The priority roll – love it or hate it – is a defining feature of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar. It is loathed by those who feel it decides a game on one roll. It is enjoyed by those who want the challenge of planning for multiple variables and always feeling in with a chance to swing the momentum of the game.
For me, I love the priority roll. Age of Sigmar is not solely an application of mathematics. While understanding risk, probability and expected outcomes are important to success they are not the be all and end all. You need to adapt on the table and respond to your opponent and changing circumstances. It is that engagement and challenge, the application of strategy and tactics to the variability of dice rolls that is why I love the game. The priority roll adds replayability and keeps an underdog in the game for longer.
So how do you plan for a random dice roll? If you are like me and you don’t have a Rainman-like ability to consider every possible permutation, what do you do? In this episode I set out how to account for the priority roll and the key points you need to keep in mind during the game.
- List design
- Influence the Priority Roll
- Check threat ranges
- Buff your units
- Deter your opponent with counter-threats
- Push – make your opponent make hard choices
- Finish them – target selection is key
- Further Resources
Planning for the priority roll begins with good list design and includes many of the features I discussed in my earlier episode. Which you can find here.
Cheap disposable units – commonly referred to as chaff or flak – protect your units by shielding them from charges and restricting your opponent’s movement should they get a double turn.
Mobile armies are less dependent on the double turn to achieve their objectives, and are more resilient and adaptable should your opponent get a double turn against you.
And finally redundancy built into your list will help you deal with the double turn. If you have one powerful unit (or death-star) your chances in the game rest on its fate. If your opponent gets a double turn they may be able to concentrate their forces and take out your key unit. If you have several combat threats or damage dealing units then losing one of them has a correspondingly lesser impact on your chances of success.
Influence the priority roll
[UPDATE – the ability to influence the priority roll will be removed in GHB2017]
Outside of these general list design comments, there are also ways of directly influencing the priority roll (most famously, the now obsolete ability of Kairos Fateweaver to change an opponent’s dice roll to a number of your choosing). Now it is important to check with the tournament pack because many tournaments will have a house rule limiting or removing the ability to effect the priority roll.
However, if there are no such restrictions, then there are two battalions and one unit which can help shift the game in your favour.
Lords of the Lodge
First, the Lords of the Lodge battalion for Fyreslayers. This battalion is 160 points and requires you to take a Runefather, Runemaster, Battlesmith and 1 unit of Heathguard Berzerkers. This battalion has the Hot Blooded Fury rule which allows you, once per battle, to declare before the priority roll that you want to seize the initiative. Once you do so, you will add 1 to your priority roll for each hero from the battalion on the battlefield. Therefore, you could have a maximum of +3 to the roll (an 87.5% chance of winning the roll).
Overlords of Chaos
Second, the Overlords of Chaos battalion from the Everchosen book allows you to know in advance who will be going first in the next battle round. This battalion is 120 pts and requires you to take Archaon, a Gaunt Summoner of Tzeentch and a unit of Varanguard. If at the start of the hero phase, Archaon is within 3″ of the battalion’s Gaunt Summoner then he can demand a boon of prophecy. Roll a dice and keep the result hidden from your opponent until the start of the next battle round. Reveal it at the start of the battle round, and on a 1 to 3 your opponent takes the first turn, and on a 4 to 6 you take the first turn.
Third, and for me the most versatile and cost-effective method of altering the priority roll is the Skink Starseer. It is 160pts and can be taken in a Seraphon army, mixed Order army or in the Sylvaneth battalions allowing Order units (most commonly the Gnarlroot battalion because you can cast two spells). The Starseer’s Cosmic Herald rule allows you to choose a number on a D6 in secret at the beginning of each of your turns. Your opponent does the same. Unless your opponent picks the same number as you, you gain the number of re-rolls you have selected. If the opponent does pick the same number, then they get the re-rolls! These re-rolls can be used on any dice roll, including the priority roll and your opponent’s dice-roll (see the Order FAQ here).
So assuming you already have chaff, mobility and redundancy built into your list, and you can’t or won’t run the battalions mentioned in the previous section, how do you account for the priority roll on the table-top?
The scenario can have the greatest impact on how you plan for the priority roll. Depending on the scenario, you may choose to give your opponent a double-turn. This may seem counter-intuitive in isolation but can mean that you can win the game if you get a later double-turn.
In Blood and Glory, you can win a major victory at the start of the third battle round if you control each of the four objectives. Therefore, having a double turn from the second into the third battle round can win you the entire game if you can take advantage. Make sure you protect your objectives so that you don’t find the game slips away from you.
In Gift from the Heavens, the meteors arrive at the start of each of the players’ second hero phases. Therefore, you may want to go second in the second battle round so that you have the advantage of knowing where both meteors are.
Check threat ranges
As always, be aware of the threat range of your units and your opponent’s units. How far can they move, and then at what range can they do damage? The most elite units of the game (such as Skyfires) will be able to cover most of the board if they get a double turn. However, if your opponent is not particularly mobile, or has a short threat range, you may choose to give them an early double turn.
Buff your units
Prepare yourself for being on the receiving end of a double-turn by making sure your key units have all the necessary buffs and support spells placed on them. You don’t want them to be facing two turns of damage output without all the protection they can get.
Deter your opponent with counter-threats
Set-up deterrents or traps. This means moving your units in a way that they mutually support each other. If your opponent gets a double turn and wants to threaten one of your key units, make sure you have combat support units which are close enough to pile in to help, or can counter-charge in the next turn. Having enough supporting power in close proximity might mean that you deter your opponent from charging in the first place.
Push – Make your opponent make hard choices
If you are pushing a strong combat army, play aggressively to put your opponent in a tough position. If they win the priority roll, they will have to choose whether to give the initiative to you (and on which you can capitalise) or take it for themselves (but potentially at the cost of bad match-ups). As I’ve mentioned on previous episodes, the more you can make your opponent make tough decisions, the more success you will have.
Finish them – target selection is key
And finally, should you get the double turn yourself make sure you take advantage of it. If you are facing armies that are dependent on regrowing or healing units (thinking Death and Sylvaneth here), make sure you kill off units completely while you have the chance. Focus all your fire until the unit is gone. There is nothing worse than leaving a model alive in a Necroknight unit and have a whole bunch pop back up next turn.
The priority roll is a key feature of Warhammer Age of Sigmar that adds drama, contestability and replayability. While it may seem an unwelcome random element that does not reward strategy or gameplay, this is not the case. The priority roll, like everything in a dice game, involves risk management and, with smart play, you too can win more games despite the dice roll.
- If you like the dice in the cover picture they are from The Black Sun podcast