Banner of the World Dragon
I see much wargaming in my future. My friend Adrian has an obsessive power that is akin to The Eye of Sauron. Whatever he focuses on is subject to intense and powerful scrutiny. Truly his inner nerd has the power to pierce flesh, stone and other ominous utterings by old dudes in white robes. This time his gaze falls upon Warhammer Fantasy and since my high elves has been dormant for way too long I am more than happy to follow suit. As such I have been re-reading the rules, played a little 500 point game and – best of all – reconnected with my Youtube channels for battle reports.
After watching an interesting battle report today I needed to look up something in the errata. Not to see about a rule but to check on a definition. In this battle report a unit of Sword Masters got his by the template of a Miscast spell. The S10 hit removed 6 models and there was not even talk about a save. But wait – I thought – that unit was marching under the Banner of the World Dragon a – by now – infamous High Elf magic item that confers a 2+ Ward Save against magical attacks on all models in that unit. Would that banner not protect the unit against the blast from the Miscast? Logic seems to dictate that it would but I have learned not to trust logic – especially in wargaming – since the job of the rules is not to simulate reality but to create a balanced game (and as obvious as this may seem to some we all know those people who misinterprets rules on the grounds of “that doesn’t seem realistic” – well neither does the zombie dragon!).
Realism discarded I took a look at the function of the banner to see if there was some clue to be found. As some people have noted the Banner of the World Dragon (this is where i am starting to refer to it as BWD or “the banner”) is already a quite powerful item. Granting protection from a lot of nasty spells as well as the attacks from powered up lords and heroes wielding magic weapons. (not to mention entire armies of the unholy spawns of Chaos). Adding a 2+ protection from miscasts on top of that seems to make this banner an even more desirable item. In the game managing your spells and power dice is such an important thing. But given that the more power dice you spend the higher the chance of a Miscast means that the 2-3 wounds you have on your wizard becomes a very precious thing (that said the banner does not protect against the instant death suffered from being sucked into the warp nor losing your wizard levels). Can it really be that this 50 point flag is the cure-all against Demons, Miscasts and hostile spells?
As it turns out – yes it is. Looking up in the errata I found the following note under the question “what is a magical attack?” : “hits inflicted by rolls on the Miscast Table are treated as magical attacks”. So there you go. Place your Mage or Archmage in a unit and you can avoid taking most of those Miscast wounds – making sure you keep your spellcaster around a lot longer.
As powerful as this item seems it has some severe limitations. You can only have one of them. You will need to pick which unit has the protection of the banner. This means that you must choose if the banner is to stay with your Mage – protecting him from Miscasts – or if it will be a ward for a strong melee unit (or you can must gamble and send your Mage into combat) it can’t solve all of your problems nor can it protect the entirety of your army. Players facing the banner may grumble that it basically makes a unit impervious to their magic but if magic was their only option to take this unit out they will need to look at their own list and it’s limitations rather than crying foul play.
A friend once told me that you can identify something unbalanced when it is something you will pick over other options all the time (*cough* Beasts of Nurgle *cough*) but while I appreciate this as a rule of thumb I do not feel that it applies to the Banner of the World Dragon. Firstly it is impossible – as previously stated – to only pick the BWD for your units and second a lot of other banners are highly useful to a High Elf player – depending on your tactics of course.
As such the Banner of the World Dragon might be an iconic item for the High Elves (like the Book of Hoeth) but it is far from a universal remedy and if not used with caution and guile it will be a wasted effort to include at all.
EDIT: I was asked what other banners I’d be likely to pick for my High Elves and I’m happy to comply:
- Gleaming Pennant (re-roll your first failed Leadership Test): useful if you have an expensive cavalry unit on the flank outside of Inspiring Presence, a unit that will not be steadfast and/or likely to be the first in and taking hard hits. If you can make a unit stay a full turn you will get to make the juicy counter charges. Notice that this will not stack with the re-rolls from your Battle Standard.
- Standard of Discipline (all Models in the unit has +1 leadership, but cannot use Inspiring Presence rule): Only way to get a General with 10 Leadership is to take a Prince. But stick this banner on a unit with an Archmage, Anointed of Asuryan or Loremaster of Hoeth (who all have a Ld of 9) you can get the same advantage. The unit with your general in it will not even suffer for it since they are not using the Inspiring Presence rule to access the General’s Leadership – but simply using the Model with the highest Leadership in the Unit.
- Banner of Swiftness (+1 Movement): Bringing a unit of elves up to 6 Movement makes them really fast on a charge. Also it can bring a unit of cavalry up to the maximum speed possible – a whooping 10 inches (down boy).
- Wailing Banner (Unit causes Terror): Terror is just nice. Force a Leadership test on a charge and cause fear in fear causing troops. A fun – but risky – thing is to have your Battle Standard Bearer on a mobile mount like an eagle or chariot letting him threaten a lot of units with his terrifying charge.
- War Banner (+1 combat resolution): If your Battle Standard is also present in a unit this can be a total of +3 from banners alone. With three ranks that can be a lot of “static combat res” making a unit very likely to win combat or at least very hard to break. Piling modifiers on top of each other like this let’s you do some pretty neat things.