Friday, December 3, 2010

Everblight: Thoughts on Units, Part 1

Admittedly, the Legion of Everblight is not exactly long on support for infantry. Most casters have about, oh, one spell that can target models/units as opposed to just warbeasts. Most animi in the legion are single-model, and it's not exactly efficient to hand those out to a unit...

However, I still find myself looking for an infantry unit in most builds. Mostly, they're meant as a distraction from the beasts, though some of them (like Striders and Raptors) can do some fine damage in their own right.

I've run several of them and own a handful of them, and feel that they're at least worth a look.

Striders are the sniper infantry. They're angry Nyss with bows, pathfinder, and a hankering for putting arrows into enemy infantry. A half-dozen puts you out 6 points, and with the Officer/Musician attachment, you're looking at a 9pt outlay.

A full 9pt investment gets you 8 guys that have a 12" command range (thanks to the musician). SPD6, Pathfinder, and Advance Deploy (combined with a 3" regroup move from the UA) makes them very mobile and very able to get there. RAT6 is average, but you can pair up with Combined Ranged Attack for RAT8 POW12s. The UA also lets them ignore forests/concealement/cover, and in a pinch the Musician has Take Up.

DEF 15 is nice; Stealth is more fun, but ARM11 means you still die to blast damage like whoa. They're also crap in melee, with a mighty sword and crap MAT. You CAN use them in melee as a tarpit with DEF15, but there are counters for high DEF.

9 points get you a mobile half-dozen Nyss with bows. If you want your unit to help KO ranged targets, this is what you want. They die to AoEs, but can spread out with the UA. Even without the UA, it's still a solid unit. I find they work well with the Lylyths; Parasite helps them take down infantry units and eLylyth's feat + Pin Cushion make 'em nasty. They also have the Stealth to synergize with eLylyth's Shadow Pack. I suppose eThagrosh's +2ARM spell helps against AoEs, but ARM13 is still AoE bait.

Ogrun Warmongers
Do you like big, crazy guys with pointy sticks and a penchant for bloodshed? Then, yeah, these guys are for you. 8 points get you 5 of these 8-wound maniacs.

For medium-based 8-wound infantry, they're reasonably spry. SPD5 and Reach give them a decent threat range; DEF 12 isn't much but ARM16 is reasonably solid. They have a MAT 7, PS14 death-stick and berserk, so the enemy has room to worry about what happens if they get into infantry. In a pinch, you can probably do some damage on a charge to light beasts/jacks. Finally, as medium bases, they'll block Tramples, which is never a bad thing.

Berserk is probably the first drawback people think of; if they run out of things to poke they'll probably poke each other, what with Reach and all. If you want to get around this, you can run a Chieftain solo for another 3; this makes the package 8/11 depending on unit size. On the other hand, the Chieftain can buff their attacks and let them stop berserking to heal d3 and RFP living stuff. Hey, everyone gets hungry... Also, SPD5 is not THAT fast.

Anyone that can buff either the accuracy or durability of these guys is what you want. So far, I've run them with eThagrosh for his +2ARM spell; 8 wounds on ARM18 is rough for infantry. They're reasonably costly, but they require a concerted effort to remove and provide a solid screen. Other downside? The cost; those medium-based metal units can be a bit to acquire.

Blighted Swordsmen
It's a MAT7 maniacal weaponmaster with a good defense and so-so armor. Mostly, it's a weaponmaster; anyone that's ever been charged by Weaponmasters has seen a stupidly damaging roll come up at least once and remembers it vividly.

Mostly, it's the fact they're MAT7 weaponmasters. SPD 6 is ok, but without reach you have a so-so threat range. DEF 14 is just above average, and with the UA you can up your lethality (as he grants you a 1" move and the ability to make another attack if you kill something) while the Champion can scare people with the prospect of a PS15 Weaponmaster Combo-Strike of Death.

No reach. ARM13 is only so-so against blasts. While there's a lot of damage-dealing potential, they don't necessarily have the damage stats and strike range to do the damage you really want to see them do.

Swordsmen promise a lot of damage potential, that's for sure. On the downside, everyone knows this, and unlike other notable weaponmasters (IE: Bane Thralls) they're not as easy to deliver into the fray. pThagrosh can up their defense with Fog of War, but that leaves them open to blasts. eThagrosh can put them up to ARM15, which helps against AoEs. Absylonia's one of those that can buff their MAT situationally. Basically, Swordsmen want help to get there, or to at least make sure they draw plenty of attention. They're not quite my favorite infantry unit.

End, Part One
In the name of not throwing up a critical-hit wall o' text, I'm going to end with the ones I've run. I've got a unit of Legionnaries on the way as a cheaper tarpit, and I also own some Raptors. Given their point cost, though, I've not yet run 'em, and I've kinda not painted them...but I do want to, just because they're stupidly dangerous.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Everblight New Stuff: Chain Attack Bloodbath For Great Justice

The local gaming group, HAAWGS, is getting a map-based league underway. It's a nice change-up and access to a broader variety of opponents. The change-up comes in the form of force composition: you start with a base of 30 points, and the various map tiles you control might add something. My current setup involves one free faction solo and two minion/merc solos (no more than 3 points each*).

As such, a buddy and I decided to mix it up and test out new league-friendly armies, which were of course using our territories to build the forces.

The Test
My army was thus:
-Nephilim Soldier
10 Blighted Swordsmen
Forsaken (free faction solo)
Gudrun the Wanderer (free merc/minion solo)
Totem Hunter (free merc/minion solo)

My buddy brought:
War Dog
5 Man'o'war Shock Troopers
6 Assault Kommandos, 2 Flamethrowers attached
Minimum Battle Mechaniks
Alten Ashley
Gorman di Wulf

Scenario: Two objectives; one on either side of the middle line

Blight field is SO COOL...when the enemy isn't immune to corrosion. I moved the Harrier up to drop a blight field...then realized his Kommandos laugh off corrosion damage, so a POW12 corrosion is nothing to them. Oops.

Totem Hunter
The Totem Hunter's Prey ability is SWEET...when used well. He racked up Alten Ashley, a few Kommandos, and Gorman di Wulf before he kind of was on fire and then bit by the War Dog. Still, SPD 7, Pathfinder, Hunter, and Sprint (let alone Leap) make for some fun times when you're basically MAT10 with a PS13 and PS16.

Gudrun the Wanderer
Gudrun gets a cookie for being stupidly annoying to kill. Of course, he promptly lost it, as he had some of the worst dice of the game. MAT7 vs Gorman's DEF 14, we miss the normal swing. Ok, I get it, a 7 is average and we can miss that. Well, Gorman is like "...I have a stiletto, or grenades." Gorman takes a step back. Can I get a 5 to kill the Gorman? Nope. Gudrun gets black-oiled, hit twice by the war dog, and then hit again by Strakhov to make sure he goes down TWICE. He's 3 points that drew a lot of fire advancing on the objective, and with Advance Deploy I can react to the other guy.

Neph Warrior
The Nephilim Warrior gets a slap for getting a whopping two infantry kills before the dice refused to roll higher than a six to hit assault kommandos. Oops. On the bright side, he set up the MVP. That aside, Massacre is a nice animus for when I want to put a beast into assault and keep the fury off it, and the beast itself is a reasonable work-horse. With Saeryn's feat up, flight + immunity to free strikes = mobile weapon.

The Scythean
Well, the Nephilim Warrior kinda drew the charge from the Man'o'war squad, and while he had Tenacity (going up to DEF 14, ARM17, not too bad...) it turns out those bloody assault commandos have some -2DEF grenade they can chuck. This leaves the Men'o'war and the Juggernaut in close quarters.

Saeryn feats (so her battlegroup cannot be targeted by melee attacks) and drops Breath Stealer on the Men'o'war, setting them down to DEF9. The Scythean then advances into the middle of this, putting the Juggernaut and full squad of man'o'war into melee range. Swings twice, pegs the Juggernaut with both attacks...then proceeds to tag every last man'o'war and beat them all within an inch of their life without spending any fury. After forcing him full for attacks, it turns out that the Scythean managed to crank out a total of 12 PS17 hits in a turn. (2 initial, 6 from Chain Attack Stupid Good, 4 purchased). One man'o'war is left standing with a few hit boxes, and the Juggernaut is mostly dead.

The Angelius then charges, armor-pierces the juggy down to 3 boxes (Cortex, Axe, and had the feat NOT been up, things still could've gotten nasty) and kills the last man'o'war. This redeems the angelius for missing Ashley with a boosted fiery hand-cannon shot.

Blighted Swordsmen
I'm not 100% sold on them. They have a reasonable defense of 14, but ARM13 means that really the only thing they've got going for them is that DEF14. They did draw the Spriggan's attacks and a volley of hideously accurate Kommando carbine fire, and I suppose that when you get down to it, you really don't want MAT7 PS11 weaponmasters cavorting about. The survivors did manage to knock a chunk out of the Spriggan and draw it off.

Assault Kommandos
Ok, I know they're not my guys, but I gotta laugh when someone pulls off a neat little trick like this: My opponent knows he can't draw LOS on something on the other side of the forest. What's he do? Put a Kommando in front of the flamethrower so that when the flamethrower fires, the important stuff is under the spray template. As they are see where this goes. Even when you might lose some guys, it's worth mentioning that other folks can always use their own models to set up spray attacks on you.

The other funny trick is forcing the choice of "Do you free-strike me and blow me up on the spot and catch fire, OR do you let me get away and spray fire again?" The Neph Warrior kinda whacked him in the face with a PS14 sword, and then caught fire (and then DIED HORRIBLY to Juggernaut + Man'o'war attacks, so yeah...).

I'm beginning to see why folks like the Scythean and Saeryn. I'll admit that I got lucky with the Scythean's setup; numerous low-DEF targets along with something that can be hit by/survive two MAT6 PS17s is about as good as it gets. When a 9pt beast pretty much takes 16 points out of the game by himself, things aren't looking good for the other guy. When the 9pt beast does that WITHOUT TAKING DAMAGE, then the other guy's screwed. I got lucky that time around; it's not a mistake he'll make again.

Also, every time I say 'Saeryn' I can't help but hear the game over music from Mass Effect 1. I have the urge to model a Geth arm onto her somehow...

*Why the 3pt limit on merc/faction solos? Someone pointed out that really nasty ones like cavalry solos/Bane Lord Tartarus cost 4-5, and then there are the minion warlocks that are 9, so you probably want to limit that cost...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Epic Lylyth: First Impressions

I have to admit, after a few games with pLylyth, I looked at epic Lylyth and wondered just what in the world she had to offer. I mean, come on, I just have to shoot someone to put a spell on them; I've got Parasite for hard-target cracking, I've got Eruption of Spines for clustered light targets, and I've got a feat for making sure I hit you and you die.

As it turns out, both of the Lylyths are kind of like Everblight's break-action shotguns: clean, elegant, easy to operate, and capable of doing some damage when pointed in the right direction.

The Look at eLylyth, the Shadow of Everblight
SPD 7 and Pathfinder makes her pretty bloody swift. STR 4 means you're getting thrown by anyone that can touch you, but is otherwise irrelevant as she has no melee weapons. Similarly, her MAT is irrlevant. Her RAT went up to 8, making her about as accurate as it gets. DEF 16 and ARM 14 make her tough to hit, but easy to damage, and CMD 8 is so-so. Chances are that anything that NEEDS to make a command check (read: striders) probably has a better command value.

You should of course by now be used to her FURY of 5. Not great, but this is the Legion! We've got ways around it.

She kept Eyeless Sight (...I'd be hard-pressed to find a fluff reason for losing it). She picked up Evasive, so she can't be tagged by free strikes and she also gets a free 2" advance if the enemy shoots at her and misses. Range Amplifier is something of a replacement for Witch Mark, and it gives you the good ol' +5" RNG if you don't channel the spell. Snap Fire and Swift Hunter combine with her RNG 12 POW12 ROF 2 bow to let her cut through infantry with light/medium armor.

She's got three spells, all different from her prime incarnation.

Pin Cushion: RNG 10, cost 2, offensive upkeep. Friendly faction models get an extra dice to ranged attack/damage rolls, and drop the lowest. It's Manifest Destiny, but for guns! Between this and her feat, you should seriously be looking into a shooty army.

Pursuit has a couple inches less range than pin cushion, and the same cost. If an enemy model/unit advances, you get to make an advance with one of your battlegroup. Good for keeping someone out of harm's way, or making sure the enemy doesn't run away. Honestly, I see it used more for getting out of harm's way.

Shadow pack is the middle finger for ranged armies. 3 fury and then one to upkeep it afterwards means everyone in your battlegroup gains Stealth while in Lylyth's control area.

Feat: Decimation
The feat is aptly named. Everyone in your control area gains Snipe, and all your beasts get to make an additional free ranged attack. This means you should pretty much consider beasts with ranged attacks, as this feat is either your assassination or (I feel, more likely) your alpha strike to soften up the enemy.

The Utilization of Lylyth, Shadow of Everblight
I'll offer up the 35pt army I ran with her, and an explanation of why each piece made it in there.

-Nephilim Bolt Thrower
Striders + UA
2 Shepherds

The Battlegroup
The Ravagore has a stupid-long threat range with a 6" move and 14" shot. It gives us the ranged attack we want for the feat/pin cushion, and it can provide backup against lower-DEF targets in melee with a pair of PS16 open fists and MAT5. The MAT5 is the weak point, though, as it kind of starts falling through against anything with a DEF better than 11/12. So, don't match it up against heavy infantry and you'll do fine. The other major selling point for the Ravagore is the Animus; Continuous Fire on ranged attacks is stupidly useful. Don't uderestimate the potential value of the Scather templates left behind after the attack, and if you're shooting infantry aim for the front ranks to screw up the movement of the rear guys.

The Carnivean also boasts a nasty ranged attack with the SP10, though the RAT 4 means you'll be boosting it. The ability to double-tap with this on Feat turn sort of mitigates that crap RAT, though you'll want to have Lylyth use Spiny Growth on the Carnivean if anything survives the spray as it will (almost) invariably be in charge range. The MAT6 on top of the three initial melee attacks also makes the Carnivean suitable for point-defense duty.

The Nephilim Bolt Thrower is in there for the Thunderbolt ability, on top of the part where it's got a gun (which is more or less the prerequisite for being in Lylyth's battlegroup). The ability to reach out and push someone d3 inches is big; peg the enemy's heavy hitters from as far away as you can to buy more time to shoot them. The only thing to watch out for is the fact that you might shove them out of everyone else's shooting range. Past that, the Animus is only so-so, as Lylyth has pathfinder and 90% of the time it's as good as Flight.

The Shredder is there because I like Tenacity. Admittedly, it's not as necessary because the carnivean-chassis are a mighty DEF 11 and likely to use something like Spiny Growth instead. I would probably replace the Shredder with a Stinger in the future, though the cost and pathfinder mean it can be an objective-sitter in a pinch.

Striders are in there because they're nasty ranged troops, and because I need to keep Stealth in there, lest all the guns be directed at the troops because no one can see my friggin' battlegroup. They're fast, hard to hit, and have ranged attacks. They get serious mileage out of Pin Cushion, which may let you get past the need to double up for combined ranged attacks.

Shepherds are in there as fury control, obviously. With a mighty Fury of 5, Lylyth kind of NEEDS the help. The ability to heal is also excellent, as it lets me potentially bring up a crippled spiral or two. Lylyth COULD do this, but again five fury and an upkeep or two means her personal fury is at a premium. The only worry is that Shepherds do NOT have stealth, so they're the odd ones out.

Use of Lylyth
Lylyth's first turn is probably something like 'run everyone up', 'cast Shadow Pack' and 'hand out a Spiny Growth' or something. Get field position, try to at least get near objectives, and look for good lanes of fire. Turn 2 is likely to be feat turn; try to rip up as much of their army as you can. Cross your fingers that you either break their back, or stall their advance. From there, decide if you can win on scenario or by asssassination, but make it quick: you're Legion and you don't win by attrition.

As for anyone griping about FURY 5? Pin Cushion has a 15" range, and if you've got Shadow Pack up you can afford to boost the hit; 5+3d6 = usually hits, and you've got a fury left for a transfer. Keep in mind that the range amplifier also works on any animus she casts, since they're spells for her. You don't HAVE to play her forward, but if you do, you can at least use her to pop off infantry and Swift Hunter back.

If you like guns and like stealth, give eLylyth a try. She's not very subtle, but then again the Legion is not the most subtle of factions. In a sense, it's liberating: when someone hands you a mastercrafted long gun with a fine scope, you know exactly what it's meant to do.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Kaelyssa, Build Tweak

I finally finished painting my Dawnguard Sentinels (as well as Skarath), so what better way to celebrate than to field them?

I grabbed Kaelyssa and finally got a game in with a tweaked list.

My previous 35pt Kaelyssa list included:
10 Sentinels w/ Officer, Standard
6-elf Mage Hunter Strike Force w/ UA
2 Arcanists

The tweaked list:
10 Sentinels w/ UA
Stormfall Archers
Dahlia & Skarath

Basic Impressions of Tweaked List
Without the Hydra in there, Phantom Hunter gets demoted to either going on Kaelyssa in a pinch (if you need to clean out a solo or a couple infantry) or languishing, though I suppose you could always slap it on the Phoenix, since the Halo Cannon isn't THAT bad (I just have rarely used it).

The Archers were in there for two reasons:
1) Testing
2) In case the enemy brought light, squishy infantry.

I admit to being leery about paying 5 points for a whopping four guys, but their range and versatility is very nice. Snipe means they have a 21" max threat range, and RAT 5 is about par (RAT 7 after you Aim at 16"). I'd figured I'd be able to get some versatility out of them in case I ever got LOS on a warjack; Brutal Shot means it's a RAT 5 base, boosted POW12 on the direct hit. Not perfect, but serviceable against non-Khador warjacks.

As a comedic aside, in the game one managed to peg eStryker in the face (actually GETTING the 11...) and then got box cars on the damage roll. Apparently sniped grenade arrows HURT.

eEiryss is a nice change-up from the prime version. I can very much live with the reduced ammo types in exchange for screwing up focus allocation and dropping upkeeps/animi. Between that and a well-placed arcantrik bolt from Kaelyssa, I managed to stall out/gut a Stormclad in one good round. Stationary + nearby weaponmasters = pain, true story...

Dahlia and Skarath make an excellent flank-threat. The spray lets them handle infantry, and Skarath isn't a major slouch in melee. Kaelyssa might miss a Hydra for Phantom Hunter shenanigans, but the dynamic duo are fine flankers and can hold well enough on their own against lighter foes. I just wouldn't expect much out of them when it came to dealing with an enemy heavy in good shape, since Skarath's got that mighty ARM16 for protection.

Brief Commentary on Test Game
Played against a comrade I'd sorta converted from 40k. He brought eStryker, a couple variants of Storm Knights, the Black 13th, a Stormclad, Lancer, and the bloody piper. Scenario was break the line. He ended up winning on assassination after I botched activations to get a scenario win.

I forgot about that whole 'velocity' thing followed up by 'take damage to get a Strength bonus' crap. eStryker's pretty much lurking around, waiting for a chance to fire off a brutal assassination run (then again, it is kinda all-or-nothing for 'im, but he can pull it off, so yeah...).

I will say that Narn is wonderful for a flanking threat, though Stryker managed to velocity, then charge him. It at least pulled eStryker away from the fun, but not far enough as it turned out...

All things considered, it was a fun (and close) match. I think this Kaelyssa list merits some tweaking, though I'm not sure I miss the Hydra. I'm not yet 100% on the Stormfall Archers, though they honestly didn't do BAD. It's more a leeriness about that '5 points for 4 guys' thing. I can say they don't merit being dismissed out-of-hand.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dahlia & Skarath as Retribution Mercs

Dahlia and Skarath are one of the few and proud merc/minion choices available to the Retribution. The Iosans have the distinction of being the only Warmachine faction that she'll work for.

They're a well-defended, lower-armor duo that mixes denial (from the elf dame) and a nasty offensive (the big freakin' snake). As they are a Warbeast & Lesser Warlock, the big selling point is that it's a jack equivalent that does NOT tax your caster's focus and does NOT absolutely positively have to be in their control area. It's kind of like a Jack Marshal and warjack in one, except that if they kill the marshal you flat-out lose the jack.

It's 9 points for the pair. If you lose Dahlia first, you lose Skarath. If you lose Skarath, Dahlia runs out of Fury pretty fast and then either cuts herself or...stands there and takes up space.

SPD 6 is respectable enough. She has a hell of a defense with DEF 16, but ARM 12 is squishy even with 8 health boxes. Her other basic stats are pretty irrelevant as she has no weapons. I mean, her sculpt has a friggin' flute. You were expecting?

The important stuff for Dahlia: FURY 4. She has two spells, and both cost 2 fury. She's got enough to pop both, or double up on Mist Walker. Additionally, she's got Skarath's animus, which CAN impact friendly models and costs 1 fury.

Haunting Melody is a RNG Control spell. Enemy living models cannot give/take orders, and cannot make melee or ranged attacks at Dahlia. Apprently she's good with that flute. It's the close-range don't-kill-me spell. Not bad, as it means the enemy will have to devote long-ranged guns to kill her if she has this up. (and of course she can do transfers, so yeah...)

Mist Walker is RNG 6; but can only impact Dahlia or Skarath. The target gets Pathfinder and Prowl, so when in concealment/cover they get Stealth. It gives me this ridiculous image of a huge freakin' snake trying to hide behind an inch-high wall, and not really succeeding.

The special rule 'Charmer' means that when a firendly warbeast frenzies in her control area (read: Skarath for this post) that the beast can forfeit its activation instead. Important, because it means Skarath doesn't turn around and shank HER, because he'd almost certainly kill her.

Lesser Warlock is essentially the warlock-lite set of rules, and Limited Battlegroup means only Skarath can be with her. Frankly, with Fury 4 she has no business trying to run more than one beast anyway.

Skarath is a glass cannon. SPD 6 is nice (and Mist Walker helps out), and DEF 14 is reasonably solid for defense. ARM 16 is...not so solid on a heavy. Skarath has about 25 wounds on his spiral, though he's a little light on Mind.

Really, there's one big draw for Skarath: SP 10, POW 12 corrosion with continuous corrosion. With FURY 4, he can boost to hit the important stuff, though with RAT 5 you'll probably NEED the boosts. Since the only ranged Retribution option that ignores stealth so far is the Stormfall Archers (...and soon to be Discordia) this is something of a selling point.

Skarath's no slouch in melee, either. He's MAT 6 with a PS16 Reach attack. Critical Consume means that if you hit a small based non-warlock/caster model it's removed from play. Remember to make 'om-nom-nom' sounds when this happens. With PS16, there's a good chance you'd out-and-out nuke anything short of a Lesser Warbeast in one hit (and losing a Shredder to a crit consume would hurt, trust me...) it's also nice to have a Remove-From-Play option available, even if it's not the most reliable of things.

Being a snake, Skarath gets the Serpentine rule, which means he's immune to knockdown, but incapable of slams/tramples.

His Animus is a RNG 6 1-fury spell that grants a model Riposte. Riposte means that when the enemy misses the target model, that model gets to take a swing at them immediately, then the animus expires. Funny story, it's called Serpent Strike.

Skarath also has a neato warbeast bond, so he can CHOOSE his frenzy target. A fully boosted MAT 6 POW 16 hit is nothing to sneeze at. If the dice go south, this is nice. Otherwise, you're probably trying to avoid losing Dahlia's fury battery and the ability to really CHOOSE what you're doing with a heavy hitter in your army.

On the Field
The first turn or two will either see them both running (and Dahlia discarding a fury so she can leach the forced fury off of Skarath) or Dahlia casting Mist Walker 1-2 times and riling Skarath to refuel.

After that, it's probably time to look for a good spray shot. Even if POW 12 won't kill 'em reliably (IE: shield-walling guys or, oh, ARM19 Dawnguard for example...) the corrosion can still do the deed.

MAT 6 is passable, but it also means Skarath is capable of handling itself in melee. If you can find something that a couple POW 16s will cripple/kill (or do something prevent boosting to-hit rolls, like a Disruptor Bolt or eEiryss) then you've got yourself a melee target. Note, though, that Skarath's ARM 16 is NOT gonna stop heavy hitters from mincing him.

Fitting into your Army
As D&S are a 9pt unit, you're probably not taking them in 15 points. At 25, it's possible to include them, but they're still a chunk and you probably want at least one myrmidon as a heavy hitter (cough cough, phoenix, cough cough). Don't get me wrong; the flutist and snake are versatile and all, but you have warjack points to spend.

I'd probably consider them seriously starting at 35 points.

When it comes to capabilities, I think three things make them stick out and should be considered when deciding whether or not to take them.

1) Do you want a SP10, POW12 Continuous Corrosion shot that can get there without too much trouble?

2) For focus-greedy casters, it's a heavy that does not require focus to operate.

3) It's a heavy that does NOT have to stay in range of your warcaster, but still gets to boost more than once a turn. Helloo, flanker.

There are two major cons that come to mind with this pair: Durability and the inherent weakness of a lesser warlock.

Dahlia and Skarath both have solid defense values (16 and 14 respectively) but sub-par armor (12 and 16 respectively). They have a reasonable number of health boxes, but when your ARM is like that...there's room to worry. It's just something you have to keep in mind when it comes to AoEs and accurate heavy hitters.

As for lesser warbeasts? Losing one part of the pair is essentially losing both. If the enemy drops Dahlia, Skarath leaves. If the enemy drops Skarath, Dahlia loses her only Fury battery.

Interaction with Retribution Warcasters
Kaelyssa can use Banishing Ward with them. Since they can get Stealth without too much trouble, her feat is unlikely to leave them out to dry as the only non-stealthed targets.

Rahn can help them out with Force Field (...since boosted AOE hits are a worry with Dahlia's mighty ARM 12, which means it's transfer damage to Skarath...) and can always use Telekineses to help one or both of them out of a jam.

Epic Eiryss can rob a jack of its ability to boost, which works nicely with the solid natural DEF of our intrepid duo.

Anything past that? It's a matter of army composition and how much you want to save focus on your caster.

Dahlia and Skarath are, I think, viable options for the Retribution. They're one of two sources of sprays at this point in time. They can operate independently of the warcaster (though this also means most of the buffs don't work; see this discussion on Cylena & co for expansion on that) in terms of resources and control distance.

So long as you bear in mind their relative fragility and don't try to take them in smaller points levels, I think you can expect mileage out of them.

Additionally, I think they offer a couple of 'soft' benefits to the Retribution player:

1) It's a break from painting armor and myrmidons

2) If you haven't played Hordes, playing with the Fury mechanic will be a good learning experience.

Give 'em a shot. They're perfectly workable in a Retribution army, and if you have a Circle or Troll army, they can pull double-duty for you there.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Retribution Mercs: Cylena Raefyll & the Nyss Hunters

The Retribution is not exactly popular with mercenaries, for whatever reason. I guess when you're vaguely omnicidal against humans (or at least want to kill all their magic-users) these things are bound to happen.

As it is, Cylena & co are one of the few mercs that currently work for the Retribution. The next question is how can the Retribution use them? To answer that question, first ask what the unit can do on its own merits, and then ask how it can fit into the Retribution's current lineup.

Cylena & Company
Speed 7 pathfinders are going to get where they want to be. They all have an awesome DEF 15 and a piddly ARM 11. They're hard to hit, but you generally don't need to roll for damage against that armor. The basic grunt has MAT/RAT 6, and Cylena boasts one better on either side, and five hit boxes.

Everyone carries a Nyss Bow, with a foot of range and POW 10. Not bad on its own, but it's not going to do much other than ping infantry. If you really want to put damage on, you've got a POW 9 claymore with weaponmaster. If you can put the hit in, then it can do the damage, especially on a charge.

This is where they start shining. Pathfinder keeps them swift. They have Hunter, so they ignore forests, concealement, and cover when determiing LOS for shooting things. You'll get that 12" shot whenever and wherever you need it.

So long as you keep Cylena alive, the unit ALSO gets Combined Ranged Attack, which lets them double up to hit higher-DEF infantry with RAT 8/POW12.

Unit Summary
The Nyss Hunters are swift, and capable of laying down a nasty charge, especially against targets with average-to-low DEF. They can also ping high-DEF infantry reasonably well with doubled-up combined ranged attacks. So long as you keep them away from blasts, they'll do well. In a pinch, you can use them to try to tie up lower-MAT enemies, since DEF 15 is pretty high up there. You will pay for what you get, though, since they cost 7 for a min 6-elf unit, and 10 for a full set.

Working with the Retribution
Now, unlike some folks that Cylena will work for (IE: Cryx), the Retribution has access to some shooty infantry.

Dawnguard Invictors have a higher-powered shot and more armor (15 base, 17 with Defensive Line), and if there is a myrmidon around, they can take advantage of flank. They are slower, and generally are more suited as main-line infantry since they can take lighter hits and laugh off blast damage. They do have a max range of 10 base, or 14" with the UA's mini-feat. However, fully kitted out you're looking at 12 points, but it IS your main line.

Houseguard Riflemen are pure shooty. They're cheaper than the Nyss Hunters, but are pretty much incapable of melee duty. They have a 14" base range, and are 4/6, or 8 with the full unit and UA.

The Mage Hunter Strike force is multi-role, though they can only get that high damage output against warjacks. They have DEF 14, but Stealth means they can't be hit directly outside of 5". They share the Nyss Hunter allergy to blasts, and a full unit + UA is the same 10 points. However, at 10 points, you're trading weapon master on melee, one point of Defense, and a reliance on your Officer for combined ranged attacks for advance deployment, weaponmaster vs warjacks, and Phantom Seeker. Honestly, the MHSF is probably the closest analog to the Nyss Hunters in terms of a 1:1 unit tradeoff.

The next question is, what do the various warcasters offer the Hunters, and are there any other units they particularly like working with?

Death Sentence and Mirage are Faction Model Only. Honestly, he could probably use them, but he doesn't particularly offer them anything. They have the speed to keep up with him and his preference for a quicker force, but I don't see anything inherently outstanding here.

Banishing Ward works on friendly models/units, so if the Hunters get tagged by de-buffs or could be hit by magic AoEs, you can remove that vulnerability. Her feat doesn't affect them, which CAN leave them as the only targets for charges/shooting. Then again, DEF 15 is like as not a solid defense against direct shooting, so it's debatable whether they'll miss the Feat or not. Against warmachine, she can ensure they hit warjacks that she can stick with an Arcantrik Bolt.

Adeptis Rahn
Rahn can actually affect them with two things: first, he can target them with Polarity Shield. This stops charges, which is potentially useful. Rahn can also help them out with Force Field; if someone misses them with an AoE (which is pretty possible with DEF 15) then Rahn can nudge it in a beneficial direction.

Honestly, they lose out on the least with Rahn; he can potentially mitigate their sever AoE allergy, and you're limited on what you can take to benefit from the Feat anyway.

The Hunters can benefit from Snipe, but that's it. While Snipe looks good, I think her Feat (which only gives Faction models boosted ranged attack rolls and Swift Hunter) will nudge most players towards in-faction ranged options. The Hunters just eat a chunk of points, and I think most folks would rather spend that on stuff that benefits from the feat.

You need Faction models for Hallowed Avenger and Inviolable Resolve. You need Faction models for the Feat. Once again, I'm not sure that folks would put so many points into a non-faction unit.

Houseguard Units
Ranked Attacks mean only faction models can see through them. Then again, putting Nyss Hunters behind a wall of Halberdiers or Riflemen is wasting their speed.

epic Eiryss
Against warmachine, you can get some mileage out of Technological interference. DEF 15 is not gonna get hit reliably without boosts, so Eiryss and the Nyss Hunters can work together to lock down enemy warjacks. Watch out, though, as the enemy may just shoot AoEs at their own warjacks and scrape you off like that. Still, eEiryss is solid enough to take on her own merits, and she's also got the ability to pace the Nyss Hunters.

Thoughts on what to put Nyss Hunters alongside
I think if you're bringing Cylena and co., you're either going to use them as a swift flanking unit (in which case you don't CARE about all your stuff that requires friendly faction models...) or a swift army in general.

Given that the Retribution doesn't have a lot of long-ranged AoEs (other than Stormfall Archers) I think you can get some valuable mileage out of the Hunters as a means of killing high-DEF infantry, and of course who doesn't love weaponmasters with a 10.5" threat range, regardless of terrain?

If you're going to play against Hordes, then the minimum unit is the same price as a minimum size Mage Hunter Strike Force unit with UA, and it lets you hit high-DEF targets AND charge lower-def ones to gruesome death.

I would probably lean towards Kaelyssa and Rahn as your casters, since you lose the least in terms of feat/spells, and they can still help out your expensive mercs. Rahn in particular can shore up their fear of AoEs. Once I get around to assembling mine (...huh boy, that's gonna be some fun with pinning there...) I intend to do some testing with 'em.

The bottom line, though, is that at current Retribution doesn't have a lot of "OOH! OOH! TAKE ME WITH THEM!" options. They're largely self-sufficient (and can't impact a lot of feats/buffs) and versatile. If you can avoid AoEs with them, I think you can get mileage out of 'em.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Retribution: Testing with Kaelyssa

I've been trying to put my money where my mouth is with Kaelyssa, and I've tested out the following 35pt list:

Kaelyssa, Night's Whisper

10 Dawnguard Sentinels
-UA: Officer & Standard

6 Mage Hunter Strike Force
-UA: Officer

2 Arcanists
Eyriss, Mage Hunter of Ios

Logic in the List
The Hydra is intended to hunt solos/ping stuff with Kae's Phantom Hunter, and the Phoenix is its versatile self. Arcanists provide foucs/melee support, and Sentinels are...nasty. Reach weaponmasters with vengeance and MAT 7 tend to ruin anything they can hit. The MHSF is a reactive element for support-hunting and jack-softening.

Some of the Matchups
I ran up against my buddy Jon's Khador. Mmm, freaking ARM20+ jacks...and the Winterguard. I managed to pull off a win on a scenario, due to going first (and getting into the middle before he could) and blunting his advance long enough to grab the requisite 7 control points.

Against Kara Sloan, well...sure, SHE can get True Sight, but Kae's 'We're All Stealth Here' feat is pure yum. Add that on top of getting into position early in No Man's Land, and it being his first time playing Kara and it was...yeah. It was one part bad matchup for him (since my feat pretty much denies his ability to grab position) and one part inexperience with the caster.

Thoughts on the List's Components
Whenever I need to damage something disrupted with Arcantrik Bolt, I'll see...nothing. Still, being able to threaten to deny warjacks with this and Eyriss gets the enemy to pay careful attention to where the Elf Witch and my arc node(s) are.

I know that if/when I run up against someone with de-buffs, I'll love me some Banishing Ward.

Arcane Reckoning I think it's the most situational, since the enemy has to MISS. It's best slapped on a high-DEF target that the enemy might try to cast spells on. Honestly, I can think of three uses for this:
1) My enemy will try to tag Eyriss with a spell, and it's not the Epic version
2) Mage Hunter Strike Force, for folks with magic AoEs
3) Someone might try to spell-assassinate Kaelyssa

Phantom Hunter means I'm really, REALLY going to think long and hard about bringing a Hydra with her almost automatically. In fairness, all myrmidons with guns can benefit from it.

Phantom hunter + her rifle lets her, in a pinch, pick off infantry from anywhere. This actually came in handy when I had to make sure an infantry unit wasn't in the No Man's Land.

I have to say, this is a warjack I'd initially kind of gone 'eh' in the general direction of, given the Phoenix and the Manticore. On the other hand, it's very focus-efficient. Turn one, it gets a full three focus and jogs. Turn two, you...hand it a focus, maybe. Then either it starts popping shots at solos, or starting to put POW 15s on jacks. In a pinch, it can also go into melee, though it really wants Arcanist support.

The big thing the Hydra does is STORE focus. Also, if the enemy scatters AoEs or lets you walk into covering fire templates...yeah. It's FUN, and it's a psychological weapon with Kae's Phantom Hunter: it will shoot you from 15" away, and if you ding it, you fuel it.

It's neat. It kills stuff. It has reach, combustion, an arc's got a little of everything. The enemy ALSO likes it dead, and in my experience it gets focus-fired until it's dead, but it usually does something neat prior. Reach DOES give it a pretty solid threat range of 11", and it's a solid workhorse. But, you pay for what you get.

Mage Hunter Strike Force and UA
I think I'd almost always take the UA with them. Advance Deploy lets you deploy reactively, and Phantom Seeker is of course sweet for hunting support and the odd warjack.

That being said, I'm glad I haven't decided to go with the Tier lists where I have to own 20-30 of these guys. They're not bad for hunting support, and they've got a solid DEF 14. MAT/RAT 6 is respectable, but sometimes I worry about how hard they can hit. They just don't seem to be so graphically killy, but what they DO offer me is mobile anti-infantry support that fires through forests and the like. Give me Pathfinder and that, and I think they're a solid support element.

Dawnguard Sentinels and UA
Reach weaponmasters with solid armor and vengeance? Yes, please. Kaelyssa doesn't actually DO a lot for them other than keep stupid upkeeps/spells off them. ARM 17 in defensive line means that you start to need warjacks, weaponmasters, or nasty stuff like corrosion/anatomical precision to kill. The average infantry POW 10 bounces off this, at least.

And, of course, PS12 weaponmaster attacks break things they hit. Add in vengeance from the Officer, and when the enemy DOES break one, they get a handy-dandy 3" move. Considering the SPD 5, they need all the help they can get in that regard.

I think if points permit it, having one per heavy myrmidon is a great idea. Myrmodons don't have the largest of damage grids, and it's full of squishy stuff, like crucial systems. Since it doesn't take that much to bring systems online, you might be able to restore some crucial functions. If you can get focus, then a repair can also get you the ability to regenerate your field.

Other than that, they're focus efficiency on a stick, and +2 to melee damage rolls helps make sure that the stuff your myrmodons tag stay down.

I'm starting to like the way that Kae plays. Still, the bulk of her toolkit is matchup-dependent as to how you'll use it. Most of the time, though, you'll have something to do with her spells. All else fails, having a Hydra chuck POW 15s through solid walls is great fun, and a bunch of weaponmasters bearing down on the enemy is also good stuff.
Most of my wins seem to have come from scenario. I'm not sure Kae has a good way to pull off an assassination herself, so it's either bring something else that can kill the caster (perhaps Narn) or go for the scenario win.

I'm debating on testing something else out for the MHSF slot. Unit-wise, I'm entertaining two options:

1) Stormfall Archers
They throw out AoEs up to 12", and it's either more damage (extra dice on direct hits), fire on direct hits, or snipe. It's not a lot of models, but it IS good for contributing at range. They also provide me an easy counter to high-DEF, low-ARM infantry. In a pinch, they can also throw the equivalent of boosted POW12s at warjacks.

2) House Shyeel Battle Mages
Movement shenanigans for the win. The ability to push or pull things into/out of position is great. I think I could always find a use for that ability.

3) More Solos?
Seven points could get me Narn, and leave me four points for either Ghost Snipers or Mage Hunter Assassins. I suppose it could work, though my gut says that one unit-of-the-line and a pair of heavies is a bit light for 35 points. I could also drop Eyriess and add Dahlia/Skarath, perhaps.

I dunno. More experimenting will be in order.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

First Thoughts: The Nephilim Warrior

I finally caved in and picked up a Nephilim Warrior. Now, I intend to try to get some use out of this, but I'm pretty sure this isn't the top-tier beasty. On the other hand, I do believe it's got a use, but it's more of a support beastie. I mean, it's a 5 point light; it's not that bad but not for everyone.

Base Stats
The Nephilim is reasonably spry, and can keep up with most Everblight stuff. It's good SPD 6 and Flight, so it laughs off terrain and the like. With the standard-issue Eyeless Sight, it's capable of going over forests and the like. Just remember the issue of eating Free Strikes when you fly over folks.

Offensively, the Neph Soldier is reasonable. It's got the typical MAT 6 for Legion, and a PS 14 Reach attack. There's not much special offensively past that.

Defensively, it's also about Legion standard. DEF 13 is on the higher end of average, and ARM 16 is...well, it's a Legion beast, and ARM 16 is pretty decent for Legion. That and 22 circles on the health spiral won't keep you alive forever, but you've got the speed and special rules to use terrain to your advantage and you're probably not the scariest thing across the field.

The Neph can throw down 3 Fury, and has a very solid Threshold of 10. It doesn't mean you should run the thing hot (since a 7's still about a 50/50 on 2d6) but if you've got to gamble with a hot beast, the Neph is statistically sound in that regard.

Animus: Massacre
Now, the Animus is...interesting. It's two Fury, and it lets a target friendly model charge without being forced. When that model kills an enemy model, it can advance an inch and make another attack.

On the one hand, your Neph Soldier is paying 2 fury to charge and hope it kills the charge target, then make another attack. Alternatively, you can force to charge, and then if you kill the target you can force to make another attack. With MAT 6, you might want to boost to make sure you get the kill in, as well, and that's your three fury.

So, you either gamble on the Massacre, or you can charge, boost to hit, and buy another attack. Close to the same result, but the difference is A) you can stop at any time, and B) you lose the 1" move.

But wait...the Animus has a range of 6. I think this is where you can start to get mileage out of it. Basically, it's 2 fury to let another beast charge for free. So, your heavy with 4 Fury now has all four of that fury to keep on boosting and buying attacks with. Most Everblight heavies just get a little nastier with more attacks/spare fury, though you ARE paying extra for it.

What Does the Neph Like To Work With?
The Neph can benefit from help in a few areas:

1) Defense
DEF 13 is on the high end of average. Tenacity can put it into DEF 14 territory; it's a Fury to make MAT/RAT 6 troops think long and hard about being able to hit you, since it's that magical 8 territory. Also, hiding in terrain against folks that don't ignore concealment/cover is fun, because DEF 15+ starts getting into 'stupid high' territory.

2) Accuracy
Frankly, MAT 6 is average. Anything you can do to help this can only improve its damage output. pLylyth's feat for the extra dice to hit, eThagrosh's Manifest Destiny, and so on and so forth help it out. Make those few attacks count.

3) Damage Output
PS 14 will almost always kill single-wound infantry and most 5-wound solos you can hit. It's so-so for beating up or finsihing off medium-armor stuff, but it's just not going to hit above its weight. Manifest Destiny from eThags can help to an extent, especially with a boost. Parasite from pLylyth makes you an effective PS 17 (...though in fairness, it helps EVERYONE). Absylonia's Forced Evolution puts you up to PS 16 with DEF 15, but that makes most of our beasts nasty and probably has a better target...

Actually, that's kind of the support thing in general. The problem with being a middleweight is that you're going to be stuck with the more middleweight buffs, so something like Tenacity or a side-benefit from attacking a target suffering from Parasite is probably as good as it gets, since most of the other buffs have BETTER targets.

I think as long as I'm asking the Warrior to KO lighter targets or using its animus for fury efficiency, it'll be fine. I think anything else is probably demanding a bit much from the lil' fella.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tactics: Kaelyssa, Night's Whisper

Kaelyssa is the current toolbox-caster for the Retribution of Scyrah. She's got some solid denial spells, but prefers more of a supervisory position than a lead-from-the-front-with-my-sword a la Dawnlord Vyros, or 'kill a lotta guys with my uber Kroot rifle' like Ravyn.

Stats, Weapons, Attacks
SPD 6 and Pathfinder are sufficient to keep up with most retribution units. She has a solid DEF 16, but ARM 14 and 16 health boxes do not a durable caster make. Her FOCUS 7 and spell list mean that she's got a solid enough control area, and that she doesn't belong on the front lines from a durability standpoint.

Her melee melee capability is so-so with MAT 6 and POW 12; it's enough to KO enemy troopers but this should be a holdout weapon. She's more at home with the Runebolt cannon, a RNG 12 POW 10 magical weapon with ROF 3 and MAT 7. It's not got a lot of punch, but you can always use it to KO annoying solos. Be ready to boost damage, though, if you want the solo to stay down with one shot.

Overall, she's quick enough to keep up and has a solid focus pool, but she's squishy and only slightly above-average in terms of hitting things with a gun.

In addition to Pathfinder, she's got three neat abilities: True Sight, With Hound and Energy Siphon. Pathfinder at least lets you get Concealment with some ease.

True Sight means you can hit Stealth models. This works even when arcing, so you can snip annoying solos or lay down fire on units with stealth. You can also snipe solos with your rifle, if it comes to that. This is her major anti-stealth ability in person.

Witch Hound is neat, but situational. If someone hits Kaelyssa's battlegroup with a magic attack, someone in the battlegroup gets to make a full advance and an attack after the spell is resolved. It's a bit more fun when the enemy has plenty of magic attacks that they want to use on your jacks, though.

Energy Siphon lets you pull Focus or Fury off any target you hit with one of Kaelyssa's weapons. This is probably going to be of more use in Hordes (and more annoying, since it can screw with their Fury for next turn, potentially) but it lets you get more than 7 Focus. It's something to keep in mind. It is NOT a reason to go fight some beasts in hand to hand unless they're low ARM/DEF models, because they can still probably beat you up, even/especially if they frenzy.

Hellooo, toolbox. There's something for most every situation here.

Arcantrik Bolt
POW 12 magical attack, RNG 10. It's for sniping annoying solos/magical models via arc nodes. If it damages a warjack, then the warjack is rendered stationary. It can make the enemy pay Focus to shake the effect, which is somewhat useful. Stationary is of course wonderful for making sure jacks get tagged, since MAT 6 on our heavy-hitter warjacks is not exactly the most accurate.

Arcane Reckoning
Hello, denial. If the enemy misses the model/unit holding this buff, then they are in turn hit with the attack. Higher-defense models love this, because the enemy can’t dump a magic AOE on them and game the deviation. It will force boosting, and it’s a deterrent for non-caster magic attacks.

Cryx players will recognize this; when the warjack suffering this effect takes damage, the caster takes a point of damage each time the jack gets hit. You probably won’t kill the caster with this but you can knock a chunk out of them. The trick to getting the most mileage is to paper-cut the jack to death. Just don’t expect a knockout punch with it at this point, unless the Retribution gets some units with Feedback on their weapons.

Banishing Ward
Banishing Ward renders a model/unit immune to being targeted by enemy spells/animi, and knocks off any enemy upkeeps on them. Bottom line, it can keep a unit from getting a nasty upkeep on it, or remove it after the fact. If you didn’t put it on something preemptively, then they get one turn to enjoy the debuff.

Phantom Hunter
Someone in the battlegroup ignores LOS when making attacks, and laughs at concealment and cover when shooting.. This can let Kaelyssa hit anything she can range. It also lets most of the jacks be a little more accurate; RAT 5 becomes a little more effective at hitting stuff but probably still wants boosts. It’s a neat upkeep for 2 focus, but somewhat situational.

This is her most expensive spell at 4 focus, but it’s a 4” AOE with POW 13. That’s not bad for thinning out troops with lower armor (and/or stealth), but the real bonus is that the AOE is difficult terrain for a round. IF you can make it hit, and the enemy doesn’t have pathfinder, then it’s wonderful denial.

See also: another reason to bring an arc node.

Feat: The Vanishing
Friendly faction models in her control zone gain Stealth and cannot be charged for a round. This is purely a setup feat, and can potentially deny both ranged and shooting. Just make sure the enemy isn’t so close that they’ll simply walk up and smack you, and keep a look out for any ranged attacks that ignore stealth.

Filling out the Army
Kaelyssa wants heavy hitters. The Phoenix gets a mention because it’s an arc node and has a pretty reasonable damage output. You can get around MAT 6 by smacking the target with an Arcantrik bolt if it’s a jack.

The Manticore goes nicely with Rift, since Covering Fire + Rift = unhappy infantry plus slow jacks. It is also, of course, a great heavy hitter and you need that as well. PS 20 hands (force generator + Arcanist's Concentrated Power) make even Khador jacks worry a little.

The Hydra can bank its focus and use Phantom Hunter to great effect with its Force Cannon; unless you’re stealth you can’t hide from a POW 15, RNG 15 gun with RAT 5 (potentially 7 with the aim) and a boost. It’s not really for hunting casters, but solos and UAs probably won’t do well with a boostable POW 15 hit.

Typically, you’re bringing Kaelyssa because she doesn’t have as many problems with Stealth as other casters. Retribution has two ways around stealth: melee and AoEs. To this end, I suggest starting with Dawnguard Sentinels, and look elsewhere once you’ve filled them out and added the UA. This also means you don’t absolutely, positively HAVE to use your jacks for all the big game hunting.

The only unit-borne AoEs come from Stormfall Archers, and Kaelyssa doesn’t really buff those.

The Mage Hunter Strike Force doesn’t really have a way around stealth, but a minimal unit + UA are excellent support hunters, since they also have Phantom Hunter.

Eiryss is excellent support against Warmachine opponents. pEiryss is more of a caster-kill setup or sniper, as eEiryss + multiple arcantrik bolts = 2-3 stationary jacks a turn if they’re close by. eEiryss is also capable of removing buffs from units, so I honestly have to lean towards her a little more for utility + ability to help Arcantrik Bolt lock down multiple warjacks.

I suggest an arcanist per heavy jack, or the max of two. Early on, they let you run myrmidons into position without taxing her, and once she starts running them they buff the damage output or fix busted systems.

Beyond that, current solos tend to be support-hunters of one stripe or another, so flavor as needed.

The most frequent word in this write-up has got to be 'situational.' That's what Kaelyssa does: she changes a situation in your favor. Chances are that she won't use every tool in every game, but she's bound to carry something you will find useful against most any opponent.

A thanks to the Warmachine Retribution Forum for feedback and covering gaps in my knowledge. You can find the associated discussion here.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thoughts on Venethrax

I gotta admit that Venethrax is one of my favorite casters for Cryx in terms of image and general aura of badassery.

Come on, it's a big skeleton waving a sword at you and looking generally angry. What's not to love?

A Brief Look at Venny
Honestly, Venethrax is a selfish guy that LOVES to fight Hordes. How do you know this?

Well, Dragonslayer gives you +2 POW and +2 ARM, but more importantly lets you eat the fury off of a beast and turn it into focus. Therefore, if you can get into a beast and get some reach, MAT 8 PS 16+3d6 base damage into a beast you can probably get its fury, but I'd rather hit a wounded critter. Your other lovely denial spell is Lamentation, where anyone in your 14" area has to pay double for spells/animi. It's a great 'screw you' denial spell in general.

Now, why is he selfish?

Simple. You've got no buffs or debuffs to hand out to any other units on the table. You DO have a nice 3" AOE that hands out corrosion, and youv'e got the typical Hellfire for shooting harder targets. Your one spell you'll cast on a friendly unit is Soul Harvester, which means Venethrax gets the souls they cull instead.

Selfish, ain't it? Well, his feat kind of makes up for that, though at first glance Charnel Flames feels a little bit lackluster when you compare it to out-and-out break-your-opponent's-face feats like eGaspy or eSkarre. For a round, if you kill a warrior model they pop into a 3" cloud that explicitly denies Eyeless Sight. Anyone entering one of these clouds takes a point of fire damage. Basically, if you're running some troops (and honestly, you should consider it) you can make the enemy think carefully how they're going to kill your guys, and in what order. Also, if/when your guys get the charge in, they're buying protection against shooting and charges in turn.

The other note about Soul Harvester: this is a potential assassination setup; Focus 7 means you need to harvest three more souls to get enough focus for two fully-boosted hellfires, which can potentially kill a caster, and if you've wounded them prior...good times.

The Army I've Run
I opted to roll with a Tier 4 list for Venethrax at 50 points. It contains:
10 Mechanithralls
-WA: 2 Brute Thralls
Necrosuregeon & stitch thralls
10 Bloodgorgers
5 Black Ogrun Boarding Party
General Gerlak Slaughterborn
2 Pistol Wraiths

Tier Benefits
1) Seethers cost 8 points
2) I get a 3" cloud to place w/in 20" of my board edge for the first round (before deployment), at one per unit
3) Gerlak & his Bloodgorgers get advance deployment
4) Seethers get an Advance Move

Logic Behind the Army
You want Arc Nodes, because Venethrax is NOT a front-line caster. He can hit and hurt, but unless I'm dealing with hordes I'd rather NOT run the risk of getting up close and popped, because he has to camp focus to not die, being medium-based and having only so-so defense.

Seethers are there because of two reasons: first, the tier likes them, and second, Venethrax likes to sling spells, so the focus-efficient Seethers give me heavy hitters. If I can get them up to the enemy caster, then I can probably stomp on the caster with MAT8, PS 16 hits as well.

The Bloodgorgers & Gerlak handle infantry, especially if they can get Gang up. The Mechanithralls can handle jacks, and if I lead with them, they're wonderful with the feat since they're not THAT hard to pop. Necrosurgeons naturally go where Mechanithralls go. The Black Ogrun are a hefty bodyguard for Venethrax, since they can block tramples and LOS, and can do a reasonable amount of damage as well.

The Pistol Wraiths are some fun denial, and stuff I can TAKE with Venethrax. I'd consider a skarlock briefly, but the only spell a Skarlock's good for is cycling Soul Harvester around, or wandering out and popping an offensive spell before someone decides it should die. Since Venny's tier doesn't give you a heap of anti-jack stuff outside of Seethers and Mechanithralls (the former aren't THAT durable and might be needed for assassination and the latter are not that durable), the Pistol Wraiths provide a way to slow down heavy hitters, and in a pinch can outflank and try to pop shots or assassinate solos.

The Round
I fought one of my buddy's Khador armies. It was something like:
-Beast 09
Full Winter Guard, 3 Rockets, Standard
Kovnik Joe
Kommandos & a Flamethrower
Widowmaker Marksman

Scenario: Killing Field

I made him go first, purely so I could react to the deployment of a slower army. He deployed a little more focused on the side, and basically moved into position on turn one. He experimented with slapping Superiority onto Beast 09, then having the Devastator chuck it downrange. The dice promptly said 'no throw'. This was a bit of a theme on the dice for both of us, though he got the worst of it.

Round one's positioning for the most part. He puts the ManHunter on objective duty on the unused flank, which ends up drawing my Pistol Wraiths off to pop the guy, and then hold onto that objective (only after conceding a point of it to the Manhunter. Damn stealth for making me get within 5" to take the shots). He makes a move to put a Widowmaker Marksman on the other side objective, though a Deathripper wanders over to the objective and arcs a boosted Blood Rain into the Widowmaker's face, which promptly melts off.

Round two is the fine art of making Tough rolls with Bloodgorgers and losing almost half of them, but still making solid tough rolls. Man, I hate Winterguard shotgun + rocket love...

Round tthree is the fine art of throwing my surviving Bloodgorgers (Which make some tough rolls) into his Winterguard (which don't) and Soul Harvest provides Venny with some souls. His Spriggan and Beast 09 move up to the middle to start claiming the middle objective. My Seethers and Mechanithralls move to counter.

I put Seethers into Beast 09, and roll laughably bad on damage. I do manage to get a weapon lock on his Axe of Threshering Your Frelling Skull Off.

He pops feat, and goes into the fray. His dice betray his jacks; one Seether is left with a half-dozen boxes that include the cortexx, leg, and arm, and I have one Bloodgorger left that's on fire, and a somewhat beat-up Gerlak.

I pop my feat, and with 11 Focus on Venethrax I load up the Seethers, drop Soul Harvester, and prepare to go to town. I end up with a nice layer of clouds in front of me, and the Seethers drop Beast 09 and beat up on the Spriggan. Mechanithralls and a Brute put Spriggan into the ground with some spectacular damage rolls on combo-strikes. DEF 10 doesn't stop PS15 combo-strikes, and that PS19 coming out of the Brute Thrall is icing on the cake when it comes up box-cars for 8 boxes off the jack. Too bad I didn't have the charge, thanks to those bloody walls...

The last turn is him making a grab for objectives, but DEF 15 Deathripper manages to NOT get shanked by shooting, charging Commandos. His remaining Winterguard down some Mechanithralls and take a chunk out of my Seether (which Kovnik Joe promptly headshots in its last box, which WAS the cortex), but only have one Winterguard on there.

the last turn sees me with five points, one objective locked down, and a Seether looking at the winterguard on the last objective. The Seether promptly squishes the last winterguard after walking onto the objective.

Game ends; Khador 3 to Cryx 7

Neither of us can roll 5's to hit our AOE spells
Neither of us can roll damage against jacks
Kovnik Joe gets the killing shot on a Seether and gives an inspirational speech
One Pistol Wraith pops two shots and fails to kill a Manhunter, so the OTHER one has to do it
Devastator spends most of the game thinking that Death Chill is some crap

-Full Bloodgorgers are tough to take down with infantry-grade weapons
-Winterguard Blobs are tough, and massed sprays are sick
-Superiority makes Khador jacks average in terms of defense and speed, which is disgusting
-Beast 09 is a priority target all the time. Big shock.
-You probably won't kill multiple Khadoran jacks unless you get lucky and are willing to sacrifice chunks of your army
-Deploying second is wonderful when you have speed on the other guy
-Assassinating a second-line caster like Irusk means going through his army, OR trying to play Scenario. The latter may get you a faster win.
-Lamentation doesn't do much at all to a support caster when you're not playing from the front (...funny story, I think a Khador jack will hit DEF 15 with a boost and it doesn't need to hit that often...)
-Soul Harvester is good for a few spare focus, but don't expect to get more than a handful with it
-Black Ogrun end up serving more or less as JUST a bodyguard, mostly because the Bloodgorgers and Mechanithralls are rushing to engage. This is not necessarily a bad thing.
-Seethers really, REALLY want to get the first hit in, and Smash & Grab is fun when it goes off.
-Weapon locks may have a use, but if the other guy is stronger than you...may not be so impressive.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Path to Victory: Assassination or Scenario Win?

This is a question that's come up from time to time, and I admit that I honestly don't mind winning either way. Still, when you're building an army AND when you're calculating the matchup between your list and the other guy's, I think it pays to prioritize which one you'll go for.

At the very minimum, you need to play to not lose the scenario. Know your objective; what do you need to do to claim it and what do you absolutely HAVE to do in order to keep the enemy from getting it. This usually means putting your guys in a place, and/or denying your enemy claiming units in those same places. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, and ALWAYS pay attention to this. It's very easy to watch turn three roll around and be like "Wait, I lose? What the hell?!" because you forgot there was a scenario in play.

Your List
Honestly, some casters (and, well, frankly, some armies) are better at assassination than objective wins. Cryx, for example, has some casters that just SCREAM to set up the enemy for an assassination; Warwitch Denegrha can put a -4 ARM on a target and knock it down, provided she can put an arc node on the target, and just wants her army to finish the deed. The Butcher...brings an army to deliver him. Magnus is happy to bring a couple of Renegades with their Tactical Nuclear Devices followed by a point-n-LOL, and so on.

Alternatively, some lists can do objectives just fine; Wraith Witch Deneghra is one of several casters that can lock down a huge number of enemy pieces and set you up for an assassination OR keep the enemy from the scenario. Similary, one of the happy lil' Rhulic fellows can shove you all out of important real estate with his Feat.

Bottom line: when you're designing a list, focus it on what you want to do, and then bring a backup plan. This is kind of self-evident; if I plunk Lich Lord Terminus down across the table from someone they can be reasonably sure I'm going to attempt to apply Termy to their caster ASAP. I need another threat, at least, in this case.

So far, it seems that lists vary on a few axes when it comes to winning.

1) How to Kill the Enemy Caster
Surgical Strike (I only need to kill the other caster) vs Attrition (I'm willing & able to trade casualties with you and still out on top)

2) How to Take care of the objective
Bring a unit that don't mind sitting on objectives? (IE: Shooters; they can still contribute)
Bring a unit that doesn't mind not directly contributing to the fight (small unit)
Bring a solo or two that you can sit on objectives
Bring a unit/solo/jack that is an absolute pain to dislodge
Engage the enemy on the objectives
See #1; kill the enemy before the objective becomes a factor on turn 3+

3) How to prevent assassination

I: is it something I bring to deny a type of assassination? IE, against ranged assassination, I can bring an Ogrun Bokur or a warjack/warbeast with Shield Guard to eat a shot, or Gorman di Wulfe to hide me from assassination via cloud?

II: Screening units; do I bring something like a medium-based unit to deny tramples, or otherwise block off some avenue of approach?

III: Does my caster have some kind of built-in defense against it, like DEF 16-17+, high ARM, Stealth, Incorporeal, or a lovely denial spell like Hellbound (just say NO to being charged...)

Bottom Line
These are some questions I've occasionally failed to ask mysefl, and usually paid for. Basically, if you want to win you've GOT to keep an eye on the win conditions; assassination and the scenario.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lylyth, Herald of Everblight at a Glance

I've put a couple games down with Lylyth, herald of everblight, and I think I'm getting a feel for her. At a glance, she's a support caster that likes to set her army up for a precise assassination run.

Speed 7 mean that she's going to be able to keep up with her battlegroup well. Bushwhack means you can shoot first, THEN take that move. Keep thatFury of 5 in mind, though. The MAT is inconsequential because you're screwing up if you're using it.

Lylyth is reasonably hard to hit, with a nice DEF 16. She's only ARM 14 with 15 health boxes, so she's not exactly durable. At least she's got six warbeasts points.

RAT 7 on top of Hellsinger is the main thing you're getting out of Lylyth: POW 12 is so-so and ROF 2 is nice, but there are two big perks: Blood Lure means your beasts can charge whatever you shoot without being forced, and Witch Mark means instead of hoping your piddly Fury 5 can hit, you can shoot the target and slap a spell on the model. Oh, and like all your beasts, you have Eyeless Sight, so you can put that arrow in someone's skull through a forest or cloud, too.

You've got a whopping three spells, which isn't a surprise: You're a friggin' 5-fury warlock.

Bad Blood is hordes-only, but if you can slap it on a target it's disgusting. If they want to leach fury from it, it's 1 damage per fury leached, and the beast ALSO can't heal, take transfers or Regenerate. If you have two spare fury and can line a shot up on a beast that looks important...this'll hurt.

Parasite is self-explanatory, and your setup spell. It's three fury to knock 3 armor off the target, and give Lylyth +1 ARM. If you want to assassinate, consider slapping this on the target. Or, if you need a hard target KO'ed, -3 ARM is basically like an average boost roll.

Eruption of Spines is a lane-clearer. It's 3 Fury, and hits the d6 closest models within 5" of your target take POW 10's. Now, look back at Hellsinger and Witch Mark. Now, remember that you want to shoot a target that a POW 12 won't kill. Or, if you can line up a shot against a low-DEF target, you've got RNG 10.

Field of Slaughter says that friendly faction models get an additional dice on attack rolls this turn.

Bear in mind that with Hordes, beasts tend to have lower MAT/RAT in order to compensate for their ability to force and throw out a HUGE number of attacks. (IE: a charging Carnivean that blows all its Fury can throw out a POW 14 spray, a PS 19 bite with a boost, two PS 16's, and then buy three more bites. Ow.). Note that Field of Slaughter is not a BOOST, but an additional die. Against high-DEF targets, you can boost the hit and throw out 4d6 to hit. That's an average of 14.5, which means even the least accurate of targets WILL hit.

Also bear in mind the sheer joy involved with high rates of fire. Beasts with sprays and anyone that can crank out a decent number of shots/swings will get the most mileage out of this feat.

If you can't arrange a knocked-down caster, this is your insurance for an assassination. In a pinch, it'll also help you clear out a great swathe of the enemy.

Warlock Summary
She's a support caster that can plant debuffs and attack spells pretty squarely on the target. Her low Fury means she probably wants a fury-management solo or two, or just some intelligent fury-management.

I've gotten a couple of 35-point games with pLylyth so far. My force looked like:

Lylyth, Herald of Everblight
-UA: Officer & Musician
Strider Deathstalker

The striders are there as a self-sufficient element that can operate on the the flank, and take out infantry. They're stupidly mobile, between Swift Hunter from the Deathstalker and a 3" Regroup movement from the UA. They also have DEF 15, Stealth, and Combined Ranged Attack. In a pinch, I suppose the high DEF can make them a tarpit in melee as well. On the downside, ARM 11 is deathly allergic to AoEs.

The Shredder is there for the joy and easy fury-management that is Tenacity, and then it turns into a guided missile.

The Seraphs are in there for versatility. Slipstream is just plain fun; who can resist pulling a Carnivean 2" closer to an unsuspecting target. That aside, a pair of them can put out a fair number of shots. They'll average 3 POW 12 shots each at 10" given Strafe (actually 1+D3 shots...), and with 4 Fury they can potentially kick out a few well-boosted shots. Combine that with the feat and you're landing 2-4 fully-boosted POW 12s on a target, which could potentially end a caster.

Failing that, the Seraphs have a PS 14 Stinger with Critical Poison, which provides an extra damage dice on living targets. It's a bonus against pretty much everyone but Cryx, and it's nice in Hordes as well.

The Carnivean is there because I wanted a beatstick. It's got a decent Animus (allowing it to go up to ARM 20) and capable of a volley of high-power attacks. If I get the chance, Slipstream can get me closer to the target and I can crank out an 11" charge, then profit ensues.

Short Version of the Battles
The wins I have so far are due to assassination. First time around, she popped her feat, slapped Parasite on eStryker, and then a Seraph charged him and ripped him in half. I don't care what youre defense is; MAT 6 + 3d6 with several swings IS gonna kill most small-based casters. Another victory, against Sorcha, went a little different: I had to clear a lane to her, which involved slapping the Eruption of Spines on a Khador Jack, then using Striders and one Seraph to open the way for the other Seraph and Carnivean to get to her, and when a Carnivean hits a half-dead Sorcha....yeah, that ends that

Sunday, August 22, 2010

From 40k to Warmachine: Scenarios

I'm going to assume that some of my readers are checking out this blog out of morbid curiosity. Even if that's not the case, I'm going to look for some personal benefit by sitting down and cataloging the differences between 40k and Warmachine as I transition between the two.

In fairness, there are a lot of differences between the two, so this will be one of a few articles.

So, we'll start with some of the basics: scenarios. What is your goal in the game?

A Basic Difference
In 40k, there are three types of scenario, and three deployment types making in total nine different games you can play. In comparison, Warmachine has a half-dozen scenarios that differ only in terms of objectives.

What's the big difference? Well, part of it's a scale thing, but 40k starts on a 4x6 table with deployment along the 6" edges, whereas Warmachine does a 4x4 setup. There are always two win-conditions for Warmachine/Hordes:

1) Kill the Opposing Caster
2) Control the Territory
-Break The line (divide the non-dz territory into six squares; control two on your side and one on opponent's)
-Killing Field (three points across the middile; gain a point when holding it at the end of a turn, score 7 to win)
-Mosh Pit (fight over a 16" wide circle in the middile)
-No Man's Land (8" strip across the middle)
-Throw Down (10" wide circles, one on either flank)

Mangled Metal/Fang and Claw are the exception; it requires a specialized build with a caster and beasts/jacks only; win condition is assassination or the destruction of all opposing beasts/casters.

Generally, the objectives don't matter until turn 3 (the Control Points in Killing Field start counting on turn 2).

Warhammer 40k
There are three scenarios:
1) Seize Ground
-place d3+2 objectives, cannot be w/in 12" of a table edge or each other
2) Capture and Control
-each player places an objective in their deployment zone
3) Annihilation
-kill the other guy. Book rule is KP; 1 unit/vehicle dead = 1 KP; this is the subject of much debate.
-Alternatively, add up Victory Points.

Now, an important note: in 40k, the 'objective' is loosely defined; it's just something both sides agree on. Personally, I've seen folks use a 40mm base as a marker, and you just have to have a Troop unit w/in 3" of it at the end of the game.

That aside, the objectives are fluid in the game, and so is the deployment zone: either it's table quarters with a limit on distance to the middle; a strip across either side, or the ever-wonky Dawn of War, which makes everyone reserves-heavy and makes people want to bring transports.

What Do the Differences Mean? Aggression
Well, in case you haven't read page 5 of the Warmachine book, the short version is 'crush thy opponent's trachea, for failing that he/she shall in turn surely crusheth yours." The objectives mean that you WILL clash in the middle, one way or the other. Flanks will either be the source of objectives, OR you will possibly sneak something in to smash your opponent on the flank.

40k matches with objectives often feature a 'home' objective, either because you deployed it deep in your deployment zone because you rolled Capture and Control, or because you're close enough to one in Seize Ground to just push forward a little and get it.

What's that mean? In 40k, part of your army si just fine with sitting on the objective, either by virtue of having some long-ranged contribution to the fight (IE: 20 Guardsmen with a pair of autocannons, or a squad of scout sniper marines) or being cheap enough to not CARE about sitting there (10 Termagants sitting there with Fleshborers are 50 points of 'eh' that can still win you the game by doing nothing more than sitting in range of a Synapse creature and going to ground...).

Either way, you're still going to likely scrum for objectives, EXCEPT in a pure 'kill the other guy' scenario. Now, both game systems have forces capable of slow, steady advances and rapid, more precise applications of force and so on and so forth. There's shooty and there's assaulty-oriented armies (though in fairness, Warmachine DOES tend to like brawling a bit more than shooting) and neglecting one aspect in favor of the other can still screw you over.

Still, from what I've seen Warmachine games are generally more aggressive and often end up in close quarters, excluding abject shooty armies that are fortunate enough to annhilate the enemy before they close (...because an enemy in melee can still be shot at, but +4 DEF is huge in that game...)

A Time Difference
One thing that's driven me towards Warmachine in lieu of 40k is that it's an admittedly quicker-playing game.

How so? Barring tabling your enemy (which CAN happen, but isn't a regular occurrence unless one person screws up royally), your win-condition in 40k is ending the game in possession of the objectives. Games end on turn 5, 6, or 7. 33% of games end on turn 5, 33% end on turn 6, and 33% end on turn 7. Your goal is to have the objectives at the appointed time, and some games are close enough to of course make that 'appointed time' very, very important.

But, on turns 1-4? You're fine without having bodies on the objective. Lots of players camp a unit on them, or near them (the aforementioned sniper squads or cheap troops) but it's just as possible to move troops BACK into position around turn 5 with judicious planning.

Bottom line? You've got a minimum play time set.

Warmachine ALSO has a minimum play time: 2 turns. Why? Unless you're really new or have a bad, bad brain fart against an enemy with long range, you probably won't get your HQ killed on turn one. However, it's possible to make/exploit an opening as soon as turn two and win via assassination, instead of objectives. Some armies can play for objectives, some plan for assassination, and some do both. The bottom line is that at a minimum, you have to play to not lose the objectives.

But, the time factor. Secure the objective or kill the caster? Instant end of the game.

Bright side? You're not stucking for an hour or two playing out a lopsided game that you've screwed up, and if you have bad dice then it ends sooner.

Down side? ...not as much forgiveness. Some mistakes you can come back from in time with 40k; some you can't. In Warmachine/Hordes, a few mistakes can help the opponent kill you or win the scenario out from under you. (I maaay be a little guilty of being on both sides of that).

But, you can also get back to another game. In the time it takes me to play a reasonably-social game of 40k at 2,000 points, I can get in 3 games of WarmaHordes at around a 35pt level (which is mid-range for a game; enough that you can start fleshing out support).

Another speed factor is simply army size:
Seriously, a 2,000-point Guard army probably has 60-80 infantry and 5-10 vehicles; even a 2,000 point mech-marine army has something like 3 APCs, 3 heavy tanks, 3 skimmers, and potentially 3 walkers and still another 30-40 infantry.

A large horde army in Warmachine might be 40-50 figures at 50 points (I think Terminus lists can pull this off, just because he loves cheap troops to eat bullets for him). On the low end while still being competitive, I can bring about 15 figures or so in a Mortenebra list (the equivalent of running tank-heavy, since the list is like 6-7 warjacks and a handful of support figures).

WarmaHordes scenarios encourage out-and-out brawling, and the games terminate immediately on completion of your objectives (either kill the enemy HQ* or hold the requisite territory). 40k games usually involve taking territory, but it's entirely possible to ignore the objectives for most of the game.

If you're coming to Warmachine from 40k, just be ready to go for the throat in a hurry, and know that you can win or lose the game in a turn.

*Ok, so some folks are probably asking 'why is killing the other general that big a deal?' In 40k, some armies can probably operate just fine without the specific HQ choice in the fluff; Tyranids have multiple links to the Hive Mind and most everyone else probably has this thing called a 'chain of command' that tells them what to do when Captain Space-Bob pulls his terminator helmet off and promptly eats a krak missile and dies.

In WarmaHordes, the warcasters/warlocks have an empathic connection with their heavyweight units to go along with spellcasting skill. On incapacitation, Warjacks tend to shutdown from psychic feedback/loss of fine direction, and the warbeasts under their control tend to go wild. Additionally, individuals with this talent don't grow on trees, so it's in their side's interest to recover them for treatment if at all possible. If you're Cryx, then you may yet want to recover the body and resurrect them, which has happened...ask Denegrha how it worked out.