Tuesday, 25 February 2020

THE LONELY REALMSPHERE GUIDE: Dispossessed


Instead of visiting a city, The Lonely Realmsphere Guide is taking a different tack today, going deep on a microfaction close to my heart in the Dispossessed (no small courtesy of my not being able to get my head around how to make the Phoenicium work). Read on for an in depth tactical examination of every Cities of Sigmar Dispossessed warscroll, followed by thoughts on how to get the most mileage out of the Faction Formerly Known as Dawi in each of the seven city allegiances, whether you're planning on fielding an army mostly composed of them, or just a few units as part of a more cosmopolitan CoS force.


If you're reading this article and planning on, or already include Dispossessed units in your Cities of Sigmar army, then first off congratulations on your great taste. Functioning on the battlefield in the time-honed manner you' fully expect from traditionalist duardin, the Dispossessed hit like a ton of bricks, are about as hard to shift as one, give enemy wizards a hard time, and don't move very fast. Oh boy do they not move very fast; not as self sufficient as I'm sure they'd like to be, Dispossessed units hoping to make it into enemy territory will need to look for a helping hand from allegiance abilities and even *spit* endless spells.

While they are reliant on support, and other roles being filled by units from different Cities of Sigmar factions, Dispossessed units become incrementally better the more of them you field in conjunction with another, mostly owed to stacking up on the buffs put out by Runelords and Longbeard units. A solitary Dispossessed unit in a mixed CoS force will perform pretty underwhelmingly, and I'd always back one up with a Runelord.


WARDEN KING

The first thing you'll notice is about the Warden King is his Ancestral Grudge command ability, significantly upping his subjects' already solid melee game. Beyond that he's got a pretty handy army wide battleshock deflector in his Oath Stone when positioned carefully, and a melee profile that's not to be sneezed at, especially when backed up with the right artefact.

Despite the robust buffs the Warden King brings, I'd almost always opt to take a cheaper Runelord and his broader spectrum of buffs and anti-magic first, and would probably reserve the Warden King for army lists with a strong melee core, and at least a couple of large melee units. I've never taken more than one Warden King, but can imagine I'd only do so in games the majority of my army was Disposessed, and I needed to cover all fronts, and a spare in the event of one being sniped off.

Being a cornerstone of making a larger Dispossessed contingent work, having 5 wounds, and likely to never be too far from a Runelord adjutant makes the Warden King a prime candidate for army general, with an Honoured Retinue letting him put his melee profile (especially enhanced by an artefact, command trait and/or the Runelord's Forgefire) to good use with less fear for his personal safety than he'd usually warrant. Be warned though, that the Warden King's a very important piece, and even with an Honoured Retinue as soon as your opponent realises this they'll only need to put an average 10 wounds into him to drop him, so be cautious and only commit him to combats you know he can win. Non-general Warden Kings I'd keep out of melee range entirely.


RUNELORD

For sheer utility alone this guy is my undisputed favourite warscroll in the entire game, offering a choice of offensive and defensive buffs to Dispossessed units, shutting down enemy magic, and when used pragmatically actually helping your wizards get the most out of their endless spells, as well as only getting better taken in multiples. As good as more than one Runelords can be, I'd only go there as part of a sizeable Disposessed contingent, certainly not adding a second before I'd taken a Warden King.

Of the Runelord's two prayers, Forgefire is the one most people will gravitate towards first, with the prospect of an additional point of Rend on melee and ranged weapons being a clear no brainer in most circumstances. It's typical to see a Runelord begin the game buffing a unit of Irondrakes' ranged attacks before switching to a frontline melee unit when they make it into combat. Ancestral Shield is an underrated ability, offering only a 6+ change to shrug off wounds that can make it easy to dismiss, but it's better than no chance to shrug off wounds, and is worth considering over Forge Fire not only on turns when your units are unlikely to see combat, but also ones when you just need them to survive. I've lost count of how many games I've won because a unit of Ancestral Shielded Longbeards has been able to save a couple of extra wounds and hold on to a critical objective.

The best thing about Forgefire and Ancestral Shield is the fact that they're both stackable (something often overlooked due to the Runelord's pre Cities of Sigmar warscroll not being able to do it), meaning that you can apply as many extra points of Rend to a unit of Hammerers or Irondrakes as you have Runelords able to roll a 2+, and turn a unit into a serious defensive brick with multiple 6+ shrugs.

Thanks to Runes of Spellbreaking, Runelords have the best unbinding modifier this side of an unwounded Nagash, so make sure they're always within 30" of enemy wizards to cause no end of frustration to your opponent by cancelling that one critical spell their entire gameplan hinged on. As well as this, the Runelord gets the same modifier to what's essentially a 'free' attempt to dispel an endless spell each turn, which as well as having the obvious application of shutting down anything that looks like it might harm you/help the enemy, also lets you dispel an endless spell your wizards have cast in a previous turn to free it up to be cast again, allowing it to be repositioned and reactivated. Just imagine being able to get 2D6 Hammerers back with an Emerald Lifeswarm in a single battleround.

With a melee profile that falls flat, the Runelord's got no reason to even think about going near the front lines outside of battleplans where heroes are needed to capture objectives, and typically you'll want a wall of duardin separating him from the enemy, while his prayers and unbinding abilities are kept well within range. He's also a natural candidate for general's adjutant to a Warden King.


HAMMERERS

While costly, fighting under a Warden King and Runelord Hammerers are probably the best melee damage dealer Cities of Sigmar have got, and charactefully also the slowest. If you're going to invest in a unit of 20 or 30, you'll also want to start thinking about ways to make sure they see combat. A surplus of command points to make sure they always run 7" (accounting for the bonus from the unit's musician) is a good place to start, and you may want to further guarantee things with the help of a Soulscream Bridge and/or Ghur Battlemage's Wildform spell.

For expensively priced, formerly Toughness 4 former dwarfs Hammerers are also uncharacteristically fragile, with only a 4+ save and single wound each, so make them a priority for your Runelord's Ancestral Shield, and consider supporting them with an amplified Emerald Lifeswarm to bring D6 back a turn. Despite their status as bodyguards I'd also think about giving a more expendable unit the privilege of being a Warden King's Honoured Retinue for the same reason, though still keeping him close to ensure battleshock immunity from the Kinsguard ability.


IRONBREAKERS

Caught somewhere between Hammerers and Longbeards, with the advantages of neither, Ironbreakers don't bring much extra to the table, trading the Hammerers prestigious combat phase output and Longbeards' inexpensiveness and versatility for an extra point of save and some quirky unit leader weapon options. Their two attacks mean that they're potentially buffable into a decent melee unit with a Runelord or two, but at that point why not just take Hammerers? Probably best suited to units of 10 as screens/objective cappers with a nasty surprise in the Ironbeard's Cinderblast Bomb.


IRONDRAKES

Irondrakes, like the majority of Cities of Sigmar's ranged units have the frustrating feature of attacks that vastly improve when they haven't made a move in the same turn, meaning that if you want to make the most out of them you're typically going to have to do it getting them around with an endless spell. Thankfully for Cities of Sigmar players, the Amplified Sorceries battle trait massively enhances the already potent Lauchon the Soulseeker and Soulscream Bridge, and so you're spoilt for choice, mainly coming down to if you think you'll want to move a large part of your army with the bridge, or just the Irondrakes with Lauchon.

You'll always want to arm a unit's Ironwarden with a destructive Grudgehammer Torpedo, and the payoff between unit sizes is being able to capitalise on a Runelord's Forgefire with a Deathstar of 20 or 30 versus more Grudgehammer Torpedos meaning you'll do more damage unbuffed, and be less worried about getting your Drakeguns into range on the first turn.


LONGBEARDS

Cousins to the Runelord in battlefield utility, Longbeards are probably my second favourite warscroll in the game, with different weapon options and the ability to complain about various things allowing them to wear a lot of different hats, often over the course of the same battle. Longbeards are so curmudgeonly they've weaponized their complaints into the characterful Old Grumblers special rule, allowing a unit to choose between three different efficiency enhancing complaints in the hero phase. Did you know that in the earliest incarnation of Longbeards' AoS warscroll the player had to complain with them to get the benefits? Better times.

The first grumble, 'I thought duardin were made of sterner stuff!', gives +1 Bravery to nearby Dispossessed, and is a solid default when you know neither of the other two are likely to come into play that turn. 'Put your back into it, beardling!' lets nearby Dispossessed (and the Longbeards themselves) reroll 1s to wound, and is up there with the Runelord and Warden King's abilities, making a unit of great axe armed Longbeards into a lethal prospect even on their own. The most situational complaint, 'Too much damned magic flying around these days!' turns the Longbeards into mini Runelords, allowing them to attempt to dispel an endless spell, and can change the course of a game if your Runelords are down or preoccupied.

Important warning: Due to Longbeards' semi unique status as a non-hero unit throwing out buff auras and dispels it's very easy to forget to grumble with them during the hero phase, or remember that a unit has grumbled by the time you reach the combat or battleshock phase. I'd recommend counters and/or tattooing it on your hand.

Longbeards are affordably pointed enough that they work great both in large blocks on their own, and as 10 strong support units and objective cappers. Special mention has to go to their relationship with Irondrakes, with 'Put your back into it, beardling!' allowing ranged attacks as well as melee to reroll 1s to wound, and a unit of 10 being the perfect screen for a large block of Irondrakes, especially when having just popped out of a Soulscream Bridge.

When it comes to choosing between shields and great axes, I tend to throw shields on my 10 strong support grumbler/objective grabber/screeners, and great axes on 20 or 30 strong units likely to cause some damage. Great axes might actually be better on smaller units too, but I'm quite partial to the Longbeards I've modelled up with shields, so they're not getting swapped out in a hurry. A large great axe armed unit makes a solid Honoured Retinue for a Warden King general, both punchy enough to take advantage of his Ancestral Grudge while rerolling wound rolls of 1, and not so costing so many points you don't mind using them as ablative wounds.


SUPPORTING THE CLAN

As much as they'd probably like to be, Dispossessed are not self sufficient, and often need help from other Cities of Sigmar units, especially when it comes to reaching far flung parts of the battlefield. There are a variety of city specific allegiance abilities that can help with this, detailed in the next section, but right now I'll focus on the stuff available to all Cities of Sigmar armies. The generic command abilities At the Double and Forward to Victory both help a lot with mobility, especially combined with the +1 run and charge modifiers from Dispossessed musicians, but might not be enough on their own.

A hard sell to any dwarf, but Cities of Sigmar's wealth of magical means of mobility really do make a massive difference. If it makes it any easier, just think of wizards as tiny Anvils of Doom, accidentally incarcerated in puny human bodies. Battlemages from Ghur have access to a wonderfully zippy little spell called Wildform, but if you're serious about putting a magical band-aid on the Dispossessed's natural failings, then you might want to start looking at spells of the plastic endless variety.

The three travel-friendly endless spells available to Cities of Sigmar wizards are Lauchon the Soulseeker and the Soulscream Bridge (both found in Forbidden Power), and the Chronomantic Cogs (found in Malign Sorcery). Lauchon and the Soulscream Bridge work in similar ways, with the bridge generally being agreed on as more favourable, and allows multiple units to be redeployed at once, meaning that you can protect firing Irondrakes with a wall of charging Hammerers, both backed up with buffs from heroes and Longbeards. Awkwardly cluster any units hoping to travel this way early on within 6" of a bridge shaped hole during deployment.

The Chronomantic Cogs (with time sped up) offer a less positioning intensive +2 to run and charge moves to your entire army, but also the same thing to your opponent's and which of the two to opt for really comes down to personal playstyle preference, and whether you have any Irondrakes or not (who the cogs do nothing for and the bridge does everything). If you've reached the point of an endless spell going off being more a necessity than a nice bonus, then you might want to look at a more reliable wizard to cast it, with the Sorceress getting +2 to cast when she sticks a knife in another aelf (not a poor trade off for duardin), and the Celestial Hurricanum giving itself +1 to cast and coming with the added bonus of making your entire army better by merit of just being there. 

Already mentioned previously, and not an endless spell that does anything for movement, but Emerald Lifeswarm resurrecting D6 single wound models under Cities of Sigmar is a steal when you've got a lot of single wound elite models, especially when able to be dispelled and cast again every hero phase with an assist from a Runelord.

If your army's centred around Dispossessed, as well as enhancing their natural movement and threat range with the aforementioned spells, you'll also want to include some very fast moving or flexible deployment units to nab hard to reach objectives while the Dispossessed do all the real work. The most characterful candidates for this are of course Gyrocopters, who's unsurpassed mobility, combined with horde shredding steam guns (brimstone guns, not even once) makes them a great prospect, either flying solo or in discount units of three. Other speedy auxiliaries include Freeguild Pistoliers, Dark Riders, Sisters of the Thorn, and incredibly cheap Aetherwings. If you're more into movement shenanigans than range, then Shadow Warriors, and allied Grundstock Gunhaulers and Tree-Revenants may be more your speed.


CHOOSING A STRONGHOLD

Whether you're planning a Dispossessed focused army and don't know which city to choose, have an existing force established as being from a particular City that you want to include Dispossessed units in, or are just a dirty min-maxing city hopper, then this section has you covered, covering all seven city allegiances and what they can do for the Dispossessed (and vice versa). While Dispossessed can flourish in any city, there are some rather advantageous unique options available.

Hammerhal

Hammerhal is very kind to the Dispossessed, particularly Hammerers. Banners Held High plays into Dispossessed units' strength of well... having banners, and will give you more command points that you'll ever be able to spend to reroll crucial charges, make 7" runs, and enhance combat, shooting and save rolls with. A Hammerhal Warden King can become a beacon of melee buffs, eliminating the need for Longbeards as anything but an Irondrake screen with Blood of the Twelve and The Twinstone (in its Aqshy Aspect).

Righteous Purpose is a bit of a situational command ability owing to how territories are divided in different battleplans, and should probably be seen as something you're lucky to be able to do and not played for; that said, if fortune does smile on you and you're able to get it off and on a sizeable Hammerer block in a key combat, then you've probably won the game. Wings of Fire's a delightful spell, not only giving a minor speed boost, but also able to throw your opponent a curveball when a large block runs or charges through scenery.


The Living City

Something of a shock (on account of all the trees), but the Living City might just be the best home Irondrakes ever had, with Hunters of the Living Paths allowing them to pop up on the side of the board and double shoot turn 1, and with a little forward planning, the command ability Strike then Melt Away letting them reposition themselves for their next volley after shooting. Who said Dwarf Rangers were dead?

Beyond that, the Living City doesn't do a whole bunch for the Dispossessed, but Ironoak Skin would probably suit being cast on a combat block, and Cage of Thorns looks like it's great for slowing stuff down.


Greywater Fastness

Offering not one but two Dispossessed specific allegiance abilities in Rune Lore allowing a Runelord to enhance a friendly Ironweld Arsenal war machine's to hit rolls, and the command ability Salvo Fire doing the same for Irondrakes, it would seem foolhardy to not have at least a smattering of Dispossessed in a Greywater Fastness list. A Warden King general combined with a Runelord adjutant and the Seat on the Council command trait makes for a rather lucrative command point farm, and if you've not got a behemoth or ranged character to benefit from one of Greywater Fastness' boutique artefacts, then a Warden King planning on getting stuck in could do worse than Ghyrstrike.

If you're a budding artillerist, keen to delve into Greywater Fastness in more detail, then check out my recent Lonely Realmsphere Guide on exactly that subject.


The Phoenicium

With battle traits centred around sacrificing units in combat and clustering them around Phoenixes, the Phoenicium's allegiance abilities don't do a whole bunch for the Dispossessed, who are on the whole too expensive to get killed on purpose and too slow to keep up with a flying monster, meaning they're probably not the best fit. No huge loss to either party, as if you're into gaudily attired aelves flapping around on what look like unfortunate 1:1 scale budgerigars, looking like they've strayed too close to the sofa and been flattened taking the full force of a human rear end, then your aesthetic tastes are probably wildly removed from anything the Dispossessed could hope to offer.


Anvilgard

Despite being the token 'Dark Elf' city, Anvilgard could be a worse home for the Dispossessed, with access to plenty of spare command points and artefacts, and the city's trademark spell Vitriolic Spray rendering enemy save rolls useless and giving Ironbreakers and Longbeards armed with sheilds a chance to shine. Runelords are a very useful resource to Anvilgard armies, which often rely on the endless spell Umbral Spellportal, needing it to be reliably dispelled in order to be repositioned at the start of each hero phase.

For more information on getting the most out of Anvilgard's often derided allegiance abilities, check out my Lonely Realmsphere Guide covering them.


Hallowheart

Being a decidedly anti magic faction, you might not think the Dispossessed has a huge amount to offer Hallowheart, which essentially runs on spells; however an awful lot of those spells are endless, and while it's probably wasteful to use a leader slot that could be filled with a wizard capable of casting more spells with a Runelord, Longbeards can do the dispel double cast trick too, making it their time to shine in as battleline. Of course the insane casting roll bonuses Avilable to Hallowheart through Arcane Channelling and the Whitefire Retinue battalion don't harm a Dispossessed focused army's chances of getting a Soulscream Bridge off, meaning Hallowheart's wizards could have as much to offer the Dispossessed as the Dispossessed do them.


Tempest's Eye

Where to start with Tempest's Eye? Alleviating some of the Dispossessed's natural constitutional challenges with Alert and Forewarned and Outriders of the Realms, with the option to do the same for charges with the command trait Aetherguard Captain and artefact Zephyrite Banner; Tempest's Eye also offers a shot in the arm to Irondrakes too, with the command ability Rapid Redeploy at ensuring they'll at least get to shoot on turn 1, and the much vaunted command trait Hawk-eyed adding to their already considerable ability to incinerate stuff, especially when combined with Old Grumblers. Special shoutout to the spell Aura of Glory putting out a +1 Attacks bubble, turning Longbeards into pesudo-Hammerers, and Hammerers into this.

To cap it all off Tempest's Eye allows Kharadron Overlords units to be included in your force as non-allies, which combined with Alert and Forewarned and Rapid Redeploy making Dispossessed less reliant on wizards to get around, means that if you you wanted to put together an old-skool Dwarf/all duardin list Tempest's Eye is probably the best city to do it with.


And that's a wrap! I hope this article has been informative to veteran Old World Longbeards and beardlings who've just picked up their first start collecting box alike. If you've enjoyed this article and there's another of Cities of Sigmar's constituent factions you'd to see me cover in the same way (though maybe with slightly less experience, having collected Dwarfs in some shape or form for the last 24 years), then let me know in the comments below.

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