Sunday, December 11, 2011

Moonlighting with Minions: Skorne

I'm going to start this 'moonlighting with minions' theme off with Skorne, who can do it reasonably well.  As previously mentioned, the biggest thing you're looking for in terms of "do I want to run it with minions?" is whether the warlock in question has a preference for friendly models, or friendly faction models.

Unit of note: Paingiver Beast Handlers
These guys are basically the choir for Menoth (or, the Choir is Menoth's beast handlers? You decide).  For a mere 2 points, you get four guys that carry three wonderful beast-helping actions: heal for d3, remove/place any amount of fury on it, or +2STR and must charge/slam/trample for free.  Franlky, if you're going to play Skorne, you should own these guys even IF you're going to run a minion-heavy emphasis.

Solo of Note: Paingiver Task Master
If you're looking for a sign that Skorne likes minions, here it is.  You get No Sleeping On The Job for Minions, which means anyone within 9" of this gal who's a minion doesn't suffer knockdown.  You also get two spiffy special actions; one is good for +2STR and the other is good for Fearless/Tough.  That +2STR is handy for ANY minion unit, but gators suddenly get a respectable bite in melee.  Alternatively, Farrow Brigands enjoy fearless/tough/no-knockdown AND their prayers, and Slaughterhousers love them some PS13 pseudo-weaponmaster no-knockdown hits.  Go ahead and grab a pair of these gals.

The Warlocks
Lord Tyrant Hexeris
This guy's a wonderful all-rounder, with a MAT buff, some anti-magic, his own arc node, and a nice antipersonnel spell.  "That's nice," you say, "but what about his compatibility with minions?"  His MAT buff is any friendly unit (and Vengeance is a nice side boost).  His feat impacts only enemy models.  As it is, this guy wants at least one melee unit, and he has a solid amount of antipersonnel between Soulfire and his feat.

This guy's a solid candidate for a minion-heavy army.

Lord Arbiter Hexeris
Ah, he got a promotion! On the down side, he's no longer so minion-friendly.  Ashen Veil works on minions, but his big to-hit buff, Black Spot, does not.  Honestly, running minions with him gives up on Black Spot, and while Arcane Reckoning is situational, it still wants faction models.  All in all, it's kind of sad, but you're better off leaving this guy behind when it comes to a minion-based army.

Archdomina Makeda
Seeing as how she's the head honcho (or at least 2nd in command in this incarnation) of the Skorne, it's no real shock she's pretty faction-specific.  All her buffs, and her feat, are faction-specific.  She offers precisely NOTHING to minion troopers.

Supreme Archdomina Makeda
See above.  Don't bother with her for a minion-centric army.

Void Seer Mordikaar
I really have to respect someone that decided "No, I'm not dead, thanks," and badassed his way back to life.  However, if you go minion-heavy you're missing out on two buffs AND his feat.  He kind of likes to blow up warriors for sprays, but Essence Blast is faction-specific.  Similarly, he loves Hollow for fuel, but Hollow really wants a large faction unit, and so does revive.  Finally, the feat is what really does him in: +3DEF for faction models, which means that's the turn your minions EAT it.

Master Tormentor Morghoul
This guy is a beast caster; he's got three spells and two of them are beast-specific while the last is the token 'I have a ranged magical attack!' thing just about all warlocks have.  If you're gutsy, this guy can do infantry removal as well.  Additionally, his feat is a giant 'screw you' to the enemy battlegroup.

He doesn't support infantry, but this guy would love him some self-sufficient Minion troopers.

Lord Assassin Morghoul
Alas, this guy's not so minion-friendly.  His two unit-centric spells are not faction-specific, but the problem comes more from his feat: it IS faction-specific.  You're passing up on +2DEF and immunity to free strikes, which kind of hurts.

You can make the Lord Assassin work with minions, but you're giving up the feat.  It's not ideal, but it's probably still workable, and Ghost Walk + anti-tough on Silence of Death is pretty sweet.

Dominar Rasheth
Lest you despair about using Skorne with your minions, I give you Dominar Rasheth.  He is 100% compatible with minions.  Carnivore isn't picky about who you give it to.  Dark Rituals isn't faction-specific.  The feat is a control-area debuff.  Give this guy some minions and go to town.

Tyrant Xerxis
Let's see...Defender's Ward is faction specific.  His feat and all his neat extra rules like Battle Plan and Martial Discipline are faction-specific.  Do yourself a favor and don't even consider this guy with minions; he wants a Skorne infantry brick.  He does that well.  Just don't look too long or you might find yourself owning a bunch of heavy infantry...

Supreme Aptimus Zaal
I like this guy's fluff: he's dark even by Skorne standards.  However, there are a couple of big reasons to not rock this guy with minions: Inviolable Resolve is a nice armor buff, but it's Zaal's love of dead faction models that kills him for minions.  He can direct soul tokens to their recipients, and his feat is fuelled off the number of faction models you've lost.  Considering his feat is wonderful, you're better off just not considering this guy for minions.

Master Ascetic Naaresh
Hey, it's a dude with a penchant for masochism and punching daggers!  Oh, and he's minion friendly!  His only troop buff is Iron Flesh.  Lamentation is a wonderful 'screw you' to enemy casters.  Also, his feat is battlegroup-specific; it's good for healing Naaresh and giving your battlegroup +3STR/+3ARM.  Give him a unit (maaaybe two) of troops and you're good.

Skorne is pretty minion-friendly, when you get down to it.  pHexeris, pMorghoul, Rasheth and Naaresh can all appreciate and/or support minion models.  You also have the wonderful Task Master, which can shore up hitting power or durability for minions.

As far as minions go, it's largely up to you in terms of whether you go Farrow or Gator or even Bog Trog, as Skorne's support is compatible with either.  In practice, you're probably looking at one unit of minions, some support solos a la the Task Master, a Beast Handler unit, and then battlegroup.

I would say that if you wanted to start out with Skorne and Minions, the cost-effective way would be to pick up a Battle Box (order Cyclops Brute arms to convert one of the Savages; Morghoul will thank you), a Beast Handler unit, and a Task Master.  You end up with a solid battlegroup, support for your warlock (Morghoul's DEF17 loves a no-knockdown animus) and solid minion support.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Moonlighting with Minions: Minion Options

A while ago, I decided to do a series about how collecting Mercs can give you options to dabble in other factions, provided you were willing to pick up a battlegroup and the odd support solo/unit.  Well, I think it's about time to do the same for Minions, now that Minions are getting nice and fleshed out.

An Interesting Notion
Note that when you're doing a minion army, you're picking either Farrow OR Blindwater, and there's all of one model so far that will work for both (IE: Pendrake).  Some Blindwater folks probably own Farrow Bone Grinders, as Calaban likes them in his tier list.  Note that with a faction warlock, you get access to whatever minions work for the faction, so you can indeed mix and match gator and pig.

That being said, there are three basic categories for minions: units, solos, and lesser warlocks.  In addition to the Minions listed in the Forces of Hordes: Minions book, there are also some Mercenaries that will work for the Hordes factions, and I'll mention them here as well.

The Magic Words
As with mercs, the crucial word you'll be worrying about is 'friendly models' versus 'friendly faction models'.  Anyone's a friendly model, but 'faction' is where it gets sticky, and what will ultimately determine which warlocks work well with minions.  We'll worry more about that in later posts when I break down the Hordes factions.

Minion Units
Gatorman Posse
Frankly, I suspect a lot of folks that own Hordes armies own a posse.  They're solid and self-sufficient, and provided you have a means of cracking heavy armor in your list, you're good.  You have reasonable speed (SPD5), volume of attacks (a pair of PS13s each, one with reach), durability (ARM16 over 8 hit boxes) and self-sufficiency via prayers (Pathfinder, re-rolls vs living targets, or +1DEF/Terror).  If you can buff their hitting power, they'll probably kill anything they can get into melee with.  If you can buff their DEF or ARM, you've got a stupidly durable front line that will require heavyweight hitting power to get through.

Bog Trog Ambushers
Blindwater's front-liners are the posse; these are the tricky ones.  The major perk these guys bring to the table is Ambush: come in on turn two or later and hit the enemy from the flank.  They have a 10" threat range, so they can do wonders for funnelling the enemy towards the middle.  With Powerful Charge and Combined Melee Attack, they can gang up to hit harder targets, or split up and try to drag down as much as you can.  If nothing else, the enemy has to turn and deal with them.  On the down side, as they operate out on their own, they're unlikely to benefit from buffs on the basis of range.  You can do it, but it's something you'll have to work for.

Farrow Brigands
These are the pig-men basic troopers.  On the one hand, they're cheaper than the Posse and offer more bodies.  You do lose the whole hit-boxes thing, though.  If you were just going to judge them on the stat-line, you would probably find them lackluster, as you've got so-so MAT/RAT/DEF/ARM, and weapons suitable for anti-infantry duty.

However, they are like the posse in that they're reasonably self-sufficient and self-buffing.  You can get Pathfinder, which will get you there.  You can go fearless/tough for when you get stuck in.  However, their money-maker prayer is Hog Wild.  You get to shoot, then take a normal turn, basically.  If you're moving up to engage, you can crank out a lot of attacks.  You can give ground by shooting, then ducking back and digging in.  Honestly, it's this prayer that makes them feel like the raiders they are in the fluff.

Farrow Bone Grinders
You get the same statline as the Brigands, but you get a warlock buff for 2-3 points.  These guys bring three main abilities: Craft Talisman, a magic attack, and the ability to use a dead thing's animus.  The magic attack is incidental but a nice exta; it's like the .38 special you keep in an ankle holster.  Craft Talisman is good for +2" range on a spell-slinging lock, which can be crucial for staying out of harm's way.  The use-dead-thing's-animus ability is situational at best; it's not what I'd take them for but it's certainly an option.

Farrow Slaughterhousers
You were looking for Minion infantry that could bring the melee hitting power?  These guys have it, provided you have wounded the target.  You have decent speed and Reach on them, along with Powerful Charge for an effective MAT8 charge.  PS11 is deceptive, as with Finisher, you get an extra dice of damage on wounded targets.  You do trade for the hitting power, though, in that these guys don't self-buff at all, and only have Tough.  As such, I think they're best suited to follow-up; wing your initial targets and watch these guys crank out hideously accurate weaponmaster charges through your lines, as you can finagle it a bit with reach.

Farrow Razorback Crew
Like Brigands, these guys can dig in.  Like other weapon crew models, you're probably gonna spend turn one running into position, turn two digging in, and then firing from then on out.  Honestly, I think these guys suffer outside of a Thornfall Alliance army as you lose access to Advance Deploy, which lets them position turn one for a dig-in, then spend the rest of the game tossing explosives at people.  Then again, with ARM14, they can possibly weather some AoE love.  Still, I feel like you've got better things to do with your points in the context of minion moonlighting.

Swamp Gobbers
It's 1 point for a couple of guys who crank out a 5" cloud.  If you need to get yourself some concealment or block LOS, get these guys.  If not, don't.  It's really all they do.  I think they technically have melee attacks, but if you're using that then things have already gone tango uniform.

Gudrun the Wanderer
Did you ever want to fire a berserking missile into enemy lines?  Did you ever want to hold an objective from enemy shooting?  Do you like models that have a psychotic drunk theme?  Answer 'yes' to any/all of the above, and you like Gudrun.  He's got speed and advance deploy.  His ARM15 is reasonable on top of his 8 hit boxes.  He's got Pathfinder.  He's also got Feign Death, so being knocked down means you can't shoot/spell him.  He can voluntarily fall down (Binge Drinking).  Also, if you just kill him the first time, he falls over (see Feign Death) and heals all the way.  MAT7/PS15 is respectable as well; if you can buff his accuracy he WILL kill a heap of infantry that get close together.  Alternatively, if you need to hold space, this guy can do it for up to three turns against shooting: move up, fall down.  Stand up.  Get shot to death that turn, fall down.  Stand up a third time. (It's like that Chumbawumba song...)

Saxon Orrik
Technically this guy has some anti-beast tech in melee, and a solid MAT/RAT and a gun.  In practice, you like him for his ability to hand Pathfinder out to warrior models/units, so solos can get through rough terrain as well.  If you do feel like stabbing a beastie, he can screw with their fury, and technically he's got Remove From Play on his melee attacks.

Viktor Pendrake
His major tech is boosted attack rolls against beasts for a nearby unit, though technically he's got ranged knockdown on RAT6.  I suppose a re-roll on a RAT6 POW10 ranged attack is nice, and technically his melee attack is magical, but this guy's not what I would call an auto-include.

Lanyssa Ryssel
A lot of people will look at her and say "OOH ANTI-LEGION TECH!" because she can theoretically shut down pathfinder, flight, and eyeless sight if things are within 9" of her.  Too bad Legion has guns with more range than that.  On a general note, her major money-maker is Hunter's Mark on Magic Ability 7: hit a target, and your beast gets a free charge and 2" of extra range on that charge.  She also brings a moderate POW magical attack to the table, and a magical melee weapon.  All in all, I would rely on her mainly fo the Hunter's Mark access.

Totem Hunter
I'm not necessarily big on linking to other articles, but this guy deserves his own writeup, available here.  Short version: he's fast, killy, and ruins the other guy's plans more often than not.

Croak Hunter
You get Advance Deploy and Poison on a guy with reasonable accuracy.  This guy's job is to tag beasts or living solos for a hell of a hit, as a charge against a living model is good for 10+4d6, due to poison.  Alternatively, you can work around the flanks and worry the enemy that a living solo will eat a 10+3d6 ranged attack, which will probably be the end of said solo if the attack hits.  On the downside, MAT/RAT6 is so-so, but ARM14 over 5 boxes makes it reasonably durable against blast damage, which is the major threat against it at range.

Gatorman Witch Doctor
Oh, this guy.  He is fun.  He is worth it if you're bringing Minion units, but can help Faction units as well.  The all-helpful spell he packs is Zombify; you get Undead in exchange for Tough.  This matters mostly if the enemy has anti-undead tech.  If you're bringing Minion units, you can Sacrificial Strike with them; Farrow turn into auto-hitting PS14 missiles, and if you'e willing to chuck a gator at a target (IE: a mostly dead one) you can tag the enemy with a whopping PS16.  I suppose Dominate Undead is funny from time to time, but it's highly situational.  If you've got 3 spare points and a hankering for firing your own minions at folks, take this guy.

Don't like upkeeps?  This is the guy.  He's as close as Hordes get to Eiryss; his MAT7 melee attacks can pull upkeeps off of targets.  As he's on a medium base and has a so-so defense at best, he's kind of vulnerable to shooting, even with 8 boxes over reasonable ARM.  Note also that he can knock debuffs of of YOUR guys, and in a pinch disrupt jacks.  He's utility more than killy, but you might want the utility.

Alten Ashley
This guy is supposed to be some kind of badass big game hunter.  And, in fairness, he brings a reasonably nasty ranged attack period; RAT 8, RNG14 POW12 is solid for solo-hunting and dinging lighter-armored targets.  Hell, if this guy lasts long enough, an aimed RAT10 at a warcaster/lock is something the other guy might overlook.  Against beasts, though, he has the ability to instantly dump 1d6 damage to the spiral of your choice. (AKA: OW MY SPIRIT!)  Note that he's reliant on camouflage to get to more than DEF14.  Note also that some Hordes players might give him more credit than he's due, as disabling a spiral is more an order-of-activation issue for a warlock than it is crippling, like KO'ing a warjack's cortex.

On Lesser Warlocks
Currently, there are four lesser warlocks available.  They share some basic mechanics, but have different flavors.  They're analogous to jack marshals: they run one heavy, except there are two huge differences between the way a marshalled jack runs and a lesser's beast: 1) these aren't one pesudo-focus; these are FURY4 heavies, and 2) you lose the 'marshal', you lose the beast altogether.

However, the lessers tend to have built-in defensive measures on top of being able to transfer damage.  The major thing, though, is that the lesser warlocks allow you to put a heavy outside of your warlock's control range, and relieve your main spellcaster of some of the fury burden.  Some armies (IE: Legion) have wonderful fury-management as it is; some, not so much (IE: Minion pacts).

Brun and Lug
Like angry midgets and polar bears?  This duo has Pathfinder and some wonderful durability tricks, but they want to get into melee range and go back-to-back badass to get the damage done, as both have Flank: That Other Guy With Me.  Brun's Stonehold knocks 1d6 off of damage rolls diected at him, so this goes up on turn one and stays up.  Lug gets Bear Hands, which lets him choose to shove an enemy back 3" or knock them down whenever he tags them.  The bea also has Chain Attack: Smash and Grab, so you can have a lot of fun screwing up the other guy's model placement.

Dahlia and Skarath
Dahlia's survival schtick involves an 8" bubble of "You can't target me" and the ability to get stealth.  Skarath can also get Stealth, and he's working on DEF14 to keep him alive.  Skarath's major schtick is a 10" continuous corrosion spray with a side of PS16 reach, seasoned with some Critical Consume.  The crit is nice (and everyone fantasizes about tagging a Shredder or something with it...) but not something you can rely on.  Keep these two near a forest for Prowl and they'll do good things for you.

Wrongeye & Snapjaw
The major schtick for these two is Submerge: can't target them with ranged spells.  This is stupidly fun against people that want to shoot you.  Wrongeye can also screw over beasts with his Voodoo Doll spell, but they need to be knocked down so you can friggin hit them with FURY4, but THEN you KO their spirit and they're basically out for a turn.  Snapjaw delivers PS17 pain with extra charge range against living models.

Rorsh & Brine
Movement shenanigans is the name of the game for this pair.  The big pig can advance back into Rorsh's control range prior to leaching.  Then, Rorsh can chuck a bomb as a special action for Diversionary Tactics, and if Brine is within the 4" AoE centered over his lesser 'lock, Brine can advance as well.  Rorsh's one spell is making the area around him rough terrain for enemies (more fun with movement, right?), and he's also got a couple of shots with his gun OR a short-ranged AoE. 

Brine's perk other than the movement ones mentioned is that he can do charge/power attacks for free if he's damaged, and he can get one last attack if you kill him.  You can also pop the animus for an additional dice against living models, which is nice as this guy is somewhat pillowfisted, with a pair of PS14 open fists and a PS15 crit knockdown attack.

Closing Thoughts
On the one hand, this is kind of a critical hit wall-o'-text to the forehead.  On the other hand, there's a point: most of the time you are VERY compartmentalized in what you can take with minions/mercs, as the basic minion pacts are 99.9% mutually exclusive, and a fair number of the solos (as well as two of the lesser warlocks) don't work for either minion 'faction.'

However, with a non-Minion warlock, you have the freedom and oppportunity to mix/match minion options quite unlike what you're used to if you're a minion player.  Offhand, where else can you watch Gatormen hold the line, ding up big targets, and hold them in place for Slaughterhousers to KO?  Rorsh and Wrongeye can pal around and compare notes on the care and feeding of large, irate critters.    But, you can't get Saxon and Pendrake in the same army because they kinda hate each other explicitly.

Bottom line: you've got wonderful options if you want to moonlight with minions.  Next time around, we'll get faction-specific about what warlocks are good for minions and which ones don't have a use for hired help.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Domination Impressions: Blindwater Congregation

Everyone else is undoubtedly posting opinions on Domination, so why shouldn't I?

This time around, I'll be hitting on the Blindwater Congregation, as I've been playing with them as of late.  Blindwater picked up a warlock, a pair of beasts, and a solo.

Maelok the Dreadbound
Hey, technically we have enough guys to rock an Unbound game? (...who owns enough Posses to make that worthwhile, though?).

Thematically, Maelok gives Blindwater a bit more of its nasty voodoo flavor, since he's kinda undead and he's got some of the voodoo himself between his spell list and feat.

Amphibious is kind of a given with gators.  Undead and Terror kind of go together,  but you do get some extras with Cull Soul (which you'll be hard-pressed to use) and Spirit Eater (which is neat, but would be difficult to use).

Spell List
With a 6-fury caster, four spells isn't a huge shock.  However, you do get some quality in them. 

Death Pact is a +2ARM buff with a drawback of being undead.  Our beasts would love +2ARM, though you get more mileage out of dropping it on units.  The Posse is already a pain in the arse to deal with at ARM16, going up to ARM18 and adding in Unyielding means you're probably gonna laugh off infantry that isn't charging you.  Oh, and you can always add Spiny Growth to it...

Malediction goes with the front-line theme.  You start out with some three POW12s and MAT6; Malediction puts you up to MAT8 with POW14s.  The other important part is that this is your debuff; you have to get the enemy within 2" of Maelok but you slap 'em with -2DEF/-2ARM.  As Gators have issues with armor, this is welcome but will be tricky to use, as you have to put Maelok up there.  Hey, who doesn't love high-risk/high-reward scenarios?

Revive is your tricky spell.  Slap one guy back into play, with some limits on how close you have to be to Maelok and the unit.  Want to position someone for a charge?  Here's how you can do it.

Venom is your token magic spell.  Given Maelok's FURY6 and the SP8, you'll have to be in close and your preferred target is low-DEF, high-ARM infantry for the corrosion.  This DOES let you reach out and touch someone for some magic damage, but it's probably the spell you'll use the least.

Feat: Spirit World
Everyone gets Incorporeal for a turn, and undead models get +2ARM.  With the Witch Doctor solo, you can make sure more than just the Death Pact guys get the bonus.  You'll be able to either weather the storm, OR fire your guys through enemy lines for an assassination if the enemy doesn't have a ton of magic weapons.

Initial Impressions
This guy looks like he's an attrition warlock that eats the first punch, then slams through enemy lines and decapitates the other army.

Man, I'm kinda glad I'd picked one up for RPG purposes, as the price went up, I'm sure.  The Blindwater boys get another light beast, though this one is more expensive.  Thematically, we get some more undead lovin'. 

DEF13/ARM15 is reasonable enough, and you've got 20 boxes.  MAT6, POW12 on the one attack is so-so at best.  You get SPD5, which is also so-so.

The interesting ability is related to corpse token.  Whenever you tag a living OR undead model with a melee attack, you get a corpse token.  You can hold three, and use them one of two ways: 1) +1STR/+1ARM for each token, and 2) heal d3 for each token you spend.  The STR/ARM bonus is always useful, as you can suddenly end up at P+S 15 and ARM18.  The healing is nice as it's something that occurs outside of your warlock's activation and without taxing the fury.

Here's the moneymaker.  Blindwater gets access to Swarm, which grants this model concealment and slaps a -2 to attack rolls for enemy models within 2".  Considering that Blindwater already has some DEF buffs in there (IE: Iron Flesh) this can make people even sadder.

First Impression
The corpse mechanic is interesting, but honestly I think this is a beast that people will pick up for its animus.  Run one behind a posse, and once you engage, make a hole, move this into it, and pop the animus + Dirge of Mists for a poor man's Iron Flesh for a unit.  It's not very killy, but at 4 points I don't think it's terrible.  If the enemy ignores it and lets it take a couple corpse tokens, it can start to threaten lights.

Swamp Horror
When Cthulu Attacks! (...ok, that probably goes to Proteus, but whatever).  We get another heavy for Blindwater, and thankfully it brings some new stuff to the table.  Plus, hey, it's a giant tentacle monster of doom.

SPD4 is so-so, but nothing new for Blindwater.  Amphibious is a given (...seriously, how could this thing NOT be?  Better question: how is it not tethered to water?  Wait, I think I suspended my disbelief when I got to 'gatorman'...)  There are a couple of new ones for Blindwater: Steady and Impervious Flesh.  Steady means we have something to hide behind.  Impervious Flesh means that while this guy is ARM17, enemies are at -1d6 when shooting this thing.

This thing DOES have a heap of attacks, though.  You have a trio of POW12 Open Fists with Reach.  This gives you a nice range for throws (walk up and throw from 6" away, which beats the wrastler by a whopping half-inch).  More importantly, these piddly attacks give you Pull; if you hit someone with an equal/smaller base, you can pull them up to you.  This may burn your charge attack, but it gives you three chances to get an enemy closer, and get your PS16 beak into them.  The critical effect on the beak cleans out the last column/spiral you get to, but this is under 'nice bonus' rather than 'OMG BOOST FOR THIS!'

2 fury for reach.  Because, hey, boosting your threat range is never a bad thing, right?  Thus far, this is the only warbeast for Blindwater that has reach.  This should be viewed largely as a threat range increase, as it lasts for one turn.  You don't get a round; with a round you would be able to tie up ranged enemies and the like.  With Reach that expires, you can't tie up as many targets, and you might find yourself not engaged and thus slightly more vulnerable to shooting.

First Impression
At 8 points, this guy certainly has a place in the Congregation.  You get your power attacks, you get a hitter (PS16 versus the Wrastler's PS17 isn't a huge leap), you get a sweet animus.  It would certainly like Spiny Growth with its mighty ARM17.  I think that Calaban would like this guy, as once you drop Parasite on a target, this guy's volume of attacks starts to get nastier.  It will take some testing, but I think I can get to like this guy. 

Gatorman Witch Doctor
Hey, we finally get a Gatorman solo, for all those tiers that specify 'gatorman solo'!  We ALSO get a thematic addition to our undead motif.  Honestly, I like this guy, and I think the factions do as well.

You've got two big moneymakers here, and then Dominate Undead.  Magic Ability 7 is solid.  Dominate Undead is pretty situational, but it DOES give us something for when we're facing undead enemies (...just look at how many of our extras specify 'living'....).

Sacrificial Strike is stupidly useful.  If you're running mostly Posses, this is a late-game thing; you fire off a mostly-dead Gatorman as an auto-hitting POW16.  This is nice for assassination, or finishing off crucial targets.  If you have Bog Trogs, you have a heap of guys just waiting to turn into POW14 missiles.  Note that it must be a Faction model, which means he's useful when you're running other Minions in a factioned army.

Zombify is bound to be popular with factions; a unit gets Undead and Tough.  Maelok likes the 'Undead' part for his feat, and everyone can love the Tough thing.

Oh, and Beast Master: you can force friendly faction warbeasts in its command range.

Past that, you have so-so melee capacity.

This guy is a welcome addition to the Blindwater rolls.  In a faction army, you get Tough and Sac Strike, which are both useful, and with Sac Strike you have a potent assassination assist.  Faction armies are going to like him for free Tough.  I suspect non-Maelok players will want to own one for the utility; Maelok tiers will want to pull a pair in as you can get two for 4pts, whereas this guy is normally a bit pricy for multiples at 3 each.

Despite getting only four models, Blindwater picked up a fair amount of utility.  Maelok offers a different playstyle, as he has durability and a counterpunch via his feat.  The Boneswarm is cheap and offers a defensive animus.  The Swamp Horror provides another heavy hitter and a pretty fantastic animus.  The Witch Doctor brings a pair of nasty abilities, and offers Maelok help for his feat.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Blindwater at 25pts for the Journeyman League

Due to a hectic schedule, I didn't manage to get in any 15pt games in the Journeyman League. Sad, but what do you do? My plans for 15pts involved adding a pair of Croak Hunters, which would give me a bit more credible pop-and-drop threat.

At 25, I've run the following:
Bloody B
5-strong Gatorman Posse
Croak Hunter

I ran up against the following:
Gun Mages
-Marshalled Charger

I ended up winning; I was worried as my initial engagement with his jacks did precious little damage, and the turn I didn't have Iron Flesh on the posse was the turn I lost a few. We both had some 'bleh' dice, though mine rebounded in the end and I managed to pull it out, or more like I managed to kill his stuff that could boost. Grandpa Turtle beat Stryker within 2 boxes of death, and then the Snapper finished him off. I lost the bulk of the posse, but managed to deliver the Wrastler into his Ironclad while the posse worked the Lancer over.

Thoughts on the List

Barnabas and Order of Activation
Oh, this is very much a learning curve. He's usually the first to activate, as you're going to want swamp pits (either to slow the other guy down, or deny shooting) or you'll be using your feat as setup/denial.

This means you'll be going without Iron Flesh for a turn, as you're going to do the setup (and you'd have to drop IF off your posse) with Barnabas, thus giving the other guy a chance to hit your DEF12-13 gators. I mean, Barnabas can walk up and mug something with his axe to put it up, but at that point I'd be doing it on myself.

Since he IS activating first, you'll want to leave him space to move it on up. I made the mistake of bricking up off the bat, then realized Barnabas would want to move up and put Swamp Pits in useful places.

I also think that the threat of putting jacks into shallow water is overestimated by the opponent. Can you do it? Of course. However, Swamp Pit's stipulations about not going over bases (and being completely within his control area) mean you'll have to be close, and you probably want a throw target in there (IE: a feralgeist, or something). I think what gets people all worked up is the notion that you theoretically COULD render a jack inert; that's one hell of a setback as they're not getting use out of it for a couple of turns (gotta reactivate it, then gotta get it back into the fight).

The Wrastler
'Rise' is hilarious against folks that have knockdown spells like Stryker's Earthquake. It IS very nice to be able to have infantry 'shake effect' (especially when you wanted that charge...) and it'll let you have more fury on your beasts for the killin'. That aside, I'm often a bit cautious with this guy, as I need him to crack heavy armor.

The Spitter

Come on. You NEED a bloody ranged attack in this army. In a pinch, he can do melee, though MAT5 is kinda limiting. As others have noted, AoEs on a warbeast are friggin' sweet, as I can boost damage rolls at will. Grandpa* gets honorable mention during Stryker's feat turn; he had a wonderful shot lined up against gun mages (HA! I don't care about your ARM, you gonna MELT!)...which he promptly whiffed. It proceeded to scatter onto Stryker, Strangeways and the Squire. My opponent and I were both amused. This would've been cooler if it weren't feat turn, but Corrosion is Corrosion.

The Snapper
This guy was more an animus-bot than anything else. Spiny Growth on high-ARM/high-DEF targets is very nice; this is something I knew. It's also very beneficial on heavies, because I can't afford to take/run that many of them.

The Posse
Iron Flesh + Dirge of Mists = STUPID TOUGH, especially with an elevation bonus. PS13 attacks aren't bad against infantry and the occasional light warjack, but now I understand people's concerns about killing heavy armor with gators: you're gonna need a Wrastler or Parasite. Against infantry? Come on. Re-rolling attack rolls, MAT7, multiple attacks? Yeah, I think they've got this. Reach and medium bases make them a pain to bypass, and of course ARM16, 8 hit boxes, and Unyielding just sweeten the pot.

The Croak Hunter
This guy didn't do much aside from draw fire. Gorman walked over to distract him (which is valuable in and of itself) as the Hunter was jogging off to the side, taking a wide flanking path. Comically, Gorman and the Hunter spent the entire game whiffing at each other; when you need an 8 to hit and you have only one swing and you can't boost, well...yeah. It was the slap-fight of the game. Gorman managed to land one hit, but his PS6-7ish pointy object isn't that scary against ARM14 with hit boxes.

A shooty-heavy army versus Barnabas is admittedly a rough matchup, though I was still worried about his feat turn and heavy hitters. I got a bit lucky on the dice in the middle. I also chucked the posse up there to jam up his jacks, and I think that ended up being prudent as I was able to move the Wrastler into position to KO the Ironclad. Once it and the Lancer went down, it was all over but the crying, as gun mages won't take a couple of Gatormen and a couple fresh heavies. I've only used Barnabas himself in melee once, and that was against a Legion warpack (ate a shredder, got some Iron Flesh) in the battle box part.

And the next decision: do I want to switch 'locks, or keep rocking Barnabas? My Calaban is mostly painted, and Maelok is almost fully assembled.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thoughts on the Blindwater Battle Box

We've got a Journeyman League underway locally, and I decided to indulge my faction ADD, and grabbed some Gatormen.  Frankly, I already have a posse and some various other minions from playing Legion, so this was more of a 'grab battle box and go' kind of decision.

We've polished off our battlebox week, and some games have given me a perspective on said box.

Bloody Barnabas
At the battle box level, you're not getting everything out of Bloody B that you otherwise could.

He has a certain amount of damage output, what with the two PS14 attacks (one with Reach and Blood Boon) and a PS12.  His defensive stats are so-so; DEF13 is pretty easy to hit without a boost, and ARM17 (even with unyielding) isn't THAT hefty when a warnoun is gently tapping you.  Counter-charge looks counterintuitive, but you can use it to get some free movement against non-reach enemies (...of which there are plenty in the battle box; just make sure you aren't opening yourself up for abuse this turn).

Spell List
A whopping 6 fury nets you four spells.  The Flesh Eater is a so-so spell; you might use it to finish off a wounded target but it's not going to get a ton of use in a battle box game.  A couple times, I'd considered trying it as a potential finisher on pop-and-drop, but two of them leave you without any fury and one is only so-so with a boosted damage roll.

Bloody B is the only target for Iron Flesh, and it pushes him from a so-so DEF13 to a very respectable DEF16.  If he's got a little fury on him, Iron Flesh plus a transfer target might let him survive a run that doesn't knock him down.

Swamp Pit is still the moneymaker.  Shallow water can slow people down, and you can deny the enemy shooting.  The latter is pretty important.

Warpath is neat, but outside of a Legion battle box you are unlikely to get off more than one good move out of it.  Once you get to a 25-35 point game, I expect it to be very useful.

Hey, it's knockdown that's useless in a mirror match.  At this points level it's hard to hide casters at all, and you don't have enough ranged power in the battle box to make a viable drop-and-pop happen on an undamaged caster.

On the other hand, this can be a valuable setup/denial feat at this points level.  Knocking down the other guy's army means he's got to spend fury/focus to stand up and do anything.  It's a resource game; if you can't close the gap in another way you can limit their ability to react.

The Warbeasts
With the Blindwater box, you get both of the heavies in the gator stable: Blackhide Wrastler and Ironback Spitter.  In a way, it reminds me of the Khador box.

He's reasonably durable, he can hit pretty hard, and you get a sick animus with a pair of open fists.  Snacking is a bonus, but by and large this guy is either going to be your assassin, or be the one KOing an enemy heavy.  As you've got a pair of models that can throw, you can abuse the Rise animus, or just use it for the simple 'death roll the other guy and get up' maneuver.

Basically, if you're going after a high-DEF target, consider a boosted attack roll plus a Death Roll, get that one boosted PS17 in on them and then rip them apart without having to roll to hit.  Or, hell, if Barnabas hasn't activated, you might as well make it a sure thing with a Death roll and let Barnabas use Rise on the Wrastler to at least make the other guy roll to hit you.

Ironback Spitter
Ok, this guy's sculpt screams 'GET OFFA MA LAWN!' (at least, in conjunction with the 'ornery' animus it does).  You're losing speed, MAT, and ARM over the spitter.  You keep the open fists, but lose some POW off the fists and your main attack is a PS15 instead of 17. 

So, what's this guy got?  A gun, and Bloody B means you can fire without retaliation.  RNG12 means you can generally take shots without being in charge range, and a RAT5, POW14 boostable is very workable.  In a pinch, a good scatter with boosted damage roll can ding up a caster and make the other guy play a little more conservatively.  In a pinch, a volley of PS15s from the bite aren't bad, and you can always throw/slam.

Putting it Together
This box reminds me a bit of the Khador box: you've got a reasonably well-defended caster, a shooty heavy, and a punchy heavy.  You lose some of the speed for a slower game that can deny shooting.  Your lock's defense is a bit one-dimensional (if they can get to you while you don't have Iron Flesh up, you're reliant on ARM17/19, whereas Sorscha is reliant on a high DEF score), but your feat is nice for slowing an enemy army or setting them up for death.  You have a solid threat-range enhancer (two-handed throw + Rise), too.

Most of my games have involved using Swamp Pits to shoot at the other guy (thus forcing him to close with me) and trying to KO heavy hitters.  In mangled metal/tooth 'n' claw I can't afford to ignore anything that can KO my heavies in short order.  Boosted POW14s can ding up lights, or soften up heavies.

The other threat is of course slamming warjacks into Swamp Pits.  Turn off one or more warjacks when there's just a caster available to reactivate them?  Yeah, no one likes that.  It takes some work to set up (given that Swamp Pit can't go over any bases and must be wholly within BB's control area) but the mere threat of it apparently draws cries of 'CHEESE!' from those who are not imaginative enough to work around it.

The one thing I havent' gotten off yet is the throw-rise-kill assassination run. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Vyros NQ Tier

First, I'd like to offer a quick apology to readers; my posting was somewhat interrupted by a barrage of work-related travel, then travel-related illness that forced me on something of a hiatus.

That aside, I decided I'd paint up some of my Retribution, and try to make my favorite borderline-psychotic elf work in a theme list: Dawnlord Vyros.  Everyone's favorite flanking caster got himself a new theme list in No Quarter #35.

The Tiers
The Limits
Non-character warjacks with field dependent.
Small-based Dawnguard units; any Houseguard units.
Arcanist solos, Dawnguard solos, and Houseguard solos.

Tier 1
Obey the aforementioned limits
FA of non-character Dawnguard units/solos goes up by 1

Tier 2
Battlegroup has 2+ heavies
Point cost of heavies in the battlegroup goes down by 1

Tier 3
2+ units
For every two units you have, one heavy in the battlegroup gets Advance Move

Tier 4
the army has 4+ warjacks
Each jack in the battlegroup gets 1 focus at the start of Control Phase 1

On the Benefits/Restrictions
For me, Tier 3 is the money.  Tier one is so-so; given the subsequent restrictions (and lack of extra unit attachments) I don't see redundancy in the units as a major benefit.  As we have all of zero Houseguard solos and two Dawnguard solos, I'm not sure I see a benefit there, either.  Scyirs are somewhat questionable with Vyros, as heavies belong in his battlegroup and lights still like the benefit.  At best, they're a guided MAT10 weaponmaster missile that fires through your Dawnguard lines.  Thanes are useful for feat turn and as flankers, but I'm not sure I'd want to take 3 in the army.

Tier two, however, is pretty easy to get to.  Vyros likes warjacks, and he's gonna like cheaper heavies even more.  Seven point Manticores are hard to argue with, and I can live with 8pt Hydras a bit more.  The Phoenix at 9 is still nice, since you're probably not going to use the arc node and frankly, a 360 front arc + reach can be a liability to a canny opponent, as you kind of lose the benefit of free strikes.

Tier 3 is where we start making money.  Advance move on heavies is nice, and with access to Houseguard units (and the 2pt Heavy Rifle Team) we can reasonably get advance move on a couple of heavies as low as 35pts.  Any of our heavies can use this: Manticores can put suppressive fire just outside the enemy DZ, Hydras can fuel up and move into the mid-line on turn 2, and a Phoenix can get in there and be ready for a devastating charge or a nasty Combustion even faster.

Tier 4 is bound to be nicer for larger games, as you'll be able to push your jacks up faster and still crank out your upkeeps on turn one.

Downside of the Restrictions
Offhand, you'll notice a couple of things you're NOT gonna get in this list:
Stormfall Archers

Eyriss is your only real answer for upkeep removal.  This could hurt you.  You're otherwise stuck with Soulless for anti-magic duties, which could be passable.  Stormfall Archers are also a bit of a loss, as they're one of our main answers to high-DEF infantry and/or stealth stuff, plus they can do a number on hard targets as well.  I like these guys, what can I say? 

You also lose out on some of our hard-hitting solos and our movement shenanigans, but I've always kinda felt Vyros liked the straightforward approach anyways.

Working the Tier
My experience with the tier is largely at the 35pt level.  I think aiming for T3 is going to maximize your benefit, as it's unrealistic to get to T4.  I want my cheap heavies, and I want my heavies to be able to get up there in a hurry.

1) The Choice of Heavies
Honestly, I'm currently liking a pair of Manticores for my T2 requirement.  Here are some reasons why:
1) Covering fire WAY out there early on
You can help control enemy movement, and with a turn one mobility, you can be 14" across the field, add in a foot-long range for covering fire and you ARE putting it on their doorstep.  If you go first, you can get some great board control against enemy infantry
2) Enemy stealth people don't like covering fire
...if you can't kill them early, you can at least control them somewhat.  One template isn't too hard to get around; two near each other forces a considerable detour
3) The feat can help fuel them
Against enemy infantry lists, it's not going to be too terribly hard to slag a handful of guys during your feat turn, and fuel these things.

Pondering Hydras
On the one hand, you can also push Hydras up to the mid-line, and they can set up shop.  One of them can get two focus from Vyros, one gets one from an Arcanist; you then chuck up Inviolable Resolve and Mobility and you have Hydras at the midline and your infantry buff in play.  Next turn, you can fully fuel them with 3 focus, upkeep, and have a couple left over in case you feel the need to cast Hallowed Avenger.
he Con: this is more of a gimmick in that Stealth still shuts you down.  On the other hand, you can bounce some high-damage shots off enemy targets, and start doing a number on them as they CANNOT hide from you unless they have stealth.

On Phoenixes
I'm hesitant about the phoenix for a few reasons.  On the bright side, combust is a fine way to kill high-DEF enemy infantry, and you still have the Phoenix's lovely PS17 reach weapon.  On the downside, you're still probably never going to use the Arc Node.  Finally, a canny opponent will exploit your 360 front arc to avoid free strikes, and a phoenix has a large area around it where they can do so.  The gun on it is so-so, so pushing up to the midfield early on really only uses this thing's melee and combust capabilities. 

I just think you can get more for less in jacks with this particular tier; I still like the Phoenix and it still has a nasty threat range with reach and mobility.

2) The Units
If we're going to Tier 3, you probably want to grab a pair of Heavy Rifle Teams.  It's 4 points for some armor-piercing shots (still vulnerable to stealth, but frankly, if the enemy is stealth-heavy you just try to grab/hold territory with these guys.  They're 2 bloody points).  Let them run turn one, and set up for shots on turn 2 and later.  Some people take exception to armor piercing as well, and with an effective RAT7 with the binocular grunt, you can make people leery of getting heavies nearby, or even heavy infantry.

So, let's pretend you're gonna take two of these.  Let's pretend you're taking two Manticores as well.  You've spent a total of 6 points after accounting for Vyros' jack points, and if you're shooting for 35 you have a solid 29 points.  Let's be honest, you're gonna take a couple of Arcanists, so you've spent 8 points and have 27 to dump on two more units and any more solos you choose to take.

At this point, you're going to want to decide what you want for a core.  We have movement control, heavy hitters for melee, and anti-heavy gunfire.  I would like a little accurate melee damage.  When it comes to Vyros, I have a soft spot for Invictors.  Expensive?  Yeah.  You get what you pay for, and Vyros doesn't mind a ranged punch.  You have an easier time on the feat turn, and in a pinch if you can get the ranges right, you can mess up even Stealth infantry, as most of them don't like RAT8 tag-teams that re-roll misses.  You have 360 front arcs on heavies, so you can also get the flank bonus out there a bit easier, then you have MAT9 weaponmasters at PS10, which isn't bad.  You ARE dependent on your jacks, though, for this to work.  I would consider a Griffin with them as a flank-bot for them and for Vyros.

On the other hand, you can go for the Houseguard module.  At 9 points, you can get a fully-equipped unit of Halberdiers; they can go up to ARM20 in shieldwall with Inviolable Resolve, and with the minifeat, a pair of them can tag-team something at MAT10.  You get your hitting power, AND any guns behind them still see through 'em.  This brings me to the Riflemen; you have good range (still worrying about stealth...) and with the UA, they're almost tailor-made to go with Halberdiers as they can accurately CRA into melee.

3) Solos & Support
Frankly, take your two arcanists already.  Just do it.  There are currently no Houseguard solos, so forget that.  You have access to a pair of Dawnguard solos: the Scyir, and the Thane.  As you're likely to keep warjacks in Vyros' battlegroup for the benefits (Mobility & Bird's Eye), the Scyir is really just a guided missile.  Then again, it's a MAT10 PS12 weaponmaster guided missile with flank, and if you're rocking Dawnguard, you can fire it through the lines and knock a chunk out of things.  It's no Mage Hunter Assassin, but it'll do some damage and not draw near the fire the MHA does.

The Thane, in my mind, competes with the Griffin.  The Thane is a great flanker:  it can hold down objectives and still contribute, and in a pinch it can throw out a nasty charge at a distance; MAT10 PS14 is on par with the Griffin.  Plus, multi-fire on a POW12 gun is just plain fun; you can mow down infantry or ding up softer targets.  Don't forget you can go for a RAT9 with the aim (fun if someone gets a high-DEF target or a caster within 10") or get a nice scoot 'n' shoot with multi-fire + ride-by attacks.

The Griffin, on the other hand, does two things: VERY long-ranged missile, and flank-bot/distractor.  Start with SPD6, add 3" for a charge, and 2" for reach.  If you fleet, you can get another 2", and with Mobility, that's another 2" still; you have a max threat range of 15" in any direction, but it costs you.  More likely you'll either fleet or mobility, but a Griffin already has MAT8 on the charge with the spear.  Two focus is enough to eke out a 13" threat range with fleet + charge, or you can boost to be sure you hit.  It's also an ARM18 light with reach; if you are benefitting from Bird's Eye you can tie up a LOT of infantry or solos.

Some Sample Lists
List 1: Houseguard Heavy, 35pts
Dawnlord Vyros [-6]
-Manticore [7]
-Manticore [7]
-Griffin [4]
10 Houseguard Halberdiers [7]
-Officer, Standard [2]
-WA: Soulless [1]
6 Houseguard Riflement [5]
-Officer, Standard [2]
Houseguard Heavy Rifle Team [2]
Houseguard Heavy Rifle Team [2]
Arcanist [1]
Arcanist [1]

The Logic: Manticores push up, establish covering fire.  Halberdiers provide a front wall; riflemen and rifle teams abuse Ranked Attacks for all they're worth.  Arcanists do what they do.  Griffin serves as a guided missile/flankbot for Vyros.  Optional: drop the Griffin; trade its delaying tactics/threat range for a full unit of Riflemen and another Soulless.  I like the Griffin, though.

List 2: Invictors Holding the Line
Vyros [-6]
-Manticore [7]
-Manticore [7]
-Griffin [4]
10 Invictors [10]
-Officer, Standard [2]
-WA: Soulless [1]
6 Houseguard Halberdiers [4]
Heavy Rifle Team [2]
Heavy Rifle Team [2]
Arcanist [1]
Arcanist [1]

Here, we're abusing Halberdiers as a roadblock with Set Defense.  You could again drop the Griffin, and free up points to upgrade the Halberdiers with either the UA or a full-up unit + soulless, but I lean towards the griffin, again.  Your strategy is much the same, except all your troops are capable in melee, and you still have a decent shooting contingent.

This is a tight tier to get the meat out of in 35pts, no lie.  I do feel that there's mileage to get out of T3's Advance Move on heavy jacks, and if you were only going to go with one heavy and some lights, you'd have more options.  Still, I think that guns + advance move on 7pt Manticores open up some fun opportunities for board control.  Just be mindful that you are missing out on Eiryss and Stormfalls, though.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Reznik v Stryker, Thoughts

I got another training match in, this time dialing it back to 25pts for my cohort.

The lists were:
-Ol' Rowdy
10 Sword Knights
Rhupert the Piper
Arlan Strangeways


6 Exemplar Errants
-Officer, Standard
4-man Choir
2 Vassals of Menoth
The Book

The scenario was Mosh Pit, with a hill in the middle and me going first.  There was a hell of a scrum, and at the end, there were a few Errants, a few choir boys, a vassal, and a dead Reznik.  I had Stryker, Rowdy, Arlan, and a depleted Squire on the board with Rowdy presiding over Reznik's spaghetti-sauce-like remains.

Thoughts On...
On paper, I wasn't too impressed with him; he struck me as a buff-bot.  With the bloody Witch Hound and immunity to knockdown book in the back, Earthquake didn't feel like a hell of an option.  Still, Arcane Shield was an MVP on Rowdy, and Snipe on a Charger makes it a hell of an assassination threat.  Stryker's major contribution, other than a timely Earthquake when he switched over to the Continuous Fire passage during my feat turn, was repeatedly disrupting things with his sidearm.

Ol' Rowdy
Arcane Shield and Rowdy's natural ARM19+1 make him stupidly durable.  Past that, the focus efficiency and Grudge make him nice.  He basically did ALL the heavy lifting for jack-killing, and was able to go after both of them thanks to Stryker disrupting both of them.

I'd grabbed him because of Earthquake, and because Sword Knights + Reach Jack = Happy Stabbing Action, in theory.  In fact, this guy almost knocked the cortex off of the Reckoner (...then a Vanquisher boosted a hit on him and ripped the shield off...).  He did boost one Earthquake onto a knocked-down sword knight, knocking both of the guy's jacks over.

This guy was ALMOST the star.  Add snipe, and hilarity ensues for potential assassination attempts.  He almost nailed Reznik TWICE; the first round he had a full focus load and knocked about 10 boxes off with the first shot, then...wiffed.  Then, wiffed again.  Then, took one more shot, missed, and Reznik went ARRGH ENGINE OF DESTRUCTION and I didn't have a Charger any more...

Sword Knights
Cheap bodies FTW.  I might've buffed them, but Blessed on the crossbows of the Errants (and that 'fire' thing from the Vanquisher) meant they ran up, killed some Errants, and then pretty much died.

Arlan Strangeways
All things considered, this guy was workable enough.  He's gold when, y'know, you have a caster without a ton of focus.

Um.  Why WOULDN'T you bring this?

The Piper
Fearless + Tough for the win.  I like the Pathfinder option, but fearless + tough is always useful and makes the Knights last a little longer.

Engine of Destruction is painful.  Iron Aggression is stupidly efficient, and if your battle plan involved upkeeping spells or allocating focus, he can screw it over. Hell, casting spells on warjacks is a bad idea period with this guy.  I forgot how nasty Engine of Destruction could be, and if he'd had a way to give Reznik pathfinder, I might very well have lost this game as he would've gotten the jump on Rowdy and possible killed him.

Reckoner & Vanquisher
Honestly, disrupting one of these all game long and beating the other to death kinda neutralized them. Well, then Rowdy beat the CRAP out of them.

They spent the game killing Sword Knights.

Choir, Vassals, Book
It's solid Menoth support.  Shocked?  Shouldn't be.

I'm impressed with both Stryker and Reznik.  Are either of them top-tier?  Not necessarily.  Still, I'm impressed with Reznik's ability to seal the deal himself; if he's within a foot of you and has a charge lane, you're probably going to die.  Stryker's pistol was one of the bloody MVPs of the game, allowing me to get 'jack superiority in the mosh pit and let an ARM23 Ol' Rowdy go through a pair of heavies.  Past that, infantry died/was irrelevant.  All things considered, it was fun just because it was one of those epic slug-fests.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Joy of Madhammer

I've been introducing another new player to the wonder of the hobby, and part of my aim towards levelling the playing field is running an army I'm not personally familiar with.  So, I grabbed Durgen Madhammer, and threw some stuff with him that looked like it would go: Ogrun Assault Corps, Reinhold,t Hernne & John, and Dougalle MacNaile.

The First Shot
I had not thought too much about what his feat would do to an infantry-heavy army.  The full 35pt list was:

Durgen Madhammer
-Wroughthammer Rockram
5-man Ogrun Assault Corps
6-man Steelhead Halberdiers
Herne & John
The Piper
The Epic Elf Lady That Everyone Loves
Thor Steinhammer
-Ghordson Basher

The very first time I tried this at 50, I wasn't fully aware of what I was doing, and my feat turn involved a ton of POW7 feat blasts on Invictors that resulted in about 17/20 rolls on 3d6 that were below 10.  Even so, I almost managed an assassination between arcing fire and boosted blast damage rolls.

Madhammer Himself
The Spell List
IF you want to blow stuff up, he'll enable you to do it.  CAn he do it with magic?  Kinda.  Technically he's got Powder Keg, but at 4 out of 6 focus, it's expensive and unless you crit, your gun is the same bloody thing, with an AoE 4 instead of the spell's AoE 5.

But, blowing stuff can make your guy's guns do it with Explosivo.  This gets fun on the feat, since it lets you basically hand out boosted shots to ANYTHING with a bog-standard gun.

You can make your OWN guys do it with Primed.  Bring an infantry unit that's either cheap & expendable (Steelheads) or carries a solid DEF (Kayazay, Nyss) as you lose some ARM with this spell.  It's good for +2 to attack/damage rolls, AND if the enemy pops you, you turn into an AoE3 that hands out a POW14 to everything under it.  Note the enemy has to kill you.  Frankly, this will probably blow up some of your guys, but it's funny to watch the enemy wonder if they really DO want to lose a few dudes.

You can even make you battlegroup do it with Redline.  Seriously.  Don't put this out until you need it, as it does burn d3 boxes off the jack.  You do get +2STR and an important +2SPD on a jack, and you get free runs/charges/slams/tramples.  Suddenly, your heavies have a respectable 9" charge move, and they'll be beating the crap out of something.

Oh, and MAdhammer can kind of blow himself up, too.  Ground Zero centers a 5" AoE on him that hands everything else with a POW13 and shoves them back if it damages them.

The only thing on the spell list that doesn't blow something up is Inhospitable Ground, though it's probably Madhammer temporarily blowing up his control area to screw up the enemy's footing.  It's half his focus, but if you need more time to shoot against someone that doesn't have pathfinder (or screw with their ability to get to an important spot) then, hey, you've got a tool for that.

The Gun
This one's part of the fun, and part of why I view the spell list as neat utility.  On the face of it, you've got a lovely dual-purpose weapon.  Got a heavy target?  You can go with a POW7 Armor-piercing shot.  Got infantry? Crap out three 4" AoEs with POW7 blast damage.

It gets worse.  Add Reinholdt for a second shot.  You get a lovely four pie plates to hand out, or you can dump a boosted POW7 AP shot, and a POW14 with a boost.

Then, for more fun, add the Master Gunner Dougal MacNaile.  First, the army's gonna love the whole +2 RNG on feat turn.  More importantly, Artillerist is ludicrous on someone crapping out that many AoEs.  You can put them where you need them.  If you need to not deviate that far, well, on a 1-2 you'll still tag your target and you've got a re-roll on distance.  Basically, it's almost silly to NOT take this guy.

The Hammer
Ok, technically he's got a HAMMER that creates AoEs as well, but given the joy of the gun and the fact he should be running a heavy (quite possibly with Redline active) I think there are other uses.  Just bear in mind you can pump a focus into a successful hit to make a 3" AoE on the target that hands out a POW10 to anyone in it.

The Army
Go ahead and grab a melee heavy (IE: Driller or Rockram).  I suppose you could always use an Avalancher as your sole heavy, since Redline kicks it up to PS16 in melee...but your other heavies go up to PS19-20 on that, which WILL maim up a target.  I favor a Rockram, as you DO have a gun in a pinch, and with a tune-up, you can hunt for some fun crits.

Gunbunnies?  I'd think about the gunner.  Frankly, both gun-bunny species are efficient, but this guy can use Explosivo and you can probably  handle infantry that aren't immune to blasts.

I would think long and hard about a target for Primed.  Steelheads are cheap and expendable if you're going with a contract other than Seaforge.  If you're going to rock 4-Star, I'd probably grab Kayazay, just because.  They become hideously accurate, with a base MAT9 and Gang.  If you're going Highborn, Nyss are pretty much it for a high-DEF target, but they're just plain sick, so yeah.  Just make sure you can spread them out.

IF you're going pure Rhulic?  Primed goes to backup mode; you put it on when you engage because the ARM value is more important in getting you there. (OAC like their wounds; ARM18 Forge Guard are different than ARM16 forge guard that kill their defensive line buddies automatically, and otherwise they evaporate).

Herne & Jonne are cheap and easy to include for that feat turn, just to get more AoEs out.

Also, if you're going Highborn, you can always grab some gun mages for a marashalled Mule, because, hey.  It's cool, right?

As mentioned earlier, if you're not going pure Rhulic, then Dougal and Reinholdt are as close to auto-includes as you'll find.  Even better, they work for either contract option and are just 3 points to make Durgen stupidly effective.

As you have at least one Rhulic jack, Thor Steinhammer is a viable option.  At the least, you can hand him a gun-bunny for efficiency.  At higher point levels, a Basher's certainly an option as there's nothing like knocking the target down, or shoving harder targets back.

The Piper is of course a solid idea, as pathfinder is your friend, and you may want some Tough on the guys that, y'know, blow up.

On the Field
Your ideal matchup involves being able to use your feat to gut the other guy's army.  Ideally, they have enemy infantry you can decimate with a crap-ton of AoEs.  Alternatively, you can give your direct-fire weapons Explosivo on the feat for the to-hit boost.  I like the Ogrun Assault Corps for the versatility here; you can get a solid shot in on the enemy (up to a lovely POW17 with the full squad tagging one target) with a boosted RAT10.

I wouldn't go too crazy on including too many AoEs.

Otherwise, go balanced, and your bad matchups include high-ARM stealth (you have one feat turn to do some damage) and if the enemy can otherwise shrug off blast have some work cut out for you.  Still, Madhammer's capable of leading a balanced force, and he's a nasty personal threat with the gun.  The other caster is going to want to camp focus and/or not get near Madhammer, as Artillerist's re-rolls on scatter can make anyone with medium/low armor worry about boosted blast damage.

All in all, this guy's certainly worth a look and bound to involve some fun.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Thoughts on the Wraith Engine

I've seen the Wraith Engine get some less-than-positive press on the forums.  Then again, this is the internet: it's not hard to find someone saying something.

I painted mine up this month (along with a heap of other stuff) and ended up testing out the following 50pt list:

Wraith Engine
10 Nyss Hunters
6x Boomhowlers
Withershadow Combine
2 Bloat Thralls
Warwitch Siren

The Opposition
Old Witch
-Beast 09
-War Dog
Battle Carriage
10 Winterguard
-Officer & Standard
Kovnik Joe
Widowmaker Marksman & Widowmakers
2 Mortars
Field Gun

End Result
Cryxian victory via assassination; Reaper endures Old Witch's feat, hits her thanks to the Combine's Puppetmaster, then finishes her off with a great big ol' piston to the face.

On the Battle Carriage
It deployed in the middle, moved up, and spent two turns shooting before it got a case of the death.  Honestly, it didn't kill much.  HOWEVER, dropping a heap of templates that are rough terrain is horrifically inconvenient.  Between some terain towards the middle, Boomhowler's did not make it nearly far enough up the table.  Similarly, my arc nodes had to take less direct routes to avoid it.  Cankerworm didn't care, and the Nyss...well, were either dying when caught on the AoE or busy not caring about having to go through it.

On the Wraith Engine
I have a softer spot for Battle Engines with guns.  My main engine so far has been the Arcantrik Force Generator, and all it needs to do in order to contribute is wander up, aim, and then start shooting until something neat happens.

The Wraith Engine is a bit different.  The obvious part is that it can't really shoot.  I think the second part is that, yeah, you're GONNA lose the Wraith Engine.  In the best-case scenario, the Engine is in position to harvest souls, gets a couple of them, then moves up and trashes stuff.  After that?  The enemy has something that's ARM18, Reach, PS15 with Dark Shroud in their lines, and that is bound to be inconvenient.  It's also very corporeal, and in need of death.

So, it's probably a one-way trip for the Engine.  How do you get the most out of it?

Situations that the Engine Digs
Probably the most obvious thing: the Engine loves souls.  You want to get some of those in range prior to your rampage.  This is honestly one of the Engine's strengths: beat-stick that doesn't need focus.  Souls, yes.  Focus?  No, you can pull it off without the focus.  You just need something to kill the soul's fleshy containers in the range of Engine.

The second thing: targets.  With PS15, MAT7, reach and Dark Shroud, you're ideally going for lower-DEF, harder targets.  Anything you can do to up the damage output is great from there.

At that point, you're thinking of the Wraith Engine as a fire-and-forget missile.  Fuel it up, chuck it at the enemy.

The Not So Hot Situation
So, what if you don't have access to a lot of souls?  Maybe you're dealing with a lotta jacks.  Maybe there are a lotta undead across the table, or the other guy has a way of holding onto their souls.

What then?  Time to look at the other offerings of the Engine.

If it's Incorporeal, you aren't blocking LOS but you ARE taking up a lot of space.  It's a screen against melee, but not guns.  If you are corporeal, you get that AND you block LOS.

But wait.  All those other engines offer some kind of army support, and Incorporeal models are a bit rare in this army outside of Machine Wraiths and Blackbane's boys.  Your other buff is Dark Shroud + Reach + Base the Size of a CD.  Can you find some sprays in your army, or some AoEs?  Then you can use the Machine Wraith regardless.  Oh, more fun?  You can fire these THROUGH your Wraith if it's Incorporeal.

So, the Wraith can dig Venom (IE: Deneghra/Sirens with good angles), Bloat Thralls, AoE spells, and so on and so forth.

The Machine In This Round
Turn 1: Scything Touch, then Apparition + Incoporeal + Run = 14" up the board.  Old Witch double-taps him with Gallows, and Kell fires.  End result?  Down 9-10 boxes from hot damage rolls.
Turn 2: Nyss, Bloat Thralls fire off rounds.  Two Souls to the Engine.  it activates, charges the  Gun Carriage (which has been gifted with a Parasite).  Despite some abjectly terrible rolls, three swings later it's a bad memory.  Then again, with I was going at dice +2 for damage. (ARM20, -3 for Parasite, -2 for Dark Shroud, and then PS15+2 for Scything Touch...yeah).  This was also based on rolling up a whopping 7 damage on the charge attack.

Enemy turn 3?  Yeah, it totally died.  He'd had some good damage rolls, and frankly it had drawn a TON of fire (I consider 6 focus' worth of spells good fire).

So, Who Actually Likes This Thing?
Frankly, this Engine is in heavy competition for Souls.  You want models that can do one of several things:

1) Help Deliver This Thing
-eSkarre's feat
-eSkarre's Death Ward
-pSkarre's feat (used defensively)
-Scaverous' Death Ward
-Scaverous' Telekinesis
-eDeneghra's feat (sometimes)
-eGoreshade's Occultation
-Witch Coven's Occultation
-Darragh Wrathe's Beyond Death

2) Anyone with Debuffs
Not gonna lie; I've got no urge to list out who all has debuffs.  MAT7 does mean DEF debuffs are pretty nice, so you can focus on just beating the crap out of your target.

3) Sprays/AoEs
-p/eDenegrha's Venom
-p/eSkarre's Blood Rain
-Defiler's spray
-Nightwretch's AoE
-Harrower's AoE
-Bile Thrall Purges (assuming Incorporeal...)
-Cephalyx Overlords
-Revenant Cannon Crew
-Bloat Thralls
-Warwitch Siren's Venom
-new crabjack's AoE

Things Not To Take
Honestly, some folks just like souls too much to really consider taking alongside.  Short list:

He likes a big feat turn.  The Engine is a major competitor for souls, so unless it's already loaded up...yeah, just don't take him.  The self-sufficiency is a nice thought, but you're better off with something like Deathjack or a Seether.

He likes Soul Harvester, which means he's fighting the Engine for its food source.  Whoops.

epic Asphyxious
He can harvest souls at a distance, and do more damage.  Honestly, you're more likely to want to harvest the souls for focus than for the Engine.

Soul Hunters
They're swift, and similarly-costed.  They also want souls, and love mowing through living infantry at speed.  It's that 'souls' part that makes the Engine a bit sad.

I think the Wraith Engine gets some bad press because it takes a bit more thought to bring out the potential.  The second problem is that the enemy needs to have souls for you to feast on, which is not a given.  Still, I think taking it, and then grabbing for a couple of Bloat Thralls and sprays is a good start for using it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Moonlighting with Mercs: Merc 'Modules' and Units, the Cores You'll Build Around

This is, at the moment, the last article I plan on doing for mercs.  I've spent five posts explaining what mercs will work for which factions, and the compatibility of the respective warcasters.

This time out, I'm going to focus on the units (and their support) themselves, and discuss what you get from each of them.  I mean, you need to know who does what, right?

The Steelheads
Work For: Cryx, Cygnar, Menoth, Khador
The Steelheads have a little bit of everything: you want melee troops, you get Halberdiers.  You want guns?  Riflemen.  You want Cavalry?  You got Steelhead Cav, and a cav solo in Stannis Brocker.

The cheapest entry comes with the Halberdiers: They're a 4/6 cost unit for 6-10 guys.  They have low-to-average stats across the boad, with DEF/ARM13, and a piddly-looking MAT5.  Note that they do have Powerful Charge and Set Defense, so they can give and take some love to open an engagement.  Note also they have reach and are dirt cheap.  Combined Melee Attack lets you hit high-DEF targets, or tag-team larger stuff.  Importantly, they're cheap.  If you want just to hold another guy up, 1-2 units of Halberdiers flood the boad with bodies, and if you throw Alexia & the Risen behind it, you're basically dumping 11-17 points on a LOT of delaying tactics.

The Riflemen could use a range booster, but they're hideously accurate with Combined Ranged Attack and Combined Arms.  They are expensive at 6/9, but the accuracy is what saves them.  You are not likely to miss if you team up for your shots.  I would consider these guys behind a unit of Halberdiers, because these guys are pretty terrible in melee.

If you don't need in-faction buffs, the Cavalry can hit hard when combined with Halberdiers.  You get Reach and two swings out of each guy.  While the MAT5 and PS12 look piddly, factor in Flank with Halberdiers, and suddenly you've got MAT7 weaponmasters cranking out two attacks each.  Add in a sidearm and Assault, and you can do some serious damage on a charge to a number of targets.

Finally, there's Stannis Brocker.  IF you're going to take more than one Steelhead unit (and you're not just doubling up on Halberdiers as fodder) then consider him to help you with traffic issues.  He's no slouch in combat on his own, but Tactician (for ignoring each other for LOS and moving through each other) can be a big boon when it comes to getting your sell-swords into position.

Steelheads in Summary
These guys aren't what you're looking for if you MUST have access to faction buffs.  Why?  Either you're taking one unit of Halberdiers as fodder (and, well, come on.  At 6, they're cheap.  At 8, they're comparable to everyone else...) or you're looking at Halberiders + more expensive guys; Rifleman for a regular battle line or Cavalry for a nasty 1-2 hit.

An exception to the above is Reznik's tier in No Quarter, as you can get the Attendent Priests for free.

Also, these guys work for EVERYONE (other than Retribution).  From a money standpoint, these guys offer good bang for the buck.  You're looking at ~20ish points to take Halberdiers and either Rifleman or Cav + Stannis Brocker, which leaves you room for support/battlegroup in a 35pt list.  Not bad at all.

The Sea Dogs
Work For: Cryx, Cygnar, Menoth, Khador

Are pirates your thing, instead of organized mercs?  Then you can get some Sea Dogs.  While the Steelheads are pretty self-contained (self-contained accuracy via CMA/CRA, only Cav really wants other guys for suppot), the Sea Dogs just get nastier as you start adding in solos.

You start with an infantry unit, the Sea Dog Crew.  It's 5/8 for some guys with so-so stats.  They have SPD6 (nice), MAT5/RAT4 with a PS8 Melee weapon and PS10 pistol (laughable), DEF13 (average) and ARM12 (bad joke).  They can help each other out with Gang, for +2 to hit/damage, and they can use the pistol in melee.  Sound comical, right?

Well, you can get more guys with the Sea Dog Rifleman.  They're a point a piece, but instead of the pistol they have a RNG14 Rifle with CRA and Take Up.  You can get a few more bodies.  Not bad, right?  Still going 'So What?'

Now, let's go get Mr. Walls.  He's 2pts and attaches to a Sea Dog Crew unit.  He's got Gang, and slightly better survivability in melee due to Tough and an angry monkey. (No, really.)  He brings two wonderful things to the unit:
1) Tactics: Advance Deploy
2) No Quarter: mini-feat good fo Pathfinder, Terror, and Fearless.

So, Mr. Walls lets you start out further, and get there faster, AND respond to your enemy's deployment.  Now we're starting to see something...

Now let's go grab Lord Rockbottom.  He's got a neat Spray attack and Commander.  However, he also has a fun little ability called 'Paymaster' and he can use it to help a Sea Dog unit in his command range 5x per game.
1) Money Shot: +2 to ranged attack/damage rolls
2) Payday: BOOSTED MELEE ATTACK ROLLS and Overtake
3) Walk It Off: Tough for a round

For two points, Mr. Rockbottom is making our Sea Dogs a bit terrifying...he's solved their melee issue, and can even make them a little more frightening at range, OR he can make them stick around longer.  Too bad you can only use one Incentive per unit per turn.

Now, if you've decided to make your Sea Dogs Tough, you can pay 2pts for Bosun Grogspar, and make them immune to knockdown.  Also, you can take Doc Killingsworth for 4+ tough on your pirates.  First Mate Hawk is a guided-missile Solo that can give Sea Dogs fearless in her CMD9 range.  I suppose you could also take Bloody Bradigan for a weaponmaster with Fearless, Tough, and Critical Knockdown.

So, what's the module cost?
Sea Dog Crew [8]
-Doc Killingsworth [2]
Lord Rockbottom [2]

Minimally, 12pts.  I would probably add Hawk and as a minimum (14 points) and debate whether you wanted to add Grogspar and/or the Doc.  Alternatively, you can take a Press Gang which goes down to 4/6 and gets Tough in exchange for losing the pistols (but keeping AD by having it naturally) and being able to replace their losses.

Alternatively, you could grab the full suite of Solos (10), a full-up unit of Sea Dog Crew with Mr. Walls (10) and a full unit of Press Ganger (6), which is a fun 26pt chunk (though if you're going that far, I'd just consider playing Talion Charter or something...).  I think you're more likely to run about 16pts with a Sea Dog Crew and supporting solos.

Overall on Sea Dogs
These guys can pull off some sick layering of buffs.  This is really one of those situations where you can't evaluate the piddly Sea Dog Crew in a vacuum.  On the flip side, the instant you start losing your solos, you start watching capabilities go goodbye.  Still, it's a characterful module with some sick shenanigans when it all comes together AND you can use it with pretty much everyone.

As an added benefit, you can run a lone unit and make use of the Ranking Officers on the cheap, getting even more buffs out of the deal, unlike the Steelheads.  On the downside, you're looking at a lot of abilities to track, but they're all pretty sick.

The Nyss Hunters
Will Work For: Cryx, Cygnar, Khador, Retribution
If you're going to take just one unit as a core, these are by far some of the most versatile ones you can take.  They're expensive at 10pts for a full-up unit, but look at what you get: Pathfinder, Hunter, Combined Ranged Attack, Weaponmaster melee weapons, DEF15...bottom line?  You pay for what you get, and it's pretty nasty.

They can also use a variety of support, if you've got it.  If you can shield them from blasts (IE: Rahn's Force Field, Murdoch's Dig In) then you can make the enemy deal with DEF15, which isn't easy.  If you can extend their range, you'll get more mileage out of their bows.  The other big thing that comes to mind is a melee accuracy buff; MAT6 can miss at times and is more suited to hunting lumbering heavy warjacks than anything else.

As they're likely to be your main/only unit, you can also readily hand out that Ranking Officer attachment.

Nyss Hunters can do just about anything you ask them to out of the box.  They only get nastier with support, but real support is saving them from blast damage/auto-hitting stuff.

Ogrun Assault Corps
Work For: Cygnar, Menoth
Based on the 6/9 cost, these guys are competing for your 'only unit' slot.  On the bright side, they're pretty versatile: POW12 AoEs with CRA (so you can actually get some stupidly-nasty blast damage), and POW12 melee hits with CMA.  Add that on top of a DEF12 (average) and ARM15 (not bad) 8 wounds, and you've got a pretty middle-of-the-road multi-role trample roadblock.

Of course, this 'middle of the road' thing they've got makes them prime candidates for support.  On the bright side, they'll take almost anything.  An ARM buff is nice (and both employers can provide it).  Menoth can hit them with Ignite to drive them up to effective PS14 in melee, so you can do fire support and then do damage in hand-to-hand.  Cygnar can improve their ranged capability via Deadeye or Snipe.

Based on the cost, you can again hand them a ranking officer, as they're probably your main/only unit.  They may or may not need it, but the support from an Attendent Priest is pretty swell, and Murdoch's Assault and Dig In can give you more ranged fun AND keep you from blocking LOS.

These guys are versatile.  They'll make use of just about any buff you can hand them, though they honestly kind of want those buffs because they are VERY middle-of-the-road.

Boomhowler & Co
Works For: Cryx, Cygnar, Khador
Want a troll tarpit?  That's what these guys are.  They're famous for having a 4+ Tough roll, even though Boomhowler techincally has two other Fell Calls that most people forget. (Well, ok, Rage Howler probably gets the least love, but it still has a place if you can buff Boomie's ARM).

On the one hand, you can run these guys sans support just to clog up the enemy's lanes.  That's kind of the default use.  Cygnar can buff ARM (and DEF with Murdoch's Go To Ground), and Khador can buff DEF.

On the flip side, Cryx can readily help their damage output, as these guys top out at a POW12 hit unless you do Combined Melee Attacks.  Come on, it's the faction of Debuffs. 

These guys are a fine tarpit for their employer, though they'll pull double-duty if you can help their damage output.

Croe's Cutthroats
Work For: Cryx, Khador, Menoth
Like Poison?  That's what these guys do.  Their primary defense is Stealth and hitting first.  As their primary defense is Stealth, Ranking Officers are much easier to pick off (...since the Cutthroats don't block LOS unless you could shoot said Cutthroat) and are thus probably not desirable.

You could try to help their durability, but unless you're buffing DEF with something like Iron Flesh, it's probably not going to help.  It's a shame Defender's Ward requires a ranking officer, because they'd love DEF15, and ARM13 would be nice against blast damage.

The other issue the Cutthroat's have is accuracy.  They're already expensive at 7/10.  I can think of two gys that can help their accuracy issues without a ranking officer:
1) Harkevich has Fortune; re-rolls on RAT5 can threaten most infantry/heavies reasonably well.
2) Scaverous has Telekinesis.

Honestly, Scaverous is the big winner with Croe's.  Why?  Telekinesis can get you the rear arc bonus, which translates to +2 to hit AND +1d6 damage.  It's frankly disgusting.  I'm not saying that Scaverous is the ONLY guy I'd play Croe's with, but he can make them sick.

Of course, pKreoss' feat means that you're missing on snakeyes, so he could use these guys as an assassination vector.  It feels distinctly un-Menoth, but what the hell.

DEF buffs, blast damage mitigation, and accuracy are what Croe's want.  Of note are Harkevich, Scaverous, and pKreoss, as all of them can help Croe's hit, and the last two can make them serious assassination threats against living casters.

Sam McHorne & the Devil Dogs
Work For: Cygnar & Menoth
Like Jack Marshals that can gank the crap out of knocked-down models?  Hire Sam & Friends for 5/7.  Pronto is good for melee jacks and ranged jacks alike.  You can go cheap with just a Buccaneer (bring your own knockdown!) or you can get a Mule to move up AND get the all-important aiming bonus.

Sam & Friends have average stats, short range, and are just kinda sick if you can knock the target down.  That Slug Gun may only have RNG4, but it's POW14.  CRA is kind of a joke with RNG4, but you can always get an Assault off with Murdoch.

Frankly, these guys benefit most from Knockdown effects.  pKreoss and pStryker can deliver the goods here, and once the Avenger comes out you'll be able to get Knockdown for any Cygnar caster on-demand.

pKreoss is their buddy in Menoth, and if you really want to enjoy the Knockdown effect, you're probably adding a Buccaneer (KD on demand!) a Freebooter (KILL THE KD THING!) and a Priest (Pathfinder and Defender's Ward eligibility!)  In Cygnar, pStryker for Earthquake, or anyone with Avengers.  Or, you can add a Buccaneer to make them a self-contained 10pt trashin'-things module.  Note that they are a bit niche just because they love to kill stuff on the ground, and you can't always get that lovely Knockdown.

Horgenhold Forge Guard
Work For: Cygnar, Menoth
Want Reach Weaponmasters with solid ARM?  These are the guys.  Defensive Line means they'll laugh off most blast damage.  They need it, because they're a whopping SPD4 and DEF10.  MAT7 is pretty reasonable, and they're POW11 weaponmasters with Critical Smite, so their main concern is actually getting there.

Cygnar has ready access to Arcane Shield, and with that up (and Ranked Attacks and Murdoch) you have a nice front line that can beat the tar out of the enemy when they DO get there.  Cygnar and Menoth both have access to Crusader's Call, good for +2 movement on a charge.  Note you'd need a ranking officer, and you're stuck with either Blaze or the Harbinger for it.  Still, it's a solution their SPD4, right?

Honestly, I'm most at home using these guys with Ashlynn as she has Quicken, which really solves their SPD4 issue.  Murdoch lets you used their Ranked Attacks in a Cygnar shooting army to just sit back and hit the enemy when they come in, as you can probably convince the other guy to come to you.  Otherwise, you'll need to use judicious spacing of your troops to make sure anyone going after them can only get the first few.

Wrap-Up on Merc Units
The Steelheads and Sea Dogs are the most in-depth choices you've got for merc cores.  The Steelheads are relatively self-sufficient while being able to mesh well (largely with Stannis Brocker, but also the Halberdiers+Cav).  The Sea Dogs excel at layering a truly riduclous amount of buffs on the table.  Either way, these 'cores' are almost plug 'n' play into most faction armies.  I would say the tradeoff is the Sea Dogs require the most to remember, but since it focuses around making a unit into a sick receptable of buffs, it can readily benefit from Ranking Officers.

The Steelheads and Sea Dogs can also readily morph into a merc army, as they have access to all the contracts AND at least one specialist caster.  The Sea Dogs in particular have Phineas Shae's tier list, which is kinda sick.

Past that, there are a fair number of one-unit cores you could build around: the Nyss Hunters are expensive and have a bit of everything (outside of durability).  The Ogrun Assault Corps is sort of the inverse of the Nyss Hunters, as they've got durability in lieu of agility.  The rest of the merc choices get to be pretty niche.