Not so many guides on flyers to be found on InterWeb, so I had to resort to the wisdom of the crowd to raise my game a little. These are some tactics.
Tips to Use Flying Units
Choose the right unit for the job
So-called ‘trash’ flying units can really excel, given the right job. Conversely, your elite flyers may quickly become trash after being assigned tasks they’re unsuited to. I’ve tried to ID some good units for each tactical role, but if you’ve got better examples from your pet factions please let know so I can include them.
Remember to Fly Safe!
Missile units are the rock to your Flyers’ scissors. Many flyers lack any missile resistance and make easy targets for range units, being all too exposed above the melee mosh-pit. So think carefully about risking your air units against range-heavy armies.
Arrny Approach Stage
Units with vanguard deployment are great for all these early roles (e.g. Pegasus Knights, Carrion). You may not need that, but it helps.
- If the enemy is moving through forest or hidden by undulating terrain you can send out an inquisitive flyer to reveal their positions. Handy for your artillery to know about.
- Then you can trail the army like a vulture to pick off any stragglers. By the time the armies clash you’ll be well placed to make some other kind of mischief.
- If you’re careful to stay just out of a missile unit’s range you can draw it off and leave stranded somewhere to sit out the main battle. Or else quietly murder it, as the rest of the enemy army blithely marches onward.
- Note that mixing it with multiple range units is probably a very bad idea, unless you’re out there with a whole hit squad.
- To delay artillery bombardment on your army consider offering up a flyer as an alternative target. The AI is lobotomised, so it tends always to target the closest unit.
- Early on you can micro a fast flyer to keep it alive and dodging, while an overworked crew tries to keep wheeling their artillery about (Great Eagles have plenty of speed for this)
- Late game those Chaos Hell cannons will take down anything pretty quick though. But can still be well worth the extinction of a few cheap Fell Bats to give your ground force a bit of a breather.
Artillery Hit Squad
- A small team of just a couple of flyers can take out any unguarded artillery pretty quickly – provided they can get there in good condition. You may need to flank out wide to avoid the attention of missile troops or enemy flyers on the way, but maybe not if your birds have vanguard deployment
- Against Hellcannons using a unit equipped with stalk is advisable (an Empire Captain atop a Pegasus can sometimes be geared up for for this).
- If you have range-wielding flyers it’s sometimes safe to have them fire on a lumbering giant, or other high value target, menacing you with their approach.
- While they may not have the firepower to kill that big dope, he’ll be looking pretty anaemic by the time he reaches your lines (Gyrocoters, Hawk Riders, Terradon Riders and Dragons if you got em).
Army Engagement Stage
- Some factions allow heroes and lords to use flying mounts (The Empire is great for these, despite not having any recruitable flyers whatsoever).
- Nice way of getting a spell caster in and out of spell range quickly while still breathing.
- Makes an ideal vantage point to fire off those awkward line-of-sight-spells.
- The High Elves’ phoenixes offer a range of innate spell attacks. And dragons have airbourne breath attacks to add to their already fearsome destructive power.
- Flyers with the ‘death from above’ ability function much like bombardment spell casters. But in way they’re even better since, they suffer no delay to the effect, and of course they don’t rely upon the winds of magic.
- If you’re keen to keep detonating your enemy’s front line, co-ordinate your bombers with your spell blasters. Spells first, then bombers to keep the sky falling whilst the wizards are powering up again for another round (Gyrocopters, Phoenix, Deck Droppers all good).
- Most High Elven flyers, and really any monstrous flying units, can intsill ‘fear’ into an enemy line units just by hovering above them, to hasten their rout. Some, like Frostheart Phoenix, emanate additional debuff auras. Your fear range is 30m so your can cruise along the battle line to put the frighteners on any enemy already on verge of breaking.
- Some monstrous flyers invoke ‘Terror’ which is even better. Unfortunately this is range limited to 5m, so that means getting down into the mosh-pit.
Hammers for the Anvil
- When your front line (the anvil) is engaged in melee, a flyer can very quickly get behind the enemy line to hammer them with a rear flank attack.
- But maybe don’t stick around fighting for too long though. Many flyers are vulnerable on the ground and really don’t cycle-charge nearly as fast as your horses can when they finally get there.
- However some flyers are exceptionally strong in ground combat, and should keep on hammering the enemy line. Lords on flying mounts are great, with high damage output and often a small hit box. And any monstrosity who can induce Terror is very welcome there to hasten the enemy rout.
- This tactic is kind of a reverse Hammer and Anvil.
- Provided there’s not too much missile threat, you can station a few flyers just ahead of your front line.
- Dive into the backside of a charging enemy. This will immediately halt their charge and they’ll have to turn to engage your annoying pest.
- You can then counter-charge with own front line unit, with a tasty rear-attack bonus.
- The same system works very well in the peripheral cavalry duels (jousts?) to decide which team is gonna put the hammer to the front line. Playing as the Vamps, you can pair up Black Knights with Fell Bats to prevent the better man from winning. Faced with an incoming Demigryph charge on your Knights, you can cancel this by dropping your Fell Bats on their rumps. Then cycle charge them with your Knights as enemy screams and tears at the bats in their hair.
- Even the mightiest wizard can’t zap you if he’s engaged in melee. Sure, throwing Fell Bats at him won’t hurt that much, but it may keep his zapping-stick out of the fight until you can nail him with some hulking ground thug.
- Of course that notion is no longer quite so funny once you’ve been caught in a Net of Amyntok
Elite Hit Squads
- Two or three properly macho flyers can quickly take out the most dangerous enemy unit. Near the top of their hit lists is the enemy Commander, for that welcome map-wide leadership hit.
- Ideally use a flying melee-specialist Lord, backed up by some armour-piercing heavies (e.g Pegasus, Gryphons, Vargheists, Hippogryphs etc.).
- If enemy shooters are tipping the balance of the ground battle you can often throw some kamikazes at them. Cheaper is better of course. Sadly, carrion, fell bats, hawk riders, harpies are often sacrificed in this way.
- Another practice is to use a cheap multi-model unit to screen an expensive single model unit (for example Fell Bats covering a Terrorgheist attack).
- Your budget flyers (not budgies) can serve well just by chasing routers off the field before they can rally. Particularly fast flyers can be more even efficient at this than light cavalry – bouncing between several routing units to herd then all off the map (Great Eagles for example, have high speed).
- But if you prefer evisceration to eviction you can just ground melee your bullies with a routing unit, until you get some cavalry on-hand to butcher them efficiently.
Flying over walls gets you into the enemy city faster than any other unit. From there you’ve got some good options:
- Draw off enemy units from the assault route you have planned out for you little commando squad of flag takers.
- Move the flyers themselves onto the flag – at least to get the countdown started early for the groundlings.
Birds of Prey
- If the missile flak is not too intense then attacking wall defenders can be useful prelude to groundling assault by ladder.
- Any flyer equipped with a charge-bonus can quickly pick off one wall-unit at a time with nasty cycle charges into their sides for a flank-attack bonus.
What could be better than a Doomstack of feathery fury? Flying cats maybe.
Rumour has it a full-flyer army moves much further over the campaign map than a mixed army. But make sure you have some way of swapping in a ground unit before battle.
Current rules are: any army lacking at least one ground unit will immediately rout at the start of battle (it’s a game balance thing I guess).
Flyer armies (air forces?) can be incredibly powerful against factions weak on range and flying units. Warriors of Chaos fit that description perfectly, and their entire invasion can be stopped by one army of 19 flyers sitting on a campaign map choke-point (albeit an obscenely expensive army comprised mainly of dragons).