At the beginning of the game with deployment and then movement, I decide what will be effective against the horde. It varies a lot, depending on the army. Just some rough thought on this topic.
What kind of horde is it?
By horde, do we mean 10 standard models wide by at least 3 ranks deep (alternatively, 6 monstrous infantry/beasts 3 ranks deep) or simply a very larger unit like a skaven slave or gnoblar congo line (five models wide by ten ranks deep with a leadership-general or BSB-bubble close enough behind or at one side to avoid or reduce the risk of failing a break test)?
Is it a horde to max supporting attacks (a troll horde 6 wide by 3 deep, a high elf spearman horde), to act as a steadfast tar pit (skaven slaves ten ranks deep and five wide), or to serve as a deathstar (temple guard with a Slann, warriors of chaos chosen deathstar)?
Avoidance: Use movement, deployment and magic to avoid facing. Hordes are clumsy to deploy and move with terrain on the board as 8th edition rules anticipate (4+ D6 terrain features or 7 to 8 items on average). There are a number of spells that limit movement (miasma) or penalize movement or require a test to move. Also, deploying and moving units to block swift reforms and wheeling can be useful in restricting movement and avoiding combat. Generally, in an extended battle, one cannot avoid a unit in 8th edition and, thus, one generally needs a model or unit that can be a tar pit (steadfast or stubborn), sacrificial unit (positioned to take a charge and redirect the unit when fleeing or delay the charge if the enemy unit chooses not to pursue or overrun), or effectively bait and flee in order to pull the unit out of position. A unit that can charge, lose on CR, and flee away in a different direction will often take a horde unit out of position for the game if it pursues or can possibly survive and rally if not pursued.
One of my favorite tactics is to divide and conquer by avoiding or delaying the horde unit and taking a part the rest of the army. Playing dark elves as my primary army, I can afford to stick a stubborn dreadlord (say with a 1+ armour save and pendant) into something tough and generally be confident that the dreadlord has a good chance of surviving to the end as long as within the range of the BSB. Even if the dreadlord eventually dies, I challenge or target characters in the unit to kill enough characters to at least partially pay for the risk of loss of the dreadlord. Often a horde will have characters in it given the investment made and those characters can be VPs for a sacrificial unit or tar pit that one expects to lose.
In another game against a dwarf player with three hordes (one unit of hammerers, one unit of warriors with great weapons, and one unit of rangers with great weapons), I deployed spread out and used my scouts (10 shades) to threaten his war machines. In order to counter, he ended up having to use his rangers horde deployed against my unit of scouts. I used a heavy cav unit to threaten his war machines from another direction (including shooting the gaps with my characters on mounts) which forced him to counter with his hammers, and used a flying unit to threaten from another direction. With the advantage of flexibility and with terrain on the board, once deployed, he could not consolidate his position and march fast enough to get to something to kill without the target swift reforming and moving away. I ultimately lost the scouts and the flying unit but isolated and killed one of the three horde formations and won the battle with successfully killing two of his four war machines. (This was a very highly ranked player.)
Delay and deplete: the initial tactics of avoidance are often used/necessary to delay combat. In the meantime, one must have magic and/or shooting to deplete the unit effectively over time. This includes template shooting (salamanders, stone throwers and equivalent), massed BS shooting, and specific magic spells (pit of shades, soul stealer for low T units, dwellers, transmutation, gateway) and/or boosting direct damage or magic missiles. Perhaps one of the most effective models in this regard is the hydra: the breath weapon attack will kill a lot of models and the combo of six handler attacks, seven hydra attacks and thunderstomp can quickly decimate a horde unit. Once the unit is depleted sufficiently, then it often becomes vulnerable to being defeated in detail with either combo charges (flank and rear) or by a larger block and losing its ability to remain steadfast.
An opponent in a 2750 empire campaign battle brought a chaos marauder horde of 75 marauders with great weapons and included in the unit two lvl 2's and his BSB. I hit it with two anti-horde spells and a lot of shooting, and then finally charged it with a hydra to finally break the unit after two rounds of combat. Because great weapons strike last, the hydra had killed some many and had a sufficiently narrow frontage that the damage from the great weapons was minimal. He had to move the BSB out to avoid it being targetted and killed.
Wave tactics are a subset of deplete and delay: the strategy is to run enough potent units at the horde to sufficiently deplete it over time to the point that it can be killed or broken and chased down. Eventually the unit will be depleted enough to be broken by something. Wave tactics require that the units charging or being charged by the horde are either sufficiently resilient (waves of skaven slaves that are steadfast and cheap and do damage when they eventually break) or else will strike first before getting killed.
For example, a small unit of witch elves within range of a cauldron BSB will do a lot of damage but will eventually die against a horde. It may be small enough to not be focused on by magic and shooting (especially if killing 7 out of ten models accomplishes little when the 3 remaining models are frenzied and can simply hide for the rest of the game after absorbing the hits) and, thus, used to protect the cauldron BSB by taking on a horde and allowing the BSB to move to avoid combat and to position additional models to come to attack the horde unit after the witches have been destroyed. Because witch elves have high initiative (allowing them to strike first) and have hatred and poison, the poison and hatred combo makes them very effective in the first round of combat with the large number of frenzied attacks and they are stubborn. Using small units of witches allows one to maximize the attacks each witch makes before it dies and maximize the damage inflicted. Since witches are likely to be killed anyway by a strong horde, running them wide to max attacks makes a lot of sense. They will hopefully kill enough to pay for their points, and, hopefully, they will just barely survive the first round of combat and pass their stubborn break test (with the BSB in range) in order to allow for one more round of attacks before being killed and to allow the next wave (a hydra or a second witch elf unit or a black guard unit) to be positioned to charge the depleted horde to charge the next turn. With black guard being limited to 20 models, the witches can knock down the unit enough to allow the black guard unit to take on the horde and survive. One is sacrificing the first unit to allow the second unit or a third unit to finish off the horde for the victory points without given up victory points. When used in connection with the cauldron, giving +1 attack, KB, or the ward save to each charging wave in turn, one can ultimately delay and deplete the horde unit enough to finish it off. (Small units of corsairs with repeater handbows can similarly be used against low T and low AS hordes to move within range to shoot in ranks, get off a second round of stand and shoot shots, and then do some damage in combat before being destroyed by the horde.)
One good recently developed example of this tactic is an Orc and Goblin army sending in mangler squigs, snotling pump wagons, and wolf chariots at an elite infantry horde (such as a chaos chosen unit hopefully before the ward save is up or a warriors of chaos horde) for the impact hits and shooting with doom divers. Then following up with savage orcs and night goblins until the unit is too small to win CR and breaks.
Matchup: run a deathstar or horde at the horde. One opton is to have something bigger and able to wear it down over time while remaining steadfast; another option is to win CR and force repeated break tests; and the final option is to have something able to kill enough fast enough to chew up the horde before your unit dies. The repeated break tests strategy usually includes some means of going after the BSB or general or LD (breaking ranks of a skaven horde for example).
Cut off the head: Another means of depletion is to go after what makes the unit work, like the BSB or general or a character in or near the unit that buffs the unit and makes it effective. This is typically employed in the context of delay and deplete or matchup tactics and hordes that are no longer as potent with the head cut off. For example, killing the savage orc shaman with shrunken head in a savage orc horde is often needed to effectively kill the horde; kill the tomb king, necrotect or prince in a TK horde; or kill the BSB to eliminate re-rolls on a steadfast horde. Less experienced players often do not realize when a match up is unfavorable and often do not go after the characters in or supporting that unit. I have sometimes suicide charged a horde just to just to kill the BSB or a key character if the match worked out that it could succeed (like charging a hydra into a dwarf horde with great weapons and focusing all the attacks possible on the BSB or runelord ).
Last edited by olderplayer; 07-07-11 at 09:52 PM.