WHFB for Dummies: Hammer and Anvil


The Hammer and Anvil technique is probably one of the most common strategies to playing WHFB.  The basic principle is this, you have a resilient unit (anvil) and a powerful unit (hammer).  The enemy charges into the anvil, then the hammer counter charges in and wins the day.  Sounds simple enough, but how does it work in practice? First of all, what is an Anvil unit?  In 8th edition, this is basically any steadfast unit in BSB range, or is unbreakable.  Having a block of troops which the enemy can't break in a turn is key to this strategy.  They frequently act as the bait, and your positioning should force the enemy to not have any decent charges except to hit your anvil.  A canny opponent will avoid this at all costs, but when it looks like charge or be charged, most people will take the bait.  Examples include Empire flagellants, clanrats ranked up 5-wide (and very deep), or Dwarf Hammerers.

Second, we need to know what a good hammer is.  This is basically a unit which will do a disproportionately high amount of damage, though may not be as survivable.  Ideally, this unit is fast enough to maneuver up the side of a battle line, to get lovely flank charges.  Hitting the flank means that they are getting less attacks put against them, thus helping their survival.  Good examples of hammer units are Swordmasters, Bestigors or Savage Orc Big 'Uns.

Now, there are a couple ways to execute a good hammer/anvil.

The first method I talked about a bit in my Combat Cavalry article.  Basically, use a fast unit of hard hitting knights (such as Dragon Knights) to maneuver to the flank of an enemy.  The enemy is stuck with either attempting to charge your anvil and break through, or face a charge from both units at once.  Nobody likes being in position, but most people will attempt to charge your anvil.

The second method is how to handle the same situation without cavalry.  As the enemy gets closer to you, start rotating your unit (similar to the above picture) so that when they charge, they will leave their flank exposed to the hammer.  The downside to non-cavalry hammer units is that they are more likely to be caught off guard and charged by an opponent that doesn't take your anvil-bait.

Other tricks:

There is more than one way to get Steadfast.  Having a unit of 50 Clanrats, deployed 5-wide and 10-deep is totally giving away your strategy to the opponent, they know what that unit is for.  There is a common magic item called the Crown of Command, and I love using it.  Basically the idea is to give it to a character in a unit that appears to be a poorly supported unit, so for me, it's my Beastlord in a unit of 39 Gors.  They don't look very intimidating and many opponents will out-rank it, so many people charge it assuming it will break.  When I tell them I'm stubborn with the crown, and they realize they just left their flank open to a charge from Bestigors, their morale tends to sink a bit, even after killing 20 odd gors.

Since deep ranks are so easily recognized as "I'm not going to run" try to find units which wont run due to their own rules and upgrades, it always catches people off guard, even in open list tournaments.

Thanks for reading, I hope that I'm helping your game!

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