Woohoo! I’ve finally got my hands on a box of Greatswords, who are one of the units in the Empire list I am genuinely excited about from both a gaming and hobby perspective. When I first skimmed through the Empire book and started piecing together in my head what I wanted my army to look like, a massed unit of Greatswords standing proud in the centre of my battle line was an image I definitely wanted to see through to completion. They are the elite infantry of man. Clad in Full Plate armour and wielding their hefty swords, they are one of the units in the Empire army that can do some significant damage to the enemy. A horde of 40 would certainly help them do that but alas, as with everything in the current Empire book, a compromise has to reached as they are not cheap, so a trimmed down 30-35 will be more likely – and affordable [Poor baby. – Ed].
There has been some debate over whether Greatswords are actually a worthwhile choice as their points cost makes them a very significant investment. At 11 points each they weigh in at almost double that of the staple Halberdier and it’s been argued that the 100-150 points you save by going with a Halberdier block come in very handy elsewhere in the army – and this of course is an extremely valid argument. A unit of 5 Outriders, for example, is only 105 points for 15 Handgun shots per turn – on top of those 40 Halberdiers. Or even another Helblaster perhaps? (cackle)
However, my opinion is that Greatswords offer you one of the best options for dealing with elite troops head on in combat. I plan on taking quite an infantry heavy army – three large blocks with one of them being the Greatswords, because I think Empire armies look way cool when there are a lot of boots/socks/tights on the ground. However my opponents plays Khorne for A Tale of Two Armies, which has many units (read all) which fall into the ‘Infantry Blender’ category that can quite easily chop their way through half a horde of state troops a turn.
In the Greatswords I believe the Empire have a unit that can actually stand up to these and then dish some hurt back. Their Weapon Skill of 4 is only a limited improvement in my situation against the combat superstars of Chaos, but against many other armies it vastly improves their survivability by immediately cutting 25% off the numbers of wounds they would suffer. When you then add in the Full Plate armour save of 4+ that’s potentially another 50% off the wounds tally, meaning not only do they stick around for twice as long, but they give up less combat resolution in the process making it easier to break your opponent.
When it’s their turn to strike they can really dish out the hurt – even against heavily armoured opponents with the -2 armour save from their Strength 5 attacks. They are one of the few Empire units you’d probably want to run a bit wider than the minimum of 5 as you do want to make the most of their high strength attacks, and as they’re Stubborn you don’t have to worry about stacking ranks to gain Steadfast. We know they can wound easily but the only problem is hitting the target, Weapon Skill 4 is good but not great, but this is where the Empire army synergy comes into play.
The Celestial Hurricanum is almost a must have if going for an Infantry heavy army. The +1 to hit bubble is invaluable for actually doing some damage to your opponent rather than just holding him in combat. With your Greatswords now hitting on 3’s and wounding on 2’s or 3’s they are going to leave a mark. If you really fancy juicing them up, put a Warrior Priest in there (or better yet, an Arch Lector for Leadership 9 Stubborn) for re-rolling misses straight off the bat and then your choice between re-rolling to wound, for increased damage output, or a 5+ Ward Save to make them even harder to shift. You’ve now got a unit that even Chaos Warriors would hesitate to engage – start throwing in magic buffs and it’s getting silly. But I’ll again mention the cost, all this doesn’t come cheap and it really has to be part of your strategy to get all your units working together and squeezing the most out of your army. Your points investment gets you a unit that doesn’t need to hold on for dear life while help comes over the horizon like your state troops will, they can mix it up and even though they may not always win, they will have almost certainly ground your opponent down and held them in combat for a long while – giving you time to prioritize who gets assistance and when. Just remember to keep you Battle Standard Bearer close by as you wouldn’t want your 400+ point unit running away due to one unlucky dice roll.
As for the models themselves? They’re – ahem – great. Sorry couldn’t resist. But seriously, they’re a really nice plastic kit with minimal mould lines and some very desirable components for use on them and elsewhere. Their design is excellent and lends itself easily to a more lavish paint job with the slashed sleeves just crying out for a colour combination befitting their status. You get two sets of arms for every soldier letting you choose between straight or wiggly sword blades, a load of extra torsos and multiple head options. But that’s where the one gripe about this set comes in, with Games Workshop charging over £25 a pop for only ten pairs of legs on bases, the set is actually only missing just that – more legs. You could make another 2 or 3 out of each box if you had the legs to do it! Buy two boxes of them and if you could find somewhere selling individual components then get hold of some more legs (I did) and your unit size increases a nice chunk. Thankfully our friends at Firestorm Games charge less than Games Workshop so make sure you buy them from them as that shrinks a potential outlay for a large unit of 30 from £76.50 to more like the £45.90 for two boxes plus the cost of obtaining a some extra legs and a torso or two– not too shabby.
It’s going to be a daunting task to paint up 30 or 40 of these guys but the effect on display when they’re done will be well worth it – and hopefully they’ll repay my faith and effort in their performances on the table top. To arms!
Empire Greatswords are available from Firestorm Games priced £22.95.