This topic is meant to help Isthak players to handle this army and to help other players to fight Isthak. If you have some comments, tips, advices or questions, feel free to post them ! I sincerely hope this topic will help beginners (and perhaps even veterans !) playing this not-so-easy army.
Warning ! Huge text ! If you don't want to read everything, you can skip and go the section XI - Some armies (end of post) to have some armylists. The last section, XII - Fighting Isthak is for players who want some tips to fight Isthak armies.
I - Generalities
Except some troops (like Undead or specific troops), Isthak's units have a very good battle power in melee, a good fear factor (FF) and so a good morale but low intiative, nearly no protections (especially against missile). They are fast but cannot maneuver properly (they are HORDES !). So, the troops must come to melee to deal damages and rout the enemy but need to be rightly deployed as they cannot maneuver easily. Never deploy Beastmen or Demons / Undeads on a flank - only few units like Icewitches or Humans can de deployed on a flank. Beastmen and Demons are to be placed in the centre of your army i.e., most of time, in the centre of your deployement area.
Your opponent will most likely use missile attacks to weaken you, and try to avoid as long as possible the melee or maneuver so your troops cannot support each other or cannot properly engage the fight. Don't let the maneuver advantage to your enemy : use waves of units (with Unead) or invocations like Pain Demons (PD) / Dai Re'Coon Commander (DRCC) to disturb your opponent and prevent him from moving like he wants.
Engage then quickly the fight but beware ! As you have no protections and low initiative, counter-attacks will really damage you. To prevent this :
- try to have Beastmen impetuous (+2 to initiative) ;
- engage the enemy with invocations, heroes / generals or Undead in first Turn of melee and then come with another unit to gain initiative (and critical attacks).
At last, but not least, Isthak magic is one of the most powerful in the game with the best invocations and some devastating spells. Wizards will compensate some weaknesses of your units if you play them correctly, so do not fear to recruit 2 or 3 in your army, especially Warlocks and Icewitches.
II - Shoots
Only 5 troops in Isthak can shoot : Skeletons with Bows (really slow and a weak attack), Followers of the Knights (expensive, slow, bad morale, weak attack), Snow Barbarians (expensive good unit, but limited to one exemplary), Amahrik (hero so only one shoot per Turn), Ice Canon (artillery - very expensive). So, avoid basing your army on shooters - you cannot counter an Elf or Empire army this way. In some cases (like against Thaïn or Dwarves), having one shooters unit can be a good idea to weaken some units to hard to charge (like Blunderbuss) but, most of times, your wizards will do a better job.
The Ice Canon is particular as it outranges all shooters in the game (except other artilleries). It can be efficiently played but needs a special strategy.
To protect your troops against shooters, use spells (the Blizzard spell is very effective, as well as the PD) or place Undead in first line. Terrain like woods will also be of a great help as your units are fast. Remember : you have to engage melee with as most elements as possible.
III - Snow terrain
Playing in snow terrain will grant you some good advantages : the enemy will be slower, he cannot uses fire (except from magic but no fires will last) and some terrains (like rivers) will be easily crossed. However, some of your troops will be slowed too : avoid playing Undead and Humans when playing in snow terrain. Recruit as few as possible Beastmen and then recruit Icewicthes and Demons. War Sleds, Gargoyles Riders, Daughters of Xeribulos will be very effective - and don't forget you can summon the Ice Elemental.
IV - Wizards
As said above, magic is one of the main advantages of Isthak. Warlocks can always be recruited (save if you play Undead) and are a must-have for all their summoning spells and some other tricks. The lvl 1 is enough : he can summon a PD and a DRCC with its 10 Spell Points (SP), cast an occasionnal Madness, control the Demons etc. Even if you play no Demons, he is a masterpiece.
Note that PD will be really usefull against shooters (they useally block them 2 Turns), but not against fighters (at most, they block them one Turn which allows you to buy time... but not that much). The DRCC is a really strong summoning that will block and sometimes rout a unit (even elite ones can be blocked).
Necromancers are to be played only with an Undead-oriented army. A lvl 1 will be enough if you play not more than 3 units, the lvl 2 (or two lvl 1) will be needed if going with more.
Icewitches are, like Warlocks, a must-have. The Blizzard spell will protect you against shooters, offensive spells and flyings (like a Dragon). It is also a requisite to cast the Lighnting Strike which can destroy a large element or a hero / commander. The Ice Breath is a very effective spells against armoured units and the Icewitch can reinforce the Furies. Note that you can have magical Cristals which extend the range of your Ice magic. The lvl 1 is enough is most cases, but sometime a lvl 2 (or two lvl 1) will be better - this depends of the number of heroes / commanders and large elements the enemy recruited.
V - Beastmen
Beastmen are powerful and fast but have only one maneuver, an intiative of 2 and no protections. Try to have them impetuous to avoid counter-attacks (and devouring corpses...) and gain some critical attacks. Those units are the spine of your army : recruit two of them for a classical army and deploy them in the centre of your army. Heroes and commanders are cheap and fearsome but not as good as Icewitches ones (because of Cristals).
Beware when using Beastmen : a simple skimishers unit can get rid of them because of the ranged-attacks and avoid engaging elite units. Beastmen are your base, not your elite.
VI - Icewitches
Another basic category, but with elite so expensive troops. Furies are weak in defense but have a initiative of 3 and can benefit from Ice magic : the Anger of Furies spell is one of the most efficient. Gargoyles Riders are fast, strong and resistant but they are expensive and only six : play them carefully and don't waste them. They will not be as efficient as a real heavy cavalry, but they will do a very good job even against elite troops. Avoid giving Cristals to leaders ; they are best for characters.
The War Sled is a really nice troop but hard to play. Take you time to play it and try to reap already engaged units (by a PD by example) and use it mostly in snow terrain.
Ice canon are to be used with a special army and it doesn't allow you to play the Blizzard spell, so an Icewitche sorceress is of no use. Get a Warlock instead.
VII - Humans
Humans troop are slow, expensive and not as powerful as it seems. There only advantages are the protections and the maneuvers. Followers are especially useless and Snow Barbarians will only be useful in some cases (when you need some shooters to weaken some special units). Knights (mounted or not) are quite useful but you will find Beastmen and Gargoyles Riders better in most cases, an cheaper. Heroes and commanders are fun, but, again, you will find Beastmen and Icewitches better in most cases. Use Humans when you need a defensive army - with the Ice Canon by example - or because you need armours and maneuvers.
Necromancers and Warlocks are recruited in this category, and Warlocks are a must-have. so, you know what to recruit first, don't you ?
VIII - Demons
Demons are all elite but you have only three units. Torgogs are fun, quite powerful (especially against heavy troops) and cheap. Daughters of Xeribulos have 3 maneuvers (!), a initiative of 3 (like the Furies), they are fast an can jump in melee. However, they are weak in defense and expensive. Don't waste them... they are an excellent unit. Dai Re'Coons (DRC) are your tanks : highly protected, very poweful, fast but no maneuvers. DRC always need a Warlock (1 Warlock per DRC unit recruited) and must be in the centre of your army. Send them against anything : they will hold it if not destroy it. Beware of large elements who can engage the DRC in the flank and destroy them little by little.
Demons are always welcome in an Isthak classical army, especially the DRC.
IX - Undead
Playing Undead is quite different from the classical. First, those troops are slow and not really powerful. Their number will allow you to send waves of them against the enemy who will get tired and overflown, and then your other units will come to finish him. You will need a Necromancer or two and Undead commanders to control and keep Undead units from disappearing with a failled Morale check. As they have a initiative of 0, they are weak against overrun attacks, so recruit an Icewitch to cast some Blizzards and Lightning Strikes to prevent large elements ruining your army.
Skeletons are very resistant but slow - good for tanking. Be prepared to move slower than usual and engage later on. So be ready to launch your attack at the right time. Skeletons Riders are fast and a very good unit to engage the enemy quickly so your Beastmens and Icewitches can move fast. Take two of them for this stategy. Use Skeletons with Spears / Scythes and Death Knights as elite (in a second wave to finish the enemy). Never engage your commanders : they need to be behind the lines to control your Undeads. Protect them ! Losing them mean losing the Undead and then, the game. Same for Necromancers.
X - Ice Giants
The Ice Giant is a tank : he is good to open the way for your units. Don't forget to overrun the enemy, it's his best attack. Let him in melee only if he blocks a whole elite unit - don't let him be blocked by a lone hero. Beware of wizards.
XI - Some armies in 1200 pts
* Isthak classical army will be something like this : Beastmen x2, Furies, Dai Re'Coons, Niehenwe with a Cristal (Wrath of the Furies), Raidala, Drogador.
Furies can be deployed on a flank, followed by Raidala who will cast Blizzard (if necessary), Purple Aura of Invulnerability (one Turn before Furies engage in melee), Anger of Furies (the Turn when Furies engage) and Ice Breath when possible. Dai Re'Coons and Drogador will be in the centre, with Beastmen along. Move toward the enemy, summon DP and DRCC (you can let the DRCC act alone if you need an independant character or make it join the unit to control it) and - if possible - cast a Madness on one elite enemy unit. Niehenwe is your independant character : use her to protect your wizards or block an enemy.
* A Beastmen-oriented army : Beastmen x2, Snow Trolls, Gargoyles Riders, Shertrak, Raidala, Drogador.
Keep the Trolls in the center and use them to block. Gargoyles will be on a flanl. Raidala is here to cast Blizzards, Lightning Strikes and Ice Breathes. Drogador summons. What else ?
* A Demons-oriented army : Beastmen, Furies, Dai Re'Coons x2, Drogador x2.
Move toward the enemy while summoning again and again. Furies on the flank, as always. Let the Dai Re'Coons engage the enemy first.
* An Undead-oriented army : Beastmen in armour, Gargoyles Riders, Daidra, Raidala, Zombies, Skeleton Riders x2, Lund Dolphgren, Herky Keldor, Xarta.
Engage with the Skeleton Riders first and let the Undead commanders behind them for morale and orders. Xarta creates new Skeletons again and again (and maybe enhances them). Other units will come in a second wave to finish the enemy. Raidala and Daidra are here to protect against large elements or fast characters (who could try to kill your Undead commanders and Xarta).
* An army with an Ice Giant : Beastmen with Spears x2, Atazzar, Gargoyles Riders, Daidra with a Cristal (Ice Breath), Drogador, Ice Giant.
Use the Giant to open the way, followed by Beastmen units and hero. Drogador summons, what else ? Daidra and the Gargoyles will clear a flank (use the Ice Breath against a heavy unit).
More armies to come later...
XII - Fighting Isthak
These general tips depend of your army, of course.
Use troop who favour initiative, armours and shoots. Even skirmishers units are good against Isthak as Isthak units have a poor missile protection. Try to avoid melee until you have the advantage. Maneuver again and again to engage the strongest units by flank if possible (or with the least counter-attacks possible). Don't recruit too many archers, try to have some good fighters : the best ones are those with a good initiative (to strike first) and a good ratio battle power / armour (to avoid losing the unit with a Madness spell).
Beware of magic and invocations ! Keep one or two characters free to fight them, or cast offensive spells (e.g. Fireballs). Try to kill the wizards as soon as possible or diversify your threats so the Isthak player has to chose what to do (and with some luck, the choice made will be the bad one). Count the Spell Points to avoid the most devastating spells like Ice Breath and Madness.
Deploying your army in a flank only can force the Isthak player to maneuver and lose time.
Discussion on the Demonworld rules. Tips and tactics are welcome!
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