Godslayer Scrolls of Victory
A Series of Articles on Tactics and Strategy
This is the first in a series of articles discussing the strategy and tactics of Godslayer, and is intended to provide new players with tips for getting the most fun out of the game, primarily by teaching you how to win!
In this first article we will start with the basics of strategic play and activating models/units in the most strategic order. For players who are already experienced in true skirmish systems, you will find yourself on familiar ground, but for new players and those who are more familiar with the popular squad-based games and war-games this article should offer many useful tips.
So let’s get started. We will assume that readers are at least familiar with the quick-start rules and have played a couple of games. Occasionally we might refer to parts of the regular core rules since the core rules are the standard rules for playing Godslayer.
Part 1 – Strategic Activation of Models
Unlike games which are turn-based, with phases for movement, shooting, melee and magic, Godslayer follows a different pattern, the so called “I go – you go” or IgoUgo system. In Godslayer players take turns to activate a unit or model and then perform ALL actions for that unit/model including all movement, shooting, melee, magic and tactics etc. Then play transfers to the opponent and he does the same with one of his units or models.
One of the first challenges facing new players who are experienced playing phase-based systems is how to strategically plan your turn. The fact is that with the IgoUgo system, the situation on the battlefield can change dramatically during every turn of each round, and the potential possibilities can seem daunting at first. So first let’s start with general strategy and the best sequence for activating models.
The Twelve Commandments
Here are some guiding principles of Godslayer strategy that you need to know. It is a good idea to review them from time to time as your knowledge of the game and the models grows.
1) Buffing units leverages your advantage because every action token spent buffing a unit by characters and warlords is multiplied by the number of models in the unit, so take large units and buff them by ordering tactics and assigning action tokens. Buffing units will go a long way towards winning you the game!
2) It is better to charge than to be charged, so play offensively in most cases. There are however good and bad opportunities to charge, and charging blindly to your own doom should be avoided
3) Position your most offensive models so they do not get charged. They are the ones who should be charging. Some offensive models are not great in defense and can be shattered if they are charged (e.g. Bladeslingers, Hill Ogres, Maldire Mongrels, Feral Grayhorns etc).
4) Use your models in the roles they were designed for. Tough defensive units (such as Fjell Warriors, Legionnaires and Hoplites) can perform well offensively but do even better when used defensively. Professional shooting units perform best when they are shooting not when they are fighting (e.g. Scabhta Hunters and Fimbul Toughborns).
5) Understand the role of your characters; some will be tactical (like the Brewer, Bard and all spell-casters), others will be primarily combat characters (such as the Beast-Hunter, Princeptor and Hammerfist). Even some combat characters have tactics and special talents to buff units. Use these at every opportunity.
6) Warlords are mighty models, so if you allocate their action tokens to other models, then it should only be to buff units or in some extreme cases to buff creatures/characters to accomplish some significant, strategic advantage. Otherwise, the action tokens will probably be better spent by your warlord.
7) Tactical warlords* should spend as many action tokens as possible upgrading their warband each round with ordered tactics, talents and abilities. On the contrary, spell-casting warlords (like the Oracle) should focus on casting spells, and combat warlords* should get stuck into battle as soon as possible. All-rounder warlords* can be tactical or fighty/shooty. You need to use them in the capacity which is most needed during each round.
8) Under no circumstances allow your warlord to be charged by a good sized enemy unit. 2-3 troopers of an elite* unit can kill a warlord with some good dice rolls, so can 4-5 mediocre troops. You need to support your warlord and place him/her wisely.
9) Ganging-up to attack enemy models pays off since you can more rapidly reduce the number of attacks the enemy can dish out by concentrating on destroying several models rather than just wounding many.
10) Conversely, individual models (including warlords, characters and creatures) should usually engage only 1-2 enemy models at a time, unless they have an ability or tactic which harms multiple enemies in melee range, in which case it makes sense to plough them into the thick of the foe.
11) Focus on obtaining Kill Points since that’s what will win you the game. That means destroying units and destroying models, not wounding them. If playing a scenario, focus instead on the scenario objective.
12) Channeling orders and spells can help your warlords and spell-casters control the battlefield. Know the rules of channeling and use them.
Many of the above will be covered in more detail in future articles. Alright, so now you know some important principles of strategy; the next issue to discuss is the order in which you activate your models.
An Alternative View
Regarding commandment-one above – having large units definitely gains you great leverage and many advantages, however there is an equally valid counter-argument. Having many small units gives you a huge tactical advantage since you will always have the last activations in a round (if you have 2+ units more than your opponent). This means that after the opponent has activated all of his models you might still have several left. This enables you to place your units at the best positions without a chance of your opponent to react or shoot at close range. Fielding lots of individual models and small units allows you to better react to moves the enemy makes.
With many small units you always have something up your sleeve to counter your enemy’s moves.
Large units doe have some disadvantages too; if your big unit gets bound by a pesky single model, then a large portion of your warband will be out of the game. Also, when a large unit flees from the battle, it can be decisive and land you in a world of ruination.
So what is better, lots of small units and individual models or large units.
My recommendation – construct 50-60% of your force of large units, and divide the rest into lots of individual models, especially those which can buff units.
However in the end, it’s not so much about which models you take, it’s how effectively you use them.
Which Models Should I Activate First?
In the first round of a typical Godslayer Open-Battle scenario, the order in which you activate your models is not so critical, but as soon as opposing models close to about 20 inches from each other, the sequence of activations becomes suddenly very relevant.
Firstly you need to size-up the situation at the start of the round; this requires having a rough idea of what the enemy models can do and what your models can do. Most importantly you need to know the charge ranges of opposing models and approximately how terrifying or unimpressive they are in melee. If in doubt, ask your opponent, since in Godslayer the opponent is obliged to tell you all details of his profile card (except the position of models using hidden deployment). It is not necessary to know every tactic and stat score of all enemy models, but you should have a decent grasp of approximately how good each model is. If nothing else, go by the points value of the model. Average militia-type troops tend to be worth around 10 points; professional warriors around 12-15, and excellent troops from 15-25 points each.
Once you know the enemy’s capabilities you should formulate a rough objective for the round and a tentative plan. The objective might be as simple as: “make as many charges as possible” or “avoid all enemy charges while pelting the enemy with missile weapons” or “draw the enemy into a place where I can charge them” or “take out the damn spell-caster” or “keep the opponent’s elite models busy while I execute his warlord”, etc. It does not need to be fancy, in fact the simpler the objective the better.
Do not worry about the fact that the plan will likely change during the course of the round as opportunities and threats present themselves, because right now you need to have an initial focus, otherwise you will be paralyzed by indecision or will be performing directionless, piecemeal actions.
Fortune favors the player with a good plan.
Plans in Godslayer are generally more tactical than those of typical wargames and squad-based games because of the IgoUgo system of alternating turns and because of the possibilities for the opponent’s models to react to actions you take – even during your own turns. With an objective for the turn, you have some guiding principle to inform you of which model/unit to activate in which sequence. Even if your objective is simply “destroy lots of the opponent’s warband in melee”, this at least tells you something.
Strategic Principles of the Activating Sequence
Here are some general principles that should help you plan the sequence of your activations:
A) Buffing your models with spells and ordered tactics will make them perform better during the turn, so it is a good idea to enhance units before they are activated.
B) In a single turn you can activate an individual model and a unit (except in the first turn), so you are actually able to buff the unit with your activated character or warlord, and then activate the unit to do its work.
C) The winner of the priority roll each round decides which player goes first. This can have a great effect on your order of activations. This is covered in detail later in this article.
D) If a model/unit of yours is tied up in melee and the opponent has already made his attacks against it, then there is probably no urgent necessity to activate your engaged unit/model, and you can leave it till the end of the round. This will allow you to focus on more urgent matters.
E) Activate your models/units in the sequence which will best accomplish your objective.
F) Activate the model/unit which will have the most dramatic effect on the turn as early as possible in the turn. For example, if you have an important charge to perform, then do it as early as possible so that you do not end up losing the opportunity due to unforeseen events.
G) If one of your models/units is facing an enemy model/unit in mutual charge distance, it is often wise to activate that model/unit as early as possible. This way, instead of getting charged, you can withdraw or even better charge yourself.
H) Modify E and F above for pressing emergencies. For example, it is your opponent’s turn and he is attacking your warlord (Tyrant) with his warlord (Warsmith). You are planning immediately afterwards to charge his unit of Einherjer with your buffed unit of Skulleaters plus your Cyclops, but your Tyrant has just been knocked down by a tactic of the opponent’s Warsmith, and there is a unit of Fjell Warriors which could engage your warlord in your opponent’s next activation. You know that if your Tyrant remains knocked down when he is engaged by 6 Fjell Warriors, he will be butchered due to the -2 DEF penalty for being knocked down. So instead of activating your Cyclops and Skulleaters, you activate your Tyrant and Skulleaters in order to get your Tyrant to stand up.
I) If you are mostly reacting to pressing emergencies and not executing your plan, then you are not dictating the course of the play, and you should probably have a better plan.
J) Even when you are outnumbered and losing, you can often still dictate the course of play if you focus on the most strategic actions. That normally consists of concentrating on finishing off wounded models so that you can claim as many kill points as possible before your warband is completely wiped out. If you score enough points, you can achieve a draw instead of a defeat.
In making your plan, you need to anticipate what your opponent will likely do in response to your actions, for example, if you charge his Duskborn Chieftain with your Fjellgangr, will your Fjellgangr then be within range of a charge from his Ironhide Brutes, and is he likely to send a unit of 4 Brutes to attack a single creature….you need to plan what you will do if he does charge your Fjellgangr with his Ironhide Brutes and also a contingency if he does not. Try to think at least four player-turns ahead. This becomes much easier with practice and familiarity with the models!
We will dispense with special scenarios for the moment and focus on simple Open Battles. That means to win you need to destroy the enemy warband. For most warbands that means getting into melee combat and kicking ass.
Should I go First or second?
After priority has been established for the round, one of the players will be in the fortunate position of deciding whether to take the first turn of the round or the second turn of the round. This is an important decision, especially in rounds 3 and 4 which tend to be when the majority of the most-powerful charges are performed. Going first is often a great advantage, enabling you to get in a juicy charge with one of your models or units, however, when going first you may only activate one model/unit on the first turn. Going second allows you to activate two individual models or one individual model plus a unit. Striking first is often tempting, but in many cases it is better to go second.
When Does it Make Most Sense to go First in the Round?
A) When you have a good-sized unit of elite* models which can charge an attractive target (or several targets).
B) When you can strategically cripple the enemy with a single charge.
Remember that your unit can charge more than one enemy model or unit! Every model in your unit declares a separate charge target, and as long as the charge movement results in your unit remaining in unit formation (usually within 2 inches of another unit model), there is no particular limit to the number of enemies your unit can charge. A common tactic is to charge an opposing enemy unit and also use one or more of your unit models to charge (or simply engage) other models/units which happen to be standing nearby. By doing this, you prevent those models/units from making charges against your models because engaged models are not allowed to make charges.
So with a single charge of a large unit that is spread as wide as possible, you can potentially engage most of an opponent’s warband, and thereby prevent them from charging you. Thus pinned, you are freer to maneuver your own units. As a word of warning, if you use a single mediocre unit model to pin a warlord, powerful character or creature, it is possible the opposing model could kill your engaging model with its counter-attack and thereby become unengaged and free but at least you will have prevented it from charging since models which have made an attack during the round cannot perform charge actions.
C) When you have a valuable unit or model, which is about to be charged, which is just too valuable to your overall plan to be sacrificed.
For example if your Oracle has been flanked and is open to a charge by the enemy Legionnaires, then you need to get her the hell out of their charge range because she is incredibly useful to your warband, and because she is likely worth 60+ Kill Points due to all the spells and equipment you have given her.
D) When vital spells or orders need to be put into effect immediately.
This can happen when you are advancing against heavy enemy missile troops or when you are facing inevitable charges from multiple sources and you need to buff multiple models/units with defensive spells and tactics because they are all in danger. Some spells and ordered-tactics expire at the end of the previous round or the start of the new round. In such cases it can be really important to activate your warlord or spell-caster and put those effects back in place before all hell breaks loose in the new round.
When is it Best to go Second in the Round?
A) When you want to force the enemy into making a move.
This can occur when the two opposing warbands are getting close to each other but are not yet within charge ranges. In this way you can force the opponent into offering up a sacrifice or attempting a questionable charge or simply cause him to waste a unit’s activation doing something pointless.
B) When you really need to buff a unit or model first before activating it.
Going second allows you to activate a character such as your warlord first. The warlord can buff one of your units by ordering one of his tactics to it and by assigning it one of his action tokens. When you then activate the buffed unit, it is now far more dangerous than if it would have charged without being buffed. You can then perform a charge with this buffed unit and cause far more mayhem than if they had charged without the enhancement.
C) When you want the enemy to come closer so that they will be within range of your shooting models. Why waste your own action tokens moving into range when you can oblige your opponent to do it for you!
D) When you have several models/units which can charge, and the opponent has only weak charges to make.
For example let’s imagine your Banebrood warband has two units of Mongrels and a Gorelord which can all make a charge (because of their awesome charge-ranges). From your opponent’s warband, there is only a Cerberos with a viable charge. In this case it may be better to go second since you can then perform two charges (remember the person who goes first may activate only one model or unit in the first turn of the round).
There are of course many other situations in addition to the above, but those are the most common ones you will run across. From my experience, in more than half of all cases it makes sense to go first, but as you have read above, there are numerous exceptions.
What is the Best Order in Which to Activate my Models?
Godslayer is structured in a way that leveraging your units will enable you to reap the greatest reward. That means buffing units with their self-tactics, ordered tactics from characters, talents and spells from other magical models of your warband and with orders and action tokens from your warlord. A regular, un-buffed unit of Hoplites is not a terrifying threat in melee, but they can be!
Imagine this: you use your Syntarch to order his tactic Paean to the Hoplites (allowing them to reroll failed initial attacks), then your Sanctum Priestess casts the spell Warcry (allowing them to reroll a single damage die), and your warlord gives them an action token. When the Hoplites activate, they use their tactic Combined Strike (giving +2 to hit enemy models already hit by members of the Hoplite unit). Then they charge an enemy unit, gaining the charge bonus. Chances are this unit of Hoplites will massacre anything it hits.
Okay, that is a kind of best-case scenario buffing them from 4 sources before they activate, and does not often work out so perfectly, but I have seen similar examples, and buffing a unit from three sources is quite common. It comes down to thinking ahead and planning the sequence in which you will activate your models.
Because units consist of multiple models, when you buff a unit, every model in that unit is improved. For example when the warlord assigns one action token to a unit that has ten models, he is in effect making 10 action tokens out of 1, thus adding 9 action tokens to your warband because units act as a multiplier of effects.
So in a roundabout way, I am coming to the answer to the question – which order should I activate my models?
Assuming there is no model/unit that needs to be saved from a charge at all costs and assuming you have a good-sized, high-points unit (e.g. Gut-Hackers, Einherjer, Sons of War, Cromlech Guard or Carnifexors etc.) which is already in a position to charge the enemy, then by all means activate it first and throw it at the enemy! Chances are it will cause considerable damage even without being buffed.
If you have nothing more tempting to do, then in most cases it makes sense to either activate the warlord first or at least early on in the round. In this way, he can buff your units by assigning them action tokens, and with ordered tactics or spells. The same holds true whether you are following an offensive strategy of charging or a defensive strategy of holding. Either way, buffing your units will be crucial. This is particularly true for warlords who are more tactical in nature and less “fighty” or “shooty”. The great value of such tactical warlords* lies in their orders and action tokens for buffing the warband.
Following this, you need to activate your models and units based on your objective for the round and the rough plan you have formulated.
Here is an example of planning my activations.
My opponent’s Banebrood warband has been closing in on my warband of Halodynes with terrifying speed during rounds 1 & 2 while he has been simultaneously buffing his troops with mutation magic. I know that I have little chance of performing charges against them in the middle of the game due to the considerably longer charge ranges of most of his models. So I settle on a strategy for the game of absorbing their charge with my most defensive models and then charging them from the flanks with my most-offensive models. Not a particularly inspired plan but workable.
Wabands (400 point battle level):
Halodynes: Oracle, 1 Syntarch, 2X9 Hoplites, 4 Hill Ogres, 1 Cerberos
Banebrood: Gorelord, 1 Fallow Shaman, 2X8 Maldire Mongrels, 1 Cyclops , 1 Ursapine,
The objective I decide on for round 3 is to move my defensive units into position. This I do so that the Hoplite models are in base contact with each other (for Phalanx tactic) and blocking the middle of the table. I have moved them forward far enough so that they will be within charge range next round of the opponent’s forward models. Now I place them in Phalanx using their self-tactic.
I place my Syntarch 5 inches in front of the centre of my hoplites (activating his Counterstrike tactic) so that he will act as a tasty sacrifice, hopefully tying up one of his units of Maldire Mongrels.
My opponent continues his relentless approach and places his Mongrels and Gorelord as far forward as possible.
Round 4 begins, and I decide my objective for this round will be to absorb the enemy charge with as little casualties as possible. I happen to win priority for the round and the following takes place:
Halodynes – I activate my warlord (Oracle) and she casts the spell Seraphic Shield (giving +1 armor) on both Hoplite units, and then she assigns them both an action token. The Hoplites still have the Phalanx tactic active from last turn, giving them +2 Armor.
Banebrood – The opponent’s warlord (Gorelord) and one unit of Maldire Mongrels look like they are within charge range, while his second unit looks like it is probably just outside. He decides to go with the warlord and charges him into my Syntarch killing him as well then killing two of my Hoplites and wounding another. Not bad but strategically a weak start to his turn. Also the Gorelord took considerable wounds and is now in the orange (seriously wounded) part of the health-bar because the Syntarch counted as charging due to his counterstrike tactic.
Now he activates a Unit of Mongrels, which slams into the same unit of Hoplites, but the Hoplites have +3 to their armor, giving them an ARM of 9. Several of my Hoplites take damage but none are killed.
My hoplites also have 5 action tokens unused, so they are able to perform counter-attacks with all remaining 7 models, cutting down two Mongrels. The Mongrels make a second attack and the Hoplites make a second counter-attack. A few more Hoplites are wounded and one dies, while the Hoplites cut down another 2 mongrels. The +3 ARM in combination with their basic DEF of 14 has made the Hoplite unit into a rock which the Mongrels have smashed themselves upon.
Halodynes – I position my Cerberos and unit of 4 Hill Ogres on either flank in preparation for charging in the next round.
Banebrood – The opponent casts the spell Long-Legs on his second unit of Mongrels, increasing their MOV to 4, and enabling them to get in a whopping 16-inch charge! They smash into my second unit of Hoplites. Again, my Hoplites take some damage but the unit holds and dishes back a handful of hurt by counter-attacking with their 4 action tokens. I kill two Mongrels.
Halodynes – I activate one unit of Hoplites and perform Phalanx so that this will now remain active until their standard activation in the following round.
Banebrood – My opponent activates his Ursapine and charges the full unit of Hoplites. I lose two models. Now my opponent activates his final model, bringing his Cyclops closer to the action.
Halodynes – Finally I activate my other unit of Hoplites and perform Phalanx on them too.
The above is just one possible example from thousands of examples of play but illustrates how I made an objective for the turn and then activated my models in the best sequence to accomplish the plan. It certainly didn’t all go my way since I lost my Syntarch and 4 Hoplites, while another 5 hoplites were mauled. However, I killed 4 Mongrels and more importantly what I have accomplished is to swing the strategic balance of the game slightly into my favor since one of the greatest advantages the Banebrood had was their charge range.
In the following round my new objective becomes to heal my wounded Hoplites, and buff* their attack capabilities with the spell Warcry and with their tactic Combined Strike, while I unleash devastating charges with my Hill Ogres and Cerberos!
After the dust settles, most of the Mongrels are dead and the Ursapine is a red smear on the ground, while most of my units are down to half strength. The Cyclops and Banelord fight on to the bitter end, but with weight of numbers in my favor, victory is mine.
Which Models not to Activate
It happens sometimes that your opponent activates a model/unit and attacks one of your models/units and you either cannot counter-attack or do not wish to counter-attack (preferring to wait until your standard activation to perform your attacks).
In such a case, the danger here is temporarily over. There is no pressing need to now immediately activate that unit and make your attacks. In fact this is probably the last model/unit you should activate in the round because it most likely will not affect the strategic sequence of play. Since the model that attacked you has finished its activation, it is now for a brief time harmless. So don’t be tempted to grab your dice and attack it back; instead, look for the next most strategic move that you can make.
Passing a turn is something you can do when you have less models/units on the table at the start of the round. Your pass can sometimes be as valuable as a model/unit’s activation, so don’t waste it. If you have no particular reason to use it, then don’t.
The pass is best used when you want to force your opponent to make a move, for example when you want his models to move closer so that you can either shoot or charge them. By passing you force him to either make an undesirable activation or to activate a model and perform pointless actions with it.
Another use for the pass is when the enemy has only missile troops to activate, and none of you models are currently in range. This forces him to activate a mode/unit and waste its shooting attacks. It may not sound like a particularly impressive strategy, but forcing a unit of Fimbul Toughborns to waste all their shooting for one turn could save you from suffering perhaps 4-5 casualties.
That’s it for the first Scrolls of Victory. I hope you have found it useful and interesting. In the next article we will cover charges and melee.
*To “buff” is a general gaming term meaning to upgrade or improve models. This is usually done through casting spells on them or using tactics etc. to increase their statistics or special rules.
*Tactical warlords is an unofficial term referring to warlords who have rather unimpressive fighting, shooting and spell-casting skills but have plenty of tactics they can order to your troops.
*Combat warlords is an unofficial term referring to warlords who have great fighting skills and weapons but relatively few tactics they can order to your troops.
*All-rounder warlords is an unofficial term referring to warlords who have a balance of tactics to boost the warband plus decent skills in either shooting or melee.
*Elites is an unofficial term referring to excellent and often specialized troops generally costing 17-25 points each.