Posted 23/08/2017

Reece’s Free Peoples

Reecius is one of the foremost tactical minds in both Warhammer Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000, organising the Las Vegas Open, amongst a range of other major gaming events. Naturally, Reece is very excited about the new General’s Handbook and what it means for his Free Peoples army:

Hey there everyone, Reecius here from the upcoming SoCal Open and Las Vegas Open Games Workshop hobby events to talk to you about the Free Peoples in the General’s Handbook 2017.

If you, like myself, enjoy the thought of facing the magic-fuelled monstrosities of the realms with an army of mere mortal men armed with nothing more than sharp sticks and a will to win, then read on, dear friend! Well… there are also cannons, but that doesn’t mean too much to the men on the front lines who may or may not even be wearing a pair of shoes, let alone bearing a full set of teeth.

 

But these are mere details, friends! The Free Peoples, despite their sometimes motley appearance, can pack an almighty wallop on the battlefield and hold their own against all comers. With the General’s Handbook 2017, they gain a lot to be excited about and the weaknesses they had have been shored up considerably.

I have now played my Free Peoples in a number of Grand Tournaments and smaller events, and have been more than pleased with their performance, usually winning the majority of my games against even the nastiest lists in the current matched play meta. I say this not to toot my own horn – there are many players of the game much better than myself – but to illustrate that even prior to the General’s Handbook 2017, the Free Peoples were quite formidable. However, I had noticed a few disappointing setbacks in my army. For one, some of the coolest units available to them were a bit lacking, such as Demigryph Knights. Now, however, with a 20% price reduction, they are significantly more appealing. They still don’t hit that hard, but they’re fast and tough, and great for grabbing objectives or tying up a key enemy unit. They certainly have a place in a Free Peoples’ list now.

Likewise, the Freeguild General on Griffon – beyond just being a simply amazing model – is now a solid choice, being reduced in price by 40 points. I honestly felt he was fairly priced before, and only didn’t use him because the Freeguild General’s Command Ability, Hold the Line! is superb. Now, I may have to reconsider…

Freeguild Greatswords – who in my mind were already quite the bargain – went down another 10 points for 10 models, and if you opt to go for a maximum sized unit of 30, you get them at the reduced price of 420 points. While a hefty investment, that is a beast of a unit, and with proper support can bring some serious pain! In a similar vein, Freeguild Guard come in at a very reasonable 280 points for 40, which means I will most assuredly be pumping my Swordsmen up to 40 – I have found them to be an incredibly efficient screening unit. If you cast Mystic Shield on them in conjunction with their native Shield and Parry special rules, they have a 3+ save in combat, re-rolling 1’s. This native toughness, when combined with what, in my opinion, is the most incredible benefit to Free Peoples in the Inspiring Command Trait, makes them one of the best screening units in the game for the points.

What is this Inspiring Command Trait I speak of? This ability means friendly Free Peoples units within 9″ of your general ignore Battleshock. WOW. This is incredibly good for the Free Peoples. I cannot stress enough just how good this is. Free Peoples tend to have very big units of very squishy models. Your heavy hitters are your Crossbowmen and Handgunners. With a mighty 6+ save, they go down to a stiff breeze. As you tend to take large units of them to trigger their innate bonuses, Battleshock tests can be brutal. Previously I – as did most Free Peoples players – took the Freeguild General with Stately War Banner to mitigate this. Combined with the banners in your core units, this gave you decent odds of surviving those dreaded Battleshock tests. However, now you simply ignore it for the majority of your forces – as they should be in their classic phalanx formation behind a screen of brave Swordsmen and safely close to your General.

In my mind, this is the single most powerful rule I could have gained for my army. Everything else is gravy. Depending on the match-up or my list, I would consider the Indomitable Command Trait as it, too, is simply amazing, granting +1 to the Save of friendly units within 6” of the General, as long as they have not charged. I typically go second though, as my Free Peoples armies have a lot of units to deploy, and so having immunity to Battleshock is simply better in most instances. 2+ re-rollable saves on Swordsmen is pretty tempting, though….

If you use the Free Peoples’ allegiance abilities, you have a lot to get excited about beyond just the Command Traits. The Defiant Avengers Battle Trait, which allows you to reroll failed Battleshock tests, is amazing for the reasons listed above, but the Freeguild Great Companies Battle Trait is where it’s at. This ability allows you to group your army into regiments of 3 units, each of which must be over 10 models in size and one of the three must be a Freeguild Guard unit. These units can then shoot an enemy unit in their Charge phase or charge them in their Charge phase. This is very, very good. The savvy Free Peoples player was already doing this to an extent with the native ability to stand and shoot with the Piper upgrade for Handgunners and Crossbowmen. Now though, it is easier and safer to do as you can keep your shooting units out of melee and perform the action more than once per turn. I cannot tell you how many times I have stopped my opponent dead in their tracks when they sought to charge a unit of Handgunners with all these bonuses, only to get shot down to the man before making it into melee.

 

In regards to Artefacts, I gravitate towards those that help keep my General alive, as his leadership bonuses keep the rest of my army alive. I tended towards the Phoenix Stone for this reason, but am now enjoying the Flag of the Conquerors as its Leadership bonus – again – helps keep the real power of my army on the table: the rank and file troopers.

Now the real question for the Free Peoples player is: is it worth it to go for your allegiance abilities in exchange for the power of allies? Unlike with most armies, Free Peoples tend not to be only Free Peoples. Where the new allies system is nothing but awesome for armies like Ironjawz, who gain access to a host of cool stuff, the average Free Peoples player was probably using more than 400 points of allies before allies was a thing. For example, in my matched playlist, I was using the ever so popular Celestial Hurricanum and 3-4 Artillery units. That was between 860 and 1,040 points of my army. To gain the Free Peoples benefits and in conjunction with the (totally reasonable) points increase on the Celestial Hurricanum, I’d have to radically change my army. The Hurricanum, for example, would eat up all of my Allies points, leaving no room for Cannons and Helstorm Rockets, which form much of the teeth of my army. If I opted instead for artillery without the Hurricanum, not only would they be less accurate, but I’d have less of them. That’s a tough choice to make, but tough choices also often mean they are balanced well, as neither jumps out at you as clearly being better.

For me this meant going in two different directions as I have a large Free Peoples collection to choose from. My first list was very similar to my old list and is quite powerful! With the increased benefit of the new Order allegiance abilities for Defiant Avengers and the Inspiring Command Trait my list would change only slightly and in my opinion, get much better.

Order Allegiance:

  • Freeguild General on Warhorse with Stately War Banner: Phoenix Stone, Inspiring
  • Freeguild Guard x 40: Swordsmen: Banner, Drummer
  • Freeguild Handgunners x 20: Banner, Piper
  • Freeguild Handgunners x 20: Banner, Piper
  • Freeguild Crossbowmen x 30: Banner, Piper
  • Celestial Hurricanum with Celestial Battlemage
  • Helstorm Rocket Battery
  • Helstorm Rocket Battery
  • Helstorm Rocket Battery

This is very similar to my old Free Peoples army, which I had a lot of success with. Now, I have an even larger screen unit in the Swordsmen (previously I ran 20, which I consider to be the minimum number to serve as a functional screen) all of whom benefit from Mystic Shield and will typically be hitting on 2’s. They form quite a tough little brick of infantry for the enemy to chew through before getting to the real meat and potatoes of the army: the artillery and ranged units.

The Handgunners and Crossbowmen will also typically be hitting on 2s due to the General’s bonuses and the Hurricanum. They will also often be wounding on 2s or 3s and be Rend -1. These guys pack a huge punch to anything that comes into range, and typically deal the most damage in my army.

The artillery need no explanation, I think, and are the black powder answer to the might and magic of the other factions! Just be aware, if you bring this many Rocket Batteries, make sure your opponent is looking for a challenging matched play game, as they’re really powerful.

On the other hand, if I wanted to go for a Free Peoples army that utilized their allegiance abilities, it would look a bit different such as the list below.

Free Peoples Allegiance:

  • Freeguild General on Warhorse with Stately War Banner: Flag of the Conquerors, Inspiring
  • Freeguild Guard x 20: Swordsmen: Banner, Drummer
  • Freeguild Guard x 20: Swordsmen: Banner, Drummer
  • Freeguild Handgunners x 30: Banner, Piper
  • Freeguild Handgunners x 30: Banner, Piper
  • Freeguild Crossbowmen x 30: Banner, Piper
  • Freeguild Greatswords x 30: Banner, Hornblower
  • Freeguild General on Griffon

Whereas the artillery heavy army above is fairly straightforward (form your castle and shoot!), this army plays out quite differently but takes advantage of the Free Peoples allegiance abilities. Unless you are playing against a hardcore melee army, in which case you want to let them come to you and pepper them with fire before counter-charging.

Assuming your opponent is not charging headlong into you, your force will divide into two halves. One will be the support half with Swordsmen, and 2 shooting units of your choice. They will either hold their ground and take on the enemy in a defensive stance, or move to midfield (or onto objectives) and set up to defend there, supported by the General’s Stately War Banner and their own banners. If you can keep him in range, his Inspiring Command Trait will also be invaluable – but in reality he will likely be more closely supporting your second group, which will be seeking to go straight into melee. This will be comprised of your second unit of Swordsmen, Greatswords, shooting unit and the General on Griffon. They will really want that leadership bonus as they will be taking the majority of your casualties.

The Swordsmen will again form a screen (the brave lads!) followed very closely by the Greatswords, who will counter-charge into enemy units that engage them or swing through them on the offensive. Their supportive shooting unit will typically form up behind the Greatswords and provide overwatch to enemy units charging the Swordsmen, or simply move into a good spot (preferably on an objective) and open fire on targets of opportunity.

The General on Warhorse will want to stay close to keep them all fearless and provide them with his Command Ability, while the General on Griffon serves as a free safety, or a unit that stays in a safe position slightly behind your advancing forces and then goes where needed to either press an attack or counter your opponent and support faltering troops. He’s not quite powerful enough to just tear up the table on his own, in most instances, but when used in a support role as described, he’s is excellent. You just have to be a touch patient, waiting for the right opportunity to present itself.

This army has numbers and toughness with the morale bonuses so long as you can keep your General alive – which usually means keeping him tactically defended whenever possible!

There are loads more combos, list archetypes, and fun to be had with the Free Peoples. This is just the beginning! I hope this article has inspired you to bring out your Free Peoples and help reclaim the Mortal Realms from the enemies of Sigmar!

Whether you play Free Peoples or another army in the Mortal Realms, there is a lot in the new General’s Handbook for you – get your copy HERE.

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