – usually all members of the same extended family. Even womenfolk join their ranks, for in Annyrion women enjoy equality with men. These militias do not represent the Annyr’s finest, but what they lack in experience they make up for with typical Wyldfolk agility, wilderness-lore and enthusiasm.

From the fens of Penndrynis to the coast of Larryn, the spear-sling is the most common instrument of war in every Tribal Wyldfolk village. This sturdy two-handed spear plays a fine tune of death amid the cacophony of battle, and the sling attached to its back end sings in the wind as the stones are whirled with deadly momentum from the leverage of the haft. Ownership and care of the oaken spear-sling is a matter of pride, and the mark of an adult.

Just as city-folk use towers, walls and gates, the Wyldfolk tribesmen employ the terrain for tactical advantage. Dark woodlands, misty fens, tangled heath and rocky hillocks are ubiquitous features in their ancient homeland of Annyrion. Pelting foes with stones, they surge back and forth before melting away into the woods and swamps. Other Bladeslingers may be positioned by the Pendragon in camouflaged dugouts, ready to launch a lightning assault on an unsuspecting foe. Highlanders, Lowlanders and Fennfolk alike revel in the dance of battle and delight in its discordant melody. 
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Looking at the statistics of the Bladeslingers one can easily assume they are a relatively weak unit in a warband, but this would be a mistake since they are one of the most versatile units in the game – and when used correctly can be VERY effective. In terms of value for points, Bladeslingers surely count as one of the best.

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Let’s start with a look at their profile.
MOV 3 – nothing special there; this is the normal movement for humans.
MEL 5 – mediocre; 5 is the level indicating partially trained militias or inexperienced soldiers.
MIS 6 – not bad, this indicates some real training and skill for missile attacks. Fortunately they are equipped with a missile weapon in the form of a spear-sling called a Bladesling.
MAG 3 – unremarkable but slightly on the higher end for completely untrained warriors due to their closeness to the force of nature.
DEF 13 – upper average, showing that they tend to be more agile than some others.
ARM 5 – this poor level of armor reflects the leathers they wear.
LEAD 8 – above average, due to their wild natures and inner resolve.
ACT 4 – average.

From the above we can see that they are not great in melee, but pretty good with their Bladesling shooting, quite agile and lightly armored with above average mental traits. Simply looking at their stats shows only a portion of the picture, for it is the combination of their various attributes which makes them so effective.

Most importantly we see the “Light Infantry” designation on the side of their profile. Light Infantry have two very strong benefits; firstly, they can move up to five times per turn, which means the Bladeslingers can move very quickly across the battlefield indeed – up to 15 inches per turn if they are assigned an action token from the warlord. Secondly they can make long charges (3XMOV+2 inches). This charge range of 11 inches is 3 inches more than normal infantry. Perhaps that does not sound like much, but it can make a huge difference on the battlefield.

Now let’s look at their weapon. Their Bladesling has two attack options; it can be used like a spear in melee with a POW of 3 or it can be used like a staff-sling for making missile attacks with a POW of 1. Neither POW is particularly high, but let’s remember that both attacks cost 2 action tokens, so a full unit of 8 Bladeslingers could shoot twice per turn, making 16 missile attacks with a MIS of 6, hitting the average trooper with a DEF of 13 on a 7+. Not bad, but with a range of only 8 inches, most of their missile attacks will probably be made at long-range (within 16 inches). When shooting at long-range they suffer the usual -1 to hit and -1 POW, needing an un-modified 8+ to hit average troopers or 7+ to hit less agile models (of which there are plenty in the game). So 16 missile attacks per turn from 16 inches away on a 7/8+ is a lot of stones. That’s an average of 6 or 8 hits per turn. Many units can average 8 hits or more per turn in melee, but few can do it from a range of 16 inches away. Even though the POW is poor, it is sufficient to weaken the enemy while they are advancing and to inflict a few casualties which can swing the fortunes of battle in the favor of the Wyldfolk player.

Looking now at their melee attacks, with a MEL of 5 against average DEF 13, they need 8’s to hit. Not bad, but certainly not great. Still with 8 models, that’s 16 attacks per turn. Now here comes the great part – their Bladesling MEL attack is at RNG 2, meaning they can be positioned up to 2 inches away from the enemy and still be engaging them. Since most models have RNG 1 weapons, this means that Bladeslingers often get to attack with no chance of being counter-attacked. This is a considerable advantage since they can cut down several enemy models of an opposing unit before that unit can activate and then attack the Bladeslingers. By doing so, they can reduce the number of attacks that they will receive back.

Adding the melee range of 2 inches to their already long charge of 11 inches means that they actually can charge foes up to 13 inches away!

Abilities and Tactics
Turning the card over, we see they have one sub-faction ability and two tactics.

The sub-faction ability of Wildwalker permits them to move and charge through difficult terrain without the usual penalty of half movement. This applies only when they are led by a Tribal Sub-faction warlord, which at the moment means the Pendragon. That is a little restricting but as you will see below, the Pendragon is an ideal leader for the Bladeslingers’ warband.

Hail of Hornets: The Wyldfolk lands are rife with nests of the Red Hornet, and Bladeslingers carry these nests sealed in leather bags to sling into enemies, unleashing the enraged insects.
As the description infers, Hail of Hornets is a self tactic, so when used it applies to the entire unit and allows them to cancel one action token from an opposing model/unit. Perhaps that does not sound impressive, but consider – this can be applied to an opposing unit, and since it then affects all models in the unit, it means that every model in the unit loses one action token. Against a unit of 10 models, you are effectively removing 10 action tokens from the enemy warband. Most units have 4 action tokens and have attacks costing 2 action tokens, so by robbing all unit models of one ACT, you effectively prevent them making an attack. That’s 10 attacks that you can prevent the opponent from performing each round. What’s more, this awesome tactic costs zero action tokens to use! But remember, units can only use one self-tactic once per round. Nevertheless this is a very cool bonus.

Lastly, their tactic Hedgehog:
Hedgehog: When threatened, the Bladeslingers form into a tightly packed formation with spears leveled forward, and the spear butt wedged into the ground, which provides a wall of spear-points.
Using the self-tactic Hedgehog, the Bladeslingers gain +1 DEF, bringing their DEF to 14. Doesn’t sound impressive? Well read on. Because Godslayer uses 2D6 rule mechanic for making attacks, dice rolls occur according to the probability bell-curve. Basically there are six possible combinations to score a 7 (6+1, 5+2, 4+3, 3+4, 2+5, 1+6) giving a 16.66% chance, compared to the chances of rolling a 12 (6+6 only), which has only a 2.77% chance. And so each number between 7 and 12 has a dramatically decreasing chance of being rolled. This is the so-called probability bell-curve. Alright but what does it all mean? It means that when you shift the required score necessary to hit, each one-point step higher increases the chances of missing by an escalating probability.

For example: a Hoplite with MEL 5 attacking a Bladeslinger with normal DEF 13 needs an 8 to hit (a 41.64% chance). When we increase the DEF of the Bladeslinger by 1 to DEF14, the Hoplite now needs a 9 to hit (a 27.76% chance). That is a huge difference.

And another cool feature is the fact that you can use it even when charging – quite in contrast to the Hoplites‘ Phalanx or the Legionnaires’ Testudo. Bear in mind that this tactic also costs zero ACT to use!

The best spells for buffing the Bladeslingers are the simple ones:
Omens: gives +1 to MEL attack or damage rolls.
Fury of Mabdus: roll 3 dice for damage rolls, and discard lowest (also can be used on their MIS attacks!
Breath of Stromnath: +2 range for their missile attacks
Hurricane Winds: +1 damage on missile attacks

[b]Putting it all Together[/b]
So we have seen some pretty unremarkable points about the Bladeslingers and also some pretty cooler aspects. When we mix the ingredients together we get something which far surpasses the sum of the parts.

The Classic Plan:
This usually works best with units of 6-8 models.
A classic use of Bladeslingers is to advance them forward at full speed so that they are within MIS range of the enemy on turn 2, perhaps even turn 1 if the enemy moves very fast. Use your Bladeslingers to pelt the enemy using their missile attack. Remember that each attack is announced separately one after another, so you can attack the same target with several models until it is dead, then move on to the next one. With a POW of zero (due to long range penalty) they are not fantastically powerful, so try to use them against your opponents’ lightest troops such as Maldire Mongrels, Kinswords, Xisteri Bombers, Reaver Tribesmen, and Gnoll Reaver Runts as well as creatures and characters with low ARM scores. Sometimes the threat of the missile attacks is even more effective than the attacks themselves.

As the opponent advances, you should retreat by moving twice, enabling you to make one shot per turn. Try at all times to keep some difficult terrain between you and the enemy (but not forest or you will block your line of sight). Remember that with your Wildwalker ability you can cross difficult terrain at normal speed but most enemy models cannot, so keeping difficult terrain between you and them greatly decreases the chances that they will charge or engage you while you fall back and hammer them with stones.

After two or three turns of this, the opponent should be nearing your charge range, so try to position your Bladeslingers by moving them as the last activation of the round so that they are 12-13 inches from the nearest enemy unit or creature. If you have two units of Bladeslingers, then that’s even better, because even if you lose the priority roll in the next round, your opponent is going to be faced with some bad choices. Be sure to put your unit in Hedgehog at the start of the turn to give yourself DEF 14 until their next standard activation in the following round. In this way, you will be harder to hit in case your opponent attacks them before you activate them next round.

If he wins he can probably only activate one model/unit and your Bladeslingers will be outside of his charge range in most cases. The best he can do against your Bladeslinger units is to move 4 times and try to engage one of them. By doing so he uses up all or most of the action tokens of the unit and therefore cannot attack you. In that case you assign your Bladeslingers an action token from your warlord, and move them once to position them so that you have two Bladeslingers engaging one enemy model, then make two melee attacks with all unit models. Unless you are facing models with an ARM of 10 of higher, always chose Offensive fighting style to gain the +1 MEL to greatly increase the number of hits you score.

If instead, you do gain the priority in the critical round, then charge your Bladeslingers into an enemy unit or creature. Try to choose target units with low-medium DEF and/or ARM values. Position your models so they are more than one-inch away from enemy models that have RNG1. Try to engage as many units and individual models as possible so they cannot charge in their turn.

Once you have placed your models, make your attacks, remembering your charge bonus, so that you are attacking with a MEL of 6 and POW of 4. After making your round of attacks, use your tactic Hail of Hornets to rob the engaged unit/model of one action token. Since the enemy loses 1 ACT and also must spend one ACT to get into MEL range (due to their 1” weapon range), they will probably make only one attack, even if assigned an action token from their warlord. After this, make your second round of attacks (still remembering the charge bonus remains in effect also for these attacks). 

Now use valguard valor with your Pendragon and assign an action token to your other unit of Bladeslingers as well as the Wylde Charge tactic, then charge the largest unit. With Vanguard Valaor the Bladeslingers spend less one ACT to charge the same unit. They are therefore able to make 3 attacks this round!

The Unorthodox Plan
Small units of 4 Bladeslingers are ideal for this strategy, and cost 44 points, enabling you to use two or more in most warbands. As with the classical tactic, the Bladeslingers should advance forward and use their missile attacks, but their role afterwards is more of a support roll. The Bladeslinger units should take advantage of difficult terrain whenever possible to protect themselves from charges. Their primary role is to distract the enemy warband and break up their advance while destroying light troops and characters with missile attacks. 
They can even perform some hit & run maneuvers. As your last activation in the round, you charge an enemy. If you win the next priority, just disengage and move them away again (with your 2” MEL range, models with RNG1 cannot make free-strikes when you move away because they are not engaging you). 

If you want to be really devious, place one Bladeslinger in the MEL range of the enemy and tempt him to make a free-strike when you move away. If he does, then he can’t charge anymore in this round! You can really cripple a unit by doing this! 

With the unorthodox plan you can be extremely frustrating to the enemy and bleed the enemy warband to exhaustion with lots of little pin prick attacks. If he chases after your small units of Bladeslingers and finally manages to get them, it doesn’t matter because you will have already won the game with your important units at another place on the battlefield and lost only a cheap 44 pts unit.

One particularly good stratagem is to place them with secret deployment using the ability of the Pendragon warlord called Dugout. In this case, it is advantageous to place the secret-deployment tokens (especially the token where they are really located) inside difficult terrain, but not far from the edge. As enemies approach, activate the unit and reveal them, then charge them out of the difficult terrain at any kind of opposing model or unit. Be sure to place them more than one inch away from the enemy so that you are engaging but not engaged by them. After performing initial charge attacks, use your Hail of Hornets tactic on the enemy model/unit and then withdraw back into the difficult terrain using your maximum movement. Because of your 2-inch range weapon, your models will not count as engaged by the enemy and so you may move away without suffering free-strikes. If you can assign the Bladeslingers an action token from the warlord, then even better. Having moved either 6 or 9 inches away and deep within difficult terrain, the enemy will be unable to charge you (unless they have Wildwalker ability). Having robbed them of one of their action tokens, the enemy model/unit is unlikely to spend its remaining action tokens slogging through difficult terrain to engage you. But if they do, they will almost certainly have no action tokens remaining to attack your Bladeslingers.

If you use forest terrain, remember that you can only see one inch through forest for your charges so you will need to place the secret-deployment marker near the edge so that when you reveal your models they will have line of sight for declaring a charge. Normally it should be possible for 3 of your 4 models to have line of sight, and the fourth model can tag along when they charge. The advantage of using forest is that the model/unit you charged will be unable to charge you due to no line of sight, even if they have the Wildwalker or Woodwise abilities.

Use harder troops such as Cromlech Guard or Wycca Warriors for the core of your warband, and as the enemy closes on them, use Bladeslingers to rob enemy units of action tokens and to make supporting attacks. Ideally, you can pin a unit with a long charge, and then use your heavy units to charge the pinned enemy.

A small unit of Bladeslingers in a large warband of 400 points represents 10% of the warband’s points. As such they can also be used as a sacrifice to draw the enemy forward so that you can charge them with heavy units and models. This is not an ideal way to use them, and if you do this, be sure to activate their Hedgehog tactic and try to buff them with ordered tactics and an action token from the warlord. In this way they can at least be a nuisance to destroy and do some damage in return.

Taking out war-machines and spell-casters is also an ideal use for small units of Bladeslingers.

The Shooty Plan
This strategy is best when they are led by a Fiannor Farfarer, and when they are deployed in units of 8 models.

Use their great speed to close with the enemy, but keep your warlord nearby so that he can support them. Assign each unit of Bladeslingers an action token from the Farfarer and Steady Shot which reduces the cost of the Bladeslingers first missile attack of their turn by 1 ACT. In this way they will be able to make 3 missile attacks per turn – that’s 24 attacks from each unit!

It is also important to support the warband with an Ovate Grove Druid. Use him to cast the spells Breath of Stromnath (+2 range for missile attacks) and more importantly Hurricane Winds (+1 POW for missile attacks) or Fury of Mabhdus (roll 1 extra damage die and discard lowest) on your Bladeslingers. Or if you have enough points, take two druids and use all three spells! Remember unlike tactics, spells can be stacked on a unit/model without limit.

Withdraw your warband back across the table, getting in two or three rounds of shooting. Once you have backed up to around 10-12 inches from your table edge, use your Bladeslingers as melee troops with their long-charges, particularly charging smaller units and individual models which they can fully destroy in the final rounds of the game (earning you kill-points).

Either way you use them, keep in mind, that they are pretty squishy and will not last long against melee units/models when they are finally cornered. And enemy missile troops will also kill them pretty fast if they can shoot them without cover. Be aware of fast models like certain creatures, and units like Maldire Mongrels and most 

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Combining Bladeslingers with other Models
Various models in the Wyldfolk Warband have useful synergies with the Bladeslingers.
• Pendragon – Perhaps the best warlord to take with a Bladeslinger-based warband is the Tribal warlord, the Pendragon. Not only does he allow the Bladeslingers to use their sub-faction ability, but he also offers the possibility to place a unit of Bladeslingers in secret deployment with his Dugout ability.
His Wyld Charge tactic can be ordered to the Bladeslingers, giving them +1 to hit in a turn they charge. Combine this with his Vanguard Valor ability, and any unit he charges can be charged by the Bladeslingers for one less ACT. When he also assigns the unit an action token, this means they can make 3 melee attacks each in a turn they charge. That means up to 24 melee attacks at +2 to hit and +1 POW due to the Wyld Charge and the charge bonus. Combine that with the Druid’s spell Fury of Mabhdus, and you have a unit which can easily massacre elite enemy units.

• Bard – The Bard’s song Legend Lore can be used to buff the melee attacks of the Bladeslingers with either a +1 to hit or +1 damage. Remember that this is a talent so does not count as a tactic, in this way you can combine it with tactics that buff the Bladeslingers. When you add Legend Lore to the above charging Bladeslingers, you have a unit with +3 to hit and +2 POW which could even be buffed further with spells.
With his tactic Courageous he can also stop fleeing Bladeslinger units and allow them to activate as normal thereafter.

• Stormbow Beast-Hunter – These monster killers make a perfect addition to a warband and can support the Bladeslingers taking down enemies which have high armor with their POW4 bows.
• Blackwater Banshee – With her tactic Mortodyne, the Banshee can add one action token to a Bladeslinger unit. This can work with the same effect as an action token assigned by the warlord in case the warlord is not around. Alternatively, give your Bladeslingers unit an action token from both and then you can make 3 attacks per turn.
• Ogham Megalith – The Ogham Aura can offer Bladeslingers a 6+ protection roll, which is very useful considering their poor armor.
A megalith has an additional benefit particularly useful to Bladeslingers since they will often be advanced far across the board in the early rounds, and out of range of the Druid’s spells. The Megalith enables the Druid to channel his spells through them, enabling him to support the Bladeslingers across the table.
• Ovate Grove Druid – We have already mentioned three spells the druid can use to boost the shooting of the Bladeslingers, but there are many others: Caendra’s Caress can be used to heal Bladeslingers, Flurry of Leaves can hide them with a haze effect (especially useful when they are harrying enemy units with their missile attacks and find themselves unable to retreat far enough away); Fury of Mabhdus can be used to increase damage in melee, Swiftness of Aridhia can increase their Strike Rank allowing them to fight first, which can be useful when they are already engaged or fighting other models with a 2” range like hoplites or chainslayers; Omens offers them either +1 to hit or +1 damage in melee; and Grandeur of Cadhros can allow them to use both Hedgehog and Hail of Hornets tactics in the same turn which is really awesome since they both cost 0 ACT!

Further tips:
• If faced with an imminent charge or engagement, move your Bladeslingers into or behind a difficult-terrain feature. Bladeslingers should always be used offensively to charge, and never used as a defensive unit unless you wish to sacrifice them.
• Beware Beastspawn sub-faction models with their many fast models! Use difficult terrain to shield yourself, or retreat through forest terrain features after making missile attacks.
• Beware fast models with MOV4.
• Remember that heavy infantry cannot reach you if you keep your Bladeslingers 12 inches away from them, because they have a charge range of 8 and a maximum possible movement of 9. So you can always, always get the charge against heavy infantry. Keep this in mind when facing Mortan Legions sub-faction.
• If you are not planning on using your Hedgehog tactic during a turn, look for a possible target for using your Hail of Hornets tactic. Remember, you can also use Hail of Hornets against a model/unit you are engaged with!
• Avoid charging Halodyne Hill Ogres, Fjellgangrs and Chainslayers. Due to their RNG 2 multiple attacks, you can lose your entire unit in a single turn. But sometimes you must invest some points to earn some points, and Hill Ogres can do their Circular Slash multiple attacks only during their normal activation, not when counter-attacking since it is a tactic. But be sure to KILL these enemies in one round if you charge them, otherwise they can really wipe out an entire Bladeslinger unit.
• If you charge Amazon Hunters from 12 inches away when they are led by an Amazon sub-faction warlord, there is a good chance you will end up with a failed charge due to their Nomad Fighter ability. So you will need to be closer. Even without their warlord leading them they can still shoot you while you are charging them (not a good thing considering your ARM of 5).
• When you make charges, try to choose target units with low-medium ARM. Charging a unit of Legionnaires in Testudo or Hoplites in Phalanx is suicidal. Charge rather models with low-medium DEF and ARM values, wounded enemies or models/units that you need to prevent from making a charge at any cost.
• Remember that your Bladeslingers are squishy. Place them wrongly and they will get wiped out. Try to always use them offensively and not get bogged down in long melee battles in which they have lost their range advantage.

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Designers Notes
We conceived the Bladeslingers as an archetype standard unit for the Wyldfolk. We wanted to give this basic unit the capability to shoot in addition to some basic melee skills. The Bladesling seemed like an ideal weapon – uncomplicated for a rustic culture to create. We envisioned them as a cheap troop type with little armor, reflecting the Wyldfolk’s limited metal-working traditions and their penchant for fast moving, hit-and-run strategy. In a way they were a logical extrapolation of the Wyldfolk culture, and their development felt more like discovering them rather than fashioning them. In fact most of their stats and tactics were clear from the beginning and changed very little over the three years of play-testing. The Hedgehog tactic was inspired by the schiltron performed by Scottish forces in the middle ages, and fit nicely with the Celtic theme of the Wyldfolk.

I hope I have been able to inspire you to use Bladeslingers in different ways and given you some strategies to make the most of them, or alternately made you damn scared of fighting against them .

For 10 points per trooper model you get a tremendously versatile and useful warrior, which in my opinion is one of the best in the game. True, they need to be played with more finesse and forethought than some other units – but when they are, they really outshine the rest.