I am a frequent poster on COTEC and in discussions I often bring up how I feel O&G is a hard counter to WoC. Invariably fanatics come up. Now these are a danger to WoCs high value/low model count army. The pat counter seems to be “I will use my van guarding warhound unit to pull the fanatics”. I have to smile every time I see this.
In my local group, there is a constant back and forth in fanatic and anti-fanatic tactics. I thought I would share some of the tactics and counters to fanatic pullers in one article. Since I will be posting this both on COTEC as well as my blog, it will have a WoC v. O&G theme but the following tactics should apply for any match up.
Setting the Stage
My typical O&G force has 3 individual chariots, 2 wolf units, and 2 solo trolls. This is 7 units compromising 360 points that I can potentially drop before I even have to think about dropping a unit with fanatics. It takes a very chaff heavy army to match this. If an army can, they likely will pull the fanatics no matter what I do by sheer dint of cheap units. Most O&G armies I have seen have 4-7 units of chaff, so my build is not out of line.
This leads me to my first problem with the van guarding hounds theory. In countless tournament games, I have never seen a WoC player not drop all his hound units first. This gives me an opportunity to deploy my fanatic units away from them. A WoC player may recognize this but reserving a hound unit until later in deployment may lead to other problems. Will there be room in the deployment zone to place the hound where needed? If I have forced you to drop something more valuable earlier then you usually do, have I already not gained an advantage? As I will show you, I can easily keep the hounds from getting to the fanatics even if I want to drop the unit opposite the hounds. With that said, I think you should give up a small advantage and hold those hounds, or better fast cav until later in deployment.
The ideal tactics involve setting up the release of fanatics so that an opposing unit is forced to run over them. The best is releasing in response to a charge. With the ability of O&G to take a very solid artillery line, an enemy that sits back and avoids engagement could be in serious trouble.
Screaming across the front
This involves throwing the fanatics out of the unit across the face of your own unit, once again in response to a charge. This ensures that a successful charge is eating 2d6 per fanatic. It works best with either a wide unit or throwing across the face of an adjacent unit.
As I understand it, the guy who won the SCGT in England had a 100 man poison shooting NG unit. I imagine he used this tactic, as illustrated. Here a Skull Crusher unit declares a charge, makes the roll, and stops 8” away. The Goblin player can throw fanatics directly at the SC but some will hit and pass through for only 1d6, or you can throw across the front and guarantee they have to run across all three.
Here is how I would use it. Same situation but the SC are charging my Savages. I may need to clip my unit to make it work but that is ok.
The weakness of this tactic is that the fanatic units are on the front line. This makes them very susceptible to early pulling by chaff. Yes, that includes those pesky van guarding war hounds. However, I am more likely to deploy like this.
I have an advantage in a solid artillery line, so it behooves me to delay engagement, hence it is my chaff/anti chaff on the front line while the main units are farther back. I have placed my Fanatic unit 7.5 inches back from the deployment line. If you choose to vanguard your hounds up, you are depending on first turn (which you likely have the +1) but must stop 1 inch away from my units and unable to release the units. Since you van guarded, you cannot charge my units and get closer. I can always counter charge or perhaps get first turn and run the hounds off. I have range advantage with the chariot, so you should never be able to close. The troll is not worried about hounds and can interpose itself until it has something more important to do. Finally, the best target of those crappy short bows on the chariot is the hounds. A patient game will play into my hands. The deployment also leads into the next tactic.
The sling shot
By setting up behind my SO or trolls, I have an opportunity to throw the fanatics through the unit at a charging unit. SO have a 5+ ward while the trolls have 4+ regen to help offset the wounds they take. The charging unit will take the 2d6 hits on any roll of 7 or less (1d6 on a 8+) and then face an angry hammer unit. The best set up is to make sure the 8” trigger point is an inch and half in front of your unit. So the fanatic has a spot to stop, to close it will just carry through the charger.
The best counter to this is to move a chaff unit up to trigger the fanatics and force the O&G player to throw them out in awkward places. Of course this also means you have survived the anti-chaff measures illustrated above. Another option in the face of heavy chaff is to simply have them 8 inches back from the front line. It is not ideal but you guarantee hitting the enemy unit (as well as yours) if they charge. Of course they could just charge one of those cheap units in. A final option is to have the fanatic unit even further back and move up on a subsequent turn to throw the fanatics through the ongoing combat.
Much of this tactic is dependent on the makeup of the opposing army. An army like WoC with lots of high value/hard hitting models, it is worth throwing fanatics through your own units. Against something like Skaven, not so much.
Terrain is death for fanatics. As you deploy, look for approaches that take you through terrain. It is likely the O&G player will deploy his fanatics away from these pieces and may give you an indication how he will deploy. It is worth the occasional Dangerous Terrain test!
Flyers are the hardest thing to counter. A good O&G player will try and set up zones where you cannot land but the ability hop over terrain from hiding and approach from odd angles makes it tough. Flyers of all types are my first targets for all artillery. Of course, flyers are also the best units at getting to warmachines, which means fanatic pulling may not be the best use for them.
2 for 1.
Look for O&G players who put their fanatic units to close together. You may be able to move a single wide and mobile unit (skinks come to mind) up such it pulls the fanatics of two units at the same time.
The late wheel
Every charger gets a free wheel. A single model unit that can delay its wheel until after fanatics are released may be able to navigate and miss some/all of them. Not a great tactic but something to keep in mind.
I like fanatics because it causes my opponent to expend resources and effort in dealing with them. Often these resources would be better spent dealing with my chaff or hunting my artillery. However, if they are left alone, fanatics will often tip the balance of a critical combat. 2 tend to be just fine for me though I will sometimes play a list with 4.
I would love to hear other tactics or counters if people have them.