Part Three – Ironhide Brutes
Beneath the knightly class in the Trolloth’s feudal caste system is the stratum of free Trolloth who work as professional soldiers in service to the local lord. These warriors are known as Ironhide Brutes. Although Ironhide Brutes receive regular warrior training, Troglodytes are not renowned for their skill at arms, as they tend to win their fights with their raw muscle. Repeated smashing breaks first the opponent’s shield and then his armor and then his bones; no need for agile footwork, parrying, riposte or bluff; brute force is sufficient for most situations in life.
Their preferred tool for pounding foes is the traditional weapon of the culture – the morning-star. So heavy is the concussion that enemies are often knocked to the ground by the stone-shattering blows. The Brutes’ feudal lord is duty-bound to equip his retainers, and most are outfitted in a suit of lamellar armor made from scales of a lead-iron alloy sewn onto a leather coat – hence their name Ironhide.
Few things can scare a 9ft (2.5m) tall creature of Shadow, a fact which makes them reliable even against horrifying enemies. Despite their heavy armor and hulking size, Ironhide Brutes are by no means slow and are capable of taking a great deal of punishment before finally keeling over. That combined with the ability to regenerate makes them formidable opponents even though they lack finesse in combat.
As servants of their lord, Ironhide Brutes perform various roles including garrison of strongholds, patrolling the borders, collecting taxes, conducting raids and marching to war. Adventure and the promise of gold and glory often tempt Ironhide Brutes to join bands of mercenaries and bandits, taking them on a bloody tour of far-off lands.
Ironhide Brutes are a common unit of regular troops, each containing 3-5 models. With a DPL of 4, you can deploy up to 20 of these guys, which is a terrifying prospect for an enemy to face. Brutes are a pure melee unit with little subtlety, but that is no reason not to use them as effectively as possible. As you will see, when used in conjunction with other models they become the cornerstone of some powerful strategies.
Let’s start with a look at their profile.
MOV 3 – Normal humanoid movement value.
MEL 5 – Mediocre; although experienced warriors generally have a MEL of 6, the Ironhide Brutes’ melee skill of 5 indicates they are in general not so dexterous.
MIS 4 – Essentially inexperienced with missile attacks.
MAG 3 – Average for unit models
DEF 13 – Average. Although lack of dexterity also applies to their DEF, they are benefitting from +1 DEF from their shield, so actually their basic DEF would be 12 without the shield – a little clumsy.
ARM 7 – This is average in the game overall, but in fact most basic troops have less.
LEAD 7 – Average.
ACT 4 – Standard for normal troops.
Their weapon (Morning Star) has a basic POW of 4 when it hits, and is a regular type of weapon with range-1, and costing 2 ACT per attack.
Okay, not fantastic stats but not bad. The key advantage seems to be survivability – with ARM7, 10 life-points and Regeneration they can outlast any other regular units. Now let’s look a little deeper.
Abilities and Tactics
Ironhide Brutes have 10 life-points each (except the leader who has 12). Balanced against that is the fact that they can only have 5 models in a unit, whereas most other factions can have 8 or 10 in their basic units. This means the unit delivers less total attacks for the ACT expended but their survivability is better.
Because each model can take double the punishment that average models can take, they are more likely to survive two attacks than a typical model. This is particularly useful when used with their sub-faction ability of Regeneration which allows them to heal back D3 life-points each round. In this way the Ironhide Brutes can go one and on and on…round after round.
In fact this sub-faction ability is so useful for the Brutes that if I am taking more than one unit of them, I would never use a different sub-faction warlord since they would not benefit from Regeneration.
With a DPL of 4 units in a 500 point warband, and 5 models per unit, you are able to take up to 20 of these tough guys for a total of 320 points. That’s a pretty terrifying force to face.
The Ironhide Brutes are standard “infantry” so gain no long-charge but no do not suffer the exhaustion limit of 3 that heavy infantry have. So they are relatively mobile with an average armor and weapon. Speaking of their weapon, the Brutes are armed with a morning star that has POW4 which is more than the typical POW2 or POW3 of most other regular units.
Ignore Shields – What’s more, the morning star has the ability Ignore Shields, which means opposing models lose their DEF and ARM bonus from their shields. This is particularly great when facing models with awesome shields like the Legionnaires and Hoplites. In effect the Brutes gain +2 to hit and +1 POW against Hoplites or +1 to hit and +2 POW against Legionnaires. Since the Demarchon and Centurion also rely very much on their shields, this means the Ironhide Brutes are a threat even to those warlords.
Other units particularly prone to the Ironhide Brutes’ morning stars are Legio Mortum (who are reduced to DEF10 and ARM5), Kinswords (who are reduced to DEF12 and ARM5), and Fjell Warriors (reduced to DEF11 and ARM7). This makes Ironhide Brutes very effective against many regular troops of opposing factions.
Critical Knockdown – A nice bonus; on a critical hit, enemy models are knocked down. Knocked-down enemies are great since they do not benefit from tactics, cannot perform actions and suffer -2 DEF, making them harmless and easy prey to finish off. If the opponent decides to stand the model up, he has to pay 1 ACT for that and needs to wait until the next standard activation to do so.
Fearless – Another nice bonus for such basic troops; not only are they immune to fear, but they also suffer only fear fromhorror-causing enemies. This means you can use them against horror-causing models effectively, since even if they fail their LEAD test they will only suffer a -2 MEL penalty, rather than fleeing.
Savage Pride – Brutes gain +1 MEL and +1 POW against models with an equal or larger base. That applies to a lot of models: Hill Ogres, Amazons, Cerberos, Animated Statue, Guthackers, Fallow Shaman, Pestbringer, Bisotaur Shaman, Gorelord, Ursapine, Cyclops, Scorpio, Moloch, Catapult, Fjellgangr, Bloodvarg, Valkyrie, Chainslayer, Megalith and Beasthunter.
So let’s reflect a moment; when you consider the Ignore Shields ability and the Savage Pride ability, there are not so many enemy models leftover which are not included in one of these. So against around half the models in wave-1, the Brutes will have at least a +1/+1 bonus. Against the unlucky Valkyrie both abilities apply, so that in effect she is reduced to DEF12 and ARM5 when fighting Brutes.
For 15 points you get a decent melee fighter with 10 life-points which can be really hardy when using its regeneration.
In their simplest use as regular troops they do okay in melee, especially when you use offensive fighting style so they are hitting average DEF13 models on a 7+ (58.30% probability), and wounding models with ARM7 on a 4+ (91.62% chance of causing 1 or more points damage). When the benefit from Savage Pride or Ignore Shields, then their chances are considerably better.
You will often find yourself facing larger warbands with more models, and that means they can deliver more attacks than you. However, keep in mind that Ironhide Brutes are not double the cost of the regular infantry (e.g. Kinswords, Bladeslingers and Hoplites etc). They only cost 15 points, so for 3 Kinswords, you can get 2 Brutes. That’s still 6 attacks against your 4 attacks, but you still have double the life points, plus regeneration, so normally they will need almost 2X longer to kill one of your models than you need to kill one of their models. This means that you have several rounds of additional attacks. For example 3 Kinswords attack your 2 Brutes. In round-1 they do 4 points damage to one brute and 8 points damage to another Brute. During your attacks you kill one of the Kinswords. That means in round 2, you have 4 attacks still against their 4 attacks.
So in the end it almost balances out, but you need to really take care in your placement of models.
This should never be an issue when you charge, because you get to place your models wherever you want. So you can concentrate your force at one end of a phalanx (if they are arranged in a line). Against models with 1-inch melee range, it’s really not a problem at all because you can easily place your models so your guys are concentrating 5 against 6 or 7. It’s a good idea to have more than 5 vs. 5, because quite often, you will kill some enemies with the first attack. In this way, careful placement of your models when you charge or engage can reduce the 20 counter-attacks to 12 or 14. That improves the survivability of your Brutes greatly.
When the warband includes an Obsidian Nightmare, Ironhide Brutes can benefit from five spells.
Midnight Blessing: +1 MEL, which is always useful since they have a basic MEL of only 5. This even applies when making counter-attacks.
Twilight Salvation: With this spell, plus an action token from the warlord, they will have 6 action tokens per turn, allowing them to make 3 attacks per turn.
Grayblood: is useful for healing wounded Brutes (See rotation strategy below)
Nightfall: unit gains +2 DEF against missile attacks. Combine this with Shroud of Blackening from the Lighteater and your Brutes have +4 DEF against missile weapons. This is fantastic when facing Wyldfolk or Technostratum warbands.
Discarnate: Unit gains the ability Ethereal but causes half damage. This is not so very useful during melee because it halves their POW of 4 to 2, making it difficult to cause any damage. Ethereal can however be very useful when crossing the battlefield and facing heavy missile attacks. Or another cool use is for when your Brutes are stuck in a melee and you need to get the free. In this case, make them ethereal, and the free-strikes they suffer will be much less painful!
Putting it all Together
Although the muscle-bound Brutes are not particularly strategic in themselves, they can be used along with other models in some clever and devastating ways.
Close and Kill
Move your warband forward and use the Lighteaters to go ahead and engage the enemy. Bring up your Ironhide Brutes and get them into charge range. In case your Ironhide Brutes unit may be charged, use the Lighteater’s Eclipse tactic to place a haze effect to prevent this (by blocking line of sight for the enemy).
In the next round while the enemy units are engaged by the Lighteater/s, activate your Duskborn Chieftain and order Carnage to the Ironhide Brutes.
When the Lighteater is activated, the Eclipse haze effect will be removed, and you can replace it in a more advantageous place, allowing your Brutes to charge the enemy. Then activate your Brutes and charge them at the enemy. With Carnagethe Brutes gain Slay Movement which means D3 inches free movement plus an extra free attack (with the charge bonus). Your unit of 5 Brutes will be making potentially 15 attacks during the round – all with charge bonus!
Your Brutes might even be able to repeat the strategy in the following round, but in case they are still stuck in melee, use the Lighteaters and Reaver Runts to kill the enemies engaging them, thereby freeing up the Brutes for new charges.
The Unit Trap
This strategy works well against regular unit models like Hoplites, Legionnaires, Bladeslingers, Fjell Warriors, Bladeslingers etc.
Select a suitable unit and wait for the opponent to activate it. Move your Brutes into range to charge the enemy unit next round. Since your Brutes have a regular 8-inch charge range, chances are good that the unit you plan to charge could also charge you in the next round. Position a unit of 9-10 Reaver Runts in front of your Brutes, placing the Runts 1.5 – 2 inches apart, and staggered in a line like this:
R R R R R Runts
R R R R
B B B B B Brutes
If the opponent gets to charge first he will most likely charge your Reaver Runts (since they are blocking a charge against your Brutes). In most cases the Runts will survive a round of melee due to the large unit size. So the situation will probably look something like this:
R R R R R R Runts
R R R R R
Once the enemy has fought, activate your warlord and order the tactic Carnage to your Brutes, then charge them at the enemy. Due to the gaps between the Runts you will be able to get most of your models into melee with the enemy unit. Because of the Runts Squishy ability, your Brutes can charge over the Runts into the enemy. You may need to experiment a little to get the spacing right.
BRBRBRBRBrutes and Runts
B B B B B Brutes
If instead of the enemy charging your Runts you get to charge first, then activate your warlord and order the tactic Carnageto the Brutes, then unleash them upon the enemy. Because of the Runts Squishy ability, your Brutes can charge over the little guys into the enemy.
This plan can be expanded to provide a defensive line across your entire warband if you use two large units of Runts.
If one of your Brutes falls below 5 life-points, then try to keep him out of the thickest part of the battle for a round or two so that he can recover with Regeneration.Then throw him back into the fight. By rotating your weakest guy to the safest position, you can maximize the Ironhide Brutes great advantage of survivability. Dead models don’t benefit fromRegeneration! And remember – Regeneration is equal to casting a free healing spell on all models in your warband, so make the most of it by rotating your troops!
How do you accomplish this?
Well you need to keep in mind that you cannot move your brutes out of melee range with enemy troops, because then they will suffer free-strikes. However, it is possible to shuffle them a little so that they are as far away as possible, and then move other models into the gap to block line-of-sight to the most injured Brute. This is particularly easy when you use Gnolls together with your brutes. It can be worth taking a unit of 6 Reaver Runts (33 points) to support your Brutes in this way. Remember, your Ironhide Brutes can move over the bases of your Gnolls (because of their Squishy ability), but the enemy cannot! So you have a very useful shield.
Rotation is even easier when the enemy has a 2-inch melee range (for example using spears. Then you can easily move your very-wounded Brute/s to the 2-inch maximum (remaining within the enemy’s melee range) and then block the 2-inch gap with another model/models.
This also works very well when one of your Brutes kills an enemy and finds himself now unengaged by any enemy models. Because Brutes have double the life-points of a regular human, it is quite common for them to find themselves in this situation. In that case, always take advantage of it to move him further back behind his fellow Brutes so that he can regenerate for a turn before returning to the melee.
Needless to say, you will need to give the unit an action token from your warlord so that they can pay for this movement. Otherwise they will only have their usual 4 ACT, and this extra movement would then cost them an attack (never a good idea).
If you have a Spellcaster (Obsidian Nightmare for example) with the Bloodkin Rites spell Grayblood, you can use him to restore D6 life-points on your most-wounded Brutes. In this case, the rotation is unnecessary, but the principle remains the same – because they have many life-points, they can last longer and be healed to last even longer.
The Bowling Plan
Knocked down models cannot counter attack and suffer -2 DEF and -2 ARM when attacked. So fighting knocked-down models is a nice way of creating some slaughter. A very nice strategy is to charge/engage an enemy unit with your Hammerfist and use the Rumble tactic to knock down as many enemy models as possible.
Then immediately follow that with a charge from your Ironhide Brutes. Even enemy elite models and warlords can be massacred with this combination. If the knocked-down enemy models are outside the charge range of your Brutes, consider engaging them instead. Better yet, just move closer so you can charge them next round. Because the enemy unit needs to stand models up, it cannot perform charges next round; so at worst it might be able to engage your Brutes and deliver one attack, while you will be able to make 2 attacks against them.
Thinning the Ranks
It can often happen that your Brutes are engaged with a lot of enemy models, and thereby suffering many attack in a single turn. This is especially likely when they are charged by large units of Kinswords, Reaver Tribesmen, Legionnaires, Mongrels and Reaver Runts etc.
This is one way to prepare for this and cushion the blow. If you see your unit of Brutes is likely to be charged by a large unit, and you are unable to do anything to prevent it (for example the enemy has a longer charge range, or your Brutes are already engaged and therefore cannot charge the approaching enemy unit), then activate your Duskborn Chieftain and order the tactic Slam Back to your Brutes. Give them an extra action token too.
When the enemy charges and attacks, every counter-attack you make with your Brutes that hits will allows you to move the target model up to 3 inches away. This is in addition to any damage you do to the model. In this way you can slam back 3-4 enemy models, and thereby prevent them from attacking you when the unit makes their second attack. Additionally, this means the opposing unit needs to waste an action token to move them back into melee range.
Always counter attack the models which can be moved, not the ones which have their movement blocked by other unit models behind them.
As a note, if the approaching large unit is Hoplites or Bladeslingers, this strategy will not work because they will likely be placed outside of range for counter-attacks thanks to their spears’ melee range of 2 inches.
Combining Ironhide Brutes with other Models
Various models in the Troglodytes Warband work well with your Ironhide Brutes.
• Duskborn Chieftain – For a warband with two or more units of Brutes it makes sense to take a Chieftain since you can then benefit from the awesome regeneration sub-faction ability. Not only that, the Chieftain has three different tactics he can order to the Brutes – Slam Back, Rage and Carnage. Remember that the Brutes also gain +2 on LEAD-rolls for receiving ordered tactics from the Chieftain because of his ability Trolloth Commander. The tactic Slam Back is best used when the Brutes are already engaged or about to be engaged/charged, not when they are charging. Carnage is perfect for charging with Brutes, and is one of the most powerful offensive tactics in the game! (giving the unit Slay-Movement). Rage is useful any time when the other two tactics don’t make sense.
• Lighteater – When facing a shooty warband like Mortans or Wyldfolk, take a Lighteater or two since they can protect your Brutes from shooting with their tactics Eclipse (+2 DEF) and Shroud of Blackening (5” haze effect).
• Hammerfist – A handy guy to have on your team to knockdown enemy models. With the Rumble tactic, this guy is effectively giving you a bonus of +2 MEL and +2 POW – which is fantastic.
• Reaver Runts – Useful for their Squishy ability as in the above “Unit Trap” strategy. Also useful for reducing the number of enemies which can attack your most wounded Brutes by placing Reaver Runts in the way, as per the “Rotation” strategy.
• Grondah Filthling – In Gnoll Warbands it can be a great idea to use a unit of Brutes. With the Filthling’s tactic Insidious and an assigned action token, the Brutes are able to move once and then still charge and fight twice in the round.
• Obsidian Nightmare – In terms of tactics and abilities, the Nightmare does not have any synergies with Tribal Brutes, but when playing a mostly Shadow-Troll warband, it can be useful to takes some Brutes along. In this case the Obsidian Nightmare should support them with spells from the Bloodkin Rites and Darkane Rites spellsets.
• It usually makes sense to use offensive fighting style with the Ironhide Brutes since they have a low MEL of 5. Their weapon has a basic POW of 4, which is good enough on its own against most opponents. Don’t forget your bonuses from Savage Pride and Ignore Shields; these give you free bonus on your to hit and damage rolls.
• Beware Nordgaard Guilds Sub-faction since they are immune to knockdown; this will affect your critical knockdown and Hammerfist’s Rumble.
• Always try to take maximum sized units, or at least four models in a unit since large units buffed by characters and warlords are helpful for gaining victory. Additionally, maximum units can stand up to large units of the enemy, but small units of three Brutes will quickly be torn apart by an overwhelming numbers of attacks from large enemy units of 8-10 models.
• See Scrolls of Victory article two about melee, charging and engaging; Ironhide Brutes are a classic unit who should employ those stratagems for melee at all times.
• Ironhide Brutes also ignore shields! Against Halodynes and Mortans, this is a +3 bonus!!! (because you cancel the +2 Def and +1 ARM). Against most other models like Fjell Warriors and Kinswords, that means a +2 bonus (cancelling +1 Def and +1 ARM).
• If you are having problems getting to charge (for example against faster units) then use the Eclipse tactic of the Lighteater to block the line of sight to your units. This haze effect can be really useful. Or you can use your Hammerfist as a sacrifice to get the enemy to charge him. Simply place your Ironhide Brutes 7-8 inches behind the Hammerfist, then you charge the enemy. If they chose not to take the bait, then use him to charge the enemy and knock them down with his Rumble tactic. They will then be unable to charge at the start of their next turn, because of being knocked down. Either way, you effectively take the advantage away from them. This is particularly useful against light infantry, Beastspawn and some cavalry.
• You cannot use fighting styles while counter-attacking. With Brutes it is normally best not to counter-attack during the first attack, because of their low MEL stat. Wait and see how much damage they suffer, then maybe counter-attack the second attack if it looks like you will lose a model. So in the worst case, you still have 2 ACT for making an attack in your own activation, then you can use fighting styles for that attack.
• Do not forget your critical Knockdown ability applies to every attack you make, and any model knocked down suffers -2 DEF.
• Remember your bonus for attacking guys with shields. This can be a massive boost to your chances to hit and wound!
• If you find yourself continuously being outnumbered and overwhelmed by large warbands with lots of miniatures (e.g. Kinswords, Hoplites, Bladeslingers, Fjell Warriors, Mongrels etc) take more troops: you don’t need to take 1 Brute to face 2 enemy models. Because Brutes are only 15 points, you can always be 2 against 3, not 2 against 4. And take some Reaver Runts too. Remember that Your Brutes can walk over the Gnolls if they get in the way (because of their ability Squishy). So the Gnolls block your Trolloth being attacked, but you can step on the Gnolls and attack the enemy! Another built-in synergy of the Troglodytes.
We wanted a quintessential unit to exemplify the Trolloth, and as the background developed, that became the Ironhide Brutes. To show their rather un-subtle nature we decided to give them abilities rather than tactics. The decision that Trolloth would use only bludgeoning weapons informed the choice for the Brutes weapons – morning-star – and that of course meant they gained the ability Ignore Shields.
Demonstrating their tendency to follow the Trolloth Warrior Code, we decided a little “noble” ability would fit when facing worthy opponents, and so Savage Pride came about. Nevertheless, during play-testing it was decided they needed another little edge, and Critical Knockdown was added to round them out. Their statistics remained unchanged throughout play-testing, with only the points value shifting a couple of times (in fact that was the trickiest aspect to nail down). The fact that they needed basically no fixing indicated that they were well-conceived.
It was tempting to make the Brutes harder with better MEL and more POW, but when you figure in their high life-points, that would have meant the Brutes would be an elite unit instead of what we wanted – a regular militia-type force. (We have always had in mind that wave-2 of Godslayer would introduce hardcore, killer, elite Trolloth, so we wanted the Brutes to be the rank and file). Their racial preponderance for smashing rather than swashbuckling justified giving them a low basic DEF of 12 and low MEL of 5 even though they are professional soldiers. So in the end they turned out to be big, brutish oafs with little fear and little finesse – exactly what we had envisioned.
Ironhide Brutes constitute a well-rounded basic melee unit, both defensive and offensive.
Used offensively and buffed with the Duskborn Chieftain’s tactics they become very powerful. So I hope I have been able to inspire you to use your Ironhide Brutes with some tactical skill.