By Andrew Colman
The Greatest Cavalry in Middle Earth
I wrote this guide in the wake of the Australian Masters in 2016 and placed it on the Australian SBG Facebook, and it recently occurred to me that it would be an excellent idea to reproduce on the blog complete with pretty pictures. Some minor profile and lists changes since that time but it is all still relevant and useful information, so here it is!
Rivendell Knights have become some of my favourite models in the game, both aesthetically and gameplay wise. I’ve been playing them for the last 6 months, and they’ve netted me a 3rd in the prequel to Clash, 2nd at The Silmarilli and 1st at Masters. They require a decent level of understanding of the game to utilise effectively, as they can be unforgiving if you make mistakes, but in exchange they give you a very strong ability to dictate the game with good decision making. I like to compare them to Apache Gunships or Panzer tanks. Heavily armed, very mobile, capable of dealing massive damage, but will struggle if tied in down into a grinding fight against superior numbers.
A small note of caution. Rivendell Knights played ‘optimally’ can be frustrating to play against in a casual game against some people, but others like the challenge. As always, know your opponent and what will make for a fun game. If you’re doing well in tournaments with them with this particular playstyle, you’ll quickly be seeded against like-minded competitive players.
Profile and Wargear
Their profiles are that of a High Elf – F5/3+, D6, C5 are the standout attributes, but where the Knights really shine is in their wargear. Elf Bows offer you some of the best shooting in the game, lances provide all important killing power for your charges, Elf blades give you the capacity to duel most heroes with a decent chance of winning, whilst for more one point shields (which you should always try and take) give you the all-important D6 and the ability to shield on foot. All this equipment turns our Knights into walking Swiss army knives and gives you the flexibility to let the Knights assume multiple roles on the battlefield.
It is also worth noting both of their special rules, Woodland Creature and Expert Rider. Woodland Creature is incredibly important, it will allow you to win shooting wars, outflank your opponent, protect you from fliers and create a large zone of control in which your opponent does not have access to you whilst you have access to them. Expert Rider gives you D6 on horseback whilst having both shield and bow. Don’t forget this bonus will only apply when on horseback, so your dismounted models are not only less mobile but more vulnerable.
List Building and Allies
The Elves can call upon the aid of the most powerful beings in Middle Earth
The heroes you decide to use with the Knights will ultimately determine a decent proportion of your playstyle because they are so flexible, but some basic principles will remain the same. Elrond’s Household is a very small army list, equivalent to Numenor with 2 named heroes, a captain and one troop choice. Something to note is the FAQ released after the list was published which allows models from the Elrond’s Household list to ignore the bow limit (would be otherwise impossible to play them). Editors note: Since then we’ve seen experimental rules that include Knights as a troop choice in a high elf force, that will most likely be officially published at some point. You can’t run a whole army of them, so they will provide a supporting role to an infantry force but you have a much greater diversity of heroes to lead their warband. Exciting times!)
Elrond- Elrond offers everything; He is an excellent leader choice with high defence, terror and rerollable fate saves, he is an S tier combat hero with his 3 Attacks and horse, and he offers some magic in the form of Natures Wrath and the situationally useful Renew. He can also lead Knights himself, unlike some of the ally choices I will run through later, which with the expense of these models does come into play. Whilst he is an excellent choice, I have not run him much because I think there are even better options.
Lindir: In some ways Lindir is an upgrade for Elrond, as I can’t justify taking him if Elrond is not on the table. He is cheaper than most of the other options on this list, sacrificing combat stats for presence in the magic department. Magic is one of the best ways to deal with Rivendell Knights so having a tool to deny that with a bubble of magic resistance is a nice option, but one that I don’t think can be relied upon. Enemy Spell casters should be willing to spend enough resources that one dice resists are difficult to pull off, but it can make them hesitate or use an excess. Potentially unlimited Natures Wrath’s from Elrond are very dangerous, but come with a couple of caveats. The two deploy in separate warbands so it may sometimes take time to link them up, and it can be tricky to ensure multiple turns of Wrath if you want Elrond in combat as well. Devastating if successful however.
Rivendell Knight Captain: The best Captain profile in the game. Access to a lance allows him killing power equal to some of the big 3 attack heroes in a way. Fight 6 and an Elven blade has him beating the vast majority of heroes. An Elf bow gives you another shot in your force and the option to snipe priority targets using might to wound. He can also importantly, lead the Knights, giving you a substantially cheaper option than Elrond.
A pure Elrond’s Household list is excellent, and you’ll probably have a higher model count than with some of the additional suggestions I’m going to make below (most of them are expensive!). What these suggestion do provide is even greater tactical flexibility in one or another, and the ability to specialise in a particular playstyle by honing a given strength and taking advantage of point’s efficiency.
Wizards: All 3 wizards mounted are useful to a Rivendell Knight army, able to lock down or move an important component of your opponent’s army either away from the battle or into a vulnerable position you can punish. Gandalf more or less guarantees you will win a shooting war in the open with blinding light, even against Harad or Grey Company. The extra movement from Shadowfax in both Grey and White versions is also useful. White in particular is very costly, but useful if you know there’s a high chance of encountering enemy wizards. Radaghast on sleigh or eagle also doubles as an excellent combat choice, and is anathema to enemy cavalry that can potentially tie you down. Whilst not on eagle he will also enjoy Woodland creature. Aura of Dismay is also great for preventing you from being surrounded and bogged down. Again, you do pay the price in points though. Saruman is the best choice as a pure caster standpoint. A +2 immobilise on a free point of will is both consistent and a real thorn in the side of your opponent, while the 18” range of both his immobilise and command mean that you can catch your opponent off guard, and if you position well, allows him to exert control over the entire battlefield simultaneously. He is also the cheapest option of the three, coming in a measly 160 points on horse. It is important to note that Gandalf and Saruman don’t have woodland creature, so you need to exercise some caution maneuvering in and around these with your army so they don’t get caught out or left behind.
Arwen: She is a good thematic alternative to gain access to a much cheaper Natures Wrath than Elrond. Disappointingly she can’t lead Knight’s herself (get on it GW!) and her actual killing power is mediocre, but she is still F6 with an Elven Blade and becomes a dangerous duelist with a Knight or two by her side with lances.
Legolas (both versions): Legolas is the ultimate sniper and arguably one of, if not the best models in the game for his points. Point him at big heroes horses, Casters, banners, horns, drums, and squishy heroes and watch them evaporate with the application of a Might or two. His upgraded younger self is more expensive, but offers you a three attack hero and F7 with an Elven blade in addition to his sniping potential. (Future Andrew note: Megolas is no more, having been written out of the profiles. Standard Legolas is still more than up to the task though.)
Gilgalad, Glorfindel, Aragorn: All three of these choices more or less fulfil the same role with minor differences; to charge into the enemy and output major damage. Glorfindel is a very nice leader choice with the Armour of Gondolin, Aragorn lacks woodland creature but has the incredibly useful Mighty Hero, while Gilgalad effectively has a permanent lance. Your classic beatsticks.
The Twins: They lack the raw hitting power of some of the other combat choices on this list with only two attacks base on horse , but they more than make up for it in versatility; You gain access to 6 might for a cheap cost and they can take bows. That’s 6 might you can potentially drop into taking out important targets before combat, or calling heroic moves/combats. They can also be in two places at once! If you do manage to lose one of them, you’ve effectively lost both them of courtesy of their unbreakable bond, so you do need to exercise some care, but I’ve only lost one of them on two occasions over sixteen games, so it is usually avoidable.
Rangers of the North: An interesting alternative, RotN are roughly comparable to the knights themselves in points. You lose the lance but gain Strength 4, lose a fight value and the Elf Bow/ Blade, but in return you gain an extra warband drop and a Might/Will/Fight. The extra warbands can be really useful in deployment in ensuring you can avoid dangerous elements of an opponent’s army or can commit your strengths to a flank without answer. It also offers a cheap way to shepherd a few knights with a potential heroic move sitting behind them and a little protection from magic. You effectively sacrifice raw stats for utility.
Boromir of Gondor: A more unorthodox choice, but effective if you want a hand grenade to throw at your opponent for a relatively cheap cost. He’s an excellent throw away unit that doesn’t depend on the synergy of your overall army.
The List I ran at Masters was:
Saruman the White (Army Leader) – Horse 160
Legolas Greenleaf, Prince of Mirkwood-Horse 135
Elladan and Elrohir – Horses, Elven Bows 170
Rivendell Knight Captain – Shield 90
9 Rivendell Knights- Shield 198
1 Rivendell Knight – Shield, Banner 47
This is almost exactly the same as the list I ran at Clash, the only difference being I sacrificed a Knight and Heavy Armour on the Twins to include the upgraded version of Legolas over the regular.
The reasoning behind this composition was a combination of point’s efficiency and role section. All 5 of these heroes are probably amongst the most the best value for points you can get. There are four F6+ heroes all with Elven Blades and plenty of might, so you can comfortably duel any selection of heroes. There is also crucially 11 might that can be dropped in shooting. If something needs to be killed, you have nice odds of killing it. Taking Megolas gives access to a three attack hero in the cheapest way compared to my original list. Saruman, although he lacks Woodland Creature, offers you incredible control over the battlefield with his range and “guaranteed” castings.
What the list excels at is removing lynch points in an enemy army with magic and shooting, while making it very difficult for your opponent to pick a single threat to deal with because you have so many. What’s important to note is that every hero with the exception of the captain is D5. Importantly, I don’t actually care, because the way you play this army means they should never be put in a position where that defence is going to really matter. They shouldn’t be getting shot, they shouldn’t be taking combats they can’t reasonably win and against rends and black darts their defence is irrelevant anyway. The Knights themselves offer excellent shooting support and numbers for objectives and combats.
Deployment and Movement:
Some of the principles here will apply to mounted forces in general, some to my list in particular, but they are all important so I will run through all of them.
When placing objectives, try to always place them as spread as possible, and in opposite corners of the board (literally 6” from the board edges). The more you can split and spread your opponent the more opportunities you offer yourself to use your superior mobility. A smart opponent will try and do the opposite by placing them as close together as possible to each other and the central objective.
When you deploy your warbands, try to assess what in your force you do and don’t want to face or be in range of. For example, Saruman wants to stay away from Wraiths with Sap Will, while Legolas wants to snipe the horses off big heroes. In many cases if you want avoid facing an opponent’s shooting or get close to objectives quickly, deploy your heroes one by one then commit all the Knights to a flank and have your heroes regroup on them quickly to overwhelm one part of the battlefield. You always want to hold local superiority on the battlefield you are fighting, you should never have to fight your opponents whole army at once, mobility is key.
The “safety zone” for cavalry against infantry is 12” when those infantry have yet to move. 6” in that turn, 6” and a heroic move in the next, whilst against cavalry it is 20”. It becomes less when terrain is incorporated, so remember to factor those in. Obviously also compensate if your opponent declares a march. Generally speaking you want to be able to shoot as much as possible, so being as far back as you can is usually ideal. Don’t be trapped however, as you deploy and move have a plan of escape, whether that be breaking through a pocket of their army, travelling through terrain etc. Rivers and forests are your biggest friends that you really want to utilise to run rings around the enemy. Unless you can create a kill funnel with your heroes at the front, (who wants to fight a line of F6 Elven heroes??) try and avoid tight corridors if you have the option of remaining in the open safely.
If your opponent has casters, be very careful in checking their ranges – 18” spell range for something on foot, 22” for mounts. When they are inevitably within range, pay extra care to potential compels. Fellbeasts can charge a model 17” away at the start of the turn. Heroes can also charge into compelled models and heroic combat off them into your lines. When you’re measuring all these distances, it helps to be very clear what your intentions are to your opponent when you move out of range of spells or charges, especially when it’s only by half an inch. If you are concerned about magic, generally speaking you want to have your heroes at the front to body block models who can’t resist, and also so they can’t get blasted into them.
As the cavalry force, you want to try and lose every priority before combat- your safety range is shorter, and your opponent cannot react to your already greater mobility, or react to your moves on the turn your charge. Because of this, sometimes you find yourself having to commit earlier than you would plan because sometimes you cannot guarantee losing priority again and the opportunity for an uninterrupted charge again. This is a question of risk taking that doesn’t really have a guaranteed answer, but I generally like to take unanswered charges when I’ve got less than two turns of movement behind me for them to make. As you play with the force you’ll gain a feel for when is the right time to commit.
The knights will pretty much always win a shooting war against anything that isn’t grey company or covered by blinding light, because you only ever have to take the shooting wars you should win. Move and deploy so that you only have to face a portion of their archery with your army, or none at all courtesy of terrain and distance. Woods are your friends. You usually need fives to kill enemy archers with elven bows, whilst hopefully they have to make two in the way rolls for a forest and a horse, and then require sixes to wound if they aren’t crossbows (and why are you letting crossbows that have to sit still shoot you?). Don’t also be above calling a heroic shoot or accuracy in the first round of shooting to ensure you gain the early advantage if you need it. If you are engaged in a shooting war, your heroes should be relegated to the second rank to avoid losing their mounts, and in the case of my list, because they all have lower defence than my regular troops. Leave two gaps the size of cavalry bases in your line to allow them into combat without being boxed in by your own knights. Save the shots of your heroes until last if possible, its better not to use might if you don’t have to. Earlier shooting can knock out interceding models or remove the target you’re aiming for.
Your priority targets generally speaking are magic users, heroes’ horses, monsters and troops with D5 or less.
If you have a wizard whilst you shoot use him for disruption – blast and knock models back into others so they can’t shoot. Compel models in front of archers so they obscure line of sight, forcing evil models to take an extra way and potentially kill their own model, or prevent good models from shooting altogether. Compel otherwise safe models in a zone of fire and unleash on them. This is especially useful against banners and the like, especially with Legolas around.
If you are up against models with elven cloaks, try and shoot models behind them. The elven cloaks will become in the ways and suddenly sprouting arrows.
Dismounts in a shooting war become your dedicated archers and objective holders. Against S2 bows, have them as your frontline shooters, but against S3 bows, put them in the back row as they are now only D5 on foot. Spending heroes might in shooting big heroes, banners etc is highly recommended. Obviously you want to retain reserves of might for combat, but every nasty thing you shoot down is one you don’t have to fight in combat.
Combat (The Blitzkrieg):
By this point, you’ve hopefully knocked out some portion of your opponent’s army, but this won’t always be the case. As discussed earlier, always try and charge on a turn that you lose priority to get an uninterrupted charge. I have on multiple occasions called heroics with every hero in the first turn of combat. It is the last opportunity to do damage with your opponent reacting, make it count.
One option is to have heroes buddy up with knights as they do their heroics for adding killing power with the lances.
Another option is the “Bolging”, as Jeremy would call it. Call heroic combats and threaten to run into enemy heroes forcing them to spend might striking, at which point you simply ignore them and chew up more troops.
Compelling a model forward and surrounding them, then calling a heroic combat to get in range and take your opponent by surprise is another option as well.
Another option is what I like to term the “Heroic Retreat”, or cycle charges. Charge in, call heroic combats, then when you move again withdraw out of your opponents range. You’ve killed enemy models and they can’t catch you with heroic moves on the next turn. Rinse and repeat as desired.
Don’t commit your entire line of Knights in the first wave of charges. Keep some 6” away from the fight. Thus on the second turn of combat when the inevitable heroic roll off occurs, no matter if you win or lose you still have access to charge bonuses and lances in the second wave.
Ensure your banner covers as many combats as possible, particularly those for your heroes. It really makes a big difference when you hold the fight value advantage, improving your odds of rolling the unbeatable six.
Lances are deadly! In my list the Knight Captain has the most killing power in some situations because of it. Don’t forget they will still work against enemy cavalry and monsters so long as you still charge. With “guaranteed” wins, going two handed feinting with an elven blade is actually more effective than the lance because you can reroll ones as well as well as the +1 to wound.
Fighting against you in woods or rivers is horrific for most opponents. Woods are very convenient, but rivers are downright deadly. If you knock down models in the river with your charges or sorcerous blasts, they have to take swim tests! Especially nasty against solid infantry lines with heavy armour and shields, you’ll drown half of those you knock down.
Objectives and winning games:
It’s entirely possible to still lose games despite killing double or triple the models of your opponents if you neglect the objective of the mission you are playing. Pay attention to your opponents break and 25% points, you should be playing your movements around those. Against low courage armies you can scatter and capture objectives just before or after they break if you make sure to knock out shamans and immobilise or charge heroes. Against higher courage force you will need to commit to a narrower margin. Work out an average of how many will die/run a turn and give yourself two turns grace to obtain objectives. Try to time it so that there is one model more to break or reach 25% at the end of a turn to effectively give yourself an extra turn than what you otherwise have. I have deliberately chose not to shoot, or shielded or gone two handed feinting to make it harder to win and kill models if I don’t want a model count point reached.
If you want to really catch your opponent off guard and slip through a gap your cavalry can’t make, dismount! You gain an additional inch of movement for effectively free as well, because you place the dismounted model in base contact with the mounted model then remove the mounted model. There’s a decent element of risk in sacrificing your mobility and killing power, but it can really throw a spanner in the works when you charge that pesky banner or caster that your opponent thought was safe. It’s also sometime necessary if you want to enter buildings or very tight pockets of terrain.
Dealing with flying units:
Hide in woods if you can, don’t let fellbeasts compel you out, try and shoot the living daylights out of them when they come within range (as the opponent it’s generally a good idea to hold the Fliers back until the infantry are in range so they can absorb fire and support them). Try and get multiple heroes into them, abuse elven blades and multiple strikes to make sure you shut them down or they can rip your army apart single handed with hurls. If it’s an eagle, immobilise ASAP every turn or run a hero into it, it only has two attacks. If it’s Gully, introduce him to Legolas. A single knight on the charge will pummel a bat swarm, two will definitely kill it. Against a Dragon, if possible see if you can simply break the army, otherwise same ideas as a Fell Beast.
How to beat Rivendell Knights
So I’ve just spent three and a half thousand words explaining how to win games with Rivendell Knights, it’s probably appropriate to spend some time talking about how to beat them. In the hands of a good player, they are very very powerful, but they still have vulnerabilities and poor matchups. If you are matched up against them, you need to mitigate their ability to dictate the game and force them into making difficult risky decisions. They will struggle and probably crumble if you force them into prolonged combat. Rush them and get into their face to deny as much shooting as possible, call marches as necessary. Keep your threats at the back, allow lowly warriors to soak up missile fire and initial charges. Don’t be against making a staggered conga line of in the ways for them if necessary, even if it looks slightly ridiculous. Be careful of blasts if you do this. Monstrous Cavalry, Magic and Blinding Light are all effective answers to Rivendell Knights as well. It’s also vital that you play to the mission as well- use your numbers to hold objectives, and if you see the opportunity, deliberately suicide your troops and end the game.
Elven cloaks are also tricky for because it places them in charge range if they want to charge or shoot themselves. Woses and Mirkwood Rangers in some numbers are solid (albeit squishy) counters.
Actual game time is also a factor; they have to kill things and clear areas of the board to win, and although you don’t have that many models to move it still takes some time to achieve this. This does NOT mean you should deliberately stall out a game by taking 10 minutes to think about your next move. Rather stall through your gameplay; make them have to take an extra turn moving , deploy your men in multiple rings so it’ll take them more turns of combat to get through them. This can help chew up the time you need to win. Unless you have a specific composition this should be your last resort, the vast majority of games should be finishing within a time limit.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading through all of my ramblings on Rivendell Knights. It’s a bit longer than I initially anticipated! Hopefully it’ll prove useful in your games with or against them. If this causes us to see more Rivendell Knights on the table I’d be delighted (until I have to play them myself!), they are really lovely models that you can do so much with painting wise and they teach you a lot about how to play the game.
Thanks again for reading!
Titles and Adulation Worthy of the Greatest Riders in Middle Earth!