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.