Part Four – Hoplites
The citizen hoplite is a farmer or artisan by profession, but foremost a defender of his state. All male adults of landowning families are required to perform three months of service per year and pledge their lives to defending the state. Each one owns a suit of armor consisting of helmet and greaves of bronze and a hoplon shield. His cuirass is made from boiled leather or cured linen fortified with bronze scales. Each citizen is required to provide his own equipment; if he cannot, then he forfeits his citizenship.
The phalanx formation was first conceived by the Minaxons in order to create an infantry that was both cheap and effective. In this close-order formation, each man occupies a frontage of one yard, with his shield protecting his left side as well as the right side of his neighbor. Over this shield wall, two ranks of troops can attack the enemy effectively while presenting a formidable forest of spears against chargers. The phalanx is an effective tactic, but once the formation is broken the advantage is lost. This classical fighting style was long since incorporated as a standard tactic by the City-States, and when combined with the considerable armor and indomitable fighting spirit of the Halodyne people, it produces worthy warrior – the Halodyne citizen hoplite.
Most city states conduct a mandatory four years of training for all male citizens, immediately upon reaching maturity at age 14. During this period they live in the city barracks, and are known as Ephebes. Their training covers strength, endurance, combat, sport, and survival, and during the final two years, they perform duties such as patrolling the streets and guarding the city walls.
For the last 1,400 years the Halodyne civilization has been the most widespread and influential culture on Calydorn, and so it is common for bands of hoplites to be found in many parts of the world from the sun-baked deserts of Ghorn to the jungles of Kassobar. Within the heartland city-states of the Halodynes they form the core of the armies and are faced with a multitudinous variety of foes. Standing firm in phalanx formation they weather hails of arrows, storms of magic, the pounding blows of Trolloth and the skilled swordplay of Mortans. In a way, the phalanx represents the spirit of the unit, when it breaks so too does the confidence of the Hoplite’s
Clearly the Hoplites are good in defense, but I am going to show you that Hoplites are not only great value for points, but also a versatile unit which can be effective offensively. Hoplites are not professional soldiers however they are a very capable militia force with a couple of useful tactics and equipment which enhance their performance greatly. Looking at the card we see they are part of the City-States sub-faction and are regular infantry with none of the disabilities or benefits of heavy infantry or light infantry. The card also indicates a warband can take up to four units of Hoplites, demonstrating how common they are in the armies of the Halodynes. Interestingly, the minimum unit size is 6 models, indicating that they are used to acting together in large units (of up to 10 models).
A quick look at their profile will give us an overview.
MOV 3 – This is normal humanoid movement value.
MEL 5 – Mediocre; this represents the fact that they are not professional soldiers.
MIS 4 – Essentially inexperienced with missile attacks.
MAG 3 – Average for unit models
DEF 14 – Above average; although they are not great warriors, Hoplites benefit from the defensiveness of their large shields. In fact without their shields they have the DEF of poorly trained militia.
ARM 6 – This is slightly below average and shows that the Hoplites have sections of exposed skin and parts of leather along with sections of bronze.
LEAD 8 – Above average for regular units.
ACT 4 – Standard for normal troops.
Not fantastic stats, but good for a militia. As is common with the standard units, the stats tell only a part of the story, and their advantages lie with other factors.
Abilities and Tactics
Spear – First of their considerable advantages are their spears. With their melee-range of 2 inches, the Hoplites can engage enemies with RNG1 weapons and not be counter-attacked. This is a fantastic benefit not to be understated since the majority of models in Godslayer have RNG1 and some have RNG0. This means that when the hoplites charge or engage such an enemy you can position them slightly more than one inch away and make all of your attacks without taking damage in return. When this results from a charge, it means you can make two attacks per turn and reduce the number of the enemy unit before it gets to attack you in its standard activation. Not only that, you force the enemy unit to expend an action token to move into melee range. That action token spent on movement often causes the enemy unit to forego one of their attacks. If that is a unit of 10 models then you saved yourself from 10 attacks.
The spear has a POW of 3 even though wielded one-handed, showing the considerable strength and sporty physique common to the Halodynes, since this is a culture which admires and promotes manliness. Power-3 is however only average in Godslayer and not particularly impressive. Against high-ARM opponents they will struggle and become bogged down. That is not necessarily a bad thing since they can tie-up an elite unit and be a real pain in the ass due to their excellent defensiveness.
Shield – Listed below the spear is their shield – the iconic hoplon. It is this piece of equipment which vastly upgrades their stats, accounting for 2 points of DEF and 1 point of ARM. The hoplon is indeed the heart of the hoplite and the phalanx. You might find your hoplites challenged when facing models which ignore shields ability such as models armed with morning stars, but remember – although this ability negates the shield stat bonuses, it does not cancel the effect of tactics which use the shield, such as Phalanx.
Phalanx – So now we come to the heart of the hoplites. The phalanx provides an extra 2 points of armor, buffing the unit to DEF14 and ARM8. This is quite a combination; the “average foe” with MEL6 and POW3 needs 8+ to hit and 5+ to wound, or a 10+ to kill. This means that a large Hoplite unit in phalanx is likely to last 3 rounds of melee against average foes and 2 rounds against elite killers. Considering that the regular open battle scenario in Godslayer lasts 6 rounds and one or two of those rounds are spent closing with the enemy, the Hoplites can perform as an effective blocker unit tying up opposing models which would otherwise be killing other models of your warband with a higher points-value. Remember that using Phalanx costs your unit 1 of the 4 ACT to use, and so it is important to buff the hoplites with an assigned tactic from the warband’s Warlord.
On the subject of Phalanx, keep in mind this cannot be used after charging and you cannot charge when you are in phalanx, so it is entirely incompatible with offensive plans. Nevertheless, you can engage enemy models instead of charging them, and then use phalanx.
Rank Fighting – allows Hoplites to make attacks over the bases of their comrades. This is particularly useful for models with RNG2 weapons, allowing flexibility in choosing the targets for attacks in melee. Because more models can target any particular target, you can more effectively focus attacks on enemies, destroying them faster.
Combined Attack – One of the skills practiced at the military academy is the targeting of a single foe by several hoplites simultaneously, thereby greatly increasing the effectiveness of each attack. Combined Attack works very well with theirRank Fighting ability because so many models can strike the same target. This tactic provides a fantastic +2 MEL when attacking enemy models already hit by a hoplite in that unit during the same attack action, effectively raising their MEL to 7 for this attack. This makes Hoplites perfect monster-killers. Combined Attack is a useful tactic to use on the occasions when the Hoplites are not performing a defensive role, so for example, any time they charge or engage the enemy. Since it costs zero ACT it still allows you the chance to activate it and still make two attacks per turn.
Strong Willed – This ability represents the pride and mental strength of the city-state hoplites, dedicated as they are to their state. With a leadership of 8, Hoplites already demonstrate true grit; so making a LEAD roll has a 72.18% probability of success. With the additional reroll, your hoplites are unlikely to fail any LEAD test required of them; that means not only tests for receiving orders, but also fear, horror and bravery tests! Hoplites are therefore tremendously dependable for a basic unit; they can be effective creature-hunters, and will often fight to the last man. Naturally since this is a sub-faction ability, it does not apply when the Hoplites are part of other sub-faction warbands, embodying the missing extreme commitment they have when fighting for their city-state.
Hoplites can be very effectively buffed by certain of the Halodyne spells; particularly effective are:
Killing Machine – has the same effect as the Demarchon’s tactic Grace of Achallon giving them greater chances to hit by rolling three attack dice and using the two highest. So if your warband includes a Demarchon, then consider not taking this one.
Warcry – This is a must for Hoplites! They gain the ability Fear (and so become immune to Fear and treat Horror as Fear), but more importantly they may re-roll one die of each damage roll. This spell is particularly beneficial since their POW is a measly 3.
Ultimate Sacrifice – Useful if you will be facing many fear and horror-causing enemy models; and it also makes the unit immune to bravery tests. It additionally has the effect Defiant in Death (dead models are not removed until the end of the round). On the whole, I would not take this if the warband includes a Demarchon since his Defiant in Death tactic together with his Reverence and sub-faction ability add up to almost the same effect.
Seraphic Shield – provides +1 ARM, making your Hoplites ARM9 when in Phalanx. Nice.
Arrow Protection – A must when facing Wyldfolk and Mortan warbands. The +2 DEF against missile attacks is very useful since the +2 ARM from Phalanx applies only against melee attacks.
Healing Hands – If your Hoplites are performing a key role in the warband, then it is justifiable to keep these cheap guys healed up. When you combine the spell Seraphic Shield and the Hoplites Phalanx (DEF14, ARM9) and also throw in liberal amounts of healing, you can make yourself an indestructible unit. So don’t overlook this tiny little 3-point spell.
Claryon Call – With this spell the Hoplites are able to use combined attack when attacking and then go into Phalanxafterwards. That is also great for defensive tactics since you can activate your Hoplites, put them in Phalanx and then activate the Combined Attack tactic. This can give the enemy charging the Hoplites some serious trouble.
Divine Intervention – To re-roll any one die on attack rolls is really, really nice. When combined with the Demarchon’ ordered tactic Grace of Achallon or the spell Killing Machine, your Hoplites will nearly never miss an enemy and have a greater chance of scoring a critical hit too.
If you plan for your spell-casters to focus on buffing your Hoplites then for sure they should take, Warcry, Seraphic Shieldand Healing Hands, plus one or two of the others.
Combining Hoplites with other Models
Several models in the Halodyne Warband work well with your Hoplites.
• Demarchon – The Demarchon is the ideal Warlord for a Warband focused on Hoplites since he has several relevant abilities and tactics. Firstly his Sudden Feat tactic allows your Hoplites to perform Phalanx for free and enables them to use both their self tactics in one round (use Combined Strike during their activation and activate Phalanx in the Demarchon’s activation later in the round), and Hoplites within his LEAD range gain +1 LEAD from his Reverence ability (making your hoplites almost unbreakable with LEAD9 plus a re-roll). Most useful are Defiant in Death and Grace of Achallon. Defiant in Death negates bravery tests and allows your dead models to fight on during the remainder of the round, meaning that instead of counter-attacking, your hoplites can save their attacks until their standard activation and then make their attacks while benefitting from spells, tactics and fighting-style bonus.
Grace of Achallon is a nice buff for your hoplites attacks, giving them greater chances to hit by rolling three attack dice and using the two highest. In addition, the Demarchon himself gains +2 ARM when in base contact with a unit in Phalanx
• Syntarch – Like the Demarchon, the Syntarch is designed specifically to complement the models of the City-states sub-faction, especially the Hoplites, and as such he is a handy fellow to have on your city-states warband. His tactic Paeanprovides units the ability fearless and allows them to reroll missed initial attacks in a round. Sunblind means missile troops targeting your Hoplites suffer -2 MIS. Vanguard Valor is an ability and is perhaps the best of the lot since it allows the Hoplites to charge the same model/unit he charges and spend 1 less ACT. When you combine that with an ACT allocated to them by the Warlord, they can then make 3 attacks per in the turn they charge. Combine that with the spell Warcry then you have a devastating unit.
• Spell-casters – We have pretty much covered this already in the paragraph Magic above, but the Oracle has the TacticFaith, which can make a unit completely immune to enemy spells.
• Cerberos – If you are not taking Amazons, then take a Cerberos. This beast is a cheap way to get some high-speed support to threaten approaching enemies or to take out missile troops.
Putting it all Together
The Defensive Plan
The Hoplite Phalanx provides an excellent wall to halt the advancing enemy. Once brought to a grinding halt, you can charge the opposing warband with your most offensive models.
For this to work best, you will need a large unit of 8-10 models buffed to the max. Advance the Hoplites forward, with each retaining base contact with at least two others (so that you can activate Phalanx at any time and not need to move models around).
Place the Hoplites ahead of your warband and strategically blocking the centre of the battlefield (or a scenario objective if you are playing a scenario). Make sure the rest of your warband is slightly off to the sides of the Hoplites and a little further back. Make sure they are within range to charge enemy models which engage to Hoplites next round.
The perfect formation for that is a trapeze or triangle.
With the trapeze/triangle, you present the enemy a small contact surface for his own attacks (that means less attacks against your models). You should still be able to attack with a lot models with your 2” spears. And the elite models in the flanks can charge the enemy cleanly without Hoplites getting in their way.
If you place the Demarchon in the front position, he can absorb an immense amount of damage. He has a basic DEF 15 and ARM 8 when equipped with a large shield, and when in base contact with two Hoplites this becomes DEF15 and ARM10 due to his Archilochos ability. With the Helm of the Gods armor item you can increase his ARM to 11. With the Waters of Truthpotion this goes up to DEF16 and ARM 12 and with the Seraphic Shield spell, you can boost him to a DEF 16, ARM 13 monster for one round).
Place your Syntarch next to the Hoplites and place an offensive unit 6 inches behind. (An offensive unit would be ideally Hill Ogres; Sons of War are also great. Amazons and Cerberoi are also possibilities.
In the following round, assign an action token to the Hoplites from the Warlord and order to them the tactic Defiant in Death (if you are not taking a Demarchon, then buff them with the spell Ultimate Sacrifice). Activate the unit and use theirPhalanx tactic, then end their activation with 4 ACT remaining in their action-token pool.
Now wait for the enemy to come to you.
If possible, buff the Hoplites further with the spell Seraphic Shield (+1 ARM) making then DEF14 and ARM9. Keep your Demarchon at the front of the unit so that they benefit from +1 LEAD (in case the Hoplites are charged by Fear or Horrorcausing models).
When the enemy charges they will charge the Demarchon, nearest Hoplites and Syntarch. If they do not take the bait, then see the strategy “Refused Bait” below. If the enemy does charge your Hoplites, then they will be charging DEF14 and ARM9 troops. Almost like charging a brick wall.
If you timed it right, the enemy will charge in the round after you have placed your warband.
If the enemy charging your hoplites as a regular unit such as Fjell Warriors, Mongrels, Reaver Tribesmen, Legionnaires, Bladeslingers etc, then just wait until all of the attacks of the charging unit are performed (without counter-attacking). Remember that with Defiant in Death, your dead models remain in play until the end of the round.
Activate the Demarchon first and order the tactic Grace of Achallon to your Hoplites (3D6 for attack rolls).
Now assign one ACT to your elite offensive unit (Hill Ogres) from the Demarchon, and order to them the tactic Sudden Feat.
Although the active tactic Defiant in Death ends when the Hoplites get this new ordered tactic (Grace of Achallon), the effects still apply as specified in the special rule, which means the dead Hoplites are removed at the end of this round.
If possible use spell-casters to heal some of the wounded, and also cast the spell Warcry on them (reroll of one damage die).
Now make your standard activation of the Hoplites unit.
When you activate your Hoplites, end Phalanx and activate Combined Strike. Now if you did all the above, you will be rolling to hit with fighting-style bonus, and the highest two of 3D6 attack rolls, plus the +2 to hit bonus from Combined strike and reroll of one damage die in each damage roll. That should devastate the unit that charged you
NOTE TO THE CONTRARY: The above works well against regular troops charging your Hoplites. If however you are charged by a warlord and some truly devastating elite unit such as Guthackers, Carnifexors, Einherjer, and Cromlech Guard etc, then there is a chance that even with your Hoplites buffed to DEF14 and ARM9, they may still be severely brutalized. In that case it can make more sense to counter-attack instead of following the above steps of waiting, buffing and then attacking during your own activation. With counter-attacks you may be able to kill some enemies and prevent some of your Hoplites from being removed at the end of the round. However, in my opinion, the above strategy works well against most attacking models and units.
In addition to the above strategy, the models charging the Hoplites will have likely triggered the Counterstrike ability of the Syntarch when they came within 6 inches of him, and so he will be charging the unit which charged your Hoplites. In case the Hoplites and Syntarch did not utterly devastate the enemy chargers, then consider charging in with your offensive elite unit (Hill Ogres in this case) which is positioned 6 inches behind. Because they benefit from the Syntarch’s Vanguard Valorability, and because they have an ACT assigned by the Demarchon as well as the Sudden Feat tactic ordered to them, the Hill Ogres effectively have 8 action tokens. This will enable them to make lots of attacks! If they wipe out the targets of their charge, they could engage new enemy models and make a further one or two attacks.
If the enemy approaching your warband chooses not to charge the Hoplites, they will likely instead try to encircle or move down the flanks to get closer to your other models. If there is an attractive unit for your Hoplites to charge that is within charge range, then apply the “offensive strategy” below. If the enemy is just out of charge range, then change to the “Moving Wall” strategy below.
The Moving Wall
Rather than waiting to be charged, you could instead engage the models which are likely to charge you. Remember that the charge gives the opponent a +1 MEL and +1 POW bonus. Even if they are out of your charge range, you can cheat them of this bonus by engaging them.
Assign the unit an action token from the Warlord and order to them the tactic Defiant in Death.
Your Hoplites can move 12 inches and engage an enemy 2 inches away. That’s a total of 14 inches. If the enemy has 1-inch RNG weapons, be sure to place your models more than one inch away, thereby forcing them to spend an ACT on movement before they can attack you. Then activate Phalanx with your final remaining ACT. Because you did not charge, you are still allowed to use the Phalanx.
Of course this means you will not be able to make counter-attacks because you will have used up all your ACT, but this can be extremely useful when the opponent has a longer charge range and has already activated in that round. IT means they will not be able to charge you in the next round, and when they do attack you next round, you will also have ACT left to use on counter-attacks.
For example: A unit of Maldire Mongrels is approaching and you know they have been buffed so that they have a charge range of 16 inches. The opponent places them 13 inches away so that he can charge your Hoplites in the next round. The Mongrels have used-up all of their ACT on movement and are now essentially harmless until they activate again in the following round. So instead of waiting for these crazed beasts to charge you in the next round, you activate your warlord and give your Hoplites a 5th action token, then you activate your hoplites and move them 11 to 11.5 inches forward and engage the closest Mongrels with every one of your Hoplites (some fighting over the bases of others). Then you activatePhalanx.
If your Hoplites get to go first in the next round, then you will be able to make two sets of attacks and receive no counter-attacks because your models are out of the Mongrels 1-inch melee range! If the Mongrels activate first, they need to spend one ACT to engage your Hoplites (potentially costing them a lost attack to do so), and they are prevented from charging because you are engaging them. Therefore they gain no charge bonus. Either way, you have gained an advantage.
NOTE: Be careful when engaging the enemy unit that you are not placing your Hoplites in a position where they will immediately be charged by enemy models.
Because Hoplites are not fundamentally offensive models it really makes sense to buff them using the below plan whenever you can. If you find yourself in a position where your Hoplites will likely be charged before you can put the below plan into action, then consider instead using the “defensive plan” listed above or at least putting them into Phalanx. This is especially the case when enemy models have longer charge-distances than your Hoplites.
The offensive strategy works well with units of 6-7 Hoplites, and especially well when combined with a Syntarch and a Demarchon. If the warband has many small units and individual models then you will find it easier for bringing the Hoplites into position at the right time.
Activate the Syntarch and use the ability Vanguard Valor. Charge him at the enemy you intend the hoplites to charge. If you are charging a unit, then be sure to engage only one model of the enemy unit. Use his 3-ACT ambidextrous attack to have the greatest possible chance of killing the target. With the charge bonus and two attacks he should be able to kill any average trooper and even some elite unit models. Assuming he is successful, remember he benefits from Slay Movement, so he can now move 1D3 inches and engage the next unit model. In this I would put him in melee range with two models of the enemy unit, because you want to be engaging the unit even after you kill the next one. The Syntarch can now make hisambidextrous attack again for free (because of Slay movement) then he can also attack another model with his remaining 2 ACT.
NOTE: when you charge the target unit with the Syntarch, try not to charge the closest models because if you kill these, the enemy unit may no longer have models in range for the Hoplites to charge.
Activate the Demarchon and order the tactic Grace of Achallon to the Hoplites (highest 2 of 3D6 for attack rolls) and assign them an action token (either normally or through the Demarchon’s Heroic Valor ability (for free).
Now activate the Hoplites and use the tactic Combined Strike. You will be rolling to hit with a charge bonus, and the highest two of 3D6 attack rolls, plus the +2 to hit bonus from Combined strike. This means that most of your attacks will hit the enemy
When you charge or engage, always use the RNG2 melee range of your spears to your advantage, placing your models more than one inch from the enemy but less than 2, and remember that your Hoplites have LOS over each other’s bases.
Use RNG2 and rank-fighting to focus attacks on particular enemy models to kill them. It is better to kill two opposing models than to wound four, because the two dead ones cannot attack you in the next round.
Because you charged the same unit that the Syntarch charged, you save 1 ACT from his Vanguard Valor ability. You also have the 1 ACT assigned by the Demarchon, so your hoplites will be making 3 attacks each in this round. Even with their low POW of 3 (+1 from charge bonus), the quantity of attacks and the high probability of hitting will devastate units with low or medium armor. Few units could survive such a thrashing, but if you have the opportunity to cast a spell on the Hoplites before they charge, then cast the spell Warcry on them (reroll of one damage die).
• Beware of models armed with weapons that have the Ignore Shields ability (Pestbringer, Ironhide Brutes) or models with direct-damage attacks (Banshee, Fleshpounder, Lighteater, Longshadows, Reaver Tribesmen, Wycca Warriors etc). These foes will negate the defensive advantages of your Hoplites.
• The Syntarch can be used as bait in a Hoplite trap. Place him 6 inches ahead of the Hoplites and activate his tacticCounterstrike, then wait for him to be charged. Counterstrike means that when he gets charged, he counts as charging. Because of his Vanguard Valor ability, the Hoplites can now charge the enemy which charged him for 1 less ACT. Assign the Hoplites a 5th action token then they will be able to make 3 attacks against the models which charged the Syntarch. Don’t worry if the Syntarch died, the ability still applies and his loss was probably a worthwhile sacrifice.
• In most cases it makes sense to keep your Hoplites bunched together closely. This makes it less likely that they will be charged or engaged by lone characters or creatures since those models will need to take into account being counter-attacked by 3 or 4 Hoplites each time they make a single attack.
• Keep in mind that the tactic Combined Attack counts also for counter-attacks, not just attacks made in your own standard activation. Of course you need to have activated it earlier in the round, but when you are expecting to be attacked you can activate the Combined Attack tactic. In most cases you will instead want to use Phalanx, but with the spell Claryon Call, you will be able to use both – a nasty surprise for the enemy!
The Hoplites were one of the trickiest units to get correct, and in particular we had several variations of phalanx before we settled on the final one. Not only did we want to make it balanced, we also need to make it mesh logically with other defensive tactics like Testudo, Shieldwall and Hedgehog. Their points also varied a little until we had thoroughly tests all the basic units in their final form and could finally assign a fitting value. Rank-Fighting was added to introduce some kind of flavor of the ancient Greek phalanx which presented a wall of spear points. We were tempted to give them MEL6 and other stat improvements, but we clung tenaciously to the original concept which was that they represent the city-state’s militia of farmers as was the case in most classical Greek city-states. This leaves the possibility for professional, soldier hoplites for release in wave-two. With Phalanx nailed down, it was clear that Hoplites represented a nice, cheap defensive unit. TheCombined Attack tactic was created to help counteract their mediocre offensive capabilities. So we were able to make them a little better and still retain the militia-level MEL of 5. In fact Combined Attack added a sort of flavorful, heroic aspect that we were really happy with; bringing to mind scenes of argonauts battling cyclopses from old Harryhausen movies.
The combination of the Hoplon and the Phalanx tactic turns this mediocre militia into a highly effective defensive force. They are however not an elite offensive killer unit, so play to their strengths and use them wisely. For 11 points per trooper they represent a solid unit to form the backbone of any Halodyne Warband.