June 19, 2011

Wrath of the Gods (Wrath Review Part 1: Cygnar and Protectorate)

Wrath is upon us. The book's been selling, apparently too. I was at a store just yesterday and had gotten the second-to-last copy, and was hearing about a lot of stores selling out right away! There's quite a bit of good stuff in here, too. Let's take a look at this faction-by-faction. (I'm going to just look at models not already released, plus the warcasters that just came out.) I'm going to divide it into 3 parts. Today I'm going to look at Cygnar and the Protectorate. Next time will be Khador and Cryx, and then we'll finish off with Retribution and Mercs.

Constance Blaize is a completely different flavor of Cygnar than almost any caster they've gotten so far. She is also a massive troop caster, with little support for her own warjacks. Crusader's Call and Transference are the highlights of her spell list, which further cement her as a troop caster. I can see her being fairly good with Trenchers on the front line, giving them that extra movement for their Assault, bringing some heavier infantry (Sword Knights, her obligatory Precursors, or Stormnouns) behind. Her feat brings a similar flavor to Terminus'. It actually supports the wave tactic fairly well; you can send the squishy troops in first, let them die, while letting your shield walled Precursors get to insane ARM levels with all of her souls. Then she has plenty of focus for the next turn that she can either hand off to 'jacks or use for the next wave to boost with Transference.

I'm not sure how Blaize is going to end up working, but I like the new warjacks Cygnar got. The Minuteman is a beast of a light, and while squishier since it uses the Hunter chassis, it boasts a solid threat range and is able to get out of melee pretty easily while still being able to damage heavy targets. I can especially see Kraye getting good use out of him. The Avenger is another simple but effective heavy. The Centurion chassis makes it survivable, and like most Cygnaran 'jacks can fight well in melee (with its good-POW Stun Blade) or at range (with a great knockdown effect on the seismic cannon). Triumph is actually relatively basic compared to what I thought he'd be, but with reach and Purgation with Blaize he's nothing to sneeze at. Precursors also help ease the focus load off your 'caster.

Cygnar's new goodness concludes with Archduke Runewood who brings a bit more support to the Sword Knight side. You're probably going to want to take a 'jack with him, since it makes him that much more survivable due to Sacrificial Pawn. Cygnar will probably come with many debates as to whether it's better to use Runewood or Rhupert to support its troops. Arguably, you could use both; Rhupert can give them defensive buffs (through Dirge of Mists or Heroic Call), while Runewood can give them that offensive punch (through Overcome or Path to Victory).

And then there's the Storm Strider. This makes up for everything. It just shoots lightning everywhere. While its RAT is nothing spectacular, the cannons are devastating when they actually do hit. It's also no slouch if it gets stuck in melee; first off, it can get boosts off of attacks against it. Next, it sends those melee threats away with its Revenger-like Repulsor Field. The +2 to hit on close models with its own Gunfighter ability then pays the attacker back in full. Did I mention that field also works for Stormblade blasts, or the Firefly's gun? This thing can be a toolbox under the right circumstances. (I'm looking at you, Nemo...)

I think Cygnar got a few tools, but I think the other factions may have come out a bit better. They got a melee warcaster in a faction that prefers to stay at range, but they still have ways of getting to melee. Meanwhile, they got a 'jack that can get out of melee and wreak havoc (as well as a light that can make two-handed throws). Nothing seems that overpowered, though, and nothing really jumps out at me and says “TARGET ME!” like some things out of other factions. It's not that I think their stuff is bad, but I think it could be better. (*coughTriumphcough*)

Protectorate of Menoth
Thyra is a solid melee toolbox for the Menites. Her feat will be tricky to predict, because not only does it increase her threat range, but it also messes with threat angles. Charge lanes that were nonexistant exist now. Throw in Carnage and you have a massive melee threat coming in, whether it's her army or Thyra herself. And she can hold her own. Carnage also combines nicely with Silence of Death, so enemy casters have to look out when that combo starts coming close.

The Protectorate didn't get a light warjack this time around, but they did get a couple of nice heavies. The Sanctifier doesn't need much focus investment from its warcaster, since it's going to get souls that become focus. Throw it behind some squishies and watch it counterattack, and likely win due to support from the Choir. (You're taking Choir, right?) It's only a shame there are no 'jack marshals in Protectorate to take advantage of this. Meanwhile, Blood of Martyrs is what I'd like to call the “heavy Dervish.” Thyra gives it side-step, and regardless it makes a great partner for the aforementioned Sanctifier. With Choir support, Blood of Martyrs is suddenly MAT 10 with two POW 20's if something died near it. I personally don't want to be anywhere near that, especially if Silence of Death is on it.

Nicia works a lot like the Retribution's Narn. She is a pinpoint assassin solo with a gun you're going to use occasionally. Acrobatics helps her get to her target, Quick Work nets an extra kill, and Sprint helps her live to fight another day. (Useful, since if she's hit, she's not going to survive. At all.) She's simple and effective, and that's all she needs to be.

And then there's the Vessel. Oh God, the Vessel of Judgment is insane. For 2 damage, you have a fully boosted POW 15 gun, which is going to leave a dent (not including the boostable Ashes-to-Ashes effect added to it). On top of that, while it does take damage, the miracles are just amazing. Doors of Judgment is one last middle finger, especially if they manage to take out an important solo such as Nicia or Vilmon. Its other miracles aren't bad either, fitting into Protectorate's denial and fire themes, as well as keeping it safe. It will be taking a ton of damage to do this, but considering their access to mechaniks now, I don't think taking damage will be that much of a problem.

It's a preliminary judgment for sure, but I'm tempted to call the Protectorate the winners of Wrath. Thyra is a great assassin caster and will make enemies that rely on tough like Trollbloods or Privateers pay. All 3 'jacks in the book can hit like absolute trucks, and I can see the Sanctifier being a solid addition to just about any force. And the Vessel of Judgment is just stupid good. I don't play Protectorate, and I never will, but Wrath gave them a lot of good stuff.

Next time, I'll look at what Wrath brings to the Reds and the Undeads!

May 29, 2011

We're #2! Retribution Success at Blood, Sweat, and Tiers

Blood, Sweat, and Tiers happened yesterday in Flint. Having never played them up there, I decided to pack my Retribution. The lists were required to meet Tier 1 minimum. I ended up taking Tier 2 Rahn and Tier 4 Dawn's Talon Vyros (from No Quarter 35). The metagame was pretty varied this time around. (1 Cygnar [Kraye], 1 Khador [eIrusk], 2 Cryx [Mortenebra, Mortenebra/Terminus], 2 Retribution [Kaelyssa/Vyros Book, Vyros NQ/Rahn], 2 Trollblood [pDoomshaper, Calandra], 1 Circle [Kromac], 2 Legion [eThagrosh, Vayl/Rhyas NQ].) I happened to draw the bye first round; I seem to have a thing for doing that lately. (Remember Hardcore?)

Second round I'm up against epic Irusk. I chose to use Vyros (though in hindsight Rahn would've been nice considering Force Field versus Bombards). We were playing Gaining Ground. Rifle Corps try to bog up the middle of the board with Suppressing Fire, but the army isn't really moving forward. I get my first point after the Phoenix fries a bunch of Winter Guard and my other 'jacks claim the first zone. His Kodiak comes in to try to take care of them, but can't quite squeeze enough damage through. It takes me 2 rounds to counterattack (since Houseguard have trouble breaking armor and my Manticore needed its cortex repaired), but I managed to take care of it. The gun line still wasn't moving to take scenario, though.

The Destroyer, powered by Fire For Effect, was not helping. It did more than enough to that Manticore, and now the Phoenix was getting bombarded. In my last ditch effort I sent it at Behemoth, managing to take out 4 columns and more importantly keeping it away from Vyros. He did drop one boosted bombard on Vyros, but rolled horrible (1-1-2) on boosted damage. I trash the Kodiak finally and manage to keep everything else out of the middle zone, ultimately winning on scenario after attempting some VP-sniping.

It wasn't until after round 3, pairing Rahn and Rhyas, that I realized we were the only 2-0's. This game didn't go so well for me, though. I got way too aggressive with the Phoenix, opting to Combust rather than launch the Halo Cannon after arcing a Chain Blast to take care of some of Rhyas' troops. (I easily could've had Houseguard take care of them while keeping the Phoenix safe.) Discordia didn't fare too well on the other side. I got a War Chief and a good chunk of Typhon with the spray, but I didn't have enough in the way, and it became Carnivean bait from Rhyas' feat.

I counterfeat to attempt to clear out the rest, but my dice were giving up at this point. I roll boxcars on a Repair check to bring my Chimera's arc node back, and I couldn't hit the Harrier on a boosted roll until it was too late. I manage to get Force Hammer off to send the Carnivean back into a wall, but that was the high point of the turn. The Battle Mages weren't rolling too hot either. I ended up losing everything save my free Arcanist, but my other tiebreakers were enough to maintain second.

It feels cheap getting second on technically one win, but I'll take it. My Vyros list worked really well (its own access to Covering Fire helped a lot against those Winter Guard), and while Rahn didn't perform exceptionally well, a lot of it involved bad tactics on my part. So really I can't complain. It is time to take the Retribution off the battlefield for a little while, though; I need to get painting them!

May 25, 2011

Unbinding Unbound

No Quarter released a new variant format for Warmachine/Hordes in their latest issue. (#36 – get it!) The format, called Unbound, is an alternate way of playing games of 150 points and higher using 3 or more warcasters/warlocks. However, instead of using the typical turn structure, each player takes a number of turns in each round equal to the number of starting warcasters/warlocks per side plus one. A few things about the round change as a result (for instance, focus allocation is at the beginning of a turn rather than during the control phase), but you can check out the magazine for the specifics. I want to deal with tactics. Specifically, how it can affect feats.

The timing of your feat in a game is always key, but Unbound brings about a whole new dimension to this. Because there are now multiple turns in a round and you can only activate so many models (and only one warcaster-/warlock-controlled battlegroup) in a turn, you do lose some of the power a feat can provide in a multicaster game. For instance, in the 150-pt non-Unbound tournament I was recently in, I was able to combine Prime Butcher's feat while also barreling Sorscha in, reaping the effects from Blood Frenzy. This is impossible in Unbound. Because Blood Frenzy lasts for one turn only, other battlegroups don't benefit from it. It's restricted to The Butcher's battlegroup and models you activate during that turn. Privateer is pretty lenient on what you can activate during a turn (in fact, a decent number of non-battlegroup models can still activate), but you still have to be careful about what you activate when. Of course, turn-length spells such as Rhyas' Dash, Irusk's Battle Lust, or Caine's Deadeye are affected by this as well, but since those typically go on one model/unit (Dash being the exception here), it doesn't affect them too much; you're just activating a specific unit right away.

Round feats have less timing restraints. You typically want them to go off early, considering using them on the last turn of a round will have very little effect, since the round will reset right away and all those benefits will go away. Some feats, like Mohsar's Disjunction, received Unbound-specific errata to deal with this. Many did not, so these have to be kept in mind.

The turn structure brings about a lot of interesting points, though. While only one battlegroup goes, a good number of other models/units can activate with them, and often times you're spending your round tailoring each turn to a certain number of units while making sure not to overcommit or undercommit models and make later turns in the round very quick and/or very devastating. You also have to keep in mind that your opponent can keep track of what hasn't activated, concentrate on killing them, and leave you clueless as you have very few models to activate and all your plans ruined. The alternating turns brings about a lot of tactics that must be considered, and games might actually take a little longer as a result. Do you be “that guy” who kills everything before they activate? Does your opponent activate a section of the board on the opposite flank in order to try to gain an advantage there? Which battlegroup gets to do the smashing? Which battlegroup do you need to be afraid of? There are lots of questions surrounding an Unbound game.

I'm not sure what to think on the format yet. I like big games, but I rarely have time to get one in. I do want to try a few Unbound games, though. I like the combinations you can make in a normal 150+ better because of how feats can be combined, but I'm willing to give it a go. It's really more of a matter of when. In theory, it seems to be a pretty good way to keep players in the game in large games with long turns. But on the other side, there's a bit more bookkeeping involved, resulting in a bit more brainhurt. But I'm going to try it before I bash it.

May 16, 2011

Satyr in the Shadows

Often, when I play Circle, I draw a fine line between the users of living warbeasts and the users of construct warbeasts. Sometimes, they intermingle, but typically I'll stick to one or the other. (Kaya, Morvahna, and Kromac prefer living beasts in my eyes, while Baldur, Krueger, Cassius, and Mohsar tend to prefer constructs.) Typically, when I use living heavies, I tend to favor Warpwolves. This isn't too surprising. All 3 flavors of Warpwolf are very versatile, and they tend to hit harder because of their ability to augment their strength on top of other effects Circle can provide. This tends to leave me neglecting the Satyrs. Sometimes, I don't know why.

The Gnarlhorn's fairly good in its own right. It has a very useful animus (Bounding can be devastating in conjunction with Epic Kaya's Dogpile and/or the Wayfarer's Hunter's Mark), it's a huge threat if it can get a slam off, and it can hit relatively hard with enough support. But we're not talking about the Gnarlhorn here. I want to talk about the oft-maligned Shadowhorn Satyr.

The Shadowhorn has a reputation of being Circle's “light heavy.” With a 13/17/24 defensive spread and relatively low POW attacks for a heavy, it's often called a large-based light much like the Seraph was in Hordes MkI. It does serve its own purpose, though. It's tied with the Rhinodon for the cheapest heavy warbeast in the game, and low cost has its own benefits. It also has a lot of abilities that can directly support Circle's hit-and-run tactics. It might not hit as hard as a Warpwolf, but it can certainly be an enabler for one of the harder-hitters.

One of my favorite Shadowhorn tactics is to use it to set up a kill for a big target. With Bounding Leap, it has greater versatility than other Circle heavies, who generally can only go directly at their target. Bounding Leap opens up a number of possibilities. One such tactic is to leap behind a warjack or warbeast and lock an arm or weapon system, causing them to be unable to break the lock as the attacker is not in its front arc, thus disabling it. I'm more of the one for destruction though. I'll typically activate its animus and throw the target toward my army. This way, I can both knock the model down and get it into the range of a heavier hitter while keeping the heavier hitter safe. Typically, this will result in your opponent being distracted by a heavy up in their grill. I recommend a Druid Wilder when employing this tactic, as not only can she use the animus for free, but you can also wander a little farther due to her Herding ability. With Kaya the Wildborne, this becomes even more brutal, as she can then use Spirit Door to bring the Shadowhorn back so you can wash, rinse, and repeat the procedure next turn.

Epic Kaya can provide some good options for it, as well. While Forced Evolution is typically best used on a Warpwolf due to their higher DEF and the fact that it augments their strength better, it's definitely not wasted on a Shadowhorn. With Gorax support, the Shadowhorn now hits ridiculously hard, and your opponent isn't going to want to charge a DEF 17 warbeast that grants some dire consequences (Reversal) if you miss. Besides, they'll probably underestimate the Shadowhorn anyways.

The Shadowhorn also has good synergy with its beefier cousin. While you lose the additional movement provided by Bounding or the extra hitting power a Gorax could provide, you also get a very powerful slam that will move a minimum of 5 inches (2 from Virility, 2 from Grand Slam, and a minimum of 1 on the distance die). From there, following up is optional; after all, you might just be knocking a model out of a control zone.

The Shadowhorn is cheap, but unlike Circle's other heavies, it's not about picking a target and murdering it. The Shadowhorn plays a more tricky style. It sets up the kill or disables a threat. It also provides support for other living warbeasts in your army. It might not hit hard. It might not make anything else hit hard. But what it does do is create openings for your army. And when Circle sees an opening, they'll not only take it, but they'll take advantage of it. And that's what makes the Shadowhorn worth using.