I have spent much of my time recently knee-deep in the blood of many zombies (I refer you to the new Left 4 Dead game). It has taken a while, but I have finally fought my way through the tide of dead things and have emerged ready to write. This time I have decided to talk about one of my favourite units in the Warhammer fantasy game; cavalry, specifically heavy cavalry. I’m fond of these units. What can be more satisfying than ridding a small unit of elite knights over a mass of enemy infantry? That being said there are ways to use heavy cavalry and ways not too. This is what I want to discuss.
Get the Charge. Heavy cavalry are best used offensively; most of these units are armed with either a lance or a spear and so get the best from their attacks in a charge. This is the first rule for using heavy cavalry: they have to charge to be fully effective. This means making sure you position the cavalry unit correctly. Make sure that you don’t get too close to another enemy unit and get charged. With most of these units having a movement of 7 or more, then this shouldn’t be a problem against infantry, but watch out for enemy cavalry units especially fast cavalry that maybe on your flank. If your unit gets charged then it is most likely screwed.
Choose your Targets. Heavy cavalry units are tough, but not indestructible. In fantasy combat resolution counts for a lot. Most heavy cavalry units are small in number and will be lacking any form of rank bonus, unless you plan on spend a lot of points on a unit of 10 or more. This means that if you charge headfirst into a fully formed unit of spearmen then chances are you will lose. You will need to make at least 5 kills from 5 models just to get a draw. So choose your targets carefully. Pick on smaller units of infantry or cavalry. Take out skirmishers and units of missile troops that typically will be deployed in only 1 or 2 ranks. A good target would also be enemy heavy cavalry units. In this case the strength bonus gained from your charging lance should help punch through the high armour save. If you want to hit a full-sized infantry unit try first to either reduce its numbers with missiles/spells or get round to charge its flank or rear.
Add a Character. A heavy cavalry unit makes a good retinue for a lord or hero and the power of such a character will greatly improve the units combat effectiveness. Imagine how much tougher a unit of Chaos Knights becomes with a Chaos Lord in the middle of the front rank.
Watch out for Armour Ignores. Besides the charge, the other strength of heavy cavalry is its high armour save that makes it almost invulnerable to basic attacks of regular units. But watch out for attacks that will reduce or ignore your armour. Big monsters will have a strength high enough to make your armour almost useless. Most war machine attacks ignore armour saves as do a number of spells and magic items. There are also a number of special attacks that ignore armour, such as the Banshee’s howl. These weapons can be devastating; I have seen an entire unit of Chaos Knights taken out by a single screaming Banshee.