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.