Welcome back for our last installment in the battlefield role series. Today we’re going to focus on those fighters who rain down death from afar, and who intentionally aim for your head — the Backline (aka. Archers)
This role is for player who are willing to wait for the perfect opening to strike at the enemy, who recognize that the threat of a strike can often cause as much chaos as the blow itself, and who enjoy ending an enemy’s fight before they’ve been able to even throw a shot. While Support weapons use strikes and prods to pressure the enemy, the Backline uses ranged weapons to force enemies to defend from a strike that may or may not be coming, and uses their freedom of positioning to exploit even momentary openings. Effective backliners know when to draw attention to themselves with exaggerated draws and pointed arrows to cause an enemy front line to move their shields forward, as well as how to strike quickly, unnoticed with a snapshot toward key targets. The best way to think of backline fighters is as an very long range support weapon -- a bow is a 35ft pike.
For equipment, the vast majority of backliners will be using a bow or crossbow for both its rate of fire and accuracy, though siege engines, offensive spells, javelins or even a bag of rocks can be effective backline tools. Since backliners rarely engage in melee and rely on their mobility to open up angles of attack and avoid counter attack, they are usually unarmored. In Dargarth, this role is primarily played by Rangers, Monks, Rogues and Druids, though Fighters can easily serve in the role, and Mages who focus on offensive spells also fill this niche. Dame Aideen who fights with a bow and supports her team by eliminating key opponents is a great example of a backliner.
To Counter a Backliner, get in close and negate their range.
In most cases, backliners only defense is their positioning within their team, once isolated, a quick rush will defeat most backline fighters. Flankers should prioritize the backline if possible as the offensive threat of backline weapons is often larger than any other weapon or role. Even frontliners or supports should rush for backliners if given a safe opening.
Some backline fighters, such as Havlok or Duke Dameion may carry a sidearm and switch to a flanker role once an enemy has breached their team’s defensive lines. Against adaptive opponents like these, speed can often be the difference between a successful backline route and a failed push. Once you’ve made your way around or past the defensive line, commit hard and rush the backline, hopefully with numbers. Usually a threat against a team’s backline will be countered by mobilizing nearby Supports and Flankers to eliminate the threat and provide defensive screening for the backline. Be prepared to strike and keep moving.
A fairly niche but potentially effective counter to most backliners is the druid spell Warp Wood which destroys bows, arrows and crossbows. Of course, prioritizing backliners with your own backline weapons can also be effective -- though with the potential exception of defending against a siege engine, it is generally less effective than firing on supports or flankers, as every missed arrow becomes an arrow in your enemy’s quiver.