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.


Gareson said...

This is a thorough post with plenty of sound advice...thanks for taking the time to post it.

Jestor said...

Very nice write up. As a long time Sea Dogs player I think you are missing the best of the best. Taking Hawk with them gives them more then fearless. She is my second include after Walls (who is an autoinclude) as she gives them some real killing power.