Tactica Tomb Kings - Lords and Magic Items
Now I'm going to talk about the lord choices available to the TK player. Leaving special characters aside, that actually only leaves us with two options. Luckily, neither of those options is too shabby, in my humble opinion.
With a strong base statline and access to wargear, this guy is a solid choice for anybody who wants to bring along either a burly general or some specific magic item. I personally like the King as an option mostly because of the freedom to take various magic items but I've also found his Ld 10, 4 wounds, and WS6 to all be very worth the points. Since the army doesn't break from combat or take panic tests, the Ld might not be seen as a big deal, but with crumbling from the Hierophant's death and swift reforms both requiring Ld tests, I've found his high Ld to be helpful in staving off death from crumbling or ensuring your units get where they need to be. The real benefit of WS6 is the MWBD rule which allows him to give any unit he is in his WS. This can be used to create some fearsome combinations with other units and is one of the primary reasons I believe in fielding him. The Tomb Prince has the same rule, but his WS5 makes it slightly less useful in some situations since it means you usually hit other elite units on a 4+ rather than a 3+.
There are some downsides to the king though. First off is pricetag, which is pretty hefty. This guy fully equipped with wargear easily starts to chew up your precious points and with Princes being almost as effective for a lot fewer points, the player on a budget might consider dropping the King to a Prince unless you have a specific magic item build in mind. The only other issues that this guy has is low initiative and lack of access to good mundane armour. The initiative I don't actually find to be a problem since I usually give him a great weapon (GW) anyways, but it does make him susceptible to spells like Pit of Shades. The lack of armour can be annoying and definitely makes him (together with the low initiative) seem frail. Really what this means though is just that if you want him to be very survivable, you have to invest points into magic armour, meaning you can't necessarily buy all the shiny toys you would like.
The other nice thing you can do with a king is throw him into a unit of chariots to give all the riders his WS6 and add a little staying power to the unit. It also allows you to potentially get the Mask (as mentioned below) to the far reaches of the board. I have mixed feelings about this plan. I like it since adding reliable hitting power to chariots is nice and the magic item possibilities are tempting. I have a few problems with it though. First off, it's pretty costly -- a geared up king in chariots is a lot of points. It also takes away his Ld from the rest of the army. This isn't a huge deal unless you want to do swift reforms or your hierophant eats it early on, in which case this could be bad news for your core troops. My biggest problem though is that chariots are very situational and vaguely unreliable. Chariots need the charge. If they fail to get it, they are toast and your king isn't going to add enough on his own to change that which means your nice unit of uber-killing is not doing it's job. They also rely a ton on impact hits, obviously. This might not appear to be a problem at first since they will usually be rolling 3d6 or 4d6 dice for them, but it definitely can be. When you only roll a few dice like that, it is very easy for those dice to betray the law of averages and go wildly in pretty much any direction. So if you do charge in and end up rolling a bad number, your chariots could also find themselves having a difficult time of things. So they are definitely a bit more finicky to use and I personally just don't like the idea of putting a ton of VP and my general into that delicate of a basket (a basket which will also draw every cannonball and lobbed rock like a freakin magnet). The king can also take a warsphinx as a mount but I'm not even going to really go into that. My advice, don't take it. If you are taking one, then you probably know that it's tactically a poor decision but are doing so anyways (if you do want to know why it isn't a great call, leave a comment and I will go into it in more depth).
As mentioned, the other reason to take the king besides his statline is access to more magic wargear! Magic items are my favorite part and the one I'm most sad about getting nerfed with the new book. Here are some of the item combos I find are great and worth taking on the king (most of these also work on chariots as well):
My personal favorite
Golden Death Mask of Kharnut, Glittering Scales, Dragonbane Gem, GW
This combo is all about the mask. It is, in my opinion, one of the greatest pieces of wargear in the game. Its abilities to negate the enemy general's Ld and the BSB re-rolls means that it allows us to reliably do something that no other army can right now which is break an infantry unit on the charge. With the game now focused on combat and combats being so reliant on ranked infantry units being steadfast, having this in your arsenal can be a huge advantage. It also means that when opponents create a strategy relying on their units to perform one way (like a 100-strong skaven slave block sticking around forever) and that unit suddenly behaves completely differently (disappearing in a poof of claws and fur), that can be game-changing.
A decently survivable build
Blade of Antarhak, Armour of Silvered Steel, Dragonbane Gem
This guy has a 2+ armour save and a 2+ ward vs flaming. Once he starts killing things he also gets regen so he will be rocking either a 2+ AS and 4+ regen or against flaming attacks that negate regen, he gets his 2+ ward. Then, if he takes a few wounds in a given phase, he can heal them back up and do it again. The biggest problem is getting wounded by a flaming attack and then in other attacks in that round, he only has his 2+ AS (which still is pretty darn good on a T5 character). So if you want to keep you lord alive and swinging his s5 attacks and spreading his WS6 love, this is a good way to do it.
Some people seem to like this one (though I can't say I quite understand why)
Destroyer of Eternities, then an assortment of other useful gadgets which could include The Other Trickster's Shard, Potion of Speed, Potion of Toughness or whatever you feel is best to keep him alive
I think this build is really meant to be used in conjunction with a herald for the bodyguard protection but then it starts to get pretty freakin' pricey. The idea of having a character swinging away with 4 WS6 S7 HKB attacks is nice and all for dealing with stanks, hydras, HPAs, etc but the biggest problem is that all this killing power is limited to a M4 model who can never march. If that stank is deployed on the other flank from this guy, you will never make it over there to do anything useful. So its a nice idea but without the mobility of, say, a flying mount that can march to run around on (stupid Brets...I want one), I don't think this item is very practical. Also, the sweep attack now only doing one auto-hit is lame enough that its probably better to just attack normally in most situations. That being said, I think this item in a list designed to get the bearer to their intended target (so lots of deployment drops to ensure you can deploy correctly) might work.
One last one that is effective on chariots I'm told (though I've never tried it myself)
Sword of Bloodshed, then either Glittering Scales or Armour of Fortune, Dragonbane Gem
Now you have 7 S5 attacks plus impact hits plus the mounts plus whatever else the unit does...not bad. That can really put out a ton of damage. So I could see this being very useful if you want to be able to apply a huge number of attacks to one location and hopefully either break the unit on the charge or deplete them enough that they are no longer a threat. The other nice thing about this build is that if you tend to flub your impact hit rolls (as I often do), it is very nice to have a bit of insurance so that you will get some wounds at least. That is, unless you flub your King's attacks too (which I do ALL the time).
So to sum up I think that the Tomb King is a great choice for a general since he adds to the effectiveness of his unit (WS boost), adds to the effectiveness of the army (high Ld), and depending on the build can help out in a number of ways. I think the real downside to him is the cost. So I would suggest him for those of you that either want some specific magic items, like having a burly general to help out, or have the extra points to spare.
Liche High Priest
Our second lord option is the Liche High Priest. This guy is a level 3 wizard base capable of taking the Lore of Nehekhara, Light, or Death. So a bit of versatility in his lore choice (though not as much as some....*grumble grumble*....*stupid armies with their shadow and their life and their more life and their darker shadows*...*grumble*). You are also required to have at least one wizard in a TK army (called the Hierophant, though it can be a hero level character) and the highest level wizard must take the Lore of Nehekhara. So if you take a single Liche High Priest, he will be your Hierophant and he will have to take the TK magic lore. The Hierophant is also the one that causes the army to crumble if he dies, so protect him well. As far as stats go, he has pretty average ones. He has T4 which is nice but low initiative so again, watch out for spells like Pit of Shades. He also gives himself and the unit he is with Regen (6+) which is actually pretty nice. I've definitely saved a few wounds from miscasts and the like with that and it's just a nice perk.
In general, I think you should almost always take a level 4 wizard in games of 2000 points or higher. The reason for this isn't necessarily for casting power, but mostly for dispel power. Keeping your opponent as weak in the magic phase as possible is pretty important for keeping your army up and running so scrimping on points and allowing your opponent and extra +1 or +2 to cast is not worth it in my opinion. In all honesty, I don't actually have much to say about this guy (I know, surprising, right?) just because we need to take a caster and the advantages of have a lvl 4 over a lvl 2 are pretty clear. He has access to more spells and has an easier time of both casting and dispelling. So really, it only leaves the decision as to how to equip him. For mundane options he can really only take a horse as an upgrade. I would probably not suggest it most of the time. I think it just adds cost and the advantages aren't enough to make it worthwhile. The only time I think that it would be a good idea is if you want to make a very fast, aggressive list and you want to ensure your caster can keep up with your army. Aside from that though, just throwing him into a bunker is good enough.
In terms of wargear, I actually think that less is more in this case. I think that there are really only a few items that are worth spending the points on for your caster (I even run mine completely naked). There are schools of thought out there that since your army starts to crumble if this guys dies then it's worth it to spend points to keep him alive. I don't think it's necessary because all of the things that he dies from (miscasts, uber spells like Pit of Shades or Dwellors Below, etc and dedicated wizard killers) can't really be stopped by any protection you might give him anyways. If your Hierophant is in combat, then he is probably going to die regardless of what gear you give him. So aside from protection, what should you give him?
I think the number one top priority for this guy is to take a dispel scroll. Back in the day it was common to see two of these at least in every list. That has now gone out the window with 8th but a good 80% of the time I don't have one of these, I want one. If I could add literally anything to my current all-takers list, it would be a dispel scroll.
For some reason, these seem to have completely fallen from grace. I remember when Empire armies everywhere sported these things but now I don't think I've read a single army list in 8th that has one. I actually think this is a great item and comes the closest to rivaling the Dispel Scroll in utility. Nobody expects these anymore so when you are on turn 3 or 4 and you've already pulled any Dispel Scrolls the enemy might have, this can really help to create a decisive magic phase. Just do your normal magic phase but save one of your Power Dice (PD) until the end. For best results, I find it's best to throw a handful of dice (4-5) at a big spell and that will often pull the rest of your opponent's Dispel Dice (DD). Then you take your one remaining PD and use the power stone to get through one smaller, but key spell through.
I tried one of these for a bit and I found it didn't quite cut the mustard. So I don't think it's quite as good as some other options but it is a pretty popular item to put on your Hierophant and it makes sense as to why. When you roll that dimensional cascade, you want a backup. So if you have a support caster that is carrying a dispel scroll, then go for this.
Aside from those items, I don't think anything else is quite worth putting on your Hierophant. Maybe Neferra's Scrolls (as discussed below) but in terms of normal magic items, I think you are better off just saving those points for elsewhere. So overall, I highly suggest taking a Liche High Priest, upgrading him to a lvl 4 and going to town. I would keep the points spent on magic gear minimal but if there is a specific item you like, go for it (just remember that he gives his unit regen (6+) so the Ironcurse Icon is redundant).
And this actually leads me to the next part which is the TK magic items and the Lore of Nehekhara. I will start off with the magic items we have available to us as TK players.
Destroyer of Eternities
Eh. The fact that it strikes in initiative order and doesn't require two hands is nice but not nice enough. Sure, there is good killing power but there are really three reasons why I don't like it. First, as mentioned earlier, it is on a model that only moves 4" meaning it might spend all game going against generic core rank and file troops and be completely wasted points. Second, it's so freakin' expensive that you can afford no decent protective gear so you will have to rely on the characters natural burliness to survive or invest in the points for a Herald (as discussed later) to keep your King alive. And third, it still relies on 6s to do anything and I just don't trust myself to roll those when necessary. It is very possible that the one or two rounds of combat in which you actually need to get off HKB on some big nasty, you roll zero 6's and now you just spent 80 pts for +2S. Sure, there is the sweep attack but I personally like the odds of 4 attacks hitting on 3's more than a single auto-hit.
Blade of Antarhak
I like this item but I think I'm in the minority here. I don't know why since it gives some darn good protection to the character wielding it and has the ability to heal your character too which is difficult to access in this army. The big downside is that for 50 pts, it doesn't actually make your character any more hard-hitting. So it's essentially magic armour but taking up your magic weapon slot instead and denying you access to a GW. Still, I think that there are a few good combos that could be done with it (like the one above, or using the Potion of Strength to get some wounds healed up) to make it worth trying at least.
Golden Death Mask of Kharnut
I think you know what I'm going to say. I love the item, I am not sure if I would make a list without it, and I highly recommend that people at least try it. You might find you like it as much as I do.
Cloak of the Dunes
I'm not really impressed with this one. It's way too expensive for what it does and what it does isn't that impressive. If our characters could march with it on, that would make it worthwhile I think but since their movement is still limited to 10", I hardly see how this would be very useful. I had an idea of putting it on a King or Prince hiding in a unit. Then right before lines are met, charging out of the current out behind the big combat block in front and into the enemy backline to harass the squishy things back there. I didn't say it was a good idea. Maybe giving it to your Hierophant to help him avoid sticky situations but again, it's really expensive for that.
Neferra's Scrolls of Mighty Incantations
This might seem like an awesome gadget but I think it's a little too gimmicky to work well and even when it does work, it can backfire by miscasting. I would suggest this when you have a list based around a single strong turn though. Like the fast aggressive list, if you know that your list is going to have a single strong turn with lots of charges and combats going on that will essentially decide the game, then this item does work well with that plan. It's essentially a trumped up Power Stone so for my money I actually prefer the other option but if you have multiple casters, you could take both.
Basically, just not worth it. There are way too many spells out there that aren't Remains in Play (RiP) spells to make this item worthwhile. Also the fact that you have to spend PD to cast it and then it might get dispelled or might not even work just makes it not worth it for well rounded lists.
Standard of the Undying Legion
I actually really like this item. I had it in my list for ages but finally had to cut it out and I'm still sad about that. There are basically two ways to use this item. The first is to stick in on a Tomb Herald and put him in a unit of chariots (or maybe some of the construct units) and use it to get super heals on some of our more elite, expensive units. My only problem with that is that if in a unit of chariots, it has to be a big unit to keep the Herald protected and you probably have a King or Prince in there to to ensure they have some hitting power and then that one unit has a TON of VP for your enemy to go for, all nicely bundled up and headed straight towards him. The other option is stick the banner in a unit of Tomb Guard (TG) to make the unit be incredibly self-reliant. When I had a unit of 30 TG with a King with Mask and this banner, I could run them towards pretty much anything and not care since they could get themselves into incredibly sticky situations and hold on and then bring themselves back to fighting strength and do it again. I love that combo and it was with a heavy heart that I lost that item.
Banner of the Hidden Dead
This item is a bit interesting. It got FAQed to be that you can now bury a unit worth up to 175 pts, which is kind of nice since it means you can actually put a unit of chariots underground. I think that this banner really only has a use in a very strongly themed army. In an all-around list with a little of everything, leave this banner behind. But if you want to go with an Entombed-heavy list, then this thing would rock. If I was to use this banner, I would take a unit of ~8 Chariots with a King with mask and Herald with this banner. Then I would bury a unit of 3 chariots with the banner. Then I would get two units of 4 Necropolis Knights also Entombed (or maybe a unit of 6 even), at least one unit of 3 Stalkers, and probably a Scorpion or two also. Then, once half your army is underground, you run the Chariot unit forward and turn two unleash all the other units all strongly on one flank of the enemy army. If you could delay the enemy flank, all of these guys would be able to grind down this flank over a few rounds. I don't think it would work all the time but I think it would be darn fun and worth trying sometime (and it would utterly destroy some armies).
And those are all the magic items we have access to. A pretty small list and when you look at the ones that are even worth considering, the list gets a lot shorter. A bummer since I love me some magic items but if it helps to balance armies, then I'm all for it.